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Department of Geography

Staff Profile

Publication details for Professor Paul Langley

Langley, P. Anticipating uncertainty, reviving risk? On the stress testing of finance in crisis. Economy and Society. 2013;42:51-73.

Author(s) from Durham


Widely regarded as a watershed moment in the governance of the present global financial crisis, the US Treasury's Supervisory Capital Assessment Program (SCAP) of spring 2009 undertook to ‘stress test’ the solvency of the largest American banks by projecting their capital adequacy going forward. The SCAP is shown to have been an important intervention that restored market confidence in US banks because it rigorously embraced and acted through a subtle but significant change in the repertoires of risk management, a very public turn to anticipatory techniques designed to ensure preparedness for low-probability, high-impact events. And, as the subsequent failures of stress-testing exercises to inspire confidence in European banking are also shown to demonstrate, the performative power of these anticipatory techniques itself turns on their seemingly precise methodological application and animation by a positive affective charge.