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.)


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