Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Money Wisdom #435

Sade has the distinction of being the first modern thinker to recognize the intimate relationship between the phantasm and commercial exchange, and thus the role of currency as a sign of the incalculable value of the phantasm. Indeed, money is an integral part of the representative mode of perversion. Because the perverse phantasm is fundamentally unintelligible and non-exchangeable, only currency is sufficiently abstract to constitute its universally intelligible equivalent. But here we must distinguish in Sade between, on the one hand, the phantasmal function of money, namely the act of buying or of being sold oneself, insofar as it is only the external expression of perversity, or a means of bringing different partners together; and, on the other, its function in mediating between the closed world of abnormalities and the world of institutional norms.

Pierre Klossowski Sade and Fourier
in Living Currency (2017) p.89 

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Money Wisdom #434

What does not exist... ...is expressed positively by money not spent and thus not given to what exists.

Pierre Klossowski Living Currency (1970 trans 2017) p.69

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Money Wisdom #433

Such is the economy of the soul elaborated through Klossowski's work: first, there are impulses, with their rises and falls in intensity, their elations and depressions, which have no meaning or goal in themselves; second, these impulses give rise to phantasms, which constitute the incommunicable depth and singularity of the individual soul; third, under the obsessive constraint of the phantasm, simulacra are produced, which are the reproduction or repetition of the phantasm through the exaggeration of stereotypes. Impulses, phantasms, simulacra-stereotypes: a threefold circuit.

Daniel W Smith Introduction to
Pierre Klossowski Living Currency (1970 trans 2017) p. 10

Money Wisdom #432

But a phantasm, for its part, needs to use something: its elaboration is bound up with the use of pleasure or suffering. The fact that the phantasm uses up the individual is a sign of the constraint that comes from the phantasm's own unity. The elaboration of the phantasm gives way to a state of continuous compensation and hence to exchanges. But for an exchange to take place, there must be an equivalent, that is, the fabricated object must be worth something else, both in the sphere of the phantasm, elaborated at the expense of individual unity and in the external sphere, at the level of the individual itself.

Pierre Klossowski Living Currency (1970 trans 2017) p.61

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Money Wisdom #431

"The very term 'religion' is often said to be derived form the Latin religare meaning 'to bind, to tie', that is, the god is bound to his or her function, and the celebrant is bound to the god and its cult..."

Daniel W Smith Introduction 
to Living Currency by Pierre Klossowski (1970 trans 2017) p.15

Money Wisdom #430

"Yet what replaced the idols were still a simulacra: rather than statues with eyes and ears, the gods became concepts or 'idealities' marked by lists of various attributes (omnipotence, omniscience, goodness). The 'problem of evil' became a problem of predication: how can the attributes 'all-powerful' and 'all-good' be simultaneously ascribed to the creator of an evil world? Yet sculpting a material statue and creating an ideal concept are both acts of fabrication. Even the notion that the gods were not created is itself a simulacrum that has been created by us, just as Plato created the concept of the Idea as a form anterior to all creation. The object that one fabricates and the idea that one believes are both simulacra, produced from obsessive phantasms. Yet there is obviously a difference between a material statue and an ideal concept: it was in one and the same movement that the gods were made transcendent to the world and the proposition (or concept) was separated from the world in order to denote or 'correspond' to everything in it (the relation of 'truth'), to the point where 'God' and 'Truth' were made into identical idealities."

Daniel W Smith Introduction 
to Living Currency by Pierre Klossowski (1970 trans 2017) p.12

Friday, January 26, 2018

Speculate to Invocate


Since running the world’s most successful crowdfund for a money burning magazine, Burning Issue has undergone a period of self-reflection. The Editorial board was challenged by a radical faction of money burners, the self-styled Burner’s Revolutionary Congress (BRC). They demanded that the magazine reaffirm its commitment to the theology of Total Burn. Burning Issue unequivocally declares Total Burn to be the founding principle of its mission statement. The BRC also sought assurances that Burning Issue would continue to focus exclusively on its core audience and ensure that money burning propaganda protocols around public discourse are enforced at all times. Burning Issue confirms that we talk only to money burners (and other destroyers of currency) and that public engagement is limited to ‘approved’ propaganda only. Furthermore, Burning Issue wishes to make it clear that we respect and recognize the feelings of the money burning community we serve. Henceforth we will represent money burning and speak to our community with a new, more strident voice.

All of this happened, of course, entirely in my imagination. This might tempt you to believe its not ‘real’. I would caution against that. Like money itself, money burning connects our minds to material reality in a mysterious way. Back in 2016, I imagined there was a ‘community’ of money burners in need of a magazine. There wasn’t. For eight of my eleven years burning money, I knew of only three other money burners - and two of them were in the KLF. But I produced the first edition of Burning Issue, anyway. Now, eighteen months later, we’re creating the SUPER DELUXE version of the first edition and we have about fifty people contributing to the magazine. Counting those who’ve attended the Ritual Mass Burns aswell, the community of money burners now stands at around 230 people. Or, ten times 23 people as the BRC would prefer us to say.

But remarkable and welcome as this growth is to me, in hard-nosed commercial logic even 230 people is far too small an audience to warrant producing a glossy 128-page print magazine. That sort of audience justifies a social media page at best, not what we’re creating.

So why create it, then? Why spend two years of my life working on it?

The answer lies within the imaginary mission statement. Burning Issue is a ‘real’ magical action. It is an invocation to Total Burn; the Eschaton awaiting immanentization. Total Burn is that end-of-time state when the ritual sacrifice of currency destruction is to humankind, as water to a fish.

[The urge to make sacrifice pervades humankind. Making ritualized sacrifice of what is most intimately ours, and of greatest value to us, fulfills this silent desire. Money burning is a ‘no harm’ sacrifice. It mitigates both violent expressions of the sacrificial urge and violence itself. We dismiss ritual sacrifice as pertaining to only ‘primitive’ cultures at our peril. Money burning allows the power and mystery of ritual sacrifice to inform our C21st lives.]

At times I forget all this. There are artistic and commercial aspects to the project and it’s easy to allow oneself to get wrapped up in them. But underneath it all, prior to it even being a ‘project’, the magazine was something I created for magical purposes. This magic must always be the guiding principle.


The SUPER DELUXE edition is both the final iteration of the first edition and its culmination in terms of the magazine’s aesthetic. I hope it will be the magazine that’s been in my head for two years. The idea has always been to make it to look like the product of a commercial world, like Condé Nast created it as a means to extract profit from money burning. With the talent of the fifty contributors, we’re finally in a position to make a magazine that is a perfect imitation of those produced by major publishers. But it will be antimatter disguised as matter.

According to reason the magazine should not exist. It does not compute within logic of capital. It is an impossibility. And yet here we stand on the cusp of it. Burning Issue’s digital presence and the two earlier editions are merely incursions. The SUPER DELUXE edition is an invasion. A total assault on reality. It appears as an object born of the commercial world and yet it’s devoted to the destruction of what is held most sacred by that world. Assimilating the impossible requires us to open our third eye. The reader must leave the cocoon of capitalism, of ‘economic’ thinking, of cause and effect, of IF/THEN rationality and enter the world of sacrifice and ritual. In short, like money burning itself, Burning Issue reimagines and re-configures our understanding of and relationship to money; the central totem upon which the world turns.

What I’d like you to do is help me bring two thousand copies of the SUPER DELUXE edition from imagination to reality.

