Economist are generally favorable of capitalism / free markets. However most sociologists I know are highly critical of capitalism. I have read many studies regarding the impact of free markets on economic prosperity, but they have exclusively been authored by economists. Are there any well designed (longitudinal, preferably meta analytical) studies regarding free markets / capitalism authored by sociologists or other authors who are not economists?

  • I guess you already know that it is hard to find objective studies on this kind of thing. After all, it's all too common for people who benefit from their society to praise their society. It doesn't even matter much whether you have any 'empirical' studies or not, due to many many well-known problems such as publication bias and data dredging.
    – user21820
    Commented Feb 6, 2022 at 17:14
  • @user21820 So you suggest that the consensus in economics based on empirical studies is biased while the consensus in sociology not based on empirical studies is not/less biased? Bias exists on both sites, but is harder to maintain when obtaining results empirically.... Commented Feb 6, 2022 at 17:25
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    In other words, I'm just saying that it may be really difficult to figure out what is true even if you have empirical longitudinal studies (authored by economists or not) that appear well-designed, because it's too easy for biases to result in the conclusion the authors want. I don't have a problem with your inquiry here, I just think getting empirical studies is not the biggest hurdle to get to the truth.
    – user21820
    Commented Feb 6, 2022 at 17:36
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    I don't disagree with you. I also firmly believe empirical justification to be the best method. In fact, there is an essentially 100% objective approach to finding the best explanation for any given phenomenon based on the available data, but unfortunately even scientists mostly don't know that it is possible, not to say how to do it, and practically nobody does it even if they are aware of it (because nobody else does it).
    – user21820
    Commented Feb 6, 2022 at 17:49
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    Economists judge an economy based on effectiveness at producing wealth. Should this actually the sole criterion? What if it were shown that a slave economy is better at producing wealth? Would you then conclude that slavery is good? Sociologists tend to judge economic systems based on the idea that everyone is willing to do exactly what they are told and learn to love it. When judging the moral worth of an economy, shouldn't you take into account the effects on everyone, not just the compliant? Commented Feb 6, 2022 at 21:50

1 Answer 1


Kind of an expansive, open-ended question. What makes you interested specifically, in this?

I argue here that capitalism isn't one thing or one system, but a varied set of practices implimented in many different way, and in state practice always part of mixed economies: Philosophers on alternatives to capitalism and communism

David Graeber is an anthropologist, who talks about the cultural emergence of money, and capital, in hus book Debt: The First 5,000 years.

There's plenty of work by Postolonial Theorists, and others who follow Hegel and Marx like Zizek, on the wider social consequences of capitalism in action. You might find this answer on systematic deprivations of epistemic justice to marginalised groups for instance, by limiting who has access to resources and time for creative activities that can help a community recognise itself, understand itself, and make social progress: Need help with this paper on epistemic justice

Art poetry and literature get systematically separated from state resources in most capitalist ideologies, meaning in practice it becomes largely the province of the rich. This means the high art of many poor communities is in music and song, like Cajun's, black people of the Mississipi Delta, and Sean Nos style instrumentless singing of Ireland which is the foundation of Irish musical ornamentation. But these typically get coopted by the wealthy, separated from the social consequences they emerged in, and the purposes they served there.

Food-deserts are a tool to help understand health inequalities resulting from poor social planning, and lower investment in poor areas.

There is a proposed 'Vimes Boots' Index' to address wider inequalities that more greatly disadvantage the poor, like higher energy prices because of lack of credit, or regressive taxes like sales tax which take much higher percentage of poor incomes.

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    "What makes you interested specifically, in this?" I find it stunning that two social science disciplines come to opposite conclusions. I suspect the lack of rigorous methodology in sociology regarding the study of capitalism to be the main culprit. On the other hand sociologists frequently label (from my experience) economists as ideologues. However compared to sociologists studying economic topics, economist are highly empirical... Commented Feb 6, 2022 at 16:11
  • @Rubus: Haidt links being rightwing to the simplified thinking of feeling under attack, a focus on purity and sanctity values, and intolerance of ambiguities eg 'for us or against us', and rural communities. Vs leftwing thinking which is associated with greater tolerance of ambiguity, associated with maturing in circumstances with more security, and urban communities. Those intolerant of ambiguity are more likely to want models built from simplest assumptions, eg physics. Those tolerant of ambiguity happier to look at behaviour, eg social science. We need all perspectives, to do better.
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Feb 6, 2022 at 18:38
  • That does not explain why there are 2 contradictory conclusions Commented Feb 7, 2022 at 7:07
  • @Rubus: There are a lot more conclusions than 'boo or yay'. I think the comparison between theory-up neuroscience and experience-down psycology, & their relative appeal related to the personality dimension tolerance-of-ambiguity, is the explanation for the widespread cultural tendency to try & put all politics into a binary, against the evidence.
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Feb 7, 2022 at 8:57
  • I disagree party. While your observations might explain why there are different conclusions, a simple question such as if liberalisation is generally associated with higher standards of living should be answerable. Economics seems to affirm this observation, while sociology completely denies it. That's why I wanted to read up on high-quality evidence by sociologists...While you have given many resources I failed to find a study and the evidence you cited in your other answer seems to be pretty controversial, and is about income inequality not liberalization of the economy. Commented Feb 7, 2022 at 11:32

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