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Economic Geographies of Financialization

Andy Pike and

Jane Pollard
This article argues that financializationshorthand

Centre for Urban and
Regional Development for the growing influence of capital markets, their
Studies (CURDS) intermediaries, and processes in contemporary eco-
Newcastle University nomic and political lifegenerates an analytical
Newcastle NE1 7RU opportunity and political economic imperative to
United Kingdom move finance into the heart of economic geographic
andy.pike@ncl.ac.uk analysis. Drawing upon long-standing concerns
about the relatively marginal location of finance in
economic geography, we emphasize the integral role
of finance in connecting the entangled geographies of 29
the economic to the social, the cultural, and the politi-
cal. In the wake of various turns in the discipline,
Key words: we develop this integrationist approach to finance in
financialization ways that retain political economies of states,
political economy

86(1):2951. 2010 Clark University.

markets, and social power in our interpretations of
brands geographically uneven development. In this article,
brewing we discuss the plural nature of emergent work on
financialization and develop three analytical themes
to shape our discussion of financialization. Next, we
elaborate our analytical approach by warning against
functional, political, and spatial disconnections
traced in the literature on the geographies of money.
We then explore how financialization is broadening
and deepening the array of agents, relations, and sites
that require consideration in economic geography
and is generating tensions between territorial and
relational spatialities of geographic differentiation.
Finally, we address the relative dearth of empirical
work by examining the financialization of brands that
have shaped the evolution of the brewing business

and the development of new derivative instruments to

hedge against weather risks. We conclude by arguing
that our analysis of financialization demonstrates how
finance occupies an integral position within eco-
nomic geographies and reveals some of the sociospa-
tial relations, constructions, and reach of existing and
new actors, relations, and sites in shaping the
uneven development of financialized contemporary
capitalism.ecge_1057 29..52

Acknowledgments Financializationshorthand for the growing influ-

ence of capital markets, their intermediaries, and pro-
An earlier version of this cesses in contemporary economic and political
article was presented at the lifehas attracted growing academic, political, and
Spaces of Financialisation popular attention. The crisis of the international finan-
session at the RGS-IBG cial system since 2007 has unfolded against the back-
Annual Conference 2007, drop of financial gyrations in the past decade that have
London.Thanks to the shaken East and Southeast Asian and Latin American
participants for their economies, spawned new and highly leveraged hedge
comments, Shaun French and and private equity funds that have acquired long-
Sarah Hall for organizing the established national retailers, and produced a
session, the three reviewers mortgage-lending boom and bust that has meant that
for their comments, and millions of householders, borrowers, and savers in
Henry Yeung for his editorial different parts of the world have now heard about the
advice.The usual disclaimers U.S. subprime mortgage market.
apply. The meltdown intensified through 2009 as a credit
30 crunch became a full-blown recession or even a
depression in the eyes of numerous commentators.
Recent events have included $100 billion write-downs
in corporate accounts; trillion-dollar fluctuations in
the stock market; record bank losses, runs, and fail-
ures that have triggered state bailouts, partial and
wholesale nationalizations, state-guided mergers,
recapitalizations, and toxic asset insurance schemes
running into trillions of dollars; substantial employ-
ment lossesestimated at 40,000 financial services
jobs in the United Kingdom alone; and multilateral
attempts to reform the regulatory architecture of the
international financial system (see, e.g., Blackburn
2008; Dymski 2008; Turner 2008; Wyly, Moos,
Hammel, and Kabahizi 2009). Attempts to analyze
what has happened lead us into the murky world of
financialization, a shadowy gray capitalism (Black-
burn 2006) replete with opaque terms, such as asset-
backed securities, collateralized debt obligations,
collateralized loan obligations, NINJA (no
income, no job or assets) loans, securitization,
shareholder value, short-selling, special purpose
vehicles, and structured finance.
In this article, we argue that financialization pro-
vides a strong impetus to embed finance in the heart of
our understanding of economic geographies. As con-
ceptions of economy increasingly accept that circuits
of value reach out across and through multiscalar
spaces in which the environmental, material, and
social practices involved in them literally take place
(Lee 2006, 417), financialization requires a better
understanding of the machinations of financial actors
and intermediaries that are reshaping the landscapes
of contemporary capitalism. Financial intermediaries,
Vol. 86 No. 1 2010

metrics, and practices are ever-more engrained in the economic geographies of our
personal, working, and public lives through our access to and use of bank accounts,
mortgages, pensions, and savings; employers ownership; access to capital and financing;
and public infrastructure and services (ONeill 2009). Our intention, however, is not
simply to restate any singular or dominant role for finance in determining and explaining
economic geographies in a crudely economistic or reductionist fashion. Instead, we seek
to emphasize the integral role of finance in connecting the entangled subdisciplinary
geographies of the economic to the social, the cultural, and the political. In the wake of
various turns in the discipline, we develop this integrationist approach to finance in
ways that retain political economies of states, markets, and social power in our interpre-
tations of geographically uneven development (see Goodwin 2004; Jessop and Ooster-
lynck 2008; Jones 2008; Perrons 2001). Our argument draws on long-standing concerns
about the relatively marginal location of finance in economic geography (see Courlet and
Soulage 1995; Harvey 1982; Leyshon and Thrift 1997; Martin 1999; Pollard 2003) and
suggests that economic geographies of financialization generate both an analytical oppor-
tunity and an imperative to move finance from its offstage (Clark 2006, 84) location into
the heart of economic geographic analysis. 31
In what follows, our argument proceeds in three sections. First, rather than provide the
kind of systematic review that has been undertaken elsewhere (e.g., Economy and Society


2000; French, Leyshon, and Wainwright forthcoming), we highlight the plural nature of
emergent work on financialization and some of the different conceptual starting points,
foci, and disciplinary contexts and concerns that bedevil considerations of its economic
geographies. As a way forward, we identify and develop three analytical themes that shape
our discussion of financialization: the proliferation of financial intermediaries; the height-
ened risk, uncertainty, and volatility of financialized capitalism; and the extending social,
spatial, and political reach of financialization. Second, we elaborate our analytical
approach by exploring how financialization is broadening and deepening the array of
agents, relations, and sites that require consideration in economic geography and is
generating tensions between territorial and relational spatialities of geographic differen-
tiation. In so doing, however, we caution against three analytical habits, emphasizing
finances functional, political, and spatial disconnections that have long hindered
attempts to interrogate geographies of money. Third, we demonstrate the value of our
argument and analytical approach and address the relative dearth of empirical work by
examining the financialization of brands that is shaping the evolution of the brewing
business and the development of new derivative instruments to hedge against weather
risks. In conclusion, we argue that our analysis of financialization demonstrates how
finance holds an integral position within economic geographies and reveals some of the
sociospatial relations, constructions, and reach of existing and new actors, relations, and
sites in shaping the uneven development of financialized contemporary capitalism. We
close by reflecting upon the politics of contesting an increasingly complex, uncertain, and
volatile financialized capitalism that is seemingly beyond the grasp of social agency and
regulatory authority and is narrowly accountable only to its own webs of financial

What and Where Is Financialization?

