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International Sociological Association's Research Committee on Economy & Society

A Conversation with Arnaud Sales, University of Montreal

DS: Can you tell me the story of how you got into sociology?

AS: I began to take a degree in psychology, at the same time there were some common elements of the program with sociology. Because my engagement with the student movement, I found sociology to be more political in some ways and so I finally chose to do a master’s degree in sociology. After that I did a Doctorat d’Etat (the highest doctorate in France, but it doesn’t exist anymore). 

I was engaged in researching management in French enterprises in West Africa. At the same time, I was hired by a research center on the sociology of economy and work: Laboratoire d'Economie et de Sociologie du Travail. It was a multi-disciplinary research center, and also engaged as an assistant  professor to teach methodology. There I worked on the difference in salaries of the employees and the management. We were trying to understand why people were being paid at very different rates depending on the industries.

In ‘69 I had to do my military service and as the war in Algeria was over, the program had changed and they had people serve as specialists. So, I applied for Vietnam and AFrica, but I also applied for the Université de Montréal. They were interested because I was already teaching statistics. I arrived in Montreal with my wife and my daughter who was three years old. It was for two years, but they invited me to stay for three years more. There I was in contact with Harry Makler, at the University of Toronto, and he invited me to enter a comparative study on elites with Columbia people. I participated by researching industrial elites, partly because in Quebec, the French Canadians were under-represented in both owning and management of the firm. I wanted to explain this not with cultural differences that was advanced very frequently. I decided to look at this by doing interviews with a representative sample of 300 presidents of companies, which amounted to the book La Bourgeoisie Industrielle au Québec.   

DS: Can you tell me about the founding of RC02?

AS: At about the same time in ‘74, there was a World Congress of Sociology in Toronto and Harry Makler proposed that we start a working group (Working Group 7) on “Industrial Leadership, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development,” and Fernando Cardoso was also involved. So, this was the first elements of the formation of the Economy and Society Research Committee. At the same time there was a smaller group of people who were grouped as an ad hoc committe (Ad Hoc Group 7) called Economy and Society. This ad hoc group was organized by Neil Smelser and Alberto Martinelli (who was a student of Niel’s at Berkeley). 

At the World Congress in 1978, which was in Upsalla, Sweden, each group wanted to be a Research Committee. The executive of the ISA suggested that we merge, and so we accepted and the Research Committee on Economy and Society was born. Fernando and Neil were the co-presidents, Harry Makler was the secretary, and I was the treasurer. We decided to organize the first international conference for the committee. It was decided by Neil and Fernando that it would be good to have the conference at The Bellagio Center of the Rockefeller Foundation in Villa Serbelloni, Italy, and we recieved funds from the Ford Foundation.

Research Committee 02 on Economy and Society founded in 1978 with the fusion of ISA Working Group 7, ‘Industrial Leadership, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development and ISA Ad Hoc Group on Economy and Society. Economy and Society First International Conference held at Villa Serbelloni in Bellagio (May 1979). For a list of participants see the end of the article.

Research Committee 02 on Economy and Society founded in 1978 with the fusion of ISA Working Group 7, ‘Industrial Leadership, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development and ISA Ad Hoc Group on Economy and Society. Economy and Society First International Conference held at Villa Serbelloni in Bellagio (May 1979). For a list of participants see the end of the article.

DS: From your perspective, what were the main interests in economic sociology at that time?

AS: In Marseille, we were very interested in interdisciplinary approaches and in saying that the economy was not just the domain of economics, but also understanding many things economics were not looking at. At that time, in sociology, structural-Marxism was very important, which was quite far from the economists’ concepts and terms. Much of the analyses during the 70s were particularly marked by Marxism until the 80s, and many people thought Marxist anlaysis would stand forever, but these currents are not forever and it declined in the 80s. At that time it was also the beginning of the concern about globalization, which created new phenomena to be studied. Which you had the perspective on underdevelopment, for example Andre Gunder Frank’s The Development of Underdevelopment. In addition to questions about globalization, development, and entrepreneurship, there was also much interest in the multinational firm. For me, I was very struck by the relation between economies and states, and the Research Center was really interested in the relation between the two. The enterprise was not being seen as just an organization, but also an institution with a political dimension. My own studies were contributing to a question which was important at the time: What is the relation between the enterprise and it’s environment, and on it’s impact on the political processes?

Arnaud Sales is Emeritus Professor at the Université de Montréal. He recieved a masters degree at Université d'Aix-Marseille and a Doctorat d’État ès Lettres et Sciences Humaines from Université Paris Diderot. A specialist in economic sociology, his research interests center on the relations between the public and the private spheres; economic and administrative elites, and knowledge workers; corporate social responsibility; and more generally social change theory.

