Economic Sociology as a Sociology of Economic Action

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Economic Sociology as a Sociology of Economic Action
Krzysztof T. Konecki

The paper deals with the construction of basic principles of theoretical model of analysis of economy from the perspective of interpretative sociology. Author tries to build a model of economic action taking into consideration the point of view of a subject and going beyond mere rational model of action. An economic action is strictly associated with a context of action and is constructed on the level of interaction. ‘Processual ordering’ takes place on the level of interaction, where an economic action which emerges from the interaction is subject to certain temporary ordering with complete potency to modify its structure. The paper presents also the concept of analytic dimensions for the analysis of every economic action.
1. Introduction
What is economic sociology? The answer to this question seems obvious. Economic sociology is applying the sociological perspective to analyze economic phenomena. The problem appears when we want to specify what is the sociological perspective in analyzing reality. Is there only one such perspective? If there are more than one, does this mean that we are dealing with many economic sociologies? Another equally complex question is: what is economy? Is it mainly the system of exchange institutions, or the system of economic activities? Is analyzing the system of institutions and the organizational level enough to claim how economy works? It is difficult to go in for economic sociology without answering these questions1. Making use of certain theoretical and methodological inspirations (Weber 2002; 1994; Strauss 1993; Strauss, Corbin 1990; Bourdieau 1990, 2001; Morawski 2001; Partycki 2004), below we shall develop an initial theoretical model of the sociological analysis of economy, and therefore also the economic sociology, which we will assume to be the sociology of economic actions analyzed on different levels, though always in relation to the direct context of their occurrence and interactional conditions. Here we shall anser the following fundamental question: how can it be possible that economic action occurs in a given context? How does this action emerge from a range of partial actions and what conditions these actions? In this context we shall also take into account the role of organizational conditions for economic actions. The qualitative understanding of these actions enables our access to all conditions and processes which can have effect on the particular action in the given context for the occurrence of that action.
2. Basic assumptions
Can any phenomena or actions of the economic nature be analyzed regardless of other dimensions of the social occurrence of phenomena? There is only one sociology. One in a sense that clear-cut isolation of a phenomenon and analyzing its conditions is impossible without taking into account the diverse context for its occurrence. All dimensions and contexts of a given phenomenon must be analyzed if they are materialized empirically in our observation and measurement instruments. The empirical research, or induction, to be more accurate, should be an introduction to analyzing empirical data (Strauss, Corbin 1990). The qualitative research enables our initial analysis of a phenomenon on the micro level which is concerned with the motives for given action, the identity of an individual and the work of that individual, so that we could proceed to higher levels of the analysis, i.e. those included in the macro level. The macro level converges in the micro level, and the micro level is apparent in the macrostructural level.

An attempt at presenting the possible analytical matrix useful for the inductive and qualitative methodology of research and analyzing the empirical data which enables our formulation of the categories and their properties has been provided below (see Fig. 1).

The researcher/analyst’s discourse and concealed assumptions

The academic discourse The colloquial discourse and

the practitioners’ discourse



and global level






the organization



Economic Action

Fig. 1. A holographic/analytic matrix of the economic action (cf. Strauss, Corbin 1990: 163).

  1. In our opinion the basic unit in the sociological analysis is theaction, while economy is indeed the system of interrelated and interactive economic activities which would combine into a particular network of relations. The basic analytical unit here is also the lowest level on which the economic game concerned with the production, distribution and consumption of goods is played.

Action is not fully determined here, and the individual is free to choose and prefer the assumed purposes. It is traditionally defined in the liberal doctrine that the individual economic entities are free on the market. However, paradoxically, this vision is deterministic, since the objective supply, demand and economic efficiency powers determine the free economic activities. In fact that freedom in this concept is ostensible. Nonetheless it can be expected that the individuals still maintain some of that freedom, for instance in terms of their ethical freedom: ‘Even if he market economy is based on involving people into a specific series of rules, it cannot make them redundant and eliminate their ethical freedom from the economic process’ (Ratzinger 2005). Moreover this also has to do with formulating reality on the interactive level. The economic action is set free in nature. The coincidence of such activities builds up the economy, while this coincidence itself is possible owing to harmonizing particular activities in the interaction, when we adjust mutually our lines of activities and reach a consensus about our aspirations and purposes, as well as adjust our actions of the emotional character.

