"Stories of Capitalism: Inside the Role of Financial Analysts"
Held on Wednesday, 14 February, 2018
We invited Stefan Leins to talk about his research for the recently published book Stories of Capitalism (2018, University of Chicago Press):
The Book: The global financial crisis and the recession that followed caught many people off guard, including those experts in the financial sector whose jobs involve predicting market fluctuations and development. Financial analysis offices in most international banks are supposed to not only forecast but also give meaning to the rise or fall of stock prices, the success or failure of investment products, and even the growth or decline of entire national economies. And yet their predictions are heavily disputed. How do they make their forecasts—and do those forecasts have any actual value?
Leins' book Stories of Capitalism is an ethnography of financial analysis in which he draws on two years of fieldwork in a Swiss bank. Financial analysts, he found, construct stories of possible economic futures, presenting them as coherent and grounded in expert research and analysis. In so doing, they establish a role for themselves, not necessarily by laying bare empirically verifiable trends but rather by presenting the market as something that makes sense and is worth investing in. They thereby establish also a role for the banks, to continue boosting investment even in unstable markets.
The Author: Dr Stefan Leins is senior lecturer at the Department of Social Anthropology and Cultural Studies of the University of Zurich and a member of the research program Anthropology of Economy at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).
His research interest is in the culture of economies and theories of capitalism. He works on financial analysis, forecasting, science and technology, Islamic finance, socially responsible investing, the history of economic knowledge, and the narrative dimension of finance.