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An ethnography of South Korea’s lay investors and aspiring millionaires that demonstrates how South Korea’s capitalism thrives on its critiques

Table of contents

Chapter 1. Introduction to Critical Capitalism
Chapter 2: The Entrepreneurial Communitarianism of Aspiring Millionaires
Chapter 3: Anti-Capitalist Investing
Chapter 4. Emotional Wounds
Chapter 5. Flipping Homes, Flipping Victimhood: The Social Reproduction of Foreclosure Investors
Chapter 6: Single and Wanna Be Rich
Methodological Appendix


Critically Capitalist presents an ethnography of South Korea’s asset seekers, including amateur stock investors, real estate enthusiasts, and money coaches, to demonstrate how financialized asset capitalism is sustained. As they hunt for profit margins, rent, and dividends, they simultaneously critique capitalism and posit their pursuit of assets as a form of resistance. Bohyeong Kim theorizes this new spirit of capitalism in South Korea as “critical capitalism,” arguing that it reflects the popular discontent with both national development and financial neoliberalism. As a paradoxical critique and legitimation, Bohyeong Kim argues that critical capitalism valorizes the capitalist economy not through a triumphant narrative, but by highlighting the emotional wounds, destroyed communities, and oppressive tactics of modern capitalism. 

Drawing on multi-sited ethnography and in-depth interviews with a broad community of aspiring millionaires, Critically Capitalist illuminates how contemporary capitalism thrives by channeling discontent into financial and real estate markets, which in turn, has cemented critical capitalism as the cultural and affective backbone of South Korea’s economy.

Bohyeong Kim is Assistant Professor of Communication Studies and Asian Studies at Vanderbilt University.