City of Gold: An Apology for Global Capitalism in a Time of Discontent

City of Gold: An Apology for Global Capitalism in a Time of Discontent

City of Gold: An Apology for Global Capitalism in a Time of Discontent

City of Gold: An Apology for Global Capitalism in a Time of Discontent

Synopsis

David A. Westbrook argues that we live in "the city of gold"--a global, cosmopolitan polity where politics are done through markets, and where global capital markets, not states, have become the dominant force in our social life.

Excerpt

The supranational capital markets have joined many of the world's various peoples and societies into a new polity, a single virtual metropolis. a trader can sit in Canada and deal in Poland, Thailand, South Africa, and Chile. the communicative space thereby established among Toronto, Warsaw, Bangkok, Johannesburg, and Santiago not only spans the globe, it establishes a cultural context. a seemingly simple order to buy stock in a company rests on a great deal of shared and legally enforceable culture: contracts must be formed; the order must be cleared; payments must be made and accepted; accounts must be settled and agreed to; property rights and hence local control must be conveyed. Language, contractual obligation, institutional relation, money, accounting, property, and hence deeper matters like the past, the future, the individual, and the exercise of the will, must be understood in similar ways. Phenomena traditionally considered local, the stuff of daily life, like housing starts, available medical care, and the price of fuel oil, reflect such activity in the international capital markets. As a result, this communicative space has become the frame of reference for those who care about money or the things money buys, and, more broadly, for those who care about politics, and more broadly still, those who care about the efforts to make sense of our time that we call culture, art, literature, religion and such. For us, the world is a City of Gold, a polity defined by the flow of capital, and that ancient dream, to be a citizen of the world, has become an everyday and not altogether comfortable reality. This apology attempts to describe the polity created by supranational capitalism, and to provide a defense, albeit partial, for how that polity's inhabitants, we, live.

The idea that supranational capitalism needs a defense may seem a bit odd to some. in 1989 the Berlin Wall fell, and all the world, except a few

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