Publications of Pitluck, Aaron Z.

Watching foreigners: How counterparties enable herds, crowds, and generate liquidity in financial markets

This article provides a new view on the old problem of herding in the global south by foreign portfolio investors. It advocates a liquidity perspective that problematizes the capacity for a herd to form because of the absence of sufficient counterparties willing to trade. Drawing on ethnographic interviews with local professional investors in Malaysia (a substantively and theoretically important stock market) the findings are non-intuitive relative to the common-sense expectations of the information asymmetry and identity-based herding literatures. Although locals watch their foreign competitors closely, and therefore could imitate their trades, these small, local finance firms find few reasons to imitate these powerful international actors. Instead, locals enable crowds of foreigners because they are willing to be counterparties even when they perceive the foreigner’s trade as savvy, highly skilled, or informed. The conclusion explores implications for herding, global capital flows, and social structures that may generate liquidity in business-to-business markets.

Pitluck AZ. The Silence of Finance and Its Critics: Portfolio Investors in the World-System. In: Babones S, Chase-Dunn C, editors. Routledge International Handbook of World-Systems Analysis. London and New York: Routledge; 2012. p. 206-14.
Pitluck AZ. Islamic Banking and Finance: Alternative or Façade? In: Knorr Cetina K, Preda A, editors. Handbook of the Sociology of Finance. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2012.

Distributed Execution in Illiquid Times: An Alternative Explanation of Trading in Financial Markets

Sociologists and other social scientists typically characterize financial markets as ‘liquid’, where capital can be readily purchased or sold in global electronic networks, so that trades can be completed nearly instantaneously. In contrast, drawing on ethnographic interviews in an emerging market, Malaysia, and on cross-national statistics, secondary survey data and econometric studies, this article argues that world stock markets are normally illiquid with temporal spikes of liquidity. As a consequence, professional investors in equities markets are large and frequently slow-moving behemoths, trading turgidly. To overcome illiquidity, professional investors conduct a range of practices I term distributed execution. Illiquidity and distributed execution have a number of implications for sociological debates regarding the relationship between investment firms and society.

Pitluck AZ. Moral Behavior in Stock Markets: Islamic finance and socially responsible investment. In: Browne KE, Milgram LB, editors. Economics and Morality: Anthropological Approaches. Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers; 2008. p. 233-55. (Society for Economic Anthropology (SEA) Monographs).