Behind the scenes of the ‘financial markets’

Recapitalise! Regulate! Monitor! Three years after the beginning of the economic and financial crisis, the statements made by the public authorities have, for the most part, remained dead letters. As for the speculators of yesterday, denounced just a short time ago for their avarice and their irresponsibility, they have already been appointed to the ‘committees of grey-suited advisors’ preaching better governance of finance. In his new book,  La finance imaginaire - The Financial Imaginary (1),  Geoffrey Geuens breaks with this image, one which is not rooted in reality, of the financial markets which is relayed day after day by the received popular orthodoxy, and whose objective is to leave unspecified and unidentified the real beneficiaries of the coming crisis measures and austerity policies.

COVER Geuens financeThe crisis, the crisis, the crisis and once again the crisis. Whether it is described as being financial, economic or social, the latter seems to be worming its way in everywhere.  In every political statement, in every media pronouncement. The Greek debt and the destabilisation of the Euro zone? The crisis is to blame. The Dexia bank on the edge of bankruptcy? The crisis is to blame. The cessation of activity at the ‘hot phase’ sites in the Liège steel basin announced by the ArcelorMittal group? The crisis is to blame. Again  and again.

Since a few years ago, and more specifically since the ‘crash’ in 2008, the economy is said to have gone mad. Uncontrollable and unchecked. Finance has lost its head, drowned in a globalisation with hazy outlines. Dominated by the hedge funds and driven by credit rating agencies, these faceless and nameless monstrous entities.

A reductive and naive view which Geoffrey Geuens, a lecturer at the University of Liège’s Communication Arts and Sciences, summarises as three closely interlinked received ideas. The economy is said to be no longer under state control, and is deterritorialised and deregulated. No longer under state control because the public authorities have today withdrawn from the markets, giving free reign to unbridled capitalism. Deterritorialised because it has spilled over beyond the limits of the nation state to become global if not even stateless. Deregulated because it is now untameable, responding to no regulations if not those of unfettered competition.

In his new work, La finance imaginaire. Anatomie du capitalisme: des "marchés financiers" à l’oligarchie, (The Financial Imaginary: an Anatomy of Capitalism: from the ‘Financial Markets’ to Oligarchy) the author picks up on the clichés which monopolise the prevailing dominant discourse. ‘Globalisation is above all a word of power,’ he suggests. ‘That is not to say that the phenomenon does not exist, but it means that this ‘revolution’ is above all intellectual and media driven. Both the journalists, the experts, the (pseudo)savants and the alternative world proponents use, in their analyses and their books, these three same received ideas.’

(1) Geoffrey GEUENS, La finance imaginaire. Anatomie du capitalisme : des "marchés financiers" à l'oligarchie, Grande Bibliothèque d'Aden, Aden, 2011.

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