Skip to main content Accessibility help

Moral Struggles in Markets: The Fight against Battery Cages and the Rise of Cage-Free Eggs in Switzerland

  • Philip Balsiger (a1)


Practices within markets are widely regulated and sometimes contested on the basis of moral judgments. Moral entrepreneurs challenge markets and market practices while firms and industry actors defend them, leading to moral struggles opposing different orders of worth. Based on an historical case study, this paper develops a theoretical framework to study moral struggles in markets as social and political processes around commensurability. It identifies three core arenas in which moral struggles play out: ideas, where the morality of specific practices itself is contested and actors ground their moral claims in different institutional orders for legitimation; the economy, where the market viability of changing moral standards is at stake; and politics, where commensuration reflects political power struggles. Through a socio-historical analysis of the fight against battery cages in Swiss egg production in the 1970s and 1980s, the study fleshes out how this moral struggle played out along these dimensions, focusing on the competing discourses, strategies, and tactics of the main moral entrepreneurs and industry associations.

Les pratiques dans les marchés sont largement réglementées et parfois contestées sur la base de jugements moraux. Des entrepreneurs moraux remettent alors en cause des marchés et des pratiques marchandes tandis que des entreprises et des associations industrielles les défendent, ce qui résulte des luttes morales opposant différents ordres de grandeur. Sur la base d’une étude de cas historique, cet article développe un cadre théorique qui étudie les luttes morales dans les marchés en tant que processus sociaux et politiques autour de la commensurabilité. Il identifie trois arènes-clés dans lesquelles se jouent les luttes morales. L’arène des idées, où la moralité de certaines pratiques en tant que telles est contestée et les acteurs ancrent leurs jugements moraux dans différents ordres institutionnels afin de les légitimer ; l’économie, où l’enjeu est la viabilité marchande des standards moraux changeant ; et l’arène politique, où la commensuration reflète des luttes de pouvoir politique. À travers une analyse socio-historique du mouvement contre les batteries d’élevage dans la production des œufs en Suisse dans les années 1970 et 1980, cette étude décrit comment cette lutte morale se décline le long de ces dimensions, en focalisant sur les discours, stratégies et tactiques utilisés par les principaux entrepreneurs moraux et associations industrielles.

Marktpraktiken sind umfänglich reglementiert und manchmal umstritten aufgrund von moralischen Urteilen. Moral entrepreneurs fechten Märkte und Marktpraktiken an, während Firmen und Industrieverbände sie verteidigen. Dies führt zu moralischen Kämpfen wo sich unterschiedliche Wertordnungen gegenüber stehen. Basierend auf einer historischen Fallstudie wird in diesem Artikel ein theoretischer Ansatz entwickelt zur Untersuchung von moralischen Kämpfen in Märkten als soziale und politische Prozesse um die Frage der Kommensurabilität. Es werden drei Arenen identifiziert, wo die moralischen Kämpfe stattfinden. In der Arena der Ideen ist die Moralität der Praktiken an sich umkämpft, und Akteure verankern ihre moralischen Forderungen in unterschiedlichen institutionellen Ordnungen zur Legitimation. In der ökonomischen Arena der Märkte geht es um die “Marktakzeptanz” der sich verändernden moralischen Standards. In der politischen Arena schliesslich wird Kommensurabilität erreicht durch Regulation als Resultat von politischen Machtkämpfen. Eine sozio-historische Analyse des Kampfes gegen Batteriehaltung in der Schweizer Eierproduktion in den 1970er und 1980er Jahren verdeutlicht die Prozesse dieses moralischen Kampfes in jenen Arenen. Dabei werden die sich konkurrierenden Diskurse, Strategien und Taktiken der moral entrepreneurs und Industrieverbände in den Vordergrund gestellt.



