The Market

Matthew Watson

£70.00  |  $99.00
ISBN 9781911116608
£19.99  |  $30.00
ISBN 9781911116615
£19.99  |  $30.00
ISBN 9781911116622
192 pages   |  234 x 156mm   |  31 December 2017


"Watson has provided a history of the economic ideas that form the basis of modern economics, brilliantly explaining where many of the economic laws and concepts central to the idea of the market originated . . . there are very few texts on the market that are as good as this." – Huw Macartney, University of Birmingham

"A masterpiece of erudition and concision, Matthew Watson’s new book lifts the lid on a concept whose ubiquity in public discourse is matched only by its slipperiness. With immense skill, Watson explores the ways in which the idea of 'the market' has developed within the field of economics and in so-doing teases out the complex relationships between academic abstraction of the market concept and the prevalence of market ideology in politics. The result is a truly impressive book that should be regarded as a vital supplement to standard economics textbooks and essential reading for anyone interested in understanding whether there are alternatives to the 'iron cage' of the market." – Ben Rosamond, Professor of Politics, University of Copenhangen

"Watson unearths precisely why we feel so comfortable attributing disruptive economic change simply to the will of the market . . . [he] traces the emergence and triumph of the market concept as we know it, deploying critical insights from political economy and undertaking a deeply-textured excavation of the history of economic thought. The Market provides a valuable history of ‘the market’ as an idea, rendering unfamiliar something we often take as a given. In doing so, the book makes a useful contribution to vibrant debates within political economy and feeds into timely conversations beyond academia about our position as economic subjects. At a time when we are increasingly facing pressure to imagine alternative economic futures in which the economy works for everyone, The Market’s call to action will certainly have wide appeal in its abandonment of the present market concept." – David Dodds, LSE Book Reviews


We have become accustomed to economists and politicians talking about “market forces” as if they are immutable laws of the universe. But what exactly is “the market”? Originally an abstract idea from economic theory – the locus of supply and demand – it has come to inform the way we speak about our relationship to the economic system as a whole.

Matthew Watson unpacks the concept to ask what does it really mean to allow ourselves to submit to market forces. And does economic theory really provide insights into the market institutions that shape our everyday life? In tackling these questions, the book provides a major contribution to a deeper appreciation of the dominant economic language of our time, challenging the idea that we can simply defer to the “logic of the market”.


1. Introduction
2. The market concept in triplicate
3. Symmetrical moral relationships: Adam Smith's impartial spectator construct
4. Demand and supply in partial equilibrium: the Marshallian cross diagram
5. Vectors of market-clearing prices: the Walrasian auctioneer
6. The political rhetoric of "the market"
7. Conclusion

Author Information

Matthew Watson is Professor of Political Economy in the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Warwick, UK. Since October 2013 he has been an ESRC Professorial Fellow engaged on the project, 'Rethinking the Market'. He has a long and distinguished publishing record, including more than thirty peer-reviewed journal articles on various issues in the history of economic thought, economic historiography and political economy. His books include Foundations of International Political Economy (2005), The Political Economy of International Capital Mobility (2007) and Uneconomic Economics and the Crisis of the Model World (2014).

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