Arne Kalleberg was interviewed by Tatiana Karabchuk and Andrey Shevchuk, senior fellows at the Higher School of Economics. This interview was conducted during the international conference “Embeddedness and Beyond: Do Sociological Theories Meet Economic Realities?” (Moscow, 25–28 October 2012), where Prof. Kalleberg presented his new research “The Growth of Precarious Work: A Challenge for Economic Sociology”. In the interview Arne Kalleberg clarified the difference between job security and job stability and explained why it is better to draw a distinction between job security and employment security instead. Additionally, Prof. Kalleberg accounted for the growth of nonstandard employment and put this concept into historical context. Prof. Kalleberg stressed consequences of this tendency for both individuals and organizations. As a contribution to existing theoretical debate on this theme, Prof. Kalleberg suggested his own notion of “flexicurity”. Flexicurity is a meta-policy, combining greater flexibility for employers and protections for workers. Moreover, Prof. Kalleberg discussed his recent book “Good Jobs, Bad Jobs”[Kalleberg 2011], which addresses the problem of growing inequality and polarization in both economic and non-economic job characteristics. Prof. Kalleberg also shared with us his future research plans. His next research direction deals with the idea of precarious work and focuses on international comparisons. Finally, Prof. Kalleberg recommended some of the most relevant and interesting books in this research field
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.
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.
In this article, based on relevant domestic and foreign literature, the institutional (i.e., “narrower”) approach to the definition of informal entrepreneurship and the informal entrepreneurial activity are substantiated, and an analysis of their causes and practices in the conditions of modern Russia is delivered. Using data from the panel study of start-ups and small entrepreneurs conducted by the author (Moscow, 2013–2015), the paper addresses the following issues: (1) Are there any differences in the nature of ownership relations in those businesses that are partially or primarily informally led, from the classical property relations in entrepreneurial firms described in academic literature? (2) What are the types of SMEs, and why are those that use informal practices more common? (3) What role does interaction with State control and law enforcement bodies play in decision making of entrepreneurs as to whether to operate informally, and what are the possible alternatives? (4) What are the comparative advantages and risks/constraints of informal entrepreneurship? (5) Is there entrepreneurial motivation and the inclination for informal kinds of activity in the business and, if so, how? The main evidence of the article consists in the following: an important reason for the informality in microand small businesses is a diffuse structure of property relations, which is a hybrid (mixed) form of a market and firm. An own typology of entrepreneurs is invented, based on various combinations of entrepreneurial motivation and levels of formalization of the latter. As a result, four ideal types of entrepreneurs are introduced, namely “stars,” “non-routine entrepreneurs,” “simpletons,” and “marginals.” The two latter are the main actors of the informal entrepreneurial activity of legally registered businesses and totally informal entrepreneurship, respectively. In conclusion, there are some practical recommendations formulated on opportunities to reduce informal entrepreneurial practices, based, among others, on the understanding of the differences between the aforementioned ideal types of entrepreneurs.
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.