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Victor Nee

Frank and Rosa Rhodes Professor


Victor Nee’s current research interests in economic sociology examines the role of networks and norms in the emergence of economic institutions and organizations:

1). 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.

2). He has begun a new research program on the making of knowledge-based regional economies in the United States. This entails research on the emergence and development in New York City of 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.


  • Sociology

Graduate Fields

  • Asian Studies
  • Government
  • Public Affairs
  • Sociology


  • Center for the Study of Economy and Society


  • Theory / Causal Explanation
  • Economic Sociology
  • Market Transition / New Capitalism
  • Comparative Institutional Analysis
  • Immigration / Ethnic Stratification

Recent Courses Taught

SOC 2190          Introduction to Economic Sociology
SOC 4330/6330     Economy and Society
SOC 6490          New Institutionalism



Fall 2021



Victor Nee, Hakan Holm and Sonja Opper. Forthcoming. “Learning to Trust: from Relational Exchange to Generalized Trust.” Organization Science.

Victor Nee. Forthcoming. "Explaining Social and Institutional Change." Sociological Forum.

Victor Nee. Forthcoming. "Market Transition as Theory of the Middle Range." Festschrift for Ivan Szelenyi, edited by Tamas Demeter. Brill.

Richard Alba and Victor Nee. Forthcoming. "Assimilation and Segmented Assimilation" Chapter 46 in The SAGE Handbook of International Migration; Christine Inglis, Binod Khadria and Wei Li Eds. London: Sage Publication.

Selected Books

"Capitalism from Below: Markets and Institutional Change in China," with Sonja Opper. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012).

On Capitalism, Co-editor and contributor with Richard Swedberg (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2007)

The Economic Sociology of Capitalism. Co-editor and contributor with Richard Swedberg (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005).

Remaking the American Mainstream: Assimilation and the New Immigration, with Richard Alba (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003).

"The New Institutionalism in Sociology," coeditor and contributor with Mary Brinton (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1998).

Selected Articles and Chapters

The Entrepreneur’s Network and Firm Performance.” (Victor Nee, Lisha Liu and Daniel DellaPosta). 2017.  Sociological Science 4: 552-579.

Endogenous Dynamics of Institutional Change” (Daniel DellaPosta, Victor Nee and Sonja Opper). 2017. Lead article in Rationality and Society and focus of comments by Robert Solow, Paul DiMaggio, Michael Macy, Randall Calvert, Martin Ruef, Arnout van de Rijt, and Christopher Cameron.

 “Risk Aversion and Guanxi Activities: A Behavioral Analysis of CEOs in China” (Sonja Opper, Victor Nee and Hakan Holm). 2017. Academy of Management Journal

“Network Effects, Cooperation and Entrepreneurial Innovation in China.” (Sonja Opper and Victor Nee). 2015. Asian Business & Management 14(4): 293-302.

“Homophily in the Career Mobility of China’s Political Elite” (Sonja Opper, Victor Nee and Stephan Brehm). 2015. Social Science Research 54: 332-352.

“From Norms and Networks to Economic Institutions” (Victor Nee and Sonja Opper). 2015. In Re-imagining Economic Sociology, Patrik Aspers and Nigel Dodd, Eds. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

“Sociology and the New Institutionalism” (Victor Nee and Sonja Opper). 2015. International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, 2nd Edition (Area 3), edited by Douglas Massey and Yoshimichi Sato, Elsevier.

“Economic Sociology, Conceptual Innovation and Exchange with Economics.” 2014. Economic Sociology 14 (2, 3): 144-153, 169-178.

“Markets and Institutional Change in China” (Victor Nee and Sonja Opper). 2014. The Oxford Companion to the Economics of China, Edited by Ravi Kanbur, Shang-Jin Wei, Xiaobo Zhang, Oxford University Press, pp. 267-272.

“Assimilation” (Richard Alba and Victor Nee). 2014. In An Introduction to Immigrant Incorporation Studies: European Perspectives, edited by Marco Martineiello and Jan Rath, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, pp 53-69.

“State Structures” (Victor Nee and Michael Siemon). 2014. Concise Encyclopedia of Comparative Sociology, edited by Sasaki Masamichi, Jack Goldstone. Brill Publishers.

“Assimilation Theory for an Era of Unprecedented Diversity” (Richard Alba and Victor Nee), In Social Stratification in Sociological Perspective, David Grusky, Ed. Fourth edition, (2014): 721-728.

Why Asian Americans are Becoming Mainstream” (Victor Nee and Hilary Holbrow), Daedalus, Vol 142, No. 3. (Summer 2013): 65-75.

“Entrepreneurs under Uncertainty: An Economic Experiment” (Hakan Holm, Sonja Opper and Victor Nee), Management Science 2013: 1671-1687.

“A Theory of Assimilation” (Victor Nee and Richard Alba), In Handbook of Rational Choice Social Research. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2013: 355-380.

“Introduction: Rational Choice Social Research” (Rafael Wittek, Tom A.B. Snijders and Victor Nee), in The Handbook of Rational Choice Social Research (2013): 1-32.

