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Beyond the Market: The Social Foundations of Economic Efficiency [Kindle Edition]

Jens Beckert , Barbara Harshav
2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

Beyond the Market launches a sociological investigation into economic efficiency. Prevailing economic theory, which explains efficiency using formalized rational choice models, often simplifies human behavior to the point of distortion. Jens Beckert finds such theory to be particularly weak in explaining such crucial forms of economic behavior as cooperation, innovation, and action under conditions of uncertainty--phenomena he identifies as the proper starting point for a sociology of economic action.

Beckert levels an enlightened critique at neoclassical economics, arguing that understanding efficiency requires looking well beyond the market to the social, cultural, political, and cognitive factors that influence the coordination of economic action. Beckert searches social theory for the components of an alternative theory of action, one that accounts for the social embedding of economic behavior. In Durkheim and Parsons he finds especially useful approaches to cooperation; in Luhmann, a way to understand how people act under highly contingent conditions; and in Giddens, an understanding of creative action and innovation. Together, these provide building blocks for a research program that will yield a theoretically sophisticated understanding of how economic processes are coordinated and the ways that markets are embedded in social, cultural, and cognitive structures.

Containing one of the most fully informed critiques of the neoclassical analysis of economic efficiency--as well as one of the most thoughtful blueprints for economic sociology--this book reclaims for sociology the study of one of the most important arenas of human action.

Editorial Reviews


This book reflects impressive intellectual ambition, maturity, and erudition.


This book reflects impressive intellectual ambition, maturity, and erudition. (Bruce G. Carruther American Journal of Sociology )

Product Details

  • File Size: 2682 KB
  • Print Length: 376 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (January 10, 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002WJM6VI
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,238,024 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Preaching to the Sociological Choir September 2, 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Jens Beckert writes intelligently and lucidly, never hiding weakness of conception behind a flurry of big, vague words. Beckert is also respectful of the reader, never leaving in doubt exactly where is stands in the course of his argument. Beckert's task, reformulating and respecifying economic sociology, is high theory, however, and contemporary sociology is devoid of high theory. This leaves Beckert with little to work with, filling the bulk of this book with rehashes of the work of Durkheim, Parsons, and Giddens, and relegating his alternative framework to the final ten pages of the book.

Beckert's alternative is a version of the embedded markets position so ably developed by Granovetter (1985), as well as Beckert's mentors in the Princeton sociology department. This approach has led to excellent analyses of real-live markets that should be read by all economic theorists and policy-makers. However, this approach does not pretend to be general sociological theory, and it is an important supplement to, not alterative to, traditional economic analysis.

The embedded markets approach is has interesting lessons for the interrelations among the behavioral disciplines. Sociological theorists have been perennially preoccupied with the question of the appropriate boundary-line between economics and sociology. Virtually every sociological theorist (except James Coleman and friends) include the rejection of the "utilitarian" model of economic theory. Granovetter calls the economist's rational actor "undersocialized," and sees sociology as providing a better-socialized actor. On the other hand, Granovetter joins the herd in considering the traditional sociological model, that of Talcott Parsons' theory of action, as "oversocialized.
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