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  • Tulipomania: Unchanging Gender Relations in Financial Capitalism

    Micky Lee

    Chapter from the book: Lee, M. 2019. Bubbles and Machines: Gender, Information and Financial Crises.


    Considering the long history of tulipomania (supposedly the first ‘financial crisis’) fiction and non-fiction texts this chapter illustrates how an assumed unchanging gender relation reinforces the ideology that capitalism is a natural political economic system that transcends time and space. It advances this conclusion via three arguments: the discourse of the first financial crisis relies on two Orientalist beliefs: the West progresses while the East stays the same; and the mysterious East needs to be unveiled by understanding the feminine. Second, tulipomania discourse is citationary so Orientalist beliefs are reproduced even in discourses that aim to shed light on women’s lived experience. Third, technologies of documenting the flower changed the material reality of the tulip bulb trade, but also exerted symbolic control over the Orient and the feminine. Tulipomania discourse’s extraordinary staying power relies on binaries: x vs. not-x: the feminine vs. the masculine, the Orient vs. the West, the irrational vs. the rational. Not only does the tulipomania discourse falsely link the feminine, the Orient and the irrational, it also devalues them showing the ‘superiority’ of the masculine and the West. Using feminist standpoint theory, the chapter highlights that even historical fiction written from a middle-class woman’s point of view reinforces capitalist logic by privileging exchange value over use value.

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    How to cite this chapter
    Lee, M. 2019. Tulipomania: Unchanging Gender Relations in Financial Capitalism. In: Lee, M, Bubbles and Machines. London: University of Westminster Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.16997/book34.b

    This chapter distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution + Noncommercial + NoDerivatives 4.0 license. Copyright is retained by the author(s)

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    Published on May 23, 2019