2019 CSA Conference – Sessions

Annual CSA-SCS Conference

Our last conference was held from June 3 to June 6, 2019 at the University of British Columbia. These were the sessions:

New Theory in Economic Sociology and Political Economy I

This session focuses on new theoretical developments in economic sociology and political economy. Themes for presentations include: the crisis and resilience of capitalism and of contemporary economics, recent shifts in inequalities and class relations, aspects of potential and actual moral economies, contemporary finance, the emerging digital economy, and the dynamics of global capitalism.

This session focuses on new theoretical developments in economic sociology and political economy. Possible themes for presentations include: the crisis and resilience of capitalism, contemporary finance, risk, and crisis, recent shifts in economic inequalities and class relations, aspects of potential and actual moral economies, the emerging digital economy, and the dynamics of global capitalism.

Organizer: Dean Curran, University of Calgary


Maude Pugliese, Institut national de recherche scientifique; Hélène Belleau, Institut national de recherche scientifique

Income pooling, assets sharing, and the logics of economic integration among Quebecois couples

Scholars have long sought to understand the logics of economic integration among couples. Why do some couples behave as an integrated economic unit, while other couples comprise two independent economic actors? As the financialization literature shows, assets and investments now form an important dimension of economic experience. Yet, the literature on economic integration has thus far paid virtually no attention to whether and why couples decide to share their assets, focusing instead on practices of income pooling. This paper helps to fill in this gap by examining whether the equity motive in income pooling extends to the sharing of assets and savings. Previous research has found that couples exhibiting a large income difference often pool their incomes so as to foster equity among partners. We argue that while those partners may desire to foster equity in the present by pooling incomes, they may not want to extend this equity in the future by co-owing their assets. Drawing on original survey data collected in Quebec we find evidence that couples with a large income difference are substantially less likely to co-own a residence and co-manage their retirement savings than others. This finding stresses that the logics behind economic integration through investments sharing are different than the logics leading to income pooling, calling for further studies on the topic of assets management.

Ningzi Li, University of Colorado – Boulder; Abdullah I Shahid, Cornell University

Liberalization and Legitimacy: Relationship Formation in A Newly Liberalized Market

In this study, we examine how and why private and state organizations in the post liberalization period form relationships. The Chinese bond market liberalization in 2007 provides a natural setting to explore whether liberalization promotes competitive, resource-based relationships among organizations or rather, perpetuates the prior legitimacy of state organizations in market relations. Probit models show that private firms generally rely on state banks for raising bond finance. However, private firms with stock exchange listing are less likely to rely on state banks. State firms neither rely on state banks nor rely on private banks exclusively to raise bond finance, demonstrating their overriding legitimacy and access in the market. Thus, firms without prior legitimacy (either through being a state firm or through stock market listing) continue to rely on state banks to raise finance. The results hold even after we account for firms’ financial characteristics, industries, geographic locations, and market environment factors. Overall, the present research shows that the prior legitimacy (or lack thereof) drives the pattern of relationship formation observed in a newly liberalized market segment.

Junmin Wang, University of Memphis

Institutional Pessimism, Political Ties, and Firm Innovation in China’s Private Sector

Economic actors are widely reported to use political ties to fill the void of formal governance institutions in the transitional economies of post-communist countries and developing contexts. Although the existent literature offers rich knowledge of understanding the instrumental dimensions of political ties, i.e., their benefits and costs for economic actors, it pays little attention to the sentimentality of political ties. In this study, I examine how different types of political ties affect firm innovation and modulate the roles of economic actors’ pessimism toward their institutional environment in affecting firm innovativeness. Analyzing a nationally-representative sample of Chinese private companies, I find that private entrepreneurs’ informal, licit political ties are the most salient contributing factors in affecting firm innovation. Such ties also weaken the negative effects of entrepreneurs’ pessimism toward their institutional environment on firm innovativeness. Informal, illicit political ties create high instrumental benefits but intensify the negative role of entrepreneurs’ legal pessimism on firm innovation. Formal political ties help reduce the negative role of entrepreneurs’ legal pessimism on firm innovativeness, but the state’s intervention and inefficiency effects are most evident in the private companies connected with the government formally. My study demonstrates a relatively comprehensive analysis of how political ties affect firm innovativeness and a novel approach to studying how political ties frame economic actors’ pessimism toward their institutional environment. I add new insight on how firms’ network strategies not only substitute for the institutional void in transitional economies and developing societies, but shape network actors’ values, beliefs, and sentimentalities.

