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On the web since fall 2000

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.

2021. Vol. 22. No. 4

Full text of the journal

Editor’s Foreword (Vadim Radaev)
P. 7–10

New Texts

Ivan Pavlutkin
How the Sense of Community Arises in Marriage: The Logic of Mutuality in the Narratives of Women from Large Families
P. 11–34

In the proposed article, based on in-depth interviews with women in large families, the author discusses the following hypothesis: in families where, as children are born, conjugality does not give way to household and parenthood, a sense of community in marriage is enhanced. This arises in families where a man, as children are born, becomes more involved in relations with his wife and children, and the relations are developed in the logic of mutuality. Using the results of 22 in-depth interviews with women in large families from Moscow, Arkhangelsk, and Vladimir, the author objectifies this logic by the category of the “mutual sacrifice of the spouse,” which indicates the wife’s confidence in unmitigated communion and support from her husband. In the social sciences, this category is similar to the concept of the reciprocal gift. Gift commitment theory emphasizes the fundamental distinction between the material and perceived spiritual sides of the exchange, which helps to explain why, despite the factual workload and vulnerability of the mother, which grows as the children are born, she perceives married life in terms of friendship with her husband and community in the family. In conclusion, the author proposes that the logic of mutuality in marriage can become a fruitful source for reflection on the division of labor between the sexes, as opposed to the logics of justice and independence.

New Translations

Neil Fligstein, Steven Vogel S
Political Economy after Neoliberalism
P. 35–48

The Journal of Economic Sociology has published an article, “Political Economy after Neoliberalism,” by one of the most influential figures in the tradition of New Economic Sociology, Neil Fligstein, and economic historian and comparative political economy scientist Steven Vogel. The article, originally published in Boston Review, was re-posted on the website of the professional online community Economic Sociology & Political Economy (ES/PE) and became one of the most-read texts in 2020. The authors offer a broad review of the current literature in the realm of economic sociology, economic history, and political economy, and articulate a theoretical and practical alternative to the mainstream economic view of the nature of markets and the role of the state regulation of the economy. The text explores the causes and consequences of the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic and highlights the relationship between the crisis management measures adopted in different countries, their institutional arrangements, and the current balance of power. Fligstein and Vogel define three theoretical principles of the new political economy and then demonstrate its heuristic potential by analyzing the responses to the pandemic by the authorities and the United States and German markets. Strong attention is paid to the analysis of the practical consequences of the political economy project proposed by the authors: according to Fligstein and Vogel, accumulated knowledge allows the social sciences to participate in determining the preferred development scenarios of modern capitalism.

Beyond Borders

Evgenia Popova
Imagination, Uncertainty and Business Strategies of Russian Companies in the Field of Medical Devices
P. 49–77

High-tech innovation is often understood as creating new worlds and trajectories of development and generating uncertainty. On the basis of 15 interviews with the heads of Russian medical technology companies, the paper presents the different types of uncertainties faced by med-tech entrepreneurs. Is the lack of exact knowledge about the results of the development and implementation of new technologies (a classic type of uncertainty in the innovation sector) perceived by entrepreneurs as a difficulty? Or do they deal with uncertainties of another type, for example, related to the political and economic context in the country? What business models are emerging in the industry for regional companies? What is the role of expectations and the imagination in the work of the company director or R & D engineers? How is this related to the specifics of the health industry?
As a theoretical basis, the concepts of uncertainty in the innovation sector, as well as uncertainty associated with the rules of the game set by political and economic institutions, are considered. The strategies of innovative entrepreneurs in conditions of uncertainty are investigated using the concept of the imaginary in the version of science and technology studies (STS). This research identifies four business models of hi-tech entrepreneurs in Russia: Small deal supporters, Revolutionaries, Conformists, and Isolationists. In the development of medical equipment, it is important that the main customers of medical devices in Russia are state-owned hospitals. One of the most winning strategies for Russian entrepreneurs is the use of ambiguity, i.e., to secondguess the agenda set by government agencies and use official rhetoric in negotiations with officials. One might have expected that, especially in such a situation, imaginaries might be a vehicle for innovation. However, uncertainty about rules and ambiguity in political priorities results in an imaginary drama—imaginaries in med-tech companies do not exist, and neither does innovation.

Professional Reviews

Dmitry Zhikharevich
Venture Capitalism, High-Technology Financing and the State’s Innovation Policy: A Sociological Analysis of the U.S. Experience (1940s–2010s)
P. 78–116

This paper reviews the theoretical and research literature on venture capitalism. The major approaches to the study of venture financing and its institutional forms are considered against the background of the experience of the U.S., where this industry exists the longest. Economists analyze venture capital as an institutional response either to the failure of the market for knowledge or to the failure of the market for entrepreneurial finance. Economic sociologists complement this analysis by emphasizing venture capital firms’ role in socializing technological entrepreneurs, indirect financing of innovation ecosystems, and risk management. In the more recent literature inspired by critical political economy and economic history, this functionalist, market-failure type of argument is increasingly called into question because of its insufficient attention to the role of the state in creating and maintaining the venture capital industry. Based on this literature, the paper illustrates the connection between the genesis of the venture capital industry in the U.S. and the evolution of the developmental state in post-war U.S. In conclusion, this paper discusses institutional alternatives to venture capital and the applicability of the U.S. experience to other contexts.

