Thinking about sustainability in the B2B space evokes a key word, engagement. This word translates the systemic nature of the sustainability journey into a more human term. A lot of case studies show that sustainability happens through engagement of actors at different levels in the organization, such as executives and production experts “on the shop floor”, across departments such as those responsible for HVAC, water, and waste management and engineering, and between internal actors and really diverse sets of external stakeholders such as NGOS, activist groups, and certifying institutions.  In the context of the sustainability journey, competitors may also become collaborators particularly when trying to set and or meet new industry standards. Engagement is effective when it endures over time. Engagement is empowering especially when it is linked to small incentives for useful innovations. Engagement thrives when low hanging fruit, medium and long term goals are achieved and celebrated.  Because sustainability is a systemic journey with multiple cascading effects, it is empowering to celebrate what appear to be even small steps in a more sustainable direction. In the B2B space, there is a lot of process design, dashboarding, messaging, and applied social science to be done

When considering B2C markets, sustainability products, services and messaging need to mobilize myth markets and symbols as with any branding. But to make these products, services, and message resonate we need to make use of the cultural resources that figure into ongoing life projects.  Too much of the sustainability marketing has targeted middle and upper middle class consumers with an aspirational future oriented discourse steeped in the ideology of modernity and paternalistic ideas about our relationships to nature. Think charismatic mega fauna (whales, polar bears pandas, etc) and the cultural construction of nature as a fragile web of life. Farmers in Nebraska and Wyoming, for example, are keen to adopt organic techniques and agricultural inputs if they can be positioned around tradition, stewardship, independence (from creditors & debt), hard work, preserving the family farm, science, “sound” business sense.  Ranchers generally have no trouble with installing large wind turbines on their ranches as they enable ranchers to exploit a previously unexploited natural resource, the turbines, don’t bother the cows, and the income helps to preserve the integrity of the ranch. Spoiling the view or disrupting the birds is not their concern. Working class people in Wyoming are keen to adopt energy saving technologies such as insulation and windows and lightbulbs if they are positioned around ideas of protecting the family and everyday frugality, the waste-not, want-not, DIY ideology they grew up on in farms, ranching and mining communities. Middle class rural Wyomingites are very keen to adopt small scale solar and wind power if it promises freedom and independence, not to mention the just in case notion that an apocalypse may be coming.  In the B2C space, there is a lot of NPD, design, messaging, and applied social science to be done.Fehringer11

Find my publications on ResearchGate:

Image result for zinder Mur Birney

I was looking at this image of the old wall around the Sultan’s citadel in Zinder. This was a big wall that went right round the old “birni” at least where it didnt rely on a natural granite outcropping for protection.  This wall, which sadly has almost melted back into the land more than 115 years after the conquest of Zinder by the French in 1899, was built entirely by hand.  And it was certainly not entirely through slave labor.  But of course, if slave labor was involved this was not the chattel slavery of the Americas but the Islamic variety with rights, responsibilities and gradations..

And I was thinking about the problem of value. Use value, exchange value, symbolic value, sign value, Marx, Mauss, Malinowski, Gell, Strathern, Weiner, Graeber, Baudrillard and so on.  I was also thinking about Jane Guyer’s book on among many other things nominal value, Marginal Gains, Monetary Transaction in Atlantic Africa.  And of course, I was thinking about “Against the Implicit Politics of Service-Dominant Logic,” from Marketing Theory by Hietanen and Bradshaw.

All this made me think about the distinction made in Hausa between arzikin kud’i and arzikin mutane. As best as I can understand the former, money wealth, was not embedded in the MCM logic but more in the CMC logic even if there were and are renowned merchants who amassed significant fortunes in both M and C. But the second, is of interest; because it is both twinned with and separated from the former.  Arzikin mutane means wealth in persons in severality. But what it really means is the ability to mobilize a constituency, a web of variously obliged persons. The forms of this obligation were quite many in pre-colonial Hausaland. And these obligations were in fact animated by flows of both M and C.

So when I was writing about value a couple of years ago for Marketing Theory, I wrote, “value is neither in a thing nor in perceptions of a thing. Instead we can think of value to consumers – as distinct from other kinds of human subjects–as consisting in meaningful differences following Baudrillard, and more broadly as meaningful distinctions that refine identities and ‘count’ as significant achievements following Bourdieu. This value emerges from what people do; that is to say, the social pursuit of those meaningful distinctions typically through the exchange of resources between actors” (2014), Rudiments of a value praxeology, Marketing Theory, 13 (4, November), 129–133.DOI: 10.1177/1470593113500384.

I had in mind the contemporary context, and I could be taken to ask for neglecting the capitalist CMC context in which these kinds of value producing practices are embedded per the Hietanen and Bradshaw paper.  But I wonder whether in the new digital environments is there not something else: According to some of the prophets like Henry Jenkins and Rob Kozinets there is enormous scope for value creation as we have later demonstrated, e:g:;

2009, How Brand Communities Create Value, Journal of Marketing, 73 (September), 30-51, with Hope Jensen Schau and Albert Muniz, Jr.

2015 Practice Consumption and Value Creation: Advancing the Practice Theoretical Ontology of Consumption Community, Psychology and Marketing, 32(3, March): 319–340, Benjamin Hartmann, Caroline Wiertz and Eric Arnould, DOI: 10.1002/mar.20782.

Can we see in platforms, hubs, gameified environments, social media feeds, the nugget of post-capitalist modes of value creation. After all, capitalism arose out of precapitalist economic formations. Cant post capitalist economic formations arise out iof capitalism?










So I made a speech about consumer creativity a couple of years ago at ESCP Europe. You can find it here:

I have since been working on a couple of paper about consumer creativity. One paper is

Mobilizing Collective Creativity To Change Market Dynamics: The Emergence of Restaurant Day Under Nordic Governance of Food Culture

Henri Weijo (Bentley University) and Diane Martin (RMIT Melbourne) are the prime movers on this one.

