December 20, 2016
By Christian Borch
It has been common for economic sociology to insist that economists tend to suffer from a rather narrow view of economic phenomena – and that sociologists (and other non-economists) consequently have much to offer in terms of advancing more empirically adequate analyses. But of course, there are certainly some economists who have produced sophisticated, empirically rich studies of economic phenomena. And there are also economists who appreciate sociological findings and try to integrate these into their work. This synergy applies especially to the field of behavioural economics as well as its subfield of behavioural finance. Both these behavioural traditions share the view of sociological critics of orthodox economics; namely, that economics falls short of providing adequate accounts of empirical economic phenomena, in large part because orthodox economic frameworks rely on unrealistic homo economicus models. Against this narrowmindedness, behavioural approaches present themselves as an important analytical improvement that – by mobilizing inspiration from psychology and sociology – provides more accurate analyses of economic behaviour, including of real actors’ actual modes of action.
All of this is well known. What has received considerably less attention is how psychological and sociological insights are utilized in the hands of e.g. behavioural finance scholars. How precisely do psychological and sociological findings find their way into behavioural finance and how do these findings improve behavioural finance studies? What claims about finance are made on the basis of particular psychological or sociological insights? In our article entitled ‘Market Sociality: Mirowski, Shiller and the Tension between Mimetic and Anti-mimetic Market Features’, recently published in Cambridge Journal of Economics, Ann-Christina Lange and I seek answers to these questions. We do so by examining the socio-psychological and sociological elements that lie behind Robert J. Shiller’s behavioural finance theory.
Shiller, a Yale economist, is a leading scholar within behavioural finance. In 2013, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his central contributions to the field. In particular, Shiller has spent years critiquing the notion of efficient markets as advanced by e.g. Eugene Fama, a co-recipient of the 2013 Nobel Prize. Shiller’s alternative to Fama has two dimensions. One is empirical, in that Shiller has argued that stock prices, to take one example, do not conform to efficient market expectations. Another dimension of Shiller’s work is theoretical: he has drawn considerably on particular psychological and sociological traditions when developing a behavioural alternative to the efficient market hypothesis. Indeed, in Shiller’s view, behavioural finance may be defined as ‘finance from a broader social science perspective, including psychology and sociology’ (2003: 83), and explicit inspiration from scholars such as Emile Durkheim, Robert K. Merton, and Max Weber can be identified in many of his writings.
The use of psychological and sociological findings is particularly visible in Shiller’s seminal article from 1984: ‘Stock Prices and Social Dynamics’ (Shiller, 1984), which is that part of his work which has received the most attention from the Committee of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in their motivation for the 2013 prize. In the 1984 article, Shiller puts forward his theoretical programme in its most elaborate form. Specifically, he argues that financial markets should be seen as deeply embedded in mass-psychological dynamics: ‘mass psychology may well be the prominent cause of movements in the price of the aggregate stock market’, he asserts (1984: 459). In our discussion of Shiller, we focus particularly on the ways in which he substantiates this assertion. We demonstrate, firstly, that Shiller is inspired by the sociological tradition of crowd and mass psychology, including an interest in the notion of suggestion (prominent in late-nineteenth-century sociology and psychology). Moreover, we also show that Shiller harks back to particular experiments from social psychology that, seemingly unwittingly, create tensions vis-à-vis the crowd and mass sociological inspirations he evokes.
A word on Shiller’s use of social-psychology experiments is pertinent here. Much of the behavioural finance literature, and especially Shiller, deploys very particular sociological and psychological findings to make rather grand statements. In our article, we discuss this point with reference to famous experiments carried out by Solomon Asch and utilized by Shiller. Here allow me to make the same point through another experimental grounding to which Shiller refers, namely the work of Muzafer Sherif.
The particular experiment Shiller references is a study by Sherif on autokinetic movement (Sherif, 1937). Placed in a dark room, a group of people are asked to measure the distance that a point of light moves, when in fact it remains stationary. The subjects are placed in the room in groups of two. One of the pair is the experimental subject. The other is, without the experimental subject’s knowledge, an experiment confederate. The objective of the experiment is to assess the degree to which the experimental subject’s estimate of the movement of light is influenced by the confederate’s judgments, i.e. whether some form of group pressure can be detected. The study concludes that experimental subjects are prone to conform to (experimentally induced) group norms, i.e. they are inclined to adjust their own judgments to the views of others (the confederate), without really acknowledging this afterwards.
