The following text was originally published in April of 2022 in the online almanac of Schemas of Uncertainty for whose online lecture series it was first prepared in November of 2021.
Notes towards a theory of risk management as human sacrifice (and vice versa)
For two decades now, noted abolitionist theorist Ruth Wilson Gilmore has been alerting us that ours is an “era of human sacrifice,” a profoundly evocative title that was inspired by her study of the american Prison Industrial Complex and its vastly disproportionate incarceration of working class Black and racialized people.1 The phrase, which Gilmore has not yet fully developed, helps us recognize the depravity of a system of capitalism that depends on making certain populations vulnerable to what she characterizes as “premature death.” Tantalizingly, it evokes the question of the sacred, at the root of the term sacrifice, and via the sacred invites us to consider what kind of cosmology allows and indeed necessitates the exposure of certain people to death.
In this, Ruth Wilson Gilmore’s formulation might help move us beyond a number of limitations that have beset radical thinkers trying to understand, for instance, how global racial capitalism leaves so many people to die. At around the time Wilson was writing, Giorgio Agamben’s reinterpretation of Foucault’s biopolitics was a touchstone. But his is a theory of the state (rather than capitalism) and is built on an interpretation of the Roman laws pertaining to homo sacer : the non-foreign figure who can be freely killed and has no legal standing, but who cannot be sacrificed.2 In the decades since, Achille Mbmbe’s correction to Agamben’s eurocentrism has been vital: rather than biopolitics, it has been necropolitics, the management of death, that has been decisive in shaping the capitalist world order, a necropolitics that was developed in the forms of extractive colonial administration that was the material and ideological substrate on which modern European governance was built.3 Certainly necropolitics has been useful as a term to describe the prison industrial complex or the global archipelago of murderous border regimes that, as Nadine El-Enany notes, have been built to defend rich countries from people whose ancestors were robbed to produce wealth.4
Yet for me something is missing in the discourse on necropolitics, which arrives via Foucault and Fanon. It is missing, too, from the extremely capacious Marxist discourse on “surplus populations,” and certainly from Zygmunt Bauman’s influential theories of wasted life.5
It is the cosmological dimension which I see opened up by Gilmore’s notion of an era of human sacrifice. By cosmological here I am thinking along with Sylvia Wynter, who argues that the world we inhabit today is one caught in the grips not only of a capitalist, white supremacist, (neo)colonial political and economic order but also a particular cosmology that orbits the central figure of homo oeconomicus.6
For Wynter, we humans are a unique alchemical storytelling species: the stories we tell literally transform us both physically, genetically and socially. Civilizations form around typically unacknowledged narratives of symbolic life and death which shape kinship and value structures. The history of colonial capitalism has been the ascendency of one particular cosmology or framework for narratives that lionizes homo oeconomicus, that hyper-rational, competitive, calculating agent. It exalts him (a pronoun I use intentionally) as the paragon against which all other “genres” of being human are judged and it clothes him in the robes of evolutionary science, insisting that he is at once the original and the highest expression of the human species. In an earlier moment of colonial capitalism, this cosmology, which associated homo oeconomicus with the European capitalist, justified the enslavement, exploitation or elimination of all other humans: non-Europeans, women, the working classes, etc., all subordinated to this king of the jungle or, more accurately, this self-anointed king who made the world his jungle. Today, in the allegedly post-racial, “lean in” age of global cosmopolitan neoliberal global capitalism, all humans are (deceptively) invited to embrace their “true” nature as homo oeconomicus and compete tooth and nail to survive the hostile world we are, collectively, creating.
