The Speed of Finance: Historicizing the Time and Experience of Finance Capitalism

AHA Session 141
Saturday, January 4, 2020: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Central Park West (Sheraton New York, Second Floor)
Maura O'Connor, University of Cincinnati
Maura O'Connor, University of Cincinnati

Session Abstract

From speculation in financial schemes that have caused people to make and lose money at previously unimaginable speeds, or the fights over access to the fastest infrastructure and information that have driven financial innovation till the present, speed has alway been a constitutive characteristic of finance capitalism. But speed itself is a concept that has a history. The ways different investors and speculators have experienced speed, how different infrastructures and technologies have mediated speed, and the way that the speed of financial capitalism challenged other temporal regimes, are all deeply embedded in the lived experience of finance capitalism, and have changed over time.

During the long nineteenth-century, finance capitalism was enacted on a global scale for the first time. Telecommunications networks integrated financial markets from Asia to America to Europe and sped up the interactions between them. These technologies also made the experience of finance capitalism’s crises a more frequent experience for financial professionals and ordinary investors alike, as more and more people, whether they wanted to be or not, were exposed to the booms and busts of finance. Previously provincial economic crises spread quickly through these networks and encompassed global geographies and populations faster than ever before. Because of this new reach and speed, the people involved in finance capitalism, whether as central drivers of financial expansion or as unwilling participants, became more self-conscious about the experience and practice of speed as it related to finance.

This panel aims to historicize the lived experience of finance capitalism’s speed during this period from a global and comparative perspective in order to understand both the integration of global financial markets, which faster communication networks helped usher in, and how that speed was always experienced unevenly and differently, showing how speed was mediated by local infrastructural, cultural, and, social forms. In particular, this panel aims to open up comparative questions about how different geopolitical concerns shaped the construction of, and access to, financial communications infrastructure. Moreover, how was the speed of finance capitalism experienced by different classes of investors, from professionals to amateurs, across different national and cultural contexts? What new subjectivities and emotional states were made by, and in turn helped to shape, the lived experience of finance capitalism? Most broadly how, did the experience of finance capitalism’s speed reshape broader conceptions of time in an era of massive structural changes in global temporality?

See more of: AHA Sessions