Sub-theme 39: Markets in the Making: Observing, Measuring and Performing Economic Exchange

Liz McFall
Open University, UK
Joeri Mol
The University of Melbourne, Australia
Dean Pierides
The University of Melbourne, Australia

Call for Papers


This EGOS sub-theme revolves around markets; the way they work or, more accurately, the way we think they work. Theories of markets are not innocent or neutral. Markets (or rather their failure) not only form the raison d’être for organizations (cf. Coase, 1937), but also constitute a dominant logic in contemporary organizations (Friedland & Alford, 1991; Thornton, 2002). They affect economic practices in all manners of ways: which markets are analyzed, how markets 'in the wild' are analyzed, how they work and fail to work, are all questions where models form, inform, or perform practice (Callon, 1998; MacKenzie et al., 2007).

Accounts of markets are wide and varied. Rational choice theory accompanied by methodological individualism has dominated how neo-classical economists view the market, this being particularly prominent in the Efficient-Market Hypothesis (Fama, 1970). Sociologists, seeing markets as ensnared in a web of social relationships, have investigated how norms and values mitigate the uncertainties underlying economic transactions (DiMaggio & Powell, 1983; Fligstein & Dauter, 2007; White, 1981). Contesting the notion of atomistic trading partners, sociologists have emphasized how economic agents are acculturated into embedded exchange through compliance with reigning market institutions. Critical management scholars have stressed that the increasing adoption of market thinking in organizations facilitates subordination through the 'financialization' of labour relations (Adler et al., 2008). Social studies of markets (Callon, 1998; MacKenzie et al., 2007) and cultural economy (du Gay & Pryke, 2002; Pryke & du Gay, 2007) contend that markets are not immune to inquiry and observation, claiming that many of the practices, tools and devices that are used in markets are heavily influenced by centuries of economic thought, both lay and academic. And finally, anthropological studies of markets have even challenged the privileging of expertise that such social studies entail (Riles, 2010).

While all of these accounts differ significantly in their views of how clearly the domains of science and the market are separated, to date there have been but few opportunities for these perspectives to interact, collide, exchange ideas, feed off each other or engage in lively academic debate. In this sub-theme we want to accomplish exactly that. Therefore we expressly invite papers from a broad range of academic orientations in order to bring together contemporary thoughts on markets. We welcome studies that incorporate insights from a wide array of disciplines, including (but not limited to) anthropology, sociology, organization science, economics, history, linguistics, psychology, political science and philosophy. We are particularly interested in scholarly work that addresses the epistemological and ontological status of markets.


The questions we ask are:

  • Where do markets come from and what are their historical origins (Braudel, 1982; White, 1981)?
  • Who are the market makers and what role do expert systems play in economic exchange (Hsu, 2006; Riles, 2010)?
  • How do market devices perform economic exchange (Callon 2007, McFall, 2009)?
  • How do facts get produced and how are markets 'prepared' (Pryke et al., 2007)?
  • If we do not give primacy to the social (Maurer, 2008), how does materiality feature in and become generative of the way we enact economic exchange (Callon, 1998; MacKenzie et al., 2007)?
  • How does 'number' materialize in markets (cf. Verran, 2001)?
  • What is the epistemological and ontological status of 'value' as well as the market categories by which it is expressed (Boltanski & Thévenot, 2006; Kahl, 2007)?
  • How does economic exchange within organizational boundaries differ from economic exchange within markets (Mol & Wijnberg, 2011; Stark, 1986)?


Adler, P.S., L. Forbes & H. Willmott (2008): "Critical Management Studies." In: A. Brief & J. Walsh (eds.), Academy of Management Annals. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 119–180
Boltanski, L. & L. Thévenot (2006): On Justification: Economies of Worth. Princeton: Princeton University Press
Braudel, F. (1982: The Wheels of Commerce. New York: Harper & Row
Callon, M. (1998): "Introduction: The Embeddedness of Economic Markets in Economics." In: M. Callon (ed.), The Laws of the Markets. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1–57
Coase, R.H. (1937): "The Nature of the Firm." Economica, 4 (16), 386–405
DiMaggio, P.J. & W.W. Powell (1983): "The Iron Cage Revisited: Institutional Isomorphism and Collective Rationality in Organizational Fields." American Sociological Review, 48 (2), 147–160
du Gay, P. & M. Pryke (2002): Cultural Economy: Cultural Analysis and Commercial Life. Thousand Oaks: Sage
Fama, E.F. (1970): "Efficient Capital Markets: A Review of Theory and Empirical Work." Journal of Finance, 25 (2), 383–417
Fligstein, N. & L. Dauter (2007): "The Sociology of Markets." Annual Review of Sociology, 33 (1), 105–128
Friedland, R. & R.R. Alford (1991): "Bringing society back in: Symbols, practices and institutional contradictions." In: W.W. Powell & P.J. DiMaggio (eds.), The New Institutionalism in Organizational Analysis. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 232–266
Hsu, G. (2006): "Jacks of All Trades and Masters of None: Audiences' Reactions to Spanning Genres in Feature Film Production." Administrative Science Quarterly, 51, 420–450
Kahl, S.J. (2007): Social Beliefs and Markets: The Problem of Categorization, Justification and Innovation? Paper presented at the 'Conference on the Emergence of Social Organization', Chicago University, Graduate School of Business
MacKenzie, D., F. Muniesa & L. Siu (2007): Do Economists Make Markets? On the Performativity of Economics. Princeton: Princeton University Press
Maurer, B. (2008): "Resocializing Finance? Or Dressing it in Mufti?" Journal of Cultural Economy, 1 (1), 65–78
Mol, J.M. & N.M. Wijnberg (2011): "From Resources to Value and Back: Competition Between and Within Organizations." British Journal of Management, 22 (1), 77–95
Pryke, M. & du P. Gay (2007): "Take an Issue: Cultural Economy and Finance." Economy and Society, 36 (3), 339–354
Riles, A. (2010): "Collateral Expertise: Legal Knowledge in the Global Financial Markets." Current Anthropology, 51 (6), 795–818
Stark, D. (1986): "Rethinking Internal Labor Markets: New Insights from a Comparative Perspective." American Sociological Review, 51 (4), 492–504
Thornton, P.H. (2002): "The Rise of the Corporation in a Craft Industry: Conflict and Conformity in Institutional Logics." Academy of Management Journal, 45 (1), 81–101
Verran, H. (2001): Science and an African Logic. Chicago: University of Chicago Press
White, H.C. (1981): "Where Do Markets Come From?" American Journal of Sociology, 87 (3), 517–547


Liz McFall Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the Open University. Her research interests are broadly within the sociology of economic life with particular emphasis on the historical formation of markets especially through advertising and other promotional practices. She has published widely in Journals such as Consumption, Markets and Culture, Cultural Studies, Journal for Cultural Research, Journal of Cultural Economy, Journal of Historical Sociology, Sociology Compass as well as several books and monographs with Sage, Blackwell and Elsevier amongst others. She currently working on a new book ‘Devising Consumption’ (Routledge, 2012) and is co-editor of the Journal of Cultural Economy.
Joeri Mol Lecturer at the University of Melbourne. His research interests include classification systems and genre formation, power and appropriation in organizations, and diffusion patterns of innovations. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in the British Journal of Management, Journal of Economic Issues, Journal of Management Studies, and Sociological Methodology.
Dean Pierides