Enacting Dismal Science

Part of the series Perspectives from Social Economics pp 1-27


After the Turn: How the Performativity of Economics Matters

  • Ivan BoldyrevAffiliated withHigher School of EconomicsWitten Institute for Institutional Change, University of Witten/Herdecke
  • , Ekaterina SvetlovaAffiliated withSchool of Management, University of Leicester


We bet notable macroeconomists, Alan Blinder and Charles Wyplosz, never heard of the ‘performativity of economics’ when they stated that ‘the main purpose of central bank talk is to help markets “think like the central bank”’ (2004, 7). It is, however, striking, that so many different aspects of what is commonly called ‘performativity’ are entangled in discussing central bank communication—a theme which is currently at the heart of macroeconomic debates. All our intuitive notions—to be explained below—are here: the context of economic governance, the inherent sociality of language, the role of explicitness, the importance of signification, and the enactment of ideas and theories. For successful performance of a central bank, successful communication is crucial. To govern, one has to use the resources of language, to create a community of those who comprehend one’s message, to make explicit one’s commitments, and, finally, in and through communication, to enact the very economic theory stating that central bank communication is essential for channeling economic agents’ expectations and eventually for the proper functioning of this institution.