Monday, October 06, 2008


It's not surprising to see how thoroughly integrated in the world financial system the developed and underdeveloped nations of the world are. Despite ridicule from Jon Stewart, the "house of cards" metaphor George Bush appealed to when describing the economic crisis last week may in fact be the most accurate statement of his entire presidential career. The current economic meltdown, which we began to feel in earnest this summer via the US mortgage crisis, has consistently rippled outward, effecting markets in Europe and Asia:

Over the weekend, governments across Europe rushed to prop up failing banks. The German government and financial industry agreed on a $68 billion bailout for commercial-property lender Hypo Real Estate Holding AG, while France's BNP Paribas agreed to acquire a 75 percent stake in Fortis's Belgium bank after a government rescue failed.

Viral as ever, capital and the crises embedded in the very conditions of unregulated exchange move across borders with cavalier flair. Reading Fredric Jameson's pre-911 essay "Globalization and Political Strategy" (the same essay Divya Victor recently quoted at her blog) I found the following passage especially prescient:

The United States has resisted the strategy of introducing controls on the international transfers of capital — one method by which some of this financial and speculative damage [generated in part through instant transfers of capital] might presumably be contained ; and it has, of course, played a leading role within the IMF itself, long perceived to be the driving force of neo-liberal attempts to impose free-market conditions on other countries by threatening to withdraw investment funds. In recent years, however, it has no longer been so clear that the interests of the financial markets and those of the United States are absolutely identical: the anxiety exists that these new global financial markets may yet — like the sentient machinery of recent science fiction — mutate into autonomous mechanisms which produce disasters no one wants, and spin beyond the control of even the most powerful government.
It remains to be seen whether the $700 billion kickback (an exchange of public sector money for the failed profiteering strategies of reckless investment banks) will strengthen the "fundamentals" of the economy or create the conditions for an even greater financial calamity. Either way, basic concepts like "regulation" and "control" are central to this economic crisis. It is utterly impossible to imagine — given the highly international, flaneur-like fluidity of capital — how this crisis could have been anything less than global in scale.

On the terrain of poetry, for those invested in thinking the situation poetically, Pound's insistence on the centrality of the economic comes to mind. The poetics of excess (of computer-generated texts or poems desperately cobbled together using search-engines or labor-intensive transcriptions of massive amounts of information) do not, in the context of the current crisis, seem to repurpose informatic waste as much as it reproduces this waste and the destructive social relations constituted through this waste — that is, these projects grounded in a poetics of excess seem to yield results similar to failed investment banks: a glut of worthless securities.