Lucien Karpik: Valuing the unique. The economics of singularities
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Lucien Karpik is a prominent figure in French economic sociology. He was founding director of the Center for the Sociology of Innovation at the Ecole des Mines, France’s most prestigious engineering school. The research center became influential in the development of general sociological theory and then in Science and Technology Studies, through Michel Callon and Bruno Latour. In economic sociology, Karpik and Callon were the dominant figures. In 1989, Karpik published a much cited article in Revue Francaise de la Sociologie, titled L’économie de la qualité. This book is the considerably expanded version of the 1989 article.
In the first of the book’s four parts, Karpik draws the reader’s attention to a particular type of products. These products are called “singularities,” and their quality is characterized by multidimensionality, uncertainty and incommensurability. Vintage wines are an example: they serve various purposes, their taste remains surprising, and they are difficult to...