• A
  • A
  • A
  • ABC
  • ABC
  • ABC
  • А
  • А
  • А
  • А
  • А
Regular version of the site
Master 2019/2020

Cultural Drivers Of Consumer Markets

Category 'Best Course for Broadening Horizons and Diversity of Knowledge and Skills'
Category 'Best Course for New Knowledge and Skills'
Type: Elective course (Applied Social Psychology)
Area of studies: Psychology
Delivered by: School of Psychology
When: 2 year, 1, 2 module
Mode of studies: offline
Instructors: Elena Berdysheva
Master’s programme: Applied Social Psychology
Language: English
ECTS credits: 4

Course Syllabus


The contents of the course covers the key social transformations faced by European societies under the influence of marketization. The rise of state institutions and regulations, consumerism, medicalization, economization, digitalization of society and emotional capitalism correlate with deep transformations of social structure, change dimensions of social identity, affect the configurations of power and shape cultural expectations on the site of human needs, life chances and resilience. By the beginning of the 21st century, pricing markets had become the main form of economic integration in developed countries. Initially, the expansion of money economy into various spheres of social life aroused fear and criticism among sociologists. The spread of monetary relations threatened to change social world into an arithmetic task where human-beings become means of satisfying others’ selfish interests instead of being the goal of interaction for each other. That would have lead to mutual exploitation and social disintegrity. However, the accumulation of empirical data on the functioning of consumer markets allows to see that market and society are not hostile worlds. Profit-oriented motives of market exchange affect social relations. However, markets, in their turn, experience a humanizing inverse effect. Markets do not function in a social vacuum. They are always embedded in the current social order and therefore should be consistent with cultural values that stabilize market exchanges. The course demonstrates empirically identified social mechanisms that provide viable practical compromises between social values and consumer markets.
Learning Objectives

Learning Objectives

  • Learning objectives is to enhance students’ analytical skills by nourishing their repertoire of explanative schemata with the economic and sociological concepts of economic life and consumer markets. This course gives deep insight into Economic Sociology, Sociology of Markets and Valuation Studies and provides students with advanced sociological concepts that explain key social and cultural transformations of European society in XX century in response to development of money economy and consumer markets. The repertoire of these analytical concepts is supposed to help students with identification and theory-based explanation of cultural dilemmas faced by marketized economies today.
Expected Learning Outcomes

Expected Learning Outcomes

  • Understand the Dynamics of Traditional Social Order Under the Influence of Industrialization, Urbanization and the Development of Money Economy. Identify Humanitarian Perspective of Economic Transformation Process in XXth century.
  • Identify the Complex of Parallel Social and Economic Processes that Contribute to the Legitimation of Pricing Markets as a Domineering Form of Economic Integration.
  • Understand the Sociological Interpretation of the State as Organization and Its Mediating and Manipulative Role in Market Economy.
  • Able to Udentify Conventional Nature of Formal (an Informal) Institutions and Its Dependence on Competition for Political Power.
  • Recognize the Configurating Role of Consumption Decision for Managment of Social Identity in Market Society. Able to Describe the Dynamics of Social Structure Driven by Marketization. Able to identify the influence of current socio-economic tendencies on private biographical decisions.
  • Able to reconstruct the social nature of any commodity via sociological analysis of historical data and desk-research. Able to Identify Connections Between Market Value and Social Worth of Market Commodity.
  • Able to identify the influence of current socio-economic tendencies on private biographical decisions.
  • Develop the systemic vision of current economic circumstances as socially, culturally, and politically embedded economic conventions and institutional decisions; Identify the Influence of Medical Authorities on Institutional Environment and Social Decisions of Individuals.
  • Develop the systemic vision of current economic circumstances as socially, culturally, and politically embedded economic conventions and institutional decisions; Identify the Role of Economic Theories for Actors’ Perception of Social Reality. Understand the formatting role of knowledge, beliefs, expectations for the scenarios of future.
  • Get prepared to apply the core principles of sociological approach to consumer market analysis. Develop the systemic vision of current economic circumstances as socially, culturally, and politically embedded economic conventions and institutional decisions; Identify the Role of Emotions in Social Life and Economic Processes.
  • Get to know contemporary concepts of economic sociology and be able to apply them for explanation of contradictory events and facts of economic life. Get prepared to apply the core principles of sociological approach to consumer market analysis. Develop the systemic vision of current economic circumstances as socially, culturally, and politically embedded economic conventions and institutional decisions.
Course Contents

