front cover of The Economics of Attention
The Economics of Attention
Style and Substance in the Age of Information
Richard A. Lanham
University of Chicago Press, 2006
If economics is about the allocation of resources, then what is the most precious resource in our new information economy? Certainly not information, for we are drowning in it. No, what we are short of is the attention to make sense of that information. 

With all the verve and erudition that have established his earlier books as classics, Richard A. Lanham here traces our epochal move from an economy of things and objects to an economy of attention. According to Lanham, the central commodity in our new age of information is not stuff but style, for style is what competes for our attention amidst the din and deluge of new media. In such a world, intellectual property will become more central to the economy than real property, while the arts and letters will grow to be more crucial than engineering, the physical sciences, and indeed economics as conventionally practiced. For Lanham, the arts and letters are the disciplines that study how human attention is allocated and how cultural capital is created and traded. In an economy of attention, style and substance change places. The new attention economy, therefore, will anoint a new set of moguls in the business world—not the CEOs or fund managers of yesteryear, but new masters of attention with a grounding in the humanities and liberal arts. 

Lanham’s The Electronic Word was one of the earliest and most influential books on new electronic culture. The Economics of Attention builds on the best insights of that seminal book to map the new frontier that information technologies have created.

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Economy and Society
A New Translation
Edited and translated by Keith Tribe
Harvard University Press, 2019

The definitive new translation of Max Weber’s classic work of social theory—arguably the most important book by the foremost social theorist of the twentieth century.

Max Weber’s Economy and Society is the foundational text for the social sciences of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, presenting a framework for understanding the relations among individual action, social action, economic action, and economic institutions. It also provides a classification of political forms based upon “systems of rule” and “rulership” that has shaped debate about the nature and role of charisma, tradition, legal authority, and bureaucracy.

Keith Tribe’s major new translation presents Economy and Society as it stood when Weber died in June 1920, with three complete chapters and a fragment of a fourth. One of the English-speaking world’s leading experts on Weber’s thought, Tribe has produced a uniquely clear and faithful translation that balances accuracy with readability. He adds to this a substantial introduction and commentary that reflect the new Weber scholarship of the past few decades.

This new edition will become the definitive translation of one of the few indisputably great intellectual works of the past 150 years.


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Embracing Risk
The Changing Culture of Insurance and Responsibility
Edited by Tom Baker and Jonathan Simon
University of Chicago Press, 2001
For much of the twentieth century, industrialized nations addressed social problems, such as workers' compensation benefits and social welfare programs, in terms of spreading risk. But in recent years a new approach has emerged: using risk both as a way to conceive of and address social problems and as an incentive to reduce individual claims on collective resources.

Embracing Risk explores this new approach from a variety of perspectives. The first part of the book focuses on the interplay between risk and insurance in various historical and social contexts. The second part examines how risk is used to govern fields outside the realm of insurance, from extreme sports to policing, mental health institutions, and international law. Offering an original approach to risk, insurance, and responsibility, the provocative and wide-ranging essays in Embracing Risk demonstrate that risk has moved well beyond its origins in the insurance trade to become a central organizing principle of social and cultural life.


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An Epidemic of Uncertainty
Navigating HIV and Young Adulthood in Malawi
Jenny Trinitapoli
University of Chicago Press, 2023
A decade-long study of young adulthood in Malawi that demonstrates the impact of widespread HIV status uncertainty, laying bare the sociological implications of what is not known.

An Epidemic of Uncertainty advances a new framework for studying social life by emphasizing something social scientists routinely omit from their theories, models, and measures–what people know they don’t know. Taking Malawi’s ongoing AIDS epidemic as an entry point, Jenny Trinitapoli shows that despite admirable declines in new HIV infections and AIDS-related mortality, an epidemic of uncertainty persists; at any given point in time, fully half of Malawian young adults don’t know their HIV status. Reckoning with the impact of this uncertainty within the bustling trading town of Balaka, Trinitapoli argues that HIV-related uncertainty is measurable, pervasive, and impervious to biomedical solutions, with consequences that expand into multiple domains of life, including relationship stability, fertility, and health. Over the duration of a groundbreaking decade-long longitudinal study, rich survey data and poignant ethnographic vignettes vividly depict how individual lives and population patterns unfold against the backdrop of an ever-evolving epidemic. Even as HIV is transformed from a progressive, fatal disease to a chronic and manageable condition, the accompanying epidemic of uncertainty remains fundamental to understanding social life in this part of the world.

Insisting that known unknowns can and should be integrated into social-scientific models of human behavior, An Epidemic of Uncertainty treats uncertainty as an enduring aspect, a central feature, and a powerful force in everyday life.

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Everynight Life
Culture and Dance in Latin/o America
Celeste Fraser Delgado and José Esteban Muñoz, eds.
Duke University Press, 1997
The function of dance in Latin/o American culture is the focus of the essays collected in Everynight Life. The contributors interpret how Latin/o culture expresses itself through dance, approaching the material from the varying perspectives of literary, cultural, dance, performance, queer, and feminist studies. Viewing dance as privileged sites of identity formation and cultural resistance in Latin/o America, Everynight Life translates the motion of bodies into speech, and the gestures of dance into a provocative socio-political grammar.
This anthology looks at many modes of dance—including salsa, merengue, cumbia, rumba, mambo, tango, samba, and norteño—as models for the interplay of cultural memory and regional conflict. Barbara Browning’s essay on capoeira, for instance, demonstrates how dance has been used as a literal form of resistance, while José Piedra explores the meanings conveyed by women of color dancing the rumba. Pieces such as Gustavo Perez Fírmat’s "I Came, I Saw, I Conga’d" and Jorge Salessi’s "Medics, Crooks, and Tango Queens" illustrate the lively scope of this volume’s subject matter.

