The financial ontology of the anthropocene: a provocation
We are excited to welcome Julius Kob (Warwick Business School) for our final talk in this semester’s SKAPE seminar series.
What’s the meaning of finance for the planet? In current debates and practices around accountability (cause/impact) and mobilisation (solution/‘alignment’) of finance for our planetary situation, it is widely accepted – almost taken for granted – that finance is playing a role in things such as environmental change or climate crisis. It seems, however, that it is often left rather implicit what finance’s relationship to ‘the environment’ is actually made up of and what the consequences of this relationship actually are. This is particularly important once ‘the environment’ is understood as an Anthropocene one, in which the ‘social’ (including finance) the ‘material’ and the ‘natural’ have become irrevocably entangled for what and how environments, our planet, and societies are. So, what actually is finance’s role in the continuous becoming of the Anthropocene?
In this talk, I am arguing that finance indeed has a very concrete social and material, or rather socio-material, role in constituting the Anthropocene. I will present and reflect on case studies of practices, technologies, and developments in markets for catastrophe risk and the newly emerging field of ‘climate finance’. Here, I will show how knowledge production and risk management, as fundamental elements of financial activity, not only enable finance to deal with and in Anthropocene environments, but how they also co-produce environments of disasters and climate crisis. Knowing about them inscribes financial logics into the very fabric of the Anthropocene, arguably having even brought about features of it in the first place. I will take this as a framework to understand the rather provocative current undertaking to actively set up environmental and climate crisis management through an insertion of financial knowledges, practices and devices.
In the currently emerging financial climate regime, what seems to be envisioned by politics, markets, and even many activists and NGOs, is a form of pragmatist provocation – a creation and animation – of actual socio-material environments. It resembles a Koolhaasian understanding of architectural activity, in whose ironic-critical notion it is the private, commercial “Institutes [who] form an enormous incubator of the World itself; they are breeding on the Globe” and give birth to it. Are we, therefore, dealing with a financial ontology of the Anthropocene? And could such an understanding help us to better grasp finance’s role in our critical planetary situation and what to do abuot it?
Julius Kob is a Research Fellow at Warwick Business School where he investigates the design and use of climate-financial data, tools and frameworks in the financial investment industry. He received his PhD in Sociology from Edinburgh University for research on natural catastrophe modelling in (re)insurance and capital markets. Julius is a member of SKAPE, and has been a visiting researcher at the Robert L. Heilbroner Center for Capitalism Studies at The New School, and the Center on Organizational Innovation at Columbia University. He holds an MSc in economic sociology from the London School of Economics and Political Science and a BA in sociology and psychology from Hamburg University.
This event will take place in person at the University of Edinburgh, Chrystal Macmillan Building, Room 3.15.
Cover photo credit: This image is The City of the Captive Globe, a vision of New York produced in 1972 by the architect Rem Koolhaas and Zoe Zenghelis, one of his colleagues at the Office of Metropolitan Architecture, with the artist Madelon Vriesendorp.