From financialization to derivative fascisms (Social Text)

A slightly updated version of this article has been published in Social Text 155 (2023):


The last 40 years of financialization has laid the groundwork for a renovation of fascist cultural politics. This article expands Hito Steyrl’s notion of derivative fascism by placing it in dialogue with Enzo Traverso’s theory of postfascism and Randy Martin’s exploration of the sociality of the derivative. Such a conjunction allows us to gain a better understanding of how financialization encourages the transformation of social subjects in ways that lend themselves to fascistic dispositions. Far-right authoritarian actors and movements find sympathy and adherents among people who are expected to become competitive, creative and self-interested risk-takers in a world where, for the vast majority, risks are proliferating and unmanageable.  This approach can offer a useful supplement to other critical theorizations of the recent resurgence of fascist cultural politics that focus on race, gender and the longer lineages of reactionary thought. In the first place, it helps us account for the particular financialized context for these cultural politics. Second, it helps us account for they way they thrive on highly constrained and speculative forms of decentralized creative agency, entrepreneurship and conviviality.  

From financialization to derivative fascisms: Some cultural politics of far-right authoritarianism in an era of unmanageable risks

Max Haiven (2022)

In her 2017 book Duty Free Art, artist and critic Hito Steyerl introduces but does not fully develop the intriguing notion of “derivative fascisms” to identify something characteristic of the far-right reaction to the social decay, rising inequality and profound alienation wrought by neoliberal capitalism.

Derivative fascisms continue to grow, wherever disenfranchised middle classes fear (and face) global competition—and choose to both punch down and suck up to reactionary oligarchies. Ever more self-tribalized formations pop up that prefer not to abolish neoliberal competition—but instead eliminate competitors personally. Derivative fascisms try to fuse all-out free trade economics with (for example) white nationalism by promoting survival of the fittest for everyone except themselves. Authoritarian neoliberalism segues into plain authoritarianism.[1]

Steyrl’s intriguing turn of phrase opens the important question of how and to what extent today’s emergent modalities of fascist cultural politics are derivative, and derivative of what. The term derivative here should not only alert us to the way that such reactionary authoritarian formations are pastiches of the iconography, ideology and narratives of prior fascist incarnations; it should also encompasses at least two more important resonances of the word: the financial derivative and the artistic derivative.[2] The first names the signature technology of post-Breton Woods financialization, a technique for pricing the future as a present-day asset which can become an object of speculation and bundled with other similar assets into new financial products designed to counterbalance risk and accumulate wealth. While only a tiny fraction of the globe’s population directly own derivatives, they are profoundly influential over the financialized economy, shaping industries, national economies, the market for debt, the global trade in foodstuffs and other necessities, and much more. The second resonance of the notion of the derivative is an art world slur, used to describe work that is insufficiently original. In a financialized art market where small variations on fashion and limited newness are investable assets, being “derivative” signifies a conspicuous error, although the ambiguity of the term can also reveal how all “contemporary” works are necessarily partly derivative, in the sense that they must necessarily participate in the aesthetic circuits of taste that prize only certain forms of familiar originality. This has implications beyond the precious confines of the cosmopolitan art world. Today, millions of individuals compete to invest time, skill and virtuosity in producing “content” from platform cultural industries like Instagram, YouTube and TikTok in the hopes of gaining revenue or attention. The vast majority of this content is profoundly “derivative,” characterized by endless chains of imitation, pastiche and mimicry where small differences can be leveraged into considerable fortunes, partly for the creator, mostly for the platform. The kind of highly constrained, speculative creativity bound up in the notion of “derivative” culture has much to teach us about the pressures that impinge on financialized subjects and the way these might find expression in the realm of cultural politics.

Placing these notions of the derivative in conjunction with the question of rising fascism can generate important critical insights. In particular, it can help us recognize that many of  today’s forms of reactionary authoritarianism emerge within and in many ways are continuous with the broader trend towards financialization. To map these contours, I will unpack and expand on Steyerl’s notion of “derivative fascism” through an engagement with Randy Martin’s theorization of the social order of the derivative and Enzo Traverso’s theorization of postfascism.[3]

Traverso’s theory helps us by developing an account of how, today, new forms of fascism emerge in a context of financialization, where nation states find themselves with severely restricted options thanks to the power and influence of global capital and where this is experienced by their citizens as social, economic and cultural chaos. With a focus on the rise of the extreme right in Europe (especially France) and the US, Traverso explains how postfascism takes up the authoritarian, racist, militarist and revanchist politics of its predecessor, but wraps itself in a simplistic but narcotic rhetoric of market-oriented democracy, freedom and even equality. Yet while Traverso rightly identifies the political economy of financialization as the context of postfascism’s emergence, he does not explore how the broader cultural politics of financialization sets the stage for and shapes this tendency.

Martin’s paradigm-defining work helps us explore how, beyond simply reshaping the capitalist economy, financialization also recalibrates society, culture and subjectivity. It also enables us to see how, far from a grim dystopian imposition from above, financialization and the order of the derivative advance through the harnessing, channelization and selective excitement of a highly delimited form of imagination, creativity and risk-taking. While Martin’s work is deeply attentive to the way financialization represents the concentration of power in the hands of an increasingly unanswerable financial oligarchy, his curiosity is drawn to the way it was driven from the bottom-up by virtuosity forms of creative agency, especially when financialized subjects assembled in unpredictable ways into new formations in what Martin describes as derivative sociality. Yet Martin’s Marxist optimism that the order of the capitalist derivative might give birth to its own gravediggers in the form of emergent creative risk-taking swarms now appears overly optimistic when we consider how the same tendencies have given rise to derivative fascisms. These likewise see risk-taking financialized subjects finding one another outside the channels of conventional political categories and developing creative, agentful gambles to transform reality.

After exploring the work of Traverso and Martin in turn, this paper will outline some of the key features of an expanded notion of derivative fascisms, a term I will use in the plural to signify a broad cultural tendency that takes many forms and can be found in a wide range of formations, rather than a distinct political ideology or movement. In seeking to add critical heft to the term I follow Steyerl and Traverso, as well as Jack Bratich, in seeking to identify not a specific and easily defined set of beliefs or hallmarks, but an important part of a broad if swiftly-flowing far right ideological current in today’s cultural politics as they emerge in a digitally mediated and financialized moment.[4] This can help us contend with what makes fascistic ideas, themes and tendencies both so idiosyncratic and so dangerously appealing in our times. Whereas classic fascism may have prized obedience to authority, worshiped tradition and encouraged conformity and uniformity among its followers, derivative fascisms are characterized  by iconoclastic idiosyncrasy, playful innovation, and disobedient fabulation. Whereas classic fascism explicitly promised a future of rigid, predictable order and social hierarchy enforced by a totalitarian state, derivative fascisms implicitly guarantee an endless now of uncertain competition and the marketization of practically everything, a condition they assume is natural and inevitable. They mobilize the dispositions wrought by subjects under financialization–personal investment, self-promotion, reputation management, derivative creativity, speculative risk-taking–and weds them to reactionary ideology and affect.

In this sense, my approach to derivative fascism has much in common with Umberto Eco’s mapping of urfascism or Henry Giroux’s notion of ghostly fascism[5]: I am seeking to describe a tendency at the intersection of political economy and culture in the broad sense as well as one that animates specific elements and organizations of the far right. I am seeking to contribute to a tradition, recently amplified by the work of Aurelien Mondon and Aaron Winter, that sees fascism as immanent to and developing out of the political, social, cultural and ideological milieu of liberal capitalist democracy, rather than appearing in contradiction to this dominant paradigm (as that paradigms defenders loudly suppose).[6]

I conclude this article with the question of what a theory of derivative fascism might mean for an anti-fascist cultural politics now.

Financialization and fascism

Fascism is a highly politicized term, in part because of the breadth of political tendencies it names, in part because, since its emergence in the 1920s, the derogatory accusation associated with it has rendered it a rhetorical weapon, wielded even by fascists themselves. There is a thriving and very insightful interdisciplinary field of fascism studies which hosts a high level categorical debate.[7] My goal here is not to review or intervene in this discussion, which for the purposes of brevity must be largely bracketed out.

