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Finance-Dominated Accumulation and the Limits to Institutional and Spatio-Temporal Fixes in Capitalism

Bob Jessop

… within the ruling classes themselves, a foreboding is dawning, that the present society is no solid crystal, but an organism capable of change, and is constantly changing (Marx 1967a: 8)

This chapter explores the improbability of capital accumulation and, more generally, of the continued reproduction of ‘present society’. It assumes that crisis is an ever-present but abstract possibility in the capital relation and, hence, in its instantiation in capitalist social formations. Whether crises are actualized and, if so, their timing, forms of appearance and effects depend on many other factors, forces, and contingencies. There are well-known counter-tendencies to many crisis-tendencies. In addition, social forces continually experiment with ways to mobilize these counteracting forces and/or to handle crisis-tendencies and actual crises in other ways. These opening remarks fit well with the theme of the present volume: fragile stability, stable fragility. Indeed, I will develop two arguments below. First, given the inherent possibility of crisis in capitalism, any contingent stability of capital accumulation and capitalist societalization is necessarily fragile. And, second, despite this necessary fragility, it is nonetheless possible for specific, but always partial, selective and fragile, institutional and spatio-temporal fixes to create zones of stability here-now at the intended or unintended cost of creating zones of instability elsewhere and/or sowing the seeds of later instability. Combining these arguments, then, where these fixes succeed we find fragile stability and, in so far as the breakdown of one complementary set of fixes is followed, sooner or later, by another set, we can speak of stable fragility. This analysis entails a rejection of the idea that social order is characterized by stasis or, alternatively, by self-identical cyclical repetition, views long since refuted by historical development. But it also rests on a denial that social order always exists ‘on the edge of chaos’, if this means that order could break down at any moment. If belief in stasis privileges a spatialized conception of social order as an inherently stable structure (‘a fixed crystal’), the notion of living ‘on the edge of chaos’ privileges a temporalized perspective for which an improbable social order depends on the continuing but always contingent deferral of collap-


Bob Jessop

se. At stake in the analysis below is a tension between: (1) efforts to stabilize an inherently fragile social order, which is ‘capable of change and constantly changing’, through institutional and spatio-temporal fixes; and (2) the problems that these fixes create in turn because of their selective focus and their role in displacing and/or deferring problems that sooner or later react back on the erstwhile zones of relative stability. This puts agency, institutions, and spatio-temporality at the centre of analyses of the fragile stability and/or stable fragility of social order. It also requires attention to the specificity of the problems of order in particular social formations as these are construed from time to time by their members, interested outsiders, and disinterested observers. The analysis proceeds in five steps. First, I consider the fragility of societalization, i. e., the production of stable ‘society effects’. While my remarks here are initially very general, they later focus on ‘modern societies’. Second, I develop these views in the particular case of capitalist social formations, i. e., social formations in which profit-oriented, market-mediated accumulation is the hegemonic or, at least, dominant axis of societalization. Third, I introduce the notions of institutional and spatio-temporal fix to indicate one way in which capitalist societalization, despite its inherent improbability, can be secured in an always partial, provisional, and precarious manner. Fourth, I illustrate this argument from the case of finance-dominated accumulation. Fifth, I return to general reflections and offer some conclusions about fragile stability, stable fragility for other modes of societalization in ‘modern societies’. 1. Fragile Societalization, Societalized Fragility Since its inception in the early nineteenth-century, sociology has taken ‘society’ and its contingent reproduction as its privileged object(s) of analysis or, at least, as its ultimate horizon of analysis. Yet society is a deeply problematic notion and recent sociological contributions have questioned whether it should or, indeed, can remain the central focus of the discipline (e. g., Luhmann 1986; Urry 1999). If sociology can no longer take the existence of ‘society’ for granted, is there an alternative theoretical object at a similar level of generality that does not assume fixed boundaries and that offers more scope for analysis across different sites and scales? One candidate is societalization and societal projects. Whereas societalization (Vergesellschaftung) denotes the social processes through which ‘society effects’ are produced, societal projects refer to the competing social imaginaries that envision different principles of societalization and different ways to achieve ‘society effects’. This implies that, to the extent that ‘society’ exists, it is

region. societalization is always incomplete. privilege the dominance of one or another social identity or category that is transversal to these codes (on principles of societalization. the alternative approach proposed here claims that the rise of modern (national) societies simply reflects the hegemony or domination of one. conversely. Earlier (and still current) principles include segmentation. and so on. Competing social forces try to establish one or another societal project and its associated principle of societalization as the hegemonic or dominant ‘frame’ in a given context and/or to foster complementary (sub-hegemonic) or opposed (counter-hegemonic) projects. not only can social interaction and organizational life occur in the absence of societies. There are always interstitial. place. crisis-tendencies. Given the existence of competing societal projects. and on how the production of the corresponding ‘society effects’ is secured despite its specific contradictions. see Jessop 2010). There are no societies (not even fully closed ‘total institutions’) in which only one project prevails and achieves closure. nation. In addition. marginal. and diverse projects that either: prioritize the codes and programmes of one or another ‘functional system’ (or institutional order). 1996. and is based on. ‘race’. A successful societalization project typically emerges from.Finance-Dominated Accumulation 303 constituted and reproduced through more or less precarious social processes and practices that articulate diverse social relations in ways that produce macro-social order. the nation-state and its imagined community). The nature of any particular ‘society’ depends on its hegemonic or dominant principle of societalization and its collective identity (or self-description). there is clearly scope for conflict over rival ‘societal projects’ as well as contradictions among competing institutional logics. if any. against the still common ‘methodologically nationalist’ equation of society with the national territorial state (or. but much of social life occurs without regard to their existence. residual. if any. time-and-space-bound. on the transversal character of social identities such as ethnicity. recalcitrant. principle of societal organization. see Luhmann 1986. and. gender. and conflicts. less persuasively. centre-periphery relations. each with its own social bases and organizational principles. on how this principle is articulated with others. generation. or. on these grounds. there is no reason to privilege ‘society’ as a unit of analysis. This approach implies that ‘society’ is not an actually existing entity (let alone a closed system) but a horizon against which to assess the individual feasibility . in so far as alternative societies are possible. a more extensive substratum of social relations that includes many more elemental relations than those that are actually combined as moments of a structurally coherent configuration to form these ‘society effects’. irrelevant. For example. and contradictory elements and. and equally importantly.

