Ineffable Cultures or Material Devices: What Valuation Studies can Learn from the Disappearance of Ensured Solidarity in a Health Care Market
Valuation studies addresses how values are made in valuation practices. A next - or rather previous - question becomes: what then makes valuation practices? Two oppositional replies are starting to dominate how that question can be answered: a more materially oriented focus on devices of valuation and a more sociologically inclined focus on ineffable valuation cultures. The debate between proponents of both approaches may easily turn into the kind of leapfrog debates that have dominated many previous discussions on whether culture or materiality would play a decisive role in driving history. This paper explores a less repetitive reply. It does so by analyzing the puzzling case of the demise of solidarity as a core value within the recent Dutch health care system of regulated competition. While “solidarity among the insured” was both a strong cultural value within the Dutch welfare-based health system, and a value that was built into market devices by health economists, within a fairly short time “fairness” became of lesser importance than “competition”. This makes us call for a more historical, relational, and dynamic understanding of the role of economists, market devices, and of culture in valuation studies.
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