Sociological analysis of markets

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A number of research projects at the CSO use a sociological analysis of markets and market relations. This research has been conducted from a number of different perspectives, all the way from quality to cost assessment. Several different fields have also been treated: the academic, historical music, and foodstuffs market, to name just a few.

The laboratory currently wishes to conduct a theoretical evaluation of markets, which would allow it to capitalize on many different projects from the past, present, and future. Four unique perspectives are envisaged: the socio-economics of labor markets, a sociological analysis of the consumer, organizational forms of economic life, and the question of quality as it is linked to different forms of regulation.

* Intermediation on the Labor Market

The goal of Emmanuelle Marchal's research, since her arrival at the CSO in 2008, has been to show the scope of intermediation activities on the labor market, and thus fill the knowledge gaps in two domains which are usually studied separately: recruitment channels (e.g. networks of relationships to the internet, as well as private and public intermediaries), and the applicants' assessment (selection methods). In the wake of research in the fields of economic sociology and the economics of convention, she is focusing on the way the quality of supply and demand is defined, and the variety of norms and devices which allow coordination and evaluation on the labor markets.

This point of view makes it possible to critically assess intermediation activities, discuss their exclusionary effects, and reevaluate discrimination. The latter is seen as the result of “pre-judgments” made about people outside any professional context.
This research will culminate in a work to appear in early 2010.
- Click here for more information [PDF]

Didier Demazière and Morgan Jouvenet (Printemps laboratory) launched a research project focused on the ways in which sports labor markets are organized. This study specifically looks at professional football sports agents, who act as intermediaries between employing clubs and players. These agents, who have reinforced their role over the last few decades, are an ideal starting point to analyze the functioning “by projects” of a professional world in which careers are subject to the principle of rapid mobility between employers. This analysis shows to what extent the intermediation provided by sports agents involves not just transfer negotiations, but also a more day-to-day service of advice and guidance for the players. The goal of this research is to shed light on the creation of an “intermediary” profession, by looking at agents' concrete practices, access to this field, and underlying conduct regulations and professional models.

Further CSO research looks at labor markets from the angle of goods markets. Notably, Pierre François works on music and art critics (presented in the research program “Artists, Institutions, and Cultural Policy”) and Christine Musselin researches academic labor markets (presented in the research program "Higher Education and Research").

* Organizational Forms of Economic Life

===) The Sociology of Markets

Pierre François defended his sociology habilitation thesis (post-doctoral accreditation) in June of 2008 titled "Sociologie du marché - Une hypothèse wébérienne".

This thesis gave an overview of the sociological literature devoted to markets.
Subsequently, this thesis took the form of a textbook: "Sociologie des marchés", published in September of 2008 in the collection “U” from Armand Colin.

The goal of this work was to present research devoted to the sociological analysis of markets, as well as historical and anthropological studies. He also references the dialogue in this field between sociologists and economists.

- Read an interview with Pierre François

===) The Origins and Effectiveness of Certification

A collective work, under the direction of Pierre François, will be published in 2009.This work will include texts on the origins of economic institutions, written for CSO seminars over the last three years. These seminars brought together a number of individuals of note, including P. Barraud de Lagerie, C. Champenois, P.-M. Chauvin, B. Cret, Y. Dalla Pria, S. Dubuisson-Quellier, C. Musselin, C. Ollivier and D. Segrestin.

The proposals included in this work deal with two crucial questions that tend to be overlooked by sociological work on economic institutions. How should we apprehend the origins of economic institutions? How does a proper noun, a principle, a judgment criterion, or a proposal acquire the force necessary to influence a large number of individuals, even though it is often in competition with others?

In some markets, a given name or brand is truly effective, at least for some of the actors concerned. In other markets, e.g. art markets, however, the effect of brands or labels is much less certain.

The authors aim to understand why certain names are effective and not others.

===) Organizational forms of economic life

Open source software is distributed with its source code (understandable to the common mortal), and with it comes the authorization to change and redistribute it freely, which makes this software radically different from private or proprietary software. This legal specificity implies de facto that this software be freely available, usable, and distributable by all – its price is thus essentially zero. As such, open source software is a crustallization of hybrid forms of economic activity which combines production based on the participation of volunteer participants in project communities, marketing of installation and product adaptation services for the specific needs of firms, and growing support from government, which promotes this product as it is seemingly a public good par excellence.

