参考内容:Bloomberg News

Global Rebound Euphoria Tests Central Bankers' Nerves on Risk

From Washington to Frankfurt, what began months ago as a murmur of concern has morphed into a chorus as officials ask if a risk-taking binge across multiple asset markets might presage a destabilizing rout that could derail the global recovery.

Just last week, the European Central Bank and the Bank of Canada cited mounting threats, cognizant of the retrenchment that ensued during the 2008 financial crisis. Meanwhile Bitcoin’s dramatic swings after a warning about cryptocurrencies from the People’s Bank of China showcased how sensitive some markets have become.

Pessimists at global monetary institutions can find bubbles almost anywhere they look, from equities to real estate, while officials such as Federal Reserve chief Jerome Powell argue any threats remain contained.

Central banks bear some responsibility for financial-market fervor after huge doses of stimulus and liquidity injections to keep economies afloat. The resulting buoyancy is at least partly a euphoria effect, applauding a snap back in growth whose scope can only be guessed at — with eventual repercussions judged to range from a benign boom to an inflationary spiral.

“Where we do see more exuberance is around growth expectations,” Max Kettner, a strategist at HSBC Holdings Plc, told Bloomberg Television. “Particularly in the U.S. they’ve been raised to an enormous degree. So that is, I think, the exuberance.”

Kettner’s mention of “exuberance” followed the European Central Bank’s use of similar words on Wednesday, echoing former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan’s 1996 observation of “irrational exuberance” before the dotcom bubble.

The euro-zone institution observed the threat of economic spillovers from, for example, a U.S. equity-market correction. Bank of Canada officials voiced similar concerns a day later, and highlighted the housing market as expectations of continuing price increases fuel purchases.

Three weeks earlier, a Fed policy meeting veered into a debate on stability, where participants observed “elevated” risk appetite and discussed dangers posed by hedge fund activity. In a subsequent report, they warned of “vulnerabilities” and “stretched valuations,” exacerbated by high corporate debt.

Meanwhile Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey recently wondered aloud if speculation in stocks and Bitcoin might themselves be a “warning sign.” And a Norwegian official said that cryptocurrency volatility could threaten lenders if their exposures keep rising.

Central banks have had nagging concerns for a while. Already in January, ECB markets chief Isabel Schnabel told colleagues that stocks could become vulnerable to “more broad-based repricing.”

In China, with a recovery cycle more advanced than the U.S.’s, the top banking regulator revealed in March that he was “very worried” about bubbles, specifying “very dangerous” real-estate investing.

That might be partly what UBS AG Chief Executive Officer Ralph Hamers had in mind in late April with his own alarming view. Noting “bubbles in some asset classes,” including real estate, he told Bloomberg Television that “we are getting close to the peak of things.”

Some senior central bankers are trying to be sanguine despite flashing warning lights. After the Fed decision in April, Powell insisted that “the overall financial stability picture is mixed but on balance, it’s manageable.”


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An Unlikely Intellectual Convergence 

Christopher Lasch and Michel Foucault told a similar story about the modern obsession with identity—and its dangers.

Christopher Lasch and Michel Foucault are rarely read side by side. Yet the two thinkers praised each other’s work, recognizing themselves as involved in a common project. Both assessed, on the one hand, the ways elites use networks of expertise and injunctions to moral “liberation” to strengthen their domination—and, on the other, the ways that modern people have come to look for knowledge of themselves from such experts. They shared a sense that beneath progressive policies for public welfare, demands for sexual freedom and identity-based affirmation, and therapeutic practices of self-discovery lies a dangerous potential for authoritarianism and alienation.

Many American readers of the 1970s got their first introduction to Foucault from Lasch, who reviewed the English translation of Foucault’s The Birth of the Clinic (1963) for the New York Times in 1976, and his History of Sexuality Part One (1976) in Psychology Today two years later. Lasch brilliantly summarized Foucault’s argument that the movement for sexual liberation had misrepresented the past as purely repressive, while establishing a new sort of power over sexuality and the secrets of intimate life, vested now in “medical jurisdiction” and “therapeutic authority.” Their approaches nevertheless had important differences, with Lasch tending to criticize feminism and to express nostalgia for a vanished moral sense that he described as populist—concerns that Foucault, more oriented toward individual freedom, approached only in such rare moments as his early support for the Iranian Revolution.

