RECIPROCITY WITHOUT COOPERATION Small producer networks and political identities in Bolivia
PGD Dissertation Doctorate of Philosophy Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Columbia University
The concept of production market as a social structure, widely developed by the new economic sociology during the past twenty years, still remains an elusive term in social science. From the viewpoint of neoclassical economics, the “market” is understood as an abstract price-making mechanism that is interpreted as a logical result of efficiency demands. The same concept, from a sociological point of view, refers to concrete social structures and associated processes that are the result of historically specific strategic enactment. The only aspect in which both approaches agree is in conceiving the market as a type of coordinating mechanism that presupposes the transference of property rights. However, while the first understands this coordinating mechanism in singular, as the result of a universal type of behavior, the other sees markets in plural, as social structures that are formed by interactions in specific institutional contexts. 1
In the present research, I depart from the concept of market as formed by atomized actors who decide and act upon a solitary analysis of cost and benefit and, instead, join recent efforts to articulate the notion of tangible production markets as formed by organized combinations of activities structured through stable social relationships. This dissertation analyzes small production in a developing country – Bolivia – as a set of firms that, in taking one another into account in their actions, implement similar strategies to coordinate the flux of transactions within and between production units and to control the uncertainties in their environment. These strategies configure a market model characterized by self-sufficient firms that avoid inter-firm cooperation in core business transactions. This model has proved to be effective for its reproduction in time, but inefficient to conquer new market shares both at home and abroad.