From Christian Borch:

Special Issue of Distinktion: Journal of Social Theory 

Guest Editors:

Lisa Adkins (University of Newcastle, Australia)

Turo-Kimmo Lehtonen (University of Tampere, Finland)

Liu Xin (University of Tampere, Finland)

Submission deadline: September 30, 2017

Publication of the special issue in Distinktion: Journal of Social Theory: 2018/2019 

Background and key themes

One feature of the contemporary present is persistent instability and indeterminacy in regard to price and pricing. While classical social theorists and especially Marx recognized that the problem of price is fundamental to capitalism, this problem is mutating in the context of a proliferation of pricing technologies. These include, but are by no means limited to, the operations of apparently localized devices such as surge pricing and the ostensibly abstract techniques of financial instruments designed to continuously contest price. Such technologies have not only made the contestability of price explicit, but also raise the question of how exactly price and pricing should be understood. Should price be understood as an algorithm, a sensation, an index, a measure, a risk position, a mode of valuation, a benchmark, a function of money, a market device, or a socio-technological engagement with the future?

While mutations to price and pricing have certainly not gone unnoticed in economic sociology, critical finance studies, and in certain branches of pragmatic sociology, these mutations raise the question of what is at stake for social theory in the question and problem of price. What might an interrogation of price entail for social theory? Would this include the changing relations between measure and value? The retreat of the state from price setting? Shifting relations between the future and the present? An intensification of capital accumulation? A rewriting of value? Transformations to money? A thoroughgoing entanglement of price and pricing in the co-ordination and making of social worlds? 

This special issue invites contributions on the theme of price to address these and related questions. It seeks contributions which move away from the narrow concerns of an economics focused on price as information and from a sociology focused on the meaning of price to deliver state-of-the-art engagements with the problem and question of price. These engagements might take the form of considerations of what socio-theoretical resources are best equipped to come to terms with the problem and question of price including the resources of an actor-network-theory-inflected economic sociology, critical and social finance studies, pragmatic social theory and new media theory. These engagements can be set in specific case studies and draw on a range of materials but submissions should aim to advance social theory. The overall aim of the special issue is to prompt new socio-theoretical understandings of price and pricing. 

Submissions

See instructions for authors on the journal homepage for details about style and form. All submissions should be made through the journal’s manuscript submission site.

For further information about this Special Issue, please contact one of the Guest Editors:  Lisa Adkins(lisa.adkins@newcastle.edu.au), Turo-Kimmo Lehtonen(Turo-Kimmo.Lehtonen@staff.uta.fi), and Liu Xin(Xin.Liu@staff.uta.fi).

 

By Ursula Dalinghaus

From the centers of banking and finance to the payment peripheries in the global south, one finds an increasing push toward digital money futures – a future without cash and a future where the means of payment are digitized and privatized, globally. Some see this as a more inclusive future, especially advocates and practitioners of financial inclusion efforts to include the poor within formal banking systems. Others are more upfront about the profit-making value of what one might call “digital payment enclosures,” where one now has to “pay” to pay and where money is no longer a public good that all can access equally. The recent demonetization move in India is therefore highly relevant to broad debates occurring globally on the future of money and state-issued currency, what forms state-issued legal tender should take, and to what (and whose) ends.

Cash is a crucial technology of everyday financial life across the globe and a “public good.” A change in money, even “if only” to cancel or replace particular denomination banknotes, therefore entails different stakes for individuals, segments of a society, as well as national and transnational communities. Such infrastructurally and politically complex operations, including but not limited to the initial rollout phase, can disrupt or unsettle a whole array of social practices and overlapping monetary ecologies with implications for relationships, social hierarchies, and the daily and informal ways of making do. But so often, how these major monetary changes are experienced and negotiated on the ground, especially by those with little power and influence, is rarely documented in detail and indeed largely silenced. Diverse actors, intermediaries, and institutions “for and against” such policy moves fill the space of analytical possibility, reiterating the desired and “inevitable” outcomes. But the details of such monetary and technological shifts matter greatly to those of us engaged in the social studies of finance and who are working to historicize, track, and critically engage processes of marketization and financialization across time and space.

In order to document and develop an on-the-ground understanding of unfolding events around demonetization in India, The Institute for Money, Technology & Financial Inclusion (IMTFI) organized a special blog series on the demonetization move with perspectives from IMTFI Research Fellows. Series contributors assess the impact of demonetization from the ground up and create that essential space for the stories and insights of people negotiating these monumental shifts that will inform our analyses of this major policy event, now and for years to come.

IMTFI’s Special Perspectives Series on Demonetization in India can be accessed through this curated blog post (here), which provides an overview and links to each post in the series. The series aims to foster an open dialogue on issues around money, technology and financial inclusion for the world’s poor. To learn more about the Institute for Money, Technology, & Financial Inclusion, or to access our growing archive of research and publications on the intersections of mobile money technology and monetary practices, see here.

