‘No one to trust’: the cultural embedding of atomism in financial markets

Galit Ailon*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The paper ethnographically explores the cultural embedding of atomistic indifference in online, global financial markets: arenas that have been digitally designed according to economic ideals and that demand an extreme form of relational and social dissociation from the partners to exchange and from those affected by the transactions. Its case-study is lay financial-trading in Israel, a country undergoing extensive neoliberalization. The study shows that dissociation is embedded in an economic culture marked by constant, multi-sited declarations that economic-Others are cold, uncaring and manipulative. It takes shape as traders convert the distrust towards Others into distrust towards portions of the Self that represent links to these Others, namely their own social-psychology and social concern. Acting atomistically and selfishly in the market thus entails considerable reflexive work. The paper contributes to an ongoing debate on the moral and cultural embeddedness of markets in general and of the expanding financial markets in particular.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)927-947
Number of pages21
JournalBritish Journal of Sociology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • atomism
  • Israel
  • Lay finance
  • market culture
  • trust


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