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Inventing Value

Elder-Vass, Dave. (2022). Inventing Value: The Social Construction of Monetary Worth. Cambridge University Press.

Value is central to the market sectors of the contemporary economy, yet the best-established theories of value fail to expose how it operates and how it is manipulated for profit. This book begins to reconstruct the theory of value. In one sense, it argues, value is a personal assessment of worth, but those assessments draw deeply on normative standards. The book examines those standards and how they are formed, transformed and supported by the construction of new social structures. The empirical evidence comes from contemporary financial examples: the mortgage-backed securities that caused the global crash of 2008, how venture capitalists secure outrageous valuations for so-called unicorn companies, and the rise of Bitcoin. The result is a theory that shows how value is invented by value entrepreneurs in pursuit of their interests and thus provides a new basis for criticising the role of value in the commodity economy and the finance sector.

Inventing Value received the Cheryl Frank Memorial Prize for 2023. The prize is awarded annually for a book in or about the tradition of critical realism, published in the previous year. According to the judges “This is an innovative perspective on the financial sector, skillfully and knowledgeably crafted from a critical realist perspective. The book also stands out for its clarity of argument, the breadth and depth of interdisciplinary knowledge and its engaging style.” Read more here.

Here’s a short video overview of the book:

And this was an online launch for the book, hosted by the ISRF:

Presentation to Cambridge Realist Workshop, January 2-24

The introductory chapter can be downloaded as a PDF, and shorter extracts are available on my blog: