Sub-theme 45: Re-organizing Markets: Questions, Resistances, Responsibilities

Susi Geiger
University College Dublin, Ireland
Philip Roscoe
University of St Andrews, United Kingdom
Jean-Pascal Gond
City, University of London, United Kingdom

Call for Papers

What makes markets ‘better’, and for whom: those let down by markets, those who maintain positions of strength within them (Fligstein & McAdam, 2011), or for society as a whole? What characterizes a ‘good’ market, and who can say so? While these questions have always accompanied the theorization of markets and market-based liberal economies, a relatively recent literature has started to combine an activist perspective with an emerging theoretical account of markets as fragile and temporary socio-technological arrangements and ongoing organizational achievements (e.g. Dubuisson-Quellier, 2013; McKague et al., 2015; Geiger & Gross 2018; Giamporcaro & Gond, 2016; Gond & Brès, 2019).
This emerging literature on markets stems from the encounter of science studies with the disciplines of economic sociology and anthropology (Callon, 1998; Çalışkan & Callon, 2010), and, more recently, organization studies (Geiger & Gross, 2018; Palo et al., 2018; Roscoe & Chillas, 2014).The literature understands markets as comprising a host of socio-technical assemblages that organize the conception, production and circulation of goods: ‘an arrangement of heterogeneous constituents that deploys… rules and conventions, technical devices, metrological systems, infrastructures, text, discourses’ (Çalışkan & Callon, 2010: 3). These studies emphasise descriptive analysis of market agencements as a means of unpacking power relations in the institutions of high modernity (Beunza & Ferraro, 2019; Giamporcaro & Gond, 2016). Conceptualizing markets as organizational – and organized – phenomena helps us to explore how actors challenge and upset market structures: if markets are socio-technical agencements, as Callon (2017) argues, then these agencements can be challenged, subverted, resisted and changed, from the inside and from the outside. Market ‘misfires’ provide opportunities for actors to reshape market structures (Geiger & Gross, 2018). Issues of power – and powerlessness – come to the fore in this questioning, and our focus is turned toward understanding who (or what) can influence a market’s organizational arrangements: its hierarchies, memberships, rules (Ahrne et al., 2015), its socio-material apparatus and calculative practices (Giamporcaro & Gond, 2016). Where market-based social movement research (e.g. de Bakker et al., 2013) has focused on the institutional level of resistance and change, often over long periods of time, we take into account that the ‘redevising’ of markets may also come in the form of material resistance or subversion (Hawkins, 2011; Finch et al., 2017; Gond & Nyberg, 2017). The strand therefore contributes to the ongoing synthesis of STS-inflected market studies and a more traditional critical political economy.
Whether institutional, organizational, individual or material, market-based activism always throws open issues of stakes and value – ‘what counts’ – in a market. Recent scholarship has emphasised how values too are constructed through the social-material apparatus of the markets (Kornberger et al., 2015). ‘What counts’ is particularly important in relation to those markets associated with the planet’s current grand challenges: climate, the environment, healthcare, education and civil rights. Several collectives have attempted to trace such practices within such ‘concerned’ (Geiger et al., 2014; Roscoe & Townley, 2016) markets, giving us a glimpse of how clashes of values are played out through market contestation and reorganization. Market activism does not always equate to market resistance, as shown, for instance, by the advent of the activist entrepreneur (Esper et al., 2017) and the activist investor (Kish & Fairbairn, 2018). Thus, we conceive of market based activism in the broadest sense, defining it as practices related to the challenging and redevising of markets’ organizations.