for reasons elaborated elsewhere. i. Glynos/Howarth 2007). educational. internally coherent. Where a societal project is hegemonic.. make decisions. I am less inclined. There are many imaginaries and most are loosely-bounded and have links to others within the broad field of semiotic practices. . For present purposes. This is both a source of the discursive power of societal projects (their capacity to mobilize different social forces in an unstable equilibrium of compromise) and a source of vulnerability (their susceptibility to critique and re-articulation into rival projects). An important question for the nature of the ‘social’ and ‘society’ in this regard concerns the importance of different axes of societalization: economic. political. it leads to the sedimentation of the resulting society effects. e. Taylor 2003). some systems are more equal than others.. George Orwell. legal. societal projects can be understood as instances of the broader notion of social imaginary. and so on. rather. scientific. or wider social formation (Fairclough 2003). Imaginaries have the same features as discursive relations more generally. In these terms. have alternative meanings and involve different voices and agents.304 Bob Jessop and compossibility of competing societal or societalization projects that privilege the codes and programmes of one or another functional system or. externally closed system but. again. Imaginaries exist at different sites and scales of action – from individual agents to world society (Althusser 1977. to paraphrase. artistic. the analysis of societalization does not entail a totalizing view of ‘society’ as a fully formed. individuals cannot ‘go on’ in the world and collective actors (such as organizations) could not relate to their environments. i. On the contrary. to accept this systems-theoretical postulate. and permeable ‘society effects’. moral. Without them. In this sense. e. to relative stability. or engage in strategic action. and norms that are not anchored in such systems. a concern with the relative weight of competing societalization projects and their always partial. imaginaries are an important semiotic moment of the network of social practices in a given social field. religious. that privilege identities. Which system is paramount in a given set of spatio-temporal parameters is not pre-determined (not even by some logic of ‘the last instance that never comes’) but is contingent on the prevailing societal project and structuring principles and the capacities of its associated institutional and spatio-temporal fixes to displace and/ or defer problems beyond these parameters. values. But hegemony is continually liable to re-politicization of what is only ever provisionally taken-for-granted (cf. They are polysemic and heteroglossic. institutional order. contrary. Whereas Luhmann and his adherents tend to regard all functional systems as equal. This is another way of restating the paradox that provides the theme of this volume.

some identities over long-term semiotic and material reproduction . the medium. structuration creates a complex assemblage of asymmetrical opportunities for social action. They will be retained (discursively reproduced. including direct or indirect human interactions with the natural world. they transform meaningless and unstructured complexity into meaningful and structured complexity. to the extent that agents are reflexive. they become societal projects. some ideal and material interests over others. agency-. incorporated into individual routines. there is scope for strategic action to alter the strategic selectivity of current structural configurations and thereby modify strategically selective constraints. have their own performative. some strategies over others and so on (Jessop 2007b). Although any given societal project is only ever partially realized. at least in part. and strategy-specific. In this sense. can organize popular support. and institutionally embedded) when they reorganize the balance of forces and guide supportive structural transformation. disorganize opposition. The social and natural world becomes relatively meaningful and orderly for actors (and observers) insofar as not all possible social interactions are compossible in a given set of spatio-temporal parameters (a time-space envelope). capable of reformulating within limits their own identities and interests. Conversely. Structuration establishes possible connections and sequences of social interaction (including interaction with the natural world) so that they facilitate routine actions and set limits to path-shaping strategic actions. This argument is closely linked to a second aspect of societalization. tendential process that is mediated through action but produces results that no actors can be said to have willed. While there is usually massive scope for variation in individual transactions. and able to engage in strategic calculation about their current situation. Structural constraints always operate selectively: they are not absolute and unconditional but always temporally. structure refers to the contingently necessary outcome of diverse structuration efforts. some coalition possibilities over others. In this sense. Where semiosis and structuration as forms of complexity reduction are complementary. some spatio-temporal horizons of action over others. spatially. Whereas structuration refers to a complex. and marginalize resistance. those that succeed.Finance-Dominated Accumulation 305 Imaginaries are most powerful where they operate across many sites and scales and can establish and connect local discourses and practices into a more encompassing hegemonic project. privileging some actors over others. This concerns the emergent pattern of social interactions. constitutive force in the material world – especially when they correspond to (or successfully shape) underlying material transformations. can mobilize key social forces to form a ruling bloc. contingent.

 e. Foucault 1976. It is also rooted in particular (and equally genuine) contradic- . the more that material interdependencies and/or issues of spatial and intertemporal articulation increase within and across diverse functional systems and the lifeworld. All it means is that they are marginalized. discursive selectivities. possible connections and sequences of action must be limited. Yet they do exist. e. g. Many other meanings are thereby excluded and so are many other possible social worlds. i. hence fragility. Hobbes. unpredictable. indeed. and material selectivities all become more significant. of a capitalist social formation derives not just from the generic (and authentic) problems of institutional integration and social cohesion in any social formation (e. Parsons. 1996. Durkheim. Fragile Accumulation. This does not exclude competing imaginaries for different scales and fields of social action or.306 Bob Jessop demands of meso-complexes and macro-social orders narrow this scope considerably. subject to a logic of negative integration (not ‘rocking the boat’) and persist as useful sources of irritation and flexibility. improbability of the smooth reproduction of complex social orders. Just stating the conditions for macro-social order reveals the fragility and. what matters is how local sites and scales come to be articulated to form more encompassing sites and scales and how the latter in turn frame. i. The improbability and. indeed. Jessop 2007b. power relations.. constrain. the capacity through societal projects to constrain micro-social diversity with its potential for ‘anything goes’ anarchic proliferation within limits compatible with macro-social order. Luhmann 1986. In so far as this occurs. Stable semiotic orders. This poses intriguing questions about the articulation of microsocial diversity to produce relatively stable macro-social configurations (Bourdieu 1990.. and enable local possibilities. Luhmann). the organization of a social formation under the dominance of a societalization principle that rests on profit-oriented. patterned complementarities. and chaotic. market-mediated accumulation.. If these are not to be random. we can talk of societalized fragility. rival principles of societalization more generally. for present purposes. Wickham 1987). Accumulated Fragility I now apply these general arguments to the specific problems of capitalist societalization. 2. social learning. In a complex world there are many sites and scales on which such processes operate and. path-dependencies. Recursive selection of semiotic practices and extra-semiotic processes at these scales tends to reduce inappropriate variation and thereby secure the ‘requisite variety’ (constrained heterogeneity rather than simple uniformity) that supports the structural coherence of a stable social order.

