Expulsions: When complexity produces elementary brutalities

Jeudi 16 mai, 12h15, 3e session : Complexity and Expulsion

Saskia Sassen, professeur à l’Université de Columbia et à la London School of Economics.

The language of more inequality, more poverty, more evictions from land and house, is not enough to capture the negatives in the current phase of global capitalism. I want to explore the hypothesis that we are confronting the emergence of new logics of expulsion that take us beyond the more familiar notion of growing inequality. The last two decades have seen a sharp growth in the number of people, enterprises and places expelled from the core orders of our epoch; I add our collective destruction of bits and pieces of the biosphere, which are turned into dead land and dead water — an expulsion of bits of life itself from the biosphere. This aggregate of expulsions is likely to be more consequential than the epoch-making economic development and new middle classes in India, China, and some other countries.

A key source of these expulsions is a mix of elements often experienced (and admired) as requiring specialized knowledges and complex organizational formats. One example is the sharp rise in the complexity of financial instruments, the product of brilliant creative classes and advanced mathematics. Another is the complexity of the legal and accounting features of the contracts enabling a sovereign government to acquire vast stretches of land in a foreign sovereign nation-state. And yet another is the brilliant engineering and innovations that make possible types of mining that destroy land and water bodies. I propose to explore the extent to which we have reached a point in our advanced political economies where complexity tends to produce elementary brutalities.

This is based on the author’s forthcoming Expulsions: When complexity produces elementary brutalities (Harvard University Press 2014)

2011, Chile, Photo par Davidlohr Bueso

2011, Chile, Photo par Davidlohr Bueso

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