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Liquidated

An Ethnography of Wall Street

This book can be downloaded and read in iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.

Description

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.

From Publishers Weekly

Jun 08, 2009 – The timely question, What caused the current global financial crisis? provokes answers usually aimed at the level of institutions and the more abstract market logic. Ho's refreshing ethnography of the daily lives of Wall Street investment bankers takes another tack and outlines a web of practices, beliefs and structures that may be vital to understanding what keeps the market system in place despite built-in instabilities. Ho, a former business analyst and now an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Minnesota, unpacks constant downsizing, high risk/high reward job liquidity, shortsighted compensation structures, prestige and the ruse of shareholder value. Her keen eye for the significance of space illuminates workplace narratives, e.g., segregating staff by floor, function and prestige; constant and lavish recruiting events at Princeton and Harvard; and anticlimactically tawdry office space for most workers. The author exposes how elite undergraduates are immersed in a culture promoting finance as the only legitimate job, how educational pedigrees reinforce the financial world's self-image while the actual jobs remain rigidly hierarchical (stratifying women, people of color and non Ivy League graduates), highly unstable and isolating, encouraging a culture in which making money is the only value.

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Liquidated
View in iTunes
  • $25.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Social Science
  • Published: Jun 22, 2009
  • Publisher: Duke University Press
  • Seller: Duke University Press
  • Print Length: 389 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.5 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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