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Robert Meister

Justice Is an Option

Tuesday, May 24, 2022, 5:00pm

Social Science Research Building, Tea Room (2nd Floor) / Zoom

Please join us to celebrate Robert Meister’s recent book, Justice Is an Option: A Democratic Theory of Finance for the Twenty-First Century (University of Chicago Press, 2021). Meister will be joined in conversation by Sanjay Seth and Karin Knorr Cetina, and 3CT co-director Lisa Wedeen will moderate.

More than ten years after the worst crisis since the Great Depression, the financial sector is thriving. But something is deeply wrong. Taxpayers bore the burden of bailing out “too big to fail” banks, but got nothing in return. Inequality has soared, and a populist backlash against elites has shaken the foundations of our political order. Meanwhile, financial capitalism seems more entrenched than ever. What is the left to do?

Justice Is an Option uses those problems—and the framework of finance that created them—to reimagine historical justice. Meister returns to the spirit of Marx to diagnose our current age of finance. Instead of closing our eyes to the political and economic realities of our era, we need to grapple with them head-on. Meister does just that, asking whether the very tools of finance that have created our vastly unequal world could instead be made to serve justice and equality. Meister here formulates nothing less than a democratic financial theory for the twenty-first century—one that is equally conversant in political philosophy, Marxism, and contemporary politics. Justice Is an Option is a radical, invigorating first page of a new—and sorely needed—leftist playbook.


Robert Meister is professor of social and political thought in the History of Consciousness Department at the University of California Santa Cruz, where he directs the Bruce Initiative on Rethinking Capitalism. His political thought concerns the moral relations between the beneficiaries of social and political injustice and its victims. Meister is the author of Political Identity: Thinking Through Marx and After Evil: A Politics of Human Rights.

Karin Knorr Cetina is the O. Borchert Distinguished Service Professor in the Departments of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Chicago.  She published extensively in the area of science and technology studies, the sociology of finance, and social theory. Her writings include the book Epistemic Cultures: How the Sciences Make Knowledge (Harvard UP 2003; Winner of the Ludwick Fleck Price and Robert K. Merton Professional Award), Takeover by Science. The Long Contemporary History of Financial Markets (2020),  Global Microstructures: The Virtual Societies of Financial Markets (with Urs Bruegger, winner of Theory Prize of the  ASA section on Social Theory, 2007) and the just finished book, Synthetic Markets: The Currency Market as a Media-Institution (to appear 2023).

Sanjay Seth is Professor of Politics at Goldsmiths, University of London. He has published in the fields of modern Indian history, political and social theory, postcolonial theory, and international relations. He is particularly interested in how modern European ideologies, and modern Western knowledge more generally, “travelled” to the non-Western world—and what effects this had both on the non-Western world and on modern Western knowledge. Seth’s publications include Marxist Theory and Nationalist Politics: The Case of Colonial India (1995) and Subject Lessons: The Western Education of Colonial India (2007), which was awarded the International Convention of Asian Scholars (ICAS) 2009 book prize in the social sciences. He is also the editor of Postcolonial Theory and International Relations: A Critical Introduction (2013).

This is a hybrid event, and it is free and open to the public. Registration is required for both in-person and virtual participation. Please email us at if you require any accommodations to enable your full participation.

Presented by 3CT and co-sponsored by the Seminary Co-op Bookstore.