Ep. 32 – Saskia Sassen, Expulsions: Brutality and Complexity in the Global Economy

Saskia’s invention/intervention of analytic tactics “before method” is one of the more useful and interesting applications of post-structuralist insights to be offered up for public use and very gratifying to have these folks give her work such careful consideration.

Always Already Podcast

This week we read Saskia Sassen’s Expulsions: Brutality and Complexity in the Global Economy, an exploration of the underlying systems of logic that drive displacement, resource extraction and, ultimately, inequality. Sassen discusses the financial tools, strategies and “instruments” by which corporations and nations amass land, wealth and resources, from the securitizing of subprime mortgages leading to the financial crisis, to the extraction of resource from countries whose public sector shrinks in response. Listen as Rachel, B, and John discuss why this read was so refreshing and illuminating for theorists like us, especially as a model for incorporating data and concrete, contemporary examples into critical political/social theory. Why expulsions and not ‘neoliberalism’ or ‘capitalism’, we ask and and attempt to answer. We also lament the sad lack of advice questions and dreams in need of analysis from our listeners, and talk about Hegel party fouls instead. We know this…

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5 responses to “Ep. 32 – Saskia Sassen, Expulsions: Brutality and Complexity in the Global Economy

    • my pleasure, always good to have some feedback from other folks/perspectives and how many folks are even trying to read such texts anymore?

      • Not enough, I suspect…

        What I really appreciate about Sassen, and especially with her “before method” technique, is the way that she thinks through the in-betweeness of subjects of study, those fuzzy, slippery zones where disciplines begin to run together. It seems that at this stage it should appear that singularizing an object of study as a “discipline”, and as something that could be subjected to a few methods, is antiquated. What is the discipline or the method but a boundary line that shores up its differentiation from something else? This isn’t to say that we can glimpse some mythical totality as a whole, or study things individually, but we seem to generally leave discourse at the level of the apparatus and, despite all the talk of transdiciplinary approachs or even transversality, fail repeatedly to treat them as something other than autonomous agents, as opposed to complex systems. This kind of ties into my conclusion of that long, hulking essay I wrote – how to overcome these epistemic divides, and how to communicate it?

        Had a long argument today with some adherents of Austrian economics (ugh) who couldn’t understand or refused to understand concepts like externalities and inputs and outputs that plug the economy into wider systems – as if the economy is wholly autonomous, idealized space. Unfortunately this view, and ones very similar to it, reign supreme in America today. We need more people like Sassen who probe those points of connectivity between things, and even more so we need a mainstreaming of these lines of thinking.

      • i hear ya and am always grateful for you own efforts to dig into the actual and particular happenings/assemblies that shape so much of our lives, i left this reply over at their podcast:

        thanks for doing this folks, my sense of the work is that expulsions are along the lines of David Harvey on accumulation by dispossession and Keller Easterling (they gave a talk together recently) on extrastate-craft, if you follow Saskia’s twitter account I think it’s not a leap to say that for her the daily reporting (by press or public) catches the impacts at the level of flesh and blood people, for me the insight offered into the parallels with Latour’s earlier STS/ANT (before he made the unfortunate leap into speculative philosophy/theology) work of starting with actual examples and than perhaps moving to abstractions is vital, I would say that what I wish Saskia had made more explicit is that we should treat any abstractions we invent/manufacture as proto-types (tools showing the marks of their manufacture, to be refashioned or even scrapped to fit new needs/situations.and which will conceal as much as they might make public) and not as arche-types which we have somehow divined. My role-model along such lines is Annemarie Mol author of the insightful and funny book The Body Multiple which anyone doing a dissertation in the world of theory should give a read.

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