New Media & Society
This article establishes a theoretical link between the business model of social media and the recent upsurge of antiliberal populism. Through a novel set of tactics I term identity biopolitics, political campaigns and foreign governments alike can identify voters as members of socioculturally differentiated populations, then target them with political messages aimed at cultivating voters' awareness of their particular disadvantage within the prevailing liberal order. Identity biopolitics exploits a positive feedback loop between targeting and content: the sociocultural differentiations liberalism declares politically irrelevant are used to target content that cultivates awareness of the subject's particular depoliticized disadvantage within the prevailing liberal order. The antiliberal populist seeks to parlay this perception among voters into support for their political program. This article presents case studies of the Internet Research Agency and Cambridge Analytica during the 2016 general election in the United States to demonstrate this symbiosis.
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.
In manuscript form
My first book project argues that financialization was a response to a political crisis within liberalism, and that financialization in turn rolls out neoliberal governmental policy that displaces democratic processes and accountability. Both claims move against conventional wisdom, which treats neoliberalism as a response to a crisis of capitalism, and financialization as the offspring of neoliberal deregulation. The book begins by exploring the ways that liberal political doctrine disavows the problem of distributive conflict—the general condition in which people vie for increasing shares of the social product—and is consequently vulnerable when these conflicts erupt. It then revisits the nature of the crises that produce the turn to financialization to show how finance both responds to renewed conflicts and enacts a fundamental transformation in liberal democratic governance. The second half of the book presents three case studies in which one sees vividly how governing for the people, while never fully realized in capitalist democracies, was radically displaced by the shift to financial market constituencies: the bankruptcy of Stockton, California; the investment strategy of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System; and the 2008 financial crisis.
Table of Contents:
1. Liberalism and Distributive Conflict
2. The Crisis of Inflation
3. Explaining Neoliberalism
4. Democracy and Finance in California
5. Growth Machine Politics
6. The Crisis of Finance
7. Finance or Democracy?
My next project, tentatively titled Political Climate Change, will explore the challenge of responding to climate change in the context of liberal distributive politics. The point of departure is the chapter in Neoliberalism by Default that recovers the deep depoliticizing imperatives of liberal government and the role of economic growth in securing the consent at the base of liberal states. It is a historical truism that scarcity breeds conflict. But along what axis? Climate change existentially threatens the possibility of limitless economic growth and thus the prevailing regime of liberal distributive depoliticization. Meanwhile, a changing political climate elevates demands from historically marginalized and excluded groups on the left, and from those reacting to perceived displacement by these groups on the right. The effects of global warming begin to be felt just as the demands for racial equality and postcolonial global justice can no longer be ignored. The liberal order faces unprecedented distributive conflict from climate change shaped by legacies of racism, colonialism, and imperialism. What political forms emerge from political conjuncture? My hypothesis is that the resulting conflicts cannot be resolved within the confines of existing liberal political institutions, necessitating various forms of decisionism. Climate change increases the frequency of shocks as the capacity to govern these shocks and the resulting conflicts politically is significantly reduced. The disintegration of neoliberal civil society must be offset with more muscular forms of non-democratic governance. Shorn of traditional progress narratives and distributive panaceas, liberal orders are increasingly exposed in their constitutive investment in the well-being of their hegemonic political subject.
Money: The First 5,000 Years of Debt and Power by Michel Aglietta reviewed in the European Journal of Sociology
The Machine from God: Kosmos and the Spontaneous Order Tradition
The Limits to “Capitalism”
UC Berkeley, Fall 2021, Fall 2022
How are individuals forged (or not) into political communities? By whom? For what ends? How can these political projects face the reality of division, diversity, and difference? Is there even such a thing as a common interest? Is solidarity possible in a world constructed and striated by social powers of all kinds? To what extent can solidarity resist the individualization that characterizes contemporary political and economic life? In this course, we will consider these questions through a variety of historical, theoretical, and methodological perspectives in the history of political thought and contemporary political theory. We will endeavor to understand these texts on their own terms, in their historical contexts, and their broader implications for contemporary political life. We will not settle these questions but deepen our understanding of the complex theoretical and political history of social solidarity.
UC Berkeley, Fall 2022
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.