Contesting Markets: Analyses of Ideology, Discourse and Practice

By Roy Dilly | Go to book overview
ships, one partner sets the price ( Acheson 1985; Finan 1988). Note also that in one of these examples it is the buyer who is most powerful, in the other the seller. Fanselow assertion ( 1990:251) that there is a general information asymmetry in bazaar economics 'between the seller, who passes on something uncertain in return for something certain [money] and the buyer, who does the reverse' is ethnographically unsound for other reasons as well: in many situations goods are not traded for cash but for a promise to pay.
15.
Compare Fanselow ( 1990:253): 'The introduction of brand names moves competition from the relationship between buyer and seller to the relationship between sellers, because buyers are consistently able to identify the provenance and quality of a good and therefore exercise choice between different products'.
16
'Since consumers learn by experience, they will discover, as time elapses, which shops persistently have low prices. For price dispersion to persist, it is necessary that the price image of a shop be blurred over time' ( Phlips 1988:14).
17.
Societies in which hierarchically organised firms, of whatever size, operate alongside peasant traders, confirm this point. In Sierra Leone, Issacs ( 1981:361) found

'a pronounced difference between shopkeepers and hawkers. Price competition among the latter takes the form of retail price differentials, whereas among the former it is evidenced in the very strong tendency toward retail price equalisation, even among firms that obtain a commodity at widely varying wholesale prices.'

Similar findings have been reported for Java ( Geertz 1963) and the Philippines ( Dannhaeuser 1983).

18.
Their most striking features are the absence of bargaining, lack of apparent competition among sellers and uniform and largely inflexible prices. . . . In their demeanour both buyers and sellers assume that the advantage lies with the seller -- buyers are free to purchase or not at the seller's set terms of trade. ( Modjeska 1985:156) This is not a description of a Western shopping mall, but a producer market in Papua New Guinea.
19.
At least one of the contributors to this literature is sceptical of its value: 'Too much recent research effort in auctions has been simply applying the latest techniques . . . to ever more complicated models; too little has been devoted to the very real and important economic questions that auctions raise ( Milgrom 1985:261). Five years later there had evidently been no progress on one of the questions he raises: the comparison of alternative modes of transaction. See also Ashenfelter ( 1989).
20.
As Geertz ( 1979:263) points out, 'the notion that supply elasticities of time are very high in the bazaar . . . could hardly be more wrong'.
21.
Nor do the larger firms permit true bargaining; price-setting usually involves negotiations within a graded series of discounts.
22.
For a convincing demonstration that the rational strategy for a firm is to set prices high and adjust them downwards, see Lazear ( 1986).
23.
For a social-psychological discussion of attitudes to the pricing system which mainly indicates how little is known, see Frey ( 1986). For a discussion of some of the problems in writing an ethnography of economic systems see Marcus and Fischer ( 1986:90-95).

REFERENCES

Acheson J. 1985. "'Social Organisation of the Maine Lobster Market'", in S. Plattner (ed.), op cit., pp. 105-132.

Akerlof G. A. 1970. "'The Market for Lemons: Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism'", Quarterly Journal of Economics, 84:488-500.

-93-

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