Saturday, June 27, 2015

Money Wisdom #371

"...every human being must be an artist...

If we want to achieve a different society where the principle of money operates equitably, if we want to abolish the power money has developed over people historically, and position money in relationship to freedom, equality and fraternity - in other words develop a functional view of the three great strata or spheres of social forces: the spiritual life, the rights life, and the economic life - then we must elaborate a concept of culture and a concept of art where every person must be a artist in this realm of social sculpture or social art or social architecture - never mind what terms you use. Once people have developed these imaginative concepts... ...having drawn them from their own thinking forces, their recognition and knowledge, but also their feelings and willpower - from the moment they have them, people will also understand that they really are the sovereigns of a state-like whole, and that it is they who formulate the economic laws which will allow money to be freed from its present characteristics, from the power it exerts because - and by saying this I'm already making a statement about money - it has evolved in the economic context as part of economic life and is now a commodity. They will recognize then that they can free money from being a commodity and that it must become a regulating factor in the rights domain. People will increasingly see that money today is a commodity, in other words an economic value - I'm trying to say something tangible about money here - that it is an economic value and that we have to reach a stage where it must become a necessary potential, must act as a rights document for all the creative processes of human work..."

Joseph Beuys What is Money (Meyer & Rappman) (2009 trans 2010) p.16-17

Friday, June 26, 2015

Money Wisdom #370

"...the notion of sex brought about a fundamental reversal; it made it possible to invert the representation of the relationships of power to sexuality, causing the later to appear, not in its essential and positive relation to power, but as being rooted in a specific and irreducible urgency which power tries as best it can to dominate; thus the idea of 'sex' makes it possible to evade what gives 'power' its power; it enables one to conceive power solely as law and taboo. Sex - that agency which appears to dominate us and that secret which seems to underlie all that we are, that point which enthralls us through the the [sic] power it manifests and the meaning it conceals, and which we ask to reveal what we are and to free us from what defines us - is doubtless but an ideal point made necessary by the deployment of sexuality and its operation. We must not make the mistake of thinking that sex is an autonomous agency which secondarily produces manifold effects of sexuality over the entire length of its surface of contact with power. On the contrary, sex is the most speculative, most ideal, and most internal element in a deployment of sexuality organized by power in its grip on bodies and their materiality, their forces, energies, sensations and pleasures."

Michael Foucault The Will to Knowledge - The History of Sexuality: 1 (1976 [tr 1978, ed 1998]) p.155

Money Wisdom #369

"Is 'sex' really the anchorage point that supports the manifestations of sexuality, or is it not rather a complex idea that was formed inside the deployment of sexuality?"

Michael Foucault The Will to Knowledge - The History of Sexuality: 1 (1976 [tr 1978, ed 1998]) p.152

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Money Wisdom #368

"The history of the deployment of sexuality, as it has evolved since the classical age, can serve as an archaeology of psychoanalysis. We have seen in fact that psychoanalysis plays several roles at once in this deployment: it is a mechanism for attaching sexuality to the system of alliance; it assumes an adversary position with respect to the theory of degenerescence; it functions as a differentiating factor in the general technology of sex. Around it the great requirement of confession that had taken form so long ago assumed the new meaning of an injunction to lift psychical repression. The task of truth was now linked to the challenging of taboos."

Michael Foucault The Will to Knowledge - The History of Sexuality: 1 (1976 [tr 1978, ed 1998]) p.130

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A Note on Foucault

Disclaimer: I've read 123 pages into The History of Sexuality Vol 1. That's about it for my reading of original Foucault. Obviously, I've read what other folks have to say about Foucault's thought. For example, specifically on money he features in Nigel Dodd's work, over on Lord Keynes' blog Foucault has recently been subject to a character assassination. I also read Elly Tams' Scribbling On Foucault's Walls in 2013 which imagines what would have happen if Foucault had a daughter (its available as a pdf). Elly's work delves more deeply into sex.

