The Well-Clad Emperor and the “Invisible Robes” of the Naked Many
In between dissertation reading and writing, I have been spending time with a wonderful book, Beyond the Spirit of Empire: Theology and Politics in a New Key, co-authored by Néstor Míguez, Joerg Rieger, Jung Mo Sung. (Professor Rieger, is, I am delighted to say, the third reader of my dissertation). I hope to have at least some time this summer to devote a few substantive blog posts to this book, which I have found thoroughly refreshing and on the mark with its assessments of our market-driven way of being. In the meantime, let me whet your appetite with this witty excerpt discussing the market as “financial games” involved “virtual goods” and played for the benefit of the elite few at the expense of the exposed many.
[I]n the economic jargon imposed by the businesses of hegemonic communication “the markets”, or even in the singular “the market”, does not refer any more to places for the exchange of goods, where producers and artisans sell and exchange their products. It does not even refer to the most abstract derivations of the celebration of the buying and selling transaction. Rather the market now refers to financial games. The notion that the ‘market formulates prices’ within industrial capitalism has now given way to finances. The great fortunes of today are not established by the possession of material goods but rather from bank accounts, financial wealth and other forms of “virtual goods” such as trademarks, patents, images, use of business ‘logos’ in the form of merchandizing, and so on. Things virtual, fantasy or fetish, to use Marxist language, have replaced, scammed, and annulled what is real. It is just like the story of the witty tailors who scammed the emperor by selling him a robe of non-existent cloth and telling the gullible crowd that only the wise can see it. So everyone refrained from telling the emperor that he did not have any clothes on, for then they would be considered stupid. Today we all believe that things exist that others say exist, even though personally we do not see them. But in this case we have all been forced to wear these invisible robes and we all fear to discover that we are naked. The only one who is dressed is the emperor (“Empire, Religion, and the Political,” in Beyond the Spirit of Empire: Theology and Politics in a New Key by Néstor Míguez, Joerg Rieger, Jung Mo Sung, 11–12).