The article treats quantitative finance sociologically. It is argued that although mathematical modeling dramatically changed the nature of modern finance, it did not eliminate sociality from financial markets. However, the traditional sociological approach to markets, with its focus on personal social ties and networks, should be transformed as well. Anonymous financial models have not replaced social cues; instead, those models are used socially. This means that investment bank traders use formal mathematical models to predict the decisions of competing traders. Moreover, traders use these models as a reflexive tool. This reflexive modeling creates distributed cognition or dissonance, which helps traders to avoid errors and financial losses. However, this mechanism has an implicit, but very dangerous, drawback: by creating cognitive interdependence, it may lead to massive errors and huge losses in an entire market. While the dissonance effect prevents individual errors, the resonance effect gives way to a collective (market) disaster. Two relevant case studies are considered. Both cases refer to anticipated mergers, but while one of the mergers was correctly predicted, the other one was not. Thus, the first case illustrates the bright side of financial models, while the second shows their dark side. The article contributes to the discussion of the new forms of sociality primarily associated with financial models. The study is based on three years of field research in a major investment bank focusing on traders’ everyday practices.
In his new book, Theodoros Rakopoulos uses the anthropological concept of “livelihood” as a new way to connect some big topics—the mafia, the anti-mafia movement, and cooperativism. For several decades, the mafia has aroused great interest among the general public, journalists, and various scholars: anthropologists, sociologists, and historians. In the 1980s and ‘90s, the emergence of legislative framework governing confiscation by the state and the further use of the property of mafia clans were significantly influenced by the activist movements. That is why the analysis of the experience of creating agrarian cooperatives on expropriated lands through the prism of grass-roots initiatives of civil society has become dominant. However, Rakopoulos, who was observing the work of four anti-mafia cooperatives in Western Sicily in 2007 and 2009, came to the conclusion that, unlike administrators, workers are more interested in issues of wages and prices than ideology and civic participation. How do those who work on the land and are not a part of the grass-roots initiatives in the cooperative structure bypass ideology when it contradicts traditional moral codes? How do they reconcile working in an anti-mafia co-op with family and connections in the local community, where it is impossible to take a neutral or disinterested position towards the mafia? How are urban managers struggling with the “bad kinship” of local workers influenced by their own families and friends? Successively, considering the various circumstances of participants (family, reputation, neighborhood, and so on) that affect their livelihood, the researcher concludes that among both workers and managers, there is nobody who would be free from local moral and ethical norms and could look at the work of anti-mafia cooperatives through the eyes of a distant state. Therefore, the politicized cooperatives themselves, contrary to their own ideology, cannot exist as enclaves of good practice.
This overview presents the characteristics and an analysis of historical forms of consumer crediting. The theoretical basis of the overview is rooted in the cultural and social history of consumer credit—a new and interdisciplinary direction. Because a distinct emphasis is placed on the differences between forms of crediting in certain countries and historical periods, the cultural and social history of credit appears to be the most appropriate for considering forms of consumer credit as they change throughout history. It also focuses on the history of credit institutional conditions that shaped current forms of crediting. The conditions include legislation regulating debt relations more or less rigorously and forms of credit that have already existed, such as pawnshops, small loans, installment credits, family loans, and open-book credits. Furthermore, the development of consumer credit in the USA and in Europe is analyzed. In the USA, the key processes have been the legalization and legitimation of small loans, the proliferation of installment purchases, and the evolution of credit accounting, whereas in Europe, check credit systems (particularly that which was realized in the United Kingdom by the Provident Clothing and Supply Company) that have no analogues in America are of major interest. Then, the criticisms of credit are taken into account as they appeared throughout its development. The main directions of the counteractions were ethical, anti-capitalist, and anti-American criticism. In the conclusion, it is indicated that research in the history of credit is relevant to both the economists and sociologists in the field and to improving our understanding of the complexity and ambiguity of the various factors that have shaped what we now know as consumer crediting.
