by Peter Hitchcock
“The economic turmoil of 2007–2008 is not over: the Great Recession has a long tail that reaches into the present at every level of the economy and is of much interest to those of us attempting to think through its cultural resonance. In the wake of the ‘financial meltdown’ important lessons emerge in the space between literature and the economy. These lessons concern problems of velocity, fiction, and the subject: the complex speed of transactions, the fictiveness of fictitious capital, and the sublation of the subject in contemporary capital accumulation. Dark pools, for instance, the invisible devices at the core of this essay, form a liquidity mechanism meant to achieve efficiencies beyond the excesses that produced the crisis, particularly beyond the effulgence of regulation intended to address them. Just as British Petroleum’s response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill has involved even more drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, so finance capital is compelled not to surrender its deleterious modes of accumulation but to expand them. Every fact of economic harm becomes a fiction of anticapitalism, and every element of fictitious capital accumulation divulges the real of economic relations: the accumulation of fiction.”
So begins Peter Hitchcock‘s essay examining both the nature of the economic crisis of 2007–2008 and the intensification of finance capital in its wake. Moving between aesthetics and economics, Hitchcock considers, in particular, the emergence of the “dark pool” and its implications within a massive expansion of fictitious capital.
This essay is from Representations‘ current special issue Financialization and the Culture Industry. The introduction to the issue by C. D. Blanton, Colleen Lye, and Kent Puckett, is available online free of charge.
Edited by C. D. Blanton, Colleen Lye, and Kent Puckett
Financialization and the culture industry. The essays that make up this special issue of Representations turn on the relation between those two terms. How, they ask, should we understand the formal and cultural effects of a world economy ever more dependent on finance’s increasingly abstract calculations of value? In one respect, the metaphor of a “culture industry” might now appear anachronistic, swept aside by the postindustrial speed, scale, and global reach of contemporary finance. But what then remains of notions—inherited from the Frankfurt School and elsewhere—of high and low culture, art and reification, commitment and commodity, class struggle and rationalization in an economy now conceived as immaterial or disembodied, frictionless or flat? (Continue reading…)
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The entire run of Representations is available online free of charge through the end of the day on Monday, April 15. Follow this link to JSTOR for access to issues from 2001 to the present.
Pan-Optics: Perspectives on Visual Privacy & Surveillance
March 6, 2014; Banatao Auditorium, Sutardja Dai Hall, 10:30-4:30
Advances in drone aircraft, networked cameras, and recent disclosures about the NSA’s international and domestic surveillance activities have stimulated public protests, outrage from activists, and new policy discussions among elected leaders. This symposium will highlight emerging perspectives on visual privacy and consider the state of the art from a variety of disciplines and professions, including technology, journalism, filmmaking and the arts.
Among the many presenters and panelists are Rebecca MacKinnon, Senior Research Fellow at the New American Foundation; Trevor Paglen, artist and social scientist; Ken Golberg, Faculty Director of the CITRIS Data & Democracy Initiative; and Kriss Ravetto, Director of the Mellon Research Initiative in Digital Cultures at UC Davis and author of the “Shadowed by Images: Rafael Lozano-Hemmer and the Art of Surveillance” (Representations 111, Summer 2010).
For further information and to register, visit bit.ly/pan-optices2014.
Must historical novels … be held to a higher truth standard because they are dealing, overtly, with history rather than story, even if that history is as horrific as that of the Holocaust?
Taking off from Thomas Hardy’s pronouncement that the “mixing of fact and fiction in unknown proportions” amounts to “infinite mischief,” Carol Gluck considers the tension between fact and fiction in her lively opinion piece for Representations 124, “Infinite Mischief? History and Literature Once Again.”
CAROL GLUCK is the George Sansom Professor of History at Columbia University, specializing in the history of modern Japan. She is co-editor with Anna Tsing of Words in Motion: Toward a Global Lexicon (Duke, 2009) and author of Thinking with the Past: Japan and Modern History (University of California, forthcoming).
