If Wile E. Coyote Were A Keynesian

Sometimes Slavoj Zizek likes to comment on how cartoons eschew realistic “physics” while maintaining a semblence of nonironic absurd-realism (what else is capitalism?). In particular is a scene where Wile E. Coyote is chasing the road-runner. The road-runner either shakes the coyote or the coyote is distracted somehow, and the coyote runs or is propelled off the edge of a cliff. The thing is, he doesn’t start falling the moment he goes over. There is a noticeable lag before he stops moving horizontally and starts moving vertically. It’s usually not until he looks down that he falls. If that’s not weird enough, he sometimes makes eye-contact with the viewer and comes to a full stop before reluctantly looking down, seeing a nauseating perspective, and proceeding to fall.

It’s been brought to my attention that this has been used to describe the relationship between markets and production during a time of financial crisis. Most of the time, I’ve heard it used to describe the way elites slowly come to grips with how the hegemonic ground has moved out from under them. I like the idea of describing financial crisis though, because what it isn’t saying is that the true crisis is in the future (like Walter Benjamin’s image of the train of history hurtling for a cliff that revolutionaries must stop), but the realization that “the catastrophe has already occurred”.

The Keynesian solution was in its time elegant if considered as a cartoon: the masses would be given golden parachutes that the economists would keep afloat with hot air. In a cartoon where we’ve already broken the laws of physics by running off a cliff and not falling, the materialization of a parachute made of gold is somewhat believable.

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