EASA, 2010: EASA2010: Crisis and imagination

Maynooth, 24/08/2010 – 27/08/2010

(W096)

Markets, moneys, and mobilities: transnational organizing

Location John Hume Lecture Theatre 7
Date and Start Time 25 Aug, 2010 at 11:30

Convenors

Christina Garsten (Stockholm University) email
Jamie Saris (NUI Maynooth) email
Renita Thedvall (Stockholm University) email
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Long Abstract

To understand the workings of contemporary capitalism, we need to pay closer attention to the complex ways in which transnational flows of valuables articulate with local cultural processes and social structures. The session aims at stimulating discussions around the forms of exchange that contribute to the globalization of the economy; the different kinds of money involved; the valuables that are circulated; as well as the assemblages of ideas that inform these exchanges. The session aims to highlight how markets are organized, for example through expectations, norms and regulations; how valuables are constructed as desirable objects, for example through fairtrade or other kinds of labeling programs; and how mobilities are structured, for example through informal networks, corporate cartels, or crime syndicates. We invite papers that question the boundaries of the licit and the illicit economies and that highlight how these are organizationally entangled, such as in the case of drug trade.

Chair: Christina Garsten
Discussant: Jamie Saris and Renita Thedvall

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Globalizing microfinance and crisis: international best practice meets local practice in Bosnia

Author: Monica Lindh de Montoya (Gothenburg University)  email
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Long Abstract

Since the end of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1996, microfinance has been a tool used by donors and NGOs with the intention of reducing poverty and rebuilding the economy of the country. With the support of numerous multi- and bilateral donors, a dozen successful internationally ranked sustainable microfinance organizations with expertly trained local staff have been established. Yet the expansion of microfinance has not been entirely unproblematic, and the economic boom between 2006 and 2008 followed by the international financial crisis in 2009 brought several issues to the fore. This paper will explore the ways in which the globalizing microfinance industry and its ideology are currently being played out in Bosnia, the impact on microfinance clients, and how local conditions and concerns interplay to produce unexpected results.

Metamorphoses of credit products

Author: Daniel Seabra Lopes (CSG-ISEG/University of Lisbon)  email
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Long Abstract

Based on fieldwork conducted in two Portuguese banks, this communication intends to describe the dynamic of retail credit by focusing on the calculation practices, machines, registration techniques and documents that assist agency in the banking world. Ethnography will be centred on marketing departments, highlighting the central stages of what may be termed the "qualifications" or "metamorphoses" of credit services—starting from conception to formatting, promotion, adaptation, transmutation and, finally, internal supervision. Through this excursion, attention will be given to the articulation between marketing and other banking departments, to the competitive interplay between different banking institutions, as well as to the cooperation between banks and firms or regulators. The constitution of credit markets both at a national (retail) and international (financial) scale shall be the object of a final discussion that links the dynamic of product qualification with the organization of mass payment behaviour capable of generating substantial electronic cash flows.

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Hinder or advantage? Interpretation of the law in the context of international entrepreneurship

Author: Agnese Cimdina (University of Latvia)  email
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Long Abstract

The paper challenges the essence of common European market by exploring the process of transferring Scandinavian companies and production units to the Baltic States. By using ethnography as a bridge the efforts to establish transnational business cooperation are revealed. The varying notions on how to do business, how to establish a transnational cooperation, the varying attitudes towards legislation, environmental protection, safety at work and varying perception of what a valuable outcome of business cooperation should be question the workings of European community regulations.

How a cross-cultural marketplace is organized through formal regulations and norms, through networks and lobbying, through different interests,expectations, perceptions and constructed values, and how the entrepreneurs navigate in such a marketplace: these are the main topics viewed in the paper. Extensive fieldwork in Scandinavian companies in Latvia in 2006 and 2007 form the empirical base for the paper.

Illegal yet licit: justifying informal purchases of work in contemporary Sweden

Author: Lotta Björklund Larsen (Linköping University)  email
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Long Abstract

'Svart arbete', informal purchases of work, is a widely debated societal phenomenon in Sweden. It is often seen as detrimental to contemporary welfare society, eroding taxpaying morals, fair competition and solidarity with fellow citizens. Acknowledged as wrong, it is in many instances also an acceptable and commonplace exchange practice. This study addresses this incongruity and aims to show how these inconspicuous exchanges of work are distinguished in terms of legality and licitness.

