Semiotics of Economic Discourse
Since the beginning of the crisis, some financial and economic terms have become familiar. Expressions such as “subprime”, “hedge fund”, “derivative”, “spread”, “quantitative easing”, “stress test”, “black pools”, “black liquidity” etc., are now habitual. We listen and read discussions about the distinction between “savings bank” and “investment bank”, between “public deficit” and “public debt”, between “inflation” and “deflation”, between “virtuous countries” and “Piigs” (sometimes “Pigs”). We worry when “Markets evaluate” a national “reduction of expenses” or a “spending review”. We finally image the European Central Bank Governor, ready for “whatever it takes”, armed with a “big bazooka” for a liquidity injection buying state bonds. At the same time it is always more difficult to understand how it should be possible to exit from the crisis, how to restart growth and what are the aims of the “structural reforms”. We are living in a time of uncertainty, while the economic discourse is pervading every cultural place with its own reasoning about costs, gains, savings, credits, debts. But also the dominant economic theory lives in an unstable situation, between the imposition of neoliberal economic policy and well-known rethinking (e.g. the IMF on the economic condition of European Union), between the news of mistakes in the Reinhart-Rogoff mathematical model connected high relation debt/Pil and low growth and heterodox bestsellers, both essays and pamphlets (e.g. Stiglitz, Krugman, James K. Gailbraith, Picketty, Mazzucato, Lazzarato).
Linguistics, semiotics and economics have several common contents. Consider for instance the historical analogies between linguistic sign and money, or the concept of “value”, which Saussure’s linguistics gained from the Austrian School of Economics. Value is perhaps a good instrument for a semiotic investigation on economic activities and on the social science of economics. Nevertheless, semiotics has sporadically discussed on economy. There are several works about semiotics and marketing compared to the few theoretical and critical works on economic discourse: Ferruccio Rossi Landi’s theoretical works; some interesting papers (e.g. F. Galofaro, “Semiotica e produzione. Verso un’economia politica del segno”; F. Montanari, “Form of Economic Discourse, the Crisis and Financial Markets”; L. Frattura, “Il governo di sé e degli altri, un caso di studio: Potere e Auto-Controllo del Mercato”); the Carte Semiotiche’s issue on “Semiotica del denaro” (n. 5, 2003); the section “Linguaggio e Moneta” of the 20th Congress of the Society of Philosophy of Language (published on the Rivista Italiana di Filosofia del Linguaggio website http://www.rifl.unical.it/); the meetings on “Segni e monete. La semiotica nel campo dell’economia” (Turin, 2014: the videos are avalaible on Lexia. Rivista internazionale di semiotica’s Youtube channel). Linguistic and semiotic tools had an important influence on Jean Baudrillard’s and Gilles Deleuze – Felix Guattari’s works about the new forms of capital. More recently this instrumentation has influenced the Actor Network Theory: the ANT, with the sociology of finance, has investigated the “performativity” of the economic discourse and the tangle between economics and business, especially in the building of financial markets (see Bruno Latour’s, Michel Callon’s, Donald MacKenzie’s works). Semiotics, indeed, has important and strict links with close approaches: Foucault’s and Foucaultian works on biopolitics and governmentality; Bourdieu’s and Boltanski – Chiapello’s sociological researches; Searle’s and Ferraris’ ontologies on social objects; Giovanni Leghissa’s and Maria Grazia Turri’s recent works on the grounds of the contemporary economic discourse.
This special issue of Ocula would gather papers with the aim of outlining a first review on semiotic studies and analysis of economy. The call for paper is open to papers from different disciplines (such as economics, philosophy, history, sociology, anthropology) demonstrating an interdisciplinary approach with semiotics. The argument is the economic discourse. We make the list of the three sections in which we divide the semiotics of the economic discourse, making some questions:
1. Analytics of the Economic Discourse. This section includes articles on the relations between economy and culture. What are the better tools to study the economic discourse? We think above all about the concept of “value” and its own analytical possibilities. Has the cultural role of economic discourse changed during the crisis? What does “pervasiveness of economy” mean? What is the role of the market in culture? Considering economic activities, how do they seep through in the ways of life, especially in times of crisis? What is the role of the economics in relation to economic activities? What does the “performativity” of economics mean, particularly in financial markets? What are the modalizations of the economic discourse? What are its effects and its statements?
2. Rhetorics of the Economic Discourse. This section includes articles on the economic language. In which sense can the economic language (i.e. the Central Bank Governor’s sentences or signs which brokers use in the financial market places) be performative? What are its effects? What are the tools of the economic science (i.e. images, mathematical models, statistics)? This question seems interesting considering the predictive aspect of the economic discourse. In which sense will the economic discourse predict or build the future? Is it a trait of the scientific discourse or of the public discourse? What is the model lector in the public discourse, both official and critical? How does this discourse make a tale of the economic events and how does it popularize economic categories?
3. Ideology of the Economic Discourse. This section includes articles on the imaginary and the representation of economy. How do the different cultural manifestations (such as art, film, novel, music etc.) represent economy? How do they narrate the crisis? What are the passional paths both in economic and in financial representations? Can we talk, with reference to Marc Shell’s works (see Money, Language and Thought), of cultural texts co-structured by an historically determined economic ideology with the economic values? How does economic ideology influence cultural manifestations? We also may ask: how do economic discourse manifestations (such as management theory, marketing, human capital theory etc.) represent culture?
Maximum abstract lenght: 2,000 characters (including spaces).
There are no limits for the essays but we recommend not to exceed 40,000 characters (including spaces, notes and bibliography).
The essays can have any kind of images.
Text formatting will be done by the authors according to instructions supplied by Ocula.
The essays must undergo a blind peer review for acceptance and publishing.
Abstract submission deadline: 31 March, 2015 (please select under the title the section which could include the proposal by number 1, 2 or 3).
Notification of acceptance: April, 2015.
Essays submission deadline: 31 July, 2015.
Notification of acceptance or edit requests after blind peer review: September 2015.
Intended publication: October/November 2015.
Italian, English, French.
Please send the abstracts simultaneously to the editors:
Giorgio Coratelli: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Francesco Galofaro: email@example.com.
Federico Montanari: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Further informations: http://www.ocula.it.