Financial Knowledge and the Science of the Market

Alex Preda

in Framing Finance

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print July 2009 | ISBN: 9780226679310
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226679334 | DOI:
Financial Knowledge and the Science of the Market

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This chapter examines the emergence and consequences of a vernacular “science of financial investments.” While many eighteenth-century writers saw financial knowledge as devilish and destructive (centered upon the bodily and verbal skills required by street transactions), these new authors set out to build a science of investments grounded in observation and calculation. Among the main outcomes of this process are the rationalization of investor behavior and the representation of financial markets as supra-individual, quasi-natural entities, which cannot be controlled by any group. It is the latter notion which allowed for the shift to price behavior as the core actor of abstract market models. The effort to transform investment knowledge into a science is crowned by the formulation of basic views of the random walk hypothesis. The first mathematical formulation of the random walk hypothesis plays a decisive role in the development of mathematical finance (more specifically, of the options pricing theory). The main tenet of the random walk hypothesis is that securities prices move independently of each other, and that future movements do not depend on past movements. One of the most important implications of this hypothesis is that in the long run, the market cannot be controlled by any group or person.

Keywords: financial knowledge; financial markets; street transactions; science of investments; investor behavior; price behavior; mathematical finance; random walk hypothesis; options pricing theory; mathematical formulation

Chapter.  13057 words. 

Subjects: Sociology

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