Weber. Their forms of appearance nonetheless vary across accumulation regimes and their effects depend on how they are construed and how (well) they are handled. Money and credit have crucial roles in this allocation process as they do in other aspects of the circuit of capital and. there are three other key categories of fictitious commodity: land (or nature). In other words. The most important general law of the CMP is the law of value. in addition. class (or classrelevant) struggles extend beyond production and market relations to other social fields. I develop these points below. and knowledge with corresponding forms of revenue (rent.. the wider social formation. and different modes of competition within the overall framework of the world market. Class struggle and competition are key sources of capitalism’s open-ended dynamic and underpin the differential accumulation that reflects the ability of some capitals to grow through market and non-market means faster than others (or. This turns the labour market and labour process into sites of class struggle between capital and workers. This economic class struggle is overdetermined. indeed. by juridico-political and ideological structures and struggles. This describes the tendency of capitalist enterprises to allocate resources to different fields of production according to their expectations of profit. While the generalization of the commodity form to labour-power is peculiar to capitalism. royalties) (Jessop 2007a). they are permanent features of the capitalist mode of production (or CMP). interest. David Harvey). Although the law of value is mediated in the first instance through market forces and the price mechanism. Its dynamic also has many other economic and extra-economic determinants and. the appropriation of surplus labour takes the form of exchange. The basic features of the CMP and its nature as a distinctive ensemble of objects of régulation/governance are such that neither capital as a whole nor the capital-labour relation on which its contradictory and conflictual dynamic depends can be reproduced purely through market relations. Gramsci. the complexity of class relations in actually existing social formations. different regimes of accumulation. money.Finance-Dominated Accumulation 307 tions that are peculiar to the capitalist mode of production (e. In short. These contradictions are inherent and incompressible. at least to suffer less in cyclical downturns and/or in periods of crisis). of course. whether directly or through displacement and deferral. and the intersection of class with other social categories. which is the ultimate horizon of accumulation. g. Marx. What most distinguishes capitalism from other forms of producing wealth is its treatment of labour-power as if it were a commodity. however they are handled. the combined operation of which socially validates – or invalidates – the . The relative weight of these fictitious commodities provides one way to distinguish different stages of capitalism.

308 Bob Jessop private decisions of economic agents. the combination of which depends on different accumulation regimes. and conjunctures. and apposite. i. in an unstable and contradictory way. at least require hard-to-achieve complementary solutions. It is only here that value gets created and thereby becomes available for subsequent validation. Their always tendential reproduction is mediated through competition and class and class-relevant struggles based on market and non-market factors and forces. market-mediated accumulation can be described. language of the Marxist critique of political economy. even when present. So it is far from guaranteed. as fragile. or destruction. Indeed. The resolution of some may exacerbate others or. also FDA) will be explored in the next section. This is the co-existence in the same . redistribution. they are doubly tendential. On the contrary. this fragile stability is rooted in three key aspects of the capital relation: ▪▪ ▪▪ ▪▪ The incompleteness of capital as a purely economic (or profit-oriented. suspends. or terminates the relevant laws. There are also other laws that characterize capitalist economies (Duménil 1978). modes of régulation. and strategic dilemmas of the capital relation.. they exist only in so far as their associated social forms are also reproduced. The interrelated structural contradictions. and Conflicts over the regularization and/or governance of these contradictions and dilemmas as expressed in the circuit of capital and the wider social formation. It therefore merits more extended treatment. in the spirit of this volume. The second feature is more controversial but also foundational to the present approach. it undermines the capital relation itself: for there is no ‘iron necessity’ to its expanded reproduction. Failure to reproduce these forms weakens. market-mediated) relation such that its continued reproduction depends. Stated in the more familiar. on various and changing extra-economic mechanisms whose presence cannot be guaranteed and which. The first feature is a commonplace of contemporary economic sociology as well as classical sociology more generally and is taken for granted here. e. it is ultimately grounded in the sphere of production. These are not ‘iron necessities’ that operate regardless of circumstances. micro-macro paradoxes. Marx (1967a) identified an essential contradiction in what he designated as the ‘cell-form’ (nowadays one might well say the ‘stem-cell form’) of the CMP: the commodity. What this implies for finance-dominated accumulation (hereafter. cannot prevent ‘market failures’ or correct them automatically and without repercussions. The stability of a social formation based on the dominance of profit-oriented.

a member of a particular collective workforce) with more or less specific skills. the worker is both an abstract unit of labour-power substitutable by other such units (or. the potential for. including the role of money and credit relations. and mechanisms of. knowledge underpins intellectual property rights and is a collective resource (the intellectual commons). embody different but interconnected versions of this basic contradiction. Likewise. I suggest that all forms of the capital relation in the CMP. While exchange-value denotes a commodity’s market-mediated monetary value (expressed in the price-form) for the seller. Starting from this contradiction. of course. considered in its pure form. wages. usevalue refers to its material and/or symbolic usefulness to the purchaser. land functions both as a form of property (based on the private appropriation of nature) allocated in terms of expected revenues in the form of rent and as a natural resource (modified by past actions) that is more or less renewable and recyclable. they would find no purchaser. other factors of production) and a concrete individual (or. generates strategic dilemmas on how best to handle the .and place-specific assets in the course of being valorized. without usevalue. indeed. the state is not only tasked with securing key conditions for valorization and the reproduction of labour-power but also with maintaining cohesion in a divided. which in their opposition define the contradiction. money circulates both as potentially world money (ideally in stateless space) and as national currencies subject to some measure of state control (with the currency of the dominant economy tending to become the reference point for world money). 2011b). Without exchange-value. taxation is both an unproductive deduction from private revenues (profits of enterprise. the nature of the wage relation and the duality of production as a process of material transformation and valorization. And so on (see Jessop 2002). In turn. pluralistic society. the wage is both a cost of production and a source of demand. interest. productive capital is both abstract value in motion (notably in the form of realized profits available for reinvestment) and a concrete stock of already invested time. their creatively destructive role in renewing accumulation by asserting the organic unity of capital. Marx aimed to unfold the complex dynamic of the CMP. no enterprise would produce commodities for sale. and.and use-value. periodic crises. The tension between the two co-existing poles. and rents) and a means to finance collective investment and consumption to compensate for ‘market failures’. knowledge and creativity able to produce particular goods and services. which is also the basis of capitalist societalization. indeed. Thus.Finance-Dominated Accumulation 309 form of exchange. These impact in different ways on (different fractions of) capital and on (different categories and strata of) labour at different times and places (Jessop 2002.

