Sociology of valuation

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The sociology of valuation (sometimes "valuation studies") is an emerging area of study focusing on the tools, models, processes, politics, cultural differences and other inputs and outcomes of valuation.

Current Research[edit]

The area has strong links to both economic sociology, economic anthropology, social accounting and other critical accounting research. Sociology has had a longstanding interest in value and values, which naturally feeds into an examination of the tools and processes of valuation in society. In terms of economic sociology, Viviana Zelizer and the cultural school of economic sociology can be seen as an early precursor to this area of interest, with following work by her students and postdoctoral researchers (e.g. Olav Velthuis in art),[1] along with Patrick Aspers, Jens Beckert, Marion Fourcade,[2][3] Michele Lamont, Donald MacKenzie, David Stark[4][5] and many others. Considerably more could be said on the topic about French sociologists, given the longstanding traditions of theorists like Pierre Bourdieu. While the methods of researchers from economic sociology tended to be either qualitative (usually cultural approaches) or quantitative, a different approach came from the critical accounting area, with a focus on accounting models, tools and devices. Here, the theory of market devices was one early precursor to this work, and it should be noted that researchers in this area have been strongly influenced by sociological research in both the US and European schools. Part of this is due to the overlap of work from science and technology studies (STS) and sociology of knowledge, where we again see influences from e.g. Donald MacKenzie and Karin Knorr Cetina,[6] as well as Bruno Latour, Michel Callon and related Paris-Mines innovation school and others, such as Luc Boltanski and Laurent Thévenot.[7]

The area shows growing interest, given a number of books[8] and a degree of institutionalization as a potential subfield shown by the first issue of the academic journal Valuation Studies[9] in 2013,[10] while existing journals in cultural sociology and economic sociology, like Poetics and Socio-Economic Review, show a strong treatment of the topic even before the valuation label came to have a common and recognizable use as a research focus (e.g. specifically used as a keyword in journal article metadata). There is growing interest in the topic in management (e.g. Cattani and Dunbar,[11] and O'Mahoney, Heusinkveld and Wright[12]), particularly in the organization and management theory / organization studies subfield, but also in the area of strategy. One reason is that people working in this area do not solely publish in their own field, but often send papers to accounting, sociology or management in order to find an appropriate home for the specific manuscript. Another reason is people trained in sociology, like Ezra Zuckerman,[13] who now work in management. The growing work on valuation also has clear links to existing lines of research in management, such as work on ratings, rankings and prizes, which taps into existing research interests, as well as with evaluation.[14][15] Finally, there is a growing interest in examining how different things are turned into assets, or assetized, involving forms of capitalization and valuation.[16]

Early Work[edit]

In terms of early work, one might argue that Zelizer's 1978 "Human Values and the Market"[17] article, published in the American Journal of Sociology, was an early example of work on valuation, although it is also a core work in the cultural economic sociology tradition. The integration of an STS mentality that focuses on the tools and organizational processes of valuation is clearly realized in Fourcade's 2011 article comparing valuation practices between France and the US.[3] We also see an interest in values and valuation in classical sociological work, such as Weber's Economy and Society.

Sociology of valuation vs. Typical valuation research[edit]

There is a difference between the sociology of valuation from the more typical valuation research which occurs in finance and mainstream accounting. A key difference is that the sociology of valuation takes valuation practices, inputs and outcomes as the object of the study. In contrast, valuation work in finance and accounting often has a narrower focus (e.g. solving a specific problem) and is typically more practical and concentrated on the actual processes and results of calculation, with less interest in the social and organizational inputs, social processes, social and organizational implications of valuation.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Velthuis, Olav (2007). Talking prices: symbolic meanings of prices on the market for contemporary art. Princeton, New Jersey Woodstock: Princeton University Press. ISBN 9780691134031. Details.
  2. ^ "Marion Fourcade (profile)". University of California, Berkeley.
  3. ^ a b Fourcade, Marion (May 2011). "Cents and sensibility: economic valuation and the nature of "nature"". American Journal of Sociology. Chicago Journals. 116 (6): 1721–77. CiteSeerX doi:10.1086/659640. JSTOR 10.1086/659640.
  4. ^ "David Stark (profile)". Columbia University.
  5. ^ Stark, David; Berthoin Antal, Ariane; Hutter, Michael, eds. (2015). Moments of valuation: exploring sites of dissonance. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198702504. Details.
  6. ^ Coslor, Erica; Spaenjers, Christophe (November 2016). "Organizational and epistemic change: The growth of the art investment field". Accounting, Organizations and Society. ScienceDirect. 55: 48–62. doi:10.1016/j.aos.2016.09.003.
  7. ^ Boltanski, Luc; Thévenot, Laurent (2006). On justification: economies of worth. Catherine Porter (translator). Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 9780691125169. Details.
  8. ^ Dussauge, Isabelle; Helgesson, Claes-Fredrik; Lee, Francis, eds. (2015). Value practices in the life sciences and medicine. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199689583. Details.
  9. ^ "Home page". LiU e-press.
  10. ^ "Valuation Studies: Current and back issues". Valuation Studies. LiU e-press. 1. 2013. doi:10.3384/vs.2001-5992.1311.
  11. ^ Cattani, Gino; Dunbar, Roger L. M.; Shapira, Zur (May–June 2013). "Value creation and knowledge loss: the case of cremonese stringed instruments". Organization Science. INFORMS. 24 (3): 813–830. doi:10.1287/orsc.1120.0768.
  12. ^ O'Mahoney, Joe; Heusinkveld, Stefan; Wright, Christopher (March 2013). "Commodifying the commodifiers: the impact of procurement on management knowledge". Journal of Management Studies. Wiley. 50 (2): 204–235. doi:10.1111/joms.12008.
  13. ^ "Ezra Zuckerman (profile)". MIT Sloan School of Management.
  14. ^ Zuckerman, Ezra W. (2012). "Construction, concentration, and (dis)continuities in social valuations". Annual Review of Sociology. Annual Reviews. 38 (1): 223–245. doi:10.1146/annurev-soc-070210-075241.
  15. ^ Hsu, Greta (June 2006). "Evaluative schemas and the attention of critics in the US film industry". Industrial and Corporate Change. Oxford Journals. 15 (3): 467–496. doi:10.1093/icc/dtl009.
  16. ^ Birch, Kean (2016-08-10). "Rethinking Value in the Bio-economy". Science, Technology, & Human Values. 42 (3): 460–490. doi:10.1177/0162243916661633.
  17. ^ Zelizer, Viviana A. (November 1978). "Human values and the market: the case of life insurance and death in 19th-century America". American Journal of Sociology. 84 (3): 591–610. doi:10.1086/226828. JSTOR 2778256.