Economic Sociology

Economic Sociology

Research Area

Jens Beckert

The Economic Sociology Research Area is concerned with the study of economic phenomena from a sociological perspective. It has three main areas of focus.

The focus of the “Sociology of Markets” research strand is on markets as a central institution of capitalist economies. The overall goal is developing an understanding of the functioning of markets with the help of the theoretical and methodological tools of sociology. Following Max Weber, markets are regarded as “arenas of social action” in which actors confront each other under conditions of competition. What social, cultural, and political conditions are required for the development of the social order of markets? The uncertainty that market actors face in making decisions is an overarching theme across the projects. The problems of coordination that arise out of this for market participants can be identified as problems of value, competition, or cooperation. The factor of uncertainty opens up broader theoretical possibilities to explain the embeddedness of economic action.

A second focus is on research into the role of future expectations for decision-making in the economy and the explanation of economic processes. Here, too, the problem of uncertainty constitutes the theoretical starting point. How can expectations be understood under conditions of uncertainty? How do economic actors form expectations when future developments cannot be predicted? Empirical projects deal, for instance, with expectations directed at deindustrialization processes, changing time horizons in financial markets, and the Brexit decision.

The third area of focus is on large private wealth and wealthy families, investigating the institutional, familial, and cultural preconditions for long-term wealth preservation. The focus is on the role of the family as the holders of property rights, including across generations. Contrary to the widespread understanding of the increasing insignificance of family structures in modern economic processes, the importance of the family in political economy and for long-term social inequality is considered.

See also the description of the Wealth and Social Inequality Research Focus.

Current Research Projects

Sociology of Markets

The Moral Economy of Migration


The Future in Economic Action


Climate Change and Society


Wealth and Social Inequality

Doctoral Projects


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