Advancing Socio-economics: An Institutionalist Perspective

Table of Contents
Contributors Biographies

Part I On Socio-Economic Concepts and Methods

Part II On Institutions
Part III On Social Systems of Production-and Beyond

Preface    J. Rogers Hollingsworth, Karl H. Müller, Ellen Jane Hollingsworth

While the field of socio-economics has undergone a remarkable renaissance during the past decade, its roots extend back more than two centuries. In short, the broad framework for engaging in a social and economic approach to the world has long been rather pervasive. For example, although Adam Smith, in the latter part of the eighteenth century, is often portrayed as one of the fathers of modern economics, in fact he was a Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh and was vitally concerned with many of the same issues which today concern those of us who have a strong identity as socio-economists.

During the past century, however, the study of the social, the political, the economic, the philosophical-in short, most of the areas constituting the area of socio-economics-became increasingly differentiated into separate fields of knowledge, and in turn each has become further differentiated into subspecialties. The modern university, especially in the second half of the twentieth century, has become a "Babel" type of institution in which many of its inhabitants constitute separate "tribes" which can hardly communicate with each other. Contrary to the fragmentation of fields and sub-fields within the social sciences, very broadly conceived, the nature of societal problems and the patterns of societal changes have clearly advanced towards greater complexity and towards greater scope and inter-linkages. Thus, in the course of creating more and more disciplinary diversity, the relevance and the impact of social science expertise and problem solutions with respect to critical societal problems has decreased. In reaction against this fragmentation, there has been in recent years a concerted effort to build bridges across various social science disciplines, to promote greater integration of the social sciences. Numerous new academic journals have emerged as part of this activity, the following being a few examples: The Journal of Evolutionary Economics, The Journal of Socio-Economics, The Review of International Political Economy, Industrial and Corporate Change, Politics and Society. And it is in this context, that the field of socio-economics has become energized.

Socio-economics has always emphasized its inter-disciplinary nature and its hybrid status between and beyond different disciplines within the social sciences, broadly conceived. Therefore, it is no wonder that there is now considerable cognitive diversity in what one can identify as the broad parameters of socio-economics. But we are now at a critical junction in the field of socio-economics. We can simply stand back and let the diversity evolve in a very amorphous way, with most of the participants very weakly linked and with no cognitive transfers between the various "tribes" and fields. Or, in an effort to advance the theoretical core, the methods, and the modeling techniques for a richer and more interactive field of socio-economics, we can attempt to order and systematize this diversity. To be more precise, organizing the existing diversity means, above all, to generate a "nested structure," that is, to embed the various socio-economic disciplines and sub-disciplines within a rich and common socio-economic core or, alternatively, within a common socio-economic paradigm. Such a socio-economic paradigm serves as the common platform for cross-disciplinary communications and is responsible, above all, for directed and inter-linked disciplinary changes. This volume represents a first step in attempting to impose some order and nested structures to the field of socio-economics. 

The key concern is to focus on the basic ingredients for studying the dynamics of contemporary societies with a socio-economic perspective. In chapter 1, J. Rogers Hollingsworth begins this task with a stage-setting essay in which he focuses on a core agenda of socio-economics which consists of a combination of institutions, innovations, and inequalities-"the Triple I." Obviously, these three themes do not exhaust the totality of a theoretical agenda for socio-economics, but they are an important starting point for the defining of a core agenda. It would be particularly useful for the socio-economic community to understand how processes of institutions, innovations, and inequalities feed back and interact with each other and how these constrain and shape societal change.

The next task in structuring the field of socio-economics is to define several broad methodological parameters in which socio-economics operates. In part 1, Hollingsworth suggests that socio-economists engage in a multi-level analysis if they are to understand the world in which we live: the global, the transnational regional, the nation-state, the sub-national regional, and the local community. As citizens of the world, we are nested in each of these levels. Unfortunately, our relationship generally focuses on only one level-the nation-state, the sub-national region, or the global-but our understanding of the linkages of multiple levels remains poorly developed. That chapter is followed by chapter 3 in which Amitai Etzioni, the founder of the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics, presents an essay in which he puts forth essential elements for a socio-economic paradigm. Next Robin Stryker perceptively discusses the future of the field of socio-economics and its relationship with the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics. That chapter is one of particular relevance, for it is essential that the leaders of a research area have some vision of where the field should and can go and to suggest how it might move in that direction.

