Constructing and Contesting City of London Power: NGOs and the Emergence of Noisier Financial Politics

Andrew Baker*, Duncan Wigan

*Corresponding author for this work

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    Existing literature on the City of London has tended to focus on its ‘structural power’, while neglecting political and narrative agency. This paper acts as a corrective by presenting evidence to show that since the financial crash of 2008 the political terrain the City operates on has become more contested, crowded and noisier. The contribution develops a middle course between a positive assessment of the role of civil society in relation to global finance, and a more pessimistic reading. We demonstrate how macro-narratives and public story-telling both construct and contest City and financial sector power. In a new pattern since the financial crash, NGOs have moved from campaigns of limited duration and narrow focus, to a more sustained presence on macro-structural issues. Adopting a supply–demand framework for assessing governance and regulatory change, we look at the emergence of TheCityUK as a new advocacy arm and the strategies of three of the more prominent and focused NGOs that have mobilized in the aftermath of the crash: the Tax Justice Network’s (TJN) use of the ‘finance curse’; Positive Money on private endogenous money creation; and Finance Watch counterweight strategies at the level of the European Union. We suggest these mobilizations highlight the need for a more concerted and orchestrated construction of a global institutional civil society infrastructure in finance (a global financial public sphere) to achieve greater access, resources, scrutiny and oversight for a range of specialist expert NGOs.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalEconomy and Society
    Issue number2
    Pages (from-to)185-210
    Number of pages26
    Publication statusPublished - 2017


    • City of London
    • Structural power
    • Macro-narratives
    • NGOs
    • Noisy politics
    • Civil society

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