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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. 5

Full text of the journal

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

New Texts

Andrei Vernikov, Anna Kurysheva
Precedence and Conspicuousness in Car Consumption
P. 11–39

We study how the availability of bank loans feeds excessive consumption, including the acquisition of goods for the sake of appearances. The aim of the paper is to review the institutions of consumer behavior and borrowing behavior, which have taken root due to consumer lending, in the case of auto loans in the Rostov region, Russia. We rely on material and statistical data from 2002–2020 from a variety of sources, including the Central Bank of Russia, Rosstat, National Bureau of Credit Histories (NBCH JSC), traffic police, etc. We build and estimate metrics featuring household borrowing behavior with regard to auto loans. The empirical results suggest a habitualization of the precedence of consumption (a term borrowed from Jean Baudrillard), including debt-driven ostentatious consumption. Borrowed money closes the gap between the cost of affordable cars and that of sought-after cars under the influence of socially induced criteria. Household spending on these items grew in absolute and relative terms. Our theoretical contribution is that we integrate the elements of several theories, namely, the concept of the precedence of consumption from sociology, ostentatious consumption from institutional theory, the social significance of banks as creditors, the socio-economic consequences of financialization, etc. Unlike some other authors, we extend the concept of ostentatious consumption to practically all goods, depending on the motivation that drives an individual, instead of confining it to luxury goods purchases by high-net-worth individuals. The contribution to the empirical literature is that we operationalize theoretical constructs in order to quantify them using factual data on auto loans. We conclude that the concepts of the precedence of consumption and ostentatious consumption remain valuable instruments in enabling us to interpret a number of empirical effects of financialization at the household level.

New Translations

Jonathan Crary
24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep (an excerpt)
P. 40–54

24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep explores some of the ruinous consequences of the expansion of non-stop processes of twenty-first-century capitalism. The marketplace now operates around the clock, pushing us into constant activity and eroding forms of community and political expression, damaging the fabric of everyday life. In his book, Crary examines how this interminable non-time blurs any separation between an intensified, ubiquitous consumerism and emerging strategies of control and surveillance. He describes the ongoing management of individual attentiveness and the impairment of perception within the compulsory routines of our contemporary technological culture. At the same time, he shows that human sleep—a restorative withdrawal that is intrinsically incompatible with 24/7 capitalism—points to other more formidable and collective refusals of world-destroying patterns of growth and accumulation.
The Journal of Economic Sociology will publish the first chapter of this book, which engages in a discussion of the reasons for sleep erosion and its connection to the dynamics of modern capitalism. Crary also alludes to the main threats of the 24/7 world and the possible human consequences.

Beyond Borders

Nataliya Volkova
Land Use Regulations: Legally Fluid Technology
P. 55–83

Urban law is changeable, and its changes may be associated with those in the material environment of the city as well as those in legal instruments. Consequently, the law itself is unstable. Two types of changes are associated with two types of conflict in urban law: conflicts of norms and property rights. The coordination of the two types of conflict means that urban law is decidedly technical. Therefore, the established methods of analyzing urban law, which emphasize the distinction between formal and informal relations, do not work to explain the ways of city law. According to the hypothesis of the study, urban law does not act as a normative or political tool but as an “unstable technique” (a term used de Laet and Mol) that unites a bundle of normative styles. In exemplifying the unstable technique of law, the article considers a local document of Russian urban regulation—Rules of Land Use and Development (PZZ). The research material was collected in the spring of 2021 in two Russian regional cities named in the text: Frontier City and Factory City. In the empirical part, two cases are analyzed. Changes in the PZZ that affect the material form of the city are described as moving objects that go through a series of negotiations and approvals. For legal changes in the context of the PZZ that affect the structure of the document and its normative styles, the study shows how such changes can be integrated into the existing structure of the PZZ. As a result, we see that the two cities work with material and legal changes in different ways, but both types of changes are irreducible to each other: the transformation of one into the other will lead to the destruction of the existing social order. This type of transformation, which Lo calls non-homeomorphic, sets the structure of the variability of PZZ and urban law and determines their topological nature, built on the ongoing switching between different normative styles.

Debut Studies

Anastasia Grishanina, Alexandra Narskaya, Polina Smirnova
High-Quality Donor: Criteria for the Selection of Gamete Donors in the Russian Field of Assisted Reproductive Technologies
P. 84–108

The emergence of assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) has been one of the groundbreaking solutions to the problem of infertility, but these technologies involve interference with the natural process of giving birth to a child. In this study, we answer the question of whether we can talk about attempts by parents to influence the “quality” of their child in ART through the mechanism of choosing gamete donors.
The theoretical analysis considers the concept of the “quality” of biomaterial in the context of the commodification of vital goods as well as the problem of kinship associated with the transformation of family relations as a result of the application of ARTs. Foreign studies have confirmed the attempt to influence the “quality” of the child through the choice of donors with certain characteristics. However, in the Russian context of social conservatism, previous studies have found interference in the genetics of a child to be unacceptable.
The aim of this work is to explore how the possibilities of controlling the “quality” of a child are distributed between doctors and infertile couples as well as the hidden social grounds behind the criteria used for choosing a donor. The focus of the study is on the representatives of reproductive centers and sperm and egg banks in Moscow. The strategies for selecting respondents were targeted selection and the snowball method, with the database consisting of fifteen semistructured interviews.
The analysis revealed that potential parents are included in the ART process as actors whose actions are subordinate to those of medical centers . The image of a “high-quality” donor is formed through the prism of certain requirements put forward to donors by ART centers and then transmitted to parents. In addition, the study found a tendency in the desire of potential parents to influence the “quality” of their child—not in an absolute but a relative sense—to have a child of the same “quality” as themselves.