Hide All
Abend, Gabriel, 2014. The Moral Background: An Inquiry into the History of Business Ethics (Princeton, Princeton University Press).
Balsiger, Philip. 2014. The Fight for Ethical Fashion. The Origins and Interactions of the Clean Clothes Campaign (Farnham, Burlington, Ashgate).
Balsiger, Philip, 2015a. “Explaining Dynamic Strategies for Defending Company Legitimacy: The Changing Outcomes of Anti-Sweatshop Campaigns in France and Switzerland”, Business & Society, published online before print December 14, 2015 (doi: 10.1177/0007650315619471): 1-30.
Balsiger, Philip. 2015b. “Managing Protest: The Political Action Repertoires of Corporations”, in Porta, Donatella Della and Diani, Mario, The Oxford Handbook of Social Movements, (Oxford, Oxford University Press).
Bartley, Tim, 2007. “Institutional Emergence in an Era of Globalization: The Rise of Transnational Private Regulation of Labor and Environnmental Conditions”, American Journal of Sociology, 113 (2): 297-351.
Becker, Howard, 1997. Outsiders. Studies in the Sociology of Deviance (New York/London, Free Press).
Beckert, Jens, 2009. “The social order of markets”, Theory and Society, 38: 245-269.
Beckert, Jens, 2010. “How do Fields Change? The Interrelations of Institutions, Networks, and Cognition in the Dynamics of Markets”, Organization Studies, 31 (5): 605-627.
Beckert, Jens, 2012. “Die sittliche Einbettung der Wirtschaft. Von der Effizienz- und Differenzierungstheorie zu einer Theorie wirtschaftlicher Felder”, Berliner Journal für Soziologie, 22: 247-266.
Beckert, Jens and Aspers, Patrik, eds., 2011. The Worth of Goods. Valuation & Pricing in the Economy (Oxford, Oxford University Press).
Beckert, Jens and Musselin, Christine, eds., 2013. Constructing Quality. The Classification of Goods in Markets (Oxford, Oxford University Press).
Bernstein, Mary, 1997. “Celebration and Suppression: The Strategic Uses of Identity by the Lesbian and Gay Movement”, American Journal of Sociology, 103 (3): 531-565.
Bittman, Mark, 2015. “Hens, unbound”, Pp. A19 in The New York Times, January 1.
Boltanski, Luc and Thévenot, Laurent, 2006. On Justification. Economies of Worth (Princeton, Princeton University Press).
Callon, Michel, Méadel, Cécile and Rabeharisoa, Vololona, 2002. “The Economy of Qualities”, Economy and Society, 31 (2): 194-217.
Carenzi, Corrado and Verga, Marina, 2009. “Animal Welfare: Review of the Scientific Concept and Definition”, Italian Journal of Animal Science, 8 (1): 21-30.
Espeland, Wendy Nelson and Stevens, Mitchell L., 1998. “Commensuration as a Social Process”, Annual Review of Sociology, 24: 313-343.
Farrell, Justin, 2015. The Battle for Yellowstone. Morality and the Sacred Roots of Environmental Conflict (Princeton, Princeton University Press).
Fischer, Edward F., ed., 2014a. Cash on the Table. Markets, Values, and Moral Economies (Santa Fe, School for Advancerd Research Press).
Fischer, Edward F., ed., 2014b. The Good Life (Stanford, Stanford University Press).
Fligstein, Neil and McAdam, Doug, 2012. A Theory of Fields (Oxford/New York, Oxford University Press).
Fourcade, Marion, 2011. “Cents and Sensibility: Economic Valuation and the Nature of ‘Nature’”, American Journal of Sociology, 116 (6): 1721-1777.
Fourcade, Marion and Healy, Kieran, 2007. “Moral Views of Market Society”, Annual Review of Sociology, 33: 14.1-14.27.
Garner, Robert, 1993. Animals, Politics and Morality (Manchester, Manchester University Press).
Gourevitch, Peter, 2011. “The Value of Ethics: Monitoring Normative Compliance in Ethical Consumption Markets”, in Beckert, J. and Aspers, P., eds., The Worth of Goods. Valuation & Pricing in the Economy (Oxford, Oxford University Press: 86-105).
Gusfield, Joseph R., 1984 [1963]. Symbolic Crusade: Status Politics and the American Temperance Movement (Urbana, University of Illinois Press).
Hann, Chris and Hart, Keith, 2011. Economic Anthropology (Cambridge, Polity).
Harrison, Ruth, 1964. Animal Machines (London, Vincent Stuart Publishers).
Haveman, Heather A. and Rao, Hayagreeva, 1997. “Structuring a Theory of Moral Sentiments: Institutional and Organizational Coevolution in the Early Thrift Industry”, American Journal of Sociology, 102(6): 1606-1651.
Healy, Kieran, 2006. Last Best Gifts: Altruism and the Market for Human Blood and Organs (Chicago, University of Chicago Press).
Hirschman, Albert O., 1992. Rival Views of Market Society and other Recent Essays (Cambridge, Harvard University Press).
