Theoretical Lineages and Contemporary Concerns in the Sociology of Economic Life

Stephanie L. Mudge, Christopher J. Lawrence

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter explores the objects, methods, and purposes of economic sociology in a relational and historical mode. It is organized by a specific concern: how the subfield’s formation, concerns, and practices express its position in-between two warring neighbors, Marxian political economy and liberal economics. We show, first, how this in-betweenness shaped the making of the “new” economic sociology. Focusing on the century-long period from the 1840s to the 1940s, we pair a selective discussion of works by canonized authors in economic sociology with a selection of works by critical, feminist, African American, black radical, and decolonial scholars who are, thus far, not incorporated into economic sociology’s theoretical canon. We make two arguments. First, economic sociology has a history of dealing with its in-betweenness by eschewing Marx and Marxian modes of analysis in the (largely unrequited) pursuit of engagement with economics. Second, the subfield’s Marx-ambivalence is inextricably wrapped up with its failure to incorporate critical feminist, race, and de/postcolonial perspectives, and is impoverished as a result. We conclude with a discussion of at least four ways in which economic sociology stands to benefit from shifting its stance toward its more critical pole.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHandbooks of Sociology and Social Research
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media B.V.
Number of pages22
StatePublished - 2021

Publication series

NameHandbooks of Sociology and Social Research
ISSN (Print)1389-6903
ISSN (Electronic)2542-839X

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)


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