In this new review in The Baffler, John Ganz discusses Michel Feher’s Rated Agency: Investee Politics in a Speculative Age, just released this fall 2018. Click here to learn more about the book. Click here to read the full review. An excerpt appears below.
“The subject of capitalism no longer strictly concerns the worker trying to sell his labor, but now hinges upon the debtor struggling to sustain her various forms of credit rating. One of those voices is Michel Feher, a Belgian philosopher and founding editor of MIT’s Zone Books imprint. His compact, yet dense, Rated Agency: Investee Politics in a Speculative Age offers a story of how we got here and how activists can, if not throw off the yoke of debt, at least begin to alter the deal a bit more in their favor.
According to Feher, the hegemony of finance is the (largely unintentional) result of the neoliberal reforms of the 1970s and 1980s. Faced with stagnation and inflation, Western countries, particularly the U.S. and the U.K., abandoned the consensus that had governed economic policy regime since the Depression and Second World War: central bank policy focused on full employment, progressive taxation, a robust welfare state, strong labor unions, counter-cyclical fiscal policy in the face of recession, and financial regulation to restrict risky speculation. In place of the postwar compromise between the interests of labor and capital, the conservative governments of Britain and the United States deregulated the financial sector, opened up avenues for globalization, throttled unions, and pursued a monetary policy whose main goal was to fight inflation rather than ensure full employment. The new policy apparatus skewed the system heavily in favor of the interests of investors and speculators, short-term “shareholder value” became the primary goal of corporate management, and Western economies began to witness the severe asset bubbles and financial crises that marked nineteenth-century laissez-faire capitalism—a constant pendulum swing between excess and ruination.”