Fragile Fixes Two useful concepts for exploring the improbable partial. as Marx noted. unstable equilibrium of compromise. and temporary resolution of the contradictions and dilemmas of capitalist societalization are ‘institutional fix’ and ‘spatio-temporal fix’. For example. Hence they only appear to harmonize contradictions. which also depend on the formal and material adequacy outcome of path-shaping initiatives. The latter emerge. political. and temporary solutions helps to explain these formations’ stable fragility – a stability that is achieved through the transformations effected in and through new fixes. while they cannot be reconciled permanently and in all respects in abstracto. imitation. The continued search and recurrent chance discoveries of such partial. Fixed Fragility.310 Bob Jessop latter. does – or should – the state treat the (social) wage mainly as a source of demand. The plurality of contradictions and their interconnections. the second in neo-liberal austerity politics or export-led growth. etc. Analogous arguments hold for other contradictions and dilemmas. and social forces and diverse strategies and projects. we could talk of accumulated fragility. was crises that re-assert the organic unity of capital through their purgative effects (Marx 1968: 509). and time horizons. These contradictions and dilemmas are the source of the fragile stability of capitalist social formations. strategies and tactics to affect economic trajectories. scales. or attempt to reconcile these aspects? The first case is illustrated in the Keynesian welfare national state. An institutional fix comprises a complementary set of institutions that. impo- . How they are handled also shapes the form of subsequent crises but does not determine the nature of subsequent regimes. they can be moderated provisionally and partially through specific mechanisms and projects that provided temporary fixes that enable accumulation to continue in some economic spaces. in a contested. and social forces and diverse strategies and projects. the possibilities of handling them at different sites. provisional. creates significant scope for agency. involving different economic. to the extent that they do. Fixing is a contested process. political. The solution to this within the framework of the CMP.. provisional. When the contradictions and their associated crisis-tendencies intensify and interact with each other. which persist in one or another form. 3. and they typically rest on an institutionalized. They are immanent in the capital relation and insoluble in the real world. involving different economic. and the third in welfare regimes based on flexicurity. However. via institutional design. a cost of production. trial-and-error process. albeit at the cost of uneven development now and future problems.

This requires a more detailed institutional analysis – but one that does not forget that these are institutional fixes tied to capitalist societalization and not to the production of ‘society effects’ in general. or social order. and relatively stable solution to the challenges of securing economic. Here I focus on the case of capitalist societalization. strata or other social categories. A spatio-temporal fix (hereafter STF) establishes spatial and temporal boundaries within which the always relative. mode of régulation. institutions have distinctive discursive-material selectivities. over others. While many institutions that belong to an institutional fix are related to the fundamental categories of the capital relation noted above (and further explored below). identities. helps to provide a temporary. interests. hegemonic visions. and their most likely points of rupture and fragility are irreducible to these basic categories. institutions matter.Finance-Dominated Accumulation 311 sition. Institutional fixes work in part because. They are typically linked to different patterns of institution- . on the open use of force. spatio-temporal horizons. Different modes of societalization may have their own institutional fixes that provide the strategically-selective framework in which their respective hegemonies or domination may be secured. partial. unstable equilibrium of compromise and. in strategic-relational terms. In this sense. alliances. incomplete. and institutionally-mediated structural coherence of a given order (here. they are linked with specific technologies of governance. and more general form of capitalist societalization. deferral of problems into an indefinite future and the exploitation and/or oppression of specific classes. favouring some actors. dimension of) institutional fixes insofar as they partly overlap. better. They depend on the capacity to secure order within this spatiotemporal framework by displacing and/or deferring inherent or contingent problems elsewhere and/or into the future. projects. where it is relevant. or chance discovery. governance pattern. provisional. their particular patterns of selectivity. It is not purely technical but rests at best on an institutionalized. and so forth. The notion of spatio-temporal fix is an important complement to (or. Issues of institutional design apart. This can involve super-exploitation of internal or external spaces outside the compromise (relative to the levels within the compromise). a mode of growth) are secured – to the extent that this occurs. their specific forms and logics. associated state projects and. at worst. and they are articulated into specific institutional orders and ensembles that create specific forms of domination (Jessop 2007b). consolidating an STF also involves building support in and across many conflictual and contested fields for the respective accumulation strategies. STFs facilitate the institutionalized compromises that help to sustain a given accumulation regime. unsustainable exploitation of nature or inherited social resources. political.

fragile. because the basic contradictions and dilemmas are incompressible. contradictory and multiply dilemmatic . Thus. acquires more specific form and substance. To paraphrase Marx in the 1857 Introduction.312 Bob Jessop alized conflict and compromise. their moderation depends on specific visions. excluded. given that these contradictions and dilemmas are insoluble in abstracto. the importance accorded to their different aspects (prioritization). introduced in the preceding section. for whatever set of causes. space opens for struggles over different trajectories. and impermanent. all fixes will be incomplete. the role of different spaces. Indeed. Thus they only appear to harmonize contradictions. When the circuit of capital breaks. and the temporal patterns of their treatment (temporalization). based on the weights attributed to different contradictions and dilemmas (hierarchization). or oppressed. there is also no general contradiction’. some classes. prioritization (giving priority to one aspect of a contradiction or dilemma over the other aspect). overdetermined. even if modified in specific stages and/or varieties of capitalism. ‘there is no contradiction in general. dilemmas. because the capital relation is reproduced – when it is – through social agency and entails specific forms. An important caveat is needed here. institutional and spatio-temporal fixes handle contradictions and their associated dilemmas through: ▪▪ ▪▪ ▪▪ ▪▪ hierarchization (treating some contradictions as more important than others). even within a given STF (and as occurs in institutional fixes). each contradiction has its own aspects and is actualized in its own ways in particular institutional and spatio-temporal contexts. Last. but not least. places. class fractions. which persist in one or another form. Continuing the paraphrase. social categories or other social forces are marginalized. In their interaction. giving rise to a complex. or aspects until it becomes urgent to address what had hitherto been neglected). and sites of conflict and struggle. In all cases. stakes. the relative importance of contradictions and dilemmas is not structurally inscribed nor strategically pre-scripted. Different patterns of capitalist societalization can be distinguished. This is where the notion of social imaginaries. projects. and temporalization (alternating regularly between treatment of different aspects or focusing one-sidedly on a subset of contradictions. and scales in these regards (spatialization). place. spatialization (relying on different scales and sites of action to address one or another contradiction or aspect or displacing the problems associated with the neglected aspect to a marginal or liminal space. or scale). and strategies that focus on some particular interests rather than others and link them to an always and inevitably selective definition of the general interest.

