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. 

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