Mention philosophy and sex this always pops into my head - perhaps indicating that Elly was on track with her emphasis on the sexual - the sex lives of philosophers and its importance by a cheeky Derrida


So, anyway I'm about as far from an authority on Foucault as you can get. It's taken me a while to get to him. Basically my path to him (and Derrida) has been Freud>Norman O Brown>Bataille>. 

In this note, I just want to mention something that's been bugging me as I read. 

I picked up the three volume set of The History of Sexuality in the LSE Waterstones back in 1999. My head was full of Freud at the time. When pursuing the books, I noticed Foucault was questioning notions of repression, so I returned the books to the bookshelf and kept my credit card in my wallet. I take it as significant that I can so clearly remember doing so. When Sally did her Gender Studies degree she ended up studying a bit of Foucault so the three volume set appeared on the bookshelves at home, popping up like a bad penny. So the actual set of books has, in its physical form, acted out the return of the repressed ! (Jung would not be surprised). And this leads me to my criticism (misunderstanding?) of Foucault.

Perhaps because I was taught about Freud by Chris Badcock for whom the return of the repressed was a hugely important feature - in his book The Psychoanalysis of Culture he tried to construct a broad history of civilization based this principle - I'm quite sensitive about how 'repression' is presented. I've been a little obsessed by Hayek's complete misunderstanding of Freud and repression. I can also remember having a twitter conversation with Elly & someone else (name escapes me) - the suggestion was that repression buries things deeply in our unconscious and our task is to uncover that which is repressed. Both Elly and myself said that this isn't quite right. I've tried to think about a better metaphor for repression over the years - rather than the common 'burying' one.

It's not great - but I prefer to think of repression as like pushing down a ball under water. You have to expend energy all the time to stop it rising to the surface. When finally your mind wonders or when you get an itch you must scratch, the ball slips from your hands and pops up in a different place to where it started. My feeling is that Foucault sometimes slips into a more static idea of repression. He is rightly critical that casting history as a gradual lessening of repression (which is the general theme of The History of Sexuality) is a misguided way to view the past - but I'm not sure that this was really the way that Freud saw it. Even Norman O Brown - whose whole project is about achieving 'psychoanalytical consciousness' - doesn't really frame repression in this way. I think the key is thinking about the relationship between time and mind..... and the possibility that repression is constitutive of our experience of time passing (or I'd say, of time itself).

I completely accept that I simply might not have read enough Foucault (or maybe I'm getting him wrong). And I am enjoying him. Although, I really want him to tell me what power is..... I want him to explain where it is in the metaphysical landscape. 

[I'm also very glad that I read Bataille first. Foucault tends to throw in reference to the economy and the general economy without giving much away in the text. Having a bit of Bataille in my head has definitely helped give those references some context]


Monday, June 22, 2015

Money Wisdom #367

"If one considers the threshold of all culture to be prohibited incest, then sexuality has been, from the dawn of time, under the sway of law and right."

Michael Foucault The Will to Knowledge - The History of Sexuality: 1 (1976 [tr 1978, ed 1998]) p.109-110

Money Wisdom #366

"Sexuality must not be thought of as a kind of natural given which power tries to hold in check, or as an obscure domain which knowledge tries gradually to uncover. It is the name that can be given to a historical construct: not a furtive reality that is difficult to grasp, but a great surface network in which the stimulation of bodies, the intensification of pleasures, the incitement to discourse, the formation of special knowledges, the strengthening of controls and resistances, are linked to one another, in accordance with a few major strategies of knowledge and power."

