Heather A. Haveman of the University of California, Berkeley recently took the time to write a review of Martin Ruef’s book, available now in the OnlineFirst section of Administrative Science Quarterly.
From the review:
This compelling analysis of the swiftly changing economic and social institutions in the American south after the Civil War should be of interest to economic and organizational sociologists, stratification researchers, and labor and economic historians. Ruef’s central argument is that the emancipation of slaves generated great uncertainty for all economic actors in the south—the former slaves themselves, the planters who used to own them, the agents of the Freedmen’s Bureau who sought to smooth the transition, and white workers, merchants, and politicians who had supported slavery as a central precept of southern society. As in neoclassical economic theory, these actors were often subject to classical uncertainty (Knight, 1921), in that they could not predict the outcomes of their decisions to engage (or not) in economic transactions: although the set of possible outcomes was known, their probability distribution was unknown. But more than that, Ruef shows that these actors faced true or categorical uncertainty (Knight, 1921): the set of possible outcomes was also unknown, which made the probability distribution of outcomes not just unknown, but unknowable.
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