The United Kingdom is at the forefront of a global movement to establish a social-investment market. At the heart of social investment we find finance – and financialisation. Specifically, we find: a financial market (the social-investment market); a series of financial institutions (Big Society Capital, for example); a financial instrument (the social-impact bond); and a financial practice (social investing). Focusing on the UK, given its pioneering role, this paper first provides a brief history of social investment, tracing its development from the politics of the ‘Third Way’ to the social-impact bond. It then maps the terrain of the social-investment market, explaining the main institutions and actors, and the social-impact bond. Finally, it proposes a framework for analysing the disciplinary logics of finance, which it uses to understand the promise or threat (depending on one’s perspective) of social investment and the social-investment market.
One hundred years ago, Frederick Taylor and the pioneers of scientific management went into battle on US factory-floors. Armed with stopwatches and clipboards, they were fighting a war over measure. A century on and capitalist production has spread far beyond the factory walls and the confines of 'national economies'. Although capitalism increasingly seems to rely on 'cognitive' and 'immaterial' forms of labour and social cooperation, the war over measure continues. Armies of economists, statisticians, management-scientists, information-specialists, accountants and others are engaged in a struggle to connect heterogeneous concrete human activities on the basis of equal quantities of human labour in the abstract – that is, to link work and capitalist value. In this paper, we discuss contemporary capital's attempt to (re)impose the 'law of value' through its measuring of immaterial labour. Using the example of higher education in the UK – a 'frontline' of capitalist development – as our case-study, we explain how measuring takes places on various 'self-similar' levels of social organisation. We suggest that such processes are both diachronic and synchronic: socially-necessary labour-times of 'immaterial doings' are emerging and being driven down at the same time as heterogeneous concrete activities are being made commensurable. Alongside more overt attacks on academic freedom, it is in this way that neoliberalism appears on campus.