November 13, 2009

Brian Holmes: Is it Written in the Stars? IPF09 Perhaps the insight we’re missing is the answer to a simple question: What is a derivative? We know that it is a fungible contract, created by applying a mathematical formula to an underlying asset or commodity whose price is susceptible to fluctuation on volatile markets. By assembling constellations of values that statistically tend to fluctuate in opposite directions, derivatives were supposed to mitigate the risks of globalization with the highest degree of efficiency. The idea was that that all risks, including collective ones, should be made into salable products, formatted for the market by private actors in search of a profit. Yet although it is salable, the derivative cannot be understood as an ordinary commodity. Marx described the commodity as that product of human labor whose exchange value, seemingly animated with a life of its own, acts to render invisible the social relations that produced it. Derivatives, however, have nothing directly to do with production; instead they are conceived to manage the environmental risks that weigh on the future of speculative activity. In this sense they are meta-commodities that govern the unfolding of the contemporary economic model. Their fascinating appearance acts to conceal the private deliberations that effectively shape the environment in which any productive or consumptive activity can take place.18 The lifeform of the financial markets is now animated by these meta-commodities, which lend the new cityscapes their dazzling character. But what the pulsating lights of the central business districts hide is the privatization of the social state –...
Foreclosures rise, consumer sentiment falls in US This excerpt is from the WSWS: Home foreclosures in the US increased 19 percent in October over a year ago, according to a report released by RealtyTrac, Inc., on Thursday. The number of filings was more than 300,000 for the eighth month in a row. The figures reflect the continued crisis facing millions of US homeowners who face declining wages and soaring unemployment. The state with the highest foreclosure rate in the country continues to be Nevada, where one out of 80 homes received a foreclosure filing in October. The state with the highest absolute number of foreclosures was California, with more than 85,000, followed by Florida, Illinois, and Michigan. These four states accounted for more than 50 percent of all foreclosures in the country. RealtyTrac reported that the number of foreclosures declined slightly from September, down 3 percent. This was the third straight month-on-month decline. James Saccacio, CEO of RealtyTrac, noted, “However, the fundamental forces driving foreclosure activity in this housing downturn―high-risk mortgages, negative equity, and unemployment―continue to loom over any nascent recovery.” A separate report released Tuesday from the National Association of Realtors found that the median sale price for a single-family home fell 11.2 percent from a year ago. This includes a price decline in 80 percent of the country’s metropolitan areas. via Combine with the following from today's NYT (Gretchen Morgenson): ON Nov. 6, President Obama signed the Worker, Homeownership and Business Assistance Act of 2009 into law, extending unemployment benefits by 20 weeks and...

Jodi Dean

Jodi Dean is a political theorist.

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