those who fail to embrace the subjecthood of homo oeconomicus and its calculative powers of risk-management are held to be destined for either biopolitical management or necropolitical abandonment
What the language of cosmology allows is a reckoning with Arjun Appadurai’s Weberian invitation to recognize that the field we call economics is actually a field of sociality and culture, and vice versa.7 His work in general reminds us that while the field of capitalist economic action may present itself as a terrain of rational action and calculation, in fact it relies upon and helps to reproduce complex cosmologies in areas of life declared non-economic. Weber’s famous example is the pairing of, on the one hand, Calvinist devotional self-discipline and, on the other, double-entry bookkeeping. Here, the fundamental, terrifying unknowability of God’s favour is counterbalanced by the meticulous, self-disciplined calculative procedures of worldly accounting, without which modern capitalism would have been impossible.8 Appadurai encourages us to recognize that now, some centuries later, an inscrutable Christian god has been fully replaced by the market itself. In that earlier moment of capitalism, God named the source and arbiter of a sublime uncertainty which could be met through the judicious and relentless management of the self. Today, the market is the source and arbiter of such a sublime uncertainty, which is to be managed, in this cosmology, by the powers of calculation, notably the transmutation of uncertainty into risk and the use of both intuition and powerful mathematical tools for its management, leveraging and transmutation.7
I would like to place Appadurai and Wynter into conversation. We are all called, today, to become homo oeconomicus through adopting a cosmology where the fundamental uncertainty of the market-made world is addressed by the techniques of risk-management. This is a world, as Randy Martin argues, where the haves and the have-nots increasingly take the guise of the lauded and celebrated risk-takers and the abject, loathsome “at risk.”9 Within this cosmology, the risk-takers are those who recognize that the financialized, competitive global market is not only the system we happen to have but the inevitable, beneficial and natural expression of human sociality and so develop a disposition that interprets nearly everything about one’s life as assets to be leveraged: one’s material stuff (a house), one’s forms of cultivation (a degree), one’s innate cognitive gifts (passions), one’s personal relationships (social capital). On the other side, those who fail to embrace the subjecthood of homo oeconomicus and its calculative powers of risk-management are held to be destined for either biopolitical management or necropolitical abandonment.
The biopolitics of managing the “at risk” are, as Jackie Wang and Ananya Roy each show, increasingly coercive and calibrated to manage whole (typically racialized) populations as sources for the extraction of wealth.10 From “social impact” investment in bail bond programs in the United States to the predation of microcredit schemes on women in the Global South, the riskiness of the at-risk are transmuted into bespoke investable opportunities for the risk-takers to fold into their counter-leveraged portfolios. In some cases, they succeed in transforming the at-risk subject into a risk-taker, with much fanfare. But more often than not the true value of these schemes to the system as a whole is to create a framework where the at-risk are blamed for their own failures.
This cosmology hides, in the first place, the extractive and imbalance nature of the relationship and, in the second place, the reality that in this world order some are destined to be sacrificed, burdened with lives of unmanageable risk, yet who will be blamed for their failure to manage risk and thereby thrive. The sacrificial victim appears to have chosen their fate and, in so doing, consented to it.
Here we see at work what Nick Partyka calls the “comedy of guilt.”11 In ancient Greece, animals to be sacrificed were made to take part in a “comedy of innocence” in which the profane beast would be holy because it providentially touched a sacred object or made a specific movement, an act that was, in fact, orchestrated or staged by the worshippers but then, post hoc, mystified as divine intervention. In our times, we, via the capitalist economy, orchestrate “comedies of guilt” (comedy here in the classic sense of a morality tale with a happy ending intended to reinforce the cosmological order) to justify why some people must be sacrificed. For instance, the prison industrial complex is built on such spectacles where individuals are allegedly punished for crimes against society, but in fact in the vast majority of cases their criminalized behaviour (theft, violence, fraud, breach of conditions, unpaid fines, narcotic trafficking) is the direct result of their abandonment or oppression within that society that now condemns them.
in this world order some are destined to be sacrificed, burdened with lives of unmanageable risk, yet who will be blamed for their failure to manage risk and thereby thrive. The sacrificial victim appears to have chosen their fate and, in so doing, consented to it
Meanwhile, there are those untolled billions of “at risk” whose exploitation is not even profitable enough to be considered, that “planet of slums” as Mike Davis puts it, who are simply abandoned and left to die, denied by their citizenship status or the cruel lottery of their birth any access to what few social welfare provisions or human rights are grudgingly still offered by some neoliberal governments.12
The fig leaf over these forms of human sacrifice has increasingly come to take the shape of a prophesy of austerity. In the beginning, at the dawn of the neoliberal age and with increasingly triumphant notes sounded after the collapse of the Eastern Bloc and the becoming-capitalist of China in the 1990s, this prophesy claimed that the evisceration of the regulatory welfare state, cuts to social spending, privatization and the liberalization of global trade might mean a painful temporary loss for some, but would ultimately bring about the benevolence of the market for all. States, like individuals, must refashion themselves on the natural model of homo oeconomicus and recast themselves as a manager of a global riskscape. For Martin, this not only took place on the level of economics, with the state now reconfigured as a sleek dreadnought for its risk-taking corporate adventurers but at the level of geopolitics.13 The American empire, for one, reconfigured itself as a global risk-management machine, no longer interested in the lofty goals of a coercive global security but in endless securitization, leveraging a world of “hotspots” with increasingly calculative interventions. Both within the United States and in its zone of influence, sacrifice now would be rewarded later. The welfare state and its universal guarantees would be abolished and replaced by “smart”, targeted investments aimed at giving the “at-risk” an “hand up.” Devastating aerial bombardments with smart weapons and special forces strikes would leverage regime change. The sacrifice would be worth it to bring those laggards of the world up to date at the end of history.