Michael Foucault The Will to Knowledge - The History of Sexuality: 1 (1976 [tr 1978, ed 1998]) p.105-106

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Money Wisdom #365

"Let us put forward a general working hypothesis. The society that emerged in the nineteenth century - bourgeois, capitalist, or industrial society, call it what you will - did not confront sex with a fundamental refusal of recognition. On the contrary, it put into operation an entire machinery for producing true discourses concerning it. Not only did it speak of sex and compel everyone to do so; it also set out to formulate the uniform truth of sex. As if it suspected sex of harboring a fundamental secret. As if it needed this production of truth. As if it was essential that sex be inscribed not only in an economy of pleasure but in an ordered system of knowledge. Thus sex gradually became an object of great suspicion; the general and disquieting meaning that pervades our conduct and our existence, in spite of ourselves; the point of weakness where evil portents reach through to us; the fragment of darkness that we each carry with us: a general signification, a universal secret, an omnipresent cause, a fear that never ends. And so, in this 'question' of sex .... two processes emerge, the one always conditioning the other: we demand that sex speak the truth...., and we demand that it tell us our truth..."

Michael Foucault The Will to Knowledge - The History of Sexuality: 1 (1976 [tr 1978, ed 1998]) p.69

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Money Wisdom #364

"But this often-stated theme, that sex is outside of discourse and that only the removing of an obstacle, the breaking of a secret, can clear the way leading to it, is precisely what needs to be examined. Does it not partake of the injunction by which discourse is provoked? Is it not with the aim of inciting people to speak of sex that it is made to mirror, at the outer limit of every actual discourse, something akin to a secret whose discovery is imperative, a thing abusively reduced to silence, and at the same time difficult and necessary, dangerous and precious to divulge? We must not forget that by making sex into that which, above all else, had to be confessed, the Christian pastoral always presented it as the disquieting enigma: not a thing which stubbornly shows itself, but one which always hides, the insidious presence that speaks in a voice so muted and often disguised that one risks remaining deaf to it."

Michael Foucault The Will to Knowledge - The History of Sexuality: 1 (1976 [tr 1978, ed 1998]) p.34-35

Money Wisdom #363

"Silence itself - the things one declines to say, or is forbidden to name, the discretion that is required between different speakers - is less the absolute limit of discourse, the other side from which it is separated by a strict boundary, than an element that functions alongside the things said, with them and in relation to them within over-all strategies. There is no binary division to be made between what one says and what one does not say; we must try to determine the different ways of not saying such things, how those who cannot speak of them are distributed, which type of discourse is authorized, or which form of discretion is required in either case. There is not one but many silences, and they are an integral part of the strategies that underlie and permeate discourse."

Michael Foucault The Will to Knowledge - The History of Sexuality: 1 (1976 [tr 1978, ed 1998]) p.27

Money Wisdom #362

"This is the essential thing: that Western man has been drawn for three centuries to the task of telling everything concerning his sex; that since the classical age there has been a constant optimization and an increasingly valorization of the discourse on sex; and that this carefully analytical discourse was meant to yield multiple effects of displacement, intensification, reorientation, and modification of desire itself. Not only were the boundaries of what one could say about sex enlarged, and men compelled to hear it said; but more important, discourse was connected to sex by a complex organisation with varying effects, by a deployment that cannot be adequately explained merely by referring it to a law of prohibition. A censorship of sex? There was installed rather an apparatus for producing an ever greater quantity of discourse about sex, capable of functioning and taking effect in its very economy."

Michael Foucault The Will to Knowledge - The History of Sexuality: 1 (1976 [tr 1978, ed 1998]) p.23

Monday, June 8, 2015

Money Wisdom #361

"Ours is, after all, the only civilization in which officials are paid to listen to all and sundry impart the secrets of their sex: as if the urge to talk about it, and the interest one hopes to arouse by doing so, have far surpassed the possibilities of being heard, so that some individuals have even offered their ears for hire."

Michael Foucault The Will to Knowledge - The History of Sexuality: 1 (1976 [tr 1978, ed 1998]) p.7

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

And so it begins...

I've been anticipating June 2015 for a long while. Long story, short - I've been saving money like a cheeky little squirrel in some dodgy sharesave scheme that work offered (dodgy in a meta philosophical/moral sense, rather than a legal sense) and June 2015 is the date I've been waiting for to get my greedy little paws on the protein enriched goodies. 

