Rene Almeling’s book Sex Cells: The Medical Market for Eggs and Sperm concerns the issues of the gendered framing of the market and the commodification of the human body and its parts. With the rich empirical base of the study, Almeling offers a new way of theorizing bodily commodification, noting the non-commonality of this phenomenon and emphasizing the diversity of market organizational and experienced practices. The detailed and unbiased analysis of market organization and its experience, in which these two aspects are viewed in their interrelationship, promotes a better understanding of what is occurring when bodily products are offered for sale. In addition, Almeling develops Viviana Zelizer’s model for market analysis, adding a biological factor to the economic, structural, and cultural factors. The book teaches us not to forget that the phenomena of the social world are highly complex and multifaceted and, therefore, cannot be explained with the application of simplified analytical schemes. Moreover, Almeling’s study, in which she links together several layers of social reality, is an excellent example of how to deal with this task. The book review acquaints readers with the basic points of the book and sex cells’ market construction in the United States; it also focuses on the issues that require further investigation. The reviewer will try to show the importance of including the biological factor in the theoretical framework for market analyses and its possibilities beyond such a “peripheral” and sensitive subject.
In the preface to The Utopia of Rules, David Graeber states that his book does not attempt to build up a new theoretical approach to bureaucracy but it is rather an essay collection with a focus on three bureaucratic features: violence, technology and rationality. However, the cornerstone of bureaucracy seems to rest on the both unexpected and anticipated field of creativity and imagination, whether it comes to the work of government officials and origins of sovereignty, force fields and contemporary science development, or superheroes and comic book history. Graeber not only illustrates why our life has been organized around filling out forms (p.44), but gives it a bigger scale through an anthropological understanding of bureaucratic practices and technologies. The interesting thing is that he never gives a precise definition of what bureaucracy really is and where we can find it, but in the disenchanted modernity and modern capitalist economy it seems to be omnipresent. The book is divided into four thematic parts: the first is the structural violence and deliberate stupidity of bureaucratic institutions; the second questions scientific development and claims that we have moved from poetic to bureaucratic technologies; the third one is rationality and playfulness and their relation to human nature; and the last one (in an Appendix) considers the link between creativity and violence and the role of bureaucracy in it.
The purchase of “beautiful” car registration plates from state authorities is legal in many developed democracies. However, in Russia this practice is strictly prohibited. Anecdotal evidences suggest that Russians circumvent the law by bribery or blat. Given the ambiguous nature of informal payments to public officials, Natkhov and Polischuk propose a new objective measure of corruption based on the distribution of “beautiful” registration numbers. This article reviews their study and its discussion at the Sociology of Markets seminar at the Higher School of Economics. The authors hypothesize that in the absence of corruption, the “beautiful” registration numbers will be distributed normally regardless of automobile brands. In the presence of corruption, however, the “beautiful” registration numbers will be concentrated across luxury brands. They argue that a higher than usual concentration of “beautiful” registration numbers is an indicator of corruption. To test this hypothesis, they draw upon corruption economics theories and use an innovative dataset that includes car brands and registration numbers issued by the police in the city of Moscow from 2000–2007, as well as a 2014 quantitative survey with citizens (N = 1,552). The economists find that the “beautiful” registration numbers are concentrated across luxury car brands, but are normally distributed across ordinary brands. They conclude that the higher than usual concentration of “cherish” registration numbers among luxury brands is an indicator of higher police corruption. Nevertheless, sociologists suggest that the proposed index is rather an indicator of social status, personal connections or elite consumption preferences.
review attempts to place Kalleberg’s ideas into a global context.
