The foundation of good government, political parties often claim, is to manage and improve the economy. That conception of politics is both surprisingly recent, and one that may not have long to live. Before the mid-twentieth century, no one defined democratic politics in terms of the growth of an object called “the economy.”
By the middle of the present century we may have little democracy left, given the threat of climate collapse, if we do not find a better way to define the purpose of political life. To format a different politics we must understand how politics first created “the economy” as its object. The answer lies in the rise of the large corporation, and the strange new relationship to the future that the modern business firm engineered.
Timothy Mitchell writes about colonialism, political economy, the politics of energy, and the making of expert knowledge. Trained in the fields of law, history, and political theory, he works across the disciplinary boundaries of history and the social sciences. His most recent book is Carbon Democracy: Political Power in the Age of Oil.
Professor Mitchell is a University of Bath Global Chair for the 2018 – 2019 academic year. His appointment has been funded by the International Relations Office’s Global Chair scheme, a flagship programme designed to attract distinguished, globally renowned scholars to engage in high-profile research activities at Bath.