The Order of Unmanageable Risks

The Order of Unmanageable Risks

A podcast about anxiety and capitalism

Welcome to The Order of Unmanageable Risks, an occasional research podcast about the crisis of anxiety in our society today and its links to the system of capitalism presented by the Common Anxieties Research Project supported by the Institute for Advanced Study at University College London and the ReImagining Value Action Lab (RiVAL).


Through interviews with important thinkers, we explore how economic forces shape our mental health. We want to go beyond the medicalized approach to anxiety as an isolated disorder or chemical imbalance, and ask bigger questions about how a system of chaotic uncertainty and risk management leads to an anxious society.

But we also want to consider what possibilities might be opening for solidarity, care and a new society.

Capitalism has always depended on anxiety to control the future, putting pressure on our work and life. Yet the system has never been more anxious or unpredictable than it is today.


Our podcast series tries to make sense of it all. In each episode, we talk to a practitioner, activist or theorist who can cast a different light on anxiety as a psychological, sociological, political or economic challenge, with an eye to discovering how this thing called anxiety can bring us together in an age of unmanageable risks and profound change.

The hosts

Aris Komporozos-Athanasiou is a political sociologist at University College London and Senior Editor of Public Seminar.
a.komporozos at


Max Haiven is a community organizer and Canada Research Chair in Culture, Media and Social Justice at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Canada.
mhaiven at


The Order of Unmanageable Risks is hosted on the Soundcloud and YouTube pages of the ReImagining Value Action Lab (RiVAL).

Copy and paste this address into your podcast app to subscribe to new episodes:


Coming soon...

OUR 004 - June 2020

The anxieties racism produces

with Hári Sewell

In our fourth episode, we speak with critical race theorist Hári Sewell about the intersections of race, racism and mental health.
Hári Sewell is founder and Director of HS Consultancy and is a former executive director of health and social care in the UK’s National Health Service. He is a writer and speaker in his specialist area of social justice, equalities and ethnicity, race and culture in mental health.

OUR 003 - June 2020

Why does (talk of) race make us so anxious?

with Alana Lentin

In our Third episode, we speak with critical race theorist Alana Lentin about anxieties around race and racism in today’s capitalist society.
Alana Lentin is Associate Professor in Cultural and Social Analysis at Western Sydney University and author, most recently, of Why Race Still Matters now out from Polity.

OUR 002 - May 2020

Why is there no emoji for...?

with Esther Leslie

In this second episode of The Order of Unmanageable Risks we talk with scholar Esther Leslie about work, exploitation, emojis and corporate digital power.

Esther Leslie is Professor of Political Aesthetics at Birkbeck, University of London. Her books include Hollywood Flatlands: Animation, Critical Theory and the Avant Garde (Verso, 2002); Synthetic Worlds: Nature, Art and the Chemical Industry (Reaktion, 2005); Derelicts: Thought Worms from the Wreckage (Unkant, 2014), Liquid Crystals: The Science and Art of a Fluid Form (Reaktion, 2016) and Deeper in the Pyramid (with Melanie Jackson: Banner Repeater, 2018).

She is currently working on a project called Turbid Media, about the new presence of fog, froth and foam in our world and – also – a history and philosophy of the device.

OUR 001 - May 2020

The gifts of darkness?

with James Bridle

In this inaugural episode of The Order of Unmanagable Risks we talk with artist and writer James Bridle.

James’ artworks have been commissioned by galleries and institutions and exhibited worldwide and on the internet. Their writing on literature, culture and networks has appeared in magazines and newspapers including Wired, the Atlantic, the New Statesman, the Guardian, and the Observer.

New Dark Age, their book about technology, knowledge, and the end of the future, was published by Verso in 2018, and they wrote and presented New Ways of Seeing for BBC Radio 4 in 2019.

The Order of Unmanageable Risks podcast is one part of the larger

Common Anxieties Research Project

A participatory investigation into the social, political and economic roots of the anxiety epidemic at UK and Canadian universities.

It’s not you, it’s us

The mainstream media is full of stories about the “anxiety epidemic” among university students today. But what do young people themselves think is at the root of this crisis? How is the personal experience of anxiety connected to social pressures, political realities and economic forces?

This research project brings young people together to come up with their own answers. We have our own ideas, but we designed this project to create spaces for those most affected by the “epidemic” to speak for themselves.

To be clear, we are interested in the general experience of anxiety that affects a huge number of young people from all sorts of backgrounds today. While this is connectexd to the experience of clinically-diagnosed and debilitating anxiety disorders, our interest is in the broader, sociological dimensions of anxiety more than the individual and medical ones.


This is a project about the psychological and sociological impacts of “financialization.”

Financialization first of all names the increased power and influence of the financial sector over the global economy: investment banks, hedge funds, high finance, “The City,” Wall Street.

But it also refers to the way more and more aspects of our society come to reflect, and be shaped by, the financial sector. For instance, did you ever wonder when everything good in the world (like, say, a university education) became an “investment?

Over the last 40 years many things that were once considered public goods (health care, nutrition, education, housing) have been reconfigured as private “investments.”

We’ve been told that, in today’s world, you can only rely on yourself and so you have to be competitive and manage risks, or face insecurity, poverty and trouble.

The financialized university

The last 50 years have seen a global revolution towards policies known collectively as “neoliberalism.”

Neoliberalism promotes the privatization of public services, the deregulation of corporations and corporate-led globalization. It’s based on the idea that capitalist markets, driven by competition, are the most efficient and fair way to organize society and social institutions, including universities.

The same period has seen even public universities run more and more like corporations, focused on financial management rather than education of care.

The financialized university is the result of this process: an institution that, on the one hand, is driven by an austere economic approach and, on the other unintentionally teaches an austere and financialized worldview.

The anxiety epidemic

The number of students in the UK, US and Canada self-reporting at-times debilitating anxiety has skyrocketed in the last decade, with major impacts on students and universities.

Unfortunately, this crisis tends to be framed in one of three ways, all of which we see as incomplete and often unhelpful:

Get over it

There is a strong tendency to pick on anxious students and insist that they should toughen up and "get over it." Usually the argument is that the problem isn't the extra pressures students today face, it's that today's young people have been too "coddled" and gently and permissively raised and can't face the rigours of the "real world."

It's all social media's fault

There is a frequent argument, supported by some data, that increased use of social media and the ubiquity of smartphones has led to elevated rates of anxiety among young people, who have been raised "on stage" and with constant, anxiety-provoking access to what can feel like an uncontrollable world in which they never measure up.

It's personal

The overarching approach is that anxiety is a psychological ailment or medical condition whose roots are with each individual and whose treatment is between them and their health care providers. This approach is deeply connected to approaches that stress pharmaceutical interventions