In general, this paper approaches fascism in the spirit of an intellectual tradition that sees it as an immanent tendency towards revanchist patriarchal authoritarianism, militarism and political violence that is always already present in modern modes of domination.[8] More specifically and historically, the fascist tendency is immanent to capitalism and to imperialism.[9] On the one hand, fascism represents the result of the acceleration of contradictions within capitalism to the point of political crisis, where it appears as both a reaction to established liberal forms of governance and a means to save the order of private property and imperial domination from left-wing revolutionary threats.[10] On the other hand, fascism, in the sense of a violent form of anti-democracy, is necessarily an inherent and continuous tendency within capitalism and imperialism, which depends on judicial and extrajudicial repression of social struggles, the mobilization of nationalism and other extremist ideology and the everyday authoritarianism of the capitalist workplace and process, all to sustain ruling class power (albeit often with occasional cosmetic, rhetorical or personnel variations).[11] Further, in the context of a history of capitalism marked by uneven development, the fascist tendency might appear at bay in one polity while, at the same time, it thrives in another. In the postwar period, capitalist “democracies” supported fascist dictatorships in many nations whose resources or geopolitical allyship they sought.[12] Often, fascist regimes were supported as a means to crush, subvert or corrupt popular rebellions against colonialism and imperialism (itself a fascistic enterprise).[13] Even within capitalist democracies, notably the United States, racial segregation and terrorism have seen fascist techniques and tendencies mobilized as a method of ongoing class war with racist characteristics.[14] In sum, this paper follows analyses that see fascism not only as a set of distinct political positions, organizations and formations but, more broadly, as an inherent tendency, a threat and a recurring pattern in racial capitalism.[15]

The term derivative fascisms is intended to identify the way financialization prepares societies and subjects to develop historically specific fascistic dispositions. Briefly, financialization represents both a tendency within capitalist accumulation and a historically specific phenomenon.[16] In the first place, financialization names the terminus of a capitalist accumulation cycle at which point the general tendency of the rate of profit to fall encourages ever more investment in the speculative dimensions of capitalist accumulation.[17] Here, the economic power and influence of banks and other financial institutions comes to recalibrate the patterns and processes of capitalism more broadly. This situation usually drives a variety of frenzied responses that can lead to, among other things, dramatic stock market crashes, the intensification of imperial extraction and expansion, and the blossoming of fascistic tendencies within capitalism to control increasingly rebellious populations.[18]

Periods of financialization have occurred several times within capitalist history, including serving as the cradle of fascism in the 1920s.[19] We are, at the time of writing, living through one such period (or perhaps in its aftermath), one whose origins are often dated to around 1973 when the US went off the Gold Standard and the beginning of the neoliberal revolution. From the 1980s onward, the deregulation of the financial services industry, accompanied by the rapid development of information and telecommunications technology, accelerated this process. Today’s financialization is both quantitatively and qualitatively different from its predecessors.[20] Suffice for the moment to say that, in addition to the profound economic power of financial firms, which are actively restructuring macro and microeconomic decision-making at all levels and around the world, financialization also represents profound social and cultural shifts as well. The financialization of public and private institutions has seen a shift in the forms of strategy, measurement and organization towards those imported from or demanded by financial institutions. Healthcare, education and social services increasingly adapt themselves to accommodate financial pressures and to import the ideals, rhetorics and techniques of financial management, speaking of returns on investments, the management of risks and the leveraging of assets.[21]

Several theorists, including Franco “Bifo” Berardi and William I. Robinson, have compellingly argued that the unaccountable nature of global financial power, along with the forms of violent enforcement required to keep it in place, represents a new modality of global fascism.[22] My interest is slightly different: the financialization of social institutions has been accompanied by shifts at the level of subjectivity and cultural meaning-making, notably an encouragement to see all aspects of life, from housing to personal relationships, from education to health, as sites of private competitive investment.[23] Importantly, this shift is often framed and felt as a form of personal freedom from restrictive traditions and inept government regulation or coddling social care.[24] In other words, whereas it is easy and tempting to imagine financialization simply means the relentless imposition of a grim unimaginative actuarial austerity, in fact it demands profound if highly constrained creativity and imagination from nearly every social subject.[25] As the subprime lending debacle demonstrated, this is not limited to those wealthy enough to possess assets: it is a demand made of all social subjects as they are compelled to compete in an ever more unforgiving financialized world. The realm of poverty finance, including innovations like pay-for-performance bonds and microfinance lending, seek to extend financialization to the world’s poorest people.[26]

On the surface, then, the vociferous anti-democratic and authoritarian elements of fascism would appear at odds with the agent-driven and participatory dimensions of financialization. Indeed, fascism has, classically and even in the present, posed itself as the opponent of financialization. Fascist rhetoric has often framed finance in conspiratorial and anti-Semitic tropes, and presented itself as the only true friend of the hard-working laborer or (more often) small-business owner, beset from both above and below by economic parasites.[27] Today, explicitly neofascist and postfascist parties and ideologues continue to leverage this anti-financial rhetoric even when they enjoy significant and often decisive support from elements of capital’s financial subclass, perhaps because their benefactors earnestly agree with their politics, perhaps because they cynically recognize fascism’s perennial utility in misdirecting popular anger away from the systemic exploitation and inequality of which they are the beneficiaries.[28]

And yet beyond these more manifest collaborations, financialization and fascism today are deeply entangled on the level of a more latent cultural politics, a bundle of relationships that an expanded notion of derivative fascisms can help us unpack.


Enzo Traverso’s theory of postfascism contributes vital elements to such an investigation.[29] The term is not meant to imply that we are in a moment “after” fascism. Nor does it, like the term neofascism, imply a renewed commitment to explicit fascist politics. Rather, it signifies that to a very real extent today’s fascists and their ideology do not explicitly identify with the term or its history, and in many ways they have updated their approach to fit in a world where the naked claim to be a fascist is anathema. Postfascism, for Traverso, is the reappearance and continuation of fascism in a form that arises specifically in the neoliberal era in formal democracies, an era marked by the growing global power of finance capital. That said, those characteristics Traverso associates with postfascism are not simply cosmetic or rhetorical.

For Traverso, unlike the classic fascism of the 20th century, which emerged as a reaction to social democracy, postfascism of the 21st century far right as one incubated in the cradle of financialization. Postfascism inherits its predecessor’s politics of racist resentment, distrust of “elites” and intellectuals, militarist nationalism, and romanticization of tradition (and fear of its decay). It likewise inherits the claim that minorities have infiltrated and subordinated the state and turned it against the long-suffering majority.[30] However, unlike classic fascisim, postfascism has unmoored itself from many of the traditional modernist notions of race and nation, or has transmuted these into new derivative forms. Indeed, in much of the “West,” the vast majority of postfacist actors vociferously claim to be “not racist,” or insist that it is whites who are the victim of overly zealous (or even nefarious) anti-racist and multiculturalist policies.[31] Another contrast for Traverso is that, whereas traditional fascism loathed and explicitly sought to eliminate democracy, postfascists fetishize it, especially as it crystallizes around simplistic notions of freedom and demotism, and have devised cunning ways to incorporate and weaponize plebiscites, referenda, online participation and polling.[32] Postfascists typically have sophisticated and seductive ways of fostering simulacra public spheres, both in-person and online. Traverso notes that whereas traditional fascism distrusted global capitalist markets as threatening to national self-actualization and sought to replace them with state-led corporatism, today’s postfascists are fanatically pro-market, seeing it as the proper arena for individuals to demonstrate and be rewarded for strength, self-sufficiency and competition. Whereas fascists envisioned the paternalistic transformation of the state into a biopolitical apparatus to “care” for chosen populations and expose others to death, postfascists seek to replace what remains of the welfare state with more populist and clientelist frameworks aimed (when not pure grift) at currying favour with some groups while conspicuously punishing others.[33]

Perhaps in other words, postfascism derives from fascism, but expresses many of fascism’s main tropes (worship of order, loathing of weakness, fears of parasitism, cult of privileged victimhood, contradictory anti-modernism) in the idiom of financialization. As Traverso notes, while older forms of fascism glorified the subordination of the individual to the nation, postfascism glorifies the nation as the container of competitive individuals (hence why so many rapacious capitalists succeed in casting themselves as nationalist idols – notably Trump). Postfascism is also capable of transmuting outmoded fascist theories of biological race into new forms of market-oriented crypto-racism. When it is acknowledged at all, the endemic poverty or deadly overpolicing that disproportionately affects racialized people is not attributed to structural and systemic racism, but nor is it blamed on genetic theories of racial inferiority (though these are often implied). Rather, it is framed as the result of cultural inadequacies (a “culture of dependency”) or, more often, reframed as the inevitable result of too much state enthusiasm for redistribution or remedy which encourages a demeaning laziness, venality and irresponsibility that prevents racialized subjects from embracing the appropriate neoliberal dispositions of through which they could appropriately compete. In France, Britain and the United States, postfascist political parties count racial and sexual “minorities” among their leadership and racism frequently takes the form of a condemnation of a crypto-racialized underclass who fail to strive to seize the ample the opportunities of a market society (and so risk pulling down everyone else). Addtionally, racism organizes itself around conspiracy theories of cynical, greedy “special interest groups” seeking to play on weak-willed liberal do-gooders to live high on the hog and undermine the true equality offered by the market.[34] Daniel HoSang and Jeff Lowndes have illustrated, in the US context, how racist tropes of “parasitism” once directed against Black and Latinx people have come to be attributed to a wide variety of “at risk” populations in the era Traverso associates with postfascism.[35] Arun Kundnani has tracked the ways in which the emergence of neoliberal forms of Islamophobia renovate older reactionary forms of xenophobia and racism to pose the Muslim threat to a “Western civilization” in terms that conveniently conflate prized values like democracy, freedom of speech and the secular rule of law with market ideals.[36]

