The "Saturated Self": Don DeLillo on the Problem of Rogue Capitalism Author(s): Jerry A.

Varsava Source: Contemporary Literature, Vol. 46, No. 1 (Spring, 2005), pp. 78-107 Published by: University of Wisconsin Press Stable URL: Accessed: 26/06/2010 07:34
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on The "SaturatedSelf": Don DeLillo the Problemof Rogue Capitalism

In the past decade ... [t]he dramatic climb of the Dow and the speed of the Internet summoned us all to live permanently in the future, in the utopian glow of cyber-capital,because there is no memory there and this is where markets are uncontrolled and investment potential has no limit. Don DeLillo, "Inthe Ruins of the Future" [T]he dark side of individualism is a centring on the self, which both flattens and narrows our lives, makes them poorer in meaning and less concerned with others or society. CharlesTaylor,TheMalaise Modernity of


laissez-fairecapitalismhas its rules. Its fundamental

enabling premise is of course the humble contract between the "parties," each of whom has access in advance to pertinent information, each of whom freely consents to the binding terms of the agreement. In jurisprudential terms, tort law provides civil guarantees that the contract will be honored by the consenting parties and sets out formal rules by which disagreements can be adjudicated and resolved. Aside from legalisms, a contract is also built on simple trust between the signatories, and their confident expectation that this and all agreements will be honored in good faith, notwithstanding the specter of lawsuits should nonperformance of
I am very grateful to the two anonymous readers for ContemporaryLiteraturewhose insightful comments and suggestions enabled me to refine my views on important aspects of this essay.

Literature XLVI,1 0010-7484/05/0001-0078 Contemporary 2005 by the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System ?


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one or another of the parties come into play. Laissez-fairecapitalism is then founded not only on good laws but also on good will. "Law, contract, and economic rationality," suggests Francis Fukuyama, "provide a necessary but not sufficient basis for both the stability and prosperity of postindustrial societies; they must as well be leavened with reciprocity, moral obligation, duty toward community, and trust, which are based in habit rather than rational calculation" (11). It is obvious that rogue capitalism violates both the juridicaleconomic and the ethical-social conditions necessary for the orderly and just society that Fukuyama identifies. Rogue capitalism is that subspecies of capitalism that seeks special advantage and unfair profit-"rents to favor and position," in the language of economic historian David Landes-through the covert undermining of contracts and, implicitly, of the norms upon which they are based (218). Rogue capitalism amounts, then, to a double assault, one on the immediate agreement at hand, the other on the very system of guarantees and expectations that makes all contracts possible and indeed appealing. Greed, social prestige, and often obscure forms of psycho-emotional gratification serve as catalysts for the misconduct of the rogue capitalist. While we might agree with free-market economist Joseph Schumpeter that capitalism per se is a process of "creative destruction" in that, in stark neo-Darwinian fashion, weak economic forms and practices are decisively eliminated-no more buggy whips, no more iceboxesrogue capitalism yields, quite simply, chaos and, allowing the tautology, "destructive destruction." It brings with it the violation of trust and the wanton expenditure of a society's most precious commodity, what Fukuyama calls, after sociologist James S. Coleman, social capital, "the ability of people to work together for common purposes in groups and organizations" (10).1 Rogue capitalism is coterminous with capitalism itself, and even a casual survey of American economic history over the last century or more brings to light all sorts of infamous examples of it: railroad speculation in the 1870s, the robberbarons of the late nineteenth century, the great trusts, the unscrupulous businessmen and fraudsters
1. See Coleman's "Social Capital in the Creation of Human Capital" for his discussion of this phenomenon.



of early century, the collusive military-industrialistcapitalists of the post-World WarII period, and, in various incarnations,the financial con artists of the seventies and beyond through to the architects of the great stock-market bubble of the late twentieth century. This rogues' gallery includes such examples of larcenous greed as Robert Vesco and Bernie Cornfeld (mutual-fund fraud in the 1970s), Michael Milken (junk-bond king), Charles Keating (savings-andloan scandal), Ivan Boesky (insider trading), and, most recently,Sam Waksal (insider trading of ImClone stocks), Henry Blodget (conflict of interest at Merrill Lynch), Scott Sullivan (embezzlement at WorldCom), Andrew Fastow (accounting irregularities at Enron), and Martha Stewart (obstruction of justice). Rogue capitalism has had such catastrophic consequences for American society as a sixyear depression in the 1870s, the Depression of 1893, the compromising of public health through unsound food processing practices and medical quackery, the Great Depression, periodic pauperization of investors, and periodic assaults on the public purse through incidents such as contractorsovercharging the U.S. military and the collapse of banks and savings-and-loan companies. Predictably, American novelists have offered incisive portrayals of rogue capitalism in its various historical manifestations.2 Don DeLillo's (2003) follows in a distinguished tradition, providing a Cosmopolis chilling portrait of a rogue capitalist running amok in the dying days of the stock-market bubble, a period marked by "pump and dump" investor frenzy that Federal Reserve Bank Chairman Alan Greenspan famously, if too understatedly, termed "irrationalexuberance." Indeed, the period's speculative hysteria is comparable to such historical instances as Holland's seventeenth-century Britain's South Sea Bubble of the eighteenth century, Tulpenwoede, and Japan's stock-marketand real-estatebubbles of the 1980s.
2. Important works in this subgenre include Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner's The Gilded Age (1873), Henry Adams's Democracy (1880), William Dean Howells's The Rise of Silas Lapham (1885) and A Hazard of New Fortunes (1890), Frank Norris's The Octopus (1901), Upton Sinclair's The Jungle (1906), Theodore Dreiser's The Financier (1912) and The Titan (1914), John Dos Passos's The Big Money (1936), Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49 (1966), Norman Mailer's Why Are We in Vietnam?(1967), William Gaddis's JR (1975), and Tom Wolfe's The Bonfireof the Vanities (1987) and A Man in Full (1998).


