Is transparency a value on OTC markets? Using displacement to escape categorization

In this paper, we examine how categorization is resisted. We analyze the way actors draw on cultural repertoires to resist or adapt to changes that will potentially alter the definition and nature of the markets in which they compete. We approach this question through a qualitative study of the heated debate over the new regulation of over-the-counter (OTC) financial markets in Europe between 2010 and 2011. Our paper enriches the existing literature on the political nature of categorization. Our results show that in response to unwanted change, incumbent firms try to create incommensurability with their own industry’s standard cultural repertoire. Most importantly, this incommensurability is not argued in the name of any higher-order sets of values. Our main contribution lies in the article’s focus on the way powerful actors resist categorization, highlighting the link between forms of commensuration and the status of the actors who attempt to instrument it.

The authors

Hélène Rainelli-Weiss is professor of finance at the Management School of Strasbourg University. Previously, she was professor at the Sorbonne Graduate Business School. Her research interests are in the sociology of financial markets, the construction and regulation of markets and in the epistemology of finance. Her current research projects concern financial regulation and the compensation of financial executives.

Isabelle Huault is a professor of Organization Studies at Paris Dauphine University, France. She is Head of the DRM Management Research Center (UMR CNRS 7088). Her research interests lie in the Sociology of Financial Markets, Neo-institutionalism and Critical Studies with a focus on the Social Construction of Markets and Organizations.

The text

This paper was discussed in the frame of the seminar of Christian Walter’s chair « Ethics and Finance » at the Collège d’études mondiales, december 11th, 2013, in Paris.

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