These activities are interactive in nature, since they are always targeted at their objects (when an action is initiated the object can define oneself as the subject) which often reacts to the initiator of the action even before that given action is initiated, during its performance, or after it has been concluded. The initiator can be either an individual or a group. Interacting refers here to all interactive processes, such as exchange, negotiations, manipulating, self-presentation, the threat of using violence, real violence, teaching, symbolic violence, dominance, discussion, argument, and self-reflection as a discussion with one’s actual or invented alter ego, etc. In the discipline of interest to us, i.e. economic sociology2 the basic unit of sociological analysis is the economic action (with the entrepreneurial activity as one of its possible prototypes), where the basic interactive process is exchange. The action can be of a strategic character, for instance when a new action plan and purposes are formulated for, say, an enterprising activity3. This level of analysis (the level ofactions) is concerned with people’s active and explicit expression of themselves in order to continue the orientation of a phenomenon or influence its direction. This level is closely correlated with the interactive level (cf. Strauss, Corbin 1990: 158-162 who generally speak of all action as interaction). This action is rational in nature, and the subject of that action is assigned the feature of rationality, i.e. the ability to adequately select the means in a particular situation to achieve the predefined purposes4. That purpose is usually realized by the individual in such actions, it becomes an element of the action strategies (the purposes and the plans for their achievement) drawn up to control, to maintain the orientation of the actions and the applied interactive techniques regarding given phenomenon and specificcontext. The interactive techniques are specific modes of behaviour which, when combined accordingly, build up the tactics for fulfilling strategies (a set of methods). In other words, the purpose is the desired value the achievement of which is inwardly considered necessary by the indiviual in the specified context (time and space).

However, it must be remembered that the achieved purposes are not always realized by the individual. The directly realized purpose of the actions undertaken by the rank-and-file employees is by no means gaining profits by their enterprise. Their position in the enterprise structure defines the character of their actions, though mainly on the individual level, which do have their economic purpose when considered from a wider systemic perspective. These actions, usually the working process, determine the rationality of their individual activities, while the wider organizational and economic order provides their activities with systemic rationality. On the other hand, inability to realize that wider context of their rationality is produced by a wider system which has already seen to it in the educational and training subsystem that the employee was not particularly worried about the issue of company’s profits, and that the entrepreneur was not especially concerned about the deep structure of the meaning of the term ‘profit’, since this could be destructive for the system.

It must also be borne in mind that many activities are economic in character though in general they are not defined as such. This refers to the unpaid work which has been increasingly popularized in our lives. For example, the customers in the hypermarket do the work of consciously looking for particular products (and determining their values) which would be handed in by an assistant in the traditional shop. The patients do the personnel’s work in the hospitals, the women do the unpaid houseworks, while the welfare work, which is voluntary and charitable, yields specific and measurable economic effects within a given community or organization. This is particularly observable when we must hire a person to do given work (Konecki 1988). Therefore the economic action has economic meaning not only in terms of its purposes and, generally speaking, the individual’s action strategy, but also with regard to the consequences of the above. These consequences can have serious effects on the shape of the societies, e.g. the particular perception and performance of the work as a calling and a form of asceticism had an effect on the emergence of the capitalist society (Weber 1994: 143).

The work can have different properties, and the whole working process is divided into a number of the subtypes of work. An analysis of different forms of work and their coordination shows clearly how the specific social order connected with a given type of economic action is developed (Konecki 1998: 42-65). The action plans and their specific arrangements are fulfilled on the level of interactions, and it is on that level that particular purposes (strategies) of work are realized in a specified temporal and spatial context, under specific circumstances, using particular interaction techniques which build up interaction tactics, and eventually leading to particualr consequences.

