Finance, Anxiety, Rankings and Business Schools

A key output from the PERFORMABUSINESS project is now out: “Business schools, the anxiety of finance and the order of the ‘middle tier'”, by Horacio Ortiz and Fabian Muniesa, published in the Journal of Cultural Economy. Abstract from the editor’s website:

“Financial imagination plays a fundamental, yet ambivalent role in the establishment of hierarchies within and between business schools, and in business life at large. This study examines this process in the ‘middle tier’ of business education: that is, in the social space in which students and instructors understand themselves to occupy a ‘mid-range’ position within an order of excellence and success. Largely articulated through business school rankings, this order strongly relies on the centrality of the financial curriculum, proficiency in which is understood as both a proxy for smartness and a sign of moneymaking capacity. In the ‘middle tier’, this order manifests in the form of an anxiety: an order that, though legitimate, is thought not to be attained, or hardly attainable. The study draws from ethnographic investigation in a ‘middle tier’ business school with attention to how finance is made sense of in relation to an alternative curriculum, and in connection with the aim of ‘making it to the top’. A comparison with a ‘top tier’ business school allows furthering understanding of how the order of business schools relies on the anxiety of finance in order to reproduce an acquiescence to dominant financial imagination.”

Capitalization: A Cultural Guide

Capitalization: A Cultural Guide (2017, Presses des Mines) is out! This coauthored work stands as the key achievement of the collective inquiry initiated with PERFORMABUSINESS:

What does it mean to turn something into capital? What does considering things as assets entail? What does the prevalence of an investor’s viewpoint require? What is this culture of valuation that asks that we capitalize on everything? How can we make sense of the traits, necessities and upshots of this pervasive cultural condition? This book takes the reader to an ethnographic stroll down the trail of capitalization. Start-up companies, research centers, consulting firms, state enterprises, investment banks, public administrations: the territory can certainly prove strange and disorienting at first sight, with its blurred boundaries between private appropriation and public interest, economic sanity and moral breakdown, the literal and the metaphorical, the practical and the ideological. The traveler certainly requires a resolutely pragmatist attitude, and a taste for the meanders of signification. But in all the sites in which we set foot in this inquiry we recognize a recurring semiotic complex: a scenario of valuation in which things signify by virtue of their capacity to become assets in the eye of an imagined investor.

The authorial collective is composed of Fabian Muniesa, Liliana Doganova, Horacio Ortiz, Álvaro Pina-Stranger, Florence Paterson, Alaric Bourgoin, Véra Ehrenstein, Pierre-André Juven, David Pontille, Başak Saraç-Lesavre and Guillaume Yon, contributing research carried out at the Centre de Sociologie de l’Innovation (CSI) of the École des Mines de Paris.

Available from the publisher and from online and offline bookstores.