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New in Contemporary Political Theory
A Review of Ivan Ascher’s Portfolio Society: On the Capitalist Mode of Prediction

New in Contemporary Political Theory, William Clare Roberts discusses Ivan Ascher’s Portfolio Society and the image of the horse race as a symbol of the world financial market. Click here to learn more about the book. Click here to read the full article. An excerpt appears below.

“Ivan Ascher’s fleet-footed volume portrays the contemporary world of financial markets as divided between ‘those who are free to run a race and those who are free to bet on its outcome … between those whose lives keep placing them at risk and having thus to seek protection … and those whose position of relative security, by contrast, gives them the opportunity to take risks’ (p. 124). This image of anxious racers and secure bettors is revelatory, for, as Ascher points out, the racetrack captures the relational aspects of financial capital better than does Keynes’s famous image of the casino. The jockeys would not be racing ‘if betting were forbidden’ (p. 123). Likewise, the everyday borrower would not be living the American dream of a house and a car – on credit – were it not for the obscure financial instruments that make the sophisticated investors gobsmackingly rich. The financial shenanigans orchestrated eighty floors above Wall Street pervade and enclose the everyday marketplace in which, ‘in order merely to engage in [the] exchange of commodities, customers and merchants now have to be evaluated as borrowers’ (pp. 104–105). ”