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The meta-crisis of secular capitalism

Pabst, Adrian, Milbank, John (2015) The meta-crisis of secular capitalism. International Review of Economics, 62 (3). pp. 197-212. ISSN 1865-1704. E-ISSN 1863-4613. (doi:10.1007/s12232-015-0239-7) (KAR id:50273)


The current global economic crisis concerns the way in which contemporary capitalism has turned to financialisation as a double cure for both a falling rate of profit and a deficiency of demand. Although this turning is by no means unprecedented, policies of financialisation have depressed demand (in part as a result of the long-term stagnation of average wages) while at the same time not proving adequate to restore profits and growth. This paper argues that the current crisis is less the ‘normal’ one that has to do with a constitutive need to balance growth of abstract wealth with demand for concrete commodities. Rather, it marks a meta-crisis of capitalism that is to do with the difficulties of sustaining abstract growth as such. This meta-crisis is the tendency at once to abstract from the real economy of productive activities and to reduce everything to its bare materiality. By contrast with a market economy that binds material value to symbolic meaning, a capitalist economy tends to separate matter from symbol and reduce materiality to calculable numbers representing ‘wealth’. Such a conception of wealth rests on the aggregation of abstract numbers that cuts out all the relational goods and the ‘commons’ on which shared prosperity depends.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1007/s12232-015-0239-7
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BJ Ethics
H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
J Political Science > JC Political theory
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Politics and International Relations
Depositing User: Adrian Pabst
Date Deposited: 21 Aug 2015 11:33 UTC
Last Modified: 08 Dec 2022 20:51 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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