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Edited by Geoffrey Poitras
Chapter 6: The Social Closure of the Stock Exchange
Alexandru Preda INTRODUCTION The aim of this chapter is to discuss stock exchanges from a sociological point of view, as fundamental institutions of modern societies. The focus here will be on social closure – that is, on the processes through which institutional control mechanisms are set in place. These mechanisms contribute to providing stock exchanges with a distinct institutional identity, while integrating them within the social fabric. The steps I will undertake here are the following: first, I discuss the notion of social institution in relationship to those of control and identity. Second, I provide a brief overview of how the sociological literature – especially foundational works from the nineteenth century – have conceptualized stock exchanges. Third, I discuss the mechanisms of social control set in place by stock exchanges, especially during the nineteenth century. I investigate here the role of informational technologies as intrinsic to these mechanisms. Finally, I examine contemporary aspects of the social closure of stock exchanges. In light of the transformations that stock exchanges have gone through during the last decades or so, this may seem puzzling: the technologization, the shifts in the ownership structure, the emergence of alternative trading platforms seem to have weakened the stock exchange as a social institution, and so hence to have made social closure superfluous. I will argue that matters are more complex than that. And now, on to the first step: why is it important to discuss the social closure of stock exchanges? SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS AND CLOSURE What is a social institution,...
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