In the wake of the global financial crisis, the various political responses it has triggered, and the emergence of new forms of fiscal and monetary policy, the need for a more sophisticated encounter between economic theory and the social sciences has become pressing. The growth of new forms of money and finance is increasingly recognised as one of the defining developments of our time, and it is beginning to yield innovative research across the humanities and social sciences.

Following on from the success of our inaugural conference last year, this two-day event aims to foster the further development of dialogue between the diverse camps that make up the new field of ‘finance and society’ studies. In particular, it seeks to identify new synergies between heterodox political economy and various sociological, historical, and philosophical perspectives on the intersections of finance and society.

Confirmed keynotes

  • Melinda Cooper (University of Sydney), ‘Anti-austerity on the far right’
  • Joseph Vogl (Humboldt University of Berlin), ‘The ascendancy of finance’

Submissions are invited in two formats

  • Papers; abstract of up to 300 words
  • Panels; panel proposal plus paper abstracts

Please submit abstracts and proposals by 1 August 2017 to Martijn Konings and Amin Samman at the following address:

Finance and Society are encouraging paper submissions from conference participants. If you would like to discuss this further then please contact one of the journal editors. The full programme for last year’s event is available from the 2016 conference website.

The Economist has published an article by the inditing title ‘What went wrong with economics?’ (July 16, 2009).  What is more interesting than the argument – that economists have made mistakes leading up to this economic crisis – is the argument’s form: the first two paragraphs go to great lengths to portray the economist as a heroic (male) figure.

Even if economic statements are ‘performed’ as the performativity thesis argues, their entry into theaters of action inevitably (as with all technological innovation) generates phenomenon that the statements themselves do not predict.  A theoretical statement issued by an economist might be a starting point of a process of ‘economicization’ or ‘marketization’, but it must pass through layers of development and implementation as it is disseminated. These lengthy and intervening processes modify the statement and are as important to generating the content of downstream action as the original utterance.  This is what the sociology of innovation means when it refers to the phenomenon of ‘translation’.

The Economist suggests that economists should have become whistle blowers as their insights were being ‘misused’.  This argument implies that a) economics and finance professors have actually been correct all along; and b) they are able to monitor the every day details of financial activity.  Part of the problem of course, is that nobody – least of all economists wrapped up in quantitative models – seems to have understood how distributed financial activity was unfolding on the ground. Nobody was really studying the insides of mortgage finance; it was just… happening, in the wild.

Denouncing which economists got it wrong and heralding those who ostensibly got it right only reinforces an individual centric analysis, which obfuscates how, both in boom times and in failure, financial markets are a fundamentally social achievement. If crises such as the current one are caused by collective action then the image of the economist fails not only because the discipline has not lived up to its own projected heroism as omniscient overseers, but also because the notion that desirable economic action depends upon the word of a few sage individuals – that is, the very centrality of the economist – has perhaps been overblown.

The economist has been discredited. Ok. What is more important to understanding contemporary economic conditions is to discredit the very idea that their disappointing performance should dominate the discussion.