I’ve been following Joris Luyendijk’s banking blog with great interest. Aware of his past journalism from the middle east, and his non-finance background, I am fascinated by his attempts to understand bankers through their own eyes – a striking exercise in genuine curiosity and sociality. He has invited people working in the city to tell him about their working lives and experiences, and the accumulating narratives have been lively and revealing. Two posts may be of particular interest:
Asking people what question they most wanted him to ask bankers, the number one response was ‘how can they live with themselves?’ – which in itself validates the attempt at sociality. One of the most interesting answers came from a financial recruiter:
“These are extremely well-educated and multilingual professionals… who have lived on two or three continents. These people don’t belong anywhere and don’t feel beholden to any national project. [They have] much more in common with a peer in Hong Kong… than with a monolingual, mono-cultural…nurse somewhere up in Manchester. Solidarity is not geography-based or tied up with a state….It’s quite ironic how postmodernists…will tell you that all sense of belonging is a construct…and nations are simply fantasies or imagined communities. Well, the global financial elite agrees.”
Joris recently asked an occupational psychologist to comment on the many stories he has collected. Unfortunately her main preoccupation seems to have been the unscientific (totally random) nature of his sample, and his failure to ask standardised questions, feeling it makes analysis and comment difficult. She does highlight a few dominant themes – particularly around office culture and sexism – and it is dispiriting, though perhaps not surprising – to find the stories echoing research work I undertook into corporate life for women back in the early 1990’s.
I recommend this ongoing blog as a rich experiment in narrative research. The series of ‘monologues’ with staff at all levels present a valuable and often challenging exercise in exploring a demonised world through the construct systems of those who live in it.
1st March 2012
from richard casebow: Interesting subject, one which is not really being looked at too much which is the creation of a global inter-connected educated class of people with strong ties to each other. It is not just in financial circles but exists in academia and stretches out through NGO’s and other transnational bodies. This educated class has very different expectations and opportunities to others in terms of work, travel, places to live and access to power. The tension between the two groupings as they become more aware of each other and the threat that each pose to each other’s interests is already beginning to become more apparent. For me this new meritocracy, if it is that, parallels in its attitudes something akin to that of European aristocracy prior to WW1, in that there is a forgetting and marginalising of those who are ‘not of our kind’. Good to see it aired and it would be nice to see more – it put me in mind of Manuel Castells work in ‘The Power of Identity’.
2nd March 2012
from matthew cummins: It is quite striking, because in a certain respect it’s how I’ve always felt: what loyalty do I have to this rather irrational little island-state I’ve grown up in? I’m not sure bankers are quite so international in every respect though: I bet they still support e.g. the English football team!
11th March 2012