I N THE "Society of the Spectacle", published in the 1960s, Guy Debord, a leading theorist in a group of provocateurs known as the Situationists, depicts a culture in thrall to mass media where appearance is more important than fact and representation is preferred to reality. It is an unsettling book and not one that finance types would normally reach for. But after a strange year, the idea of the markets as spectacle has an appealing logic. A Debordian might say that their primary role is no longer capital allocation, or even enrichment, but entertainment. How else to make sense of stock prices driven haywire by social-media mobs or celebrities selling shares in shell companies? A reckoning feels due. And as 2021 draws to a close, markets seem nervy. Speculative assets, such as bitcoin, are down from their peaks. Even habitual bulls agree that 2022 will be difficult. On December 15th the Federal Reserve talked tough on inflation and signalled that it would end its asset purchases by mid-March and then start raising rates. Yet there is an even more troubling possibility: that investors conquer their nerves and bid prices of stocks still higher. America's stockmarket has proved surprisingly resilient…. Read full this story
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