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WALL STREET by Doug Henwood


How It Works and for Whom

By Doug Henwood

Pub Date: July 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-86091-495-X
Publisher: Verso

 Wall Street mavens who hate challenges to their self-serving worldview will not enjoy this book. One of the most striking characteristics of the American financial world is its ideological rigidity. Backed by the intellectual legitimacy of neoclassical economics and the wealth of the upper classes, the managers of money resolutely cling to beliefs bordering on the absurd. The stock market is understood as a vehicle for raising capital (although it is primarily a place to buy and sell existing shares of stock) and allocating it rationally (although phenomena like panic buying and selling are common); capital is understood as a purely neutral entity independent of concerns such as power and justice. Henwood (editor of Left Business Observer and host of a weekly radio show on WBAI in New York City) rejects this orthodoxy and amplifies his sin by questioning both the market's value in the economy and its impartiality in society. Anyone not put off by his self-conscious performance as a gadfly and possessing an even slightly open mind will find his inventory of the financial instruments, players, and consequences of the stock market a refreshing and informative break from the usual claptrap of financiers and respectable journalists. This guy actually thinks that the distribution of wealth matters in a society, that there are legitimate concerns regarding incomes beyond keeping wages down and return on capital high, and that assessments of the financial system should not be divorced from such issues. Unfortunately, in the latter half of the volume he moves into theoretical territory that will not hold the neophyte's interest, and few insiders will be willing to seriously consider his analysis. As a result it's unlikely that Henwood's work will be widely read or cut through the prevailing dogma. Next assignment: Present the same ideas in a more accessible form to a wider audience.