Activities are often routine, if not ritual, in character. Routine contains the forgotten purpose, where the latter may be reonstructed only by means of a historic or both ‘synchronical-functional and historic’ analysis. On the other hand, the ritual nature of an action often comprises symbolic meanings which we can understand and reconstruct after developing an overall symbolic model of the particular system of actions, since that system is comprehensible only within a wider whole. If we assume that the technology has eliminated from our lives the magic as a means of practical understanding of the world (Eliade 2000: 32), it is the technical system or the technical surroundings and contexts that build up the system of symbols and its associated system of meanings which enable understanding the world and acting. Therefore economic activities can be purely symbolic, where the exchange of economic goods (i.e. what Karl Marx would call ‘commodities’) does not occur, and what does occur is the exchange of values, which are equilvalent in the contemporary world. A symbol can be exchanged for another symbol. For example, prestige or renown is social capital which can be exchanged for political values (powers) or the other way round, and only eventually for economic vlaues. Employees’ loyalty as a value becomes social and/or cultural capital, since the investment in trainings made by an employee at a given time, targeted at developing loyalty attitudes, may pay for itself in the future. Added value is perceivable here immediately, or it simply is not there. However, the equivalence of values is materialized in the particular interaction within an exchange process or a series of such processes.

  1. The level which is closely related to the level of analysis described above is the interactive level. Interactions are understood here as people’s joint actions or their consideration for others’ point of view on a given phenomenon. Each action, even an individual one, requires interaction in the form of self-reflection, where the relations and contacts with others are taken into account. Here interaction comprises the processes referred to above, i.e. exchange, negotiations, dominance, teaching, arguing and self-reflecting etc. These processes take place through language, and it is the language that should be analyzed here. In economic actions particular linguistic notional matrices are used which build up the contexts of meaning for the appearance and emergence of specific economic actions. This level also involves the processes of communication through the media (the techniques and technologies) which are intermediary (such as telecommunications, the Intranet, the Internet). Interactions construct a network which is to be analyzed on this level. Given interactions and interactive processes are the conditions for establishing a particular form of action. A consequence of action/interaction can be the social construction of economic values (e.g. expressed with prices), such as it is the case during an auction (Palmer, Forsyth 2002). Values can be floating, there are no objective indicators to unambiguously define economic value for the specific deal price during an auction. The price is usually negotiable and that floating value depends on a number of factors: the type and character of the customers and the sellers, the fashion, the economic climate at that particular time, the time of the year, and a number of other determinants. The selling process is a symbolic interaction which in turn is hedged with the social and economic network of interactions, if not subcultures of selling particular products, or with the social worlds in which particular types of customers and sellers are on the go. Therefore the floating value of a product is related to the social construction of economic values (as above, cf. Smith 1989). It does not seem that the particular deal prices are always defined by the statistical values which are the products of supply and demand. The sale and purchase deal is interactive in character (Prus 1994: 243). The subjects in the deal are independent, they have certain autonomy, assume responsibility for their actions and actively predict what can happen during the purchase-sale interaction, thus having effect on its course.

  2. The group-individual level is concerned with the biographies, private philosophies, knowledge and experience of people and groups (such as the associations of professionals, trades unions, households as economic entities etc.). Therefore here the individual is involved as the subject of economic actions in the system of group relations and bonds. Through the processes of the subjective and looking-glass self, the individual becomes both social and individual subject of one’s actions. Entreprising activities are often constructed by rejecting the negative observations developed by others about private economic action and by constructing the subjective self as a positive image of oneself as an entrepreneur. This new subjective self along with its further maintenance and ongoing work with oneself/the identity is essential to continue as an entrepreneur and overcome numerous institutional and organizational obstacles, not to mention those of the cultural character. (Konecki, Frączak – Konecka, 2007).

It is presented on this level how individual actions (such as the enterprising activity of supervising managers) supported with the actions of groups (managers) and trades unions enable the creation of the system of economic activities on the managerial level in the enterprise (Konecki, Frączak 1998; Konecki, Kulpińska 1995)5.

It is on this level of analysis that the conditions for the economic actions undertaken by a household can be studied, where that household can be the subject of such actions itself. The enterprising actions are possible where we have, for instance, loyal surety towards the creditors by all members of a household with their private property (Weber 2002: 278-282). Therefore the characteristics of the original groups as the determinants for economic activities are taken into account here.