"Political Capital in a Market Economy" (with Sonja Opper). Social Forces 88,5 (2010): 2105-3132.

"A Theory of Innovation: Institutions, Markets and the Firm" (with Jeong-han Kang and Sonja Opper). Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics 166 (2010): 397-425.

"Bottom-up Economic Development and the Role of the State." Sociologica 3 (2010).

"Endogenous Institutional Change and Dynamic Capitalism" (with Sonja Opper). Sociologia del lavoro 118 (2010): 1110-1135.

"Bringing Market Transition Theory to the Firm" (with Sonja Opper). In Research in the Sociology of Work 19 (2009): 3-34.

"Bureaucracy and Financial Markets" (with Sonja Opper). Kyklos 62 (2009): 293-315.

"On Politicized Capitalism" (with Sonja Opper) in On Capitalism, edited by Victor Nee and Richard Swedberg. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2007.

"Developmental State and Corporate Governance in China" (with Sonja Opper and Sonia Wong). Management and Organization Review 3 (2007): 19-51.

"The New Institutionalism in Economics and Sociology." In Handbook of Economic Sociology (2nd ed.), edited by Neil Smelser and Richard Swedberg. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004.

"Organizational Dynamics of Institutional Change: Politicized Capitalism in China." Pp. 53-74 In The Economic Sociology of Capitalism, edited by Victor Nee and Richard Swedberg. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005).

"Market Transition and the Firm: Institutional Change and Income Inequality in Urban China." (with Yang Cao). In Market and Organizational Review, 2005. (This is an electronic version of an article published in Management and Organization Review. Complete citation information for the final version of the paper is available via the journal's website.)

"Post-Communist Inequality: The Problem of Continuity and Discontinuity" (with Yang Cao). Research on Social Stratification and Mobility, 19 (2002): 3-39

"Networks Beyond the Ethnic Labor Market" (with Jimy Sanders and Scott Sernau). Social Forces. 81 (2002): 281-314

"Postsocialist Stratification" pp. 846-851 in Social Stratification in Sociological Perspective, David Grusky, ed. (Boulder CO: Westview Press, 2001).

"Trust in Ethnic Ties: Social Capital and Immigrants" (with Jimy Sanders) Pp. 374-392 in Trust and Society, edited by Karen Cook (Russell Sage Foundation, 2001).

"Understanding the Diversity of Immigrant Incorporation." (with Jimy Sanders). Ethnic and Racial Studies, 2001.

"The Rational Peasant in China: Flexible Adaptation, Risk Diversification and Opportunity" (with Lisa Keister). Rationality and Society (2001).

"Gender Inequality and Nonfarm Employment in Rural China" (with Rebecca Matthews). Social Science Research 29 (2000): 606-632.

"Controversies and Evidence in the Market Transition Debate" (with Yang Cao). American Journal of Sociology 105,4 (2000):1175-89.

"The Role of the State in Making a Market Economy." Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics 156, 2000. Pp. 64-88.

"Path Dependent Societal Transformation: Stratification in Mixed Economies." (with Yang Cao). Theory and Society 28, 1999. Pp. 799-834.

"Norms and Networks in Economic and Organizational Performance." American Economic Review 87.4, 1998. Pp. 85-9.

"Embeddedness and Beyond: Institutions, Exchange and Social Structure." (with Paul Ingram). Pp. 19-45 in The New Institutionalism in Sociology, edited by M. Brinton and V. Nee (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1998).

"Immigrant Self-Employment: The Family as Social Capital and the Value of Human Capital" (with Jimy Sanders). American Sociological Review 60 (1996):231-250.

"Market Transition and Societal Transformation in Reforming State Socialism." (with Rebecca Matthews). Annual Review of Sociology vol. 22 (1996): 401-36.

"The Emergence of a Market Society: Changing Mechanisms of Stratification in China." American Journal of Sociology 100, 1996. Pp. 908-49.

"Job Transitions in an Immigrant Metropolis: Ethnic Boundaries and Mixed Economy." (with Jimy Sanders and Scott Sernau). American Sociological Review 59, 1994. Pp. 849-72.

"Organizational Dynamics of Market Transition: Hybrid Property Forms and Mixed Economy in China" Administrative Science Quarterly 37, 1992. Pp. 1-27.

"A Theory of Market Transition: From Redistribution to Markets in State Socialism." American Sociological Review 54, 1989. Pp. 663-81.

"Sleeping with the Enemy: A Dynamic Model of Declining Political Commitment in State Socialism." (with Peng Lian) Theory and Society 23 (1994): 253- 296.

"Social Inequalities in Reforming State Socialism: Between Redistribution and Markets in China." American Sociological Review 56 (1991): 267-282.

"A Theory of Market Transition: From Redistribution to Markets in State Socialism." American Sociological Review 54 (1989): 663-681.

"Limits of Ethnic Solidarity in the Enclave Economy" (with Jimy Sanders). American Sociological Review 52 (1987): 745-767.