In the first crowdfund we did things the ‘correct’ way. We sorted out some cool perks. We did professional videos. We did a preview showcasing a few of the brilliant articles. We wanted to raise £5K. We made £400. So even though it was the world’s most successful crowdfund for a money burning magazine, there was still a bit of a shortfall.

We’re now running a ‘top up’ crowdfund for that £4600. But we’re not going to do it the ‘correct’ way. Instead, we’re going full magic. And we want you to be a participant in this magical action. We want you to ‘speculate to invocate’.


Here’s the idea.

‘Magically speaking’ the first crowdfund took the wrong approach. We appealed to your good side. We tried to convince you that what we were doing was worthy of your support. The takeover by the BRC reminded us that Burning Issue shouldn’t worry about any of that. It should just offer money burners (and other destroyers of currency) a cracking good deal. The top-up crowdfund should appeal to the darkness in you - the self-interested, greedy and acquisitive aspect of your being. By tapping into that side of ourselves we expand the illogic of the magazine and so make the invocation more powerful. The light it brings will be brighter because it comes from darkness.

Our ‘top up’ crowdfund then is offering five copies of the magazine for £23 plus a small contribution to postage. We’ll need to pre-sell 200 of these lots of five (i.e. one thousand magazines) in order to fund production.

Five mags for £23.

Each magazine will contain an artwork that will identify it as being from the original production run of 2000. So, in the unlikely event we do produce more, your magazines will have ‘first edition’ status. ‘Speculate to invocate’ and your five magazines will cost you less than a fiver each. The cover price of the magazine will be £12. So you can immediately rejoice. On purchasing just one lot of five, you will instantly book a profit of £37. And that’s before the price skyrockets. How much will the original SUPER DELUXE edition of world’s first magazine for money burners be worth in five years? Or in 23 years? The last five of the initial 28-page iteration from July 2016 sold on Ebay for £20 each.

The ‘speculate to invocate’ offer is strictly limited to the first 1000 magazines. Once the 200 lots are sold this offer will end. And of course, YOU MUST BE A MONEY BURNER* (OR OTHER DESTROYER OF CURRENCY) to take advantage of this offer. If we fail sell the entire 200 lots, all contributions will be returned.



* in an atemporal sense.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

I Promise to Pay the Bearer (if he gives me his details)

Yesterday I went to the public counter at the Bank of England. I wanted to get a fresh crisp £50 note. I gave the cashier two twenties and a ten and asked for a fifty. He asked me to fill in a form (to be precise this was a requirement, not a choice - no form, no exchange).

I asked the cashier for a photocopy. He obliged and this is what you can see above. I've blanked out my home address and phone number.

Last April 2016, I did something similar. I went to the public counter with £230 and exchanged it for some new notes. That time I wasn't asked to fill in a form or give any details. Apparently, the policy of asking everyone to fill out a form was instigated a month or so ago.

The Bank have for a long time had a policy of requesting identification whenever larger amounts of money are exchanged - I think that means anything over £1000 pounds a day.

The Bank now have a data record of me, my home address and phone number, and the fact that I changed £50 on Tuesday 15th August 2017. They also have my declaration about where the cash came from. I told the truth about this but I do wonder if there would be any punishment for lying.

Here is the note I got.

What I intend to do with this note, or what I did with the £230 last April, is not really relevant*. It's not relevant because if you look underneath where it says 'The Bank of England' you'll notice it says 'I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of fifty pounds'. What it doesn't say is 'unless we don't like what he'll do with it'.

It also doesn't say I promise to pay the bearer only if the bearer gives me his details.

Now, being a pragmatist I can understand that if I turned up with £10K in old £50s in a hold-all, it might be reasonable to ask details and demand identification. Perhaps the serial numbers of the notes might match bundles of notes stolen in a violent robbery decades before? It's not right that people should get away with cashing in ill-gotten gains. But the onus should be on the authorities to pursue investigations in those cases rather than pointing the finger of suspicion at everyone who holds the Bank to their promise, by making data gathering mandatory.

Because, ultimately - forgetting all the Bank regulation that is in a constant process of evolution - what the note exchange at the Bank of England is about, is them keeping their promise. The Bank's notes are issued in perpetuity. Old BoE banknotes are always valid at the BoE.

What's going on here is a steady march toward cashlessness; a drive (possibly from the best of intentions, although equally, possibly not) to gather every scintilla of knowledge about cash transactions. In effect, to eliminate cash itself**. This broad movement also appears in the aesthetic of polymer. The path that is appearing (or perhaps being presented) as inevitable, is paper to plastic and then to silicon; the non-existence of non-knowledge, the total elimination of uncertainty.

In their decision last month then, the State - via the Bank of England - has just taken a stride forward into my sovereignty by reducing my ability to transact with them anonymously. This isn't the thin end of the wedge, its actually the thick blunt bit. Be careful of dismissing this as a ridiculous 'consumer complaint'. Anyone seeking fulfillment of the Bank's promise 'to pay the bearer' is now being held in suspicion.

It would be nice if the Bank of England would appreciate Phillip Goodchild's words in the Theology of Money;

The promise of value, is not the value of a promise.

I think they should just uphold the promise written on each one of their notes, as best they can. That strikes me as the appropriate moral action. And, perhaps naively, I believe it's important for the Bank (to at least) be seen to behave in a moral way.

Perhaps, I sound a little puritanical. I think though, that especially since 2008 we've become more exposed to and understanding of the truth about banking and finance. We now appreciate that when we put money in a bank what we are actually doing is buying a claim on the Bank's money. They aren't looking after our money. The minute you hand it over, it becomes theirs. This has little practical impact for people like me who don't earn much. But this practical impact should not be confused with it's significance. The BoE note exchange was a symbolic bulwark against all this. It declared that the banknotes are ours, forever.

The Bank of England should always strive to allow individuals to have a direct one-to-one relationship with value - as much as is possible. This form I had to fill in was an unnecessary and unwelcome barrier. And it speaks clearly about the lack of regard financial institutions have for our individual sovereignty over money.


[* I guess most people reading this will know why get new notes form the Bank of England and what I do with them. But just in case and in the interests of full disclosure; with the £230 from last April I made The Money Flame collage, and the £50 is due to be my Ritual Sacrifice on Jura on 23rd August next week.]

[** Now, if you've read my stuff you'll know I don't think it's possible to eliminate cash because it's money's default position. We'll always find someway to transact anonymously and instantly. The trouble is the push towards cashlessness creates pain; a minor inconvenience for me, but much more serious if you live under an especially authoritarian state doing things they don't like.]

Friday, August 11, 2017

Ninth International Critical Finance Studies Conference

Last Friday and Saturday, I attended the Ninth International Critical Finance Studies Conference at Leicester University. It was presented as 'a celebration of the live and work of Randy Martin'.

Unfortunately I was unable to make the opening keynote from Joyce Goggin on the Thursday. Joyce was presenting on the Financialiazation of Childhood and the Gamification of Finance'. I did turn up in good time for start of play on the Friday though and jumped straight into a session on 'Moral Economies'.

Before I get into the various papers and the thoughts and ideas they sparked off in my head, I should first say a few words about the conference as a whole and about what I understand from the term 'Critical Finance'.

My approach to the academic study of money is very simple (which suits me as being a philosopher/van-driver means taking my head out of books and calling everyone 'mate' for extended periods and so I need an easy way to slip back into the groove of academic thought and analysis). My approach then, is to put MONEY at the centre, and work out from there. So, I never claim to be studying within one particular discipline and examining Money through that lens, rather I focus on Money and try to view it from various perspectives. This is a rather promiscuous way of doing things. Although I always seem to be in a long term relationship with psychoanalysis and so my view of Money is probably always to some degree influenced by that (and the philosophies underscoring or implied by it) .

