Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Money Wisdom #407

"...time is not an infinite series of isolated moments in which the past, present and future are separate and events are disconnected. Rather, the moments of time are interrelated in such a way that the past accumulates to establish a trajectory into the future and the future impinges upon the present in a way that requires a constant recasting and refiguring of the past."

Mark C Taylor Confidence Games (2004) p.278

Money Wisdom #406

"While many of the mistakes economists and investment strategists made in the 1980's and 1990's now seem obvious, what has not yet been recognized is that their theories and models also rested upon several fundamental philosophical errors. The theories of leading financial economists in the last half of the twentieth century have an inadequate understanding of human selfhood or subjectivity and misconstrue the nature of time and historical development. These two errors are actually different versions of the same mistake. Contrary to the presuppositions of leading financial economists, reality is not an aggregate of separate entities, individuals, or monads that are externally and contingently related; it is an emerging web consisting of multiple networks in which everything and everyone come into being and develop through ongoing interrelations. Within these webs, subjects and objects are not separate from each other but coevolve. As this process unfolds, there is not subject without an object and vice versa. In the world of finance, for example, there can be no investor (subject) without something in which to invest (i.e. commodity, security, bond, derivative, etc), and, obviously, there are no investments without investors."

Mark C Taylor Confidence Games (2004) p.277

Money Wisdom #405

"The belief that tomorrow's risks can be inferred from yesterday's prices and volatilities prevails at virtually every investment bank and trading desk."

Lowenstein When Genius Failed p.235 quoted in
Mark C Taylor Confidence Games (2004) p.263

Money Wisdom #404

"In 1997, LTCM had '$120 billion of borrowed bonds and $1.25 trillion of derivatives. According to partners Scholes and Merton,' Dunbar reports [in Inventing Money], 'the interlocking parts were now so perfectly engineered that these devices were virtually capable of perpetual motion. As the technology of risk management continued to improve, the tiny sliver of equity underneath the inverted pyramid would vanish completely. There would be no need for excess cash to lubricate the money machines, and no need for irritating shareholders... ...At LTCM's zenith, they had a vision of zero capital and infinite leverage'. This scheme seems to make Marx's notion of capital as an infinitely productive self-reflexive loop operating like a perpetual motion machine a reality. But just when the money machines seemed to be functioning smoothly and at maximum efficiency, everything suddenly changed. Against all odds, the sequence of events that was never supposed to occur began in to unfold in the late summer of 1997 and quickly spread throughout the global economy."

Mark C Taylor Confidence Games (2004) p.259

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Money Wisdom #403

"For both Luther and Calvin, sin and redemption are diametrically related - redemption can only occur in and through sin. Within the overall economy of salvation, therefore, sin and the fall, though painful, are always fortunate."

Mark C Taylor Confidence Games (2004) p.88

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Money Wisdom #402

" The reasons for the condemnation of usury are multiple and complex. The theological justification for the sanction is that the usurer sells time, which properly belongs to God. Like Hermes, the usurer is a thief who steals not only from his fellow man but, more importantly, from God. This theological explanation, however, is inadequate for it is obviously overdetermined in many ways. The deeper reason for the fear of usury is its association with illegitimate excess and unlawful surplus. Far from avoiding money's perversity, the usurer freely traffics in supplements whose danger is not merely economic but is, more insidiously, sexual. The censure of usury rests on a dread of perverse sexuality. This is already evident in Aristotle's claim that usury is 'unnatural' because money gives birth to money. The generation of money by money seems to be a process of autoinsemination that breeds illegitimate offspring. By the Middle Ages, the association of usury with sexual perversity led to its condemnation as a form of bestiality. "

Mark C Taylor Confidence Games (2004) p.73-74

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Money Wisdom #401

"Whatever its form, money's intermediate status is what lends it an ambiguity that provokes ambivalence. In his creative application of game theory and complexity studies to money and finance, Shubik [in The Theory of Money and Financial Institutions p.282] observes that other than money, 'financial instruments are always created in pairs that net to zero.' This insight has implications that extend far beyond economic relations as they are traditionally understood. Since financial instruments and the relations they establish are always created in pairs, they form a structure characterized by binary opposition. As the exception to this rule, money falls between these opposites and thus can serve as the medium of exchange. Money, therefore, is liminal; always betwixt 'n' between, it is the condition of the possibility of a structure that cannot incorporate it. To be an effective medium of exchange determining different values, money must retain a neutrality that, in Shimmel's [sic] terms, 'is completely adaptable to any use'. As a result of this neutrality, money can take many forms; it is, in other words, polymorphous, polyvalent, and, some would insist, perverse."

