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 argues that bankers' approaches to financial markets and corporate America are inseparable from the structures and strategies of their workplaces. 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 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.
©2009 Duke University Press (P)2013 Redwood Audiobooks
"Ho's refreshing ethnography of the daily lives of Wall Street investment bankers...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." (Publishers Weekly)
"The book's great strength lies in Ho's careful observation of the means by which people succeed or fail on Wall Street, as she punctures many of the assumptions about how markets work." (Keir Martin, Times Literary Supplement)
"Karen Ho embarked on her study in classic anthropological manner: by blending into the background, listening intently, in a non-judgmental way - and then trying to join up the dots to get a 'holistic' picture of how the culture works. That patient ethnographic analysis has produced a fascinating portrait that will be refreshingly novel to most bankers." (Gillian Tett, Financial Times)
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