Kyle Willmott, Simon Fraser University

Transparency and Market-Making in First Nations

In 2013 the Canadian federal government passed the First Nations Financial Transparency Act into law. It required First Nations band governments to publicly post audited financial statements, and remuneration schedules of politicians. First Nations governments and Indigenous activists argued forcefully that the bill was a racist and colonial imposition and met the bill with significant resistance. The paper looks to tie together theories of transparency, economic knowledge-making, and Indigenous legal theory to theorize how Canada’s settler-colonial bureaucratic regime looks to induce economic development on First Nations reserve lands. I show how specific financial disclosures and information are used as methods of settler colonial land privatization, and the paper theorizes how settler economic strategies have come to depend on the production of self-management expertise. Through interviews with bureaucrats and document analysis I show how transparency was imagined by the Canadian government as a positive economic device that would a specific form of economic expertise for transforming Indigenous nations. I analyze how transparency was envisioned to (1) _expose_ specific truths about Indigenous peoples and governance; (2) produce market-oriented politics and knowledges in First Nations governments; and (3) make reserves ‘investment-worthy’ market spaces for businesses and resource extraction industries.


New Theory in Economic Sociology and Political Economy II

This session focuses on new theoretical developments in economic sociology and political economy. Possible themes for presentations include: the crisis and resilience of capitalism, contemporary finance, risk, and crisis, recent shifts in economic inequalities and class relations, aspects of potential and actual moral economies, the emerging digital economy, and the dynamics of global capitalism.

This session focuses on new theoretical developments in economic sociology and political economy. Possible themes for presentations include: the crisis and resilience of capitalism, contemporary finance, risk, and crisis, recent shifts in economic inequalities and class relations, aspects of potential and actual moral economies, the emerging digital economy, and the dynamics of global capitalism.

Organizer: Dean Curran, University of Calgary


David Calnitsky, Western University; Michael Martinez Billeaux, University of Wisconsin

The Class Reductionist Case for the Centrality of Race

This paper makes a case for weak class reductionism. In particular, we attempt to do the unthinkable: we reduce race to class. Once you acknowledge that race is not itself a prime mover, but rather something to be explained, class as an explanans turns out to be a strong candidate. We provide a general defense of functional explanations, make a specific argument that capitalist class relations can functionally explain the construction and persistence of race, and finally, delineate the limits of that explanation. Contrary to standard class reductionist arguments suggesting that race is epiphenomenal, the nature of functional explanation requires the explanandum to have important effects in the world; this puts race at the center of any discussion of capitalist class relations in racialized societies and explains it on the basis of its effects rather than its causes.

Meike Janina May, Okanagan College; Julia Schwanholz, University of Kassel

Why do people offer labour in the “platform economy”? A theoretical approach to explain digital exchange relationships

A new and rapidly growing labour market has developed in recent years. It is discussed under buzzwords like “gig economy”, “crowd working”, “click work” or “on-demand economy”. Basically, algorithms on online platforms match buyers and sellers of goods and labour services. The platform companies are praising their business model as a novel way of organizing work that benefits the providers as “independent contractors” by offering flexibility and autonomy. Critics consider the gig economy to be a digital mediated form of exploitation that exacerbates existing patterns of privilege and inequality. Those who depend on their income through online platforms often earn below minimum wages and are still bearing the costs and risks connected to this work. In many countries, workers of the gig economy find themselves in legal “grey zones” because political regulation is lagging behind. In order to develop appropriate political measures, a basic understanding of _how_ and _why_ individuals offer labour on online platforms is crucial.   Besides numerous empirical-descriptive contributions, there is a lack of _theoretical_ work investigating the motives of workers in the gig economy. However, a theoretical foundation is important in order to predict how certain changing external factors influences their decisions. In this paper, we focus on the workers in the gig economy and their exchange relationships with platform companies and consumers. We apply a theoretical model based on the social exchange theory and social justice theories. We argue that people only engage in an economic exchange relationship if they benefit and if they perceive the exchange relationship as fair. By looking at socio-demographic characteristics and social context variables, we identify conditions under which people are willing to offer labour in the gig economy. The resulting model will be tested empirically with an online survey among providers of services in the on-demand economy. Preliminary results are expected by the time of the conference.

