Capital and Time
For a New Critique of Neoliberal Reason
Stanford University Press 2018
Today I was joined by Martijn Konings from Australia where he is Associate Professor of Political Economy at the University of Sydney. We had a conversation on his most recent book Capital and Time: For a New Critique of Neoliberal Reason (Stanford University Press, 2018).
Its main contribution is to offer an original point of view on the issue of speculation. Critics of capitalist finance tend to focus on its speculative character. Our financial markets, they lament, encourage irresponsible bets on the future that reflect no real underlying value. Why is it, then, that opportunities for speculative investment continue to proliferate in the wake of major economic crises? To make sense of this, Capital and Time offers an understanding of economy as a process whereby patterns of order emerge out of the interaction of speculative investments. Speculation, he argues, is an essential intrinsic feature of capitalism and not just a negative spillover or a collateral behavior.
The book also provides an original view on the role of the State. Progressive critics have assumed that the state occupies a neutral, external position from which it can step in to constrain speculative behaviors. On the contrary, Konings argues, the state has always been deeply implicated in the speculative dynamics of economic life. Through these insights, he offers a new interpretation of both the economic problems that emerged during the 1970s and the way that neoliberalism responded to them. Neoliberalism’s strength derives from its intuition that there is no position that transcends the secular logic of risk, and from its insistence that individuals actively engage that logic.
The book concludes that the current critique of speculation is misleading and incapable of recognizing how American capitalism has come to embrace speculation and has thus been able to generate new kinds of order and governance. This is a very interesting book, written in an accessible way despite the complexity of the topic.
Andrea Bernardi is Senior Lecturer in Employment and Organization Studies at Oxford Brookes University in the UK. He holds a doctorate in Organization Theory from the University of Milan, Bicocca. He has held teaching and research positions in Italy, China and the UK. Among his research interests are the use of history in management studies, the co-operative sector, and Chinese co-operatives. His latest project is looking at health care in rural China. He is the co-convener of the EAEPE’s permanent track on Critical Management Studies.