Creativity is known to play an important role in politicized consumer collectives struggles for change, but few previous works have elaborated on the precursors for and evolving nature of creativity. Previous creativity research also has a heavy individualist slant. This study develops a model of collective consumer creativity for market change. Using ethnographic methods and a Deleuzian theoretical framework of creativity, we chronicle the evolution of the Restaurant Day food carnival that originally emerged as a collective response to political tensions relating to strict food culture regulation in Finland. Findings illuminate a process of collectively sensed tensions turning into a precursor for creativity, in turn enabling novel expressions that challenge established marketplace truths. Creative expressions are further accentuated through the emergence of creative rules, support structures, and growing expressive heterogeneity that entice consumer participation but also help warding off multisided contestation from actors affected by the ongoing market changes.  We are able to show how RD mananged to enlist participants in an ongoing unfolding of Deleuzean creative expressivity before a routinisation process descended.


The other paper is

Socializing Consumer Creativity

The prime moves on this one are Gry Høngsmark Knudsen, Mario Campana and Kat Duffy

In this paper we contribute to the literature on consumer creativity by developing a collective concept of creativity along three active dimensions and in terms of three practices. The paper is inspired by recent theoretical discussions of context, collectivity, and assemblage in interpretive consumer research. So inspired, the paper advances an understanding of creativity as emerging through socialization and interaction between three dimensions: consumers, artefacts, and spaces, each with their own world-shaping potentialities. We argue that creativity evolves where consumers, artefacts, and spaces come together in combinations that transform cultural routines into novel, yet comprehensible configurations, hence creative ones.  Thus, we contradict the perspective current in consumer research that argues that creativity is a personal attribute or an outcome of the behavior of a gifted individual. We dimensionalize creativity as a process that encompasses collective practices of specialization, co-constitution, and valorization. Through these crucial practices consumers identify and legitimate creative acts. By demonstrating processes of legitimation, we also add dimensions of power to the discussion of how creativity is stifled; thereby we demonstrate how creativity ends. That is, we develop a holistic perspective on creative events, where we outline both the emergence and finality of creativity. Through a novel method in qualitative consumer research of triangulation across quite different empirical contexts, we demonstrate commonalities of creativity as an emergent, contingent property of assemblages of entities and practices. Finally, we thus provide a theoretically motivated sociological model of the social and processual character of creativity.





Thought I would post this preface I worte for a new book from France that adopts a cultural perspective, at least most of the authros do, on retailing practice. Maybe you will like my preface and want to look at the book too. Hope so:
2014 Repenser le Commerce : vers une perspective socioculturelle de la distribution, sous la direction de Isabelle Collin-Lachaud, Cormelles-Le-Royal, France : Editions Management & Société.
Preface, E. Arnould

Avec ce livre on revient aux observations primordiales envers la distribution nous offertes pars des grands d’un siècle passé. Je parle de Marcel Mauss et de Walter Benjamin. Du premier on retient l’idée que la distribution figure parmi les instances du système d’échange moral en se rendant compte du rôle de la grand distribution dans les circuits du don, les cadeaux de Noel, de maman, de l’anniversaire, des noces, ainsi que des noces d’argent, de l’or, et etc. N’oublions pas aussi la possibilité de rendre le don manqué à la boutique le cas échéant ainsi le fait que l’achat et le retour eux aussi sont accompagnés des gestes de mutualité entre prestataires et récipients de service. Du deuxième on retient la notion que la distribution est une zone identitaire de loisirs et du plaisir ou on se reconnait et se construit à travers le reflet du soi dans des univers de potentialités matérielles. On est très éloigné alors de la logistique compris comme une fonction éparse de gestion rationaliste.
Dans la première partie on abord des questions ontologique. Ontologie-distribution un couple curieuse n’est-ce pas ? Mais non, parce que Remy et Cléret nous montre clariement que le commerce est un champ d’action et d’interprétation social parmi d‘autres concurrentiels ou sont réalisés des valeurs, des identités, des rôles, et des projets politiques et civiques. Et ses auteurs aussi bien que Dion nous montre que la distribution, ses formules et ses marques sont des lieux de contestation ou des questions de légitimité, et avec la légitimité la reconnaissance de soi est en jeu. Elle ne le dit pas mais il se ressort de son interrogation que toute stratégie de marque est aussi une proposition idéologique et toute idéologie exige un processus de légitimation. Bref, l’organisation de la distribution touche aux questions existentielles. Des marques de la grande distribution ont elles un destin, une finalité? Et comment doit-on comprendre le rapport entre le destin des marques et celui de la société dans laquelle elles se sont enfoncées? Pour en finir ces deux articles inspirent un réflexion sur les modalités de la concurrence basé sur des codes de legitimation ou des Grands Mondes.
On assiste aussi a un retour au bazaar –comme on l’appelle la pousse timide de la distribution dite ethnique en Danemark– justement en face des mouvements massifs des segments de la population de la terre d’un endroit à un autre. Facteur de croissance de la distribution certes, mais on jouit du retour de l’esprit et le fonction des marches hebdomadaires que je connaissait en Afrique de l’ouest. Ces marches sont des lieux de paix, le fameux « paix du marché », les zones de rencontres entre des ethnies détenteurs des monopoles commerciaux ou des métiers spécialisés, ainsi que des machines à maintenir des zonages écologiques et tribales.
Au même temps dans les fêtes expérientielles et non marchandes du type « flash mob » ou « journée sans achat », actions qui peuvent être perçues comme « extravagantes », mais qui ne peuvent plus être considérées comme ponctuelles on retrouve le potlatch actes destructives voues a l’anéantissement de l’honneur du cible ainsi que le remontage en honneur de ceux qui ont la capacité d’en détruire. Par ces actes on exprime son méprise et son rejet de reconnaissance et de l’honneur de la grande distribution. On sait qu’au fond c’est un jeu de théâtre parce que comment va t on s’approvisionner autrement que par un système de distribution aussi complexe que le nôtre. Pourtant ces actes de « résistance » reflètent des sérieux faux pas de la part des grosses sociétés de distribution de masse quant à l’environnement (on ne doit jamais oublier les exigences du « hau » du foret) et l’éthique d’emploi des ouvriers « ailleurs ». Et dans le rejet de la grande distribution qu’est qu’on aperçoit, que les AMAP ne sont rien d’autres que des systèmes ou le principe du don reprend son place prioritaire dans la distribution. Leçon à tirer par la grande distribution des militants, nous sommes aussi les arrières petits-enfants de J-J Rousseau ; respectons nous tous le contrat social.

