Enacting Dismal Science

Part of the series Perspectives from Social Economics pp 131-150


Performativity Matters: Economic Description as a Moral Problem

  • Philip RoscoeAffiliated withDepartment of Management, University of St Andrews


If performativity theory simply repeats that economists design markets, much of its radicalism is lost. Instead, researchers must consider the mechanisms by which economisation transforms social arrangements. This chapter develops the argument that economic description constitutes aspects of the social as economic. Following Austin and Butler, I argue that such description has a performative force, and is therefore politically and ethically charged. I suggest that an understanding of economic description as performative explain show economics can at once constitute and claim authority over an object. The chapter explores how economic description transforms social relations. It connects performativity theory to existing critiques of economic relations, and suggests that performativity research can develop ethically rich narratives without losing theoretical or empirical rigour. Finally, it urges performativity research to rediscover its radicalism in its ability to unseat the ‘meta physical presumptions’ of economics.