Readers familiar with medieval music (or literature) will recognize the title of this article as taken from Guillaume de Machaut, and Machaut's music-literary work Le Remède de Fortune did indeed inspire the title as an homage, but the topic goes far beyond Machaut. I will begin with a broadly ranging discussion of ideas associated with the notion of fortune — afterward, we can broach some thoughts on a "cure" for some of the contemporary versions of these ideas. First, I want to explore some connections at length, though.
Perhaps this topic proceeds even farther afield from the subject of jazz than any here so far, but it's something I feel a need to discuss in conjunction with some of these other more musically-oriented theses. For one, the modern topic of economics dominates our lives — the narratives of our lives  — more than ever before. In making that introductory statement, however, I've already posited "economics" as a thing, without exploring its construction. Much of the purpose here is to explore that construction, and I will do so around the concept of fortune, a concept that greatly predates the idea of the economic, or at least its modern usage. In that exploration, this article will link theories on religion, modernity, and economics. The latter should be understood as coming last, not only historically, but as fabricated by the other two. These connections and developments will hopefully become clear over the course of six intertwined essays oriented around simple assertions (or equations) regarding fortune. These assertions, made in the upcoming section headings, will form the background for a possible reformulation of theory around the triangle religion-modernity-economics. Although I argue that religion is fundamental to this triangle, religion will be more of a starting point, and the domain least interrogated.
In more concrete terms, the need to discuss this topic arises organically: Musicians need to make a living. Although we're sometimes told to separate our artistic appreciation from material concerns, that separation is clearly artificial. The way resources are allocated is crucial to the arts generally, and under increasing scrutiny from a variety of angles. Moreover, it is disembedded economic narratives  that deny agonistic politics: People are told they cannot advocate for themselves, because some abstract economic "law" forbids it. Such nonsense clearly needs to stop, not only for artists, but for everyone. To facilitate this, I intend to confront modern economics with its own lack of foundation , and I intend to do so without engaging the terms of the modern economic discipline. Any use of terms also used by economists should be considered casual or ironic, unless otherwise indicated.
Returning to fortune, dictionaries  generally reflect four main definitions of the word: Something unexpected, one's lot in life, the result of an undertaking for good or ill, and great wealth. The word itself comes from the Roman goddess Fortuna, the personification of chance or fate. The latter association with great wealth is more modern and derivative, but also extremely telling, as we shall see. The other notions of fortune are similar (to each other), encompass both good & bad outcomes, and substantially predate Christianity: The Romans changed these ideas little from the Greeks. This three-part composite definition is what I will use as a sort of default while exploring the topic in the first half of this article. We can also take the example of Machaut as representing something of a midway point between Roman ideas of fortune and those of today, conveniently placed not long before Europe began its adventure in modern imperialism, an undertaking I will position as exactly what Machaut suggested, a cure for fortune.[13,14]
In Cultural Studies in the Future Tense, Lawrence Grossberg suggests — after Gordon Bigelow — that the economy has become the space that dominates how most people feel their lives are lived. I strongly agree with this suggestion, and it seems only to be intensifying. Grossberg does a fine job of interrogating economics in his chapter three, particularly the way "the economic" itself is framed as outside of critique, with the only critique being policy oriented within that frame. It would probably be worthwhile to read Grossberg's chapter, or at least the first section, as an introduction to the present article. I do take a different tack, however.
I will hazard to guess that, from Grossberg's perspective, my discussion can most easily be criticized for merely undermining the authority of economics without specifying a clear path from there. Hopefully I can respond to such a hypothetical criticism, at least partially, in the last sections of this article, but I want to admit from the start that I'm unlikely to be offering anything nearly so tidy. But then, neither does Grossberg. I do think it's worthwhile to keep such a hypothetical criticism in mind.
Such a circular introduction seems inevitable under the current circumstances. Much of the point here is how difficult it has become to interrogate "the economic." Please feel free to consider this introductory paragraph again after the numbered assertions.
I do not mean to imply a strong ordering with the numbers. They could certainly be done in other orders. Perhaps I should start using arbitrary characters or symbols to designate sections, although that seems more inconvenient than it's worth. I should qualify the latter assessment as depending on the topic as well. Here the numbers mean nothing special, nor do I think they interfere. (The subsequent sections, after the numbers, will have a specific order, however.)
Much could also be said about this separation, and I'll return to some of that at the end. Perhaps a future article can or should explore the aesthetic-material nexus more specifically, but I have no such concrete plans at the moment.
Such as simple exclamations like, "It's supply & demand!" or the even more inane, "Markets clear!" that I sometimes see. (I am regularly told that I do not understand supply & demand, so be warned.)
I hope you can perceive the shadow of religion already.
Or perhaps, rather, its motivated interest.
And I did take a lot of college economics. Whether this recommends me for the present task, or the opposite, I am not sure. Suffice to say there was a time when I thought economics made sense, and I did very well with the coursework. I should know the terms.