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Spheres: Public,Private,and Self
Let me say at the outset that rapacity and fiscal predation are not in inalienable aspects of homoeconomicus its capitalistic mode. Even as we quibble and quarrel about the fair redistribution of economic shares in society, we necessarily acknowledge the broader societal benefits of entrepreneurship and capital formation, outcomes like elevated standards of living and heightened life expectancy. For that matter, as suggested by Niall Ferguson, a scholar of political and financial history, "the true homoeconomicus-constantly aiming to maximize his utility with every transaction-remains a rarity, and to most of us rather a monstrous one. Every day, men and women subordinate their economic self-interest to some other motive, be it the urge to play, to idle, to copulate or to wreck" (423-24). Or as Max Weber points out in The ProtestantWorkEthic and the Spiritof Capitalism, pursuit of economic success can be a the means to justify and maintain one's membership within the ranks of the elect, to place oneself at the head of the salvational queue. Still, there is an ideological strain in American political life that does indeed apotheosize homo economicus,and it is this, and in particular one fictional evocation of it, that I'd like to consider is here. "Libertarianism" not a word that Ayn Rand liked to hear in relation to her self-styled "objectivist philosophy." Aware of the powerful financial and ideological benefits of successful product branding, Rand was strongly opposed to having such a generic term applied to her views. (Her life was marked, and marred, by serial disputes with her closest intellectual friends, acolytes really, when the latter diverged from the orthodoxy of Randian thinking.)3
3. Mimi Gladstein discusses what she calls the "impermanence" of Rand's interpersonal relations (see especially 17-18). Gladstein offers a telling illustration of Rand's querulous temperament. In a fit of proprietary anger, Rand published an article in The Objectivistin 1968 in which she bitterly accused her longtime protege Nathaniel Branden of benefiting financially from the "gold mine" of the Rand name (17). One associate with whom she apparently did not have a falling-out was a young man named Alan Greenspan who contributed two essays to Capitalism:The Unknown Ideal, one condemning an antitrust ruling against ALCOA, the other supporting the gold standard as a hedge against the otherwise irrepressible demands of the welfare state. Greenspan, of course, has gone on to become the long-serving chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of the United States, a position sometimes called the most powerful in the world.



Irrespective of nomenclature-call it objectivism or call it libertarianism-this position has a couple of very basic tenets. Government may not instrumentalize individual citizens by requiring them, and their economic products, to be used as meansto achieving the ends of others. All individuals are ends in themselves. The corollary of this noninterference imperative is that government should rightly have a single function. It should exist solely to protect its citizenry from physical force. In Rand's own words, "the government acts as the agent of man's right of self-defense, and may use force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate it" ("WhatIs Capitalism?"19). In short, the only legitimate state is what Rand's fellow libertarianRobert Nozick calls in his Anarchy, State,and Utopiathe "minimal state," one whose entire raison d'etre is to serve as the "dominant protective association" in a given geographical territory. Libertarianism, then, promotes laissez-faire capitalism in the strictest possible sense. Economic life operates in an unfettered manner, and individuals enjoy the material fruits (and bear the thorns) of their activities fully. A wealthy minority cannot be obliged through, say, taxation to further goals that have been collectively identified by a majority and that advance, broadly speaking, communal or social agendas. Philanthropy cannot be a matter of coercion. The wealthiest man in the world in the late nineteenth century, John D. Rockefeller, founded a great university-the University of Chicago-because he felt it was the right thing to do. Today's wealthiest person, Bill Gates, funds medical research because he wants to. Philanthropy is an entirely voluntaristic proposition. By way of summary, Nozick axiomatizes libertarianism in the following terms: "Fromeach as they choose, to each as they are chosen"(160). Rand has called capitalism "the unknown ideal" because it has never existed in unalloyed form. Capitalism has borne all sorts of fetters throughout history: regulation, taxation, social initiatives such as public education, public health care, public housing, and so on. She reserves her shrillest vitriol for those business people who have not supported her own vision of a pure capitalism: "By their and silence-by theirevasionof the clash betweencapitalism altruismit is capitalism's alleged champions who are responsible for the fact


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that capitalism is being destroyed without a hearing, without a trial, without any public knowledge of its principles, its nature, its history, or its moral meaning" ("Introduction"viii). There is one businessman who does not deserve this shrill rebuke, whose word and deed operate very much beyond the precincts of altruism and social conscience, and who illustrates, I think, in particularly exemplary manner the most worrying aspects of contemporary rogue capitalism. Indeed, Eric Packer demonstrates how easily libertarian precepts give way to misanthropy, malevolence, and outright evil. A brilliant novel of ideas, Don DeLillo's Cosmopolis portrays not just a day in the life of the twenty-eight-year-old Packer, a Manhattan asset manager and occasional billionaire, but also a day in the life of New York City. The novel's historiographical ambitions are evident on the first page, which reads in its entirety as follows: IN THE YEAR 2000
A Day in April

April 2000 is of symbolic value given that U.S. stock markets peaked early in 2000, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average reaching its all-time record in January at 11,908, while the techdominated NASDAQ hit 5,132 in intraday trading on March 10. (Notwithstanding a market rally that began in March 2003, neither index has approached its record in the five years that have followed.) On this particular day in April, ensconced in a global communications and trading center disguised as just another whalish white stretch limousine, Eric Packer makes a slow odyssey westward along Forty-seventh Street across Manhattan, a journey that will end in his late father's boyhood neighborhood, Hell's Kitchen, where he will try to get a haircut. His movements fixed firmly in space and time, Packer's crossing of New York's greatest borough reveals quotidian Gotham as the vast Rabelaisian spectacle that it is: multicultural traffic around the United Nations, the Diamond District, a presidential motorcade, the funeral procession for a Sufi rap star,the rapt confusion of tourists afoot in the theater district, an antiglobalization riot, a techno-rave, a celebrity pie-attack, the filming of a movie (complete with a mass nude installation in the mode of Spencer Tunick), and much more. Eric is a kind of picaresque



hero for a day, and his encounters with these various street scenes inspire philosophical reflections and dialogues on history, futurity, technology, global capitalism, and, inevitably for DeLillo, death. There is much discussion today about the two primary spheres in which humans act out their lives, and in particular of the relevant responsibilities and limits of each. Briefly stated, the publicsphereis of course associated with the activities of governments at all levels, from the most immediate, the municipal, through to the most global, the United Nations. The private sphere identifies a place where voluntary associations with very specific mandates play themselves out, though not entirely aloof from the influence of the public sphere which regulates matters public and private to one degree or another. Private associations include such things as the family, marriage, private commercial and corporate interests, housing collectives, and social and sports clubs. The relative size, and importance, of each sphere within given jurisdictions is a function of political judgments and varies across time, at least in nontotalitarian regimes. By way of example, it is clear that the Swedish public sphere is relatively larger than the American public sphere, given that about 65 percent of the former's gross domestic product (GDP) is expended by governments, while the figure is 30 percent in the latter instance. Beyond economic considerations, the regulatory function of the public sphere is more pronounced in, again, Sweden than in the United States. A libertarianwould advocate a very small public sphere, assuming the nation was not under threat of war, while a communitarian would advocate a very large public sphere, assuming that the national economy was in a more or less healthy condition. But Cosmopolis not about either the public or private is as such. It is about another domain, one which I will term sphere the self sphere, a place defined by solipsism and ego where the libertarian credo of self-interest is taken to its logical conclusion. Eric Packer operates beyond the limits of acceptable conduct set out in the social contracts that govern the public and private spheres. As an asset manager within the publicly regulated private sector, he violates his fiduciary responsibilities-both legal and traditional-and compromises his clients' and unit-holders' interests by engaging in a foolhardy and self-indulgent investment strategy that relies not on informed analysis and calculation but rather on


