In Time Magazine een interessant interview met Karen Ho, een antropologe die gewerkt heeft bij een firma op Wall Street en recent gepromoveerd is op een onderzoek naar de cultuur van Wall Street, gepubliceerd als Liquidated: An Ethnograpy of Wall Street.
What’s Wrong with the Culture of Wall Street? – TIME

[She] was fascinated by how even in the midst of an economic boom, corporate downsizings were rampant — and how each time a company announced a major layoff, its stock rallied. What she found from her perch at Bankers Trust — and later in interviews with people at firms such as Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Salomon Brothers, Kidder Peabody and Lazard — was that it wasn’t just an ideological commitment to boosting shareholder value that drove decisions to merge, break up and restructure companies, but also the work culture of Wall Street itself.

Belangrijk in haar verhaal en in de cultuur van Wall Street is dat alle zekerheden en stabiliteit weg lijkt te zijn.
What’s Wrong with the Culture of Wall Street? – TIME

What I found in my research was that in many ways investment bankers and how they approach work became a model for how work should be conducted. Wall Street shapes not just the stock market but also the very nature of employment and what kinds of workers are valued. These firms sit at the nexus — they are the financial advisers and sources of expertise to major U.S. corporations and institutional investors — and from this highly empowered middle-man role, what they say has a lot of influence. The model that came to be dominant in the 1980s was one of constant change. The idea is that there’s a lot of dead wood out there and people should be constantly moving, in lockstep with the market. If a company isn’t constantly restructuring and changing, then it’s stagnant and inefficient, a big lumbering brick.
[…]
Wall Street bankers understand that they are liquid people. It’s part of their culture. I had bankers telling me, “I might not be at my job next year so I’m going to make sure to get the biggest bonus possible.” I had bankers who advised the AOL–Time Warner merger saying, “Oh, gosh, this might not work out, but I probably won’t be here when it doesn’t work out.” I looked at them like, “What?” Their temporality is truncated.

Zij pleit dan ook veranderingen aangezien de recente crisis volgens haar nauwelijks heeft geleid tot veranderingen in de cultuur.
What’s Wrong with the Culture of Wall Street? – TIME

I would hope that folks in the Obama Administration would somehow link bonuses to long-term corporate productivity or long-term shareholder value — long-term meaning four to five years instead of five months or a year — and reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act [that separated investment and commercial banking]. These are big reforms, but they’d give you a more stable landscape to make even more changes. Part of what I learned is that the very kinds of daily practices that created the boom in the first place — wanting to book as many deals as possible for short-term bonuses, a workplace structured so that they’re knowingly not there for very long — paved the way for the bust. I talked to bankers who said, “When we do deals like this, we’re probably at the top of the market.” They knew. It’s not simply that busts always follow booms.

Opvallend is dat zij in het interview (ik ken het boek niet) vooral lijkt te pleiten voor een structuur verandering bij het bankieren. Dat is iets waar het bij ook om lijkt te draaien. Mede door de financiële crisis lijkt het alsof islamitisch bankieren met een opmars bezig is of dat mogelijk zou kunnen doen.
islamitisch bankierenIslamic Banking: Steady in Shaky Times – washingtonpost.com

The theological underpinning of Islamic banking is scripture that declares that collection of interest is a form of usury, which is banned in Islam. In the modern world, that translates into an attitude toward money that is different from that found in the West: Money cannot just sit and generate more money. To grow, it must be invested in productive enterprises.

“In Islamic finance you cannot make money out of thin air,” said Amr al-Faisal, a board member of Dar al-Mal al-Islami, a holding company that owns several Islamic banks and financial institutions. “Our dealings have to be tied to actual economic activity, like an asset or a service. You cannot make money off of money. You have to have a building that was actually purchased, a service actually rendered, or a good that was actually sold.”

In the Western world, bankers designing investment instruments have to satisfy government regulators. In Islamic banking, there is another group to please — religious regulators called a sharia board. Finance lawyers work closely with Islamic finance scholars, who study and review a product before issuing a fatwa, or ruling, on its compliance with sharia law.

