While the activity of capital in modernity has long been documented as diverging markedly away from the ideological suppositions that discursively support it, the profoundly networked nature of this activity has yet to be fully articulated. The late-2000s financial crisis exposed the extent to which the public/private divide has been transgressed, and, in turn, demands new descriptions of how institutional economic relations are constituted in late capitalism. Public subsidies for industries and commodities, regulatory capture, corporate financing of political campaigns, corporate lobbying, and corporate influence in higher education curriculum are part of an ecosystem of public and private relations whose processes are inextricably bound up in one another.
Drawing on critical theory and a number of rhetorical and communication theorists, I demonstrate through the case study of Goldman Sachs’ role in the late 2000s financial crisis, how corporate financial institutions’ activities can be understood as net-work, or complex assemblages that require new models of analysis to effectively understand. In particular, my research demonstrates that Goldman Sachs’ activity cannot be effectively understood in a vacuum from the assemblage of public and private institutions whose activities contributed to an ecosystem—perhaps what Deleuze & Guattari call a ‘multiplicitous unity’—of economic struggle. Goldman Sachs activities in the crisis functioned in direct opposition to other institutions’ financial success; complex financial instruments wielded by Goldman Sachs—especially credit default swaps—spliced their success (capital gains) onto the processes of failure (insolvency) in other American and European institutions.