Monday, September 28, 2009

de- & re-territorialization: finance & fractals

Appadurai claims that finanscapes are becoming ever more deterritorialized, citing flows of commodities and consumerist tastes that cross borders increasingly quickly and with little regard to traditional regional unities or cultural affinities. Yet Appadurai's focus on the production and consumption of commodities does not do full justice to the "deterritorialization" of the finanscape. As Lee claims, the unmooring of currencies from gold, the ensuing speculation in currencies, and derivative financial products create capital from capital itself. I take the process Lee describes to be "deterritorialization" because this notion is not Appadurai's invention; it was most popularly mobilized by Deleuze and Guattari to describe the evolution of capital, and in their use of "deterritorialization" the term is not primarily geographic. Instead, D&G's use of the term can connote a shift in the grounding of value, whether this value is economic, lingustic, or conceptual.
Thus, I claim that finanscapes and capital are deterritorialized in at least three senses: capital flows more easily and more rapidly between national markets (geographic deterritorialization); capital can be produced from speculation upon stocks and currencies, not from their sale (deterritorialized from its 'grounding' in production/consumption); and derivative financial products such as call options generate capital because of their expiration dates and financial equations of risk over time, not because of abstract labor-time (deterritorialization from its grounding in worker's time).
And while Appadurai focuses on deterritorialization and disjuncture, D&G's work stresses that when deterritorializations occur, so do reterritorializations. Lee's article is again instructive—flows of commodities are not simply more geographically mobile, but rather capital's basis in traditional forms has been displaced onto new forms that reterritorialize value on a different plane. Thus, along with value based on the laborer's effort over a duration of time we now have value that is based on a metatemporal scale, fundamentally predicated on economic modeling of the future and realized depending on the value, not as time (as in the commodity), but value (of a stock) at a point in time (Lee & LiPaum, 205). Lee's article, with its emphasis on circulation, shows how circulation does not merely deterritorialize commodities and labor (products made in China are shipped to the U.S., traditional modes of value are elided by financial products), but instantiates a new form of value that is reterritorialized in circulation (that is, reterritorializes them in a territory that is not one).
All this is not to criticize Appadurai unduly, but to point out where his own notion of deterritorialization goes further than the examples he chooses to illustrate it. In fact, speculative finance underscores the role of mediascapes (in publicizing economic disaster, producing further crises of faith) and economic modeling (whose –scape I'm having difficulty pinning down) in the production of financial capital. It seems that Appadurai has a bias towards the landscape, proving the deterritorialization of different –scapes in terms of geographical disjuncture. Yet the concept of deterritorialization allows us to examine not only the dispersion and disjuncture of different scapes in space, but also to point out how different scapes are de- and re-territorialized in themselves. The convoluted space of financial capital, in which values generate other values, is indeed the kind of fractal space generated by feedback loops of speculation.
Moreover, according to one source at least, fractals are actually already used "to make predictions as to the risks involved in particular stocks." Fractals, as mathematically abstract representations, may be useful in mapping different scapes, but for the finanscape at least, fractals constitute at least part of this space. Fractal economic modeling is involved in the calculation of risk, which determines the prices of derivative products, which in turn generate both value and risk. 
A question: how, if at all, do the 'financial crisis' and ensuing regulations (or lack thereof) change the circumstances Lee describe in his article?

No comments: