Theory, Reality, and Performativity in Markets
20 Pages Posted: 8 Dec 2007
The purpose of this article is to analyze the relation between scientific knowledge in the form of theories and the world that such theories are about. The focus is on market theories. I argue that everyday knowledge, conceptualized using the notion of lifeworld, is the bedrock of scientific knowledge. I also make two distinctions, one between types of markets and one between principles of order in markets. There are two different types of markets, fixed-role markets and switch-role markets, and no existing theory can be used to explain both of them. In fixed-role markets, such as a producer market of garments, actors are identified as either sellers or buyers. In switch-role markets, such as the stock exchange market or currency market, actors are not identified with one role. The other distinction is between standard and status markets. In a status market, order is maintained because the identities of actors on both sides of the market are ranked according to status, which is a more entrenched social construction than the commodity traded in the market. In a market characterized by standards, the situation is reversed: the commodity is a more entrenched social construction than the social status of actors in the market. These distinctions are the backdrop of my analysis of the idea that markets are performed. It is concluded that the performativity approach is useful today for analyzing switch-role markets. A further conclusion is that neoclassical economic theory can be used in understanding switch-role markets, but not fixed-role markets.
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