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5 Markets, materiality and the ‘new economy’ Don Slater Introduction The contemporary ‘cultural turn’ in thinking about economic processes has been deeply bound up with narratives of ‘dematerialisation’. We might start from Veblenesque stories of status symbols, and proceed through semiotic stories of ideologies and codes, through tales of post-industrial societies and service economies, through post-Fordist segmentation and lifestyling and finally on to knowledge, information or ‘weightless’ economies, ‘new economies’, global brands and digital commodities

in Market relations and the competitive process

competition based on strategic differentiation.1 Low barriers to entry into clusters, levels of ‘social capital’ ensuring free flows of information, absence of formal contractual requirements resulting from a level of common purpose, combined with an exactly right dose of rivalry in the cluster,2 are thus empirical characteristics, ones given the normative seal of approval. Empirical cases, such as the birth of the Medtronics’ pacemaker cluster in Minneapolis, are thus woven into the narrative as ‘exemplary’ events as much as evidential demonstration. Cartels are bad (they

in Market relations and the competitive process