Okay, I'll stop with the squirrel analogy. Just deleted a whole paragraph on the correspondence between Money, spunk and nuts. I really need to stick to the plan.

So I haven't burned all the money. Of course, I have to pay some of my daughter's master's fees - she's at Cambridge you know. Did I mention that? At Cambridge. Yes. And I've promised my son that I'll pay for him to get his full bike licence, conditional on the fact that his Harley Davidson must always be smaller than my Harley Davidson. I haven't actually got a Harley, and I do really want one, which goes to show just how committed to the money burning cause I am. Because the chunk of the money is going towards persuading you, and everyone else in the world, to burn their money.

This has been in my imagination for a good few years now, so I'm actually quite thrilled to be getting on with it. I'm sticking the following up on my chosen design crowdsourcing site in the next week or so. If you have any thoughts or suggestions let me know.

Oh, yeah..... it contains a sneaky preview of the thing at the edge of my imagination - 'The Cathedral of Money Burning'. I was thinking of 'The Church of Money Burning' but I figured, fuck it, why not go the whole hog. I like churches, but I love cathedrals. Long road to travel until we get there, though. My attempt at the logo/sigil is below the brief. It's embarrassingly bad, but does give you the idea.


Logo design to help save the world 
You might think this is crazy. And if you don't, you're probably a little crazy yourself. 
For the past seven years I've been burning money. I don't mean spending it, I mean actually setting light to it and watching it burn. It's become a kind of magickal ritual for me. There is no fakery involved, I really do burn my own money. 
I've also been trying to figure out what it means to burn money. I've been writing a blog with some quasi-academic musings on the nature of money for the past eight years or so. Where I'm at with it now, is that I think money burning is an act of pure forgiveness (or at least it's as close to we can get to it). 
The world needs forgiveness. Bad stuff happens a lot. Retribution just creates the same story over again. A clean slate is something we really want to avoid. Which leaves forgiveness as the only option.  
So, I've figured that I need to spread the word about money burning and get more people to do it to, so we can get more forgiveness into the world. So far I've only persuaded a couple of folks to join in with me. Which is where you and your design comes in. I need you to help me save the world.  
I'm not rich. I drive a van to earn a living. So as well as having an almost certain prospect of failure, this project is not at all likely to connect you to some corporate oligopoly where you secure private health care and a good pension in return for your soul and the odd T-Shirt design. But as well as burning money, I've also been saving hard for the last few years and with the help of a little good fortune on the stock market I have managed to build up a few quid, hopefully enough to get me to the next stage of the project - the crowdfunding of a The Cathedral of Money Burning (Well, a tent that I can take round to festivals - but tents are expensive!). Meantime, there's lots to do. T-shirts, a blog make-over and new website are on the cards, and over the course of the next year or two there is a whole lot more I need doing. I need some money burning designers to come along for the ride. 
The start of it all is the design I need done today. What I want you to try to create is more a Sigil, than a Logo. Fire in a circle and Money in a square. 
This is all much too serious to be taken too seriously. If you still have a little bit of crazy alive in you, and you can believe just for a moment in the impossible, I'd love you to fire up your imagination, engage whatever magical box of tricks it is you use cast your design spells, and create something wonderful, excellent and brilliant for me (and the world).
Jon
x
PS Design Tip [added 03/06/15] - I want you to work up the design however you want BUT what I need fundamentally is something simple that can be stuck on a T-shirt, used in a blog header, graffiti-ed on a wall, OR even tattooed on my arm. Basically, it needs to work in black and white.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Money Wisdom #360

"What could it possibly mean to “owe” one’s life to the Absolute, or to be able to “pay” the Divine, the source of all Being, anything back through sacrifice? How would one possibly imagine paying off one’s debts to God? The absurdity of the situation was of course not lost on Nietzsche, who like Walter Benjamin and Norman O. Brown later concluded that the Christian idea of a God that offered to pay back himself, in the end, for debts we supposedly owe him, was simply the hysterical logical conclusion of a neurotic subject that craves its own domination and is incapable of living its life without servitude and subjection, and so projects a divine being who lives and dies in the same pathetic way (hence both the absurdity and the genius of this sacrificial myth)."