I'm not actually sure what Critical Finance/Critical Studies/Critical Theory *is*. But two things. I get the feeling that at some (deep) level Freud is always present (which suits me). And I like the idea that society, and economics particularly, operate with 'ideologies' and that all institutions - including academia - are subject to and operate, in some sense, from within these ideological perspectives. Therefore a perspective that is inherently critical serves - at the very least - to tease apart this ideological architecture. Obviously there is a symmetry here with my arguments about money burning - my friend Cassie Thornton recently suggested that it might be the a very powerful form of 'decolonization' (a term which I think Randy Martin used a lot).

My musings on Critical Theory etc aside, it's really interesting and challenging then, to come across the ideas of someone like the late Randy Martin. Randy's work on finance, money and economy was born from his understanding of movement gained through dance. He was a dancer before he became an academic. (Check out this piece via John Hogan Morris)

Randy's perspective has the enticing advantage of being completely new to me. I'd never even considered even thinking about money in this way. I have often thought about how I DON'T understand/appreciate dance. I occasionally get glimmers of what I'm missing. Indeed I had one just a couple of weekends before the conference. I was in a pub garden with Sally and Amy on a live music night. There were loads of kids running around. During one song a young girl, who'd have been nine or ten, I guess, took herself off under a tree just beside the temporary stage and danced by herself. She wasn't just bopping around though, she was making fluid, considered movements and look totally lost in what she was doing. Watching her I realized that even if I couldn't appreciate the beauty (and therefore the truth) of dance, that she could. And that 'appreciation' - and understanding of its truth - was not in a direct logical relation with the movement.

However, as that last paragraph might suggest, the problem of using 'dance' as a way of understanding money resides in language used. There is a communication barrier to cross. The last keynote at the conference confessed that he often had trouble understanding what Randy was saying in his writing. And the language used within Critical Studies generally - all the 'tivities' and the 'logics etc - can create a little distance. But none of these 'language problems' should be used as a means to dismiss or negate the value of the understanding of these different perspectives. I'm very clear in my own work that materialist/objective techno-scientific rational functionalist approaches to understanding money are very limited and will always fail to give a complete and deep understanding of the nature of money.

Plus, of course, every area of academic study - and every economic niche - has its own language and/or dialect. We should all *try* to understand one another.

I don't tend to take notes. I never have. Not even in lectures when I was student at the LSE. I might draw a diagrammatic picture with a few key words, or just note down a couple of words, but I'm not a note-taker. It just doesn't work for me, personally.

So I'm not going to give you a run-down of the papers presented. But instead this will be more a scatter-gun approach and maybe you can get the flavour of the conference from that.

Going back to the dance thing, let me start with the session I found most perplexing which was on 'Alternative Logics'. The first talk by Dr Christian De Cock told us all about what sounds like a really exciting project that you can read about on https://alterecosblog.wordpress.com/ - if I can find a way to lever in Money Burning to their activities then I will.

It was the second talk by Ann-Christine Frandsen, Keith Hoskin, Skip McCoun and Solmaz Rohani that left me intrigued but perplexed. So much so, that despite what I said a second ago, it caused me to take the following notes 'Naming and Counting - Non-GlottoGraphic'. I'm still not sure what it means. But those of you who've read The Money Burner's Manual will know that I have a particular fascination with counting (as the product of the primal psychoanalytic trauma) and especially with 'naming'.... I talk about 'becoming' Money Burning Guy.

'in naming the mental being of man communicates itself to God.'
'[naming] .... is the innermost nature of language itself.'
'God's creation is completed when things receive their names from man...'
Walter Benjamin On Language as such and on the Language of Man

Keith, who talked about naming and counting in terms statements and discourse (instead of language), was the one who body-slammed me intellectually. I was softened up by Ann-Christine who started the talk with a lot of physical movement and visual imagery (oddly enough a video of a van driving along a road, something which I live, about eight hours each day). But as unusual as this mode-of-communication was, I kind of got what she was saying. It was when Keith put those ideas into an academic language that my head exploded.

I have the dim apprehension then that something at the boarders of language studies/linguistics, and a perspective built from dance and movement, offers the possibility for a new and deeper understanding of money.


I was marginally less flummoxed by the other sessions I attended across the two days but no less fascinated.

The one most directly related to Money Burning was William H Carter's presentation on Michael Haneke’s The Seventh Continent. A twenty minute cut of the most infamous scene is below. When interviewed Haneke claimed that he'd correctly predicted to the producer that audiences would be upset with that scene, and remarked that in today's society the idea of destroying money is more taboo than parents killing their child and themselves.

Flushing cash down the toilet draws on the (psychoanalytical) links between money and shit - Filthy Lucre - that Norman O Brown found so fascinating.

In a session on Art and Architecture Anne Murphy gave a paper 'Building Trust in the Financial Market' which looked at how finance is represented within the architecture of the Bank of England and other key institutions. She revealed a fact about the BoE's early construction certain to grab the attention of any decent hard-working money burner. In the C18th the BoE aggressively bought up properties surrounding its site in order to lessen its susceptibility to a great fire.

The BoE website describes it thus:
Over the next 100 years [from 1734], the Bank gradually acquired adjacent premises until the present three-acre island site was secured.

One of my ambitions is to do a burn in the Governor's garden in the central courtyard of the Bank of England. This adds even more symbolic weight to that action.

The Art and Architecture session also included a talk by Andrew Hurle on the Reader's Digest sweepstakes literature. I had forgotten all about this until I read Andrew's abstract. Then the memories flooded back. My Dad would regularly get enticing looking letters from Reader's Digest - they looked very official, like money itself. Have look here if you need reminding. I could never understand why my Dad didn't tear these letters open and jump about with excitement. It said in bold print 'YOU MAY HAVE ALREADY WON £25 000!'. He'd let me open them up and choose the interior of the car, or decide on the schedule of the holiday, or decide whether we'd take lump sum or lifetime payments..... and then bin them without me seeing.

Andrew looked at the ways in which Reader's Digest uses the language of finance in its sweepstakes literature. A short write-up of his project is available here.

Matthew Brannan gave a talk on his ethnography of telesales in finance. One of the general themes of my own work (work is not really what it is, but you get what I mean) is the idea that 'meaning comes from doing in mysterious ways'. I therefore wholeheartedly approve of academics getting out in the field and experiencing this sort of thing for themselves. As was clear from Matthew's presentation this methodology serves to ensure an empathy with the people who actually rip people off/do this sort of work. Maybe one day I'll write about my own experiences of being in business with a convicted fraudster. The reality of these sorts of worlds and experiences is - in someways - quite subtle and nuanced. It isn't as simple as saying that people just decide to act immorally or unethically through greed. In my experience there is always a moral framework (albeit perverted) and in some sense within the world of the fraudster/rip-off merchant it is more strictly enforced and adhered to than outside it.

Having said that off course NEVER BUY PPI OR INSURANCE AGAINST IDENTITY THEFT ETC ETC. When someone lends you money the risk of non-payment is theirs, not yours. Fuck the banks and their fear-mongering.

And while my justice ardor is raised. I must mention an idea that cut across two of the keynotes; Dick Bryan in 'Trading on the financial risk spreads of daily life: strategies for risking together' and Bob Meister in 'Justice as an option and the shorting of capitalism itself'.