Sherif’s experiment, which is reported in a nine-page article (Sherif, 1937), is used by Shiller to substantiate his claim that ‘mass psychology may well be the prominent cause of movements in the price of the aggregate stock market’. What Sherif shows, according to Shiller, is that people are subject to what he calls ‘social movements’: they are suggestible and can be influenced through group pressure; and they are also victim to fads and fashions of all sorts. Put differently, people are essentially mimetically constituted, and this characteristic, argues Shiller, also applies to financial markets, in which investors could mimic the behaviours and assessments of others.
From a sociology of knowledge perspective the interesting point here is not so much whether Shiller is correct about according mass psychology a prominent role in financial markets, including the fads and fashions that allegedly characterize these (although I think his intuition is largely right). The more important point is to note that Shiller is making such claims on the basis of studies like that of Sherif, although it is not at all clear how a study of autokinetic effect and possible group pressure in an experiment with just two persons can reasonably justify a sweeping claim about the very nature of financial markets as constituted by mass psychology and fads and fashions. Yet this is precisely how the social-psychological experiments function in the work of Shiller.
The Shiller case demonstrates a more general point: as sociologists, we should certainly welcome economists’ attempts to make productive use of sociological insights. However, we should also critically assess whether sociological (and psychological) findings are appropriately mobilized by economists, not least because such findings may often be evoked in a pick-and-choose fashion with little or no attention to any of the limitations they might have.
Sherif, M. (1937) ‘An Experimental Approach to the Study of Attitudes’, Sociometry 1(1/2): 90–98.
Shiller, R. J. (1984) ‘Stock Prices and Social Dynamics’, Brookings Papers on Economic Activity 2: 457–510.
Shiller, R. J. (2003) ‘From Efficient Markets Theory to Behavioral Finance’, Journal of Economic Perspectives 17(1): 83–104.
EGOS 2017 subtheme on “Financialization and its societal implications: Rethinking corporate governance and shareholders”
December 8, 2016
Some readers of this blog may be interested in the subtheme “Financialization and its societal implications” that we are convening as part of the 2017 colloquium of the European Group of Organization Studies (EGOS) in Copenhagen (July 6-8, 2017).This subtheme creates a space to discuss the societal implications of a financialized economy. We suggest that organization scholars can make a distinct contribution to our understanding of financialization by (1) analyzing the rise of a financialized approach to corporate governance and (2) exploring how different types of shareholders influence corporations.The deadline for the submission of short papers (3,000 words) is January 9, 2017. Please find the full call for papers here: http://www.egosnet.org/jart/prj3/egos/main.jart?rel=de&reserve-mode=active&content-id=1442567999321&subtheme_id=1442568045037Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.Best regards,Hugh Willmott, firstname.lastname@example.orgEmilio Marti, email@example.comJeroen Veldman, firstname.lastname@example.org
October 28, 2016
Call for papers
Special issue on ‘Security and finance’
In recent years, the War on Terror and the global financial crisis have brought to the fore the manifold, complex ways in which finance and security are interlinked in contemporary societies. Anti-terrorism financing and anti-money laundering initiatives, for instance, illustrate a turn in security governance towards financial surveillance. At the same time, we see in the governance of financial stability a logic of collective security, working through techniques that emphasize systemic preparedness and resilience over active state intervention. More generally, a new epistemology of risk preparedness is emerging in connection with the notion of ‘financial transparency’. As these examples illustrate, contemporary financial and security risk management cannot be easily isolated and are imbricated in a series of instrumental and conceptual interrelations. Marieke de Goede’s 2010 study of financial security provides an important milestone in conceptualizing these links*, but the fast pace of technological development demands further empirical and theoretical research on the finance-security nexus.
This special issue calls for post-disciplinary submissions that document the diverse ways in which finance and security logics, institutions, and devices coalesce. This may be in the political economy of the reconfiguration of modern state functions through financial processes and tools, such as debt issuance and securitization. Alternatively, intersections between critical finance and security studies may shed light on the ways that market processes, routines, and devices feed into the intensification of security technologies. Finally, this call is also addressed to cultural economy researchers concerned with the securitization of the body and mundane everyday life, be this in the house, at work, or in spaces of leisure and consumption. Potential topics include (but are not limited to):
- Technologies of financial and data security
- Links between finance and governance structures or techniques
- Personal insecurity, vulnerability, and indebtedness
- Financialization, war, and militarization
- Securing bodies, embodied securities
Paper submission: Completed manuscripts of 9,000–11,000 words should be submitted to John Morris (email@example.com) and Mariana Santos (firstname.lastname@example.org) for initial review by 15 November 2016. The special issue will be published as vol. 3, no. 1 in July 2017. Further instructions for authors are available at: http://financeandsociety.org/house-style/
* de Goede, M. (2010) Financial security. In: Burgess, J. P. (ed) The Routledge Handbook of New Security Studies. Abingdon: Routledge, 100-09.
