The market is always wrong

There is a widespread mantra among neo-liberalists that the market is always right. The most (melo)dramatric version of this view is the idea that the customer is kind, which, consequently, make the rest of us docile subjects. This idea (or ideology) is crucial for the legitimacy of marketing work. What could possibly be suspicious about a work task that has one and one goal only: to serve the market? Giving the market, a market that is always right, what is wants can obviously not be wrong.

However, I have increasingly started to suspect that the opposite is in effect the case. The market is always wrong. By definition.

The market can, as little as anyone else, know what the future will deliver. It is difficult, to say the least, to possess knowledge of what you don’t know that you don’t know. Progression, development, change and revolution seldom stem from market demands since market demands can only be formulated with the frames of what we already know (“I want more of this”). It seems to me that deep changes of society emanate from productive activity, e.g. entrepreneurial projects, political activism, art, education, spiritual practice. If anything, consumption is (sometimes) a good reflection of broader ideological, ideational and spiritual changes in society.

Moreover, allowing the market to make the crucial decisions is deeply undemocratic. The central agent in the market is not demos (people), it is nomisma (money). It should come as no surprise that our voices in the so called “consumer/market democracy” are unequally distributed among us.

If we want a somewhat radically different future, please don’t listen to the market. Pay attention to citizens and democratic subjects rather than the customer-king. Please, don’t ask the market. It is always wrong.

Or perhaps I’m (so) wrong…

Peter Svensson