From Stefan Ouma

We live in financialized times. The wellbeing of states, companies and households as well as politics are increasingly shaped by financial markets. The financial economization of almost everything not only manifests itself in the increasing dominance of the financial sector over other domains of the economy, but also in the progressive incorporation of ever new frontier regions into global financial circuits. In mainstream economics, as well as in much of the media, financial markets are usually framed as anonymous entities whose workings are based on certain inner laws. This representation of financial markets has been further accentuated since the global financial crisis, and we have been frequently told that ‘the markets’ are nervous, or even lose trust in whole states.

In the 2016-17 lecture series on Frontier Regions of Global Finance hosted by the Department of Human Geography at Goethe University Frankfurt, leading scholars of money and finance such as David Bassens (University of Brussels), Karen P. Lai (University of Singapore), Sarah Bracking (Universities of Manchester/Kwa Zulu-Natal), Brett Christophers (University of Uppsala) and Paul Langley (University of Durham) transcend popular and scholarly abstractions of financial markets and illuminate the practical, materially entangled operations of financial global finance from different theoretical perspectives. They shed light on the manifold frontier regions which are being incorporated as new fields of accumulation or sites of financial economization into global circuits of finance. 

 To access recordings of the talks, connect here

Please follow the link „Videoaufzeichnung“ appearing under each talk.

For further information, please contact Stefan Ouma, ouma@geo.uni-frankfurt.de

Sent by John Morris

The 9th annual international Critical Finance Studies conference will be held at the University of Leicester from the 3rd to 5th August 2017. The conference is part of an on-going project that seeks to engage with finance in critical and creative ways. Although critical attention is regularly devoted to finance, it usually takes the form of a call for transparency, regulation or restructuring. It also tends to centre on ‘high finance’ rather than processes of financialisation, a term coined by Randy Martin that has proven useful for past Critical Finance Studies discussions. Indeed in this conference we plan to honour Randy’s legacy, following his untimely death, by focusing our keynotes and panel discussions on consideration of the ongoing implications of his work.

Contributions that engage with the discourse of financialisation, perhaps in unexpected spheres or through historical examples, are especially welcome, as are new approaches to ‘high finance.’
We invite papers that critically discuss the workings of finance (for example: its material culture, labour practices, conceptual models, technologies, built environments, authorized or unauthorized forms, etc.) in novel ways. We are interested in engaging with the problematic divide between the way finance is simultaneously lauded as a wealth creator and idealised career path, but also critiqued by popular culture and protest movements. Especially welcome are papers that approach finance through avenues that have been so far underexplored such as: theology, philosophy, art, music, film, new media, television, literary aesthetics, and popular culture.

Possible topics may include, but are not limited to:

Financialisation of daily life
Finance and desire
Financial publics, financial social imaginaries
Finance and risk society
Financial media and advertising
Finance and exclusion
Visualizing finance
Gambling and finance
Financial technologies
Built environments of finance
Stereotypes in financial discourses
Finance and neoliberalism
Philanthropy and finance
Finance in popular culture
Finance and gender, race, or religion
Finance and discrimination
Financial history for the present
Banking: structures, procedures and cultures
Money, credit and derivatives
Finance and postsecularism
Rethinking finance and critical theory
Finance and utopia
The poetics of finance

Finance’s role in the somewhat surprising political events of 2016
Communicating critical finance

Confirmed keynote contributors are Dick Bryan, Joyce Goggin and Bob Meister.

Please send proposals for panels as well as individual contributions (i.e. abstracts of up to 250 words or full papers if wished) to the conference organisers, John Morris (john.morris@ucl.ac.uk) and Simon Lilley (s.lilley@le.ac.uk) by 31st March 2017. As in previous years, we envisage a conference fee of around £100.

By Daniel Fridman

Blog readers may be interested in this new work available from the Stanford University Press (in paperback, hardcover, and e-book) and from online booksellers. From the book’s jacket:

“In this era where dollar value signals moral worth, Daniel Fridman paints a vivid portrait of Americans and Argentinians trying to become worthy of millions. Following groups who practice the advice from financial success bestsellers, Fridman illustrates how the neoliberal emphasis on responsibility, individualism, and entrepreneurship binds people together with the ropes of aspiration.

Freedom from Work delves into a world of financial self-help in which books, seminars, and board games reject “get rich quick” formulas and instead suggest to participants that there is something fundamentally wrong with who they are, and that they must struggle to correct it. Fridman shows that the global economic transformations of the last few decades have been accompanied by popular resources that transform the people trying to survive—and even thrive.”

Daniel Fridman is Assistant Professor of Sociology and Latin American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin.

An introductory excerpt is available from the publisher

Blog readers may be interested in this new work available from the Presses des Mines (both in paperback and PDF) and from online booksellers. From the book’s jacket:

What does it mean to turn something into capital? What does considering things as assets entail? What does the prevalence of an investor’s viewpoint require? What is this culture of valuation that asks that we capitalize on everything? How can we make sense of the traits, necessities and upshots of this pervasive cultural condition?