October 26, 2016
Posting the summary of the workshop (see Call for Papers earlier) Politics and Finance YSW 2016:
Young Scholars Workshop: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Global Finance
21-23 September 2016, University of Bremen
In September, the research group “Transnational Political Ordering in Global Finance” led by Sebastian Botzem has hosted a young scholars workshop on the interdisciplinary study of finance at the University of Bremen. This event brought together 30 emerging academics from different universities, countries, and disciplinary backgrounds (including Political Science, IPE, Economic Sociology, Economics & Business Studies, Human Geography, and Economic History). Besides providing a platform for establishing international contacts among young scholars, the main goals of the workshop were to better understand the complexities of global finance and to discuss merits and constraints of interdisciplinary approaches to studying finance. Given the increasing relevance of finance, in both politics and everyday life, and finance’s susceptibility to crises, a more encompassing understanding of its dynamics is urgently required. In this respect, the three days of intense paper sessions, inspiring lectures and a concluding round table certainly provided new insights and ideas for the individual projects of the workshop participants as well as for a broader common research agenda on finance.
In his introductory remarks, Sebastian Botzem addressed different (often interconnected) levels of finance that merit academic attention ranging from international financial governance to the everyday repercussions of decisions in financial centers. In this regard, the transnational dimension of finance is particularly relevant since cross-border encounters, public-private interactions, and social structures beyond the nation state are at the heart of contemporary finance. Financial markets and actors are not only increasingly transnational but also highly dynamic, making their exploration even more important (and challenging at the same time). This is exemplified by the expansion of financial logics, the rise of new products, rules and practices, institutional change, the increasing speed of transactions, and the constant reconfiguration of actor constellations. All this calls for an interdisciplinary approach, since finance is simply too complex to be studied from one angle only. Thus, empirical curiosity is at the heart of interdisciplinary work.
Twelve paper sessions made up the backbone of the young scholars workshop providing useful hands-on advice for the authors and fruitful discussions on empirics, theories, and methodologies. The expectation of the conference organizers to have a dense workshop with intense and productive discussions of work in progress was fully met thanks to the great contributions of the participants and the interactive session format. Contrary to established conference habits, there were no presentations by the authors themselves. Rather, the projects were introduced and commented on by the respective co-panelists. The sessions covered a wide range of empirical subjects including the role of private and public banks, regional varieties of financialization, derivatives trading, rating agencies, the Eurozone crisis, financial literacy, housing and insurance, corruption, social investments, and global financial governance. Papers also adopted very different theoretical and disciplinary perspectives such as heterodox economics, critical and cultural political economy, social studies of finance, and the everyday life perspective addressing different scales and mechanisms at work. This diversity also translated into a variety of methodological approaches including qualitative case studies, statistical approaches, discourse analysis, different types of interviews, network analysis, participatory observation, and following-the-thing approaches.
Besides the paper sessions, three experienced scholars gave lectures on their current research and the merits of interdisciplinarity in studying finance. In the first talk, Eleni Tsingoufrom the Copenhagen Business School presented a project on “Ideational ecologies in central banking” she currently works on with Andrew Baker and Leonard Seabrooke. This project explores ideas as process (rather than as institutional fit) using the example of the Jackson Hole annual symposium run by the Kansas City Federal Reserve. The particular setting of this event provides a platform for testing, assessing, and spreading economic ideas since it brings together central bankers, academics, and other representatives of the global financial elite. Of particular interest for Eleni and her fellow researchers are instances of anti-mainstream ideas and debates that seem to pop up regularly and deliberately at Jackson Hole. The project pursues a rather ambitious mix-method agenda compiled of content analysis, sequence analysis, network analysis and the use of biographical information.
In the second lecture, Lucia Quaglia from the University of York presented the main insights from her recent book “The European Union and Global Financial Regulation” (Oxford University Press) that explores standard-setting processes in financial regulation from a Comparative Political Economy Perspective. In contrast to ideas, rules are quite easy to trace and research. However, according to Lucia, EU rule-stetting, previously, has been broadly overlooked while national standard-setting was at the core of the debate. Lucia compares regulatory capacities and outcomes in the US and the EU for different financial policy areas over time and finds mechanisms of uploading, downloading, and cross-loading. While the EU traditionally has been a downloader of international standards in many areas (sometimes uploaded by the US), it has become more influential after the recent financial crisis. In the subsequent discussion of her findings, the nexus between financial lobbying and regulatory policies as well as transnational dynamics in financial governance were addressed.
