The Derivative Condition: A Present Inquiry into the History of Futures

Nestler, Gerald. 2017. The Derivative Condition: A Present Inquiry into the History of Futures. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

Text (The Derivative Condition: A Present Inquiry into the History of Futures)
VIS_thesis_NestlerG_2017.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

Download (54MB) | Preview

Abstract or Description

The thesis revisits the innovations that have reshaped financial markets since the 1970s in order to access their contemporary efficacy in shaping the space-time of the market as well as those of politics and social relations.

The future emerges today within a derivative paradigm – the implementation of data-intensive, algorithmic processes based on scientific modelling and mathematical equations that allow the dynamic recalibration of contingent claims at present. Financial markets are exposed to volatility, which corresponds to uncertainty. Risk, defined as “measurable uncertainty” (Knight, 10921), is the powerful tool that keeps the complex circulation of leveraged capital operating (primarily by applying probability calculus to random or historic data).

The promise of history succumbs to a quantitative archive of data whose “sense” is to produce claims on probable futures at present. The thesis argues that the derivative paradigm by the power given to financial markets has effectively been re-orienting not only market relations but social relations as well. As this derivative condition includes every underlying and derivative (all expectations traded) in their complex and volatile interrelation, the market regime – both embodying and exceeding the neoliberal framework– expands the derivative paradigm into society and the contingent becoming of subjectivities.

While the thesis proposes a critique of the derivative condition, the practice part explores the “aesthetics of resolution.” This postdisciplinary project works through the semantic field of the term – from visualization technologies to knowledge-production to decision-making – in order to propose an expanded and radical form of artistic engagement.

The question for both the theoretical and the practice part is whether derivatives are a technology and ultimately not confined to capitalism. Can they serve the needs and desires within complex societies? Can they help us decide which risks we should avoid and which risks we can embrace for the common good?

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


finance, financial markets, derivatives, art, artistic research, postdisciplinary research, aesthetics, resolution, renegade, counter-fiction, speculation, uncertainty, risk, volatility, futures, algorithms, automation, leverage, quantification, innovation, neoliberalism, financialization, capitalism, social relations

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Visual Cultures > Centre for Research Architecture


31 May 2017

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

06 Jun 2017 10:06

Last Modified:

14 Sep 2022 09:16


View statistics for this item...

Edit Record Edit Record (login required)