Financial derivatives dominate the twenty-first century economy. Such instruments are performative signs, in the sense that they do not refer to any substantial use-value but rather carry their value within themselves. Financial derivatives thus represent a movement towards the autonomy of representation in the economic sphere, which parallels the rise of performative representation in linguistics and philosophy. The independent power of signs has historically been subjected to severe ethical criticism. To imagine that signs can do things has always been denounced as magic, idolatry and fetishism. In the economic sphere the autonomous reproduction of financial signs has been criticized as ‘usury.’ In order to achieve an ethical perspective on the rise to power of financial derivatives, and also on the wider power of signs in postmodernity, we would do well to revive such forms of moral semiotics, and to apply them to the autonomous representations of our own era.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Economics and Econometrics