Calculating the Human Spirit: The Popularization of Day-Trading Outside the Global Centers of Finance
Regarding the expansion of trading, TA's models shift the calculative focus from mathematical expertise to socio-psychological sensibilities and instincts. The promise of non-mathematical simplicity, however, is not the only factor that turns TA into such an appealing "consumption object" (Mayall, 2008). Another factor is that the socio-psychological models imply that trading can be profitable for anyone, regardless of global inequality or economic marginality. According to these models, traders do not have to be powerful, economically educated, or rich to profit from trading. What traders do need - besides an internet connection and a deposit to leverage - are techniques that help them identify the thoughts, emotions, and institutional logics of those who allegedly do have the power to shape markets (the "crowds," institutional investors, banks, etc); techniques that help them capture the socio-psychological trends that characterize other market actors before these trends determine price shifts.
This socio-psychological ambition complicates existing theories of calculation. I will argue that popular TA is characterized by an emic awareness of "performativity" (Callon, 1998), but, for this reason, it also transcends it. In a sense, TA's awareness of performativity "reverses" economic materialization: its calculative attempt to trace materiality to the minds, hearts, and arrangements from which it had allegedly sprung as a means for foreseeing future price shifts "ideationalizes" the market. Appadurai's (2011; 2012) hidden "spirit of calculation" – his Weberian notion of a "ghost in the financial machine" – is thus no longer hidden: it is actively constituted and targeted. Tying the material and ideational aspects of calculation in a loop of sorts, the socio-psychological models of TA transcend our existing theoretical constructs. The paper discusses the theoretical implications of its case-study for our understanding of financial calculation and the global expansion of trading.
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