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A brief history of ‘customers,’ or the gradual standardization of markets and organizations - F. Cochoy

Franck Cochoy
Centre d’Etude et de Recherche Techniques, Organisations et Pouvoirs (CERTOP-UMR CNRS 5044) Université de Toulouse II 5, allées Antonio-Machado 31058 Toulouse Cedex, France

Available online 25 October 2005 on ScienceDirect

This article focuses on the history of the ‘actor-customer’ and his/her place in the functioning of organizations and markets. Big business first ‘invented’ the customer in order to better control a global marketplace where fluctuation was too strong ; lawmakers then created a rights-endowed consumer to protect citizens from potential abuses by commercial enterprise. This hybridization of business and law was quickly followed by standardization, which, working to reconcile the interests of business, the state, and consumers, ended up giving final customers a ‘consumerist’ voice. The new requirements pertaining to product ‘quality’ and ‘traceability’ have had the effect of subordinating the industrial customer to the consumer customer, and they are transforming relations between organization and marketplace.

Customer ; Consumer ; Market ; Organization ; Law ; Standardization ; Quality ; Traceability

Article Outline

  • 1. The customer : a joint creation of law and big business
  • 2. ‘Standardizing the customer,’ or the strange hybridizing of business customers, law, and consumerism
    • 2.1. Standardizing the industrial manufacturer customer
    • 2.2. Standardizing the legal customer
    • 2.3. Standardizing the consumerist customer
  • 3. The quality customer
    • 3.1. The customer brings the marketplace into the organization : demands for quality
    • 3.2. The customer as market organizer : from process traceability to exchange traceability
  • 4. Conclusion
  • References

Sociologie du Travail
Volume 47, Supplement 1, December 2005, Pages e36–e56
Translation by Amy Jacobs