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Symposium on the Financialization of Society

  • Date: Tuesday 17 December 2013
  • Hosted By: The Institute for International Integration Studies (IIIS) 
  • Funded By: Trinity College Faculty of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences
  • Venue: The Neil Hoey Theatre, Trinity Long Room Hub

Image courtesy of Michael Curran and Adnan Velic

About the symposium

Recent decades have seen the growth in the financialization of societies in much of the Anglo-Saxon world. While seen by some as a source of economic growth and dynamism, it has more recently raised concerns with evidence emerging that excessive growth in the financial sector can have a negative impact on economic growth. It is an important factor in the growth of income inequality and instability. Cecchetti and Kharroubi of the Bank of International Settlements have argued in their recent paper that there is a negative relationship between the rate of growth of finance and the rate of growth of total factor productivity. This symposium will address some of the salient issues pertaining to the Financialization of Society with contributions from five renowned international authorities.

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Programme Overview and Registration

Programme Overview

  • The event is free but places are limited. Please register here (please note registration will close when full capacity is reached)

    14.30 Welcome by Professor Louis Brennan, Director of the IIIS

    Session 1 Chaired by
    Padraig Carmody, Associate Professor in Human Geography
    The finance and point value concept
    Professor Julie Froud, Manchester University Business School, Manchester, U.K.

    The politics of financialization within the EU: conjunctures, alliances and conflicts
    Professor Hans-Jurgen Bieling, Department of Political Economy, Eberhard Karls University of Tubingen, Germany.

    15.55-16.30 Coffee Break

    Session 2
    Chaired by Professor James Wickham, Dean of the Faculty of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences
    Babies, Bonds and Buildings: Did financialization affect fertility rates?
    Professor Herman Schwartz, University of Virginia, U.S.A.

    17.10-17.45 General Discussion

    followed by a reception to mark the publication of the IIIS 10th Anniversary Volume 'Enacting Globalization: Multidisciplinary Perspectives on International Integration' with guest speaker, Francis Jacobs, Head of Office of the European Parliament Information Office in Ireland

    Please Note: Due to unforseen circumstances the following speakers can no longer attend.
    Can a Preference for Financial Investments Undermine Manufacturing? Preliminary Evidence from the US & UK - Professor Susan Christopherson, Cornell University, U.S.A.
    Equipping entrepreneurs: Consuming credit and credit scores - Paul Langley, Reader in Economic Geography, Durham University, U.K.
    However copies of their papers will be available at the event

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Abstracts & Biographies


The finance and point value concept
Professor Julie Froud, Manchester University Business School , University of Manchester

Abstract: This paper introduces the idea of the point-value-complex to explain how finance has become both unsafe and an obstacle to non-financial business. The position of finance in present day capitalism is underpinned by both sovereign power, as government sponsors and protects finance, and by capillary power as omni-finance pervades much of the rest of the economy, again with the active promotion of government. The apparent success of finance becomes a problem elsewhere in the economy because the measure of success and the basis for financial calculation, including critical decisions about when and how to cash out are structured by consideration of point value. Thus, calculations are less about a stream of value created over time, and more about value realised at a point. This point-value complex is relevant not only to corporate decisions, but also to household behaviour and public decision making. The idea of the point-value-complex is both a product of the current political and economic conjuncture, but also draws on C. Wright Mills’ framing of elite power. While our complex is very different from a 1960s military-industrial complex, both share an anti-democratic character where it is hard to challenge the conventions of the thinkable and doable. In this sense, the analysis is immediate relevant to social scientists who struggle to make sense of the financial crisis and develop a critical response.

Biography: Julie is a professor at Manchester Business School, University of Manchester. She is a member of the ESRC-funded Centre for Research in Socio-Cultural Change (CRESC) and has, with a group of colleagues been researching financialisation for more than ten years. An initial interest in financialisation and corporations has been developed into a broader exploration of finance in society, including the role of elite groups in preventing a debate about finance and its reforms. Recent publications include Engelen et al (2011) After the Great Complacence: Financial Crisis and the Politics of Reform (Oxford University Press).


