My name is Dan Hirschman and I am a (budding) Sociologist. I am a PhD candidate at the University of Michigan in Sociology and the certificate program in Science, Technology and Society (STS). Broadly, I am interested in economic sociology, the sociology of economics, organizations, and science studies. Specifically, I am interested in the interaction of quantification, law, organizations and knowledge-production.
My dissertation research project examines the emergence of the macroeconomy as an object of knowledge in the first half of the 20th century. Between 1900 and 1950, governments begin to calculate things like national incomes (GNP/GDP), inflation rates, unemployment rates, etc. in official, standardized, routinized ways. At the same time, economists begin talking about something called “the economy” which transitions over into popular and political discourse in the 1930s or 1940s. Before that, no one talked about “the economy” per se. I think that’s fascinating, and my dissertation explores that history in greater detail, focusing especially on the intertwined histories of national income accounting, macroeconomics and development economics. I think the emergence of the economy can tell us has a lot about what we consider as an economic relationship vs. not (“in the economy” vs. “out of the economy”) and help to unsettle our easy dichotomies like “material” vs. “ideal” or economics vs. social. Also, by creating “the economy” as an object of discourse (in Foucault’s sense), new calculative agencies are made possible (in Callon’s sense) including things like an “economic stimulus package” a la Keynes, or inflation targeting, etc.
I have two major collaborative side projects. First, Russ Funk and I study the fall of Glass-Steagall in the 1980s and 1990s as an example of “endogenous legal change,” but one that challenges the commonly understood usage of that term by emphasizing the strategic actions of banks in the fight to tear down the walls separating commercial and investment banking. Our working paper is available here.
Second, with Ellen Berrey and Fiona Rose Greenland, I study the dequantification of affirmative action and admissions at the University of Michigan. Scholars of quantification have told dozens of fascinating stories of the rise of numbers, but many fewer tales of their fall, in part because they are seemingly very rare. Better numbers replace bad numbers, but very rarely does “not numbers” replace “numbers.” We examine the rise and fall of the “points system” at UM as an example of this rare process of dequantification through an analysis of archival documents, court proceedings, and interview data in order to theorize some of the circumstances under which we might expect to find dequantification elsewhere.
This blog was inspired by the idea of a commonplace book, which I first read about in the delightful A Series of Unfortunate Events, by Lemony Snicket. A commonplace book is somewhere between a scrapbook and a research notebook. This blog serves as a sort of commonplace book for my thoughts on the above subjects, and many others, from politics to economics to academic tomfoolery.
You can contact me at asociologist at umich dot edu or just leave a comment. To find more info, including my c.v. and working papers, check out my academic homepage.