Spectres of Value

Speculation, the withdrawal of profits from the home industries, the increasingly feverish search, not so much for new markets (these are also saturated) as for the new kind of profits available in financial transactions themselves and as such — these are the ways in which capitalism now reacts to and compensates for the closing of its productive moment.  Capital itself becomes free-floating.  It separates from the ‘concrete context’ of its productive geography.  Money becomes in a second sense and to a second degree abstract (it always was abstract in the first and basic sense): as though somehow in the national moment money still had a content — it was cotton money, or wheat money, textile money, railway money and the like.  Now, like the butterfly stirring within the chrysalis, it separates itself off from that concrete breeding ground and prepares to take flight.  We know today only too well (but Arrighi shows us that this contemporary knowledge of ours only replicates the bitter experiences of the dead, of disemployed workers in the older moments of capitalism, of local merchants as well, of the dying cities also) that the term is literal.  We know that there exists such a thing as capital flight: the disinvestment, the pondered or hasty moving on to greener pastures and higher rates of investment return, and of cheaper labour.  Now this free-floating capital, on its frantic search for more profitable investments (a process prophetically described for the US as long ago as Baran and Sweezy’s Monopoly Capital of 1965) will begin to live its life in a new context; no longer in the factories and the spaces of extraction and production, but on the floor of the stock market, jostling for more intense profitability, but not as one industry competing with another branch, nor even one productive technology against another more advanced one in the same line of manufacturing, but rather in the form of speculation itself: spectres of value, as Derrida might put it, vying against each other in a vast world-wide disembodied phantasmagoria. (141-142)

Fredric Jameson | “Culture and Finance Capital” in The Cultural Turn: Selected Writings on the Postmodern, 1983-1998.



So I come finally to my principal point here, that this latest mutation in space — postmodern hyperspace — has finally succeeded in transcending the capacities of the individual human body to locate itself, to organize its immediate surroundings perceptually, and to map cognitively its position in a mappable external world.  And I have already suggested that this alarming disjunction between the body and its built environment — which is to the initial bewilderment of the older modernism as the velocities of spacecraft are to those of the automobile — can itself stand as the symbol and analogue of that even sharper dilemma, which is the incapacity of our minds, at least at present, to map the great global, multinational and decentred communicational network in which we find ourselves caught as individual subjects. (15-16)

Fredric Jameson | “Postmodernism and Consumer Society” in The Cultural Turn: Selected Writings on the Postmodern, 1983-1998.

Postmodern Amnesia

I believe that the emergence of postmodernism is closely related to the emergence of this new moment of late consumer or multinational capitalism.  I believe also that its formal features in many ways express the deeper logic of this particular social system.  I will only be able, however, to show this for one major theme: namely the disappearance of a sense of history, the way in which our entire contemporary social system has little by little begun to lose its capacity to retain its own past, has begun to live in a perpetual present and in a perpetual change that obliterates traditions of the kind which all earlier social information have had, in one way or another, to preserve.  Think only of the media exhaustion of news: of how Nixon and, even more so, Kennedy, are figures from a now distant past.  One is tempted to say that the very function of the news media is to relegate such recent historical experiences as rapidly as possible into the past.  The informational function of the media would thus be to help us forget, to serve as the very agents and mechanisms for our historical amnesia. (20)

Fredric Jameson | “Postmodernism and Consumer Society” in The Cultural Turn: Selected Writings on the Postmodern, 1983-1998.