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Journal of Economic Sociology is indexed by Emerging Sources Citation Index (ESCI) from Web of Science™ Core Collection

Funded by the National Research University Higher School of Economics since 2007.

2020. Vol. 21. No. 3

Full text of the journal

Editor’s Foreword (Vadim Radaev)
P. 9–12

New Texts

Katerina Guba, Mikhail Sokolov, Nadezhda Sokolova
The Dynamics of Dissertation Industry in Russia, 2005–2015. Did New Institutional Templates Change Academic Behavior?
P. 13–46

The paper introduces the notion of the “institutional template,” defined as a highly legitimate example of a certain practice to which formal mechanisms of assessing the degree of correspondence are attached. Arguably, institutional templates are currently the major vehicles through which coercive isomorphism spreads across the academic world. While correspondence measures often take form of quantitative indicators, this is not always the case, so this paper analyzes the history of regulations of dissertation production in Russia as an example of a predominantly non-quantitative template. We use three datasets covering approximately 250,000 cases of dissertation defenses in Russia between 2005 and 2015 to discover the outcomes of the template’s introduction in the dissertation industry. We show how the new regulations allowed a reduction in the number of defenses—nearly by half. However, contrary to the intentions of the template inventors, the reduction was distributed evenly between mathematics, natural sciences (presumably less affected by degree devaluation), and social sciences (the most affected). There was also no concentration of dissertation production in the top research centers and no evidence of intensified migration of degree candidates to such centers. Overall, there is no evidence that the template produced more obstacles for authors of low-quality dissertations than those of high quality. Using the data from interviews with members of dissertation councils, we argue the results of the template: first, it required enormous bureaucratic efforts to demonstrate an individual’s ability to fit into it, and, second, its inability to account for local circumstances of particular disciplines sometimes resulted in de facto negative selection.

New Translations

Luc Boltanski, Arnaud Esquerre
Enrichment: A Critique of Commodities (excerpts)
P. 47–55

The authors of this book argue that Western capitalism has recently undergone a fundamental transformation that especially apparent in those countries responsible fpr European industrial primacy. There are two significant dimensions of the work: historical and analytical. The first dimension focuses on economic changes that have been observed since the late 20th century and dramatically modified the way value and wealth are created today: on one hand, the transformation characterized by deindustrialization; and, on the other, the increased exploitation of certain resources that, while not entirely new, have taken on an unprecedented importance. The second direction aims to understand how different commodities can generate transactions perceived as normal by buyers and sellers and that fit preliminary expectations to a certain degree. From a theoretical perspective, the authors deliberate pragmatic structuralism that combines social history with the analysis of cognitive competences upon which actors rely. In terms of empirical data, the authors use statistics enriched with a set of various formal and informal interviews, focusing on France as a case where the mentioned transformation is more distinctive.
The Journal of Economic Sociology publishes some excerpts from the second chapter “Toward Enrichment” where the authors define the main sources and benefits of the enrichment economy. The enrichment economy is based less on producing new objects and more on enriching existing things and places by connecting them with specific narratives.

Beyond Borders

Iuliia Papushina
Behind the Scene of Soviet Runway Fashion: Capital and Position in the Field
P. 56–83

This paper presents an approach to describe and analyze the accumulation of specific capital in a Soviet design organization during the late Soviet period from 1968 to 1982. Compared to the Stalin and Thaw periods, the system of fashion production under Late Socialism is less explored. The functioning of regional clothing design houses which constituted a specific feature of the Soviet system of fashion production during this period is underexplored as well. As far as we know, this study is the first attempt to apply Bourdieu’s theory of the field of production to Soviet fashion production. Researchers do not typically use sociological theories of production to analyze Soviet fashion. The study denotes the categories of specific capital, hierarchies, and dynamics of the field of production. The system of fashion production in the late Soviet period is considered a very particular case in a non-capitalist society. There are two components of the study. The first one reconstructs the hierarchy of the Soviet system of fashion production. The second one describes professional strategies to accumulate specific capital and to occupy a position in the field of production. The study focuses on two cases of development and presentation of clothing collections by Perm Clothing Design House during union and cluster meetings of designers from 1968 to 1969 and 1979 to 1982. The paper relies on published research on Soviet fashion history, archive documents from the Russian State Economic Archive and State Archive of Perm Territory, and in-depth interviews with former employees of the Perm Clothing Design House. The results discuss the applicability of the term of “specific capital” to the explanation of the construction processes of hierarchies in the late Soviet field of fashion production. The paper contributes to the earlier conclusions on the ambiguities of Soviet fashion policy. It also introduces the definition of “specific capital” as official representatives’ appreciation of the balance between an officially approved seasonal fashion trend and the creative search achieved by designers of a certain design house. It suggests that a weird combination of socialist and pseudo-market practices penetrated and restricted Soviet fashion production.

