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Faculty of Social Sciences

Staff Profile

Dr Liz McFall

Dr Liz McFall
Faculty of Social Sciences
The Open University
Walton Hall
Milton Keynes
United Kingdom

Head of Sociology Dept



I am currently Head of the Department of Sociology.


PhD, MSc, BA

Course development and teaching

Member of The uses of social science (DD206) module production team 2010-2012.
Chair of Making social worlds (DD308) production and presentation team 2006-2012.

Research interests

My research is about how consumer markets are made, especially for dull, difficult or challenging products like life and health insurance and doorstep and payday loans. I am PI of the Wellcome Trust Seed Award (No. WT108386AIA)Insuring healthcare in a Digital World.This forms partof an ongoing project exploring how the convergences surrounding digital disruption and the current global wave of health care funding reforms are forging new roles for states, markets and marketing. Similar issues were explored from a historical perspective in my most recent book Devising Consumption: cultural economies of insurance, credit and spending. Here, the connections between insurance, credit, spending and public welfare are showcased as part of an argument that the dynamic, adaptive techniques used to devise, market and sustain the consumption of dull products might usefully inform the design of public provision.

The interdisciplinary character of this research project is also evident in the Journal of Cultural Economyof which I am currently Editor-in-Chief with responsibility for building its external intellectual profile and constituency (see our new editorial website here). I was co-founder of the JCE in 2008 and it is now the primary interdisciplinary forum for work that explores the relations between economies, markets, societies, states and organisations.

I am also director of CCIG’s Digital Citizens Research Programme, a founding member of the ESRC major funded Centre for Research into Social and Cultural Change (CRESC)and co-founder of the CHARISMA Consumer Market Studies research network.

I am co-editor of Markets and the Arts of Attachment (Routledge, 2016) co-editor of Conduct: sociology and social worlds (Manchester University Press, 2008) and author of Advertising: a cultural economy (Sage, 2004).

Student supervision

I am currently supervising two PhD projects. Nobumi Kobayashi’s 'The Social Significance of Brands' (recently submitted), and Jane Wilson’s ‘UK arts policy: a suitable site for investigating the social life of methods?’ Andras Novosath’s 'Paying to be Good: The Bristol Pound and its other method assemblages' was examined in 2015 and is being revised.

I welcome applications in any area connected with the sociology and history of markets, insurance, digital health and their connections to other areas of social and public life.

Recent publications

A selection of my research publications can be viewed at The Open University's Open Research Online.


Market and The Arts of Attachment (2016) Coedited with Franck Cochoy and Joe Deville,London, Routledge

Devising Consumption: cultural economies of insurance, credit and spending (2014) London, Routledge ISBN 9780415694391

Advertising: A Cultural Economy(2004) London: Sage. ISBN 0-7619-4255-6

Conduct: sociology and social worlds(2008) Co-edited with du Gay, P. & Carter S. [eds] Manchester University Press

Journal articles

What's changing cultural economy? (2015) Journal of Cultural Economy, 8, 1 1-15

A Good Average Man: calculation and the limits of statistics in enrolling insurance customers (2011) Sociological Review, 59, 4:  662-684 Winner of the 2011 Sociological Review prize for Outstanding Scholarship

The Practical Heart of Markets (2011) Australian Journal of Political Economy, 88, 5-24

Performativity, Economics and Politics: an introduction (2010) With Franck Cochoy & Martin Girardeau, Journal of Cultural Economy, 3, 2: 139-146

Pragmatics and Politics: the case of industrial assurance in the UK (2010) Journal of Cultural Economy. 3, 2: 205–224

Devices and desires: how useful is the ‘new’ new economic sociology of market attachment? (2009) Sociology Compass, 267-282

Fabricating the Market: the material promotion of life assurance in the long nineteenth century (2009) With Dodsworth, F. Journal of Historical Sociology, 22, 1: 30-54

The agencement of life assurance (2009) Journal of Cultural Economy 2, 1-2: 49-65

The Disinterested Self: the idealized subject of life assurance. (2007) Cultural Studies, 21, 4-5: 591-609

Chapters in books

What learnt from Apple (and what they didn’t): the challenge of digital attachment (2016) with Joe Deville in Market and The Arts of Attachment .McFall, Cochoy, Deville, [eds.] London, Routledge

What’s in a name? Provident, The People’s Bank and the regulation of brand identity (2016) “The Routledge Companion to Banking Regulation and Reform” Ertürk & Gabor [eds.]

What have market devices got to do with policy instruments? (2014) In Halpern, Lascoumes & Le Galés [eds.] L'instrumentation de l'action publique. Controverses, résistances, effets, Presses de Sciences Po

What’s new in the ‘new, new economic sociology’ and should Organisation Studies care? (2014) With Jose Ossandon. In Adler, Morgan, Reed & du Gay [eds.] Oxford Handbook of Sociology, Social Theory and Organization Studies: Contemporary Currents, Oxford University Press.

 ‘The Problem of Cultural Intermediaries in The Economy of Qualities’, (2012) Maguire & Matthews [eds.] The Cultural Intermediaries Reader, Sage

 ‘Un Bon Gars’, [trans. Kevin Mellet] in Cochoy [ed.] (2012) Du lien marchand : comment le marché fait société, Presses Universitaires du Mirail

 ‘Agencement, Agency and Structure in Advertising’ (2010 ) In Deuze, [ed.] Managing Media Work London: Sage

‘The rules of prudence: political liberalism and life assurance in the nineteenth century’ (2010) Clark, G et al. [eds.], The Appeal of Insurance, University of Toronto Press

Your Money or Your Life: making people prudent. (2008) In Mcfall, du Gay, & Carter [eds] Conduct: sociology and social worlds. Manchester University Press

Which Half?: Accounting for Ideology in Advertising. (2007). Critical Marketing: Issues & Approaches. Elliot et al.[eds.] Elsevier.

A repository of research publications and other research outputs can be viewed at The Open University's Open Research Online.

Last updated: 5 April 2016