MIT Sloan's Economic Sociology (ESP) is a new PhD concentration aimed at training scholars who conduct leading-edge research that applies sociological tools and concepts to gain a deeper understanding of organizations and the economy. The program reflects the confluence of two trends that have gained increasing salience over the past twenty years:
(a) the increasing demand in business schools for faculty with sociological training; and
(b) the rapid growth of economic sociology as a sub discipline of sociology.
Each of these trends represents the growing recognition that the sociological conception of the economy sheds unique light on economic processes. And yet the increasing demand for economic sociology has not been met with a corresponding increase in supply. ESP is designed to help fill this gap.
ESP places heavy emphasis on research. While students gain experience in the classroom and graduates should be ready to teach in various programs (see below), the faculty believe that the primary goal of PhD training is to acquaint the students with the processes by which great social science research is conducted.
The substantive research focus is on general mechanisms of social organization. While we believe that all researchers must have a deep understanding of the specific contexts that we study, our primary reason for studying a particular case (i.e., an organization or industry) is to use it as a “strategic research site” for understanding social mechanisms and processes that are present in various forms in many different contexts.
The ESP is catholic with regard to method. We believe that qualitative research (i.e., fieldwork, case studies, ethnography); quantitative research (e.g., surveys, archival databases, social network analysis) and modeling (e.g., systems dynamics, game theory, agent-based models) are each quite useful depending on one's research objective.
ESP is an integral part of the set of PhD concentrations that comprise the Behavioral and Policy Sciences at MIT Sloan. These are: Organization Studies; Institute of Work and Employment Research; and Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The ESP overlaps with each of these in terms of: (a) the substantive focus of research; (b) the research methods employed; (c) the types of students that the programs attract; (d) as well as the faculty conducting PhD training.
In evaluating applicants, the ESP faculty looks for evidence of: (a) a strong research orientation; (b) skills and experience relevant to economic sociology; and (c) an understanding of academic social science research culture.
Note to potential applicant: An excellent way of deciding whether to apply to the ESP is by reading articles in top sociology journals (e.g., American Sociological Review, American Journal of Sociology) and secondarily at top journals in organizations and management (e.g., Administrative Science Quarterly, Organization Science), especially those authored by ESP faculty, and deciding whether you want to write articles like these.