This is my final from my Sociology of US Economic Life class. They get the questions in advance, and I’m choosing 3 for the final..
1. Stiglitz (Globalization and its Discontents) argues that there is a “Washington
Consensus” between the IMF and World Bank that directs most of the global efforts
towards international aid and development. What is this consensus? Why is Stiglitz so
critical of it? Give 2-3 examples of how IMF policies have been used around the
world in supporting your answer.
2. In Everything for Sale, Kuttner laments that there is a danger when “market norms
drive out non-market norms” and that “market theory conceives of economic
relationships as purely instrumental. All transactions are at arm’s-length, and there is
no room for sentimentality.”
A. What is the concern about market norms driving out non-market norms?
Using examples from readings or lectures, explain why this concern is
convincing or unconvincing.
B. Using Granovetter’s (“Economic Action and Social Structure”) argument
about embeddedness and “ongoing social ties,” explain how “embedded”
relationships might actually make markets more (allocatively) efficient. Give an
example of how this might work.
3. According to Cass Sunstein, under what circumstances will markets not stop
discrimination? Explain at least three of these reasons, giving examples of how they
would work in practice.
4. In this course, we’ve examined a number of real-world markets as well as some of
the theoretical bases for how markets operate. Drawing on at least 2-3 readings you
feel are appropriate, explain why it is dangerous (or at least dubious) to assume that
markets are “natural” and/or “self-regulating” and/or “disembedded.” Then, explain,
using 1-2 concrete examples, how understanding the links between markets and
their “non-economic” elements might actually allow us to make markets more useful.
5. In MacKenzie’s Engine Not a Camera, he argues that options markets developed in
part because economists created models of the world (e.g., the Black-Scholes
formula, or Capital Assets Pricing Model), and then imposed those models on newly
emerging options markets. But in Nature’s Metropolis, William Cronon argues that
futures markets evolved out of the emerging technologies of the time (e.g., cheap
railroad transportation, grain elevators). Explain the main arguments around the
development of grain futures and the financial options market. Which of these views
– markets ‘evolve’ or markets are ‘made’ – is more persuasive?
6. In Class Acts, Rachel Sherman attempts to understand interactive service work and
class inequality in the context of luxury hotels. Answer the following:
A. What makes service work different from factory labor, and why can’t
we just use the models we have for factory work to examine service
B. Although Sherman thought she was going to find that luxury service
work would highlight class inequalities, instead she found that workers
in the hotels minimized class inequalities. How did that happen?
7. What are some of the strategies that luxury hotel workers used to maximize their
own autonomy, and to control the ‘labor process’ at work? What are some of the
ways that management imposed discipline on these workers? In what ways, if at all,
did autonomy and control work differently for the ‘front of the house’ and ‘back of
the house’ workers?
8. What is the “stakeholder solution” proposed by Ackerman and Alstott? What kinds
of inequalities would this solution solve? What types of inequalities would remain
unsolved by this kind of proposal?
A. Give 1-2 examples of features that the stake would help to fix?
B. Give 1-2 examples of problems that would not be addressed by
9. What is Stiglitz’s problem with “hot money” with regard to the IMF goal of
liberalizing capital markets? Give one or two examples of how this can occur,
drawing from Globalization. What are some solutions Stiglitz suggests to fix this
10. Are brands a positive or negative element of contemporary economic life? Drawing
on the branding articles (Wilcox, Bourdieu, Naomi Klein) as well as the branding
guest lecture, make an argument for why brands are good for consumers and/or
companies, or why brands are bad for consumers and/or companies.