Financial Phantasmagoria: Corporate Image-Work in Times of Crisis

19 Pages Posted: 6 Jan 2010

See all articles by Christian De Cock

Christian De Cock

University of Essex

Max Baker

The University of Sydney

Christina Renate Volkmann

University of Exeter; University of Wales, Swansea

Date Written: January 5, 2010


Over the period January-December 2008 we collected 241 separate advertisements from 61 financial institutions published in the Financial Times. Reading across the ensemble of ads for themes and evocative images, sketching an outline in symbolic space as it were, provides an impression of the financial imaginaries created by these organizations as the global financial crisis unfolded. In using the term ‘phantasmagoria’ we move beyond its colloquial sense of a set of strange images designed to dazzle, towards the more technical connotation used by Rancière (2004) who suggested that words and images can offer a trace of an overall determining set-up if they are torn from their obviousness so they become phantasmagoric figures. The latter connotation encourages a search for dissonances, juxtapositions and contradictions in particular imaginaries and is thus close to Jameson’s (1998, 2007) notion of dialectical criticism. Such an approach is a response to the realization that too much has been ceded too readily to powerful naturalizing forces which have made certain aspects of the recent period of ‘capitalism in crisis’ very hard to question.

Keywords: financial crisis, political economy, images, finance capitalism

JEL Classification: G20, M30, N20

Suggested Citation

De Cock, Christian and Baker, Max and Volkmann, Christina Renate and Volkmann, Christina Renate, Financial Phantasmagoria: Corporate Image-Work in Times of Crisis (January 5, 2010). Available at SSRN: or

Christian De Cock (Contact Author)

University of Essex ( email )

Wivenhoe Park
Colchester, CO4 3SQ
United Kingdom


Max Baker

The University of Sydney ( email )

University of Sydney

Christina Renate Volkmann

University of Exeter ( email )

Exeter EX4 4QX, Devon
United Kingdom

University of Wales, Swansea ( email )

Singleton Park
Singleton Park
Swansea, Wales SA2 8PP
United Kingdom

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