Joshua Clover, thinker of another sort, “concerned with broader understandings than the tightly focused technicians who dominate contemporary [economic] debates”—that is to say, he is among other things a poet—gives a short history of the current economic crisis while reviewing Giovanni Arrighi:
There is no financial expansion that is not a bubble. Credit is, for all the many mysteries and wonders in which it traffics, money spent now for work to be done later: a mortgage, a share of IBM, and the mezzanine tranche of synthetic Collateralized Debt Obligation are all, in more and less evident ways, “claims on future labor.” The moment that it becomes evident that all that productive labor is not waiting up around the bend, then nobody wants to give out any more credit. And the creditors want their money. And the investors want out of risk. Pop.
We recall the preceding cycles not to mutter about how there is nothing new under the sun. We reach back into the tradition so as to better reflect on our present predicament.
When we talk casually about “who predicted the crisis,” we habitually don’t mean those who understood the mechanisms, who had an analytic method that might help us understand the future that crashes in upon us. We don’t mean to discover who is capable of historical thought, or what that thought might be.
We mean stock pickers, more or less. We mean those whose insights could direct us when to get in and when to get out. This is the only mode of thought recognized by The Economist and the economists sanctioned by the guild’s conventions. Such thought has moved from being a hobby of speculators to an entire episteme, a mode of knowledge that dominates all others.