Vocabularies of the economy

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Summer 2013
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The language we use to discuss the economy shapes the way we think about it, and thus reinforces neoliberal values as common sense. The vocabulary of customer, consumer, choice, markets and self interest moulds both our conception of ourselves and our understanding of and relationship to the world. These ‘descriptions’ of roles, exchanges and relationships in terms of a presumption that individual choice and self interest does and should prevail are not simply descriptions but are a powerful means by which new subjectivities are constructed and enforced. Another set of vocabularies provides the terms through which the system describes itself and its functions. These frame the categories – for example of production, consumption, land, labour, capital, wealth – through which the ‘economy’ (as a supposedly distinct and autonomous sphere of life) is understood. These definitions constitute another element of ‘common sense’ – about the way the economic world ‘naturally’ is and must remain.

Soundings 54 Hope and experience