The Third Stage of Economic Sociology

The third stage (from the late 70s to the present) is characterized in the literature as the stage of the “new economic sociology”. According to the American sociologist R. Svedberg, at this stage this direction acquires the character of “comparative macrosociology”. Its main features are the orientation to comparative studies between countries, the formulation of issues affecting not individual social groups, but integral social systems, the problems of the world system, the politics of countries and their different groups, the problems of world ecology, the development of technology, the organization of economic ties, and demography.

At the same time , economic sociology has shared with economic history an interest in the emergence and variability of current market systems and other economic institutions. Much attention is paid to the modern labor market with its diversity of labor contacts, flexibility of working hours and wages and relatively high unemployment rates. The nature of the demand for labor and changes in the very nature of labor are also monitored. adapting it to the diverse needs of consumers; a magic word is introduced into scientific circulation in the modern management idiom – “flexibilization” (increasing flexibility in the use of labor). It means the ability of organizations to quickly and continuously adapt their production to the demand for goods and services of the market, taking into account their quality and quantity,

Sociologists – researchers of economic life – are wondering: what does the role of states as a guarantor of the social status and reliable income of their citizens mean? How do people cope with the classic triad of unemployment: work, time, money? Is flexible employment a tool for solving the problem of unemployment (the latter in most European countries grew in the 50s, was relatively high in 1984 declined and stabilized in the late 80s – early 90s to the level of 7-10%), In other words, recently much attention has been paid to whether flexible work indicates a possible path to normal employment or it keeps the unemployed at the forefront of the labor market, forcing them to balance between employment and unemployment in accordance with changes in market demand.

According to the definition of the followers of N. Smelser – R. Svedberg and M. Granovetter, the purpose of the sociology of economic life is to explain how society chooses among a wide range of alternatives those that allow the most profitable use of limited production resources. This concept forms the main directions of analysis of this fundamental problem. First, it is an analysis of the relations of competition between producers, between consumers, as well as between producers and consumers within the framework of the market system. Secondly, it is a substantiation of a number of provisions of the theory of exchange, explaining both competition and economic cooperation as a result of a rational desire for economic success. Thirdly, it is the recognition and substantiation of the fact that the provisions of the theories of exchange, social stratification and others not only describe the institutions and types of motivations in the so-called market societies, but give an inevitable and natural set of influences in any society, determined by the limited production resources and the phenomenon of competition.

Today, economic sociology in its Western version is not so much a holistic monoscience as a fairly broad scientific movement aimed at studying the “joint” economic and social problems that are most relevant for developed capitalist countries.

Sociological interest concerns both power relations in the labor market and socio-psychological relations in the workplace: the industrial conflict and the possibilities of its resolution capture; explains the development of “pressure groups”, trade unions and other associations; explores various social movements (e.g., demands for desegregation and support for increased education and training of the workforce); studies management, entrepreneurship and corporate behavior; analyzes “the processes of social and technological innovation and the processes of knowledge diffusion in the course of the diffusion of technological innovations; reveals value orientations that form market and consumer behavior; reveals the main trends in labor mobility and the flexibility of its use in the labor market.

Its founders and their successors characterize the object field of economic sociology in two ways, fixing the empirical objects under study and highlighting (with the help of a categorical apparatus) the p r e d m e t of their research. The complex of studied empirical objects includes:

social aspects of economic institutions (competition; labor market, capital, goods and services; various forms of exchange, property, entrepreneurship, employment, unemployment); social aspects of different types of economic systems; social groups in the economy; types of thinking in different economic systems; social functions of the economy; political institutions; different types of power; forms of economic regulation; conflicts in the market economy; social security institutions; privileged groups in the economy and society; confrontation of interests over the distribution of income, etc.

In addition, the complex of objects of economic sociology often includes stratification, intergroup relations, corruption (its functions, consequences, means of struggle); incentives for mobility and flexibility, preferences and choices, rationalization of behavior.

It can be concluded that the modern Western sociology of economic life is developing not as a single scientific direction with clear boundaries, but rather as a kind of scientific movement covering problems that are relevant in a particular period of the development of society. This movement was called “economy and society”. This feature of Western economic sociology should be evaluated from two points of view, from the standpoint of its two main functions – theoretical-cognitive and applied. From the point of view of applied sociological research, the “free” nature of the subject of science has advantages, because it expands the field of freedom of researchers in setting and solving new problems that appear in the practice of social management. However, from a methodological point of view, in particular the requirements for science as a social institution responsible for the accumulation of knowledge, the blurring of boundaries and the undeveloped nature of a specific economic and sociological concept seem to be features that reduce the cognitive capabilities of this science in terms of studying the links between science and society. The process of systematization of the richest experience occurs, probably, the more difficult the more extensive the field of problems and the field of objects of research. At the same time, the increase in the number and volume of applied research increases the demand for sociological theory, which should become a tool for studying the mechanisms of development.