Sunday, March 23, 2014

Think it matters really?

I get myself into all sorts of trouble with this blogging malarkey.

If you follow my twitter feed you might have noticed me mention that two days worth of writing had disappeared into the ether. I still have the boulder of a piece from which I'd hewn something that at least looked like an essay on Money, Language and Value on the one hand, and the symbolic significance of salt on the other. But honestly, I really need to muster before I attempt to chisel away at it for a second time (if that ever happens).

In the meantime, I've reminded myself that 5K word blog posts aren't necessarily the best way to explore and communicate weird ideas. I'll try to keep 'em shorter and sweeter. I'm building up quite a stock of long form abandoned blog posts.

Every random thing I've read since my words went, seems related to what I was writing about. This is one of them. I can't remember the source of it, sorry.

The opening sentence to the piece "In quantum theory of cognition, memories are created by the act of remembering" is;
The way that thoughts and memories arise from the physical material in our brains is one of the most complex questions in modern science.
When I read that, my mind immediately went to the opening sentence to Marc Shell's The Economy of Literature;
Those discourses are ideological that argue or assume that matter is ontologically prior to thought.

I read John Wyndham's Chocky as a kid - its the book I remember most of all from my childhood reading. I wonder now how much of an effect it had on my thinking about the universe and the nature of reality and all that.

For all you Discordian popes, and sychronicity freaks...... I've mentioned on here before about seeing the solar eclipse in 1999. It was a very special summer. The book of that summer was Glyn Davies' A History of Money - I talked about it in this post on Freud. Anyway, on the morning of the eclipse we were on a beach in Jersey. We were there with two couples, one of whom had put us up in their place on the island - something I remain grateful for to this day. As we were relaxing on the beach in anticipation of the coming cosmic show, and the birds were beginning to act strangely as the light began to change, I turned to discuss the weirdness of it all with our companions. The husband of the other couple looked up from his book. He was reading Chocky.

I haven't read the book for about forty years but I remember a question being posed in it, about what is faster than the speed of light? The answer given is - a thought. This of course acts as a nice device to tell the story and gets around all those problems of time and space. It also made me think.


Its vital to consider these 'underlying-structures-of-reality' things (to use a phrase from scientific realism) when you're discussing Money and thought. In one of those abandoned blog posts I mentioned, I complained about how Money is put in time and space without considering (at least explicitly) if that's a good way to think about it. The relationship of Money to thought and being (as explored by so many of the writers and thinkers whose work I discuss on this blog) needs to be either un-tethered from time and space - or the tethering needs to be specified.

I've been thinking about my own axioms (a conclusion about one of them was where my 'lost piece' was supposed to end up). I've been worried about the first part of the first one - 'Money is an aspect of reality'. Although I'm happy with that as it stands, there is a problem with the logical inference - i.e. that money is not unreal. I'm not sure about the whole real/unreal binary. And I'm wondering if they are very useful terms to apply to Money and Value.

The reason I'm thinking about it now is because I've noticed some stuff about Money being 'just bits of paper'. The idea that Money is unreal seems to be in the ascendancy - David Graeber wrote this for the Guardian and there was this follow on piece from Philip Pilkington. The basic theme can be summed up with the phrase the money is 'nothing really'.

Whilst such ideas on the unreality of money may indeed be sound rational conclusions from open-minded investigation into the technical process of currency creation in the modern world, they are also utterly at odds with our experience of the world - which I guess you could sum up with phrase 'money matters'.


I had a brief twitter conversation this week with @CatVincent(Ian) whose tweets I very much enjoy. In discussing the Graeber article just mentioned, Ian said that Robert Anton Wilson had got money right. For an entertaining three minute video of RAW on money and his magic wand theory see here.

I've only really come to RAW lately, largely as a result of John Higgs' brilliant book on the KLF (if you haven't read it, you should). With due respect, I'm not sure that I agree with him on money. I mean that due respect bit, RAW mentions he been thinking about money ever since, as an eighteen year old, he read Ezra Pound. Well, that's a very good place to start.