Financialization is a neologism that has stimulated a diverse and rapidly expanding
literature marked by different theoretical and disciplinary traditions, points of departure,
and foci. French, Leyshon, and Wainwright (forthcoming) identified three significant
schools of thought on financialization: regulation theory, critical social accountancy, and

sociocultural approaches. To this list, we would add institutionalist and heterodox

economic variants. Indeed, as Engelen (2008, 117) argued, drawing on Collinss
(1994) review of post-1945 social theory, the literatures on financialization demonstrate
four major research traditions that are differentiated by their choice of explanatory
mechanism: function (Marxism, systems theory, and modernization theory),
power (political sciences and conflict sociology), interest (microeconomics and rational
choice theory), and legitimacy (theoretical approaches stressing the force of ideational
objects like principles, narratives, and discourses). Notably, the theoretical traditions and
kinds of studies of financialization reflect much of the theoretical and epistemological
diversity that has shaped a range of debates in economic geography since the 1970s
(Barnes, Peck, Sheppard, and Tickell 2003). Our aim here is not to review these literatures
or to resolve their conceptual debates but, rather, to outline some of the differences in
definition among the various schools of financialization and to develop some key
analytical themes that shape our analysis of financialization and its economic
So, briefly, what is financialization? Regulation theorists interpret financialization as a
32 macroeconomic phenomenon, representing a systemic shift in capitalism and marking the
emergence of a new finance-driven regime of accumulation (Boyer 2000). For Dumnil
and Lvy (2001, 578), financialization is part of a global neoliberal project that marks the
return to hegemony of the financial fraction of ruling classes, echoing Arrighis (1994)
identification of previous historical financializations of capital that extended Braudels
(1984, 246) characterization of financial expansion as a sign of autumn, a symbol of the
maturity of a particular phase of capitalist development. By contrast, critical accounting
perspectives place greater emphasis on meso- and microeconomic analytics and define
financialization as the growing influence of capital markets (their products, actors, and
processes) on firm and household behaviours (Erturk et al. 2007, 556). Julie Froud, Karel
Williams, and their colleagues have interpreted financialization as a new form of financial
competition in which every quoted firm must compete as an investment to meet the same
standard of financial performance (Williams 2000, 6; see Froud, Haslam, Johal, and
Williams 2000; Froud, Johal, Leaver, and Williams 2006). As such, financialization
reworks the hierarchy of management objectives (Williams 2000, 6) as firms struggle
to meet the increasingly assertive demands of shareholders, fund managers, and capital
markets vis--vis those of other stakeholders (Froud, Haslam, Johal, and Williams 2000).
Sociocultural accounts, such as that of Martin (2002, 76), focus on the financialization of
everyday life and describe financialization as commercially inspired selfhood that
conditions individuals to take on greater financial responsibilities and risks as personal
pensions, private insurance, and investments have gradually replaced socialized, state-
provided welfare benefits. This strand focuses on the construction of individual identities
and subjectivities and the dynamics of peoples enrollment in the everyday life of global
finance (Langley 2006, 2007). An institutionalist take on financialization emphasizes the
extent and nature of the relative growth in the power of financial interests and actors
within the broader institutional webs that constitute predominantly national varieties of
capitalism (Hall and Soskice 2001; Pauly and Reich 1997). Lazonick and OSullivan
(1996), for example, demonstrated the increasingly central role of capital markets and
financial intermediaries in transmitting competitive norms and in prompting and shaping
the nature of corporate change. Finally, heterodox economic research on financialization
is strongly wedded to political economy traditions, as well as to post-Keynesian perspec-
tives. Blackburn (2006, 39), for example, viewed financialization as the growing
systemic power of finance and financial engineering that permeates corporations
and households alike and encourages an individual to think of himself or herself as a
Vol. 86 No. 1 2010

two-legged cost and profit centre. This definition encapsulates the breadth of literatures
that describe both systemic and performative aspects of financialization.
In the context of such differences in definition, conceptualization, and focus, we can
distill three themes to develop our analysis of the stimulus that financialization is
generating to situate financial concerns more centrally within analyses of economic
geographies. First, the literatures on financialization have drawn attention to the growth in
a range of financial intermediaries and other actors alongside the growing size, visibility,
and influence of financial markets. Existing and new institutions are increasingly becom-
ing drawn into formerly disintermediated financial markets through their investments in
equity, debt, pensions, mortgages, infrastructure, investment funds, and insurance. The
sheer extent and weight of financial trading activities and attendant practices of calcula-
tion and financial engineering have surged through the activities of these institutions,
growing exponentially in their geographic scale and scope and dwarfing output growth,
especially in strongly market-led economies like the United States and the United
Kingdom. Various indicators of the growing prevalence of financial calculation include
pressures to manage corporations to deliver shareholder value in the form of dividend
streams and asset appreciation that privilege financial ownership over other agents 33
(Folkman, Froud, Sukhdev, and Williams 2006; Williams 2000); marked growth in the
long-term market capitalization of firms (Gibbon and Ponte 2005); increased churn and


turnover in short-term share ownership; the proliferation of fee-earning intermediaries
(e.g., hedge funds, private equity fund partners, corporate lawyers, and fund managers;
see Froud and Williams 2007); the trend for nonfinancial corporations to buy up assets
and financial subsidiaries (Blackburn 2002; Martin 2002); and the deeper and wider
enrollment of individuals in the realm of financialized capitalismby 2000, for example,
some 40 percent of U.S. and U.K. households had some of their savings invested in stock
markets (Williams 2000). Different literatures on financialization can thus agree that it is
associated with widening and deepening the reach of financial interests in ways that
pervade the agency, spaces, and places of existing and new actors and sites. In a more
complex and shifting context, capital markets and intermediaries have become relatively
more powerful in shaping the sociospatial relations of corporate, household, and indi-
vidual agency, rendering finance ever-more central to understanding their economic
Second, research on financialization has demonstrated how risk, uncertainty, and
volatility are now more thoroughly embedded within the economic geographies of the
financial system. This is a product of the voracious appetite of existing and new market
actors for the rapid realization of supranormal profits and a technocratic belief in their
capacity to engineer ever-more sophisticated methodologies and instruments through
which to conceive and calculate value and profit from the management of risk (Blackburn
2006). Such rationales and practices have led to the recognized impact of hedge funds use
of similar software models to accentuate the swings between peaks and troughs in
financial markets, generating and reinforcing the volatility from which they seek to
benefit (Knorr Cetina, Karin, and Preda 2004). In addition, more sophisticated short-
selling practices have allowed market intermediaries to profit from falls in prices of
borrowed equities as long as the magnitude of declines and their timing matches their
predictions. The wider social and spatial reach of the financial intermediaries and
practices just identified has, in turn, extended the transmission, temporally and spatially,
of such risk, uncertainty, and volatility into myriad private and social worlds that are
connected through financial markets.
Third, although the orthodox literatures have asserted the benefits of the growing power
of investor principals vis--vis agent managers (pace Jensen and Meckling 1976) and

