Accepted Paper:

Turning the social studies of finance inside out: Confronting an absence of concern in STS approaches to studying markets  


Paul Gilbert (University of Sussex)

Paper long abstract:

Shortly before the publication of his Laws of the Markets, a foundational text in the social studies of finance (SSF), Michel Callon argued that a "passionate attention to the performative dimension of economics should replace the vain denunciation of its limits" (Callon & Latour 1997). This edict has been faithfully heeded as SSF has proliferated into a field concerned with the production of prices, the organization of financial knowledge, and the coordination of both trading rooms and "world" markets. SSF is not apolitical per se, and some leading practitioners (MacKenzie 2009) have called for a greater attention to the politics of market design. Yet the field is often explicitly anti-critical, rejecting "denunciatory" critique for fine-grained investigations of the material practices by which economic theories are translated into market agencies. Both the moral-political and scientific "correctness" of economic models and materials are considered non-questions to the extent that they are able to contribute to a calculative assemblage which, regardless of its fragility, performs financial markets. Looking back at the 2008 crisis, denunciations of the limits of economics have proliferated, mobilised by external critics and leading practitioner-academics, and entering into calculative practices "in the wild." Some have agitated for a more "realistic" rooting of economic models in the sciences of complexity which govern other "natural" processes; others have pressed for a more "human" economics upon which to build a more humane economy. This paper examines how far the ontological commitments and methodological orientations of STS-SSF scholars themselves render these debates as non-issues.

Panel C4
Non-concerns about science and technology and within STS