You cross Europe, the continents, airplanes, faxes, telephones, courier to the four corners of the world…. One cannot sell the same merchandise all the time. One must invent, read, imagine. Because without that, they are not content; they say that you are taking them for fools. Or even declining. You know, Marie, she has nothing more to say. Fit for the trash can.

Insomuch as things go smoothly, there is a hostess (I see her, that’s her, I’m sure) or an assistant who comes to take you to the airport in a taxi. A half-hour at the hotel to refresh yourself. Sometimes it’s been a ten-hour nonstop flight, eh? A cocktail and dinner, then the conference and a drink. Or perhaps a cocktail and the conference, then the dinner. Everywhere the same, in all the cities of the world. Sometimes they are apprehensive, sometimes enthusiastic, or a little wicked. Sometimes, also, a real friend. You are always smiling, Marie, even if you are sweetly telling sinister stories in your talk…. It’s a small world, gestures of the hand, a brief sadness, the suitcases pass through the security checks. Hi, you’re Keiko? Thanks for coming to fetch me. Is Keiko a little stream of cultural capital, she too? Evidently…. The taxi speeds along like a missile through the highways and interchanges. A stream of capital. We arrive; I am going to have my half-hour. The room is on the 58th floor and everything works.

In the shower Marie remembers that their teacher explained to them that as for capital, it’s not only that time is money, but that money is time as well. It’s the good stream that arrives the quickest. An excellent stream arrives scarcely having left. On radio and on television they call that real time, or live time. But the best feeling is to anticipate the arrival of the stream, its ‘realization,’ before it arrives. That’s the currency of credit. That’s stockpiled time, for dispensing before real time. One gains time, one borrows it. You must buy a word processor. It’s incredible, the time one gains. But what about writing? You write more quickly, the page formats, notes, corrections, you see?

Poor Maris, you’ll never get rich, you love scribbling on your paper, too bad. You are a little, sluggish stream. You will be submerged by faster little streams of expeditious culture…. true streams are subterranean; they flow slowly beneath the earth, they make sheets of water and springs. One doesn’t know where they are going to exit. And their speed is unknown. How would I like to be a subterranean pocket of black water, cold and immobile.

– Excerpt from “Marie in Japan” by Jean-François Lyotard  (translated by David Palumbo-Liu) in Palumbo-Liu, David, and Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht (eds.). Streams of Cultural Capital: Transnational Cultural Studies. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press, 1997, pp. 47-49.