Economic Sociology, 2019 (1)
en-usCopyright 2019Thu, 31 Jan 2019 11:53:11 +0300Editor’s Foreword (Vadim Radaev)
Interview with Tatiana Karabchuk. International Comparisons, Social Impacts of Labor Instability, and the Secrets of Academic Happiness
Tatiana Karabchuk, Assistant Professor of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences of the United Arab Emirates University, was interviewed by Elena Berdysheva, Senior Research Fellow at the Laboratory for Studies in Economic Sociology at the National Research University Higher School of Economics, in November 2018. The interview mainly focused on Karabchuk’s research interests and rich work experience at different universities around the world, emphasizing the differences in the academic infrastructures. Dr. Karabchuk highlights the shift toward international comparisons of studies in job stability, subjective well-being and happiness, and fertility and family policies. She claims that societies need to develop an understanding of how social and political institutions should be designed. Developing countries often implement social policies and practices borrowed from more developed ones. In this sense, social sciences can contribute to the process. Dr. Karabchuk also mentions the challenges for the social sciences in the UAE and her experience in launching a regular individual survey for data collection, ‘Monitoring of Emirati Youth’. Research efficiency in academia as well as the development of doctoral education in the UAE were other aspects highlighted in the interview. According to her comments, many universities today provide a productive infrastructure for research, which is a crucial determinant of success. In places where the environment is enriched with material, technical, and communication resources, academics are far more productive. Flexibility in timing and 24-hour office availability for the researchers are the most encouraging factors for productive work.A Nietzschean Take on a Hundred-Dollar Bill: Reading Weber’s “Protestant Ethic” in Connection with a Contemporary Economist’s Comments
‘Weber’s Hypnosis’ by HSE Professor Rostislav Kapeliushnikov [Kapeliushnikov 2018a: 25–49; Kapeliushnikov 2018b: 12–42] was a point of departure for writing this article. Answering to the examination of Weber’s text by a contemporary economist, the author finds it necessary to discuss the ethical component of “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism” in detail. The article draws special attention to the use of the ethical variable there as well as its values: the calling and the humility (also, the ressentiment). The author says that for Weber, it is important to understand where the new type of thinking comes from, the one that concentrates the entirety of life around work (e.g., business, acquisition). The pursuit of acquisition loses the religious and ethical content, but the concept of professional duty remains. According to Weber, this evolution will result in the appearance of the last man—a soulless person locked inside his profession. The author shows that Weber’s interpretation of the Protestant doctrines, where the aim of work is to “get rid of the fear of damnation”, is parallel to the Nietzschean idea of the unpleasant role of “the blessings of work”. In order to answer the critics’ questions, the author discusses the problems of the spirit of capitalism, as it is described in the “Protestant Ethic”. Some of the components of this spirit are described, such as the calling (Beruf), acquisition (Erwerb), and duty (Pflicht). The spirit of capitalism is differentiated from gain, and the connection between the notion of capitalism and that of economic growth is examined; fragments of texts by B. Franklin and D. Defoe, which served as a prototype for Weber for the spirit of capitalism, are analyzed. In the end, the author shares thoughts on how Weber’s logic can be applied to analyzing contemporary reality, what questions it lets one raise, and why the text that, according to Professor R. Kapeliushnikov, is a myth that has no connection to reality, is still read today.Platform Capitalism (excerpts)
This book discusses the transformation of firms into platforms—companies providing software and hardware products to others—that has occurred in many economic sectors. This massive transformation resulted from switching capitalism into data, considering them as a source for economic growth and resilience. Changes in digital technologies contributed much to the relationships between companies and their workers, clients, and other capitalists, who increasingly began to rely on data. Dr. Nick Srnicek critically reviews “platform capitalism”, putting new forms of the business model into the context of economic history, tracing their evolution from the long downturn of the 1970s to the economic boom of the 1990s and to the consequences of the 2008 financial crisis. The author demonstrates that the global economy was re-divided among a few of the monopolistic platforms and shows how these platforms set up new internal trends for the development of capitalism. The Journal of Economic Sociology further publishes some excerpts from the second chapter, which is named “Platform Capitalism” after the title of the book. This chapter is an attempt to provide clarity to various ongoing discussions in the new world, as it lays out a typology (i.e., cloud platforms, advertising platforms, lean platforms, industrial platforms, and product platforms) and the genesis of platforms.Deliberate By-Catch of the Caspian Seal and the Development of Illegal Wildlife Trade (IWT) in Dagestan, Russia: A Socio-Economic Approach
