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Dr Alexandra Ouroussoff

Dr Alexandra Ouroussoff
Associate Research Fellow

Marie Jahoda -

Summary

 My area of research is the anthropology of political economies. For over twenty-five years I have been asking the question: where does our understanding of our relationship to the economy come from?

In my most recent publication, The Function of Finance: An Ethnographic Analysis of Competing Ideas (2018) * I continue to explore my central finding of 2010 that for a range of economic elites in major global corporations, credit rating agencies and investment institutions, 21stcentury capitalism has ceased to be competitive. Moreover, and more importantly for these elites, 21stcentury capitalism does not fall under the terms of the competitive/monopoly opposition as set out by classical and Marxist economic theory. From their perspective, transformational events in the 1970s yielded a third dynamic structure, a third type of capitalism that I have called ‘non-competitive market capitalism’. 

My current work focuses on why these transformational events remain hidden from public view.  

Wall Street at War:The Secret Struggle for the Global Economy (2010), translated into French in 2013,** was one of the publications emerging from four years of international fieldwork funded by CATL (1998-2001) under the auspices of the then Department of Accounting & Finance, London School of Economics. The final settlement of a dispute with the London School of Economics enabled funding for further research from 2002-2004. The book shows the brute force with which a fundamental change in investors’ theory of risk is being engineered into the economic system. This unprecedented move to free the economy from the radical uncertainty that Frank Knight and John Maynard Keynes saw as fundamental to a successful market dynamic (no risk, no gain) runs counter to virtually everything we have been led to understand about the logic and structure of 21stcentury capitalism.

 Here is Karen Ho talking about my book in 2010. 

An ethnographic analysis of the largest and most complex merger in British trade union history (based on twelve months’ ethnographic fieldwork, 1992-93) provided me with insight into the methodological problems of applying Malinowskian research methods to political economies, prompting the question, ‘What is an Ethnographic Study?’ (Berg, 2001)***.

 As a post graduate fellow at the London Business School, I examined the discontinuity between business theory and experience as understood by business executives taking part in the MBA programme.  Click here for my letter published in the Financial Times criticising the remit for academic research in business schools.

Acting as consultant to the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee of the House of Lords (1992), I analysed and reported on what were then seen as advances in Japanese management practices. Click here for an article on this project published in The Independent

Earlier research focused on collectivities within one multinational corporation (factory workers, managers and executives) and how each perceives its relation to the other and to the economy as a whole (PhD, University of London, 1988). Some of the results of the research were published in Illusions of Rationality; false premises of the liberal tradition, Man, Vol.28, no. 2, June 1993.

 I am also interested in ways in which anthropologists can use psychoanalytic insights to develop a theoretical understanding of the social reality of unconscious experience. The considerable problem of perceiving collective unconscious processes has been a central theme in my fieldwork. A criticism of psychoanalysis as interpreted though liberal political philosophy appeared in The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute(1998).

* In The Making of Finance: New Perspectives from the Social Sciences, Chambost, Isabelle; Lenglet, Mark; Tadyeddine, Yamina, (eds.) (Routledge, London, UK,)

** Polity Press, 2010, subsequently translated into French and published by La Maison de la science de l’homme as Triple A : Une anthropologue dans les agencies des notation, (2013) Anthropolis; Series editors, Abeles, Marc and Petric, Boris

***In Inside Organizations, Eric Hirsch and David Gellner (eds) Berg, 2001

Qualifications

  • PhD Social Anthropology (University of London)
  • BSc Social Anthropology (London School of Economics)