Over a decade after the 2008 financial crisis and austerity’s logic of sacrifice remains, but without any believable promise of payoff. We should recall that, essentially, that financial crisis emerged from the way that a million tiny, individual acts of highly calculative, mathematically sophisticated, hyper-rational risk management in the financial sphere murmurated into an irrational swarm that manifested an unforeseen metarisk. The sleep of reason indeed produced monsters. But the liberalist approach to this “black swan” event14, which is based on the idea that finance’s calculative instruments can be fundamentally improved to prevent future eruptions, hides at least two important dimensions.
The first is that, as Appadurai implies, the techniques of risk-management were and have always been, for all their incredible sophistication, the ornate robes and ceremonial trappings—in other words the magical paraphernalia—of a capitalist cosmological order which, at its root, is just as much in the dark about how to handle uncertainty as any other human cosmological order.15 In any cosmological system, when times are good, the rites and rituals seem to work and most adherents (even those who are oppressed and exploited) believe that the rituals are securing divine providence. When a crisis arrives—even if that crisis was created as a natural outcome of a society (mis)managed by its cosmology—doubt is cast on the cosmology, or at least on its priestly caste. On the one hand, this might help explain how, over the past ten years, we have seen the rise not only of anti-systemic movements seeking to overturn capitalism but, more frustratingly, many tendencies—ranging from calls for a turn to crypto-currencies to calls for a turn to capitalist ethnostates—that demand a better or differently managed capitalism, a swapping of one faction of the market theocracy for another. On the other hand, as William Pietz has shown, when societies built on human sacrifice encounter crises where uncertainty erupts, rather than question their beliefs they typically double-down on them, accelerating and intensifying their brutality in a vain hope to appease the deaf or dead gods.16 Here, we can certainly obsersve not only the deeper entrenchment of austerity after 2008, but its turn to what I characterize as a kind of frantic vengefulness, as if those (poor, racialized, migrant, gender non-conforming) who have the least to gain under this cosmology, and the least power within it, are somehow responsible for its failure.17
The second thing hidden by “Black Swan” narratives, that in some sense aim for a kind of Reformation within the market cosmology, is that, in their focus on the exceptional moments when risk-management produces unforeseen systemic risks, they tend to erase the incredible violence and forms of human sacrifice that is constantly being produced by capitalist risk-management. Almost 20 years ago, Brian Li Puma and Benjamin Lee argued that while in the world’s financial metropoles derivative instruments offered profoundly ingenious instruments for managing and leveraging risk to generate massive profits for financial firms, on the other side of the world they helped foster extreme volatility and socioeconomic violence, empowering and accelerating the extraction of resources, the footloose movement of industries, urban and rural landgrabs and the use of financial power to undermine ecological and human rights.18 In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, Paula Chakvarrty and Denise Ferreira da Silva showed that the subprime lending industry transformed housing for some (largely wealthy, white) into a vehicle for profitable risk-management but consigned others (largely racialized and poor) to a sacrificial world of unmanageable risks and unpayable debts.19
the trial focused on whether the Zong’s crew were competent and correct in their ghoulish act of “risk management” and who, the—investors or the insurers—was the legal bearer of this risk. And yet what is hidden from view here is the sacrificial act itself, as well as the bigger question of risk-management: why were the captured Africans “at risk” at all? It was, of course, because of the system of risk- and asset-management that had enslaved them and sought to transport them across the ocean for sale
