Chapter 1: Value work in markets: configuring values, organizing markets
Why are certain commodities, like gambling or prostitution, illegal in one country and legal in another? Why are certain markets, like those of prison services or pharmaceutical retail, privatized while others remain in the hands of state monopolies? Why do certain commodities, like coal and alcohol, continue to be openly contested for centuries although for very different reasons in different time periods, while other commodities, like personal insurance and certification, are far less frequently struck by conflicts? In this volume, we provide both an analytical framework and a number of case studies which suggest that, in order to answer the questions above, we must look further into the processes and consequences of value work. We define values as criteria that direct our actions to that which we perceive as important, meaningful, desirable or worthwhile (Suchman 1995; Graeber 2005). We define value work as attempts to influence the value set-up of a market and/or to influence the ways in which different market values are configured, in the sense of arranged or ordered. And by organization of markets, we mean the addition of elements of organization such as regulation, sanctions, supervision, hierarchy and membership (Ahrne and Brunsson 2011). The empirical case studies drawn upon in this volume help to demonstrate how the plurality of market values at stake in a market often poses great challenges to sellers and buyers, to other market organizers, and to the wider society.
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