Course Contents

  • Marketization of Society: Social Threatens
    Sacred and Profane in Society. From Traditional to Modern Economy. The Problem of Rationality and Rationalization of Social Order. Marketization as a Commodifying Nightmare. The Man, the Thing and Market Commodities. Markets, Profitseeking and Social Justice. What Money Can’t Buy: Contested Commodities. Stratifying Effects of Economic Classifications: Ratings, Rankings and Life Chances
  • Digitalization, Markets and Social Order
    Data Colonialism and New Social Order. Digital Infrastructures and Citizen Empowerment. Digital Technology and Transformation of Consumption Patterns. Platform Capitalism.
  • Marketization of Society: Compromises with Culture
    Formal and Substantive Understanding of Economy. Economy as a Domain of Collective Surviving. The Notion of Market in Economic Sociology. Market Exchange as an Alternative to Reciprocity, Redistribution and Gift. Social Nature of Money. Commensuration and Moral Embeddedness of Markets. Money Valuations of Social Values. New Economic Moralities.
  • Consumption as a Site of Social Identity
    From Traditional Economy of Strong Social Ties to the Consumption Communities and Individidualization. Going Solo (or Together Online). Social Status in Money Economy. Conspicuous and Demonstrative Consumption. Market Empowerment of Consumer. Consumerism as a Form of Civil and Political Activity. Ethical Consumption.
  • Transparency, Accounting and Contestations of Illegality
    Stigmatized and Constructivist’s Approach to Informality. Relations Between Formal and Informal Rules. State as a Form of Power Entrepreneurship. Legality and Legitimacy. Conventional Nature of Illegal.
  • Politization and Consumer Markets
    Sociological Definition of State: Between Legitimacy and Struggle for Power. Historical Embeddedness of State Organization. Social Suffering: From Communication with God to Institutional Problem. BioPolitics. State as a Critic, Supporter and Moderator of Markets.
  • The Social Sources of Market Qualities
    Social Nature of Human Needs. Happiness within Consumption Society. Imaginative Value of Goods in the Economy. Commodification as a Social Process. Objectification, Singularization and Calculation. (b) Economy of Qualities. The Problem of Uncertainty and Calculation Asymmetry on Consumer Markets. Market Intermediaries. Trust, Confidence and Objectivity on Consumer Markets. Qualification of Market Goods under Moral Constraints.
  • Money Prices as Social Markers
    Multiple Meanings of Money Prices. Consumers, State and the Problem of Price Emergency. Consumers’ Perception of Market Prices: Fairness, Justification. Price-Quality Balance in Market Economy. Prices and Conspicuous Consumption. Prices and Frugal Consumption.
  • Commodification of Self in Market Economies
    Selling Our Souls to Labor Market. Capitalization of Self (Physical, Bodily, Erotic, Human, Cultural, Social, Administrative, Emotional and Economic Capitals). Individual Self as a Managerial Project. From Neoliberalism of Control to Neoliberalism of Self-Expression. Professionalization of Society. Downshifting.
  • Medicalization
    Medical Nemesis and New Interpretations of Social Problems. Medicine and Social Control. Healthism as a New Fashion and Eugenics. Medical Management of Human Body, Mind and Social Efficiency: Drugs Debates.
  • Shaping Society with Economic Theory (Economization)
    Fictitious Expectations and Uncertainty of Future. Thomas Theorem. Economic Theory, State and Scientific Management. Homo Economicus in Theory and in Social Reality. Markets from (Economic) Knowledge.
  • Emotional Capitalism
    Social Embeddedness of Human Emotions. From Homo Economicus to Homo communicans. Emotional work. Emotional Labor. Feeling Rules. Management of Emotions. Emotional Stratification. Commodification of Emotions. Emodities (Emotional Commodities).
Assessment Elements

