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Politics of valuation. A pragmatic of moral calcul in the funeral market

Abstract : Being a combination of service utility, 'symbolisc good' and cultural ceremony, the funeral business offers a privileged insight into how heterogeneous values are produced and balanced by the various market stakeholders. How does this entwining of values play out in market practices? This paper draws upon the history of the funeral market over two centuries to examine the central role of 'market devices' in the process of combining, managing and ordering distinct (or even incommensurable) values. First, observing the constitutional phase of the private industry in the context of an extremely competitive appropriation of funerals by the Church and the State, the analysis examines the system of the "cortege classes" as a central device of 'managing dissonance' between conflicting interests. Then, a historical jump lead us to half way through the 20th century to examine the market infrastructure formed by the system of care for the dead a powerful symbolic and material agencement which fostered a standardized way of dealing with death. As a third point, the exponential development of death insurance in recent years appears as a new form of mixing collective and private schemes in the funeral economy. Beyond describing these shifting forms of coordination, the analysis of the market devices' performativity highlights essential properties, that is: a) the "attachement" of human or non-human entities among them as a means to frame the interplay in market practices ; b) the incorporating of a calculation formula - and consequently a price-setting mechanism - which set up both the profit sharing and the handling of moral/political issues (the common interest).
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Conference papers
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Contributor : Pascale Trompette <>
Submitted on : Friday, January 3, 2014 - 5:21:25 PM
Last modification on : Friday, November 20, 2020 - 11:16:08 AM


  • HAL Id : halshs-00923662, version 1




Pascale Trompette. Politics of valuation. A pragmatic of moral calcul in the funeral market. Encountering Markets : consumers, credit and devices/ CRESC, Mar 2011, Copenhagen, Denmark. ⟨halshs-00923662⟩



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