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The universal exposure to the virus has disrupted institutions, redefined values, and reshaped systems, including the market. Idling, uncertainty, and liquidity encapsulate the ever-precarious individual lives and the reflexive socio-politico-cultural changes. These conditions and consequences nonetheless create paradoxical opportunities in the viral market. The new meaning of connectivity that promotes high-viscosity relationships and high-visibility identities will transform the market to better acknowledge and support humans and the new sociality.
Markets, Globalization & Markets, Globalization &
Development Review Development Review
Volume 5 Number 1 Article 3
‘Coronated’ Consumption in the Viral Market ‘Coronated’ Consumption in the Viral Market
Soonkwan Hong
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Hong, Soonkwan (2020) "‘Coronated’ Consumption in the Viral Market,"
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: Vol. 5: No. 1, Article 3.
DOI: 10.23860/MGDR-2020-05-01-03
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‘Coronated’ Consumption in the Viral Market
We now are exposed and will be again to more biological, economic,
and socio-politico-cultural unknowns. We will writhe with the current state
of mortality for a more extended period than we can collectively visualize
on graphs and charts. Statistical descriptions of the startling menace to
humanity have become popularized among the public but soon set aside
and ignored by too many, resulting in sudden spikes in the displays of the
global torment. Notwithstanding the absence of an acute and scrupulous
future projection, the current agony reveals some inconvenient realities.
Our initial exposure to the ominous bug COVID-19 has brought about
other collateral exposures. There will surely be more, conceivably grimmer
ones. As individuals, we are exposed mainly to the nothingness of the
mundane to which we cling; humanity is exposed to an epochal transition
between being human (BC: before coronavirus) and recognizing human
(AC: after coronavirus). Leadership at all levels is exposed to the calamity
and to the public that craves to point a colossal, atrocious finger at
someone; democracy is exposed to a series of actions and practices that
simulate ochlocracy forms of mob rule at best. The education system
is exposed to a self-casted incantation, uttering, “Rigor, efficiency, and
student experience,” whereas environmentalism is exposed to the
unforeseen, yet ostensibly farcical, divide between green and clean
(disinfected). Most gravely, the market is exposed to the unsolicited and
unnerving hiatus of a critical human activityproduction/consumption
which can only intensify all the aforementioned exposures.
When, due to various exposures, everything reshapes, from what they
used to mean in the market, consumers also are destined to be exposed
to the deprivation of “things-to-do”. This involuntary idleness
psychologically and culturally troubles consumers because it is generally
recognized that idle connotes lazy, wasteful, and even sinful (Russell
1958). Such psychoanalytic diagnoses of non-busyness, however, may no
longer be a fair assessment of the current mode of being. Idleness is no
longer slothfulness it is an enforced state. The separation between work
and rest has become blurry because of being unemployed or working
remotely. The consequence is that entitlement to leisure after or before
Hong: Post-pandemic Consumption
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work is now an antediluvian mentality. The reduced or absent leisure time
inevitably brings the Veblenian account into the discussion of class
consciousness in the world in and after this pandemic (c.f., Veblen and
Chase 1934). The actual and perceived social stratification deeply
ingrained in the practice of consumption in late modernity may have to be
reconfigured or a brilliant neologism is urgently desired for new social
classes to evolve.
In the presence of universal alienation, consumption cannot be as
conspicuous as before, which essentially signifies the demise of status
symbols in the traditional sense. Values and practices that signaled
opulence conspicuousness will be replaced by practices and modes
pertaining to less or inconspicuous consumption and lifestyles
generosity, altruism, mental (psychological) wellness, new aesthetics, and
financial wellbeing (Danziger 2020; Singer 2020). Uploading photos of
luxury items to social media platforms may not be effective enough to stop
the sociocultural system from redefining and rearranging social classes
(Reich 2020). When leisure equates to destructing market value and
accumulated wealth, the current market system cannot function properly
to provide sufficient value and wealth for each social class to remain a
leisure class. When the traditional dedication to busyness (and business)
and the protestant work ethic together become the synonym for
pointlessness, consumption is no longer a passage to redemption. Rather,
it is now felt as daydreaming. The right to reject work the quintessence
of leisure has been dispossessed not by the system but by the virus.