. i. I now illustrate these arguments from the case of finance-dominated accumulation. (3) different patterns of social conflict and institutionalized compromise. 2004). The prevailing strategies modify each contradiction. whatever their capacity to temporarily ‘harmonize’ or reconcile them. Gough 1991.Finance-Dominated Accumulation 313 ensemble of social relations. (4) differences in the leading places and spaces for accumulation. (2) the counter-balancing or offsetting of different solutions to different contradictions and dilemmas. The asymmetries can be analysed by deploying three key concepts elaborated by Althusser on the basis of Mao’s insightful. changes in the principal and secondary contradictions and their primary and secondary aspects (Althusser 1965. . which of its poles is more problematic for expanded reproduction. Nonetheless. Different configurations can be stabilized based on the weights attached to (1) different contradictions and dilemmas and their dual aspects. they create the conditions for the next crisis. (2) the distinction between the primary aspect and the secondary aspect of a given contradiction in a given conjuncture. with the result that they are mutually presupposed. interiorizing and reproducing in different ways the overall configuration of contradictions. Other contradictions are regularized/governed according to how they complement the current dominant contradiction(s).. these fixes are not ‘magic bullets’: they cannot eliminate contradictions and dilemmas and. albeit asymmetrically. and (5) the changing prospects of displacing and/or deferring problems and crisis-tendencies. secondary contradictions in a given social order – with their articulation being complex and overdetermined rather than simple and set exclusively by the principal contradiction. e. e. These arguments imply that no regime has just one (fundamental) contradiction that must be regulated and/or governed appropriately to ensure continuing accumulation. posing differently configured sets of régulation-cum-governance problems at different sites and scales (cf. overdetermined: they are not simply aggregated as ‘so many potatoes in a sack’ but modify each other in distinctive ways. i. The relation among contradictions and dilemmas is not mechanically additive but reciprocally. Their significance varies. ill-specified and politically malleable essay on contradiction: (1) the distinction between the principal contradiction and other. The complex structural configuration of a given accumulation regime depends on institutional and spatio-temporal fixes that establish the primacy of one or more contradictions and assign a primacy for governance to one rather than another of its aspects. and (3) the uneven development of contradictions. Mao 1967).

it is the financialization of capitalist social relations (including the wage relation) that is said to provide a wealth-driven growth dynamic in this post-Fordist regime (e. 27). spreading via a mix of contagion and endogenous crisis-tendencies to other parts of the world market. financiali- . Whereas the latter involved a virtuous circle of mass production and mass consumption and a crucial role for the Fordist wage relation as a driver of rising prosperity in relatively closed national economies. In Habermasian terms. In particular. see also van Treeck 2008: 11-12. it was made in the USA and broke out there. Others prefer the term ‘finance-dominated accumulation regime’ in order to separate the empirical trend towards the autonomization of finance from the question of whether it produces growth. Stockhammer 2011: 3. which should be dear to readers of this volume. 2012). in turn. greater volatility. I suggest that financialization involves the increased importance of interest-bearing capital both in the organization of profit-oriented. The recent and continuing North Atlantic financial crisis (hereafter NAFC) has finance-dominated. interest-bearing capital and fictitious capital have also gained major roles in modern social formations more generally. Financialized Fragility Some commentators refer to the rise of finance-led growth in contrast with the allegedly wage-led growth associated with the Fordist regime. I side with the second group and will discuss financialization in this context. eventually. In this context. and. or stagnation (cf. Among these new forms of credit money is interest-bearing capital and this. commodification. g.. In this part of my reflections on fragile stability. Where the circuits of finance have become increasingly autonomous – in the short. even when these had not undergone neo-liberal regime shifts or even when. they have become major vectors of the medium-term – from the circuits of profit-producing capital. Carneiro et al. neo-liberal accumulation at its core. stable fragility. capitalist credit-money is one of the basic forms of the capital relation and essential to its continued reproduction. I consider the sources of what Hyman Minsky presciently termed ‘financial fragility’ and the manifestation of which he attributed to the pithy paradox. indeed. Boyer 2000). can become the basis of increasingly fantastic forms of fictitious capital (Marx 1967b. market-mediated accumulation and in societalization more broadly considered. that stability produces instability (Minsky 1982). Money.314 Bob Jessop Fragile Financialization. I begin with some general comments on financialization both as a form of economic organization and as a principle of societalization. credit and debt have existed for three millennia but acquire new forms and functions with the consolidation of the CMP. had taken defensive measures against this very eventuality..

