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‘An Anthropologist on Wall Street’ — Cultural Anthropology
Tett, Gillian. "‘An Anthropologist on Wall Street’." Theorizing the Contemporary, Cultural Anthropology website, May 16, 2012.

Anthropology can be extremely useful for understanding the contemporary financial world because of all the micro-level communities—or ‘tribes’ to use the cliché term—that are cropping up around the financial system....The event pulled together bankers from all over. They staged formalized rituals with PowerPoint presentations, but also engaged in informal rituals like chitchat in the wings.

As they came together and talked, these bankers were creating a network of ties. But they were also inventing a new language they felt made them distinctive from everyone else. The way they talked about credit was to emphasize the numbers and to quite deliberately exclude any mention of social interaction from the debate and discussion. In the first couple of days I sat there, they almost never mentioned the human borrower who was at the end of that securitization chain. They were also very exclusive. There was a sense that ‘we alone have mastery over this knowledge’....Part two of the CDO gospel was that bankers had had this sudden inspiration that they should stop concentrating credit risk and find ways to scatter it across the system....Looking back there were many elements of securitization that were evidently flawed. The tools bankers were using to disburse risk across the system were themselves very opaque and complex. The very way by which they disbursed risk was actually introducing new risk into the system.......fundamental contradiction at the very heart of the system that almost nobody spotted. Why not? To put it crudely, because there were too few anthropologists, using basic anthropological techniques, trying to understand what was going on. Having an anthropological perspective is very useful. The very nature of anthropology is to try to connect up the dots. That’s something that most modern bureaucrats, most bankers, and most company executives are not able to do, precisely because they’re so darn busy running around in their silos.
Wall_Street  Gillian_Tett  anthropologists  financial_system  securitization  finance  ethnographic  insights  CDOs  connecting_the_dots  cultural_anthropology  anthropology  tribes  silo_mentality 
march 2017 by jerryking
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