Analyzing the culture of markets

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23 Scopus citations


The rise of culture in economic studies has resulted in systematic investigations of the shared meanings that shape markets, economic decisions, and outcomes. A number of social scientists have a) privileged the heterogeneity of meanings within organizations and groups over monolithic accounts, b) used thick description and single or comparative case studies to investigate the incessant contestations over meanings and the corresponding actions facilitated, and c) have developed empirically testable propositions without insisting on the reduction of meanings to simple principles embedded in structures. This line of work does not deny that relatively stable cultural meanings exist or that parsimony is possible. Instead, it offers a parallel track privileging three modes of analysis: 1) the identification of discursive inflection points as leading indicators of market takeoffs, privileging thick minimalism over parsimony; 2) breached sequence analyses of transactions, highlighting experimental methods; and 3) relational analyses of networks and contested circuits, tying situated negotiations to overarching cultural structures. The article concludes with a plea to keep cultural analyses interpretive, historically grounded, and intuitively attuned to the meanings of social life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)421-436
Number of pages16
JournalTheory and Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 26 2014
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science


  • Breaching experiments
  • Economic sociology
  • Measurement
  • Relational analysis
  • Sequence analysis
  • Thickminimalism


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