The interaction between these three different rationales is at the heart of research on groups of open source software developers, carried out by Didier Demazière in collaboration with François Horn (Clersé, Lille) and Marc Zune (Girsef, Louvain).

===) International comparison of unemployment

Unemployment is a statistical category often used in international comparisons, particularly because stable measurement methods have been established to evaluate unemployment rates and look at their characteristics. A comparative study by Didier Demazière in collaboration with Nadya Guimaraes (University of Sao Paulo), Helena Hirata (Cresppa, Paris) and Kurumi Sugita (IAO, Lyon), looks at this transnational codification in order to carry out a comparative analysis of the lived meaning of unemployment in three institutional and normative contexts (the metropolises of Paris, Sao Paulo, and Tokyo). This study looks at the diversity of subjective meanings attributed to this condition, analyzes the similarities and differences between different contexts, proposes an interpretation of these variations as remnants of differences in unemployment institutionalization, codification, and categorization. Since this study focuses on subjective interpretations of an institutional category, this comparative and comprehensive perspective finally makes it possible to reinforce the theoretical status of lived experience; its role in international comparisons is often secondary or marginal.

* A Sociological Analysis of the Consumer

Economic Sociology is primarily interested in, on the one hand, producers and firms, and on the other hand, trade relations. In this way, the consumer is only evaluated from the perspective of the way he/she is portrayed in different productive spaces or how these portrayals are incorporated in market intermediation mechanisms. This is why it is important to try new methodologies for studying the actions of consumers in markets.

===) Governing Consumer Behavior

The behavior of a given consumer seems to currently be the autonomous expression of personal choices, which are nonetheless influenced by a growing number of public action mechanisms. Current policies aim, on the one hand, to influence consumption in order to limit its negative effects on the community, and on the other hand, to encourage practices which will have positive effects on the community.

In this perspective, Sophie Dubuisson-Quellier is conducting a two-year research project financed by the ANR (French National Research Agency), which she began in January of 2009: "Gouverner les conduites des consommateurs : les cas contrastés de la lutte contre l’obésité et de la consommation durable". The other researchers participating in this work are Henri Bergeron and Patrick Castel (who are both part of the Healthcare research program at the CSO), as well as Séverine Gojard, Faustine Régnier (ALISS, INRA), Sandrine Barrey and Roland Canu (CERTOP, Université Toulouse-Le Mirail).

This research team will look at different forms of collective monitoring of consumer behavior by asking three primary questions: What are the tools used for this form of governance? What are the means available for governing individual behaviors? What can we learn about these means of governing by analyzing individual behaviors?

===) Consumer Behavior in a Purchase Situation

In the framework of a partnership (2005-2008) between Sophie Dubuisson-Quellier and the CTIFL, an innovative analytical methodology of consumer behavior in purchase situations was developed. The researchers followed the paths of consumers in places of purchase. This allowed them to reconstruct different forms of decision-making used by the consumers. These decision-making processes involved the identification of a space for making a choice as well as subsequently choosing a product within that space. This research method revealed different collective reference points which consumers used to make their choices.

* Assessing Product Quality and Market Regulation

The question of quality has been the subject of a number of research projects at the CSO. Christine Musselin notably contributed to launching a debate on the subject in the journal Sociologie du Travail with Catherine Paradeise (between 2002 and 2006). Sophie Dubuisson-Quellier worked with Jean-Philippe Neuville to produce the work "Juger pour échanger", which was published in 2003. In this text, some fifteen contributions updated our understanding of the social conditions for agreements on quality in trade situations.

Thomas Debril did his dissertation, defended in 2007 and under the direction of Erhard Friedberg, on the regulation of seafood and other sea products markets. He identified three levels of action which worked together to reconcile supply and demand, each with their own logic and time-frame: reciprocal opportunism, qualification, and trade durability.
- Click here for a summary of the dissertation: (DEBRIL T. Qualités des marchandises et préférences des marchands : la régulation des marchés des produits de la mer, 2007)

Thomas Debril also conducted a study in 2005 called "Qualification des produits et émergence de nouveaux marchés : les appellations satellites de Chablis", under the auspices of the INRA. This research showed how the Bourguignon wine market is structured and analyzed winegrowers’ efforts to market their products via the establishment of regional appellations.

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