Markets, Bodies, Rhythms: A Rhythmanalysis of Financial Markets from Open-outcry Trading to High-frequency Trading

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Abstract

This article explores the relationship between bodily rhythms and market rhythms in two distinctly different financial market configurations, namely the open-outcry pit (prevalent especially in the early 20th century) and present-day high-frequency trading. Drawing on Henri Lefebvre's rhythmanalysis, we show how traders seek to calibrate their bodily rhythms to those of the market. We argue that, in the case of early-20th-century open-outcry trading pits, traders tried to enact a total merger of bodily and market rhythms. We also demonstrate how, in the 1920s and '30s, market observers began to respond to a widely perceived problem, namely that market rhythms might be contagious and that some form of separation of bodily and market rhythms might therefore be needed. Finally, we show how current high-frequency trading, despite being purely algorithmic, does not render the traders' bodies irrelevant. Yet high-frequency trading does change the role of the body rather than seeking to attune their bodies to the markets, high-frequency traders seek to calibrate their bodies to their algorithms. While the article demonstrates the usefulness of deploying Lefebvre's rhythmanalysis in analyses of financial markets, it also suggests that high-frequency trading in particular might produce new types of market rhythms that, contra Lefebvre, do not revolve around traders' bodies.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironment and Planning D: Society and Space
Volume33
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)1080-1097
Number of pages18
ISSN0263-7758
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Keywords

  • Bodies
  • Contrarian speculation
  • Financial markets
  • High-frequency trading
  • Lefebvre
  • Rhythmanalysis

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