popular analyses have lauded the innovative ingenuity of financial actors (e.g., The New
Kings of Capitalism 2007), many accounts of financialization have raised significant
concerns about its material, social, and political repercussions. For those who are suffi-
ciently affluent to participate, financialized capitalism could be a more democratized
finance (Erturk et al. 2007), opening up capital markets for moderate-income house-
holds and individuals to express choice, take ownership, and potentially prosper from
asset price inflation. In this way, connecting peoples livelihoods more closely to financial
markets has naturalized finance in the every day (Langley 2007).Yet Erturk et al. (2007)
also questioned the financial literacy and calculative competences of different individu-
als and socioeconomic groups to weigh financial risks and rewards and to invest wisely in
financialized capitalism. For Lazonick and OSullivan (1996, 32), the long stock market
boom encouraged U.S. households to live off the past and, at the same time, encouraged
corporations to downsize and distribute profits to shareholders, rather than to reinvest
them in their firms. As such, financialization has been characterized as redistributing
surpluses to elite financial intermediaries (Savage and Williams 2008; Folkman, Froud,
Sukhdev, and Williams 2006) and rewarding asset-stripping actors who prey on firms that
34 are weighed down by large pension and, in the United States, medical liabilities (Black-
burn 2002). Financialization, then, clearly has the potential to exacerbate unevenness
across individuals, social groups, and organizations in space and place.

Toward Economic Geographies of Financialization

Our three analytical themesthe extended and deepened social and spatial reach
of financial intermediaries and practices; the generation and transmission of risk,
uncertainty, and volatility; and the production of material, social, and political
unevennessenable us to demonstrate the integral position of finance within economic
geographies. Here, we further develop how our analytical themes can address the diverse
ways in which financialization is reinforcing the central position of finance within
economic geographies, first, by explaining how financialization broadens and deepens the
array of agents, relations, and sites in our analytical focus and, second, by exploring the
tensions between territorial and relational spatialities of geographic differentiation and
uneven development. Connected to readings of economy that emphasize its sociospatial
relations and constructions, a more supple interpretation of the spatialities of finance can
enable its closer integration with the traditionally dominant concerns of economic
geography in production; the firm, labor, and the state; and, more recently, consumption
and culture (Barnes, Peck, Sheppard, and Tickell 2003). More broadly, such a reading can
make connections and linkages from the economic to the social, cultural, and political
subdisciplinary subdivisions within geography by illuminating hitherto hidden or rela-
tively obscured concerns.
In so doing, however, it is important that analyses of financialization avoid being
dazzled by the apparent speed, complexity, and scale of finance that can generate three
interrelated, analytical temptations that have commonly afflicted writings on the role of
finance in the economy and polity. The first temptation is to argue that there is a functional
disconnection between finance and something called the real economy. Comaroff and
Comaroff (2002, 784), for example, argued:

Above all else, the explosion of new monetary instruments and markets, aided by ever-more-
sophisticated means of planetary coordination and time-space compression, have allowed the
financial order to achieve a degree of autonomy from real production unmatched in the annals
of modern political economy.
Vol. 86 No. 1 2010

Such accounts tend to treat finance and production as increasingly dissociated spheres,
replacing the productionism of Marxian political economy with a financialism that
invariably understates the inescapably geographic, material rootedness of financial con-
nections. Montgomerie (2007) saw such views in international political economy, but it is
not universally held across other approaches to financialization, where such actors may
seek such detachment but fail to achieve it in practice (Blackburn 2006). The scope and
magnitude of changes heralded by financialization may, at some times and in some places,
reinforce the capacity of the financial system to reproduce itself solely through the circuits
of finance capital. Yet it is more questionable, especially in empirical terms, whether this
constitutes a wholesale transformation and shift in the ability of the system to create value
only through the (re)circulation of finance, somehow disconnected or one step removed
from the material substance of the real economy. Although commodity extraction and
production may periodically be deemed unfashionable or old economy relative to
alternative possibilities in the investment landscape, such activities remain integral even
to an increasingly financialized capitalism that is compelled systematically to enhance
relative returns on capital employed. Evidence reveals a proliferation of new financing
instruments and practices that intertwine almost as much financial engineering as heavy 35
engineering (Finch 2006b), often in opportunistic and short-term attempts to capture
volatile but potentially highly lucrative spikes in asset and commodity prices. As invest-


ment guru Jim Rogers, of the Quantum Hedge Fund, argued amid the dot-com boom of
the late 1990s, the next big thing is things (quoted in Finch 2006a). The dynamism and
vitality of financial networks and, above all, the pragmatism that is integral to the restless
drive for accumulation mean that, even in the context of financialization, the material
basis of the real economy is inescapable in its framing and calculation of investment
opportunities (Leyshon and Thrift 2007). As Pryke (2006, 7) put it:

Flow and circulation do not quite capture the entanglement of time-spaces that accompany
the motion of finance and the traffic in financial instruments. As analytical concepts, they join
the story half way through as it were; they miss out the formative stages, the processes and
practices that shape and generate the flows and the circulation. [emphasis in original]

