Konferenz (Uni Bremen): “The Marketization of Society: Economizing the Non-Economic”

The marketization of contemporary society, especially of non-economic sub-systems such as health care, education, arts, or science, has been a hot topic of public debates as well as a subject of many empirical studies. Some of the relevant keywords of political discussions are “liberalization”, “deregulation”, “privatization”, “commodification”, “managerialism”, “new public management”, “entrepreneurialism” and, above all, “neoliberalism”. These phrases do not all mean the same but have considerable overlaps, and their common denominator appears to be marketization. Since the market as a basic governance mechanism is primarily associated with the economic sub-system of modern society, marketization can be seen as the mechanism by which other societal sub-systems are subjected to a deliberate policy of economizing. In other words, economizing can be understood as an increasing importance of economic considerations for financial profits, on the one hand, and costs, on the other, in particular societal sub-systems or even society-wide; and the major mechanism which exerts a corresponding pressure on actors is to expose them to market forces.

Marketization and economizing are topics of a number of research perspectives in sociology and other social sciences. By now these perspectives are barely connected with each other, and each one of them is still work in progress:

•Among the various sociological theories of modern society Marxism seems to be a  natural candidate to deliver a proper understanding of marketization and economizing. But perhaps the very fact that it is so easy and quickly done to explain economizing from a Marxist perspective means that this perspective misses essential points of this phenomenon. Theories of societal differentiation, in contrast, have much more analytical difficulties with economizing as a society-wide dynamic; but it may be worth the effort to struggle with these difficulties. Other general perspectives on modern society, for instance sociological neo-institutionalism or the theory of “reflexive modernity”, have not yet paid much attention to marketization and economizing as part of the “world polity” or the “world risk society”. It would be interesting to explore what they can contribute to an understanding of this ongoing societal dynamic. Finally, governmentality studies often inspired by Foucault provide us with rather detailed reconstructions of the discursive dimension of marketization and economizing – but what that means for actors’ practices is an open question.

• The “new” economic sociology elaborates in its various approaches an understanding of markets as being embedded in cultural frames, institutional rules, and social networks. This view could be extended to markets and quasi-markets in other societal spheres such as health care or the arts. There the creation of markets or quasi-markets occurs in the middle of established social structures – ideologies, professions, organizations – which often clash with the forces of economizing. It is an open question whether a durable marketization of these non-economic spheres of society can happen. If this occurs, it remains to be seen whether this results in some kind of balance between economic and non-economic forces as cross-pressures on actors, or in a suppression of the non-economic so that in the final end marketization means a society-wide extension and supremacy of the economy.

• For a micro-analysis of how markets and quasi-markets work the governance perspective could offer important conceptual tools. In this perspective, markets are one of the elementary governance mechanisms which can be compared with others such as hierarchies, communities, or networks. This comparison shows that each of these mechanisms has its strengths and weaknesses. In particular, there are well-known market failures which some recent expressions of market adoration totally neglect. Whereas this is a still highly abstract level of analysis, concrete markets or quasi-markets – such as the performance-based modes of allocation of financial means to universities, for instance – can be conceived of as governance regimes which are characterized by specific mixtures of the market mechanism with other elementary mechanisms. Various aspects of a functional or dysfunctional performance of such governance regimes can be pointed out.

• Quantitatively by far the largest number of publications on marketization and economizing are based on empirical studies of specific sectors of society, often concentrating on the respective organizations. Thus, universities and research institutes, hospitals and schools, the armed forces and the churches, newspapers and TV stations, courts and welfare state bureaucracies, museums and opera houses, public transport and prisons: All of these quite different kinds of organizations, and a number of others as well, have been subjected to very similar measures of economizing during the last decades; and this is well documented in numerous studies devoted to the respective societal sector. But attempts to compare, for instance, the marketization of universities with the marketization of museums, are still rare although such cross-border comparisons might be an especially promising source of non-obvious insights.

The last-mentioned studies of particular sectors of society provide us with most of the specific empirical knowledge we have about marketization and economizing whereas the other three approaches – theories of society, economic sociology, and governance studies – aim at a more generalized theoretical level of analysis. Since there have already been numerous national and international sector-specific conferences about the marketization and economizing of higher education, cultural institutions, or health care, among others, this conference will focus on a more general theoretical level. Its target groups are not sector-specialists but those interested in analysing the basic mechanisms as well as the general consequences of marketization and economizing in contemporary society.

In particular, the following questions are guidelines for presentations and discussions:

• How can the economizing of the non-economic spheres of society be conceptualized? What are the constitutive properties of this phenomenon, and what types of it can be distinguished – with marketization as a prominent but not the only type?

