Finance today signals a whole range of ways in which culture, economy, and polity—the very fabric of material and symbolic life—have become interwoven. It maps a terrain where expert knowledge jostles uneasily with tacit understandings of the world, where enormous wealth becomes entangled with everyday poverty, where the future mingles with the present and the faraway with the very near. “Finance,” as a noun or verb, along with “financialization” as a name for the process by which financial habits of thought have become prevalent across a wide array of fields and activities, has meanings and applications that shift depending on usage. This variation renders the term all the more challenging to grasp, even as the calamitous specter of households, businesses, nations, and global markets in default has made private matters of credit and debt objects of public consideration.

One reason for this confusion is that “finance,” considered as a keyword, …

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Methodologies, Money, Power
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