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Performativity matters: economic description as a moral problem

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If performativity theory simply repeats that economists design markets, much of its radicalism is lost. Instead, researchers must consider the mechanisms by which economization transforms social arrangements. This chapter develops the argument that economic description constitutes aspects of the social as economic. Following Austin and Butler, I argue that such description has a performative force, and is therefore politically and ethically charged. I suggest that an understanding of economic description as performative explains how economics can at once constitute and claim authority over an object. The chapter explores how economic description transforms social relations. It connects performativity theory to existing critiques of economic relations, and suggests that performativity research can develop ethically rich narratives without losing theoretical or empirical rigour. Finally it urges performativity research to rediscover its radicalism in its ability to unseat the ‘metaphysical presumptions’ of economics.


Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEnacting Dismal Science
Subtitle of host publicationNew Perspectives on the Performativity of Economics
EditorsIvan Boldyrev, Ekaterina Svetlova
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-137-48876-3
ISBN (Print)978-1-137-49210-4, 978-1-349-69681-9
Publication statusPublished - 25 Aug 2016

Publication series

NamePerspectives from Social Economics
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan

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