I am taking the precise ordering here from the 1913 Webster's, but not the precise language. One can consult a much longer entry in the OED (which includes a reference to astrology).
And note also a word such as "lot," from the cited definition, has a rich history of its own. Words such as "fate" or lot, or significantly "chance," could as well be interrogated as fortune. We will meet other similar terms along the way. What do they really mean? I suggest a pause at this question. (It might also be noted that Fortuna was associated with the Roman lower classes.)
Although I generally lament the lack of attention to foundational thought or theory from other parts of the world, I need to admit from the beginning that this article will have a strong orientation toward Europe. The reason for this orientation can be made explicit: Europe overwhelmingly created & enforced the circumstances & discourse of the modern world economy. In that sense, this article is not "external" criticism at all. Rather, it takes up the very ideas that forged modern economics, but in a divergent way.
Although what occurred was not the sort of cure he had in mind. Just as Grossberg talks of multiple modernities, the juxtaposition of a cure for fortune against the cure of Machaut's title will be significant.
Although the numbered assertions that follow were sketched at the same time & will largely be written independently, with some overlap, I am going to assume that they are read in order. The present introduction was written first, as is my standard preference. The numbered assertions can be taken as, in some sense, an extended, and hopefully not overly involved, introduction to what follows them.
First, the structure of this assertion: It is basically an equation, in the same form as those that follow, changing only the third word. The equation form is constructed via copula, with balanced subject & predicate adjective. Subsequently, we can look at transitive relations between these equations. The assertion is meant to be taken originally, though, as a straightforward English expression.
Second, I have selected the simplest words I can: By this, I do not mean that the concept of happiness was chosen arbitrarily, because it certainly was not, but that I chose to use the simple adjective "happy" rather than a constructed noun like happiness. Already, I must back up to admit that this is untrue: A simpler word is obviously "hap" with happy formed from it, but this is not a word many people use, and so less simple from that perspective. The notion of happy or happiness also introduces a physical quality into this assertion, via the haptic, referring to the sense of touch. The assertion could therefore be reframed as fortune touches us, for instance. Written as "fortune is hap," this assertion becomes basically tautological or definitional , suggesting another concept of chance or fortune in a very straightforward way. Yet these two ideas seem very different to us.
Third, although I'm orienting this portion of the article around a set of assertions, and even calling them equations at times, the implication is certainly not to impose a strict equivalency. What do these related ideas mean to us now? What might they have meant in the past? What has changed? Why and how?
Happiness is one of the most important concepts in the contemporary world, at least from this perspective. Everyone wants to be happy. We are told we should be happy. Why? Fortunately , I do not have to trace this idea by myself, or even do much work for myself: It's been done very well already in a number of books & articles, but in particular I want to mention Happiness: A History by Darrin M. McMahon and The Promise of Happiness by Sara Ahmed. It is McMahon who spends the most time tracing the history of the idea of happiness. And it is Ahmed who, in my opinion , offers the most coherent critique of current exhortations to be happy.
McMahon narrates one of the basic themes of the present article, namely the transition, particularly intense in the modern period, from happiness as something granted by god or gods to something under the individual's control.[7,9] Although Nietzsche's statement that God is dead is barely a century old, that general sentiment can perhaps most easily be traced through European modernity  along the shift from happiness as divine to happiness originating in human behavior. This was a multi-tiered shift, as McMahon's history illustrates, with schools such as the Stoics already emphasizing a happiness that was internal only — what Machaut called beyond the reach of Fortune  — in antiquity. So do the chance events of our lives determine how we feel, or are we able to feel however we want, regardless of events? This debate has been ongoing. I think it's clear  that events can have a strong impact on how we feel, but don't usually determine it completely — there are other, perhaps internal, factors that affect how we ultimately feel about something.[14,15] What of these factors then? Are they deterministic in some other way, our own responsibility to get right, or something else?
McMahon cites Herodotus early in his narrative, and equates his Greek term "eudaimonia" with our modern English "happiness" : The term indicates a favored life, and includes a reference to a spirit (or demon, god) sustaining it. In the terms of the previous paragraph, does that spirit assure that one's life events are good, or that one's feelings about them are good? Is there a real difference? Many subsequent philosophies have flourished by positing this difference. With the present assertion, I'm re-positing the equivalence , at least for purposes of discussion.
An important point to ponder is that happiness itself is rather tautological. It is defined by Aristotle, for instance, as the highest good, as what everyone wants for themselves. If this is a desire, and not anything in particular, it suggests an emptiness that references itself. What does it do to create a name for this desire, particularly when it's immaterial and said to be the same for everyone? Moving to critique, telling someone they are failing at being happy — being the thing everyone, by definition, wants to be — can be especially potent.[19,20] If happiness is nothing specific, then it's open to all manner of interpretation. This is precisely the place that religions, or philosophies, install themselves: We cannot change the event, but we can make you happy nonetheless! We can fill the emptiness that we insist is there.
