Researching the Global Financial Class

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 10:45
Location: Seminar 31 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Lukas HOFSTAETTER, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia, Goethe University, Frankfurt, Germany
Sighard NECKEL, Goethe University, Frankfurt, Germany
Our contribution develops a theoretical perspective on class formation in the context of global financial markets and presents empirical findings regarding the formation of a global financial class.

To date, class formation on a global scale has been researched from two perspectives. Firstly, as a “transnational capitalist class”, based on the organisational structure of global corporations and international bodies of governance. Secondly, on the basis of “transnational professionals”, who pursue international careers as highly skilled migrants, thereby creating a transnational social space. In contrast, we locate the basis for class formation in the communalities produced by the social embeddedness of markets.

Following arguments from Economic Sociology and the Social Studies of Finance, markets are structurally, culturally, cognitively and politically embedded in social networks, calculative and communicative practices, and political struggles. We combine this analytical understanding of markets with Pierre Bourdieu’s field theory. It is argued that the forms of embeddedness translate into specific forms of economic, social and cultural capital, and that cultural and cognitive embeddedness produce a common worldview and habitus of market actors. Consequently, class formation becomes legible as rooted in practices of the economic sphere. In the case of finance, these practices are intrinsically geared towards a global horizon of valuation and exchange. Financial markets thus represent the site for the formation of what we term the global financial class.

Our approach thus reconceptualises the notion of (global) class beyond distributional properties and towards an analysis of the economic practices within specific fields of the global economy.