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hubris and contempt for others. Having crossed over to the self sphere, materially figured in his equally hermetic, equally impenetrable limousine and apartment-the former cork-lined a la Proust, the latter perched atop the tallest apartment building in the worldPacker fashions rules and ploys that serve only his personal interests, which revolve around psycho-emotional pathology and, in particular, sadomasochism, quite as much as money lust. Tens of billions of other people's dollars are lost as he fashions for himself a game of existential roulette that is played out in the currency and stock markets of the world. At the same time, the well-being of hundreds of millions of people around the world is jeopardized by chaos as Packer's speculations on the yen create "storms of disorder" that threaten the entire global economic order (116). Further, by the end of the novel, he will have intentionally bankrupted his wealthy, old-money wife and wantonly murdered Torval, his own chief of security, in a chillingly inscrutable act that calls to mind a Camusian acte gratuit, after each threatens his sense of self-worth. And he will have exposed others-employees past and present-to sadistic manipulation. In sum, ever aloof from the public sphere, Packer wholly vacates the private sphere, the place where legitimate capitalism is played out. Having chosen to give himself all, and others nothing, as sanctioned by libertarianism, he now resides in the self sphere, a practitioner of rogue capitalism. As Rand writes, "Capitalism and altruism are incompatible; they are philosophical opposites; they cannot co-exist in the same man or in the same society" ("For the New Intellectual" 54).

The Siren Call of Futurity
Eric Packer is, as a matter of philosophical conviction, a man ahead of his time. As his assassin Richard Sheets, alias Benno Levin, will observe, Packer is always "thinking past what is new"; he "wants to be one civilization ahead of this one" (152).4Though existentially
4. The significance of Richard Sheets's choice of "Benno Levin" as an alias is unclear to me. Benno Levin is a character in the four-novel cycle Friknarna von Pahlen ("The Misses von Pahlen" [1930-1935]), by Swedish writer Agnes von Krusenstjerna



constrained by the present like everyone else, Packer seeks to transcend the present through the pursuit of futurity, and it is above all technology that serves as a proxy for the latter. His quest has both negational and affirmative elements. Recurrently over the course of the novel, Packer denigrates antiquated technologies and their collaterally dated lexical markers:
No skyscraper: recent structure ought to bear this word. It belonged to the olden soul of awe, to the arrowed towers that were a narrative long before he was born.

automated teller machine/ATM:The term was aged and burdened by its own historical memory.... It was anti-futuristic, so cumbrous and mechanical that even the acronym seemed dated.

cash register:He wanted to understand why cash registers were not confined to display cases in a museum of cash registers in Philadelphia or Zurich.

walkie-talkie:He wanted to ask the man why he was still using such a contraption, still calling it what he called it, carrying the nitwit rhyme out of the age of industrial glut into smart spaces built on beams of light.

And so too with "hand organizer" (9), "office" (15), "ambulance" (67), "phone" (88), "computer" (104), and "vestibule" (182). Packer's techno-idolatry stands as a corollary to his dismissive views of purportedly antiquated consumer goods. Out with the old, in with the new. Embracing what John Updike calls, in his review of the novel, an "electronic mysticism" (102), Packer's interactions with various telecommunication and computer systems-satellite TV,financial-transfersystems, sky cams, voice-recognition technology, and surveillance apparatuses-confer upon him a sense of personal prestige, even moral redemption. Where sheer power held totemic value for Henry Adams and his peers, and (relative) speed
(1894-1940). The ColumbiaEncyclopediacites the "candid picture of sexual problems" that von Krusenstjerna's novels offer. I am unaware of any link between Richard Sheets and von Krusenstjerna's character.


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for subsequent generations of newly mobilized Americans able to cover vast distances-John Dos Passos's TheBig Money is the great planes-trains-and-cars novel of the early twentieth century-it is speed-of-light velocity and, in David Harvey's phrase, "time-space compression" that hold Packer in thrall (240-41). Technology is Packer's means to hegemony and, at the same time, its possession the purest expression of it. As Packer's limousine courses through Manhattan's Diamond District, he parses the vibrant scene before him: the stolid materiality of the goods on offer; the handshake and Yiddish blessing that confirm each exchange; a begging immigrant woman with baby in arms;Africans with sandwich boards. For Packer,"the street was an offense to the truth of the future" (65). Diamonds are timeless and enduring, resistant to the change that gives definition to futurity. (And, interestingly, James Coleman cites the diamond trade as an example of a community with a high level of trust and, consequently, of social capital.)5 The setting calls to Packer's mind the souk and the shtetl, open public spaces where commerce is personalized and direct, devoid of technological mediation. In their operational transparency and physical openness, the traditional market and the small town could not be more different from the enclaves of limousine and office from which Packer does business in relative anonymity with unknown people, whether cross-town or half a planet away. Equal parts victim-impact statement, indictment of rogue capitalism, and social history, David Denby's memoir American Sucker(2004) is a thoughtful and painfully candid account of the author's own outlandishly unsuccessful foray into stock-market speculation from 2000 to 2002.6 (Denby's losses maxed out at nine5. "If," writes Coleman, "any member of the [New York City wholesale diamond market] community defected through substituting other stones or through stealing stones in his temporary possession, he would lose family, religious, and community ties. The strength of these ties makes possible transactions in which trustworthiness is taken for granted and trade can occur with ease. In the absence of these ties, elaborate and expensive bonding and insurance devices would be necessary-or else the transactions could not take place" (99). Robert D. Putnam makes a similar point about the diamond trade (21). 6. For an overview of American Sucker,see Varsava, "How to Lose Your Shirt."



hundred-thousand dollars in October 2002.) Known to many as the film critic for TheNew Yorker, and author of the well-received Great Books(1996), an examination of the canon wars of the early nineties, Denby found himself in need of serious money in 2000 on the eve of an unexpected divorce. His book chronicles many of the same events of which Cosmopolis provides a fictional rendering, and the same issues come up in each. Denby is particularly intrigued with technology's role in changing perceptions and values:
For many of us now felt overwhelmed by what we could not master, and this sense of never being quite on top of things-at work, in consumer at our self-satisfaction. . . . A radical behavior, in technology-nagged revision of time was under way. . . . The stock market annihilating time was only an exaggeration of time's common fate. Everything was annihilating time.