• How do dynamics of economizing and marketization proceed? What are their origins, conditions, and mechanisms, and what determines their strength? How do typical conflicts about the introduction and establishment of measures of economizing look like?

• What are the consequences of economizing and marketization? To which extent are intended consequences reached, and which unintended and undesired consequences happen? Which functional and dysfunctional outcomes can be discerned, and from whose perspective?


The conference consists of two parts. In the first part new general theoretical perspectives on key aspects of economizing and marketization are presented. The second part takes as starting points empirical phenomena from particular societal sectors but discusses them in a comparative way to reach theoretical generalisations.

Friday, June 1, 2012 Part I: General theoretical perspectives on economizing and marketization

12:30 – 13:00 Welcome and opening

13:00 – 14:00 Bob Jessop (Univ. of Lancaster): Understanding the “economization” of social formations

14:00 – 15:00 Alexander Ebner (Univ. of Frankfurt/Main): Reflections of marketization building on the perspectives of Polanyi and Habermas

15:00 – 15:30 Coffee break

15:30 – 16:30 Patrick Le Galès (Sciences Po, Paris): The role of the state in the economization of non-economic sectors of society

16:30 – 17:30 Andreas Langenohl (Univ. of Giessen): The economy, the market, and exchange: Notes on non-identities

17:30 – 17:45 Short break

17:45 – 18:45 Ulrich Broeckling (Univ. of Freiburg): The subject in the marketplace

19:30 Conference dinner

Saturday, June 2, 2012 Part II: Specific phenomena of economizing and marketization

9:00 – 9:30 Uwe Schimank/Ute Volkmann (Univ. of Bremen): A comparative analytical framework

Stream A

9:30 – 10:15 Ingo Bode (Univ. of Kassel): Welfare markets in retirement provision and elderly care: Two stories, one culture

10:15 – 10:30     Short break

10:30 – 11:15 Tanja Klenk/Jonas Pieper (Univ. of Potsdam/Univ. of Bremen): Picking the cherry or biting the bullet? How social conflicts about privatization challenge the legitimacy of public and private actors

11:15 – 11:30     Short break

11:30 – 12:15 Gernot Grabher/Jonas Koenig (HafenCity Univ. Hamburg): From emergence to economization – Reflexive relationship management on social network sites

12:15 – 13:15     Lunch

13:15 – 14:00 Dominik Akyel (MPI for the Study of Societies, Köln): From de-traditionalization to prize-consciousness: The economization of funeral consumption in Germany

14:00 – 14:15     Short break

14:15 – 15:00 Ivonne Kuesters (Univ. of Dortmund): Exploring the marketization of art in music managers’ practises

Stream B

9:30 – 10:15 Marino Regini (Univ. of Milan): A marketisation of European universities? The role of external demand and internal actors

10:15 – 10:30     Short break

10:30 – 11:15 Michael Hoelscher (Univ. of Heidelberg): How do varieties of capitalism influence marketization in higher education? A comparison of 22 OECD countries

11:15 – 11:30     Short break

11:30 – 12:15 Thorsten Peetz (Humboldt Univ. of Berlin): Mechanisms of economization in educational organizations

12:15 – 13:15     Lunch

13:15 – 14:00 Jens Schlamelcher (Univ. of Bochum): From community to marketised organisation: Transformations of German parishes

14:00 – 14:15     Short break

14:15 – 15:00 Anna Henkel (Univ. of Bielefeld): Economization, managerialization, and reification. Societal conditions of economizing pharmacists and the church

Conference organized for the sections Sociological Theory (responsible member of the section’s chairpersons: Wolfgang Ludwig Schneider) and Economic Sociology (responsible member of the section’s chairpersons: Andrea Maurer) of the German Sociological Association (DGS)

Organizers of the conference: Ute Volkmann and Uwe Schimank (University of Bremen)

Date: June 1-2, 2012

Place: University of Bremen

Building: GW 2, Room B 3009 (3rd floor)

Diesen Blogbeitrag zitieren
Benjamin Köhler (2012, 18. Mai). Konferenz (Uni Bremen): “The Marketization of Society: Economizing the Non-Economic” soziologieblog. Abgerufen am 22. Februar 2024, von https://doi.org/10.58079/ui6y

Benjamin Köhler

Benjamin Köhler ist Soziologe (B.A.) und Historiker (M.A.). Seine Schwerpunkte liegen in der Sozial- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte sowie in der Wissens- und Kultursoziologie. Thematisch beschäftigte er sich bisher u.a. mit jüdischer Kulturgeschichte, Antisemitismus- und Gewaltforschung, Innovationen und sozialen Wandel.

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