Historical Social Research

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Eve Chiapello & Gaëtan Godefroy: The Dual Function of Judgment Devices. Why does the Plurality of Market Classifications Matter? [Abstract]

This article aims to advance understanding of the dual function of judgment devices (Karpik 2010) in markets. First, these devices support the construction of markets and their segmentation into classes of products, each segment being associated with different procedures for judging the quality or value of goods. Second, they organize classifications and a ranking of the things traded in the same market segment. The fragmentation of markets, understood as the cohabitation of several types of judgment devices, each one associated with different configurations of actors and practices, can then be seen as a welcome source of diversity, preventing the standardizing effects that would result from over-similar judgment devices. This article studies the classification operations that accompany changes in the French market that provides funding for social-sector organizations through financial and banking channels. We observe the arrival on this market of impact investing, the name given since the end of the 2000s to a set of venture capitalism-inspired financing methods that originated in the USA and the UK. We study these classification operations at three levels: the boundary-building work needed to create the idea of a new financing market (the impact investing (II) market), the fragmentation of the existing market for financing social organizations into sub-spaces governed by different assessment and classification regimes, and the effect of these classifications on the organizations being judged.

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