Safi Shams is a social historian who is primarily interested in the emergence and transformation of social forms in the cultural, economic and political arenas. He has been trained in sociology (PhD, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, USA), anthropology, literature, and regional economic development (MA). As a practitioner, he has used social science to collaborate with the Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission of the United States, as well as various public state agencies and non-profits that work on social and economic development. He is on the program committee for the study of Organizations, Occupations and Work at the American Sociological Association.

Safi Shams

Research Interests:

Safi’s work primarily consists of investigating philosophical concepts in the historical sciences by relying on detailed case-studies and employing a variety of methods. His most recent work investigates structural transformations that both led to and resulted from the vertical disintegration of major corporations from the 1980s onward into network organizations (e.g. supply chains, franchising networks). Particularly, Safi’s work details how these organizational forms establish “rent systems” that fuel growth by monopoly instead of competitiveness and lead to deterioration in working conditions and mobility. At the conceptual level, the research shows how rent systems affect the temporality of social life by way of ownership of the future, making claims on profits that have not yet been produced, as well as the challenges of monopoly to state sovereignty. Safi’s other work explores the transformation within and interaction between social forms in different spheres of action. A project based on archival work on the United State in the 19th century explored the links between workers’ contentious politics and their moral evaluation of their occupation and its conditions. Their moral evaluation depended on their dialogue with a sphere of cultural production, bounded historically and regionally, and on transformations in that sphere. On the policy front, Safi and a co-author used a novel quantitative method to explore latent trajectories of access to managerial jobs for different groups. A key lesson of that paper is that the typical method of examining historical change quantitatively in terms of singular national trends can be profoundly misleading. Safi’s research has utilized statistical analysis, social network analysis, and the qualitative methods of participant observation, interviews and archival research.

Key Terms:

  • Philosophy of History 
  • Political Economy 
  • Culture and Aesthetics 
  • Corporate Governance
  • Economic Policy and Collective Production
  • Network Organizations