Mark C Taylor Confidence Games 2004 p.60

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Money Wisdom #400

"Money is mysterious and is getting more so. The mystery of money is at least in part the result of the oppositions it embodies: valuable/worthless, material/immaterial, rational/irrational, useful/useless... These contradictions create an irreducible ambiguity which renders money simultaneously attractive and repulsive. As a result of the ambivalence money provokes, it has repeatedly been associated with both God and the Devil."

Mark C Taylor Confidence Games 2004 p.57

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Money Wisdom #399

"On the one hand, if [as Frank Stella says] the work of art is a nonreferential object in which 'what you see is what you see,' then it would seem that the representation and what it represents implode and become identical. On the other hand, Stella [also] claims, 'I do think that a good pictorial idea is worth more than a lot of manual dexterity.' From the later point of view, the painting appears to re-present the idea in a way that presupposes oppositions between concept/work, creation/production, conception/execution, and form/matter. Throughout the history of Western metaphysics, such binary oppositions are always hierarchical. Stella, like his philosophical and theological precursors, privileges the first term in each dyad over the second: the concept is essential, its appearance accidental." 

Mark C Taylor Confidence Games 2004 p.41

Monday, April 4, 2016

Money Wisdom #398

"The efficient market hypothesis was less the product of much-touted reason than the expression of an understandable yet irrational desire for order in a world that seemed chaotic."

Mark C Taylor Confidence Games 2004 p.12

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Money Wisdom #397

" ...the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn..."

Jack Kerouac On The Road (1957) p.11

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Jean-Joseph Goux Versus Mark C. Taylor

I've just read Numismatics an essay which forms the first chapter of Jean-Joseph Goux's Symbolic Economies. It started out life as essay written amidst the turmoil and revolution of Paris in May 1968 which was to be presented as a public lecture for the famous French literary quarterly review Tel Quel. Rather joyfully for me the date of the lecture was 23rd October 1968 (there was another one the following week on the 30th). I'm not going to offer a review of the essay or book here, now. I definitely recommend reading the essay, though (not finished the book, yet). Despite the fact that I found it hard going, I felt an affinity with Goux - it's not that I agree with his conclusions 100%, but his thinking certainly resonates with my own. I remember feeling a kinship with Goux's vision when I read the other of his essays I have on my shelf - Pleasure and Pain: At the Crossroads of Psychoanalysis and the Political Economy from Loaded Subjects (the collection of essays based on contributions to the 2010 conference on Psychoanalysis, Money and the Economy hosted by the Freud Museum at Birkbeck College)

Anyway, I just wanted to briefly offer you three things here. I think they might help give an insight into these psychoanalytical modes of thinking about money (and everything else). It's just two tables and one note.

This is from Numismatics - typically no title or direct reference is offered in the text. In the later essays in Symbolic Economies, Goux does start to bring in something akin to mathematical symbols to give some explicit 'structuration' to his psychoanalytical cosmology. But I think this table is an early attempt to a mapping of his metaphysics or psycho-verse. (The title I gave it when I tweeted it out was 'Goux's Registers of Production & Circulation'

I'm not sure why, but after spending some time trying to make sense out of Goux's map, I picked up one of my 'unread, must-read books'  - Mark C Taylor's Confidence Games. Taylor is someone I've come across through pursuing theological ideas around money. I noticed that whenever I read any theological analysis of money, Taylor's name was in the mix so I picked up his Confidence Games and About Religion. I've dipped in, and they do look excellent. Anyway, it turns out that Taylor has a similar map or 'table of registers'. 

