Social Studies of Finance: The Making (and Taking) of Value in the Financialization of Our Lives
Full course description
What is financial value, and what is the value of finance? In this course we will evaluate the global reach and local impacts of our current financial system, including the financialization of more and more aspects of our everyday lives like housing, education, work, medical care, retirement, and even art. From a variety of perspectives, we will learn about the histories, practices and theories behind the crises-struck but seemingly inevitable rise of finance into the 21st century. The way we know about money and finance today is changing. In fact, a global economic crisis has become a crisis of orthodox Economics. But, what exactly is a crisis, and who decides? In November 2008, only weeks after the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy, Queen Elizabeth inaugurated a new building at the London School of Economics. Referring to "the financial crisis", she asked the professors: "Why did nobody notice it?" In a written reply, the scholars explained that the reason "was principally a failure of the collective imagination of many bright people, both in this country and internationally, to understand the risks to the system as a whole." This course introduces attempts to re-imagine our knowledge of money and finance by many "other" bright people, among which anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists, historians, philosophers, artists, and even some economists. We will discuss contested notions of public and private ownership, debt and investment, speculation, risk and uncertainty, as well as regulation and taxation. Instead of dealing with business cases, the course explores different fields of finance ethnographically, providing glimpses of the worlds of central banking, corporate- and shadow banking, private wealth management, and new digital financial technologies also known as "fintech". Based on these examples, we will consider the meanings of financial vocabularies (e.g. those of collateral and leverage), as well as the legal codes of financial derivates (such as credit default swaps). We will analyze capitalist ethics of growth and financial profitability, as well as the ideals and rhetoric of trust and transparency that often clash with opaque realities of corruption and fraud. Projecting the dominant temporalities and politics of finance against an urgent backdrop of global humanitarian and ecological crises, we will learn that price is not to be equated with value(s). But how do the values of finance affect us today, and what are the prices we are willing to pay for the failures of its imagined futures?
- To introduce histories and theories of money and finance
- To critically analyze practices of finance and financialization
- To relate social studies of finance to current issues
- To learn how to write a review article
Either one of the following courses: SSC1007 Law and Legal Reasoning, SSC1025 Introduction to Political Science, SSC1027 Principles of Economics, SSC1029 Sociological Perspectives, HUM1010 Common Foundations of Law in Europe, HUM2046 Living in a Technological Culture: Introduction to Science and Technology Studies/Science and Technology Studies 1: Living in a Technological Culture.
- Mader, P., Mertens, D, and N. van der Zwan (2019). The Routledge International Handbook of Financialization. Routledge, London
- Academic articles and book chapters
- Legal instruments and policy documents