The Financialization of the Firm

The Financialization of the Firm

Managerial and Social Implications

Alexander Styhre

The term ‘financialization’ denotes the general tendency in the advanced Western economies to allow a substantial proportion of taxable profits to accumulate in the finance industry. Alexander Styhre discusses the financialization of the firm in the period after 1980 and stresses how key managerial activities have been redefined on the basis of finance theory and free-market ideologies. This book critically examines the literature and the implications of financialization for organizations and the economy as a whole.

Chapter 6: The financialization of working life

Alexander Styhre

Subjects: business and management, corporate governance, organisation studies, social policy and sociology, sociology and sociological theory


The era of financialization, the period beginning around 1980, has coincided with or been part of a series of social, cultural, economic, and institutional changes in society. The Keynesian economics model of the welfare state, what at times is referred to as “embedded liberalism,” exemplified by the Social Democratic Scandinavian welfare state of low unemployment, low economic inequality, and a combination of market economy and planned economic production, have been subject to reform. The many changes during the last three and a half decades are both caused by and contributed to new attitudes towards work life and private life, and social theorists have been ready to provide an explanatory framework for the new social order and to provide empirical evidence of the changes that have taken place. For instance, the Polish-British sociologist Zygmunt Bauman has in a series of texts explored the concept of “liquidity” as being a root metaphor for everyday life in late modernity (Bauman, 2005, 2000). In Bauman’s view, the modernity that was developed in the era of the industrial revolution beginning at the end of the eighteenth century in Britain, was characterized by immutable, solid, large-scale technological systems including the railway, the telegraph system, the building of infrastructures and sewage systems, and so on. This is a world of materiality and the immediate presence of physical objects.

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