Soc of Finance in Bloomberg!
August 14, 2013
Bloomberg Businessweek covers the NYSE sociology of finance mini-conference here. The opening is a bit.. something:
It was not hard to distinguish the sociologists from the financiers. The sociologists had beards.
I wonder what the women members of the sociology of finance community make of that last bit. I don’t think the article was reflecting critically on the gender dynamics of the subfield (I imagine the NYSE is itself a pretty male-dominated setting), but it’s plausible to read it in that light.
The article also collapses the difference between sociology and economics to one of qualitative vs. quantitative:
For the last 70 years, we have looked to economists to explain how markets work. The kind of economics popular among graduate programs has focused on what academics call “quantitative” data, which you might call “numbers.” Other social sciences have been left with “qualitative” data, or “talking to people.” Sociologists, with their tradition of interviews and ethnographic studies, know how to talk to people. I was told once (by an economist) that the quickest way to offend an economist is to call him a sociologist. Both disciplines, though, poke at the same problem: How do people make decisions?
How unfortunate, especially given the strong history of quantitative research on the sociology of finance (and more broadly, in economic sociology). That said, the prominent work in SSF does seem to be dominated by qualitative and historical approaches right now. Why is that? In order to do our work, most sociologists of finance must necessarily be very quantitatively savvy – our actors, after all, live in a world of numbers. And yet, at least the modern SSF classics are pretty devoid of statistics. That probably has more to do with how the space of questions is divided up in sociology itself right now than with any direct comparison to economics, but it still seems unfortunate. What SSF questions could be usefully answered with quantitative analysis? Are there things we are missing because of our subfield’s location within sociology right now?