Speed, Intelligence and Discipline: Embodied Strategies in Becoming the Market

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 11:06
Oral Presentation
Alexander SIMPSON, University of Brighton, United Kingdom
Drawing on a three-year institutional ethnography of financial life in the City of London, this paper critically explores the performativity of market life to examine the way in which financial actors engage in a competitive struggle to embody and become the market. Entwining practice and symbolic power, the financial marketplace is a naturalising repetition of perceptions, aspirations and practices that impact on the body (Bourdieu, 1990; 1977a). The unending trial of market competition forms a naturalising force of economic progress and social development that ensures that the ‘the most intelligent individuals’ are ‘continually selected’, while weakness is punished. Placing the body at the centre of understanding financial life, individuals must control the unpredictabilities of the market by becoming ‘at one’ with its speed and flow. Those who succeed become part of a ‘separate, sacred group’ that ritualises their own exclusivity and adherence to the embedded values of the market (Bourdieu, 1996). Specifically, this manifests as a common internalisation and embodiment of a ruling system of market capital; speed, intelligence and discipline. Exploring each of these in turn, this paper follows Fiske (1993) by investigating the impact financial institutions have on the body. It is at the level of the body where social life is turned into lived experience and institutional culture is crystallised into a set of embodied practices. In the context of the City of London, the process of becoming enables market actors to fine tune their skills in order to hone in on and control the rapid fluctuations of the market in the pursuit of profits. This comes together to uphold the integrity of the market and engenders an internalised ‘way of being’ in which market actors share an ‘inherent’ ability to ‘feel the market’ as a ‘basic connection rooted in their souls’.