2011, Books, Non-Fiction

The Violence of Financial Capitalism (2011) by Christian Marazzi

It has been a long time since I’ve read a book this dense. A long time. Maybe grad school, maybe in the years after grad school when I tried to re-read or finish lots of books that I felt I hadn’t spent enough time with in school. Either way, I don’t think my brain is trained for this stuff any more. And, well, I never took economics. So that’s a problem.

Marazzi is writing from the midst of the crisis (2010) and so much of what he says in the majority of the book is directed at things happening in 2010, or things that happened between 2007 and 2010. One needs an accompanying history of the financial crisis to fully understand what he’s talking about (as he certainly feels no need to elaborate). I paid as much attention as I could at the time, but it’s been years now and I am not able to remember the minutiae of the economic maneuvering that he is critiquing. Without some kind of explanation by the author, one needs a compendium or one needs to spend hours on the internet. And, frankly, I have better things to do with my time.

But in addition to this book’s existence in a moment in time that we’ve mostly collectively forgotten, we have another problem: it’s mostly written for (Italian?) post-Marxist economists. This is a jargon-heavy book where the author feels zero compulsion to explain what he means (until the Afterword). He thinks you should know. And, I mean, shouldn’t we?

So it’s a real struggle reading this. There’s the odd clear insight, but so much of it is buried in two layers: one is the layer of time and distance from these events, the other is the layer of academic and financial jargon that smothers his argument. He is not a clear writer (in English) and the jargon just makes this worse.

Fortunately, the Afterword feels like it was written for the general public. Though still written in the midst of the crisis, it’s much more direct in its writing and less reliant on jargon (and, when jargon is used, he sometimes deigns to explain it!).

But without a history of the crisis, it’s hard for me to evaluate the points I don’t fully comprehend (and/or the points made about events and policy decisions that I do not remember). And that’s a problem for a book like this. It’s worth mentioning that, in the glossary (which is barely referenced in the book, by the way…), Marazzi writes

Finance has its own language and, moreover, a rather esoteric neolanguage. Many Anglo-Saxon terms are unstranslatable into other languages and, above all, designate complex processes not always accessible to the uninitiated, which is to say, to almost everyone. It is thus under the shelter of this linguistic opacity that finance prospers, a situation which raises the question of democracy, that is, the possibility of publicly debating strategies, procedures, and decisions concerning the lives of all citizens.

Marazzi attacks others for being unclear so that we cannot criticize them and yet that is this book (and so many other academic books on economics and/or Marxism). Ugh.


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