This particular loss nonetheless can be seen as an opportunity for self-
improvement and enhanced productivity for both individuals and the
market. Production will no longer be based solely on labor in the market,
in the sense that the modern market system is the only platform (or iron
cage, for Weber) that ensures productivity, efficiency, control, and
One might then ask which aspect of our lives can be improved by
the unorthodox productivity drawn from individuals who are laid-off,
furloughed, or left with extra time saved by not commuting. It is possible to
imagine the reduced, if not totally lost, leisure time can be reallocated to
reimagine aesthetics (see, e.g., Fırat and Dholakia 2017). Paradoxes in
the market system have been less palpable than what we see in the
current and the future market, namely the reversibility of leisure and
production (see Dholakia and Fırat 2019). We have witnessed the
burgeoning of a new entertainment system full of “heretical” celebrities on
YouTube. Artists were perceived by many and by themselves as
individuals who live on the margins of capitalist market society if they are
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not “sell-outs or appropriated by the system. The paradox here is multi-
layered and multi-faceted. Artists, creators, and entertainers have moved
to the center of capitalism, and we will continue to see the grassroots,
rhizomatic growth and expansion into unconventional areas of aesthetics
(see Deleuze and Guattari 1988).
Idleness as an anathema to neoliberalism used to entail
disconnection and isolation, but it now can mean hyper-connectivity and
hyper-activity, which are the very qualities the ideology promotes. Neo-
consumption, post-consumption, trans-consumption, or consumption 2.0
(whichever best suits the description) in these uncertain times may take
forms similar to nostalgic marketing and hyper-personalization, but they
can be palpably bleak and solipsistic. Not only the reduced leisure time,
but also the shortage of entertainment from the culture industry
(Horkheimer and Adorno 1972 [2007]) that had offered movies, live
concerts, sporting events, travel, and dining will further alienate
consumers in the world of connectedness. Consumers will sense varied
degrees of urgency to be re-connected. As a result, media consumption
may skyrocket. The media consumption forms, however, will inherit little, if
any, properties from the culture industry that used to homogenize
meanings and aesthetics and imperceptibly (but long-lastingly) intoxicate
the public. Social media will become truly social in the sense that
sensationalizing, playfulness, and bragging about food eaten, clothes
worn, activities done, and places visited will have a very small place to be.
In their stead, more intimate and individualized conversations will promote
development of narrowcasted, meaningful interactions and communities
on social media (briefly explored in some MGDR special issues and
articles, see, e.g., Üçok and Houston 2018; Boje and Hillon 2017). Many
consumers will try to recover from the toxic aftermath of feel-good media
consumption and attempt to “re-enchant” the heartless and yet alluring
media world.
Risk: A Manufactured Uncertainty
The market in modernity with some inescapable shortcomings had
shown its capacity to integrate opposing views, distinctive expectations,
multiple actors, a myriad of technologies, diverse cultures, and even
different time and space into iconic brands and irresistible symbols for sale.
It is still expected to perform the same role of creating, connecting,
continuing, and congregating. At this accidental juncture in history,
however, a non-human actor (virus) that had been nonexistent (or at
least overlooked) enrolls into the market system, a restless network. The
corollary is an implosion wherein consumers as the most attractive host
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for viral brands, trends, and products have started underperforming
(albeit unintentionally) for the market, and the market has become the
greatest Petri dish in which to culture risk and fear.
As Beck (1992) articulated in his notion of risk society, less- or un-
controllable natural disasters and pandemics pose imminent threats to late
modern society, exacerbating the level of insecurity among the populace.
Science and expertise both face criticism and cynicism due to the
perceived lack, if not complete absence, of practical solutions. Amid this
pandemic, the market is only to promulgate the neoliberal
responsibilization (Giesler and Veresiu 2014; see also Dholakia, Ozgun
and Atik 2020) that binds individuals to wellness-oriented self-care
practices. The market system has never been designed to provide a
guidance or solution for the life-or-death decision-making processes the
mass of humanity is currently undergoing. It is a market failure in which all
must rely on authorities and experts, whom they quickly question and
blame. The market, authorities, and experts must then redirect the
conversation to the social and ethical aspects of everyday practices as
though everything in and of the plague is caused by individual and small-
group decisions and behaviors. Most, if not all, decisions and subsequent
implementations become products of ad-hocism, which further
destabilizes the already-precarious relationships between the public and
whoever is in charge at different levels and areas.
