I still haven’t addressed the payoff question, but here’s more of my thinking about culture and economic sociology, in pictorial:
The constitutive group, which does in fact tend to study the ‘settlement’ (a loaded term, yes, but think of it more like a butterfly alighting temporarily than obdurate institutions) of markets, treats the market itself as the dependent variable: how does a market become something that looks like a market?
The second group, what I think of as complementary (as in, it complements economic studies of markets, doesn’t challenge the idea of markets as such), is more like:
From a paper I’m working on, here’s the problem:
The dichotomy between the constitutive and complementary approaches has resulted in a theoretical limitation for the field. The central problem is not necessarily the lack of conversation between these two groups, as they often do build on one another. It is the either/or conception of culture. Culture acts as either something that affects how markets are built, or else it affects how markets operate. Constitutive activities are necessary to stabilize market actors, objects, and actions, enough so that ‘normal’ market forces – now with cultural variables added as key determinants – can operate. And once these activities occur, markets are seen as acquiring a kind of permanent stability which allows us to then gauge their operation. As a result, we end up with analyses of how creativity and highly contextualized knowledge of fashion is transformed into a commodity for consumer sale (like Patrik Aspers’ work), and studies of how social ties affect performance among garment industry firms (eg, Uzzi’s awesome study of the garment industry in NYC). But very little on the interactions across these processes.
I’m ready to start getting on to these kinds of interactions.