Spring Quarter 2010

May 24

Carol A. Heimer, Professor, Department of Sociology, Northwestern University

This seminar is being re-scheduled for the fall

May 17

Jerry Davis, Professor of Management, University of Michigan
Joint WTO seminar

How Finance Reshaped America

Time and Location: 12:00 noon, Terman 217

Large corporations were a dominant force in American society for generations through their employment practices, expansion choices, and community connections. As the United States has shifted to a postindustrial economy, however, finance has increasingly taken center stage. This article documents shifts in corporate employment, institutional investment, corporate organization, financial services, governments, and household ties to financial markets over the past three decades. I argue that all these shifts can be seen as part of an interconnected movement toward a finance-centered economy, and that the recent economic downturn can be viewed as one outcome of this broader movement. 

May 10

Mark Mizruchi, Professor of Sociology and Business Administration, University of Michigan
Joint WTO seminar

CEO Ideology and Corporate Political Action: A Theoretical and Historical Account

Time and Location: 12:00 noon, Hartley Conference Room, Mitchell Bldg

The events surrounding the financial crisis of 2008 are well-known, and subject to a broad level of agreement. Less accepted are theories regarding the larger context within which this crisis was able to unfold. Much has been made of the financialization of the American economy and the lax regulation of new financial instruments, both of which stem from the trend toward a laissez-faire economic policy that has characterized the United States since the late-1970s. I do not take issue with these claims. Instead, I argue that these developments have an earlier and deeper source: a breakdown in the ability of large American corporations to provide collective solutions to economic and social problems, a phenomenon that I term "the decline of the American corporate elite." From a group with a relatively moderate political perspective and a pragmatic strategic orientation, this elite, through a series of historical developments, became a fragmented, largely ineffectual group, with a high degree of societal legitimacy but a paradoxical lack of power. I trace the history of this group, from its origins in the early-1900s, through its heyday in the post World War II period, to its decline beginning in the 1970s and escalating in the 1980s. I argue that the lack of coordination within the American business community created the conditions for the crises of the post-1980 period- including the massive breakdown of 2008-to occur.

May 3

John-Paul Ferguson, Asst Prof. of Organizational Behavior, Graduate School of Business, Stanford University

Space Invaders? Social Valuation and the Diversification of Union Organizing Drives, 1961 - 1999

Theories of social classification in organizational sociology lack mechanisms to explain how audiences who prefer specialist organizations would come to prefer generalist ones. This study builds on propositions about categories as a step in social valuation to develop and identify how changes to audiences’ “lay theories of value” can produce changes in the dimensions along which organizational specialization is valued. Such a shift is demonstrated empirically in the trend of trade-union organizing in the United States away from exclusive industrial jurisdictions and toward diverse organizing. Changes to the union roles and structures that supported industrial jurisdiction allowed unions that adopted those changes to benefit rather than suffer from “violating” the older jurisdictional system, by positing organizing skill rather than contract-bargaining ability as a basis for value. Data on organizing drives filed with the National Labor Relations Board between 1961 and 1999 support the theory. 

April 19

Eric Klinenberg, Professor of Sociology, New York University
Joint STS and WTO seminar

Of Risk and Pork: Urban Security and the Politics of Calculation

Andrew Lakoff, UC San Diego, and Eric Klinenberg Forthcoming in Theory and Society

Time and Location: 12:00 noon, Terman, room 217

This paper focuses on the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) controversy as a case study in the politics of risk assessment. It examines struggles among diverse actors – think tank experts, journalists, politicians, and government officials – engaged in the contentious process of establishing a legitimate definition of risk. In the field of homeland security, the means of conducting rational risk assessment have not yet been settled, and entrepreneurial officials from urban and regional governments use different techniques to identify local risks and vulnerabilities. In this contentious process, federal bureaucrats are responsible for determining how to fairly and rationally allocate resources to different cities and metropolitan regions, given that local officials have clear incentives to request funds and little cause to refrain. Although “rationality” is supposed to replace “politics” in making bureaucratic decisions over the allocation of resources, what we find instead is a political struggle over how to define, measure, and manage risk. For political actors, victory in debates over urban security comes from codifying one’s interests within the technical practice of risk assessment.

April 12

Karl Wennberg, Research Fellow, Innovation Studies Centre, Imperial College London Business School (with Erkko Autio, Imperial College London Business School)

You think, therefore, I become: Social Attitudes and the Transition to Entrepreneurship

This paper addresses the role of informal institutions and social interaction for economic action. Drawing upon identity theory and the interdisciplinary work on peer effects, we develop and test multi-level model incorporating the effect of peer group attitudes and behavioral norms on entrepreneurial behavior. Our model is based on the presumption that prevailing social attitudes and behaviors influence individual-level economic behavior. Using refined data from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor we find that the norms of salient social groups can have up to three times as much impact on the probability of entry into entrepreneurship as compared with the individual’s own attitudes. In addition, we find that nearly half of the variance in individual-level entrepreneurship behaviors resides in between groups and cannot be accounted for by individual-level characteristics. Our analysis extends previous within-country analyses of social interaction to an international setting and complements prior research on the effect of formal institutions on entrepreneurial activity by explicitly modeling the role of informal institutions on entrepreneurship. 

April 5

Linus Dahlander, Postdoctoral Fellow, Stanford University (with Dan McFarland, Stanford University)

Collaborations in Elite Academic Careers

New faculty members enter academe and build a research career - one that often steps out from isolated work and their local departments, into collaborative grants and publications that require a division of labor and complementary skills. As scholars build their career, they increase the range and type of contacts until an expanded, original research effort is formed. We use unique longitudinal data covering a period of 15 years at Stanford University of how newly hired untenured professors build their own work and collaborations with their colleagues. Our findings have broader implications by analyzing the sequences and conditions under which different collaborations form with colleagues from the same department or from more distant realms.