Sociology Index

Economic Sociology of Capitalism

Max Weber and Joseph Alois Schumpeter wrote voluminously on capitalism, as testified to by their works — Economy and Society (Weber 1922) and Business Cycles (Schumpeter, 1939). There is a clear development in their thought over time—from emphasizing the role of various voluntaristic elements, such as the spirit of capitalism and the spirit of entrepreneurship, to stressing the role of institutions. Max Weber and Schumpeter both argue that a vigorous and healthy capitalism requires certain economic and non-economic institutions, in addition to something else—absence of this ‘something else’ may lead to capitalist petrification or collapse, according to both authors.

The Economic Sociology of Capitalism: Weber and Schumpeter - Richard Swedberg. Abstract: This article points to a distinct puzzle in the analyses of capitalism that can be found in the works of Weber and Schumpeter, and gives a new introduction to their analysis of capitalism.

The Economic Sociology of Capitalism
Edited by Victor Nee and Richard Swedberg.
The Economic Sociology of Capitalism presents both big-picture analyses of capitalism and more focused pieces on institutions crucial to capitalism. The first section addresses core issues and problems in the new study of capitalism; the second considers a variety of topics concerning America, the leading capitalist economy of the world; and the third focuses attention on the question of convergence stemming from the global transformation of capitalism and the challenge of explaining institutional change.

Towards an economic sociology of capitalism
Richard Swedberg.
Effort has been made to present an agenda for a sociological study of capitalism. There are two reasons why this type of study may be called an economic sociology of capitalism. Where socialism still prevails, such as in the People’s Republic of China, serious attempts are made to turn the whole economic system in a capitalist direction so that it will operate in a more efficient manner. “It doesn’t matter if the cat is white or black as long as it catches mice”, to cite a famous line by Deng Xiaoping (Becker, 2000: 52-53).

For sociologists capitalism has mainly been of interest for its social effects—how it has led to class struggle, anomie, inequality and social problems in general. Capitalism as an economic system in its own right has been of much less interest. Some of this reaction has probably to do with the unfortunate division of labor that developed between economists and sociologists in the 19th century: economists studied the economy, and the sociologists society minus the economy. In this respect, as in so many others, sociology has essentially been a “left-over science” (Wirth, 1948).

Schumpeter, Joseph A. (1946), "The future of private enterprise in the face of modern socialistic tendencies", in Conference, Papers (ed.), The economics and sociology of capitalism (ESC) Comment sauvegarder l'entreprise privée (conference papers), Montreal: Association Professionnelle des Industriels, pp. 401–05, OCLC 796197764.

Schumpeter, Joseph A. (2014) [1942]. Capitalism, socialism and democracy (2nd ed.). Floyd, Virginia: Impact Books.