Scientized risks and their management create an area where most
individuals cannot possibly comprehend and therefore fail to internalize
the systematic risk-management practices (i.e., face coverings and social
distancing). It is a “tragic individualization” at the current techno-medical
turn in history. Survival has become purely personal, and no one but
oneself can increase the odds. Neoliberal optimization of the self has truly
become the mantra of the time, and the privatization of the public sectors
dismantles the market landscape where the private and public intersect.
Public hospitals and healthcare sites had already been privatized if the
locations were deemed lucrative, and many of us have paid the price for
the relentless market logic during this time of perplexity and indecision
(see, e.g., Dholakia, Fırat and Dholakia 2018).
Because there is no political gain in preventing disaster from
happening, governments try to manage it when it blows hard on our
everyday lives. We have been living in a constant state of precarity for
some time (see, e.g., Standing 2011), but the market has somehow
always magically reinvigorated the social and the cultural, which has made
the market the grand symbol of the past, the current, and the future
human destination. This symbol, however, now is contested and
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scrutinized in search for the authentic motive to better humanity. As
consumers, consequently, we see an increasing range of dreadful things
happening in the market:
Stock and real estate markets behave based on ever more
opportunistic intentions
Brands tune in to embellish their images with humanitarianism
Retailers in general operate on their own cost-benefit analyses
even though they understand the cost undeniably entails human
lives (Amazon, a retailer that gained massively during the pandemic,
was accused of endangering worker safety in its relentlessly
efficient distribution centers)
Higher education public or private proceeds with their
“contingency plan” that is socio-culturally dissociated from
educating future generations to become more responsible and
ethical citizens.
These major actors in the market surely amplify the risks.
Shifting the focus to individual-level risks, all the perceived risks
(physical, financial, performance, psychological, and social) associated
with consumption choices and practices had always been a source of
reservations that the market and marketers could together overcome
because those risks were readily observable, easily traceable, fairly
controllable, and even completely removable. This virus, however,
possesses no such characteristic. When all the perceived risks eventually
manifest into terror, spooked consumers in the AC (After Coronavirus)
market invoke two modus operandi: involuntary asceticism by the haves,
and mandatory tightwadism by the have-nots. Predictably, this “coronated-
consumptionwill catalyze an overhaul of the prevalent value paradigm in
the market.
Valorizing the Liquid
Consumers had been co-creating market value with marketers at the
expense of what ought to be more valuable: health, freedom, equality,
environment, and all the sine qua non that was taken for granted but
seldom delivered by the mass market. The greatest-ever number of
choices available for consumers is the cause and effect of liquidating the
solid values and rigid institutional settings that used to provide security,
certainty, and stability (Bauman 2000). Echoing Beck’s (1992) notions of
risk society and individualization, the current state of consumers as critical
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actors in the market system can be described as hyper-responsibilized
subjects whose identities and lives are the outcomes of their choices. The
precarious life as a given condition in late modernity might have just
reached singularity, from which there can be no return to the previous.
Despite the numerous choices in the market, many workers in the
market would come to a realization that they have become a failed
underclass due to the loss of job and income (Standing 2011). Versatile,
multi-tasking-friendly, and entrepreneurial consumers may choose another
identity for themselves: the gig workers. The relatively new identity,
however, will paradoxically require more and better connection to the
world in this time of disconnection because the success of their new
occupation and identity project hinges on reviews and ratings of their skills
and social interactions (for perils of gig working, see Scholz 2016).
Regardless of such a possibility, many will still struggle with reduced
economic resources to stay “responsible” consumers who contribute to the
market economy.