This article presents a review of a conference Debt: 5000 Years and Counting that took place at the University of Birmingham (Birmingham Research Institute for History and Cultures) on June 8–9, 2018. The conference was based on the recent influential book Debt: The First Five Thousand Years by David Graeber. The conference gathered representatives from all social sciences to discuss the understudied topic of history and ideology of debt. The review contains references to several papers discussed at the conference to give an idea of the approaches used in one way or another in many of the papers. The papers discussed in the review were devoted to the boost of micro-credit in Latvia after the 2008 global financial crisis, the ideology of trapped equity that led to this crisis, the attempt to resolve confusion between the view that debts are to be repaid and the view that profiting from lending is evil, credit in the Islamic Caliphate in the 7th to 10th centuries, the long durée of public debt since the Middle Ages to Early Modern times, and the royal debts in England in the middle of the 16th century. The conference was interesting not only because of the importance of the subject but also because of the originality of the format which helped make the event less hierarchical and less dominated by the academic elite. In addition, one of the aims of the conference was to combine academic and activist approaches. Among the participants there were a few activists. This experience is also described in the review.
Today it makes little sense to ask why social scholars would be interested in China’s economy insofar as the answer is obvious. The growth rate of the Chinese economy and the duration of its growth period are stunning. It is likely that in the near future China will outrun the US in terms of GDP and will become the largest economy in the world. Moreover, China has made huge progress in GDP per capita. But this is not the only reason to be interested in China. Notably, the communist party is still in power there, and by the standards of Western democracies, China remains an authoritarian state. Taken together, these characteristics form a paradox: How could communists produce such huge economic growth? The recent history of socialist countries seems to show that this is impossible. Although the Soviet Union sometimes demonstrated rapid growth, it could not sustain the pace in the long run. In the Chinese case, we face a more fundamental phenomenon than just the mobilization of a country to achieve vital objectives (usually with high costs). “Capitalism from Below: Markets and Institutional Change in China” by Victor Nee and Sonja Opper suggests the answer to this question [Nee, Opper 2012].
The Summer School “Governance, Markets and Institutions: Russia and Germany Compared” was held from September 27 to October 10, 2015 under the coordination of the Institute for East European Studies, Free University of Berlin (Berlin) with the participation of Hertie School of Governance (Berlin), German Institute for Economic Research (Berlin), Higher School of Economics (Moscow) and European University at St. Petersburg (St. Petersburg). The Volkswagen Foundation (Volkswagen Stiftung) provided the Summer School with necessary financial support. Around thirty doctoral students and postdoctoral scholars (both EU and non-EU) from a variety of disciplines including sociology, political science, economics, social anthropology, law, history and geography took part in this academic event. In addition, eight Russian MA students from social and political sciences were admitted as participants with special support from the Higher School of Economics.
The keynote speakers and lecturers from the Higher School of Economics (Moscow) were Alexander Chepurenko, Victoria Antonova, Fuad Aleskerov, Lilli DiPuppo, Andrei Melville, Yuval Weber, Andrei Yakovlev, Vladimir Zuev, Alexey Zakharov and Christopher Gerry. Nikita Lomagin presented his research on behalf of the European University at St. Petersburg (St. Petersburg). Among the participants from the Free University of Berlin (Berlin) were Katharina Bluhm, Carsten Schröder, Sabine Kropp, Tanja Börzel, Klaus Hoffmann-Holland, Philipp Engler, Klaus Segbers and Aron Buzogany. A number of scientists and researchers from other universities also took part in this academic event, including Klaus Desmet (Southern Methodist University, Texas), Volker Schneider (University of Konstanz, Konstanz), Nikolaus Wolf (Humboldt University, Berlin), Panu Poutvaara (Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Munich), David Woodruff (London School of Economics and Political Science, London).