Nadat de crisis in volle omvang bekend werd, kreeg ik vanuit diverse (salafi en non-salafi) hoeken diverse stukken toegestuurd waarin de zegeningen van het islamitisch bankieren (boven dat van het ‘westerse’) werden beschreven.
Can Islam Save The Economy? | Economy | ReligionDispatches

In the midst of a global financial crisis one sector has yet to suffer the fate of the rest. Islamic finance, or Sharia-compliant banking, offers strict moral guidelines for dealing with money. Trading debt and risky speculation are off-limits, as is investment in immoral enterprises like gambling, prostitution, and war profiteering. It might be time to get the muftis on the phone.

Gezien de sterke groei die er al was, lijkt er misschien inderdaad een kans te liggen.
IslamiCity.com – Can Islam Save The Economy?

Islam, the theorists believe, offers a distinct alternative to the other big-picture political economic options, capitalism and communism. By incorporating both markets and redistribution, they see it as the best of both worlds. After the two mega-ideologies spent the Cold War fighting over the allegiances of Muslim countries, the Soviet Union collapsed and now global capitalism is grinding to a halt as well. Islamists suspect that the reason Muslim countries remain impoverished is a fundamental incompatibility between these Western economics systems and the values that Muslim cultures hold dear. Now, perhaps, is the time for a third option to have its chance.

At the very least, suggests Boston University anthropologist Robert Hefner in a recent essay, these theories “provide a fascinating point of entry into the thoughts of Muslim leaders on global capitalism.”

We moeten het specifieke van deze banken echter ook niet overdrijven, hetgeen wellicht wel gebeurt wanneer we puur naar de theoretische en theologische grondslagen kijken. IslamiCity.com – Can Islam Save The Economy?

In the process of becoming competitive, though, Islamic banks may have lost some of the values they claim to be founded on. The theorists’ original hopes for fostering more ethical consumer preferences hasn’t taken hold in the banking culture. Bill Maurer, who has studied Islamic banks in South Asia and the United States, says these institutions aren’t much different from other banks, despite some conspicuous signs of piety like prayer rooms and conservative clothing. Working at one doesn’t mean joining a monastery. “A lot of the time,” adds Maurer, “it’s the same kind of drudgery and tedium that any old bank employee is dealing with.”

Among those in the West who have been following the progress of Islamic finance, Turkish-born Timur Kuran is the most skeptical. “Endeavoring to implement Islamic economics,” he writes in his book Islam and Mammon, both bankers and governments inevitably “recognize its unrealism.” While the earliest experiments depended on genuine partnerships and risk-sharing, the bulk of today’s Islamic transactions use instruments that differ only in name from what a conventional bank offers. In one of the most popular and long-practiced of these, murabaha, the bank buys an item for the client, who then in turn buys it from the bank, along with a premium that cleaves suspiciously close to the conventional interest rate. Religious scholars agree that the transaction is acceptable, even if the bank owns the item for just a millisecond. Pure in God’s eyes, perhaps, but there is nearly no difference in economic terms. Kuran and others have also pointed out that during the medieval period, when the Sharia guidelines for commerce were developed, nothing resembling a modern bank existed. There was no legal provision for such an institution to outlive individual owners, as nowadays a bank of any scale must.

Islamitisch bankieren is, zoals de al eerder genoemde Hefner in zijn essay al laat zien, vooral een modern antwoord op het (westerse) kapitalisme en niet zozeer een complete verwerping ervan. De ogenschijnlijk toenemende belangstelling voor islamitisch bankieren heeft denk ik echter niet alleen betrekking op een gevoelde noodzaak voor structuurverandering in de bankiersector, maar ook op een hernieuwd etnisch appèl voor de sector. Karen Ho’s onderzoek, zo valt toch wel te lezen tussen de regels in Time Magazine door, is eigenlijk deels ook een pleidooi voor een ethische reflectie op eigen belang, voortdurende verandering en onzekerheid en de dreiging van ontslag, temeer omdat deze niet alleen betrekking heeft op de banksector, maar ook is doorgesijpeld naar andere sectoren in de VS omdat de Wallstreet-cultuur (ook al is wat essentialistisch benaderd) niet alleen de aandelensector vormt, maar ook van invloed is op ideeen over wat voor type arbeiders ‘we’ willen hebben. (Iets dat ook anderen al hebben laten zien.) Of dit nu daadwerkelijk betekent dat islamitisch bankieren een grote vlucht zal nemen is nog maar de vraag overigens. Ook andere alternatieve bankiers die claimen een groter ethisch besef te hebben, doen het redelijk goed, maar dat wil nog niet zeggen dat het systeem daadwerkelijk gaat veranderen.