Fictitious Capital: London and the Financial Imagination


Calcutt, A. 2014. Fictitious Capital: London and the Financial Imagination. TOPIA: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies. 30-31, p. 89–102.
AuthorsCalcutt, A.

The financial services sector enables capital to expand as it circulates. Accordingly, though it is highly profitable, the sector hardly contributes to the production of capital via the manufacture of commodities. Given that the circulation of capital can only be circuitous, activity undertaken by the financial services sector tends to perform likewise. The circles and spirals that characterize its activities are quite different, then, from the typical shape of the production process—the line. Furthermore, in places where financial services now dominate the local economy, this kind of circularity may also prevail over other areas of activity that are not primarily economic, for example, cultural activity.

London is such a location. As a global city (its status confirmed by hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012), London’s dual role is to continue the worldwide circulation of capital and to maintain the circulation of meaning—functions fulfilled by financial services and cultural activity, respectively.

But to maintain circulation is also to perform a mediating role. Financial circuits, for example, rely upon a variety of brokers whose ‘financial products’ serve as mediating links between the previous transaction and the next. Just as financial circuits are comprised of these mediating links, so, to the extent that London as a whole has taken on this character, the city itself has acquired a mediating role. Accordingly, the people of London have become mediators, first and foremost, positioned, and repeatedly positioning themselves, between successive moments in a continuous process of circulation. Even when not performing this mediating role in a professional, paid-for capacity, many Londoners are constantly rehearsing for it via cellphones, social media and a remix culture which repackages and re-sends existing cultural artefacts, in much the same way that financial ‘products’ are not originals so much as re-iterations of existing products and value, re-configured into selfexpanding forms. Unlike earlier iterations of this capital city (mercantile London; industrial London; imperial London), twenty-first century London is a matrix of finance and culture in which financial activity lends its characteristic shape to contemporary cultural activity.

JournalTOPIA: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies
Journal citation30-31, p. 89–102
PublisherUniversity of Toronto Press
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Web address (URL)
Publication dates
PrintApr 2014
Online10 Apr 2018
Publication process dates
Deposited22 Jun 2020
Copyright holder© 2014 University of Toronto Press
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