Spectres of the Atlantic

Ian Baucom’s Spectres of the Atlantic: Capital, Slavery, and the Philosophy of History has traces the roots of the complex ‘trade in abstract values’ (2005: 56) whereby finance capital secures the exchange economy of theoretical reason and universalises modernity’s typical mode of subjectivity. Baucom links the interplay between imagination and understanding to the concept of the modern self and the abstract collective project of freedom, and finance capital. The conclusion is that the trans-Atlantic slave trade licensed the global spread of finance capital and the universal claims of abstract human rights. Moral progress can lag behind economic progress; or rather, economic progress is not necessarily synonymous with moral progress.

Values are erected into truths and hypostatized into substances according to an economy of discourse ‘which can neither function without the value (of truth), nor without fetishizing general equivalence as the basis on which values can be distinguished and exchanged’ (Nancy 2008: 3). Today, when finance capitalism appears to have reached an unprecedented dominance, the question of slavery, and freedom, is unavoidable. The very idea of human progress is tied up with the supersession of slavery and entangled with morality, reason, and property. The texts of Immanuel Kant and Olaudah Equiano provide a glimpse of the infrastructure of modern progress.

Contact Webmaster | View the Promotion of Access to Information Act | View our Privacy Policy
© University of KwaZulu-Natal: All Rights Reserved