The session Poverty and Shared Prosperity in Russia was held on April 8, 2015 at the XVI April International Academic Conference on Economic and Social Development organized by the National Research University Higher School of Economics with support of the World Bank in Moscow. Situated within the broader field of social policy, the session explored the impact of various factors such as non-market income, taxation, institutional context, geographic position, educational level and composition of the labor market on inequality and poverty in Russia. The presented reports were based on the Poverty and Shared Prosperity in Russia project undertaken by the World Bank in partnership with the Higher School of Economics (Russia) and Tulane University (USA) in order to assess how different micro and macro factors can explain the capacity of the bottom 40 percent of the population to contribute to economic growth in the country. The research was conducted using the Commitment to Equity (CEQ) methodological tool developed by Nora Lustig and her team at Tulane University. The session focused on three aspects of the bottom 40 percent income in Russia which are (1) the role of non-market income and the incidence of the fiscal system; (2) income inequality and the decomposition of the distribution of wages; (3) productivity and sustainability of wage dynamics. The keynote speakers of the session were Vladimir Gimpelson (HSE), Luis F. López-Calva (World Bank) and Daria Popova (HSE). Irina Denisova (World Bank) and Carolina Sanchez-Paramo (World Bank) acted as lead moderators. The session attracted a wide audience, including Russian and foreign researchers from various academic fields.
The paper describes how the market meets culture in modern Russian cinema through the technologies of product placement. Interpreting data of the expert interviews and using content analysis of modern Russian blockbusters, the author reveals peculiarities of product placement in contemporary Russian cinema. Commercialisation of domestic film production industry is also analysed.
product placement; российский кинематограф; реклама; коммерциализация культуры.
This paper focuses on the relational aspect of embeddedness and examines direct interfirm exchange in supply chains. We distinguish between the transactional and the relational forms of exchange and construct an original typology of their constitutive elements, which we attach to the phases of the interfirm contract cycle. An index of relational exchange is built measuring the degree of embeddedness in the supply chain relationships. Regression models are used to reveal the factors that facilitate relational exchange, including the firms’ location in the supply chain, the type of product, and the intensity of the interactions between exchange partners. Empirical data were collected by the author and the research team in 2010 from the grocery and home electronic appliances sectors, which account for approximately 50% of sales in Russian retailing. In total, 512 questionnaires were completed by the managers of retail chains and their suppliers in five of Russia’s cities, including Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk, and Tyumen. On average, 50 retailers and 50 suppliers were interviewed in each city area.
In his book Government of Paper, Matthew Hull questions the way in which bureaucracies are enacted in practice through the analysis of the material products of their lifecycle—documents. Documents constantly engage with different people, places, and things, becoming “bureaucratic objects” that mediate all actors and objects involved. Previously overlooked in theoretical studies, the material side of documents seems to be crucial for shaping the governance of a city and its inhabitants. As writing practices and “graphic artifacts” establish a stable relationship between words and things, discourse, and individuals/objects/environments, a focus on documents can provide a new methodological perspective in the analysis of state bureaucracies. The book contains six parts: The introduction provides the reader with a theoretical framework on the material practices of bureaucracy establishment. It is followed by five thematic chapters devoted to different types of widely used documents among state bureaucrats of the Islamabad Capital Territory Administration (ICTA) and Capital Development Authority (CDA).
This paper provides new theoretical implications for the concept of social embeddedness as one of the main objectives for business relations. Previous studies have considered social embeddedness as an external factor to market exchanges that forms outside of economic relations; in other words, embeddedness appears as an incidental product of market interactions. Here, I propose that social embeddedness is being intentionally constructed by market actors as an integral part of a business process. This view is developed by a theoretical adaptation of studies in relational marketing and the sociology of valuation. Relational marketing shows that interfirm relations have additional value for businesses and can educate market practitioners to intensify social interactions. Valuation studies explain the process of value creation for end goods, and this explanation is applied to interpreting the value of interfirm relations.
For the empirical validation, I focus on the field of global value chains because the global coordination of business interactions requires an explicit discussion of relational characteristics. The research is performed using a qualitative design. The empirical part consists of 13 months of participant observation as a sales manager in a Russian global value chain that works in fast-moving consumer goods and consumer electronics. Also, 33 deep semistructured interviews were conducted with employees of the global value chain. Data analysis is performed within a grounded theory perspective. The empirical section demonstrates that the proposed vision of embeddedness as an integral and desirable part of a business process is applicable to firm practices. Economic actors participate in permanent valuation processes to maintain a common interpretation of interfirm relations; they conceptualize business ties as an important source of market value.
