Culture in Mind: Toward a Sociology of Culture and Cognition

By Karen A. Cerulo | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6

Cognition in Social Constructions

MARKET RIVALRY PROFILE VERSUS COST SCHEDULE

Harrison C. White

Cognitive habits are the drive-train of any social vehicle. They leave traces in sociocultural patterns that come out of social constructions, which shape those very habits, which have become visible only through social enactment. Let us take production markets as the social constructions. We begin with signaling, move on to sketch the whole market mechanism, and end with economic theorists’ denial of markets in favor of optimal cost schedules contrived in their own minds. We look to participants’ minds.


Production Markets as Signaling Mechanisms

Production markets evolve as signaling mechanisms. Each market spreads the risks and uncertainties in successive commitments made by its producers, even as these producers continue to eye one another. 1 Each producer is seeking a footing, looking to and at a market profile across his or her set of commitments; call it a rivalry profile. Repeated enactment of this profile of choices makes it into a signaling mechanism that is jointly constructed as well as recognized in those very choices—a market as social construction.

Any rivalry requires a basis in and indeed generates comparability. Rivalry in a production market depends on the emergence of an observable ordering by quality

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