  1. Another level is the intra-organizational level which is concerned with the specific features, e.g. the production firms, their sections and departments, as well as the relations between them and their locations wth regard to other components. Here the floor is given to organization and management sociology (cf. Konecki, Tobera 2002: 7-9). The achievements of this discipline in terms of the relation of structures to strategies, technologies and actions is indispensable here to analyze the organizational conditions for economic actions. The power and the system of positions establishing the objectively existing configurations between them emerges here. At this level structure begins to become increasingly apparent in action, though it will emerge fully only on the successive level.

  2. Going further into the analytical matrix, we come accross the organizational/institutional level. Each organizaiton has its structure, informal structure, formal procedures, regulations, problems and history. Economic actions of the individuals and their interactions are determined institutionally, same as their rationality, though they also establish structures and institutions themselves. The structures assume the form of routine actions.

Numerous firms and entrepreneurs act seemingly irrationally. This can be systemic irrationality, while in terms of the organizational and institutional conditions such acts can be utterly rational. An example here is the long tradition of the corruption exchange actions in Poland, where corruption has become a cultural standard (habit) in economic activities, enhanced by the specific form of establishing laws and finally legal rules (or actually exceptions from these rules). Systemic irrationality becomes something natural, domesticated through economic actions in which equivalent values are exchanged, e.g. the work or a post in the tax office is an equivalent of a particular sum of money6. Therefore rationality on the institutional level is constructed and adds to the effectiveness of all interactions established at given time and in given space.

On this level we also analyze organizational culture and organizational identity. Organizations can be treated as cultural entities having their own values, norms and basic assumptions, and these elements can be the matrix determining economic actions. If an organization is a community (see the section below), it will definitely ‘regulate’ economic actions through individual actions, relations within the organization according to the collectivist and ‘synthetic’ matrix (cf. Trompenaars, Hampden-Turner 1998, and Hofstede 2000), while a deeper basis for these matrices will be the structural rule of ‘groupism’ (Konecki 1994). On the other hand, the orgnizational identity comprises the main values (the axis of organizational actions) which are the basis for economic actions. They are often anti-effective or maintaining their former identity, though still economic in character through their consequences (cf. Konecki 2002).

  1. Yet another level is the community level which covers all the factors discussed above, though with regard to given community. For example, every community has its own specific demographic characteristics (concerned with the criteria of gender, education, average wages, interpersonal relations etc.). Here it can be the starting point ot analyse the economic actions which, for instance, involve exchanging work for wage. An attention should also be paid to local authorities and their relations with the economic entities and other customers.

On this level we shall also analyse for example neighbourly help, which modifies considerably economic exchange. Here we are often dealing with a wheedled loan or unpaid, wheedled work (Weber 2002: 282-283). Many neighbours compose a commune as both social and economic unit. Dictatorially contorlled communities were established in the past as well, targeted at fulfilling the demands of their masters instead of making money (i.e. ‘oikos’ in Greek; Weber 2002: 301).

  1. Another discussed level of analyzing the conditions of economic actions can be the national level, i.e. the internal policy of the state in given country, its internal legal regulations, culture (Hofstede 2000) and internal cultural and class diversity, history, values, economy a different internal problems. Here we also analyze the religious determinants of our economic actions (Weber 1994; Potz 2005; cf. Ratzinger 2005).

On the level of the country there functions the educational system which educates the future subjects of economic actions. The members of given society acquire certain attitudes and predispositions to behave, assess and judge in a certain way. This is the original habitus7, the base for differentiating the abilities to acquire the habitus from ‘modern’ organizations and firms. The ‘subjectivisation of objectivity’ occurs here. Habitus is based on purposeful acting, where the purpose need not always be realized by the subject of the action. Objectivity is about the social and organizational relations, i.e. our fundamental involvement in social relations. Therefore the participation and careers in organizations can be determined already on the level of the original habitus, where class differences are of relevant, while the secondary habitus, concerned with our work institutions, is acquired mainly during our post-primary education, self-education, individual improvement of professional skills and in-service trainings. On this level there often occurs the strong motivation to acquire the perception matrix (cf. Bourdieu, Passeron 1990: 90-94). That matrix is supplemented with the linguistic capital: ‘…language is not only a means of communication. Apart from the more or less extensive vocabulary, it provides for a more or less complex system of categories, and it does so in a way that the ability to decipher complex logical or esthetical structures and to use these structures depends to some extent on the complexity of the language handed down by the family’ (Bourdieu, Passeron 1990: 131). P. Bourdieu and J. Passeron say here about conditioning the original socialization in acquiring specific linguistic competence. However, this socialization takes place also on higher levels of education, as well as during secondary socialization which occurs in other formal organizations, referred to as workplaces. The linguistic competence analyzed on this level is implemented into specific uses of the language on the interactive level. Activities show all dimensions, are the focus of its both creative aspect on the part of an individual (interactions) and external conditions having effect on the internal conditions (habitus).

