Victor Nee

Frank and Rosa Rhodes Professor & Founding Director of CSES

Victor Nee is the Frank and Rosa Rhodes Professor in the Department of Sociology at Cornell and the founding Director of the Center for the Study of Economy and Society. Nee’s current research interests in economic sociology examine the role of networks and norms in the emergence of economic institutions and organizations. He is working on an ongoing study of endogenous institutional change focusing on networks and norms of entrepreneurs and firms in the Yangzi delta region of China. Why and how did a modern capitalist economic order emerge in China? Where do economic institutions come from? In Capitalism from Below: Markets and Institutional Change (Harvard University Press 2012), he and Sonja Opper detail the theory and evidence in explaining the emergence of economic institutions of capitalism. The study employs “mixed-methods” integrating a longitudinal quantitative survey of private firms and CEOs (2006, 2009, 2012), face-to-face qualitative interviews with entrepreneurs and field experiments. The 2012 survey of firms collects network data using a name-generator instrument. A series of papers are in progress drawing on the longitudinal data set to examine a broad range of problems in economic sociology. These include examining the reflexive basis of reputation in multiplex networks, identifying the sources of trust in a low-trust society, examining the flow of novel ideas and innovation in multiplex networks, and the sources of cooperation in competitive markets. Nee has also begun a new research program on the making of knowledge-based regional economies in the United States (project website). This entails research on the emergence and development in New York City of a high tech startup firms, and on the role of research universities like Cornell in sustaining knowledge-based economic activity. A sequel to the Yangzi delta study, the new study examines innovative activity and entrepreneurial action in the context of inclusive political and economic institutions of the United States.


  • Economic sociology;
  • theory;
  • market transitions from state socialism;
  • comparative institutional analysis;
  • immigration and ethnic/racial inequality

Current Research Interests

Economic sociology; networks and institutions; organizations; mixed methods

Selected Publications & Presentations

Articles and Chapters
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“Economic action is ‘social’ insofar as its subjective meaning takes account of the behavior of others and is thereby oriented in its course.”— Max Weber