Traverso, like Berardi, is keen to locate today’s forms of fascism in the context of financialization, wherein the financial sector has assumed a level of power that rivals and exceeds the sovereignty of states.[37] It is no benevolent ruler, and it answers only to its own tyrannical need to accelerate. In Europe, financialization has seen not only a widening gulf between rich and poor but also the organization of pan-European institutions around neoliberal values that exacerbate financial power.[38] Traverso illustrates that postfascist parties and tendencies have been very successful in pinning the blame for the decay of society and economic hardship not on pro-market policies but on European institutions and associated snobbish cosmopolitans, presenting neonationalism as the antidote, albeit one where the isolationist or protectionist state would become a “fair” arena for real market competition. In the United States, similar growing wealth gaps and widespread alienation have spurred animosity towards financialization on both left (eg. the Occupy movement) and right, although on the right these are often tied to conspiracy fantasies about the premeditated evil of particular billionaires, notably Bill Gates and George Soros (never mind the largely transparent postfascist political machinations of far-right billionaires) or the oversized influence of particular capitalist institutions, including The Federal Reserve, the World Economic Forum and the World Health Organization. Whereas left-wing tendencies have sought regulation of capital or redistribution of wealth, postfascist tendencies have replaced policy with a politics of revenge promised to annihilate nebulous elites, corrupt politicians and grifting “special interest groups” who are collectively blamed for sabotaging free-market capitalism so that it fails to reward hard work and honest fair-dealing.[39] Underneath it all, there is an unspoken “realism” that presumes that the truth of society is a ruthless competitive field best expressed in the imagined free market, that war of all against all. In such a field, solidarity is limited to temporary alliances and politics is confined to either revenge or submission to an overarching authority.

Beyond the so-called developed world, similar trends in postfascism can be observed. In Putin’s Russia, Modi’s India, Bolsonaro’s Brazil and Dutarte’s (now Marcos’s) Philippines far-right leaders have drawn on older fascistic tropes to present themselves as bold defenders of tradition and nation while, at the same time, advancing a form of no-holds-barred financialization that verges on outright kleptocracy, all the while targeting local minorities and nebulous “globalist” elites said to be in cahoots to use notions of human rights to destroy the nation and its long-suffering majority.[40] Here, hypermasculine and authoritarian national myths, which tend to frame the chosen normative population as hardworking, self-sacrificing, honest and judicious, are wrapped around a sense that their collective interests are best served by the delivering of society to the free market where such investor virtues will be recognized and rewarded.

Traverso does important work in theorizing the rise of a new breed of fascism as a response to a moment of neoliberal financialization and the economic, political and social upheaval it foments. But we will need to turn elsewhere for a clearer view of how the cultural politics and subjective dispositions that have grown within the era of financialization express themselves in fascistic ways and thereby gain a more dimensional view of derivative fascisms. In the absence of such analysis, we risk losing sight of what, beyond rancor and reaction, makes derivative fascism so appealing. For this, we can turn to Martin’s theory of derivative sociality.

Derivative sociality

Over the past 40 years the derivative has emerged as a signature technology amidst the the financialization of the global economy,.[41] Derivatives in their simplest valence are agreements between parties to buy or sell something at some point in the future. This takes the elemental form of futures, options and swaps. In basic form they long predate capitalism: this historical record reveals that, in ancient Mesopotamia, farmers often signed futures contracts that allowed them to sell their crops in advance of the growing season to secure funds to purchase needed inputs.[42] What makes a derivative different than a debt is that the “buyer” of the contract (in this case for the delivery of the farmer’s crops after future harvest) can turn around and sell it on to others, who inherit the obligation.  The price of the contract will depend on the value and risk the potential new buyer sees in it. Since the 1970s, trade in derivatives has exploded thanks to revolutionary advances in the mathematical calculation of risk, notably the famous Black-Scholls-Merton formula for pricing options, as well as for counterbalancing risks between multiple gambles in a “portfolio.”[43] Through a process known as securitization, many derivatives can be combined in ingenious ways to create new synthetic derivative products that afford buyers extremely precise forms of exposure to market risk. This has been compounded and accelerated thanks to the march of information and communication technology that has integrated global financial markets as never before and placed previously unimaginable computing power in the hands of financiers.

The arcana of the derivative was to become headline news in 2008 as the house of cards of interlaced, mutually dependent obligations collapsed when US housing markets imploded due to their dependence on predatory subprime lending. Thanks to bailouts, lobbying, and the sheer power of the financial sector, no meaningful punishment or regulation followed and, today, the world is still in the grip of the derivative.[44] Speculative financial markets (increasingly operated not by humans but by algorithmically-powered super-computers) dramatically influence the price and movement of national currencies, basic materials and foodstuffs, the bonds by which governments finance their operations, the shares of companies, and practically all commodities.[45] There have even been experiments in art derivatives, in which investors can buy into the prospective returns on the increased future sales of artworks without actually owning (or even seeing) the artworks, some of which are placed forever in the highly securitized vaults of the world’s archipelago of luxury freeport facilities.[46] It would be no exaggeration to identify derivatives as among the most powerful forces on earth and agree with no less of an authority than Warren Buffet that derivatives are “financial weapons of mass destruction.”[47]  

Only a tiny minority of human beings possess derivatives or even know what they are – they are mostly held and traded by massive financial firms. But the influence of the derivative, as the signature expression of financialization, is broader, working to reshape society, culture and subjectivity more broadly. This is the subject of Martin’s theory of the social “order of the derivative” and the attendant emergent “derivative sociality” which he developed over a trilogy of books. In The Financialization of Daily Life Martin argued that the aforementioned political-economic changes both encouraged and depended upon a transformation at the level of subjectivity. He explored new forms of child rearing and education where children become a site of “investment” as well as the way households were encouraged to reframe themselves as vehicles for risk management. In his 2007 An Empire of Indifference Martin argued not only that the American imperial project’s military and financial sectors are deeply materially and economically interconnected but that they mutually inform one another’s changing logic.[48] The War on Terror was conceived as “derivative war” aimed not at an older model of colonial invasion and pacification but on the “surgical” use of highly advanced weapons and special forces to leverage a transformative “shock and awe” in a global hotspot. It accorded with a financially-informed geopolitical strategy of global “risk management” where data cultivation and analysis informs tactical interventions to leverage major returns. On the home front, this was mirrored by domestic wars (on drugs, on gangs, on poverty) that, likewise, eschewed broad welfare provisioning (social assistance, public housing, public education) and instead moved towards public/private “investments” in highly targeted “at risk” populations and communities, to be operated with military precision and financial restraint and measured by narrowly defined deliverable outcomes. In this framework, the world was divided into, on the one hand, the celebrated “risk-takers,” believed to be in need of greater market “freedoms” to pursue returns on their investments (in housing, education and human capital), and, on the other, the abject “at risk,” in need of financially-calibrated biopolitical intervention, not only to transform them into risk-takers, but (more importantly) to protect the market from their corrosive influence and dependency. Both at the level of geopolitics, of the capitalist economy and the interface of society and subject, a horizon of some kind of durable “security” is replaced by the constant imperative towards a king of financialized “securitization,” the infinite and unending competitive management of risks.

For Martin, the “logic of the derivative” is key here: the overarching idea that the world at the neoliberal End of History is an infinite, competitive “riskscape” (to use Roy’s term) where individuals, firms and governments must abandon grand dreams of sustainable prosperity or social good and, instead, adopt financial ideas, methods and measurements in the name of an endless risk management. Yet as Roy and Denise Ferreira da Silva and Paula Chakkravarty have demonstrated, this imperative to manage risk presumes and propagandizes a false equivalence between social subjects, when in fact the effect of financialization is, more often than not, to burden already oppressed and exploited (now “at-risk”) subjects with unmanageable socio-economic risks, thereby perpetuating inequality and the conditions of exploitation.[49] Elsewhere, Aris Komporozos-Athanasiou, A.T. Kingsmith and I have argued that today’s reactionary cultural politics can be fruitfully understood as emerging from the friction between the celebrated financialized imperative to competitively manage risk and the reality that, for most people, the risks are unmanageable, an unwinnable game.[50]  This leads to particularly rancorous sentiment, especially among subjects who may have been led to believe that, by virtue of class, race or gender, they stood a chance.  

