This paper argues that, if cultural political economy is to be worthwhile, it needs to be critical of its object. In order to develop its critical understanding of contemporary society, it needs to do at least three things. Firstly, while the cultural turn has corrected and sometimes inverted economic reductionism's dismissive treatment of culture and the lifeworld, it needs to avoid reducing economic systems to the lifeworld in which they are embedded, so that the extent to which systems are responsible for economic and cultural effects—good or bad—is not obscured. Secondly, it needs to take a more critical look at the social and cultural embedding of economic activities, and at the way system mechanisms of capital accumulation and uneven development have powerful disembedding and disruptive effects. Thirdly, it needs to reconsider, rather than ignore, classical political economy, which was always cultural and is still of relevance today, even though it failed to anticipate new issues of cultural and political significance, such as the politics of identity.