So here my friends is the radical political bit. I know you're not used to such things from your friendly Money Burning Guy, but you know, only yesterday after I claimed that money burning etc is apolitical, a friend said to me that he failed to see how what I'm doing could be remotely apolitical. Another friend has always maintained that my actions are deeply political and that there is a direct connection between the sacred and the political.

Well, I'm still not sure about all that. But, for what its worth, THIS IS POLITICAL. And more to the point - if this plan of action possible (and that's a big IF) - IT WOULD WORK.

Some background: five years ago I did this post which offered a criticism of the Rolling Jubilee project. The idea was to buy up old debt at say 10c on the dollar and then forgive it. My argument is that this wouldn't work in the long term or as a wider solution because it would make old debt more expensive and therefore more worth its owners spending money trying to recover it. Eventually debtors would face more pressure from bailiffs etc etc. The project came to wider public attention when Jon Oliver bought up and forgave $15million of medical debt. But of course - other than the benefits to the folks lucky enough to have had their debt bought and forgiven - it doesn't seem to have had much effect on capitalism itself.

Dick and Bob's idea is a different beast. It plays on the sensitivity of derivative pricing (my piece on the Finance and Society conference actually delves into this quite deeply and includes pictures of Susie Dent, Carol Kirkwood and Rachel Riley). Here's the idea (as I understand it).

1. Pick a suitable derivative product (say a bundle of medical debt which attracts a regular flow of cash in repayments).
2. Pick a suitable bad-guy financial firm that owns such a derivative.
3. Find out the individual debts that make up the derivative.
4. Get those individuals to do a co-ordinated debt strike.
5. Negotiate the price of the interest/debt down with the bad guys.
6. Resume payment or not depending on negotiation.

There seem to me two (possibly insurmountable) practical problems with this; getting the information and coordinating the non-payment.

BUT and this is a massive BUT if you could solve the practical problems IT WOULD WORK. So its a very different idea to Rolling Jubilee because the success of that project would ensure its failure. With (let's call it) DERIVATIVE DEFAULT any success would be met (I expect) with a legal challenge and legislative response. But such a response would be confirmation that DERIVATIVE DEFAULT is dangerous and worrisome for financial systems. It could be a way of curbing the actions - and ensuring a more ethical basis - of the nastiest of the financial bad guys. Something that legislation itself fails to achieve. It would give unethical behavior a cost - it would be talking to finance in a language it understands.

Of course, if there were a million active money burners in the world all regularly performing sacred sacrificial ritual the second of the practical problems - the coordination of default - might be easier to achieve. Not that you should ever burn money to achieve a purpose, but just saying.


Anyway I must end this post by saying a huge Thank You to all involved for a wonderful couple of days - thank you for having such open arms to a non-academic money burning weirdo. And Thank You to John Hogan Morris especially, for encouraging me to come along in the first place.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Bowie, McLuhan and John-Joseph Goux

Watch the above 1999 interview for one minute (from 10.45) and you'll hear - in response to Paxman's claim that the internet is 'just a tool' -  David Bowie saying 'no'; that the internet will, in fact 'crush our ideas of what mediums are all about'. I've heard another interview with Bowie where he said he wanted to be a medium - in the sense that he wanted to be the embodiment of, or vessel for, a trend.

Back in 1999 I was similarly excited about the prospects for the internet. I'm sure I can remember seeing that interview at the time and no doubt I hurled abuse at Paxman's 'internet is just a tool' comment. Even several years before then, around 1995/96, I'd fallen out with a friend of mine over his dismissal of the world wide web as 'just a glorified shop window'.  By the time I left the LSE in 2000 the internet was absolutely where I wanted to be. I'd first been online in 1994/95 and I felt my foray onto it as an entrepreneur had been a long time coming. 

You'll recognize in the above a theme that relates directly to my work on money; that phrase 'just a tool'. My first complaint about it is the idea that something is 'just a tool'. Most accounts of human evolution mark the development of tools as one of our defining characteristics. Simmel said that money was the purest example of a tool. The passage below from The Money Burner's Manual 2nd edition, shows how significant a thing Simmel considers a tool to be:
For Simmel, the idea of a tool symbolizes what it is to be human. We stand between an animal, who depends upon the mechanism of instinctual drives, and a God, whose will is identical with its realization. Thus the tool illustrates both the grandeur of the human will and its limitations. Simmel even suggests that the tool, by introducing and recognizing the practical necessity for a series of intermediate steps between ourselves and our ends, creates ‘a watershed between past and future’.
My second complaint is that functional explanations of money tell only a very small part of the story. This is something I regularly go on about.... off the top of my head try this review of Dave Birch's book. They define money within a very tight boundary of rational, logical and mathematical thought, and thus ignore what is obvious to each and everyone of us in our interactions with currency, which is that money sits deeply within our psyches, our lives and what it is to be.

And undeniably, the internet has a similar depth of relationship with how we are as humans and how we relate to each other, as money does. Bowie gets the measure of this depth, straight away.


I posted the above image of the first edition cover of Marshall McLuhan's Understanding Media on Twitter recently. I did so for my Cosmic Trigger friends, pointing out the synchronicity of a number 23 appearing on the cover. McLuhan reportedly gave Tim Leary the phrase 'Turn on, tune in, drop out' (or at the very least encouraged Leary to develop a catchphrase by which to market his .... er.... philosophy). McLuhan was one of the most famous academics in the world during the sixties. He was interviewed by Playboy, met the Beatles, and was a regular on the television. And it was of course the television and its effects which were the object of his study, and in part, the reason for the massive interest in what he had to say. In a sense, the television was to the sixites, as the internet was to the noughties.

McLuhan's methodology of study was to class phenomena such as radio, tv, written word.... and nearly every other representational form you can conceive of...  as 'media'. And it wasn't  just representational forms - basically for McLuhan media were the extensions of man, of the human body and so anything outside of the body therefore became 'media'. He then sought new ways by which he could understand and classify those 'media'. And he recognized that although new media shared elements with those of the past, it was also impossible for us to know or predict where new media would take us, because we would always see them through the lens of old media. Our understanding of the new is necessarily built upon our vision of the past.

McLuhan recognized in television, what Bowie recognized in the internet.


John-Joseph Goux was a young man in the sixties. He attended Jacques Lacan's famous lectures in Paris and they had a profound effect on him. Like many others (including Norman O. Brown) Goux wanted to marry the thought of Freud and Marx. In May 1968, just as the protests erupted in Paris, Goux sat down to write an essay in theoretical numismatics.

By this time, McLuhan's masterwork Understanding Media had been out for 4 years. It was published in 1964 the same year that the Beatles played Paris, appeared on the Ed Sullivan show, and made A Hard Day's Night.

McLuhan's academic heritage was Cambridge University where his focus was on literature. As he took up various academic positions his obsession was not with Marx and Freud (via Lacan), like Goux, but with Joyce's Finnegans Wake. His study of it, he claimed, yielded some of the most important discoveries in media studies.

You'd think then that McLuhan's and Goux's views on money would be an ocean apart. But they're not really. And the differences and similarities between them are quite elucidating.


