Suppose you wanted to teach a sociology of finance course to undergraduates. Before teaching them about specific theories, traditions, or histories in the sociology of finance (SSF or New Economic Sociology or political economy, say), you want to introduce modern finance empirically. What is finance? What is it made of? Who are the most important actors, the most important kinds of firms, etc.? What professions influence finance (from law to engineering)? Which regulators are important globally or domestically? Etc.

My question is: how would you teach this material? And most importantly, are there any particularly excellent sources (textbooks, articles, etc.) that do a good job of simply laying out the field of finance in its messy details, but in a level accessible to someone whose existing exposure to modern finance is limited? To put it another way, what I am looking for is an introduction to the ecology of finance aimed, or at least accessible to, non-specialists.

Defaultrisk.com is a visually frenetic site whose author, a risk professional, has enthusiastically collected 1,327 academic and industry articles, and counting, on credit risk management. The majority of these articles are available for free download.  (I tried a couple of them myself, and it seems to work quite satisfactorily).  The site is a juicy gold mine   so rich that I’m not ashamed to mix metaphors over it — and potentially useful for anyone in SSF working up a literature review of Basel II, credit markets, structured debt securities, credit risk metrics, swaps… and so on.  If you’d like to join the gang of contributors check out the submissions page.  Or, if you just want to peek to see if you recognize anyone who has work housed on the site, check out the photo gallery of featured researchers 

Calculatedrisk.blogspot.com is highly ranked on Google and pops up frequently in my searches on consumer credit risk.  It must be very successful because since the last time I looked at it, it’s become peppered with ads.  The anonymous authors are a retired senior executive, and a former bank officer and mortgage lending specialist.  They tend to have some pretty sensible, to-the-point, and up-to-date (if not earth shattering) commentary on the events of the day.  They also provide extensive links to the main stream press on the economic news and regulatory updates, with special coverage of the domestic real estate issues and mortgages. 

Here’s one of no direct relevance to finance which I’ll include just for fun.  Its concept is a thrill to any fan of historian Susan Strasser who might be working on a topic related to the history of consumerism and consumer culture.  BrandlandUSA™ is a blogspot dedicated to the preservation of America’s best-loved brand names.  (I came across it looking for a good price on a Penguin Munsingwear sweater, where I was informed that the company was recently taken over by Perry Ellis.  Which made me wonder: With so many brands, but such huge conglomerates supporting them all, what does this say about the role of finance in the dynamics of contemporary fashion?  A thought to pursue on another day…)