SubjectsSubjects(version: 861)
Course, academic year 2019/2020
Economic Sociology and European Capitalism - JSB455
Title: Economic Sociology and European Capitalism
Czech title: Ekonomická sociologie a evropský kapitalismus
Guaranteed by: Department of Sociology (23-KS)
Faculty: Faculty of Social Sciences
Actual: from 2019
Semester: winter
Points: 7
E-Credits: 7
Examination process: winter s.:
Hours per week, examination: winter s.:2/0 Ex [hours/week]
Capacity: 25 / unknown (48)
Min. number of students: unlimited
State of the course: taught
Language: English
Teaching methods: full-time
Note: course can be enrolled in outside the study plan
enabled for web enrollment
priority enrollment if the course is part of the study plan
Guarantor: Mgr. Ing. Kristián Šrám
Christoph Sorg, Dr.
Teacher(s): Christoph Sorg, Dr.
Mgr. Ing. Kristián Šrám
Files Comments Added by
download Economic Sociology Readings .zip Course Readings Mgr. Ing. Kristián Šrám
Last update: Mgr. Ing. Kristián Šrám (13.10.2019)
The module provides an introduction to economic sociology, discussed in the context of European capitalism. The emphasis is triple: 1) economic sociology’s emergence as a sub-field of sociology and its recent growing into a prominent field within sociology, 2) a discussion of varieties of (democratic) capitalism in Europe, and 3) an analytical focus on the transnational, European economy. The course focusses on the sociological study of economic phenomena, the exploration of different types of European capitalism, and the analysis of transnational market-making in the EU. It will both pay attention to contributions of classic sociologists to reflecting on and analysing the economy, the market, and capitalism, as well as focus on recent developments and new theoretical avenues. The main sociological approaches to the economy will be reviewed, an introduction will be provided to the basic conceptual and heuristic tools used in economic sociology, and new ways of researching the interaction between the economy and the market, on the one hand, and society, on the other, will be explored.
A variety of empirical cases regarding both European societies and the European integration project will be discussed.

Fall 2019 SCHEDULE

In total, there are six teaching sessions, each consists of 180 minutes. Classes are held on the following dates:

16. 10.: Intro to economic sociology 1 & 2 (Dr. Christoph Sorg) Wed, room 2019, 15:30 - 18:30
18. 10.: Polanyi 1&2 (Dr. Christoph Sorg) - Fri, room 2019 - from 10:00-13:00
30. 10.: European capitalism 1&2 (Dr. Christoph Sorg) - Wed, room 2019, from 15:30 - 18:30
1. 11.: Financialization 1&2 (Dr. Christoph Sorg),Fri, room 2019, from 10:00 - 13:00
8. 11.: Introduction to Theories of Neoliberalism (Kristián Šrám - Fri, from 14:00 - 17:00
29. 11.: Contemporary Challenges in European Integration (Kristián Šrám) - Fri, from 14:00 - 17:00

Aim of the course
Last update: doc. Paulus Albertus Blokker, Ph.D. (04.10.2018)

·         To introduce the students to the way sociology can contribute to understanding the economy, the market, and capitalism;

·         The sociological analysis of European democratic capitalism in its varieties and transformation;

·         The sociological analysis of the European economy and its relation to European institutions;

·         To explore different ways in which the economy is related to, and embedded in, society;

·         To help students develop a set of critical skills to analyse the economy and capitalism;

·         To create a basis for the analysis of social change and the relations between market mechanisms, political institutions, solidarity and communitarian structures;

·         To stimulate understanding of different forms of capitalism, and the historical and contextual basis of capitalist economies.

Course completion requirements
Last update: Jana Vojanová (25.10.2019)


Course completion requirements

grading will be based on participation, papers, presentation (25% participation, 25% presentation, 50% paper)

In-course group presentations

Final essay:

Undergraduate: 1500 words (at least 3 scholarly references)

MA: 2000 words (at least 5 scholarly references)

 The final exam consists in a written essay on a topic of choice, which has to be clearly related to both economic sociology and European capitalism. The paper is to be of a maximum length of 2.000 (undergraduate) or 3.000 (MA) words, and has to contain at least 5 (undergraduate) or 10 (MA) relevant scholarly references in the field of economic sociology. It is encouraged that students intensively use and discuss course materials/readings, and clearly relate the paper to the discussions and topics in the course.  

 Possible essay topics include:

- The end of capitalism

- The economic crisis in Europe

- Cultures of entrepreneurship

- Consumption in the digital age

- New forms of economic governance

- Differences in models of capitalism (Mediterreanean,East-Central European)

- Neoliberalism reigns supreme?

- (Im-)possibility of critique


 Grading System

91 - 100 points: A - excellent (outstanding performance with only minor mistakes)
81 -  90 points: B - very good (above average performance with some mistakes)
71 - 80 points: C - good (overall good performance with a number of notable mistakes)
61 - 70 points: D - satisfactory (acceptable performance with significant mistakes)
51 - 60 points: E - sufficient (performance fulfils only minimum criteria)
less than 51 points: F - insufficient/failed (more effort needs to be made)


Teaching methods
Last update: Mgr. Ing. Kristián Šrám (04.10.2019)



In-class debate

Media materials


Last update: Mgr. Ing. Kristián Šrám (04.10.2019)



















I. Introduction to economic sociology and European capitalism (October 16)

The module starts off with a general introduction to economic sociology and a concise history of capitalism in Europe. Economic sociology will be discussed in terms of its historical development and key problématiques and concepts, main theoretical approaches/traditions, the nature and philosophical assumptions of economic sociology. European capitalism will be discussed in terms of the processes of industrialization and modernization.


Readings (undergraduate and MA)

Knick Harley, C. (2013), ‘British and European Industrialization’, in: Cambridge History of Capitalism, Vol. 1, Edited by Larry Neal and Jeffrey Williamson.