Twice Written, Never Read: Pascal’s Mémorial Between Superstition and Superbia
BY HALL BJØRNSTAD
Why exactly did Blaise Pascal carry with him the testimony of a life-transforming religious experience written in two slightly different versions and hidden in the lining of his coat? By tracing the unease with which this question has been met—or most often, dodged—by 350 years’ worth of readers, this essay (recently published in Representations 124) argues that Pascal’s so-called Mémorial still today presents us with the necessity to rethink the commemorative and transformative function of texts in general.
HALL BJØRNSTAD, Assistant Professor of French at Indiana University, Bloomington, is the author of Créature sans créateur. Pour une anthropologie baroque dans les “Pensées” de Pascal (Québec, 2010; Paris, 2013) and, with Katherine Ibbett, co-editor of a special issue of Yale French Studies, “Walter Benjamin’s Hypothetical French Trauerspiel” (2014).
from “Christmas Yet To Come”: Hospitality, Futurity, the Carol, and “The Dead”
by Paul K. Saint-Amour
When Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol and James Joyce’s “The Dead” are mentioned together, it tends to be on regional theater websites or on lists of “great holiday tales” rather than in any more sustained context of affiliation. This essay posits a deeper kinship between these beloved stories: they are both, I suggest, serious meditations on the ethics of hospitality. Unlike the Carol, Joyce’s story dwells on hospitality as a legal and political category as well, but it does so largely by inviting the Carol’s face-to-face ethics of hospitality into the political space of occupied Dublin. That colonial setting hosts an encounter among three forms of hospitality: the social codes of invitation and limited welcome; the ethics of limitless welcome to the absolute stranger; and the call within cosmopolitan political philosophy for a universal right of hospitality. “The Dead” thinks about how these hospitalities inform, delimit, and critique one another and asks whether they can still be thought in a political context of forcible occupation. Reprising the Carol’s interest in futurity, it considers, too, what is at stake in representing—or in refusing to represent—the future political form of a present colony. By the lights of such a reading, the Carol and “The Dead” are in fact antidotes to the holiday chestnut, a genre of foregone conclusions and sealed interiors. But we will not want to sever them entirely from the season with which they are so strongly identified. Insofar as it waits for a radical discontinuity in history—for a chance to welcome what has never yet been welcomed—the expectant temporality of Christmas remains central to these stories’ critical energies.
(from Representations 98, Spring 2007)
“When is a traditional Chinese ‘poem on things’ (yongwu shi) not a poem on ‘things’? When the perceived and, eventually, constructed nature of the particular thing being described is at odds with, or somehow exceeds, its prescribed function as a discrete object of perception. One such object is the mirror, which appears in some of the earliest Chinese historical and philosophical documents in our possession, before entering the lexicon of classical poetic expression some time around the third century—at the very moment when the tradition of individual lyric expression as such was beginning to take shape. At that point, although it carried with it centuries of discourse relating vision to questions of knowledge of self and others, its capacity for creating meaning would soon exceed anything that could rightly be called symbolic or even metaphorical. The mirror would become one salient thing that would reflect and shape changes in the very notion of the lyric subject over time.” –Paula Varsano
In her new essay “Disappearing Objects/Elusive Subjects: Writing Mirrors in Early and Medieval China” (Representations 124) Varsano examines changes in the philosophical and literary representations of mirrors—and mirroring—in a foundational period of Chinese history beginning with the pre-classical period and ending in the medieval Tang Dynasty. Inspired by the peculiarity of this object, which acts upon subjects at least as much as it is acted upon by them, this study of the literary mirror, of reflection and reflexivity, provides a glimpse into the larger issue of the construction of subjectivity in premodern China.
In “Cartesian Robotics,” now available in Representations 124, David Bates looks at Descartes’s physiological theory, and especially his theorization of the nerves and the brain as an information-processing system, in order to offer a new interpretation of cognition within his philosophy. Rather than opposing mind and body, Descartes showed how the operations of the soul interrupted the automatic cognitive processes of the body to provide adaptive flexibility for the human organism as a whole. Bates is Professor in the Department of Rhetoric at UC Berkeley, where he teaches intellectual history.