If Denby, and most of us for that matter, are unable to contend well with the runaway hyper-compression at play in our lives, and the technology that facilitates it, Eric Packer can, and, indeed, he is nearly a cyborg in his integration of high technology within his daily life. Clearly, computer technology is pushing toward the death of time. Packer's chief of technology, Shiner, summarizes this impetus well, even as he wonders about the inherent value of it all:
All this optimism, all this booming and soaring. Things happen like bang. This and that simultaneous.... I know there's a thousand things you analyze every ten minutes. Patterns, ratios, indexes, whole maps of information. I love information. This is our sweetness and light. It's a fuckall wonder. And we have meaning in the world. People eat and sleep in the shadow of what we do. But at the same time, what?

Eric has no response for Shiner. The accumulation of data, its processing, and acting upon it for material gain have taken on metaphysical importance, and broader, "out-of-the-box,"contextualizing questions about the purpose of it all have become aporias to be avoided. Like the many shills, fraudsters, and snake-oil merchants that Denby discusses in his book-Internet analyst Blodget and biotech CEO Waksal, but also George Gilder, prophet of new


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paradigms through hyper-tech, and telecom analyst Jack Grubman of Salomon Smith Barney-Eric Packer betrays no sense of accrued moral obligation to those whom he would serve. He seems devoid of all sense of history as a residue of socially sanctioned codes of conduct. and Philipp Wolf observes in his Modernization theCrisisofMemory: Donne to Don DeLillothat speed and its agents "dissolve the traJohn ditional coordinates of time and space ... the successivity and continuity of both personal and communal history is replaced by the illusion of simultaneity" (177). One of Packer's few recollectable moments from his childhood is his calculation, as a four-year-old, of what he would weigh on each of the planets in the solar system. His estranged wife of three weeks marvels at this boyish exercise: "Such science and ego combined" (70). Lacking historical consciousness, and beyond memory, Packer is a moral free agent operating in the self sphere, beyond time and unresponsive to either legal proscriptions or traditional moral constraints-a rogue capitalist, in short. He will later declaim that he never engages in retrospectionbecause, in what amounts to a personal credo, "Power works best when there's no memory attached" (184). In memory lie moral obligations built up over and in time, in both the public and private spheres, that are difficult to ignore. In placing himself effectively out of time, he positions himself firmly within his self sphere and enables his own antinomian tendencies to operate without check. The hypostatization of technology, the making of it a measure of all things, derives from what Georg Simmel calls in The Philosophy of Money (1907), his magisterial examination of the psychosocial importance of capital, a "metaphysical mistake":
It will probably appear most strange to the enthusiasts of modern technology that their attitude is based on the same formal mistake as that of the speculative metaphysician .... the relative height that the technical progress of our time has attained in comparison with earlier circumstance and on the basis of the recognition of certain goals is extended by them to an absolute significance of these goals and this progress.

Effectively, the local, the part, the fraction is misunderstood as the global, the whole, the totality. Simmel goes on to note the irony of



people viewing such inventions as the telegraph and the telephone ecstatically without considering what really matters-"the value of what one has to say" when using these devices (482). Thus high tech inspires in Shiner an ecstasy and wonderment-"our sweetness and light," "a fuckall wonder"-without any attendant realization of the actual value of technology and its products. As articulated by David Hancock, head of Hitachi Corporation's portable computer unit, "Speed is God, and time is the devil" (qtd. in Gleick 75). This slogan encapsulates the frenetic spirit at work today in high-tech product development. Inevitably, this sensibility readily gets transferred to reflexive techie consumers like Eric Packer whose own world-views are shaped by technical progress, and whose quotidian affairs come to be synchronized with the frenetic pace of technological advancement. Unlike those developing more capacious and, yes, faster computer systems who have practical applications in mind, speed becomes for Packer an end in itself. He stands mesmerized by the complex, three-tiered ticker display running across the face of an office tower near the theater district, contemplating its meaning:
The speed is the point. Never mind the urgent and endless replenishment,

the way data dissolves at one end of the seriesjust as it takes shape at the
other. This is the point, the thrust, the future. We are not witnessing the flow of information so much as pure spectacle, or information made sacred, ritually unreadable.

(80) The inexorable accumulation of digitized information, the mystery of its evanescent looping on the ticker, the sensuous semiotic display-all of these evoke a sense of quasi-religious reverence on the part of Eric, who knows no god beyond computer technology and no religion beyond cybercapitalism. Eric Packer is, in the argot of the investment trade, a technical analyst, one who reads the sacred texts of his profession-computerized charts and graphs and statistical compilations of price fluctuations and trading patterns-in an effort to discern meanings concealed to the unanointed. Unlike his peers who confine their investigations to the financial realm, however, Packer looks to nature itself for predictive insight. As he piously claims, "There'sa


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common surface, an affinity between market movements and the natural world" (86).7 It is not surprising that Packer has his own corporate chief of theory and personal futurologist to help him in his work. Vija Kinski is a vatic, oracular presence in the novel, suggestive of the sage young scientist in WhiteNoise, Winnie Richards, but also of a (smart) Faith Popcorn. As a hermeneut of futuristic processes and trends, Kinski provides Eric with provocative insights but also challenges. Unlike her boss, Kinski brings an altogether reasonable (postmodern) skepticism to her analysis of contemporary events. She chides him for assuming that "foreseeable trends and forces" exist within all financial data (85). Eschewing his technometaphysics, she believes that all is random and beyond the capacity of mathematics to distill hidden meanings. The system is out of control, she tells him: "Hysteria at high speeds. ... We create our own frenzy, our own mass convulsions, driven by thinking machines that we have no final authority over" (85). Unlike Packer, who clings to a metaphysical belief in hidden, though ultimately knowable, truths-and this is consistent with Ayn Rand's objectivistic epistemology-Kinski is a thoroughgoing relativist who sees truth as a technologically mediated construction, a view not dissimilar from that DeLillo espouses in "In the Ruins of the Future":
Technology is [Americans'] fate, our truth.... The materials and methods we devise make it possible for us to claim our future. We don't have to depend on God or the prophets or other astonishments. We are the astonishment. The miracle is what we ourselves produce, the systems and networks that change the way we live and think.

As Eric Packer contemplates the alphanumeric wonders of the ticker posting the value of the yen against the dollar in microdecimal
7. EricPackeris not the only technicalanalystto go outside of the marketin searchof parallel patterns to inform his investment strategies. In The Quarkand the Jaguar:
Adventures in the Simple and the Complex,Murray Gell-Mann, Nobel laureate in physics,

tells of two researchers, affiliatedwith the SantaFe Doyne Farmerand NormanPackard, Institute,who startedan investmentfirm and were able to use various computer-based adaptivesystems, such as neuralnetworksand geneticalgorithms,to identifyprice fluctuationsand hence profitfinancially(47-48).



increments every sextillionths of a second, he falls into a state of ecstasy which, like that of Saint Theresa figured so powerfully by Bernini, moves between the religious and the sexual. Forming a union of man and digitized data, he engages the ticker in an act of imagined cunnilingus. Data flow has become a source of sacralsexual delight.

