Thursday, 16 May, 2024


These implications are crucial elements in this analysis of the role of expectations in the dynamics of capitalism. Which form the second and main part of the book, describe how fictional expectations coordinate action, have performative effects, help to create newness, and are contested among actors in four key fields of the capitalist economy: money and credit, investment decisions, innovation processes, and consumption choices. Fictionality, far from being a lamentable but inconsequential moment of the future’s fundamental uncertainty, is a constitutive element of capitalist dynamics, including economic crises.


An economy without uncertainty would be an economy without fictional expectations in which actors could act fully rationally, but it would also be a static economy without novelty and without time, in which every thing happens at once. The mathematical models of general equilibrium theory brought this idea to its logical conclusion in the 1950s (Arrow and Debreu 1954). By contrast, Keynes ([1936] 1964) asserted that it was important for actors to evoke desirable future states of the world to keep the economy running despite the incalculability of outcomes.


Keynes used the notion of animal spirits to express the idea that calculation is not the only factor driving economic growth and crises. Animal spirits counter feelings of insecurity that arise when actors perceive the future’s uncertainty, which might lead to inaction and stagnation.