Crossing Boundaries: Economic Sociology and its Intersections

Joint Conference

Time: 13 th- 15 th September 2018
Venue: Universität Konstanz, Konstanz, Germany

Keynotes by:

Frank Dobbin (Harvard University)
Lucio Baccaro (MPIfG & University of Geneva)

Economic Sociology today is a vibrant field of research, which from its outset has been debating its boundaries with other disciplines that study economic behavior, such as Economics, Political Science, Political Economy, History, Geography or Anthropology. While in the mid-20th century there had been a division of labor, where research on the economy had been mainly left to economists, New Economic Sociology has since (re-)developed a sociological perspective on the study of economic interactions, particularly on the nature and outcomes of market exchange. Being a specialized and distinct field of research we are interested in the intersections and boundaries of economic sociology both with other disciplines and within sociology. For instance, sharing some of its roots with the sociology of organizations, what are the current communalities and differences between economic sociology, organizations studies and management science? Other intersections include the historical analysis of the emergence of markets, the governance of economic behavior or the spatial dimension of markets. In addition, many subfields within sociology also study economic behavior. Some of them, such as the sociology of labor markets and work, the sociology of consumption, or the sociology of organizations are an inherent part of economic sociology. What are common theoretical and methodological grounds? Where can we learn from each other?

Whilst boundaries can help to sharpen the identity and thus research program of a field, they also lead to rigid demarcations and artificial isolations of related perspectives. Consequently, the current state of research is hard to assess and contributions in related fields are possibly neglected. Hence, we want to invite scholars from sociology and related fields to debate similarities and differences in the study of the economy, as it is reflected in their own research. Although we focus on exploring the intersections of economic sociology with other disciplines, we are open to all kinds of research in the field of economic sociology.

A. General sessions (thematically open)

Topics for the general sessions include, but are not limited to:

  • Theoretical perspectives in Economic Sociology
  • Economic sociology and social and economic inequality
  • Money, finance and society
  • Markets and morality
  • Sustainability and corporate social responsibility
  • Markets, digitalization and innovation
  • Modes of economic coordination and governance

Special Sessions (B.- I.)

B. Political Economy and Economic Sociology

Session Organizers: Sebastian Nessel (Graz) and Sebastian Koos (Konstanz)

Political economy and economic sociology share the central assumption that economic action is embedded in and structured by (political) institutions. Research on “Varieties of Capitalism” or “Worlds of Welfare” reflect this perspective well. Such approaches may widen the scope of economic sociology by pointing to the relations of firms with a wide range of individual (firms, suppliers, competitors etc.) and collective (unions, political parties etc.) actors and by focusing on the nexus between the state, the market and civil society, in a comparative perspective. In this session we want to explore the main similarities and differences (e.g. the neglect of culture) as well as the benefits of a closer dialogue of political economy and economic sociology.

C. Economic Sociology and Social Movement Studies

Session Organizer: Philip Balsiger (Neuchâtel) and Simone Schiller-Merkens (Witten/Herdecke)

Over the past decade, a research field studying the "contentiousness of markets" has emerged at the intersection of social movement studies and economic sociology. Social movements play a role in both, contesting actually existing markets and the practices of market actors, and developing alternative economies at the margins of the capitalist market economy. This session wants to explore current work in this domain and encourage dialogue between social movement scholars and economic sociologists.

D. Economic Sociology and the Sociology of Valuation

Session Organizers: Thorsten Peetz (Bremen), Frank Meier (Hamburg), Désirée Waibel (Bremen) and Marta Olcoń-Kubicka (Warsaw)

Practices of valuation are at the center of economic activity and under constant scrutiny by economic sociology. In recent years, however, they have also attracted considerable attention by scholars investigating other social spheres like education, science, the arts or intimacy. An emerging „sociology of valuation“ is investigating practices and constellations of valuation regardless of sub-disciplinary boundaries. The sessions are supposed to encourage the discussion between economic sociology and the sociology of valuation.

E. Economic Sociology and the Labor Market

Session Organizers: Alberto Veira Ramos (Madrid) and Nicola Pensiero (London)

Labor markets are viewed by sociologists as something more than mere arenas where individual exchanges of services and rewards between employers and employees take place. They are indeed complex playgrounds where social stratification and inequalities are sanctioned and opportunities for social mobility for locals and social integration for migrants are set. Moreover, an array of noneconomic aspects such as customs, informal rules and human, social and relational capital play a crucial role on shaping the outcomes of negotiations between actors. Boundaries set by country specific legal and informal institutional arrangements create a truly social institution that reflects the values embedded in each society. This session aims to serve as common ground for those interested on intersections between economic sociology, the study of social stratification, the educational system, informal economies or integration of immigrant workers, particularly from an international comparative perspective.

F. Local Economy. The Neighbourhood as an Economic Unit

Session Organizers: Robert Kitzmann (Berlin) and Nina Baur (Berlin)

Neighbourhoods are gaining importance as economic units. In addition to the effects of neighbourhood development on e.g. the urban scale, the neighbourhood itself is embedded in different socio-spatial contexts. Besides urban, regional and national scales, the neighbourhood is characterized by a field of tension between local and global actions, relations and attributions of meanings. This not only concern individual residents and households but also the local economy. Since local economy is often going short in academic discussion about the neighbourhood, the session explores its importance and functions at the interface of local supply function and global embeddedness.

G. Economic Sociology and Organization Studies

Session Organizers: Mikolaj Pawlak (Warsaw) and Sebastian Koos (Konstanz)

Organizations are still the dominant cultural form by and in which economic action unfolds. While today, economic sociology focuses more on markets, networks and cultural processes, organizations remain an important site, context and form of coordination of individual action. Even though, sharing common roots, economic sociology and organization studies have become increasingly distinct fields of inquiry. To this panel, we invite presentations focusing on the economic actions performed by organizations and within organizations. We are also looking for theoretical papers crossing the boundaries between economic sociology, organization theory, and management studies.

H. Global Value Chains. Perspectives from Sociology and Geography

Session Organizers: Elmar Kulke (Berlin) and Nina Baur (Berlin)

Global Value Chains (GVCs) are a common field of research in sociology and economic geography alike. However, despite similar research interest and objects, the possible interrelations between both fields with regards to GVCs go unnoticed yet. This session is aiming on linking GVC-related research from economic sociology, economic geography and related disciplines. Of particular interest are topics dealing with either the production or the consumption context of value chains, their connections and involved actors as well as the resulting transformations of GVCs.

I. Anthropology and Economic Sociology: shared methodologies and epistemologies

Session Organizers: Andreas Streinzer (Vienna) and Martin Fotta (Frankfurt)

'Panel organised in cooperation with the Anthropology of Economy Network of the European Association of Social Anthropologists'
Contemporary economic sociology and economic anthropology considerably overlap. A clear boundary cannot easily be established according to regional, thematic or methodological difference. Both disciplines work on Western and Non-Western settings, employ similar theoretical approaches, and consider ethnography as methodology. Yet, the image of clearly separated disciplines still serves as a powerful justification for (re)drawing boundaries– from specific canons to separate research- funding streams. The panel aims to investigate these cross-disciplinary discussions and fertilizations by critically takes stock of ‘the ethnographic’ in anthropology, sociology, and related disciplines seeking to understand the economy. This focus is particularly relevant since participant observation, immersive methodologies, and ethnographic fieldwork as complementary methods is increasingly used in all social sciences.

For more information on the research network please see:

For information on venue, travel details and accommodation:

Local Organization: Sebastian Koos (esa_econsoc(at)uni-konstanz(dot)de)

For more information (PDF).