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April 16 , 2009

Conservatives Versus Wildcats

A Sociology of Financial Conflict


For decades, the banking industry seemed to be a Swiss watch, quietly ticking along. But the recent financial crisis hints at the true nature of this sector. As Simone Polillo reveals in Conservatives Versus Wildcats, conflict is a driving force.

Conservative bankers strive to control money by allying themselves with political elites to restrict access to credit. Barriers to credit create social resistance, so rival bankers—wildcats—attempt to subvert the status quo by using money as a tool for breaking existing boundaries. For instance, wildcats may increase the circulation of existing currencies, incorporate new actors in financial markets, or produce altogether new financial instruments to create change.

Using examples from the economic and social histories of 19th-century America and Italy, two decentralized polities where challenges to sound banking originated from above and below, this book reveals the collective tactics that conservative bankers devise to legitimize strict boundaries around credit—and the transgressive strategies that wildcat bankers employ in their challenge to this restrictive stance.

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