When the accursed share (i.e., economic excess; Bataille 1991)
can no longer be generated and/or obtained sufficiently due to the
idiopathic (economic and clinical) depression, any remaining or to-be-
created accursed share will be spent on the idea(l)s and principles the
market society had mangled through rampant commodification. This
reallocation will encourage some transformative consumption practices
that nonetheless provide opportunities for current and future marketers. As
much as the liquidation in society accelerates, the desperation for
reinstatement of the traditional values will magnify. The caveat, however,
is that there will be ever-deeper polarization of the ways in which
individuals, organizations, policymakers, and all other stakeholders see
capital, the economy, and human life. The role of conscious (hopefully,
successful, as well) marketers in the future will accordingly be to get in a
position to contribute to reducing the gap between extremes rather than
monetizing the existence of the ever-growing gap.
As epitomized in the Chinese social credit system, based on hyper-
surveillance and social reporting, civility in the AC era may no longer be
the ability to situate oneself and behave within social norms. Rather, it
may be the conscious and responsible practice of limiting the number of
occasions to be civil and maximizing individual efforts to sustain the
healthy and livable (although such an effort is often unrecognized). It
would encompass economic, environmental, and medical sensibility, as
well as class-consciousness, and essentially renovate etiquettes. Classics
such as Erasmus’ On Civility in Children may be revived and re-
popularized as part of the new zeitgeist. Public education, higher
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education, and lifelong education may also demand new content and
delivery methods for the new definition of homo socialis. Accordingly, the
market will have to fill the void where contagious sociality used to
prescribe the accustomed etiquettes.
Together, mysophobia (fear of germs), haphephobia (fear of being
touched), anthropophobia (fear of people), the pursuit of truly
“connectable” and life-enhancing social media consumption, and reduced
sociality call for localized consumption and lifestyles rather than the
glamorized global. Consumers’ escalated desires for safety, connected
individuality, and neo-tribal support may accelerate the ongoing shift from
“the universal” to “the particular.” Being local will mean much more than
just local produce, businesses, and communities. It will signify high-
viscosity relationships and high-visibility identities in all human activities.
Choices that the liquidity in late modernity made available to mask one’s
identity and personal life will be still accessible. An increasing range of
consumers, however, will realize the value of the “solid” social that
provides various kinds of support, compassion, and the fundamental
sense of being, belonging, and believing. This transformation in the AC
market system will require marketers to recognize a new need, namely
“becoming-other,” to live in a world of continuous changes as an individual.
Forging Ahead
Exposure has provided some long-wanted, as well as some unsought,
transparency but that very transparency may be realized as obscenity.
When things become too real, too close, too immediate, and all-too
exposing, they become obscene. Perhaps we all may also be perverted,
continuously monitoring the obscene and desperately wanting what is
unacceptable or even proscribed. Nonetheless, we must risk being
obscene and perverted just to survive. In this new risk society, the only
new normal is distrust. Governments, systems, institutions, history,
experts, and the market face an inestimable level of distrust. The BC
(Before Coronavirus) market that once operated well by relying on its own
momentum will become passé unless it can transcend its raison d'être to
extract economic value from everything and anything. The AC market
needs to re-positivize life in a new market society by addressing (and
tamping down) conspiratorial discourses, ensuring accountability,
neutralizing nihilism, supporting local community (physical and virtual)
development, and, most importantly, helping to re-imagine the social.
Such transcendence in a market society will be arduous but not
unreasonable; it will require sacrifice, courage, keen insight, and, most
essentially, an unparalleled level of tolerance.
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... These emergent rhizomic markets are, however, not viable without policies that underpin the provision of basic needs for human survivability, which in turn implies a means to legitimize a universal value derived from exchangethe wicked problem that emerges of course is always about whose value the exchange is pegged against. Thus, for a socialist environment to prevail, a complete overhaul of existing market concepts and structures is required, yet how this could be realized in our globalized hyper-connected environment (Hong 2020) is far from clear. ...
... Economic stagnation may promote different, sustainable, but limited consumer behavior (Cambefort 2020). Leisure time and digital usage are also changing dramatically (Hong 2020). ...