Consumption habitus is reflected in the economic activities concerned with purchasing goods. Living ‘beyond one’s means’ or ‘on credit’ is a condition generated not only by the economic and organizational system which has enabled this, but also results from the socialization made on the symbolic level by advertising, literature, movies, television. The distribution system goes beyond the logistics of physically supplying goods to customers. Distribution is included in the symbolic system distributing the particular consumption and lifestyle model. Distribution is a linking element in the system of communication between the producer (forwarder) and the consumer (recipient). The system brings about socialization, which, in turn, emerges through tha habitus in the economic activities concerned with purchasing goods.

The habitus becomes apparent in the economic action itself and it can be overcome, though this task is extremely difficult for the ‘active subject’. Bourdieau calls those who have overcome their habitus and poor cultural capital as ‘miracules’ (derived from ‘miracle’; Kłoskowska 1990: 18-19).

How does a subject involved in the economic activities (such as enterprising) deal with its anti-enterprising habitus, such as is the case in Poland8? How does an educated person in Poland overcome the habitus of passiveness or moral unwillingness to make money? How is the rationality of the individual action modified here by the system of variables beyond the conscious choice made by the individual? This is another task for the analysis in economic sociology.

  1. The most external level in the analytical matrix is the international and global level, which includes the following: international policy, legal regulations made by the government in terms of the relations between different countries, culture (values) in the international comparative context, economy, history and international problems, such as the protection of natural environment in the global context or the local labour markets in the context of globalization or international integration (e.g. in Europe), the global IT network and global media. The global level includes analyzing the conditions imposed by transnational and global corporations (Tobera 2002: 19-25). The global conditions for particular actions cannot be avoided here and now. The international level shows the power of the new technologies: ‘In the new man-machine logistics it is not about the work any more. The man and the machine build up the interface. There no longer exists the subject of the work. The action does. We are not in the situation of the transcendental conflict. We are rather in the horizontal situation of functionality and networks… The work really has neither price nor value. It cannot be even accurately estimated, such is its involvement in a variety of links, same as information’ (Baudrillard 2001: 32-33). In the global world, the specific economic action, the work, is influenced by a number of spatially distant determinants. The information network assaults the subject of the work and regulates what is to be the object of that subject’s work and the character of that work. The role of subjective action is gradually smaller, though still significant. J. Baudrillard’s claim that ‘there no longer exists the subject of the work’ is not actually true. It does exist, though with a different, otherwise determined character which requires considerable efforts to oppose the technology which bombards the subject or use it for its own purposes. The global nature of the world requires more efforts from the individual to let that individual maintain its subjectivity. It is becoming increasingly difficult to predict the results of one’s actions in this world; the unpredictability of the economic play implies incurring enormous operational risk (Beck 2002), often resulting in the emergence of the apathetic approach towards the possibilities for subjective actions. The subject loses its sense of control, the majority of decisions regarding subject’s life are made in economy, in the global economic and technological play which is beyond that subject’s reach (Beck 2002). The work subject does not even have an opportunity to become alienated, for if this were to happen, it would also become possible in the situation where this phenomenon was realized to reduce its effects or eliminate the conditions leading to alienating the subject and the work itself. Obviously it can be assumed that the subject of the aciton as Homo economicus does not have the raison d’être in the contemporary world of diverse social dependencies, but assuming the existence of the ‘sociological subject’ if the actions is not wholly justified either. The ‘subject’ undergoes too much conditioning to be traditionally approached in terms of subjectivism as a free though partially determined determinant of action. This is but an element of the network of actions in the global economic system of feedbacks, determined mutually in a number of loops, which enhance some actions positively and provide negative support for others, where the consequences of actions increase exponentially. In this situation it is difficult to require that the subject with its individual characteristics could be the main object of the sociological analysis. The hypothetical construct called the ‘sociological man’ becomes meaningless here. Its usefulness is seriously doubtful in the situation of the multifactorial and multilevel determination of the actions undertaken by the ‘subject’. The aim of sociological analysis is rather multidimensional action, also conditioned globally.