by reinforcing its capacities to disembed certain of its operations from local material. better. Thus it promoted value in motion. of its preferred economic and political programme is to privilege the exchange-value moment of the various forms of the capital relation noted above. can make its pursuit of interest – and its pursuit of its interest in interest – the dominant force in economic. and across scales. neo-liberalization) and its role in the accelerating integration of the world market (Elsner 2012. money as fluid international interest-bearing capital (especially due to the increased importance of derivatives) rather than national fiat money. and re-articulating time horizons. the treatment of workers as disposable and substitutable factors of production. and enhances capital’s capacity to escape the control of other systems insofar as these are still territorially differentiated and fragmented. political. by enabling it to deepen the spatial and scalar divisions of labour. the state as a driver of accumulation by dispossession and profitable deals with political authority. and social life.Finance-Dominated Accumulation 315 zation of the lifeworld. need not detain us here. and turnover time. nature as a commodity. by creating more opportunities for moving up. down. Jessop 2002. the overall tendency. This points beyond the general significance of capitalist credit-money in the circuits of capital to its specific forms and effects when interest-bearing capital as opposed to. social. and social interventions that can be summarized broadly (albeit too schematically) under the rubric of neo-liberalism (or. Suffice it to say that they are closely related. knowledge as intellectual property. however important it may be. Duménil/Lévy 2004. political. taxation as a means of private enrichment. increases the emphasis on speed. Exploring the relation between FDA and neo-liberalization is like solving the riddle of whether the chicken or egg came first and. whether planned or not. production or trade credit. the wage as a cost of (international) production. 2009. This is by no means a natural outcome of economic evolution or the invisible hand but depends on a series of deliberate economic. say. and spatio-temporal constraints. This helps to free monetary accumulation from extra-economic and spatio-temporal constraints. Although neo-liberalization takes many forms in different national contexts. acceleration. Peck 2010). The neo-liberal project of world market integration also enhances capital’s capacity to defer and/or displace its internal contradictions by increasing the global scope of its operations. by commodifying and securitizing the future. and public spending deficits as a means of debt peonage for the state’s citizen-subjects. This disembedding from the frictions of national power containers intensifies the influence of the logic of capital on a global scale as the global operation of the law of value commensurates local conditions at the same time as it promotes the treadmill search for super- .

At the same time. a technology of governance.and macro-levels. it changes the calculations and behaviour of non-financial firms through the rise of shareholder value as a coercive discourse. other institutional spheres. Lapavitsas 2010). as the recent and continuing North Atlantic Financial Crisis demonstrates on both sides of the Atlantic (with Iceland mid-way between them). Krippner 2005. financialization makes the economy more prone to recession and. higher education. private equity. vulture capital. Fine 2010.. this particularly benefits hypermobile financial capital (understood here as interest-bearing capital and in its most advanced forms).316 Bob Jessop profits. and a vector of competition. 2005. More generally. Specifically. which controls the most liquid. leverage and shadow banking in this regard with corresponding risks in relation to liquidity and effective prudential controls. Supported by a stress on shareholder value. Financialization matters because it modifies the functioning of capitalist economies at the micro-. hedge funds.. g. sovereign wealth funds) in the financial sector. . and the greater significance of new forms of financial capital (e. One aspect is the increased importance in the operation of non-financial firms of financial activities (e. both as a strategic objective and as an inevitable outcome. expansion or acquisition of financial subsidiaries) that are not directly tied to their main profit-producing pursuits. and generalized resource and has become the most integrated fraction of capital. In short. g. more prone to the debt-deflation-default trap that may produce an epic recession (Rasmus 2010). limiting the impact of wages as a demand source (Dore 2008. This is even clearer in the case of highly leveraged forms of fictitious capital (see below). This is reflected in the growing importance of fee-producing and risk-taking activities in the operation of banking capital relative to its more traditional roles of intermediation and risk management. and the environment. share buybacks rather than investment from retained profits. and enhances its abilities to displace and defer problems onto other economic actors and interests. abstract. health insurance). This in turn entails the revenues from financial speculation and risk-taking became more significant relative to profits of enterprise (cf. treasury functions. financialization boosts the size and influence of the financial relative to the non-financial sector. In addition. pensions. as shown by the series of financial crises from the mid-1970s onwards. Nölke 2009). neo-liberalism tends to promote financialization. and the intensification of income and wealth inequalities. we see the financialization of everyday life as household debt levels rise and social welfare (or the social wage) has been re-commodified (housing. meso. Duménil/Lévy. in the augmented role and weight of securitization. financial intermediation.

in which national economies were relatively closed. and the growing turn to authoritarian statism and. the ability of those with power not to have to learn from their mistakes. Its principal (or dominant) structural forms are money and the (social) wage relation. Duménil/Lévy 2004. when it is relatively stable). Table 1 presents the institutional and spatio-temporal fixes of finance-dominated accumulation regime en régulation (i. Boyer/Saillard 2002. The continuing efforts to revive this model tell us something about the broader dynamics of class domination. in productive investment because of the pressures resulting from the logic of shareholder value. 2011. the Bretton Woods international monetary regime imposed limits on currency volatility and relied on a gold-dollar exchange standard. repressive measures to maintain class power (on this see. These are the money form. Financial innovation in turn facilitates the increasing acceleration and hyper-mobility of credit money and its escape from regulation. e. indeed. forms of enterprise and competition. This was not always reflected. Harvey 2005. Fictitious credit (pseudo-validated loans that are not advanced for productive investment) and fictitious capital (capital as property rather than functioning capital) acquire a much larger role compared with the Fordist period – with securitized loans and credit advanced for financial trading massively boosted by neo-liberal banking and financial deregulation.. This contrasts with the more territorial logic of Atlantic Fordism. The primary aspect of money (understood here as different forms of credit money rather than coin or bullion) in the finance-dominated regime is the role of money as the most abstract expression of capital and its disembedding from national economic controls in a space of global flows. however.Finance-Dominated Accumulation 317 Drawing on the terminology of the Parisian approche en termes de régulation. The secondary aspect of money capital (real assets) was secured through the neo-liberal policy boost to post-ta x profits. Lapavitsas 2011). and even so-called liberal market economies closely regulated financial institutions. the state form. extended critique of different regulationist approaches. we can distinguish five main structural forms around which the institutional and spatio-temporal fixes of accumulation regimes and their modes of régulation are organized. . for example. see Jessop/Sum 2006). This regime gained increasing influence in the variegated world market through the disembedding of interest-bearing capital and the importance of neo-liberalism as the driving force in world market integration (Jessop 2009). the others are subordinated to these in potentially destabilizing ways – as the genesis and repercussions of the NAFC have amply shown. the wage form. and international regimes (see Boyer 1991.

