1st Edition

Perspectives from Economic and Social Theory

ISBN 9781138936843
Published May 8, 2019 by Routledge
266 Pages 14 B/W Illustrations

USD $46.95

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Book Description

Defining markets has never been an easy task. Despite their importance for economic theory and practice, they are hard to pin down as a concept and economists have tended to adopt simplified axiomatic models or rely on piecemeal case studies. This book argues that an extended range of theory, social as well as economic, can provide a better foundation for the portrayal of markets.

The book first looks at the definition of markets, their inadequate treatment in orthodox economic theory, and their historical background in the pre-capitalist and capitalist eras. It then assesses various alternatives to orthodox theory, categorised as social/cultural, structural, functional and ethical approaches. Among the alternatives considered are institutionalist accounts, Marxian views, network models, performativity arguments, field theories, Austrian views and ethical notions of fair trade. A key finding of the book is that these diverse approaches, valuable as they are, could present a more effective challenge to orthodoxy if they were less disparate. Possibilities are investigated for a more unified theoretical alternative to orthodoxy.

Unlike most studies of markets, this book adopts a fully interdisciplinary viewpoint expressed in accessible, non-technical language. Ideas are brought together from heterodox economics, social theory, critical realism, as well as other social sciences such as sociology, anthropology and geography. Anybody seeking a broad critical survey of the theoretical analysis of markets will find this book useful and it will be of great interest to economists, social scientists, students and policy-makers.

Table of Contents

List of figures

List of tables


Part I: What are markets?

1 Defining markets

2 The orthodox approach

Part II: Historical background

3 Markets before capitalism4 Markets under capitalism

Part III: Alternative perspectives on markets

5 Social and cultural approaches

6 Structural approaches

7 Functional approaches

8 Ethical approaches

Part IV: Variety and context

9 The diversity of markets

10 Markets within the total economy



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William A. Jackson is Lecturer in Economics at the University of York, UK.


"For something that is increasingly shaping everybody’s lives so profoundly, a market is surprisingly ill-understood. William Jackson provides as thorough an account and understanding of the key, yet elusive idea of a ‘market’ as has been seen in many years. This treasure of a book is likely to dominate the discussion about markets for years to come." Wilfred Dolfsma, Professor of Business Management & Organisation at Wageningen University, The Netherlands

"Whatever markets are, two things are clear: mainstream economists cannot theorise them adequately, and any adequate theorisation must be multi-disciplinary. Unfortunately, mainstream economists fail to alert their audience to these things. William provides critics from inside and outside the discipline with the intellectual resources to reject mainstream theories of markets and make a start developing alternatives." Steve Fleetwood, Emeritus Professor, University of the West of England

"Jackson’s excellent new book provides a comprehensive appraisal of how economists and social scientists have explained markets. Critical of the narrow neoclassical approach, it emphasizes the diversity of markets in the real world, and argues a layered, non-reductionist social theory attentive to social and cultural factors offering a better framework for a heterodox view of markets." John B. Davis, Professor Emeritus of Economics, Marquette University, and Professor Emeritus of Economics, University of Amsterdam