Wherever buyers and sellers get together, there is a market. In the absence of currency, trades have been consummated by assigning relative value to items (e.g. livestock, weapons, clothing) or services (e.g. plowing, medical care, harvesting). Throughout human history, there have been markets in one form or another at which people exchanged or purchased goods of various kinds, usually in a centrally located area such as a crossroads, harborside, village center, or town square. Buyers and sellers (or traders) gravitated to markets where and when there would be the most people. At least to some extent, all that remains true today even with the emergence of cybermarkets. Effective marketing in the 21st century creates or increases demand first by attracting interest. Hence the importance of visibility. It must also provide a convincing argument as to why a given product or service is preferable to other options, including not purchasing anything. Supply and demand often come into play. Pricing is frequently a decisive issue. For centuries, be it in an ancient bazaar or modern market, buying/selling/trading is among the most dynamic of human activities.
In this lively as well as informative book, McMillan offers "a natural history of markets" which helps us to gain a better understanding of how markets work as well as of what they can and can't do. "Markets do what they are supposed to do, however, only if they are we structured. Any successful economy has an array of devices and procedures to enable markets to work smoothly. A workable platform has five elements: information flows smoothly; property rights are protected; people can be trusted to live up to their promises; side effects are curtailed; and competition is fostered." I agree with McMillan that, as a result of innovations made by participants, "spontaneous evolution is the main driver of [private sector] markets" if and when provided with assistance from the public sector (i.e. government).
Because throughout history the strength of markets has been their adaptability and their "restless reinvention," McMillan argues, shaping new markets is both a task for governments and an opportunity for entrepreneurs. Appropriate involvement by the former ensures, for example, the protection of intellectual property; appropriate involvement by the latter ensures that the process of adaptability and reinvention is sustained. There are so many excellent books now in print which discuss the most effective marketing strategies and tactics.
Secondarily, McMillan examines several of them but his primary purpose, as I understand it, is to explain how and why the market economy ("...the worst form of economy, except for all the others which have been tried from time to time") "solves some all but intractable problems...[because] it admits variety and permits criticism" This book will be of greatest interest and value to decision-makers with responsibility for marketing within organizations which either have no "workable platform" or one which may soon collapse from the weight of external competition or internal inadequacy.
I also highly recommend this book to those who have a keen interest in cultural anthropology. As suggested earlier, the bazaar or market has always been and always will be among the most dynamic of human activities. Why? Because it must constantly be reinvented to accommodate ever-changing human needs and interests. McMillan's comprehensive analysis of that volatile process is a unique and brilliant achievement.