How I Became a Relational Economic Sociologist and What Does That Mean?

Politics and Society 40 (2):145-174 (2012)
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Abstract

My paper proposes the concept of relational work to explain economic activity. In all economic action, I argue, people engage in the process of differentiating meaningful social relations. For each distinct category of social relations, people erect a boundary, mark the boundary by means of names and practices, establish a set of distinctive understandings that operate within that boundary, designate certain sorts of economic transactions as appropriate for the relation, bar other transactions as inappropriate, and adopt certain media for reckoning and facilitating economic transactions within the relation. I call that process relational work. After identifying specific elements of a relational work approach, the paper focuses on the case of monetary differentiation. It compares a relational work theory of earmarking money with behavioral economics’ individually based mental accounting approach.

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