It is now sometimes hard to remember, but there was a period after the start of the financial crisis when progressive commentary was pervaded by intense excitement about the end of neoliberalism and a return of the Keynesian state. Such thinking is often associated with Karl Polanyi’s idea of the “double movement”, which sees capitalist history as moving in cycles: periodic “disembedding” movements, when the individualising logic of the market becomes unmoored from its social foundations, will be followed by “re-embedding” movements, when society resubordinates markets to the public good. As we now know, however, capitalism instead took a dramatic turn to austerity, repudiating hopes for progressive changes in the most emphatic way possible. Curiously, however, this has done nothing to diminish the prominence of Polanyi’s ideas in the social sciences.
In this context I became increasingly interested not only in the deeper, psychological and emotional roots of neoliberal capitalism’s resilience, but also in what the curious attraction of the “double movement” model is as a way to think about economic life. These explorations resulted in my book that was published at the end of May by Stanford University Press: The Emotional Logic of Capitalism: What Progressives Have Missed. It offers a new semiotics of money and a genealogy of the economy that challenges established critiques of the market and sheds light on the ethical and emotional appeal of capitalist life. The second part of the book traces how, over the course of the twentieth century, progressive thought gradually lost sight of the emotional and theological content of the economy and it suggests that this inability of progressive thinkers to come to terms with the deeper roots of capitalism’s legitimacy has played an important role in facilitating the rise and persistence of neoliberalism.
This extraordinarily incisive and provocative book goes a long way toward explaining the tenacious grip of money on the American moral imagination
— Eugene McCarraher, Villanova University
A unique and original rethinking of the conceptual and affective armature of economy, both in its emergence as a distinct domain of social life and object of analysis over the past century and in its new salience under the sign of neoliberalism
— Randy Martin, New York University
There will be a book launch on Tuesday, June 23 at 6:00pm at Gleebooks (49 Glebe Point Road), with Dick Bryan and Fiona Allon as discussants. It will be facilitated by the University of Sydney’s Social Studies of Finance network and conclude its annual two-day workshop.