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Money at Work

Money at Work: On the Job with Priests, Poker Players and Hedge Fund Traders

Kevin J. Delaney
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 279
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  • Book Info
    Money at Work
    Book Description:

    Financial advisors, poker players, hedge fund traders, fund-raisers, sports agents, credit counselors and commissioned salespeople all deal with one central concern in their jobs: money. In Money at Work, Kevin Delaney explores how we think about money and, particularly, how our jobs influence that thinking. By spotlighting people for whom money is the focus of their work, Delaney illuminates how the daily practices experienced in different jobs create distinct ways of thinking and talking about money and how occupations and their work cultures carry important symbolic, material, and practical messages about money. Delaney takes us deep inside the cultures of these 'moneyed' workers, using both interviews and first-hand observations of many of these occupations. From hedge fund trading rooms in New York, to poker players at work in Las Vegas casinos, to a Christian money retreat in a monastery in rural Pennsylvania Delaney illustrates how the underlying economic conditions of various occupations and careers produce what he calls money cultures, or ways of understanding the meaning of money, which in turn shape one's economic outlook. Key to this is how some professionals, such as debt counselors, think very differently than say poker players in their regard to money - Delaney argues that it is the structure of these professions themselves that in turn influences monetary attitudes. Fundamentally, Money at Work shows that what people do for a living has a profound effect on how people conceive of money both at work and in their home lives, making clear the connections between the economic and the social, shedding light on some of our most basic values. At a time when conversations about money are increasingly important, Delaney shows that we do not merely learn our attitudes toward money in childhood, but we also learn important money lessons from the work that we do.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-3807-8
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. INTRODUCTION: Thinking about Money
    (pp. 1-10)

    In one way or another, I have been thinking about the issues in this book since I was a young child. I grew up in a rather large working-class family (five children, two parents), and money was always tight. Adding to the money pressures of raising five children was the fact that my mother was viewed by her own parents as “marrying down” when she chose my father. My maternal grandparents worried that my father would not be able to support a family. Reacting to this and to the actual material circumstances of his life, my father became determined to...

  5. 1 Money at Work
    (pp. 11-25)

    I was sitting in the office of a hedge fund trader as he struggled to put into words exactly how hedge fund traders think about money. After a few frustrating false starts, he finally said that rather than trying to describe it to me, he would simply tell me a story that would serve as an illustration. So he began:

    We [the partners in the hedge fund] were sitting around the office last week when one of the guys asked me, “What’s your number to walk away?” And I said, “I don’t know. I haven’t really thought about it.” And...

  6. 2 Risk and Reward: Hedge Fund Traders and Poker Players
    (pp. 26-55)

    I was talking with a hedge fund trader just off the trading room in a loft-style office in Manhattan. He was describing to me how he learned to dissociate his emotions from the monetary implications of the large trades he was making. Many of the hedge fund traders I talked with described the importance of learning to discipline themselves, both cognitively and emotionally, so that they could evaluate each and every trade on its own merits, irrespective of having a good or bad run of luck and irrespective of the sums of money that might be at risk (assuming overall...

  7. 3 When Time Is Money: Commission Salespeople and Sports and Entertainment Agents
    (pp. 56-87)

    What is it like to be under the constant pressure to sell? How do salespeople structure their own thinking, as well as the way they spend their work time, in response to the pressure of sales quotas? How do they cope with the stress of their income being so heavily dependent on their sales success? In this chapter, I detail the cognitive and emotional work that salespeople undertake around issues of time and money and show how these issues bleed into other dilemmas that arise between work space and private space. Salespeople face what might be called problems of fuzzy...

  8. 4 Other People’s Money: Fund Raisers and Grant Givers
    (pp. 88-114)

    Lionel Trilling in the opening epigraph to this chapter described Henry James’sThe Princess Casamassimaas a classic example of a literary trope he called “the tale of the young man from the provinces.” These sorts of stories describe a person from the countryside traveling into the big city, delighting in what he discovers there. Perhaps more profoundly, they also reveal what the young man from the provinceslearns about himselffrom crossing boundaries.¹ However, as Trilling points out, the frontier that is crossed in these types of stories is just as often the boundary ofsocial classas it the...

  9. 5 Advice and Counsel: Investment Advisors and Debt Counselors
    (pp. 115-134)

    What sort of money cultures form when one’s job is to advise people on how to manage their money? Similar to the fund raisers and grant givers described in the previous chapter, financial advisors and debt counselors become comfortable talking about other people’s money but also find that they become enmeshed within a host of other issues in their clients’ lives. For example, one financial advisor whom I interviewed described refereeing among three heirs who were arguing over their parents’ significant fortune. A debt counselor described sorting through the unpaid bills that a client had tearfully brought in a crumpled...

  10. 6 Sacred and Profane: Religious Clergy
    (pp. 135-162)

    Richard Rohr captures one of the major dilemmas confronted by clergy members of all faith traditions in their daily work. In the United States, there is a highly developed market economy and a national money culture in which nearly everything has been reduced to its exchange value: “What is this worth on the market?” For example, we have already seen that both time and talent have become calculable in a market that sets a price for it.¹ This market mentality has engulfed the realm of religion, and clergy are often left to deal with the tsunami of the market mentality,...

  11. 7 Testing Limits: Experimenting with Currency, Prices, and Salaries
    (pp. 163-187)

    There are some people who intentionally—and quite self-consciously—use money in their work in highly innovative and unexpected ways. What these people are doing is conducting experiments with money that are designed to directly challenge our unspoken assumptions about money. In making this challenge, they also hope to change—or at least to make commentary on—major social issues of our time, such as globalization, values, inequality, or community. I wanted to understand some of these experiments with money and to ask what impact they have on the people involved, as well as inquiring into what these experiments teach...

  12. 8 Money Cultures at Work and Beyond
    (pp. 188-214)

    While conducting research for this book, I watched people working to dissociate the value of money from very large trades on Wall Street or from a pile of poker chips on a table in Las Vegas. I witnessed people struggling to figure out whether they were spending their time wisely or whether they could stay on an even keel with their sense of self on the line in the sale of a product. I saw others using mental gymnastics to turn their raw emotions in the face of poverty into an appreciation for what they had in their own lives....

    (pp. 215-222)
  14. NOTES
    (pp. 223-254)
    (pp. 255-266)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 267-270)
    (pp. 271-271)