Realizing Capital: Financial and Psychic Economies in Victorian Form
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
During a tumultuous period when financial speculation began rapidly to outpace industrial production and consumption, Victorian financial journalists commonly explained the instability of finance by criticizing its inherent artifice drawing persistent attention to what they called "fictitious capital." In a shift that naturalized this artifice, this critique of fictitious capital virtually disappeared by the 1860s, being replaced by notions of fickle investor psychology and mental equilibrium encapsulated in the fascinating metaphor of "psychic economy."
In close rhetorical readings of financial journalism, political economy, and the works of Dickens, Eliot, and Trollope, Kornbluh examines the psychological framing of economics, one of the nineteenth century's most enduring legacies, reminding us that the current dominant paradigm for understanding financial crisis has a history of its own. She shows how novels illuminate this displacement and ironize ideological metaphors linking psychology and economics, thus demonstrating literature's unique facility for evaluating ideas in process. Inheritors of this novelistic project, Marx and Freud each advance a critique of psychic economy that refuses to naturalize capitalism.
laborer at its commencement. He not only effects a change of form in the material on which he works, but he also realises a purpose of his own.29 While the bee fulfills needs by changing the form of natural materials, man forms an idea, an imaginative projection, of both needs and their fulfillment. Labor for Marx, Jennifer Bajorek notes, must thus be defined as the mediation of material and ideal.30 Crucial affinities therefore entwine labor and language (especially language conceived of as
churchyards and lunatic asylums. . . . When the risks came into play they found themselves engaged in business which they did not understand and which they found decidedly hazardous. They were sleeping partners with hideous nightmares and dreadful awakenings.46 Journalists interested in the traumatic experience of crises often fixed on images of death. In a common sentiment, the Chambers Journal archived “the wear and tear, the amount of excitement that such a man must often experience, is
simple marriage between sympathy and finance. I will return to other such gestures later, but for now let us turn to the most emphatic. All the while that it has been improvising a financial metaphor, the narrative has from the outset explicitly delineated the danger of financial metaphors. The precise warning, our epigraph, comes just after the very first parabasis: Mr. Casaubon had imagined that his long studious bachelorhood had stored up for him a compound interest of enjoyment, and that
monopolize differential symbolization. Capitalism, everyone from nineteenthcentury financial journalists to twentieth-century philosopher-critics might say, is inextricable from symbolization.51 In the Rat Man case and beyond, Freud authorizes a radical qualification of this argument: while capitalism presents itself as coeval with symbolization, symbolization has priority. As my emphasis on the unencountered oddity of the Rat Man case is meant to convey, Freud’s quick, quipping currency analogy
flattering contrasts, wields a conceptual agency—an agency for assembling concepts while simultaneously defamiliarizing them—for relating without reifying, for weaving a loose and gossamer web.49 Literary form seeks out connections where there were none, charts dislocations where there were destinations, re-presents what has been all too present. When literature thinks, it asks us to cock our heads and think with it, to think in a distinctive and oblique mode, to perambulate the web rather than