This article explores the usefulness of recent economic sociology literature for understanding processes of market attachment. It focuses particularly on concepts like agencement and market devices proposed by authors like Michel Callon, Fabian Muniesa and Franck Cochoy and their application to mass consumer markets.
Can data-driven innovations, working across an internet of connected things, personalize health insurance prices? The emergence of self-tracking technologies and their adoption and promotion in health insurance products has been characterized as a threat to solidaristic models of healthcare provision. If individual behaviour rather than group membership were to become the basis of risk assessment, the social, economic and political consequences would be far-reaching. It would disrupt the distributive, solidaristic character that is expressed within all health insurance schemes, even in those nominally designated as private or commercial. Personalized risk pricing is at odds with the infrastructures that presently define, regulate and deliver health insurance. Self-tracking can be readily imagined as an element in an ongoing bio-political redistribution of the burden of responsibility from the state to citizens but it is not clear that such a scenario could be delivered within existing individual private health insurance operational and regulatory infrastructures. In what can be gleaned from publicly available sources discussing pricing experience in the individual markets established by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act 2010 (ACA), widely known as ‘Obamacare’, it appears unlikely that it can provide the means to personalize price. Using the case of Oscar Health, a technology driven start-up trading in the ACA marketplaces, I explore the concepts, politics and infrastructures at work in health insurance markets.
Devising Consumption explores the vital role played by thefinancial service industries in enabling the poor to consumeover the last hundred and fifty years. Spending requiresmeans, but these industries also offered practical marketingdevices that captured, captivated and enticed poorconsumers. The role of these devices has been poorlyunderstood both in the social sciences and in businessstudies and marketing. The book advances the case for a morepragmatic understanding of how ordinary, dull, everydayconsumption is arranged, and offers an alternative toorthodox approaches.
Drawing upon the historical relationship between statistics, probabilistic reasoning and life insurance, the article argues that mathematical calculation played a necessary but limited role in making markets for life insurance. Insuring publics have been fairly consistently cautious in the use of probabilistic and statistical reasoning to inform investment in life insurance. In this they follow a pattern set by early insurance companies who themselves were slow to alter their commercial practices in line with emerging knowledge.
Critical work on advertising is underscored by a teleological conception of its object. This often emerges in the form of an emphasis on advertising as an evolving, hybrid institutions that increasingly mixes the 'economic' with the 'cultural'. It is in this vein that advertising practitioners have been characterized as 'new cultural intermediaries' deploying distinctive aesthetic sensibilities. Similar patterns of knowledge and behaviour, however, can be traced amongst early producers of advertising suggesting a generation of 'old' cultural intermediaries. This unexpected phenomenon, it is argued, arises for two reasons. The rst is that much critical work addressing the nature of contemporary advertising lacks historical context. The second is that culture and economy are normatively conceptualized as separate spheres. This separation underplays the multiple interconnections between the cultural and the economic in instances of material practice. Accordingly it is proposed that advertising be reformulated as a constituent practice that has historically relied upon the juxtaposition of 'cultural' and 'economic' knowledges.
She co-edited Markets and the Arts of Attachment with Franck Cochoy and Joe Deville and is author of Devising Consumption: cultural economies of insurance, credit and spending (Routledge, 2014) and Advertising: a cultural economy (2004).
The market for life assurance did not emerge 'naturally' from a particular problem of the allocation of resources, it had to be made. Life insurance had to appear desirable and reliable.This involved the circulation of a variety of advertising media, one aspect of which was the fabrication of grand offices as headquarters for life assurance companies. These buildings and their widely-circulated images were part of a process of making life assurance appear prudent and proper, but more importantly secure. Through this fabrication of the liberal market, the City of London was transformed into a centre of commerce and finance.
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