Monday, December 10, 2012

Finance and Art -- An Interdisciplinary Inquiry

Interdisciplinary work, at its best, highlights commonalities among disciplines one may not have noticed were there and sheds light on each of the disciplines used. Rachel Cohen's piece in The Believer, "Gold, Golden, Gilded, Glittering," comparing art with finance is one such.

Cohen suggests that artistic depictions of time, from permanence/eternity to increasing contingency from time's passage, parallel developments in finance, from more "permanent" and grounded to more transient and ungrounded (perhaps one could go a step further, and bring in a Hiedeggerian critique of "groundedness" as such). She notes that finance has developed to a point where there is pure finance -- or finance for the sake of finance. As I have noted in my article The Spontaneous Orders of the Arts, spontaneous orders develop a "pure center" so to speak. In the literary order, there is literature about literature. In painting, there are paintings about painting. In the economy there are businesses about business. In finance, there is finance about finance. Each are "ungrounded" and seemingly separated off from the rest of civil society. They do not interact with the other orders. This means both great potential for civil society -- but also great potential for abuse and very negative side-effects. The financial machinations involved in what led to the housing bubble bursting to create the current recession certainly qualifies as a negative side-effect.

But what can we glean from the fact that I recently classified the arts as being concrete pure wisdom and finance/money as being abstract practical knowledge? This would seem to suggest the two are literally opposites.

Given Cohen's insights regarding the relationships between finance and art, though, we can see considerable parallels. Is this inherent in the fact that "opposites attract"? Or that humans feel a need to be in balance -- if they are involved in one element of life a great deal, they will seek out the opposite to (at least occasionally) keep in balance? Or is this simply a reflection of the deep, fundamental similarities among all the spontaneous orders -- including their development over time?

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