Globalization,or the Allegory of the StretchLimo
Novels of ideas invariably offer a limited number of highly concentrated scenes in which given themes and issues are more or less systematically interrogated through extended philosophical dialogue and social commentary. DeLillo adeptly constructs scenarios in which these dialogues flow circumstantially and logically from the unfolding plot, forming parts of balanced wholes, an attribute not always evident in the genre (works such as Aldous Huxley's Point CounterPoint [1928] and Island [1962] and Rand's various novels come to mind in this latter regard). In Cosmopolis, most evocathe tive set pieces involve Packer's meeting with Vija Kinski, which dominates the second of the novel's four chapters, and his encounter with his assassin, which occupies much of the last chapter. Conveying what Mikhail Bakhtin calls the "indirect authorial word," Kinski offers views on globalization similar to those DeLillo outlines in "In the Ruins of the Future" and those that can be extrapolated from Underworld,especially in its epilogue, "Das Kapital." Throughout his fiction, DeLillo demonstrates great facility in depicting the current events of our age. Characteristically,there are a number of highly topical scenes in Cosmopolis. Eric traverses As Manhattan, a variety of disquieting events take place, both locally and globally, though in a wired society the latter have lost much of their defining discreteness, having largely merged through technology's mediation. He learns that Arthur Rapp, managing director of the IMF,has been murdered in North Korea, the event captured for a global audience live on the Money Channel. Later, the Times Square news-ticker records the murder of Nikolai Kaganovich, a shady Russian entrepreneur.The deaths of these two acquaintances give Eric pause for only brief thought. The antiglobalization


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demonstration that he encounters as he approaches Times Square, however, can hardly be brushed off. Globalization has received more attention than any other single international issue over the last fifteen years or so, nearly guaranteeing that DeLillo would turn to it at some point. In Underworld (1997), arguably the most important American novel since Gravity's Rainbow(1973), DeLillo looks at a couple of aspects of globalization, one economic, the other technological. In an interesting, if unintended, conceptual confluence, DeLillo analyzes here, and subsequently in Cosmopolis, what Arjun Appadurai has termed "financescapes" and "technoscapes," our fluid, perspectival constructions of "money" and "machines" within the contemporary "global cultural economy."8 A quite powerful passage of cultural commentary opens "Das Kapital," at the end of Underworld:
Capital burns off the nuance in a culture. Foreign investment, global markets, corporate acquisitions, the flow of information through transnational media, the attenuating influence of money that's electronic and sex that's cyberspaced, untouched money and computer-safe sex, the convergence of consumer desire-not that people want the same things, necessarily, but that they want the same range of choices.

(785) Spoken by protagonist Nick Shay, what we have here is, in effect, an analysis of the role that money and technology play in a contemporary globalized world. Nick reads globalization as an agent of homogenization, wherein time and space conform to the exigencies of money and machines, and whereby the local and national proclivities of the citizenry are overridden by routinized, manufactured desires imposed by global consumer culture. Sex and

8. Notwithstandinghis admittedlyinsightfulanalysisof globalizationand its effects, and the usefulness of his five-parttaxonomy of "-scapes"(he also cites "ethnoscapes," and "ideoscapes"), "mediascapes," Appadurai'squintet does not exhaust the full thematic range of the cultural dimensions of globalization.Obvious additions to his list would include,among presumablya numberof others,bioscapesand ecoscapes,the former dealingwith how people view theirown bodies and biology in a globalizedage, the latterwith how natureis perceived.



economic exchange have been voided of personal contact, the two now having becoming virtual in the digitalized ether of cyberspace. Nick's perceptive reading of money and machines (and the media) is perspectival or "-scapic," built on his own views of an ever-shifting globality. Beyond the matter of technologically mediated exchanges of desire (of one sort or another) lies another manifestation of globalization, the raw impulse to profit, irrespective of collective cost. Nick Shay, a waste-management consultant, finds himself in Kazakhstan, where a local entrepreneur, his capitalistic impulses newly liberated by the implosion of the Soviet state, has a proposal for him. In stark violation of international bans, Viktor Maltsev, a "trading company executive," secretly processes nuclear waste at an abandoned Soviet test site near Semipalatinsk. Nick can pick up broker's fees if he directs plutonium waste Viktor's way. Globalized commerce permits people to do in other countries that which could not possibly go undetected and unpunished in their own. DeLillo's examination of economic globalization continues in where rogue capitalism is nowhere more evident than in Cosmopolis, this realm. While Eric Packer's rogue machinations have greater finesse than do those of Viktor Maltsev-environmental despoilment having a dirty palpability that Packer's white-collar crimes do not-they are if anything more potentially damaging given their global scope. Erichas moved on from stock forecasting and a period in his life when he, like real-life analysts such as Blodget, Grubman, and Gilder, could tout a stock and "automatically cause doublings in share price and the shifting of worldviews . .. making history, before history became monotonous and slobbering" (75). Packer's madcap currency speculations, with their global consequences, are made possible by the lack of regulation-the fruit of a given "protective association," in Nozick's phrasing-of the sort that exists within the domestic trading community in the United States. Recall that the New York Stock Exchange imposed a system of trading "curbs" in the aftermath of the market collapse of late 1987-the worst since "Black Tuesday" (October 29, 1929), which ushered in the GreatDepression-during which, from October 13 to October 19, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by nearly a third, wiping out about one trillion dollars in shareholder value. The pur-


