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School of Social and Political Science: Staff profiles


Donald MacKenzie

Donald MacKenzie
Professor Donald MacKenzie
6.26 Chrystal Macmillan Building 15a George Square Edinburgh UK EH8 9LD
+44 (0)131 650 3980
Research Interests
Financial Markets, Sociology of Science and Technology

Guidance and Feedback Hours

  • For Edinburgh students I'm teaching. Tuesdays 10am-12 noon in teaching weeks: please email for a video- or audio-link appointment. Like nearly all my colleagues, I am currently working from home.

Research Interests

My research is on the sociology of markets, focussing on online advertising and automated high-frequency trading  or HFT. I've worked in the past on topics ranging from the sociology of nuclear weapons systems to the meaning of proof in the context of computer systems critical to safety or security.

Selected Work

My book on HFT, Trading at the Speed of Light: How Ultrafast Algorithms Are Transforming Financial Markets, will be published by Princeton University Press  in May. Previous books include Inventing Accuracy: A Historical Sociology of Nuclear Missile Guidance (MIT Press, 1990);  An Engine, Not a Camera: How Financial Models Shape Markets (MIT Press, 2006); and Chains of Finance: How Investment Management is Shaped (Oxford University Press, 2017), jointly written with Diane-Laure Arjaliès, Philip Grant, Iain Hardie and Ekaterina Svetlova. View a video of Donald talking about high-frequency trading at Edinburgh's celebrated Library of Mistakes.

Full CV and publications list

Open-access articles and working papers

Comment on coronavirus and social sciences with Koray Caliskan in Eurozine, April 2020. Turkish translation as Virüsler ve insanlar in Gazete Duvar

Market Devices and Structural Dependency: The Origins and Development of 'Dark Pools' Donald MacKenzie, May 2019. 

Pick a  nonce and try a hash [bitcoin mining] Donald MacKenzie, April 2019.  Draft article for the London Review of Books Listen to Donald being interviewed by New Money Review about the article. 

How Fragile Is Competition in High-Frequency Trading? Donald MacKenzie, March 2019, published on the Tabb Forum.

Just how fast? Donald MacKenzie, March 2019.  Draft article on infrastructure of financial capitalism for the London Review of Books. Arabic translation by Yazan Ashqar for the blog Amman Review.

Can Trading's Playing Field be Leveled? Donald MacKenzie, February 2019, published on the Tabb Forum.

Counterperformativity, Alice Bamford and Donald MacKenzie, September-October 2018, published in New Left Review.  Version en español, Contraperformatividad.

How Algorithms Interact: Goffman's 'Interaction Order in Automated Trading, Donald MacKenzie, June 2018

Material Signals: A Historical Sociology of High-Frequency Trading, Donald MacKenzie, May 2018, published in the American Journal of Sociology

'More dumb money than at any point in modern history', Donald MacKenzie, February 2018. Draft article on short selling for the London Review of Books

Aren't They Scared? Donald MacKenzie, January 2018Draft article on the VIX (Volatility Index) for the London Review of Books

A Material Political Economy: Automated Trading Desk and Price Prediction in High-Frequency Trading, Donald MacKenzie, November 2016

Must Do BetterDonald MacKenzie, May 2016. Draft article for the London Review of Books 

Dark Markets, Donald MacKenzie, June 2015. Draft article for the London Review of Books

Spoofing, Donald MacKenzie, May 2015. Draft article for the London Review of Books

At Cermak, Donald MacKenzie, December 2014. Draft article for the London Review of Books

Be Grateful for Drizzle, Donald MacKenzie, September 2014. Draft article for the London Review of Books

The Lemon-Squeezing Problem: Analytical and Computational Limitations in CDO Evaluation, Donald MacKenzie and Iain Hardie, May 2014

The Formula That Killed Wall Street: The Gaussian Copula and Modelling Practices in Investment Banking, Donald MacKenzie and Taylor Spears, October 2013

A device for being able to book P&L: The Organizational Embedding of the Gaussian Copula, Donald MacKenzie and Taylor Spears, October 2013

Mechanizing the Merc: The Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Rise of High-Frequency Trading, Donald MacKenzie Oct 2013

How to Make Banks Less Fragile, Donald MacKenzie, May 2013. Draft article for the London Review of Books.

Drilling Through the Allegheny Mountains: Liquidity, Materiality and High-Frequency Trading, Donald MacKenzie et al, January 2012

Evaluation Cultures? On Invoking 'Culture' in the Analysis of Behaviour in Financial Markets. Donald MacKenzie, Sept 2011

Chalk: Materials and Concepts in Mathematics Research. Michael J. Barany & Donald MacKenzie, Preprint Sept 2011

Accounting for Carbon, Heather Lovell and Donald MacKenzie, June 2011. Article published in Antipode.

The Credit Crisis as a Problem in the Sociology of Knowledge.  Donald MacKenzie, American Journal of Sociology, May 2011.

'The Five-Second Pause', essay for London Review of Books, Donald MacKenzie, April 2011.

Knowledge Production in Financial Markets: Credit Default Swaps, the ABX and the Subprime Crisis. Donald MacKenzie, Nov 2010

'Safer than Safe', essay review of Tett, Fool's Gold, for London Review of Books, Donald MacKenzie, June 2009

'Hedge Funds', essay for London Review of Books, Donald MacKenzie, Nov 2008

'Broker's Ear', essay for London Review of Books, Donald MacKenzie, Aug 2008

'The Credit Crisis and the End-of-the-World Trade', essay for London Review of Books, Donald MacKenzie, May 2008

'Making Things the Same', Donald MacKenzie, Feb 2008 (.pdf)

'The Finitist Accountant', David Hatherley, David Leung and Donald MacKenzie, April 2007 (.pdf file)

'Finding the Ratchet: The Political Economy of Carbon Trading', essay for London Review of Books.  Donald MacKenzie, March 2007 (.pdf)

'The Material Production of Virtuality: Innovation, Cultural Geography, and Facticity in Derivatives Markets. Donald MacKenzie, December 2006 (.pdf)

'Humming the Wedding March', essay for London Review of Books. Donald MacKenzie, November 2006 (.pdf file)

'Producing Accounts: Finitism, Technology and Rule-Following', Donald MacKenzie, November 2006 (.pdf file)

'Assembling an Economic Actor: The Agencement of a Hedge Fund', Iain Hardie, Donald MacKenzie, May 2006 (.pdf file)

'A Price is a Social Thing: Towards a Material Sociology of Arbitrage ', Daniel Beunza, Iain Hardie, Donald MacKenzie, January 2006 (.pdf file)


  • BSc (University of Edinburgh)
  • PhD (University of Edinburgh)

Topics interested in supervising

I'm keen to work with PhD students who have innovative project ideas in fields ranging from the sociology of science and technology to economic sociology (especially the social studies of finance, on which several of my current students are working).

If you are interested in being supervised by Donald MacKenzie, please see the links below for more information:

PhD in Sociology