Joshua Ramey Indebted to Blackness (2105) (link)

Thursday, May 14, 2015

My Review of 'Love's Body' by Norman O Brown

I went straight from Bataille to Brown. I finished reading Love's Body a couple of weeks back. So just giving it time to sink in. Everything I read now seems a bit pedestrian after the Dionysian boys. Anyway, if my review makes you drunk with the joy of life do head on over to Amazon and ritually click the 'Was this review helpful to you? YES!' button like a madman.

"A wondrous exploration of the silent language of the unconscious

This is a stunning and unique work. Built around sixteen themes Brown provides no central narrative, but instead through relatively short sections averaging, I'd guess, between 100 and 200 words he creates a transcendental effect. A review on the US site rather aptly describes it as 'Philosophy as a fever dream'. It's philosophy laced with poetry; psychomagic invocation of the intellect.

I'd love to able to say that any reader should jump straight into it, but I'm not sure that'd be great advice. Certainly I'd recommend reading Life Against Death prior to Love's Body if you're not too sure of your psychoanalysis and philosophy. I would love to be wrong about this. There is a mystical element to the work that perhaps some readers might be able to connect to regardless. But generally, if you're approaching it on an intellectual level, work your way up to it. I think if you can approach it with a degree of intellectual confidence - and an open mind - you'll be more likely to enjoy the experience. At it's best I found it simultaneously profound and hypnotic.

Don't confuse this description of my reading experience with Brown's academic credibility, though. He is a very serious scholar (and hugely overlooked in my view). Even though Love's Body has this dream-like quality, I still find more solid ground in it than in much European postmodern writing. The full expression and exploration of psychoanalytical ideas (Freud, Klein, Ferenczi - Jung is not mentioned) would certainly put off anyone grounded in a materialist ontology. They even made me grimace at points. But somehow the totality of the work gets across that these uncomfortable words, about how polymorphous perversity develops into sexual desire directed by familial relations, are an attempt to reach toward a kind of silent language that mediates unconscious processes. And moreover, that its not just the flows of sexual energy but its also the silent language, that's real.

I came to appreciate that, more through reading this work than any other. And I suspect that has less to do with intellectual journey and more to do with what is somehow invoked by it's other more magical qualities of tone and tempo and rhythm and structure. I'm never going to convince any skeptical materialists of this, nor of the value of psychoanalytical thought and existentialist philosophy generally and how it offers a rich and meaningful understanding of what it is to be. But hey, fuck 'em. I loved it."

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

My Review of What Money Wants by Noam Yuran

Here you go then. As ever if my review does provoke the desire, make sure it doesn't take away the performance and do click the like button here . (I don't remember that many Shakespeare quotes but I can remember one related to booze and erectile dysfunction - its from the Scottish play as my theatrical friends would say).

Putting desire at the heart of some exciting original - but not wholly unique - ideas about money

"When Noam sits at home watching crap TV, I bet he keeps pencil and paper handy and excitedly scribbles down notes about how some beer advert, or an episode of Sex in the City, mirrors the socio-economic circumstances through which we create our history.

It's great that books like this are being published these days. The heady mix of ontology, psychoanalysis, social theory and money doesn't make Yuran's efforts to elucidate his 'economy of desire' all that easy to understand. However, because he occasionally grounds it in mundane examples he manages to take the reader with him as he explores some difficult and contradictory territory. All those hours watching crap TV weren't wasted. I'll come back to waste'. It's an important idea for Yuran.

