John W Murphy, Karen A. Callaghan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The basic premise of this book is that the market is an aberration. This claim is contrary to the usual idea that this mechanism encourages a natural form of interaction. The typical claim is that the market promotes freedom and rationality, and thus guides (economic) interaction in the most productive manner possible. In this sense, the market is compatible with both human nature and the fundamental principles of social life. The perfection of this device, moreover, represents one of the great advances in modern society. In fact, most persons cannot even imagine a world without markets. How else could their desires be channeled effectively and safely?. For most persons, any call to move to a post-market society must sound terribly misguided. The first thought that probably comes to mind is a return to a primitive state, where life is quite chaotic and people survive by bartering. Given this imagery, who would want to entertain any prospect of dispensing with markets? After all, most persons do not want to abandon the various improvements, technological or otherwise, that have raised their standard of living. Few will consider seriously any change that reverses gains made in health, nutrition, housing, communication, or any other facet of modern life. On the other hand, a correlative claim made in this book is that the market contributes to many current social problems. Rather than a palliative, this device is corrosive in many ways. Specifically noteworthy, a message is conveyed that supports conflicts, inequities, and other maladies that plague the contemporary world. At the root of these issues, however, is the alienation of persons from themselves and their institutions that the market encourages (Marx, 1973). In this sense, they become entrapped in a situation where rivalries and hostilities increase, due to a skewed and disruptive distribution of resources. This situation, furthermore, comes to be viewed gradually as normative and expected. This condition results from the mystification of market relations. In other words, in order for the market to improve society, this device has to be shrouded technicalities and thought to exist beyond the influence of humans. Persons and the market, accordingly, must occupy different ontological levels. As a result, traits can be contributed to this mechanism that are absent or rare in persons. The market, for example, is unbiased and rational, whereas persons are not. Therefore, an economy will develop when investors learn to propitiate effectively this new god. But in the end, the market becomes an idol that dictates how social life should be organized. In more concrete terms, the market supplies the necessary and logical explanations for events and trends. Persons invest and make money when the proper signals indicate that profits are likely. Jobs are plentiful when this possibility exists. Additionally, poverty is the result of disobeying these signs. The overall result of this tendency is that personal or collective desires or actions are obscured by market principles. And as the economy and other institutions begin to overshadow human desires, eventually persons become ancillary to their institutions. Accordingly, discrimination that impedes access the market is also obscured and, gradually, reified. In this sense, persons do not do anything; the market explains everything in the most rational manner. Not having access to the market, or not succeeding at the marketplace, cannot be blamed on institutional sources. But, as should be noted, this asymmetry provides an almost textbook example of alienation. Nonetheless, the self-regulation of markets takes care of all problems, while the interventions needed to eliminate problems are ignored.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalToward a Post-Market Society
StatePublished - Apr 1 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)


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