Can a Preference for Financial Investments Undermine Manufacturing? Preliminary Evidence from the US and UK
Professor Susan Christopherson, Department of City and Regional Planning , Cornell University

Abstract: This paper engages the debate on the role of manufacturing in the US and UK. Two major questions are addressed. First, does it make economic sense to expect the growth of advanced manufacturing in what are considered “post-industrial” economies?  And second, what conditions work against the establishment of robust export-oriented manufacturing in the US and UK. In particular, I examine how processes associated with the “financialization” these two economies affect capital investment in manufacturing enterprises, particularly in the small and medium size companies that make up supply chains, and in the research and development that leads to product and process innovation. For the purposes of this paper, financialization is defined as a set of processes in which financial motives and instruments become central to capital accumulation. These processes have been more influential in economies such as those of the US and UK, whose market governance institutions favor short-term returns on investment and emphasize the primary rights of one set of industrial stakeholders, capital investors.

Biography:Susan Christopherson is a Professor in the Department of City and Regional Planning at Cornell University.  She is a geographer whose career has been based on commitment to the integration of scholarly work and public engagement. Her research interests are diverse, but focus on political-economic policy, especially its spatial dimensions. Much of her research is comparative and she has published a series of articles and a book on how different market governance regimes influence regional development and labor market policies. Her most recent publications examine how the “financialization” of the US economy has affected investment in manufacturing industries. She is also a recognized expert in the field of media studies with a career-long record of research and writing on project-based work in the entertainment media industries. 


Equipping entrepreneurs: Consuming credit and credit scores
Dr. Paul Langley, Reader in Economic Geography, Dept of Geography Durham University

Abstract: On-line products that make an individual’s credit score an object of consumption and equip credit consumers with the capacity to improve their score are shown to exemplify two sets of dynamic tendencies to change in mass market consumer credit. First, as credit consumers are differentiated, sorted and targeted by lenders according to credit scores, they are no longer merely disciplined as individual bodies responsible for making repayments. Rather, and after Deleuze, they are ‘controlled’ through the risk-based prices that they pay as an array of disaggregated ‘dividuals’. Second, the credit consumer is summoned-up as an entrepreneurial subject, in the terms of Foucault, a rational and hopeful figure. The credit consumer now appears as a subject who not only anxiously meets repayments, but who seeks rewards from managing uncertainties over future access to credit at competitive rates by investing optimism in the very mechanisms of marketized control that govern credit relations.


Babies, Bonds, and Buildings: Did financialization affect fertility rates?
Professor Herman Schwartz , Department of Politics, University of Virginia.

Abstract: Many rich OECD countries now have fertility rates well below the replacement rate. Low fertility implies declining population and potential problems for pension systems trying to finance an ever-rising ratio of retirees to workers. Additionally, surveys show that the average couple in the rich OECD countries desires more children than they actually have. Most analyses of this situation look at employment policies - the ‘babies and bosses' arena - ass the key variable affecting people’s, and especially mothers’, ability to balance work and life in ways that promote higher fertility rates.The babies and bosses approach to a policy solution is valid. However an equally important set of issues prior to babies and bosses affects fertility. Babies and bosses issues arise after household formation. Historically, liquid but segmented housing finance systems funding debt-financed owner occupied or rental housing created cheap housing, and thus earlier household formation. Earlier household formation enabled higher fertility rates, because couples that start having children earlier tend to have more children. The debt created in liquid housing finance markets historically showed up on private pension funds’ balance sheets or on the state's books as assets. Yet financialization has changed some of these relationships. Deregulation and de-segmentation of housing finance turned houses - via mortgages - into assets. This combined with rising income inequality (and its counterpart high youth unemployment) to produce continuous upward pressure on housing prices relative to income. Even in the relatively more liquid housing finance systems, rising house prices (and thus declining affordability) made it more and more difficult for young couples to afford housing. This has contributed to downward pressure on fertility.