Avec Peñaloza et Badot et Lemoine on se souvient du fait que la grand distribution aussitôt que la petite ainsi que les pratiques d’approvisionnement est toujours une cristallisation momentanée d’un réseau conjoncturels d’acteurs y compris le consommateur. La crise de la fréquentation ainsi que des nombreuses faillites des vieilles maison de distribution ont fait la preuve. Ceci dit, maintenant il y a de maints formats compétitifs possibles grâce à la double transformation de l’économie, de plus en plus globalisée et de plus en plus plate et simultanée, due à l’effet de digitation et liquéfaction du monde matériel y compris le commerce. D’un cote, une réponse ritualisée au client zapper qui exige la fonctionnalité, la rapidité et la nouveauté par une distribution multi canaux. De l’autre la spectacularisation de parcours rituel de client en mettant beaucoup accent sur une expérience client toujours quelques peu inédites visant à pérenniser la relation avec l’enseigne à travers l’insertion des pratiques du don au sein du rapport marchand. Et de coup on est confronté par cette effervescence produit par la conjoncture de deux principes apparemment opposés mais en fait complémentaire, l’utilitariste et l’hédoniste, présents aussi bien au sein du kula mélanésien et à la foire médiévale ou au bazar maghrébin, tous rencontres aussi ritualisés que la distribution réussie d’aujourd’hui.

Me and  M.D. Press

Research Orientation

A five-year project funded by USAID is called SANREM (Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resource Management); the east African component, one of five worldwide. The focus of this project within which we conducted our marketing assessment is Conservation Agriculture (CA), an agricultural production system that uses the application of three principles, minimal soil disturbance, permanent soil cover, and crop rotations, to improve soil fertility and prevent soil erosion.. In addition the project aims to improve and conserve the soil of very poor smallholder farmers, reducing their workload on the farm while increasing their yield over time through soil improvement.


Scholars of public policy and marketing, macromarketers and even some scholars of international marketing have argued for the importance of marketing as a requisite element of grassroots development in underdeveloped countries including subSaharan Africa (Arnould 2001; Arnould and Mohr 2007; Joy and Ross 1989). Layton (2009) has argued strongly for the relationship between marketing, economic development and quality of life, a relationship shown in some empirical research (Oneto and Arnould 2012).  There is mixed evidence however, and some hotly contest the ability of alternative marketing channels to deliver either development or improved quality of life (Dolan 2008; Lyon 2006). There is also limited evidence that colleagues in agricultural science have assimilated the importance of marketing for the success of agricultural development projects, since in our experience input and output marketing appears mostly as an afterthought in agricultural development. This thus reinforces the urgency of the call others have made for more research involving marketers in development contexts (Schulz, Rahtz and Speece 2004).  In this report, we highlight some findings from a multidisciplinary agricultural research project below, and conclude with some implications for outreach.

Selected Emergent Findings

We turn first to a policy issue that was not among those that guided our work but that emerged during our field studies. There are issues with the current state of NGO funding in Kenya and Uganda that threaten the success of projects such as the SANREM project and other similar projects in support of more sustainable agriculture sector. This is a pity since we frequently collected data testifying to participant enthusiasm and support not only for the SANREM project but for other now terminated initiatives in the study zone. The current funding structure is such that NGOs are constantly searching for donor money from varied sources, but there often exists a mismatch between changing donor goals and country needs or slippage in the timing of projects and participant needs. These are expressed in a few different ways. First, projects that donors sponsor often do not take into account a realistic assessment of the challenges presented by the state of basic infrastructure of Kenya and Uganda. Second, a USD$2.5mil. (the size of the SANREM grant), or even USD$10mil. spend on certain projects that in themselves are often excellent, helpful and needed, is terminated after only a few years and then no more support for these programs is available. This reflects unrealistic expectations for enterprise success and institutional self-sufficiency. Thus, we learned of a grant program that effectively supported micro-loans to farmers so they could purchase inputs at the beginning of their planting season. It ended abruptly when the grant ran out leaving farmers and input suppliers rather high and dry. A few years of support is not enough time to build stability into fragile local marketing systems so that local organizations are able to maintain such lending systems. While we believe that more effective local systems of input supply and agricultural credit could be developed, it will take more oversight, aid and capacity building than can be administered in the present 3 or 5 year grant cycles (Arnould 1989).

Second is an issue related to supposition 5 reported above (actually discussed in a full paper elsewhere). We were struck by the pervasive self-interest and lack of trust between and among market actors. Significant market actors in the study zone included farmer groups, family members of farmer groups, local middlemen, NGO staff, input dealers, mobile money providers, local political authorities, and millers. As Singh, et al. (2005, 41) develop

low trust–low value market relationships that neither foster and sustain trust nor deliver value are eventually doomed. However, as dynamic systems, trust and value contributions may rarely be in perfect balance.

Our research finds that market actors struggle to develop the high trust-high market value relationships that Singh, et al. (2005) argue are key to economic growth and wellbeing. Below a certain level of economic activity we have testimony that even family members cannot be trusted to represent the interests of fellow community members.  For example, farmer groups are encouraged to start collective savings programs to assist with the micro-loans that are so hard to get, and are also encouraged to do collective input purchasing and marketing. Prior research shows that collective action can give farmers an advantage relative to bulking agents in the marketplace. However, trust and recourse for instances of self-interested behavior are relatively absent from this system and often prevent it from working. For example, a farmer group in Bungoma, Kenya tells a heartbreaking story about the demise of a thriving nascent marketing cooperative they had organized. Fifty-two members in this farmer group had organized themselves to the point where they were not only selling farmer crops as a collective, but they also had grain storage where they sold maize, soy beans, other dry beans, ground nuts, and finger millet. They were able to stock these items when prices were low (during harvest time) and sell them a few months later when the price was high. They sold as far as a market town 180km away, and when they brought their products there they used the return trip to bring products such as fish, which was not available in their local area, back for sale. The member who went with the truck to the market town brought back receipts from sales to show the group he had brought the correct amount of money. It is hard to underestimate the achievement that this business represents among smallholder farmer groups. However, the treasurer and other leaders of the group ran off with 2 million KSh (about USD$23,700), a huge amount of money for poor farmers (GDP, $1,720 per capita in PPP dollars). The farmer group members said they just had to “forgive and forget” because there was no recourse for them to take. But, “things disintegrated…we backslid.” By this they refer to an absence of effective governance above the village level that can adjudicate such problems.

