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Turning Callon the right way up

Miller, D; (2002) Turning Callon the right way up. ECON SOC , 31 (2) 218 - 233. 10.1080/03085140220123135.

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This paper argues that, contrary to his own claims, Callon's work amounts to a defence of the economists' model of a framed and abstracted market against empirical evidence that contemporary exchange rarely if ever works according to the laws of the market. I start with an example from an Indian village, which shows how other societies also try to frame particular genres of exchange to protect themselves from other varieties of exchange. But both there and within capitalism the frame is precisely a moral system of how exchange ought to be carried out. I then use the example of car purchasing to suggest the highly entangled world of actual exchange within capitalism both between the exchange partners and also between consumers and commerce more generally. Indeed, the actual case studies in Callon's The Laws of the Markets seem to support this conclusion rather than the model put forward in his own introduction and conclusion. These studies, as others cited here, suggest the centrality of entanglements also for higher-level exchanges, such as stock markets and corporate take-overs, and not just for shoppers or other individual actors. As an alternative to Callon I briefly summarize an argument published elsewhere, called 'virtualism', in which I examine the increasing ability of economists and other agents of abstract models such as audit and consultancy to transform the world into closer approximations of their theories and models. I suggest this provides a more fruitful way of understanding the growth and power of abstraction in the contemporary economy.

Type: Article
Title: Turning Callon the right way up
DOI: 10.1080/03085140220123135
Keywords: markets, virtualism, Callon, anthropology, Jajmani system, economics
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/155280
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