The study shows that purchasing work informally is not only a rational economic decision, but can also be the result of resolving necessities in daily life due to societal bottlenecks and/or probing tax legislation. Justifying the illegal but licit svart arbete, purchasers are seen to emphasise a reciprocal relationship with the provider of the work and also with the state. In this way, a sense of balance and justice is achieved.

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Innovative traditions in new markets

Author: Anne-Katrine B. Norbye (University of Oslo)  email
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Long Abstract

The number of summer mountain dairy farms (støler pl.) has decreased due to technological developments and rationalization in the agricultural industry. In this processes local and cultural life forms are threatened. Today, some Norwegian støler are transformed to markets that offer støl -produce accompanied by imaginations of old traditions and contemporary green ideology.

This presentation highlights how støler are organized as marketplaces through innovation, concepts of traditions, expectations and norms.

How female farmers (budeier, pl) narrate støler, and with support of new global trends that value local food, traditions, and experience-tourism, are described and analysed. Narratives are personally perceived and contested. Nevertheless they are shaped by and confirm collective imaginations. Such narratives are part of social resilience and address topics related to sustainability in local agriculture and budeier's ability to make their own business in addition to maintaining their way of living, identity and home.

Trinkets and trash: convenience stores and the poetics of paracapitalism in contemporary Japan

Author: Gavin Whitelaw (International Christian University)  email
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Long Abstract

Increasingly, convenience stores, or konbini, are seen as synonymous with Japan. Introduced to the island nation in the 1970s, the American convenience store franchise model and associated distribution system have restructured Japanese retail at the national and local level, transforming the neighborhood corner shop into a competitive commercial force with global ties and mass appeal. Indeed in 2008, Japan’s konbini sales topped 7.8 trillion yen, surpassing those of the department store for the first time in history.

In the following paper, I seek to explore at the consequences of convenience store expansion in Japan from a different angle. Interested in the ways that a “globalizing” retail template articulates with local forms and practices, I explore examines how the post-consumer consequences of convenience stores and hypermarketing—specifically unsold and discarded product—continues to circulate in what I call a paracapitalist market system. Drawing on nearly two years of participant observation as a convenience store clerk in Japan, I follow products in their post-shelf lives. In doing so illuminate the roles played by corporations, workers, and consumers. In particular, the paper focuses on a genre of product called omake (promotional gifts) and how the regimented obsolescence of products and speed of marketing campaigns enliven the exchange processes. By accompanying these “insignificant” trinkets from the corporate drawing board to online auction sites and toy consignment cubicles in Tokyo’s Akihabara district, in this paper I consider how a global retail institution predicated on uniformity, rationalization, and efficiency enables, even necessitates the evolution of quasi-illicit forms of economic exchange. Tracing the flow of plastic trinkets through various hands and spheres of value, I show the convenience store to a critical “embedder” for formal and informal economies.

Creating difference in Cuba's dual economy

Author: Maria Padron Hernandez (University of Gothenburg)  email
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Long Abstract

Since the fall of the Soviet Union socialist Cuba has reluctantly and partially opened up for the globalizing forces of contemporary capitalism. In everyday life the most notable result of this is the presence of two currencies - the "old" Cuban pesos (MN) and the new convertible pesos (CUC) with an exchange rate of 1CUC = 24MN.

As people handle the two currencies and make the dual economy understandable and meaningful, they interpret the difference in economic value in cultural terms by inserting this fundamental division in a classified universe of symbolic attributes. Through this symbolic language the things, places and people associated with CUC are made (24 times) more valuable and desirable than those associated with MN. In this creation of difference constant references are made to foreign places and people - migrants as well as tourists - locating Cuba and Cubans in a problematic position in the global world.

