The Moral Life of Corporations   /   Summer 2009   /    Interviews

Rethinking Markets, Monies, and Organizations: An Interview with Viviana A. Zelizer

David Franz

You argue that there is no universal “market” in the singular, but many markets. Could you say more about what this means?


One of the most powerful contemporary tropes has been that of a dominating, invading market. Whether they hail the market’s advance as the triumph of efficiency, deplore it, or treat it as a necessary evil, observers have commonly agreed on its unstop- pable power. The market, in this view, remains impervious to cultural and social con- straints: a truly “free” market. But what and where is this fearsome rationalizing market? Mostly, it’s a creation of economic analysts. As soon as we abandon abstract theoretical models for observation of actual economic activity, we discover that there is no unitary price-setting market. Instead we find a plurality of markets, each distinguished by a particular set of meanings and social relations.

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