“The Fictions of Finance,” a Call for Proposals for Radical History Review

20 01 2012

Across the humanities and social sciences, a new conversation has begun about the enigmas of capital, and of finance capital, in particular. This special issue of the Radical History Review on “The Fictions of Finance” aims to intervene in that conversation and to help to shape it. From geography, history, and literary studies to anthropology, sociology, and labor studies, there has been an efflorescence of work on finance and commercial capital, flourishing amid the current capital crisis and chronic “recession.” As a historical primer on the planetary intersections of the rhetorical and the operational dimensions of “The Fictions of Finance,” this issue is designed to knit together the disparate strands of these renewed conversations. In naming that theme, we mean to recover the old notion that finance capital is itself a kind of fabrication, an illusion—the realm of Marx’s “fictitious capital.” History provides a long record of cultural figurations of this fictionality, of the fraudulent productivity and magical profit of credit and speculation—from the “wind wheat” of Illinois to the “devil” of Colombia. But new modes of thought have continually helped to marginalize those responses and to naturalize the mechanisms of finance capital. In other words, to paraphrase cultural historian Ann Fabian, economic innovation and epistemological innovation have gone hand in hand.

With “The Fictions of Finance,” then, we mean to decipher a vast array of moral panics, conceptual revolutions, legal constructions, and discursive forms implicated and imbricated within the world histories of capital. This theme may point in many directions: genealogies of economic thought; the performativity of economic theory; finance capital’s institutional architectures, such as corporations and state bureaucracies; territorial sovereignties, geographical imaginaries or spatial materialities secured by finance capital; techniques of racial capitalism; and modes of imperialism and accumulation. We want this theme to mark out the space for an interdisciplinary conversation, rather than a strictly historical one, about the political economy of finance capitalism. We seek a cultural history, writ large, writ global, of the forms, concepts, subjects, and networks that finance capital elaborates. In other words, we’d like to emphasize critiques of capitalism and to foreground its logic, and, practically speaking, to emphasize provocative juxtapositions of topics.

Some possible topics this issue might explore include, but are not limited to, the following:

• Slave insurance, slave mortgages, and the corporealization of finance capital
• Speculation and risk as imperatives of capitalist citizenship
• “Time is money,” and other tropes of the transactionalism of everyday life
• Microfinance, credit-baiting, and primitive accumulation in the Global South
• Pin money and the domestication of finance
• FIRE economies and the rise of global cities
• “Ball pork”: the circulation of finance capital through built and natural environments
• Territorial and national sovereignties imagined by finance capital
• Shysters, Welfare Queens and other discourses of parasitism
• Radical critiques of finance capital, among theorists and activists around the world
• The grammar of finance, e.g., the categories of credit and debt (whether personal or national)
• The instruments of finance, e.g., double-entry bookkeeping and collateralized debt obligations
• Money as a narrative strategy, from the realist novel to conceptual art
• The personification of the market that speaks, sleeps, and stumbles
• Global cycles of finance capital and the temporality of history
• Finance capital and the scapes of modernity: HSBC as “The World’s Local Bank”
• The boundary between clean and dirty money
• The emergence of the concept of finance capital
• Homo Economicus: the productions of affect, desire, and subjectivity
• The legal “personhood” of business corporations

The RHR seeks scholarly, monographic research articles, but we also encourage such non-traditional contributions as photo essays, film and book review essays, interviews, brief interventions, “conversations” between scholars and/or activists, and teaching notes and annotated course syllabi for our Teaching Radical History section.

Visit the website at http://chnm.gmu.edu/rhr/rhr.htm

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