Lit crit and the financial crisis

This week’s issue of the New Yorker has a piece by John Lanchester about books related to the financial crisis. He is the only journalist, so far, to draw an analogy between developments in the financial markets and philosophy and cultural criticism. For that, I take my hat off. In the high point (for English majors) of his piece Lanchester writes:

If the invention of derivatives was the financial world’s modernist dawn, the current crisis is unsettlingly like the birth of postmodernism. For anyone who studied literature in college in the past few decades, there is a weird familiarity about the current crisis: value, in the realm of finance capital, evokes the elusive nature of meaning in deconstructionism. According to Jacques Derrida, the doyen of the school, meaning can never be precisely located; instead, it is always “deferred,” moved elsewhere, located in other meanings, which refer and defer to other meanings—a snake permanently and necessarily eating its own tail. This process is fluid and constant, but at moments the perpetual process of deferral stalls and collapses in on itself. Derrida called this moment an “aporia,” from a Greek term meaning “impasse.” There is something both amusing and appalling about seeing his theories acted out in the world markets to such cataclysmic effect. Anyone invited to attend a meeting of the G-8 financial ministers would be well advised not to draw their attention to this.

The result of our era of financial deconstruction has been a decades-long free-for-all of deregulation and (for the most part) bull markets, ending in partial nationalization.

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