Configuring Value Conflicts in Markets

Configuring Value Conflicts in Markets

Edited by Susanna Alexius and Kristina Tamm Hallström

Based on fourteen empirical case studies, this far-reaching book explains why and how markets are organized, through examining the role of values and value work in markets.

Chapter 10: Contestation in transition: value configurations and market reform in the markets for gambling, coal and alcohol

Susanna Alexius, Martin Rosenström and Daniel Castillo

Subjects: business and management, organisation studies, social policy and sociology, sociology and sociological theory


Commodities are not essentially or naturally contested. They move back and forth across moral and legal boundaries in response to social forces such as technological change, the mobilization of interest groups, or the efforts of moral entrepreneurs (Fourcade and Healy 2007: 22). Contestation of commodities is thus a political outcome of continuous negotiation and value-laden power struggles, debates and reforms involving a wide range of market organizers. The purpose of this chapter is to scrutinize value conflict underpinnings of contested commodities to contribute to our understanding of how and why the contestation of some commodities is sustained over extended periods of time. In order to investigate this question, we turn our attention to three contested commodities: gambling, coal and alcohol. This chapter draws empirically on a comparative historical study of value discourse and organization from the 1800s onward in the Swedish markets for gambling, coal and alcohol (Alexius et al. 2011). In that study, we found that the three commodities, although contested for centuries, had been so for different reasons in different time periods (see Tables 10.1-10.3 below). In the theoretical language of this volume-it clearly mattered to the organization of these markets that the underlying value conflicts had been actively reconfigured. In this chapter, we illustrate and elaborate on these findings and specifically aim to contribute to the conceptualization of value conflict reconfiguration and its implications for market organization.

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