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The “expansive dynamism of capitalism(Sewell 2008) is also institutionalized through the credit- based financing of investments. Credit provides access to resources to which no “normal claim(Schumpeter 1934: 107) exists. The claim is only justified through future success. Credit is a central pillar of capitalist growth because it allows firms to engage in economic activities that could not other wise be undertaken, using resources they have yet to earn. At the same time, the interest charged for credit forces firms to produce products of higher market value than the investments being made in them. The “claim” to capital must be earned through the expansion of economic value. In this way, the credit system both provides opportunities for growth and enforces that growth. Firms that fail to produce sufficient surplus lose access to capital and are eventually wiped out from their markets.


Economic and social competition and the financial system create both opportunities and a systematic demand for dynamic change, which forces actors to pursue the economic opportunities to be found in imagined futures. This “restlessness” (Sewell 2008) keeps capitalist economies in “dynamic disequilibrium(Beckert 2009), which is constantly upended through the decentralized decisions of market actors operating within the institutional constraints of competitive markets and a monetary economy. Capitalist economies destabilize and stabilize themselves by continuously undermining their own historical forms: firms relentlessly seek new profit opportunities, employees strive to build careers, consumers hunt for new consumption experiences. Surviving and thriving in an environment in which current forms will not last demands that firms, employees, and consumers be constantly oriented toward a future they cannot yet see.