Dynamics of Standardised Quality. Long-term shifts in organic product qualification
Keywords:standards , market, organisation , stability, diversity, archival research
The qualities of standardised products are often perceived as naturally stable. This article scrutinises this perceived stability and investigates which aspects of standardised quality remain stable, and which change in the longer term. Our conceptual framework, anchored in the literature on standards and valuation studies, suggests that while standardised qualities appear to be stable over time and space, it is in these spatial and temporal dimensions of qualification that controversies and changes are expected. Empirically, we investigate the organic quality which has been maintained in the German mass market since the 1970s by the standard-setter Bioland. Searching our archival data for disruption that refers to events, which were interpreted by Bioland as reasons for adjusting the qualification, the data show that Bioland reacted swiftly to manifold disruption triggered by actors located along the production and distribution chain as well as outside it. Pooling Bioland’s responses, we identify four shifts in terms of the (1) meaning, (2) focus, (3) organisation, and (4) relationships of quality. Due to these long-term shifts, little except the name of the standardised quality remained stable. Thus, the article concludes that standardised qualification must be dynamic and changeable if it is to be stably relevant in markets.
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Copyright (c) 2022 Nadine Arnold, Simon Dombrowski
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