Mismatch or misunderstanding? Calculation and qualculation among economists and consumers in their framings of the electricity market
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionActa Sociologica. 2016, 59 (4), 347-361. 10.1177/0001699316657397
This paper reports on a study of how economists engaged in energy policymaking and household consumers frame the electricity market, based on interviews with prominent energy economists and focus group interviews with household consumers. Drawing on economic sociology, and above all the contribution of Michel Callon, we analyse framing processes involved in the sense-making with regard to the electricity market, including electricity consumption and the understanding of how households act with respect to the market. It was found that the economists drew predominantly on a framing of the electricity market according to their theoretical understanding of markets, considering consumers as calculative agents in a strict sense. In contrast, the consumers argued a more inclusive and complex framing of the electricity market by also emphasising moral, social and political issues. Thus, the consumers appeared to be qualculative rather than just calculative agents. This different framing did not emerge from consumers’ misunderstandings or their being misinformed about market mechanisms. Rather, we observed a mismatch between the energy economists and the household consumers regarding the underlying rationality of their framings, how they perceived consumption of electricity, and what they included and excluded in the framing of the market.