Skip to main content

Framing Finance

The Boundaries of Markets and Modern Capitalism

Framing Finance

The Boundaries of Markets and Modern Capitalism

As the banking crisis and its effects on the world economy have made plain, the stock market is of colossal importance to our livelihoods. In Framing Finance, Alex Preda looks at the history of the market to figure out how we arrived at a point where investing is not only commonplace, but critical, as market fluctuations threaten our plans to send our children to college or retire comfortably.

As Preda discovers through extensive research, the public was once much more skeptical. For investing to become accepted, a deep-seated prejudice against speculation had to be overcome, and Preda reveals that over the course of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries groups associated with stock exchanges in New York, London, and Paris managed to redefine finance as a scientific pursuit grounded in observational technology. But Preda also notes that as the financial data in which they trafficked became ever more difficult to understand, charismatic speculators emerged whose manipulations of the market undermined the benefits of widespread investment. And so, Framing Finance ends with an eye on the future, proposing a system of public financial education to counter the irrational elements that still animate the appeal of finance.

328 pages | 1 line drawing, 1 table | 6 x 9 | © 2009

Economics and Business: Economics--History

Sociology: Social History, Social Institutions


“In seeking to establish the ‘boundaries’ of financial markets, [Preda] provides an exhaustive, fascinating history of the need for and creation of speculators, investors, chartists, and finally financial economists. . . . This is a fascinating read, especially for those interested in a thorough understanding of markets, and a challenge to arguments for the supposed inevitability of market structures in modern society.”


"The sociological perspective offered by Preda provides economic historians interesting ways to frame their own research into the ongoing development of financial capitalism."

Journal of Economic History

“Indispensable to any historian seeking to understand how financial markets came to occupy a central place in the modern economy.”

Technology and Culture

“Preda succeeds in transforming financial capitalism into materially situated phenomenology. Framing Finance is subtle, substantial, sustained, and enlightening.”

Jeffrey C. Alexander, Yale University

Framing Finance looks at the history of finance from a completely new perspective, combining sociology, history, economics, and literary and cultural studies. Drawing on his original historical data, Preda proposes several innovative theoretical ideas and concepts that may well become household notions in writings on finance.”

Karen Knorr Cetina, University of Chicago

“Alex Preda takes a strikingly original approach to understanding the role of finance in modern society. His book explores finance as conceptual technology—an important tool of thought. This technology has a fascinating history of development that takes place through a social and economic institutional fabric; with the full dynamics of innovation, imitation, and the inexorable flow of market data. Humans adapt to tools just as tools solve human problems, and financial technology demands profound realignment of processes of gathering, aggregating, and interpreting information from the marketplace. This book teaches us that culture and imagination of modern society is much more deeply influenced by finance—its markets and models—than anyone might have suspected.”

William N. Goetzmann, International Center for Finance, Yale School of Management

“How did financial investors and dealers come to seem like scientists? Alex Preda’s important book shows us how technical devices transformed the ‘frauds’ and ‘fools’ of the eighteenth century into today’s mathematically armed speculators. By showing us how finance became a culturally legitimate pursuit, Framing Finance offers a new understanding of the origins of our current economic crisis.”

Caitlin Zaloom, New York University

Table of Contents


Introduction: Capitalism and the Boundaries of Finance                                     

Chapter 1. The Boundaries of Finance in the Sociological Tradition                               

Chapter 2. Prestige, at Last: The Social Closure of the Stock Exchange            

Chapter 3. Financial Knowledge and the Science of the Market                        

Chapter 4. Close Up: Price Data, Machines, and Organizational Boundaries     

Chapter 5. From Afar: Charts and Their Analysts                                                         

Chapter 6. The Kaleidoscope of Finance: Speculation, Economic Life, and Society  

Chapter 7. On the Dark Side of the Market                                                                 

Chapter 8. Panic!                                                                                                        

Conclusion: Back to the Future                                                                        


Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press