Copenhagen Business School, Denmark. The authors are grateful to Ole Bjerg, Christian Garmann Johnsen, Marius Gudmand-Høyer, Donald MacKenzie, Liz Moor, Thomas Presskorn-Thygesen, Bjørn Schiermer and Richard Swedberg for valuable comments. They would also like to thank Tobias Brask for research assistance. Christian Borch is Professor at the Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark. His current research focuses on the sociology of crowds and its links to conceptions of financial markets. He is the author of numerous books, including The Politics of Crowds: An Alternative History of Sociology (Cambridge University Press, 2012), which was awarded the 2014 Theory Prize for Outstanding Book by the American Sociological Association Section on Theory. Ann-Christina Lange is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark. Her current research focuses on the changing relation between crowd dynamics and different emerging technologies within financial markets, especially high-frequency trading techniques. She received her PhD in 2013 from Goldsmiths, University of London.
This article presents a critical systematic discussion of Shiller’s writings from the late 1970s to the present, as well as an examination of the social-psychological assumptions on which his work is built. We argue that Shiller’s work displays a tension between mimetic and anti-mimetic tendencies, i.e. between understanding financial markets as captured by fads and fashions (mimesis), and at the same time understanding such markets on the basis of a notion of homo economicus (an essentially anti-mimetic figure). Identifying that tension not only sheds novel light on Shiller’s work, but also allows us to critically discuss Mirowski’s negative appraisal of Shiller’s behavioural finance programme. Further, we argue that the mimetic/anti-mimetic tension in Shiller’s work can equally be identified in a broader range of theories about financial markets, and that attending to it therefore opens up new lines of inquiry beyond behavioural finance.