The paper describes how the deliberate by-catch of the Caspian seals in Dagestan, Russia has given to a rise in illegal wildlife trade (IWT) in the region after the sturgeon population, as the most valuable commodity for local markets, critically declined. The data were derived from using a set of anthropological and sociological methods and approaches, including semistructured interviews (SSIs), focus groups, direct observations reflected in field notes, the life-story approach, and “grounded theory”, based on a study of sturgeon poaching conducted by the author since 2012. Although the author subdivided the local IWT into four stages that cover the coastal, piedmont areas, and highlands of Dagestan, in this article, he deepens the readers’ knowledge of the first two stages of IWT in the coastal areas. For a better understanding of the nature of regional IWT, the notion of an autonomous community is introduced. Several examples have been chosen for description: the inclusion of seals resulting from by-catch in new informal contractual relations between young fishers and boat owners, the illegal taking of the fishers sentenced in Kazakhstan, the ransom for the release of fishers sentenced in Kazakhstan (“Kazakh captivity”), the buying of the seals’ carcasses and skins, its initial processing, and the further resale of skins to craftsmen from the mountainous areas of Dagestan. The author argues that the birth of the IWT in the regions is closely linked to the emergence of the local autonomous resource-extracting community, following the breakup of the USSR, where the Sturgeon Fishing Brigade (SFB; the first stage of IWT) and the seals’ middlemen (the second stage of IWT) play the most important roles as social entities. Autonomous community helps the young fishers of the SFB to perceive illegality as an a priori phenomenon, which was facilitated by the long-term absence of the state as the main regulator of social and economic processes. Hence, there is no sense in considering the dichotomy of “legality-illegality” as a research problem when dealing with IWT as a by-product of the autonomous resource extracting community. Results also show that different types of reciprocity and redistribution serve as the main regulatory tools in conducting economic transactions among parties involved in the coastal and highlands IWT structures. The reciprocal ties are partly based on either reputation (in the case of the middlemen) a moral obligations (in the case of the SFB).The Economic Crisis in the Russian Mass Media: Constructing and Deconstructing Problems
This article discusses the process of constructing the image of the economic crisis in Russian online newspapers. The relevance of such analysis is due to the increasing audience attention toward economic discussions in the media during the period of economic instability and, accordingly, the increasing influence of the media on the perception of the situation in the country. This paper is based on a constructionist perspective for understanding the nature of social problems. Counter-rhetorical strategies, suggested by Ibarra and Kitsuse, are adopted to analyze the deproblematization of the economic crisis in the Russian mass media. The goal of the study was achieved by conducting a content analysis, which included the count of mentioned key words and a thematic analysis. Moreover, in order to solve one of the tasks, network analysis was used. The study demonstrates that online newspapers pay the most attention to the coverage of anti-Russian sanctions, inflation, and the ruble rate. Meanwhile, social consequences of the crisis, such as poverty and unemployment, are represented in the Russian media to a much lesser extent. The network analysis also shows that online newspapers are focused on the ruble and dollar rates, sanctions, and loans. According to the network agenda-setting theory, these «links» of economic events in publications can form certain associations among the audience regarding the causes, perpetrators, and consequences of the crisis. Thus, inflation could be caused by the weakening of ruble rate, and sanctions could be one of the causes of the crisis. Strategies of economic crisis de-problematization or counter-rhetorical strategies were found only in mass online newspapers. There were both sympathetic (e.g., declaring impotence, perspectivizing) and unsympathetic (e.g., counter-rhetoric of telling the anecdote, counter-rhetoric of insincerity) strategies.Cultural Consumption in Sociological Research: A Review of Measurement Approaches
This review highlights sociological approaches to the definition and measurement of cultural consumption. Studies regarding this issue are based on the supposition that cultural preferences depend on social position and, therefore, reflect social structure. Nevertheless, despite the long history of cultural consumption research and the existence of numerous studies addressing this topic, the notion is still vague. Several approaches may be found in the literature. Cultural consumption is analyzed as a part of lifestyle that is dependent on class structure. This framework is related to the distinction between highbrow and lowbrow activities and tastes, where each set of choices is only relevant for a particular class. Criticism and further development of this approach is related to the reevaluation of both the structure of cultural consumption and the basis for distinction. More recent studies have addressed not only the symbolic value of cultural products but have also looked at the range of cultural preferences and the intensity of cultural activities. Along with this, papers tackling the modes of cultural consumption are also present. However, existing papers vary in terms of employing these approaches. On the one hand, the definitions are different; studies analyze practices, tastes, or experiences. On the other hand, researchers use different variables and scales to measure cultural consumption.How Organizations are Talked into Existence Book Review: Czarniawska B. (1997) Narrating the Organization: Dramas of Institutional Identity, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 256 p.
