Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 07/2009

Sociology, Economics, and Gender: Can Knowledge of the Past Contribute to a Better Future?

Julie A. Nelson

August 2008

Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University


This essay explores the profoundly gendered nature of the split between the disciplines of economics and sociology which took place in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, emphasizing implications for the relatively new field of economic sociology. Drawing on historical documents and feminist studies of science, it investigates the gendered processes underlying the divergence of the disciplines in definition, method, and degree of engagement with social problems. Economic sociology has the potential to heal this disciplinary split, but only if the field is broadened, deepened, and made wiser and more self-reflective through the use of feminist analysis.