Institute of Sociology St. Gallen: How Marketplaces Control Our Daily Lives 

Peering into offices at the University of St. Gallen

The Pandemic brought into the open that a remarkable number of Western citizens believe that a cartel of malevolent super-rich businessmen manufactured a global health crisis to further enrich themselves, subjugate others through a pseudo-vaccine campaign and dominate world politics.  Believe in the conspiracy or not, one of the most obvious reactions to the Pandemic was an international run on toilet paper: this ordinary household item was completely sold out in the fervor and, in its place stood bare store shelves for months.  Those shelves – and the conspicuous dearth of people around them – can be understood as a marketplace gone wrong.  To understand that situation, rather than attributing those unusual conditions to the wanton greed selfish oligarchs, it is instructive to look at both sides of that market’s aisle: both the sellers and buyers.  Buyers had heard that they would have to stay at home for the foreseeable future and decided to stock up on many household items.  Likely, one visionary buyer started to believe that soon there would be no more toilet paper and bought up all the toilet paper in sight.  Other buyers next to the visionary saw toilet paper selling out, and acted in the same way. That belief that there would soon be no more toilet paper then became true.  The sellers – bigwig toilet paper bosses – surely saw this “market collapse” happening, but didn’t want to make toilet paper available to more buyers by raising the price of toilet paper (and start a new conspiracy theory about how they were using toilet paper to take over the world).  As Professor Patrik Aspers, his colleague, Doctor Matias Dewey and their students at the Institute of Sociology at the University of St. Gallen will show us, marketplaces are two-way streets and, though there will always be both conspirator sellers as well as buyers, if well regulated, there will be enough toilet paper for all who want it and at a price everyone can afford to do business at.  Come welcome Patrik, Matias and their students to our show for a look at the marketplaces that control our daily lives.

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