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Practices of a role model in the nexus of statecraft and market-making

Author: Anette Nyqvist (Stockholm University)  email
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Long Abstract

The Swedish national pension fund, Första AP-fonden, is a government authority and a fund company and thus situated in the nexus of statecraft and market-making. The fund's claim to be "a role model among international pension fund managers" makes it an interesting site for a study of attempts to organize the financial market on an international level. This "study through" the practices and policies of Första AP-fonden provides insights of how the fund, by exploiting its dual role as fund company and state authority, acts on the financial market with an ambition of "doing good". Through practices such as ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance-analysis), shareholder activism and its Ethical Council publishing a "black list" of companies that violate the fund's codes of conduct attempts to, through expectations, norms and regulation, shape other market actors and thus the market and the study shed light on practices here used.

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Quality assurance: a mechanism for generating trust in HE on a global knowledge market

Author: Paulina Mihailova (Stockholm University)  email
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Long Abstract

Higher education (HE) today is seen as a strategic resource in the hands of policy-makers. National governments and higher education institutions (HEIs) across Europe are encouraged to enter into processes of intergovernmental cooperation, committing themselves to a shared framework for high-quality education aimed at providing Europe with a competitive edge on the global arena. This opening-up of national HE systems to market-oriented policy initiatives has led to a view of HEIs increasingly as economic organisations, accompanied by the in-flow of managerial rhetoric and practices into HEIs and a subsequent shift in conceptions of academic quality.

At a stage when society and policy-makers are ever more careful about the way HEIs are using their money, academics are faced with questions of the social and economic relevance of their disciplines. In this light quality assurance (QA) ultimately becomes a mechanism for market regulation aimed at ensuring that HE is delivering the kind of 'outputs' society values.

Understanding the circulation of trust and mistrust in the finance world (and imagining the alternatives to prevent the crisis?)

Author: Lucia Orviska (University of Fribourg, Switzerland)  email
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Long Abstract

In order to better understand the world economic crisis, I attempt to draw a picture of a social structure of the finance market and exchange objects construction, applying a theory of the "agency", on the creation of trust and mistrust. The agency will be defined in a more expansive and dynamic manner that includes but is not limited to the individual.

Based on the research performed in the organization of a multinational private bank based in Switzerland, fieldwork in Eastern Europe and the case of Icelandic crisis, the "circulation of the trust in the world of wealth" will be illustrated through ethnographical observations and interview restitutions.

How does the trust circulate in the world of banking through different types of agencies, like space, social and personal factors, professionalism, gender, objects - material agency, language and through technology?

How the crisis and the trust flows connect? Which alternatives can we imagine?

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Organising for 'fair' markets: the case of the Fairtrade Labelling Organisation International

Author: Renita Thedvall (Stockholm University)  email
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Long Abstract

The Fairtrade Labelling Organisation International (FLO) is currently undergoing a vast expansion both as an actor on the market as well as the organisation in itself. There is ongoing work of defining the organisation in terms of membership, positions and roles needed and the scope of the organisation. The FLO is also constantly redefining its standards and criteria for the fairtrade label. In this process of defining itself and its outcomes the FLO takes an active part in producing images and giving meaning to the idea of 'fair' products. I show how this is done through a process of bureaucratisation in which 'fair' or 'fairness' becomes precisely defined, formalised and made visible. Focus is placed on how the bureaucratic logic (Handelman 2004) of making fairtrade more and more precise and open for scrutiny contributes to particular representations (cf. Knorr Cetina & Bruegger 2002) of 'fair' markets.

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Negotiating competition and cooperation in the Irish corporate responsibility movement

Author: Elise McCarthy (Rice University)  email
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Long Abstract

There is a paradox between the concepts of cooperation and the common view of competitiveness in the corporate responsibility (CR) movement in Ireland. This effectively situates competing corporations as stakeholders in companies - thus adding a new category to the typical taxonomy of 'stakeholder' which includes neighbours, employees, consumers and regulators.

According to my fieldwork, arguments supporting the company's need for corporate responsibility point to CR's ability to increase companies' competitiveness. Ironically, this is often done by competitors educating each other and sharing valuable corporate data. However, the natures of competitiveness and of cooperation make this a delicate balancing act for all participants, torn between both internal and external views of 'sharing' in corporations.

As economies and companies worldwide focus on restoring competitiveness, this paper will draw attention to the dimension of cooperation in the operation of global capitalism.

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.