The 3rd Russia Longitudinal Monitoring Survey of Higher School of Economics (RLMS-HSE) User Conference, held May 19–20, 2017, at the National Research University Higher School of Economics with the support of Research Center Demoscope, Institute of Sociology of the Russian Academy of Sciences and University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, aimed to provide a forum for the discussion of the research projects based on RLMS-HSE. It brought together nearly one hundred scholars from Russia, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union, whose scientific interests spanned various fields of economics, demography, sociology, political sciences, public health, and psychology. The papers, presented at the plenary and parallel sessions, discussed multiple research problems pertaining to labor market and wages, education, retirement, health, ethnicity, migration, and subjective well-being and attitudes. Although an overwhelming majority of the research topics had been recurring themes at the RLMS-HSE events since the inception of the project, the papers did not fail to demonstrate the wealth of opportunities the RLMS-HSE data had to offer. What set this conference apart from previous ones was a pronounced interest in those sections of the RLMS-HSE data that contain detailed information about health. The sessions on this matter included many fruitful discussions concerning objective indicators of health status, a healthy lifestyle, and the use of healthcare services.
This paper is a review of Imagined Futures: Fictional Expectations and Capitalist Dynamics, written by Jens Beckert and published in 2016. Prof. Beckert leads the Max-Plank Institute for the Study of Societies in Cologne. His works are in the fields of new economic sociology, economic anthropology and valuation studies. The last approach largely owes its existence to Beckertian theorizing. Imagined Futures highlights temporal perception in capitalist societies and the role of future expectations in the processes of capitalist dynamics. Beckertian theses also justify the importance of valuation studies and revise the role of economic forecasts. According to his central idea, economic forecasts cannot provide reliable future predictions due to the ontological uncertainty described by economic theory itself. Instead of looking into the future, the main function of forecasts is posited to be the coordination of social actions. The reduction of uncertainty provided by economic forecasts is essential for effective market function and the stability of social dynamics.
This review proposes an interpretation of the theories outlined in the book and seeks to emphasize the importance of the author’s conclusions for valuation studies, new economic sociology and especially for studying the performative side of economic theory. The first part of the paper suggests the deeper historical roots of Imagined Futures. Next, the alternative philosophical frame for fictional expectations is discussed, and a systematization of fictional expectations is proposed. The paper’s second part problematizes capitalistic production and consumption described by Beckert as the foundation of the modern social order. Additionally, an ontological sense of future planning and capitalist dynamics is introduced in the context of symbolic consumption. The paper finishes by describing another aspects of performativity made by models of economic theory.
Financial disagreements have been previously identified in the literature as the main predictor of divorce in families as well as the most difficult and prolonged type of disagreement among spouses. However, the topic of financial conflicts between spouses remains undertheorized and has been insufficiently studied empirically in Russia. This study attempts to fill this gap in answering the question of how financial disagreements in families can be classified. To resolve this research problem, 35 Russian married or cohabiting couples were interviewed. In-depth interviews were conducted with each of the partners separately to determine their positions and compare their views within the couple. The results show that financial disagreements are normalized phenomena in the life course of Russian couples. However, the issue seems to be very sensitive, and the qualitative methodology allowed for the detection that partners may feel embarrassed and stressed while discussing the reasons for financial conflicts. Nevertheless, five types of financial disagreements were identified based on their underlying reasons: price conflicts, conflicts about necessity, conflicts of goals, conflicts due to a lack of planning, and conflicts of values. The last type seems to be one of the most difficult and unpleasant types of family conflicts, as it shows that partners hold different and often incompatible positions regarding the family’s finances. This result highlights the importance of using a relational sociology approach while studying marital financial disagreements. Also, the identified typology can serve as a guide for studying financial conflicts in families more deeply and for family therapy and divorce prevention.