David Stark is Arthur Lehman Professor of Sociology and International Affairs at Columbia University where he directs the Center on Organizational Innovation. His most recent book, The Sense of Dissonance: Accounts of Worth in Economic Life, was published by Princeton University Press in 2009. In this interview, we talked about epistemology, economic sociology, music and dissonance at the European University Institute, where David spent some time as Fernand Braudel Fellow in May 2012. Here I reproduce some highlights of that conversation.
P1. You, like other economic sociologists, have been particularly interested on pragmatism as a new epistemology for social research. I wonder if economic sociologists are looking for new classics like Dewey or William James replacing Durkheim or Weber. What is that you find interesting in pragmatism for your economic sociology?
R1. [2.37 mins.]
P2. I find the focus on “situations” very interesting, however I wonder if this “situationist” turn makes sociology a descriptive rather than an explicative discipline, since situations are somehow always different and contingent and, therefore, impossible to generalize or to model. Do you agree with that opinion or you think is situations can be modeled?
R2. [2.54 mins.]
P3. Which approaches or concepts have been especially useful for making sense of your etnographic research? And more specifically, how important were Boltanski’s and Thévenot’s orders of worths in your work?
R3. [4.21 mins.]
P4. You have used quite different types of methods in your research. Have you tried to mix methods, for instance network analysis and etnography? Do you think such a combination is useful or desirable?
R4. [3.29 mins.]
P5. I would like to talk about two concepts that I find quite interesting in your work: uncertainty and dissonance. My impression with uncertainty, is that you use the concept in a different way than other economic sociologists that are mainly concerned about how to “reduce uncertainty”, paying attention to the role of instutions, coordination devices or conventions. Unlike them, you conceive uncertainty more like an opportunity. Would you agree with this vision?
R5. [2.15 mins.]
P6. And what about dissonance? I like the concept because it comes from music, but I wonder if you use it only methaporically and how different is dissonance from previous concepts such as diversity?
R6. [4.30 mins.]
P7. And, to finish, do you think your situationist economic sociology could bring new perspectives to more political economy type of concerns such as the study of economic crises?
R7. [1.35 mins.]