Keepin’ it real

August 24, 2016

In the previous post, Suhaib Riaz posed an important question, “how critically aware are we that finance is also on a mission to socialize us?” The post demonstrates an earnest effort at self-reflection.  Such efforts are not nearly as common as one (I) would hope or expect from our various institutions of knowledge.

I come to social studies of finance by way of science and technology studies/ science and technology policy.  I study the science and politics of insurance ratemaking including, the role of technological experts in the decision making process.  So, truth be told, I am more familiar with policy scholars and climate scientists than the relevant scholars in organizational studies and management.  But I generally learn quickly and I have found that a select few have made a journey similar to mine.

After reading Riaz’s post, I commented.

I likened the concerns expressed in the post to those regarding the politicization of science.  As I have watched such politicization unfold and the impacts it has on society’s ability to cope and ameliorate its problems, I responded to Riaz’s post by urging collaboration and continuous self-reflection.

Just after my comment, as I was going through emails at the time, I learned that a notable American science policy scholar, Dan Sarewitz, published an eloquent essay geared towards ‘Saving Science’… mostly from itself.  His work, indeed much of his work, aims to lift the veil from science by encouraging scientists and non-scientists to more critically consider the production of science and technology in the context of societal needs, hopes and fears.

I thought more deeply about Riaz’s concern.

Science, much like finance, has benefited and suffered from the myth that ‘unfettered’ production inevitably leads to societal benefit.  In this way, one only needs to be armed with curiosity and all that results will be glorious.

A free scientific enterprise is a myth because it simply isn’t so, at least not anytime remotely recent.  Government steps in often to offer a hand and establish rules of the playing field.  Technology gives science applicability and in turn, drives certain areas of knowledge over others.  In a myriad of ways, we see that societal benefit is not inevitable. Advancements in science and technology have resulted in new risks, severe inequalities, and challenges to our sense of morality.

Yet the myth acts to demarcate the boundary between society and scientists and insulate the institution of science from the critical lens of accountability.  I dare say the myth has served economics and finance in much the same way.

When scientists believe their work occurs separate from the rest of everyone they have no choice but to be self-serving.  I have met countless scientists who believe their work is not about politics.  But, their scientific efforts support their worldview and their worldview supports their scientific efforts.  In either direction the nexus is politics because the justification for inquiry is based on personal visions of what ought to be.  There is always politics.  I think that is ok.  But one has to be aware of it, check in with the rest of society to see how it’s going and honestly consider the role one play’s in guiding the fate of others.

There is much for social studies of finance scholars to glean from the existing science policy literature from both sides of the Atlantic.

In the closing of his essay, Sarewitz notes the “tragic irony” of long standing efforts by the scientific community to shield itself from accountability to ideas and curiosities beyond itself thereby, resulting in a stagnant enterprise detached from the society it claims to serve.  As a means forward, he encourages improved engagement between science and the “real world” as a means to stir innovation, advance social welfare, and temper ideology.

The same suggestion can be made to the world of finance and its growing cadre of prodding social scientists.

By Suhaib Riaz. *

Is finance socializing us

“Socializing finance” has become shorthand to describe the research that many of us are engaged in related to social studies of finance. I understand it to mean: bringing finance into the realm of social studies; but also making the industry aware of other ways of thinking and doing, beyond their current status quo; this also often has an element of (social) interaction with the industry thrown in. All these are consistent with various meanings of ‘socializing’ and are much needed efforts.

But there is a flip side to this aspect. How critically aware are we that finance is also on a mission to socialize us – in the sense of influencing our thinking – even as we may attempt to ‘socialize’ it?

In my work (in collaboration most prominently with Sean Buchanan, Trish Ruebottom, Madeline Toubiana) and that of a few other scholars, this seems to be a theme too powerful and important to ignore.

Finance is indeed at work to socialize us – to influence our ways of thinking about it through various means. At the peak of the financial crisis, various categories of elite actors seemed bounded by these ways of thinking about the financial industry resulting in configurations of positions often in favor of status quo (see Riaz et al., 2011). More specifically, financial industry leadership may well see it as their task to defend the institutional framework in which the current version of their industry thrives; and accordingly work to ‘socialize’ the rest of us – all stakeholders- to accept their view of finance and its role in society as the ultimate one by claiming epistemic authority in this domain (see Riaz et al., 2016). Read the rest of this entry »

To be held on 3-4 November 2016 at City University London, UK

Recent years have seen a growth in innovative research on finance across the humanities and social sciences. Following on from the success of the ‘social studies of finance’ approach and the new literature on ‘financialisation’, scholars are taking up the challenge of theorising money and finance beyond the conceptual constraints of orthodox economic theory, with different research agendas emerging under various new monikers. This two-day conference aims to bring these approaches into closer dialogue. In particular, it seeks to identify new synergies between heterodox political economy and various sociological, historical, and philosophical perspectives on the intersections of finance and society.

The conference is organised by the journal Finance and Society (with support from the Department of International Politics at City University London), together with the Social Studies of Finance Network at the University of Sydney (with support from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Sydney).

