Cambridge Journal of Economics
This article critically examines the role of the neoclassical model of the market within Rawlsian liberalism. Although Rawls claims agnosticism towards particular economic theories, I show how the neoclassical model anchors Rawls's approach of transmuting distributive efficiency into distributive justice. However, the assumptions underlying the neoclassical model are not descriptively accurate as Rawls's key construct of pure procedural justice requires. Without the neoclassical model and the pure procedural approach to distribution it uniquely enables, I show how Rawlsian liberalism recreates the same problem of reasonable pluralism in the domain of economic doctrines that it is premised on resolving in the domain of religious, moral and philosophical doctrines. This article surfaces this paradox for Rawlsian liberalism: it relies essentially on market distribution yet cannot justify these arrangements within the confines of the theory.
Book manuscript in preparation
Under the heading of neoliberalism, scholars across the social sciences have charted how the economic has progressively infiltrated the political, reorganizing democratic politics around market practices, values, and imperatives. This transformation is commonly explained as the result of an elite project guided by a definite theoretical orthodoxy. However, this conventional account of “neoliberalism by design” cannot explain quintessential neoliberal transformations that occur in the absence of the actors and ideology central to existing accounts. Using a combination of historical analysis, empirical case studies, and theoretical engagements, my book project explains both how the public assumption of financial risk taken to defuse moments of distributive conflict ultimately generates these cases of “neoliberalism by default” and how these cases expose a fundamental limitation of liberal government. I argue that distributive conflicts cannot be managed politically because their political resolution would require exactly what liberalism is founded to oppose: the tactical deployment of sovereign power in accordance with public values. Financial risk-taking promises to defuse and depoliticize such conflicts by providing immediate material relief and replacing difficult and contentious political questions of relative need and desert with formal parameters of proper technocratic management. Once financialized, liberal democracies are reoriented around market logics and market imperatives in an effort to generate the cash flow necessary to meet these financial obligations. Accordingly, creditors must be privileged over political constituencies, public affairs must be oriented around a monetary bottom-line, and social priorities must be subordinated to market valuation. There is no alternative.
Money: The First 5,000 Years of Debt and Power by Michel Aglietta reviewed in the European Journal of Sociology
Piercing the Veil of Monetarism: Toward a Critical History of Inflation, 1970-1985 (under review)
The Birth of Identity Biopolitics: How Surveillance Capitalism Abets Antiliberal Populism (under review)
Deep Springs College, Spring 2018
This course examines the history, theory, and operation of the American Financial System. Key questions we will consider include: What is money? What is finance? How did the financial system evolve historically in the American context? What are some of its theoretical valences? How does the financial system operate in practice? To answer these questions, we will first look to histories and then canonical theorizations before turning to the operation of money and the nuts-and-bolts of American financial markets. Finally, we examine the global financial crisis of 2008 and its aftermath in light of these considerations. The goal of this course is for students to develop a basic understanding of the historical development, theoretical underpinnings, and actual practice of the American financial system.