The third lecture was given by Phil Mader from the Institute of Development Studies (University of Sussex) who talked about the spread of microfinance as an instance of financialization based on his book “The Political Economy of Microfinance: Financializing Poverty” (Palgrave Macmillan). Phil introduced another definition of financialization focusing on the expansion of the frontier of financial accumulation. Microfinance, then, pushes this frontier through mobilizing narratives, constructing a specific form of governmentality, and extracting profit from the poor. This might also apply to financial inclusion, a concept that has become somewhat of a predecessor of microfinance (also engaging NGOs as drivers of financialization). Phil concludes that we need to vastly expand our view of financialization taking into account the pushing forward of frontiers, subtle ways of spreading financial logics, and the paradoxical appeal of finance as an (apparent) solution to contemporary problems like poverty (but also climate change).
In the concluding session, participants collected some of the recurrent themes of the workshop and discussed merits and constraints of interdisciplinary approaches. Throughout the workshop, the issue of financialization was relatively prominent, signaling its appeal to different disciplines and its potential to cross disciplinary divides. However, confusion remains about what financialization actually is and what the best way is to study it. The papers nicely brought together a wide range of definitions and literatures on the spreading of financial logics. In many of our discussions, the rather simple notion of regulatory or cognitive capture and lobbying power was deemed too simplistic. Still, the complexities and sometimes contractions involved in the diffusion of financial market rationalities to policy-making and the everyday life are difficult to grasp both theoretically and methodologically. This remains a core challenge of our common research agenda on finance.
The final round table on interdisciplinarity revealed both merits and constraints of crossing disciplinary boundaries. Sebastian Botzem argued that interdisciplinary perspectives have the potential to provide more in-depth understanding of real world phenomena. Such more innovative approaches can reveal insights usually hard to detect with approaches that are narrowly confined to strict disciplinary perspectives. Interdisciplinary approaches are particularly suitable to understand complex phenomena that address, for example, boundary spanning activities, multiple loyalties and embeddedness or multi-level governance. . At the same time, naïve approaches of interdisciplinary research are highly problematic as they tend to delegitimize interdisciplinary research by appearing simply eclectic causing more confusion than bringing about additional insights. As Lucia Quaglia noted, real world problems are usually rather complex and rarely fit one-sided theoretical assumptions and concepts. Borrowing literature, methods, and theories from other disciplines might induce new questions and ideas and enable us to speak to broader audiences. Phil Mader agreed with this and stressed that finance is probably particularly prone to interdisciplinary investigation. However, he reminded us that we cannot include all disciplines at the same time, especially in a dissertation. Natalia Besedovsky shared some of her experience in different disciplines pointing to the need of disciplinary homelands and potential downsides of interdisciplinary research in terms of career development. Thus, we should always engage in translating concepts and findings back into our disciplines. After all, crossing disciplinary boundaries might bring us closer to our empirical subjects, but often also entails moving towards uncomfortable territory. This endeavor needs occasions and a supportive atmosphere. We hope to have provided both with this workshop.
This workshop would not have been possible without the generous support by the Center for Transnational Studies (ZenTra) and the Foundation of the University of Bremenfor which we are very grateful. Moreover, we want to particularly thank our three speakers and Hans-Michael Trautwein (University of Oldenburg & ZenTra) who not only contributed to our program but were also outstandingly active in the paper sessions. Finally, a huge compliment goes to our student assistants Berit Dießelkämper and Fabian Besche who did much of conference organizing and kept the event running smoothly behind the scenes.
Enacting Dismal Science is the new collection on performativity, edited by Ivan Boldyrev and my colleague at Leicester, Ekaterina Svetlova.
With contributions on behavioral economics experiments, naturalism in economics, game theory, incentives, description as a moral problem, hydraulic governability in postwar Keynesianism, institutions, and much more.
Philip Roscoe of this very blog is among the authors.
Table of Contents:
October 5, 2016
Call for Abstracts
Financialization and Beyond: Debt, Money, Wealth, and the Capture of Value
April 6-8, 2017, University of Iowa, Iowa City, USA. Abstracts due December 1, 2016.
