On the Performativity of Economics

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Ruggins, Sarah
Performativity , Economics
This project seeks to deepen the understanding of economic “performativity” – the effects of economic theory and models on the economy - by examining the history of financial markets and the relationship between economic and political forces. Chapter One demonstrates how the culture of finance (and economics, more generally) began changing in 1950 from methods that aimed in the production of epistemologically true, descriptive statements to abstract theories that illuminated the potentials of markets. As a result, economics was able to provide the mechanisms necessary to transform markets for the first time. Chapter Two demonstrates that this departure from orthodox methods birthed a new field of research concerning the ability of economics to construct theoretically described worlds: performativity. This chapter demonstrates that all conceptions of performativity are able to be organized into weak and strong claims, being further united by their depiction of economics as an independent force that comes up against external forces in periods of market emergence and transformation. Interestingly, a dichotomy emerges between performativity and political-cultural approaches to understanding economies: the former claims economics is the force that practically transforms markets and the latter claims transformation occurs through mediation of political and institutional interests. It is the purpose of Chapter Three to unveil a new context to understand economic performativity. It will first be demonstrated that there exists little evidence for the performative claim that economics is a force unto itself: instead, economics is utilized as tool to provide organization and stability for actors in periods of market transformation and as such, relies on external forces for performative success. Reconceptualizing performativity in this way addresses many critiques against variations of the performative thesis and suggests that the dichotomization between performative and political-cultural approaches may be reconciled, illuminating a more plausible account of how economics interacts with its objects. It is concluded that performative accounts of economics ought to be subsumed within political-cultural approaches to understanding economic organization.
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