What derivatives and excess, economic and otherwise, tell us about the state of global capital and culture
Toward a Social Logic of the Derivative
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Randy Martin is the recipient of the American Sociological Association's Marxist Sociology Lifetime Achievement Award, 2015
Catastrophes ranging from the travesties of financial markets and the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil well to the tsunami that struck northern Japan and the levees breaking in New Orleans are examples of the limits of knowledge. Author Randy Martin insists that the expertise erected to prevent these natural and social disasters failed in each case.
In Knowledge LTD, Martin explores how both the limits of knowledge and the social constructions of culture reflect the way we organize social life in the face of disasters and their aftermath. He examines this crisis of knowledge as well as the social movements that rose up in its wake. Martin not only treats derivatives as financial contracts for pricing risk, but also shows how the derivative works in economic terms, where the very unity of the economy is undone.
Knowledge LTD ultimately points to a more comprehensive reordering of the once separate spheres of economy, polity, and culture. Martin provides a new way of understanding the social significance of the all-pervasive derivative logic.
"Randy Martin develops the analysis of financial derivatives to explain broad processes of social change in a financialized world. Familiar social themes not conventionally framed as financial are explored incisively by picking out the contradictions revealed by a derivative logic. Martin uses that insight to open up an alternative way of framing political possibilities for challenging social order. Splendidly executed, Knowledge LTD reveals Martin as one of our leading innovators in social and cultural theory. It is an extremely timely work of great imagination. Moving freely from central bank data to social theory to eighteenth-century philosophy in beautifully (seemingly) spontaneous ways, Martin paints pictures that leave the reader dazzled. This is an outstanding book."
"In this book Randy Martin brings a most original approach to the study of contemporary society. He develops the idea that the financial derivative engenders an entirely new social logic.... Martin explains the nature and significance of derivatives in terms of the undoing of the unity that is the economy.... Martin also provides a critical review of micro-finance and a new understanding of California's Proposition 13.... In addition to an insightful analysis of what has happened to 'public goods,' the book also reviews the informed critiques by social scientists of the practices of public opinion polling and survey research."
"Martin’s latest and last book, pushes the limits of existing knowledge, searching for the possibility of emancipation within the capitalist system that has been increasingly financialized through derivatives. By creatively stretching the meaning of the word 'derivative' beyond its conventional usage in finance, the book critically examines the underlying logic of derivatives that cuts across the economy, politics, and arts."
Randy Martin (1957–2015) was Professor of Art and Public Policy at New York University and founder of the graduate program in arts politics. He has published many books, as author or editor, including Financialization of Daily Life and Under New Management: Universities, Administrative Labor and the Professional Turn (both Temple); An Empire of Indifference: American War and the Financial Logic of Risk Management; On Your Marx: Relinking Socialism and the Left; Critical Moves: Dance Studies in Theory and Politics; Socialist Ensembles: Theater and State in Cuba and Nicaragua; and Performance as Political Act: The Embodied Self.