“Finance as Capital’s Imagination” published in Social Text

Hogarth - The South Sea Bubble, a Parable

My article “Finance as Capital’s Imagination?: Reimagining Value and Culture in an Age of Fictitious Capital and Crisis” has been published in the journal Social Text (29.3/108, pp. 93-124.  You can find it here.  The abstract:

This essay seeks to contribute to the theoretical groundwork for a cultural studies of finance by recasting a Marxist theory of value toward an analysis of the politics of the imagination under financialized capitalism. My argument is as follows. (1) Social cooperation, creativity, and reproduction are the products of the ongoing negotiation of social values. This process is undergirded by the work of the imagination: the synthetic and creative quality of mind that allows us to both conceive of social totality and futurity and gain agency within them. (2) Capitalism is a socially destructive logic of social cooperation, a viral value paradigm that guides social action and agency toward its own endless reproduction and expansion. This implies a struggle over the dialectic of imagination and value. I suggest that imagination is the “living” aspect of “living labor.” (3) Money is capital’s material articulation of this struggle. It works by seeking to subordinate the rich, dense world of qualitative social values under its cyclopean logic of quantified economic value. (4) Finance is the redoubling of the complexities and abstractions of money. It creates a world-embracing matrix of signals that allows for a form of synthetic comprehension of social totality and futurity. It functions as capital’s imagination. (5) The current rise of neoliberal financialization both relies on and produces the expansion of a financialized imagination on the levels of everyday life and of broader social imaginaries. This comes at the expense of the radical imagination.