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Beyond Flows, Fluids and Networks: Social Theory and the Fetishism of the Global Informational Economy


  • John Michael Roberts
  • Jonathan Joseph


In this paper we critically explore some of the arguments made by those social theorists who claim that we live in a new global economy defined by informational and technological flows, fluids and networks. By recourse to Marx's concept of fetishism we argue that these theorists often fetishise the very social changes in the global economy they are trying to describe. As a result, they articulate a 'flat ontology' of concrete and contingent relations that mistakenly claims to capture the most important dynamics of global capitalism. We reject this approach, preferring instead to see global capitalism as a dialectical flux between concrete and more abstract processes. These critical points are developed by drawing on Marxism to explore how these social theorists often reproduce unhelpful dualisms in social theory, how they fetishise technology, how some of their arguments run parallel to a management justification logic of the market world and finally how they present a limited explanation of global finance.

Suggested Citation

  • John Michael Roberts & Jonathan Joseph, 2015. "Beyond Flows, Fluids and Networks: Social Theory and the Fetishism of the Global Informational Economy," New Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 20(1), pages 1-20, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:cnpexx:v:20:y:2015:i:1:p:1-20
    DOI: 10.1080/13563467.2013.861413

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