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Journal of Economic History
"The sociological perspective offered by Preda provides economic historians interesting ways to frame their own research into the ongoing development of financial capitalism."
As the banking crisis and its effects on the world economy have made plain, the stock market is of colossal importance to our livelihoods. In Framing Finance, Alex Preda looks at the history of the market to figure out how we arrived at a point where investing is not only commonplace, but critical, as market fluctuations threaten our plans to send our children to college or retire comfortably.
As Preda discovers through extensive research, the public was once much more skeptical. For investing to become accepted, a deep-seated prejudice against speculation had to be overcome, and Preda reveals that over the course of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries groups associated with stock exchanges in New York, London, and Paris managed to redefine finance as a scientific pursuit grounded in observational technology. But Preda also notes that as the financial data in which they trafficked became ever more difficult to understand, charismatic speculators emerged whose manipulations of the market undermined the benefits of widespread investment. And so, Framing Finance ends with an eye on the future, proposing a system of public financial education to counter the irrational elements that still animate the appeal of finance.
“How did financial investors and dealers come to seem like scientists? Alex Preda’s important book shows us how technical devices transformed the ‘frauds’ and ‘fools’ of the eighteenth century into today’s mathematically armed speculators. By showing us how finance became a culturally legitimate pursuit, Framing Finance offers a new understanding of the origins of our current economic crisis.”
Introduction: Capitalism and the Boundaries of Finance
Chapter 1. The Boundaries of Finance in the Sociological Tradition
Chapter 2. Prestige, at Last: The Social Closure of the Stock Exchange
Chapter 3. Financial Knowledge and the Science of the Market
Chapter 4. Close Up: Price Data, Machines, and Organizational Boundaries
Chapter 5. From Afar: Charts and Their Analysts
Chapter 6. The Kaleidoscope of Finance: Speculation, Economic Life, and Society
Chapter 7. On the Dark Side of the Market
Chapter 8. Panic!
Conclusion: Back to the Future