The market and the masses: From chaotic corners to social media (re)tail events

Kristian Bondo Hansen
Finance and Society, 2022, 8(1): 67-77


In this essay, I examine and discuss the relationship between the market and the masses in light of recent retail-driven surges in the stock prices of firms like GameStop and AMC. Using two historical snapshots, I draw out similarities and differences between the way the collective power and rationality (or lack thereof) of the masses was portrayed in late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century market literature and in recent debates about retail investor inclusion and social media or social trading platform-driven market volatility. The main difference between the historical discourse and the present situation is that the new digital market-expanding technologies enable effective retail investor mobilization and thus, increase the retail swarms’ market-moving powers, which were previously less agile and forceful. However, this eased and widened market access also transforms digital life into alternative data that is subjected to age-old strategies of market exploitation.