‘The Reactionary Politics of Finance’

Théo Bourgeron

6th December, 5-6.30pm – Goldsmiths

Richard Hoggart Building 144

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This talk is part of the PERC Speaker Series 2023/24.

Why are we witnessing such a strong resurgence of reactionary movements, ranging from alt-right groups to masculinist and supremacist ones? In the 2010s, many academics attempted to understand this phenomenon through the ‘populist’ concept, viewing it as the product of ill-advised working-class discontent. More recently however, some scholars have challenged this view by investigating the role of elite groups in reactionary movements. In his talk, Théo Bourgeron contributes to this by showing how the financial sector has played a central role in fostering reactionary politics and countering social movements.

The talk will be divided into two parts. First, it will focus on Alt-Finance, the book he co-authored last year with Marlène Benquet. It investigates the role that finance played in the Brexit referendum, using electoral donation data and historical material. The book reveals how, contrary to widespread belief, influential segments of the financial sector supported Brexit. This highlights the struggle between pro-Remain ‘mainstream finance’ and pro-Brexit ‘alternative finance’, then delves into the implications of this struggle. It showcases how mainstream finance favours maintaining the neoliberal regime of accumulation, while ‘alt-finance’ supports a shift towards a new regime that blends libertarianism and authoritarianism.

Then, Théo will discuss his ongoing project Men Making Money, supported by the Leverhulme Trust. This project draws on ethnographic observations and interviews across three sectors: private equity funds, hedge funds, and retail investors’ forums. It details the contingent role that financial masculinities play in profit appropriation, shows the institutional arrangements that allow them to operate, and examines the ways in which these actors support masculinist politics. In short, it sheds light on the entanglement between male domination, profit appropriation, and masculinist politics in finance.

Théo Bourgeron is Chancellor’s Fellow at the School of Social and Political Sciences, and an Associate Director of the Centre for Science, Knowledge and Policy (SKAPE). He is currently researching the sociology of health (with a focus on contestation of the pharmaceutical sector) and the sociology of finance (with a focus on the role of masculinities in the financial sector).