Decision-Making in the Realm of Finance – Interdisciplinary Conversations

Workshop at the Collaborative Research Centre / SFB 1150 “Cultures of Decision-Making“

Poster of the workshop "Decision-Making in the Realm of Finance"
© wikimedia | National Gallery of Art

With the collapse of socialist economies and the emergence of global capitalism, ‘financialisation’ has emerged as a key term engaging not only economists and sociologists but also historians, anthropologists and others. The workings of finance are studied at specific sites such as stock markets and investment banking, while the logic of finance is revealed in its effects upon state policies, debt, labor and expanding social inequalities across the world. Significantly, financialisation in all its ramifications depends on and creates forms of specific social action enacted in decision-making, which, however, is more often taken for granted than made the focus of theoretical scrutiny and analytical elaboration. How are enactments of decision-making through individual behavior or organizational procedures, we ask, related to varying but related regimes of power, knowledge, temporality, rationality, technology, materiality, emotion and subjectivity giving shape to realms of finance? To address such relationships, we suggest to shift the focus from ‘the decision’ as an event to ‘decision-making’ as historically and culturally embedded processes of social action. Decision-making heightens contingent socio-economic trajectories and thus at once creates challenges of future uncertainties and seeks to control them. But decision-making practices, we think, cannot be reduced to the model of Homo Oeconomicus that informs an influential family of theories of decision-making proposed by economists and psychologists; rather, we seek a more nuanced and fresh understanding of decision-making taking into account heterogeneous social and cultural constructions of values, personhood/subjectivity/embodiment and materiality. We seek to promote conversations of decision-making between sociologists, historians and anthropologists working in the field of finance and invite participants to reflect upon and scrutinize models of decision-making that implicitly or explicitly inform scholarly and/or actors’ representations of financial market activities. We specifically seek to explore the frontiers (or possible frontier crossings) between socially and historically grounded approaches to decision-making and economic theories (e.g. rational choice/ game theory) from different disciplinary and methodological perspectives.


Thursday, 21. Juni 2018

14.00 Welcome & Introduction: Decision-Making SFB 1150
Panel I: Epistemology of the Market, Rational Choice & Financialization
14.30 Speculation, and the ‘Epistemology of Wager’ in 18th
Century Europe
Christine Zabel (History, University of Essen)
15.15 Economic and Anthropological Analyses of Financial Decision-Making Michael Chibnik (Anthropology, University of Iowa, USA)
16.00 Tea & Coffee Break
16.15 The fossil fuel divestment movement between politicizing investments and financializing climate protection Stefanie Hiß (Sociology, University of Jena)
Panel II: Stock Market Practices
17.00 ‘What is one to do?’: decision-making processes among investment bankers in equity trading divisions on Wall Street Daniela Peluso (Anthropology, University of Kent, UK)
17.45 Intermediate Discussion
19.30 Dinner
Friday, 22. Juni 2018
Panel II: Stock Market Practices Contd.
09.30 Financial Habitus and Small Investors’ Decision Making I

Speaker I: Michael Walter (Sociology, University of Bremen)

10.15 Financial Habitus and Small Investors’ Decision Making II Speaker II: Lydia Welbers (Sociology, University of Bremen)
11.00 Tea & Coffee Break
Panel III: Speculation, Credit & Lottery
11.15 The strange case of Mr. Speculator and Dr. Hedge: making sense of decision-making in futures markets in the 19th and 20th centuries Alexander Engel (History, University of Goettingen)
12.00 Deciding on creditworthiness – changing prospects on solvency Jürgen Schraten (Sociology, University of Giessen)
12.45 Lunch
13.45 No uncertain terms? Princely administrations and processes of decision-making on lottery projects in 18th century Germany Tilman Haug (History, University of Münster)
14.30 Final Discussion & Publication