Social scientists have often thought of markets as complementary—yet opposed—to hierarchies and organizations. Automating Finance contributes to this literature by stressing the importance of marketplaces—in our case, stock exchanges—as complex organizations.
This analytical shift is the result of understanding markets not only as sites for exchange but, as importantly, as situations facilitated through numerous devices. We often think of markets through their front stage—the stall in the winding, cobbled street; the carefully calculated supermarket aisles; the trading floors populated by interested financiers; or the abstract fictions of economists. Yet as complex sociotechnical achievements, markets require vast crews of actors for their manufacture, maintenance, and reinvention that are necessarily located within organizations. Markets depend critically on the mundane routines, everyday practices, and lowly politics of messy organizations; they do not exist in opposition to hierarchies, but rather as almost ephemeral, performed surfaces of deeper, highly located bureaucracies defined by cultures, tensions, moralities, and contradictions.
Automating Finance offers a useful example of how to think through the organizational nature of marketplaces by exploring how markets were made as much on trading floors and dealing rooms as in the alcoves, basements, and research labs of stock exchanges.