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Richard Swedberg

Professor, Acting Director of Graduate Studies
PhD 1978, Boston College
Curriculum Vitae

Areas of Interest: Economic Sociology, Theorizing in Social Science, Classical Sociological Theories

(607) 255-4325
Personal Site

3284 Uris Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-7601


My two main areas of research are economic sociology and social theory. Economic sociology has been a vital interest of mine since the early 1980s; and today I mainly work on current topics. From early on I have also been fascinated by social theory, especially theorizing — what theorizing is and how it can be taught to students through practical exercises. My main work on this topic is The Art of Social Theory (2014). I have also worked on social mechanisms (see Social Mechanisms [1998]; ed. with Peter Hedström).

In the early 1980s I became interested in economic sociology, and I have had the pleasure to help this field grow into one of the major subfields in sociology. My contribution to this has consisted of general works as well as specific studies. For the former, see especially (ed. with Neil Smelser) Handbook of Economic Sociology (1994, 2005) and (ed. with Mark Granovetter) The Sociology of Economic Life (1992, 2001, 2011). For the latter, see e.g. (ed. with Victor Nee) The Economic Sociology of Capitalism (2005), (ed. with Trevor Pinch) Living in a Material World (2008) and (ed. with Hirokazu Miyazaki) The Economy of Hope (2017).

Along the road I have also made a number of studies of the major theoreticians in economic sociology, such as Joseph Schumpeter, Max Weber and Alexis de Tocqueville. The study of Schumpeter is formally a biography, but in reality centered around the relationship of economic theory to economic sociology. The study of Weber attempts to lay a theoretical foundation for economic sociology by following Weber’s leads in Ch.2 of Economy and Society. In my work on Tocqueville my interest in economic sociology comes together with that of theorizing. I emphasize the sociological aspects of Tocqueville’s analysis of the economy, but also how he experimented with different types of data and theories, to make sense of things. See Schumpeter – A Biography (1991), Max Weber and the Idea of Economic Sociology (1994) and Tocqueville’s Political Economy (2009).

Besides social theory and economic sociology, I have also written on various other topics — such as the role of civic courage; (with Wendelin Reich) on George Simmel’s metaphors; on Rodin’s statue “The Burghers of Calais”; and (with Trevor Pinch) on Wittgenstein’s visit to Ithaca in 1949. These articles can be found on my webpage.

Today I mainly try to write sociological essays, with an emphasis on new ideas. The topics vary, from traditional ones in social theory to more unorthodox ones, with the same for economic topics.

Recent Courses

SOC 3750
SOC 3950
SOC 5010
SOC 6550

Classical Theory
Advanced Economic Sociology
Basic Problems in Sociology I
How to Theorize in Social Science

Books and Articles