This is, of course, not new but at the very core of the logic of the financial sector, where the technologies of risk management are forged. An illustrative example comes from Ian Baucom’s reading of the Zong trial as pivotal to the formation of modern insurance (on which all other forms of finance and, indeed, modern capitalism depends).20 In 1781 the crew of the slave ship, lost en route to Jamaica, threw 142 enslaved Africans, many still alive, overboard in the name of saving enough water to ensure the healthy arrival (and thence profitable sale) of the remainder. Back in London, the investors sought but were denied compensation from the insurer, leading them to sue the latter in a trial that became front-page news. This publicity was in large part thanks to abolitionist campaigners who rightly pointed to the horror that the legal proceedings were focused entirely on the matter of corporate property and fiduciary responsibilities and not at all on mass murder and the morality of the slave trade. For Baucom, this episode speaks to the way that, in the slave trade, Africans were transmuted not only into a fungible commodity (something explored more recently by Tiffany Lethabo King)21 but also, at the same time, into a speculative asset (something explored in more detail recently by Zenia Kisch and Justin Leroy).2220
To bring this example into dialogue with our concerns here, the trial focused on whether the Zong’s crew were competent and correct in their ghoulish act of “risk management” and who, the—investors or the insurers—was the legal bearer of this risk. And yet what is hidden from view here is the sacrificial act itself, as well as the bigger question of risk-management: why were the captured Africans “at risk” at all? It was, of course, because of the system of risk- and asset-management that had enslaved them and sought to transport them across the ocean for sale. It’s not simply that the sanitized rhetoric of risk management hid this extreme violence; it is that this violence is made to appear natural, normal and even providential within a cosmology wherein the calculative management of risk is sacred.
In the time of the Zong this cosmology was in some ways still in its infancy and in conflict with other cosmologies. Today, the sacred imperative to manage risk is unspoken and ubiquitous, now offered not only to financiers and capitalist actors but increasingly expected of each and every socio-economic subject. We are to each become competitive risk-takers and have only ourselves to blame if we fail. As Ananya Roy makes clear in her analysis of the way risky subjects are constructed in the Global South by global investors, what is erased from view is the system within which all of these actors are participants.23 Finance does not simply measure and manage the risks of capitalism; it foments a vastly unequal global riskscape where the historical patterns of racialization and colonialism now appear in the neutral and sometimes even beneficent garb of market rationality.
In this sense, we can finally come to discuss the enigmatic title of this paper: risk-management as human sacrifice (and vice versa). Risk management is, ultimately, not (just) a scientific process for managing resources. It is (also) the liturgical and ceremonial (i.e. magical) trappings of a cosmology which (as most cosmologies do) mistakes itself for the natural and normal order of the universe. And yet, on their underside, this social order creates a vast, global scene of human sacrifices whose doom is normalized as the inevitable, indeed natural, progress of the market. What is perhaps different here is that whereas in other civilizations that practice human sacrifice it is typically a gory, public affair, under today’s capitalism these sacrifices are less spectacular. Why? I believe it has something to do with the unique character of capitalism’s cosmology that, unlike any other cosmology, encourages everyone to assume the habit of homo oeconomicus.XIX
There is a wide body of literature that identifies practices of human sacrifice across civilizations as largely spectacular. A large cross-cultural historical study, for instance, (of whose mythology I am suspicious) suggests that, indeed, most societies that have practiced human sacrifice do so to reinforce stratification. Here, a social elite typically take as their victims slaves, members of lower classes or castes, prisoners of war, people found guilty of criminalized acts (including sedition or treason) or others who cannot, individually or collectively, protect themselves.24 The grisly act of sacrifice both reinforces their domination but also provides a convenient piece of propaganda for intermediary people and groups in the social hierarchy: fear of falling to the level of the sacrificial victim must indeed be a strong motivator to keep to one’s station and play by the rules.
The grisly act of sacrifice both reinforces… domination but also provides a convenient piece of propaganda… fear of falling to the level of the sacrificial victim must indeed be a strong motivator to keep to one’s station and play by the rules… [but it is] not only intended to intimidate and exalt, it is intended in a sense to make all complicit, both those who wield the knife and those who watch, in a cosmological act of collective risk management.
