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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Sociology

Undergraduate Course: Finance and Society (SCIL10086)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryAs the global financial crisis showed, the financial system has huge effects on the surrounding societies. This course provides a straightforward, lively, ethnographically-based introduction to the sociological analysis of the financial system. No previous knowledge of finance is required.
Course description The course will begin with an introduction to what the financial system is, what it does, and the resources it provides (and problems it causes) to the wider society. It will illustrate this with, for example, a lively account of elite bankers: who they are; the incentives they face; how they are recruited; how they "manage" their bodies in a context of often hugely-extended working hours; etc. We will also discuss the major theoretical positions in economic sociology relevant to the analysis of finance, including both long-established positions (such as "networks" and "fields") and newer forms of analysis such as the "materialist" sociology of actor-network theory.

The relationship between finance and social inequality will be examined in detail, discussing both inequalities within the financial system (such as gender and ethnic biases) and the effect of the financial system on inequality in the surrounding society. We will also examine the relationship between finance, regulation and politics, discussing, for example, the extent to which finance is constrained by regulation and the interaction between regulation, networks of policy makers, and the political system.

In each year in which the course is offered, a number of more specific topics will be selected for detailed coverage, based on the ethnographic experience of the staff available for teaching and current developments in the financial system.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Develop a critical understanding of the financial system and its effects on the surrounding societies.
  2. Engage critically with the work of sociological scholars of finance (and of the theorists on whom they draw), and evaluate their arguments.
  3. Assess competing claims and make informed judgments about current sociological issues concerning finance.
  4. Develop their ability to present - in written and verbal form - coherent, balanced arguments concerning the financial system and the sociological analysis of that system.
Reading List
Karen Ho, Liquidated: An Ethnography of Wall Street (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009).
Caitlin Zaloom, Out of the Pits: Trading and Technology from Chicago to London (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2006).
Thomas Piketty, Capital in the Twenty-First Century (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014).
Donald MacKenzie, "Material Signals: A Historical Sociology of High-Frequency Trading", American Journal of Sociology, in press.
Thomas Philippon, "Has the US Finance Industry Become Less Efficient? On the Theory and Measurement of Financial Intermediation", American Economic Review 105 (2015): 1408-38.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills By the end of the course, students should have strengthened their understanding of the financial system (a necessary skill in everyday life and in many work contexts), along with transferable skills in:
- analysing evidence and using this to develop and support a line of argument,
- presenting information visually and orally.
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserProf Donald MacKenzie
Tel: (0131 6)50 3980
Course secretaryMiss Laura Thiessen
Tel: (0131 6)50 3932
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