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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Sociology

Postgraduate Course: Economic Sociology: Theories and Enquiries (SCIL11033)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course provides an introduction to the field of Economic Sociology, which applies the theoretical and empirical tools of sociology to the economy. After providing an overview of the field¿s major theoretical perspectives the course then pursues a series of enquiries. These include case studies of financial crises and close examination of a variety of markets, including those for labour, financial instruments and environmental goods.
Course description Did financial models cause the 2008 financial crisis? Can carbon markets help tackle climate change? How does culture shape capitalism? What¿s the best way to find a job? These are just some of the questions that Economic Sociology addresses. An alternative to the rationalist approach of mainstream Economics, Economic Sociology applies the theoretical and empirical tools of sociology to the economy.

The first half of the course provides an overview of the theories of classical economic sociologists. We begin with Karl Marx, Max Weber, and Karl Polanyi and how they conceptualised the emergence of capitalism and the spread of market-based social relations. These thinkers lay the groundwork for an examination of developments in the field since the 1980s. From this time onwards the focus has been on understanding the embeddedness of economic institutions within social structures. In keeping with these concerns, we examine different ways of understanding embeddedness: through social networks, institutions, cultures, and technical infrastructures.

In the second half of the course, these theoretical insights inform a series of case studies on money, carbon markets, sub-prime lending, financial models, and regulation. For example, we address why some economic sociologists have stressed money¿s qualitative nature. We also look at the sociological mechanisms involved in the uptake of financial models and their possible role in triggering financial crises. The aim of the second half of the course is to give students a taste of some of the most important work being undertaken by economic sociologists today. It also helps students to start thinking about how they might apply their sociological training to economic matters in their own research.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. 1. Appreciate the relationship between Economic Sociology, Economics and Political Economy, and understand the specific methodological contribution of Economic Sociology.
  2. 2. Have a grounding in the broad Economic Sociology literature as well as in the methodologies employed by economic sociologists to study economic phenomena.
  3. 3. Be acquainted with the ideas of major figures and schools of thought within the field, and be able to explain the significance of contemporary debates.
  4. 4. Be familiar with and able to apply the concepts of embeddedness, culture, market devices and performativity to sociological economic analyses and in his/her own research project (where applicable).
  5. 5. Understand major contemporary debates concerning the nature of money, financialization, the recent financial crisis, carbon markets and failures of regulation.
Reading List
Granovetter, Mark. 1985. ¿Economic Action and Social Structure: The Problem of Embeddedness.¿ American Journal of Sociology 91 (3) (November): 481-510.

MacKenzie, Donald, and Yuval Millo. 2003. ¿Constructing a Market, Performing Theory: The Historical Sociology of a Financial Derivatives Exchange.¿ American Journal of Sociology 109 (1) (July): 107¿145.

Polanyi, Karl. The Great Transformation. 2nd ed. Boston: Beacon Press (1944).

Zelizer, Viviana A. 2011. Economic Lives: How Culture Shapes the Economy. Princeton University Press.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Nathan Coombs
Course secretaryMr Joe Burrell
Tel: (0131 6) 51 3892
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