The introduction historically and theoretically situates the long 1980s, a period whose end was marked by the declaration across much academic and popular American culture that there could be no alternative to a market economy. At a time when the common sense held that the economy could not be otherwise conceived, novelists, journalists, filmmakers, and bankers themselves began to reimagine the capitalist economy as one that was intimate and masculine, global and anxiety-producing precisely because it was newly financial. Tracing how finance became legible within political economy, literary theory, and popular culture, the introduction develops two concepts that organize the study: “financial print culture” or all textual material about finance, from the stock report to the news report to the “how to” guide to personal wealth; and “financial form” or a peculiar mix of language and narrative that delimits financial transactions in political, economic, and literary texts.
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