69 Recall this Buck 4: Daniel Souleles on private equity (JP, EF)

In this installment of our Recall this Buck series, John and Elizabeth talk with Daniel Souleles, anthropologist at the Copenhagen Business School and author of Songs of Profit, Songs of Loss: Private Equity, Wealth, and Inequality (Lincoln : University of Nebraska Press 2019). Dan’s work explores the world of private equity “guys” (who are indeed mostly guys) and the ways they are “suspended in webs of significance [they themselves have] spun” as Clifford Geertz puts it.

Further, he explores the ways we are all suspended in these webs through the immense buying and managing power of private equity firms. Private equity investors buy out publicly traded companies, often through enormous debt (which is why these deals used to be called “leveraged buyouts” or LBOs), manage the companies and then sell them. They argue they are creating value by cutting fat in management; typically workers bear the brunt of the debt while executives–and the private equity firm and lawyers and others servicing the deal–receive hefty payments.

Dan pulls off a tough feat in his book, helping us see the concerns and motivations of people he’s working with as understandable and the people themselves as reasonable and even likeable, while also maintaining his own view of private equity as, generally speaking, a noxious force in society.

We end with a discussion of the Occupy movement and how it helped to change public conversations about inequality and the power of finance (another angle on the themes we tackled in our earlier “Brahmin Left” conversations).

Looking west across the Deegan Expressway at Stella D’Oro, closed and for sale, 2010. Founded in 1930, the Stella D’Oro cookie company was sold to a private equity firm in 2006 and closed after an ensuing strike in 2009. The company was sold and production moved to a non-union facility in Ohio. Photography by Jim Henderson, Creative Commons license.

Mentioned in this episode:

Bryan Burrough and John Helyar, Barbarians at the Gates: The Fall of NJR Nabisco

Karen Ho Liquidated; ethnography of Wall Street, and of “smartness”

Edwin Lefèvre, Reminiscences of a Stock Operator, (John misremembered the title as Confessions of a Stockjobber)

Bret Easton Ellis, American Psycho (1991)

Listen and Read here:


71 Jennifer Egan with Ivan Kreilkamp: Fiction as Streaming, Genre as Portal (Novel Dialogue crossover, JP) Recall This Book

This week on Recall this Book, another delightful crossover episode from our sister podcast Novel Dialogue, which puts scholars and writers together to discuss the making of novels and what to make of them. (If you want to hear more, RtB 53 featured Nobel Orhan Pamuk, RtB 54 brought in Helen Garner, and in RtB 72 we haveCaryl Phillips). Who better to chat with John and Jennifer Egan–prolific and prize-winning American novelist–than Ivan Kreilkamp? The distinguished Indiana Victorianist showed his Egan expertise last year in his witty book, A Visit from the Goon Squad Reread. Jennifer Egan © Pieter M. van Hattem Their conversation ranges widely over Egan’s oeuvre–not to mention 18th and 19th century literature. Trollope, Richardson and Fielding are praised and compared to modern phenomena like TikTok and gamers streaming (including gamers streaming chess, a very special instance of getting inside someone else’s thought process). The PowerPoint chapter in Goon Squad gets special treatment, and tantalizing details from Egan’s forthcoming novel, The Candy House (April, 2022) make an appearance. Egan discusses her authorial impulse towards camouflage, her play with genre’s relationship to specialized lingos and argots–and the way a genre’s norms and structure can function like a “lifeline” and also a “portal.” Mentioned in the Episode Jennifer Egan: Visit from the Goon Squad; Look at Me; Manhattan Beach; The Keep Samuel Richardson: Clarissa; Pamela Henry Fielding, Shamela Herman Melville, Moby Dick Patrick O’Brian (e.g. Master and Commander) Alfred Hitchcock, Lifeboat Read the transcript here. Elizabeth Ferry is Professor of Anthropology at Brandeis University. Email: ferry@brandeis.edu. John Plotz is Barbara Mandel Professor of the Humanities at Brandeis University and co-founder of the Brandeis Educational Justice Initiative. Email: plotz@brandeis.edu. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
  1. 71 Jennifer Egan with Ivan Kreilkamp: Fiction as Streaming, Genre as Portal (Novel Dialogue crossover, JP)
  2. 70 Recall this Buck 5: "Studying Up" with Daniel Souleles (EF, JP)
  3. 69 Recall this Buck 4: Daniel Souleles on Private Equity (JP, EF)
  4. 68 Martin Puchner: Writing and Reading from Gilgamesh to Amazon
  5. 67 Everything and Less: Mark McGurl on Books in the Age of Amazon

Author: plotznik

I teach English (mainly the novel and Victorian literature) at Brandeis University, and live in Brookline.

One thought on “69 Recall this Buck 4: Daniel Souleles on private equity (JP, EF)”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: