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Market Threads

Market Threads: How Cotton Farmers and Traders Create a Global Commodity

Koray Çalişkan
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Market Threads
    Book Description:

    What is a global market? How does it work? At a time when new crises in world markets cannot be satisfactorily resolved through old ideas,Market Threadspresents a detailed analysis of the international cotton trade and argues for a novel and groundbreaking understanding of global markets. The book examines the arrangements, institutions, and power relations on which cotton trading and production depend, and provides an alternative approach to the analysis of pricing mechanisms.

    Drawing upon research from such diverse places as the New York Board of Trade and the Turkish and Egyptian countrysides, the book explores how market agents from peasants to global merchants negotiate, accept, reject, resist, reproduce, understand, and misunderstand a global market. The book demonstrates that policymakers and researchers must focus on the specific practices of market maintenance in order to know how they operate. Markets do not simply emerge as a relationship among self-interested buyers and sellers, governed by appropriate economic institutions. Nor are they just social networks embedded in wider economic social structures. Rather, global markets are maintained through daily interventions, the production of prosthetic prices, and the waging of struggles among those who produce and exchange commodities. The book illustrates the crucial consequences that these ideas have on economic reform projects and market studies.

    Spanning a variety of disciplines,Market Threadsoffers an original look at the world commodity trade and revises prevailing explanations for how markets work.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3392-4
    Subjects: Economics, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. INTRODUCTION How to Study a Global Market
    (pp. 1-21)

    What is a global market?Market Threadsaddresses this question by empirically analyzing the world cotton market and bringing together insights from the social sciences and new directions in the study of markets. For more than a quarter of a century, a social experiment unprecedented in world history has been in progress: neoliberal market reform on a global scale. This experiment has revealed a remarkable fact: we do not know how markets work, let alone what the term “global market” means in practice. This book presents a study of the making and maintenance of a global commodity market, drawing on...

    (pp. 22-58)

    Price shapes our economic life in late capitalist modernity. On opening the economics section of any major newspaper, one will encounter columns of commodity prices. Taken-for-granted facts of modern life, prices are accepted as signals of the world economy. It is with reference to prices that economic processes are made visible, discussed, and intercepted, and that markets are made and understood. However, strikingly enough, world market prices do not correspond to the actual worth of commodities. One cannot buy a single bale of cotton by paying the world price of the commodity. To what, then, do these prices refer? What...

  3. CHAPTER 2 Market Maintenance in the Worlds of Commodity Circulation
    (pp. 59-83)

    What happens to commodities after their price has been realized? Studies of the market rarely address this question, assuming that the market transaction comes to an end once the actual price is accepted. Yet in actual exchange relations the market transaction begins only after the price is accepted. Furthermore, not infrequently the deal is called off, depending on what happens during the execution of trading decisions. Acceptance of a price is a promise only, whereas the execution of the trading decision is the realization of this promise. Without shipping of the commodity and receipt of the amount representing the commodity’s...

  4. CHAPTER 3 Markets’ Multiple Boundaries in Izmir, Turkey
    (pp. 84-104)

    The previous two chapters have presented an empirical discussion of price realization and global market maintenance in world commodity trade, concluding with a discussion of how world traders draw on trading platforms and connect them to regional markets by means of so-called “bridges.” This chapter moves from the global traders’ end of the bridge to the other end: that of regional market actors. After all, the practices of global price- and market-making are always articulated in particular geographies of encounter.

    The nature of the interaction of these different locations in the global market should not be assumed to resemble a...

  5. CHAPTER 4 A Market without Exchange: Cotton Trade in Egypt
    (pp. 105-130)

    Global markets draw on multiple forms of trading practices. From electronically organized exchanges in the United States to informal futures trading in India, one can observe a dynamic universe of interaction in world trade. The presence of organized exchanges such as the NYBOT and the Izmir Mercantile Exchange brings together scattered instances of trading. The exchange building also helps researchers to observe and understand more easily the making of global markets. Yet many trading relations do not take place in exchanges. Thus, a market study that did not take into account commodity markets without organized exchange would be incomplete. Focusing...

  6. CHAPTER 5 Growing Cotton and Its Global Market in a Turkish Village
    (pp. 131-155)

    How can we understand the production and exchange processes of agricultural commodities from the vantage point of farmers? Prevailing scholarly literature addressing this question locates the answer by analyzing the effects of global market expansion on peasant political economy. The study of the countryside primarily draws on the register of peasant reaction to the developments unfolding around the village, such as world markets. Going beyond such a narrow perspective, this chapter analyzes the actual interaction between cotton fields and markets from the vantage point of Turkish peasants.

    Early-twentieth-century approaches to farmers, especially those inspired by Marx, have viewed farmers as...

  7. CHAPTER 6 Cotton Fields of Power in Rural Egypt
    (pp. 156-187)

    Egypt constitutes an exemplary case reflecting the three main global transformations of modernity: it was colonized and restructured by the British; its independence following the Free Officers’ Coup brought with it so-called socialist planning; and its “opening to the world” (infitah) and, later, embracing of neoliberalism made it a center of attention for free market reform. The country became one of the world’s forerunners of neoliberal market reforms, to an extent that even the IMF praised its determination to restructure the economy and participate in global markets as “an achievement that has few parallels.”¹

    Neoliberalism, the last of these global...

  8. CONCLUSION What Is a Global Market?
    (pp. 188-208)

    At the beginning of the twenty-first century, two hegemonic approaches inform our understanding of markets. The neoclassical perspective argues that it is the almost natural coming together of supply and demand that sets the price and makes the market. Institutionalists bring into the analysis the social context of this interaction and argue that market exchange is embedded in society. Drawing on new directions in the study of markets,Market Threadsproposes that neither of these approaches can fully capture how markets are made and maintained on the ground.

    Markets are neither asocial mechanisms of price setting, nor are they embedded...