Accepted Paper:

The notion of embeddedness and its relevance in modern market economies  


Agnese Cimdina (University of Latvia)

Paper short abstract:

The aim of this paper is twofold. First, to reflect on the use of the concept of embeddedness in recent economic anthropology. Second, to show the relevance of the concept in the analysis of market behavior among entrepreneurs from Scandinavia and the Baltic states.

Paper long abstract:

The social world is present in its entirety in every "economic" action, writes Bourdieu (2005). The originator of such a socio-cultural approach to economics was Polanyi who, by introducing the concept of embeddedness, emphasized the way economies are embedded in society and culture. But while Polanyi argued that all non-market economies are embedded in social, kinship relations and institutions, he tended to see market economy as disembedded.

That economic behavior is heavily embedded in social relations in premarket societies and have become much more autonomous with modernization is depicted by Granovetter (1985) as a common view among social scientists. This view sees the economy as an increasingly separate, differentiated sphere in modern society, with economic transactions defined no longer by the social or kinship obligations, but by rational calculations of individual gain (Garsten, de Montoya 2004).

I find the notion of embeddedness highly relevant in grasping the fluid relation between "the social" and "the economic" in business relations between East and West. The aim of this paper is to discuss the use of embededdness concept in economic anthropology; and to show the relevance of it by analyzing market behavior in modern economies. The key questions to be illuminated are: How entrepreneurs' social ties and patterns of culture shape their strategies in the marketplace? What is the role of kinship in market operations? How meanings people construct about their economic worlds are embedded locally? Scandinavian business operations in the Baltic states between 2000-2006 is the empirical base of the article.

Panel W002
Markets, kinship and morality