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‘The Language of Capitalism Isn’t Just Annoying, It’s Dangerous’


An nameless reader stocks a document: When General Motors laid off greater than 6,000 employees days after Thanksgiving, John Patrick Leary, the writer of the brand new e-book Keywords: The New Language of Capitalism, tweeted out section of GM CEO Mary Barra’s observation. “The actions we are taking today continue our transformation to be highly agile, resilient, and profitable, while giving us the flexibility to invest in the future,” she stated. Leary added a line of observation to of Barra’s observation: “Language was pronounced dead at the scene.” Why must we be aware of the precise phrases used to explain, and justify, the incessantly scheduled “disruptions” of past due capitalism? Published this month by way of Haymarket Books, Leary’s Keywords explores the regime of late-capitalist language: a suite of ubiquitous trendy phrases, drawn from the company international and the trade press, that he argues promulgate values pleasant to companies (hierarchy, competitiveness, the unquestioning embody of new applied sciences) over the ones pleasant to human beings (democracy, harmony, and scrutiny of new applied sciences’ affect on folks and the planet).

These phrases slim our conceptual horizons — they “manacle our imagination,” Leary writes — making it more difficult to conceive alternative ways of organizing our economy and society. We are inspired by way of robust “thought leaders” and company executives to just accept it because the language of commonplace sense or “normal reality.” When we perceive and deploy such language to explain our personal lives, we are noticed as excellent employees; after we fail to take action, we are implicitly threatened with financial obsolescence. After all, if you are now not familiar with “innovation” or “collaboration,” how are you able to be expecting to thrive on this courageous new economic system? […] Calling our present financial device “late capitalism” means that, in spite of our gleaming buzzwords and applied sciences, what we are dwelling thru is solely the following iteration of an previous device of international capitalism. In different phrases, he writes, “cheer up: things have always been terrible!” What is new, Leary says, quoting Marxist financial historian Ernest Mandel, is our “belief in the omnipotence of technology” and in professionals. He additionally claims that capitalism is increasing at an exceptional price into in the past uncommodified geographical, cultural, and religious nation-states.


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