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Collected Edition

Constructing Quality: The Classification of Goods in Markets


Beckert,  Jens
Soziologie des Marktes, MPI for the Study of Societies, Max Planck Society;

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Beckert, J., & Musselin, C. (Eds.). (2013). Constructing Quality: The Classification of Goods in Markets. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0013-AE77-9
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 nonrandom choices, and price differences between goods be justified. Not a natural given, “quality” is the outcome of a social process in which products come to be 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, a closer look reveals that quality 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 goods are “qualified.” They also investigate how product qualities are contested and how they change over time. The empirical cases cover a broad range of markets in which quality is especially difficult to assess, such as halal food, funerals, wine, labor, schools, financial products, antiques, and counterfeit goods. Constructing Quality contributes to the sociology of markets and connects to the larger issue of the constitution of social order through cognitive processes of classification.