Arbitrage, Uncertainty and the New Ethos of Capitalism

Monday, 11 July 2016: 09:30
Location: Hörsaal 46 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Philip MELLOR, University of Leeds, United Kingdom
Chris SHILLING, University of Kent, United Kingdom
This paper examines the arbitrageur as a figure who both embodies the new ethos of uncertainty rather than risk management central to ‘financialised’ capitalism, and exemplifies the issues of deceit and innovation raised by those who now personify the ‘devotion to the calling of making money’. We begin by providing a brief background to financial ‘abstraction’ in the economy, and the issues of dissimulation with which this has been associated, before suggesting that engaging creatively with Weber’s writings can help us identify uncertainty as key to the character of contemporary financial decision-making. It is against this background that we analyse the arbitrageur as an ideal-type personality who embodies a newly abstract approach to capitalism. This approach betrays an ambivalent relationship with deceit, yet can also be associated with an ethics of managing the uncertain through an innovative commitment to overcoming limits that has consequences for human life in general.