TITLE

What is sociological about economic sociology? Uncertainty and the embeddedness of economic action

AUTHOR(S)
Beckert, Jens
PUB. DATE
December 1996
SOURCE
Theory & Society;Dec96, Vol. 25 Issue 6, p803
SOURCE TYPE
Academic Journal
DOC. TYPE
Article
ABSTRACT
This article attempts to show that economic theory cannot maintain the maximizing assumption convincingly in the face of situational structures that are characterized by uncertainty. Uncertainty is understood as the character of situations in which agents cannot anticipate the outcome of a decision and cannot assign possibilities to the outcome. It is argued that the problem of uncertainty provides a vantage point for a sociological alternative to orthodox economics. The task of economic sociology in the proposed conceptualization is not to demonstrate that actors deviate intentionally from selfish goals and are guided by non-rational principles, but to develop theoretical concepts and engage in empirical investigations as to how intentionally rational actors reach decisions under conditions when they do not know what is best to do. Standard neo-classical economics assumes that actors have complete knowledge of means-ends relationships and act on the basis of the knowledge to optimize their utility. The notion of complete knowledge allows for the functioning of markets according to the neo-classical model and for the development of equilibria that fulfill the conditions of Pareto optimality.
ACCESSION #
9710285468

 

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