The Order of Unmanageable Risks

The Order of Unmanageable Risks

A podcast about anxiety and capitalism

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).

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Join us for season two

Conspiracy Games and Countergames

Season two of The Order of Unmanageable Risks, Conspiracy Games and Countergames is launching in June 2021.

OUR 011 - October 2020

Anxious in (Trump's) America

Video special!

with Jamieson Webster

In this episode of The Order of Unmanageable Risks: A Podcast about Capitalism and Anxiety we speak with psychoanalyst Jamieson Webster about the surge of anxiety and other psychological ailments that have arisen in Trump’s America, including in the (at the time of recording) ongoing pandemic.

Jamieson Webster is psychoanalyst in New York and teaches at The New School for Social Research. Most recently, she has written a series of articles on psychoanalysis for The New York Review of Books, and Conversion Disorder (Columbia University Press, 2018).

OUR 010 - October 2020

Are students rising up against the anxious university?

On this episode of the Order of Unmanageable Risks: A Podcast about Capitalism and Anxiety hosts Aris and Max talk with UCL student and Common Anxieties Project summer research assistant Anna Reid about her examination of the way the mainstream media and students themselves speak about the crisis of mental health on UK university campuses.
Over the summer of 2020 Anna identified a series of crises moments at UK universities over the past three years when student mental (ill-)health has made headlines. She then contrasted the way the mainstream print media framed these crises and the way students themselves framed them in anonymous online forums.

OUR 009 - July 2020

Is anxiety a weapon?

with A. T. Kingsmith

How has capitalism weaponized anxiety? And how might that weapon be turned against capitalism? We speak with A. T. Kingsmith about the “anxiety industry,” new affective technologies and the lonely terror of individualism.

A.T. Kingsmith is a PhD candidate in the Department of Politics at York University and co-founder of EiQ Technologies, an emotion-AI start-up based out of the Design Fabrication Zone (DFZ) at Ryerson University. He is currently writing an open access book entitled Anxiety as a Weapon at AU Press.

OUR 008 - July 2020

What's wrong with adults these days?

with Juliet Jacques

We speak with author, teacher, broadcaster, film-maker and columnist Juliet Jacques about the generational cleavages of the past decade as represented by Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour campaign in the UK, for which she campaigned. We also discuss movements for trans rights as they signal broader struggles against austerity, as well as the backlash against them.

Juliet Jacques is a writer and filmmaker based in London and author of Rayner Heppenstall: A Critical Study (Dalkey Archive, 2007) and Trans: A Memoir (Verso, 2015). Her writing has appeared in The Guardian, for whom she documented her gender reassignment in a landmark series entitled “A Transgender Journey” (2010-12), as well as London Review of Books, Granta, Sight & Sound, Frieze, Art Review, New York Times and The Washington Post. Her short films have been screened in galleries and festivals worldwide. She is founder and co-host of Suite (212), first on London’s Resonance FM, lately as a listener-supported podcast.

OUR 007 - July 2020

Capitalism is psychologically unsustainable

with Mikkel Krause Frantzen

Mikkel Krause Frantzen explores the way that neoliberal, financialized capitalism ensnares us in a perpetual mode of suffering and then offers insufficient, individualizing “solutions” to our woes through the medicalization of mental illness.

Frantzen, author of Going Nowhere, Slow: The Aesthetics and Politics of Depression (Zero Books 2019), literary critic at the Danish newspaper Politiken, and postdoc at the University of Copenhagen, where he focuses on financialization and literature. In this episode we discuss his essay of 16 December 2019 “A Future with No Future: Depression, the Left, and the Politics of Mental Health” published in the Los Angeles Review of Books.

OUR 006 - June 2020

What is our psychiatric future?

with Nikolas Rose

This episode we’re joined by noted sociologist Nikolas Rose to discuss his 2018 book Our Psychiatric Future which explores how the “epidemic” of mental ill-health has been framed by policy, medical institutions and the media.

Rose is Professor of Sociology in the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at King’s College London where he is also co-director of the recently established Centre for Society and Mental Health. His many books include Inventing Our Selves: Psychology, Power and Personhood (1998, Governing the Soul: The Shaping of the Private Self (2nd edition, 1999), and co-author of Neuro: The New Brain Sciences and the Management of the Mind (2013). He is co-editor of The Essential Foucault: Selections from Essential Works of Foucault, 1954-1984.

OUR 005 - June 2020

The trickle down uncertainties of financialization

with Arjun Appadurai

This episode we speak to celebrated anthropologist Arjun Appadurai about his book Banking on Words: The Failure of Language in the Age of Derivative Finance, as well as about the current pandemic and its links to a culture of unequal uncertainties around the world.

Arjun Appadurai is Paulette Goddard Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University and Professor of Anthropology and Globalization at the Hertie School in Berlin. He is an internationally recognized scholar of globalization, the cultural dimensions of economic development, and struggles over national and transnational identity. He specializes in South Asia. Appadurai is the author of numerous books and articles on migration, transnational dynamics, sovereignty and media.

OUR 004 - May 2020

The anxieties of surviving a racist society

with Hári Sewell

This episode we speak with consultant, educator, writer and speaker Hári Sewell about the ways in which anxiety in the context of societies structured around race and marked by racism, including in the fields of mental and social care.

Hári Sewell is founder and Director of HS Consultancy and is a former executive director of health and social care in the NHS. He is a writer and speaker in his specialist area of social justice, equalities and ethnicity, race and culture in mental health. Hári is honorary Senior Visiting Fellow at the University of Central Lancashire and was the co-founder of the national Social Care Strategic Network (Mental Health) and was chair until November 2010. Hári has had various books, articles and book chapters published, with new material emerging regularly, usually ever year.

Hári worked with another local campaigner to secure services for survivors of sexual violence and currently runs a campaign “Men Supporting Women’s Rights” including “Men Against Rape”. He is increasingly studying forms of masculinity and the possibilities in practice and employee relations to recognise the intersections between masculinity and other aspects of identity.

OUR 003 - May 2020

The weaponized anxieties of the racially illerate

with Alana Lentin

In this episode we speak with race-critical scholar Alana Lentin about the dangers of racial illiteracy, why talk of race makes so many (mostly white) people so anxious, and how “not racism” became the dominant paradigm for talking about race and racism today.

Alana Lentin is Associate Professor in Cultural and Social Analysis at Western Sydney University. She is a European and West Asian Jewish woman who is a settler on Gadigal land. She works on the critical theorization of race, racism and antiracism. Latest book, Why Race Still Matters, is 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 about the politics of algorithmic opacity, populist technologies, and new ways of seeing through capitalism’s darkness.

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