This reflects the growing treatment of the wage as a cost of (international) production rather than as a source of (domestic) demand. e. state targets price stability.318 Bob Jessop Table 1: Finance-Dominated Accumulation en Régulation ? Basic Form Money / Capital Primary Aspect Fast. grab future values War for talents + race to bottom for most workers and ‘squeezed middle’ Intensifies uneven development at many sites + scales as market outcome Core-periphery tied to US power. new credit forms for households Free market plus authoritarian “strong state” Washington Consensus regimes Spatiotemporal fixes Disembed flows from national or regional state controls. However. This would have provided a formally adequate institutional and spatio-temporal fix. Sum 2010). its allies and relays (Social) wage State Global Regime K E Y Principal (or dominant) structural form Primary aspect of principal form Secondary aspect of principal form Secondary structural form Primary aspect of secondary form Secondary aspect of secondary form The primary aspect of the wage form is the financialization of everyday life as the labour force turns to credit (and usury) to maintain its standard of living and to provide for its daily. and reckless speculation – all of . a ‘new ethicalism’ (Gill 1995. and cut backs in the residual social wage. the neo-liberal bias towards de-regulation. i. adapt to rising economies Institutional Fixes De-regulation of financial markets. downward pressure on wages and working conditions. hypermobile money as general form (+ derivatives) as general form Private wage plus household credit (promote private Keynesianism) Neo-liberal policies with Ordo-liberal constitution Create open space of flows for all forms of capital Secondary Aspect Valorization of capital as fixed asset in global division of labour Cut back on residual social wage as (global) cost of production Flanking plus soft + hard disciplinary measures to secure neo-liberalism Dampen uneven growth. predatory capitalism.. The appropriate state form of such a regime en régulation would be an Ordoliberal framework. as envisaged in the Social Market Economy paradigm. not jobs Numerical + time flexibility. life-course. was more often linked to an institutional fix that relied (and still relies) on ‘unusual deals with political authority’. which opened the space for financialization. It is associated with the flexibility of wage labour. and intergenerational reproduction. including the embedding of neo-liberalism internationally in a new disciplinary constitutionalism and credible commitments to corporate social responsibility. precarisation.

. there was growing resort to flanking and supporting measures to keep the neo-liberal show on the road.. protection of property rights and contracts. or national state intervention. In this sense. This was reflected in the discourse and policies of the ‘Third Way’. basic education. growing privatization and/or financial cuts in other functional systems (e. scientific discoveries). i. privatization. cuts in direct taxation (especially on corporations) and a shift towards indirect taxes. and indifference to. As the limits to ‘more market. overaccumulation of fictitious credit and fictitious capital enabled by their dissociation from. purchase of government debt) but also by resorting to various forms of primitive accumulation (e.. and politics) have undermined the capacity of these systems to deliver services needed by a productive rather than parasitic economy. g. g. the promotion on a global scale of liberalization. On the one hand. market proxies in any residual state services (whether infrastructural or welfare). e. Both sets of constraints are evident in the North Atlantic Financial Crisis.. even in liberal market economies. On the other hand. deregulation. The global regime of finance-dominated accumulation was initially organized around the Washington Consensus. thereby providing greater scope for the operation of market forces to allocate capital and distribute income and wealth on a global scale. securitization. colonization of . privatization of accumulated public wealth. health. it was also supported by interest-bearing capital and mobile profit-producing and commercial capital. Another symptom of this tendency is the deterioration of economic infrastructure previously provided directly or indirectly. In the short-term. enclosure of the intellectual commons. g. g. As interest-bearing capital met the constraints of real economic growth. Nor can capital more generally escape its material dependence on the existence and performance of other institutional orders (e. science.. effective legislation. it upped the stakes not only be inventing and speculating in even more rarefied forms of pseudo-validation of advanced payments (e. through local. Geo-politically. the creation of fictitious (or virtual) wealth has not provided the basis for a stable accumulation regime but has created the conditions for volatility and crisis. other moments of the capital relation and their disembedding from prudential and state control have contributed significantly to the eventual bursting of financial bubbles. this approach was heavily promoted by the USA and its allies. less state’ became apparent. financial accumulation depends on pseudo-validation of highly leveraged debt but fictitious credit and fictitious capital (let alone capital in general) cannot escape their long-term material dependence on the need for surplus-value to be produced before it can be realized and distributed.Finance-Dominated Accumulation 319 which provided fuel for the global financial crisis. regional. which nonetheless maintained the course of neo-liberalization in new circumstances. land-grabbing. education.

. In short. Keen 2011). the repayment of debt. Elsner 2012). The features of FDA in crisis can be seen in the reversal of many features of the institutional and spatio-temporal fixes that provided (or could have provided) some partial.320 Bob Jessop the residual public sector. the writing down of bad debt. the crisis has a specific form due to the hyper-financialization of advanced neo-liberal economies and. opaque. in particular and most immediately. In other words. It is in this sense that we can talk of the autonomization of fictitious credit and fictitious capital from the so-called real (but always-already monetary) economy. and sometimes fraudulent financial institutions that still benefit from a corrupt relation with political authority. Indeed. LiPuma/Lee 2004. provisional. social. the collapse of credit bubbles and the implosion of financial speculation have thrown the stimulus of growing debt into reverse. These features reflect the hybrid nature of finance-dominated accumulation through its links to a predatory and parasitic political capitalism. practices of de-regulated. the capacity of interest-bearing capital and other capitals with a vested interest in the neo-liberal project have used their political influence to rescue too-big-to-fail financial institutions at the expense of increasing public debt – which then becomes the basis of ‘deficit hysteria’ and pressures for further neo-liberal policy measures. Debt deleveraging creates conditions for a vicious cycle of ‘debt-default-deflation’ dynamics and an eventual epic recession (Rasmus 2010. But such measures just postpone the moment of macro-economic truth at the cost of bigger economic. While the pseudo-validation enabled by financialization initially created conditions that benefitted many economic agents. imposition of the neo-liberal programme in dependent capitalist economies. Neo-liberals are still reluctant to ‘waste a good crisis’. Whereas the development of banking capital and bank credit is usually justified in terms of their role in financial intermediation and risk-management. and hoarding of available capital throw demand into reverse. reluctance to contract new debt. and ecological crises later. Haldane 2012). whereas growth had depended on acceleration in fictitious credit. and so on) (see Harvey 2005. political. and temporary stability (Table 2). finance-dominated accumulation involved massive financial speculation and risk-taking (cf.

