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Is There a New Economic Sociology Effect? A Topic Model on the Economic Orientation of Sociology, 1890 to 2014


Daoud,  Adel
Projekte von Gastwissenschaftlern und Postdoc-Stipendiaten, MPI for the Study of Societies, Max Planck Society;
Department of Sociology and Work Science, University of Gothenburg, Sweden;
Department of Economics, New School for Social Research, New York, NY, USA;


Kohl,  Sebastian
Soziologie des Marktes, MPI for the Study of Societies, Max Planck Society;

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Daoud, A., & Kohl, S. (2015). Is There a New Economic Sociology Effect? A Topic Model on the Economic Orientation of Sociology, 1890 to 2014. NSSR Working Paper, 20/2015.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0028-81EC-7
The conventional story tells us that since the birth of the discipline of sociology, the economic orientation of the discipline has peaked twice: the first peak was during the classical era between 1890 and 1920; the second peak was sometime after 1985, marking Granovetter´s Economic Action and Social Structure paper. We have tested this story by using all full-text articles provided by JSTOR between the periods 1890 to 2014: this contains 142 040 articles and 157 journals. We used a combination of topic modelling (machine learning applied to text) and multilevel modelling (regression) to accomplish this. We have found the following. (1) there is strong evidence for the first peak, but contrary to this narrative, we also find a decreasing proportion of economic topics over the last century. (2) The rise of the new economic sociology as a sub-discipline of sociology, comes not in the form of an increasing focus on general economic issues, but rather in the form of a particular topic mix of organization and social-theory research. (3) We show, accordingly, that this particular topic mix reached its bottom and started to rise by the 1929; it peaked by 1989. (4) We suggest, therefore, that Granovetter´s article (and the new economic sociology) does not mark the beginning of a second peak – as the conventional story has it – but it is rather a product of a preceding sociological interests, innovations, and orientation towards socio-economic theory development. (5) Moreover, we discover that neither the classics nor the new economic sociologists contribute much to an empirical (applied) type of economic topic found in industrial relations and political economy research. In conclusion, the future impact that the discipline of sociology might have on economic oriented research in the social sciences, will most likely require (a) less of a within- and between disciplinary fragmentation that is most likely hampering the potential contributions sociologists can make; (b) more of engaging with applied economic affairs and thus bridge current sub-disciplinary divides. This is crucial in the age of austerity and if we seek to conceive of better socio-economic theories than existing economic theories.