Anyway, I don't want to get into RAW's money here. I think its better that I actually read what he wrote directly prior to commenting further. I'm going to pull the Cosmic Trigger on my holiday in May. (I did say I might re-read Simmel, but he may have to stay on the back burner for now as I have Cosmic Trigger and a brand new academic work on money to read while I'm breathing the ocean air). I just thought of RAW because of his Sirius channeling. He says that on the 23rd of July 1973 he began channeling extra-terrestrial messages from around the Sirius system. From what I can gather, he discussed it in the 23rd issue of the Fortean Times on pages 22-23 when discussing the number 23. When asked about the reality of magical entities RAW said they were “real enough” – although “not as real as the IRS” since they were “easier to get rid of” (source - Fortean Times)

I daren't look to see if there is any relation between Chocky and the number 23.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Money Wisdom #264

"To attempt to define something which can be readily identified is one thing. Seeking to identify something which meets the criteria of a pre-existing definition is another. The difference is epistemological . It embraces the contrast between the empirical and analytical approaches to defining money..."

Nigel Dodd The Sociology of Money (1994) p.xxi

Monday, March 17, 2014

Money Wisdom #263

"Most definitions of money tend to reveal as much about the interests of the theorists who formulate them as they do about money itself".

Nigel Dodd The Sociology of Money (1994) p.xiii

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Money Wisdom #262

""Ideas and perceptions of money as a pure instrument do not merely inform how it is used. They are essential to the possibility of its being used at all."

Nigel Dodd The Sociology of Money (1994) p.154

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Money Wisdom #261

"Money possesses distinctive abstract properties which cannot be successfully incorporated with the substantive claims of extant theories, whether of society in general or of the economy in particular. In such theories attempts to formulate generalized, substantive claims about the operation of money in society have largely failed. Money does not possess qualities which condition how and why it is to be used. Money cannot in this sense embody the substantive arguments of social and economic theories regarding the nature of economic action and the institutional, political and cultural framework of economic life in general. Money's indeterminacy is its sole distinguishing feature. While no material or symbolic object conditions how and why it is to be used, only money possesses this as its defining characteristic. It is precisely because of this that money lends itself so readily to theoretical manipulation in sociology. But for the same reason, such manipulation can only ever narrow the scope of inquiry into how money works and distort understanding whenever such an inquiry is attempted. An essentialist approach to the nature of money is not simply an optional indulgence which can be safely confined to the higher reaches of philosophy and social theory. It is on the contrary a fundamental requirement for an approach to monetary analysis which is conceptually robust and empirically sensitive. Only by conceptualizing money at this abstract level can patterns, variations, and inconsistencies in the way it is used and perceived in different societies be fully grasped and explained."

Nigel Dodd The Sociology of Money (1994) p.152

Money Wisdom #269

"An essentialist conceptualization of money and monetary practices is imperative to analytic rigour".

Nigel Dodd The Sociology of Money (1994) p.150

Money Wisdom #260

"...the substantive properties of money and monetary networks are specific to the sociological conditions in which particular monetary forms are transacted, not despite but because of the essential features of money itself, because of its transparency as an economic instrument. Realization of this is vital if theoretical rigidity in monetary analysis is to be avoided; or more specifically, if substantive features of money are not to be confused with its essential properties, if contingency is not to be confused with necessity. Precisely this has been at the root of the inability of scholars to formulate monetary theories which are lastingly convincing, and the related incapacity of governments to act meaningfully and consequentially towards their citizens through monetary policy."

Nigel Dodd The Sociology of Money (1994) p.146

Monday, March 10, 2014

Money Wisdom #259

"Frobenius relates a folkloristic story told with the directness of peasant thought. A penis and vagina once went together on a journey to buy salt. Each carried its portion. On the way back it began to rain. The vagina said to her comrade: "Our salt will get wet if we carry it on our heads. Let us put it in my opening; then it will keep dry." They did this, and there we have the reason why the penis ever seeks the vagina since it contains the daintiest delicacy (i.e., salt), while the vagina always wants salt (i.e., semen) from the penis."

Leo Frobenius Schwarze Seclen (1913) p.433 quoted in
Ernest Jones The Symbolic Significance of Salt in Folklore and Superstition from Essays in Applied Psychoanalysis (1923) 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Money Wisdom #258

"Avariciousness and extravagance can be treated as identical in their relationship to money because, in both forms of economic behaviour, the idea of money as a transparent and manipulable means to an end is turned into an end in itself, an object of desire. The concept of money, or information concerning its abstract features as an economic instrument, do not therefore serve merely as a reflection upon money's properties as an independent object. The idea of money is a motivating force conditioning the way it is used, thereby underpinning the function money itself fulfils. In this sense, information about money cannot be said to be distinct from money itself but is integeral to its features.... " (my emphasis)

Nigel Dodd The Sociology of Money (1994) p.112