Third is a set of findings also related to ideas advanced under Supposition 5 above. As we know “middlemen” perform many critical tasks in agricultural marketing. Unfortunately in the study zone, their linkage specializations come at a significant cost for farmers and consumers. Unfortunately, most middlemen are relatively small-scale operators themselves and must transfer their product to yet other middlemen in most agricultural marketing channels before product may reach processors or end consumers due to the shoddy state of transport (including both roads and rolling stock), limited storage capacity, restricted market information, and intensive competition (Anonymous 2010).  In addition, middle men can easily prey on small farmers’ economic vulnerability. For example, farmers may wait for middlemen to approach them in the villages, a not uncommon marketing practice, during which time their maize can rot if it is not properly dried. They wait because they fear that if they take the maize to the middlemen in local market towns, the latter will use the leverage of high transport costs to extract deep cuts on purchase prices. Moreover, farmers often are in such dire need for money because of the annual cycle of school fee payments that corresponds with price lows of the harvest season that they again sell to middlemen at a steep discount to annual market price rises.

Fourth, in evaluating the agricultural value chains that we encountered, our experience dovetails with that reported in other recent research. These findings relate to suppositions 3 and 4 outline above. Thus, as Mugisha (2011) perceptively writes:

Key issues in the maize value chain are the huge post- harvest losses at farm level, poor quality maize in the market, very low prices farmers get and a big informal market…. Much value is created at farm /producer level and this means that value chain intervention for upgrading is critical at this point. This can be through ensuring the use of more inputs on the farmer plots that have generally decreased in fertility. Farmers also need to be supported to produce and market in groups so as to increase their bargaining power. There should be a deliberate effort to educate all the actors in the chain to ensure that quality maize is transferred to another chain. Value chain actors along the chain need to be supported with credit facilities at affordable interest rates since, as revealed from literature; they play a crucial role in the chain (Mugisha 2011, xii-xiii).

What Mugisha says of the maize value chain is true of other major food crops such as beans, and oil crops in the study zone. The other value chain actors he refers to should include input dealers and cooperative buyers in particular who face credit constraints and contend with shortages of quality stocking and reliable transport. Middlemen also need support in learning improved crop handling, not merely financial support, particularly of high value perishables.

Fifth, is an emergent problem that has the effect of eroding economic-trust relationships (Singh, et al. 2005) in local markets, but which is related to issues of input supply that we discuss under the heading of supposition 3. We had tended to think of this in terms of material shortages or in terms of inadaptation of inputs to customers’ requirements. While issues of supply and adaptation are indeed market system issues, in some ways more pernicious is the proliferation of counterfeit agricultural inputs. All market actors we interviewed recognize counterfeit inputs as a significant problem. Consumers of inputs try to protect themselves by purchasing only from recognized sources, especially from Kenya Seed, which enjoys a very favorable brand reputation in the research zones. However, rebagging of counterfeit seed in Kenya Seed packaging is beginning to erode trust in the brand in some regions. And all have reported incidents of counterfeit fertilizers (dyed sand), seed (dyed grain to simulate seed treated with antiviral agents), and herbicides, especially from off-brand suppliers. Some Ugandan seed producers have compounded problems by producing seed, marketed as Kenya seed, in agronomic circumstances that do not produce quality seed. Here again systems governance emerges as a significant dimension of concern.

A sixth point is directly related to supposition 4. A well-developed agricultural market landscapes in developed countries are dotted with storage facilities. In the US agricultural bulk storage is handled by a mix of independent and vertically integrated grain elevators and the like. By contrast, the agricultural landscapes in Kenya and Uganda are marked by isolated, large (by local standards) centralized warehouses, often empty and derelict, and a paucity of local storage and processing infrastructure above the farm level. It appears that a systemwide liquidity crisis, coupled with a lack of small scale and low costs moisture monitoring and drying technology, constrains the development of a storage market player. An informant from a significant cooperative organization argued against the establishment of decentralized stocking facilities in favor of rapid evacuation of stocks from rural points to a central warehouse, assuming development of the rural road network, an unlikely occurrence in our view. Another informant spoke of initiatives with the World Food Program (WFP) to establish large warehouse facilities in another part of the study zone. But at the muddy farmgate level or even that of rural bulking markets, what appears to the observer are the paucity of secure drying, grading, and storage facilities, forcing farmers to dry their grain on the road verge, and bulking agents to spill grain all over the roadside as they rebag and load farmers’ maize, barley, beans and rice.

Seventh, and most crucially to the assessment of supposition 3 is the quality of the distribution infrastructure, i.e., roads, stocking and storage points. For example, a 5km (three mile) drive to a study site outside Kitale, Kenya took 20 minutes; the last kilometer on a heavily carved out dirt road easily consumed half of that time. Worse, a 24km (15 mile) drive from Kapchorwa to Kwosir, Uganda, another one of our study sites took one hour and a lot of stamina (especially if seated in the back of an SUV) and courage. During our visit, it had rained heavily during the night (not of course an uncommon occurrence in this high altitude zone) and the dirt roads were muddy with slippery clay film. We hired a local professional driver to drive our 4wd Toyota SUV up the mountain because many experienced Ugandan drivers have failed to make it. Our colleagues in the car jokingly have named certain hills, summits and corners after various colleagues who have gotten stuck on them. The main commercial artery we climbed up to the Kwosir study site would be more aptly described as a rocky, washed out trail with steep cliffs on one side. While our story is anecdotal, the more systemic situation is that farmers who live on this mountain side are virtually cut off from Kapchorwa during the rains. This is a city that has developed greatly in the past few years including a very large new cooperative warehouse that both buys grain and stores grain on credit. It is arduous and expensive for farmers to take their products to this town even though they can get the best prices at the cooperative warehouse. Thus, something somewhat overlooked in recent value chain analyses that would really benefit the mass of smallholder farmers in Kenya and Uganda is paved and maintained rural roads.

