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Re: <nettime> Political-Economy and Desire
Newmedia on Mon, 5 Mar 2012 04:55:20 +0100 (CET)


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Re: <nettime> Political-Economy and Desire


Brian:
 
> Mark, this one is truly fascinating. Send updates as you  go.

Thanks.  Here's some more . . . 
 
 
The key question, I believe, is what happened to VIRTUE in these  
socio-economic transitions.
 
As you know, the *four* "cardinal" virtues and, thus, the  foundation of 
Western culture -- from Plato to Aquinas (i.e. 2000 years) --  are fortitude, 
temperance, justice and prudence.
 
Industrialism(Capitalism) gets rid of THREE of these, since humans are not  
expected to be just, prudent or temperate -- if their economic lives are 
"ruled"  by desire.
 
 
The *only* virtue that remains "consistent" with political-economy is  
FORTITUDE (i.e. power) -- so, very early, we wind up with the  necessity for 
LEVIATHAN.  Thus, "social" violence becomes mandatory for  industrial economics.
 
 
Accordingly, this becomes the basis of "sociology" and, if you  will, the 
invention of "society" as the *regulator* by Comte/Durkheim and  Weber/Simmel 
et al, building on Kant et al.


 
Btw, this "narrowing" of the "moral options" is paralleled in "philosophy"  
with the discarding of formal, material and final causality -- also 
foundational  from Aristotle to Aquinas -- to the exclusive benefit of *efficient* 
causality,  which is the "moral" equivalent to FORCE.
 
And, rarely discussed, this is also the reason for the strong attraction to 
 MAGIC among key economic "personalities" (i.e. why those like John D.  
Rockefeller J. Pierpont Morgan were *occultists*, as was Nietzsche!) -- since  
summoning the "devil" is the ultimate expression of POWER.
 
> Maybe the cybernetics guys, with their interest in rationality, 
> were also interested in power over entire populations: predictive 
> power, the power to control.

Yes, that's correct.  I'm  particularly familiar with the "cybernetics" 
people, since my father was in  the room when that term was coined (as a 
protege of Norbert Wiener.)  What  "systems science" is all about (including 
today's "complexity" approach,  as at Santa Fe Institute, Kevin Kelly et al) is 
power over people -- even  when it is titled "Out of Control."
 
Btw, ironically, that is also why we know about Noam Chomsky.  He was  
selected, funded and made "famous" by the systems/cybernetics guys at MIT  
because they hoped that his ur-grammar could be used to "program" people.   It 
isn't -- as Chomsky himself "revealed" in some very important debates (after  
he got tenure).
 
 
Yes, I believe that *digital* technology is stimulating a *moral*  
RENAISSANCE globally -- which is the reason for my re-reading the early  
political-economists.

 
What the US is going through today is a "re-discovery" of the  multiplicity 
of *virtue* as expressed in BOTH the Tea Party and OWS (i.e.  where the 
"virtue" being emphasized for each is consistent with the ideologies  of each 
of their "wings" -- "justice" for OWS and "prudence/temperance" for the  Tea 
Party). 
 
However, as the ancients understood, there is no VIRTUE in separating these 
 qualities and excessive emphasis on any of them leads in the direction of  
VICE.  Furthermore, none of this makes any sense without "grace," which, in 
 turn, informs "natural law."
 
This DIGITAL *renaissance* of virtue also implies a revival of concerns  
about *vice* -- which is what is happening with the "flesh hunt" for  
corruption on the Chinese Internet, for instance.
 
As it turns out, this is also why the Chinese Premier cited both Marcus  
Aurelius and Smith's "Theory of Moral Sentiments" to Fared Zarcaria on his TV  
show last year -- as these are key documents in the "capitalist"  
assertion/rationalization of the "solitary" virtue of *fortitude*!
 
The reason for my post was to take advantage of the wide-scope of reading  
by those on the nettime list to see if there are contemporary  
political-economists who are questioning the "calculus of desire" under  *digital* 
economic conditions.  
 
Has anyone started to question the assumptions behind  "politcal-economy"?  
Guess not, based on your own research?
 
Mark Stahlman
Brooklyn NY


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