New Books

Anita Poplavskaya
What Do We Know About 21st Century Youth? American Teens Through the Eyes of a Psychologist
Book review: Twenge J. (2019) Pokolenie I. Pochemu pokolenie Interneta utratilo buntarskiy dukh, stalo bolee tolerantnym, menee schastlivym — i absolyutno ne gotovym k vzrosloy zhizni* *i chto eto znachit dlya vsekh ostal’nykh [iGen. Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy — and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood — and What That Means for the Rest of Us] (transl. A. Tolmatchev), Moscow: Group of Companies “RIPOL Classic” (in Russian). 406 p.
P. 84–100

A book written by American psychologist Jean M. Twenge iGen. Why Today's Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy—and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood—and What That Means for the Rest of Us describes the change in values, identity and behavior of adolescents born during the period from 1995 to 2012, the Internet Generation known as iGens. The book represents a good example of thorough data analysis, using the results of sociological surveys that originated in the 1960`s and covering opinions of more than 11 million Americans. Guided by such extensive empirical material, the author infers that adolescents have begun to grow up more slowly, plunge into the virtual world at the expense of reality, presume upon new media, communicate less, and show less interest in news. All that led to a degradation of knowledge and skills, a lack of sophistication, the growth of mental disorders, a lack of self-confidence, angst, and the spread of perverse attitudes towards education, work, family and money. The main reasons for such fundamental changes lie in the safer environment of iGens’ childhoods as well as their greater involvement in digital technologies and information. Accustomed to being supervised externally, iGens internally dive into virtual reality, lose interest in extracting knowledge themselves (reducing their ability to overcome obstacles or desire to take risks), and receive much less real experience. iGens are a few times less likely to meet friends, go on dates, get professional experience, drive a car, drink alcohol, read books, or keep up on the news than representatives of generations X and Y. At the same time, iGens spend twice as much time on the Internet than millennials. Uncontrollably and indiscriminately absorbing primitive and chaotic information, modern adolescents lose their integrity. This is evidenced by the growth of anxiety, mental disorders, and suicides. The example of American teenagers shows that people might lose the very abilities for which the technologies have been created (e. g. interpersonal communication, critical thinking, information awareness, creativity, personal growth, safety, etc.).

Alexander Subbotin
Way Out of the Matrix
Book review: Foer F. (2020) Bez svoego mneniya. Kak Google, Facebook, Amazon i Apple lishayut vas individual’nosti [World without Mind: How Google, Amazon, and Facebook Shape Your Mind], Moscow: Bombora (EKSMO Publishing Group), a series of Digital Society (in Russian). 296 p.
P. 101–113

The feature of this review is to study the properties of modern communications and relations between humans and information. An American journalist and ex-editor of The New Republic, Franklin Foer studies the origins, present, and future of new media. Starting with the meaning of their own names, global network companies claim to everyone that they are ruling the world. Social networks and even search engines collect data with ease and impunity from unsuspecting users who voluntarily publish open access information about themselves. Then, after acquiring the information they need, corporations like Google, Facebook, and Amazon use algorithms to control the behavior of a large part of the world. The review highlights the most important topics of the book: the reasons for degradation of individual taste and thought, ways corporations can follow their clients, the crisis of book publishing and professional journalism, and the importance of privacy. Foer does not spread panic; rather, he explains to the reader what problems modern information society faces. One of the main difficulties is that search engines and social networks do not allow users to filter content (despite an abundance of it) according to users’ personal interests but instead organize the output of material according to internal algorithms. Perhaps we should turn to traditional ways of comprehending the world, such as reading paper books. The Internet itself as a means of communication is not the ultimate evil but the fact that it has been turned into the only way of communication means it is relied on too extensively. As a result, the book World Without Mind by Franklin Foer offers a way to “exit the matrix” of the digital age.

Alex Vakarash
Context in Leisure: The Neglected Side
Book review: Stebbins R. A. (2017) Leisure Activities in Context: A Micro-Macro/Agency-Structure Interpretation of Leisure, New York: Routledge. 198 p.
P. 114–121

Studies of leisure stand apart at the intersection of sociology, economics, anthropology, and psychology, as they tend to focus on subjective experience. Ten years ago, Robert Stebbins, a research veteran in this discipline, emphasized all sorts of contexts and external factors that cannot be omitted and should be taken into account when doing such research. Over 30 years of studying this phenomenon, Stebbins managed to build his own theory, the “Serious Leisure Perspective,” and addressed boredom and choice as components of leisure. In Leisure Activities in Context, he further develops the fundamental idea he introduced 10 years ago (the Serious Leisure Perspective) based on Anthony Giddens’ theory of structure—which is reflected in the subtitle of Stebbins’ book: “A Micro-Macro/AgencyStructure Interpretation of Leisure.” Stebbins categorizes context at the micro-, meso-, and macro-levels, emphasizing that leisure research always focuses on only one layer, and no one has previously attempted to paint the big picture. In this vein, he formulates the goal of his new book—to show how different levels communicate with each other in the field of leisure. Stebbins uses his own theory as a classification of leisure activities divided into three types: serious, relaxed, and project-based. He expresses the hope that, after reading his new book, readers will stop looking at leisure activities solely from the perspective of micro-structure.


