The ES/PE global academic community is pleased to announce the granting of the Best Book in Economic Sociology and Political Economy Award for 2020 to Sarah Quinn‘s superb, enlightening, thoroughly researched and engagingly written American Bonds: How Credit Markets Shaped a Nation. Congratulations!!
The year of 2020 marks an exceptional achievement for Professor Quinn (University of Washington). Her outstanding, insightful, and interdisciplinary treatise won three additional major prizes: the Zelizer Book Award given by the American Sociological Association’s Economic Sociology section, the Alice Amsden Book Award presented by the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics, and Honorable Mention for the Theory Prize by the American Sociological Association’s Theory section.
Professor Quinn once noted that “part of [her] desire to write the book was always to try to be able to use the tools of sociology to demystify finance.” While reading this excellent scholarly work, one can easily see that this mission was brilliantly accomplished.
Drawing from a mix of original archival research and secondary sources, American Bonds examines the evolution of securitization and federal credit programs in the US from the early post-Revolutionary years to the 1960s, concurrently looking at the macro and micro levels. The book shows in compelling detail that since the Westward expansion, the US government has used financial markets to manage America’s complex social divides, and lawmakers and bureaucrats have turned to land sales, home ownership, and credit to provide economic opportunity without the appearance of market intervention or direct redistribution of wealth. Over time, government officials embraced credit as a political tool that allowed them to navigate an increasingly complex and fractured political system, affirming the government’s role as a consequential and creative market participant. Neither intermittent nor marginal, credit programs spurred the growth of powerful industries, have been used for foreign policy and and military efforts, and were promoters of venture capital investment and mortgage securitization. Quinn’s American Bonds astutely demonstrates the intricate ways in which credit has been a powerful tool of the American statecraft and how the state has been intrinsically involved in marketcraft.
At the end of this must-read book (published by Princeton University Press in 2019) Quinn leaves us with important reflections derived from her historic research, which are essentially relevant to our immediate present and upcoming future:
“With each crisis, Americans face anew the question of how to organize finance. With each crisis, choices are guided by long-esteblished institutions. And with each crisis, there nevertheless exists the potential for something new to emerge. Whatever lies ahead, the organization of credit – and the social bonds that it entails – will be decided on two levels: the specific exchanges we allow and how we delimit the role of finance in the political economy. A cleared-eyed look at both means that in considering any credit policy we must ask: Should this issue be resolved through finance? And if it is resolved through finance, what divisions of profit and risks, and what divisions of opportunities and obligations, should be built into these structures?” (Quinn 2019: 212)
The past Alice Amsden Book Award recipients:
The past Zelizer Best Book Award recipients: