Our Book of the Month choice for November

The SSL ‘Book of the Month’ feature highlights a book in our collection that has been chosen by one of our Subject Consultants. This may be a recent addition to our stock or an existing item that we would like to share with you.


Portfolio society: on the capitalist mode of prediction

Ivan Ascher

Zone Books, 2016

Shelfmark: HG4523.ASC 2016




Our Book of the Month choice for November has been selected by John Southall, Bodleian Data Librarian and Subject Consultant for Economics, Sociology and Social Policy and Intervention.



Why was it chosen?

It was chosen because of its engaging style and the way it argues for a transition from Marx’s wage relation to a post-industrial credit relation. One where alienation from work and consumption, while still experienced, becomes secondary to a more abstract form of financial alienation that offers another way of understanding financial events and more generally modern economies.

Book Overview

In this work Ascher explores how the abstraction and securitisation of risk in financial markets have had a profound influence on economic and social relations, with a particular focus on the aftermath of the global financial crisis. ‘Portfolio Society’ underscores the extent to which much of the ‘value’ generated by the contemporary economy results from financial engineering or extractive practices.

This compact book traces the historical development of portfolio theory by Economists such as Harry Markowitz, William Sharpe, Fischer Black and Myron Scholes and more widely adds to a growing body of critical literature from various disciplines  – including Mazzucato’s ‘The Value of Everything, Silver’s ‘Finance, Society’ and Cohen’s ‘The Infinite Desire for Growth’. This allows a closer examination of the 2008 global financial crisis, more recent developments and the contradictions revealed in the nature of our economies and financial systems.


“Portfolio Society is a ‘history of the present,’ rendered as a thick and yet pellucid description of financial crises.”

Frank Pasquale, author of The Black Box Society: The Secret Algorithms That Control Money and Information.

“An important contribution to theorising the contemporary economy, although it would benefit from greater attention to the detail of financialisation processes and how they are mediated through political and economic systems.”

Jenny McArthur, LSE Review of Books

Where can I find it?

We have one copy, which can be borrowed. It is currently displayed on top of our New Books Display Area (located around the corner from our Library Issue Desk). You are welcome to remove it from the display and borrow it. The shelfmark for the title is  HG4523.ASC 2016

What would your SSL Book of the Month be? Do you have a favourite book in our collection? If so, we would love to know what it is. Add a comment below or email us.

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