The key point of difference is Freud. Or rather, the recognition of Freud within their respective works. In Goux, Freud's influence is explicit. In McLuhan it is disavowed. The only point in Understanding Media where Marshall McLuhan mentions psychoanalysis directly is in the opening lines of the chapter entitled Money. And then he quickly dismisses it.
“ Although this idea [of Ferenczi’s] of linking ‘filthy lucre’ with the anal has continued in the main lines of psychoanalysis, it does not correspond sufficiently to the nature and function of money in society to provide a theme for the present chapter. ”
[I agree with the idea that McLuhan's work is essentially psychoanalytical - see Alice Rae 2008]

For McLuhan, of course, money is a medium. He draws parallels between the turning from commodity money to paper money with the switch from oral and hieroglyphic cultures, to written and alphabetic cultures. “Money”, he says “is an adjunct” of alphabetic technology that raises even the Gutenberg form of mechanical reproduction to new intensity. “As a translator and amplifier, money has exceptional powers of substituting one thing for another.”

Goux doesn’t rely on the psychoanalytical association between shit, gold and money (that McLuhan thinks insufficient and that we see explored elsewhere in Norman O Brown's work). He goes much deeper. His analysis is based on Lacan’s idea of three registers of psychical subjectivity. These registers are three mental fields within (and between) which, we experience what it is to be. Lacan named them the imaginary, the symbolic and the real. In this way, the psychical ‘content’ of any object - in other words, our subjective understanding of things - must be understood in terms of their relations to these three registers.

Goux suggested that money possessed the special quality of being the universal equivalent, above all others. This is very much in accord with McLuhan’s idea of money having exceptional powers of substitution. However, Goux said that the reason for this power relates to money’s psychical development from the Father (whom Goux says plays the role of universal equivalent in the Oedipus complex). Money arises from the movement of the Father within and between the registers. He appears to us symbolically as the phallus - also a universal equivalent which Goux says is ‘erected [!] as the general equivalent for objects of desire’. And then, perhaps in its most powerful form, the Father appears to us as Gold - the God of all commodities. Commodities ‘aspire to gold as their hereafter’.

And of course the movement continues. The process repeats itself. Gold becomes a symbol of itself in paper money. And now paper money which was a symbol of gold is abstracted further into digital representations.

The residual quality in that movement is not primarily to do with physical features of precious metals (such as rarity, portability, durability etc) - it is the conception, quality or 'psychical feature' of universal equivalence. [Here one can draw parallels with more mainstream idea that the most fundamental feature of money is that it is 'a unit of account'.] Alongside the quality of universal equivalence - isomorphic to it, as Goux says - is the relation between the ideal of universal equivalence and less-than-ideal forms. This is the relation we can perceive say, between the Heavenly Father and his Son on Earth. It’s worth pointing out that logically, what is ideal and what is less-than-ideal can only exist in relation to one another. One without the other would have no meaning and no existence. Goux emphasizes the significance of this to money in the following:
“ ...the oppositions between the divine and the terrestrial, universal and particular, sacred and profane, the one and the many, transcendence and immanence are summed up … in the opposition between money and commodities. ”
Goux’s says that the ‘march of history is the evolution of the social organism as a whole towards its arrangement, in all domains, under the general equivalent’. We have climbed, he says, to an historical peak. And this culmination - this ecstasy of the idealization (or perfection) of the money form - shakes the very foundations of history itself. We are, insists Goux, experiencing a ‘crisis of representation’. And, reminiscent of McLuhan’s ‘reversal of an overheated medium’, Goux suggests that our response will be, in part, a reversal. We will re-discover ourselves in a repetition that is simultaneously regressive and progressive.


I'm not wholly convinced by either McLuhan's or Goux's stories. I tend to find psychoanalysis at its most powerful when its metaphysics are laid bare and its implications are considered in broad and general terms. I find myself turning off to tightly-specified highly-technical analysis. For me what McLuhan did in Understanding Media was side-step a lot of those problems by creating what were in effect representations of psychoanalytical ideas. But the language and those ideas soon became as complex and difficult to understand as Lacanian-based psychoanalysis.

It was when I read more widely about McLuhan the man, watched some of his TV appearances, and most importantly learned about his devotion to his faith that the penny really dropped for me and I began to see quite how important his contribution and thinking was. 

McLuhan was a devout convert to Catholicism. He was devoted to the Church, more so than the Bible, because he considered the Church as an institution to be closer to the Divine than the written word. In other words, the medium between his experience of the divine in the ritual of the Eucharist (which he took daily) and THE DIVINE itself, was the most transparent and least distorting. It was the purest extension of man (towards God)

[ All of this has had an impact upon my own money burning rituals. It's led me to de-emphasize the ritual words, and instead to allow (as much as I'm able) the theatre of the ritual to form itself around the doing of it.]

Goux, comes from completely the opposite direction to McLuhan. For McLuhan VALUE ultimately comes from God, but for Goux VALUE is a creation of the human psyche. (I did a post on this in relation to Mark C Taylor's analysis). In the most basic of terms, McLuhan has effectively developed a theology of media, where as Goux has created a science of media. (I make no judgement here on the efficacy of theology vs science, or their individual work, nor on what each of them claims for their work, I'm only talking about their 'perspectives' as they relate to ultimate values.).


The section above perhaps goes some way to explaining why we expect to see differences in McLuhan's and Goux's conception of money. But its when we get to the question of how those two perspectives work themselves out in the their arguments that something really worthwhile is revealed. It's about that 'secret connection' between money and time that Walter Benjamin noticed and I set out to explore in The Money Burner's Manual.

McLuhan’s chapter on money is always sliding towards the telling of an origin myth for money. He is a little coy about it, perhaps because it overly simplifies the origin of currency and conflicts with evidence that was available to McLuhan. But McLuhan’s story of money is about cause & effect and function. It says that the language developments, especially from speech to the written word, had an effect on our consciousness and that this in turn was reflected in money. McLuhan’s money is not a fundamental psychical fracturing like language was. For Goux however, language and money develop in a' logico-historical simultaneity'; money is more than an ‘adjunct’ of alphabetic technology. In treating money as he does, Goux manages to escape somewhat the evolutionary cause-effect way of thinking - or economic thinking as I refer to it in TMBM. Although the same is true for McLuhan generally --- in that his conceptualizations of 'media' are helpful in terms of facilitating an escape from the dominant economic function-obsessed thinking that Paxman displays to Bowie in the opening video --- I think that as far as money itself goes, McLuhan's conception falls very short. Perhaps this is why he fell so far out of favour in the 1980's amidst the resurgence in ' naturalized economic thinking' whilst the post-structuralists and Continental philosophers (having a coherence of theory and backed by an explicitly Marxian and Freudian framework) to were at least able to flourish in opposition to the rise of free-market ideology?

Monday, March 27, 2017

Money Wisdom #429

"There was an artist in the city of Kouroo who was disposed to strive after perfection. One day it came into his mind to make a staff. Having considered that in an imperfect work time is an ingredient, but into a perfect work time does not enter, he said to himself, It shall be perfect in all respects, though I should do nothing else in my life. He proceeded instantly to the forest for wood, being resolved that it should not be made of unsuitable material; and as he searched for and rejected stick after stick, his friends gradually deserted him, for they grew old in their works and died, but he grew not older by a moment. His singleness of purpose and resolution, and his elevated piety, endowed him, without his knowledge, with perennial youth. As he made no compromise with Time, Time kept out of his way, and only sighed at a distance because he could not overcome him. Before he had found a stock in all respects suitable the city of Kouroo was a hoary ruin, and he sat on one of its mounds to peel the stick. Before he had given it the proper shape the dynasty of the Candahars was at an end, and with the point of the stick he wrote the name of the last of that race in the sand, and then resumed his work. By the time he had smoothed and polished the staff Kalpa was no longer the pole-star; and ere he had put on the ferule and the head adorned with precious stones, Brahma had awoke and slumbered many times. But why do I stay to mention these things? When the finishing stroke was put to his work, it suddenly expanded before the eyes of the astonished artist into the fairest of all the creations of Brahma. He had made a new system in making a staff, a world with full and fair proportions; in which, though the old cities and dynasties had passed away, fairer and more glorious ones had taken their places. And now he saw by the heap of shavings still fresh at his feet, that, for him and his work, the former lapse of time had been an illusion, and that no more time had elapsed than is required for a single scintillation from the brain of Brahma to fall on and inflame the tinder of a mortal brain. The material was pure, and his art was pure; how could the result be other than wonderful?"

