«LEADING SYSTEMS The exchange rates of society: an essay on bringing society back in market Steffen Roth Leading Systems | 08/2 Leading Systems. ...»
Bern University of Applied Sciences
Competence Center for Management
The exchange rates of society: an essay on
bringing society back in market
Leading Systems | 08/2
Leading Systems. Preprints of the Competence Center for Management at the Berne University of Applied Sciences
The exchange rates of society: an essay on bringing society back in market.
Leading Systems | 08/2
Competence Center for Management Berne University of Applied Sciences October 2008 Leading Systems ISSN 1662-6621 © 2008 by the author(s), photo: www.fotocommunity.de Steffen Roth is manager of the research focus “Innovation, Markets, and Society” (IMS) at the Competence Center for Management.
firstname.lastname@example.org Leading Systems presents ideas for future scholarly research in the field of organizational theory, leadership, consulting, and marketing. The series draws out the implications of available knowledge for a better understanding of economic systems, as well. Leading System papers are refereed by an international board of reviewers.
Downloads www.unternehmensfuehrung-en.bfh.ch (go to Publications / Working Papers) Competence Center for Management Berne University of Applied Sciences PO Box 305 | 3000 Berne 22 | Switzerland Tel. +41 31 848 4428 Fax +41 31 848 3431 email@example.com Leading Systems. Preprints of the Competence Center for Management at the Berne University of Applied Sciences 33 The exchange rates of society: an essay on bringing society back in market Abstract: We routinely trust organizations which convert belief, truth, health, power, or beauty into money. Nonetheless, we know almost nothing about the corresponding exchange rates: Bourdieuconomics is the only theory providing a concept of non-economic forms of capital and markets. However, deeper analysis is still complicated by the theory’s lack of either a concept of organization or distinctive forms of capital.
In this paper Luhmannian Systems Theory serves as sparring partner for Bourdieuconomics, since it provides both a robust concept of organization and a solid theoretical basis for universal as well as distinctive forms of capital. But, as with any other economic or social theory, Systems Theory has no concept of non-economic markets. This is most surprising, since, as this paper demonstrates, there is both a lot of evidence for the existence of non-economic markets and a promising systemic multi-market concept can be developed. Based on this, the interaction between the two theories produces a concept of distinctive forms of capital and corresponding markets of society, for example political, scientific, arts, or health markets. The paper argues that all these spheres and the discussion of their social relevance should be brought back into the market.
Based on a systemic concept of symbolic capital, this paper comes to the conclusion that organizations with a more polyphonic self- and markets concept can act strategically as change agencies between the markets of society, i.e. they can influence the exchange rates between economic and non-economic values in terms of trans-political trade cycle politics.
Keywords: Market Sociology, Non-Economic Markets, Economic Sociology, Bourdieuconomics, Social Systems Theory, Exchange Rate, Polyphonic Organization.
Introduction The fact that the accounting of incommensurable values is a paradoxical undertaking only attracts our attention if we consider really striking circumstances: A return on philanthropy index may make us wonder what the point of calculating the profit of a nonprofit strategy is. The idea that we can earn money by evaluating the value of brands is a bit more comprehensible. And it requires no stretch of the imagination to envisage that trust relations between a bank and its customer define the price of the money the customer wants to borrow. Likewise, the excellence of science may be defined by the amount of third-party funds acquired. The conversion of the incommensurable is sometimes even a cure for a bad conscience: After a flight which has released a great deal of CO2, environmental agencies help us to redeem the respect of our peer group by enabling us to make a donation to nature. And, by thinking about more, and more historical, examples, such as the selling of indulgences, it dawns on us that the miracle conLeading Systems. Preprints of the Competence Center for Management at the Berne University of Applied Sciences 34 versions of incommensurables might be as old as society itself.
So, it is no surprise that we routinely trust organizations which convert belief, truth, health, power, or beauty into money. However, we do not know much, so far, concerning the particular exchange rates, and all too often the organizations involved do not know much more themselves.
