As the case of Brexit demonstrated, new populist movements seem intent on sabotaging existing models of regulation and growth, without necessarily providing alternatives in their place. This appears like irrational ‘self-harm’ from the perspectives of utilitarian economic traditions and technocrats. However, we need to think carefully about the logic and moral appeal of sabotage. This paper returns to Veblen’s observations of sabotage as a business strategy, and the role of intellectual property and trade secrets in preventing the success of one’s rivals. The processes Veblen was describing originated at the same time that Nietzsche was writing about moral ‘ressentiment’. We need to consider the urge to punish and to harm as a long-existing source of capitalist legitimation, identified by Veblen in the management class, but arguably now present in anti-utilitarian populist attacks on neoliberalism.
Will Davies, Goldsmiths, University of London, is a political economist with particular interests in neoliberalism, history of economics and economic sociology. He is Co-Director of the Political Economy Research Centre, which explores critical, cultural and political perspectives on economic life, and Convener of the BA in Politics Philosophy & Economics.
This event is part of the WZB lecture series “Great Crisis of Capitalism – A Second Great Transformation?”
Please register before 5. February 2018 through firstname.lastname@example.org.