Wall Street and Silicon Valley – the two worlds this book examines – promote the illusion that scarcity can and should be eliminated in the age of seamless “flow.” Instead, Appadurai and Alexander propose a theory of habitual and strategic failure by exploring debt, crisis, digital divides, and (dis)connectivity. Moving between the planned obsolescence and deliberate precariousness of digital technologies and the “too big to fail” logic of the Great Recession, they argue that the sense of failure is real in that it produces disappointment and pain. Yet, failure is not a self-evident quality of projects, institutions, technologies, or lives. It requires a new and urgent understanding of the conditions under which repeated breakdowns and collapses are quickly forgotten. 

By looking at such moments of forgetfulness, this highly original book offers a multilayered account of failure and a general theory of denial, memory, and nascent systems of control.

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  • November 2019
  • 120 pages
  • 140 x 219 mm / 6 x 9 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $49.95
  • 9781509504718
  • Paperback $14.95
  • 9781509504725
  • Open eBook $12.00
  • 9781509504756
Table of Contents

1. Introduction: The Difference that Doesn’t Make a Difference

2. Chapter 1: The Promise Machine: Between “Techno-failure” and Market Failure

3. Chapter 2: Creative Destruction and the New Socialities

4. Chapter 3: Failure, Forgotten: On Buffering, Latency, and the Monetization of Waiting

5. Chapter 4: Too Big to Fail: Banks, Derivatives, and Market Collapse

6. Conclusion: Failure, Remembered

7. References
About the Author
Arjun Appadurai is Paulette Goddard Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University.
Neta Alexander is an Assistant Professor of Film and Media at Colgate University, New York.
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"Failure is an extraordinarily incisive and insightful work of contemporary social theory. The book unravels an infuriating paradox: Silicon Valley and Wall Street companies that move fast, break things, and ruin lives, justify their disastrous performance as a necessary step toward a glorious future. Appadurai and Alexander debunk this naïve narrative of progress, while exposing how important it is to superficially respectable social science. Their critical theory illuminates key trends of our time."
Frank Pasquale, University of Maryland Carey School of Law

“Appadurai and Alexander’s Failure exacts a scathing critique of how digital capitalism reorganizes time, the social, and the self. It is a stockpile of insights, an academic arsenal for overthrowing today’s ‘regimes of failure.’”
John Cheney-Lippold, University of Michigan

“Failure is an exercise in interdisciplinarity rendered particularly effective in its ability to touch on concepts currently on the radar of popular audiences, from questions of digital privacy to the ramifications of the financializing futures. Failure’s call to action is a reminder to remember certain failures and their effects, but its reach extends beyond readjusting day-to-day priorities—Failure is a guide for reexamining the local and global systems threatening to indefinitely divide those of us with so much in common.”
Hyperrhiz 22

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