In January 2019 I decided it might be interesting to have a go at doing a podcast. There’s something enticing about jumping into the podcast space, crowded though it might be, the thought that you can record a few words and the next thing find yourself available on iTunes, Spotify, and other such platforms. So I bought myself a microphone, read up on the necessary infrastructure, drew a logo, sketched out a plan of what I might say. I’ll have it all wrapped up by the autumn, I thought.
Everything always takes longer than you think. Nearly two years later, I have finally published the concluding episode of ‘How to build a stock exchange’. Over 18 episodes, the podcast has offered a social history of finance as we know it today, exploring the sociology and materiality of financial markets, and showing how contemporary exchanges have evolved from local concerns to global data infrastructures. The narrative features much of my original research on the markets of London throughout the twentieth century, and a smattering of anecdotes from my own youthful experience, in the days before I realised that writing about finance was far more interesting than trying to do it.
More importantly, the podcast is an attempt to find new voices for research and to disseminate more widely the intellectual concerns of a critically-inclined management scholar. In the final episode I invoke Hunter S Thompson and the spirit of gonzo: aiming for an intimate, first person take that emphasises spontaneity and raw authenticity over form and polish, where ‘deliberate derangement of the senses… de-familiarises reality, opening the door to paradoxically clearer perceptions, a twisted perspective..’ (I borrow the words of literary scholar Jason Mosser). An honest telling of our own stories, I suggest, is the best way we have of finding our moral compass in this complicated world; it certainly seems to have more integrity than writing critical articles about four-star journals in those same four-star journals. It is, says José Ossandón of Copenhagen Business School, a ‘genre-widening event’:
So the podcast zoomed between my own research, the rich offerings of the field of the social studies of finance, and a curious selection of anecdotes from the field: breakfast with some global heavies in the Cadogan Hotel, malicious croquet and business angels, surfing the fringes of dotcom London from stuffy offices behind the sooty Victorian ironwork of the still functioning Borough Market, all rats and squashed vegetables. London in the 1990s seems a world away, containing both the promise of a unbounded global world and the seeds of the present globalised mess that we find ourselves in. Along the way it explored themes such as gender inequality in financial markets and the murky history of finance and slavery. The latter topic, written in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, explored Liverpool’s burgeoning financial sector and the narrator’s own connections to the city. It led to an article in The Conversation, ‘How the shadow of slavery still hangs over global finance’. In July 2020, I was invited to address an audience of US policymakers and regulators, alongside Commissioner Rostin Benham of the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission, to discuss a possible exchange for recyclable materials, and I talk more about this possibility features in the final episode.
The podcast has been downloaded approximately ten thousand times and the transcriptions accessed a further six thousand. The Guardian’s Aditya Chakrabortty described the podcast as ‘brilliant and searching’, while others said ‘beautifully told, fascinating, and very important’ (Dr Paul Segal, Kings College London), ‘an absolutely wonderful way of disseminating research’ (Dr Kristian Bondo Hansen, Copenhagen Business School), and – my favourite – ‘overwhelmed at how good this podcast is’ (Guppi Kaur Bola, activist and writer, Chair JCWI).
It’s not too late if you haven’t found it yet: the podcast is available on iTunes, Google, Spotify and other podcast services. You can find transcripts, references and the rest here