Finally to end on a more positive note, there is much positive to report about the evolution of banking especially in Kenya, but increasingly in Uganda as well. Cell phone banking is a stunning if uneven success. M-PESA and other such services in Kenya; mobile money and other such services in Uganda have dramatically increased security and convenience and decreased delays in making money transfers between exchange partners even in remote areas. Imagine that one has to pay school fees of 100,000 KSh but the cost of transport is 15,000 KSh in each direction plus another 5000KSh for meals, not to mention the opportunity cost of lost time standing in line at one of the understaffed local bank branches to pay these fees. Mobile money cuts these costs to 50KSh.  We found rural women who bear the brunt of agricultural work are often the beneficiaries of remittance transfers from urban family members. Informants among input dealers reported that mobile banking permitted easier payment of suppliers, while farmers reported the benefit of relief from the burden of carrying cash from markets to their homes. The increase in financial privacy was similarly appealing.

Further, Centenary and Equity Banks in Kenya and Uganda respectively have found a formula that allows them to loan money for agricultural inputs to small farmers based on assessments of their land and other assets. A minority of the most progressive farmers we interviewed access these services, but fear, lack of understanding, and in some cases unclear traditional land title hampers further access to bank loans. The biggest obstacles however may be interest rates on loans of 18-22% on the balance. Of course, these are dramatically better than the 100% middlemen in the informal sector may charge, but the banks are not nearly so agile nor so close to their customers as are the middlemen. We are not blind to the dangers of expropriation associated with expanded loan practices, but merely point to encouraging evidence of new suppleness in the financial infrastructures in agricultural banking. Reinforcement of ethical lending practices seems high on a list of priorities.


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with A.S. Rose


The recently introduced construct of consumer sharing is represented as a nonreciprocal, pro-social distribution of resources given without expectation of reciprocity (Belk, 2010). The approach adopted rests on shaky ontological and epistemological grounds and reproduces an array of problematic modernist dichotomies (e.g., agency/structure; nurturing family/instrumental public; gift/market; altruism/self-interest) that significantly constrain the analytical enterprise. The present work redresses some of the conceptual problems in the current formulation. The critique highlights a focus on resource distribution based on a more holistic, socially grounded perspective on circulation. We offer the alternative concept of mutuality or generalized exchange and the metaphor of inclusion rather than exchange as central to this perspective. We argue this may provide a more sound basis for understanding alternative modes of circulation.


Summary and Conclusions

Our paper represents an effort to contribute to the conversations in marketing and consumer research that try to make sense of evolving systems of resource circulation among consumers and between consumers and consumer-facing organizations in which the term “sharing” has been drafted by popular and theoretical commentators (Belk, 2010; The Economist, 2013; Geron, 2013; Owyang, 2013; Plouffe, 2008). In particular, we have provided a constructive critique of the sharing construct (Belk, 2010) on both the micro and macro scale. In the above paragraphs, we first offered a critique of a proposed definition of sharing; then, a critique of the empirical approach adopted to persuade researchers of the construct’s value. We next disputed the ego-centric ontology of the conceptualization on the grounds of inconsistency with a cultural approach to consumer culture and with contemporary social theory. Central to our critique is a defense of the anti-utilitarian conception of the gift in social science as providing both an explanation for many phenomena grouped under the heading of sharing, and as providing a foundation for an alternative conception. The next section of the paper deconstructs the ethnocentric and anachronistic vision of the family presented as foundational to the prototypical definition of sharing. The paper then turns briefly to the political dimension of the sharing concept. Finally, we concluded with a more detailed treatment of our alternative construct, mutuality, or if one prefers, generalized exchange to solidify and tie-together the various themes that arise in the critique. With mutuality, the guiding metaphor becomes inclusion rather than exchange.

On the micro level, we have shown that this project to isolate sharing as a discrete form of circulation of consumer goods fails on ontological and epistemological grounds. It collapses on ontological grounds because it inadequately distinguishes sharing from joint ownership, joint appropriation of common property resources, inalienable wealth, and goods circulating through mutuality, or generalized exchange processes. It is only through a contestable social utilitarian construction of the gift construct that the sharing project is viable. But this construction runs counter both to the understanding of this phenomenon in the large anti-utilitarian literature about the gift as a mode of circulation qualitatively different from State or market modes (Godbout and Caillé, 1992; Caillé, 2000; Godelier, 1972; Hyde, 1979). Similarly, this social utilitarian conceptualization fails to accommodate modes of circulation and value creation within temporary, affective collectivities (Arnould and Price, 1993; Gouldner, et al., 2002; Kozinets, 2002) or more ostensibly instrumental ones such as corporations (Alter, 2009) or C2C exchange networks (Willer, et al., 2012).

The project must be deemed unacceptable on epistemological grounds as well. The attempt to define the object of study through the concatenation of disparate, decontextualized examples is a mode of argumentation that inevitably and equally conflates things that appear to be similar but in fact are not, while differentiating those that are. It also adopts an implicit evolutionary phylogeny of sharing that situates its origin in a construction of the family and the place of women within it that is scientifically unsupportable. Most fundamentally, there is a fatal problem in the levels of analysis. A naïve realism is employed; this is a realism of the kind long ago abandoned as untenable by cultural theorists in favor of a variety of post-Wittgensteinian, post-Foucauldian constructivisms.

Further, on the macro scale, the argument, built on an extended project of the self, takes as axiomatic the atomistic, utilitarian, patriarchal subject against which anti-utilitarian philosophy has been arguing since Mauss and even before (Butler, 1999; Liebersohn, 2010; M.A.U.S.S., 1996). With it come the considerable political ramifications of theorizing on the Western stage alone with no apparent aim towards multi-contextual applicability. Regardless of the intention behind the politicization, this concept of the self is untenable outside of the mythical assumptions about human actors and their motivations in social science traditions inspired by neoclassical economics.

