The New Language of Capitalism

By John Patrick Leary  

Paperback $20.00

In Keywords: The New Language of Capitalism, John Patrick Leary chronicles the rise of a new vocabulary in the twenty-first century. From Silicon Valley to the White House, from primary school to higher education, and from the factory floor to the church pulpit, we are all called to be innovators and entrepreneurs, to be curators of an ever-expanding roster of competencies.

In a series of short essays on terms like “entrepreneur,” “sustainability,” “artisanal” and “synergy,” Keywords uses the vocabulary of neoliberalism to discover the contemporary spirit of capitalism. Each entry chronicles the penetration of market logic into nearly every aspect of our everyday branded lives — even realms like church and summer camp that were once secure from the rat-race of market-driven competition. Each entry explores a popular term that displays an affinity for hierarchy, competition, “the marketplace” and the virtual technologies of our time. The keywords all share a celebration of decisive “leadership,” dreamy artistry, prophetic “vision” and an inexhaustible commitment to work: the pillars of an ideal innovative self.

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  • “Leary invites us to imagine what our language could emphasize, what values it might reflect. What if we fought “for free time, not ‘flexibility’; for free health care, not ‘wellness’; and for free universities, not the ‘marketplace of ideas’”?

    — The Outline, November 2018 (full review)


  • Accountability (n.)
  • Artisanal (adj.)
  • Austerity (n.)
  • Best practices (n.)
  • Choice (n.)
  • Coach (n., v.)
  • Collaboration (n.)
  • Competency (n.)
  • Conversation (n.)
  • Creative (adj., n.)
  • Creativity (n.)
  • Curator (n.)
  • Curate (v.)
  • Data (n.)
  • Design (n.)
  • Disruption (n).
  • DIY (n., adj.)
  • Ecosystem (n.)
  • Empowerment (n.)
  • Engagement (n.)
  • Entrepreneurship (n.)
  • Excellence (n.)
  • Fail (n., v.)
  • Failure (n.)
  • Free (n.)
  • Grit (n.)
  • Hack (n., v.)
  • Hacker (n.)
  • Human capital (n.)
  • Innovation (n.)
  • Leadership (n.)
  • Lean (adj.)
  • Maker (adj.)
  • Market (n.)
  • Meritocracy (n.)
  • Nimble (adj.)
  • Outcome (n.)
  • Passion (n.)
  • Pivot (v.)
  • Resilience (n)
  • Robust (adj.)
  • Share (v.)
  • Sharing (adj.)
  • Smart (adj.)
  • Solution (n.)
  • Stakeholder (n.)
  • Sustainable (adj.)
  • Sustainability (n.)
  • Thought leader (n.)
  • Synergy (n.)
  • Wellness (n.)


  • John Patrick Leary

    John Patrick Leary is an associate professor of English at Wayne State University in Detroit. He is the author of A Cultural History of Underdevelopment: Latin America in the U.S. Imagination.

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