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Virtue, Fortune, and Faith

A Genealogy of Finance

2005
Author:

Marieke de Goede

Virtue, Fortune, and Faith

A revealing examination of the frequently misunderstood history of contemporary financial markets

A cultural history of financial markets from the early eighteenth century to the present day, Virtue, Fortune, and Faith offers a reading of the historical insecurities, debates, and controversies that were purged from nascent credit practices in order to produce the image of today's global financial sphere. Marieke de Goede questions assumptions about international finance's unchallenged position and exposes its ambiguous scientific authority.

This is a remarkable, indispensable book. It takes the burgeoning interdisciplinary study of finance onto a new plane by concentrating on the moral dimension of money.

Nigel Thrift, University of Oxford

Less than two centuries ago finance—today viewed as the center of economic necessity and epitome of scientific respectability—stood condemned as disreputable fraud. How this change in status came about, and what it reveals about the nature of finance, is the story told in Virtue, Fortune, and Faith. A unique cultural history of modern financial markets from the early eighteenth century to the present day, the book offers a genealogical reading of the historical insecurities, debates, and controversies that had to be purged from nascent credit practices in order to produce the image of today’s coherent and—largely—rational global financial sphere.

Marieke de Goede discusses moral, religious, and political transformations that have slowly naturalized the domain of finance. Using a deft integration of feminist and poststructuralist approaches, she demonstrates that finance—not just its rules of personal engagement, but also its statistics, formulas, instruments, and institutions—is a profoundly cultural and politically contingent practice. When closely examined, the history of finance is one of colonial conquest, sexual imagination, constructions of time, and discourses of legitimate (or illegitimate) profit making. Regardless, this history has had a far-reaching impact on the development of the modern international financial institutions that act as the stewards of the world’s economic resources. De Goede explores the political contestations over ideas of time and money; the gendered discourse of credit and credibility; differences among gambling, finance, and speculation; debates over the proper definition of the free market; the meaning of financial crisis; and the morality of speculation.

In an era when financial practices are pronounced too specialized for broad-based public, democratic debate, Virtue, Fortune, and Faith questions assumptions about international finance’s unchallenged position and effectively exposes its ambiguous scientific authority.

Borderlines Series, volume 24

Virtue, Fortune, and Faith

Marieke de Goede is a lecturer in political history and international relations at the University of Amsterdam.

Virtue, Fortune, and Faith

This is a remarkable, indispensable book. It takes the burgeoning interdisciplinary study of finance onto a new plane by concentrating on the moral dimension of money.

Nigel Thrift, University of Oxford

A remarkable achievement, an excellent critical exploration of the links between finance and moral discourses on the legitimacy of profitmaking. De Geode not only makes a dry subject alive with interesting narratives, she destablizes the quantifiable and rational authority of much writing on international finance.

Area

Virtue, Fortune and Faith presents a theoretically sophisticated, historically detailed and empirically nuanced account of financial knowledge. Virtue, Fortune and Faith is a challenging and provocative book. It establishes a sophisticated theoretical synthesis of Foucault with feminism via a detailed historical narrative of finance.

International Feminist Journal of Politics

Virtue, Fortune and Faith makes a number of important critical interventions into the political economy of global finance by interrogating the normative underpinnings of modern financial practices.

Political Studies Review

A study of the often turbulent histories buried beneath a handful of modern finance’s key instruments, practices, and statistical conventions. A detailed and often fascinating recounting of four such ‘episodes’ of political, cultural and economic struggle around various emergent components of modern finance. It is well researched and well written, much of it makes for absorbing reading, and many of those working in and around the financial markets would probably actually enjoy the various insights into how key elements of their world have been historically negotiated.

Environment and Planning A

The book is a remarkable achievement, an excellent critical exploration of the links between finance and moral discourses on the legitimacy of profit-making. By teasing out such associations and analyzing the naturalization of some philosophical assumptions on finance and the nature of time De Goede not only makes a dry subject alive with interesting narratives, she destabilizes the quantifiable and rational authority of much writing on international finance.

Geographical Journal

Theoretically sophisticated and empirically rich, De Goede’s book makes an important contribution to political economic scholarship.

International History Review

Virtue, Fortune, and Faith

Contents

Preface

Introduction: Money and Representation

1. A Genealogy of Finance
2. Mastering Lady Credit
3. Finance, Gambling, and Speculation
4. The Dow Jones Average and the Birth of the Financial Market
5. Regulation and Risk in Contemporary Markets
6. Repoliticizing Financial Practices

Conclusion: Objectivity and Irony in the Dot-Com Bubble

Notes
Bibliography

Index