In a compelling paper that appeared in 2007, Slavoj Zizek recounted the following anecdote, funny and disconcerting at the same time: Italian leftist journalist Marco Cicala had confessed him that after having submitted an article featuring the word ‘capitalism’, the editor had asked him whether using that term was actually his only choice: in case it wasn’t, why not replacing it with a synonymous, like ‘economy’?
Towards the end of 2015, the ephemera collective organised, chaired and participated within two separate Q+A panels celebrating the launch of Gerard Hanlon’s The dark side of management: A secret history of management theory. The events took place in The University of Leicester’s School of Management and Copenhagen Business School’s Management, Politics and Philosophy Department. Each of the events were recorded, transcribed, edited and amalgamated into the following feature.
ephemera: Let’s start with an overview and some introductory remarks.
Certain questions dog progressive thought: why, in view of the manifest failures of financial capitalism, is its hold on our society stronger than ever? Why, despite the empirical evidence of foreclosures, vacant building lots and food banks are people unable to see the catastrophic consequences of current economic arrangements? How has neoliberalism emerged from calamity ever stronger (Mirowski, 2013)? Why, as Crouch (2011) puts it, will neoliberalism simply not die?
Financialization – the leverage and promotion of anything to be turned into a tradable product – and its cultures are what Haiven addresses in his book Cultures of Financialization: Fictitious Capital in Popular Culture and Everyday Life. Like many authors before him, he indicates that financialization is not only reduced to the transformation of currencies, goods, loans, etc. into tradable financial products such as swaps and futures, but that culture itself is under transformation and is being turned into an object of financial capitalism.
‘Be well’. This is what you hear now at the checkout counter at Walgreens, the largest drugstore chain in America. Employees offer this valediction as they hand over the receipt, and it comes across as eerily sincere. In fact, the phrase was so effective at rattling me out of my consumerist stupor that I said it back – ‘Be well as well’ – but it didn’t quite come out the same way. It sounded mangled, faux-British, and for some strange reason I raised my voice at the end, turning it into a question. I left feeling confused.