I am doing my dissertation research on the emergence of social order in
exchange markets, using data on eBay. I have found two broad literatures
to be useful:
1. Social structural studies of markets talk about how social
relationships in markets affect economic behavior. There are few works on
exchange markets however and much less on consumption markets. I suggest
looking at two review chapters in the Handbook of Economic Sociology:
Frenzen et al on consumption and Swedberg on sociology of markets. Frenzel
et al's discussion at the end about Blau space seems most relevant to your
There is also the chapter on ethnic economies by Portes. You might be
interested in that literature in general. Especially with regards to
consumption, I remember reading interesting observations in Gerald
Suttles's The Social Order of the Slum (1968) regarding ethnic
2. There is a big literature on symbolic uses of consumption. Douglas and
Isherwood (1979) The World of Goods is very inspiring and probably the
most relevant to your questions. The edited volume by Appadurai (1986),
The Social Life of Things has more recent works. Of course, Bourdieu
(1984) makes the link between taste and cultural capital. I am sure you
can find several good reviews on culture and consumption.
And then, I hope, there will be my dissertation in less than a year. I
don't have any papers that I feel comfortable sharing at this point but
I'm including my abstract below. It answers your question about
comparative research. I am comparing the structures of transactions in
about 20 categories of goods traded on eBay. I have been using
non-network measures for structure so far and am planning to start the SNA
part soon. I'd be happy to talk more about it and would appreciate any
comments and other cites.
Among the most fundamental problems that any market actor faces are those
linked to valuation; buyers must somehow discriminate between the worth of
goods or services that confront them in the market, and sellers must find
some way of reliably demonstrating the value of the goods that they bring
to the market. In this dissertation, I focus on two distinct problems of
valuation: (1) the interdependence of value problem, where the value of a
commodity to one trader depends on the value of that commodity to others,
and (2) the nonstandard valuation problem, where differences in the
qualities of objects within a broad category of goods makes it difficult
for buyers and sellers to establish and communicate some standard
designation of relevant qualities and thereby establish a reliable link
between those qualities and price.
I argue that actors respond to both of these valuation problems by
pursuing strategies that give rise to social groups and a system of order
within these groups. However, the different types of valuation problems
imply different types of strategies and accordingly different social
structures. The interdependence of value problem leads market
participants to adopt strategies that result in processes of integration,
which in turn create a bounded market structure with a common group
identity for all participants. I label these markets "identity markets". In
contrast, the nonstandard valuation problem leads market participants to
adopt strategies that give rise to process of differentiation, which
manifest themselves as role differentiation between sellers and buyers and
a hierarchical ordering among sellers and buyers. Especially because of
this hierarchical ordering, I label these markets "expertise markets".
I test a number of hypotheses arising from these broad propositions using
data from auctions conducted on eBay over 17 months. I show that the
relevance of the two valuation problems to a particular commodity affects
the nature of the social order that forms around the trading of that
commodity, and this social order in turn has consequences for the
enforceability of socially desirable behaviors in auctions as well as a
variety of economic outcomes. I conclude with a discussion about social
functions of exchange and consumption, tying the sociological and
anthropological literatures on consumption to the literatures on markets
in economic sociology and economics. In proposing a connection between
problems of valuation and the emergence of social structures within the
market, this dissertation provides insight into the determinants, scope,
and consequences of embedded action within the market.
On Tue, 13 Aug 2002, jon schneider wrote:
> It would seem that ebay and amazon.com are only two but interesting areas
> to start, for sources of social networks and consumer transactions.
> I am sure that there are other sites but these two definitly come to mind.
> Jon G Schneider
> On 8/12/02 10:44 AM, "Van den Bulte, Christophe" <[log in to unmask]>
> > There are a few papers in marketing analyzing networks among buyers. At least
> > two of them investigate the effect of dyadic or structural embeddedness in
> > buying behavior:
> > Frenzen, Jonathan K. and Harry L. Davis (1990), "Purchasing Behavior in
> > Embedded Markets," Journal of Consumer Research, 17 (June), 1-12.
> > S. Wuyts, S. Stremersch, C. Van den Bulte, and P. H. Franses (2002),
> > "Structural Embeddedness in Vertical Marketing Systems for Complex Products,"
> > working paper, University of Pennsylvania.
> > http://www-marketing.wharton.upenn.edu/people/faculty/vandenbulte.html
> > Christophe Van den Bulte
> > Assistant Professor of Marketing
> > The Wharton School
> > University of Pennsylvania
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: Chanung Park [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
> > Sent: Sunday, August 11, 2002 9:26 AM
> > To: [log in to unmask]
> > Subject: social capital on market transaction
> > Dear socnetters:
> > I have been searching for references on the relationship between social
> > capital (or social network) and (consumer transactions).
> > DiMaggio and Louch's article ("Socially Embedded Consumer Transactions")
> > started my interest. Are there any other theoretical and empirical works
> > (preferably using SNA) on this subject? Are there any comparative
> > researches?
> > The type of quesitons I am interested are:
> > 1. What are the relationships between the chacteristics of social capital
> > (or social network) and the types of consumer transactions in which people
> > participate?
> > 2. How sociological factors such as class, gender, education, age,
> > religion, etc., affect such relationships?
> > 3. how different social and cultural contexts influence the relationship
> > between the characteristics of social networks and types of consumer
> > transactions?
> > Any help would be appreciated.
> > Chan-ung Park, Ph.D.
> > Assistant Professor
> > Department of Sociology
> > Dongguk University
> > Seoul, Korea
> > [log in to unmask]