New Workshop. “Politics of markets: controversies, tools and policies”

April 3, 2009

Planned one-day workshop, accompanying the American Sociological Association 2009 annual meeting. August 7th, 2009. University of California, Berkeley

Organizers: Daniel Beunza (Columbia University), Yuval Millo (London School of Economics), Marion Fourcade (University of California, Berkeley) and Fabrizio Ferraro (IESE Business School).

Economic sociology has a long and distinguished tradition that analyzes markets as “embedded” in political institutions and culture –from micro-level regulatory frameworks to national development projects. However, in recent years, new approaches have evolved that identify and situate politics at the ground level of markets. These approaches increasingly recognize that all actors –politicians and public officials, experts (economists, accountants, IT people), financial institutions, consumers, workers, marketing firms, to name but a few — take an active part in the shaping of markets. In this conference, we will focus on the complex, dynamic interfaces that connect markets and ‘the political’. We will consider primarily papers that show how politics interact and mediate, rather than substitute, the sphere of the market.

Confirmed presenters include Neil Fligstein (keynote), Daniel Beunza, Kieran Healy, Joon Nak Choi, Fabrizio Ferraro, Marion Fourcade, Yuval Milo, Jan Simon, Dani Lainer-Vos, Caitlin Zaloom. Confirmed discussants include Mark Mizruchi and Stephen Barley.

We identify three promising themes.

The politics of valuation. Whereas economics regards markets as self-regulating barometers of value, economic sociology looks at markets as forums for controversies over value. Controversies are a fundamental element of politics (in its more contentious manifestations, as well as otherwise), but they also are the lifeblood of financial valuation, as the presentation and resolve of contrasting opinions is the fundamental process that drives activity and liquidity. Some examples of this include consumer activism, socially responsible investment, activist hedge funds, and even value investment or the work of securities analysts. Here, economic sociology can offer a novel and sophisticated view that ties together social movements and Wall Street investors, or public choice and consumer choice. In this vein, we are calling for papers that focus on controversies and conflicts within markets, and examine the relationship between such events and market structure and behaviour.

Politics of market design. The institutional design of markets has pivotal influence on market outcomes, not least because underlying political motivations become embedded into the infrastructure of markets. Examples of this include securitization, government rescue of failing banks, the use of game theory in auction design, or the determination of property rights in science. Yet, in spite of the centrality of this dimension, the study of market design has been virtually neglected in economic sociology. We call for papers that analyse the effects that market and product design have on the shape and behaviour of markets.

The marketization of public policy. In the last two decades, we have witnessed that markets play an increasingly important role in enacting public policy. This includes, among others, the rise of mortgage finance, the development of green energies or the health care industry. What are the effects that the increasing reliance on markets has on the political system? We are calling for papers that analyse governmental projects or long-term policies (local, national or trans-national), their connections with markets, and the political outcomes that emerge as a result.

For more information and registration, please contact Daniel Beunza at

3 Responses to “New Workshop. “Politics of markets: controversies, tools and policies””

  1. Craig Says:

    This looks promising. I’m looking forward to this!

  2. Michele Rossi Says:

    Fascinating. May I encourage undergraduates to attend panels? We’ve been having a blast in Classical Theories of Political Economy this semester.

  3. danielbeunza Says:

    Hello Michele — thanks for the encouragement. Let me get back to you on that one. We have already received an extraordinary level of interest from the faculty/graduate student side, and we don’t want to run out of space!

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