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In the Future, Toward Death Beitrag open-access

Finance Capitalism and Security in DeLillo’s ‚Cosmopolis‘

Johannes Voelz

Amerikastudien/American Studies, Volume 60 (2016), Issue 4, Page 505 - 526

This essay aims to come to terms with the cultural appeal of security, which—so this article contends—is better understood as a fascination with insecurity. The essay focuses on Don DeLillo’s Cosmopolis in order to show that this novel stages the appeal of (in)security as resting on its promise to offer an alternative to the future-fixation of the risk regime of financial capitalism. In Cosmopolis, financial risk and the contemporary cult of security come together as two thematic axes. The future-mindedness of financial risk management is counteracted by the threat constructions that drive the concern with security and that emphasize finitude and mortality. The preoccupation with security enables a turn to existential matters that the virtual abstractions of finance have seemingly made inaccessible. While proposing an opposition between a logic of risk based on virtuality and a logic of security based on authenticity, DeLillo’s novel also suggests that it is impossible to break out of the logic of risk management pervading late modernity. The appeal of security articulated in this novel rather lies in the promise to existentially revitalize life within the confines of financialized capitalism.





Ralph Waldo Emerson and the Dual Economy of Recognition Beitrag open-access

Johannes Voelz

Amerikastudien/American Studies, Volume 57 (2013), Issue 4, Page 553 - 580

Combining a historical with a theoretical perspective, this essay begins by reconstructing Ralph Waldo Emerson’s evolving theory of recognition and the central role it played for his concept of ‘self-reliance.’ Initially having adopted the theorizations of recognition developed by Scottish Enlightenment thinkers, Emerson came to articulate the idea of self-reliance by way of developing an alternative approach to recognition, in which the source allocating recognition is neither society nor an inborn moral sense, but rather the transcendentally conceptualized self. Emerson’s shift towards self-recognition poses questions seldom asked in the contemporary debate on recognition. Moving beyond a reconstructive aim, one such question is considered in the article’s second part: What role does recognition come to play in the act of reading? Taking Emerson’s own essays as a case in point, the author argues that the aesthetic experience afforded by non-fictional texts can be understood as a facilitator of self-recognition—as a continuous process of imaginarily experiencing the enlargement of the self. This process intersects with dynamics of social recognition, producing a ‘dual economy of recognition.’ The article concludes by challenging the assumption found in currently dominant paradigms of recognition which assumes that recognition can come to successful completion. Conceived as a dual economy, the article argues, recognition is to the contrary constitutively open-ended.

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