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Department of Geography

Staff Profile

Publication details for Professor Paul Langley

Langley, P. Toxic assets, turbulence and biopolitical security: Governing the crisis of global financial circulation. Security Dialogue. 2013;44:111-126.

Author(s) from Durham


Focusing on a highly significant governmental intervention in the global financial market crisis – the US Treasury Department’s Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) of autumn 2008 – this article makes a threefold contribution to the growing literature concerned with the interstices of finance and security. First, the TARP is shown to have attempted to govern the turbulence not simply as a crisis of the markets, the banks and Wall Street, but as a problem of the biopolitical security of the US population. US$700 billion worth of toxic assets were to be purchased by the TARP in order to restore the opportunities afforded by uncertain global financial circulations for individual wealth and well-being. Second, by conceptualizing and exploring the TARP in Foucauldian terms as an ‘apparatus of security’, the article demonstrates how this concept can hold together analytical concerns with the biopolitical rationality of power, on the one hand, and the contingent, processual and lively forms taken by specific governmental orderings, on the other. The TARP apparatus certainly amounted to a biopolitical intervention in the crisis, but it only emerged from the relation between the discursive, material and institutional elements that made it possible. Third, the unplanned transformation of the TARP into an apparatus that targeted bank solvency and recapitalization rather than toxic assets is held, in effect, to have been a key moment that heralded a move towards techniques of preparedness and resilience designed to mitigate the dangers of uncertain global financial circulations.