Flesh and the free market: (On taking Bourdieu to the options exchange)
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On the options trading floor at the Pacific Exchange in San Francisco, traders spend their days “making markets” in option contracts, a mentally and bodily intense practice that requires the acquisition of a series of embodied knowledges specific to the occupation. In this article, I report on field research conducted at the exchange, during which I explored the cultural turn of practice theory to the body. Taking direction from Pierre Bourdieu’s changing descriptions of habitus, field, and practical action, I argue that the logic of trading does proceed to some extent beneath the level of reflexive application of the rules of the game; but my encounter with traders’ talk, their cultural production, and their gendered performance led my interpretation of this unconscious dimension beyond the limits of cognitivist metaphors for knowledgeable bodies toward an identificatory logic of practice. Whereas Bourdieu stopped short of taking practice theory all the way in to psychoanalysis, I found the imaginary order it brings into the picture decisive in shaping the experience of trading.
KeywordsField Research Free Market Cultural Production Practical Action Option Exchange
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