Henry David Thoreau Walden (1854)

Sunday, January 29, 2017

A Quick Ramble Around 'Making Money'

I was just going to finish talking about Ole's 'Making Money' with my review of it. I covered quite a lot of ground in it, so thought it'd be enough. But as I was on a long drive yesterday a couple of thoughts kept popping back into my head. I'd had them while I was reading the book..... but because they'd have taken the review too far off the beaten path, I decided not to fully explore them, there. But I can't let them rest.

I sort of veered toward them in the review when I said:
"..he doesn't tackle the unconscious directly, but he does talk in philosophical terms about 'known unknowns' (which is a decent characterization of the unconscious) and he introduces Heidegger's notion of Seinsvergessenheit very early on in the book (this describes 'the forgetfulness of Being' - that our thinking takes place within a distinct landscape which is invisible to us). All this is to be commended."
As has happened on more than one occasion, when I read anything that relates to how our thoughts seem to arise within invisible walls, my mind turned to something I read by the heretic biologist Rupert Sheldrake. In short, it's the idea that genetic assimilation (i.e. the process by which characteristics which were originally 'acquired' become 'inherited') involves canalized pathways, or 'chreodes'. The page below shows the four diagrams that seem to be lodged firmly in my head.

Of course, Ole's ideas about how our thinking is guided by invisible or 'forgotten' walls or paths, and Sheldrake's ideas about the materiality of biological processes, appear to be taking place at two different levels. One in the mind, the other within the body (or at least, the body of a fruit-fly). But those of you who know Sheldrake's work will realize that it is precisely this duality between mind and body, or between the material and the spiritual, that he challenges.

(I could mention here Alan Moore's ideascape which seems to me to share similarities to the notion that we think along defined pathways that its important to carve out new spaces to birth new ideas.)

I share Sheldrake's view that mind body duality is a phallacy; ultimately thought and matter are in some form of unknown (maybe unknowable) unity. So I'm going to assume away the distinction between the biological and the psychological henceforth.

[In the soon to be released The Money Burner's Manual Second Edition I've re-written the chapter on the ontology of money. In the second edition I have used a layering concept to explain my thoughts. Although I think linguistically this gives a better understanding of my ideas about money, it is dangerous because it inevitably frames things within a developmental, progressive or evolutionary context. These are conceptualizations that arise from, and exist within, spacetime and the psycho-sexual. And so the risk is that in explaining money this way, I drag it back down into a walled garden of thought, rather than show it where it really is..... which where neither words nor numbers can reach.]

So. The psychological is the biological, and vice versa. How then can we understand these pathways - or chreodes? Especially as they relate to money? Well, here is where basic psychoanalytical concepts are especially helpful. We can think in terms of repression creating 'mental' pathways; of psychical energies being sent on repeating journeys from subject to object and back again and leaving an indented pathway in the mind. And this is a concept we can take; (1) toward metaphysical speculation and talk about the eternal return of the eversame, (2) toward the spiritual and talk about repetition and ritual or (3) toward the mundane and talk about my cat. Nelson creates little furrows across my lawn at the back and hard muddy patches across the borders to the front of my flat, where he follows the same pathways, day after day. Some of this is due to environmental factors. The hard muddy path through the borders winds through plants. But his winding pathway across the lawn seems much harder to explain in this way. It might make sense (or feel right) to him, but he could get to his favorite perching point on the table near the fence by a much more direct route. His choice of pathway is not 'economic', its guided by something else.

I have to give the standard warning about repression, before I get into it a little more. Repression - in psychoanalytical theory is not a bad thing - or a good thing. It's the description of a process. As a process its ongoing, not static. Think about it like trying to push a football underwater, rather then burying something. I mentioned this little piece on Twitter the other day.... its got the video of Hayek making precisely this mistake in thinking about repression.

Now having cleared the air about 'repression' lets get into the sticky subject of 'sublimation'. I'm never quite clear about what this word means. To me it seems to be taking the neutral term 'repression' - admitting that in fact it does have negative connotations - and then finding a new word 'sublimation' to describe those 'repressions' that we approve of (in a moral/value sense). Any attempt to describe differences in the processes of 'repression' and 'sublimation' seem to me to be tagged on after the fact. This fascination with the difference between the two terms occupied Norman O Brown's mind in Life Against Death. Rather than offer my own analysis - which I think might touch on theological 'value conception' issues - let me bring this ramble to a close and draw it back to money and Ole's book.

One of the money wisdom quotes I put up was this;

"Cash is the sublime object of the ideology of credit money."

In line with the framework of Ole's book this draws explicitly on Zizek. And so inevitably (because of Lacan) it is grounded in psychoanalytical ideas. I urge you read Ole's book if you want to know what he means when he says this. I'm only going to talk now about the thoughts this phrase triggered in my head (and as they've developed they've de-contextualized from Ole's text and meaning - so read Ole's book if you wanna know what he means)

One of the phrases I use about cash is that 'it's money's default setting'. [This caused the anti-cash campaigner Dave Birch to say this is clearly wrong (because Graeber/Debt etc).] But maybe you can see that what Ole says and what I say share 'a symmetry in opposition'. I read Ole's statement as saying the sublimation of the psychical flows extant within the financial system creates cash; or, the pathways through which 'desire' flows gives expression to the purest ideology of finance in the form of cash. What I'm saying is more in line with Ingham, that the whole thing works the other way around, that the sublimation of CASH creates the ideology of credit money. That CASH created our CONSCIOUSNESS of money.

[This is an odd thing for me to argue because I always maintain that to understand money we have to work outside of time and space - we have to try to float above the psycho-sexual waters. So 'which way around' it happens is therefore not really important. I think the reason I want to argue it, might be to do with the Dave Birch comment, in that conceptualization of money that sees it as an emergent property of a financial system (and this is the thrust of Ole's book) tends towards a mythology that either, venerates or seeks to destroy, the financial system (or the political system, that supports it). I, of course, advocate destroying CASH. And by that I mean not CASH as a social object (I think that must be defended) BUT rather our own personal CASH. This, to me, is our best chance at carving out new possibilities in the mindscape and hence offering a new forms of sublimation.]


