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The Social Order of Markets


Beckert,  Jens
Soziologie des Marktes, MPI for the Study of Societies, Max Planck Society;

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Beckert, J. (2009). The Social Order of Markets. Theory and Society, 38(3), 245-269. doi:10.1007/s11186-008-9082-0.

In this article I develop a proposal for the theoretical vantage point of the sociology of markets, focusing on the problem of the social order of markets. The initial premise is that markets are highly demanding arenas of social interaction, which can only operate if three inevitable coordination problems are resolved. I define these coordination problems as the value problem, the problem of competition and the cooperation problem. I argue that these problems can only be resolved based on stable reciprocal expectations on the part of market actors, which have their basis in the socio-structural, institutional and cultural embedding of markets. The sociology of markets aims to investigate how market action is structured by these macrostructures and to examine their dynamic processes of change. While the focus of economic sociology has been primarily on the stability of markets and the reproduction of firms, the conceptualization developed here brings change and profit motives more forcefully into the analysis. It also differs from the focus of the new economic sociology on the supply side of markets, by emphasizing the role of demand for the order of markets, especially in the discussion of the problems of valuation and cooperation.