Biography: Professor Herman Schwartz, Department of Politics, University of Virginia


The politics of financialization within the EU: conjunctures, alliances and conflicts
Hans-Jurgen Bieling, Professor and Chair, Department of Political Ecoomy, Eberhard Karls University of Tubingen

The presentation will highlight the European dimensions of ongoing financialization. It will address the question to what extent recent European crisis management had an impact on the processes of financialization within the EU. For this purpose, it starts with a brief outline of the major pre-crisis features of the European politics of financialization. Then, in a second step, it will be shown that European crisis management can be divided into two periods: from 2007 to 2009, most measures aimed to politically stabilise the basic structures of transnational European financial capitalism, while afterwards the ‘temporary fix’ of the state-backed mode of stabilisation was increasingly questioned by transnational finance again; for instance, by political pressures to implement rigid austerity programmes, and by the manifold lobbying activities to ward off comprehensive financial re-regulation. Therefore, the presentation will conclude that against the background of stabilised, finance-dominated power relations the financialization of European societies has not been blocked or reversed, but only be modified. In view of the inherent societal contradictions and tendencies of financial bubble formation of European financial capitalism, it remains, however, doubtful that these modifications will prove sustainable.

Prof. Dr. Hans-Jurgen Bieling is Chair of Political Economy at the Department of Political Science at Eberhard Karls University of Tubingen since 2011. He has received his Ph.D. (1999) and his habilitation (2008) from Philipps-University Marburg. After his time as Junior Professor in Marburg, he worked as stand-in Professor in Hamburg and Darmstadt, before his appointment at the University of Applied Sciences in Bremen in 2010. His main fields of research are IPE, European integration and critical theories of society, state, and politics. Currently, he is particularly interested in the economic, social and political consequences of the global financial crisis in Europe. Among his recent publications are:

  1. Bieling, Hans-Jurgen (2013): European Financial Capitalism and the Politics of (De-)financialization; in: Competition & Change, 17(3), 283-298.
  2. Bieling, Hans-Jurgen (2013): Das Projekt der „Euro-Rettung“ und die Widerspruche des europaischen Krisenkonstitutionalismus; in: Zeitschrift fur Internationale Beziehungen 20 (1), 89-103.
  3. Bieling, Hans-Jurgen (2013): Die krisenkonstitutionalistische Transformation des EU-Imperiums: zwischen autoritarer Neugrundung und innerem Zerfall; in: Das Argument 55(1/2), 34-46.
  4. Bieling, Hans-Jurgen (2012): EU facing the crisis: social and employment policies in times of tight budgets; in: Transfer: European Review of Labour and Research 18(3), 255-271.
  5. Bieling, Hans-Jurgen (2012): European Governance: On the relationship between democratic and non-democratic deliberation within the European multi-level system; in: World Political Science Review 8(1), 201-216.
  6. Bieling, Hans-Jurgen (2012): Transnationale (Krisen-)Dynamiken des Finanzmarktkapitalismus-Klassenverhaltnisse, Gender und Ethnizität aus politokonomischer Perspektive; in: Berliner Zeitschrift für Soziologie 22(1), 53-77.
  7. Bieling, Hans-Jurgen (2012): European Globalisation and World Order Politics; in: Nousios, Petros/Overbeek, Henk/Tsolakis Andreas (Hrsg.): Globalisation and European Integration. Critical Approaches to Regional Order and International Relations, London; New York: Routledge, 175-196.
  8. Bieling, Hans-Jurgen (2011): European Integration and Social Policy Reform; in: Eren Vural, Ipek (Hrsg.): Converging Europe: Transformation of Social Policy in the Enlarged European Union and in Turkey, Farnham et al.: Asghate, 29-50.
  9. Bieling, Hans-Jurgen (2011): European Statehood; in: Gallas, Alexander et al. (Hrsg.): Reading Poulantzas, Pontypool: Merlin Press, 201-215.


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Last updated 18 December 2013 by IIIS (Email).