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Economic sociology

Offer semester
1st semester

Lecture time
Tuesday 4.30pm – 6.20pm

Lecture venue

Course description

Economic Sociology is concerned with the social construction of economic activities and institutions. Its basic tenet is that economic action is part of social action, and economic institutions are socially constructed with cultural and historical specificities. It challenges the basic assumptions that economic action is universally rational on which neo-classical economics is based. This course begins with an introduction of the key ideas of “new economic sociology.” It followed by some selected topics that apply the new economic sociology perspective to understand a wide range of economic activities.

The course will be run as a mix of lectures and classroom discussions. Students are expected to participate actively in class by raising questions, contributing ideas, engaging in small group discussions and debates, etc.

Course learning outcomes


  • Comprehend how sociological approach to economic behaviors is different from the conventional economic approach.
  • Engage in the theoretical debates over the relation between society, culture, market, and the state.
  • Empirically investigate how economic activities are shaped by social relation, culture, and the state.


Classroom participation and activities20%
Tutorial participation and activities15%
Individual memos based on readings20%
Mid-term quiz20%
Group project presentation25%

Required reading

Bourdieu, Pierre. 2001[1983]. “The Forms of Capital.” Pp.96-111 in in The Sociology of Economic Life, 2nd Edition, edited by Mark Granovetter and Richard Swedberg. CO: Westview Press.

Chan Cheris Shun-ching. 2012. “Culture, State, and Varieties of Capitalism: A Comparative Study of Life Insurance Markets in Hong Kong and Taiwan.” British Journal of Sociology 63(1):97-122.

Granovetter, Mark. 1974. Getting a Job: A Study of Contacts and Careers. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Selections.

Kunda, Gideon. 2006[1992]. Engineering Culture: Control and Commitment in a High-Tech Corporation. PA: Temple University Press. Pp.1-25

Leidner, Robin. 1993. Fast Food, Fast Talk: Service Work and the Routinization of Everyday Life. Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press. Selections.

Pun, Ngai. 2005. Made in China: Women Factory Workers in a Global Workplace. Durham and London: Duke University Press. Pp.77-108.

Swedberg, Richard. 1994. “Markets as Social Structures.” Pp.255-82 in The Handbook of Economic Sociology, edited by Neil Smelser and Richard Swedberg. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Veblen, Thorstein. (1899) 1996. The Theory of the Leisure Class. NY: A Mentor Book, New American Library. Selections.

Watson, James (ed.) (1997) 2006. Golden Arches East: McDonald’s in East Asia. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Pp.1-38.

Weber, Max. 2005[1904-05]. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. London and New York: Routledge. Selections.

Zelizer, Viviana. 1997[1994]. The Social Meaning of Money. NJ: Princeton University Press. Selections. 

Course co-ordinator and teachers