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Politics and Quality Markets: Power, Market Organization, and the Construction of Status Markets in Comparative Perspective

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Abstract:

In the wine, fashion, coffee, art and olive oil markets—to name a few—one can observe a great price difference between “status market” products and “mass market” products. At the same time, consumers are frequently unable to detect qualitative differences between status and mass market products. This paper investigates how quality is defined, and who defines it. Most literature on the construction of status markets provides ample attention to economic sociology and to consumer theory, however, producer politics is largely neglected. I begin with an investigation of how actors within a supply chain address Akerloff’s “lemon problem”. How producers organize to solve the problem of quality uncertainty is, I argue, largely shaped by political factors, and these patterns of producer organization result in differentially constructed quality markets. Drawing on over 200 interviews with producers, experts, journalists and government officials in Italy, France, Germany and the United States, I compare the origins and consequences of producer-driven supply chain, vertically integrated firms, and demand-driven supply chains. I pose the following questions: Which actors achieve the legitimacy to define quality: “upstream” producers, brand-name merchandisers, retail chains, or independent experts, and why? And what is the relationship between these different “buyer-driven” and “market-driven” structures on consumer notions of quality? I conclude that patterns of producer organization drive 1) how the firm (or firms) constructs the notion of quality, 2) the extent to which a firm (or firms) can construct effective market protection from similar competitors, and 3) why firms and retailers act as “quality makers” (create demand) or “quality takers” (respond to demand).

Author's Keywords:

politics, quality, markets
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Association:
Name: SASE Annual Conference
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http://www.sase.org


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URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p731896_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Carter, Betsy. "Politics and Quality Markets: Power, Market Organization, and the Construction of Status Markets in Comparative Perspective" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the SASE Annual Conference, Northwestern University and the University of Chicago, Chicago, IL USA, Jul 10, 2014 <Not Available>. 2014-12-09 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p731896_index.html>

APA Citation:

Carter, B. , 2014-07-10 "Politics and Quality Markets: Power, Market Organization, and the Construction of Status Markets in Comparative Perspective" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the SASE Annual Conference, Northwestern University and the University of Chicago, Chicago, IL USA <Not Available>. 2014-12-09 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p731896_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Review Method: Peer Reviewed
Abstract: In the wine, fashion, coffee, art and olive oil markets—to name a few—one can observe a great price difference between “status market” products and “mass market” products. At the same time, consumers are frequently unable to detect qualitative differences between status and mass market products. This paper investigates how quality is defined, and who defines it. Most literature on the construction of status markets provides ample attention to economic sociology and to consumer theory, however, producer politics is largely neglected. I begin with an investigation of how actors within a supply chain address Akerloff’s “lemon problem”. How producers organize to solve the problem of quality uncertainty is, I argue, largely shaped by political factors, and these patterns of producer organization result in differentially constructed quality markets. Drawing on over 200 interviews with producers, experts, journalists and government officials in Italy, France, Germany and the United States, I compare the origins and consequences of producer-driven supply chain, vertically integrated firms, and demand-driven supply chains. I pose the following questions: Which actors achieve the legitimacy to define quality: “upstream” producers, brand-name merchandisers, retail chains, or independent experts, and why? And what is the relationship between these different “buyer-driven” and “market-driven” structures on consumer notions of quality? I conclude that patterns of producer organization drive 1) how the firm (or firms) constructs the notion of quality, 2) the extent to which a firm (or firms) can construct effective market protection from similar competitors, and 3) why firms and retailers act as “quality makers” (create demand) or “quality takers” (respond to demand).


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