And looking in the notes to Confidence Games (p.357-8) I found the following in which Taylor directly contrasts his own work with Goux's. 
"12. In his influential work, Symbolic Economies: After Marx and Freud, Jean-Joseph Goux uses the principles of Lacanian psychoanalysis to frame an interpretation of exchange. He identifies four forms of value: elementary or accidental form, total or extended form, general form, and money form. While these categories bear a certain resemblance to the three types of theology of culture I have described (see the table Monistic, Dualistic, Complex - Jon), the preoccupation with bringing together Marx and Freud, which Goux shares with so many postwar European intellectuals (not to mention the American [!] Norman O Brown - Jon), limits the value of his analysis. There is a significant difference between the trajectory Goux plots and the one I am suggesting. For Goux, there is a movement from duality (reciprocal exchange) through multiplicity (generalized exchange) to unity (general equivalent). In contrast to this, I am proposing a scheme that moves from unity through duality to differential complexity. Goux's misleading argument on this point is at least in part the result of his lack of appreciation for the subtleties of Western religious and theological traditions. Finally, while he suggests the importance of what he describes as 'a nonphallocentric, noncentralized conception, as yet unconceived, of a network, a polynodial, nonrepresentative organization' in the context of his discussion of Bataille's effort to move 'beyond the formation of monocephalous societies,' he does not develop the implications of this potential insight.' "
Taylor's note has me in two minds.

He echoes my own thought about, not just Goux, but so much that is implicit in writing on money; the Value question. I've referred to my conception of value as 'Value Monism' and contrasted this with a Nietzschean idea of values - the idea that value is a creation of the 'price-making' mind of man and that there are many values. Taylor seems here - as does much theological work for obvious reasons - to be in accord with a notion of 'value monism'.

However, I think Taylor over emphasizes the weight Goux gives in his work to the relation between value and exchange. Goux's focus is on production and circulation and on commodity and money. Goux says that philosophical oppositions are summed up in the opposition between money and commodities. He quotes Marx explicitly as saying that 'the value of a commodity is the measure of the attraction it exerts upon all the other elements of material wealth'. I noticed Goux's lack of emphasis on exchange - or perhaps his sublimation of exchange to mean 'all interaction' -  because I was thinking about Simmel whilst reading him, wondering if he was going to be bought into Goux's argument. Two points here. First, no criticism of Goux for not mentioning Simmel - he was only 25 !! when he wrote the first draft of Numismatics. Second, as Simmel himself tries to elucidate, the relation between value and exchange is a not straightforward causal 'exchange creates value' one (see this quote from Simmel) and I don't think Goux really presented it in the way Taylor summarized it. Taylor seems to be imposing a crude Marxian idea of commodity money on Goux (who himself shows us that actually Marx's ideas weren't limited to the crude 'money came from commodity' notion that is most often attributed to him).

But the contrast with Taylor and Goux is very interesting and might be illuminating (hence I thought I best post about it). What I'm very interested in at the moment (and what in part I'm writing about) is how there is an evolutionary structuration (that word is Goux's influence upon me) in writing on money and value (and much else besides). This structuration is rarely made explicit. Both the tables that Goux & Taylor offer seem to be attempts to either uncover or give form to some deep structure that is presently invisible to us. But both seem to rely on a notion that processes unfold within time. This is what I'm interested in and what I'm trying to 'pick apart' in my work.

(In the next essay in Symbolic Economies Goux seems to be heading in a similar direction too - the next yet-to-read chapter is called History and the Unconscious. Noam Yuran also has an interesting take on these historiograhic issues in What Money Wants. Norman O Brown of course has lots to say about this. Lacan marks up REPETITION as a fundamental of psychonalysis and I think maybe conceptualizing in these sorts of terms - within the Nietzschean notion of the eternal return of the eversame - maybe the best bet to escape a temporal structuration of the psychical domain of money.)

