York University

Kamilla Pietrzyk is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Political Science at York University. She is currently completing her dissertation titled “Time, Technology and Troublemakers: ‘fast activism’ and the alter-globalization movement in Canada” under the supervision of professor Leo Panitch. She holds a BA and MA in Media Studies from Western University.

Slowing down fast capitalism?

This paper will argue that one of the major yet generally overlooked continuities between activists of the ‘anti-globalization’ and the Occupy movements is their shared interest in slowing down ‘fast’ or ‘casino capitalism’ by means of a financial transactions tax (FTT). The campaign for the Tobin tax, named after James Tobin, a Nobel-prize winning economist, was first popularized in the late 1990s by the French organization ATTAC (Association pour la taxation des transactions financières et pour l’action citoyenne). With the emergence of the Occupy movement following the financial crisis of 2008, the campaign was rebranded as one advocating a ‘Robin Hood Tax,’ but the idea remained the same: to curb the volatility of financial markets, in effect making the system less sensitive to daily political news and the anticipation of economic policy changes. Using insights of critical political economy, this paper will first theorize the vital role played by mobile, instantaneous information and communication technologies in facilitating the financialization of capital and thereby accelerating capitalism’s inherent propensity toward crisis. The second part of the paper will discuss the trajectory of the Tobin/Robin Hood tax campaign, while the conclusion will provide a critical perspective on the campaign’s promise as well as its potential perils and political limitations.