Full-text available
This dialogue contribution discusses whether it is possible to create favorable new social assistance under the market principles, based on the Ouen or Õen (aid) consumption in Japan. The meaning of consumption has changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In Japan, aid consumption is increasing. This means helping local restaurants and producers by willfully and proactively buying and consuming their services and products. This is a favorable form of new social assistance and the result of strong marketing and market functions. The penetration of market forces may surpass pure altruistic behavior such as donations and gifts, by creating new market-linked forms of aiding, boosting and supporting.
... In a previous issue of MGDR, Volume 5 -Number 1, we started the process of exploring how the pillars, indeed the foundations, of this journaland of course the entire global systemare being affected by the global COVID-19 pandemic. In that issue, the authors and the editors explored how consumption and consumers, the social media, the sociopolitical ethos, and popular culture are changing or could change in response to the pandemic (Cambefort 2020;Dholakia and Atik 2020;Hong 2020;Kwet 2020;Ozgun 2020). ...
Full-text available
The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered the rethinking of almost everything, including the three foundational pillars of the journal MGDR: Markets, Globalization and Development. This is the third in a series of views from MGDR editors on the ongoing need for, and some directions for, massive and radical rethinking.
Purpose This paper aims to uncover links, overlaps and influence flows across two seemingly unrelated historical processes – the broadening of the marketing concept and the rapid rise of neoliberal ideology, and associated economic and social policies. Design/methodology/approach Historical examination of the pivotal points in marketing thought, especially since 1960s and 1970s, is juxtaposed with the historical rise of neoliberalism to uncover linkages between marketing and neoliberalism, with a particular reference to Foucault’s analysis of the neoliberal transgression of classical liberalism. Findings While noble intentions were behind the broadening of the concept of marketing, the implicit assumptions reinforced neoliberal ideology and policies that led to rapid rise in inequality and to disastrous financial and economic crises. Research limitations/implications This study, relying on extensive interdisciplinary theorizing, could benefit from empirical and practical extensions. Practical implications Globally pervasive marketing practices – based on the broadening of the marketing concept – have become imbricated in contemporary spiraling crises. To escape such spirals, radical rethinking of marketing theories and practices is required. Social implications To reorient away from serving only the interests of centralized capital and to serve the needs of people the world over, marketing thought and practice need to reorient to innovative ideas that transcend the broadened and generic marketing concepts. Originality/value The paper develops the linkages between marketing theory and practices since the late 1960s and the neoliberal ideology politics and policies, with roots in the 1920s, that rose to prominence in the 1970s. A key contribution is an exploration of, in a marketing context, Foucault’s analysis of the neoliberal eclipsing of classical liberalism.
Purpose The purpose of this paper is not to present a crystal ball, but to outline the conceptual strands – some already evident, others only dimly perceivable in emergent forms – that might drive the coming transformations and to weave the strands into a preliminary framework. The stance (and the political perspective) of the paper is informed by critical marketing studies (Tadajewski, 2010), the subfield of marketing that is vibrant in Europe but not yet well developed in other regions of the world. Design/methodology/approach This is a theoretical contribution, relying on discursive analysis. Findings Before an era of full and all-pervasive automation arrives, there will be a decades-long transitional stage of heteromation. In the heteromation, machines and humans will have to coexist adaptively. The spheres of production and consumption will be affected radically by the patterns of people-machine interactions, including coexistence, cooperation, adaptation, adjustments and conflicts. As the connective tissue between the spheres of production and consumption, marketing would also undergo major transformations in the age of heteromation. Research limitations/implications The paper lays out the grounding concepts useful for how heteromation and the subsequent era of full automation could impact organizations and markets. It provides the stepping-stone for further work on how marketing could, would or should transform in relation to the challenges of heteromation and automation. Practical implications The paper offers some guideposts for public policymakers, public intellectuals and thought leaders and social activists. It also points to action options for visionary corporate leaders and for researchers wishing to explore the heteromation–automation futures from critical-social perspectives. Originality/value Using the concept of heteromation, this paper presents hitherto unexplored and critical implications of potentially epochal transformations for marketing.
