Accepted Paper:

Making labels - How to bring politics in the market by other means  


Aurélie Tricoire (CSTB - Centre Scientifique et Technique du Bâtiment)
Brice Laurent (Mines ParisTech)
Alexandre Mallard (Mines ParisTech, Université PSL)

Paper short abstract:

The contemporary economy increasingly mobilizes labels supported by specific collectives. This paper examines the history of a French label for sustainable building to explore the agencements of labelling and characterize the way it brings politics into the markets.

Paper long abstract:

In the contemporary economy, labelling processes more and more contribute to the emergence of collectives that bring politics into the markets. Labels are market devices developed to prescribe goods, but they tend to bear a political dimension in transactions and consumption practices in various domains: nutrition based on healthy food (public health certificates), ethical distribution networks (fair trade labels), technologies compatible with sustainable development (eco labels), etc. Existing works have examined the impacts of labels on buyers' behaviour. By contrast, this paper focuses on the process of emergence of collectives developing labels, and analyses them as political actors developing particular modalities of activism, mobilizing original governance procedures and producing specific expertise in order to intervene on the organization of markets. We draw on the history of a particular label that was developed in the mid 2000s in France in the construction sector, namely the "BBC-Effinergie" label (where BBC stands for "Bâtiment basse consummation", meaning low energy building). BBC-Effinergie originates from the work of a collective gathering various actors (local public bodies, private companies, expert groups, NGO's and civil society groups). It contributed to produce reference expertise necessary for the determination of a standard certifying buildings using limited amounts of energy. This paper develops an Actor Network approach in order to investigate the role of labels, in the agencements of markets and politics. It argues that labels such as BBC-Effinergie are empirical lenses to jointly analyse the construction of markets and the transformation of contemporary states.

Panel T036
Social Studies of Politics: Making Collectives By All Possible Means