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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Political Science

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Barbara R. Cruikshank

Second Advisor

Ivan A. Ascher

Third Advisor

Eve S. Weinbaum

Subject Categories

Political Theory


This dissertation focuses on the production of “the economy” as a structural effect. Following the work of Timothy Mitchell, JK Gibson-Graham, Michel Foucault, and others who have suggested that the economy is a relatively recent innovation, this dissertation traces its development, and examines some of the implications that such a claim might have for contemporary politics. The dissertation begins by identifying a set of six characteristics that characterize the contemporary economy. Chapter 1 reviews relevant literature regarding the ways in which we theorize objects that are produced and contingent, but nevertheless real, with a focus on the concepts of “structural effect” and “materialization.” Chapter 2 is an etymology of the economy, which substantiates the claim that “the economy” is much newer than we tend to assume and provides some detail about the process by which we came to understand it as a given. Chapter 3 examines the practice of “reading back” our contemporary understanding of the economy on thinkers whose work precedes it, with a focus on Adam Smith. Chapters 4 and 5 are analyses of the “green” and “sharing” economies respectively, with an emphasis on the ways in which (and reasons for which) efforts to modify the economy might succeed or fail. These chapters also contain a review of the relevant literature on conceptual innovation, along with the claim that we might think of efforts to alter the structural effect of the economy as attempts to innovate with respect to the concept of the economy. This approach opens possibilities for change with respect to the economy and other structural effects, but can also make us aware of some of the pitfalls of such attempts, including the possibility that they will result not in conceptual innovation, but instead simply in a broadening of the reach of the economy effect. The dissertation concludes with some thoughts about the ways in which we might resist this tendency toward cooptation in order to seek real conceptual innovation with respect to the economy.