This long-awaited second edition of Economy/Society Markets, Meanings, and Social Structure continues to offer an accessible introduction to the way social arrangements affect economic activity, and shows that economic exchanges are deeply embedded in social relationships. Understanding how society shapes the economy helps us answer many important questions. For example, how does advertising get people to buy things? How do people use their social connections to get jobs? How did large bureaucratic organizations come to be so pervasive in modern economies—and what difference does it make? How can we explain the persistence of economic inequalities between men and women and across racial groups? Why do some countries become rich while others stay poor? This book presents sociological answers to questions like these, and encourages its readers to view the economy through a sociological lens.

Economic Inequality

Economic inequality

Over the last several decades, markets have become more important all around the world. The collapse of the Soviet bloc pushed Eastern and Central Europe from command to market economies. China developed its own “socialist market economy,” with considerable success. Even countries that were already capitalist democracies spent much of the 1980s and 1990s expanding the reach of their own markets and shrinking the public sector. It seems as if more and more economic decision making about the production and allocation of goods is governed by markets.

If markets have become more consequential, it is important to understand their consequences. In this chapter, we consider the effects of markets on economic inequality. Even the most vocal advocates of free markets admit that they ...

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