Professional Reviews

Egor Makarov, Dmitry Tikhomirov
The Problem of Defining the Essence of Money in Contemporary Economic Sociology: Between the State and Trust
P. 109–137

The article considers the problem of defining the essence of money, which is one of the main problems in the contemporary sociology of money. This problem cannot be explained using the neoclassical economic analysis of money, in particular, the evolutionary theory of money by Menger. The main idea of this approach is that the origins of money should be found in the reducing cost of exchange based on the rationality of economic agents. Consequently, the universality of money and its spatial spread have remained unexplained (including temporary uncertainty and the use of money in the future). The paper presents two approaches—by Ingham and Dodd—to defining the essence of money. Considerable attention is paid to classic works in the field written by Simmel and Keynes. From the analysis, we see that the main features distinguishing monetary exchange from other forms of exchange (including barter) can be found in Simmel’s The Philosophy of Money. Simmel also provided two solutions on how to define money: the state’s production of credit money or trust in money from society. Ingham developed the first solution and singled out the state’s production of credit (and the creation of money as account). Meanwhile, Dodd insisted on the fiduciary component of the financial system as a crucial element. Both authors used the metaphor of money as an idea or process embedded in social relations, which contrasts the commodity metaphor introduced by Menger. The main assertion of the article is that the metaphor of money as an idea corresponds to the proposition that the basic function of money is the measure of value (money of account), or store of value, while the neoclassical model suggests that the commodity metaphor of money and its unit of exchange function are crucial. In addition, contemporary theories of money introduce the distinction between money as account (which is more abstract) and particular forms of money (which can be named money stuff). Similarities and contradictions between the two solutions to the problem of uncertainty—by Ingham and Dodd—are also presented in the article.

New Books

Liudmila Bogomazova
“Digital Rush”: In Search of Balance between Professional and Market Logics in Web Journalism
Book Review: Сhristin A. (2020) Metrics at Work: Journalism and the Contested Meaning of Algorithms, Princeton: Princeton University Press. 256 p
P. 138–151

A book written by French-born American sociologist Angèle Christin, Metrics at Work: Journalism and the Contested Meaning of Algorithms, is devoted to the specificities of the functioning of publications during the traffic-chase era. The book’s main goal is to show how the implementation of algorithms affects the professional identity and working practices of journalists. The scholar uses a multi-stage theoretical framework as she turns to Bourdieu’s concept of field, the sociology of “Worlds” by Boltanski and Thévenot, the theory of institutional isomorphism proposed by DiMaggio and Powell, and other relevant approaches examined in The New Economic Sociology.
The book is based on a comparative study of two web publications in the United States and France during the period 2011–2015. The author uses a mixed methodology whose core is comprised of observation and semistructured interviews with the staff of media organizations. Referring to the broad empirical material, Christin wonders whether metrics are really able to eradicate distinctions between national mass media in different countries. Although the two web publications face similar challenges in terms of modern journalism, they tackle them in different ways. This is due to the embeddedness of the professional activity of journalists in the institutional context, organizational structures, and professional fields.
The review raises the key issues of the book: a brief history of the formation of web journalism in the United States and France, the media organizations’ perception of metrics and audience, and the role of independent professionals in news production.

Supplements (in English)

Hajnalka Fényes, Márta Mohácsi, Gabriella Pusztai
Types and Predictors of Career Consciousness among Higher Education Students
P. 152–171

In this study, we examine the higher education career consciousness of students and explore the factors affecting it. To this, we conducted empirical surveys in five Central and Eastern European countries (N = 2,199). As the literature contains no universal theory of career consciousness or an accepted measurement scale, we used self-developed indicators. Furthermore, instead of applying a psychological theoretical focus, we concentrated on sociological aspects. The first indicator of career consciousness measured the career-oriented motives of students entering higher education. The second reflected on career-related performance indicators during their studies, while the third and fourth indicated voluntary and paid employment undertaken alongside their studies for career-oriented purposes. Our principal component analysis resulted in two types of career consciousness. The first included career-conscious motives at the point of entry into higher education, and the second comprised career-oriented performance and actions during the course of study. The results of a cluster analysis support the existence of two distinct student groups based on the two types. Our regression analysis also shows that the strength of the two types of career consciousness depends on different background variables. Overall, our results imply that those who have career-conscious motives at entry into higher education do not act in a career-conscious way during their studies and that, conversely, those who act in a career-conscious manner during their studies do not have career-conscious motives concerning their entry into higher education. Furthermore, students’ socio-demographic background and training field also variously influence the strength of the two types of career consciousness.

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