In spite of this, the transformative power of financialization and the logic of the derivative give rise to new and unexpected formations of risk-takers that seem to cut across traditional borders between states, peoples and languages. In Knowledge LTD Martin, a dance theorist, explores three unique forms of decentralized, collectively choreographed creative movement that materialized within financialization: breakdancing, which emerged from America’s austerity-wracked urban ghettos; skateboarding, which emerged from alienated teenagers in drought-parched suburban California; and contemporary dance, which emerged from the increasingly precarious “creative class” of American metropoles.[51] All three subcultures saw hitherto unimagined combinations of participants come together to experiment with new, semi-autonomous ways of taking embodied risks together in a form of collective movement. All three were to seemingly organically take hold, spread and foster thriving leaderless transnational communities of practice that, for all they have been commodified, remain ambivalent sites of contestation. For Martin, this spread is not simply due to the availability of new media and communications technologies: these cultural forms express a desire of financialized subjects to come together in new derivative formations and, in a sense, practice the logic of the derivative they have been compelled to internalized, but otherwise. They encourage neither obedience to form nor optimistic avant-gardes but, rather, constant derivation. They encourage a highly delimited form of speculative creative play that has, since that moment, become more broadly familiar across the cultural field, but also in the everyday political economies of financialization, where each of us is encouraged, expected and enticed to reimagine those things that make up a  life now as a portfolio of relationships, skills, passions and assets to be leveraged in the face of a normalized barrage of risks and opportunities.

In the past decade, derivative sociality has manifested in more explicitly political ways. In 2011 the revolts against authoritarian neoliberalism in the Middle East and North Africa ricocheted around the world, inspiring similar decentralized protests in Southern Europe (the Indignadas), in North America (the Occupy movement) and elsewhere (Hong Kong, Argentina, Nigeria), all sharing a seemingly post-ideological commitment to gathering diverse people in public space to risk arrest (or worse) in the name of a leaderless process of discovering their common agenda.[52] Without discounting the role either of veteran socialist and anarchist organizers who helped these assemblies operate or of state agents seeking to foment politically expedient unrest, these manifestations seemed to blur familiar political divisions. The later Movement for Black Lives and against colonial statues and memorials also exhibited a strong dimension of decentralization, creative derivation and collective risk-taking, though drawing on a different traditions.[53]

Martin died prematurely in 2015, arguably before completing his theoretical project or fully contending with the rise of the far right that was to take center strage the following year with the Brexit referendum and the election of Donald Trump. In hindsight, Martin’s Marxist conjecture that the order of the derivative might produce its own gravediggers in the form of newly emergent constellations of seemingly uncoordinated radical actors striving for collective liberation seems overly optimistic. My contribution here is, in part, to note the way that a derivative sociality can often (and perhaps more frequently and consequentially) gives rise to reactionary and indeed fascistic tendencies. Seizing on the success of decentralized, leaderless and horizontal protest, or perhaps simply emerging from the same financialized milieu, the right around the world has also capitalized on the political dispositions of subjects wrought under financialization. This has been notable in the politically ambiguous gilet jaune manifestations in France and beyond, the “freedom convoy” protests in Canada (and elsewhere), and, notoriously, the January 6 riots in Washington DC. In each case there have certainly been ideological ringleaders and organized right-wing organizations. But these have in many ways sought to accelerate, leverage and channelize decentralized, participatory and swarm-like formations, rather than orchestrate them as their fascist predecessors might have done.[54] The QAnon conspiracy fantasy is a compelling example of the way fascist politics emerges within and reflects the cultures of financialization.[55] Here, what Wu Ming 1 calls a global far-right “conspiracy fantasy” emerges whose motive force is a kind of endless derivative play that recruits and captivates participants by encouraging them to form online and offline communities where they, with no small virtuosity, make twisted sense of the world by creatively combining elements of classic reactionary conspiracy theories, selected fragments of current events, and hackneyed conjecture.[56] As heinous as they may be, other emergent far-right formations, including those organized around myths of the so-called “Great Replacement” of white people or around the extreme misogyny of “involuntary celibate” men also resonate with a moment of financialization.[57] Though indeed all these fascist tendencies have influential spokespeople and self-appointed leaders, they also exhibit a horizontal viral character that sees participants actively and with no small creativity proliferate derivative variations and formations inspired and connected by common themes. To borrow a metaphor from Deleuze and Guattari, the rhizomatic character of derivative fasicsms begs the question of what kind of soil incubates and nourishes such growth? Soil prepared by financialization’s decomposition and recomposition of society.  

It is in light of what Martin called a “derivative sociality” that Steyerl’s notion of derivative fascism comes best into focus, where “ever more self-tribalized formations pop up that prefer not to abolish neoliberal competition—but instead eliminate competitors personally.”[58]  For Martin, the “self-tribalization” of which Steyerl speaks is a symptom of the emergent derivative sociality which, in recasting citizens as competitive risk-takers, breaks apart older forms of collectivity based in class, nation, ethnicity, language and culture and reassembles them in a derivative forms. People increasingly come together in communities of risk-management for good and for ill, sometimes based on a familiar derived category, sometimes in entirely new ways.[59] Here, nations recast themselves not primarily around myths of blood and soil (though perhaps still drawing on these seductive narratives) but as economic war machines where competitive individuals gang together to compete with rivals and expunge parasites, hence why caring for the poor and weak among them is not only unnecessary but potentially dangerous as it weakens the herd. The loathing of the “at risk” and the paranoia that their abject dependency might jeopardize the competitiveness of the nation help transmute long standing fascist tropes into a financialized vernacular. The visceral hatred of the stigmatized, “underserving” poor, of migrants, and of so-called “special interest groups” (eg feminists, anti-racists, etc.) combines familiar fascistic tropes with financialized concerns.[60] This fascistic idiom seeks to transform the state into little more than a weapon of financial and carceral vengeance for the defense of forms of power and privilege that imagine themselves endangered by the same force of global capitalist change they, typically, have themselves helped unleash.[61]

Here, we should take stock of the way that the repertoire of fascist activities hedges towards an idiom of vicious and violent play, from the use of online platforms to swarm, “doxx” and “swat” their chosen enemies to the antic and pantomime-like demonstrations, marches and riots rife with costuming that ranges from the paramilitary banal to the conspiratorial bizarre. Leaked files and scholarly studies reveal that the online forums where fascistic politics breed are not homogeneous and hierarchical spheres of rigid doctrine but chaotic, contradictory and conflicted spaces that offer their members a community that often celebrates and encourages creativity and idiosyncrasy, albeit in extremely confined ways.[62]

Derivative creativity

One more element might fruitfully be called upon to help flesh out the notion of derivative fascism, one that accounts for the particular way that, in contrast to classical fascism, which loathed imaginative experimentation and fetishized tradition, derivative fascisms appears to encourage and exhort its participants into highly circumscribed creativity.

As I have detailed elsewhere, “Derivative” has long been a kind of critical slur in the art world, used to describe works that are deemed too devoted to the emulation of previous forms.[63] As Steyerl illustrates, in an age when art has been so profoundly integrated into global markets that many consider it not only a commodity but a form of currency, such judgments matter: they affect not only the aesthetic but also the financial value of an art work. To say a work is derivative is, essentially, to say it is not new enough, and in a market driven collectors’ desires for “newness,” this is indeed a problem.[64] This is complicated by the fact that much of today’s most expensive (and also popular) fine art is profoundly and self-consciously derivative. The gang of three bestselling artists analyzed in Mark C. Taylor’s “The financialization of art,” Jeff Koons, Takashi Murakami, and Damien Hirst all have staked their brand on work that is derivative of popular culture, or in some cases simply derivative of itself.[65] While the postmodern delight in the aesthetics of pastiche has been widely observed, what is less often noted is its political economy. This work especially appeals to the “new money” of the art market who cannot be bothered to obtain a working knowledge of art history or the subtle habits of taste and, instead, tend to like works that are easily recognizable and conspicuously expensive.[66] These also routinely prove to be crowd-pleasers at large public-facing museums keen for admissions receipts, or that exist and are funded by very wealthy collectors to add the patina of legitimacy to the work of certain artists as a way to, indirectly, inflate their price. It is also not coincidental that many of this new brood of collectors have been enriched by the rising fortunes of the world’s increasingly interconnected financial markets.[67] In spite of setbacks in 2008, these have grown prodigiously, delivering returns that have, almost everywhere, increased the gap between rich and poor, leading to the emergence of ever more “high net worth individuals”: a euphemism used in banking, art and luxury markets to refer to multi-millionaires or billionaires with money to burn, searching for vanity or prestige purchases.

It is tempting but misleading to see the financing of fine art as solely the province of the world’s elite, the confluence of those rich in cultural and financial capital. But the financialization of art has much broader implications.[68] In the first place, it demonstrates how financialization represents a new horizon of capitalism’s subsumption of the lifeworld. Contrary to a romantic view, art as such, as a contingent category of action, was never separate from the rise of the bourgeoisie and particularly its financial subclass who demanded unique works and spheres of activity to cultivate class solidarity and what Bourdieu called distinction, as well as an “alternative asset class” for potentially lucrative investment.[69] But the recent financialization of art represents a suite of new, technologically augmented techniques that seek to capture “newness” and speculate on future tendencies in ways that are revealing of their application in the wider economy. Further, the structure of the art market, where a vast number of individuals invest time, energy, passion and skill so that a small handful can be elevated to stardom, reflects a broader tendency in financialized society writ large.[70] It refracts the cultural politics of financialization in which all subjects are exhorted to invest in themselves and leverage their skills, talents, dispositions, social networks, and passions in the name of an ever-more precarious virtuosity of risk-management.