If the advent of financialization is to be used to illustrate the place of finance within

economic geographies, then it is important to avoid the dichotomy of finance and the real
economy. It is only through their integration that the social relations of finance and the
ways in which its forms of calculation affect economic processes can be understood (see
Mirowski 1999).
The second temptation is to reproduce a political disconnection that describes how a
globally encompassing, more pervasive, and integrated financial system can appear
ingenious, omnipotent, even carnivorous (Williams 2000, 1), and constantly beyond
political authority and regulation. The rise of scientific finance from the 1960s delib-
erately sought technical and purportedly objective metrics of liquidity, rate of return,
shareholder value, and so on to render the financialized economy the realm of technocracy
and experts (de Goede 2005; Mitchell 2002; Pryke 2006) and distant from the scrutiny of
democratic and regulatory institutions and processes (Buck-Morss 1995). Language and
discursive devices and practices have been used to obscure and deflect political questions
of emergent financialized space, despite evidence of regressive excesses, including
vulture funds that sue heavily indebted countries to recover loans, inflated remunera-
tions and bonuses for executives that encourage excessive risk taking, and fraud.
Politically disabling representations of finance are not new or uncontested. The radical
critiques and alternative economic strategies of the early 1980s in the United Kingdom

explicitly recognized the politicized nature of the financial system and its potentially
damaging implications for uneven development. As Richard Minns (1982, 48) argued in
Take Over the City, profitability is not a technical, objective term but is specifically
related to the structure of British capitalism, the role of financial institutions, and their
ability to concentrate on short-term returns. Profitability is political.
We acknowledge that the task of regulating the financial system has become much more
complex in the postBretton Woods era in the context of financialization and periodic
crises (Clark and Tickell 2005). It remains crucial, however, to interrogate the unevenness
in the constructed sociality and spatiality of financial markets to reconnect and reveal
their political-economic context. Despite the often-heroic claims of financial
interestsechoing Tom Wolfes (1988) Masters of the Universe sobriquetpersistent
gaps remain between what is being expected and delivered in terms of shareholder value
because of the uneven pressures of financialization and the circumscribed scope and
potential agency of different managerial responses (Froud, Haslam, Johal, and Williams
2000). A more social treatment of the economic geographies of financialization can avoid
any sense of the disconnection of a more sophisticated and technocratic financial system
36 from its political and regulatory context.
Third, while the crudest forms of OBriens (1992) end of geography and Friedmans
(2005) flat world theses have been rebutted within economic geography (Martin 1999;
Rodrguez-Pose and Crescenzi 2008), the dynamism, rapidity, and magnitude of change
and innovation that are conjured up by financialization can appear, at least at first glance,
to have generated economic activities that are disconnected from their geographic
entanglements in space and place. The sheer scale and sometimes radical nature of
changes in financial practices can seem constantly to race ahead of any ability to ground
or spatialize our understandings of them in concrete ways. The danger is not the end of
geography or the flattening of spatial differentiation but in the temptation to accept a
diminution of geographys substance and importance in the emergent spaces of finan-
cialization. The increasingly abstract nature of financial practices and discourses rein-
forces this sense of geographic detachment. The recent resurgence of forms of private
equity, in particular, has raised questions about the nature of apparently spaceless
financialized capitalism and its intentions for businesses and people in places. Trade
unions, for example, have voiced concerns that such private financial entities are like a
global vacuum cleaner hoovering up assets any place, anywhere, any time. . . . The
philosophy is buy it, strip it and flip it. . . . Its all about value extraction and not value
creation (Phillip Jennings, general secretary, UNI global union, quoted in Elliot 2007).
Recognizing the historical parallels with the highly leveraged wave of buy-outs in the
United States in the late 1980s, Froud and Williams (2007) argued that private equity does
not represent a new or superior kind of institutionalized capitalism but normalizes a
culture of value extraction by elite principals that interprets businesses as abstracted
bundles of financial assets and liabilities to be traded for higher economic returns than
their existing configurations are able to deliver. However, such accounts underplay the
necessarily social and spatial nature of finance, long established within economic geog-
raphies (see, e.g., Harvey 1982, 1989), especially the ways in which the geographies of
assets and liabilities impinge upon their value and tradable potential (Lee 2006; Pollard
2003, 2007; Pike 2006).
Some accounts of financialization have recognized geographic specificity but have
framed it in the national context of Hall and Soskices (2001) varieties of capitalism
with distinctive institutional and regulatory systems of share ownership, the centrality of
capital markets, private institutional investors, and credit- and bond-rating agencies (see
Williams 2000; Lazonick and OSullivan 1996; Gibbon and Ponte 2005). Thus, debates
Vol. 86 No. 1 2010

about financialization have had most purchase in the United States and the United
Kingdom as exemplars of liberal market-based capitalisms in contrast to the coordinated
market-based models in France and Germany (Engelen 2008; Morin 2000; Jrgens,
Naumann, and Rupp 2000). Countries in the global south (Singh et al. 2007) and central
and Eastern Europe (Stenning, Smith, Rochovsk, and Swiatek forthcoming) have
received much less attention at least partly because of the inability of mainstream theories
to interpret postcolonial economic geographies (Bagchi 2007; Pollard and Samers 2007;
Pollard, Laurie, McEwan, and Stenning 2009).
Guarding against the issues of functional, political, and spatial disconnection, we can
now elaborate our analytical approach, first, to demonstrate how financialization has
widened and deepened the range of agents, relations, and sites and, second, to detail how
the economic geographies of financialization are crosscut by ongoing tensions between
territorial and relational spatialities of geographic differentiation and uneven develop-
ment. First, the growing social and geographic scope and extent of financialization has
drawn existing and new agents and sites into often reconfigured roles and relationships
within the financial system, broadening and deepening the reach of finance capital.
Financialization, then, provides an opportunity to confront the often-undersocialized 37
nature of contemporary financial geographies. Following calls for more holistic views of
the circuits of capital across different sites and spatial scales (Courlet and Soulage 1995;


Hudson 2005; Pollard 2003; Smith et al. 2002; Clark 2005), our reading of financializa-
tion connects hitherto relatively discrete and separate spatial circuits of finance,
especially in linking the domestic realm of people, families, and households with the
international financial system (French, Leyshon, and Wainwright forthcoming; Langley
2007). Indeed, as Corbridge, Martin, and Thrift (1994, 15) argued, in most industrialized
countries, struggles over practices and meanings of money have usually been most
visible when they have been connected to everyday life, and especially to the built
Everyday financial practices within the entangled geographies of the ordinary
economy (Lee 2006) have become a key strand of recent work on the differentiated forms
and sites of connection and negotiation among people, places, and global
financewhat Dymski (2005) called the micro-globalisation of financemediated by
a host of axes of differentiation, including sector, class, gender, ethnicity, and faith (see,
e.g., Erturk et al. 2007; Pollard 2007; Stenning, Smith, Rochovsk, and Swiatek forth-
coming). Our reading develops beyond the mechanistic divisions or hierarchies between
the discrete macro-, meso-, and microlevels that are evident in some accounts of finan-
cialization and emphasizes their nested interrelations.
Financialization is reconfiguring peoples positions, financial practices, and articula-
tion within the financial system. Often through the selective withdrawal of the state,
individuals have been encouraged and/or compelled to become increasingly reliant upon
financial markets and instruments for their economic welfare (Clark 2000). Individuals
are being drawn into and having their existing sociospatial relations and identities
reworked and realigned in highly unequal and uneven ways. This focus brings a welcome
emphasis upon the welfare of people in places and begins to remedy the undersocialized
views of actors motivations in the literatures on money and finance (Pollard 2003).
Crucially, though, it also opens up to closer scrutiny the divided, complex, and often
ambiguous situations that result. Individuals, for example, may find themselves enrolled
in the financial system through social relations of employment and ownership and with
dual identities as both worker-shareholders and shareholder-workers, each with
different linkages and articulations to their employer and the capital markets (see
Table 1). In the wake of restructuring and rationalization, for instance, jobs are lost, and

