The book “Into the Red: The Birth of the Credit Card Market in Postcommunist Russia” by Alya Guseva explores the emergence of the credit card industry in Russia and discusses the demand creation process for absolutely new product. The research is based both on the written sources and on interviews and archival data collected in two series in Moscow (Russia) from 1998 to 1999 and from 2003 to 2005. The author finds out that the socialist legacies shaped the Russian credit card market development. This path-dependence of the Russian market resulted in non-trivial solutions discovered by the market actors trying to cope with uncertainty and complementarity as two critical factors. Social networks play a vital role here as well. Networks joined by consumers and organizations aid to develop markets for mass consumption. The journal “Economic Sociology” publishes the first chapter of the book, “The Architecture of Credit Card Market”, providing with the theoretical foundations for the empirical research. This chapter addresses the problems faced by banks in nascent credit card market. Banks are expected to cope with uncertainty in credit lending, to create consumer demand and at the same time to appeal to merchants. In addition, there is a specific problem generated from cultural factors, including a mistrust of formal institution of money lending. The author briefly considers how the US banks and their Russian counterparts coped with the mentioned challenges.
The book «Into the Red: The Birth of the Credit Card Market in Postcommunist Russia» by Alya Guseva explores the emergence of credit card market in Russia and discusses how the demand for absolutely new product is created. The research is based on interviews and archival data collected in two series in Moscow (Russia): from 1998 to1999 and from 2003 to 2005. The author finds out that the socialist legacies shaped the Russian credit card market development. This path-dependence of the Russian market resulted in non-trivial solutions discovered by the market actors trying to cope with uncertainty and complementarity as two critical factors. Social networks play an important role here as well. The journal «Economic Sociology» publishes the book's first chapter suggesting theoretical foundations for the empirical research.
This paper is the first of a two-part critical essay on the discursive methods used by great German sociologist Max Weber in his classic study on the relationship between economy and religion “The Protestant Ethics and the Spirit of Capitalism” (1904–1905). The author examines in detail the place of modern (rational) capitalism in Weber’s general taxonomy of the various historical forms of economic organization and describes its major differences from alternative types of capitalism, for example, political, booty or robber, and adventure capitalism. Another important issue also discussed in the paper is the relationship between two central Weberian concepts: protestant ethics and the spirit of capitalism. The author shows that Weber’s authentic thesis on the genesis of modern capitalism was fatally misinterpreted by almost all of his critics. Special attention is paid to the religious exegetics provided by Weber in his work. A key point in his theological exercises was a notion of “psychological premium” that adherents of ascetic Protestantism obtained if they achieved success in their worldly activities, such as occupational careers or profit-seeking. In their eyes this signaled that they were destined by God to salvation and thus relieved the burden of religious doubts associated with the absolute incomprehensibility of God’s plans. In such a way Weber explained how Protestantism might become an engine of modern capitalism. HHowever, Weber’s exegetics of religious texts was subject to devastating criticism by Canadian sociologist R. MacKinnon who demonstrated Weber’s deep theological illiteracy. Counter-criticism with a defense of the Weberian analytical scheme was provided by American sociologist D. Zaret. Commenting on this discussion, the author concludes that the arguments of Weber’s critics are much more convincing since his exegetics of religious texts seem to be at best partially, and at worst totally, incorrect. This implies that the pivotal thesis of “The Protestant Ethics and the Spirit of Capitalism” of Protestantism as a launching pad for modern capitalism is devoid of solid behavioral foundations.
The paper is the second part of a two-part critical essay on the discursive methods used by the great German sociologist Max Weber in his classic study on relationship between economy and religion The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1904–1905). As is well known, the only pieces of empirical evidence that Weber used to verify his Thesis were estimates of the differences in school enrollment between pupils from Protestant and Catholic families in the German state of Baden at the end of the nineteenth century, as provided by M. Offenbacher. These estimates implied that Protestants tended to choose “market” education, while Catholics chose “non-market” types of education. However, this conclusion is based on Offenbacher’s arithmetic error, such that, after its correction, all differences in educational preferences between the two groups (and hence differences in their work ethics) simply disappear. Analysis also suggests that the “Protestant ethics,” as it was interpreted by Weber, is a deeply dualistic concept; de facto, he attributed (for unclear reasons) one type of ethic to workers and an entirely different one to entrepreneurs. The Protestant Ethics discusses in detail the life and ideas of B. Franklin, who was, for Weber, an archetypical bearer of “the spirit of capitalism.” But this is a fundamental misinterpretation, as all of Franklin’s biographers argue. A more serious problem is that the Weberian analytical scheme contradicts the available historical statistics: it implies that, due to the proliferation of “the spirit of capitalism” in England, the pace of capital accumulation in the country in the seventeenth to eighteenth centuries should be very high, while in reality, it was much lower than in other Western European countries. Finally, various attempts to test Weber’s Thesis with the help of modern econometric techniques have mostly failed. The author concludes that Weber’s exegetics of religious texts are entirely or at least partially incorrect, that his claim about the significantly higher economic achievements of Protestants as compared with Catholics is not confirmed empirically, that his concept of “the spirit of capitalism” suffers from unavoidable internal contradictions, that his portrait of B. Franklin has almost nothing in common with the actual man, that his attempt to explain the quick accumulation of capital in England in the seventeenth to eighteenth centuries deals with non-economic phenomena, and that the results of current empirical studies are mostly unfavorable for Weber’s Thesis. However, the Weberian idea about the origin of “the spirit of capitalism” from “the Protestant ethics” has so strong a hypnotic power over human minds that their phantoms will, for a long time yet, excite the imagination of academic researchers and permeate mass media.