Yet this highly materialist approach perhaps does not pay close enough attention to the cosmological trappings which make such sacrifices so effective. Here, the sacrificer typically claims to be acting not out of their own self-interest or to reinforce their power, but in the name of the public good: In the absence of the sacrifice, a terrible fate might befall the whole society as gods or other supernatural forces would become displeased or hungry. The sacrificer masks their own interests by claiming that theirs is an act of cosmic risk management on the behalf of the society as a whole. Of course, the risk that is actually being managed is the risk of insurrection: human sacrifice conveniently gets rid of potentially rebellious vassals, slaves and oppressed and exploited people while, at the same time, providing the illusion that, without the sacrificer to do the sacrificing, calamity would befall everyone. Within the cosmology, the sacrifice becomes necessary and natural. The gory, public scene is not only intended to intimidate and exalt, it is intended in a sense to make all complicit, both those who wield the knife and those who watch, in a cosmological act of collective risk management.
In Tvetan Todorov’s The Conquest of America he contrasts the Aztec practices of human sacrifice, which Cortez and other conquistadors used as an alibi for their genocidal actions, with the massacres unleashed by the Spanish.25 For Todorov, the Aztec “society of sacrifice” was one where public acts of execution brought political-economic violence to the literal and metaphorical core and used it as a (coercive) form of social cohesion, intended to reinforce the cosmology and its hierarchies that justified their power. In contrast, the Spanish “society of massacre” carried out heinous atrocities, but hid them at the frontiers and borders while preserving the illusion, back in Spain, that the empire was the very model of Christian benevolence.
This is much to be gained from revisiting Todorov’s contrast today, which would help us explain why today’s “era of human sacrifice” so often hides or masks it massacres and consigns them to the border or frontier, with the proviso that, as Harsha Walia, Sandro Mezzadra and Brett Neilson, and Greg Grandin all explain in different ways, the border and the frontier have now become mobile technologies of power, no longer consigned to the geographical margin but increasingly instantiated throughout society.26 Here, schools, hospitals, police street-checks, social services offices all become manifestations of the border where the movement of humans is policed and where certain people and populations are excluded from the right to have rights. Likewise, in a world with “no more frontiers” the frontier is everywhere as speculative logics seek to transform urban neighbourhoods, rural territory, remote lands and even the human mind itself into sites of extraction and consequent elimination. This helps explain, in Gargi Bhattacharyya’s terms, why we increasingly witness the mutual enfolding of zones of biopolitics and necropolitics: walled enclaves of the super rich amidst sacrifice zones; a hidden city of illegalized, hyperexploited people as the hidden infrastructure of today’s metropoli.27
But the theory of a society of massacre only gets us so far. In spite of the phonic resemblance, massacre does not share an etymological root with sacrifice in the sacred. Massacre does not help us explain how the killing or exposure to death is intimately connected to the cosmology that underwrites a political-economic system. While Todorov’s theory of a society of massacre would help us explain why, today, capitalism keeps its murders largely hidden from view, it is not enough.
At the same time, perhaps these sacrifices are not so hidden. We seem to revisit them time and again in allegory. As I write this paper the most popular program in the history of the now preeminent digital streaming service Netflix in over 90 markets is the Korean series Squid Game, which essentially depicts a gladiatorial battle royale, where heavily indebted individuals are made to compete with one another for the pleasure of a perverse cabal of global ruling class scumbags. Observations from critics that this series is fairly derivative, reminiscent of the blockbuster Hunger Games book and film franchise or the popular episodes of Black Mirror, compound this point: popular allegory seems to capitalize on the idea that capitalism today is a system of human sacrifice.
But the problem with these allegories is that they relentlessly focus on the individual villain. Whether it is Squid Game’s VIPs or President Snow and his clique in the Hunger Games, we are inevitably led to imagine that this era of human sacrifice is officiated by a monstrous cabal of bloodthirsty or at least power-hungry individuals who, like Nietzschean superman, eschew and mock conventional morality and put their own pleasure or greed ahead of the collective good. This narrative is actually very dangerous, perhaps inevitably so, given that by and large the history of mainstream cinema has been shaped by capitalist forces that have an ideological propensity for Manichean narratives and individual agency. It is, for instance, as Wu Ming 1 notes, that narrative that animates the QAnon conspiracy fantasy, which has taken America and the world by storm. This fantasy holds that the world is actually run by a secret society of blood-drinking pedophiles that includes an a-list of major political figures and celebrities.28 A recent study suggested that if belief in the basic precepts of QAnon were classified as a religion, it would be among the largest in the United States, and it has inspired both isolated acts of violence as a well as dangerous forms of collective action, including contributing to the January 6, 2021 siege of the US Capitol building.29
the problem with these allegories is that they relentlessly focus on the individual villain. Whether it is Squid Game’s VIPs or President Snow and his clique in the Hunger Games, we are inevitably led to imagine that this era of human sacrifice is officiated by a monstrous cabal of bloodthirsty or at least power-hungry individuals… our moment of racial capitalism… certainly includes conspiracies of powerful people, [but it] is built on a different model of domination, one that, to greater and less extents, conscripts all of us.