Assessment Elements

  • non-blocking Class participation
    Class participation: • Attendance of classes (AC) • Participation in class discussions (PD) In their classroom work at seminar classes, the students are expected to demonstrate: • knowledge of lecture material, and literature given for home reading; • competent use of the conceptual framework provided at lectures and developed within text given; • capacity to perceive, summarize, and give theory-based reflection on the empirical information given; • capacity to structure oral speech in a logically consistent, well-argued, and clear manner; to be precise and to the point when making contributions to the discussions and comments. • dedication to self-development and improvement of professional qualifications; • capacity to reflect on socially significant problems and processes. It is expected that for each class students will prepare responsive memos on the required readings. These memos should not summarize and retell the text but should bring reflection and insights on the problems raised in the text, connecting conceptual contents of the text with own experience of the student.
  • non-blocking Auto-ethnographic analytical essay
    In an auto-ethnographic analytical essay, the students should give a theoretically grounded reflection on the results of self-observation. The educational meaning of writing the essay is to give the students an opportunity to demonstrate their skills of analytical work with empirical facts by applying these facts to interpretation of economic and social theories studied in class. The quality of essay controls student’s knowledge of contemporary concepts of economic sociology, ability to use them for explanation of empirical facts of economic life, understanding of complex nature of contemporary consumer markets as socially, culturally, and politically embedded entities; also the essay validates students’ skills of analytical, interpretative work with theoretical sociological texts and qualitative empirical sociological data. The focus of self-observation relates to the sociological analysis of student’s consumer decision. It is necessary to choose any commodity or service one has already purchased or is going to buy and to give sociological reflection on its value, quality and price justification. It is necessary to answer the questions: • What need is satisfied with the purchase of this good or service? How does this purchase reflect my social identity and values, contribute to my social performance and status? Who am I in the light of my consumption? • What indicators of quality of this good I rely on and why? What sources of information about the product I have used and why I am ready to trust them? • What was the process of price estimation and choice? How do I know that the price is fair and well grounded? Requirements for the text of the essay: 1) The text should be well-structured and consist of the following parts: Introduction with the statement of research problem; Theoretical framework description based on the text recommended further Methodological part, that describes the purchase chosen for analysis; Analytical part with the sociological essence and conclusion on the consumer decision experienced; Conclusion, summarizing the analytical work done. 3) In terms of interpreting the observation results, the text should be based on academic literature and make a direct reference to it. Three following text must be used: • Kopytoff I. 1986. The cultural biography of things: commoditization as process. In. Appidurai A. (ed). The social life of things. Commodities in cultural perspective. Cambrige University Press. 64-91. • Slater D. 2002. ‘Capturing Markets from the Economists’, in P. du Gay and M. Pryke (eds.), Cultural Economy: Cultural Analysis and Commercial Life, London: Sage, pp. 59-77. • Beckert J. 2011. The Transcending Power of Goods: Imaginative Value in the Economy. In: In: Aspers P., Beckert J. (eds). The Worth of Goods: Valuation and Pricing in the Economy. New York: Oxford University Press. 4) The text should be written using Times New Roman font, 12 pt, 1.5 spacing, and justified alignment; the recommended volume is up to 3000 characters without spaces. The essay will be evaluated using the following criteria: • Presence of a well-defined research problem – why consumer decision may be a case for scientific analysis; • Analytical nature of the work, degree of its scholarly character (as opposed to the reasoning at the level of the obvious common sense); • Clear structure of work, presence of a logical connection between the sections and the overall focus of the structure on revealing the main point of the author; • Level of working with the literature, depth of elaboration and use of the points from the literature in interpreting the observed empirics; • Presence of clearly formulated conclusions; • Integrity of the content, degree of elucidation of the topic. All essays are checked for plagiarism; in the case plagiarism is detected, the score of 0 points is given for the work.
  • non-blocking Final Exam
    The final control is carried out in the written form by writing a mini-essay on the proposed market case in class.
  • non-blocking Mid-term Test
    Test on the texts read for the seminars during the first part of the course. The questions of the test cover theoretical concepts learned by that time. The midterm exam includes both short answer and multiple choice questions. The duration of the test – one class, 80 minutes.
Interim Assessment

Interim Assessment

  • Interim assessment (2 module)
    0.3 * Auto-ethnographic analytical essay + 0.1 * Class participation + 0.4 * Final Exam + 0.2 * Mid-term Test


