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"Money is depressed and has been for a while"


At The Nation, radical poet and theorist Joshua Clover writes about the state of the financial markets. He suggests that instead of a post-crisis “recovery,” what we’re experiencing now is a long, slow stasis of the world economy:

How then is money feeling about the future? Strangely passionless, bereft. “The economy as wet drapery,” a friend remarked. You might say money is depressed and has been for a while, its chart a treatise of flattened affect—like someone stumbling through the weeks and years barely alive—sustaining itself only in the most minimal sense. As of the chart’s date, “short-term and long-term rates were lower than they have been for most of history—a reflection of the continuing hangover from the financial crisis.” In short, money does not think we are heading toward inflation. Nor does it think we are heading toward growth. It thinks: Oh Jesus, how am I going to get through the day? What’s on TV? Money is not leaping off the couch and heading for work.

This diagnosis is a rebuke to anyone indulging in fantasies of recovery. We keep telling the recovery story, most recently via General Electric’s decision to shed GE Capital, purportedly “to focus on its large industrial businesses,” as Fortune put it. They offer this explanation under the heading “Farewell to Finance.” But let’s back up a minute, do what any responsible cultural critic would do, and make a better reading of the pictures. It’s easy enough to believe, as Fortune has it, that “A sluggish lending climate and tighter regulations had turned GE Capital into a low-margin business.” Indeed, that’s what the Times chart shows. So far, so good. But if that’s true, it can’t also be the case that there is some kind of boom, some exuberance, rational or otherwise, in the industrial sector. If there were, money would put on its party dress and do the goddamn Electric Slide. But it’s not. Money is sitting around in its sweatpants listlessly spooning peanut butter out of the jar.

Above image: Times Square news ticker, Monday, October 6, 2008. Via The Nation.