Finance is hard to escape. In recent years, the increasing social impact and interconnection of ﬁnancial discourses, markets, actors, and institutions have been understood under the broad concept of financialization. Natascha van der Zwan identifies three distinct research streams that have approached financialization as 1) a regime of accumulation, 2) the influence of financial markets and instruments on non-financial corporations as well as the banking and finance industry, and 3) a discourse of risk-taking, self-management and self-fulfillment that is transforming people into investing subjects. Some anthropological skeptics, however, argue that finance has a far longer genealogy than the financialization literature has to date recognized. For example, in the context of a lengthy human history of creating hierarchy, financialization may simply be a new technology serving an old purpose.
On behalf of the Society for Economic Anthropology, and in co-sponsorship with the International Sociological Association’s Economy and Society Research Committee, we aim to put in dialogue divergent visions of what constitutes finance and financialization, and how finance and financialization impact our societies. The program committee especially welcomes scholarship from anthropologists (in all sub-fields), sociologists, scholars in the social studies of finance, and other social scientists who do not necessarily self-identify as financialization scholars, but whose work provides comparative, historical, ethnographic, or quantitative insights into the workings of finance and financialization.
As an initial organizing tool we have divided areas of potential contributions into three categories of inquiry. These are not exclusive categories and we welcome contributions that don’t readily fit in what we outline.
- Finance predates capitalism. Therefore, what are relevant cross-cultural, historical, and archaeological cases which help illuminate our current moment?
- Tracing who owes what to whom is as old as the discipline of anthropology. Do new financial instruments such as credit default swaps share forms and logics with older kinds of reciprocities?
- Are the new instruments of finance comparable to those found in the cultural and archaeological record, and especially to other forms of debt?
- Numerous scholars have argued that financialization is creating new subjects and selfhoods, accompanied by a shift of risk from states to households. What are the material objects, spaces, and infrastructures that translate financial abstraction into new ways of understanding personhood?
Wealth, Money, and Financial Instruments
- Does financialization alter our comprehension of what kind of social organization goes with what type of wealth—a leitmotif in the comparative study of human societies, particularly since the rise of agriculture?
- How can we interpret potentially novel forms of financial innovation, such as Islamic finance and banking?
- How do ideologies such as shareholder value or social finance transform economic practices?
- How do non-elites use new forms of money (such as phone cards, paypal, gift cards, local currencies) to alter hierarchies or seek alternative forms of wealth accumulation? How and with what consequences are elites transforming money’s materiality?
Depoliticization and the Capture of Value
- Many have noted that financialization promotes a depoliticizing process, in which state services, formerly held accountable to government, are now being replaced by private markets. How do these processes compare to other instances of political drift and shift that have come with new modes of abstraction?
- How is finance racializing and gendering?Where can we observe moments of openness, where finance can be emancipatory?
- What kind of ethics, politics, and social goals do financial elites envision? How do these compare to those brought into being by classes that dominate the wealth and financial systems in different cultural or economic contexts? What new forms of informality are promoted by financialization?
- The supply chains of financial products connect different places and political projects across the globe. How do such financial instruments transform social life?
We request abstracts for both papers and posters on these topics. Please indicate whether your abstract is for a paper, a poster or either. Proposed papers must pertain to the meeting theme. SEA also welcomes poster abstracts on any aspect of economic anthropology.
The Society for Economic Anthropology publishes Economic Anthropology, a peer reviewed journal published electronically via the American Anthropological Association (AAA). Each year Economic Anthropology dedicates one of its two issues to the theme of the SEA meeting. A special issue on financialization will be developed from select conference presentations.
How to submit an abstract
Abstract deadline is December 1, 2016.
Abstracts of proposed papers and posters should be no more than 500 words. Abstracts are advised to include the following information: problem statement or theoretical frame, methodology, findings, and implications. If you submit a paper abstract, please indicate your willingness to present a poster if the organizers are unable to accommodate your paper in the plenary sessions. Poster sessions at SEA are taken very seriously, and most conference participants attend these sessions. In order to be considered for inclusion in the journal issue tied to this theme, please plan to have a complete, publishable-quality version of your paper ready at the time of the conference. Additional information for potential authors will follow.
To submit an abstract, you must first register for the conference through the AAA. At the moment, the registration site is not yet available on the AAA web site. SEA is working with AAA to get the registration site up; this will occur shortly.
- Go to americananthro.organd log in. If you don’t have a login id and password, create one (you do not need to join the American Anthropological Association).
- Once you are logged in, look to the left hand column, click on Meeting registration.
- Click on register under the SEA 2017 Annual Meeting then follow online prompts to register for the meeting (if we do not accept your abstract and you decide not to attend, you may request that your registration fee be refunded and we would be happy to do so).
- Once you are registered, AAA will automatically send you an email inviting you to submit an abstract. Click the link and follow the instructions.