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Conference Summary

Professors Annelise Riles, Yuji Genda and Hirokazu Miyazaki at “Techniques of Hope Conference” March 26, 2010.

Professors Annelise Riles, Yuji Genda and Hirokazu Miyazaki at “Techniques of Hope Conference” March 26, 2010.

How do we sustain hope in the economy? What are the regulatory, institutional, and legal devices that actually produce hope –and hence market stability and growth? These are some of the questions that brought together an eclectic group of financial actors, legal professionals, economists and anthropologists to discuss new approaches to financial reform in a global conference on 'Techniques of Hope' held in New York and streamed live on line this past March. The conference, sponsored by the Cornell Law School and the Japan Foundation, turned to some unlikely sources for inspiration –lawyers specializing in capital cases, pro-democracy activists in Nepal, Aboriginal hunters in Northern Canada, and unemployed youth in Japan– to reinvigorate the present debate with contemporary social research that examines the day to day work that actually encourages people to be more hopeful, risk-taking, and embracing of change. For example, drawing parallels with this research, one lawyer in attendance shared his experiences working with diverse clients and multi-national firms looking to access United States capital markets. As he explained, often it is the very unheroic discipline of patience and the steady invention of attorney/client relationships that cultivates market stability and helps assimilate a regulatory consciousness across different legal cultures.

Techniques of Hope Conference March 26, 2010

“Techniques of Hope Conference” March 26, 2010

The lesson to be learned was that, today, as the U.S. Senate moves closer to passing the most substantial overhaul of financial law since the Great Depression, market participants and legal professionals already posses techniques to help stabilize legal and managerial practices, and to reduce market disorder. Participants also began to ask whether there are not more possible ways of addressing the problems of the financial markets than the set of solutions currently coming out of policy circles. In particular, they debated what role private actors--especially lawyers--might play, alongside government, in producing a more stable, equitable and transparent global market.

It was this opportunity to stop and think outside the box that made the recent conference on 'Techniques of Hope' so exciting.  Over one extraordinary day, lawyers, financial experts and social scientists took time out from debating policy solutions to reframe the problem of financial reform itself.