From calculation to alienation: Disentangling economic abstractions

  • Slater D
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This article uses a debate between Michel Callon and Daniel Miller to explore tensions within economic sociology and anthropology.The tension is between characterizations of markets and economic rationality that seem to dissolve them into a generalized notion of culture and those which seem to abstract them as specific social forms. The paper argues that markets are best defined in terms of a form of transaction rather than a specific mode of calculation: market transactions involve the alienation of goods in the form of property. Such transactions require the kinds of socio-technical apparatuses that Callon describes, in order to establish both alienability and its limits; on the other hand, and drawing on Callon's own concepts of framing and overflowing, such transactions allow for more diverse, ambiguous and contradictory forms of calculation than Callon seems to allow. The latter point is developed particularly in relation to cultural calculation, typified by marketing and advertising.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Advertising
  • Calculation
  • Exchange
  • Marketing
  • Markets
  • Property
  • Rationality

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  • Don Slater

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