Governing economic futures through the war on inflation
This paper explores how efforts to understand, present, and act upon the futures of inflation participate in the governance of contemporary economic life. The point of departure is the claim that inflation is both an economic and an affective fact, subsisting as a potentially disruptive event within contemporary liberal democracies whose chief concern is to secure the conditions for the value-activating process of economic growth. Understanding efforts to secure these conditions requires attention to the anticipatory processes through which the futures of inflation are generatively disclosed in the present as matters of public concern. In attending to these processes, this paper focuses on how the problem of inflation, and efforts to fight it, are linked closely with the logics and rhetoric of warfare. First, it outlines how interest in these processes emerged, at least in part, through attempts during the Second World War to render the futures of inflation actionable via public information campaigns. Second, it highlights the role of presidential speeches and addresses in ‘the war on inflation’ in the US during the 1970s and early 1980s. Third, and finally, the paper considers the importance of the promissory logics of inflation targeting in contemporary liberal democracies, in which inflation figures as a disruptive and generalised threat lurking in economic activity. In each case, efforts to fight inflation are based upon the premise that techniques of disclosure are a necessary element of generating the very futures they seek to make public. To govern inflation is therefore as much about governing orientations towards futures as it is about acting upon a well-defined epistemic object. In concluding, the paper speculates upon the wider implications of this claim for understanding how economic life is governed. Keywords: affective economies, economic geography, futures, expectations, inflation
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