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Money Wisdom #396

"When Freud writes that 'the two courses of development - both of the ego and of the libido' - are 'at bottom legacies, abbreviated recapitulations of the development which all mankind has passed through from its primaeval days over long periods of time,' (Freud, ILOP 16:354) he accentuates the parallel, which he continually affirmed, between ontogenetic development and phylogenetic development. The broad applicability of the logic of exchange, with its successive forms, seems to confirm the parallel indicated by Freud and Engels. The type of historical structuration illustrated in the genesis of the money form is not simply one type among many; it is the trajectory of historical structuration itself - in other words, history itself. There is an historical peak (I do not say an end point) in the accession to a recognized ratified hegemony of major symbols, the firmly established reign of general equivalents. Now it clearly appears that this reign has taken place. The summit of a certain history has come to pass. It ends in the mode of production based on monetary exchange, and what we are experiencing today is the aftershock of this culmination. This aftershock does not propel us down the other slope; it shakes the very foundations of this history, the very problematics of summit and base, including the very concept of general equivalent."

John-Joesph Goux Symbolic Economies (1990) p.41

Note: It's worth bearing in mind - especially when Goux talks about 'aftershock' - that the first version of this essay was written in Paris in May and June 1968.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Money Wisdom #395

Just as 'the value of a commodity is the measure of the attraction it exerts upon all the other elements of material wealth' and, given the position gold occupies and the corresponding valorization it enjoys, just as commodities 'aspire to gold as their hereafter,' likewise the whole world, heaven and earth, is suspended and attracted as if magnetically by an external, indestructible desire toward absolute divine perfection, which, itself immobile, sets in motion each individual being. 'All commodities are perishable money; money is the imperishable commodity' (Marx, Capital 114; Marx, Contribution 115; Marx, Grundrisse 149)

Thus the oppositions between divine and terrestrial, universal and particular, sacred and profane, the one and the many, transcendence and immanence are summed up (formally and operationally, if we reconstruct the coherent system of these metaphors) in the opposition between money and commodities. This isomorphism affords a glimpse of the all-important impact of the monetary system upon the ideological formations, or rather, of what real or ideological oppositions are constituted or affirmed in the historical period to which the monetary economy belongs.

Jean-Joseph Goux Symbolic Economies (1990) p.36

Note: I almost agree with Goux, here. First, I'd replace the word/concept 'commodity' with 'currency'. And second I'd cut off the end of the final line; it requires a narrower metaphysical conceptualization of money (as product of psychical energies and process) than I have. Thirdly, although I can read the whole thing with my own conceptualiztion of 'VALUE' intact, I think Goux himself tends towards a more Nietzschean conception of 'us as the valuers' or, 'creators of value' rather than VALUE existing as the ultimate metaphysical category. But yeah, I'm reading him very slowly but am liking Goux a lot. Very similar territory.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Money Wisdom #394

" What equivalence affirms, Marx shows, is an identical essence. The expression of value, transforming diverse products of labor into identical sublimates, is a language of alchemy, of essence and quintessence, of distillation and sublimation. This difference between use-value and exchange-value, then, exposes all the oppositions between body and soul, as Marx's frequent metaphors in this register demonstrate. Use-value is the physical, incarnated, perceptible aspect of the commodity, while the exchange-value is a supernatural abstraction, invisible and supersensible. No biologist's scalpel has ever found a person's soul or anima, just as 'hitherto, no chemist has been able to discover exchange-value in a pearl or diamond' (Marx, Capital 58) "

Jean-Joseph Goux Symbolic Economies (1990) p.19

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Money Wisdom #393

"...why and how do the fragile letters of our alphabet, forming the sign 'God', inscribing this master word of idealist thought, posit it as the place where all things are evaluated in common."

Jean-Joseph Goux Symbolic Economies (1990) p.11

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Money Wisdom #392

" During the Second War, the U.S.O. sent special issues of the principal American magazines to the Armed Forces, with the ads omitted. The men insisted on having the ads back again. Naturally. The ads are by far the best part of any magazine or newspaper. More pains and thought go into the making of an ad than into any prose feature of press or magazine. Ads are news. What is wrong with them is that they are always good news. In order to balance off the effect and to sell good news, it is necessary to have a lot of bad news. "

Marshall McLuhan Understanding Media (1964) p.229

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Money Wisdom #391

"The uniformity and repeatability of print permeated the Renaissance with the idea of time and space as continuous measurable quantities. The immediate effect of this idea was to desacralize the world of nature and the world of power alike. The new technique of control of physical processes by segmentation and fragmentation separated God and Nature as much as Man and Nature, or man and man. Shock at this departure from the traditional vision and inclusive awareness was often directed toward the figure of Machiavelli, who had merely spelled out the new quantitative and neutral or scientific ideas of force as applied to the manipulation of kingdoms."