What these depictions hide is the fact that our moment of racial capitalism, though it certainly includes conspiracies of powerful people, is built on a different model of domination, one that, to greater and less extents, conscripts all of us. In the Aztec civilization, only a small handful of hereditary elites could ascend to oversee the sacrificial altar. In an earlier moment of colonial capitalism, only wealthy white men were permitted or encouraged to meaningfully emulate homo oeconomicus. In both, a high level of stratification separated the sacrificers and the sacrifices. In our time, the disparity between rich and poor is enormous, and grows wider day by day, with tragic consequences. And, indeed, there are those in this world who are extremely unlikely to be made into a human sacrifice (the author of this paper, for one) and many others who seem destined for it. And yet what makes our society and cosmology different from any other is that we are all encouraged to become homo oeconomicus now, to adjust and recalibrate our behaviour to emulate and take on the habits of the risk-manager, no matter how lofty or humbler our station in this global regime. Risk-management and the broader calculative ethos of which it is a part has taken from its protestant foundations a kind of upside-down egalitarianism: all are at least theoretically equal before the market. Indeed, it is this equality before the market that justifies sacrifice: give up your state-afforded protections, your communal customs, your ways of life, and embrace the equality of the market and you shall inherit the end of history.
Or at least that was the offer, once. Now it is more dire and direct: the market has become–has rendered itself–the natural, normal and inevitable terrain of our shared uncertainty. Compete, manage risk, form alliances and struggle to survive, or become the sacrifice. As Angela Mitropoulos writes of the increasing overlaps between evangelical christianity and Malthusian capitalism, the world is presented as a lifeboat without sufficient resources for all.30 Survival, which amounts to sacrificing others, is seen as the result of a kind of market providence. Within this grim cosmology, new forms of market-oriented ethnonationalism (which present themselves as alternatives to cosmopolitan neoliberalism) come to the fore. They present the nation-state as a jealous community of risk-takers beset on all sides by spongers, takers and interlopers who not only want to parasite on their hard work but who threaten to overwhelm the lifeboat’s resources. Donald Trump in a way emblematized this approach: he never said he wasn’t a ruthless, conniving, lying cheat. But wouldn’t you rather have him on your side or as your leader in the world he and his ilk will create, a world we have been taught is already here with us, the whole time? Colonial capitalism creates a world of scarcity that justifies a world of sacrifices. Anything else is unrealistic, if not suicidal.
So in a sense capitalism’s human sacrifices are not hidden, they are all around us. We all always already somehow know they are occurring. No one is surprised anymore by the drowning of migrants in the Mediterranean, the vigilantes hunting humans on the southern border of the US, the atrocities against the people of Gaza, the teenaged iPhone factory workers committing suicide, the unfettered lethal violence of the slums or of the police when they ransack the slums, the prisons, the camps… Even on the streets of the metropolis the sacrificial victims can be found. Indeed, in some small way, we are all sacrificial victims, to the extent our humanity itself is put on the altar every day in a world where we are made to transmute all aspects of our lives into the grammar of economic survival and competition. This is to say nothing of the way we are transforming our very planet into an ecological sacrifice zone.
- Ruth Wilson Gilmore. Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California. University of California Press, 2007.
- Giorgio Agamben. Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life. Translated by Daniel Heller-Roazen, Stanford University Press, 1998.
- Achille Mbembe. “Necropolitics.” Public Culture, vol. 15, no. 1, 2003, pp. 11–40, https://doi.org/10.1215/08992363-15-1-11.
- Nadine El-Enany. Bordering Britain: Law, Race and Empire. Manchester University Press, 2020.
- Siyaves Azeri. “Surplus-Population and the Political Economy of Fear.” Critical Sociology, vol. 45, no. 6, 2019, pp. 889–905; Bauman, Zygmunt. Wasted Lives: Modernity and Its Outcasts. Polity, 2003.
