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On voodoo economics: theorising relations of property, value and contemporary capitalism



This paper reflects on how we can productively theorise the contemporary treatment of property, by a range of different economic agents, as a locus for the attempted creation of economic value. Its argument is that the theorisation offered by David Harvey (1982) in The limits to capital has a continued and arguably even heightened relevance in the present-day context, but that this theorisation can be embellished with insights from the sociology of finance, particularly in regard to the power of representation. This argument is developed with reference to two parallel empirical ‘stories’ from early twenty-first century capitalism: the economist Hernando de Soto’s influential thesis about the ‘mystery of capital’ and his related policy ideas; and the attempts of western-based financiers to extract profit from companies with significant real estate assets by separating those property assets from the operational side of the businesses in question.