Human geography and financialisation: A complex systems theory response

The long-running debate about the spatial implications of financialisation has given rise to a gap in the literature, between the standard (or convergence view) on the one hand, and the orthodox (or divergence) view on the other. This paper seeks to contribute to this debate by charting a middle course, differentiated from the current literature in both methodological and conceptual scope, with the main proposition being that: while financialisation has brought geographies into question, its spatial legacy lies not in any organised deterritorialisation of economy, but rather, in its structural, compositional and computational arrow of time (i.e. historical, irreversible time). The essay begins by reviewing the standard view, before presenting evidence to the contrary. Drawn from case studies in CIP deviations, banking networks, and the international division of labour, the alternative ‘complexity’ view is then explored, followed by a critical analysis of its strengths and shortcomings, as well as a discussion about the need for a reorientation of assumptions. The essay concludes with an empirical evaluation of the new theory.

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The Philosophinity Guide to: Philosophy of Mathematics

Epistemic Access. What is the difference between Hartry Field’s version of the epistemic access problem for platonism and the original Paul Benacerraf version? Why was this change seen to be necessary?

In ‘Mathematical Truth’, Benacerraf (1973) presents two challenges that any credible philosophy of mathematics must meet: firstly, it must enable a coherent semantics, one that describes mathematics in a way that is uniform (or continuous with) non-mathematics; secondly, it must explain how it is the case that under the spectre of the causal theory of knowledge we come by mathematical entities in the first instance. This second challenge, however, or at least Benacerraf’s exposition of it, came to exclude important issues, and so had to be recast, a task eventually taken up by Hartry Field.

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The future of humanity

Note: In the course of this blog, I speculate on the future of humanity from a purely philosophical (i.e. metaphysical / speculative / rationalist / ahistorical) perspective. This is not an appraisal of the spectre of communism, or nuclear devastation, or environmental catastrophe.

Does humanity have a future? If so, what will this future entail? Is self-destruction an inherent property of civilisation (or complexity, as I like to call it)? Is progress given or made? Will the homo sapien give way to a Type I species, the homo deus? Have we reached the optimum balance a species could reach, between emotion and rationality?

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The long-period theory of demand-led output: synthesising Keynes’ theory of output with Sraffa’s theory of value

Without the acceptance of the marginalist methods of thought, The General Theory would not have had the enormous and relative quick impact that it had on the thinking of mainstream economists.


In revisiting the Sraffa-Keynes synthesis, this essay proffers a hitherto unexplored avenue through which a long-period theory of demand-led output can be fashioned. The main proposition is that Keynes’ theory of output is incomplete insofar as it does not fully account for three issues in value and distribution: investment, competition, and gravitation. It is held that, taken together, these themes are underpinned by the Lakatosian ‘core’ of the Keynesian programme, namely, effective demand and underemployment equilibrium. Sraffa’s pricing theory, it is argued, situates these themes in a broader context that complements the General Theory’s determination of output by completing it. In exploring investment and the interdependence it fosters between capital, demand and uncertainty, the paper demonstrates how the Sraffian interpretation of the surplus approach allows the General Theory to incorporate asset and price transformation without it having to rely on the marginal efficiency of capital or Tobin’s q-theory. The relationship between competition and accumulation in Keynes’ General Theory is then discussed, before turning to the long-period method of gravitation. The paper concludes with a consideration of how Sraffa’s conception of distribution underlies an important resonance with Keynes’ policy prescriptions and helps clarify them, before offering an appraisal of the Sraffa-Keynes synthesis and directions forward.

Screen Shot 2018-10-14 at 7.09.03 pm
Pierro Sraffa (left), Keynes (seated, centre), Dennis Robertson (right); location Tilton, ca. 1927. Reproduced by permission of Dr Milo Keynes. Source:

Its prominently open-ended style of analysis granted, it remains a well-known fact of the history of economic thought that J.M. Keynes’ General Theory is incomplete, and conspicuously so. While this opens Keynes’ system to attack, it also affords us the opportunity to draw out some useful connections with the classical political economists which even Keynes may not have perhaps given thought to, had he completed his theory of the political economy definitively and alone. The purpose of this essay is to contribute to the literature by showing how the Sraffian variation of the surplus approach complements Keynes’ determination of output with respect to three important themes: investment (encompassing capitalism’s inherent instability), competition (entailing a theory of accumulation), and gravitation (involving a long-period theory of natural prices). The main proposition is that Keynes’ presentation of these ideas is incomplete and requires complementation. The paper considers how Sraffa’s conception of distribution underlies an important resonance with Keynes’ policy prescriptions and helps clarify them, before concluding with an appraisal of the Sraffa-Keynes synthesis and directions forward.

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On Agnes Heller’s ‘The Dissatisfied Society’

This is part 2 of my analysis of Anges Heller’s ‘The Dissatisfied Society’. Part 1 can be found here. Both blogs are written in their own right and one can be read without the other.

Radical Needs in the Dissatisfied Society:

Pursuing immanent subjectivity in a world of multiple logics

This blog seeks to determine whether Agnes Heller’s conception of the ‘dissatisfied society’ provides an adequate account of modernity. The analysis takes on four dimensions: the first consists in the evolution of Heller’s theory of needs; the second relates to how the mature, reflective post-modern configuration of this theory is embodied in Heller’s conception of the ‘dissatisfied society’; the third dimension traces the dissatisfied society to those forces underpinning it, namely the logics of modernity; and finally, the fourth concerns the synthesis of these logics found in the ‘double bind’ of historical and technological imagination, and whether this adequately accounts for Heller’s alternative to ‘radical needs’. The blog concludes that Heller’s account of modernity is inadequate to the extent she does not proffer a viable alternative to the theory of radical needs.

