Exploring media construction of investment banking as dirty work

Liz Stanley, Kate Mackenzie Davey, Gillian Symon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose - To explore how two kinds of UK-based media positioned investment banking as dirty work during the financial crisis, thereby engaging in moral enterprise (Becker 1963) and contributing to the shaping of society’s normative contours (Cohen 1972).
Design/methodology - We employ rhetorical analysis to explore how newspaper editorials and an online blog portray investment banking as tainted between April 2008 and October 2009.
Findings – These media sources construct the values and behaviours of investment bankers, rather than the tasks of their occupation, as morally tainted. Through specific rhetorical strategies they advance three key arguments: bankers are morally tainted because their wealth is excessive; because their wealth is not earned; and because they are selfish and materialist.
Originality/value – In investigating media designations of investment banking as dirty work, the paper addresses two aspects of dirty work which are underexplored. Firstly it examines a high-prestige occupation and secondly investigates the construction and attribution of taint to a previously untainted occupation. It makes two methodological contributions to the literature: contributing to the nascent interest in the media’s construction of dirty work (for example, Grandy and Mavin 2012); and using rhetorical analysis to study the construction of taint.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)270-287
Number of pages18
JournalQualitative Research in Organizations and Management
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Dirty work, rhetoric, media, stigmatisation, bankers, financial crisis

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