Tom Malleson, King’s University College at Western University

Part Time For All: Towards a New Intersectional Welfare Regime for the 21st Century

Contemporary welfare regimes have been constructed on the basis of a number of widely shared assumptions: that continual growth is possible and desirable; that economic security can be attained through full-time, stable, employment for all heads of households; that the typical household is composed of a male breadwinner and female caregiver; and that racial stratification will dissipate under conditions of fair market competition. Yet one quarter of the way into the 21st century, it is increasingly clear that these assumptions no longer hold (if they ever did). What we are witnessing today is that new economic, demographic, and environmental realities are putting intense stress on the old welfare regime architecture, leading to strain and fracture. The central argument of this paper is that we desperately require a new architecture. We need a new kind of welfare regime, animated by new goals, and constituted by fresh institutions capable of embodying them. The core argument is that this new welfare regime should be based on the normative vision of secure, high-quality, part time work for all. Such a framework is necessary in order to deal with the major societal problems of gender inequality, time poverty, environmental degradation, and ubiquitous insecurity.

Robert Nonomura, Western University

Property Ownership Norms and Moral Autonomy: A social-psychological investigation of the Marxian critique of private property

This research draws upon the theoretical works of Karl Marx, Erich Fromm, and C. B. Macpherson to explore the relationships between individuals’ attitudes toward private property norms and the kinds of cognitive processes individuals use when reasoning about moral problems.  It examines, in social-psychological terms, the theoretical contention that systems of ownership predicated on exclusionary conceptions of what is “mine” and/or “ours” causes people to overlook or decidedly ignore the needs of others and of society at large. A sample of university students (n=139) completed an online survey consisting of various political-economic attitudes scales and an open-ended questionnaire involving moral judgments on two hypothetical moral dilemmas. Regression analyses were conducted to investigate the relationships between participants’ political-economic attitudes and their tendency to utilize “heteronomous” or “autonomous” forms of moral reasoning.  The study’s results suggest that the use of morally autonomous reasoning is positively associated with humanistic values, but inversely related with support for private property norms. These findings provide general (albeit tentative) support for certain theoretical critiques of capitalism within the Marxist-humanist tradition, namely the premise that private property norms are at odds with the exercise of autonomous moral cognition.  The paper concludes with a discussion of the theoretical implications of these findings, both for the Marxian critique of political economy and for the social-psychological challenges in developing a democratic moral economy.

Ellen Russell, Wilfrid Laurier University

Promoting Economic Imaginaries Amidst Economic Crisis

This paper examines the resilience of contemporary capitalism in the wake of the 2008 crisis. An increasingly digitized and globalized capitalism has encouraged resignation  to technological and economic determinisms.  Particularly in the aftermath of economic crises, these deterministic orientations can promote acquiescence to the economic status quo.  Using the insights of the emerging “cultural political economy” literature, this paper explores strategies that resist acquiescent economic meaning-making and promote alternative economic imaginaries in the midst of economic upheaval.


New Theory in Economic Sociology and Political Economy III

This session focuses on new theoretical developments in economic sociology and political economy. Possible themes for presentations include: the crisis and resilience of capitalism, contemporary finance, risk, and crisis, recent shifts in economic inequalities and class relations, aspects of potential and actual moral economies, the emerging digital economy, and the dynamics of global capitalism.

This session focuses on new theoretical developments in economic sociology and political economy. Possible themes for presentations include: the crisis and resilience of capitalism, contemporary finance, risk, and crisis, recent shifts in economic inequalities and class relations, aspects of potential and actual moral economies, the emerging digital economy, and the dynamics of global capitalism.

