We are an international network of scholars researching the role of valuations in social life.
What’s valuable? This question – whether at the personal, organizational, or societal level – is increasingly being answered through various forms of competition. This can be through the prices of market competition but also through the prizes of contests, ratings, rankings and other forms of organized competitions. What, for example, is the social meaning of university rankings? Are such rankings and ratings forms of market competition? What are the consequences of representations of aspects of social life as a ranked order? Our international network of scholars examines such questions in a series of workshops and public debates.
Our aim is to address an important issue of public interest: What social consequences arise when forms of competition developed in one domain of life (the economy, for example) are adopted in another (e.g., higher education, the art world, or the National Health Service)? The study of competition might seem to be the province of economics. But competition – whether as organized competitions or as market competition – is too important to be monopolized by economists.
We reject the disciplinary division of labor in which economists study value and sociologists study values. For us, to ask the question “What’s Valuable?” is to ask about worth – a question of valuation and evaluation, where values and value intersect, where morality and economy are conjoined, where esteem meets estimation. In bringing new insights to the study of competition, our goal is not to challenge economics. Our goal, instead, is to rise to the challenge of asking fresh questions that could not even be posed as problems from the perspective of one specialization.
It is for this reason that our core team is composed of researchers in the social sciences and humanities from Denmark, France, Italy, and the United Kingdom who are all leading figures in the study of valuation, competitions, ratings, rankings, and related problems across a range of fields, including economic sociology, cultural sociology, organization studies and science and technology studies. With this disciplinary, institutional, and theoretical diversity, our goal is to develop an exciting agenda that will challenge other researchers to bring their insights, methods, and concepts to the study of a topic of significant public concern.