Sub-theme 28: The Politics of Valuation

Fabian Muniesa
Mines ParisTech, France
Claes-Fredrik Helgesson
Linköping University, Sweden
Monika Krause
London School of Economics, UK, & Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, Finland

Call for Papers

Valuations entail politics writ large and small. In one sense, the establishing, negotiating, delineating and ordering of values are intrinsically political. Yet, the political articulations of such processes are not uniform or always easy to untangle. Consider three cases in point: The large and seemingly insatiable appetite in the financial realm to turn things into assets, global governance initiatives like the happy planet index aimed to establish a global measure of sustainable well-being, and subversive counter-valuations such as the bad metric prize to the most inappropriate use of quantitative indicators in research management. These are all tied to complex practices of valuation and are all clearly entailing politics. Yet, their means and modes of valuation are quite diverse as are their consequences.
The aim of this sub-theme is to empirically and conceptually explore the multifaceted politics of valuation, including both the politics in valuation practices as well as the role of valuation practices in the distribution of different kinds of resources. The sub-theme explicitly aims to include contributions using a variety of conceptual and methodological approaches and exploring a variety of empirical settings: What different forms of politics are part of and performed by practices of valuation? What can different approaches within social theory as well as pragmatist studies of valuation practices bring to our appreciation of these multifaceted politics? Are there conceptual gains in the interface between different approaches to the study of valuations?
The politics of valuation could be examined in a range of sites and realms. Papers could address practices in different kinds of organizations, networks or settings, in different geographical areas and historical periods. Realms of interest include, for example global finance, global governance, public health, accounting, environmental regulation, advertising and social media, and research and development in corporations. Submissions might examine the politics involved in the ranking of organizations, the grading of students, the evaluation of public policy, the assessment of consumer goods, the analysis of financial assets as well as the creation of new entities to be valued.
Scholarly inspiration and intellectual orientation may draw, though not exclusively, from recent work in the comparative sociology of economic valuation (e.g. Stark, 2009; Fourcade, 2011; Lamont, 2012), the production of value in not-for-profit and nongovernmental organizations (Krause, 2014; Barman 2016), the variability of accounting practices (Mennicken & Power, 2015), the political anthropology of financial valuation (Ortiz, 2014; Muniesa, 2012), the examination of valuations shaping industries (Pollock & Williams, 2016), the social study of value controversies in the health sciences (Dussauge et al., 2015), the critical study of urban regeneration (Glucksberg, 2014), the sociology of scientometric policy (Pontille & Torny, 2010), the study of rankings in higher education and their consequences (Nelson Espeland & Sauder, 2007), the rise of neoliberal value metrics (Davies, 2014; Birch, 2015) and discussions on the relations between critique and the study of valuations (Doganova et al., 2014).
Relevant questions include:

  • What forms of politics are present in different valuations and what accounts for the visibility and invisibility of the politics entailed?
  • What is the role of valuation practices in the distribution of different kinds of resources by banks, governments, NGOs, corporations, researchers, and philanthropists?
  • What are the knowledge claims involved in valuations and how are debates about this knowledge resolved?
  • What role do management tools and devices play in stabilising and contesting valuations?
  • How do valuations travel across (cultural, geographical or thematic) contexts?
  • How are different forms of valuations negotiated in practice?
  • What are the possible variations (translations, disconnections, etc.) in relations between the politics of performing a valuation and the politics performed by the resulting valuation?
  • What are the time frames involved in the production and circulation of valuations?



  • Barman, E. (2016): Caring Capitalism: The Meaning and Measure of Social Value in the Market. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Birch, K. (2015): “Neoliberalism: The Whys and Wherefores… and Future Directions.” Sociology Compass, 9 (7), 571–584.
  • Davies, W. (2014): The Limits of Neoliberalism: Authority, Sovereignty and the Logic of Competition. London: SAGE Publications.
  • Doganova, L., Giraudeau, M., Helgesson, C.-F., Kjellberg, H., Lee, F., Mallard, A., Mennicken, A., Muniesa, F., Sjögren, E., & Zuiderent-Jerak, T. (2014): “Valuation Studies and the Critique of Valuation.” Valuation Studies, 2 (2), 87–96.
  • Dussauge, I., Helgesson, C.-F., & Lee, F. (eds.) (2015): Value Practices in the Life Sciences and Medicine. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Fourcade, M. (2011): “Cents and Sensibility. Economic Valuation and the Nature of ‘Nature’.” American Journal of Sociology, 116 (6), 1721–1777.
  • Glucksberg, L. (2014): “’We Was Regenerated Out’: Regeneration, Recycling and Devaluing Communities.” Valuation Studies, 2 (2), 97–118.
  • Krause, M. (2014): The Good Project: Humanitarian Relief NGOs and the Fragmentation of Reason. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Lamont, M. (2012): “Toward a Comparative Sociology of Valuation and Evaluation.” Annual Review of Sociology, 38 (1), 201–221.
  • Mennicken, A., & Power, M. (2015): “Accounting and the Plasticity of Valuation.” In: A. Berthoin Antal, M. Hutter & D. Stark (eds.): Moments of Valuation: Exploring Sites of Dissonance. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 208–228.
  • Muniesa, F. (2012): “A Flank Movement in the Understanding of Valuation.” In: L. Adkins & C. Lury (eds.): Measure and Value. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 24–38.
  • Nelson Espeland, W., & Sauder, M. (2007): “Rankings and Reactivity: How Public Measures Recreate Social Worlds.” American Journal of Sociology, 113 (1), 1–40.
  • Ortiz, H. (2014) “The Limits of Financial Imagination: Free Investors, Efficient Markets, and Crisis.” American Anthropologist, 116 (1), 38–50.
  • Pollock, N., & Williams, R. (2016): How Industry Analysts Shape the Digital Future. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Pontille, D., & Torny, D. (2010): “The Controversial Policies of Journal Ratings: Evaluating Social Sciences and Humanities.” Research Evaluation, 19 (5), 347–360.
  • Stark, D. (2009): The Sense of Dissonance: Accounts of Worth in Economic Life. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Fabian Muniesa is a Senior Researcher at the Center for the Sociology of Innovation at Mines ParisTech, Francce. His research interests include: pragmatism; the anthropology of calculation; social studies of finance; the history of social-scientific experimentation; the politics of business; performance; performativity. Muniesa is the author of “The Provoked Economy” (Routledge, 2014), and co-founder and co-editor of ‘Valuation Studies’, an open access journal established in spring 2013.
Claes-Fredrik Helgesson is Professor in Technology and Social Change at Linköping University, Sweden. His research interest concerns the intertwining of economic organizing, science and technology. Helgesson is co-editor of “Value Practices in the Life Sciences and Medicine” (OUP, 2015), and co-founder and co-editor of ‘Valuation Studies’, an open access journal established in spring 2013.
Monika Krause is a Fellow at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, Finland, and teaches sociology at the London School of Economics, UK. Her research addresses comparative questions about organizations, professions, and specialised practices. She is the author of “The Good Project: Humanitarian Relief NGOs and the Fragmentation of Reason” (Chicago University Press, 2014), which won the 2015 Philip Abrams Memorial Prize, and an editor of “Fielding Transnationalism” (Sociological Review Monograph 2016, with Julian Go).