This talk will present a historical sociology of the clusters of evaluation practices surrounding three classes of financial instrument (CDOs, i.e. collateralised debt obligations; ABSs, asset-backed securities; and a fateful concatenation of the two, ABS CDOs) that together account for more than half the losses that triggered the near-collapse of the global banking system in autumn 2008. (These clusters of evaluation practices are loosely analogous to Knorr Cetina’s “epistemic cultures” and to other uses of the term “culture” in social studies of science, but one of the issues to be debated is whether the term “culture” is appropriate here.) I will suggests ways in which those clusters of practices, the interactions between them, and the ways in which they became organisational routines (especially in the rating agencies that awarded credit ratings to CDOs and ABSs) help explain the crisis. The talk will not assume any prior knowledge of finance, and will explain what CDOs, etc. are. It will be based on a set of 87 predominantly oral-history interviews (29 conducted before the crisis and 58 after it), mainly with the constructors, traders and modellers of instruments of this kind and with employees of the rating agencies.
Please book a place by contacting
Katja Høeg Tingleff (kht.ioa [at] cbs.dk)
Donald MacKenzie’s lecture will be followed by a reception at Solbjerg Plads