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Financial Speak: A Method to Unmask Neoliberal Capitalism and the Ideology of Perpetual Growth

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Abstract

Fostering dialogue about our banking system, and the security of a sustainable future, can be done by naming dangerous strategies that are supported by the ideology of neoliberal capitalism. This work examined the role that rehypothecation played in global financial crisis, and the rhetorical positioning of neoliberal capitalism in the media. Rehypothecation is a widely used but rarely discussed method of financial engineering that investment banks employ to grow debts beyond physical limits. This is not a new idea, but rather a new way to implement a very old and clever theft—something the Roman Empire used during times of crisis. Kotz’s (2009) model of neoliberal capitalism and Gorton and Metrick’s (2010) classification of shadow banking are used to explain how modern capitalism incentivizes unsustainable practices such as rehypothecation. One of the outcomes of this system is the use of financial speak, a strategy employed by Wall Street to mask criminal banking activity with insular language that functions to create and maintain elaborate public deceptions. The meta-argument is that financial speak conceals long-term social and economic consequences that are not apparent in the everyday functioning of the economy. My fundamental critique is that an unethical distribution of resources is incentivized by neoliberal capitalism and the ways in which sustainability issues are masked is endemic to financial speak.

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