Toward a Theory of Alienation: Futurelessness in Financial Capitalism

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Tad Skotnicki, Assistant Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
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Abstract: There is an extensive body of literature detailing the forces behind and experiences of alienation in a modern capitalist world. However, social scientific interest in alienation had become parochial and balkanized by the 1970s. To reconstruct a unifying theory of alienation that addresses general features of capitalism, such as compulsory growth and commodification, and particular phases like financialized capitalism, we begin with the notion of futurelessness. Futurelessness refers to a deficient relationship to the future in which people’s senses of possibility ossify, narrow, or dissipate. It may result from inclusion in and exclusion from capitalist mechanisms or processes. Moreover, processes of inclusion and exclusion may appear more voluntary or involuntary. With these general terms, we identify four manifestations of futurelessness in financial capitalism: commercial exhaustion, imaginative marginalization, therapeutic nowism, and pragmatic denialism. The conclusion addresses future-sustenance in an alienating world and the prospects of a more systemic and synthetic approach to alienation.

Additional Information

Theory and Society
Language: English
Date: 2021
Alienation, Capitalism, Financialization, Phenomenology, Systems, Temporality

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