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Infrastructural power: discretion and the dynamics of infrastructure in action

Pinzur, David (2021) Infrastructural power: discretion and the dynamics of infrastructure in action. Journal of Cultural Economy, 14 (6). 644 - 661. ISSN 1753-0350

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Identification Number: 10.1080/17530350.2021.1913212


This article analyses how a pair of nineteenth century commodity exchanges—in Chicago and New Orleans—shaped the sociotechnical infrastructures underlying two key types of market information—price quotations and crop statistics. Specifically, the paper investigates why these exchanges saw divergent outcomes, each successfully developing one information infrastructure but not the other. Prior scholarship has understood infrastructural development as the result of idiosyncratic, social structural alignments in actors’ resources and desires. This paper, by contrast, examines how such structural elements interacted with practical resources available to exchanges based on their roles within infrastructures. Findings demonstrate that the exchanges gained influence in proportion to their discretion over an infrastructure's everyday operations and the market routines these enabled. This ‘infrastructural power', or lack thereof, interacted with social structural resources in two distinct forms— ‘feedback’ in New Orleans and ‘sacrifice’ in Chicago—providing or denying each exchange the ability to shape infrastructures to its advantage. These findings suggest that analysts should pay closer attention to market dynamics as they relate to ‘infrastructure in action’.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2021 The Author
Divisions: Sociology
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Date Deposited: 07 May 2021 10:30
Last Modified: 12 Jul 2024 16:24

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