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pose of these curbs was, and remains, to ensure orderly market functioning by preventing share-price free falls through panic selling of the sort witnessed in 1987. In the unregulated global foreign currency market, no such controls exist, and individual investors like Packer, or cabals of likeminded speculators, can indeed wreak havoc on given national currencies. Recent historical examples of this type of speculative play are George Soros's now legendary "breaking" of the bank of England in 1992, which netted him a billion dollars, and the collapse of the relatively minor Thai baht in 1997, which sent out financial shock waves that were felt around the world.9 American speculators like Packer are able to do to the world's currencies that which is forbidden to them in the major stock exchanges of America. As with much of globalized economic activity, there is here an absence of regulations, the latter the product of the sort of protective associations that libertariansotherwise covet within their own societies. It is no coincidence that Horst K6hler, managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), has recently suggested the need to develop a global strategy to reduce volatility in foreign exchange markets in order to sustain the global economic recovery that began in 2003.10 Thomas Homer-Dixon, an advocate of global sustainable development, sees the limousine as an emblem of profound inequalities:
9. The prime minister of Malaysia, Mohammed Mahathir, among others, attributed the "Thai baht crisis" of 1997 to the actions of Soros. See Soros's The Crisis of Global Capitalism:Open Society Endangeredfor his rejection of this claim. In Soros's account, Soros Fund Management was in fact covering the short position it had established early in 1997 and was actually a buyer (and hence supporter) of the baht when the crisis later unfolded in July (136-37). Soros did profit from his short-selling of the baht, but he claims to have exited the market too early to have realized optimal gains. He does not address the issue of the inherently destabilizing effects of the massive short-selling of a country's currency, especially that of a small, relatively poor nation such as Thailand. The Thai baht crisis precipitated what Donald Coxe, an economist with Harris Bankcorp, calls the "worst depression in the region since the 1930s" (111). Soros admits that he disregarded the "social consequences" of his shorting of the British pound in 1992 (196-97). 10. In the absence of such a global strategy, currency traders will speculate against the dollar, therein driving its value down and adversely affecting other national economies, which will have difficulty selling their goods and services abroad due to a devalued, "cheap" American dollar.



Think of a stretch limo in the potholed streets of New York, where homeless beggars live. Inside the limo are the air-conditioned postindustrial regions of North America, Europe, the emerging Pacific Rim, and a few isolated places, with their trade summitry and computer-information highways. Outside is the rest of mankind, going in a completely different direction.
(qtd. in Kaplan 24)

Clearly, the antiglobalization protesters who surround Packer's limousine in mid-Manhattan are going in a rather different direction than he is. The limousine, a global communications center, is not merely a symbol of a process but the process itself. Packer and his livery are globalization. Dressed in rat costumes, and carrying a twenty-foot Styrofoam rat effigy, the protesters release live rats in restaurants and businesses, using the rodent to symbolize all that is contemptible about global capitalism. Packer and the protesters discern the same elements of the financescape-accelerating data flows, "hot money" moving about 24/7 world markets, and wealth concentration. Both concur that "A SPECTERIS HAUNTING THE WORLD-THE SPECTEROF CAPITALISM," though only Packer seems to know that the protesters have misapplied the meaning of the line from TheManifesto of the Communist Party (96).11However, they offer conflicting assessments of this financescape. Committed to the self sphere, Packer endorses the status quo, effectively globalized robber baronage in an unregulated, digitalized age. Alternatively, the protesters seek, as Vija Kinski says, but DeLillo too as we have seen, to "correctthe acceleration of time," to "[B]ring nature back to normal, more or less," slowing down time and therein the pell-mell advance of global capitalism as it races into, and out of, localities the world over, a strike force for profit maximization (79). Aware of the relative incapacity of the public sphere to influence matters,

11. The slogan is an adaptationof a well-knownline at the beginningof TheManifesto of theCommunist Party:"A specteris hauntingEurope-the specterof communism"(6). Marx and Engels view this specter as a favorableone, while the protesters Manifestly, regard capitalismas decidedly unfavorable.Upon reading the adapted slogan on the ticker,Packersees the protestersas "confusedand wrongheaded,"even as he respects in their "ingenuity" placing theirmessage (96).



the protesters (left-wing agitators? anarchists?) assault private institutions rather than public ones-the Nasdaq Center, Packer's limo-aware of where power resides in a globalized age.12 With characteristic insight, Vija Kinski discerns the ideological subtext that connects Eric to the anarchists attacking not only global capitalism but now his limousine as well. Espousing the Bakunian view that the "urge to destroy is a creative act," the protesters also echo, ironically enough, Joseph Schumpeter, who celebrates capitalism for its regenerative, creative "destruction" (92). Mikhail Bakunin and Schumpeter espouse a common slogan: "Destroy the past, make the future" (93). Conjuring up archived images of Vietnam, one protester engages in self-immolation. The street mayhem is punctuated by the bombing of an investment bank, and the now commandeered news-ticker provides a rhetorical finial for the day's proceedings: "A RAT BECAME THE UNIT OF CURRENCY" (96).13 Drawing upon a line from Report from the Besieged a long poem by Polish writer Zbigniew Herbert City (1983), (1924-1998), which portrays life in a Polish city under siege by the Nazis, protesters identify global capitalism as a fascistic force bent on world dominion over the beleaguered masses.14In another ironic

12. As with the opponents of globalization who show up every year at Davos and dog IMF and World Bank meetings the world over, the ideological biases of the protesters in Cosmopolisare, to a considerable degree, "confused," as Eric Packer says. The latter offer no positive program, seeking only to turn back the globalizing tide in commerce. They sound like Marxists in their sloganeering but act like anarchists in their aimless destruction. Friedrich Engels provides an encapsulation of the differences between the politics of Mikhail Bakunin, the leading Russian anarchist of the day, and communism in an 1872 letter to Theodor Cuno: "The chief point concerning [Bakunin] is that he does not regard capital . . but the state as the main evil to be abolished.... Bakunin maintains that it is the state which has created capital, that the capitalist has his capital only by the grace of the state. As, therefore, the state is the chief evil, it is above all the state which must be done away with ... We, on the contrary, say: Do away with capital, the concentration of all means of production in the hands of the few, and the state will fall of itself" (443). 13. This quotation also serves as the novel's epigraph. 14. Herbert is celebrated for his articulate defense of Polish freedom during a most bleak period in the nation's history which saw its subjugation at the hands of, first, rightwing totalitarianism and, thereafter, of the left-wing variety. Like DeLillo himself, a 1999 recipient, Herbert was awarded the Jerusalem Prize for the Freedom of the Individual in Society (1991). Awarded every second year, this prize has recently gone to, among others, Arthur Miller (2003), Susan Sontag (2001), and Mario Vargas Llosa (1995).



convergence between the capitalist and the anarchist, Packer has himself been recently reading this same Herbert poem. "People in free societies don't have to fear the pathology of the state" (85). To Vija Kinski, pathology has, like just about everything else, been privatized in free-market democracies, opening up possibilities for wealth acquisition and technologizing unknown in command economies and totalitarian states. Money has become nonreferential and intransitive, an end in itself, and moneymaking has become invested with aesthetic value. "Money has lost its narrative quality the way painting did once upon a time," Kinski tells Packer. "Money is talking to itself" (77). She advances a postVeblenian thesis. Consumption is no longer about consumption, or indeed the spectacle of consumption, the "vulgar display or tasteful display" (78). Consumption is about numbers, staggering numbers that take on abstract aesthetic value in direct proportion to their size. Packer's one-hundred-and-four-million-dollar apartment is about the number itself: "The number justifies itself" (78).15 As Georg Simmel presciently writes, "In so far as money becomes the absolutely commensurate expression and equivalent of all values, it rises to abstract heights way above the whole broad diversity of objects" (236). The protesters who assail midtown Manhattan harbor rather more traditional views of money. The latter can buy things with use value and even exchange value, each of which has immediate utility for the great preponderance of the world's population. Packer and his ilk feed parasitically off of this vast constituency. Cybercapital-its deployment and its often incalculable consequences--creates for the protesters a sense of heightened risk. Sociologist Anthony Giddens associates risk with modernity itself, and globalization is for him a prominent contemporary

