Why Are Sociologists So Silent on Property Rights?

13 September 2007 at 2:37 am 4 comments

| Nicolai Foss |

I just finished reading Bruce Carruthers and Laura Ariovich’s “The Sociology of Property Rights,” published in The Annual Review of Sociology (2004) (no, Brayden, O&M is not the anti-sociology blog).  This is a nice piece, but it is debatable how much of it is sociology per se.  In actuality, most of the paper, which given the journal (research annual) that it is published one would expect to survey sociology contributions, turns out to be a survey of — economics. Specifically, the contributions of Coase, Demsetz, Barzel, and even Moore and Hart are highlighted and summarized.  The authors themselves acknowledge that sociology “neglects” property rights.  Others have made similar observations (e.g., Richard Swedberg).  

This neglect of property rights is bizarre; after all, property rights, in a sort of proto-Hartian understanding, were central in Marx’ thought.  Durkheim and Veblen also didn’t neglect property rights. Intuitively, one would think of property rights as a preeminent sociological theme, as it involves power, social stratification, inequality, and other sociology favorites.  So, what accounts for the neglect?

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4 Comments Add your own

  • […] Nicolai Foss é um destes economistas. Há anos eu comprei um livro seu, interessante, sobre economia austríaca, composto de vários pequenos artigos (minha visão não o alcança em minha mini-biblioteca, no momento). Um deles, se não me engano, fazia um pouco de História do Pensamento Econômico sobre Coase, Mises e os direitos de propriedade. […]

  • 2. Steve Phelan  |  13 September 2007 at 11:06 am

    Translation from Babel Fish: Nicolai Foss is one of these economists. Its has years I bought a book, interesting, on Austrian economy, composed of some small articles (my vision does not reach it in my mini-library, at the moment). One of them, if not me deceit, made a little of History of the Economic Thought on Coase, Mises and the rights of property.

  • 3. Steve Phelan  |  13 September 2007 at 11:35 am

    Could it be that sociologists are mostly anti-capitalism (anti-greed?) and thus abhor theories rooted in economic (monetary) explanations of human action?

    Perhaps O&M might also consider a blog topic on the recent AMJ issue on rigor versus relevance. I was stunned to find that the articles on reform (to make management research more relevant) shied completely away from recommendations to change the incentive system. Is this more evidence of an anti-economics bias?

    Conversely, would economists say they have a good handle on non-monetary incentives – like esprit de corps, culture, and intrinsic motivation factors and the appropriate balance between extrinsic and intrinsic factors?

  • 4. Nicolai Foss  |  13 September 2007 at 12:06 pm

    Babel fish is referring to a hobby project I did simultaneously with my PhD research. It is a book called The Austrian School and Modern Economics: Essays in Reassessment (published in 1994). The main theme of the book is that they Austrians, particularly Mises and Hayek, anticipated key currents in modern economics related to asymmetric information and property rights. The specific essay Babel fish refers to is an attempt to establish Mises as a precursor of property rights economics.

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