I meant to add that for me this image best captures the "narrative" of the crisis. The economy is depicted as a glacier flowing along quite apart from the actions of mere humans whilst at the same time everyone thinks that it's only "concrete" human action that can save it from disintegrating. Just as breaking news stories from financial news analysts have been shown to be "actants" in determining the state of the economy, we hook ourselves around the nearest solid object (or tropic point) and pray that it's the one that will stop us slipping off the cliff.
Thanks for your replies Keith. I'll make sure I get hold of La Peste.
I particularly liked your comment in the other thread on methodology. I have been reading through a number of the older posts on the OAC and I've been wondering about how our choice of methodology (narrative analysis, participant observation, action research) constructs the anthropologist. If, for example we have a propensity to see colours, or feel dramatic performances more than perhaps academic articles we might be more inclined towards certain methods, just as participatory research seemed the answer to many activist anthropologists.
Slightly off the topic of the crisis but along the same lines of fiction and finance, Gordon L. Clark's article "Money Flows like Mercury" (Geografiska Annaler. 87:2) raises some interesting points.
Page 105 - "Characteristically, mercury tends to (1) run together at speed, (2) form in pools, (3) re-form in pools if disturbed, (4) follow the rivulets and channels of any surface however smooth it may appear to be, and (5) is poisonous in small and large doses if poorly managed. I would contend that global finance has similar characteristics, even if we should take care not to exaggerate commonalities between mercury and money. After all, the value of a metaphor is its suggestiveness rather than the precise relationship between the allusion and its object. Indeed, a metaphor works because of the apparent tensions between the allusion and its reference point. Put slightly differently, whereas a metaphor can suggest ways of conceptualizing social issues and institutions, they are neither sufficient in specifying the characteristics of the metaphorical object nor do they stand as adequate representations of underlying economic and social processes. Metaphors are instruments of inspiration, and they are instruments of communication, as any participant in related industry conferences will immediately recognize."
He also points us to Paul Slack's "Perceptions of the metropolis in seventeenth-century England" (1998) which he says looks at the metaphors used to emphasise the role of London in the circulation of commodities, income and wealth, in the seventeenth century:
Slack 1998: p. 162 - " no different from other great cities in the past in being pictured simultaneously as Babylon and Jerusalem and the polarity had particular appeal in an intellectual climate where such binary oppositions were familiar rhetorical devices. It was as natural to set urban images of sin, extravagance, dirt, and infection against those of (country) stability, wealth, light, and learning as it was to contrast the notions of London as economic parasite and economic stimulus."
Money as mercury, a very interesting metaphor, indeed. Can it be extended to rising up narrow tubes when markets are heated and then evaporating when they overheat?
I am remembering a bit of philosophy of science in which the topic was operationalism, the idea that scientific knowledge is grounded in the operations performed during experiments. One puzzle was how to connect temperature in the range described by mercury thermometers with temperature on, say, the surface of the Sun.
"The Ethiopians" 'intimating' the crash in 1968?