Dmitriy Serebrennikov, Yulia Kuzmina
Field Experiments and the Rubin Causal Model: Review of Approaches and Current Research
P. 117–139

Experiments of various kinds are increasingly being used in the social sciences to derive causal inference. Among the varieties of this method, field experiments are especially noteworthy. Explosive growth in their numbers has been observed in recent years, primarily in economics and political science. Gradually, field experimentation is starting to spread to other disciplines. One of the most important reasons for this is the popularization of the so-called Donald Rubin model of causal inference, which allows researchers to link experimental methods with statistics and other mathematical methods. In the Russian-speaking academic field, one can observe a lack of texts describing how field experiments are related to this model in causal inference, while such a research design allows us to focus specifically on the search for the causality of various social phenomena. This article provides a critical-bibliographic review of both the conceptual model of causation and the existing research carried out in the design of field experiments in the Rubin model. The first part of the paper provides a brief overview of the main paradigms of causation and how, from one of them (the approach of potential outcomes and counterfactual inference), the Rubin model logically arises. The following describes the milestones in the history of field experiments before the Rubin model. This is followed by a description of the model and today’s debate about the advantages, limitations, and design features of the field experiment. Finally, with a few examples, we analyze several well-known field experiments to illustrate the operation of the described method.

New Books

Elena Berdysheva
Skinner’s Box for the Consumer
Book Review: Zuboff Sh. (2019) The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power, New York: Public Affairs. 691 p
P. 140–148

The review signifies the key ideas of the book by Shoshanna Zuboff, who indicates the rise of a new form of capitalism called surveillance capitalism. This economic order is dominated by commercial IT companies, with a power advantage anchored in the monopoly for the means of behavior modification. Algorithms track the personal experience of users, while the scientific processing of these data opens unprecedented opportunities for the prediction of human feelings, desires, and decisions that transform new digital certainty into an inexhaustible source of economic and political profit. Zuboff’s research constructs a conceptual language for assessing the quality of a social order that is performatively produced by surveillance capitalism. The author criticizes the new economic system for breaking away from democratic principles. Control over human life, which can be achieved with modern information technology, is overarching. Recently, the massive expansion of consumer markets has fostered democratization and personalization. Surveillance capitalism involves objectifying a unique person to an anonymous Internet user and beginning to make money not out of consumer needs but by selling aggregated information about human behavior that can be used in consumer demand management. The fundamental message of the book is that European society is again risking its humanistic ideals for monetary gain. The book proves this message with the author’s eight-year ethnography in the field of global technology corporations. Field results are assessed against the postulates of social behaviorism. The review reveals the experience of reading Sh. Zuboff’s book in the context of the exploitation of man by man in modern European society. Researchers who compare different forms of capitalism with each other, think about the digitalization of the social order, or care about the challenges for human rights under different economic regimes will find the book thought-provoking and, therefore, useful.


Dmitry Zhikharevich, David Khumaryan
To Reassemble Capitalism: Economic Sociology and its “Political Unconscious.” On “Political Economy after Neoliberalism” by Neil Fligstein and Steven Vogel
P. 149–158

The article offers a commentary on the discussion of the article “Political Economy after Neoliberalism” by Fligstein and Vogel, published in the current issue of the Journal of Economic Sociology. The authors draw the attention of Russian-speaking readers to the fact that the work of American researchers not only problematizes the content of political debates in the United States, but also shapes the basic principles of economic and sociological analysis of various economic systems in their connection with regulation policies and public control. Arguments are given in favor of the fact that the article by Fligstein and Vogel is a kind of manifesto of new economic sociology, demonstrating its “political unconscious”—a number of axiomatic assumptions about the functioning of the capitalist political economy, arising from the research perspective of economic sociology and related disciplines. The structure of the argument proposed in the article includes an analysis of several theoretical and empirical directions: a discussion about the varieties of empirical models of capitalism and statements about the political nature of choice of the institutional architecture of economies, the ways of organizing relations between corporations and society, and the role of the state in the economy. The authors note that the so-called neoliberal turn in social and economic policy in recent years was partly based on the purely intellectual principle in mainstream economic theory that opposes states and markets. Studies in the field of economic sociology, history, and comparative political economy demonstrate the fallacy of this statement, offering a conceptual resource for rethinking modern capitalism.

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