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The work of financialisation: an ethnography of a global management consultancy in post-Mao China

Chong, Kimberly (2012) The work of financialisation: an ethnography of a global management consultancy in post-Mao China. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis examines and exposes the work of one of the most enigmatic of capitalist institutions – the management consultancy – as that of financialisation. In recent decades financial markets have played an increasingly important role in the operations of the global economy, which has led to fundamental changes to managerial practices of the modern corporation. In particular, many authors, from a variety of disciplines within social sciences, have discussed the ascendancy of shareholder value as the ideology of corporate governance. But what is rarely examined is how shareholder value has been disseminated and installed as a corporate good. At the same time, there continues to be widespread ignorance about one of the major proponents of shareholder value – management consultancies. In short, we still do not know what consultancies do. I attempt to address this lacuna by examining how management is practised within management consultancy. Through an ethnography based on 16 months of fieldwork inside one of the world’s largest management consultancies, I show that shareholder value is an ethic of production which has to be made through a set of sociotechnical practices which are deployed in the pursuit of an ontological transformation – the enactment of the corporation as a financial asset. I highlight the importance of information technology (IT) in this endeavour, specifically, how it is incorporated in managerial techniques of “corporate culture”, which attempt to not only orientate employees towards the “needs” of financial markets, but also constructs them as financial objects. The work of consultancies is to establish the practice of managing labour as financial capital. This thesis draws on analytical approaches from science and technology studies to examine complex managerial systems and how they operate to produce an ethics of capitalism; it contributes to existing anthropological scholarship on the “new economy”, financial markets, corporate subjectivities and theories of value, and provides a novel example of how “fast capitalism” can be captured, ethnographically, through a methodology of collaboration.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2012 Kimberly Chong
Library of Congress subject classification: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
Sets: Departments > Anthropology
Supervisor: Feuchtwang, Stephan and Bear, Laura

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