The emergence of sociology from political economy in the US, 1880 to 1950




Young, Cristobal.

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



The task of this paper is to both describe and explain the evolving relations between sociology and economics in the US. The first generation of American sociology was immersed in economic questions, and its establishment in the university system was largely sponsored by economics. After the formation of the American Sociological Society, relations came to be more characterized by professionally autonomous collaboration. Joint professional gatherings of economists and sociologists - including regular joint presidential addresses - were the norm until the early 1940s. The era of collaboration ended in disciplinarily rivalry between sociologists and institutional economists, with the sociologists (notably Talcott Parsons) claiming the institutions of capitalism as the proper subject matter of sociology. This conflict fed into the ultimate failure of institutional economics and encouraged the retreat of the discipline into the technical study of prices. At the same time, sociologists never went on to seriously occupy the field of economic institutions; rather, it became a vacant lot between the disciplines, abandoned in the post-war disengagement of economics and sociology.