This edited collection of essays is based on a selection of papers presented at a conference entitled 'The Notion of the Market in Social Anthropological and Sociological Perspective' held at the University of St Andrews in early January 1991. This meeting was the fifth in a series of occasional conferences organised by members of the University's Social Anthropology unit. While most of those attending this conference were social anthropologists, also included were sociologists, political scientists, historians and economists. Given the significance and scope of the subject it seemed appropriate to include other disciplines at the meeting, and this collection of essays broadly encompasses that interdisciplinary intent. Whilst over twenty papers were read at the conference, unfortunately only a selection of these are published here due to the constraints of space. The success of the conference as a whole rests with all the participants, the excellence of their many contributions, and the convivial and relaxed atmosphere they helped to create.
As convenor, it falls to me to thank, on behalf of the participants, the University of St Andrews and its Principal for providing facilities to host the conference, as well as the University's Arts and Divinity Research Committee for providing initial financial support in the form of a conference guarantee. I also gratefully acknowledge the generous financial support given to the conference by the British Academy, Economic and Social Research Council (Award No. Y318263003), Nuffield Foundation, Royal Anthropological Institute and Fritz Thyssen Foundation ( Germany), all of which provided grants to attract a distinguished and international group of scholars.
The conference focused on the subject of 'the market' -- that key term of political and economic debate in Europe and America during the 1980s. This debate crystallised not just around the market concept in itself, but also concerned its scope of application to increasing areas of the lives of all the members of a globalising world economic system. Indeed, the scope of its application was extended to non-western societies by international agencies and development policies under the control of western interests. The encompassing power of market discourse -- its pretensions to encompass the totality of social processes -- lies at the heart of the matter. The ideological charge that the market carries is obvious to anyone who has an opinion on current affairs. Thus, the conference called for an examination of the historical and sociological contexts in which market discourses emerge and the ways in which those discourses are deployed. For if the market as a concept is a product of European and