Department of Political Science


Barbara Sennholz-Weinhardt

Research Student

Barbara Sennholz


The power of finance vis-à-vis state actors is a central concern of my thesis: I ask how ideas lead to particular power relations between hedge fund managers and their British regulator, the Financial Services Authority (now Financial Conduct Authority). Combining constructivist scholarship in International Political Economy (IPE) and socio-legal studies of financial regulation, I argue that ideas give meaning to practices, which in turn instantiate power relations and social facts. I show that ideas turn actors’ possessions into power resources; and I apply insights from IPE to the field of national, everyday regulatory practices. Based on Grounded Theory Method, this thesis uses qualitative text analysis of semi-structured interviews, field observations, policy documents and specialised media articles.

Three cases show that collectively produced ideas underlie the current regime and constitute the power relations structuring it: Regarding the institutional set-up, I find that a belief in markets detecting the ‘right’ price establishes the rationale for a technocratic regulator with limited ability to assess the social value of financial market activities. With regards to rule-making, the analysis confirms that regulators and industry members co-produce the threat of industry relocation, limiting the options for tightened regulation. For the aspect of supervision, I show that firms and the regulator believe that compliance and supervision fundamentally rely on industry expertise and regulatory judgement, increasing mutual dependence of these actors. Overall, the analyses confirm the importance of ideas for the regulatory regime in Britain: the everyday interactions between firms and the regulator, based on particular shared ideas, instantiate an expertise-based form of regulation that allows for extensive industry influence. It is argued that this leaves little room for engagement of other stakeholders to genuinely counter problems of cultural capture, when the industry gains a disproportionate influence in the process that forms the regulators’ opinion.

The thesis is now submitted.

Personal profile

Barbara has worked as a research assistant and consultant for The Bretton Woods Project and the new economics foundation. She is currently involved in a project to engage non-expert citizens in Europe on finance, inviting them to discuss important aspects of financial regulation and insert their own knowledge, values and experiences.

Barbara is also working group leader of a working group on Shadow Banking of the COST Action IS 0209 on Systemic Risks, Financial Crises and Credit. She holds a BA in International Relations from Technical University of Dresden and an MSc in International Public Policy from UCL.

General Research Interests

  • Qualitative research methods
  • International Political Economy
  • International Financial Governance
  • Financial regulation at national level
  • Cognitive regulatory capture and citizen involvement in regulatory processes

Peer-reviewed publications

2013/2014, Regulatory competition as a social fact: Constructing and contesting the threat of hedge fund managers' relocation from Britain, Review of International Political Economy, forthcoming