Ethnographic and social scientific accounts of the financiers that buy and sell companies for profit often homogenize the players in these social dramas, relying on blunt, totalizing definitions of culture or overly deterministic articulations of habitus. This article, drawing on a two-year study of private equity investors, offers an alternative analytic frame for making sense of how private equity people buy and sell companies. It explores the ways in which private equity people make arguments persuading one another and the larger public that an investment is worth making. Important to these arguments are not only substantive content, the evidence that investors marshal to support a thesis, but also reflective evaluation of what counts as good evidence, meta-commentary. It is in these split levels of analysis that we can appreciate the cultural diversity within finance, Wall Street, and investment banking. I will also suggest that understanding how investors are arguing substantively as well as meta-pragmatically begins to outline a useful theory of culture change within the world of investment banking.
- Private equity
- Economic history