Austrian economists have repeatedly argued that the price mechanism is not just an allocative, but also a communicative system: as a solution to the dispersed knowledge problem, prices convey meanings which serve as guideposts to economic action. The analysis of these meanings has been restricted to economic meanings such as profit opportunities and incentives, however. In this paper I show that prices also convey social and cultural meanings. This calls for an interpretive approach, which a younger generation of Austrian economists has advocated. To illustrate, I provide a thick description of price setting on the market for contemporary art. I show that collectors, art dealers, and artists communicate meaningfully via prices about issues such as the quality of artworks or the status hierarchies which structure the art world.
The Review of Austrian Economics – Springer Journals
Published: Oct 27, 2004
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