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Annual Colloquium 2010

Report by Prof. Uwe Schimank, Chair of the Society of Friends and Former Associates of the MPIfG
In keeping with recent tradition, the annual meeting of the Society of Friends and Former Associates of the MPIfG was scheduled with the Annual Colloquium (Institutstag), held on November 18–19, 2010. Once again, the Institutstag gave the MPIfG the opportunity to combine presentations by its directors and current researchers with contributions by former members of its research staff and persons associated with the institute in other ways. Two half days of inspiring intellectual exchange were devoted to two topics: the ongoing crisis of the global financial market, and the social construction of economic value.
On the afternoon of Thursday, November 18, Renate Mayntz, Till Kaesbach, and Susanne Lütz started with complementary expositions of current efforts to regulate the financial market in the face of the massive regulation failure that has been evident since autumn 2008. The lively discussion of their presentations returned frequently to the crucial pessimistic question of whether there is any regulatory measure which does not spell out implicitly or even explicitly how it can and should be evaded.
Karlheinz Bentele, Hendrik Enderlein, Rainer Hank, Martin Heipertz, and Fritz Scharpf then made up a roundtable which debated the origins of the financial market crisis and its implications for the future. It was highly instructive to listen as theoretical arguments met with experiences and reflections from those practically involved in coping with the crisis in the banking business, for example, or the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology. Pointed comments by Rainer Hank (editor of the business section of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung and member of the MPIfG board of trustees) provoked approval as well as disapproval. There is no such thing as a risk-free investment these days – perhaps this best sums up the message the roundtable would offer governments, banks, and small investors seeking to learn from the crisis.
On the morning of Friday, November 19, Jens Beckert gave a lecture in which he presented an exciting new approach to the age-old question of how the economic value of a good is determined. He distinguished the functional value, the distinction value, and the imaginative value of a good, concentrating on the latter. Three presentations of ongoing or just finished dissertations by Mark Lutter on the lottery market, Elena Bogdanova on the Russian market for antiques, and Dominic Akyel on the funeral market provided interesting empirical evidence to support Beckert’s theoretical argument. Michael Hutter (WZB and TU Berlin) offered an analysis of each presentation and moderated the discussion. Because there is no limit to imagination, this feature of the human condition implies prospects for unlimited economic growth – as long as consumers can afford to buy things they, strictly speaking, do not need.
Two items on the Society’s agenda were addressed on Thursday evening. Uwe Schimank announced this year’s winner of the prize for the best journal article published by an MPIfG researcher in 2009: Geny Piotti, for her article on
"Cost Reduction through Relocation, or the Construction of Myths in Discourse" (in Competition and Change 13, pp. 305–326). And the Society held its Annual Meeting, where, among other things, it elected a new board: Martin Heipertz, Sascha Münnich, Uwe Schimank, and Susanne Lütz. The Board chose Susanne Lütz to be its chair. Elke Bürger, staff member of the MPIfG, was elected treasurer.


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