The contemporary 'cultural turn' in thinking about economic processes has been deeply bound up with narratives of 'dematerialisation'. This chapter argues that characterisations of 'new economy' are based on the idea of dematerialisation are problematic because the distinction on which they are based misrepresents the issue of materiality. 'Dematerialisation', however, rests on a dubious distinction that has plagued much social theory: the distinction between objects and signs. This distinction equates 'materiality' with the physicality, or physical properties, of goods and social objects. In both economic and cultural theory, the social object oscillates wildly between an absolute, pregiven 'thingness' and an equally absolute indeterminacy, when it is treated as a sign. It is as if objects have to be 'black boxed' for fear that, once opened, they will behave like a Pandora's box, issuing formless spectres. Economic analysis categorisation provides a stable framework within which market analyses can be carried out.
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This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book presents the case studies of the individual countries: Thailand, Indonesia, South Korea and the People's Republic of China (PRC). It examines the factors behind the financial crisis and highlights the underlying similarities and the fundamental differences between the individual cases. The book provides a review of the competing perspectives on the new international financial architecture. It explains a number of fundamental issues and its implications for the emerging market economies. The book also presents a more nuanced picture of the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) policies and its socioeconomic impact. It assesses the IMF's efforts to reduce moral hazard. The book also examines the reasons behind Asia's remarkable economic recovery and the challenges that lie ahead.