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  • A Glorious Mythology of LossSpeculative Finance in Alan Moore's Jerusalem
  • David M. Higgins (bio)

Speculative fictions often refuse to accept the inevitability of the world-as-we-know-it in order to explore cognitive estrangements—story elements that are broadly imaginative yet grounded in the complexity of real-world conditions—that aspire toward alternative visions of social, political, and economic life (Suvin 2016). Not all speculative fictions, of course, invoke utopian possibilities: some serve as propaganda for technoscientific modernity, others revel in shallow escapism, and still others engage in fantasies of empire and racial supremacy (Rieder 2008). At its best, however, speculative fiction refuses to take the existing conditions of the world for granted, and this refusal enables it to challenge the ideological hegemony of capitalist realism as well as to counter the poisonous forms of abstraction that drive neoliberal accumulation and dispossession (Fisher 2009).

Because speculative fictions often avoid taking naturalized economic worldviews at face value, they sometimes have a unique capacity to expose [End Page 61] and undermine the violent abstractions that propel financial speculation. In her contribution to this issue, Sherryl Vint compares and contrasts the narrative worldbuilding performed by speculative fiction and speculative finance: although both forms of speculation strive to mobilize affect toward believable stories about the future, finance performs a kind of ideological reification whereby imagined futures of risk and profit are naturalized as inevitable (benefiting some and harming many others), whereas speculative fiction, at its best, can subvert the futures that financialization seeks to lock into place to explore less destructive alternatives. Speculative fiction, Vint argues, has "a greater potential to be oriented toward the genuinely transformative rather than the predictably profitable," and it can therefore disrupt the myriad ways that finance shapes the world to benefit global elites.

Building on Vint's insights, this essay examines Alan Moore's novel Jerusalem (2016) as a case study to explore the power of fictional speculation to dismantle the exploitative and dehumanizing hegemony of speculative finance.1 Drawing upon David Graeber's argument (2014) that money transforms social obligations into impersonal (and transferrable) abstract debts, this essay argues that Moore utilizes "network aesthetics" (Jagoda 2016) to rekindle a qualitative social interconnectivity that is fundamentally damaged by the abstract calculus of speculative financial logic. Jerusalem reveals how speculative finance radically intensifies the depersonalization accomplished by the monetary form even as financialization heightens dividuated forms of social interconnectivity. In addition to exposing these toxic consequences of speculative finance, the novel also exemplifies the ways in which speculative fiction, by rejecting narrow neoliberal visions of the present and the future, can counter the effects of finance's depersonalizing abstraction in order to catalyze rich utopian reconceptualizations of reciprocity and obligation.

Jerusalem thus demonstrates how speculative fiction can subvert the abstract-yet-powerful financial narratives that have become a pervasive feature of social, political, and economic life under neoliberalism. Neoliberalism posits that as individuals we owe each other nothing—the very point of neoliberal individualism is a kind of hideous social solvency, an unlimited enjoyment of total freedom from any obligation whatsoever to care about one's neighbors (or about anything, really, outside one's own selfish concerns). At [End Page 62] the same time, however, neoliberalism also relentlessly and continuously dividuates populations into renter-subjects and debtor-subjects, instituting regimes of privatization, predatory lending, and securitization aimed at extracting wealth from the already-poor and moving it into the hands of the already-rich. In the process, it collapses the radical possibilities of the unknown future into the predictable continuation of the exploitative present, and it intensifies quantitative social interconnections at the expense of qualitative interpersonal bonds.

Neoliberal speculative finance, in other words, ideologically naturalizes the inequities of contemporary economic and social life, and it seeks to annihilate future possibilities that threaten the continuation of its powerful regimes of exploitative accumulation. Speculative fiction, in contrast, offers the potential to denaturalize taken-for-granted financial worldviews and to create imaginative conditions of possibility for radical alternatives. Jerusalem, in particular, engages in a form of speculative imagining that excavates the complex networks of social interdependency that are flattened by neoliberal subjectivization to ignite an affinitive sense of...


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pp. 61-84
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