By Lisa Adkins
Speculation is often associated with financial practices, but The Time of Money makes the case that it not be restricted to the financial sphere. It argues that the expansion of finance has created a distinctive social world, one that demands a speculative stance toward life in general. Replacing a logic of extraction, speculation changes our relationship to time and organizes our social worlds to maximize the productive capacities of populations around flows of money for finance capital. Speculative practices have become a matter of survival, and defining features of our age are hardwired to their operations - stagnant wages, indebtedness, the centrality of women's earnings to the household, workfarism, and more.
Examining five features of our contemporary economy, Lisa Adkins reveals in The Time of Money the operations of this speculative rationality. Moving beyond claims that indebtedness is intrinsic to contemporary life and vague declarations that the social world has become financialized, Adkins delivers a precise examination of the relation between finance and society, one that is rich in empirical and analytical detail.
"Lisa Adkins’ new book, The Time of Money, is brilliant and, I think, extremely important. But I also find it quite perplexing in terms of its overall stance and motivation. The basic argument of the book is that speculative financial operations are central to social life and experience today. Capitalism has moved from an extractive regime (generating surplus from exploiting labor) to a speculative regime (generating surplus from speculative financial transactions). In this way, finance is in no sense superstructural or extrinsic to the 'real economy'; rather, it directly and entirely makes over the entire realm of the social. And in particular, financial speculation makes over our concept and experience of time. [...] Adkins’ tone is polemical, even vitriolically so, when she denounces other accounts of neoliberal economy and of financial speculation. She continually attacks 'normative assumptions' such as the way that 'the expansion of finance has been taken to be destructive of the future, to interfere with the proper flow of time, and to threaten to return us to previous, unenlightened eras.' While I understand Adkins’ desire to get away from 'normative' ideas about temporality, I don’t see why she needs to make so extreme an opposition."
About Lisa Adkins
Lisa Adkins is Head of the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Sydney. Her home Department is Sociology and Social Policy. She is also an Academy of Finland Distinguished Professor (2015-19). She has previously held Chairs in Sociology at the University of Manchester and at Goldsmiths, University of London. She has served as a member of the Australian Research Council's College of Experts (Social, Behavioural and Economic Sciences Panel), 2011-13. Lisa’s contributions and interventions in the discipline of Sociology lie in the areas of economic sociology, social theory and feminist theory. She is the author of, among others, The Post-Fordist Sexual Contract (2016).
Table of Contents of The Time of Money
- Introduction - This chapter sets out how, rather than being simply associated with finance and financial trading, a logic of speculation is at the heart of contemporary capitalist accumulation strategies and guides and directs the dynamics of social formation. It suggests that a logic of speculation has replaced a logic of extraction and operates as a rationality that defines the telos of action. It is argued that what unites speculation as a mode of accumulation and a mode of social organization, that is, what precisely constitutes the logic of speculation as a rationality, is time.
- 1. Money on the Move - This chapter investigates the logic of speculation operative in post-Bretton Woods agreement finance markets. It addresses the claim that at the heart of the 2007-8 financial crisis lay unregulated and excessive speculation on the part of finance traders, especially to the claim that at the heart of this activity was a trading of the future at the expense of the present. Through a focus not on the actions of traders but on movements and flows of money in financial markets, this chapter lays out how in regard to finance markets the issue is not a trade on the future but a shifting relationship between time and money. It argues that speculation concerns a particular form of time.
- 2. Austere Times - This chapter engages with the contemporary politics of austerity. It outlines how austerity must be understood not as a fiscal response to the global financial crisis but as a political strategy through which the economy of debt is being extended. It shows how this extension enrolls the productivity of populations into the generation of surplus via the movements and flows of everyday money. This chapter also discusses how transformations to everyday money, especially transformations to what money can do, must be center stage if we are to understand this enrollment. These transformations turn on the emergence of money as a value.
- 3. The Speculative Time of Debt - This chapter is concerned with mass debt and indebtedness. Against the view that debt is destructive of time, it outlines how securitized household and personal debt involves a specific time universe and the binding of populations to this time, a binding to a nonchronological time, or speculative time. It lays out how central to this time and to this binding is the operation of the calculus of securitized debt, a calculus concerned not with working lives of repayment but with lifetimes of payment. This chapter elaborates how this calculus opens up specific modes of practice that expand the productive potential of populations in regard to the generation of surplus from everyday payments from households.
- 4. Wages and the Problem of Value - This chapter is concerned with wages in the era of financial expansion. Existing accounts of wages in this era point to endemic wage stagnation and outline strategies to reconnect labor with value as a remedy to this problem. This chapter outlines how such accounts bracket a broad-scale restructuring of wages. It points to and maps a reworking of the relationship between labor and money. This reworking concerns the emergence of wages that are not a measure of external things but an in-motion surface. It also concerns the replacement of the free laborer, who must exchange her or his labor for a wage, by the speculative subject, who must speculate on their (stagnant) wages and their whole lives and lifetimes to ensure survival.
- 5. Out of Work - This chapter explores how a restructuring of labor in the era of financial expansion has taken place on the ground of unemployment through a set of coordinated policies and programs. It shows how this restructuring has eroded the distinction between unemployment and employment by positioning both the in-work and out-of-work as in need of adapting to events that have not yet and might never happen. It outlines how the in-work and out-of-work must constantly adapt to the indeterminate movements of time. It argues that the policy regimes governing unemployed populations should be designed as analogues to the creation of surplus via the indeterminate movements and flows of money.
- Conclusion - This chapter outlines how understanding the finance-society relationship requires a focus on the productivity of money, finance, and debt in regard to the social. It sets out how such a focus challenges prevailing understandings of the finance-society relation, including those that locate money, debt, and finance as immaterial and/or superstructural phenomena. It also reflects on the relationship between the expansion of finance and the political project of neoliberalism. It suggests that the policies of the postnational neoliberal state work to maximize the productive capacities of populations in regard to the generation of surplus from money.
Chapter abstracts copied from the website of Stanford University Press.