Theorizing Efficient Markets
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How did financial markets come to be constructed as being efficient? The hypothesis of informational efficiency, formally articulated in the 1960s by financial scholar Eugene Fama, quickly acquired canonical status and it retains prestige even in the face of recent challenges from behavioral economics. But for informational efficiency to occupy a central place in financial economics, it had to defeat a formidable opponent: the Capital Asset Pricing Model, especially in Fischer Black and Jack Treynor’s radical formulation as a general model of risk. Understanding the differential success of these models requires paying attention to, among other things, the strategies and techniques of persuasion financial scholars resort to in order to gain intellectual prestige. In turn, such an analysis offers insight into the mechanisms through which epistemic regimes facilitate certain kinds of innovation while hampering others, thus shaping social understandings of finance, of its objectives, and of its boundaries.
Simone Polillo is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Virginia. He is the author of Conservatives versus Wildcats: A Sociology of Financial Conflict (Stanford, 2013). His current research interests include the fiscal sociology of global processes, the sociology of finance, and the sociology of self.