- Sylvia Wynter, and Katherine McKittrick. “Unparalleled Catastrophe for Our Species?: Or, to Give Humanness a Different Future: Conversations.” Sylvia Wynter: On Being Human as Praxis, edited by Katherine McKittrick, Duke University Press, 2015.
- Arjun Appadurai. “The Spirit of Calculation.” Cambridge Anthropology, vol. 30, no. 1, 2012, pp. 3–17.
- Max Weber. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Translated by Talcott Parsons, Routledge, 2001.
- Randy Martin. An Empire of Indifference: American War and the Financial Logic of Risk Management. Duke University Press, 2007.
- Ananya Roy. Poverty Capital: Microfinance and the Making of Development. Routledge, 2010; Wang, Jackie. Carceral Capitalism. Semiotext(e), 2018.
- Nick Partyka. “Capitalism as a Form of Human Sacrifice: The Comedy of Innocence and The Comedy of Guilt.” The Hampton Institute, 13 Apr. 2016, https://www.hamptonthink.org/read/capitalism-as-a-form-of-human-sacrifice-the-comedy-of-innocence-and-the-comedy-of-guilt.X
- Mike Davis. Planet of Slums. Verso, 2017.
- Randy Martin. An Empire of Indifference: American War and the Financial Logic of Risk Management. Duke University Press, 2007.
- Nassim Nicholas Taleb. The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable. Random House, 2010.
- Arjun Appadurai. “The Spirit of Calculation.” Cambridge Anthropology, vol. 30, no. 1, 2012, pp. 3–17.
- William Pietz. “The Spirit of Civilization: Blood Sacrifice and Monetary Debt.” Res: Anthropology and Aesthetics, vol. 28, 1995, pp. 23–38, https://doi.org/10.1086/resv28n1ms20166927.
- Max Haiven. Revenge Capitalism: The Ghosts of Empire, the Demons of Capital, and the Settling of Unpayable Debts. Pluto, 2020.
- Edward LiPuma, and Benjamin Lee. Financial Derivatives and the Globalization of Risk. Duke University Press, 2004.
- Paula Chakravartty, and Denise Ferreira da Silva. “Accumulation, Dispossession, and Debt: The Racial Logic of Global Capitalism—An Introduction.” American Quarterly, vol. 64, no. 3, 2012, pp. 361–85.
- Ian Baucom. Specters of the Atlantic: Finance Capital, Slavery, and Philosophy of History. Duke University Press, 2005.21
- Tiffany Lethabo King. “The Labor of (Re)Reading Plantation Landscapes Fungible(Ly).” Antipode, vol. 48, no. 4, 2016, pp. 1022–39, https://doi.org/10.1111/anti.12227.22
- Zenia Kish, and Justin Leroy. “Bonded Life.” Cultural Studies, vol. 29, no. 5–6, 2015, pp. 630–51, https://doi.org/10.1080/09502386.2015.1017137.
- Ananya Roy. Poverty Capital: Microfinance and the Making of Development. Routledge, 2010.
- Joseph Watts, et al. “Ritual Human Sacrifice Promoted and Sustained the Evolution of Stratified Societies.” Nature, vol. 532, no. 7598, 2016, pp. 228–31, https://doi.org/10.1038/nature17159.
- Tvetan Todorov. The Conquest of America : The Question of the Other. Translated by Richard Howard, Harper Torchbooks, 1984.
- Greg Grandin. The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America. Metropolitan, 2019; Sandro Mezzadra, and Brett Neilson. Border as Method, or, the Multiplication of Labor. Duke University Press, 2013; Harsha Walia. Border and Rule: Global Migration, Capitalism, and the Rise of Racist Nationalism. Haymarket, 2021.27
- Gargi Bhattacharyya. Rethinking Racial Capitalism: Questions of Reproduction and Survival. Rowman and Littelfield, 2018.
- Wu Ming 1. La Q Di Qomplotto: QAnon e Dintorni, Come Le Fantasie Di Complotto Difendono Il Sistema. Alegre, 2021.29
- Giovanni Russonello. “Qanon Now as Popular in U.S. as Some Major Religions, Poll Suggests.” The New York Times. The New York Times, May 27, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/27/us/politics/qanon-republicans-trump.html.
- Angela Mitropoulos. “Lifeboat Capitalism, Catastrophism, Borders.” Dispatches, vol. 001, 2018, http://dispatchesjournal.org/app/uploads/2018/11/dispatches-nov2018-issue001-article02.pdf.