15. A brief word on executive remuneration is in order to understand Packer's capacity to accumulate hundreds of millions of dollars. CEO remuneration levels have changed considerably over the last quarter century. "In the United States," notes journalist Janet McFarland in a 2004 article, "various figures [put forward by shareholder groups] pegged the average CEO pay at 300, 400 or 500 times the level of average hourly worker's pay in 2002-a soaring increase from 40 times the average worker's pay in 1980." Packer has been riding this tidal wave of executive avarice.


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manifestation of modernity. Giddens identifies two types of risk, "external"and "manufactured" (RunawayWorld44). External risks are those that come from the "fixities of tradition or nature," problems like floods, famines, and plagues. Manufactured risks, on the other hand, are created by the "impact of our developing knowledge upon the world." While Giddens cites obvious calamities and concerns such as the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, world climate change, the outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in Britain in the 1990s, and genetically modified foods as examples of manufactured risks, he also notes that marriage, once a stable and enduring institution, is now fraught with hitherto unknown risks, as pointed to by divorce rates, for example. Cybercapitalism creates manufactured risk and therein profound uncertainty in the lives of literally billions of people through its manipulation of financial markets, as we see in Cosmopolis.It also accelerates the pace of life in ways that many people find insupportable and threatening. And consistent with the defining ethos of rogue capitalism, the heightening of risk serves here not the commonweal but rather the self-interested individual. Cybercapitalism occurs through, and is a manifestation of, what Giddens calls "disembedding." Disembedding involves the "'lifting out' of social relations from local contexts of interaction and their restructuring across infinite spans of space-time" 21). (Consequences The interactions that occur at a farmers' market are "embedded" in a local context that is transparent to all participants in ways that are reassuring to them. (Producer and consumer are well-positioned to take the measure of one another.) Those largely anonymous interactions that occur through, say, intercontinental air travel or online stock trading are obviously of a different kind altogether. Disembedding brings with it manufactured risks such as the prospect of technological breakdown or the possibility of roguish or incompetent conduct on the part of unidentified others. Collaterally,it creates a need to trust others whom one does not know-pilots and brokers, airplane manufacturers and computer technicians-in ways that traditional interactions do not, and trust is, as Giddens suggests, "inevitably in part an article of 'faith' " (29). In "The Ruins of the Future," DeLillo observes: "The protesters in Genoa, Prague, Seattle, and other cities want to decelerate the



global momentum that seemed to be driving unmindfully toward a landscape of consumer-robots and social instability,with the chance of self-determination probably diminishing for most people in most countries.... [They were] trying to slow things down, even things out, hold off the white-hot future" (33-34). Clearly,the protesters in Cosmopolisdo not trust the forces behind economic globalization any more than do their real-life counterparts, and they have little faith in people like Eric Packer. They reject a process that undermines traditional securities and compels them to trust the protean, unpredictable forces that are reshaping world commerce at breakneck speed, quite often beyond any sort of "political control," as Zygmunt Bauman has pointed out (66).16 They reject what Kinski calls the "[v]isions of technology and wealth" that Packer and others promote, and the cultural homogenization they fear globalization will bring (90).17 And it is not surprising that, for them, Packer's luxurious, hermetic limousine emblematizes the odious, ratlike machinations of economic globalizers the world over. Packer asks Kinski when it will be evident that the "global era" has ended. Her reply: "When stretch limousines begin to disappear from the streets of Manhattan" (91).

16. Bauman, whose Globalization:The Human Consequencesgives the orthodox leftwing position on globalization, states, "Due to the unqualified and unstoppable spread of free trade rules, and above all the free movement of capital and finances, the 'economy' is progressively exempt from political control; indeed, the prime meaning conveyed by the term 'economy' is 'the area of the non-political' " (66). Giddens's views on globalization are considerably more nuanced and indeed favorable, though he is also attuned to the stresses and strains the phenomenon imposes on global citizenry. 17. Globalization is often reduced to matters economic, to the evident neglect of cultural life. While economic globalization does indeed bring homogenization, with the implementing of similar business practices and technologies around the world, it can also bring with it both heterogeneity and enriching forms of cultural hybridity. One characteristic example of cultural hybridity comes up in Cosmopolisin the figure of the dead rap star Brutha Fez, whose music is an amalgam of contemporary Western influences and traditional non-Western ones, notably Sufi devotional songs-in short, an evocative mixture of "languages, tempos and themes" (134). Brutha Fez's funeral becomes, in effect, a celebration of cultural hybridization (130-39). For a positive analysis of cultural hybridization in a globalized age, see Nederveen Pieterse. For a mostly favorable reading of globalization's influence across a variety of cultural forms and media, see Cowen. For a discussion of Cowen's book, see Varsava.


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Icarus Takes a Haircut In a curious, though not implausible, irony, two books on Ayn Rand As carry the same title: With CharitytowardNone.18 suggested earlier, Randian libertarianism is not about good works done for others. Eric Packer proudly declares at the end of the novel that he has "no charities" (193). Indeed, his assassin, Benno Levin, a former employee whom he has humiliated and fired, cites Packer's "frozen heart" as justification for his murder:
You have to die for how you think and act. For your apartment and what you paid for it. For your daily medical checkups.... For how much you had and how much you lost, equally. No less for losing it than for making it. For the limousine that displaces air that people need to breathe in Bangladesh. This alone.

Levin's view of Packer accords with that espoused by the antiglobalization anarchists who see global capitalists as exploitative, ratlike figures feeding off of others. Indeed, "rats" are an important leitmotif in Cosmopolis. Toward the end of the novel, we find other allusions to rats. Packer's hair is "ratty," and he passes by "ratty storefronts" before he enters the rat-infested building in which he will be murdered (160, 179, 182-83). Another leitmotif is developed in the conclusion of the novel and revolves around the well-known story from Greek mythology wherein Daedalus constructs wings of wax upon which he and his son Icarus will escape from Crete to Sicily. Icarus, despite his father's warning, flies so close to the sun that his waxen apparatus suffers catastrophic failure and he plunges into the Mediterranean, a victim of hubris and self-indulgence. While there is little enough to suggest that Icarus was a libertarian avant la lettre,his story allegorizes the libertarian sensibility well. Vainglorious, egocentric, self-indulgent, indifferent to the feelings of others, Icarus, like Eric Packer, is a "self-totality" (191). Indeed, both operate in a hermetic self-sphere, finally isolated from others and all contractual arrangements.

