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 MPIfG Books



Jens Beckert and Christine Musselin (eds.)
Constructing Quality
The Classification of Goods in Markets




Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.
368 pages
ISBN 978-0-19-967757-3 | £ 73.00 

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Abstract | Contents | Editors




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 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, how product qualities are contested, and how they change over time. Covering a broad range of markets in which quality is 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 and connects to the larger issue of the constitution of social order through cognitive processes of classification.



Introduction, Jens Beckert and Christine Musselin
Part I   Investing in Quality
Contributions from Zsuzsanna Vargha, Patrik Aspers, Agnes van Zanten
Part II   The Quality of Labor
Contributions from Emmanuelle Marchal, Philipp Gerlach, Elena Bogdanova, Pierre François
Part IV   The Morality of Quality
Contributions from Frans van Waarden and Robin van Dalen, Dominic Akyel
Part V   Consuming Quality
Contributions from Sophie Dubuisson-Quellier, Frank Wehinger, Jörg Rössel and Jens Beckert
Vigorous Verbs: Conveying the Action of People Producing Qualities, Wendy Nelson Espeland



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.
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.



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