Recommended Core Bibliography

  • Beckert, J. (2011). Where do prices come from? Sociological approaches to price formation. MPIfG Discussion Paper. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsrep&AN=edsrep.p.zbw.mpifgd.113
  • Beckert, J. (2013). The moral embeddedness of markets. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsbas&AN=edsbas.9EE981C3
  • Beckert, J., & Wehinger, F. (2011). In the shadow illegal markets and economic sociology. MPIfG Discussion Paper. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsrep&AN=edsrep.p.zbw.mpifgd.119
  • Beckert, J., Rössel, J., & Schenk, P. (2014). Wine as a cultural product: Symbolic capital and price formation in the wine field. MPIfG Discussion Paper. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsrep&AN=edsrep.p.zbw.mpifgd.142
  • Beckert, J., Rössel, J., & Schenk, P. (2017). Wine as a Cultural Product Symbolic Capital and Price Formation in the Wine Field. https://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-135413
  • Cochoy, F., Hagberg, J., McIntyre, M. P., & Sörum, N. (2017). Digitalizing Consumption : How Devices Shape Consumer Culture. London: Routledge. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=1526915
  • Coser, R. L. (1992). Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age. By Anthony Giddens. Stanford University Press, 1991. 256 pp. Cloth $35.00; paper $12.95. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsbas&AN=edsbas.6F50A6AA
  • Illouz, E. (2007). Cold Intimacies : The Making of Emotional Capitalism. Cambridge, UK: Polity. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=572564
  • Illouz, E. (2008). Saving the Modern Soul : Therapy, Emotions, and the Culture of Self-Help. Berkeley: University of California Press. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=213396
  • Illouz, E. (2018). Emotions As Commodities : Capitalism, Consumption and Authenticity. London: Routledge. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=1606502
  • Michel Callon, & Fabian Muniesa. (2005). Economic markets as calculative collective devices. Post-Print. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsrep&AN=edsrep.p.hal.journl.halshs.00087477
  • Nick Couldry, & Ulises Mejias. (2019). Making data colonialism liveable: how might data’s social order be regulated? Internet Policy Review, (Issue 2). https://doi.org/10.14763/2019.2.1411
  • Sampson, S. (2011). Integrity Warriors: Global Morality and the Anti-Corruption Movement in the Balkans. Sweden, Europe: SAGE Publications Inc. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsbas&AN=edsbas.BFD13A79
  • The handbook of economic sociology, Smelser, N. J., 1994
  • Velthuis, O. (2003). Symbolic meanings of prices: Constructing the value of contemporary art in Amsterdam and New York galleries. Theory & Society, 32(2), 181. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1023995520369
  • Volkov, V. (2016). Violent Entrepreneurs : The Use of Force in the Making of Russian Capitalism. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=1352056
  • Wherry, F. F. (2008). The Social Characterizations of Price: The Fool, the Faithful, the Frivolous, and the Frugal. Sociological Theory, 26(4), 363–379. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9558.2008.00334.x
  • Wilf, E., Williams, S. J., Munoz, B., Scheff, T. J., Flam, H., Kuzmics, H., … Goodman, J. (2009). Theorizing Emotions : Sociological Explorations and Applications. Frankfurt: Campus Verlag. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=837637
  • Зелизер, В. (2010). Human Values and the Market: The Case of Life Insurance and Death in 19th-Century America (translated by E. Berdysheva) ; Человеческие ценности и рынок: страхование жизни и смерть в Америке XIX века (перевод Е. С. Бердышевой). Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsbas&AN=edsbas.8D1A9859
  • Портес, А. (2010). The Informal Economy and Its Paradoxes ; Неформальная экономика и ее парадоксы. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsbas&AN=edsbas.83A57CAE
  • Слейтер, Д. (2010). Capturing Market From the Economists ; Забирая рынок у экономистов. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsbas&AN=edsbas.D6F8DBAE

Recommended Additional Bibliography

  • Beckert, J. (2014). The great transformation of embeddedness: Karl Polanyi and the new economic sociology. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsbas&AN=edsbas.646B5478
  • Beckert, J. (2014). Trust and the performative construction of markets. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsbas&AN=edsbas.837A3E0
  • Beckert, J. (2016). Fictional expectations and the crisis of contemporary capitalism. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsbas&AN=edsbas.F14345F4
  • Beckert, J., & Aspers, P. (2011). The Worth of Goods : Valuation and Pricing in the Economy. Oxford: OUP Oxford. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=405922
  • Cabanas, E., & Illouz, E. (2019). Manufacturing Happy Citizens : How the Science and Industry of Happiness Control Our Lives. Medford, MA: Polity. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=2212443
  • Daniel Beunza, David Stark, & Russell Sage Foundation. (2003). Survival and Sense-Making in a Trading Room. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsbas&AN=edsbas.81067641
  • Illouz, E. (1997). Consuming the Romantic Utopia : Love and the Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism. Berkeley: University of California Press. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=6839
  • Illouz, E. (2008). The Purchase of Intimacy. American Journal of Sociology, 113(6), 1768–1770. https://doi.org/10.1086/590994
  • Musselin, C., & Beckert, J. (2013). Constructing Quality : The Classification of Goods in Markets. Oxford: OUP Oxford. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=612427
  • Sandel, M. J. . (DE-588)121615812, (DE-627)081423950, (DE-576)163693773. (2012). What money can’t buy the moral limits of markets Michael J. Sandel. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edswao&AN=edswao.365172502
  • Srnicek, N. (2017). Platform Capitalism. Cambridge, UK: Polity. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=1444285
  • Stark, D. (2009). The Sense of Dissonance : Accounts of Worth in Economic Life. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=286832
  • Stewart, D. (2012). The Outsourced Self: Intimate Life in Market Times. Library Journal, 137(6), 91. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=asn&AN=74090235