Financial Advice and the Great Compression

Saturday, January 5, 2019: 9:10 AM
Chicago Room (Palmer House Hilton)
Nicky Marsh, University of Southampton
This paper argues that the democratisation of share ownership that America witnessed between the 1920s and the 1950s began to falter in the 1960s. The proportion of (middle class) Americans investing in the market continued to increase in this period, as corporations and the state increasingly left individuals to shoulder responsibility for their financial security. However, they were making fewer individual financial decisions as they become more reliant on pension schemes and mutual funds that use their size and technology to manage this money and, crucially, they no longer saw themselves as active investors. The paper draws a contrast between Benjamin Graham’s work on value investing and Sylvia Porter’s work on investment as part of a broader management of a domestic economy, with each speaking to an increasingly divided stock-owning class. Graham was a financial investor rather than a financial journalist, and he rarely touched on other aspects of financial management. His was a model of value investment that was about the fundamentals, and warned against speculation, and was personified through the fictional and deeply rational figure of “Mr Market.” Unlike Porter, he influenced only the behaviour of an elite class of financial investors. The paper includes an analysis of Porter in terms of gender and the ways in which the genre is a feminised one; but it also discusses Porter in terms of genre and intertexts, as her work was relentlessly popularised.
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