Enrollment now open! Summer, sociology of finance, and the London School of Economics

April 22, 2015

It’s spring in London, and the beautiful weather this week reminds me that the LSE is now taking applications for my favorite Summer School, “Firms, Markets and Crises: Foundations of the Social Studies of Finance.” The course is due to start on July 6th, and runs till July 24th. See the official site here.

The backbone of the course is a distinct approach to financial markets that is neither orthodox finance (with its emphasis on impersonal markets) nor behavioral finance (and its focus on individual mistakes and psychological biases). Instead, the course is premised on the idea that social relations matter to the functioning of banks and financial markets. Their influence includes the effect of social networks among bankers, the tools used by traders (technology, after all, is socially constructed), and the culture of financial institutions such as the values, beliefs and attitudes in them. The course can be taken by undergraduates in finance who want to differentiate themselves from their peers with broader exposure to sociology and anthropology. Alternatively, it serves as a great introduction to the City and Wall Street for undergraduate students in business, economics or social sciences like sociology and anthropology. Master’s students are also welcome and typically make up one third of the class.

Here’s how the typical day works. Class starts at 10.00 am in our very Victorian 32L building, with one hour and a half of lectures where I teach the content of a given topic in an interactive manner (PowerPoints are for losers!). We then have a half-hour break, and then I facilitate a session with speaker form the industry for another hour. We’ve had people from Barclays, the FCA regulatory authority, the PRI, a fintech incubator, a hedge fund, investment firm Pimco, the Bank of England… everyday, a different speaker. There’s an hour for lunch, and in the afternoon there are cases for one hour and a half with our TA, Megan Peppel, who is flying from New York to teach in the course. The rest of the afternoon is dedicated to reading ahead of next day’s lecture (the park at Lincoln’s Inn Fields serves as a great library) though students have sometimes been spotted at The George, our local pub at the LSE.

The course is demanding. There is a quiz, a midterm and a final exam. The readings are long, and  challenging. But I can promise the effort is worth it. Those who come will find an exciting environment of incredibly international and smart students. Long-lasting friendships are formed. Last year the percentage of satisfied/ very satisfied students was a whopping 100 percent. And I’m hoping it will be at least as good this year.

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