There are indeed many difficulties in understanding Yuran's thesis. First up is his concept of desire. Bravely, and I think rightly, he chooses not to define the term too tightly. But the effect of this is to make his overall metaphysical picture hard to get hold of. To compensate Yuran subsumes us in talk of subject and object with desire as seemingly able to flit between these two poles. And then - somehow - the poles themselves are able to fold into one another so that an object has a kernel of subjective desire. I'm sure if you're used to talking in these terms - as Yuran plainly is - understanding the nuances of his theory is made easier by his use of subject/object metaphysics. And - as Simmel understood - money and value seem to have a special relationship to the subjective and the objective. Yuran's focus on them, and use of them, is fair enough then. But certainly for me personally, I found those sections the hardest going. He cites Žižek quite a bit.

Another element in Yuran's work is how he thinks about history and 'the truth' of history and facts. This is important not only in and of itself - he contrasts Marx's dialectical history with Veblen's evolutionary history - but because it directly relates to his conceptualization of money as desire. Money as desire is that which has persisted through change. And persistence through change is what constitutes history - when we seek the historical narrative, we are looking for something immovable within the flux of time. In this sense then, Money is outside time.

Yuran is very critical of the notion of utility. There is he says 'something fundamentally wrong with it'. He also ties this in to criticism of behavioral economics and the general way that economics tends to refract everything it observes through its own particular set of cosmological conceptions. I was cheering at this point. There were a few mentions of money's relation to secrecy and invisibility that I found very interesting and I wish he'd expanded on. Often academics cite Marc Shell's brilliant work on this, but although Yuran does cite Shell a few times its not so much in relation to these themes.

I'd give this book 4.5 stars if I could. I settled on four because, although there is some original thought and clear writing, there were points when it was struggling to maintain 3 stars for me. Yuran cites Zelizer (I gave her 'The Social Meaning of Money' an overly harsh review) but he fails to follow through Zelizer's work. Some ten years or so after The Social Meaning of Money was published, Zelizer was an early protagonist in an important debate about how the terms money and currency should be distinguished within academia. Yuran fails to make any distinction between them, nor does he mention the debate. This is a pity because I think doing so might have allowed him to separate out the idea of money from the empirical reality of currency. Alternatively, he might have drawn on Deleuze and Guattari's distinction between payment and finance money. This would been particularly appropriate given that desire is so central to their work. Whichever distinction he'd chosen and however basic it was, applying it would have enabled Yuran to tell his story more easily, I think. It certainly would have helped me.

The other author that I kept expecting to see pop up, but who never did, was James Buchan. He wrote 'Frozen Desire - The Meaning of Money' back in 1997. Oddly Buchan's book was mentioned in the most glowing terms by Keith Hart in Money in an Unequal World; Hart wrote the forward to Yuran's book. But again, Yuran doesn't mention it. I said that not defining 'desire' too tightly was a fair thing to do but it might have helped me understand a little better if Yuran had put Buchan, Deleuze and Guattri in his picture. Yuran seems to have unnecessarily isolated his work. It is original, but not wholly unique.

I'm beginning to sound like one of those annoying types that scrawls in the margins of essays in red ink 'why didn't you consider so and so'. Really though, I just wanted to enjoy the book a little more than I did. It was - at times - a little too much like hard work. Fair enough. It's for an academic audience. But with his crap TV examples, Yuran so nearly nailed it and produced something that was both readable and deep.

As a final word I'll make one more annoying suggestion. I said I'd come back to 'waste'. Yuran must read Bataille. He is merrily skipping along in Bataille's footsteps seemingly completely unaware that he's doing so. There is absolutely no shame in this. In fact, that Yuran seems to have got so far along Bataille's path without being aware of him, is cause to celebrate. Bataille is not that well known. I hadn't heard of him until a year ago, and I've only recently read him. But, for me, Bataille is where many of Yuran's arguments are heading. Bataille's themes are very much aligned with Yuran's work. Not least with the idea of 'waste'; and not to mention utility, the erotic, sacred logic, servility etc, etc. Yuran even plays around with nothing and no-thing which is a motif Bataille uses. But what Bataille does in his work is give us a clear idea about sovereignty. And this was missing from Yuran's work. Some conception of sovereignty - some mention maybe of the Nietzschean Ubermensch - would have helped ground desire in a solid form. As a reader it would have helped me understand the relation between desire, money and being. By focusing on desire I felt caught up a little in its flow around different concepts so I think a clearer idea of 'being' - or an idea of what it is to fully be - would have stopped some of the giddiness I felt when I tried to get inside Yuran's idea of desire. To be fair, he did approach these themes obliquely by mentioning movements towards perfections and pure forms but I didn't get a proper sense of how they relate to desire.