Indeed, the fact that, today, most young people dream of becoming “influencers” or otherwise monetizing their aesthetic talents indicates the profound financialization of society. It is important here to keep in view that what is desired, on TikTok, in the art world and in finance writ large, are derivative innovations: not work that is completely new but that is neither completely old either. What the financialization of art reveals is that financialized capitalism is increasingly oriented to exciting, eliciting and extracting investable derivatives: works, ideas, innovations, and contributions that make small variations on established patterns. The capitalist market’s drive to generate pseudoindividuated products is not new.[71] The exhortation to each and every individual to leverage their imagination, talents and networks to produce such products distributed through proprietary digital platforms in the hopes of economic payback and (for most) an escape from obscure precarity is derivative and constitutive of financialization.

Here, Jonathan Beller’s concept of fractal fascism is particularly useful: the digitalized, financialized capitalist economy transforms nearly every aspect of social life into a vector for the accumulation of various forms of capital that, ultimately, can be translated into speculative gain, and encourages the transformation of every subject into an agent of that process.[72] As the spheres of culture and economic collapse, almost every form of activity is subject to forms of market discipline and integrated into an overarching system that is, functionally, fascistic: fundamentally anti-democratic, ruled by systemic, semiotic or physical violence, and reproduced by and reproductive of various ideologies that nonetheless normalize and celebrate the rule of this state of affairs. For Beller, the normalized, systemic fascism of financialized/digitalized capitalism is the context within which we must understand the poisonous flourishing of reactionary political organizations and, more broadly, the dispositions of an emergent fascist cultural politics.

All creativity is inherently derivative. But derivative creativity, or the kind of  creativity we are all encouraged to adopt as we navigate a financialized world, is a playful speculative disposition adept at (or yearning towards) leveraging small innovations or differences into significant returns. This quotidian virtuosity, forged in the extreme pressures of financialization, can be repurposed, and the notion of derivative fascisms seeks to name how far-right, authoritarian cultural politics has done so.

Towards a theory of derivative fascisms

With this in mind, and in light of the discussion of financial and artistic derivatives, I want to propose how Steyerl’s notion of derivative fascisms provides a useful supplement to considerations of contemporary fascism and postfascism.

In the first place, as we have already noted today’s derivative fascisms are bred in the context of, and are in a sense, derivative of financialization. Like the realm of fine art, postfascist ideology and movements are both forged within and representing one force among many seeking to renovate financialization. It’s not simply that financiers and financial firms help postfascists obtain power and benefit from the policies thereafter, though that is certainly sometimes the case.[73] It is additionally and arguably more importantly that derivative fascisms translate fascist ideology into a financialized vernacular, addressing its adherents as noble and courageous risk-takers playing by the rules of the market, beset on all sides by grifters and cheaters both among the “elite” and among “minorities.” Eschewing (or at least encrypting) an older language of blood and soil based in a sense of endangered social solidarity, derivative fascism addresses deracinated and isolated financialized subjects, habituated to participate by and in derivative sociality.

But, in the second place, derivative fascisms’ appeal derives in part from its ability to create derivative forms of not only classic fascist tropes but also of democratic and even socialist, anticolonial and antiracist ideas, combining them all in what is often an incoherent but dramatically effective securitized bundle. Classic fascist concerns over racial parasitism is transmuted into an allegedly post-racial loathing of all “welfare cheats” and “scroungers.” A drastically simplified notion of direct or participatory democracy license enraged “majorities” to abrogate the rights of target groups. A critique of corporate control over the media once associated with the Left is now made to justify the postfascist turn away from the very principles of journalism and fact-based political debate and towards “alternative,” ideologically aligned sources of information.

The tackiness, kitsch, and vulgarity derivative fascist tendencies should, then, come as no surprise. It not only represents the uncultured iconoclasm of its leaders, it resonates with a deep, virulent anti-intellectualism that expresses itself in hackneyed, simplistic and, in its way brutalist design and communications.[74] It trades not only in nostalgia but also a bargain-basement aesthetics that alludes to transparency and austerity.[75] But more importantly it refracts the way the logic of the derivative articulates itself in the realm of representation not only in terms of content but form. That derivative fascist aesthetics are nauseatingly derivative is no accident, and it inherits from its predecessor a virulent antimodernism and a yearning for a visceral immediacy. Walter Benjamin was to speak of this as the aestheticization of politics, noting that fascism’s spectacular, charismatic, simplistic bombast was calibrated to appeal to workers whose bodies and sensoria has been brutalized by a life in punishing factories, alienating cities (and, we might add, normalized patriarchy).[76] By contrast, today’s derivative fascist aesthetics speak to subjects who have been encouraged in a million ways to see themselves as canny competitive risktakers who have no time for wasteful complexity and who, like so many postfascist leaders, trust their gut. Whereas classic fascism obsessed over uniforms and presented a vision of the idealized people, derivative fascisms encourages and champions the embrace of pseudoindividuality under the banner of personal freedom.[77] The political mongrels of the January 6 storming of the US Capitol Building, bedecked in a wide assortment of costume (from Tom Clancy cosplay to roadkill shaman to rabid soccer-mom), attests to postfascism’s derivative eclecticism.

It is also worth noting that today’s derivative fascists are not commonly unified under a single intellectual doctrine or leader but, rather, increasingly under a churning mass of interwoven, often contradictory theories, many of them rejecting conventional institutions or epistemic authority (such as universities, journals, etc.) and creating an inter-referential hall of mirrors. Both finance and postfascist narrative communities present themselves as rigorous intellectual communities that encourage and depend on free-thinking and a thriving and competitive “marketplace of ideas.” But in both, celebrity, gossip, gut feelings and unexamined (and weaponized) ideology have a strong hand as a means to make sense of and take action based on an almost infinite proliferation of data.

All these are important ways in which the logic of the derivative makes itself felt in the proliferation of derivative fascisms, but there is a deeper set of connections as well. As noted above, for Martin the derivative sociality sees people come together into new communities of risk beyond the intentions or prediction of financial or state forces. To a certain extent, this helps explain the emergence of derivative fascisms not only seemingly from nowhere but also in many different places at once. While it is tempting to reduce this to an affordance of social media technology, with the internet making it easier than ever for otherwise disconnected people with seemingly marginal views to assemble into a consequential swarm, it is equally if not more important to see it as a manifestation of the fundamental ways the financialization reorganizes our sense of self and collectivity. This emergent financialized disposition can help explain the unique and often devastatingly effective structure of derivative fascist political formations which, unlike their fascist predecessors, are not rigidly hierarchical and militaristic in structure but networked and distributed, with entrepreneurial individuals emerging as leaders or spokespeople from online and offline forums. These formations are often marked by participatory, creative and agentful exuberance, even if these typically take profoundly derivative forms. But it also helps explain the way seemingly fringe and abnormal tendencies form and become devastatingly consequential. Traverso (writing in 2019) argues that Trump is a “postfascist leader without fascism” because he, while clearly postfascist in orientation, at the time lacked a dedicated and organized base capable of acting as his Brown- or Black-shirts. Yet in the lead up to the 2020 election, and with dramatic flair on January 6 of the following year, a semi-random assortment of generally poorly organized postfascists would manifest publicly in his name, a name which, to them, meant many things well beyond his capability to deliver specific policies.[78]

Conclusion: The dark matters of the dark matter

Steyerl’s concept of derivative fascism, when supplemented by Martin’s theory of derivative sociality and Traverso’s theory of postfasicsm, provides a useful prompt for exploring the emergence of new creative, participatory and rhizomatic forms of reactionary authoritarianism in our financialized age. It helps us describe the reactionary heat and light generated by the tectonics of the order of the derivative wherein most people are instructed, exhorted, and encouraged to imagine themselves as canny, competitive risk-managers in a world of more or less unmanageable risks. As ever, fascist ideology takes on and builds from the cultural politics of its time and context, appealing to adherents as a taboo common sense. Derivative fascisms renovate racism, militarism, misogyny, and the worship of order and tradition in a financialized idiom.

