Haiven, Max. 2011. “Finance as Capital’s Imagination?: Reimagining Value and Culture in an Age of Fictitious Capital and Crisis.” Social Text 108: 93–124. https://doi.org/10.1215/01642472-1299983
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.
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.