But overall its exciting to read a contemporary book that considers these sorts of ideas. I look forward to his next one very much."


Money Wisdom #358

"What sustains money in its unique position is its mysterious nature, which is a code name for the way it traverses time without an explanation for its unique position - that its persistence is entailed with its absence of past."

Noam Yuran What Money Wants (2014) p.247

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Money Wisdom #357

"[Money] is a genuine historical object in the sense that it can be really perceived only through the change in its form.
This movement strictly mirrors the Freudian conception of the course of human sexual development."

Noam Yuran What Money Wants (2014) p.201


Saturday, May 9, 2015

My Review of Bataille's The Accursed Share

A few months since I've read it. Man, this book (these books) is/are brilliant. I've got Georges Bataille and Norman O Brown (Love's Body) coursing through my veins at the moment. It makes other reading seem so pedestrian. Very unfair, of course. But these guys give me such a reading high. Anway, if my review burns a flame under your tinfoil releasing an intoxicating vapor then do pop over to amazon and click the like button before you pass out. Ta, my darlings.

Magnificent. Wonderful. Brilliant. 

"It always feels a little awkward writing a review of a book like this. It's a couple of months since I read it and its still resonating very strongly with me. I expect the feeling to last. I was intending only to read volume 1, but was so impressed and entranced that I read straight through volumes 2 and 3.

If, like me, your intellectual groove runs from Nietzsche through Freud to Norman O Brown then you will love Bataille. I would encourage anyone to read him, though. I found him intensely readable. His style is not dry or overly academic, on the other hand there is no sense of it being simplified or anodyne. And yet, he works on the very edge of how it's possible to think.

I came to Bataille from Nigel Dodd's book The Social Life of Money. Money is my thing. I'm particularly interested in explorations of it that revolve around sex and being. Bataille, through an overarching concept of  'general economy', links together sex (which he characterizes as Eroticism, the subject of volume 2) and being (which he characterizes as 'sovereignty', the subject of volume 3). This is not an idea that is easily grasped through an accessible aphorism - but it is one that you become more aware of through your reading of the three volumes. Bataille's famous quote is that by reading the Accursed Share you'll come to know: 'that the sexual act is in time what the tiger is in space'.

I expect that quote has put people off. I urge you, not to let it put you off. The key to the riddle is in understanding - or, perhaps it's better said, by reforming in your own mind - the concept of waste. There are psychoanalytical undertones here, of course. But conceptually waste has a moral stickiness. And it's this moral stickiness that Bataille so effectively washes away allowing 'waste' to be contrasted with 'utility' on a level playing field. At another point in the introduction he says that he is trying to answer the question of Keynes' bottles (Keynes' demand side economics in the form of an thought experiment). However much economists pretend otherwise, this question - which basically stated is 'what is economic growth' - has never really been answered.

I'm not sure I'd say Bataille answers it, of course. I have problems with his distinction between the sexual and the erotic and the way in which this then acts as a sort of delineation between human and animal form. If you look at the negative reviews of Norman O Brown's Life Against Death you'll find similar criticisms. I also worry (generally) about where such purity of thought takes us - well, takes me. Bataille says that if he'd followed his line of thought to its conclusion then he ought not to have written the book at all.

