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  • Homeland Insecurities
  • Melinda Cooper (bio)
Randy Martin , An Empire of Indifference: American War and the Financial Logic of Risk Management. Durham: Duke UP, 2007.

Randy Martin's Empire of Indifference deploys the concept of "securitization"--with its double reference to financial and military processes--as a way of approaching the seeming convertibility of the economic and the political calculus of risk in the U.S.'s most recent imperialisms. If the revolving door between the two now seems as intimate as that between the Republican dynasty and its donors, Martin is not so much interested in these contingent alliances as in the temporality that unites their imperial investments. The leveraged, hyper-volatile investments afforded by the financial derivative thus offer a parallel perspective on the apparent flightiness of recent U.S. imperial strategy. This is a terrain of investigation that seems to be opened up by the philosophy of the event in its different genealogies (Deleuze and Negri, via Lucretius, Spinoza, Machiavelli, and pragmatism; Derrida and the later Althusser, via Heidegger and Machiavelli; Badiou via set theory). But whereas the evocation of the event in these philosophies seems to point to a horizon of ontological resistance or even messianism, in some sense beyond the politics of state and capital, Martin places his whole strategy firmly within the field of the event. Event-based capitalism thereby becomes the terrain in which power struggles are to be conducted. The promise and the gift of an unknowable futurity with which the event is associated in recent French theory is nothing more or less than the promissory future of speculative capital. The question then becomes how to think through a counter-politics of the event. With its clean departure from state-based and political theological accounts of power, it seems to me that Martin's book represents one of the first political philosophies to offer a thorough critique of the political economy of the event.

Martin's previous book, Financialization of Daily Life (2002) is concerned with the intimate psychology of risk in an era when the barriers between public and private financial spheres were being deliberately dismantled. Standard histories of financialization point to the breakdown of Bretton Woods, the turn to monetarist anti-inflation strategies, and the Clinton-era repeal of the Glass Steagall Act as defining moments in the ascent of finance to a commanding position in the U.S., and global, economy. Less attention is paid to the process by which personal finance in the form of pension savings, education loans, household debt, and mortgages were transferred to the global capital markets over the same period. The liquidity of these markets presupposes the availability of a mass of personal finance that was previously sequestered from the vagaries of speculative capital. In Financialization of Daily Life, Martin is concerned with the resounding effects of such a shift on everyday life. What happens when the worker/consumer is invited to manage his or her life risks with the same opportunism as the financial investor? And when the Fordist utopias of progressive growth, the middle class, and the standard of living give way to the normalization of indebtedness and credit-based upward mobility? In post-Fordism, the savings plan, with its promise of deferred gratification, is replaced by the leveraged investment and its demand that we valorize the future before it gets a chance to bankrupt us. Nowhere is the precariousness of this situation more visible than in the securitization of the home mortgage, as the sub-prime mortgage crisis has once again made clear.

Empire of Indifference, which can be read as a sequel to this work, looks outward to the effects of financialization on U.S. foreign policy and imperial intervention, and inward to the parallel militarization of the domestic front. Here it is no longer the "home" but the "homeland" that is subject to the risks and opportunities of securitization. And it is not the home mortgage but escalating governmental indebtedness that provides the leverage for proliferating financial and military opportunism. Martin offers no attempt to discern the "real" reasons underlying the war in Iraq--the oil reserves of Iraq no more determine the risks and gains of war than the...

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