Table 1
Social Relations and Social Identities
Social Relations Social Identities Linkage/Articulation

Employment-ownership Worker-shareholder Firm-capital market

Ownership-employment Shareholder-worker Capital market-firm
Source: Based on Boyer (2000).

individuals, households, and communities are acutely affected but in ambiguous ways
because what worker/shareholders lose through wage cuts could be compensated by the
gains of shareholder/workers in asset price appreciation (Williams 2000, 9).
Second, the wider and deeper social and spatial reach of existing and new actors
resulting from financialization underpins the role of finance as a prism through which to
understand the tensions in economic geographies between territorial and relational
38 spatialities of geographic differentiation and uneven development. In common with
Prykes (2006, 15; emphasis in the original) call for a conceptualization of the tempo-
ralities and spatialities of finance as a means of undermining the idea of space as an
inactive backdrop to financial time-spaces, we argue for the inescapable geographic
construction, context, and rootedness of financial networks and practices. Reflecting
recent debates about space, place, and scale (see, e.g., Allen and Cochrane 2007; Amin
2004; Hudson 2007; Pike 2007), central to this analytical view is a focus on the tensions
between territorial, topographical, and scalar readings of bounded entitiessuch as
regulatory institutions with spatial jurisdictions at specific scales like the nation-
stateand the relational, topological views of unbounded flows and circulationssuch
as international trading networks in monetary instruments. We see this approach as a
fruitful, if challenging, way forward for interpreting the diversity and variety of the
economic geographies of financialization: tackling the missing geographies of finan-
cialisation by seeking to move beyond a scalar geographical imaginary toward a more
monetary network approach (French, Leyshon, and Wainwright forthcoming), while
retaining a sense of the tensions between territorial and relational conceptions of space
and place.
Taking this approach affords a means of interpreting the social relations and identities
of financialization when they are stretched over time and space to reveal connections
across and between sociospatial scales, often with uneven and contradictory conse-
quences. Robert Reich (2000), for example, commenting on the California public sector
pension fund CalPERSs decision to sell Alcatel stock that led indirectly to job losses in
France, acerbically noted the cognitive dissonance that means:

Mild-mannered folk like Californias public retireestens of thousands of people who spent
their careers working for the state . . . are also quietly undermining what remains of European
social democracy. They are not alone in doing so, of course, but given the extensive holdings of
their retirement funds in European-based companies, their influence should not be

Clark (2005) also suggested that peoples lives are being made global and that their
finances are being shaped by transnational flows through the international financial
system. If we use financialization as a stimulus to locate finance more centrally in
economic geographic research, then we can also challenge the existing literatures focus
Vol. 86 No. 1 2010

on national spaces and their tendency to reduce the diversity and variety of the
economic geographies of financialization to ideal-typical constructs, rather than to a more
finely grained and nuanced variegation of capitalism across time and space (Peck and
Theodore 2007). Although critical to establishing the investment rules, norms, and
regulatory standards that frame economic activities in meaningful ways (see, e.g., Chris-
topherson 2002; Gertler 2004), the national is not the only geographic entanglement of
importance to finance. Wray (2008), for example, recently illustrated the significance of
regionally differentiated venture capital networks, financial knowledges, intermediaries,
and business support that characterize the uneven geographic take-up and availability of
business finance in the East Midlands and in northeast England. Deploying our analytical
approach to the wider and deeper social and spatial reach of existing and new actors and
territorial and relational tensions, we want to use financialization as a way to understand
the social agency of actors who are connected and articulated across and between
space and place. The following sections draw upon empirical work to examine the
financialization of brands in restructuring the brewing business and the financialization of
hedging risk in weather derivatives. Each case demonstrates how financialization
links different articulations of agents, spaces, and places to uneven development and 39
reinforces the integral position of finance in explaining their unfolding economic


The Financialization of Brands and the Geographies
of Brewing
The archetypal real economy business of brewing has felt the effects of financial-
ization acutely, exemplifying strong functional connections between financial interests
and the reshaping of its structure, organization, and geographies. With institutional
investors rendered more powerful and vociferous through the primacy of the capital
markets as part of financialization, narratives demanding enhanced shareholder value
have forced brewing companies away from capital-hungry production and packaging
toward the sales and marketing of brands. The intensification of competition has squeezed
profit margins and shifted the focus of the brewing business toward the differentiation of
products through high levels of advertising expenditures and the national, if not global,
promotion and internationalization of brands in emerging markets, particularly in Brazil,
China, and Russia. Brewing groups have segmented markets and encouraged consumers
tastes to shift toward relatively higher margin volume lager brands and fragmented niche
markets that are capable of supporting premium-priced brands (such as extra
strength, exotic imports; alcopops; and speciality drinks). Investors demands for
increased shareholder value have been at the forefront of brewing companies
attempts to disentangle themselves from the capital-intensive, low-margin, and
pedestrian returns on investment delivered by producing standardized volumes of ale,
beer, and lager.
The increased technological sophistication of brewing has meant that the former
geographic attachments to particular breweries, raw materials, water sources, and so on
that have traditionally characterized specific brands can be technically re-created in
high-technology brew factories, affording brewers a hitherto unprecedented degree of
spatial flexibility. This is not a simple tale of spatial disconnection and disembedding,
however. Geographies unavoidably enter into assessments of shareholder value through
the differences they make to corporate financial performance, for example, through the
location of firms and assets, workforces, markets, and tax and regulatory contexts (Pike
2006). Rather than simple functional and spatial disconnections, then, the strategic shift

toward the sales and marketing of brands has opened up space for contract brewing and
packaging to serve the main brand owners. Such changes have created difficult issues for
brewers in trying to balance increasingly international economic integration in the search
for scale economies with the actual and, crucially, the perceived provenance of often-local
ties that are sometimes evident or constructed to establish, create, and suggest quality and
authenticity in the value and meaning of brands.
In the context of financialized consumer capitalism and amid a lack of consensus
among competing accounting methodologies, brewing brandsin common with other
consumer goodsare now interpreted as a financial asset class:

