The City at Work

Part of the Economics Today book series


Whilst public attitudes to the City may have changed a lot in terms of youth, glamour, and excitement over the 1980s, it still has image problems. Indeed, in one sense, they are worse now than ever. The basis of a good deal of the resentment of the City of London is that it does not seem to ‘do’ anything. According to this argument, references to the ‘financial services industry’ are a contradiction in terms. Industries are thought of as furnaces from which physical output is wrought in ways that are smelly, sweaty and probably dangerous. The City of London is not like that. Its output is not physical (though this does not of course mean that there is no output at all). There is an implication, too, that the City’s work is somehow parasitic: that it makes itself rich by living off the backs of real producers; that, far from helping these producers, it probably deceives them and certainly overcharges them. It is admitted that the City is clever but (disapprovingly) ‘too clever by half’. We do not understand what goes on there and are probably better off not knowing. At its most basic the argument comes down to the idea that making profits simply by moving other people’s money around is probably dishonest and is surely no job for right-thinking young women and men — nor even, perhaps, for middle-aged ones.


Foreign Exchange Stock Exchange Financial Service Foreign Currency Money Market 
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© Kenneth Durham 1992

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