The scope of our paper is limited. We have not investigated the analytic boundaries between mutuality, access-based consumption, and co-creation and co-consumption between institutionally distinct market actors (Bardhi and Eckhardt, 2012; Bostman and Rogers, 2010; Chen, 2009; Felson and Spaeth, 1978; Lamberton and Rose, 2012). We would suggest systematic investigation of the role of mutuality or generalized exchange in such situations would shed further light on the evolving nature of the circulation and distribution of consumption resources as well as of the evolving relationship between mutuality and possessive individualism (Humphreys and Giesler, 2007). Further, such investigation might complement research on these emergent forms of circulation and use of resources that has tended to view them either through the lens of a romantic humanistic discourse (Bostman and Rogers, 2010; Thompson, et al, 2013) or through a critical Marxist lens (Cova, et al., 2011). For the more phenomenologically inclined, research might investigate the kinds of mental accounts that organize these modes of circulation (Bradford, 2009; n.d.).

We welcome the attention to the kind of generalized exchange behavior that we prefer to label mutuality, but we have argued that the concept of sharing offered in consumer research cannot be accepted by the social scientific community for the reasons we have described. At the same time, the key point is that the many forms of circulation which social scientists like Mauss, Polanyi, Sahlins, Weiner or Graeber have described—mutuality, pooling, debt, hierarchical redistribution or market exchange—must be understood as distinct analytic constructs or as useful metaphors but not irreducible empirical facts. By that token, all should be subject to reflexive examination (Anderson, 1986; Krippendorf, 1993) that interrogates their basis in the master tropes of mutuality and possessive individualism. At the same time, we should remember that mutuality, the gift, market exchange and all modes of circulation emerge in interactions. Practices through which people constitute these modes of circulation in the course of interaction have received relatively little research attention. As Araujo (2007) has observed with regard to markets, various acts of circulation should be studied as ongoing and contingent accomplishments. More future research is needed to reveal how, when, and with what consequences, people accomplish mutuality and market exchanges in interaction. And of equal importance, researchers have consistently mis-stepped when decontextualizing particular actions from the social and temporal systems of circulation in which they are inevitably embedded. For the social and temporal contexts must also be established and affirmed through circulation; they are not given a priori. Future research needs to look more closely at how contexts of interest, gratitude, debt, and obligation shape particular moments of circulation (Caillé, 1994; Llewellyn, 2011; Marcoux, 2009).

At the limit, if sharing is a distinct construct that should be retained, its domain should be considerably reduced from the claims made in the “sharing” paper (Belk, 2010). At one end of the social scale, for example, in how people define what makes them kin or not (Marshall, 1977; Overing 1989; Sahlins 2012) then sharing does seem apposite. But notice that what constitutes “sharing” here really involves nothing more than an especially dense, recurrent network of generalized exchanges among kinsfolk; or put the other way round, kinsfolk are defined by intense transfers among moral accounts (Bradford, 2009, n.d.; Caillé, 1994; Carrier, 1991; Godbout, 1995). Among close kin, the scale is small; the scope of mutuality is great. A second localization of sharing might lie at the macro scale where the scope is narrow, that is, in the realm of ecosystem services provided by natural endowments of air, water and other resources (Costanza, et al., 1987). Here, where new modes of management are urgently required, the challenge lies in acknowledging participation and extending mutual recognition and responsibility. Cases of successful collective appropriation of common property resources (McKean, 1992; Netting, 1981; Ostrom, 1991) provide examples upon which future research could build.