3. Conclusions

An analysis of the social and economic order cannot begin and end on the organizational or institutional level. The order begins with the economic action, one of a number of types of actions which establish, enhance and alter social order. The analytical matrix desribed above, referred to as the holographic matrix (Fig. 1), shows that the economic action focuses all the social aspects of economic exchange, including the behavioral, structural and developmental ones (cf. Kośmicki 1995: 42). Each dimension in the matrix is the reflection of itself and the entire social and economic order. Therefore particular actions are holograms in which given social and economic systems can be observed qualitatively (to uncover the context of actions and the processes in which these actions are involved). It is there that an individual willing to make the most profitable deal is subject to the restrictions and opportunities provided by all dimenstions, distinguished here only analytically and not onthologically. It is there, in the economic action, that the economic and organizational order is established to enable further economic actions. The clash between the derivative social structures, i.e. the habitus, social values and norms, organizational structures, and the subjective and creative aspect of people’s actions from the level of interaction, controlled here by the rule of rational exchange of goods and individual values, results in the complete image of the peculiar combination between the subjectivity and objectivity of actions in the given social context. Action is a process which produces specific economic order, i.e. the structures, the procedures and the institutions. The structures are generated before being provided for us to experience. Therefore this is a structuralizing process. However, the structures have the return effect on the economic actions, and the latter can alter the structural dimension of actions (Strauss 1993: 246-262). Processual ordering (Strauss 1993) is included in the economic actions as a whole indistinguishable from the action itself (it is the hologram which focues all the dimensions, both structural and processual, since it is an action), pointing to the fact that the economic action as the basic analytical unit was selected accurately to see the whole of the still constructed economic order. The main economic message here is the remark not to begin with economic analyses from the organizational level, but from the action/interaction level instead (the work process included), i.e. the generator of the organizations, the institutions and capitalism in general (Weber, 1994), the action undertaken by a researcher as a verb instead of a noun, where ‘ordering’ on the level of interaction is the primary objective of that action, while its consequence can be temporary ‘orderliness’, but never the static social order.

Action can be analyzed qualitatively. If we want to understand the actions and the ways of interpreting the world, we should concentrate on defining the situation of social actors, typologized and conceptualized by us – researchers and analysts – to understand a more general dimension of social reality, i.e. the economic one in this case. The majority rule and the whole philosophy of surveying does not enable our reconstruction of meanings and comprehension of people’s actions.

Qualitative research is particularly relevant for explaining the material world, though definitely insufficient to understand man as Homo economicus. The individual and group meanings of quantity are of the qualitative character and depend on the context of actions and individual interpretations of the social and cultural rules. Therefore the analyses of social and economic phenomena are always understood qualitatively, since we cannot say anything fully and exhaustively using only numbers referring to the quantitative examination of phenomena, excluding the types, the classes, the categories, the category properties, the relations, the descriptions of the contexts for actions and of the processes. Pure numbers do not exist; they exist only in the experience of active social actors. This is particularly important for private business activity. To us, the empirical researchers, the qualitative way of thinking about human experience is the way of ‘scientific, intersubjective empathy’ which makes it possible to reach the individual and group experiences in the ‘economic world’. An effect of the research and analyses is the theoretical description or conceptualization and theoretical integration of the concepts concerned with what we call the ‘socioeconomic system’. Institutions and organizations cannot be understood without comprehending the active subject which creates them, provides them with meaning and changes them in a particular context. Qualitative understanding is also taking into account the context and the motives for the actions by the individual and the groups in economic exchanges and regulations. The economic value and its sedimentary or altering organizational structure are produced by way of social processes. Examining the processes, discovering their stages, dynamics and conditions is possible only in qualitative research and analyses. First there are categories and typologies, followed by figures and quantitative relations, and eventually references to the previously generated categories in order to understand these quantities.

