High-frequency Trader Subjectivity: Emotional Attachment and Discipline in an Era of Algorithms

Christian Borch, Ann-Christina Lange

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


    In this article, we examine the recent shift in financial markets toward high-frequency trading (HFT). This turn is being legitimized with reference to how algorithms are allegedly more rational and efficient than human traders, and less prone to emotionally motivated decisions. We argue that although HFT does not render humans irrelevant, it is leading to a reconfiguration of both the ideal trading subject and the human–machine relations. Drawing on interviews with and ethnographic observations of high-frequency traders, as well as HFT ‘how to’ books, we analyze the subjectivity and self-techniques of the ideal high-frequency trader. We demonstrate that these traders face the challenge of avoiding emotional interference in their algorithms and that they deploy a set of disciplinary self-techniques to curb the importance of emotional attachment.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalSocio-Economic Review
    Issue number2
    Pages (from-to)283-306
    Number of pages24
    Publication statusPublished - 2017


    • Financial markets
    • Economic sociology
    • Skills
    • Sociology
    • USA

    Cite this