In the third installment of Superstructure’s “Postmodern Money Theory!” series, Rob Hawkes and Scott Ferguson wrap up their discussion of B.S. Johnson’s novella, Christie Malry’s Own Double-Entry, which self-consciously weaves money and accounting into the very fabric of literary form. Rob and Scott tease out the text’s lingering potentials and blindspots in order to problematize dominant forms of political economic and aesthetic critique. (Click the following links for Part 1 and Part 2.)
To start, our co-hosts zero in on the book’s estrangement of taxation. Characterizing taxation as a zero-sum game that breeds extreme pettiness, resentment, and violence, the book critically distances itself from orthodox visions of money, while providing only faint hints of possible alternatives. Next, Rob and Scott read Christie Malry’s generative tensions alongside two misleading tendencies in critical theory, both of which are predicated on the false barter story of money’s origins.
The first tendency links the end of gold standards to the rise of modernism and postmodernism, respectively. Advanced by the likes of Jean-Joseph Goux, Jean Baudrillard, and Fredric Jameson, this expressly lapsarian tendency frets an absolute volatilization of forms and values across political economy and aesthetics, rather than affirming a contestable and imaginative politics of public inscription unencumbered by legally sanctioned austerities and inequalities.
The second tendency, meanwhile, casts the orthodox problem of dyadic exchange in terms of debt and credit. From Friedrich Nietzsche to David Graeber, this discourse reduces debt to narrow oppositions between domination and freedom, while foreclosing credit’s collective and always disputable caretaking capacities. Although both impulses inform Christy Malry’s construction, Rob and Scott underscore the ways that Johnson’s constant formal experimentation subtly reframes and exceeds these tendencies’ erroneous totalizing judgments.
Finally, Rob and Scott uncover money’s repressed public foundations and alternatives in Christy Malry’s allegorical conclusion. Working to redeem Johnson’s unrealized longings for socialism, the co-hosts consider the text’s enigmatic appeals to credit overdrafts and debt write-offs in relation to its tragicomic play on Christ’s sacrificial death.
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Music: “Yum” from “This Would Be Funny If It Were Happening To Anyone But Me” EP by flirting.