Organizer: Dean Curran, University of Calgary


Vincci Li, York University

Understanding Crowdfunding as Social Provisioning

In April 2018, a GoFundMe crowdfunding page was created to support the families of those involved in a highway traffic accident that killed and injured members of the Humboldt Broncos, a Canadian junior hockey team. The record-setting $15 million raised through this campaign, albeit an outlier in crowdfunding history, is indicative of a broader trend towards using online crowdfunding as a source of social provisioning. In the face of the increased privatization of social risk, people are turning to crowdfunding to pay for personal needs, including medicine, education, and legal defense. While this type of personal crowdfunding may appear to be little more than a web-mediated extension of traditional charity, I argue that this phenomenon cannot be properly understood without exploring its neo-liberal roots. Drawing upon the work of Michel Foucault and Wendy Brown’s critique of Foucault’s Birth of Biopolitics lectures, this paper seeks to understand how personal crowdfunding prescribes a particular ethos of care – one that celebrates competition, reproduces socio-economic privileges, and re-imagines individuals as entrepreneurs

Anouck Alary, Université de Montréal

Family-directed cord blood banking and the (re)privatization of social reproduction

Cord blood banking is a relevant case to analyze the consequences of neoliberal governance on what feminist political economy calls social reproduction —and particularly on health care institutions— as well as on the formation of contemporary political subjectivities. It eloquently illustrates the shift from a distributive logic of human body “products” stemming from the welfare state to a neo-liberal orientation based on the commodification of these products—this, precisely because two biobanking models (one of them private and the other public) coexist in the current Canadian context where universal access to health care is increasingly challenged. This paper examines how the promotional discourse of Canadian-based commercial cord blood banks articulates culturally situated conceptions of health, motherhood and family in relation to the broader themes of neoliberal accountability, risk and consumer choice. It is argued that employed discursive strategies encouraging women to act as responsible mothers by insuring the uncertain future health of their children operate within this discourse as techniques of neoliberal governmentality. Building upon these observations, this article re-examines the scope of the foucaldian concept of biocitizenship through the lens of the materialist feminist perspective of social reproduction. By highlighting the centrality of the family in the neoliberal moral economy, this article stresses the need to situate recent discussions on contemporary biopolitical changes within broader considerations of gender and distributive justice.

Megan McGoey-Smith, Carleton University

‘Outside the Law’: An Exploration of Investor Citizenship in Canada

This paper seeks to contribute to the political economy of citizenship by exploring the proliferation of investment pathways. In viewing citizenship as a central juncture to global capital flows and a mediation of labour relations, this paper will argue that both the rise of selective borders and investment citizenship are intrinsically linked to the logics of capital accumulation and circulation. The first half of this paper will review existing literature on the topic of investor citizenship. Comparing theoretical arguments alongside case studies, this section will emphasize the growing propensity of countries to compete for capital influxes. I will argue that these spatial dynamics reveal important insights into this current global economic conjecture. As such, interrogating these relations provides insight into the broader dynamics of the contemporary capitalist mode of production. Using a Canadian context, the second part of this paper will primarily focus on developing a theoretical framework which situates investor citizenship as a “spatial and temporal fix” as advanced by David Harvey (1985, 2010, 2017). Considering this form of citizenship to be a tool for generating state revenue and maintaining the cycle of capitalism during crisis in particular, investor programs signal the continuing decline of social citizenship. Furthermore, comparing these citizenship pathways against the concurrent temporary migrant programs emphasizes a troubling pattern in migration history. Ultimately, this work will call for an ongoing examination of immigration policy and the philosophical underpinnings of citizenship itself.

Christos Orfanidis, University of Toronto

Reorganized Capitalism and Its Subsystems

Theorists of the disorganized capitalism question capitalism’s concrete structurality and stress its wayward organizational fluidity in the postmodern global arena. Postmodern capitalism, however, seems to be reorganized around structural subsystems that altogether form a singular system. By deploying Urrian theories of complexity and Luhmannian systems theories, this meta-theoretical synthesis delves deep into the structural actualities of the capitalist culture as organized within the seemingly chaotic universe of late modernity. This paper compares disorganized capitalism with organized capitalism in order to theorize the contemporary global state of reorganized capitalism. Risk and uncertainty are only some of the central characteristics of our epoch that have not only swirled individuals’ micro-worlds but also the once considered stable patterns of development of such systems, provoking into emergence consecutive subsystems that however seem to adhere to a broader holistic system. Different elements that were cohesively forming the Marxian organized capitalism have been liquified, in the Baumanian sense, but still interact with the broader system and its environment, as existing multiple subsystems differentiate in order to adapt to the environment. The relevant example scrutinized in this paper is the differentiation of the division of labour, one of the Marxian cornerstones of capitalism, and the conceptualization of consumers as labourers in a consumerist social setting.

