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Publication Details

Kashkooli, Keyvan Alan (2010) The Making of a Modern Market: A dissertation submitted in partial satisfaction of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology in the Graduate Division of the University of California, Berkeley : 1-99.

Over Labor Day weekend in 1995, Pierre Omidyar, eBay’s founder, created an economist’s dream—the perfect market. The perfect market would use an emerging technology to create a marketplace where individual buyers and sellers would “meet” to exchange goods without outside interference. Omidyar used the expansive network possibilities of the Internet and the auction format to create a real world test case of the prototypical economic model of a market. Omidyar’s vision stemmed from his Libertarian philosophy and his practical experience working in Silicon Valley where he witnessed people profiting from inside information gleaned from personal and professional networks, a practice he despised (Cohen 2002). By connecting individuals to individuals, AuctionWeb—the initial name for the site—would not rely on selling from a centralized source. Users would operate on a level playing field with equal access to information on price and product for buyers. Sellers would have an equal opportunity to sell their products regardless of their size or assets. Buyers and sellers would engage in exchange through an auction format that would yield the perfect price—the exact point where supply meets demand. The classical, general equilibrium model of a market in economic theory is one in which anonymous, rational, individual buyers and sellers exchange goods with perfect information in a bazaar type setting. If there is any real market where this model should have held true, it was eBay.

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