Víctor Nee

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Victor G. Nee
Residence United States
Fields Sociology
Institutions Cornell University (1977-)
Alma mater Harvard University (M.A. and Ph.D. in Sociology)
Known for Study of the rise of capitalism in China
Notable awards Guggenheim Fellowship (2007)

Victor G. Nee (born 1945) is an American sociologist known for his work in economic sociology. He is the Frank and Rosa Rhodes Professor, and Director of the Center for the Study of Economy and Society at Cornell University. Nee received the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in 2007, and has been a visiting fellow at the Russell Sage Foundation in New York ( 1994-1995), and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (1996-1997). He was awarded an honorary doctorate in Economics by Lund University in Sweden in 2013.


Nee studied biology at the University of California at Los Angeles, and history at the University of California at Santa Cruz where he graduated in 1967. He was accepted for graduate studies that year at Harvard University and was a co-founder of the Committee of Concerned Asian Scholars—a group of faculty and graduate students who opposed America's intervention in Vietnam.

As a graduate student he wrote with his wife Brett de Bary, Longtime Californ': A Documentary Study of an American Chinatown published by Pantheon Books. He took a leave of absence from graduate school in 1972 to work as a freelance writer in San Francisco and Tokyo. Nee traveled to China in 1974 to study Chinese at Beijing University.

In 1975 he returned to Harvard University to complete his dissertation in Sociology, which he received in 1977.

Nee was an assistant and associate professor of sociology at the University of California at Santa Barbara from 1977 to 1985. He joined the tenured faculty of the Department of Sociology at Cornell University in 1985 and held the Goldwin Smith Professor of Sociology from 1991 to 2011.


Nee's research interests focus on studies in economic sociology, new institutionalism, and immigration. One of his central advancements in the New Institutionalism in Economic Sociology has been the networks-and-institutions approach. Nee's networks-and-institutions approach is based on empirically rich case studies that examine how social norms and social networks serve as the informal institutional elements that enable and motivate cooperation in firms and markets. His work furthers an understanding of how informal and formal institutional elements combine and recombine to shape economic performance.

Nee contributed influential theories explaining a variety of macro-societal phenomena. He developed market transition theory, which launched a broad research program and debate on the interplay between market transition and stratification effects.

His recent book Capitalism from Below: Markets and Institutional Change in China co-authored with Sonja Opper (Harvard University Press 2012) explains the rise of Chinese capitalism. In particular the book examines the emergence of new organizational and institutional forms, detailing how norms and networks promote economic performance in the absence of good government policies and formal institutions. The multiyear research effort is documented at www.capitalism-from-below.com.

In his book Remaking the American Mainstream, co-authored with Richard Alba (Harvard University Press 2003) he compares the late European and new immigration from Latin America and Asia to the United States and demonstrates the importance of assimilation in American society.

Selected articles and chapters[edit]

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

“The New Institutionalism in Economics and Sociology.” In The Handbook of Economic Sociology (2nd ed.) edited by Neil Smelser and Richard Swedberg. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005.

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

"Norms and Networks in Economic and Organizational Performance." American Economic Review Vol. 87 (1998), No. 4, pp. 85–89.

"Embeddedness and Beyond: Institutions, Exchange and Social Structure" (with Paul Ingram). In The New Institutionalism in Sociology, edited by Mary Brinton and Victor Nee. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1998.

"Rethinking Assimilation Theory for a New Era of Immigration" (with Richard Alba). International Migration Review (1997): 826-974.

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

"The Emergence of a Market Society: Changing Mechanisms of Stratification in China." American Journal of Sociology 100 (1996): 908-949.

"Job Transitions in an Immigrant Metropolis: Ethnic Boundaries and Mixed Economy" (with Jimy M. Sanders and Scott Sernau). American Sociological Review 59 (1994): 849-872.

"Organizational Dynamics of Market Transition: Hybrid Forms, Property Rights, and Mixed Economy in China." American Sociological Review 56 (1991): 267-282.

"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.


  • with Sonja Opper, Capitalism from Below: Markets and Institutional Change in China (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 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003).
  • The New Institutionalism in Sociology, coeditor and contributor with Mary Brinton (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1998).
  • with Brett de Bary Nee, Longtime Californ': A Documentary Study of an American Chinatown (New York,: Pantheon Books, 1973).
  • The Cultural Revolution at Peking University (New York: [Monthly Review Press, 1969).