[I]n the boardroom and in the City . . . brands are financial assets, every bit as much as plant,
machinery and stock. . . . [B]rands are arguably the most valuable assets of all in that, in theory,
they do not have a finite life and therefore will not depreciate. (Hart 1998, 206)

The ability of brands and branding to provide meaning and add value to support
revenue, cash flows, and a growth in profits has meant that they have become
40 incorporatedalbeit unevenly and selectivelyinto processes of financialization
because it is widely accepted that brands do create wealth. Maximising brand value is
simply a part of maximising shareholder valuea goal that effective managers of all
quoted companies recognize (Batchelor 1998, 98).
The greater recognition and valuation of brands has meant that brands have
become financialized (Willmott 2007) and, like other financial asset classes,
have been brought into the calculative frame and scrutiny of the existing and new actors
of financialization: corporate strategists, financial analysts, investors, and others.
This financialization of brands has encouraged financial institutions and analysts to
harden their sentiment against brewing as an old economy, mature sector with a large
appetite for capital, tied up in assets creating sunk costs and barriers to exit, that typically
struggles to deliver sufficient shareholder value relative to alternative investment oppor-
tunities. Increasingly large, integrated groups with a sales and marketing focus and
strong global brands supported by substantial advertising expenditures have become
the financial analysts preferred business model and financial narrative (see ONeill
Financialized brands, particularly their relative market strengths, potential growth,
investment returns, and value, are stimulating rivalry and consolidation within the
brewing business on an international scale. The geographies of the brewing business are
increasingly focused upon the acquisition and management of brand portfolios in a
consolidating and internationalizing industry that is dominated by InBev/Anheuser-
Busch, SABMiller, and Heineken (see Table 2). Financialized brands are viewed in an
instrumental manner as part of such strategies:

Even though I come from a marketing background, I view brands as vehicles for driving growth
and valueno more and no less. . . . What were looking at is very unemotional. We can talk
about the beauties of brands and all that sort of stuff, but at the end of the day investors just want
to know what they are going to get in terms of returns. (Tony Froggat, Scottish and Newcastles
former chief executive, quoted in Bowers 2005, 30)

Given their growing size, market power, tax contributions, and spatial reach, the
economic geographies of the brewing business have been unable to disconnect their
activities from the political economic context and continue to be shaped by territorial and
institutional regulatory structures. National competition authorities still shape the strate-
Vol. 86 No. 1 2010

Table 2
International Brewing Groups Ranked by Output, 2005
Company Volume (M/HL) Sales m Headquarters Ownership Structure

InBev 200 13,308 Leuven, Belgium Public/family control

Anheuser-Buscha 143 13,034 St. Louis, Missouri, United States Public
SABMiller 109 11,802 London, United Kingdom Public
Heineken 103 11,829 Amsterdam, the Netherlands Public/family control
Molson Coors 60 4,232 Denver, Colorado, United States Public/family control
Carlsberg 51 5,518 Copenhagen, Denmark Public/foundation control
Scottish and Newcastleb 48 4,889 Edinburgh, United Kingdom Public
Grupo Modelo 40 3,743 Mexico City, Mexico Public/family control
Asahi Breweries Group 34 6,195 Tokyo, Japan Public
Tsingtao 22 27 Qingdao, China Public/government
Source: Calculated from annual reports; Swinburn (2005, 2).
Acquired by InBev in late 2008.
Acquired by Carlsberg and Heineken in 2008.


gic valuations and outcomes of consolidations among the brewing giants. Scottish and
Newcastles (S&N) recent acquisition and breakup, for example, failed to attract regula-
tory intervention in the United Kingdom by the Competition Commission only because
Heineken gained S&Ns U.K. operations, where it hitherto had no presence, and Carls-
berg acquired control of S&Ns overseas interests, especially its former joint venture
BBH in Russia and the former states of the Soviet Union.
Financialization, then, is generating powerful forces for the strategic change and
reorganization of the geographies of the brewing businessencouraging new
business models, defining new strategies and targets, prioritizing the cultivation and
management of brands, shifting the balance of power in its industrial organization,
and reshaping the uneven development of the extent and nature of its spatial entangle-
ments. This brief vignette demonstrates the central dimensions of our arguments. First,
the ascendancy of financialization in reshaping the business of brewing reveals the
importance of situating finance at the heart of understanding its changing economic
geographies. In contrast to traditional economic geographic approaches that emphasized
industry, firm, and location (e.g., Watts 1991), our analysis emphasizes the growing social
and spatial reach of existing (e.g., brand owners and major shareholders) and new (e.g.,
brand valuation consultancies, advertising agencies, and packaging subcontractors)
actors who are compelled and involved in reorganized business models that are
attempting to deliver enhanced relative returns on investment in the context of
internationalized competition and consumers shifting tastes. Second, rather than any
simple and determining role for finance in reshaping the economic geographies of
brewing, our interpretation demonstrates tensions between territorial and relational spa-
tialities of geographic differentiation and uneven development. In the wake of financial-
ization, increasingly brand-conscious international brewing groups have sought to
balance the need for fluid economic expansion and continued growth and sales on a global
basis with the culturally and socially sticky, place-based geographic attachments of
brand provenance, especially the territorially shaped character of brand preferences and
tastes in particular, often national, markets and the geographic-political economies
of the institutional and jurisdictional spatialities of market access and the regulation of

Financializing the Weather: The Advent of Weather

I think its a perfect market. You cant spook it, you cant manipulate it. You cant make people
think its going to be 110 degrees in London next week. (Peter Brewer, Cumulus Weather Fund,
quoted in Ishmael 2007)

