Oslo Summer School in Comparative Social Science Studies 2008


Markets as Social Formations

Lecturer: Associate Professor Patrik Aspers,
Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, Germany,
and Stockholm University, Sweden

Main disciplines: Sociology, Anthropology, Economics

Dates: 28 July - 1 August 2008
Course Credits: 10 pts (ECTS)
Limitation: 30 participants


Objectives
This course addresses markets from a broad social science perspective. It analyses the construction of markets, ethics in relation to markets, as well as their consequences. The course aims to give participants knowledge and tools for understanding markets as social formations. The course will show, by analyzing markets in detail, that the different kinds of markets can be seen as instances of more generally existing social formations. This enables us to discuss the border between what the economy is, and what it is not. Markets are located in what we call the economy. It is one of the three ways to organize social life, in addition to hierarchy and networks. Markets are embedded in each other, which means that we can talk of market systems, and in the wider social context. Today, markets have become the most central institution in the economy. It is the largest area within economic sociology, and the interest for markets is also growing among anthropologists. The course gives a historical overview of markets, though the focus is on contemporary markets. During this course central and often classical theoretical and empirical works, drawing on sociology, anthropology as well as economics, will be presented. Global markets, for example in the garment industry, markets in cultural industries, such as markets for fashion, financial markets, labor markets, auctions, as well as bazaars, are examples of concrete empirical cases that will be discussed.

 

What will course participants learn?
After the course, participants will have knowledge of the existing literature on markets, including the central questions and debates. Students will be able to:


Essential Book to Purchase and Read


Complete Lecture Outline and Readings

Lecture 1: Introduction and Overview
The aim of this lecture is to position the course in the landscape of contemporary social science. Markets are discussed in relation to other social sciences and of course in relation to contemporary societies. This also means to situate the notion of market in economic sociology. A tentative definition is introduced.

Readings:


Lecture 2: Identifying Social Units among Hierarchies, Networks and Markets
The aim of this lecture is to address the question of the units of analysis in the social sciences, and to position markets in relation to other forms of social organization. This lecture discusses central coordination problems that market solve, and how this is done.

Readings:


Lecture 3: Markets in Society over Time
The aim of this lecture is to discuss the emergence and history of markets.

Readings:


Lecture 4: Markets as Contested Social Formations
The aim of this lecture is to analyze the social and ethical arguments of market in society. Labor markets will be discussed.

Readings:


Lecture 5: Market Components and Kinds of Markets
The aim of this lecture is to discuss components of markets and how they are interrelated.

Readings:



Lecture 6: Switch Role Markets
The aim of this lecture is to study the most classical form of market, which is represented in economics textbooks, and mapped on the stock exchange. Sociologists’ studies in this kind of market in which actors switch roles between being buyers and sellers is discussed. The idea of performativity of markets is covered.

Readings:


Lecture 7: Producer Markets
The aim of this lecture is to discuss the most common form of markets based on Harrison White’s market model. Most labor markets fall under this category of market.

Readings:


Lecture 8: The Embededdness of Markets
The aim of this lecture is to analyze how markets are embedded in society.

Readings:


Lecture 9: Emergence of Markets
The aim of this lecture is to discuss emergence of markets. Though all markets of course have a history, it is less clear how this happen, and both organized and non-organized market emergence is discussed.

Readings:


Lecture 10: Markets as Social Formations
The aim of this combined lecture and general discussion is to sum up the course, and together with course participants identify areas of future research.

Readings:



Complete Syllabus Reading List (903 pages)



The Lecturer
Patrik Aspers is Researcher at Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies in Cologne, Germany. He also works at Department of Sociology, Stockholm University, from where he has a Ph.D. (2001). He has been visiting scholar at, for example, London School of Economics, Harvard University and Columbia University. He has published on economic sociology, especially markets, sociological theory and different thinkers such as Friedrich Nietzsche and Alfred Marshall.

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