Embedded deeply, semi-unconsciously, and ideologically in commonplace practices–be they in marketplaces or political arenas–is the idea of the goodness and salubriousness of choice. Notions of the probity of plentiful choice are also abundant in theories in social sciences and in applied fields such as marketing. The availability and abundance of choice are regarded as unequivocally good, and are readily conflated with the celebrated ideas of freedom and democracy (Amadae, 2003; Riker, 1982), and (for many) with the idea of unfettered capitalism (Friedman & Friedman, 1990). The opposite idea–of choicelessness–is associated with totalitarianism and tyranny, and is shunned and rejected (Amadae, 2003). Indeed, the value and worth of individuals, groups and nations are measured by the amount of choice they have. This chapter offers a review and critique of the concepts of choice and choicelessness, in the worlds of consumers and citizens. Hardback ISBN: 9781138641402
A key component of how human beings organize their lives is how they perceive and make sense of what it means to be human, that is, their subjectivity. Human subjectivity has taken on different dominant forms across history, the consumer being one of the most dominant contemporary forms. Based on current and potential trends, we argue, with a deliberate tone of optimism about transformative potential of the human condition, that if the contemporary iconographic culture is transcended, there is the possibility of a subject that transcends the consumer, a construer subject. In contrast to what largely exists in extant literature – extrapolating from the consumer subjectivity to posthuman subjects – we envision the possibility of an epochal cultural change that will provide the ground for a construer subjectivity to emerge. We offer some preliminary insights into what such subjectivity may entail.
Responsible consumption conventionally stems from an increased awareness of the impact of consumption decisions on the environment, on consumer health, and on society in general. We theorize the influence of moralistic governance regimes on consumer subjectivity to make the opposite case: responsible consumption requires the active creation and management of consumers as moral subjects. Building on the sociology of governmentality, we introduce four processes of consumer responsibilization that, together, comprise the P. A. C. T. routine (personalization, authorization, capabilization, and transformation). After that, we draw on a longitudinal analysis of problem-solving initiatives at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, to explore the role of P. A. C. T. in the creation of four, now commonplace, responsible consumer subjects: the bottom-of-the-pyramid consumer, the green consumer, the health-conscious consumer, and the financially literate consumer. Our analysis informs extant macro-level theorizations of market and consumption systems. We also contribute to prior accounts of responsibilization, marketplace mythologies, consumer subjectivity, and transformative consumer research.
Conference Paper
Neoliberalism, stemming from the musings of the Mont Pelerin Society after the Second World War, meant a model of liberalization, commodification, individualism, the privatization of social policy as well as production, and – least appreciated – the systematic dismantling of institutions and mechanisms of social solidarity. From the late 1970s onwards, it meant the painful construction of a global market system, in which the globalization era was the disembedded phase of the Global Transformation, analogous to a similar phase in Karl Polanyi’s Great Transformation. In both cases, the disembedded phase was dominated by financial capital, generating chronic insecurities and inequalities. But whereas Polanyi was analysing the construction of national markets, the Global Transformation is about the painful construction of a global market system. One consequence has been the emergence of a global class structure superimposed on national structures. In order to move towards a re-embedded phase, it is essential to understand the character of the class fragmentation, and to conceptualize the emerging mass class-in-the-making, the precariat. This is a controversial concept, largely because traditional Marxists dispute its class character. However, it is analytically valuable to differentiate it, since it has distinctive relations of production, relations of distribution and relations to the state. It is still a class-in-the-making rather than a class-for-itself. But it is the new dangerous class because it is a force for transformation, rejecting both labourist social democracy and neoliberalism. It has a distinctive consciousness, although it is this that holds it back from being sufficiently a class-for-itself. It is still divided, being at war with itself. However, it has moved out of its primitive rebel phase, and in the city squares around the world is setting a new progressive agenda based on its insecurities and aspirations.
The Fifth Epoch: Socio-Economic Approach to Sustainable Capitalism
  • David M Boje
  • Yue Hillon
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Boje, David M. and Hillon, Yue Cai (2017) "The Fifth Epoch: Socio-Economic Approach to Sustainable Capitalism," Markets, Globalization & Development Review, 2 (1), Article 2.