Wednesday, August 18, 2010

“…what if we were to treat prices as artifacts? Not simply as artifacts of the market mechanism, but as technological artifacts, brought about by men and women working together to make prices a real thing? What if we shifted our analytical focus from the meaning (social, symbolic, cultural) of prices to the technologies, which sustain the price system? And what if we analyzed these technologies for what they stand for –e.g. what is the price system supposed to achieve? What makes it legitimate or acceptable? (Muniesa 2000)…Treating prices not as things, but as technologies, brings us back to a point first raised, perhaps, by Karl Polanyi (1944) in his critique of nineteenth century market society but powerfully extended by Callon (e.g., 1998, 2007) in his analysis of the “embeddedness of economic markets in economics.” The real power of economics, Callon argues, is ontological –it is the power to “economicize” the material world through the imposition of a legitimate language and the proliferation of “calculative agencies.” Economics produces (performs) a world (an economy) in which calculability is a key cultural competence, thereby reinforcing the applicability and performative power of economics itself. Furthermore, this back-and-forth movement between economy and economics is itself constitutive of the stable economic objects that we call “markets” or “prices”.”

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