and sovereign debt. and other life-course and intergenerational reproduction needs. and.Finance-Dominated Accumulation 321 Table 2: Finance-Dominated Accumulation in Crisis Basic Form Money/ Capital Primary Aspect Rising antagonism between “Main Street” and “Wall Street” (City. weakening the bargaining power of wage-earners over wages and conditions. The same result also follows in the Eurozone from official attempts to create an ‘internal devaluation’ through reductions in the private and social wage. etc) Credit crunch puts private Keynesianism into reverse Political capitalism undermines Ordoliberalism Unregulated space of flows intensifies “triple crisis” Secondary Aspect Epic recession based on debtdefault-deflation dynamics (D4) Austerity reinforces D4 double dip or epic recession Austerity policies meet resistance. as these are even more vocally portrayed as costs that prevent the rundown of public debt. and increasing precarious work. multiscalar imbalances and race to bottom Institutional Fixes De-regulation crisis of TBTF predatory finance + contagion effects Growing reserve army of surplus. The Washington Consensus. previously part of the social wage. higher education. as small and medium capitalist enterprises find it harder to access production and trade credit and as households find it harder to secure personal credit and/or to fund their now privatized health. and so on. Most households also lose from the attack on ‘entitlements’. to compensate for the legal restrictions on devaluation or exit from the Eurozone. The development of debt-default-deflation dynamics also strengthens other crisis-tendencies inherent in financialization and neo-liberalism. BRICS in crisis and disarray (Social) wage State Global Regime This activates the potential antagonism of ‘Wall Street’ and ‘Main Street’ (and their equivalents elsewhere) as too-big-to-fail financial institutions benefit from bailouts and from quantitative easing that enables them to rebuild their capital base at low or no cost and to engage in further speculation. growing resistance to free trade from periphery Global crisis and internal devaluation reproduction crisis Cannot halt uneven development at many sites + scales Crisis of US hegemony. The crisis expands the ‘reserve army of labour’ on a global scale. other production costs. is even harder to maintain as . conversely. national debt. harsher discipline Multilateral. pension. precarious labour Crises in political markets reinforce “post-democracy” Crisis + rejection of (post-)Washington Consensus Spatiotemporal fixes Protectionism in core economies. already fragile. This reversal of ‘private Keynesianism’ reinforces the abovenoted debt-default-deflation dynamics.

I reinterpreted . India. First. The first is that. This is reflected in particular in the intensifying ‘triple crisis’: financial. This is reinforced. and state managers as reflected in the phenomena that Max Weber classified as ‘political capitalism’. indeed protected. All three have been implicated in the opening of the space for financialization and. through financing political parties and other enterprises. Russia. the crisis of financedominated accumulation and its neo-liberal integument has reinforced uneven development at many sites and scales. Nonetheless transnational elites continue to present free trade agreements as an essential and purportedly cost-free economic recovery measure. and finally.322 Bob Jessop demands for protectionism increase in the crisis-hit metropolitan economies and as opposition to free trade rises in the periphery (sometimes linked to proposals for ‘post-neo-liberalism’). the UK. It has explored the relation between fragile stability/stable fragility on three levels. and globally as the USA. as some choose to call it. in the global economy and in world society more generally. in the privileged. economic. and a further shift towards authoritarian statism or. regionally. even the BRICS have been caught up in the global contagion effects of the North Atlantic Financial Crisis in addition to suffering from their own particular. The third element in this crisis represents the biggest source of fragility.with China gaining most nationally. theoretical ground. Three further features of finance-dominated accumulation in crisis should be mentioned briefly. ‘post-democracy’. They are also associated with the rise of technocratic administration of the crisis. position of interest-bearing capital in official crisis-management responses. perhaps too much. if still fragmented. and South Africa -. endogenous crisis-tendencies. Third. with the referent of this paradoxical couplet differing at each level. more recently. Nonetheless. politicians. second. and the Eurozone economies experience lean years. as austerity policies begin to bite. resistance (which will increase as further measures are taken) and this is leading to increased surveillance. Stable Fragility This chapter has traversed much. by the growing anger about the linkages among interest-bearing capital. China. there is growing. Specifically this was reflected in the halting rise of the BRICS economies – Brazil. indeed vulnerability. Fragile Stability. Its three modes of orientation to profit (Erwerbsorientierung) include profit-making through force and domination. The impact of the NAFC has also aggravated imbalances in the global economy and shifted its centre of gravity to the east and south. and ecological. harsher disciplinary measures. and through unusual deals with political authority (Weber 1961).

This in turn poses the problem of whether all possible modes of societalization are equal or some are more equal than others. world society) as its ultimate horizon of enactment. crisis-tendencies. These remarks remain underdeveloped at all three levels. by extension. which illustrates well the Minskyan claim that stability produces instability or. I explored the specific case of finance-dominated accumulation. . I used the concepts developed for the CMP to outline theoretically the nature of such a regime were it to be en régulation and then indicated how its initial form and fixes already contained the possibility of distinctive forms of crisis. Third. This analysis needs further development not only in its own terms but also in relation to the ability of this regime to shape accumulation and societal dynamics on a world scale even in economic. market-mediated accumulation. and the fixes can at best displace and/or defer for a time capital’s basic crisis-tendencies. the dominance of profit-oriented. in relation to the fragility of segmentation and core-periphery relations as bases of societalization. that financial stability produces financial fragility. more precisely. political. and social spaces where interest-bearing capital is not the dominant form and/or fraction of capital. This condition is fragile because the contradictions are incompressible.Finance-Dominated Accumulation 323 the general problem of social order in terms of the production of ‘society effects’ in and through specific modes of societalization. the dilemmas are insoluble in abstracto. and crises of the most ‘advanced’ of these regimes.. I also noted the potential contribution of institutional and spatiotemporal fixes to the partial. The general remarks still require development in terms of other modes of societalization. formations dominated by functional differentiation) are not necessarily organized in terms of a capitalist logic. which are linked to particular social imaginaries and specific patterns of structuration. a social order based on ethnic or ‘racial’ stratification (such as an apartheid regime). e. Finally. Next. and fragile resolution of capital’s basic contradictions and dilemmas as a condition of being en régulation. such as national security. e. religion. provisional. I identified a distinctive set of problems in modern social formations linked to capitalist societalization. albeit one strongly influenced by the Marxian and Marxist critique of political economy and by theoretically-informed observation of the development. i. the comments on finance-dominated accumulation are. But this is not elaborated and it would be important to explore the nature and conditions of other principles of societalization. as well as in relation to hybrid forms of societalization. cross-cutting functional systems. in their present form. more of a thoughtexperiment. e. The observations on capitalist societalization imply that modern societies (i. juridification. with the world market (and. or. i...

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