Finance and Society

Module description

This module sets out to look at finance in relation to a broad range of social issues mainly from the perspective of the sociology of finance. The issues are selected for interest and are intended to promote debate. The main background reading will be from a small number of recommended books and articles but students will be expected to read more widely and to review the treatment of finance in at least one book. Students will be expected to lead at least one seminar with an introduction to one or more books recommended for review.

This module is open to any final year undergraduate student.

Full module specification

Module title:Finance and Society
Module code:BEM3045
Module level:3
Academic year:2020/1
Module lecturers:
  • Professor Michael Rowlinson - Convenor
Module credit:15
ECTS value:






Duration of module: Duration (weeks) - term 2:


Module aims

The aim of the module is to encourage students to think about finance in a broader social context and from a variety of perspectives. To facilitate this, wide and diverse reading is encouraged, and students are expected to lead seminars.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. explain different perceptions of finance in society;
  • 2. evaluate the role of finance in its broader social context;
  • 3. assess perceptions of finance in a variety of media including the financial press, art, and in particular fiction.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. identify and explain perceptions of financial management and decision-making from a variety of traditions and perspectives.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 5. select and synthesize appropriate material from a range of sources (both academic and popular);
  • 6. analyse, communicate and present ideas, principles and evidence that support a reasoned and consistent argument.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Schedule Learning and Teaching22Lectures
Scheduled learning and teaching5Seminars
Guided Independent Study32Preparatory reading - reading prior to taught sessions
Guided Independent Study32Reflection and further reading - guided reading and completion of exercises
Guided Independent Study59Assignment preparation - researching and writing an assignment

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Seminar DiscussionHour-long1-5Verbal from tutor

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Book Review401,500 words1-3, 6Written individual feedback
Exam601.5 hours1-6Generic on ELE

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Book review (40%)Book review (40%) (1,500 words)1-3, 6August/September Reassessment Period
Exam (60%)Exam (60%) (1.5 hours)1-6August/September Reassessment Period

Re-assessment notes

If the student fails the module overall, only individual elements which have been failed/deferred will be assessed.

Syllabus plan

The core content of the module will include:

  • The Sociology of Finance - modern finance looks and sounds like the Great Oz from The Wizard of Oz; sociologists are always trying to find ways to look behind the curtain.
  • Economics - are financial markets efficient? Or is the efficient market hypothesis performative? Do you have to believe in efficient markets to work in finance?
  • Markets - what do financial markets do? Where can they be found? What is it like to work in one?
  • Politics - do financial institutions have too much influence in politics? How many politicians have connections with the finance sector?
  • Crises - how is the global financial crisis 2008 remembered? Who really suffered from the global financial crisis of 2008? Should anyone still be punished for it?
  • Class - how does the ideal of meritocracy fit with the observation that the smartness of investment bankers is represented by their default upper-classness, maleness, whiteness, and straightness?
  • Gender - is investing essentially a masculine or a feminine activity? Are women essentially more risk averse than men? If they are, what are the business implications of having only a small minority of women in senior positions in finance?
  • Inequality - is the finance sector to blame for increasing levels of inequality in society?
  • Financialization - why is it that financial motives, markets, and institutions play an increasing role in our personal lives, society, and the economy?
  • City of London - how important is the finance sector for London and the UK? Are international financial centres such as London destined to decline with the rise of electronic networks and trading that can supposedly be carried out anywhere in the world?

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:

Knorr Cetina, K., & Preda, A. (2012). The Oxford handbook of the sociology of finance. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Lanchester, J. (2014).How to Speak Money. London: Faber & Faber.


Preparatory Reading

Lewis, M. 1989. Liar's Poker. London: Hodder.

Possible books for review

Ahamed, L. 2009. Lords of Finance: The bankers who broke the world: Random House.

Anderson, G. 2009. Cityboy: Beer and Loathing in the Square Mile: Headline.

Charters, D. 2009a. At Bonus Time, No One Can Hear You Scream.

Charters, D. 2009b. Trust Me, I'm a Banker: Elliott & Thompson.

Ferguson, C. 2012. Inside job: Oneworld Publications.

Ferguson, N. 2008. The ascent of money: A financial history of the world: Penguin.

Kunzru, H. 2012. Gods Without Men. London: Penguin.

Lanchester, J. 2012. Capital: Faber and Faber.

Lewis, M. 2014. Flash boys: WW Norton & Company.

Lewis, M. 2015. The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine: Penguin.

Lowenstein, R. 2000. When genius failed: the rise and fall of Long-Term Capital Management: Random House trade paperbacks.

Luyendijk, J. 2015. Swimming with Sharks: My Journey into the World of Bankers: Guardian Books and Faber and Faber.

Roose, K. 2014. Young money: Inside the hidden world of Wall Street's post-crash recruits: Hachette UK.

Sherry, M. 2016. Opening Belle: A Novel: Simon & Schuster.

Suzana, S. 2010. Confessions of a City Girl: The Devil Wears Pinstripes: Random House.

Tapscott, D., & Tapscott, A. 2016. Blockchain revolution: how the technology behind bitcoin is changing money, business, and the world: Penguin.

Tett, G. 2009. Fool's Gold: how the bold dream of a small tribe at J.P. Morgan was corrupted by Wall Street greed and unleashed a catastrophe (Free Press hardcover ed.). New York: Free Press.

Zuckerman, G. 2010. The greatest trade ever: how John Paulson bet against the markets and made $20 billion: Penguin UK.

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