The formation of preferences is an elusive subject that many social scientists, and especially economists, have tended to avoid. In this original new book, Wilfred Dolfsma combines institutional economics with insights from the other social sciences to analyse the way in which preferences are formed in a social context.
The author demonstrates how preferences for specific goods, and symbolic goods in particular, are mediated through the institutional settings that both individuals and groups find themselves in. He develops a Social Value Nexus, which indicates how institutions relate to the socio-cultural values of a society. He goes on to argue that tensions at the institutional or socio-cultural level will alter the institutional setting and therefore affect preferences. The sudden and radical change in consumption patterns for music in the late 1950s and early 1960s provides convincing evidence of the author’s claim. By focusing on an event with great societal significance and using unique empirical material, he skilfully elucidates the theoretical arguments made in the book.
This study offers both a novel explanation of the formation of preferences and a significant elaboration of the economic theory of institutional change. It will engage and enlighten scholars and students of the social sciences, especially those with an interest in consumption, institutional economics, cultural studies and sociology.