Marshall McLuhan Understanding Media (1964) p. 191-2

Friday, December 11, 2015

Money Wisdom #390

"As a piece of technology, the clock is a machine that produces uniform seconds, minutes, and hours on an assembly-line pattern. Processed in this way, time is separated from the rhythms of human experience. The mechanical clock, in short, helps to create the image of a numerically quantified and mechanically powered universe. It was in the world of the medieval monasteries, with their need for a rule and for synchronized order to guide communal life, that the clock got started on its modern developments. Time measured not by the uniqueness of private experience but by abstract uniform units gradually pervades all sense life, much as does the technology of writing and printing. Not only work but also eating and sleeping, came to accommodate themselves to the clock rather than to organic needs. As the pattern of arbitrary and uniform measurement of time extended itself across society, even clothing began to undergo annual alteration in a way convenient for industry. At that point, of course, mechanical measurement of time as a principle of applied knowledge joined forces with printing and assembly line as means of uniform fragmentation of processes.
     The most integral and involving time sense imaginable is that expressed in the Chinese and Japanese cultures. Until the coming of the missionaries in the seventeenth century, and the introduction of mechanical clocks, the Chinese and Japanese had for thousands of years measured time by gradations of incense. Not only the hours and days, but the seasons and the zodiacal signs were simultaneously indicated by a succession of carefully ordered scents."

Marshall McLuhan Understanding Media (1964) p.158

Note: I think it's possible that McLuhan over-emphasizes the measurement of time by smell. I like the idea, but if you read Silvo Bedini's The Scent of Time - a study of the use of fire and incense for time measurement in Oriental countries (link) which was published in 1963 by the journal of the American Philosophical Society, the year before McLuhan's book was published, telling the time by smell seems to be an effect of the technology of measurement, rather than the media of time-telling itself. Interestingly though, it's reported that up until 1924 some Geisha houses measured the 'entertainment time' provided by the use of a burning incense stick (see p.28). 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Money wisdom #389

" 'Money talks' because money is a metaphor, a transfer, and a bridge. Like words and language money is a storehouse of communally achieved work, skill and experience. Money, however, is also a specialist technology like writing; and as writing intensifies the visual aspect of speech and order, and as the clock visually separates time from space, so money separates work from other social functions. Even today money is a language for translating the work of the farmer into the work of the barber, doctor, engineer, or plumber. As a vast social metaphor, bridge, or translator, money - like writing - speeds up exchanges and tightens the bonds of interdependence in any community. It gives great spatial extension and control to political organizations, just as writing does, or the calendar. It is action at a distance both in space and in time. In a highly literate, fragmented society, 'time is money' and money is the store of other people's time and effort."

Marshall McLuhan Understanding Media (1964) p.147

Monday, December 7, 2015

Money Wisdom #388

"...America seems to be a land of abstractions, where numbers have taken on an existence of their own in phrases like '57 Varieties',  'the 5 and 10', or '7 up' and behind the 8-ball.' It figures. Perhaps this is a kind of echo of an industrial culture that depends heavily on prices, charts and figures. Take 36-24-36. Numbers cannot be more sensuously tactile than when mumbled as the magic formula for the female figure while the haptic hand sweeps the air."

Marshall McLuhan Understanding Media (1964) p.118-119

Money Wisdom #387

"It may very well be that in our conscious inner lives the interplay among our senses is what constitutes the sense of touch. Perhaps touch is not just skin contact with things, but the very life of things in the mind? "

Marshall McLuhan Understanding Media (1964) p. 117

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Money Wisdom #386

"Without language, Bergson suggests, human intelligence would have remained totally involved in the objects of its attention. Language does for intelligence what the wheel does for the feet and body. It enables them to move from thing to thing with greater ease and speed and ever less involvement. Language extends and amplifies man but it also divides his faculties. His collective consciousness or intuitive awareness is diminished by this technical extension of consciousness that is speech."

Marshall McLuhan Understanding Media (1964) p. 86