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The credit crisis as a problem in the sociology of knowledge

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The financial markets need to be studied from the perspectives of the social studies of science and technology. The artefacts and technical systems they contain need to be taken seriously, and their role as sites of knowledge production needs examined. For example, how market participants value financial instruments is (amongst other things) an issue for the sociology of knowledge.

This talk will examine the role in the current credit crisis of ‘evaluation cultures’ (shared beliefs, practices, ways of calculating, and technical systems that are employed when market participants evaluate financial instruments). Employing documentary sources and a set of 55 predominantly oral-history interviews, the talk will present a historical sociology of the evaluation cultures surrounding the two categories of financial instrument crucial to the crisis (ABSs, asset-backed securities, and CDOs, collateralized debt obligations), and in particular will discuss the evaluation of and the role played by a fateful concatenation of the two, ABS CD Os.

This talk is part of the Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science series.

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