Friendship and normative regulation : the case of socially responsible investing
Social regulation of the « socially responsible investment » market (SRI), a recently developed market characterized by an original combination of financial and non-financial, « sustainable development » principles, is studied. Analysis of the history of this market and the structure of relations operative in it shows that market members have to choose between two notions of their activity : as investment niche, or as a means of creating a new technique ultimately to be extended to classic finance as a whole. Though at the outset this market was primarily understood as an investment niche, it is shown that the second, broader vision of SRI has become dominant. Decisive in this development were the social resources of advocates of the latter vision, namely their non-functional relations, measured in terms of friendship networks. Those networks played a crucial role in the regulation process : informal barriers were gradually built up at the entrance to the SRI market, despite its seeming openness. It is therefore demonstrated how friendship builds a fence within an otherwise open inter-organizational context, thereby enabling a subset of implicated actors to determine who will be genuine participants in the collective action regulation process while excluding the others.