Connie Phung, Concordia University

Economics outside Economics: Understanding Economic Action as Social Action in Sociology and Anthropology

While studies have tended to treat economic actions as separate from social actions, I argue that this separation is a false one, in that economic actions are, and should be conceived of as social actions embedded in society. My argument stands against treating the economy as a form of mathematical rationality that is separable from society, and instead I (re-)emphasize the importance of situating economic actions within specific social and cultural contexts. An application of this concept is the rerouting of research in economic sociology to the development of the neoliberal order – an economic system, at the same time a social project – that is an attempt at restructuring the economy. By conceptualizing economic actions as social actions, economic activities and movements can then be subjected to sociological analysis, as they are no longer exclusive topics to the discipline of economics. My paper thus attempts to demonstrate how economic systems should also be thought of as social systems via inter-disciplinary dialogue. I thus draw attention to the ‘academic discipline crisis’ whereby ‘warring disciplines’ should expand their conception of economic actions to meet contemporary circumstances, as well as highlighting the historicity and social processes of economic spaces and practices as method. Instead of focusing on the technicalities of economic logic, I discuss how economic sociology can benefit from an intellectual engagement with anthropology’s theoretical and methodology tools. Ethnographic research, in particular, effectively captures a social field of transactions as a calculative scope for various forms of value-production, and effectively considers the emotional valence behind its material processes. My larger aim is to create fruitful dialogue with other disciplines to generate new theoretical ways for looking at the economy and economics, which can examine processes of economic action as embedded social action outside of conventional analytical boundaries.


Recent Developments in the Sociology of Risk

This session focuses on recent developments in the sociology of risk, both theoretical and empirical. Areas of analysis for papers include: risk in the economy, environment, financial systems, as well as social and personal lives. Themes include the social production of risk, risk perception, the growing sense of “social crisis”, risk and inequalities, as well as risk and individual and collective identification.

Organizer: Dean Curran, University of Calgary


David Champagne, University of British Columbia

A Genealogy of Extreme Enclosures: Poverty and Climate Vulnerability

Rising climate disasters questions the scope and spatialization of environmental injustice (Rudel et al. 2011). In this paper, I wish to debate how the spatialization of poverty in North American cities overlaps with vulnerability from climate hazards. To do so, this theoretical argument focuses on the key concept of closure: “the set of processes whereby a collective restricts ‘access to the opportunities (social or economic) that exists in a given domain’: its members ‘draw on certain characteristics of their real or virtual adversaries to try and exclude them from competition” (Wacquant 2007, p.2). Numerous environmental studies document how certain neighbourhoods or zones become “sacrifice zones” of capitalism’s business as usual (Pellow 2002; Sze 2007; Taylor 2009). The plight of these communities is routinely banalized by a discourse that discards environmental harm. Yet, additional research is needed to capture the specifics of climate vulnerability.   My presentation follows two themes. First, how the genealogy of poverty trends in North America generates a greater closure. From the standpoint of an institutionalist sociology, Wacquant (2007) claims that the US has passed into an era of advanced marginality, a new system of socio-spatial relegation and closure. Second, this genealogy implicates a new landscape of vulnerability. Dawson (2017) outlines the contours of what he terms a state of climate apartheid, a hardening of borders against those victims of environmental harm. Throughout, appears a singular figure of the contemporary refugee, ill-suited to any juridical order, an invisible entity for contemporary law.

Alexa Tanner, University of British Columbia; Stephanie Chang, University of British Columbia

Connecting communities through the transportation system: The role of adaptive capacity to withstand a disruption

Numerous hazardous events in recent years highlight the need for communities to foster their own resilience strategies and work towards building adaptive capacity for a range of disruptions. The transportation system is a form of critical infrastructure that supports societal functioning by delivering goods and aiding in the movement of people. Within British Columbia, the transportation system is dependent on the hub, Vancouver, to receive supplies before they are delivered across the province and into eastern Canada. This makes communities vulnerable to a transportation disruption with different communities being vulnerable in different ways. This presentation provides a conceptual framework that is guided by the academic literature and expert workshops to examine the implications of a transportation disruption for coastal communities. The framework presented and corresponding indicators show how and why adaptive capacity differs in different types of communities and questions if urban and remote differences are the most critical factors in determining vulnerability to a transportation disruption.