If one analytical strategy is to explore how financialization is reshaping the economic

geographies of particular businesses, another is to explore the often-opportunistic devel-
opment and use of new financial tools and to assess their uneven impact. Although neither
derivative contracts nor attempts to domesticate the weather are new (Rayner 2003), the
recent development of markets in weather derivatives, premised on a complex articulation
of financial mathematics, meteorology, and the identification and calculation of weather
risk, marks a significant step up in the game of domesticating mother nature (Pryke
2007, 585).
42 Weather derivatives are a relatively new form of derivative contract, first used in the
United States by Enron, Aquila Energy, and Koch Industries in 19961997 (see Randalls
2005). In contrast with weather insurance, which has long been used to manage the risks
of high-risk, low-probability events like hurricanes or floods, weather derivatives are used
by firms to hedge against low-risk, high-probability events, such as dry or wet periods or
cold or warm seasons in a place that can affect the demand for their goods and services
and hence their revenues, costs, and income (Thornes and Randalls 2007). Wine bars,
restaurants, and theme parks, for example, can use weather derivatives to hedge the
economic impact of a wetter-than-average summer, while energy companies may pur-
chase weather derivative contracts as a winter hedge to compensate for a warmer-than-
average winter in which they sell less gas or electricity (see Table 3). Using the standard
structures of derivatives contracts (puts, calls, collars, and so forth), firms can identify
particular periods for the derivative, a strike (the pointaverage temperature, rainfall,
and so forthat which the contract will pay out), a tick (the payout-per-unit increment
beyond the strike), and a maximum payout. Weather derivatives allow some flexibility for

Table 3
An Example of a Weather Derivative Contract
A chain of U.K. wine bars typically sells more wine in warm summer months when consumers
can sit outside at their outlets.The chain could protect itself from losses associated with a
cold summer by using the following option:
Weather stations London Heathrow
Risk period From 1 May to 31 August
Weather index Average temperature for London Heathrow during the risk period
Strike 20C
Tick 20,000 per 0.01C
Maximum payout 2,000,000
Contract If Weather Index < Put Strike, buyer receives: (Strike Weather Index) x Tick, up to the
value of the maximum payout
Premium Paid upfront by the company
Source: Adapted from the Actuarial Professions European Weather Derivatives Working Party, n.d., available online:
Note: If the weather index = 19.7C, then the buyer receives (20 - 19.7) 2,000,000 = 600,000. If the weather
index = 20.1C, there is no payout.
Vol. 86 No. 1 2010

firms in that they can increase or decrease their cover in line with changing weather
forecasts and, depending on their meteorological and financial expertise, trade contracts
in a speculative fashion. Between 2003 and 2004, $4.3 billion in weather derivatives
contracts were traded; by 2005 to 2006, the figure had increased more than tenfold to $45
billion (Weather Risk Management Association 2008).
What may weather derivatives illustrate about the processes and geographies of finan-
cialization? First, weather derivatives are clearly products of a North American and, to a
much lesser extent, a Western European financial and regulatory imagination (Pollard,
Oldfield, Randalls, and Thornes 2008; Pryke 2007) and a particular articulation of
sectoral context, regulatory, and conjunctural conditions. While the specter of anthropo-
genic climate change, mounting insurance losses from extreme weather-related events,
and the growing mediation of weather experiences (Rayner 2003) have all played a part
in the development of these markets, it was the deregulation of the U.S. energy sector and
U.S. market conditions in the late 1990s that were key stimuli for the development of
weather derivatives contracts. The energy sector has always been highly weather sensitive,
but regulatory shifts exposed U.S. energy producers to a world of fluctuating prices, while
the El Nio winter of 19971998 also reduced the demand for gas. Weather derivatives 43
allowed U.S. energy producers to hedge their volume risk in the same way that they had
traditionally hedged price risk. In the United States, governmental regulation made


weather data freely available to weather companies and consumers (National Research
Council 2003), which significantly boosted the market for constructing various weather
indices. In the financialized capital market-centric financial cultures of the United States
and United Kingdom, there has been the most interest in quantifying the economic
impacts of weather, not just its extreme variants that are usually managed by the insurance
industry. Thus, in the United States, the National Research Council estimated that 25
percent to 42 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product (more than $2.7 trillion) is
weather sensitive (National Research Council 2003), while in the United Kingdom, the
Meteorological Office estimated that 70 percent of firms may be affected by the weather
(Pollard, Oldfield, Randalls, and Thornes 2008). Bruce (2008) estimated that 90 to 95
percent of weather derivative activity is generated in the United States, with the United
Kingdom providing most of the rest of the market. Japan, Australia, and India have also
generated some weather derivative trades.
Second, the financialization of weather risk signals the ability of capital markets to
generate and reshape connections between diverse sites and agents who hitherto may have
had little or no interaction with derivatives markets. Given that weather, in the form of
rain, sun, and temperature, cannot be traded, weather derivative contracts derive their
value from selected meteorological indices (e.g., average temperature) that are computed
from meteorological data that correlate closely with real weather. The production of
such indices is the task of various meteorological intermediaries who measure, forecast,
and render, in appropriate commodity form, their knowledge of different atmospheric
components. The financialization of weather and the creation of weather derivatives
markets are thus re-valuing information about the atmosphere, creating a tradable
commodity in terms of weather indices and also re-valuing aspects of forecasting and
expertise (Thornes and Randalls 2007, 282).
The immense economic significance of meteorological data and forecasting expertise
is thus becoming ever clearer for both providers and users of such data. Along with the
production of meteorological data, Thornes and Randalls (2007) argued that the atmos-
pheres material properties (e.g., oxygen and nitrogen) and physical dynamics that
produce weather are ripe for different forms of commodification because ownership rights
are not clearly established.

