The study of markets encompasses a number of disciplines – including anthropology, economics, history, and sociology – and a larger number of theoretical frameworks (see Plattner, 1989; Reddy, 1984; Smelser & Swedberg, 1994). Despite this disciplinary and theoretical diversity, scholarship on markets tends toward either realist or constructionist accounts (Dobbin, 1994; Dowd & Dobbin, forthcoming).1 Realist accounts treat markets as extant arenas that mostly (or should) conform to a singular ideal-type. Realists thus take the existence of markets as given and examine factors that supposedly shape all markets in a similar fashion. When explaining market outcomes, they tout such factors as competition, demand, and technology; moreover, they can treat the impact of these factors as little influenced by context. Constructionist accounts treat markets as emergent arenas that result in a remarkable variety of types. They problematize the existence of markets and examine how contextual factors contribute to this variety. When explaining market outcomes, some show that social relations and/or cultural assumptions found in a particular setting can qualify the impact of competition (Uzzi, 1997), demand (Peiss, 1998), and technology (Fischer, 1992). Constructionists thus stress the contingent, rather than universal, processes that shape markets.
Dowd, T.J. (2003), "STRUCTURAL POWER AND THE CONSTRUCTION OF MARKETS: THE CASE OF RHYTHM AND BLUES", Engelstad, F. (Ed.) Comparative Studies of Culture and Power (Comparative Social Research, Vol. 21), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 147-201. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0195-6310(03)21006-1
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