Karl H. Müller (chapter 5) spells out the relationship between socio-economics and the neoclassical analysis of the social world. Whereas neoclassical scholars have been relatively successful in establishing their dominance within the world of social science, Müller defines a radically new relationship between these two research programs. He demonstrates his considerable respect for the strength of the neoclassical program, but proposes a Copernican inversion, arguing that the neoclassical perspective should be viewed as a special case and special-purpose program within the far more diversified and far more general socio-economic paradigm. Like any true Copernican inversion, the hitherto established center of analysis-the neoclassical paradigm-becomes de-centered or marginalized and the previously special and marginal domains of socio-economics acquire core and central status. In the spirit of a Copernican revolution, Müller's chapter 5 on socio-economic embeddedness provides a great deal of cognitive support for "de-centering" the neoclassical program and for treating it as a significant, though highly special, case within the more encompassing socio-economic paradigm.

A key assumption of this volume is that socio-economics begins either with institutional analysis or at least with sensitivity to institutional analysis. Today, virtually all the social sciences have institutional analysis relatively high on their research agenda, with the exception of psychology, but even there the analysis of institutions is gaining greater currency. Unfortunately, across the social sciences there is no consensus as to what is meant by institutions, and hence there is no agreement as to how scholars should go about doing institutional analysis. The chapters in part 2 by J. Rogers Hollingsworth, Tom R. Burns and Marcus Carson, Geoffrey M. Hodgson, Frans van Waarden, and Claus Offe are efforts to define institutional analysis, to identify a few of the major problems in undertaking institutional analysis of contemporary societies, and to propose strategies for doing institutional analysis. Underlying themes implicit in the chapters of part 2 are the issues of institutional complementarity and complexity-the suggestion that particular institutions and specific coordinating mechanisms function as they do because of the way they interact with other institutions and coordinating mechanisms.

Part 3 is an effort to connect a socio-economic agenda, its methods, and models to specific applications. The chapter by J. Rogers Hollingsworth on social systems of production offers an example of an application of socio-economics for macro societal analysis. Similarly, the chapters by Peter A. Hall, Steven Casper, Sigurt Vitols, Raymond Russell and Robert Hanneman, and Marie-Laure Djelic also provide applications of socio-economic strategies for macro-societal analysis. The concluding chapter by Jerald Hage and J. Rogers Hollingsworth, "Institutional Pathways, Networks, and the Differentiation of National Economies" is a paradigmatic example of innovational analysis at the national level, reflecting the richness of the theoretical core of socio-economics and the strength of comparative analysis.

This volume offers a number of innovative suggestions as the first steps in developing a socio-economics research agenda with institutional analysis as the central focus. Moreover, the volume provides a number of examples of how institutional analysis can be operationalized not only in multi-level analysis but also in comparative societal analysis. In related activities, we emphasize various socio-economic core methods for conducting comparative research for both contemporary and past societies.

Financial support for this and related projects was provided by the National Science Foundation under grant SBR 9618526; the Graduate Research Committee of the University of Wisconsin; the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; the Alfred Sloan Foundation; the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study; the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study in the Social Sciences; the Rockefeller Foundation Study and Conference Center in Bellagio, Italy; the Neurosciences Institute in La Jolla, California; and the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin. Furthermore, we want to thank the Austrian Ministry for Education, Science, and Culture for its financial support to bring this volume into its current layout and graphical design. 

We wish to express our thanks and gratitude to a number of individuals. Our special thanks go to David Gear and his extremely careful efforts in bringing this volume to completion, to Greg Greenberg who was enormously helpful in bringing together the materials in the early stages of the project, and to Stanley Walens, whose exceptional editorial work and technical skills have been very important for the completion of this project. We also thank Michael Eigner of Vienna who was responsible for the graphic designs, Gertrud Stadler at the Institute for Advanced Studies (IHS) in Vienna who transformed the tables of the volume into their current design, and a number of referees and commentators on the papers in the volume. We are also very grateful to our editor, Mary Carpenter of Rowman & Littlefield, whose patience and advice were extremely helpful in bringing this project to completion. We also wish to thank Jerald Hage, Christel Lane, Egon Matzner, Yoshitaka Okada, David Soskice, Richard Whitley, and numerous other colleagues for their stimulating discussions over the years about socio-economics. We are especially grateful to Amitai Etzioni who provided much of the intellectual inspiration for the contemporary revitalization of socio-economics. His continuing support for this field has been vital. For these reasons, we dedicate this volume to him. We also dedicate it to Robert Boyer and Wolfgang Streeck, for their role in teaching us about the institutional environment in which actors are embedded.

May 2002

J. Rogers Hollingsworth
University of Wisconsin, Madison

Karl H. Müller
WISDOM, Vienna

Ellen Jane Hollingsworth
University of Wisconsin, Madison

Table of Contents
Contributors Biographies

Part I On Socio-Economic Concepts and Methods

Part II On Institutions
Part III On Social Systems of Production-and Beyond
Rogers Hollingsworth Homepage

Copyright © 2003 Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
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