The concept has significant limits. While it may reveal something profound about white supremacist Anglophone imperial and colonial-settler states (eg. US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand), it may not translate to other financialized polities in the Global North, and may also have a very different valence in the Global South, where financialization and fascism have profoundly different histories.[79] Likewise, this approach may speak most strongly to white and settler subjects who have been habituated, under financialization and earlier moments of colonialism and racial capitalism, to imagine themselves as worthy investable subjects.[80] And more attention would need to be paid to the difference gender makes, both in terms of the makeup of derivative fascist formations as well as the pervasive and consistent misogynistic and transphobic character of these formations.[81] 

Such a framework also risks stressing the “bottom up” nature of today’s fascist formations at the expense of an honest accounting for the “top down” dimensions which see calculating authoritarian political actors intentionally and cynically orchestrate what appear to be participatory dimensions.[82] It also may stress too heavily the influence of finance and financialization which, after all, may appear to have little impact on huge swaths of population such as the unbanked, the chronically impoverished or those who have fallen or fear falling into the realm of capitalism’s “surplus populations.”[83] Yet this might equally help explain the popularity of postfascism among those we might once have called the petit bourgeois.[84] The forgoing analysis could also be fruitfully complicated by considering other analyses of fascism, notably the work of Horkheimer and Adorno and others affiliated with the Frankfurt School, who in many ways predict both the devolution of capitalism’s instrumental rationality into financialization as well as the way this might give rise to new forms of reactionary authoritarianism within democracies.[85]

Yet those misgivings aside, there is a political horizon to the approach I have laid out to which, in conclusion, I want to turn our attention.

We must take seriously pseudonymous Italian novelist and one-time radical-left prankster Wu Ming 1’s injunction, in his book length study of the Q-Anon phenomenon, that we contend with the success of that movement and the broader fascistic trends of which is a part in terms of providing fun, enchantment, novelty solidarity and meaning in what is experienced by many to be a profoundly disenchanted, hopeless, lonely, and derivative world.[86] It is for good reason that he likens Q-Anon to a massive participatory game or artwork. While the notion of a vast, mephistophelian gesamtkunstwerk is familiar from fascist history, today the singular conquering genius is replaced in derivative fascism by the self-fabulating swarm.

Ours is an age when radicals participating in this field we call “art” incessantly bemoan their seemingly inevitable cooptation into the circuits of capital (as the stooges of gentrification, as sullen jewelers to the rich, as colonizers of discourse). But perhaps in the friction of forces that spark life into heinous movements reactionary of mass creativity there is some clue as to a form of political artistic engagement that offers direction for a radical left? I am not proposing a direct transcription of derivative fascist forms onto movements for collective liberation but, rather, encouraging us, along with Gregory Sholette, to recognize not only the artistic but also the political potential in the “hidden mass” of creative dark matter.[87] Derivative fascism might be best understood as a disastrous pathological expression of the dark matter. To what other purposes might the sociality of the derivative be directed? Already participatory or social practice art has emerged based on extending conceptual, feminist and dematerialized art into non-art publics for political effect.[88] What else might we learn about mobilizing derivative creativity from studying the success of derivative fascism, the better to annihilate it and the capitalist system that spawned it?

A similar question might be posed to those who seek to organize humanity politically to overturn this system. What can we learn from the patterns, practices, processes and protocols of derivative fascisms to better understand the subterranean contradictions on which it draws with such efficacy, contradictions forged in a financialized world? What might forms of activism, solidarity and organization look like that were not nostalgic for older forms but emerged from derivative sociality?  Today’s struggle for collective survival, which demands the overturning of capitalism, is no game and no joke. It will surely require forms of organization, ideological clarity and strategy that do not sit easily with the financialized habits of derivative sociality, which inherit finance capital’s reckless presentism and its claustrophobic and solipsistic imperative to manage personal risk (while allowing the metarisks that affect many or all to spiral out of control). Still, an analysis of derivative fascism might help us recognize that reactionary politics today preys on the social formations, dispositions, energies and subjecthoods that have emerged under financialization. How might these be organized otherwise?


  • [1] Steyerl, Duty Free Art, 161-162. The discourse of tribalism as shorthand for bellicose identitarian sectarianism is unfortunate. It depends on imperial and colonial anthropological categorizations of non-European civilizations, in which tribal societies are presented as a dangerous primitive or atavistic form, compared to modern notions of the state. However, as both anthropological scholarship and Indigenous theorists have demonstrated, tribal social forms are by no means always or habitually violent, parochial or xenophobic. Indeed, there is a strong argument that tribal systems, based on complex notions and traditions of human and more-than-human kinship, may offer alternate modes of solidarity, diplomacy and politics that might move us beyond the stalemate of liberalist notions of the public sphere and the undesirable elements of the state form. See, for example, Simpson, Mohawk Interruptus.
  • [2] I have elsewhere explored the tension between these two notions of the derivative in greater detail. See Haiven, “The creative and the derivative.”
  • [3] Martin, Knowledge LTD; Traverso, The New Faces of Fascism.
  • [4] Bratich, On Microfascism.
  • [5] Eco, “Urfascism”; Giroux, “The Ghost of Fascism in the Age of Trump.”
  • [6] See Mondon and Winter, Reactionary Democracy.
  • [7] For a concise introduction, see Bosworth, ed., The Oxford Handbook of Fascism.
  • [8] For a brief but thoughtful overview, see Bratich, On Microfascism.
  • [9]  See Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism.   
  • [10] Robinson and Barrera. “Global Capitalism and Twenty-First Century Fascism.”
  • [11] Beller, The Message Is Murder, 158-161.
  • [12] Amin, “The Return of Fascism in Contemporary Capitalism.”
  • [13] See Prashad, Red Star over the Third World.
  • [14] Toscano, “The Long Shadow of Racial Fascism.”
  • [15] Bratich, On Microfascism. 11-41.
  • [16] I have elsewhere explored the fruitful tensions that emerge from seeing financialization as, at once, a periodizing concept, a set of political-economic processes, and a forms of cultural politics. See Haiven, Cultures of Financialization, especially chapter 2.
  • [17] Arrighi, The Long Twentieth Century.
  • [18] Lapavitsas, Profiting Without Producing.
  • [19] Polanyi, The Great Transformation.
  • [20] For an extensive, interdisciplinary discussion, see Mader, Mertens and van der Zwan, eds. The Routledge International Handbook of Financialization.
  • [21] Dowling, The Care Crisis.
  • [22] Berardi, Futurability; Robinson, The Global Police State.
  • [23] Feher. Rated Agency.
  • [24] Dowling, The Care Crisis.
  • [25] See Haiven, Cultures of Financialization.
  • [26] Bernards, A Critical History of Poverty Finance; Roy, Poverty Capital.
  • [27] Bonefeld, “Critical theory and the critique of anti-Semitism.”
  • [28] See, for instance, Mayer, “The Reclusive Hedge-Fund Tycoon Behind the Trump Presidency”; Pogue, “Inside the New Right, Where Peter Thiel Is Placing His Biggest Bets.”
  • [29] Traverso, The New Faces of Fascism.
  • [30] See also Kundnani, “The Racial Constitution of Neoliberalism.”
  • [31] Lentin, Why Race Still Matters.
  • [32] See Gerbaudo, The Digital Party.
  • [33] See also Haiven, Revenge Capitalism.
  • [34] Bhattacharyya, Rethinking Racial Capitalism.
  • [35] HoSang and Lowndes, Producers, Parasites, Patriots.
  • [36] Kundnani, The Muslims Are Coming!
  • [37] Berardi, Futurability; See also Vogl, The Ascendancy of Finance.
  • [38] Varoufakis, And the Weak Suffer What They Must?
  • [39] See also Haiven, Revenge Capitalism.
  • [40] Buxton, ed, Understanding and Challenging Authoritarianism.
  • [41] Bryan and Rafferty, Capitalism with Derivatives.
  • [42] Whaley, Derivatives, 11.
  • [43] See Martin, Empire of Indifference.
  • [44] Recently, scholars of financialization have cautioned that the era of the derivative, which was so dominant before 2008, may be being eclipsed by the growing power of private equity and asset management firms. The extent to which this political economic shift would problematize the cultural theories of Steyerl, Martin and others is a worthy matter of debate. See, for example, Braun, “Asset Manager Capitalism as a Corporate Governance Regime.”
  • [45] See Lapavitsas, Profiting Without Producing.
  • [46] See Horowitz, Art of the Deal.
  • [47] Buffet, “2002 Chairman’s Letter.”
  • [48] Martin, Empire of Indifference.
  • [49] Roy, Poverty Capital;  Chakravartty and da Silva, “Accumulation, Dispossession, and Debt.”
  • [50] Haiven, Kingsmith, and Komporozos-Athanasiou, “Conspiratorialism as Dangerous Play in an Age of Technofinance.”
  • [51] Martin, Knowledge LTD, 143-212.
  • [52] See Azzellini and Sitrin, They Can’t Represent Us!; Graeber, The Democracy Project.
  • [53] See Taylor, From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation; Anderson, The Nation on No Map.
  • [54] See Gerbaudo, The Digital Party.
  • [55] Haiven, Kingsmith, and Komporozos-Athanasiou, “Conspiratorialism as Dangerous Play in an Age of Technofinance.”
  • [56] WuMing1, La Q Di Qomplotto.
  • [57] See Bhatt, “White Extinction”; Bratich, On Microfascism.
  • [58] I have elsewhere likewise sought to argue that financialization ushers in a period of “revenge capitalism.” On the one hand, under financialization the contradictions of capitalism accelerate to such an extent that the system itself seems to be taking a needless, warrantless, decentralized vengeance on people and the planet. On the other, financialization’s recalibration of subjectivity, which mandates everyone to recast themselves as a paranoid competitive risk-taker, gives rise of various forms of political revanchism that find their most powerful expression in the resurgent far-right.
  • [59] See also Appadurai, Banking on Words.
  • [60] See Shilliam, Race and the Undeserving Poor.
  • [61] See Wang, Carceral Capitalism
  • [62] See Donovan et al. Meme Wars.
  • [63] Haiven, “The Creative and the Derivative.”
  • [64] See Malik “Critique as Alibi.”
  • [65] Taylor, “Financialization of Art.”
  • [66] See Horowitz, Art of the Deal.
  • [67] See Adam, The Dark Side of the Boom.
  • [68] See Haiven, Art After Money, Money After Art.
  • [69] See Bourdieu, Distinction.
  • [70] See Sholette, Dark Matter.
  • [71] Horkheimer and Adorno, “The culture industry.”
  • [72] Beller, The Message is Murder, 158-161.
  • [73] See, for example, Pogue “Inside the New Right.”
  • [74] See Dionne, “Semiotics of White Supremacist Protest Wear;” Donovan et al. Meme Wars.
  • [75] On the lure of transparnecy, see Birchall, “Transparency, Interrupted.”
  • [76] Buck-Morss, “Aesthetics and Anaesthetics.”
  • [77] Giroux, American Nightmare.
  • [78] Miller and Gais, “Capitol Insurrection Shows How Trends On The Far-Right’s Fringe Have Become Mainstream.”
  • [79] See, for example, Gudavarthy and Gudavarthy, “Populism, Fascism, Neoliberalism: Theorizing Contemporary India”; Safatle, “Fascist Neoliberalism and Preventive Counter-Revolution.”
  • [80] See Bhandar, Colonial Lives of Property; Haiven, “The Uses of Financial Literacy”; Park, “Money, Mortgages, and the Conquest of America.”
  • [81] See Bratich, On Microfascism; Mattheis “#TradCulture.”.
  • [82] The “debate” about free speech is a crucial example. See Titley, Is Free Speech Racist?; and Wilson and Kamola, Free Speech and Koch Money.
  • [83] Bhattacharyya, Rethinking Racial Capitalism.
  • [84] Serwer, “The Thoroughly Respectable Capitol Rioters”; Haiven, Revenge Capitalism.
  • [85] See Horkheimer and Adorno, “The culture industry.”
  • [86] Wu Ming 1, La Q Di Qomplotto.
  • [87] Sholette, Dark Matter.
  • [88] See aa Berge, Wages Against Artwork.

