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Victor Nee

Frank and Rosa Rhodes Professor
Director of the Center for Economy and Society
PhD 1977, Harvard University
Curriculum Vitae

Areas of Interest: Theory, Economic Sociology, Stratification/Inequality, Immigration and Race, Transitions from State Socialism

(607) 255-1415
Personal Site

312/330 Uris Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-7601


Victor Nee’s current research interests in economic sociology examines the role of networks and norms in the emergence of economic institutions and organizations:

1). He is working on an ongoing study of endogenous institutional change focusing on networks and norms of entrepreneurs and firms in the Yangzi delta region of China. Why and how did a modern capitalist economic order emerge in China? Where do economic institutions come from? In Capitalism from Below: Markets and Institutional Change (Harvard University Press 2012), he and Sonja Opper detail the theory and evidence in explaining the emergence of economic institutions of capitalism. The study employs “mixed-methods” integrating a longitudinal quantitative survey of private firms and CEOs (2006, 2009, 2012), face-to-face qualitative interviews with entrepreneurs and field experiments. The 2012 survey of firms collects network data using a name-generator instrument. A series of papers are in progress drawing on the longitudinal data set to examine a broad range of problems in economic sociology. These include examining the reflexive basis of reputation in multiplex networks, identifying the sources of trust in a low-trust society, examining the flow of novel ideas and innovation in multiplex networks, and the sources of cooperation in competitive markets.

2). He has begun a new research program on the making of knowledge-based regional economies in the United States. This entails research on the emergence and development in New York City of high tech startup firms, and on the role of research universities like Cornell in sustaining knowledge-based economic activity. A sequel to the Yangzi delta study, the new study examines innovative activity and entrepreneurial action in the context of inclusive political and economic institutions of the United States.

Recent Courses

SOC 2190
SOC 4330/6330
SOC 6490

Introduction to Economic Sociology
Economy and Society
New Institutionalism

 Selected Publications


“Capitalism from Below: Markets and Institutional Change in China,” with Sonja Opper. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012).

On Capitalism, Co-editor and contributor with Richard Swedberg (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2007)

The Economic Sociology of Capitalism. Co-editor and contributor with Richard Swedberg (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005).

Remaking the American Mainstream: Assimilation and the New Immigration, with Richard Alba (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003).

The New Institutionalism in Sociology, coeditor and contributor with Mary Brinton (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1998).

Articles and Chapters

“Risk Aversion and Guanxi Activities: A Behavioral Analysis of CEOs in China” (with Sonja Opper and Hakan Holm). 2016. Academy of Management Journal.

“Endogenous Dynamics of Institutional Change” (with Daniel DellaPosta and Sonja Opper). 2016. Rationality and Society.

“Homophily in the Career Mobility of China’s Political Elite” (with Sonja Opper and Stephan Brehm). 2015. Social Science Research 54: 332-352.

“Network Effects, Cooperation and Entrepreneurial Innovation in China.” (with Sonja Opper). 2015. Asian Business & Management 14(4): 293-302.

“Entrepreneurs under Uncertainty: An Economic Experiment” (with Hakan Holm and Sonja Opper) Management Science, 2013

“Why Asian Americans are Becoming Mainstream?” (with Hilary Holbrow) Daedalus (2013)

“Political Capital in a Market Economy” (with Sonja Opper). Social Forces 88 (2010) 2105-2133

“Bureaucracy and Financial Markets” with Sonja Opper Kyklos 62 (2009):293-315

“On Politicized Capitalism” (with Sonja Opper) in On Capitalism, edited by Victor Nee and Richard Swedberg. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2007

“Developmental State and Corporate Governance in China” (with Sonja Opper and Sonia Wong). Management and Organization Review 3 (2007): 19-51

“The New Institutionalism in Economics and Sociology.” In The Handbook of Economic Sociology (2nd ed.) edited by Neil Smelser and Richard Swedberg. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005).

“Organizational Dynamics of Institutional Change: Politicized Capitalism in China.” Pp. 53-74 In The Economic Sociology of Capitalism, edited by Victor Nee and Richard Swedberg. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005)

“Path Dependent Societal Transformation: Stratification in Mixed Economies.” (with Yang Cao) Theory and Society 28 (1999): 799-834.

“Norms and Networks in Economic and Organizational Performance.” American Economic Review Vol. 87 (1998), No. 4, pp. 85-89.

“Embeddedness and Beyond: Institutions, Exchange and Social Structure.” (with Paul Ingram). Pp. 19-45 in The New Institutionalism in Sociology, edited by M. Brinton and V. Nee (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1998).

“Immigrant Self-Employment: The Family as Social Capital and the Value of Human Capital” (with Jimy Sanders), American Sociological Review 60 (1996):231-250.

“Market Transition and Societal Transformation in Reforming State Socialism.” (with Rebecca Matthews), Annual Review of Sociology vol. 22 (1996): 401-36.

“The Emergence of a Market Society: Changing Mechanisms of Stratification in China.” American Journal of Sociology 100 (1996): 908-949.

“Job Transitions in an Immigrant Metropolis: Ethnic Boundaries and Mixed Economy.” (with Jimy M. Sanders and Scott Sernau), American Sociological Review 59 (1994): 849-872.

“Sleeping with the Enemy: A Dynamic Model of Declining Political Commitment in State Socialism.” (with Peng Lian) Theory and Society 23 (1994): 253- 296.

“Social Inequalities in Reforming State Socialism: Between Redistribution and Markets in China.” American Sociological Review 56 (1991): 267-282.

“A Theory of Market Transition: From Redistribution to Markets in State Socialism.” American Sociological Review 54 (1989): 663-681.