The Long Twentieth Century & The Cultural Turn: World-Historical Origins of the Cultural Economy

Benjamin D. Brewer


In this essay I link Giovanni Arrighi's world-historical framework in The Long Twentieth Centuryto debates about the "cultural turn" in global capitalism since the 1970s. I do so primarilythrough interrogation of the writings of one of the major figures in such debates: FredricJameson. In his Jameson's engagementwithArrighi's, he emphasizes the determinative influenceof finance capital on an expansion in the degree of cultural abstraction and fragmentation that isemblematic of the post-modern condition. Building on this linkage, I extend and elaborateArrighi's analysis of historical capitalism's cycles of accumulation, in which periods of materialexpansion give way to phases of financial expansion and accelerated restructuring of theorganizational and institutional foundations of the world-economy. I conclude that Jameson'sassertion of a link between the financialization of the world economy and post-modern culturalforms is best understand as a correlative rather than a causal relationship, for the growingsalience of finance capital and the new forms and degree of cultural abstraction are themselvesboth dimensions of the more fundamental socio-economic restructuring attending a period offinancial expansion.

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