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  • Cher collègues, mesdames et messieurs, permettez-moi de remercier aux organisateurs l’honneur de présider cette édition des renommées journées normandes. Je profite de cette occasion de vous parler des trois problèmes majeurs des projets de recherche regroupés sous la rubrique de « consumer culture theory ». Entre autres initiatives fructueuses telles le marketing méditerranéenne, ce programme de recherche a connu un certain succès en France grâce aux efforts de plusieurs personnes dont certains font parties de l’assistance aujourd’hui. Malgré vos réussites, des chercheurs débutants en CCT sont confrontés avec trois défis principaux qui nuisent à leur succès.  Mais à la différence de « actor-newortk theory » que selon Bruno Latour est troublé par quatre éléments, le concept d’acteur, ceux de réseau et de théorie, et en plus le trait d’union, la tendance CCT n’est troublé que par trois. Situation heureuse, nous nous sommes  épargnés de l’horreur de ce dernier. le trait d’union qui avec le deux points constitue un fléau destructeur.
  • Je ne parle pas aujourd’hui de mes propres recherches. Si parler de cette recherche vous en intéresse, je serai plus que content d’en parler avec vous lors du congrès. Voila des thèmes de quelques articles récentes… Mais cette fois-ci se situons nous à un niveau plus abstrait, parlons-nous de ces trois défis auxquelles les chercheurs de tendance « CCT » doivent faire face.
  • Il n’y a que trois éléments troublants comme je vous ai déjà dit, les voilà.
  • D’abord le concept du consommateur. Lui, unique et solitaire, et démuni de son réseaux sociaux et culturel, est loin de cadrer sainement nos recherches actuelles.
  • Il y a deux fantômes persistants légués de deux disciplines mères qui nous empêchent parfois d’avancer dans nos recherches. De l’économie néo-classique nous sommes hantés par des présomptions malicieuses grâce auxquelles « on sait » que les décisions tendent aux raisonnements utilitaires. Or ce genre de raisonnement est clairement le résultat de l’évolution d’une culture marchande assez récente et pas antécédent à celle-ci. De psychologie, nous avons tendance å croire que les comportements s’expliquent par l’intervention d’une série de motivations déterminées mais invisibles, et qui sont en plus supposées le fruit d’une dotation génétique. Or, la plasticité psychologique était un acquis de l’ethnologie comparative. Et bien sûr depuis 100000 ans la culture a été facteur déterminant de l’évolution de l’espèce humaine.
  • A travers nombreuses études empiriques des pratiques de plusieurs collectivités marchandes – des communautés, des tribus, des sous-cultures—nous avons mise en évidence des rôles, des comportements, des pratiques, des projets sociaux, des modes d’accès aux biens, et des objets de consommation, qui dépassent le schéma traditionnel de recherche consommation en marketing. Passons a une nouvelle terminologie plus apte a déceler les pratiques marchandes et de consommation émergents.
  • Il y a certains faux départs que nous devons maintenant réviser.
    1. Selon la logique culturelle, a la différence de recherche consommation classique, l’individu ne pourrait pas être le point de départ de nos analyses parce que celui-ci est toujours qualifié, et en plus qualifié d’agir en tant que consommateur de façon déterminé å travers ses attributs socio-culturels et son appartenance å des statuts accordés par des processus sociaux.
    2. Grace å la recherche menée depuis deux décennies sur la matérialité des objets, leurs capacité de façonner nos pratiques et nos comportements habituels et notre compréhension de soi, le binaire sujet-objet n’est plus å maintenir.
    3. Malgré le fait que le consommateur souverain est devenu le sujet et l’objet de tout geste dans nos cultures marchandes, pour nous cette créature est un produit variable des forces productrices qui se situent a un niveau diffèrent de celui de cette entité. Eng tout cas, il est une entité ni naturelle.
  • Ensuite, nous arrivons au concept de culture. Nous voyons 2 exemples de l’image classique de la culture, deux images stéréotypés ; le français hédoniste. ; le scandinave guerrier.
  • En soi, le concept de culture représente déjà une critique au moins implicite et toujours tranchante du discours dominants en recherche marketing pour lequel les comportements les plus variés et plus variables doivent réduit aux tendances à la fois éternelles et universelles, ceci étant le objectif essentiel de la pensée bourgeoise – de rendre universelle et éternelle tout qui est temporaire est contingente : le besoin, le gout, la préférence voire le calcul en ratio. C’est l’anthropologue Marshall Sahlins qui a proposé ce terme. Tout récemment Ela Veresiu et Markus Gielser nous ont montré les séductions de la pensée bourgeoise au sein du sommet de Davos.  Mais ce n’est pas toujours très aisé d’offrir des critiques de la base intellectuelle de sa discipline.
  • Le chercheur qui s’intéresse aux questions culturelles se fraie un parcours entre deux tentations dangereuses en recherche marketing.  D’un côté le déterminisme culturel représenté, entre autres, par la tentation d’un dispositif dominant mais erroné, celui de Hofstede ou de Schwarz.  De l’autre côté, « lurks » la tentation séduisante des théories post- ou antihumanistes, la théorie d’assemblages ou celle de ANT. Ces derniers ont de difficulté å reconnaitre et expliquer des phénomènes durables tels des institutions ou la culture.
  • L’apparatus théorique culturel est légué d’une généalogie intellectuelle. Il incombe aux chercheurs d’inspiration CCT de s’imprégner de leur robuste héritage. C’ est obligatoire, mais ça exige de la discipline parce que souvent une lecture supplémentaire et qui trouble les préjugés.
  • Un exemple : la formation des attentes des consommateurs envers les technologies émergentes, envers le future on pourra dire. Mon doctorant à SDU Thomas Robinson décrypte le processus de formation de ces attentes par l’intervention de la littérature (et les médias) scientifique populaire. Il travail sur les OMG et les robots par exemple. On constate l’existence des visions stéréotypés des robots selon le contexte culturel –un vision utopique, l’autre dystopique, les deux jumelés. A expliquer ces différences à travers la grille socio-historique d’interprétation culturelle.
    1. En Angleterre le bon robot est imaginer d’être un maitre d’hôtel aimable ; le robot méchant par contre est à l’origine de conflits de classe violents en volant de l’emploi de la classe ouvrière.
    2. Au Danemark, le bon robot protège le tissu social en portant de l’aide aux personnes âgées ou handicapées ; le robot pécheur par contre, est la source d’une aliénation plus profonde et tranchée.
    3. Aux états unis, le bon robot est un porteur d’aide toujours très mignon ; le robot méchant est une force armée destructrice implacable.
    4. Et en France ?
  • La théorie
  • D’abord une connaissance de sa généalogie théorique constitue un atout considérable pour un chercheur à tendance CCT, surtout quand on est au début de sa carrière. D’abord, ce vous situe dans l’univers intellectuel. Ensuite, faire partie d’un lignage intellectuel vous réconfort quand vous êtes obligé de défendre vos choix de contexte, de question et de théorie. Enfin, cela vous permet de reconnaitre vos alliés et vos adversaires intellectuels.
  • Mais tout de suite, nous sommes confrontés par un problème épineux. Ceci est dû au fait que l’optique CCT n’est pas constitué par une théorie unitaire mais toute une famille d’options théoriques assez hétérogènes et en plein mouvement. Les choix théoriques acceptables en 1982 sont parfois plus douteux en 2014, et d’autres inimaginables à l’époque sont à imaginer actuellement.  Mais chaque option est difficilement maitrisable surtout dans des milieux universitaires ou des vrais experts se font rares. En plus, et c’est très important, ils ne sont pas tous compatibles les unes aux autres. On doit opérer un choix raisonné et quand on est chercheur débutant ce n’est pas toujours très simple å cerner le choix optimal.  Par exemple, suivre l’inspiration anti-utilitariste de Marcel Mauss dans des milieux universitaires dominés par un raisonnement économique ou financière je l’avoue assez délicate. Quand même, suivez vos rêves !
  • Etant donné l’esprit critique qu’anime la tendance CCT surtout les volets axes sur l’idéologie et les aspects socio-historique de la société de consommation, on a l’opportunité, on peut dire l’obligation de décider son axiologie. Il y a plusieurs cas de figures, de la soulagement de la pensée bourgeoise selon laquelle la culture marchande et le comportement consommateur sont naturels, universels, voire le reflet de notre dotation génétique, en passant aux critiques les plus pointues et tranchantes du dispositif capitaliste et ancré dans une théorie néo-marxiste ou de l’école de Frankfort.
  • Finalement, c’est utile de réfléchir sur votre positionnement au champ de la recherche marketing. Le choix de contexte de votre recherche doit être lié a le choix des théories générale et appliquée å partir desquelles se formule vos questions et auxquelles soient destinées vos contributions. Et vice versa. Par ailleurs, on doit penser au quel courant plus spécifique du dispositif général de la recherche marketing ou de comportement de consommateur influencé par le tournant culturel ou matérialiste auquel on voudrait contribuer et auquel on voudrait être associé. Par exemple, une étude des pratiques des ethnologues au sein d’entreprise (le contexte) a été liée à la théorie applique de la gestion par usage de narratives, mais ceci nous a permis de parler du fétichisme tel que conçu par l’anthropologie classique et contemporaine et la recherche de l’anthropologue P. Descola.
  • Bref, c’est tout. Je vous souhaite une très agréable conférence. J’en suis certain qu’elle sera ecellente.ACR 2014 Discursive Challenges for new CCT ScholarsJournees normande 2014