In keeping with the theme of the 36th EGOS Colloquium on “Responsibility, Renewal and Resistance”, the nexus of market studies and activism also requires that we take our responsibilities as researchers of markets seriously. Scholars have demonstrated that the existence of the market as an abstract entity is the outcome of ‘efforts in abstraction’ performed by economics (Callon & Muniesa, 2005: 1244), where economic knowledge – theoretical as well as practical, codified in disciplines like accounting and marketing – participates ‘in the design, elaboration, experimentation, change, maintenance, extension and operation’ of markets (Çalışkan & Callon, 2010: 23, see also Callon, 2017; Marti & Gond, 2018). This emphasis on the performative role of market knowledge proffers an entrance for participatory research and scholarly activism.
Thus, the sub-theme also considers the performative role of our own research. Turning the question of market-based activism onto our own activities means confronting issues such as: What are the responsibilities of the social scientists studying markets to ‘join in’ to make markets better? How can we become better aware of our own ‘critical performativity’ (Cabantous et al., 2016) as researchers engaged with market settings? Curiously, while social scientists seem reluctant to abandon a detached and objectivist stance when studying markets, economist researchers have rarely had such qualms in influencing market design(s) (Roth, 2007). We argue that it is time that the field of market studies started to reflect on its own transformative potential (Roscoe & Loza, 2018).
This sub-theme invites questions that lie at the centre of organization researchers’ attempts to grapple with markets, for instance:

  • What or who decides what a ‘good’ market is? How are markets organized around these notions of ‘the good’? How do markets contribute to undermine or promote competing forms sand definitions of the ‘the common good’?

  • How do actors contest these conceptions of good at the core of a market’s socio-technical arrangements? How can they be equipped to propose alternative arrangements?

  • What is the critical performativity of the market studies researcher? How can we maintain a balance between describing and intervening? Is every description necessarily an intervention? If not, what does it mean to remain a detached observer, especially when it comes to contested or concerned markets?