Jean-François Chapman, University of Ottawa

The significance of Voluntary Risk-taking in the Decision to Join the Canadian Infantry: A Lifecourse Perspective

By way of using the experience of young Canadian infantrymen that were deployed in Afghanistan as an instrument for the study of the interaction between a) risk taking and b) identity,  this search explores and studies the meaning that young veteran Canadian infantrymen give to the presence of risk in their decision to enroll in the Canadian Infantry. Taking into account the structural factors related to the journey of each young veteran (family, educational, professional experience, personal life) this study puts a particular emphasis on the importance constituted by the desire of these young Canadian infantrymen for voluntary risk taking, within the span of their life course. The vast majority of the studies generated in the domain of military sociology are based essentially on quantitative research, which address components of military operations. This study had to acknowledge that the literature generated in the domain of military sociology fails to put forward a comprehensive theoretical analysis that attempts to explain the significance that voluntary risk taking occupies when young individuals decide to join the Canadian Infantry. Guided by qualitative methodology and relying on a life course approach, semi-structured individual interviews were conducted with twenty-four young veterans of the infantry of the Canadian armed forces. Aged between 18 and 29 (average=26), these young veterans each experienced a deployment in Afghanistan between 2006 and 2011. The young veterans’ testimonies were analysed using grounded theory. This analytical process led us to the elaboration of themes that helped identify and describe the experience of the individual before joining the Canadian Infantry and explore the significance that voluntary risk taking occupies in their decision to enlist.

Dean Curran, University of Calgary

From Environmental Justice to Risk Injustice

As the study of environmental justice transitions from its initial distributional justice phase and secondary ‘recognition’ phase to an emerging third phase, a key question is: in what direction should the study of environmental justice move next? This paper argues that there is an urgent need for the analytical tools and knowledge of environmental justice to be used to study risk injustice more generally. To pursue this goal, this paper proposes to bring together the study of environmental justice, alongside the study of risk and inequalities, and the increasing challenge of the ‘multiple crises of capitalism’, to show how the core elements of environmental injustice can be seen, despite their distinctive qualities, as particular cases of the more general phenomenon of _risk injustice_. The paper argues that in the face of multiple, interrelated crises, it is important to likewise develop an account of justice that can speak not only to inequalities in environmental risk, but also to other risk injustices associated with inequalities in financial, digital, economic, and social risk. This proposed extension of environmental justice can in turn enable the increase of knowledge through using existing environmental justice knowledge to identify unjust risk relationships in other aspects of social life and the potential interrelations of these inequalities.

Theresa Shanahan, York University; Farra Yasin, York University; Ramjeet Harinarain, York University

Risk in Policy of Teacher Professionalism

In a period of policy hyperactivity in Ontario between 1995 and 2017, the legal framework for teacher professionalism was expanded to include professional misconduct regulations to manage risk in ways to reduce negligence claims (Ontario Regulation 437/97; Regulation 184/97; Ontario College of Teachers Act, 1996; Regulation 184/97). This paper presents a critical analysis of these policies that draws upon critical sociological frameworks that define professionalism as a social practice, a performance and a social construct in order to make sense of teacher professionalism in Ontario within an expanding legal/regulatory context (Evetts, 2009; Exworthy and Halford, 1999; Fournier, 1999). The findings suggest that the professionalism model has moved over the last two decades towards a sharper focus on risk and threat assessment and elimination. The findings offer evidence that the teacher’s professional duty of care now includes risk management strategies that include: staff and student training; programs; policies, protocols and procedures that seek to reduce potential violent incidents and to ensure safety. The findings contribute to our understanding how legal/policy obligations translate into the real, school life of teachers which informs public policy-making and professional governance and sheds light on the implications of the expanding education regulatory regime for educator’s professional practice and identity.