research

Papers and Abstracts

“Crises of Real, Imaginary, and Symbolic Money” (2013) (pdf)

Although there is not consensus, the compatibility of Marxian economics and non-commodity forms of money has become increasingly accepted by heterodox economists. Questions still remain concerning the nature and determination of the value of money, and the relationships between financial, industrial, state, and other processes. I offer a new approach to these theoretical problems through a deconstructive reading of Marx’s categories of
real, imaginary, and symbolic (forms/functions of) money. While this hierarchy of real and less-real monies is in part responsible for the historical association of Marxian value theory and metallic commodity money, I explore the tensions and contradictions in these categories to produce a mutually constitutive understanding of money’s multiple forms and functions. I conclude by considering the relationship between Marxian theories of money and crisis. Whereas more orthodox approaches to the value of money lead to overly deterministic and ”supply-side” accounts of crisis, Marxian-Keynesian style approaches incorporate the importance of aggregate demand and institutions at the cost of value theory. I argue that a deconstructive, but nonetheless Marxian, theory of money may help bridge the gap between these two tendencies by illustrating the broad institutional determination of the value of money.

“The Realist Dualism and Monetary Economics” (based on dissertation chapter 2) (pdf)

The history of monetary thought can be characterized as a repetition of theoretical struggles over a few core questions. What reoccurring conflict, between economists in the real analysis and monetary traditions for example, both implies and obscures are the methodological principles common to both sides. I argue that these common methodological tendencies are the product of a common social ontology. Because this ontology is dualist, splitting the economy into its real and less-real (or monetary) moments, I refer to it as the realist dualism. While ontological concerns have been explicit in the literature on early monetary thought, scholarship on such philosophical contours shies away from taking modern economic theory as its object. After outlining the discursive characteristics and consequences of this realist dualism, I provide a few simple linguistic-inspired models exemplifying its various manifestations. I then provide examples of the realist dualism in both early and modern monetary thought. In the case of Aristotle, I show how attention to his social-economic ontology clarifies the ambiguity surrounding his metallism. In a more recent, and less explicitly philosophical, case I consider the way in which the realist dualism within the macroeconomic tradition helps explain the centrality of rigidity in New Keynesian economics.

“(Why) Do Empty Signifiers Matter to Political Economy?” (Presentation at New School – UMass Economics Workshop 2008) (pdf)

This paper is motivated by the antagonism between two readings of Marx’s analysis of money at the beginning of Capital Vol. 1. As a political economist this analysis has been an impediment to theorizing non-commodity money. This is not to discount the nuances or overlook the tensions that do exist there, but I think the centrality of commodity money to both Marx’s logic and presentation is difficult to overlook. As a political philosopher these chapters are quite different. In particular, read by a political philosopher after structuralism it is hard not to read Marx’s discussion of the development of money as an exercise in the semiotics of difference and identity. In this reading, the tethering of the money-form to ‘real’ value is at most illusory and the signifier of money is free to signify other signifiers indefinitely without grounding itself in an actual signified. Reading this first part of Capital alongside Ernesto Laclau’s theorization of the empty signifier, I want to explore the extent to which these two interpretations are complementary.

“Financial Non-Economics: A Critical Review of Social Studies of Finance for Economists”(in progress)

An asymmetry exists within the study of finance. While economics has been relatively unconcerned with the research on finance and financialization produced by other disciplines, the character of economic discourse about and within financial practices has been of great concern to those working in sociological, anthropological, and various other disciplinary approaches to economy. In that this research often makes strong claims about the status and role of economic knowledge concerning finance, this asymmetry should be of concern to economists across the methodological spectrum. While heterodox economists may be less guilty of the so-called “autism” charged of the profession, heterodox financial work nonetheless remains more disciplinary than its neighbors within the social sciences. This paper seeks to provide some balance by surveying, for economists, the literature on finance and financialization outside of economics. After outlining the themes and topics found in this literature I focus in greater depth on the arguments made about the role of economic discourse within financial practice and institutions. Taking note of overlaps that exist between this interdisciplinary body of financial research and economics, I contextualize the divergences between the two within differing (1) topical concerns, (2) epistemological positions, and (3) concrete methodological practices. I conclude with ideas for future research on finance, theoretical and empirical, for economists interested in compromising disciplinary boundaries.

“The Economy of Joyful Passions: a political economic ethics of the virtual.” Rethinking Marxism. Volume 18 Number 2 (April 2006)

This paper draws an ethics of theorizing and representing the economy from Gilles Deleuze’s concept of the virtual. Using Deleuze’s work with Félix Guattari, I propose that social representations correspond, in mutual constitution, with modes of subjective investment. This implies that the problem of subjectivity, in particular the subject’s relation to economy, is critical for those interested in the production and effects of economic discourse. After outlining what this ethics demands from theories of the economy, I show how antiessentialist class analysis provides a way of producing a Deleuzian political economy in line with these demands.

Dissertation

Money, Reality, and Value: Non-Commodity Money in Marxian Political Economy

In my dissertation I combine a critique of essentialist dualisms in monetary thought and the surplus notion of class in order to develop a Marxian account of non-commodity money. (abstract; introduction (draft))

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