The Nobel Prize for Economics has been won three times by psychologists. How long will it be before an anthropologist claims the honour? There have already been a number of books and papers written by anthropologists about the financial world. It appears that they find financial tribes as interesting and complex as they once did distant islanders and ‘primitive’ peoples.
Gillian Tett believes that anthropology can help a great deal in understanding modern business. Anyone who has changed jobs, or indeed whole work sectors, will know how odd different corporate cultures can seem. The insiders have little insight into their strange beliefs, rituals and symbols. They often speak in an acronymic dialect and seem to agree that some topics are out of bounds, taboo and never to be discussed. They are indeed members of a tribe, who think their behaviours quite normal. Alas, after a few months of indoctrination and on-boarding, new recruits lose their outsiderness. The strange becomes familiar and they stop questioning. They are assimilated into the business and think everything is normal, healthy and adaptive.
Tett’s new book, Anthro-Vision, is a good read, as one might expect from a Financial Times journalist. It is full of case studies and semi-anecdotal vignettes, taking in everything from the Cambridge Analytica scandal to Wall Street trading practices. Tett is modest and at times self-deprecating. She describes her personal