Creative Approaches to Memory TFDC 1.18
Jul 04, 2023 11:30 - 13:00(Europe/London)
20230704T1130 20230704T1300 Europe/London 1.8. Financial Actors’ Collective Memory of Financial Crises. The Benefits of an Encounter between Collective Memory Research and Economic History

Cultural historians have devoted a great deal of attention to memory in the last 40 years, but economic themes have played a relatively small role in the wave of memory studies which followed the publication of Nora's Le lieux de mémoire (1984-93). While economic crises and catastrophes have contributed to memory studies – think, for instance, of the works on the role played by the Great Famine for Irish collective memory – financial crises have been left out of the 'memory boom' (Winter, 2006).The 2007-08 Global Financial Crisis has changed this perspective and ushered a new 'age of extremes' that has closed the 'holiday from history' which had started in the 1990s.This panel will expose some of the preliminary results of a project devoted to the memory of the financial crises – The Memory of financial crises: financial actors and global risk (MERCATOR) – led by Professor Youssef Cassis and financed by an ERC Advanced Grant (grant agreement No 884910). The panel stems from two simple questions: do financial actors have any knowledge, memory and understanding of previous financial crises? How far are they aware of the inherent instability of the financial system? At the centre of this panel are financial actors – bankers and policy makers, but also pundits and financial journalists who shape narratives within the financial words and can be seen as both memory creators and memory consumers.The assumption that financial markets have short memory has often been postulated, but never demonstrated. Memory study show that the construction of memory is not a binary struggle between forgetting and recollecting. Remembering seems to be less a matter of accurate recall of isolated pieces of information and more an exercise in arranging fragments ...

TFDC 1.18 MSA Conference Newcastle 2023 conference@memorystudiesassociation.org
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Cultural historians have devoted a great deal of attention to memory in the last 40 years, but economic themes have played a relatively small role in the wave of memory studies which followed the publication of Nora's Le lieux de mémoire (1984-93). While economic crises and catastrophes have contributed to memory studies – think, for instance, of the works on the role played by the Great Famine for Irish collective memory – financial crises have been left out of the 'memory boom' (Winter, 2006).
The 2007-08 Global Financial Crisis has changed this perspective and ushered a new 'age of extremes' that has closed the 'holiday from history' which had started in the 1990s.
This panel will expose some of the preliminary results of a project devoted to the memory of the financial crises – The Memory of financial crises: financial actors and global risk (MERCATOR) – led by Professor Youssef Cassis and financed by an ERC Advanced Grant (grant agreement No 884910). The panel stems from two simple questions: do financial actors have any knowledge, memory and understanding of previous financial crises? How far are they aware of the inherent instability of the financial system? At the centre of this panel are financial actors – bankers and policy makers, but also pundits and financial journalists who shape narratives within the financial words and can be seen as both memory creators and memory consumers.
The assumption that financial markets have short memory has often been postulated, but never demonstrated. Memory study show that the construction of memory is not a binary struggle between forgetting and recollecting. Remembering seems to be less a matter of accurate recall of isolated pieces of information and more an exercise in arranging fragments of information into a general scheme. This element, combined with the fact that memory is not a static process, makes relevant not only cases of previous financial crises' amnesia, but also different interpretations of previous financial crises, which can be both influenced and can contribute to the success of certain narratives rather than others. Building on Alida Assman's work on passive and active remembering (2008), this panel reflects on why past financial crises are at times completely forgotten, other times remembered in a passive way, say as events that need to be confined to the past (archive), and other times remembered in an active way, say as events that are relevant for the present (canon).
More generally, this panel would like to strengthen the dialogue between economic history and memory studies and reflect on the ways in which memory studies can help economic historians to make sense of the Global Financial Crises and locate this crisis in historical perspective. It would do so pointing at possible synergies that can be generated through this encounter, and the advantages that this encounter can bring to a field so intrinsically interdisciplinary like memory studies.



Giuseppe Telesca (co-authors: Bruno Pacchiotti, Niccolò Valori)

The Multilayered Memories of Financial Crises: A Reflection on Sources and Methodology

The cultural memory of financial crises is materialised in written, oral and visual documents, including newspapers articles; radio and television programmes; policy reports and analyses by financial institutions, international organisations and think tanks; as well as books, films, plays, and exhibitions. As the focus of this panel is to analyse the collective memory of financial actors, it becomes crucial to select among such a panoply of sources, looking at their potential and pitfalls. When it comes to journalism, for instance, the links with memory are not obvious, as journalism is generally hungry for breaking news and has no space for yesterday's stories. Why then devoting attention to the way financial press has remembered financial crises? And how to make a thorough use of this source? Can Artificial Intelligence be beneficial in this endeavour? Is only the written text that matters? Narrative about financial crises have traditionally relied on images. For instance, the use of natural disasters (earthquake, waves, tsunami, pandemic outspread, etc) have often been employed when it came to describe financial crises. So, images matter, as they help to crystalise metaphors that help to make sense, and anchor the memory, of a crisis. The same methodological issues raised by the use of the financial press, can be raised, and will be explored, with regard to banking archives and policy documents, which can provide insight on the institutional memory of financial organisations. What can these sources reveal about financial actors' collective memory of financial crisis? As memory is a constructed and selective process, the sources left out are as important as the ones that are included in the list made at beginning of this abstract. In its final part, the paper comes back to the (difficult) decision to exclude novels, films, plays and exhibitions from a systematic exploration, a choice dictated by the risk of moving the focus of analysis beyond the group of financial actors.