Confirmed keynotes

Money, utopia, and dystopia – Nigel Dodd (London School of Economics)

Pricing the future – Elena Esposito (University of Modena-Reggio Emilia)

Financialisation and its discontents – Perry Mehrling (Columbia University)

Financial innovation and the meaninglessness of money – Anastasia Nesvetailova (City University London)

Confirmed roundtables

Finance and social theory

Lisa Adkins (University of Newcastle Australia)
Melinda Cooper (University of Sydney)
Yuval Millo (University of Leicester)
Finance and political economy

Dick Bryan (University of Sydney)
Marieke de Goede (University of Amsterdam)
Ronen Palan (City University London)
Themes on which we encourage contributions include

Money and/beyond language;
Performativity and affect in finance;
Finance and social theory;
Derivative finance;
Engaging orthodox economics and finance theory;
Central banking and shadow banking;
Historicity and futurity;
Gifts and debts;
Financial crises, past and present;
Finance and neoliberalism;
The politics of finance.
Contributions are invited in two formats

Papers; abstract of up to 300 words
Panels; panel proposal plus paper abstracts
Paper submission

Please submit abstracts and proposals by 8 August 2016 to both Amin Samman ( and Martijn Konings (

The conference organisers aim to publish a selection of the papers as special issues in Finance and Society and other prominent peer-reviewed journals. Participants who would like to be considered for these should aim to submit a draft of an original paper by 1 October 2016.

We have limited funding, with priority given to graduate students. Please indicate in your email if you want to be considered for this.


Emilio Marti and I have extended the deadline for the Professional Development Workshop, “Financial Markets and Organization Theory” that we organizing. The event will take place on Aug 5, 14:15-15:45, in the “Newport Beach/Rancho Las Palmas” room at the Anaheim Marriott, see

Our workshop brings together organization theorists who work on financial markets. In Part 1, three scholars will talk about their work: Mary Benner on securities analysts, Paula Jarzabkowski on the reinsurance industry, and Marc Schneiberg on community banking. Part 1 is open to all participants and does not require pre-registration.

In Part 2 of the PDW, you can receive feedback on your work from the presenters and convenors. I would like to encourage you to send us your work. There are still places available and we have extended the submission deadline to July 29. If you are interested, please send an extended abstract or a short version of your paper (up to 3.000 words) to Daniel (

I hope to see you in Anaheim!


Academy of Management PDW: Social Practice Theory: Uncovering Large-Scale,

Systemic Risks in Financial Markets

Date/time: Saturday 6th August between 4:15-6:15pm; California D (Room), Hilton Hotel.

This Professional Development Workshop (PDW) will take forward debates about the value of sociological approaches generally and a social practice theory approach specifically to studying financial markets. The goal is to show how and why practice theoretical approaches can uncover and shed new light on issues in financial markets, for instance how they trade and manage risk. It explores the inherent risks, such as weaknesses arising from global connectivity and a reliance on industry-standards such as ‘models’, within financial markets.

Part one of the PDW focuses on advancing this research agenda through presentations from leading scholars who advocate diverse but complementary theoretical perspectives that, together, develop a compelling picture of the power of sociological approaches to explain large-scale phenomena such as the practice of markets. Part two of the PDW will involve round-table discussions followed by a concluding panel in which the emerging discussions will be woven together.


Rebecca Bednarek, Birkbeck, University of London

Paula Jarzabkowski, Cass Business School, City University London

Paul Spee, University of Queensland

Panel of Leading Scholars:

Paula Jarzabkowski, Cass Business School

Davide Nicolini, Warwick Business School

Hugh Willmott, Cass Business School

Daniel Beunza, LSE

Emilio Marti and I are organizing a professional development workshop for organization theorists interested in financial markets.

The event has two parts. In Part 1, three senior scholars of finance and management will talk about their work: Mary Benner on securities analysts, Paula Jarzabkowski on the reinsurance industry, and Marc Schneiberg on community banking. Part 1 is open to all participants and does not require pre-registration.

In Part 2 of the PDW, you can receive feedback on your work from the presenters and convenors. To participate in Part 2, please send an extended abstract or a short version of your paper (up to 3.000 words) to Daniel Beunza ( and Emilio Marti ( The submission deadline is July 15, 2016.

When: Friday, Aug 5, 14:15-15:45 (Part 1: 14:15-15:10, Part 2: 15:15-15:45)
Where: Room “Newport Beach/Rancho Las Palmas” at the Anaheim Marriott
Sponsors: OMT, CMS, and SIM

We will also be hosting an informal “OMT coffee” session on that same day at 5:00 pm, at the NFUSE bar in the Anaheim Marriott. Open to everyone.

Hope to see you there!
Further information:

Full description:2016-01-06 Finance and Organization Theory PDW description

The research group “Transnational Political Ordering in Global Finance” at the University of Bremen (Germany) has launched a CfP for the young scholars workshop “Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Global Finance” taking place 21-23 September in Bremen. The purpose of this workshop is to understand the complexities of global finance and to discuss the merit of interdisciplinary approaches to studying finance. The group wants to bring together junior scholars, PhD students as well as Post‐docs, and Junior Professors, with an interest in interdisciplinary exchange, that are conducting empirical research on all aspects of global finance. Moreover, the workshop seeks to identify common themes (empirical and methodological) as well as promising theoretical approaches across disciplines to come to a more encompassing understanding of global finance as a social and political phenomenon. Paper proposals are due on 20 May 2016. Find out more here:


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