Speculation: a political economy of technologies of imagination

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This introduction explores how to build a critical analysis of post-crisis capitalism by moving beyond Marx, Foucault and Callon's approaches. This is crucially important because powerful technocratic institutions and the discipline of economics are attempting to regain legitimacy by adopting theories that mirror performativity, discursive, narrative and network concepts within the social sciences. To combat this we need to forge a new approach that returns our attention to questions of accumulation and inequality. It is with this in view that the articles in the special issue use the concept of speculation and explore it in real estate markets, infrastructure financing, oil and gold trading, ethical finance and gambling. Overall speculation is understood to be future-oriented affective, physical and intellectual labour that aims to accumulate capital for various ends. Control of the means of speculation is governed by the distribution of contracts and credit in society. And crucially the amount of surplus value extracted depends on calculations of risk based on the imagination of social differences. Social evaluations are at the core of the technologies of imagination used in speculation. Speculation is akin to practices of divination or magic because it aims to reveal a hidden order of human and non-human ethical powers that explain the past, present and future and make it possible to act. Importantly this means that racial, gendered, national and other imaginings of the social permeate acts of speculation. From our perspective, we can write a critical and post-colonial account of capitalism that addresses inequalities of race and nation scandalously omitted from Marx, Foucault and Callon's accounts of ‘the economic’.




Bear, L. (2020). Speculation: a political economy of technologies of imagination. Economy and Society, 49(1), 1–15. https://doi.org/10.1080/03085147.2020.1715604

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