Czarniawska’s book may seem to be quite a challenge for several reasons: the author's trademark “crossing genre boundaries” requires a reader to pay attention and stay confident; the outward simplicity of narrating organizational change stands on sophisticated philosophical, sociological, and philological grounds; and the language is eclectic but brilliantly puts together new empirically grounded and older, well-known theoretical concepts. Czarniawska tells a story of the Swedish public sector’s reorganization with the accuracy of an academic and the eloquence of a narrator—institutions become apparent in their activities, as they are based on action, which is depicted by the coined term action nets. In a sense, the reader should be attentive and “follow the words”. Though imagination is also a precondition, as the light but solid and convincing narrative constructions are open to further “translation” (in a hermeneutic and actor-network sense). Narrative knowledge and its metaphors make it much more productive for work with essential organizational paradoxes. Czarniawska points out that a narrative approach can help new institutionalism reflect on its own limitations and better understand institutional building. With a focus on verbal and written communication as well as employees’ stories, we can trace how institutionalized thought structures, which are responsible for the repertoire of possible actions and shared perceptions among organization participants, are formed. The book is well written and pleasant for thoughtful reading in both its theoretical and empirical parts. The stories and serials of the Swedish public sector raise important questions of company-ization, technologyization, and rethinking organizational identity. “Narrating the Organization” can also offer some interesting methodological approaches and explanations for why and how stories “work” due to the modern trend of storytelling. The author openly invites her audience into a dialogue and joint-narrative creativity; the only task of the reader is merely to open the book.Methodological Reflection in a Pith Helmet Commentary on the Article by R. E. Bumagin and D. M. Rogozin, “Criticism of the Interview Approach in Examining the Similarity of the Appearance of Products Belonging to the Same Product Category”
This paper is a polemical response to the article “Criticism of the Interview Approach in Examining the Similarity of the Appearance of Products Belonging to the Same Product Category”, which also appeared in the Journal of Economic Sociology [2018, vol. 19, no 2, pp. 86–117]. In this work, Roman Bumagin and Dmitry Rogozin claim that in trademark similarity research, it is necessary to take into consideration the overall similarity of designs in the same product category. They also criticize the current research practices’ focus on survey methods and call for a fundamental revision of the decision-making process on trademark similarity. While welcoming the attention given to some important subjects (e.g., the need for controls and the background level of similarity), we question the appropriateness of Bumagin and Rogozin’s research procedure and draw attention to the instances of incorrect citations and the distortion of facts in their text. Using specific examples, we show that the arguments proposed in support of the criticism, in fact, illustrate the advantages of current research practices. The procedure actively uses experimental plans and considers the background level of similarity. Our article also asserts, more generally, that to criticize current decision-making in trademarks’ similarity from the perspective of scientism, as Bumagin and Rogozin have done, fails to reflect the specific conditions of arbitration (in a broad sense) authorities. Their goal is not only to establish the truth but also to resolve economic conflicts, and this requires not only a strict but an understandable research procedure. We conclude that hypercriticism in trademark similarity research causes a “colonial” attitude, and it prevents real research practice improvement.