Conference announcement: value, worth and valuation

February 5, 2010

I recently got an email from Juliane Reinecke, announcing a workshop that should be of close interest to readers of this blog. It is organized by the CRASSH group in Cambridge.

According to the organizers,

The purpose of the workshop is to debate the notions of value, worth and valuation from different disciplinary perspectives. This wants to examine philosophical, anthropological, sociological and political approaches to the question what value is, or what value should be and how it is interlinked processes of valuation and the attribution of worth. The main focus is theoretical; and its consequences possibly political. What are the effects of the domination of commodity values? What are alternative ways of thinking about value? And is there politically progressive potential in rethinking mechanisms of valuation and its underlying concepts that determine what is valuable, rational and legitimate?

Value is a key notion in exchange and few would disagreement with the claim that the “[m]arket has emerged as the most politically significant institution of valuation in the world today” (Gregory, 1997, p. 16). On the market, economic value is revealed through consumers’ subjective preferences. But value does not remain a purely economic concept, but is interlinked with notions of social worth. Individuals, organizations and whole nations are evaluated in terms of their capacity to create value.
Orthodox economists and business scholars devote their disciplinary energies to decipher the conundrum of value creation. But what is value and why is something valued? What does economic value mean in terms of individual lives and human flourishing? Against the neo-classical paradigm of rationality, new sociological approaches emphasize that what is seen as valuable, rational or legitimate is constituted by cultural norms (Meyer and Rowan, 1977), or economies of worth which allow for a plurality of
value spheres with their own valuation mechanisms (Boltanski and Thévenot, 2006[1991]). Citing Dewey, David Stark draws attention to the double meanings that words of economic value and social worth have in ordinary speech: “praise, prize and price are all derived from the same Latin word; that appreciate and appraise were once used inter-changeably” (Dewey in
Stark, 2009).


10.30 – 11.00 am

11.00 – 11.15 am

Welcome and Introduction
11.15 am- 1.00
Session 1: Brand Value and Value Consumption
“Kitchen tool or piece of art? Symbolic value and the design of product
Davide Ravasi, Department of Management, Università Bocconi
“Brand Valuation” (Title TBA)
Celia Lury, Sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London, Liz Moor
Department of Media and Communications, Goldsmiths,
University of London

1.00 – 2.00 pm
Lunch break

2.00 – 4.00 pm
Session 2: Anthropological Approaches: Value and its Other
“Value versus Debt – a possibly false antinomy for contemporary social

David Graeber, Department of Anthropology Goldsmiths, University of London
What is in the plastic bag? Value and the informal economy of

Umut Yildirim, Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge
Capitalism and its Other: value, economy and religion in a Swazi
Pentecostal business town

Vito Laterza, Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge

4.00 – 4.15 pm
Tea break

4.15 – 6.00 pm
Session 3: Economic Sociology of Valuation Systems

Ethical Economy. A Theory of value for the information society”, or
less ambitiously, “Ethics and value in the information economy
Adam Arvidsson, Department of Social and Political Studies, University of Milan
After the New Economy: Value, primitive accumulation and the global
division of labour

Chris Land, Institute of Management, University of St Gallen / Essex Business School,
University of Essex
& Steffen Böhm, Essex Business School, University of Essex

6.00 – 6.15 pm

2 Responses to “Conference announcement: value, worth and valuation”

  1. David Graeber Says:

    hey, that’s March 5
    not February 5
    you guys scared me half to death – I thought I’d missed my own panel!

  2. danielbeunza Says:

    David, this is funny. February 5th is the date in which the text was posted, i.e., yesterday.

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