This project took as its object of study the Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global, which commonly counts as the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund. The fund is managed on behalf of the Norwegian people by a division of the central bank on the basis of a law enacted by parliament, Stortinget, and a mandate issued by the Ministry of Finance. The project has on this basis explored the role and significance that a large sovereign wealth fund plays in a well-functioning democracy. Through participant observation, interviews, archival research, and document analysis, the project has investigated what it means to manage great wealth on behalf of others and especially those who are not yet born, and what it means to own a small share of nearly all the world’s publicly listed corporations on behalf of a small national community. The research has disclosed how the fund serves to meet a multitude of social commitments, and launched the concept of ‘custodial finance’ to grasp how the fund managers thereby act with a multitude of others in mind.
The project has specifically focused on the exercise of ownership that the fund managers conduct as part of their responsible investment activities. It has explored the specific means that the managers have developed for this purpose and investigated how these build on and incorporate established international standards and conventions, and how they mobilize different competencies and capacities, and how they thereby constitute a particular liberal social technology. Sketching how these means take a specific form that deploy in the dialogues, the project explores how natural language and concrete social relations become a central part of financial management, and thereby transcend markets and their prices. It demonstrates how these tools, and their language and dialogues build on and deploy an established concept of ‘expectation’ to expand the range of concerns and stakeholders that the corporations take into consideration. The project explores how the exercise of ownership thereby constitutes and instantiates an expansive public that spans from the legislative and executive branches of power to commercial enterprises, and suggests that this has a long history in economic and natural resource management in Norway. The project has launched the concept of ‘productive incompleteness’ to grasp and describe these processes, and explore how different actors thereby mobilize each other to complement each other’s work, and how this serves in this context to conceptualize, operationalize, and render active a concept of ‘sustainability’ in relation to financial management and publicly listed commercial corporations.
Forskningsprosjektet har medført økt tverrfaglig adferd og kompetanse, samt økt internasjonalt forskningssamarbeid. Det har også medført økt samarbeid med aktørene i forvaltningen av Statens pensjonsfond utland, samt økt erfaring og kompetanse med etnografisk feltarbeid og forskning i uortodokse kontekster og sammenhenger. Prosjektet har i tillegg åpnet en ny front i antropologiske og samfunnsvitenskapelige studier av finans gjennom sitt fokus på indeksnær forvaltning og eierskapsutøvelse, samt bidratt til å gjøre antropologiske og ikke-økonomiske samfunnsvitenskapelige perspektiver på finans kjent for forvaltere og andre finansaktører. Prosjektet har i særdeleshet satt søkelyset på den språklige dimensjonen ved finans og finansforvaltning. Selv om det er vanskelig å måle, så finnes det indikasjoner på at disse intervensjonene har bidratt til endringer i bevisstheten og språkbruken til aktører innen dette feltet med mulige effekter for fondets fremtidige forvaltning. I tillegg har prosjektet bidratt til økt kunnskapsnivå og ordskifte om Statens pensjonsfond utland, samt økt kjennskap til antropologiske og samfunnsvitenskapelig perspektiver på finans i allmennheten for øvrig.
The past year has seen a range of efforts that appeal to 'the common good' or invoke moral notions to act upon and transform the global economy, with a view to facilitate societies, futures, and worlds of particular kinds. These efforts echo and extend from economic discourses regarding 'the public good' or 'the public interest', which points to a broader articulation and inflection of economic and ethical concerns. The objective of this project is to investigate how ethical forms shape finance to create new iterations of the economy; and conversely, how financial forms entail ethical considerations. The project will do so through a study of the Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG), which is the world's largest sovereign wealth fund, whose operation involves a complex configuration of constraints. In addition, its fiduciary responsibilities entail a form of ethics and foreground questions regarding the future, as they involve a duty of care to act with the interests of the Norwegian public in mind. Finally, GPFG is at the forefront of 'responsible investment', and seeks to develop and conduct what one can call 'custodial finance'. Questions regarding the limits of capital and the ethical forms of finance are thus built into GPFG in multiple ways. The project will pursue these questions through four Project components that will 'study through' GPFG in an enhanced manner. Through document analysis, open-ended semi-structured interviews, and participant observation, the components will investigate ethnographically how ethical forms create, enact, and redefine fiduciary standards, and how fiduciary duties entail forms of ethics. The study breaks new ground for the anthropology of finance, where no one so far has studied a sovereign wealth fund; no one has investigated how finance 'is done' in the relative periphery of northern Europe; and no one focuses on the roles of ethics and limits for how finance is constituted, implemented, and shaped.