Constructing Quality: The Classification of Goods in Markets

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9780199677573: Constructing Quality: The Classification of Goods in Markets

How can we engage in a market relationship when the quality of the goods we want to acquire is unknown, invisible, or uncertain? For market exchange to be possible, purchasers and suppliers of goods must be able to assess the quality of a product in relation to other products. Only by recognizing qualities and perceiving quality differences can purchasers make non-random choices, and price differences between goods be justified.

"Quality" is not a natural given, but the outcome of a social process in which products become seen as possessing certain traits, and occupying a specific position in relation to other products in the product space. While we normally take the quality of goods for granted, quality at a closer look is the outcome of a highly complex process of construction involving producers, consumers, and market intermediaries engaged in judgment, evaluation, categorization, and measurement.

The authors in this volume investigate the processes through which the quality of goods is established. They also investigate how product qualities are contested and how they change over time. The empirical cases discussed cover a broad range of markets in which quality is especially difficult to assess. The cases include: halal food, funeral markets, wine, labor, school choice, financial products, antiques, and counterfeit goods. The book contributes to the sociology of markets. At the same time it connects to the larger issue of the constitution of social order through cognitive processes of classification.

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About the Author:


Jens Beckert is Director of the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies in Cologne and Professor of Sociology at the University of Cologne. He has held visiting positions at Princeton University, Harvard University, Cornell University, the European University Institute, and Sciences Po in Paris. The main focus of his research is economic sociology with a special emphasis on markets, organization studies, the sociology of inheritance and social theory. He is the author of two monographs on the sociology of markets (Princeton University Press 2002) and on the sociology of inheritance (PUP 2008). His articles have been published in journals such as Theory & Society, Sociological Theory, Organization Studies, and the European Journal of Sociology.
Christine Musselin is the director of the Centre de Sociologie des Organisations, a research unit of Sciences Po and the CNRS. She has been a DAAD fellow in 1984-1985 and a Fulbright and Harvard fellow in 1998-1999. She has held visiting positions at Harvard University and the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin. Her work focuses on comparative studies on university governance, public policies in higher education and research, state-universities relationships, and academic labor markets. She is the author of two monographs on the French higher education system (Presses Universitaires de France 2001) and on the academic labor market in France, Germany, and the US (Presses de Sciences Po 2005), that were both edited in English by Routledge. Her articles have been published by Sociologie du Travail, Revue Francaise de Sociologie, Revue Francaise de Science Politique, and Higher Education.

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