Metaphoric Wealth and The Crisis of the Imagination

“Saturn eating his children” by C. K. Wilde, 2006

1. Continuum Press has posted the details of a collection edited by Todd Dufresne and Carla Sacchetti titled The Economy as Cultural System, due out in November (http://wwwwww.continuumbooks.com/books/detail.aspx?BookId=168460&SntUrl=154046), which features my essay “Metaphoric Wealth:  Finance, Financialization and the End of Narrative.”  From the chapter’s introduction:

This chapter asks us to understand finance as a cultural system.  The past 40 years have seen the rise of “financialization”: the growing influence of financial speculation on the global economy, and the deep imbrications of financial “logics” into everyday life the world over.  Throughout this period, finance has come both to influence culture (as a realm of shared understandings, representations and human relationships) and to be increasingly “cultural” in that it both influences and relies upon social action and meaning, shared belief and linguistic participation.   In this chapter I argue that financialization is both a cause and a consequence of a broad shift away from narrative and towards metaphor.  Financialization forces us to contend with a fragmentary world where narratives no longer seem to hold and where our shared understandings of social and economic processes are increasingly disjunctive and chaotic.   But while finance may be  is a metaphoric system, where abstractions of money and risk create a hyper-complex  interwoven system of representations, it is not merely an elite hallucination of “imaginary money.”  On the contrary finance expresses  the phenomenal power and obscene perversion of the collective imagination under an incredibly dangerous form of global capitalism.

Please get in touch if you are interested in reading this chapter.

2.  Currently, I am hard at work on one of the two books I am preparing.  In writing The Crisis of the Imagination I am attempting to craft a book of accessible public theory for a general audience.  I argue that we need to reimagine our present economic crisis to escape from the what I call the “austere imagination,” the necro-neoliberal imaginative landscape that preoccupies almost all political and economic debate our  “age of austerity.”  Doing so demands that we reimagine the imagination itself, not as an individual possession (a mental faculty we each “own”) but as a collective, social and collaborative process.  Such a reimagining won’t only help us cultivate the radical imagination and devise new and better ways for dealing with our global crisis, it will also help us understand the deadly real power of imaginary money and finance.

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