This review discusses the collective monograph “Becoming a Professor: Academic Careers, Markets and Power in Five Countries” published by New Literary Observer in Moscow. The authors of this voluminous book pursued two goals at the same time. First, they sought to prepare a guidebook on academic careers in France, the USA, Germany, Great Britain, and Russia for young sociologists who are thinking ahead about their professional pathway. Based on various data sources (interviews, secondary data, autoethnography), they present an institutional history of the formation of academic sociology as a profession and describe the main trajectories in the academic biography of sociologists in five countries. Second, they find differences in institutional and extra-institutional mechanisms of recruitment for sociologists and offer a theoretical explanation. They offer the category of “optical systems” as a cultural framework of university organization used by various external and internal agents with different types of resources and motivation. “Optical systems” become an important source of coping with distrust and the fear of being cheated by “noble swindlers, ” since the dynamics of the academic world are forced by the replacement of the suspicions vocabulary. In this review, we give a brief analysis of the chapters, presenting the advantages and weaknesses. This book discusses several important issues: morals and markets in academia; the impact and work of economic incentives; and the strengths and weaknesses of social networks, academic pathways, and political culture. Because of its provocative statements, incriminating comments, and polemic conclusions, this book is worth reading for all those who are involved in the modern system of higher education and science—academics, civil servants, governors, and of course, various experts.
This article focuses on the “domestication” of hard disk drives’ technologies and the development of the data recovery market in Post-Soviet Russia. Drawing on 3.5 years ethnographic research with one data recovery service center in Moscow and on 12 in-depth narrative semi-structured interviews with technicians in Moscow, Saint-Petersburg, Rostov-on-Don and Minsk, I argue that lead users were centre players in these developments. I narrow and specify E. von Hippel’s definition of lead users, stressing as main characteristics their abilities to invent and to materialize their inventions to create new marketplaces through commercialization of their technological innovations (or, in other words, the ability to complete an innovation cycle by themselves). The questions I pose in this article are: 1. Who were those lead users who invented data recovery as a new service in Russia? 2. In which directions did they transfer their innovations? 3. Which ways and means did they use? To address these questions, the article proceeds through five sections and examines the social basis of data recovery and the history of this field; the practices of transferring innovation vertically (to producers; “invention”), horizontally (to other lead users; “objectification”) and downwards (to domestic users; “commercialization”); the dynamics of data recovery as a “cultural recipe”. To analyze data, I have adopted some grounded theory techniques, thus the result of my undertaking is a “theory” which explains data recovery market development as an evolution of users’ cultural recipes. The article concludes with an assumption that, in Russia, certain innovations in other commercial or industrial fields (for example, automobile electronics) could be initiated by lead users and organized along similar lines to data recovery.
In Building Business in Post-Communist Russia, Eastern Europe, and Eurasia: Collective Goods, Selective Incentives, and Predatory States Dinissa Duvanova discusses a “theory of defensive organizations”. Duvanova proposes this theory as an alternative to the theory of interest groups by Olson, Stigler et al. The theory of defensive organizations arises from the critique of the view of business associations as lobbyists caring only for their own interests. Duvanova uses quantitative data from 27 countries in Eastern Europe and Eurasia and qualitative data about the situation in Russia, Ukraine, Croatia and Kazakhstan in order to show that the experience of post-communist countries does not correspond to the predictions of the theory of interest groups. The author sets out to examine and counter the following myths about business associations, including: (1) business associations are a consequence of good institutions; (2) they are not needed in countries with the high level of corruption; (3) they act as cartels seeking to price collusion; (4) compulsory membership in the business associations may solve the collective action problem. Duvanova concludes that business associations in Russia and in other countries of Eastern Europe and Eurasia protect their members from a predatory state rather than from a free market. The review notes some limitations of the book: 1) a relatively short period of quantitative analysis (six-year period from 1999 to 2005); 2) an insufficient account of the differences within the countries; and 3) the excessive optimism of the theory. In general, Duvanova proposes a theory which has high explanatory potential, which will be useful for further empirical research. She consciously simplifies the explanatory scheme to offer a formal model that can be applied to problems beyond the scope of this book. Furthermore, the reviewer notes that the theory of defensive organizations does not contradict the theory of interest groups, rather it expands and complements this theory for countries with a recently developing business community.