orgtheory.net

performativity: do economists make markets?

Teppo

A new edited book (by Donald Mackenzie, Fabian Muniesa, Lucia Siu) published by Princeton University Press further discusses ‘performativity’ (a frequently discussed and mentioned concept here at orgtheory.net):

Do Economists Make Markets? On the Performativity of Economics (here’s a pdf of the first chapter). More potentially later as one of us runs into a copy.

Update:  Here’s an earlier version of the Callon chapter, which Swedberg calls the “most important statement on performativity” – Callon, M. What does it mean to say that economics is performative?

Written by teppo

July 9, 2007 at 5:11 pm

Posted in books, teppo

13 Responses

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  1. We’re going to be reading most of this in my advanced topics econ soc seminar in the fall.

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    Kieran

    July 9, 2007 at 6:10 pm

  2. Kieran,

    (Legit inquiry…since you will be teaching it, I assume you have an answer) Can you explain why this “preformativity” business might be thought to be something “new?” Is it “new” simply because it is “new” to econ/org/b-school types? Or is it “new” because it genuinely represents something new over science studies circa, oh, 1975 or so? I look but I really don’t see much going on. Any thoughts?

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    markh

    July 9, 2007 at 6:48 pm

  3. It’s a good question. My in-draft answer is partially available here. One short version of that is, yeah, there’s a lot of old wine in those bottles, and maybe there’s only old wine. But beyond being a really new concept or not, there’s also the prospect that the idea will stimulate a lot of new empirical research in an important area.

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    Kieran

    July 9, 2007 at 7:19 pm

  4. Thanks for the reality check. I’m pleased to see that I’m not totally loony…and I will check the archives before my next post. In the end, try as I might, I just can’t get excited about this stuff. As a very crude summary, the case studies all seem on the order of, “at one point in time people measured an “inch” as the width of a thumb, then some clever fellow came up with a standardization that averaged over n thumbs, and – presto chango – variance in the measured length of an inch was reduced thereafter…Q.E.D, the clever chap has ‘made’ an inch.” I’m left scratching my head wondering, “and…?”

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    markh

    July 9, 2007 at 8:10 pm

  5. markh: For some related concerns about “making” and “creating” – see link below:

    https://orgtheory.wordpress.com/2006/11/14/mackenzie-seminar-theory-or-just-so-stories/

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    tf

    July 9, 2007 at 8:22 pm

  6. Thanks for posting these materials. Finally I know what you guys mean by “performativity” — a term unfamiliar to economists.

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    Peter Klein

    July 9, 2007 at 8:51 pm

  7. Well, Peter, your unfamiliarity is understandable – its perhaps due to the fact that it is hard to step back and know what performativity is as you are in the midst of performing and perpetuating it.

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    tf

    July 10, 2007 at 1:04 am

  8. So, does performativity come into being by virtue of social scientists talking about performativity? My head is spinning….

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    Peter Klein

    July 10, 2007 at 3:53 am

  9. Just giving you a hard time. Performativity, of the variety we’ve covered and discussed, largely uses mainstream economics as its context (with origins in science studies – ‘SCOT’ – the MacKenzie book has a nice intro to these matters; for additional epistemology, see Barnes, Bloor); I was thus simply intimating that your very professional being perpetuates economic models, and, perhaps you’ve been so heavily socialized by this epistemic community that….ok, enough, enough.

    Performativity, simply, is the creation of reality through language, theories and models – in short, it is suggested that economics, rather than explaining reality, creates it. Performativity has, at times, been used synonymously with self-fulfilling prophecy, reflexivity, and construction. Similar themes, as you know, have shown up in org theory – for example, Ghoshal’s take on your dissertation chair’s work etc.

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    tf

    July 10, 2007 at 4:19 am

  10. Likewise. :-) A serious question, though: Does the performativity literature distinguish between cases where theory creates practice by introducing new modes of thinking and cases in which theory simply legitimates (perhaps giving a boost to) existing practices? The example I have in mind is the Keynesian Revolution (which has recently come up at O&M). What we call “Keynesian” demand-management policies were already in place before the General Theory was published in 1936. Indeed, one interpretation of the rapid spread of Keynesian theory is that it provided intellectual justification for macroeconomic policies that were politically popular but opposed by the majority of economists. Perhaps Keynes himself, an intellectual maverick, specifically sought to formulate a theory to rationalize policies that he personally preferred for aesthetic reasons. In what sense, then, can we say that Keyensian theory brought about Keyensian practice?

    In other words, there are all kinds of tricky endogeneity issues here. My sense of the Ghoshal critiques of TCE and agency theory is that he mostly ignores these.

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    Peter Klein

    July 10, 2007 at 1:43 pm

  11. Quick stab in response (my co-bloggers are experts in this space as performativity relates more directly to their research).

    The underlying reasons for why a particular theory or model predominates (over potential others) do not generally get explicated or discussed (note, however, that the argument explicitly is that a theory predominates not b/c a theory is better or more ‘real’). The theory rather focuses on the performativity of the model (how the model changes reality to meet its assumptions), but not why it (again, over others) performs in the first place.

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    tf

    July 10, 2007 at 7:37 pm

  12. […] of markets’ is, and I’m pretty sure I don’t.  It seems I need to read this and then it is in the recursive nature of knowledge that I’ll have to keep reading, which I […]

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    ASAs « whatisthewhat

    August 17, 2007 at 2:29 am

  13. […] I just performed this theory. […]

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