Euro notes running through a banknote counter

The economic sociology of price instability and inflation

Current Issue | Vol 24, No 1 | November 2022
Marcin Serafin
Since the 1980s, economic sociologists have investigated various topics that were, in the decades prior, seen to be within the sole domain of economics. Yet there is at least one economic topic where the development of economic sociology has been accompanied not by more sociological attention, but by less. This is the topic of inflation.
Fred Block
Back in 1978, when economic sociology was still in an embryonic state, the British sociologist John Goldthorpe published an important paper, “The Current Inflation: Towards a Sociological Account” (Goldthorpe 1978). Goldthorpe rejected the conventional arguments that inflation was the consequence of too much money chasing too few goods or that it could be attributed to excessive public sector spending. He argued instead that inflation was often the result of distributional conflict, particularly between workers and their employers.
You recently published a book about the sociology of prices. How did you come to this topic and why did you want to write a book about it?
During our respective doctoral research, we were both concerned with prices and we started to exchange ideas on this issue. [...] From two different fields, we discovered the richness of the literature on the issues of value and prices, especially since the 2000s. We realized that there was a lot of sociological work on prices and pricing, but that there was no comprehensive book on the subject, either in French or in English. So, we decided to go for it.
Aleksandra Lis-Plesińska
With the completion of mass electrification projects in Europe, electricity supply seemed to have gradually escaped the political attention of European publics. No more new villages to connect to the national power grid, no more political celebrations of remote communities entering modernity and sharing its achievements. Electricity supply, even if randomly exposed to delivery cuts, became a taken-for-granted good, an invisible, though acutely essential, part of modern economic infrastructure.
Marcin Serafin, Marlena Rycombel, and Marta Olcoń-Kubicka
The assumption that inflation is clearly visible to everyone can only be made in the case of hyperinflation or when inflation is high enough that prices are changing significantly from one month to the next across various markets. This direct relation between high inflation and individual experiences of changing prices was well described by Maurice Halbwachs in his posthumously published book The Collective Memory.
Nigel Dodd passed away in London on August 12, 2022, after a period of illness. Dodd was professor of sociology at the London School of Economics and Political Science, which he joined in 1995. He earned his doctorate in 1991 at the University of Cambridge, with Anthony Giddens as his supervisor. His dissertation was published in 1994 by Polity Press with the title The Sociology of Money, Economics, Reason and Contemporary Society. Dodd was the editor of Volume 12 of this publication (2010–2011).
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