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Workshop: Markets for Collective Concerns - Copenhagen Business School, Dec. 11-12, 2014

Daniel Breslau

22 February, 2015

The boundary separating the political from the economic, the state from markets, is being redrawn. Politics and economics; the state and market; public and private -- these were constitutional distinctions of western societies in the long 20th century. Intervention by liberal states was justified by market failures, particularly in the provision of public goods and in cases of natural monopoly. Social-democratic states deliberately restricted the scope of market forces in order to provide social rights to their citizens. But in either case, state and market were defined in opposition to one another, with the state using bureaucratic means to answer public concerns for which markets were ill-suited.

But in our current era, states are more frequently turning to market mechanisms to achieve social aims. Rather than socializing unmet needs, states are establishing new markets to correct the failures of old markets; markets as interventions, markets upon markets. Even after the recent financial collapse, the organizers observe "confidence in the market does not seem to be diminishing."

As the boundaries between the economic and the political are redrawn, so are the disciplinary jurisdictions of those analyzing these new instititutions. For scholars of science and technology studies, the new phenomena and questions opened up by the new markets create an opportunity to extend our distinctive frameworks into new terrain. As science studies concepts have followed science and technology into the making of markets, they now follow markets into new domains of social policy and state intervention.

Organized by Christian Frankel, José Ossandón and Trine Pallesen, of the Markets and Valuation Cluster at the Copenhagen Business School, this two-day workshop was designed to catalyze the multidisciplinary conversation around the new markets. The organizers gathered a range of disciplinary perspectives, national settings, sectoral foci, and historical scopes to allow some common themes to emerge.

Philip Mirowski (Notre Dame University) traced the "curious trajectory" from a concern with "the market" of neoclassical theory to the customized, designer "markets" of 21st century economist-consultants. Nicholas Gane (University of Warwick) challenged the self-evidence of the concept of competition and showed how its complicated lineage has been glossed over in the rise of neoliberalism, which has monopolized the intellectual territory abandoned by sociologists.

In two papers on new energy markets, Daniel Breslau (Virginia Tech) and Peter Karnøe (University of Aalborg) investigated the marketization of infrastructure, with implications for the transition to a renewable energy system. Beyond the rhetoric of free markets, we find intricate configurations of rules and technologies with implications for the politics of that transition.

Annelise Riles (Cornell University) detailed experiments with collaborative networks as an alternative to market-based coordination and tighter organizational frameworks. She used the example of the Meridian 180 massive collaboration on transnational and transdisciplinary issues in the Pacific Rim.

Daniel Neyland (Goldsmith's, University of London) provided an analysis of market-based social policies in the UK. He linked the STS approaches to market devices to the politics of markets by considering the way that markets establish new normative judgments and relations of accountability. Liliana Doganova (MINES ParisTech) and Brice Laurent (MINES ParisTech) examined two EU environmental initiatives and discussed the possibilities of market-like devices to provide for the coexistence of locally varying approaches and technologies.

The members of the fledgling network have committed to continuing the conversation, to generating comparative insights and possibly a publication.

Daniel Breslau is Associate Professor in the Department of Science and Technology in Society at Virginia Tech, and teaches in the graduate program in Science and Technology Studies.

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