Liquidated: An Ethnography of Wall Street (a John Hope Franklin Center Book)

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9780822345800: Liquidated: An Ethnography of Wall Street (a John Hope Franklin Center Book)
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Financial collapses—whether of the junk bond market, the Internet bubble, or the highly leveraged housing market—are often explained as the inevitable result of market cycles: What goes up must come down. In Liquidated, Karen Ho punctures the aura of the abstract, all-powerful market to show how financial markets, and particularly booms and busts, are constructed. Through an in-depth investigation into the everyday experiences and ideologies of Wall Street investment bankers, Ho describes how a financially dominant but highly unstable market system is understood, justified, and produced through the restructuring of corporations and the larger economy.

Ho, who worked at an investment bank herself, argues that bankers’ approaches to financial markets and corporate America are inseparable from the structures and strategies of their workplaces. Her ethnographic analysis of those workplaces is filled with the voices of stressed first-year associates, overworked and alienated analysts, undergraduates eager to be hired, and seasoned managing directors. Recruited from elite universities as “the best and the brightest,” investment bankers are socialized into a world of high risk and high reward. They are paid handsomely, with the understanding that they may be let go at any time. Their workplace culture and networks of privilege create the perception that job insecurity builds character, and employee liquidity results in smart, efficient business. Based on this culture of liquidity and compensation practices tied to profligate deal-making, Wall Street investment bankers reshape corporate America in their own image. Their mission is the creation of shareholder value, but Ho demonstrates that their practices and assumptions often produce crises instead. By connecting the values and actions of investment bankers to the construction of markets and the restructuring of U.S. corporations, Liquidated reveals the particular culture of Wall Street often obscured by triumphalist readings of capitalist globalization.

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From the Publisher:

"We're pretty familiar with the economic rationale for the regime of cost-cutting and downsizing throughout corporate America in recent decades. But Karen Ho's research greatly enriches our understanding of how Wall Street's own peculiar culture of transient relationships and relentless competition has contributed to the shareholder revolution. And, along the way, her interviews and fieldwork offer a very revealing picture of the mind of Wall Street. A fascinating and important book."--Doug Henwood, editor of the Left Business Observer and author of Wall Street: How It Works and For Whom

"Liquidated is what many of us have been waiting for: a serious ethnographic consideration of finance capital. Using the best kinds of cultural and social analysis, Karen Ho gets inside Wall Street assumptions, turning them around to upend each other."--Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, author of Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection

From the Back Cover:

"What could be more timely than this fascinating and highly readable investigation of the culture of Wall Street? With "Liquidated," Karen Ho takes us into the workaday world of investment banking before the crisis, showing us the roots of the risk-taking that drew lavish compensation packages and brought the world financial system to the brink of collapse. A significant contribution both to the anthropological and wider social scientific literature on financial markets and globalization, as well as to the urgent public debate over the power of financial institutions in contemporary American society."--Bill Maurer, author of "Pious Property: Islamic Mortgages in the United States"

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9780822345992: Liquidated: An Ethnography of Wall Street (a John Hope Franklin Center Book)

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Publisher: Duke University Press Books, 2009
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