22-23 June 2023
Iscte-University Institute of Lisbon
In capitalist economies, values, as prices, are often understood as the main medium of coordination among economic agents and resource allocation. Through this, vertical and horizontal differences are constructed in the social distribution of commodities and work. The construction and the evaluation of value are present in a number of different but related concepts, such as commodification, objectification, qualification, marketization, economization, competitisation, capitalisation, or value chains. These concepts are starting points for analysing value and valuations.
Valuations are the main mechanisms in the emergence and consolidation of socio-economic inequalities. Valuation has also been linked to calculation practices dealing with uncertainty and imagining futures. In this sense, valuations refer to norms that legitimise calculation practices and provide moral judgements of market objects and market practices. Furthermore, valuations also reflect interests sustained by social groups such as business or political elites, which have a formative impact in the organization of valuation parameters.
In addition to that, valuations refer to processes of defining the criteria for how value creation
is measured, allowing for classifications of productivity, value of scientific knowledge or the
framing of parts of organisations and of the economy as “cost centres” vs “profit centres”. They give rise to controversies and conflict over what constitutes valuable and non-valuable activities.
The emergence and consolidation of what constitutes value and how to measure it is also
shaped by professional groups (economists and other economic experts, lawyers etc.) and of
other fields of expertise. Thus, valuation practices allow to control and influence economic and
political interests over how the economy should operate. What and how objects gain or lose
value also reflects the shifts in meanings attributed by social groups, the formation of tastes,
the effects of contexts of consumption, and consumption practices more broadly.