Sub-theme 35: Status Mechanisms in Organizations and Markets: From Networks to Categories
Call for Papers
A fundamental trait of status research is the recognition that social hierarchy, signalled by acts of deference, is relevant in explaining the functioning of markets (Podolny, 2005). An actor's position in this hierarchy affects others' perceptions and obligations towards her and thereby the opportunities and constraints she faces in the market. Contemporary status research has established that status influences a very a wide range of market outcomes such as segmentation, price formation, performance and the elicitation of commitment and efforts in partner relationships. While this sub-theme remains open to all research that advances knowledge on status mechanisms in organizations and markets, we propose two main axes of investigation: (a) interactions between market principles and status mechanisms and (b) interactions between categories and relations.
(a) Interaction between market principles and status logics
For the first axis of investigation, we build on a recent adaption of Weber's distinction between
class and status, two related but different forms of social stratification (Eyal et al., 1998: 66–70). Weber argued that class
stratification/Klasse is the result of the accumulation and creation of economic capital through 'market principles'
(Weber, 1978: 302–307; 926–940). By contrast, status/Stand stems from a network of informal or institutionalized
hierarchical relationships which may substitute or override 'market principles' (Weber, 1978: 930).
Surprisingly, the question of how performance and status may best be disentangled conceptually and empirically has received insufficient attention in status research. Further, although prior research has shown how most markets concurrently involve reward mechanisms based on commonly-agreed upon performance indicators and status logics, the distinction between the two is not straightforward as we may think. For instance, if rankings are a manifestation of the proliferation of quantitative performance measures designed to increase accountability across institutional domains, there is evidence that these 'objective' instruments of quality measurement are in fact socially constructed and may involve status mechanisms. We therefore encourage contributions that seek to advance our understanding of how performance measurements which mediates markets are influenced by status while at the same time shaping status dynamics.
(b) Interaction between categories and relations
Research on status has often emphasized the relational component of status, construed as a concrete set of market-based
exchange relationships between actors. Highlighting their role as conveyers of information, Podolny (2001) conceptualizes
these relationships as "prisms" through which external audiences perceive a focal organization. However, research has also
acknowledged that status is derived from the possession of attributes/category memberships that are deemed more valuable than
others (Jasso, 2001). Status can, for instance, be derived from being a nouvelle cuisine chef or a blockbuster-producing studio.
Belonging to a high status category entails privileges, adherence to norms and a set of relations stemming from membership category. However, category systems also entail constraints. Failure to conform to the category systems used by market intermediaries incurs penalty to producers, thereby constraining action or compromises relations with economic partners if they are deemed incompatible with the status of the organization. The dynamics of the evolution of category systems and interaction with existing networks of relations are therefore necessary to advance our understanding of the dynamics of status hierarchies.
Besides these two main axes, we are open to all submissions which can contribute to advance research on status by establishing bridges with other streams of research, exploring new theoretical grounds, investigating original empirical studies or developing novel research methods.
Eyal, Gil, Iván Szelényi & Eleanor Townsley (1998): Making Capitalism Without Capitalists: Class Formation and Elite Struggles in Post-Communist Central Europe. London: Verso.
Jasso, Guillermina (2001): 'Studying status: an integrated framework.' American Sociological Review, 66 (1), pp. 96–124.
Podolny, Joel M. (2001): 'Networks as the pipes and prisms of the market.' American Journal of Sociology, 107, pp. 33–60.
Podolny, Joel M. (2005): Status Signals. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Weber, Max (1978): Economy and Society. Berkeley: University of California.