Works cited

  • Adam, Georgina. The Dark Side of the Boom: The Excesses of the Art Market in the 21st Century. London: Lund Humphries, 2018.
  • Agamben, Giorgio. Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen. Stanford CA: Stanford University Press, 1998.
  • Amin, Samir. “The Return of Fascism in Contemporary Capitalism.” Monthly Review 66 (4), 2014.
  • Anderson, William C. The Nation on No Map: Black Anarchism and Abolition. Oakland CA: AK Press, 2021.
  • Appadurai, Arjun. 2016. Banking on Words: The Failure of Language in the Age of Derivative Finance. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press,.
  • Appadurai, Arjun. Fear of Small Numbers: An Essay on the Geography of Anger. Durham NC and London: Duke University Press, 2006.
  • Arrighi, Giovanni. The Long Twentieth Century: Money, Power, and the Origins of Our Times. London and New York: Verso, 1994.
  • Azzellini, Dario and Marina Sitrin. They Can’t Represent Us! Reinventing Democracy from Greece to Occupy. London and New York: Verso, 2014.
  • Beller, Jonathan. The Message Is Murder: Substrates of Computational Capital. London and New York: Pluto, 2018.
  • Bennhold, Katrin. “QAnon Is Thriving in Germany. The Extreme Right Is Delighted.” The New York Times, 11 October 2020.
  • Berardi, Franco “Bifo.” Futurability: The Age of Impotence and the Horizon of Possibility. London and New York: Verso, 2019.
  • Berkowitz, Reed. “A Game Designer’s Analysis of QAnon.” The CuriouserInstitute, 30 September 2020.
  • Bernards, Nick. A Critical History of Poverty Finance: Colonial Roots and Neoliberal Failures. London and New York: Pluto, 2022..
  • Bhandar, Brenna. Colonial Lives of Property: Law, Land, and Racial Regimes of Ownership. Durham NC and London: Duke University Press, 2018.
  • Bhatt, Chetan. “White Extinction: Metaphysical Elements of Contemporary Western Fascism,” Theory, Culture & Society 38 (1), 2021: 27–52.
  • Bhattacharyya, Gargi. Rethinking Racial Capitalism: Questions of Reproduction and Survival. London and New York: Rowman and Littelfield, 2018.
  • Birchall, Clare. “Transparency, Interrupted.” Theory, Culture & Society 28 (7–8), 2011: 60–84.
  • Bloom, Mia, and Yulie Maimon. 2021. “QAnon’s Jews: How an Antisemitic Conspiracy Theory Is Infiltrating Israel.” Haaretz, 5 July 2021.
  • Bonefeld, Werner. “Critical Theory and the Critique of Antisemitism: On Society as Economic Object.” Journal of Social Justice, 9, 2019.
  • Bosworth, R. J. B., ed. The Oxford Handbook of Fascism. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.
  • Bourdieu, Pierre. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. Translated by Richard Nice. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1984.
  • Bratich, Jack Z. On Microfascism: Gender, War, and Death. Brooklyn: Common Notions, 2022.
  • Bratich, Jack Z. and Sarah Banet-Weiser, “From Pick-Up Artists to Incels: Con(Fidence) Games, Networked Misogyny, and the Failure of Neoliberalism,” International Journal of Communication 13, 2019: 5003–5027.
  • Braun, Benjamin. “Asset Manager Capitalism as a Corporate Governance Regime.” In The American Political Economy: Politics, Markets, and Power, edited by Jacob Hacker, Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Paul Pierson, and Kathleen Thelen, 270–94. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2021.
  • Bryan, Dick and Michael Rafferty, Capitalism with Derivatives: A Political Economy of Financial Derivatives, Capital and Class. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.
  • Buck-Morss, Susan. “Aesthetics and Anaesthetics: Walter Benjamin’s Artwork Essay Reconsidered,” October 62, 1992.
  • Buffet, Warren. “2002 Chairman’s Letter” Berkshire Hathaway, 2002, chap. 15,
  • Buxton, Nick, ed. Understanding and Challenging Authoritarianism. Amsterdam: The Transnational Institute, 2017.
  • Césaire, Aimé. Discourse on Colonialism. Translated by Joan Pinkham. New York: Monthly Review Press, 2000.
  • Chakravartty, Paula, and Denise Ferreira da Silva, “Accumulation, Dispossession, and Debt: The Racial Logic of Global Capitalism—An Introduction,” American Quarterly 64 (3), 2012: 361–85.
  • Dionne, Laura. “Semiotics of White Supremacist Protest Wear.” Fabric of Crime, 20 May 2021.
  • Donovan, Joan, Emily Dreyfuss and Brian Friedberg. Meme Wars: The Untold Story of the Online Battles Upending Democracy in America. New York: Bloomsbury, 2022.
  • Dowling, Emma. The Care Crisis: What Caused It and How Can We End It? London and New York: Verso, 2021.
  • Eco, Umberto. “Ur-Fascism,” The New York Review, 22 June 22 1995.
  • Feher, Michel. Rated Agency: Investee Politics in a Speculative Age. New York: Zone, 2018.
  • Fielitz, Maik, and Holger Marcks. “Digital Fascism: Challenges for the Open Society in Times of Social Media.” Berkeley Center for Right-Wing Studies Working Paper Series, July 2019.
  • Gerbaudo, Paolo The Digital Party: Political Organisation and Online Democracy. London and New York: Pluto, 2018.
  • Giroux, Henry A. American Nightmare: Facing the Challenge of Fascism. San Francisco: City Lights, 2018.
  • Giroux, Henry A. 2018. “The Ghost of Fascism in the Age of Trump.” Tikkun.
  • Graeber, David. The Democracy Project: A History, a Crisis, a Movement. New York: Spiegel and Grau, 2013.
  • Gudavarthy, Ajay, and Vijay Gudavarthy. “Populism, Fascism, Neoliberalism: Theorizing Contemporary India.” In Spectres of Fascism: Historical, Theoretical and International Perspectives, edited by Samir Gandesha, 223–40. London and New York: Pluto, 2020.
  • Haiven, Max. Revenge Capitalism: The Ghosts of Empire, the Demons of Capital, and the Settling of Unpayable Debts. London and New York: Pluto, 2020.
  • Haiven, Max. Art After Money, Money After Art: Creative Strategies Against Financialization. London and New York: Pluto, 2018.
  • Haiven, Max. “The Uses of Financial Literacy: Financialization, the Radical Imagination, and the Unpayable Debts of Settler-Colonialism.” Cultural Politics 13 (3), 2017: 348–69.
  • Haiven, Max. Cultures of Financialization: Fictitious Capital in Popular Culture and Everyday Life. London and New York: Plagrave Macmillan, 2014.
  • Haiven, Max. “The Creative and the Derivative: Historicizing Creativity under Post – Bretton Woods Financialization.” Radical History Review, 118, 2014: 113–38.
  • Haiven, Max, and Aris Komporozos-Athanasiou. “An ‘Anxiety Epidemic’ in the Financialized University: Critical Questions and Unexpected Resistance.” Cultural Politics 18 (2), 2022.
  • Haiven, Max, A. T. Kingsmith, and Aris Komporozos-Athanasiou. “Conspiratorialism as Dangerous Play in an Age of Technofinance: From the GameStop Hunger Games to the Capitol Hill Jamboree.” TOPIA: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies 45, 2022. Forthcoming.
  • Horkheimer, Max, and Theordor Adorno. “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception.” In The Dialectic of Enlightenment, edited by Gunzelin Schmid Noerr, translated by Edmund Jephcott, 94–136. Stanford CA: Stanford University Press, 2002.
