Making Markets: An Interdisciplinary Perspective on Economic Exchange

Making Markets: An Interdisciplinary Perspective on Economic Exchange

Making Markets: An Interdisciplinary Perspective on Economic Exchange

Making Markets: An Interdisciplinary Perspective on Economic Exchange

Synopsis

This book considers the social and economic arrangements that would be necessary for rational mechanisms of exchange and distribution to emerge, function, and remain viable if extreme conditions produced an absence or the severe disruption of an institutional infrastructure and resource endowments. Written by an economist, a sociologist, and an anthropologist, the study confronts such radical circumstances from an interdisciplinary perspective. At one level, the book discusses the kinds of market structures that would be viable under different socioeconomic conditions. At another level, the analysis questions monolithic approaches to applied economic analysis and policy based on what works under existing conditions.

Excerpt

The question underlying this book is, "What is a market?" That the question seems banal may be why we were unable to find a satisfactory definition of the market in the social science literature. the definitions available to us from the disciplines of economics, anthropology, and sociology were either so general as to include all exchange or so specific that they excluded activities typically thought characteristic of markets. If the market, based on the interplay of individual buyers' and sellers' self-interested decisions, is the best way to distribute goods and services, and the collapse of centrally planned systems in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union seems to confirm this, then it is not unreasonable to expect social scientists to provide an adequate general definition of the market process. Oddly, in all of the invective among anthropologists, economists, and sociologists on the topic of economic exchange, no one has criticized the others for this failing. Before we attempt to redress the lack of an adequate definition of the market and to flesh out its various manifestations, it is worth dwelling for a moment on the view of markets traditionally taken by each of the three disciplines and the criticisms that economics, anthropology, and sociology have leveled at one another.

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