However, it must be remembered that the perspective of the researcher-analyst (or the consultant-analyst) must be taken into consideration in this case as well. It is never the case that the researcher is a free individual not subject to any specific rules of the play in the academic world nor its social values and standards. Many researchers have crystallized political and economic beliefs, revealed in their analyses, and they are often engaged in economic (counselling, trainings) and political activities. Without sociological analysis of the source of the concepts, the position in the social, political or economic academic world, i.e. the sociological analysis of the often concealed assumptions about the onthological, epistemological and anthropological base for the economic order, economic sociology cannot be pursued without strong ideological distortions of which the researchers may be often unaware.

Information about the author

Professor Krzysztof Konecki, PhD – Head of the Department of Organization and Management Sociology, Institute of Sociology, Faculty of Economics and Sociology, the University of Łódź. E-mail:


1 The reflections presented below are an attempt at continuing the theoretical claim by K. Doktór (1996: 17) who argued that there was the requirement for a new paradigm of the analysis of the new (old) economic phenomena: ‘The structure of ownership, control and management is changing, therefore the old way of thinking about <> is a relic of the past methodology. We must go back to the roots and study enterprise again.’

2 The terms economic sociology, economy sociology, sociology of economics are used here interchangeably, though to us the basic term is the adjectival structure of ‘economic sociology’, since we are not analyzing any specific economy within given discipline, but the economic measures, processes and phenomena in general, though within a specified context, i.e. time and space (cf. Kośmicki, Janik 2002: 489-491, as well as Morawski 2001: 12-19; Swedberg 1987; Martinelli, Smelser 1990).

3 Economic action is understood here as ‘social’ action, which, according to M. Weber, ‘is the action which according to the intentional sense of the actor or actors refers to other people’s behaviour and is oriented at that behaviour in its course’ (Weber 2002: 6). This orientation to others is expressed fully in the interactions between people (Strauss 1993: 47-74).

4 In this context, purposes serve the interests of a subject, i.e. an individual or a community with which further existence of an individual is connected (Horkheimer 1987: 247-248). This type of rationality can be called ‘subjective rationality’, using Horkheimer’s transposition of the philosophical ‘subjective reason’ to the field of sociology.

5 Enterprise actions can also be analyzed on the individual reason, where personality traits can be treated as important conditions of enterprise actions, such as innovation, the ability to see a wider context, the inclination to take risk balanced accoridngly with the sense of responsibility, flexibility with the ability to learn from the acquired experience (Nawojczyk 2002: 331). Still, these traits can be reconstructed only through observing specific economic actions and the network of relations established through these actions by means of continuous adjusting of the action paths, coordinating the work paths and arrangements (cf. Strauss 1993: 40-41, 87; Konecki 1998: 26-27).

6 Institutions are formal organs mounted in the axiom-normative order: ‘The establishment of formal organizations can be treated as the initial formal phase. It should be supplemented with the second phase, the normative, socio-cultural one, intended to render formal purposes the elements of shared values and behavioural standards’ (Morawski 2001: 59).

7 Habitus is ‘…the socially developed system of structured and structuring dispositions, acquired in practice and permanently targeted at the practical functions’ (Bourdieau, Wacquant 2001: 107).

8 An interesting attempt at analyzing this problem was made by A. Marcinkowski, J. Sobczak (1995: 35-37). The two authors claim that ‘an individual usually does not become an entrepreneur in the effect of some uncontrolled coincidences, but as a result of consciously realized intentions’ (Marcinkowski, Sobczak 1995: 35). They add, however, that certain conditions must be met for the entrepreneur’s objectives to be fulfilled. Nonetheless the primary assumption as to the entrepreneur’s nature is his or her rationality, free will and the capacity to make rational choices in the specified circumstances, restrictive for that nature. Still, we blieve that this will and its underpinning freedom (the rational and calculative disposition) has its historical and systemic genesis related to the possession of the economic, cultural and social capital (and therefore not only to inheriting, enforcing, imitating and experimenting) which, when revised in action, provides for an opportunity for an analyst to define a posteriori an economic action as the enterprising one.


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