Friday, October 08, 2010

From call to Abstract 3

Kristian noticed a couple of defects in Wednesday's version of the abstract (see comments). I have tried to fix them here:

The past is shaped by the present. More specifically, our image of the past is shaped by the way contemporary events are embedded in social relations, which constrain their development and condition their interpretation. Building on Granovetter’s (1985) classic argument for the social embeddedness of economic action, this paper examines the ways in which an economic region—the so-called “├śresunds region”—constructs an image of its own past, as well as the history of the European common market, in its attempt to establish opportunities for future growth. This process is always dependent on a complex arrangement of contemporary social relations. The analysis is informed by Spicer's (2006) call to move the discussion "beyond convergence-divergence" and his idea of a "shared space" formed by capital, regulation and discourse.

Today, I want to add another reference, this time to a paper that is much more central to the discipline of economic sociology:

Amin, Ash and Nigel Thrift. 1995. "Institutional Issues for the European Regions: from markets and plans to socioeconomics and powers of association." Economy and Society 24 (1): 41-66.

Where Spicer's paper was a way that we could practice some interdisciplinarity of our own by drawing on an article outside economic sociology, Amin and Thrift's paper exemplifies the very sort of interdisciplinarity that we are after. It draws together five "strands" of research in an attempt to understand the "socioeconomic" situation of the EU regions, among these are both the sociological tradition (where Granovetter's paper has been, as they say, "seminal") and the field of organization theory.

Here's a stab at integrating their work into my abstract:

The past is shaped by the present. More specifically, our image of the past is shaped by the way contemporary events are embedded in social relations, which constrain their development and condition their interpretation. Building on Granovetter’s (1985) classic argument for the social embeddedness of economic action, and its application to the institutional problems of the EU regions by Amin and Thrift (1995), this paper examines the ways in which an economic region—the so-called “├śresunds region”—constructs an image of its own past, as well as the history of the European common market, in its attempt to establish opportunities for future growth. This process is always dependent on a complex arrangement of contemporary social relations. The analysis is informed by Spicer's (2006) call to move the discussion "beyond convergence-divergence" and his idea of a "shared space" formed by capital, regulation and discourse. The paper is motivated by Amin and Thrift's concerns about the narrow (or "conservative") "idea of an 'economy' embedded in a society". What we see in the case of EU regions, perhaps, is an active appropriation of history by locally "embedded" actors that is likely to shape both the economy and the society.

Keep in mind that this abstract is written on the basis of a very cursory reading of Spicer and Amin and Thrift. (We have, of course, been pretending that the Granovetter article is already under our skin.) If we were really going to submit this abstract we would need to spend some quality time with those articles in order to make sure that we're getting them right and putting them to optimal use. But by spending a few hours (I've spent maybe three so far) articulating our reaction to the call itself, and looking for other participants in the conversation that we want to have, and articulating a possible place for them in the argument, our reading will be much more focused and, ultimately, productive. We are not simply reading them—we are actively listening to their contribution to what we want to say. We are using the abstract, then, to track how our ideas develop.

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