Contributors. Barbara Browning, Celeste Fraser Delgado, Jane C. Desmond, Mayra Santos Febres, Juan Carlos Quintero Herencia, Josh Kun, Ana M. López, José Esteban Muñoz, José Piedra, Gustavo Perez Fírmat, Augusto C. Puleo, David Román, Jorge Salessi, Alberto Sandoval


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Experimenting with Social Norms
Fairness and Punishment in Cross-Cultural Perspective
Jean Ensminger
Russell Sage Foundation, 2014
Questions about the origins of human cooperation have long puzzled and divided scientists. Social norms that foster fair-minded behavior, altruism and collective action undergird the foundations of large-scale human societies, but we know little about how these norms develop or spread, or why the intensity and breadth of human cooperation varies among different populations. What is the connection between social norms that encourage fair dealing and economic growth? How are these social norms related to the emergence of centralized institutions? Informed by a pioneering set of cross-cultural data, Experimenting with Social Norms advances our understanding of the evolution of human cooperation and the expansion of complex societies. Editors Jean Ensminger and Joseph Henrich present evidence from an exciting collaboration between anthropologists and economists. Using experimental economics games, researchers examined levels of fairness, cooperation, and norms for punishing those who violate expectations of equality across a diverse swath of societies, from hunter-gatherers in Tanzania to a small town in rural Missouri. These experiments tested individuals’ willingness to conduct mutually beneficial transactions with strangers that reap rewards only at the expense of taking a risk on the cooperation of others. The results show a robust relationship between exposure to market economies and social norms that benefit the group over narrow economic self-interest. Levels of fairness and generosity are generally higher among individuals in communities with more integrated markets. Religion also plays a powerful role. Individuals practicing either Islam or Christianity exhibited a stronger sense of fairness, possibly because religions with high moralizing deities, equipped with ample powers to reward and punish, encourage greater prosociality. The size of the settlement also had an impact. People in larger communities were more willing to punish unfairness compared to those in smaller societies. Taken together, the volume supports the hypothesis that social norms evolved over thousands of years to allow strangers in more complex and large settlements to coexist, trade and prosper. Innovative and ambitious, Experimenting with Social Norms synthesizes an unprecedented analysis of social behavior from an immense range of human societies. The fifteen case studies analyzed in this volume, which include field experiments in Africa, South America, New Guinea, Siberia and the United States, are available for free download on the Foundation’s

front cover of Explorations in Economic Sociology
Explorations in Economic Sociology
Richard Swedberg
Russell Sage Foundation, 1993
Since the mid-1980s, as public discourse has focused increasingly on the troubled economy, many social scientists have argued the need for more analysis of the social relationships that undergird economic life. The original essays in Explorations in Economic Sociology represent the most important work in this renewed field and employ a rich variety of research methods—theoretical, ethnographic, and historical—to illustrate its key concerns. Explorations in Economic Sociology forges innovative social theories of such economic institutions as money, markets, and industry. Although traditional economists have identified markets as driven solely by the forces of supply and demand, social factors frequently intervene. Sales at auction are determined not simply by a seller's personal knowledge of customers. Shareholder attitudes and employee organization influence everything from the way firms borrow money to the way corporate performance is measured. Firms themselves operate in social networks in which trust is a crucial factor in settling the terms for cooperation or competition. Throughout the essays in this volume, the contributors point the way to developing a more healthy economy by fostering productive industrial networks, avoiding disintegration at management levels, and anticipating the consequences of the shift from manufacturing to service industries. Explorations in Economic Sociology is a pioneering work that bridges the gap between social theory and economic analysis and demonstrates the importance of this union in achieving an effective understanding of economic issues. The book should stimulate new interest in economic sociology by bringing together many of its most fundamental voices.

front cover of Expulsions
Brutality and Complexity in the Global Economy
Saskia Sassen
Harvard University Press, 2014

Soaring income inequality and unemployment, expanding populations of the displaced and imprisoned, accelerating destruction of land and water bodies: today’s socioeconomic and environmental dislocations cannot be fully understood in the usual terms of poverty and injustice, according to Saskia Sassen. They are more accurately understood as a type of expulsion—from professional livelihood, from living space, even from the very biosphere that makes life possible.

This hard-headed critique updates our understanding of economics for the twenty-first century, exposing a system with devastating consequences even for those who think they are not vulnerable. From finance to mining, the complex types of knowledge and technology we have come to admire are used too often in ways that produce elementary brutalities. These have evolved into predatory formations—assemblages of knowledge, interests, and outcomes that go beyond a firm’s or an individual’s or a government’s project.

Sassen draws surprising connections to illuminate the systemic logic of these expulsions. The sophisticated knowledge that created today’s financial “instruments” is paralleled by the engineering expertise that enables exploitation of the environment, and by the legal expertise that allows the world’s have-nations to acquire vast stretches of territory from the have-nots. Expulsions lays bare the extent to which the sheer complexity of the global economy makes it hard to trace lines of responsibility for the displacements, evictions, and eradications it produces—and equally hard for those who benefit from the system to feel responsible for its depredations.


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