Okay.... one more thing then. Just quickly. In my review, I mentioned the analogy Ole made about the earth and moon orbiting around the 'barycentre' and financialization being akin to an increase in the moon's gravitational pull. I loved this so much because of the experience I had when I first mooted this idea that money exists at a much deeper metaphysical level. I tell the story in The Money Burner's Manual about submitting an essay to my Philosophy of Science Professor exploring the idea that money is 'more like gravity, than it is anything else'. That was 1998 and I've modified this idea since - I call money 'an aspect of being' now, so its even deeper, even more fundamental. But back in 1998, at the time, even though I was just an undergraduate, I felt nervous about making the claim. The Professor was okay about the paper but commented that the central idea was 'plainly crazy'. So, it was nice to read Ole's analogy. 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Money Wisdom #428

"...in the Global South microcredit grew thanks to state welfare retrenchment, deregulation, and the globalisation of financial markets, but also due to the moral promise of mass empowerment through small enterprise. This promise was anchored in the public imaginary among other things through the Gandhi-esque presence of Muhammad Yunus, who promised a poverty-free world by ending “financial apartheid”, and argued that credit was a “human right” (Mader 2015, 62). In short, changes in the moral narratives around money and finance go hand-in-hand with changes in the forms and boundaries of money and finance."

Philip Mader Card Crusaders, Cash Infidels and the Holy Grails of Digital Financial Inclusion in BEHEMOTH A Journal on Civilisation 2016 Volume 9 Issue No. 2

Friday, January 27, 2017

Review of 'Making Money' by Ole Bjerg

Here is my first book review in a long time. Soooo busy last year with shenanigans (good shenanigans, obvs). Still, it's nice to get back into reading, especially with a book like this. Anyway if my review symbolizes your desire in a way that allows your imagination to create a reality out of clicking 'like' on Amazon, do please pop over there commence your actualization within this timespace materiality. Ta, muchly. x

4 stars - A Zizekian analysis of money and the financial system.

This book sat on my bookshelf for a year before I got round to reading it. I was a little worried after an initial skim through, that its focus would be too much on the financial system and not enough on money, itself. I found my fears to be both founded and unfounded.

Bjerg's analysis builds upon Zizek and so money is conceptualized accordingly as a fundamental 'lack'. Bjerg shares Graeber's view that money is 'nothing really'. This being so, Bjerg's engagement with the financial system is necessary for him to begin to explain how we 'make money' (in the sense of how the phenomenon of money arises, emerges or is constructed) as a way of probing money's ontology (or lack of it). Unlike Graeber, who was satisfied with subsuming money to debt, Bjerg doesn't shy away from a philosophical engagement with the idea of 'nothingness' and how it can become constitutive of money. And this is very much to his credit.

By invoking Zizek, Bjerg becomes indebted to Lacan (and this is acknowledged). This means that Bjerg's analysis relies heavily on a notion of 'desire'. And although Bjerg goes some way to philosophically engaging with 'desire', in the way that he does with 'nothingness' and money, his exposition of 'desire' is not as effective.

On one level this is because of a failure to explore the metaphysical commitment to the unconscious that underscores psychoanalysis, itself. Specifically, Bjerg fails to elucidate the proposition of a unconscious life as essentially a metaphysical commitment that can never be proved. This has epistemological implications (that the unconscious cannot be 'proven' makes all knowledge less certain). In Bjerg's defense, although his lack of consideration of the unconscious makes it difficult to work out what he thinks 'desire' really is, he does go much further than most in respect of 'money'. Here he doesn't tackle the unconscious directly, but he does talk in philosophical terms about 'known unknowns' (which is a decent characterization of the unconscious) and he introduces Heidegger's notion of Seinsvergessenheit very early on in the book (this describes 'the forgetfulness of Being' - that our thinking takes place within a distinct landscape which is invisible to us). All this is to be commended.

However on a second level exists an even more fundamental problem which is about Value. I'll take a slightly circuitous route to explain why this problem is so fundamental and how not recognizing it impacts on Bjerg's work.

A book I was surprised to find un-referenced in Making Money was John-Joseph Goux's Symbolic Economies. I was surprised because Goux's work draws directly on Lacan, and so uses the same theoretical framework of the Imaginary, the Symbolic and the Real. The critique of Goux's work by Mark C. Taylor is telling and can be applied to Bjerg too. Both Goux and Bjerg seem to rely on a conception of Value that is fundamentally Neitzschean: this says that nature is valueless, and that it is we who bestow Value upon nature. Taylor, conversely, is a theologian. My reading of his critique is that such a conception of Value is necessarily ideological. For the theologian the ultimate Value is extant within God; Value comes from above, not below. Of course, there is no way to know which is true. What is important is to recognize that both opposing notions of Value are ideological. If you choose to make a commitment to one or the other, you should do so explicitly so as to give exposition to your commitment's impact on your conceptualizations and arguments. Bjerg fails to do this.

Ultimately this leads us to a final chapter that seems to assume the author and the reader share a unity of moral outlook. But we arrive there but without any explanation of how this unity - this conception of 'the good' or of some ultimate Value - has arisen. If Value is created a-fresh in each moment by our desires flowing from the imaginary through the symbolic to the real and back again, how does any enduring and universal morality arise? Bjerg provides no answer. If it's not God, then what draws us to this shared sense of morality. What makes morality self-evident?

Bjerg's unwillingness to explore these questions of moral philosophy actually shows up quite well in what is otherwise a brilliant and elucidating thought experiment. He creates a story of an imaginary counterfeiter whose loans of fake currency nevertheless create real prosperity within his town. Bjerg uses this as a means to explore relations within the creation of credit money. What he doesn't do is explore the moral questions. This is frustrating because a brief encounter with Derrida's work on Baudelaire (which is about the morality of the counterfeit) may have opened up a vista for exploration which would have given Bjerg a moral or ethical subtext making the statements of his final chapter (about our revolutionary potential) even more powerful.

Moving on from this lack of clear exposition around Value and his avoidance of moral philosophy, I find Bjerg could also - like most other writers on money - have better developed a distinction between money and currency. He does distinguish between various forms of money according to how they are created within the financial system. But the most basic and common of distinctions 'money & currency' isn't mentioned. He instead adopts Zelizer's approach of talking about 'monies' and so misses the opportunity to float money off into the Mind and allow currency to sink down into the material world. Making such a distinction might have enabled a more productive engagement with psychoanalytical ideas, and helped create a watershed between reason and desire.

This brings me onto a point about 'circulation'; I felt that the idea of money flowing around the financial system wasn't really examined sufficiently. Money, as I'm sure Bjerg is aware, does not flow, it is emitted. This has psychoanalytical and temporal implications which were not drawn out, and so we fall back into the same economic metaphor (of money flowing around a system like blood through a body, or water in a Moniac machine.)

As I'm sure you can tell, my criticism of this work focuses on what Making Money could have been, rather than what it was. This is a little unfair of me, although perhaps it shows that Bjerg's book inspired me to think about what he was saying. I would like though to redress the balance a little and end this review by making a few more explicitly positive statements. Bjerg is brilliant at analogies, metaphors and thought experiments. My favorite concerns the earth and moon orbiting around the 'barycentre' and financialization being akin to an increase in the moon's gravitational pull. I should also say that, despite my earlier criticism, I very much enjoyed his final chapter. As always with academics I was pleased that he took the risk of speaking his mind, and showing us a little of how he feels as well as thinks. Making Money is a book that works very well within its own terms. It is clearly written and keeps up a good pace, even when it's talking about the financial system, which is the point where I often glaze over in my reading on money. It's fantastic that scholars such as Ole Bjerg (and Noam Yuran whose 'What Money Wants' is similarly Zizekian and desire-based) are writing books that directly challenge mainstream functionalist accounts of the nature of money. And I have no hesitation in recommending Bjerg's book.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Money Wisdom #427

"Just like language, the money system of an economic community works only because the members of the community have structured their social interactions around this money system. In this sense the beggar and the billionaire equally to the money system insofar as both act as if the token circulating as money in the community is in fact money. The beggar and the billionaire may differ in the amount of money they own as individuals, but they have an equal share in money as the system which structures their economic interaction. 'Most thing in life - automobiles, mistresses, cancer,' says John Kenneth Galbraith, 'are important only to those that have them. Money in contrast is equally important to those that have it and those who don't'. The point here is that the opposite is equally true: People who have it and people who do not are equally important to money. The money of rich people has value only insofar as even poor people accept this money as money."

