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A Discussion of Ivan Ascher’s Portfolio Society in Public Books
Betting On Other People’s Lives

In a recent article in Public Books, Daniel Fridman writes about the expanding role of finance, as he discusses Ivan Ascher’s Portfolio Society. Click here to learn more about the book. Click here to read the full article. An excerpt appears below.

“In Portfolio Society, Ivan Ascher takes volume 1 of Karl Marx’s Capital and rewrites it to explain what has happened with financialized capitalism in the last few decades.

The key change is that commodities have been replaced by securities. The peculiarity of securities is that they possess hedging value, the value of a financial security instrument to reduce risk exposure of a larger portfolio. It doesn’t matter what concrete human productive endeavor a financial instrument may facilitate, but rather how it contributes to hedging or diluting risk among other financial instruments. The ability to predict risk has become more important than the ability to produce. And workers are valuable not only for the labor they exchange for a miserable salary to keep themselves and their offspring alive, as Marx observed; capital can profit also from their credibility. Workers’ ability to fulfill promises can now be accurately predicted through sophisticated measures helped by the huge amounts of information collected in each of their transactions.”