Trading Futures: Future-Talk, Finance, and Christian Eschatology
AbstractStandard textbooks describe finance as the field of economics that concerns itself with the future. This dissertation suggests instead that financial discourse conjures a particular mode of future-talk, one that renders the future as somehow predictable, manageable, and profitable. This mode of imagination informs broader social, political, and theological discourses and, in fact, constitutes a dominant mode of future-talk. Thus, this dissertation proposes a counter-discourse about the future by revisiting the work of two liberation theologians, Franz Hinkelammert and Rubem Alves. For each of these theologians, when the future is imagined from the margins of society, it functions as a counter-cultural and subversive mode of imagination.
Trading Futures unfolds in the form of a chiasm. Chapters one and five provide the theological edges of the argument, chapters two and four offer a critical account of capitalist economic discourse, and chapter three pivots my argument in order to shed new light on the ensuing chapters. In chapter one, I show how Hinkelammert’s theological work was built around the perception that capitalism produces and benefits from a particular mode of imagining the future. Chapter two investigates the ties between the Enlightenment theory of progress and Adam Smith’s political economy to propose that capitalism is constructed around a certain mode of future-talk. I then provide a reading of Karl Marx’s Capital in chapter three to argue that time is materially constituted by forces of production; in dialogue with literary critic Gayatri C. Spivak, I indicate that Marx’s labor theory of value provides a critical lens through which to view contemporary financial discourse. Chapter four then resumes my engagement with economics to account for the “financialization” of capitalism and its peculiar mode of future-talk; I then tease out some of the detrimental social consequences of financialized capitalism. Finally, I accompany Alves’ theological work to claim that liberation theology appropriates the Christian eschatological imagination as a counter-narrative to dominant modes of future-talk. Liberationists suggest that the “sigh of the oppressed creature” (Marx) is a sign that points to different futures.
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