Statement of Editorial Policy
Originating in the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics (SASE), Socio-Economic Review (SER) is part of a broader movement in the social sciences for the rediscovery of the socio-political foundations of the economy. Devoted to the advancement of socio-economics, it deals with the analytical, political and moral questions arising at the intersection between economy and society. Articles in SER explore how the economy is or should be governed by social relations, institutional rules, political decisions, and cultural values. They also consider how the economy in turn affects the society of which it is part, for example by breaking up old institutional forms and giving rise to new ones. The domain of the journal is deliberately broadly conceived, so new variations to its general theme may be discovered and editors can learn from the papers that readers submit. To enhance international dialogue, Socio-Economic Review accepts the submission of translated articles that are simultaneously published in a language other than English. SER is listed in the Social Science Citation Index (Web of Science) and in Current Contents (Social & Behavioral Sciences).
In pursuit of its program, SER is eager to promote interdisciplinary dialogue between sociology, economics, political science and moral philosophy, through both empirical and theoretical work. Empirical papers may be qualitative as well as quantitative, and theoretical papers will not be confined to deductive model-building. Papers suggestive of more generalizable insights into the economy as a domain of social action will be preferred over narrowly specialized work. While firmly committed to the highest standards of scholarly excellence, Socio-Economic Review encourages discussion of the practical and ethical dimensions of economic action, with the intention to contribute to both the advancement of social science and the building of a good economy in a good society.
Socio-economics, as promoted by Socio-Economic Review, aspires to be three things: an analytical program for understanding today’s economy that provides a superior alternative to neo-classical economics; a contribution to more successful and more socially sustainable economic policy-making; and a platform for an informed debate of the moral foundations of economic action. Opposing economic imperialism in theory as well as in the real world, Socio-Economic Review provides space for scholarly critique of theoretical ap-proaches that model human society as an economy; reduce human action to “rational choice”; and define away the importance of culture, values, obligations and the like for economic and social action. Instead it supports, as scientifically sound and practically productive, a social science that treats the modern economy as a historical institution of which moral questions can be asked – an institution that has evolved over time, will evolve further, and continues to be subject to political choice.
Socio-Economic Review is not tied to any particular strand of theory, academic discipline, or subject of research. For example, labor markets and their social and political regulation are of obvious interest to SER, but this does not make it a journal of labor economics or labor market policy. While not specializing on labor markets, Socio-Economic Review takes a strong interest in the peculiar characteristics of labor as a commodity and the related tensions and compromises between the logics of the market and of social integration. In this perspective, current political conflicts over labor market “flexibility” are regarded as a opportunity to learn something on the general relationship between the economy and its social context. The same applies to the contemporary work on “varieties of capitalism”, to the extent that it sheds light on the opportunities and constraints of political choice with respect to the organization of national economies. While following and contributing to the development of this literature – also where it explores the prospects of a “European social model” as an alternative to a more and more market-driven Anglo-American kind of capitalism – Socio-Economic Review will not become a “varieties of capitalism” house journal and will continue to embrace a much broader range of themes and theories.
Whatever their specific subjects, articles in Socio-Economic Review should connect state-of-the-art empirical and theoretical work to the foundational issues of socio-economics, in particular debates on the social value of markets and the proper place of economic rationality in social life, and on how best to conduct economic and social policies in the real world of a socially embedded economy. Socio-Economic Review was created out of the conviction that even and precisely in a period of “globalization” and of a new post-national politics, social science must continue to ask, or indeed return to, the “large questions”, such as the on-going evolution of modern capitalism; how “objective” the “laws of the economy” really are; and what are the realistic choices individuals and communities may have and must face today with respect to the organization of economic life. While many of the findings of established social science are essential for a productive discussion of these themes, they must be integrated into a perspective broader than that of any one discipline. It is to this sort of integration that Socio-Economic Review wants to contribute.
Socio-economics presents a deliberate challenge to selective-specialist approaches to the study of the economy, urging them to go beyond their self-imposed limitations and address fundamental issues that are all too often cast aside in “normal science”. Thus, economic sociology has been growing impressively in recent years, documenting a rising interest among sociologists in applying to the economy as a social system what sociologists know about society and social action. From a socio-economic perspective, however, demonstrating that economic action is inevitably embedded in social networks, and that for an economy to be really efficient the peculiar dynamics of such networks must be respected, is only the beginning. For example, while a sociological theory of action does provide a better “microfoundation” than “rational choice” for the analysis of economic phenomena, it needs to be connected to studies of political mobilization, institution-building, and collective decision-making for a fuller account of economic reality. Moreover, being interested in praxis as well as in theory, socio-economics challenges economic sociology to develop its sense of historical time and place, learning not least from contemporary institutionalism in political economy and its treatment of institutional change and continuity.
Concerning economics, the socio-economic perspective attempts nothing less than to turn the table on imperialistic attempts to reduce social action, including economic action, to the maximization of individual utility. Immodestly, it claims that economics, with its scientistic and deterministic nineteenth century legacy, is not just poorly equipped to understand society, but for the same reasons misunderstands the economy as well. This deficiency, moreover, appears less easy to repair than some revisionists within the discipline may believe. As economic action is always and inevitably social action, it is only by means of a theory that takes social action seriously that a theoretically satisfactory and practically promising account of economic phenomena can be given. Socio-Economic Review will closely follow ongoing developments in economics that try to include culture, history, politics etc., provided they do not undertake to reduce them to yet another emanation of the “economic principle”. Moreover, to remind its readers of how modern economics have arbitrarily cut short a research agenda that used to cover more important than, say, the optimal composition of an investment portfolio, SER hopes regularly to publish new work on socio-economists such as Commons, Hayek, Polanyi, Schumpeter or Sombart, to demonstrate the magnitude of the loss for which socio-economic research today has to make up.
Finally, historical-institutionalist political economy has taught socio-economists how history, collective action, politics and policy can give rise to important differences with respect to the way economies work in the real world. In turn, the socio-economic approach may en-courage political economists to rethink what sometimes seem to be all-too-simple materialistic assumptions and explanations, e.g. with respect to the formation of collective interests in polities and societies. Drawing on the more disciplined versions of social constructivism that come out of economic sociology, socio-economists may be in a good po-sition to point out and insist on the historical and social plasticity and malleability of the definitions of interest that drive economic-political action. Here, too, a socio-economic perspective warns against premature simplification and emphasizes the costs, as opposed to the indubitable benefits, of theoretical parsimony. At the same time, socio-economics is greatly enriched by what it can learn from political economy on the role of agency in modern societies, at national as well as transnational level and in the form of both traditional state intervention and emergent new modes of collective action and governance.
Socio-Economic Review aspires to develop into a seedbed for a new attempt, more than overdue, at a sociologically informed and politically perceptive institutional economics – one that takes history seriously, does justice to the complexity of social systems and its profound consequences for theory-building, recognizes the specific dynamics and the distinctive dignity of the human lifeworld, allows for political mobilization and collective action in the interest of social progress and social stability, and engages in informed dialogue with political and moral philosophy to avoid the fallacies of technocracy. Such a theory can form and grow in confrontation with a wide range of subjects employing a wide variety of methods: by looking at consumption and investment, corporate governance, the regulation of capital markets, at labor markets and labor market policy, the organization of work and the changing division of labor, international trade and regional development, technological innovation, welfare state regimes and production regimes, the governance of the international economy, the provision of social order in industrial districts etc. etc. On all of these, SER hopes to offer its readers first-rate empirical and theoretical work that is of interest beyond the narrow circles of disciplinary specialists.
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