Category Archives: Prices

'Prudent' pricing, the Pain Caucus, and the Protestant Ethic

In his book Talking Prices, Olav Velthuis points out that the collapse of the art market in the early 1990s resulted in a widespread shift away from the ‘superstar’ pricing of the go-go 80s, and towards a ‘prudent’ pricing in the 1990s. Art dealers saw the watershed collapse of fantastic(al) prices as a moment not […]

Performativ…stupidity, ATP Oil & Gas edition

From Felix Salmon (whose blog is so good it makes me not want to write anything, just point a big finger at him) comes a story that pops up from time to time. Usually it is some kind of technical snafu, when a trader sits on the keyboard or accidentally keys in a sell rather […]

Transparency and financial prices

I want to talk about dark pools of liquidity, but to do so, I need to first talk about financial markets and how prices work. Bear with me for the background. The dark pools post is coming. Prices in financial markets are not like prices in other kinds of markets. When you buy gas, you […]

Takashi Murakami and Burned Art

Jennifer Lena and I have a new video up, a continuation of our conversation about the relationship between cultural value and monetary value. We’re talking about devaluation, specifically burned art – in the high art and pop art worlds. And we’re circling around a discussion of spheres/circuits/arenas of value. Burned Art and Murakami from Peter […]

Something New – Markets and Art

As an experiment in sociology and blogging, Jenn (from and I have put together a brief video on culture and markets, the beginning of what we hope will be a conversation at the intersection of culture, sociology, and economics. We’ll work on the lighting and switch off the big-head/small-head, but we hope you like […]

Commensuration across commodities

Commensuration, the making comparable of qualitative differences via a common third metric, is valuable for its theoretical contributions to cultural economic sociology. It is a process that makes some things visible and hides others, resulting in an extremely impressive if underrated shaping of the social world. Qualitative distinctions across individual student applicants to college, for […]

Housing CMO Primer

I want to re-tell a story from Frank Partnoy’s F.I.A.S.C.O., but a bit of background on Collatoralized Mortgage Obligations is first in order. CMOs, and their generalized cousin Collatoralized Debt Obligations (CDOs) are the current culprits in the sub-prime meltdown, so this is probably useful to know practically as it is to know theoretically. Also, […]

January Effect

One of the better anomalies is about to occur, the so-called January Effect in financial markets. Back in the day, stocks would jump in the first 3-4 days of January as the depressed prices from the end-of-year selloff would rebound. Of course, as people became savvy about it, the effect shifted a bit to December (the so-called Santa Claus rally), but still, it’s one of those funny plate tectonics where institutional effects (US tax law) meets individual psychology (optimistic January) meets collective social practice (being on vacation for the New Year holiday).

Happy January Effect.

How to price cultural stuff

Tricky tricky Dr. Lena. In her discussion of the great Canadian post-Woodstock, train-tour extravaganza, she asks the question: how should we price cultural stuff?

The Blow-Up

There’s a lot to say about Bryant Urstadt’s article about quant traders in this past fall’s Technology Review (free reg required), called “The Blow-up.” Combined with Amir Khandani and Andrew Lo’s “What Happened to the Quants in August 2007” (.pdf link), it gives a fuller picture of how quantitative finance is altering markets.