  • Beunza, D., & Ferraro, F. (2019): “Performative Work: Bridging Performativity and Institutional Theory in the Responsible Investment Field.” Organization Studies, 40 (4), 515–543.
  • Cabantous, L., Gond, J.-P., Harding, N., & Learmonth, M. (2016): “Critical Essay: Reconsidering critical performativity.” Human Relations, 69 (2), 197–213.
  • Çalışkan, K., & Callon, M. (2010): “Economization, Part 2: A Research Programme for the Study of Markets.” Economy and Society, 39 (1), 1–32.
  • Callon, M. (1998): “Introduction: The embeddedness of economic markets in economics.” In: M. Callon (ed.): The Laws of the Markets. Oxford: Blackwell, 325–440.
  • Callon, M. (2017): L’emprise des marchés. Comprendre leur fonctionnement pour pouvoir les changer. Paris: La Découverte.
  • Callon, M., & Muniesa, F. (2005): “Peripheral Vision: Economic Markets as Calculative Collective Devices.” Organization Studies, 26 (8), 1229–1250.
  • de Bakker, F.G.A., den Hond, F., King, B., & Weber, K. (2013): “Social Movements, Civil Society and Corporations: Taking Stock and Looking Ahead.” Organization Studies, 34 (5–6), 573–593.
  • Dubuisson-Quellier, S. (2013): “A Market Mediation Strategy: How Social Movements Seek to Change Firms’ Practices by Promoting New Principles of Product Valuation.” Organization Studies, 34 (5–6), 683–703.
  • Esper, S.C., Cabantous, L., Barin-Cruz, L., & Gond, J.-P. (2017): “Supporting alternative organizations? Exploring scholars’ involvement in the performativity of worker-recuperated enterprises.” Organization, 24 (5), 671–699.
  • Finch, J., Geiger, S., & Reid, E. (2017): “Captured by technology? How material agency sustains interaction between regulators and industry actors.” Research Policy, 46 (1), 160–170.
  • Fligstein, N., & McAdam D. (2011): “Toward a general theory of strategic action fields.” Sociological Theory, 29 (1), 1–26.
  • Geiger, S., & Gross, N. (2018): “Market Failures and Market Framings: Can a market be transformed from the inside?” Organization Studies, 39 (10), 1357–1376.
  • Geiger, S., Harrison, D., Kjellberg, H., & Mallard, A. (eds.) (2014): Concerned Markets: Economic Ordering for Multiple Values. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.
  • Giamporcaro, S., & Gond, J.-P. (2016): “Calculability as Politics in the Construction of Markets: The Case of Socially Responsible Investment in France.” Organization Studies, 37 (4), 465–485.
  • Gond, J.-P., & Brès, L. (2019): “Designing the tools of the trade: How corporate social responsibility consultants and their tool-based practices created market shifts.” Organization Studies, in press.
  • Gond, J.-P., & Nyberg, D. (2017): “Materializing Power to Recover Corporate Social Responsibility.” Organization Studies, 38 (8), 1127–1148.
  • Hawkins, G. (2011): Packaging water: plastic bottles as market and public devices.” Economy and Society, 40 (4), 534–552.
  • Kish, Z., & Fairbairn, M. (2018): “Investing for profit, investing for impact: Moral performances in agricultural investment projects.” Environment and Planning A, 50 (3), 569–588.
  • Kornberger, M., Justesen, L., Madsen, A.K., & Mouritsen, J. (eds.) (2015): Making Things Valuable. Oxford: Oxford University Press, USA.
  • McKague, K., Zietsma, C., & Oliver, C. (2015): “Building the Social Structure of a Market.” Organization Studies, 36 (8), 1063–1093.
  • Marti, E., & Gond, J.-P. (2018): “When do theories become self-fulfilling? Exploring the boundary conditions of performativity.” Academy of Management Review, 43 (3), 1–22.
  • Palo, T., Mason, K., & Roscoe, P. (2018): “Performing a Myth to Make a Market: The construction of the ‘magical world’ of Santa.” Organization Studies, first published online on August 9, 2018;
  • Roscoe, P., & Chillas, S. (2014): “The state of affairs: critical performativity and the online dating industry.” Organization, 21( 6), 797–820.
  • Roscoe, P., & Townley, B. (2016): “Unsettling issues: valuing public goods and the production of matters of concern.” Journal of Cultural Economy, 9 (2), 121–126.
  • Roth, A.E. (2007): “The Art of Designing Markets.” Harvard Business Review, 85 (10), 118–126.
Susi Geiger is a Professor of Marketing & Market Studies in the College of Business, University College Dublin, Ireland. Her research focuses on how complex markets are organized, with specific interests in technology and healthcare markets. Susi has published numerous articles on this issue, including in ‘Organization Studies’, ‘Research Policy’, ‘Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice’, and ‘Marketing Theory’. She has edited several special issues for the community around the interdisciplinary research stream of market studies and was the lead editor of one influential book volume (Geiger et al., 2014). Susi is currently leading a Horizon 2020 ERC funded research project on “MISFIRES and Market Innovation”.
Philip Roscoe is a Reader in Management at the School of Management, University of St Andrews, United Kingdom. He is interested in markets and organizing and has published in leading sociology and management journals, including ‘Organization Studies’, ‘Economy and Society’, ‘Accounting Organizations and Society’, and ‘Organization’, with monographs published by Oxford University Press and Penguin.
Jean-Pascal Gond is (Chair) Professor of Corporate Social Responsibility at Cass Business School, City, University of London, United Kingdom, where he heads ETHOS – The Centre for Responsible Enterprise. His research mobilizes organization theory and economic sociology to investigate corporate social responsibility. His work is concerned with the relationships between theory and practice (performativity), the governance of self-regulation, and the interplay of society’s commodification and markets’ socialization. Jean-Pascal has published in academic outlets such as ‘Academy of Management Review’, ‘Business and Society’, ‘Business Ethics Quarterly’, ‘Economy and Society’, ‘Human Relations’, ‘Journal of Management’, ‘Journal of Management Studies’, ‘Organization’, ‘Organization Science’, and ‘Organization Studies’.