Market Threads: How Cotton Farmers and Traders Create a Global Commodity

Market Threads: How Cotton Farmers and Traders Create a Global Commodity

Market Threads: How Cotton Farmers and Traders Create a Global Commodity

Market Threads: How Cotton Farmers and Traders Create a Global Commodity

Synopsis

What is a global market? How does it work? At a time when new crises in world markets cannot be satisfactorily resolved through old ideas, Market Threads presents a detailed analysis of the international cotton trade and argues for a novel and groundbreaking understanding of global markets. The book examines the arrangements, institutions, and power relations on which cotton trading and production depend, and provides an alternative approach to the analysis of pricing mechanisms.


Drawing upon research from such diverse places as the New York Board of Trade and the Turkish and Egyptian countrysides, the book explores how market agents from peasants to global merchants negotiate, accept, reject, resist, reproduce, understand, and misunderstand a global market. The book demonstrates that policymakers and researchers must focus on the specific practices of market maintenance in order to know how they operate. Markets do not simply emerge as a relationship among self-interested buyers and sellers, governed by appropriate economic institutions. Nor are they just social networks embedded in wider economic social structures. Rather, global markets are maintained through daily interventions, the production of prosthetic prices, and the waging of struggles among those who produce and exchange commodities. The book illustrates the crucial consequences that these ideas have on economic reform projects and market studies.


Spanning a variety of disciplines, Market Threads offers an original look at the world commodity trade and revises prevailing explanations for how markets work.

Excerpt

We live in the age of the market without knowing how and whether it works. Market Threads addresses this puzzle at a time when new crises in world markets cannot be managed with old ideas. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, two hegemonic approaches govern our consideration of markets. the neoclassical hegemony insists that the market is a mechanism that draws on universal economic rationality. the free market reforms of the last quarter-century were inspired by this observation. On the other hand, the institutionalist hegemony argues that the market is embedded in society and calls for the study of the conditions making markets possible. This book argues that neither can fully grasp how markets work on the ground.

Since the 1980s, an increasing number of market studies has challenged the terms of the neoclassical and institutionalist debate, giving birth to a novel theoretical and empirical approach. By drawing on new directions of research on the market, Market Threads explores a simple question: What is a global market? Drawing on the production and trading of cotton, a global commodity that connects the three major economic activities in the world—industry, services, and agriculture—I examine how the world cotton market is produced and maintained on the ground. This book presents a detailed analysis of the arrangements, institutions, calculative devices, power relations, and forces on which the production and circulation of cotton depend. It starts by examining the mechanisms that make it possible to produce global, regional, and local spot, options, and futures prices. It then traces the circulation of cotton, exploring how it crosses various borders. Lastly, it examines how cotton is grown, studying the struggles of humans and nonhumans to control it in the countryside.

Market Threads deviates from the understanding of markets prevailing in both political economy and economic sociology. Markets do not just emerge as a relationship among self-interested buyers and sellers, governed by appropriate economic institutions. Nor are they to be understood as networks embedded in wider social structures. They are relations of power maintained every day by constant interventions; the production of mercantile tools such as prosthetic, associate, and rehearsal prices; and the waging of various forms of struggle among market actors. This book shows that researchers and policy-makers must focus on the specific practices of price realization and market-making and maintenance in order to understand the conditions of the vast majority of the global . . .

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