Hitlin, Steven and Vaisey, Stephen, 2010. “Back to the Future. Reviving the Sociology of Morality”, in Hitlin, S. and Vaisey, S., eds., Handbook of the Sociology of Morality: 3-14.
Jasper, James M., 1997. The Art of Moral Protest: Culture, Biography, and Creativity in Social Movements (Chicago, University of Chicago Press).
Jasper, James and Nelkin, Dorothy, 1992. The Animal Rights Crusade. The Growth of a Moral Protest (New York/Toronto, The Free Pres).
Johnston, Josée and Baumann, Shyon, 2009. “Tension in the Kitchen. Explicit and Implicit Politics in the Gourmet Foodscape”, Sociologica, 1.
Johnston, Josée, Szabo, Michelle and Rodney, Alexandra, 2011. “Good Food, Good People: Understanding the Cultural Repertoire of Ethical Eating”, Journal of Consumer Culture, 11 (3): 293-318.
King, Brayden G. and Pearce, Nicholas A., 2010. “The Contentiousness of Markets: Politics, Social Movements, and Institutional Change in Markets”, Annual Review of Sociology, 36: 249-267.
Massengill, Rebekah P. and Reynolds, Amy, 2010. “Moral Discourse in Economic Contexts”, in Hitlin, S. and Vaisey, S., eds., Handbook of the Sociology of Morality (New York, Springer: 485-502).
McInerney, Paul Brian, 2014. From Social Movement to Moral Market: How the Circuit Riders Sparked an IT Revolution and Created a Technology Market (Stanford, Stanford University Press).
Micheletti, Michele, 2003. Political Virtue and shopping: individuals, consumerism, and collective action (Houndsmills/Basingstoke/New York, Palgrave Macmillan).
Miller, Daniel, 2001. The Dialectics of Shopping (Chicago, University of Chicago Press).
Münnich, Sascha, 2015. “Thieves, Fools, Fraudsters, and Gamblers? The Ambivalence of Moral Criticism in the Credit Crunch of 2008”, European Journal of Sociology, 56 (1): 93-118.
Polanyi, Karl, 1944. The Great Transformation (Boston, Beacon Press).
Promar International, 2009. “Impacts of Banning Cage Egg Production In the United States” Report prepared for United Egg Producers.
Sayer, Andrew, 2000. “Moral Economy and Political Economy”, Studies in Political Economy, 61 (Spring): 79-103.
Schmid, H. and Lehmann, B., 2001. “Switzerland: Agri-Environmental Policy outside the European Union”, in Buller, H., Wilson, G. A. and Höll, A., eds., Agri-Environmental Policy in the European Union (Aldershot, Ashgate: 185-202).
Soule, Sarah, 2012. “Social Movements and Markets, Industries, and Firms”, Organization Studies, 33 (12): 1715-1733.
Soule, Sarah A., 2009. Contention and Corporate Social Responsibility (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press).
Steiner, Philippe, 2010. La transplantation d’organes : un commerce nouveau entre les êtres humains (Paris, Gallimard).
Steiner, Philippe and Trespeuch, Marie, eds., 2014. Marchés contestés. Quand le marché rencontre la morale. Toulouse: Presses universitaires du Mirail.
Thompson, Edward P., 1971. “The Moral Economy of the English Crowd in the Eighteenth Century”, Past & Present, 50: 76-136.
United Egg Producers, undated. “American Egg Farming. How We Produce an Abundance of Affordable, Safe Food”, Alpharetta, GA.
Velthuis, Olaf, 2005. Talking Prices: Symbolic Meanings of Prices on the Market for Contemporary Art (Princeton, Princeton University Press).
Walker, Edward, 2012. “Social Movements, Organizations, and Fields: A Decade of Theoretical Integration”, Contemporary Sociology, 41 (5): 576-587.
Walker, Edward T., 2014. Grassroots for Hire: Public Affairs Consultants in American Democracy (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press).
Walker, Edward T. and Rea, Christopher M., 2014. “The Political Mobilization of Firms and Industries”, Annual Review of Sociology, 40.
Weber, Klaus, Heinze, Kathryn L. and DeSoucey, Michaela, 2008. “Forage for Thought: Mobilizing Codes in the Movement for Grass-fed Meat and Dairy Products”, Administrative Science Quarterly 53: 529-567.
Wilson, Geoffrey Allan, 2011. Multifunctional Agriculture. A Transition Theory Perspective. Oxfordshire/Cambridge: cabi.
Zelizer, Viviana, 1983. Morals and Markets: The Development of Life Insurance in the United States (New Brunswick, Transaction Books).
Zelizer, Viviana, 1994. Pricing the Priceless Child: The Changing Social Value of Children (Princeton, Princeton University Press).
Zelizer, Viviana, 2011. Economic Lives. How Culture Shapes the Economy (Princeton/Oxford: Princeton University Press).


Moral Struggles in Markets: The Fight against Battery Cages and the Rise of Cage-Free Eggs in Switzerland

  • Philip Balsiger (a1)


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed