Finance organizations, decisions and emotions

Jocelyn Pixley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)


Analyses of global financial markets are dominated by atomized models of decision-making and behavioural psychology ('exuberance' or 'panic'). In contrast, this paper argues that overwhelmingly, finance organizations rather than 'individuals' make decisions, and routinely use emotions in formulating expectations. Keynes introduced emotion (business confidence and animal spirits) but in economics, emotion remains individualistic and irrational. Luhmann's system theory lies at the other extreme, where emotions like trust and confidence are central variables, functional in the reduction of complexity in sub-systems like the economy. The gap between irrational emotions aggregated to 'herd' behaviour in economics, and 'system trust' applied to finance and money as a 'medium of communication' in sociology, remains largely unfilled. This paper argues that while organizations cannot be said to 'think' or 'feel', they are rational and emotional, because impersonal trust, confidence and their contrary emotions are unavoidable in decision-making due to fundamental uncertainty. These future-oriented emotions are prevalent within and between organizations in the financial sector, primarily in generating expectations. The dynamic of corporate activities of tense and ruthless struggle is a more plausible level of analysis than either financial 'manias' in aggregate or 'system trust'.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-65
Number of pages25
JournalBritish Journal of Sociology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2002


  • Confidence
  • Expectations
  • Finance organizations
  • Impersonal trust
  • Uncertainty


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