250 pages | 14 B/W Illus.
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.
"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 views of markets." John B. Davis, Professor emeritus of economics, Marquette University, and Professor emeritus of economics, University of Amsterdam
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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
Social Theory is experiencing something of a revival within economics. Critical analyses of the particular nature of the subject matter of social studies and of the types of method, categories and modes of explanation that can legitimately be endorsed for the scientific study of social objects, are re-emerging. Economists are again addressing such issues as the relationship between agency and structure, between economy and the rest of society, and between the enquirer and the object of enquiry. There is a renewed interest in elaborating basic categories such as causation, competition, culture, discrimination, evolution, money, need, order, organization, power probability, process, rationality, technology, time, truth, uncertainty, value etc.
The objective for this series is to facilitate this revival further. In contemporary economics the label “theory” has been appropriated by a group that confines itself to largely asocial, ahistorical, mathematical “modelling”. Economics as Social Theory thus reclaims the “Theory” label, offering a platform for alternative rigorous, but broader and more critical conceptions of theorizing.