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Spring 2024


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New in LSE Review of Books
A Review of Portfolio Society: On the Capitalist Modes of Prediction

In this new review in LSE Review of Books, Jenny McArthur discusses Ivan Ascher’s Portfolio Society. Click here to learn more about the book. Click here to read the full review. An excerpt appears below:

“In Portfolio Society: On the Capitalist Modes of Prediction, Ivan Ascher argues that financial markets have reshaped the contemporary economy, extending Karl Marx’s theory of labour to consider how the abstraction and securitisation of risk in financial markets have profound influence on economic and social relations. The text adds to a growing body of critical literature from various disciplines – including Mariana Mazzucato’s The Value of Everything, Nick Silver’s Finance, Society and Sustainability and Daniel Cohen’s The Infinite Desire for Growth – that scrutinises the 2008 global financial crisis and the contradictions it revealed in the nature of our economies and financial systems.

The book is a concise 192 pages, structured across five chapters that explore the development of financial markets, primarily in the UK and the USA, through the lens of Marx’s Capital. It examines the current financial system (Chapter One) and the development of financial securities that speculate on risk and uncertainty (Chapter Two). Looking inside the black box of prediction in financial markets (Chapter Three), the text shows how the transformation of finance in the US is accompanied by fundamental changes in the conceptualisation and measurement of risk. Through the rolling back of comprehensive social insurance schemes for health insurance and pension funds and the creation of credit scores, financialised risks become embedded within social relations, recasting the individual in society as ‘homo probabilis’: possessing a quantifiable risk profile that can be abstracted, pooled and exchanged in financial markets (Chapter Four). The final chapter returns to the aftermath of the 2008 crisis and reflects on what may lie ahead.”