Summary of The Inner Lives of Markets

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8 Overall

7 Importance

7 Innovation

9 Style


In the 21st century, markets in which competing sellers and multiple buyers meet face-to-face and haggle over prices are increasingly rare; that’s the classic free market model guided by an invisible hand. Instead, platforms like eBay are emerging in ever-increasing numbers, transforming marketplaces and replacing the invisible hand with customized interactions among participants. In this enlightening travelogue of markets and economic theories, authors Ray Fisman and Tim Sullivan use a breezy, anecdotal style to illuminate how people make decisions in their day-to-day economic lives in this newly emerging world. getAbstract recommends this intriguing overview to general readers as well as to executives and investors.

In this summary, you will learn

  • How prevailing economic theory is out of touch with real-world markets,
  • How people shape markets and outcomes by acting on imperfect information, and
  • How market behaviors influence social relationships and individuals’ ethics.

About the Authors

Ray Fisman teaches behavioral economics at Boston University and wrote The Org and Economic Gangsters. Tim Sullivan is the editorial director of Harvard Business Review Press and also wrote The Org.




Buying and selling are part of human nature. Markets give people a way to assign value to goods, services and experiences, as well as to obtain what they want. The free markets central to established economic thinking operate through buyers and sellers interacting directly to set their own prices and make their own exchanges. This system creates desirable outcomes in theory, but – in reality – it often yields unwanted results. In contrast, the market makers emerging in the early 21st century, such as eBay, design platforms with rules to bring together buyers, sellers, payment providers and other parties. While these still-evolving marketplaces enable buyers and sellers to conduct transactions smoothly, these platforms call for new economic and social understanding.   

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  • The Org

    Ray Fisman and Tim Sullivan

    Twelve, 2013


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