His publications include: La Bourgeoisie industrielle au Québec

(PUM 1979); Décideurs et gestionnaires with N. Bélanger (Éditeur officiel du Québec 1985). He has edited or co-edited the following volumes: Développement national et économie mondialisée (Sociologie et Sociétés 1979); La recomposition du politique with L. Maheu (PUM/L’Harmattan 1991); Québec, fin de siècle with N. Laurin (Sociologie et Sociétés 1994); The international handbook of sociology with S. Quah (SAGE 2000); New directions in the study of knowledge, economy and society with K. Adhikari (SAGE Series in International Sociology; Current Sociology 2001); Knowledge, communication and creativity with the collaboration of M. Fournier (SAGE 2007); Sociology today. Social transformations in a globalizing world (SAGE 2012); and Corporate Social Responsibility and Corporate Change. Institutional and Organizational Perspectives. (Springer Nature 2019).

He was Vice-Dean of the Université de Montréal’s Faculty of Graduate Studies (1987–1992) and has chaired the Department of Sociology (2000–2007). He is Former Vice-President International of the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics (1995–1998). After chairing the ISA Research Committee 02 on Economy and Society, he was elected Vice-President for Research (1998–2002) of the International Sociological Association and chaired the ISA Research Council. In 2006, he was named Chevalier de l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques of France.

List of the participants in the Economy and Society First International Conference held at Villa Serbelloni in Bellagio (May 1979)

From upper left to lower right in the photo:

  • Luciano Martins (1934-2014), Sociologist, Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (UERJ), Brazil

  • Constantine Vaitsos, Economist. University of Athens, Greece

  • Charles-Albert Michalet (1938-2007), Economist, Université de Paris-X Nanterre, France

  • Philippe C. Schmitter (1936-), Political Scientist, University of Chicago, USA

  • Adam Przeworski (1940), Political Scientist, University of Chicago, USA

  • Akinsola Akiwowo (1922-2014), Sociologist, University of Ife, Nigeria

  • Peter Lengyel (1928- 1996), Economist and Political Scientist, Editor of the International Social Science Journal (Unesco), France

  • Volker Bornschier (1944-), Sociologist, University of Zurich, Switzerland

  • Fernando Fajnzylber (1949-1991), Chili, Departamento de Desarrollo Industrial de la CEPAL (Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe)

  • Harry M. Makler (1935-), University of Toronto, Canada and Stanford University Founder and Secretary of ISA Working Group 7, ‘Industrial leadership, entrepreneurship and economic developmentʼ, World Congress, Toronto. Secretary of RC02 Economy and Society (1978-1990)

  • Charles E. Lindblom (1917-2018), Political Scientist and Economist, Yale University, USA

  • Alberto Martinelli (1949-) Political Scientist and Sociologist, Università degli Sudi di Milano, Italy, Founder of ISA Ad Hoc Group ‘Economy and Society. President of ISA RC02 on Economy and Society (1986-1990); President of the International Sociological Association (1998-2002)

  • Barbara B. Stallings, Political Scientist and Economist, Brown University, USA

  • Neil J. Smelser (1930-2017), Sociologist, University of California Berkeley, USA, Founder of ISA Ad Hoc Group on Economy and Society. President of ISA RC02 on Economy and Society (1978-1986): Vice-president for Research of The International Sociological Association (1986-1990)

  • Fernando Henrique Cardoso (1931), Sociologist, Centro Brasileiro de Análise e Planejamento (Cebrap) in Sao Paulo, Brazil and Alternate Senator of Brazil. Founder and Chair of ISA Working Group 7, ‘Industrial leadership, entrepreneurship and economic developmentʼ, World Congress, Toronto. President of ISA RC02 on Economy and Society (1978-1982); President of the International Sociological Association (1982-1986)

  • Antonio Barros de Castro (1938-2011), Economist, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), Brazil

  • Christopher Chase-Dunn (1944), Sociologist, John Hopkins University, (USA President of ISA RC02 on Economy and Society (2002-2006)

  • Arnaud Sales (1942), Sociologist, Université de Montréal, Canada Founder and Treasurer of ISA Working Group 7, ‘Industrial leadership, entrepreneurship and economic development. President of ISA RC02 on Economy and Society (1990-1994); Vice-president for Research of the International Sociological Association (1998-2002)

Publications which have resulted from the Bellagio Economy and Society Conference:

  • Développement national et économie mondialisée (1979), Edited by Arnaud Sales. Special Issue of Sociologie et Sociétés, vol. XI, n° 2 ) (4 papers).

  • The New International Economy (1982), Edited by Harry Makler, Alberto Martinelli, and Neil Smelser. (Beverly Hills, Calif.: Sage Publications, Studies in International Sociology 26) (11 papers).

RC02 Summer 2019 President's Letter

RC02 Winter 2018 Secretary's Letter