Susie J. Pak. 

Mapping the Persistence of Memories of Financial Crises

Tracking Accountability in Financial Journalism A prominent genre in the history of financial crises consists of monographs written by financial journalists. Utilizing the backing afforded by their ties to large, international media conglomerates, financial journalists have some of the best access to contemporary financial actors and events. Recent work on the 2007 8 international financial crisis include Peter Goodman's Past Due (2009), Andrew Ross Sorkin's Too Big to Fail (2010), Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner's Reckless Endangerment (2011), Michael Lewis's The Big Short (2011), and Charles Ferguson's Inside Job (2012) and Predator Nation (2013). Earlier examples of this genre include Connie Bruck's The Predator's Ball (1989), a history of the failure of Drexel, Burnham Lambert; Stephen Pizzo, Mary Fricker, and Paul Muolo's Inside Job (1989), a story of the Savings and Loan Crisis of the 1980s; Roger Lowenstein's When Genius Failed (2001), a chronicle of the failure of Long Term Capital Management; and Bethany Mclean and Peter Elkind, The Smartest Guys in the Room (2003), the tale of the fall of Enron. One of the most significant aspects of this literature is the way that it addresses the issue of accountability by highlighting the actions of specific people and firms in order to answer the basic question of how and why these failures happened. This paper argues that this genre of financial journalism also offers a way to measure how memories of financial crises and scandals have been remembered or forgotten. By re creating a map of the financial firms, organizations, and individuals identified as instrumental to the crises in the literature and by tracking what happened to the actors over time, the paper studies the reporting by financial journalists to see how memories of the past have or have not survived. The larger issue the paper investigates is how the memories of these crises, with their stories of accountability, are mediated by society's institutions, including conventions of journalism and storytelling, and how knowledge of the past can be circumscribed by an actor's relative position to other players.


Youssef Cassis

Financial actors' memory and the Global Financial Crisis of 2007-2008

It is usually assumed that financial markets have a short memory: crises are quickly forgotten and excessive risk-taking replaces caution as new business and profit opportunities arise, with the conviction that 'this time is different', to use the title of Carmen Reinhart's and Kenneth Rogoff's book published in 2009. But are financial crises actually remembered –and if so, how, for how long, and by whom? Have any lessons been drawn from them? This paper is part of an ERC research project (MERCATOR, grant agreement No 884910) attempting to answer these questions. The paper will present the preliminary results of the analysis of financial actors' memory in connection with the Global Financial Crisis of 2007-2008. The analysis is based on the interviews of the senior executives of the world's twenty leading commercial and investment banks. The population is divided in two cohorts. The first consists of those in charge during the first phase of the crisis, from August 2007 to the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008, in order to assess their memory, experience and knowledge of previous financial crises, and how this might have influenced their judgment and decision-making during this period. The second cohort consists of the senior executive in charge in 2022-2023. The object here is to assess the memory of the Global Financial Crisis, if any, still present in their institution fifteen years later, and the lessons drawn from it. Beyond the identification of individual memory, the inquiry is also concerned with the formation of a collective memory, the extent to which a convergence between financial actors' memories can be observed –on certain topics, or according to age groups, nationalities, financial institutions– reflecting the group's possible identity and differentiation from other socio-professional groups, such as regulators, politicians, economists, or journalists. From a methodological point of view, the paper will also reflect on the challenges raised by the interviews of senior executives from the financial world.


Tobias Pfoor 

Is there Hope for Climate Action? How Memories of the Great Financial Crisis shape Imagined Futures 

This paper asks how memories of the Great Financial Crisis (GFC) are shaping discussions surrounding climate change mitigation. It is an attempt to use the concept of memory to study contemporary dynamics within the socio economic system. The aim is to provide a theoretical contribution which allows for a better conceptualisation of the important interlinkages between memories of the GFC and discussions of climate change. The paper's starting point is a type of conceptual history informed by the work of Koselleck (1985), supplemented by subsequent historical, sociological and psychological scholarship, most notably Beckert (2016) and Tuckett (2022). The paper argues that a first step in this process needs to be a more productive engagement between the concept of memory and the concept of narratives – i.e. how memories give rise and support particular narratives which are in turn employed to support possible future paths of actions. This theoretical insight will be developed via a discussion of how memories of the GFC are employed in climate change discussion in financial/regulatory circles. Such a study reveals the open ended nature of memories and the ends to which they may be put. While some commentators remember the GFC as demonstrating that in times of financial crisis it is only state actors who are able to support/rescue the financial system, other commentators remember this same crisis as demonstrating the opposite: state actors only worsen an already bad situation through their actions. These differences in the memories of the GFC also came to the fore in differing assessments of the merit in awarding the 2022 Sveriges Riksbank Prize to Bernanke, Diamond, and Dybvig. While some commentators claimed their work had been crucial in helping to resolve the GFC, others claimed their theoretical contribution had actually made the GFC possible in the first place. The paper concludes by highlighting the difficulty in determining what the collective memory of the GFC actually is and asking who gets to speak in the name of collective memory for such an event.

Research Fellow
,
European University Institute
Associate Professor
,
St. John's University
Professor
,
European University Institute
Research Fellow
,
EUI
 Joanna Wawrzyniak
Associate Profesor
,
University of Warsaw
 Katarzyna Anzorge
Phd Candidate
,
University of Lodz
Full Professor / Senior Research Fellow
,
The University of Jewish Studies, Budapest / The Institute for Advanced Studies, Kőszeg
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