© Gustav Kalm
The Look of States as Investment Vehicles:
A Snapshot from Millennial Capitalism
Tuesday, Dec 5, 17.30
India is open for business. Guinea is open for business. Promoting Bulgaria as a successful investment destination. Choose France. Welcome to Estonia. Advertisements of this kind litter the pages of Financial Times, The Economist, Äripäev and other business outlets. What do they do? Is it insignificant blabber or do they actually change something?
Promoting states as investment destinations took off in the 1990s after the liberalization of international capital flows. Typically associated with peak neoliberalism, in the 1990s policy circles came to think of states as competing with one another on a variety of metrics. Attracting foreign investment now came to be considered central political aim for most states. By the 2000s, most countries in the world had opened investment promotion agencies. By the 2020s, this millennial vision of capitalist globalization seems to be receding. As dusk is setting over the “end of history,” Minerva’s owl can take flight and we can look back and analyze millennial capitalism that we are leaving behind.
This talk untangles how that form of statehood operated and how it reconfigured politics in most countries in the world. It is grounded in a study of one of the crucial visual forms of this era—advertising states as investment destinations. No longer heraldry of throned heads, nor glass palace fantasies of colonialism, the millennial representation of the state was an advertisement proclaiming the state to be open for foreign investment. What is or was this political form?
Gustav Kalm is an Anthropologist of Law and Economy. He is currently Fondation Bruno Latour postdoctoral fellow at Sciences Po Law School. His research studies how the legal techniques that undergird world economy operate as a form of power and structure international inequalities. In his doctoral dissertation, he studied how the legal forms of foreign investment have recalibrated statehood. He also writes cultural and political commentary and has pursued multiple collaborations with artists and curators. Gustav Kalm received his PhD in Sociocultural Anthropology from Columbia University (2023) and previously trained as a lawyer at Sciences Po (2014).
Everyone is welcome to join!