Patrice Riemens on Wed, 29 Oct 1997 12:17:07 +0100 (MET)

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<nettime> Leyshon & Thrift: Money/Space: "Back to the Future?"

Andrew Leyshon's and Nigel Thrift's book on the geography of
(international, national, and local) money is a fail-safe recommanded
read. Covering different ground, but generally (not alweays) running on
parallel track with Saskia Sassen's research on global capitalism at work
(though they by and large ignore it), the two geographers from Bristol
give an outstanding account and analysis of where the money resides, what
it does, and especially what kind of people are socially active behind the
'inescapable and universal laws of the market'.  The final conclusion of
the book gives (immo) a good idea of their general argument.


"Back to the Future?"

(...) If we had to choose a space and time to which the current City (of
London) seems cosest, it would be an eighteenth century city.  This might
seem a bizarre choice.  Yet one might argue, on basis of current
historical research which has, to an extent, pushed back the historical
frontier of 'modernity', that many of the current indexes of our present
were already in place in the eighteenth-century city - from blossoming
consumer cultures, through to many and variegated senses of time, from
insecure nation states through to large and powerful financial markets
(which, for example, already used futures), from greater freedom for
certain kinds of women through to the heterogeneity of social groupings,
from various new forms of public sphere (like the press and pamphlets)
through to the play of many different forms of cultural apprehension (such
as astrology and various forms of science).  Most especially, the
eighteenth-century city was the site of a blooming oral-visual culture to
which we would argue that we are currently 'returning', one in which the
boundaries between art and science were less clear (cf Michel Serres), and
one which, partly through the sheer force of noise and smell, more
entirely aware of the _vecu_, more open to what Prendergast calls an
'epidermal sensibility'.  We would argue that what followed the
eighteenth-century city - the controlled spaces of the nineteenth-century
specular order, based upon the hegemony of print - are now being either
cleared away or highly modified.  We are moving, towards a city which
generates, attends and reflects an oral-visual culture, a city in which
pixels are replacing movable type, a city which offers  new affordances',
that is new cultural resources, new vocabularies, new senses of how to do
things, some of which are good, some of which are bad, and each of which
offers new ocular, kinesthetic, tactile and auditory skills.

This new "city of bits" (Mitchell) display many of the same elements as
the eighteenth-century city, from its emphasis on consumption to its many
and variegated senses of time, from the insecurity of the nation state
through to large and powerful financial markets, from greater freedom for
certain women (in certain senses) through to the diversity of social
groups, from various new forms of the public sphere (like e-mail and the
Internet), through to the play of many different forms of cultural
apprehension (from new-age religions, through many implicit religion, to
the fact that we probably live at the high point of astrology), from a
belief in all manner of monster and mythologies (lurking in the sewers, or
coming out of the television and computer screens), through to a renewed
appreciation of the ordinary marvels of everyday (and night) life.  Most
particularly, it seems to me that, in opposition to Jameson<D5>s idea of
vaulting and dysfunctional postmodern cities or Sennet's and others'
lament of community lost, what we see is a city - a more dispersed city it
is true - which still exist on a human (but not humanistic) scale and is
still caught up in identifiably human concerns.  We therefore find it
oddly reassuring that the largest number of Internet buletin boards are
concerned with _Star Trek_, and that much of the discussion on the
Internet is concerned with sex.  It also suggests that we should be about
as worried about the 'return' of electronic oral-visual cultures as
non-electronic oral-visual cultures were worried about the rise of
literate cultures.  These new cultures will certainly change our
apprehension of the urban world and in quite severe ways, but we will
still have many customs in common with the past.  The new era will still
contain many echoes of the old.  In other words, business wil go on, but
never as usual - because it never has.

(from Andrew Leyshon & Nigel Thrift, Money/Space: Geographies of Monetary
Transformation.  London: Routledge 1996 (404p).
(ISBN 0-415-03835-9)
(p353/4 -final conclusion)

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