Book Review of 'Liquidated: An Ethnography of Wall Street'
999 Words4 Pages
Ho, Karen. (2009). Liquidated: An ethnography of Wall Street. Durham: Duke University Press, 2009.
In the wake of the recent financial crisis, many commentators attempted to analyze the roots of the conflict from a political or economic perspective. Anthropologist Karen Ho, a veteran of Wall Street as well as an academic, attempted to understand the reason that Wall Street behaves the way it does in her 2009 anthropological study of American finance entitled Liquidated: An ethnography of Wall Street from a cultural perspective. The central paradox with which Ho begins her book is: " the economy experienced not only record corporate profits and the longest rising stock market ever, but also record downsizings," further concentrating the wealth in America (Ho 2009: 1-2). But how can corporations grow richer as the American public as a whole grows poorer? Corporations no longer view themselves as responsible for taking care of their employees, creating good products, or serving their original mission. Instead, the focus is on generating shareholder wealth (Ho 2009:3). Shareholders, not the larger public, have become the symbolic and real focus of firm strategy. The shareholder "symbolized and 'stood in' for the whole of the corporation and became the sole locus of concern and analysis" during the time Ho conducted her study in the late 1990s and continues to this day (Ho 2009:175) This is not to imply, however, that Ho believes that people who are