Unifying Regimes of Value

It may be naïve to think so, but it is possible a practice theoretical approach to value creation allows us agree with Marx that human creative activity is foundational to value; with Simmel that interaction between entities is involved; with much economic anthropology that gift, barter, and commodity constitute and are constituted in regimes of value (Appadurai 1986), as are kinds of the subjects who participate in such regimes; and with Saussure and early Baudrillard (1996) that what constitutes value is fundamentally a matter of distinction. Moreover such an approach may help us develop a model in which two distinct kinds of value prevalent in the literature and exemplified in the contrast that Kjeldgaard and Karababa (this volume) draw between economic exchange value and social value. The former refers foundationally to relative ratios of value however crudely or precisely calculated and ultimately determined by a standard equivalent, i.e., money, and the latter refers to valued end states always (?) imprecisely determined. The practice approach allows us to suggest that human creative activity is at the foundation of value creation, an important twist on Marx’s view that encompasses productive activity in cultural and contexts where is no emic conception of labour. We can agree with Simmel about the role of interaction since as mentioned practice approaches to value creation suggest that the interaction of productive and consumptive moments are key to the realization of use values.

But rather than dissolving kinds of value into a typology as Holbrook (1999) has done and as Kjeldgaard and Karababa review, it might be useful to think in terms of regimes of value creation and the relationships between them. The problem with typological approaches is that they neglect that all values cannot be obtained, or perhaps are not prioritized, through the kind of exchange that predominates in capitalist market economies and to which these typologies are limited. The focus on advanced market economies creates theoretical discontinuities and blinkers. To develop a praxeology of value we might build upon our already existing models of value creation to ask what kinds of value are produced in regimes that we have termed gift, barter, or market. What classes of value are produced in each of these; and how do they vary systematically?

What these regimes all have in common is to produce models of the proper relationships between things and persons, material relations in the former case and social relations in the latter. They also differ systematically. Systems of gift exchange personify things, deny the alienability of both persons and things and embed persons in systems of intergroup relationships, producing these systems as they do so.  Non-equivalence of things especially evident in elaborate system of ranked exchange goods is a watchword; since it is through non-equivalence that social relations may be perpetuated.

Systems of barter by contrast objectify things; things are alienated but not the persons exchanging as no standard unit of production exists and indeed often cannot be known. These systems aim to produce contingent equivalence; that is to define those things exchanged as essentially unities –so much of this is the same as so much of that (Strathern 1992). The issue of social relations is fraught; barter relationships are rarely one-off transactions, as they can only occur if the parties to the exchange have agreed that they are qualified to do so. Nonetheless such exchanges are often fundamentally agonistic.

Finally, as we know in market exchange both things and persons are alienated; people from the products of their labour and from the their labour itself as they are imagined to have a dual existence as sensuous human beings and as mere, essentially equivalent, units of labour power. If as Karababa and Kjeldgaard argue, “marketing is involved in the evaluation of sociocultural differences and the articulation of the economic worth of these differences… marketing can be understood as a practice of configuration of commodified value system potentials rather than a meaning transfer institution.”  This position is consistent with the insight Graeber (2005, p.450) offers to that effect that in advanced consumer culture, the key value or the ultimate use value is the self. The implicit project of consumption is restoring the subject divided by capitalism to unity:

[In consumer culture] Each person is assumed to be unique and thus, by definition, incomparable. If all individuals are values unto themselves [an idea which he traces back to Christian ideas about the value of the immortal soul], none can be treated as intrinsically superior to any other. It is this which has allowed the market, as the sphere of individual self-realisation, to become the hierarchically dominant, highest sphere [of value].

And consequently we might argue that all the many values elaborated by Holbrook (1999) fetishize the quest for the unified sense of being capitalism sunders.

What then of the key or ultimate value in gift giving. If we follow Mauss and his successors we know that the gift is peaceful relations among human groups in the absence of the State, that is, sociality. Contemporary research shows how gift giving still articulates the moral economy and produces the grounds of sociality even within the firm (Alter 2010; Cheal 1988). Unfortunately, the gift-giving literature in consumer culture theory generally focuses on dyadic or monadic gift giving (Belk 2010; Mick and DeMoss 1990; Sherry 1983), and even when cognizing broader social systems (Fischer and Arnold 1990) has not tended to focus on the value, e.g., kin relationships, created through gift giving as it might do. More recent work begins to resituate consumer gift giving within its proper frame as a rhizomatic social system of value creation (Giesler 2006). Weinberger and Wallendorf (2012) is a rare example of intracommunity gift giving research that shows how tournaments of value produce and reproduce a prestige hierarchy. Moreover, this paper addresses the linkages between the market sphere of value creation and the gift sphere insofar as elite members of Mardi Gras Krewes transform market system exchange value into prestige value through the Mardi Gras gifting of spectacle and beads and subtle reciprocal acts of admiration and legitimation.

Recent research leads one to propose that the key value in the barter economy is the reproduction of meaningful boundaries (Humphreys and Hugh-Jones 1992). One can say this because one finds that barter exists at the boundaries of distinctive ecological systems, and once instituted contributes to the elaboration of cultural distinctions around economic specializations (Gell 1992). While noted very much in passing in early work on consumer to consumer exchange networks (Belk Sherry and Wallendorf 1988) one of the few examples of discussion of bartering in consumer culture theory literature is at Burning Man (Kozinets 2002). While we are told that reciprocal exchanges are required among festival-goers, we do not know how the negotiation of equivalence which lies at the heart of a barter system (Gell 1992; Strathern 1992) occurs. We also have tantalizing hints from the Burning Man context that there are linkages between regimes of value creation as when festival organizers grant privileges or status marks to those who have offered compelling performances, but this discussion too is underdeveloped.