Daria Lebedeva
International Seminar on Environment and Society “Current Challenges and Pathways to Change”, University of Lisbon, Portugal, March 2–3, 2020
P. 122–128

The first International Seminar on Environment and Society was held from March 2nd to 3rd, 2020 in Lisbon, Portugal under the motto of “Current Challenges and Pathways to Change.” The seminar was organized by the Environment and Society Section of the Portuguese Association of Sociology in collaboration with the Institute of Social Sciences of the University of Lisbon and the PhD program in Climate Change and Sustainable Development Policies.
The seminar aimed to engage social science researchers in a discussion of global environmental agendas, thus establishing complicated relationships between environment and society (both natural and anthropogenic), their consequences for sustainable development, and critical assessment of the current and forthcoming risks of decision-making for the future.
The program was organized in two days: the main sections were held simultaneously in five auditoriums, and the presentations of keynote speakers opened and closed each day. Apart from researchers in sociology and social sciences, the seminar was attended by a wide range of participants from a variety of disciplines including geology, philosophy, and legal studies, representing 19 countries around the world.
The keynote speakers of the conference were Alan Irwin (Professor, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark), Luísa Schmidt (Professor, Institute of Social Sciences, University of Lisbon, Portugal), Matthias Gross (Professor, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research — UFZ and University of Jena, Germany), Noel Castree (Professor, School of Environment, Education and Development, University of Manchester, United Kingdom). They shared their understandings of the relationships between social groups and the environment and the environment and society as a whole. This seminar has established itself as a crucial event for productive discussion, demonstrating that social scientists around the world are responsive to environmental issues and stand ready to contribute to solving them.

Supplements (in English)

Yulia Khalikova
Constitutional Review and Dissenting Opinions in Nondemocracies: An Empirical Analysis of the Russian Constitutional Court, 1998–2018
P. 129–150

Whereas constitutional courts are associated with democracy and the rule of law, today, they these courts exist in nondemocracies, where they face direct threats to their existence or backlash from domestic actors. For a court to survive, it has to constantly strike a balance between performing the functions imposed by the ruler and trying not to lose its legitimacy. What is the role of constitutional courts in nondemocracies? When do they rule against the government, and when do they side with it? To what extent can regional governments, citizens, or political activists succeed in challenging the state? Given the higher risks judges in nondemocracies face, when do they author dissenting opinions? To answer these questions, I use a novel dataset on all final judgments issued by the Russian Constitutional Court (RCC) between 1998 and 2018 (N = 502). Using a regression analysis, I show how the outcomes of cases depend on who petitions the court and about what. First, the results show that the political regime and institutional settings matter—applications about the government’s structure have the lowest probabilities of being nullified but have higher probabilities of carrying a dissenting opinion. Additionally, judges dissent more when cases are brought by highlevel political actors, such as the president, federal parliament, and government. Second, social rights are an area of consensus among judges—the court is more likely to strike down laws that violate social rights, including social welfare and cases on antidiscrimination, and judges are less likely to dissent in such cases. When higher courts in nondemocracies exist—and as long as they benefit the ruler or ruling party—they tend to (1) avoid confrontation with the ruler and (2) shift their focus toward “safer” areas, which, in the Russian case, became advancing and protecting social rights.<\p>

This work was supported by the H2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions under grant agreement No [713639].

Boris Belyavskiy
Social Embeddedness as a Business Goal: New Theoretical Implications from the Case of a Global Value Chain
P. 151–173

This paper provides new theoretical implications for the concept of social embeddedness as one of the main objectives for business relations. Previous studies have considered social embeddedness as an external factor to market exchanges that forms outside of economic relations; in other words, embeddedness appears as an incidental product of market interactions. Here, I propose that social embeddedness is being intentionally constructed by market actors as an integral part of a business process. This view is developed by a theoretical adaptation of studies in relational marketing and the sociology of valuation. Relational marketing shows that interfirm relations have additional value for businesses and can educate market practitioners to intensify social interactions. Valuation studies explain the process of value creation for end goods, and this explanation is applied to interpreting the value of interfirm relations.
For the empirical validation, I focus on the field of global value chains because the global coordination of business interactions requires an explicit discussion of relational characteristics. The research is performed using a qualitative design. The empirical part consists of 13 months of participant observation as a sales manager in a Russian global value chain that works in fast-moving consumer goods and consumer electronics. Also, 33 deep semistructured interviews were conducted with employees of the global value chain. Data analysis is performed within a grounded theory perspective. The empirical section demonstrates that the proposed vision of embeddedness as an integral and desirable part of a business process is applicable to firm practices. Economic actors participate in permanent valuation processes to maintain a common interpretation of interfirm relations; they conceptualize business ties as an important source of market value.

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