Monday, November 30, 2020

Philippe Steiner on matching and romance, and transplants

 The French economic sociologist Philippe Steiner, who studies (among other things) how markets and gift giving can coexist, has a short piece about dating platforms.

Plateformes d’appariement, rencontres amoureuses et mondes marchands ("Matching platforms, romantic encounters and trading worlds") by Philippe Steiner, Dans Revue Française de Socio-Économie 2020/2 (n° 25), pages 161 à 166

Via google translate:

"Two elements can serve to close this brief reflection on the meeting of economic sociology and the sociology of sexuality.

"The appearance of a commercial intermediary modifies the social conditions of the romantic encounter. However, is it of a commercial nature? The use of the term matrimonial market, in which it is a question of "making a choice, maximizing your options and using calculation techniques in terms of costs and profits, and efficiency" [Illouz, 2006, p. 252], might lead one to believe. This interpretation is doubtful: if the market implies the idea of ​​choice, the converse is not true. The market relationship is characterized by monetary power, that is, the ability to obtain the desired good by paying more - it is not for nothing that auction technology is often taken as the example of the market. Also, once the relationship connecting individuals to the platform has brought together two potential partners, it is not the ability to pay that will make the match between them."


"Finally, the matching technologies that are at work in the platforms are not necessarily associated with the market world [Steiner, 2016, chap. 7]. Matching platforms using deferred acceptance or optimal trading cycle technologies can serve as well to reproduce the market functioning as to enable non-market matches. Alvin Roth's economic engineering applies to the labor market (pairing of medical interns and hospitals) as well as to organ transplantation, in which the commercial relationship is banned by national laws as well as by international declarations of professionals."


The following interview may also be of interest to readers of this blog:

“Organic” Gift-Giving and Organ Transplantation, the Development of Economic Sociology and Morality in a Super-Monetized World: An Interview with Philippe Steiner Journal of Economic Sociology, 2014, vol. 15, issue 1, 11-19

 "when I studied the issue of organ transplantation, in full agreement with Healy’s approach, the organizational setting appeared to be very, very important. Accordingly, organ donation is a gift that individual actors provide to organizational actors. And then, with this gift, the organization conducts an extensive and very important process to ensure that the kidney does not convey illness, AIDS, cancer. In addition, the degree of compatibility between the organ and the body is checked. And they do this very rapidly. Then, they allocate the gift to a new individual actor. However, the important thing, in my opinion, is that between the first individual actor and the second one there is a large organization. More precisely, a plurality of organizations. This is something that I refer to in my present book as  organizational gift-giving”. To parallel the Durkheimian distinction between mechanical and organic solidarity, I would call this “organic” gift-giving and thus draw a distinction between the usual story about people in Melanesia who give gifts according to Malinowski and Mauss. 


" I am trying to map gift-giving, inheritance, and the exchange of symbolic goods, which are at the frontiers of usual market exchanges, to provide a broad view of what exchange at large means in our present society. Considering market exchange as a limited element of all the transactions in the world is my way to escape this super-monetized world.


"Social forces are pushing in the direction of a fullblown market society, whereas others are resisting and devoting their energy to maintaining a frontier between market exchanges and other forms of exchange. In that sense, political issues remain central, as in Polanyi’s time. To return to my research on organ transplantation, I would like to stress that the last chapter of the book concerns what is usually referred to as transplant tourism — is it good to have transplant tourism? Should it be fully legalized? Is the creation of a biomarket in India for Americans suffering from final-stage kidney failure a good thing? You must say yes or no. You cannot escape a political decision. And my answer was “Definitely, no biomarkets”. However, of course, this is not an easy position because as you know there are individuals who are dying because of the lack of kidneys. Therefore, this (response) is uncertain, difficult. However, in the end, not giving an answer is a boon to those pushing for the commodification of body parts. So, finally, I decided to stay on the Maussian–Polanyian side — “limit the market.”

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