Thus, the challenge of unravelling the mystery of the exchange rates between the economic and the non-economic spheres justifies some effort. Unfortunately, a great effort is required, as the only support in this field is provided by Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of forms of capital (1986, 1987, 1989; c.f. also Svendsen and Svendsen, 2003). This theory does not completely comply with the requirements of such an undertaking, for the following reasons.
1) Bourdieu never worked on a profound concept of organization (Dobbin, 2008;
Vaughan, 2008; Mustafa and Johnson, 2008; Schwartz, 2008), which means that a systematic gap exists concerning the best empirical field for the analysis of the gains and costs of the conversion of forms of capital (Bourdieu, 1986, pp.
254f): In his view, capital can be both converted and materialized or embodied (ibid.: 241), but there is no specific information on how it can be incorporated in organizational terms.
2) Bourdieu’s forms of capital have often been criticised for being neither sufficiently distinctive (c.f. Smart, 1993: 389) nor complete (c.f. exemplarily Verter, 2003).
Ironically, both can be argued against the background of the current “plethora of capitals” (Woodcock, 1998: 154) we owe to the work of Bourdieu.
3) Finally, Bourdieu is accused of the illegal import of economic concepts (c.f., as one of his advocates, Lebaron, 2003), i.e. he is charged both with oversociologizing economics (c.f. Smart 1993, 391) and with over-economizing social sciences (Nassehi and Nollmann, 2004). Even worse, Bourdieu’s concept of non-economic forms of capital raises the question of where these forms of capital can be acquired and invested, too. By claiming the existence of noneconomic markets, Bourdieu (c.f. 2000: 48, pp. 152ff) ultimately antagonizes both the defenders of the market as a neutral exchange sphere free of social interferences (Sieferle, 1995: 15) and those who exclude the market from society Leading Systems. Preprints of the Competence Center for Management at the Berne University of Applied Sciences 33 before trying to (re-)embed it into society (Granovetter, 1973; Grabher, 1993;
Beckert, 2007a, 2007b; Beckert, Diaz-Bone, and Ganssmann, 2007; Fourcade, 2007).
Concerning the first two problems, Systems Theory (Luhmann, 1987, 1997) can readily serve as sparring partner for Bourdieuconomics (Svendsen and Svendsen, 2003) because it can supply both a robust concept of organization and a theoretical basis for the development of universal as well as distinctive forms of capital.
However, there is as yet no concept of non-economic markets in Systems Theory, just as there is neither in economics nor in the whole of non-Bourdieuconomic sociology.
Even against the background of the increasing relevance of the most manifold intangibles, market concepts are still rather one-dimensional; if you are in need of commodities, machines, and economic capital then you go to the market, and likewise if you are in need of human resources, intercultural competence, and social capital. In both cases, the term ‘the market’ means the economic market. Of course, there is already an extensive discourse on specific strategies for the acquisition and investment of intangible forms of capital (c.f. exemplarily Baron and Markman, 2003; Keseljevic, 2007; Matiaske, 2003; Moldaschl, 2005; Svendsen, 2003; Tuominen, 2005), but this has not, so far, led to a consistent test of the existence of specific non-economic markets on which noneconomic forms of capital can have their effects. We rather experience the very opposite, i.e. a broadly held view in economics and social sciences that the notion of the market is to be exclusively applied to economic exchange; we can really speak about a non-economic market taboo.
Thus, a system-theoretical journey through the theoretical architecture of Bourdieuconomics is worth the while of the both theories. Systems Theory learns that neither the theory itself nor other theories in economics, economic sociology, or general sociology have a concept of non-economic markets. This is most surprising since, as this paper shows, there is a lot of evidence for the existence of non-economic markets.
Passing onto the Bordieuconomic forms of capital, we find that Bourdieuconomic concepts of capital and market do have not an economic bias but rather a political bias.
This bias is indicated by Bourdieu’s use of the notions of symbolic capital and symbolic power, i.e. the capability of organization and market-making. The interaction of the deLeading Systems. Preprints of the Competence Center for Management at the Berne University of Applied Sciences 34 biased theories then produces both a first impression of a society with ten distinctive markets and a concept of market power which is more than merely politico-economic.
