Algunas lecturas, SASE Newsletter

[Florencia Labiano me escribió hace un tiempo para preguntar si podía escribir algo para la sección “On the Bookshelf” de SASE Newsletter donde gente comenta sobre libros que están leyendo o que quieran recomendar. Acaba de salir acá Abajo va lo que respondí. La Newletter viene además con contribuciones de Mariana Heredia y Mariana Luzzi]

Daniel Fridman, El sueño de vivir sin trabajar (Siglo XXI, 2019; previously published as Freedom from Work, Stanford University Press, 2016). This book is an ethnographic account of people in Argentina and the U.S. who followed a financial self-help program. The promise of the program was to convert those who participated (which means reading the books, playing board games, participating in the seminar) from dependent employees to autonomous investors. Theoretically, it is a story that contributes to the understanding of governmentality and performativity, but perhaps the book’s main accomplishment is Fridman’s own self-discipline as a storyteller. This is a book that respects and does not patronize the lived experience of self-converted neoliberals.

Philip Mirowski and Edward Nik-Khah, The Knowledge We Have Lost in Information (Oxford University Press, 2017). The authors trace a very important but often unnoticed transformation in recent economics. The market is not what it used to be. The key concept is information: the market is now understood as an information processor. Economists, however, do not have a shared understanding of what information is or does—what we have is different schools of information economics. What these schools share is that their market is very different to the market of neo-classical economics: here economic actors have only a partial and limited perspective, the key agency is not the entrepreneur but the market itself, and economists see themselves as market designers.

Juan Pablo Pardo-Guerra, Automating Finance (Cambridge University Press, 2019). There is a recent interest in what we could call the figure of the “market organizer.” This means that sociological analyses of markets are not only about entrepreneurs, consumers, or competition, but about those whose work it is to make markets work. Automating Finance, by Juan Pablo Pardo-Guerra, re-tells the history of the stock exchanges in London and New York from the perspective of the work of back-office engineers. What we get is a fresh version of automation and an account where the border between market and formal organization is almost indistinguishable.

Max Weber, Economy & Society (Harvard University Press, 2019). With a group of colleagues, I recently started a reading group of the new translation of Weber’s Economy & Society. For now, I can highly recommend the introductory text by the translator, Keith Tribe. Tribe’s text is like a book within the book. It is also an exemplar of academic effort and dedication, and, perhaps, one the best available introductions to Weber’s work.

Caitlin Zaloom, Indebted: How Families Make College Work at Any Cost (Princeton University Press, 2019). Finally, I am halfway through Caitlin Zaloom’s Indebted: How Families Make College Work at Any Cost. The object of the book is what Zaloom calls the “financial student complex”: the multilayered system developed around student loans in the U.S. The book uses an ethnographic sensibility to construct a public intervention that both opens up the black box of the complicated financial student complex and makes the reader feels the existential situation of those affected by this quite mad approach to helping students.

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