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The sociology of flows as critique of capitalism: Mapping alternative flows of organizing

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abstract The ways in which the (re)current economic crises are enacted by academics has several important implications for the ontological politics of capitalism: first, politically inclined debates tend to polarize capitalism by essentializing it as either univocally good or bad. Second, ethical debates, which revert to higher ideals such as responsibility, justice or equality, reveal a tendency to individualize and humanize the current crises by focusing on respectively the misdeeds of concrete culprits or individual vices such as greed, self-interest, and competitiveness. Third, experts in financial affairs economize capitalism by depicting it as being primarily or exclusively a matter of (speculative) financial transactions. Though it would be wrong to assume that these perspectives are entirely misguided, they do indeed offer only a partial understanding of capitalism – particularly what concerns questions pertaining to whether capitalism can or how it should be transformed. Consequently, in this contribution, we revert to the sociology of flows to augment the critique of capitalism. To this end, we use the work of, among others, Urry, Mol, Rifkin, and Appadurai to conceptualize capitalism as a relational phenomenon constantly being (re)constituted through multiple, distributed and yet interconnected human, technical, ideological, iconic and financial flows. The sociology of flows, the argument goes, is instrumental for (a) moving away from individual-focused and systemic theories, for (b) tackling capitalism’s inherent paradoxes as inter alia materialized in its dialectic of flow and closure, homogeneity and heterogeneity, and for (c) grasping its material disjunctures (e.g. socio-economic inequalities). Whilst suggesting that academic theorizing of capitalism needs to be expanded beyond economic operations, we move to the peripheries of the capitalist fabric so as to address the possibility of “alternatives”. Conceptualizing “alternatives” as socio-material (re)assemblings performed by communities-of-alternative-practices, we illustrate our deliberations through cases which transgress the status quo by inventing novel flows, by re-appropriating existing flows, or by combining existing flows in unprecedented ways.
   
type presentation (English)
   
keywords
   
date of presentation 10-2-2012
event Designing and Transforming Capitalism Conference (Aarhus, Denmark)
citation Marti, L., & Dey, P. (2012). The sociology of flows as critique of capitalism: Mapping alternative flows of organizing. Presented at Designing and Transforming Capitalism Conference, Aarhus, Denmark.