Photo of the UBS trading floor from above. A great many people are sitting in a large hall at computers set up in row-like blocks. Above them hang several white and red banners of UBS.

Representing Time in Capitalist Realism in Contemporary German and English Literature

Capitalist realism presumes that there is no alternative to the now-permanent neoliberal global order. This research project proposes to demonstrate not only that this thinking belongs to a specific ideological formation, but also that it is evinced in works of literary realism. These forms of representation attempt to capture the global impact of a financial system whose performative »language« consists of producing and destroying values through predominantly abstract and ephemeral methods. At the same time, however, these abstract techniques of financialization frequently produce very concrete results. The methods are often extremely »creative« and »innovative« (two »magic words« of capitalist realism) but end up creating, for example, a dystopian state in which time is always at a premium and mass social impoverishment runs rampant.

This project had two objectives. 1) It analyzed the narrative representability of temporal processes that appear as either highly abstract or as practically immediate in their concreteness, depending on one’s point of view. Proceeding from these findings, 2) the project then questioned if and how contemporary prose is able to conceive of and represent alternatives to the omnipresent reality of the neoliberal way of life.

Fig. above: The UBS trading floor in Stamford, Conn. Credit UBS, via Bloomberg News, Source: The New York Times

Funded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation 2015–2016
Head researcher(s): Ulrich Plass


Conference (Please RSVP)
17 Nov 2016 – 19 Nov 2016

The Politics of Form: What Does Art Know about Society?

ZfL, Schützenstr. 18, 10117 Berlin, Trajekte-Tagungsraum 308

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Seminar in San Diego (USA) organized by Ulrich Plass and Jette Gindner
29 Sep 2016 – 02 Oct 2016

Crises of Capital and Aesthetic Form

San Diego (USA)

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Seminar organized by Ulrich Plass and Dania Hückmann
18 Mar 2016 – 20 Mar 2016

Utopias, Dystopias, and the Work of the Imagination

Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, (USA), Sever 105

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