  • Horowitz, Noah. Art of the Deal: Contemporary Art in a Global Financial Market. Princeton NJ and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2014.
  • HoSang, Daniel Martinez, and Joseph E. Lowndes, Producers, Parasites, Patriots: Race and the New Right-Wing Politics of Precarity. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2019.
  • Jameson,  Fredric. “Culture and Finance Capital,” Critical Inquiry 24 (1), 1997: 246–65.
  • Joseph, Miranda. Debt to Society: Accounting for Life under Capitalism. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014.
  • Joshi, Shamani. “How a Bollywood Actor’s Death Spawned a QAnon-Style Conspiracy Movement.” Vice, 26 February 2022.;
  • Jozuka, Emiko, Selina Wang, and Junko Ogura. “Japan’s QAnon Disciples Aren’t Letting Trump’s Loss Quash Their Mission.” CNN, 27 April 2021.
  • Komporozos-Athanasiou, Aris. Speculative Communities: Living with Uncertainty in a Financialized World. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2022.
  • Kundnani, Arun. “The Racial Constitution of Neoliberalism.” Race & Class 63 (1), 2021. doi:10.1177/0306396821992706.
  • Kundnani, Arun. The Muslims Are Coming!: Islamophobia, Extremism and the Domestic War on Terror. London and New York: Verso, 2014.
  • La Berge, Leigh Claire. Wages Against Artwork: Decommodified Labor and the Claims of Socially Engaged Art. Durham NC and London: Duke University Press, 2019.
  • Lapavitsas, Costas. Profiting Without Producing: How Finance Exploits Us All. London and New York: Verso, 2013.
  • Lazzarato, Maurizio. The Making of the Indebted Man: An Essay on the Neoliberal Condition, trans. Joshua David Jordan. Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2012.
  • Lentin, Alana. 2020. Why Race Still Matters. Cambridge and Medford MA: Polity.
  • Ling, Justin. “How ‘Ukrainian Bioweapons Labs’ Myth Went from QAnon Fringe to Fox News.” The Guardian, 18 March 2022.
  • LiPuma, Edward, and Benjamin Lee. 2004. Financial Derivatives and the Globalization of Risk. Durham, NC and London: Duke University Press.
  • Mader, Philip, Daniel Mertens, and Natascha van der Zwan, eds. The Routledge International Handbook of Financialization. London and New York: Routledge, 2020.
  • Malik, Suhail. 2008. “Critique as Alibi: Moral Differentiation in the Art Market.” Journal of Visual Art Practice 7 (3), 2008: 283–95.
  • Martin, Randy. Knowledge LTD: Towards a Social Logic of the Derivative. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2015.
  • Martin, Randy. Empire of Indifference: American War and the Financial Logic of Risk Management. Durham NC: Duke University Press, 2007.
  • Mattheis, Ashley A. 2021. “#TradCulture: Reproducing Whiteness and Neo-Fascism through Gendered Discourse Online.” In Routledge Handbook of Critical Studies in Whiteness. London and New York: Routledge, 2021.
  • Mayer, Jane. “The Reclusive Hedge-Fund Tycoon Behind the Trump Presidency.” The New Yorker, 27 March 2017.
  • Means, Alexander J., and Graham B. Slater. “The Dark Mirror of Capital: On Post-Neoliberal Formations and the Future of Education.” Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education 40 (2), 2019: 1–14.
  • Miller, Cassie and Hannah Gais, “Capitol Insurrection Shows How Trends On The Far-Right’s Fringe Have Become Mainstream,” Southern Poverty Law Center, 22 January 2021.
  • Mondon, Aurelien, and Aaron Winter. 2020. Reactionary Democracy: How Racism and the Populist Far Right Became Mainstream. London and New York: Verso.
  • Park, K‐Sue. 2016. “Money, Mortgages, and the Conquest of America.” Law & Social Inquiry 41 (4): 1006–35.
  • Pinker, Stephen. Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress. London and New York: Penguin, 2018.
  • Pogue, James. “s.” Vanity Fair, 20 April 2022.
  • Polanyi, Karl. The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time. Boston: Beacon. 2001.
  • Prashad, Vijay. Red Star Over the Third World. London and New York: Pluto, 2019
  • Robinson, William I. The Global Police State. London and New York: Pluto, 2020.
  • Robinson, William I., and Mario Barrera. “Global Capitalism and Twenty-First Century Fascism: A US Case Study.” Race & Class 53 (3): 4–29, 2012.
  • Rothschild, Mike. The Storm Is Upon Us: How QAnon Became a Movement, Cult, and Conspiracy Theory of Everything. New York: Melville House, 2022.
  • Roy, Ananya. Poverty Capital: Microfinance and the Making of Development. New York: Routledge, 2010.
  • Russonello, Giovanni. “QAnon Now as Popular in U.S. as Some Major Religions, Poll Suggests.” New York Times, 27 May 2021.
  • Safatle, Vladimir. “Fascist Neoliberalism and Preventive Counter-Revolution: The Second Round of the Latin American Laboratory.” In Spectres of Fascism: Historical, Theoretical and International Perspectives, edited by Samir Gandesha, 179–90. London and New York: Pluto, 2020.
  • Serwer, Adam. “The Thoroughly Respectable Capitol Rioters,” The Atlantic, 12 January 2021.
  • Shilliam, Robbie. Race and the Undeserving Poor: From Abolition to Brexit. New York: Columbia University Press, 2018..
  • Sholette, Gregory. Dark Matter: Art and Politics in the Age of Enterprise Culture. London and New York: Pluto, 2010.
  • Simpson, Audra. Mohawk Interruptus: Political Life across the Borders of Settler States. Durham NC and London: Duke University Press, 2014.
  • Soederberg, Susanne. Debtfare States and the Poverty Industry: Money, Discipline and the Surplus Population. New York and London: Routledge, 2014.
  • Steyerl, Hito. Duty Free Art: Art in the Age of Planetary Civil War. London and New York: Verso, 2017.
  • Taylor, Keeanga-Yamahtta. From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation. Chicago: Haymarket, 2016.
  • Taylor,  Mark C. “Financialization of Art,” Capitalism and Society 6 (2), 2011.
  • Titley, Gavan. Is Free Speech Racist? Cambridge and Medford MA: Polity, 2020.
  • Toscano, Alberto. “The Long Shadow of Racial Fascism.” Boston Review, 28 October 2020.
  • Traverso, Enzo. The New Faces of Fascism: Populism and the Far Right. London and New York: Verso, 2019.
  • Varoufakis, Yanis. And the Weak Suffer What They Must?: Europe’s Crisis and America’s Economic Future. New York: Nation, 2016.
  • Virno, Paolo. The Grammar of the Multitude. Translated by Isabella Bertoletti, James Cascaito, and Andrea Casson. Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2004.
  • Vogl, Joseph. The Ascendancy of Finance, trans. Simon Garnett. London: Polity, 2017.
  • Wang, Jackie. Carceral Capitalism. Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2018.
  • Whaley, Robert E. Derivatives: Markets, Valuation, and Risk Management. Hoboken NJ: Wiley, 2006.
  • Wilson, Ralph, and Isaac Kamola. Free Speech and Koch Money: Manufacturing a Campus Culture War. London and New York: Pluto, 2021.
  • Wu Ming 1, La Q Di Qomplotto – QAnon e Dintorni. Come Le Fantasie Di Complotto Difendono Il Sistema. Roma: Alegre, 2021.