Book Review: Beckert J., Musselin Ch. (eds) (2013) Constructing Quality. The Classification of Goods in Markets, New York: Oxford University Press. 342 p.
This review discusses the collection of articles edited by J. Beckert and C. Musselin, Constructing Quality: The Classification of Goods in Markets. The collection is focused on the processes of social construction of criteria for the quality of market goods in modern consumer markets. It is intended to contribute to the body of literature on the mechanisms for evaluation, classification, and commensuration, a request for which surfaces in a whole variety of social areas in a modern society (characterized by the rise of calculation and managerialism). This review covers both the main problems emerging in this thematic field and the answers suggested by the authors of the articles in this volume. Thus, the reader is encouraged to think about the ways in which social values are translated into market categories, which actors contribute to this process, which tools are used for consolidating the criteria of quality, where the conditions of confidence in these criteria are hidden, why there may be discrepancies and how they can be overcome, as well as a number of other issues. The common theme of the volume and the review is the idea that the quality of market goods is a relatively fluid polyvalent category, and interpretations of this term are often diverse depending on the type of good, the degree of its social entanglement, the institutional and socio-cultural environment of the market, as well as value-oriented attitudes and the structural positions of the subjects who must make judgments and evaluations of the market commodity. The problem of the quality of market goods is interesting for sociologists not as a practical problem, but as another angle which makes it possible to see the mechanics of the social order of the market in action. The market consensus concerning the quality of the goods exchanged for money conceals both the observance of the typical social norms of the given historical period and the adherence to the principle of parity of the parties, that is, the mutual recognition of the fairness of market transaction by the buyer and the seller. Thus, an issue which seemed secondary, how the social attitudes are formed with respect to the quality standards of market goods, has instead a central place among the dilemmas of how modern consumer markets function and reproduce.
Benjamin Snyder’s book, “The Disrupted Workplace: Time and the Moral Or- der of Flexible Capitalism,” is devoted to the subjective perception of time spent at work by the employees who work under the system of flexible capital- ism. The author describes two types of time perception: quantitative, expressed in the desire to adhere to clear schedules and plans, and qualitative, marked by the ability to respond quickly to external changes and be constantly ready to act. The first type remains to be the reference for the classical worker and the most convenient one, but it is becoming rare in the labor market. The second
type is modern and more universal among employees now, but it has significant shortcomings. The interviews conducted with three groups of respondents (financial professionals, truck drivers, and unemployed job seek- ers), showed which dilemmas, contradictions, and disorders flexible capitalism has. At the outset, the system seems to provide the employee with opportunities to work freely, be entrepreneurial, change his life for the better, and have flexible working hours. Then it becomes clear that the workers lose themselves in unstruc- tured labor regimes, chaotic tasks, insecure working positions, and the absence of predictable future career paths, which deprives them of the opportunities to develop safely in the sphere of work and to plan their own futures. The situation, according to the author, is critical. “Games with work” forcing the workers to sacrifice their health, personal lives, and sometimes even rights to have a job and get a decent salary, stimulates them to be in a constant race to fulfil current tasks (in the case of financial professionals and drivers) or to search for a job (in the case of the unemployed). In such conditions, people have no opportunity to revitalize physically, morally, and psychologically. It becomes harder for them to critically estimate the modern system of flexible capitalism and their positions within this system. Justifying desynchronized life rhythm and constant change by the avoidance of monotony, boredom, and the routine of classic labor regimes at the micro level, society comes across new forms of inequality (highly skilled specialists are exposed to unemployment on par with low-skilled workers) and problems with job security (work becomes irregular and unpredictable for the major- ity of the population) at the macro level.
The XVIIIth April International Academic Conference on Economic and Social Development, which was organized at the Higher School of Economics, included a section on “Demography and Labor Markets”. The first day was devoted to the problems of registration and methods of analysis of population data, migrants in contemporary Russia and their integration into the Russian economy, and the use of data mining tools in demographic research. On the second day, there was a discussion of workers’ subjective well-being, unemployment, and global and regional labor markets. The list of speakers included B. Rao and P. Singh (both: Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee), A. Sulaberidze (Ilia State University, Georgia), S. Biryukova, D. Gizdatullin, D. Ignatov, E. Mitrofanova, A. Muratova, E. Papanova, E. Polyakova, A. Rezyapova, A. Shevchuk, E. Soroko, D. Strebkov, E. Vardanyan, and N. Voronina (National Research University Higher School of Economics), Y. Florinskaya and I. Kazenin (Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration under the President of the Russian Federation), Т. Blinova, K. Doronina, P. Sushko (Russian Academy of Sciences), and M. Giltman (Tyumen State University). Russian experts in labor economics, demography, and math, namely S. Roshchin, A. Vishnevsky, L. Smirnykh, V. Gimpelson, M. Denisenko, R. Kapelyushnikov, A. Makarov, and N. Mkrtchyan, also took part in the discussion.
A bulk of literature on processes related to a triad of “money — power — inequality” highlight power as a main driver. Given the cause-and-effect relations, this fact can be considered as logical and reasonable. If research of the mentioned processes deals with the family (household) as an actor, it appears to be enriched (more complicated). As households often consist of men and women, biological sex and culturally constructed gender should be taken into account. Most researchers focusing on gender issues agree that gender relationships imply power relations. What is a peculiarity of family power relations and how are they related to money management? This article aims to depict main perspectives related to conceptualization of the indicated notions as well as empirical operationalization partially. The first part of this article reviews power patterns developed by S. Lukes, M. Foucault, P. Bourdieu and discusses issues related to definitions of “financial power” and ways of its operationalization if it is applied for family relationships. The second part deals with economic and sociological concepts which reveal and explain determinants of power relationships. The third part analyses currently ongoing changes in the gender order and their potential effects on the structure of power functions in the family.