Smelser, Neil and Richard Swedberg (2005), ‘Introducing Economic Sociology’, in: Handbook of Economic Sociology, Princeton University Press.



Class 1: Classical sociology and economy-society relations

Class 2: Sociology, economic sociology and economics


















II. The social embeddedness of economies (October 18)

This section will discuss the work of Karl Polanyi (a recently much discussed thinker) and his ideas on the embeddedness of the economy in society and his understanding of the three principles of resource allocation and the three ways in which these are implemented: markets, hierarchies and networks. Also different levels and modes of embeddedness/disembeddedness of economies, different forms of cooperation, and types of governance will be discussed.


Readings (undergraduate and MA)

Beckert, Jens (2007), 'The Great Transformation of Embeddedness: Karl Polanyi and the New Economic Sociology',


Polanyi, K. (1944), The Great Transformation, selected readings./ Our Obsolete Market Mentality… 

Class 3: The social embeddedness of the economy

Class 4: The relevance of Polanyi today

















III. Capitalism in Europe and the crisis (October 30)

The third section discusses a relevantly recent discussion on the recent history of (varieties of) European capitalism. The economic crisis that has come to the fore in Europe since 2007 has revealed the fragile nature of global capitalism but also the ‘strange non-death neo-liberalism’, which has dominated economic policies for decades. Economic sociology can play an important role in studying both the reasons for and consequences of the economic crisis, but also help to shed critical light on the apparent absence of structural alternatives to a free-market based form of capitalism. In addition, we will discuss recent anti-austerity movements, which have emerged in response to the European Debt Crisis.


Readings (undergraduate and MA)

Streeck, Wolfgang (2015): The Rise of the European Consolidation State. MPIfG Discussion Paper 15/1.


Pianta M., Gerbaudo P. (2015) In Search of European Alternatives: Anti-Austerity Protests in Europe. In: Kaldor M., Selchow S. (eds) Subterranean Politics in Europe. Palgrave Macmillan, London


Class 5: Capitalism in Europe

Class 6: The European Debt Crisis






















IV. Financialization (November 1)

The fourth section explores the rise of finance in recent decades. Financialization means that profits are mainly sought in the arena of financial speculation, not production, and that finance has become increasingly important for individuals, companies and states. This session will systemically analyze the role of finance in capitalism and introduce students to different theories of financialization. We will link analyses of recent financial transformations to historical perspectices on the role of finance for state-economy-society relations.


Readings (undergraduate and MA)

Lapavitsas Costas. (2011). Theorizing Financialization. In: Work, employment and society 25(4) 611–626.


Silver, Beverly & Arrighi, Giovanni. (2011). The End of the Long Twentieth Century. In: Craig Calhoun and Georgi Derluguian: Business as Usual: The Roots of the Global Financial Meltdown. New York: New York University Press. 


Class 7: Theories of financialization and the financial crisis

Class 8: Financialization from a historical-sociological perspective


V. Introduction to Theories of Neoliberalism (November 8)


 Neoliberalism has become a dominant concept in theorizing the organization of contemporary capitalism, and its impact on both society and individuals. Ranging across various social sciences, neoliberalism has become a contested concept. The class will discuss the historical emergence of neoliberalism and summarize the contemporary debates by exploring the key assumptions of various ways neoliberalism is theorized. The session will specifically scrutinize the micro-level impact of neoliberalism on contemporary societies while asking to which extent should we assume a critical perspective towards neoliberal changes.


Readings (undergraduate and MA)

Harvey, D. (2007). A brief history of neoliberalism. Oxford University Press, USA.

Hilgers, M. (2011). The three anthropological approaches to neoliberalism. International Social Science Journal, 61(202), 351-364.

Class 9: Economic sociology and the crisis of capitalism

Class 10: Sociology, the market, and society



VI. Contemporary Challenges in European Integration (November 22)


Following up on our previous debates regarding European political and economic crises, the emergence of anti-austerity movements, the final session will explore the recent phenomenon of European populism. The boom of populist movements has been, by some observers, deemed the most important political development in the past decade while the scientific reflection has undoubtedly undergone a revival of the interest in the subject matter. The class will introduce dominant approaches to populism and discuss its roots & effects while theorizing the links to the crisis of neoliberal capitalism and backlash against globalization.


Readings (undergraduate and MA)

Mudde, C. (2018). How populism became the concept that defines our age. The Guardian, 22.

Rodrik, D. (2018). Populism and the Economics of Globalization. Journal of International Business Policy, 1(1-2), 12-33.



Further and recommended resources


“Economic Discourses and Economic Dispositives”, issue of economic sociology, the european electronic newsletter, 14:2, available at:

Boltanski, Luc and Ève Chiapello (2005 [1999]) The New Spirit of Capitalism, trans. Gregory Elliott, London: Verso.

Diaz-Bone, Rainer. "Economics of convention." KOLNER ZEITSCHRIFT FUR SOZIOLOGIE UND SOZIALPSYCHOLOGIE (2009): 176-+.

Du Gay, Paul, and Glenn Morgan (2014) (eds.), New Spirits of Capitalism?: Crises, Justifications, and Dynamics. Oxford University Press.

Fligstein, Neil (2001), The architecture of markets: An economic sociology of twenty-first-century capitalist societies, Princeton University Press.

Smelser, Neil J., and Richard Swedberg (eds) (2010), The handbook of economic sociology, Princeton university press.

Streeck, Wolfgang (2013), "The crisis in context: Democratic capitalism and its contradictions." Politics in the Age of Austerity. Cambridge: Polity, pp. 262-286.

Streeck, Wolfgang (2014),  Buying time: The delayed crisis of democratic capitalism. Verso Books.











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