Unravelling ambivalence: A field-theoretical approach to moralised markets

Lisa Suckert (2018)

Current Sociology, 66(5), pp. 682-703

Abstract. Moralised markets are often referred to as ethical consumption markets. They are supposed to relieve a source of major distress in capitalist societies: the conflict between morality and economy. But under what conditions do these markets grow, and when do they stagnate? Deviating from the dominant focus on external constraints, this article emphasises the intrinsic ambivalence of moralised markets. Being caught between moral and economic exigencies becomes an obstacle for market growth. The article addresses ‘unravelling ambivalence’ on two levels. First, a field-theoretical framework is used to unravel the concept of ambivalence. Inspired by Pierre Bourdieu, the article proposes introducing ambivalence as an analytical category in economic sociology. Second, a historic study based on correspondence analysis depicts the development of the German organic milk market. What distinguishes growth from stagnation is the degree of ambivalence within this market. Only if opposition is mitigated and ambivalence unravels into a more pluralistic field structure does the transition from niche to mass market become viable.

Keywords. Ambivalence, Bourdieu, conventions, economic sociology, field theory, markets, morality, multiple institutional logics, sustainability
Mots clés. Ambivalence, Bourdieu, conventions, logique institutionnelle multiple, marchés, moralité, sociologie économique, théorie des champs, viabilité

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