Sub-theme 18: Cultural Economies and Economic Cultures in the Organization of Markets

Liz McFall
Open University, UK
Steven J Kahl
Dartmouth College, Hanover, USA
Joeri Mol
University of Melbourne, Australia

Call for Papers

The question is culture being organized by the market or is the market being organized by culture? has been a recurring theme within the social sciences over the past decades. Two opposing views are typically presented. On the one hand, the dominant paradigm depicts economic exchange as atomistic, revolving around rational individuals with a high degree of agency. On the other hand, economic sociologists and organizational theorists offer a contrasting perspective emphasizing that markets are embedded in overarching social structures that significantly constrain individual agency (DiMaggio & Powell, 1991; Granovetter, 1973).


Between these 'ideal type' views there are many modified positions ranging from accounts of the contemporary dissolution of any boundary between cultural or economic activity (du Gay & Pryke, 2002; McFall, 2004), to those that complement concerns with forms of meaning, representation and sociality with the study of the technical and material forms of association (Callon & Muniesa, 2005; Latour, 2005), and to those who understand markets as amenable to the pragmatic redesign by 'choice architects' (Thaler & Sunstein, 2008). Significant strides have been made in our understanding of the economy/culture relation (Pryke & du Gay, 2007) since the first stirrings of the 'cultural turn' (Jameson, 1998), but as work in different critical and theoretical traditions proliferates across the academy substantial challenges remain. 'Markets' and 'cultures' continue to change and 'marketization' and 'culturing' continue to elude easy description.

Without lending priority to any particular perspective, we invite papers that can best advance this problematic. In conversation with existing debates, we are particularly supportive of papers that investigate whether markets can be understood on cultural terms, underscoring notions of embeddedness and cultural economy. And inversely, can cultures be understood on terms dictated by market logics (cf. Friedland & Alford, 1991)?

In doing so, we ask ourselves:

  • With regard to epistemology, how can markets and cultures be known (Bingham & Kahl, forthcoming)? Do academic and lay understandings sit idly side by side, do they interact, or do they collide (Boltanski & Thévenot, 2006)?
  • What is the ontological status of the market and of culture? What is a market and what is a culture? Or should we rather talk about the becoming of markets or of cultures (cf. Linstead & Thanem, 2007)? Should they be understood as entities, assemblages and/or events (Deleuze, 1990; Roffe, 2011)? How do 'ontological politics' produce multiples in the realms of markets and of cultures (Law, 2011; Mol, 2004)?
  • How are organizations and employees affected by the process of being simultaneously 'enculturated' well as 'marketized' (Adler et al., 2008)?
  • How do criteria for measuring value emerge in markets and in organizations? And how do evaluation processes within markets differ from those within organizations (Mol & Wijnberg, 2011)?
  • What is the importance of cultures for the making of markets and what is the importance of markets for the making of cultures (Maurer, 2010)? Where do organizational cultures and/or markets end and where do consumer cultures and/or markets start?
  • How can we understand the recursive relationship between the markets that we study and the models that we create to describe them? How does such performativity feature in the study of culture (cf. Callon & Muniesa, 2005)?
  • What are the defining categories by which we understand markets and cultures (DiMaggio, 1983; 1987; Lounsbury & Rao, 2004)? Are they congruent or do market categories and cultural categories compete with each other?



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Bingham, C.B. & S.J. Kahl (forthcoming): 'Process Studies of Change: The Process of Schema Emergence: Assimilation, Deconstruction, Unitization and the Plurality of Analogies.' Academy of Management Journal.
Boltanski, L. & L. Thévenot (2006): On Justification: Economies of Worth. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Callon, M. & F. Muniesa (2005): 'Peripheral Vision: Economic Markets as Calculative Collective Devices.' Organization Studies, 26 (8), 1229–1250.
Deleuze, G. (1990): The Logic of Sense. New York: Columbia University Press.
DiMaggio, P. (1983): 'Can Culture Survive the Marketplace?' The Journal of Arts Management and Law, 13 (1), 61–87.
DiMaggio, P. (1987): 'Classification in Art.' American Sociological Review, 52, 440–455.
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du Gay, P. & M. Pryke (2002): Cultural Economy: Cultural Analysis and Commercial Life. London: Sage.
Friedland, R. & R.R. Alford (1991): 'Bringing Society Back in: Symbols, Practices and Institutional Contradictions.' In: W.W. Powell & P. DiMaggio (eds.): The New Institutionalism in Organizational Analysis. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 232–266.
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Jameson, F. (1998): The Cultural Turn: Selected Writings on the Postmodern, 1983–1998. London: Verso.
Latour, B. (2005): Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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Linstead, S. & T. Thanem (2007): 'Multiplicity, Virtuality and Organization: The Contribution of Gilles Deleuze.' Organization Studies, 28 (10), 1483–1501.
Lounsbury, M. & H. Rao (2004): 'Sources of Durability and Change in Market Classifications: A Study of the Reconstitution of Product Categories in the American Mutual Fund Industry, 1944-1985.' Social Forces, 82 (3), 969–999.
Maurer, B. (2010): 'Finger Counting Money.' Anthropological Theory, 10 (1-2), 179–185.
McFall, L. (2004): Advertising: A Cultural Economy. London: Sage.
Mol, A. (1999): 'Ontological Politics: A Word and Some Questions.' In: J. Law & J. Hassard (eds.): Actor Network Theory and After. Oxford: Blackwell, 74–89.
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. & P. du Gay (2007): 'Take an Issue: Cultural Economy and Finance.' Economy and Society, 36 (3), 339–354.
Roffe, J. (2011): Badiou's Deleuze. Durham: Acumen.
Strathern, M. (2006): 'A Community of Critics? Thoughts on New Knowledge.' Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 12 (1), 191–209.
Thaler, R.H. & C.R. Sunstein (2008): Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness. New Haven: Yale University Press.


Liz McFall is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the Open University. Her research interests are centred around the historical formation of markets through advertising and promotion. She has studied the role of public, governmental and private, financial institutions in the establishment of life assurance markets while more recent work focuses on the role of devices in consumer markets. She is the author of "Advertising: A Cultural Economy" and a number of journal articles. She is currently working on a new book "Devising Consumption" (2012) and is co-editor of the 'Journal of Cultural Economy'.
Steven J Kahl is Associate Professor at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. He is interested in the emergence of technological innovations within commercial markets. His work has appeared or will appear in the 'Academy of Management Journal', 'Research in the Sociology of Organizations', 'Advances in Strategic Management', and 'Management Science'.
Joeri Mol is Senior Lecturer in Organization Studies at the University of Melbourne. He is interested in valuation processes in markets and organizations. His work has appeared in the 'Journal of Management Studies', 'British Journal of Management', 'Journal of Economic Issues', and 'Sociological Methodology' amongst others.