Chanelling Walras

This article tells the story of the construction of an almost Walrasian strawberry market in France.

Callon, M. 1999. “Actor-Network Theory: The Market Test.” In J. Law and J. Hassard (Eds.) Actor Network and After. Oxford and Keele, Blackwell and the Sociological Review: pp. 181-195.

190: Marie-France Garcia on the transformation of the table strawberry market in the Sologne region of France in the early 1980s.

190: “The producers took their product there daily packed in baskets, exhibited it in batches in the warehouse. Each batch had a corresponding data sheet which was immediately given to the auctioneer. The latter entered the data into his computer and compiled a catalogue which was handed out to the buyers. Producers and shippers then went into the auction room which was designed in such a way that buyers and sellers could not see one another but nevertheless had a clear view of the auctioneer and the electronic board on which prices were displayed. The display of the strawberries in the hall and the catalogue enabled all parties concerned to have precise knowledge of the supply in terms of both quality and quantity. Moreover, the fact that the different batches were displayed side by side highlighted differences in quality and quantity between producers. The latter could compare their own production with that of their competitors, something which had not been possible formerly when collections were made locally. As Garcia note!: “those growers who had been caught up in personal relationships with intermediaries and shippers entered into impersonal relationships”.”

191: “This arena created a space of calculability: the technique of degressive bidding, the display of transactions on the electronic board, the relative qualification of batches of strawberries on their data slips, and knowledge of the national market all made the transactions calculable.”

191: “What Garcia clearly shows is all the devices — material (the warehouse, the batches displayed side by side), metrological (the metre) and procedural degressive bidding) — which give these instruments their power and effect.”

191-2: “In the construction of the strawberry market, a young counselor of the Regional Chamber of Agriculture played a central part. The remarkable thing is that his action was largely inspired by his training in economics received at university and his knowledge of neoclassical theory.”


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