Sociologists and other social scientists have long recognized that certain economic transactions involve more than a simple trade of goods or services for money. A long-standing theme in economic anthropology and sociology emphasizes the symbolic or moral character of certain economic exchanges or transactions (Weber 1902, Veblen 1899; Malinowski, 1920; Geertz 1973, Sahlins 1976, Douglas 1966). Some scholars working within the new economic sociology continue in this tradition by examining how cultural beliefs affect economic life, both in the background as institutions shaping social interaction and in the foreground as reflected in market dynamics, including price (Zelizer 1994; Velthuis 2005).
A related, specific theme of contemporary interest examines the interpretation and value placed on the perceived authenticity of products and producers to a transaction. For instance, Peterson (1997) examines how authenticity is fabricated in country music in order to make it appealing. Similarly, Carroll and Swaminathan (2000) conjecture that the rise of microbreweries and brewpubs resulted from the authenticity appeal of their organizational forms. Likewise, Grazian (2003:17) studies how different kinds of people within the world of Chicago blues employ the concept of authenticity in their daily rounds in everyday life. Fine (2004) analyzes how the biographies of self-taught artists define their authenticity. Rao et al. (2005) examine how issues of authenticity affect the social boundaries between classical and nouvelle French cuisine and the implications for restaurants. Finally, Wherry (2006) looks at the different ways authenticity plays out in the Thai market for handicrafts.