Are there politics in a market device?
August 14, 2009
The recent Politics of Markets workshop seems to have woken up the anti-performativist volcano. The event advanced a new conception of politics by pointing to the role of market devices in shaping controversies. Tools, formulae and other artifacts –the organizers argued– can direct power, advance interests and shape debates as much as traditional approaches such as streets demonstrations, boycotts or government regulation.
The claim has ignited the passions of the institutional sociologists. At the workshop itself, keynote speaker Neil Fligstein threw a fastball to the organizers: with its exclusive focus on financial tools, Fligstein argued, the sociology of finance has missed the larger picture of the credit crisis. The crisis actually occurred because of the interests of Wall Street bankers, who grew their bonuses by switching from prime to subprime mortgage bonds once the quality mortgages had run out. And by the way, he added, it was the US government, not Wall Street, that came up with securitization in the first place.
Whew. It is not everyday that workshop organizers are blessed with intellectual challenges by their guest speakers. So we count ourselves lucky for the opportunity to restate our case with more resonance.
Not to be outdone, the Brayden King and Fabio Rojas at Orgtheory.net have expressed their skepticism (or just plain befuddlement) at the claim.
Watch out this space for a longer reply…