Expulsions: Complexity and Brutality in the Global Economy

Acclaimed sociologist Saskia Sassen examines predatory economic forms and their social and environmental impacts

In Expulsions: Complexity and Brutality in the Global Economy, Saskia Sassen (Columbia University) updates our understanding of economics for the twenty-first century, exposing a system with devastating consequences even for those who think they are not vulnerable.

Soaring income inequality and unemployment, expanding populations of the displaced and imprisoned, accelerating destruction of land and water bodies: today’s socioeconomic and environmental dislocations cannot be fully understood in the usual terms of poverty and injustice. They are more accurately understood as a type of expulsion—from professional livelihood, from living space, even from the very biosphere that makes life possible.

From finance to mining, the complex types of knowledge and technology we have come to admire are used too often in ways that produce elementary brutalities. These have evolved into predatory formations—assemblages of knowledge, interests, and outcomes that go beyond a firm’s or an individual’s or a government’s project.

Sassen draws surprising connections to illuminate the systemic logic of these expulsions. The sophisticated knowledge that created today’s financial “instruments” is paralleled by the engineering expertise that enables exploitation of the environment, and by the legal expertise that allows the world’s have-nations to acquire vast stretches of territory from the have-nots. Expulsions lays bare the extent to which the sheer complexity of the global economy makes it hard to trace lines of responsibility for the displacements, evictions, and eradications it produces—and equally hard for those who benefit from the system to feel responsible for its depredations.

saskia sassenSaskia Sassen is the Robert S. Lynd Professor of Sociology and Co-Chair, The Committee on Global Thought, Columbia University. Her recent books are Territory, Authority, Rights: From Medieval to Global Assemblages ( Princeton University Press 2008), A Sociology of Globalization(W.W.Norton 2007), and the 4th fully updated edition of Cities in a World Economy (Sage 2012). Among older books is The Global City (Princeton University Press 1991/2001). Her books are translated into over 20 languages. Her new book is Expulsions: Brutality and Complexity in the Global Economy (Harvard University Press 2014).

She has received diverse awards, from multiple doctor honoris causa to being chosen as one of the Top 100 Global Thinkers by Foreign Policy-2011, Top 100 Thought Leaders by GDI-MIT 2012 and 2013, Top 50 Global Thinkers Prospect Magazine 2014, and receiving the 2013 Principe de Asturias Prize for the Social Sciences.

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