The culmination of Lasch and Foucault’s relationship came at the University of Vermont in 1982, by which time Foucault, with an appointment at UC Berkeley, had become a star in American academia. Lasch was one of several scholars invited to comment on Foucault’s work during a three-week period in which Foucault himself gave a series of lectures, “Technologies of the Self.” Foucault attributed their inspiration to Lasch’s Culture of Narcissism (1979), in which Lasch had argued that anxious individuals, deprived of economic security and cultural bonds, were investing their self-image, and therapeutic projects of self-discovery, with unprecedented importance.

Foucault perhaps was flattering his hosts, but his intellectual trajectory had indeed taken a parallel turn with that of Lasch. In his final lecture, Foucault noted that while his early work tracked how institutions like asylums, hospitals, and prisons—and bodies of knowledge like psychiatry, medicine, and criminology—define “who we are” by excluding the abnormal, his work following History of Sexuality focused on how individuals come to understand themselves in consultation with a range of supposed experts of self-knowledge. Foucault worked from a broad perspective—tracking such expertise from the philosophers of classical Athens to priests in late antiquity to psychiatrists today—and avoided Lasch’s more personal focus on how modern narcissism makes us miserable. But the two had a common sense of the problem.

By 1991, however, seven years after Foucault’s death, and three years before his own, Lasch dismissed the French thinker, whose influence he had spread and whom he in turn had influenced. In an article for Salmagundi, to which he often contributed, titled “Academic Pseudo-Radicalism: the Charade of Subversion,” Lasch attributed to Foucault the claim that “knowledge of any kind is purely a function of power.” In thus crediting to Foucault a position so obviously self-defeating that it is hard to imagine any thinker holding it, Lasch failed to notice a convergence between the work of his late period and that of Foucault’s a decade earlier.

Toward the end of their lives, both men turned to the theme of religion, arguing that it provided critical cultural and psychological resources necessary for individuals to become meaningfully autonomous. They moved toward an understanding that, in order to become the sort of independent selves on whom liberal democracy depends, we need what Foucault called “discipline” or “ascesis”—the ability to bind ourselves to other people who help us both to keep our commitments and to remake ourselves. In his final book, Revolt of the Elites (1994), Lasch offered a similar perspective on the value of religion without demonstrating an awareness that he was traveling the same road as Foucault.

In Foucault’s home country of France, Lasch has been taken up today in certain corners of the radical Left unafraid of sounding at times like conservative moralists. Jean-Claude Michéa, the heterodox Marxist, has written prefaces to recent French editions of Culture of Narcissism and Revolt of the Elites that highlight Lasch’s critiques of globalization and the capitalist culture of self-fascination. Lasch also can be heard in the French collective Tiqqun’s Raw Materials For a Theory of the Young-Girl (1999), a scornful attack on consumerism, spectacle, and narcissism, seen as embodied in the modern sexually liberated woman.
In the United States, meantime, some of Lasch’s contemporary interpreters, such as Geoff Shullenberger, are also seeing Foucault afresh. From Shullenberger’s perspective (in dialogue with my own work on Foucault), it is possible to see how Lasch and Foucault came to criticize both traditional Marxism and the new identity-based radicalisms that emerged in the 1960s and 1970s.

Conservatives often try to make sense of their cultural adversaries through the genealogy of their ideas, tracing “wokeness” back to such supposed intellectual forbears as, ironically, Foucault. Others reach back, still more unhelpfully, to Marx and Hegel, or analyze wokeness as a new religion. Part of the value of Lasch and Foucault is that they can redirect our attention away from such wrong paths in intellectual history toward the systems of knowledge, institutions, and practices by which Americans have become so fixated on questions of identity in the first place.