Third, the financialization of weather risk is generating new possibilities, pressures, and
targets for firms across a wide range of sectors and places to transform and displace the
temporality and spatiality of their weather-related risk. As Bryan and Rafferty (2006, 52)
contended, the central, universal characteristic of derivatives is their capacity to dis-
mantle or unbundle any asset into constituent attributes and trade those attributes
without trading the asset itself.
This unbundling allows attributes of different assets to become generic, universally
recognizable, and tradable. While stock markets put values on corporate entities, deriva-
tives have the effect of socializing the calculation and commensuration of attributes of
assets within and between firms, in essence extending and deepening competition across
time and space for the attributes of different assets (Bryan and Rafferty 2006). The
vagaries of the weather may once have been viewed as a natural hazard, but in
financialized capitalism, they can be read differently; weather is being denaturalised
and its patterns recoded and re-territorialized so that its threats or risks can be circulated
objectively in financial form (Pryke 2007, 585, emphasis in original). New intermedi-
aries, like the Weather Risk Management Association, formed in 1999, have emerged to
44 liaise with firms, shareholders, and bond-rating agencies to create a cultural and financial
environment that is increasingly awareand less tolerantof weather-related losses (see
Randalls 2005). For corporations, small and large firms alike, the story is that climate
change and the growing variability in weather are here to stay and that inclement weather
is a form of risk that businesses can, and should, manage through appropriate
financial instruments. The significance of weather derivatives thus extends beyond the
value of their immediate use; they mark the penetration of financializing logics ever
deeper into everyday geographies and a naturalizing of a financial logic that pressures
capitalist firms to reassess how they conceive of and respond to the variability of weather.
This brief foray into weather derivatives markets illustrates, as is true of the business of
brewing, that financialization is reshaping definitions of assets and expectations and
generating a demand for new financial intermediaries with specific expertise. In this
example, the production of meteorological data and expertise is of increasing economic
significance as growing environmental and financial concerns around weather-variability
and weather-related losses are used to reconceptualize the vagaries of the weather as a
form of financial risk that can be displaced through derivative markets. The political
linkages and resonance of the entangled economic geographies of these financializations
can explore and connect the producers, circulators, and consumers of such financial
innovations; the changing financial, social, and political networks that produce meteoro-
logical sciences; and a host of issues concerning access, rights, and exploitation that
accompany the ongoing commodification of the atmosphere (see Thornes and Randalls
2007). Finally, beyond the geographic variability of weather, this analysis demonstrates
some of the geographically rooted origins of these financial innovationsin the particular
regulatory and financial context of the United Statesand their uneven spread and use
through international corporate and other financial networks. From its beginnings in the
United States, processes of financializing the risks of weather are now generating possi-
bilities for hedging, as well as new sets of expectations and pressures for firms around the
globe exposed to these risks. So, for example, India is now viewed as an economy that is
ripe for weather derivatives, given the concentration of its weather risk (in the form of
precipitation) in the summer monsoon season and the sheer size of its agricultural
population who are dependent on crop yields. Although exchange-traded weather deriva-
tives are currently illegal, legislative changes are expected to make them available soon
(Bruce 2008). The spread of weather derivatives is being channeled around the globe not
only through financial institutions like Swiss Re but also through international agencies
Vol. 86 No. 1 2010

like the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation, which have used weather
derivatives in parts of Africa (see Pryke 2007).

In drawing attention to the growing social and spatial extension of finance in the lives
of businesses, governments, households, and individuals, financialization has stimulated
vibrant activity and debates across a range of social science disciplines. Such endeavors
have only intensified because of the integral place of finance geographies in the unfolding
crisis of 20072009. We have sought to engage the impetus that financialization creates
to situate finance at the center of our economic geographies. Interpreting the inescapably
sociospatial relations and constructions of economy, financialization emphasizes the
value of refreshing and widening our analytical frame to capture the range of existing and
new actors who are reshaping the landscapes of contemporary capitalism. In addressing
the relationships, meanings, and implications of the to-date largely missing geogra-
phies of financialization (French, Leyshon, and Wainwright forthcoming), we have
sought to underline the integral role of finance in better connecting and linking economic 45
geographies with social, cultural, and political concerns. We eschew any singularly
deterministic role for the economic through the agency of financial interests but seek to


retain the integrative traditions of political economy in making sense of the geographies
of uneven development. Rediscovering and renewing the place of finance in economic
geographies in this way opens up fresh and new research foci and addresses any lingering
concerns about its offstage (Clark 2006, 84) location in economic geography.
Our argument was organized in the following parts. First, moving beyond the wide-
ranging reviews already completed, we outlined some key definitional differences in the
financialization literatures and identified three analytical themes and concerns that are
integral to our central argument, namely, the growth and extended and deepened social
and spatial reach of existing and new actors; heightened risk, uncertainty, and volatility in
an increasingly financialized capitalism; and the highly uneven material, social, and
political ramifications for people and places. We then developed our analytical approach
to the economic geographies of financialization through, first, demonstrating how finan-
cialization contributes to constructing a more socialized account of finance geographies
by widening and deepening the range of agents, relations, and sites that require attention
and, second, showing how an understanding of the tensions between territorial and
relational spatialities provides a fruitful means of interpreting the diversity and variety of
geographic differentiation and uneven development. In so doing, however, we stressed the
need to avoid three interrelated analytical temptations to reproduce functional, political,
and spatial disconnections that have commonly afflicted analyses of the geographies of
money and finance.
In contributing to the limited empirical work on the economic geographies of finan-
cialization, we deployed our analytical approach briefly to consider the financialization of
brands in restructuring the brewing business and the financialization of weather risk.
Underlining the value of our analytical concerns distilled from the broader financializa-
tion literature, each case revealed the growing power and influence of existing and new
agents that are actively compelled by systematizing financial logics; the attempts of
agents to cope with, and even profit from, the enhanced risks, uncertainty, and volatility
generated and transmitted by financialization; and the uneasy tensions between the
territorial and relational geographies of the widened and deepened social and spatial reach
of existing and new actors that are reshaping uneven development in often highly
differentiated and unequal ways for people and places.

The economic geographies of financialization provide an important route to consider-

ing the politics of its uneven development. The political disconnection that we cautioned
against has sometimes led to a depoliticized financial debate. This is problematic, as
Pryke (2006, 10) noted: To accept the world according to such technical (supposedly)
apolitical finance is to be shielded from the very geopolitics of financial markets and the
associated power to spatialize which matter to geographers.
Although some processes of financialization, such as securitization, may be familiar,
they are now creating and remaking uneven geographies of assets, profitability, and
exclusion (Dymski 2006). The pervasive reach and sometimes pernicious effects of
financialization have been writ large in the crisis of 20072009 and itsas yet only
emerginggeographic ramifications. The systemic nature of this crisis affords the oppor-
tunity to challenge technocratic constructions of financial markets as somehow outside or
above political economy. Indeed, the politics of the current crisis have heralded a return
to a heightened role for the state in many countries and a reworking of Keynesianism for
the changed context of the twenty-first century (see, e.g., Hutton and Schneider 2008).
The damaging and pervasive effects of financialization and its crisis of accumulation and
46 regulation have now had the effect of reopening questions about state ownership, regu-
lation, democratic control, and alternatives that seek to contest the one-best-way,
technical universalism of financialized capitalism (see, e.g., Lee, Leyshon, and Williams
2003) and shape its process and outcomes in potentially more progressive ways. Stepping
out of the political margins and into the mainstream are ideas, such as the recognition of
the need for at least some state ownership and more robust and transparent regulation of
the banking infrastructure. These ideas are surfacing not only because banks are integral
to the economy for individuals and businesses but also because they may provide states
with greater leverage over financial institutions that have contributed to the current crisis
by constructing and reproducing financialization through their practices of short-term,
risk-focused reward and bonus structures, short selling, and so forth. Although it is too
early to discern how the crisis of 20072009 will play outbetween the poles of
meaningful change in a more tightly regulated system or the state-assisted reconstruction
of financialized capitalismwhat has become clear is the urgency of interrogating the
material, social, political, and cultural consequences of financialization at the center of
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