Ole Bjerg Making Money (2014) p. 258

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Money Wisdom #426

"What is so interesting about the discovery of the blockchain by banking and finance professionals however is that they envision it will bring new life to old ways of making money—exciting ways, too. Fees are boring. Critical theorists’ objections aside, finance professionals I spoke with just don’t see them as particularly compelling from a business standpoint or from an intellectual standpoint. These people did not get in the business to devise new ways of generating fee income. They got into the business to trade in risk, and to devise new ways of speculating on the future. They want to move away from rents. Fees are “weird” and “dumb” and “being regulated away”, anyway, they say. At least some of the people having these kinds of blockchain dreams want to get back to the business of finance. They want to get back to trading in risk. The blockchain is exciting precisely because it can permit a new, re-risking of finance.
And a re-risking that is “safe” for the financial system. "

Bill Maurer Re-risking in Realtime: On Possible Futures for Finance after the Blockchain in BEHEMOTH A Journal on Civilisation (2016) Vol 9 Iss 2 

Money Wisdom #425

"I brought up Stephen J. Gould’s (1984) essay on the contingency of human equality with my programmer friend. This is the essay where Gould argues we humans are lucky that there is no other extant hominin species concurrently occupying planet Earth. Things would have turned out quite differently for our moral philosophy if there were. What if, I said, we create new consciousnesses in our experiments with smart contracts? Even if we didn’t, what if the law decided it needed to treat smart contracts as having promisees, promisors, and beneficiaries and thereby concocting for them legal personhood? Would we have to contend with whether those persons had the same rights as natural persons? But the corporation is a person, he said. And then trailed off. I was left to ponder whether the distinction between natural and legal person would be something that could be tracked in a blockchain. How would we account for that?"

Bill Maurer Re-risking in Realtime: On Possible Futures for Finance after the Blockchain in BEHEMOTH A Journal on Civilisation (2016) Vol 9 Iss 2 

Money Wisdom #424

"Our watchwords will be real freedom and post-pilgrimage.

Stuff the country, we want our souls back.

Together and separately, we’re going to make empathy great again. So great.

Let us explore this world made alien and conspiracy-theoretical, seek spaces where the gaps and voids and contradictions and cosmopolitan canopies afford a variegated individual an escape from malevolent gazes. Seek out these spaces and share their presence with other postpilgrims; try to expand those spaces where freedom is possible; where personal preference (harming no one) can be expressed without algorithmic exploitation, where spiritual identity (that is exclusive of no one else’s) can be explored without dogma, and where we are free of that fake ‘freedom’ (of the Brexit, miserablist, resentful kind) which ‘frees’ us from our responsibility for each other. Nothing new here, but instead of legislating this liberalism, we should inscribe localised sites with it.

In Sidmouth (of all places) there is a “Dissenters Wall” outside an old protestant chapel, where people are invited to sit and share dissident opinions. Let us propagate such spaces invisibly; share maps of the less explicit and more accidental ones. To begin, nothing need change in these spaces but your understanding of them. Take your friends to visit them. I am talking here about the construction of a secret architecture, a giant glassy structure without glass, a structure of many imaginary structures, to all appearances transparent and non-existent, immense and wholly subjective, multiple in its forms – beginning with the Chapel Perilous of Robert Anton Wilson, with the giant invisible forms that appear at the end of Jeff Nichols’s movie ‘Midnight Special’, with the different kinds of ‘chorastic’ spaces described by Julia Kristeva and Elizabeth Grosz, and so on. One thing that held back the situationists in their opposition to the Spectacle was their hatred of art and image. The invisible post-pilgrimage that I am proposing, with its raising of a shared invisible architecture, is both more and less iconoclastic; for it is uninhibited about drawing on any art source, while shunning mimesis and leaving no exploitable trace of its own.

This post-pilgrimage is not an attempt at a counter-culture, but an invisible anti-empire that sits to the side of, or folded within the organism of, a living world of things about which we renounce all ideas of ownership.

This is not the poisoned and infected ground imagined by the conspiracy theory ruling class as beneath its dome; this is the imaginary and real terrain of a heaven in Earth, where the only god is an un-god (which remains godlike, a nothing or darkness within us from which all creativity comes). This heaven in Earth, where the abiding myth is of individual self-respect and realisation, is characterised by a quest, with excitement and self-discovery and queer treasures, and an obligation to the stranger; its sub-plot is the underpinning meshwork of empathy and care for others, hence the importance of the apparently un-magical world of democratic politics and national health and care services. Yet, whatever success there is in such planning there will always be cracks in which to begin building the invisible.

This world is wholly different from the one you fear; it is wholly different from the dull and stodgy materials of conspiracy, repeating over and over; rather, it is the generous seat of your quest."

Mytho Dreaming Invisible Things - A New Politics of Hope for Difficult Times (2017) link  pdf

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Money Wisdom #423

"Translating Heidegger [Being and Time] into the study of money, we can say that 'the primordial ontological basis for the existentiality of money is temporality'. This means that the reconfiguration of the temporal horizon of money itself, created by the proliferation of derivatives trading, is a reconfiguration of the ontology of money itself."

Ole Bjerg Making Money (2104) p.197

Monday, January 23, 2017

Money Wisdom #422

"An efficient interbank market has the ideological function of effacing the difference between commercial bank credit money and state-created fiat money. The unconditional willingness of the central bank to exchange central bank money for commercial bank credit money at the nominal value enables commercial bank credit money to circulate in the general economy as if it were indeed central bank money. The effacing of the difference between credit and fiat money is established through the myriad of ways in which the central bank accepts different kinds of credit and securities in exchange for central bank money. When the interbank market functions most efficiently, the central bank does not even have to actually perform these transactions. The mere commitment to doing so if needed is enough. The central bank's commitment to accepting credit money at the nominal value from any of the banks in the interbank network allows the banks to exchange credit among themselves at nominal value without considering the creditworthiness of each individual bank. As we have already noted, the central bank functions as a 'believer of the last resort', which allows each of the individual commercial banks to believe unconditionally in each other."

Ole Bjerg Making Money (2014) p. 180

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Money Wisdom #421

"Cash is the sublime object of the ideology of credit money."

Ole Bjerg Making Money (2014) p.140 

Money Wisdom #420

"Fractional reserve banking is constituted by a fundamental lack. This lack is veiled by the imaginary fantasy of convertibility. And as we know from Zizek, fantasy operates by producing precisely those effects in the real for which it serves to compensate. In the case of fractional reserve banking, the fantasy of convertibility produces the effect that credit money comes to function as if it were indeed real money endowed with real value, thus making the need for actual conversion redundant."

Ole Bjerg Making Money  (2014) p.139

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Money Wisdom #419

"The function of fantasy is to fill the opening in the Other, to conceal its inconsistency... ...Fantasy conceals the fact that the Other, the symbolic order, is structured around some traumatic impossibility, around something that cannot be symbolized."

Slavoj Zizek The Sublime Object of Ideology p.123 quoted in 
Ole Bjerg Making Money (2014) p.30