I'm glad he did, though. Very glad. He might not have answered the big question of what is economic growth? (and, maybe there is no answer) but he does paint a metaphysical picture that helps us see things afresh. He's right about his famous phrase. You get a new sense 'that the sexual act is in time what the tiger is in space' that wasn't there before your reading. It's tricky to put into words what that glimmer of understanding is - but - you become newly aware of limitations. You become aware, for example, of how language itself is subsumed within Bataille's metaphysical picture. He's trying to step outside of all these constraints and contortions that silently refract our view of the universe and show us how we really are.

It's magnificent. "


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Money Wisdom #356

"Whereas the economist thinks of the mystery of money as something that must be solved through historical speculation, Marx conceives of the mystery as the historical substance itself. History is a process through which the mystery becomes explicitly articulated. And it is the mystery that accounts for the narrative's continuity, what is handed down in it through time. In a sense Marx simply takes seriously the notion of the mystery of money: he does not take mystery to be merely an epistemological fault, a mere misunderstanding that must be clarified, but a part of the historical reality of money. In his view, 'the mystical character of gold and silver' is not something to be explained away by history by invoking less mysterious means of exchange."

Noam Yuran What Money Wants (2014) p.106

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Money Wisdom #355

"Rephrasing this ontology [of money] in terms of everyday experience, we can speculate that the fantasies about the things we can do with money are related more to the reality of money than to the actual things we can do with money (which is another way of explaining how money is worth more than anything money can buy). But maybe we can notice this peculiarity also in a plea that Marx sends to Friedrich Engels during his exile in London: 'Never has anyone written about money in general amidst such total lack of money in particular.' In ontological terms, these inversions call for conceiving of the reality of money as intertwining presence and absence. The money that is absent [...] is somehow much more vivid and visible, much more present, than is the dull money that actually exists..."

Noam Yuran What Money Wants (2014) p.74-75

Money Wisdom #354

"By formulating claims of behavioral economics in terms of rationality - an enormously wider concept than utility maximization - it somehow shifts the blame to people: it is people who are not rational. (This is the oldest trick in the book of outdated science: if reality does not conform to theory, then reality must be mistaken.) But this is a preposterously ridiculous claim. It boils down to the meaningless statement that the economic subject, this figment of imagination that has informed economic philosophy for more than one hundred years now, is rational, while people are not.

[...]

Our discussion suggests considering the opposite view, namely that it is the object rather than the subject that is irrational. Economic objects confront people with crystallized patterns of irrationality regardless of how rational or irrational these people are.

[...]

A direct demonstration of how an allegedly irrationally behavior is actually inscribed in economic objects is found in Ariely's work. Ariely wonders why ordinary people might steal small items in certain circumstances - a can of Coke from a refrigerator in a common area, office supplies from their work place, and so on - but would not steal an equivalent sum of money. Ariely conducted a series of experiments to verify that this is indeed the case and to explain 'how does this irrational impulse work?'

[...]

The simple explanation is that people are honest, and they would not steal an object of value. Of course, in strict economic terms a $1-pencil is equivalent in its value to a $1-bill. Yet this equivalence is in contrast to the reality of contemporary consumer economy where a $1-pencil is in fact a type of rubbish. The pencil has no economic value whatsoever once it is purchased. It ceases to be an economic thing (i.e. something that can be sold and bought) and enters the untraceable sphere of objects that the consumer economy places at our disposal - some of them more useful, some less, but as a whole comprising a burdening mass we constantly take care of. (Every citizen in a consumer economy gets a sickening feeling from time to time; we simply have far too many things - something we never say of money.) In other words, what Ariely's question fails to notice is Marx's insight about the monetary economy - money is more valuable than any specific thing that money can buy. Ariely's experiments confirm the status of money as an irrational object: a thing that surpasses its equivalents.

Noam Yuran What Money Wants (2014) p.66-67 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Money Wisdom #353

"Money is the embodiment of impersonal economic activity insofar as it enables us to behave as though we are alien to ourselves."

Noam Yuran What Money Wants (2014) p.5