The Financial Crash and Hyper-Real Economy

The world’s leading economies are in crisis and the harsh repercussions of the financial crash of 2008 are still being felt. Economic inequality has reached extremes not seen for a century. The origins of the crash can be found in the transformation of capitalism into a new form of hyper-capitalism-neoliberalism. As well this is the transformation of the economy into a financial simulacrum – a hyper-real economy. The suspension of the gold standard by Richard Nixon in 1971 fundamentally transmuted the nature of the economy: Nixon’s notion that ‘Gold is dead’ echoes Friedrich Nietzsche’s claim that ‘God is dead.’ Nothing is the same after this. In this financial simulacrum money becomes a sign free of any reference to real wealth or production. When this simulacrum is exacerbated to the point of parody, the bubble bursts and crash ensues. What is to be done? Using the work of Jean Baudrillard, it appears that traditional political possibilities of change such as the role of democracy, the state and the citizen, and alternative politics such as Occupy, protest, activism, and variants of Marxism have become ineffectual and compromised within the new form of neoliberalism. Instead, Baudrillard offers three strategies to challenge capital: exacerbation of the contradictions of capital, singular interruptions to capital, and utter indifference and non-collaboration with capital. Examples here include symbolic sacrifice, terrorism, parody, ecstasy, radical Daoism, revolt, bacchanalian resistance, the Bartleby gesture of doing nothing, and Rimbaud’s literaturicide. Often counter intuitive, such strategies may yet offer resources to strengthen contemporary forms of emancipatory politics.

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