Finally, by taking both more than purely political forms of domination and more than purely economic markets into account, we come to the conclusion that organizations with a more polyphonic self-concept can act more strategically as change agencies between the markets of society, i.e. they can more effectively influence the exchange rates between the economic and the non-economic spheres of society in their interest.
The one (best) market dogma
If we think of markets, then we think of merchandise markets (Weber, 2006), of the formation of market prices (Coase, 1990), of the antagonists of hierarchy (Williamson, 1975), or of “sets of money-mediated exchange transactions” (Zafirovski, 2007: 313).
For Systems Theory the market is the “inner environment of the economic system”1 (Luhmann, 1988). This list of purely economic market metaphors could be continued endlessly; the mythic trinity of money, market, and economy seems untouchable, and the dogma of the one and only (economic) market so strong that even the most determined opponents of the market principle (c.f. Ulrich, 2005) are finally turned into its accomplices (c.f. Zelizer, 2007): By patronizing society from the market they support the conservation of the economic shape of both society and market. But, are straight business ethicists and critical economic sociologists really helpers of economism? What else can this sentence mean?
This sentence means business, and in order to understand it, we are to follow a contraintuitive strategy; we are to trust a theory which is not only assumed to be complicated and non-functional (though functionalistic) but also part of the one-market mainstream, Systems Theory in the tradition of Luhmann (1987, 1997). As already mentioned,
Luhmann assumes markets to be the inner environment of the economic system:
We can consider markets to be the intra-economic environment of the systems participating in the economic system, with this environment being both different in each case and the „Der Markt als innere Umwelt des Wirtschaftssystems“ (Luhmann, 1988, p. 91). In this context, the term environment indicates everything which is not the actual system of reference.
Leading Systems. Preprints of the Competence Center for Management at the Berne University of Applied Sciences 35 same for all, at the same time. Thus, the notion of market refers not to a system but to an environment – but to an environment which can only be differentiated as system, i.e. the economic system, in this case. Therefore, as a market the economic system itself becomes the environment of its own activities …2 It is hard to imagine how this definition can give us a clear picture of the nature of the
market and its non-economic dimension. But, if we examine economic history, the picture becomes clearer3:
Within the ancient societies, markets started their career in the economic life of the city states (c.f. Swedberg, 2007a, 14f). The first markets in history served long-distant trade and were situated outside the municipal area. So, no matter whether we focus on the economy of single oikoi or the economy of the polis as a whole, the market was the environment of the economic system in the most manifest sense.
In the next step, markets were internalized. For example, the Agora of Athens was situated in the centre. Nonetheless, the Agora remained a part of the world outside, restrained by boundary stones and ruled by different laws than those effective in the rest of the polis. In this literal sense, the market was an “inner environment”. If we now focus on the economic dimension of the oikoi and find them starting to produce not only for their own needs but also with regard to the needs of other oikoi, then the quotation above becomes much more evident. The market for both the suppliers and the demanders of the homemade products is the same for all oikoi: all the other oikoi, in each case. But the oikoi were multi-functional households sharing not only commodities but also more intangible assets such as ideas, knowledge, objects of art, and loyalties; and they shared these at the market. Thus, why should their market have been an exclusively economic one?
Perhaps the current dominance of the economic market principle results from the internalization of the former external markets (or “ports of trade”, c.f. Polanyi, 1963) which „Als Markt kann man (…) die wirtschaftsinterne Umwelt der partizipierenden Systeme des Wirtschaftssystems ansehen, die für jedes eine andere, zugleich aber für alle dieselbe ist. Der Begriff des Marktes bezeichnet also kein System, sondern eine Umwelt – aber eine Umwelt, die nur als System, in diesem Fall also als Wirtschaftssystem, ausdifferenziert werden kann. Als Markt wird mithin das Wirtschaftssystem selbst zur Umwelt seiner eigenen Aktivitäten …“ (Luhmann, 1988, p. 94).