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Postmodernist Shift of the Financial World

(Illustration by Seymour Chwast for The New Yorker)

Want an "artistic" view of the financial world? Talk about a unique way of looking at things. Writing for The New Yorker, John Lanchester compares the changes in finance over the last few decades to the emergence of postmodernism in arts. The essay covers many aspects of what has transpired in the financial world and is well worth reading as a break. Here's a sample of the writing...

(source: Melting Into Air, by John Lanchester, The New Yorker. November 10, 2008)

There’s something almost nineteenth century about Buffett’s writing on finance—calm, sane, and literate. It’s not a tone you’ll readily find in anyone else’s company reports, letters to shareholders, public filings, or press releases. That’s because finance, like other forms of human behavior, underwent a change in the twentieth century, a shift equivalent to the emergence of modernism in the arts—a break with common sense, a turn toward self-referentiality and abstraction and notions that couldn’t be explained in workaday English. In poetry, this moment took place with the publication of “The Waste Land.” In classical music, it was, perhaps, the première of “The Rite of Spring.” Jazz, dance, architecture, painting—all had comparable moments. The moment in finance came in 1973, with the publication of a paper in the Journal of Political Economy titled “The Pricing of Options and Corporate Liabilities,” by Fischer Black and Myron Scholes.

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1 Response to Postmodernist Shift of the Financial World

November 4, 2008 at 8:23 AM


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