The 18. Gladsteinnotes this (122n53). booksareby WilliamO'Neilland Florence King.



Various Icarian allusions throughout the final chapter of the book mock Eric Packer's ambitions and world-view. As Packer approaches the West Side Highway, a bike messenger goes "swanning past, arms spread wide," in a symbolic foreshadowing of Packer's downfall (181). Later in the chapter, Levin spreads his arms open, suggesting his own role as a messiah-like figure bent on the salvation of others and, necessarily, on the destruction of Packer; Levin's altruism-however murderous-stands in contrast to the vanity of Packer, the Icarian figure pursuing personal glory and self-gratification. Levin chides Packer as the latter sits quietly, after having, in a paroxysm of masochism, shot himself in the hand: "Icarus falling. You did it to yourself. Meltdown in the sun. You will plunge three and a half feet to your death. Not very heroic, is it?" (202). Packer is absorbed by a primordial megalomania. Aware that his foolhardy play on the Japanese yen has proven to be a catastrophic failure for himself and his clients, he now welcomes oversized failure. He is captive to the megalomaniac's paradox. The epical of whatever stripe-whether gains and victory or losses and defeatis the megalomaniac's narcotic. If one cannot win big, then one must lose big. Size and proportion matter. Levin likens Packer to tribal chiefs of folklore: "In the old tribes the chief who destroyed more of his property than the other chiefs was the most powerful" (193-94). As with the Chinese warlord and the Viking chieftain, Packer views his own death as a last opportunity for vainglorious effulgence, for a final, postmortem display of self-love. Like Icarus, he will fly too close to the sun; once dead, he wants to be launched toward the sun in the Tu-160 nuclear bomber he bought from the Soviets:
He wanted to be solarized.He wanted the plane flown by remotecontrol
with his embalmed body aboard, suit, tie and turban, and the bodies of his dead dogs, his tall silky Russian wolfhounds, reaching maximum altitude and leveling at supersonic dash speed and then sent plunging into the sand, fireballed one and all, leaving a work of land art, scorched earth art that would interact with the desert ...


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In the vernacular of "the Street," to "take a haircut" suggests that one's investments have been rather severely trimmed by unfavorable market pressures. Eric Packer can accept his "haircut"so long as its magnitude is commensurate with his ambitions in life and thereafter. A technophilic narcissist to the bitter end, Packer contemplates his own prone image as captured on his watch face by an electron camera-"a device so microscopically refined it was almost pure information.... almost metaphysics"-as his life slowly ebbs away (204). In a flight of technophilic fancy worthy of George Gilder, technovisionary-cum-hypester, he wonders how immortality might be achieved through the wonders of digital encoding: "The idea was to live outside the given [corporeal] limits, in a chip, on a disk, as data, in whirl, in radiant spin, a consciousness saved from void" And cybercapitalism, predictably, will provide the "master (206).19 thrust," extending "human experience toward infinity as a medium for corporate growth and investment, for the accumulation of profits and vigorous reinvestment" (207). In extremis,Packer seeks to transcend the dire urgencies of the moment through the agency of the only things he values-machines and money. Suggestive of the masterly depiction of survivalist self-deception we find in Ambrose Bierce's "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" (1891) as the protagonist contends with the final moments of his life, DeLillo takes us here through the psychology of a dying man. Juxtaposing the consciousness of Packer and the empirical data captured by the miniature camera, he mocks his protagonist's faith in technology's capacity to perpetuate human life virtually.
19. Gilder's best-known books, Microcosm (1989) and Telecosm(2000), promote the wonders of high technology with irrepressible missionary zeal. Gilder's faith in the revolutionary potential of increased bandwidth, for example, is considerable: "Reduced to irrelevance are all the conceptual foundations of the computer age. A new economy is emerging, based on a new sphere of cornucopian [fiber-optic] brilliance-reality amassed and unmasked, leaving only the promethean light" (Telecosm11). Writing in the postbubble period, David Denby ridicules Gilder's shilling: "His ecstatic praise of companies heading for bankruptcy was a fatuity worthy of the tulip-mad poets of seventeenth-century Holland, who compared the carmine-tinted Tulipa clusiana to the 'faint blush on the cheek' of some darling virgin or other. A rising market buys bad poetry as well as lying analysis" (297).



Ultimately, computer chips and fiber-optic cable prove to be no more effective as talismans against the importunities of the bullet than are the homey longings of Bierce's Peyton Farquhar against the hangman's rope. "O shit I'm dead" records Packer's realization of the fact (206). The very materiality of his existence remains beyond technological reinscription, "not convertible to some high sublime, the technology of mind-without-end" (208). It is not hard to see Eric Packer as an incarnation of evil, a diabolical sociopath and crypto-fascist who plays out his fantasies of domination and personal hegemony in the arena of global finance. is Cosmopolis a cautionary tale that reminds us that the triumph of global capitalism should not lead to the defeat of common decency and communal goals, that the operation of the private sphere cannot always be neatly separated from the healthy operation of the public one, and that there is little enough justification at all for the solipsism I have named the self-sphere. A self-styled "world citizen," Packer is nothing of the kind (26). He exhibits a pseudocosmopolitanism that is indistinguishable from the more stultifying forms of provinciality. Wealth and a command of technology do not make him a citizen of the world but rather of a world, that of high finance. "If it is true that the art of a period gradually determines the way we look at nature," writes Georg Simmel, "and if the artist's spontaneous and subjective abstraction from reality forms the apparently immediate sensuous picture of nature in our consciousness, then so too will the superstructure of money relations erected above qualitative reality determine much more radically the inner image of reality according to its forms" (445). Simmel is surely right that attitudes toward money shape our world-views-"the inner image of reality"-in very powerful ways. Indeed, as an evocative portrait of the late twentieth century, DeLillo's Cosmopolis provides us with a revealing diagnostic of an age in which the negotiation between self and other, between self and community, was neglected wholly by many as they sought psycho-emotional gratification in the sound and fury of financial exchange and its mediating technologies, in the libertarianpursuit of cybercapitalism. Based as it is on a socially destructive rogue capitalism, on what Benno Levin calls his antagonist's "saturated self" (208), Eric Packer's cosmopolitanism


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represents a false model of contemporary citizenship, and one that must be resolutely resisted.

Universityof Alberta



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