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Liquidated: An Ethnography of Wall Street by…
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Liquidated: An Ethnography of Wall Street

by Karen Ho

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Best best best! explication of subprime crisis and Wall Street culture. The ethnographic approach works. The history in this book was fascinating. It describes, in part, the metamorphosis of the corporation as solid entity to a lava lamp-like liquidity with emphasis on share-holder value. I don't know where lava lamps would fall on the liquidity scale, but 'the Roots and Narratives of Shareholder Value' definitely my favorite chapter.
And this, from 'Downsizers Downsized', " In addition to being more liquid than the rest, Wall Street's larger social--and market--purpose is also the necessary evil of forcing the average worker to become more liquid. Investment banks thus position their own approach to change as THE reference point for corporate America, and investment bankers, the least 'lumpy' of workers, function as the ideal (currency) standard--that is, the most cash like--of employment."

As they say in the movie 'Swingers', "You're money." ( )
  dmarsh451 | Apr 2, 2013 |
This is a great book; my review won’t do it justice. Ho, an anthropologist, worked as an analyst on Wall Street and starts by exploring in depth the ideology of “merit” that firms use, which turns out to involve being as much like a privileged white guy with a Harvard/Penn education as possible. At the same time, much of the 100-hour week is spent on busywork and self-described bullshit and lying in order to justify deals. Convinced that they’re on top because they work so hard and are so smart, bankers also have an ideology that tells them that they enhance the efficiency of the market by furthering shareholder value. Unfortunately, the concept of shareholder value leads them to ignore all the other stakeholders in an economic entity, including most prominently the employees. Paradoxically, the laser focus on shareholder value—for which read stock price—leads to a short-term mentality that routinely destroys long-term value even for shareholders. Ho argues that Wall Streeters’ own experience of employment insecurity—even in good years tons of them are fired and replaced by others with degrees from elite institutions—leads them to accept this volatility as natural and appropriate, regardless of whether you’re a steelworker with limited ability to find a different job. Because there’s no point in building up a long-term orientation within a firm, they care only about this year’s bonus (or maybe at this point it’s vice versa), not about the long-term success of the firm and certainly not about the success of the clients they worked tirelessly to draw into revenue-generating deals. Additional toxicity was contributed by bankers’ conviction that the government would help them if they really screwed up because they were too big to fail. As Ho says, they depended on government to absorb the risk of their focus on immediate profits for themselves. Depressing but important reading. ( )
  rivkat | Sep 7, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0822345994, Paperback)

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, who worked at an investment bank herself, argues that bankers’ approaches to financial markets and corporate America are inseparable from the structures and strategies of their workplaces. Her ethnographic analysis of those workplaces is filled with the voices of stressed first-year associates, overworked and alienated analysts, undergraduates eager to be hired, and seasoned managing directors. 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 workplace culture and networks of privilege create the perception that job insecurity builds character, and employee liquidity results in smart, efficient business. Based on this culture of liquidity and compensation practices tied to profligate deal-making, Wall Street investment bankers reshape corporate America in their own image. 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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:24:31 -0400)

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, who worked at an investment bank herself, argues that bankers' approaches to financial markets and corporate America are inseparable from the structures and strategies of their workplaces. Her ethnographic analysis of those workplaces is filled with the voices of stressed first-year associates, overworked and alienated analysts, undergraduates eager to be hired, and seasoned managing directors.… (more)

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Duke University Press

Two editions of this book were published by Duke University Press.

Editions: 0822345803, 0822345994

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