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Keynes and the (Neo)Classicals: the contest over output, growth and inflation

This paper was submitted as part of a course I undertook concerning economic policy in a global context as part of my major in political economy, and is reproduced below. The full title is written here.

This paper contrasts the determination of output and inflation in Keynes’ General Theory with that of the classical (pre-Keynesian) framework. It explains how the roles of government differ in the management of growth and inflation through fiscal and monetary policies. A distinction should be noted. The classical macroeconomists (Marshall, Jevons, Walras, Pigou) were not the same group as the classical political economists (Smith, Ricardo, Marx). The classical macroeconomists are also known as the neoclassical economists.

Keynes and the (Neo)classicals: the contest over output, growth and inflation

Or How Economists Stopped Worrying and Learned To Love The Multiplier

The history of macroeconomics seems, through the centuries, to have rehearsed a history of vision: animated as it is by stability on the one hand, and its inverse, instability, on the other. There lies in the works of the classical macroeconomists—Jevons, Marshall, Walras, and Pigou—the foremost embodiment of the former, and in Keynes’ General Theory, the latter. By examining these respective systems, for the purposes of contrasting their determinations of output, growth, and inflation (and the management of these components by fiscal and monetary authorities) we will arrive at a clear conception of the differences in economic reasoning of the respective schools.

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Autonomy, Truth, and Power: Reconciling the Carceral with the Care of the Self in Foucault

In Discipline and Punish Foucault maintains ‘in its function, the power to punish is not essentially different from that of curing and educating’.

Later he argues that ‘Let’s take the pedagogical institution… I don’t see where evil is in the practice of somebody who, in a given game of truth, knowing more than another, tells him what he must do, teaches him, transmits knowledge to him, communicates skills to him.’

What is the tension if any in these two positions and how does Foucault reconcile these trains of thought in the interview ‘The Ethic of the Care of the Self as a Practice of Freedom’? Is he convincing?

Enfolding the unfolded:

Foucault on autonomy, truth, and power

Reconciling the carceral with the care of the self in games of truth and knowledge

Taken together, the works of Michel Foucault presuppose a discursive counter-humanist framework in which the Enlightenment and its liberal legacy are condemned. The consequent rejection of a normative basis upon which social, political, economic, even cultural, change can be theorised tends, then, to significantly limit the theory’s predictive—and certainly prescriptive—capacity. This paper seeks to show that, on closer reading, Foucault’s middle and late periods are reconcilable. In the analysis that follows, Foucault’s contrasting views on the roles of the state (or system), knowledge, and the self, are shown to constitute, in mediating subjectivity, two sides of the same functional juncture between an unfolded (or outward) order, and its underlying, easily missed (or inward) order. The paper concludes that Foucault’s middle and later period are thus reconcilable.

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A closer look at five major theoretical approaches to neoliberalism

The original title of this piece was Riding the Wave: Structure, hegemony, and agency in neoliberal deconstruction

Let us define the cycle, then, as a continuing shift in national involvement, between public purpose and private interest.

—Arthur M. Schlesinger, The Cycles of American History

This blog seeks to determine whether the assumptions contained in Commanding Heights: The Battle for the World Economy (Part 1) lend themselves to a useful interpretation of the nature and forces driving neoliberalism with reference to the structure-agency problem. The analysis takes on three dimensions: the first consists in examination of those conceptual frameworks presented in the documentary; the second compares the heuristic tools explored in the text with ideational, Marxist, Foucauldian, human geography/processual and institutional accounts by means of a critique; and the third traces the dilemma of structure and agency through each school in order that a synthesis is appraised. The paper concludes that Commanding Heights does not provide a useful account of neoliberalism to the extent the show’s producers and participants fail to account for ‘actually existing neoliberalism’ and its derivative hegemony.

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Reconciling Foucault’s ‘universal reign of the normative’ with Heller’s ‘awareness of contingency’

Foucault speaks of the ‘universal reign of the normative’ as characteristic of modernity while Heller argues it is characterised by a ‘growing awareness of contingency’. What do these authors mean by these characterisations and is it possible to reconcile these two evaluations?

Power, progress, personhood:

Beyond the antinomies of freedom

Can the modern individual capture subjectivity without sacrificing freedom? If so, how? This paper seeks to show that, in synthesising the works of Agnes Heller and Michel Foucault, one can begin to answer said questions in a non-totalising, non-normalising manner. The main proposition is that the intentions of Heller and Foucault, hermeneutically speaking, follow a reconcilable sequence of reasoning—through the mechanisms of power and progress—to a cumulative theory of personhood, centred around issues of ‘otherness’ beyond the antinomies of freedom. In the analysis that follows, contradictions are drawn from the respective texts in question before points of convergence are located and the two philosophies are shown to be, upon closer reading, reconcilable.

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On the durability of neoliberalism

Neoliberalism has been and continues to be out of view and in disguise. In addition, neoliberalism exhibits a curious quality in that it is not just dependent on, but gives rise to, the enigmatic status it assumes. The analysis hitherto presented explores this state of affairs from three angles: the first pertains to neoliberalism’s normative expanse; the second involves its institutional heterogeneity; and the third entails the parasitic tendencies of neoliberal agency. This paper argues that, taken together, these dimensions more or less account for neoliberalism’s durability in the face of persistent opposition to it.

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