An Empire of Indifference

American War and the Financial Logic of Risk Management

An Empire of Indifference

Book Pages: 232 Illustrations: Published: March 2007

Author: Randy Martin

American Studies, Cultural Studies, Sociology > Social Theory

In this significant Marxist critique of contemporary American imperialism, the cultural theorist Randy Martin argues that a finance-based logic of risk control has come to dominate Americans’ everyday lives as well as U.S. foreign and domestic policy. Risk management—the ability to adjust for risk and to leverage it for financial gain—is the key to personal finance as well as the defining element of the massive global market in financial derivatives. The United States wages its amorphous war on terror by leveraging particular interventions (such as Iraq) to much larger ends (winning the war on terror) and by deploying small numbers of troops and targeted weaponry to achieve broad effects. Both in global financial markets and on far-flung battlegrounds, the multiplier effects are difficult to foresee or control.

Drawing on theorists including Michel Foucault, Giorgio Agamben, Michael Hardt, Antonio Negri, and Achille Mbembe, Martin illuminates a frightening financial logic that must be understood in order to be countered. Martin maintains that finance divides the world between those able to avail themselves of wealth opportunities through risk taking (investors) and those who cannot do so, who are considered “at risk.” He contends that modern-day American imperialism differs from previous models of imperialism, in which the occupiers engaged with the occupied to “civilize” them, siphon off wealth, or both. American imperialism, by contrast, is an empire of indifference: a massive flight from engagement. The United States urges an embrace of risk and self-management on the occupied and then ignores or dispossesses those who cannot make the grade.


An Empire of Indifference recounts how the paternalism of development was replaced by the expectation of colonial self-management.” — Matt Kavanagh, American Book Review

“Martin's book represents one of the first political philosophies to offer a thorough critique of the political economy of the event. . . . Among other things, this book offers a powerful reflection on method. Martin is particularly illuminating on the limitations of Foucault's enormously influential account of biopower in Society Must be Defended. . . .” — Melinda Cooper, Postmodern Culture

An Empire of Indifference is a brilliant study, both theoretically profound and politically compelling.” — Michael J. Shapiro, author of Methods and Nations: Cultural Governance and the Indigenous Subject

An Empire of Indifference is the perfect answer to Thomas Friedman’s The World Is Flat. Randy Martin well understands that finance capital flattens and gouges at the same time. This book is the anti-Friedman.” — Neil Smith, author of The Endgame of Globalization

“While a great deal has been written about globalization, empire, and international finance, I know of no other work besides this one that looks at their intersection through the rhetorical and conceptual lens of finance. An Empire of Indifference is a strong piece of original scholarship on a very important topic.” — Chris Hables Gray, author of Peace, War, and Computers


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Randy Martin is Professor of Art and Public Policy at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. His books include Financialization of Daily Life, On Your Marx: Relinking Socialism and the Left, and Critical Moves: Dance Studies in Theory and Politics, also published by Duke University Press. He is a former editor of the journal Social Text.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments vii

Introduction 1

1. From Security to Securitization 17

2. Derivative Wars 64

3. Self-Managed Colonialism 97

4. An Empire of Indifference 124

Notes 169

Index 205
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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3996-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3979-3
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