This book takes the reader to an ethnographic stroll down the trail of capitalization. Start-up companies, research centers, consulting firms, state enterprises, investment banks, public administrations: the territory can certainly prove strange and disorienting at first sight, with its blurred boundaries between private appropriation and public interest, economic sanity and moral breakdown, the literal and the metaphorical, the practical and the ideological. The traveler certainly requires a resolutely pragmatist attitude, and a taste for the meanders of signification. But in all the sites in which we set foot in this inquiry we recognize a recurring semiotic complex: a scenario of valuation in which things signify by virtue of their capacity to become assets in the eye of an imagined investor.

A ground-breaking anthropological investigation on the culture of contemporary capitalism, this work directs attention to the largely unexplored problem of capitalization and offers a critical resource for current debates on neoliberalism and financialization.

The authorial collective is composed of Fabian Muniesa, Liliana Doganova, Horacio Ortiz, Álvaro Pina-Stranger, Florence Paterson, Alaric Bourgoin, Véra Ehrenstein, Pierre-André Juven, David Pontille, Başak Saraç-Lesavre and Guillaume Yon, contributing research carried out at the Centre de Sociologie de l’Innovation (CSI) of the École des Mines de Paris.

An introductory excerpt is available from the publisher.

By Katherine Chen

Forty years ago, as the most recent wave of economic collectives and cooperatives emerged, they advocated a model of egalitarian organization so contrary to bureaucracy that they were widely called “alternative institutions” (Rothschild 1979). Today, the practices of cooperative organizations appear in many movement organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and even “sharing” firms. Cooperative practices are more relevant than ever, especially as recent political changes in the US and Europe threaten to crush rather than cultivate economic opportunities.

Cooperative groups engage in more “just” economic relations, defined as relations that are more equal, communalistic, or mutually supportive.  The oldest collectives – utopian communes, worker co-operatives, free schools, and feminist groups – sought authentic relations otherwise suppressed in a hierarchical, capitalist system.  Similar practices shape newer forms: co-housing, communities and companies promoting the “sharing economy,” giving circles, self-help groups, and artistic and social movement groups including Burning Man and OCCUPY. While some cooperatives enact transformative values such as ethically responsible consumerism and collective ownership, other groups’ practices reproduce an increasingly stratified society marked by precarity. Submitted papers might analyze the reasons for such differences, or they might examine conditions that encourage the development of more egalitarian forms of organization.

Submitted papers could also cover, but are not limited, to exploring:

  • What is the nature of “relational work” (cf. Zelizer 2012) conducted in these groups, and how it differs – or is similar to – from relational work undertaken in conventional capitalist systems?
  • How do collectivities that engage in alternative economic relations confront challenges that threaten – or buttress – their existence? These challenges include recruiting and retaining members, making decisions, and managing relations with the state and other organizations. Moreover, how do these groups construct distinct identities and practices, beyond defining what they are not?
  • How are various firms attempting to incorporate alternative values without fully applying them? For instance, how are companies that claim to advance the sharing economy – Uber, airbnb, and the like – borrowing the ideology and practices of alternative economic relations for profit rather than authentic empowerment? What are the implications of this co-optation for people, organizations, and society at large?
  • How do new organizations, especially high tech firms, address or elide inequality issues? How do organizing practices and values affect recognition and action on such issues?
  • What can we learn from 19th century historical examples of communes and cooperatives that can shed insight on their keys to successful operation today? Similarly, how might new cooperatives emerge as egalitarian and collective responses to on-going immigration issues or economic crisis generated by policies favoring the already wealthy?
  • Are collectives, cooperatives and/or firms that require creativity, such as artists’ cooperatives or high tech firms, most effective when they are organized along more egalitarian principles? How do aspects of these new modes of economic organization make them more supportive of individual and group creativity?

Bibliography

Graeber, David.   2009. Direct Action: An Ethnography.   Oakland, CA: AK Press.

Rothschild, Joyce. 1979. “The Collectivist Organization: An Alternative to Rational-Bureaucratic Models.” American Sociological Review44(4): 509-527.

Rothschild, Joyce and J. Allen Whitt. 1986. The Cooperative Workplace: Potentials and Dilemmas of Organizational Democracy and Participation. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Zelizer, Vivianna A. 2012. “How I Became a Relational Economic Sociologist and What Does That Mean?” Politics & Society 40(2): 145-174.

Questions about the above cfp may be directed to Joyce and myself.

Here is info about the mini-conference format:

Each mini-conference will consist of 3 to 6 panels, which will be featured as a separate stream in the program. Each panel will have a discussant, meaning that selected participants must submit a completed paper in advance, by 1 June 2017. Submissions for panels will be open to all scholars on the basis of an extended abstract. If a paper proposal cannot be accommodated within a mini-conference, organizers will forward it to the most appropriate research network as a regular submission.

More info about mini-conferences here.

The 2017 SASE conference in Lyon, France, hosted by the University of Lyon I from 29 June to 1 July 2017, will welcome contributions that explore new forms of economy, their particularities, their impact, their potential development, and their regulation.

More info about the SASE conference theme, a critical perspective on the sharing economy, is available at “What’s Next? Disruptive/Collaborative Economy or Business as Usual?

Joyce and I look forward to reading your submissions!