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Sociology Colloquium: Michael McCarthy, Marquette University, "Democratizing Finance for the Social Good: Modes of Radical Financial Reform"

Uptown Campus
Howard-Tilton Memorial Library

Date, Time, LocationFriday, November 30, 12:00-1:30PM, Howard-Tilton Memorial Library, Room B12 (basement)
Presenter: Professor Michael McCarthy, Marquette University, Department of Social and Cultural Sciences
TitleDemocratizing Finance for the Social Good: Modes of Radical Financial Reform
Much of the progressive political debate about financial reform focuses on breaking up banks "too big to fail" and reinstating Glass-Steagall, a view popularized by Bernie Sanders in the recent American election. But this talk will turn Bernie on his head - finance should not be broken up; it should be controlled. This talk explores past experiments in democratizing large profit-oriented financial institutions, their successes and failures. Focusing on three key areas, it considers how financial flows might be democratized and redirected toward the social good. First, it examines U.S. pension funds, which control a quarter of all American equities. Massive retirement funds around the world, some partly administered by unions and often decentralized, have largely been managed by firms. These funds offer real promise for working class control through their organizations and unions - and have been subject to considerable contestation. Second, it considers how banks themselves might be socialized and democratically controlled through government. Several countries, such as France and Germany, have public banks that prioritize investment in specific sectors. I consider what that might look like on a larger scale by examining bank nationalizations that occurred under the Mitterrand government in France. Finally, it considers the creation of large worker-run funds, where governments in cooperation with worker organizations administer publicly owned investment funds. Here, I consider both sovereign wealth funds, such as Norway's, and the Meidner Plan in Sweden, which would have led to corporations progressively issuing stock shares to a collectively owned and managed fund, through a share levy on profits. While the concentrated power of finance has thrown up new obstacles for human flourishing, concentrated finance also offers a new means to fund the enhancement of human welfare.


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