The current financial crisis has thoroughly exposed the limits of economic rationality. Yet we remain surprised, left in disbelief, and yearn for economic rationality to return, still hoping that on a normal day the economy will follow an iron logic, and that economic actors will behave in a dispassionate way. Ash Amin makes the case for seeing the economy as so shot through with cultural inputs that ‘economy’ and ‘culture’ cannot be seen as separate arenas. Focusing on the power of passion, moral values, soft knowledge, trust and metaphor, he illustrates that the economy has to be imagined as a hybrid entanglement. The lecture goes on to mobilise this insight for a new understanding of the urban economy, one that moves beyond familiar invocations of culture as a new basis for urban prosperity.

Ash Amin is Professor of Geography at the University of Durham where he also directs the Institute of Advanced Study. One of the leading geographers, Ash Amin has intervened in diverse debates in contemporary social and spatial theory, ranging from the urban imaginary and meanings of local attachment in a cosmopolitan age, multiethnicity and prospects for urban democracy, to the economy re-imagined as situated knowledge and cultural performance.