As I've framed it in the previous statement, "being happy" becomes about accepting one's fate, whatever it is, and not working for material change. In other words, accepting god's divine providence  became a major emphasis of medieval Christianity. For the oppressed, with no hope for change, such acceptance seems rational. For an imperial culture, modern Europe, taking fortune back into one's own hands, moving from the oppressed to the oppressor, becomes possible once more. Is that a happy fortune? Various studies have attempted to measure people's happiness, now and in the past, and the conclusions are mixed at best. Happiness seems to change very little, despite the many ways devised to improve it.[27,28] If happiness is self-referential or tautological — not connected to anything else — its recalcitrance makes a certain amount of sense.
Perhaps we are made unhappy by being forced, one way or another, to think about happiness: In this view, it is emptiness itself. It is perceived as filled or unfilled only via the initiation of perception itself. If affect is pre-emotional , in other words pre-cultural, then it is also specifically oriented to something, whether another affect, a person, a thing, etc. Happiness can be affective, but as the highest end , it has no orientation beyond itself. No wonder it cannot progress. In other words, happiness becomes a ritual, a displacement of the rituals surrounding fortune. And the world has seen many rituals surrounding fortune, whether querying the future, or attempting to insure it.
To return to the assertion/equation then, we might have no more dependence on external god(s) for our fate , but we have replaced that dependency with the void of happiness within ourselves. Or if we believe in modern economics, it is through executing the games of economic activity that we both express & satisfy our desire to be happy: This activity takes place within the same void , a circulating tautology.[37,38] Between the ancient & modern conceptions lies another world , however: The Catholic god not only grants or denies happiness, but makes the ultimate decision only after death, regarding the afterlife. Moving to the modern era with the Protestant god, we are supposed to be able to detect favor via wealth in this life. Happiness moves to the present, and it does so with specific criteria.
So how & why did the concept of happiness change over the centuries? We might better ask how & why the concept of fortune changed over the centuries. How did the two ideas go from being so similar to so different, at least in popular conception? There is, of course, the fourth association for fortune, great wealth: This is tacitly linked to happiness via economic theory , as well: Something vague & unknown has been replaced with something more specific. We can even measure it! There was clearly a matter of interest here: Not only is happiness under our control, but we can prove it, and prove that our actions  are designed to increase our happiness. In other words, fortune, being rich, leads to happiness. The simple assertion has thus been transformed: It's no longer a translation between two ways to describe chance [49,51], but a formula for living.
Sara Ahmed discusses the relationship between hap, haptic, and happiness in "Happy Objects" in The Affect Theory Reader, edited by Melissa Gregg & Gregory J. Seigworth, among other places.
This reframing shades into assertion number two. As already suggested, the assertions are not distinct, even if they're explored separately.
More like a translation between Old English and Latin.
I'm writing this section in Mountain View, California, United States of America, in December 2013. I'm a middle-aged male of rather average economic means for my time & place, among other things.
That McMahon has written the most thorough history does not seem to be opinion, although I suppose someone could disagree, whereas my preference for Ahmed's perspective is probably more a personal matter: Ahmed takes up the figures of the feminist, queer, and migrant in The Promise of Happiness, and together with the disabled and the colonized or enslaved, these seem like the most potent critical figures today.
Because McMahon has written a (mostly linear) history, meaning that he picks a starting point with (largely) the ancient Greeks, and then examines the concept by stepping through time into the present day, I have deliberately decided not to write a linear history here. This might have been a poor choice, making the present section more difficult to understand than was necessary. However, it also makes it easier for me to take a different, sometimes complementary, route — or maybe (eventually) it makes it easier. One thing I do want to emphasize, though, is that McMahon's choice of starting point is already a very significant choice, even though it's largely disguised in the way his book is introduced and organized.
Another path I could have taken was listing the various ways that happiness & fortune have been equated or related. This approach might also have been preferable in some ways, but would have made teasing out layers of meaning more awkward. I guess I am feeling apologetic to the reader regarding the potentially confusing form in which this assertion is explored. Hopefully it will make more sense as the article proceeds.
McMahon does not critique this process to a high degree, although he does offer some worthwhile analysis. A more thorough critique would be possible for most of McMahon's narrated developments. This is not to say that he is incapable of it, as I have no idea about that, but he is writing for a more mainstream audience , and they would undoubtedly bristle at having their precious modernity subjected to more intense criticism.
My copy, which does not name a printing, includes praise from such sources as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Economist, Entertainment Weekly !, etc.
I remind the reader that I place the beginning of the modern period with European imperialism, as articulated in Is postmodernism racist?, more or less five hundred years ago, give or take a few decades for various developments in various endeavors.
Translation is a regular issue here. Machaut separates happiness, which is a feeling, from fortune, which is (the personification of) what happens. In English, the root hap gives rise to both, as just indicated.
It's probably ridiculous for me to make so simple a statement, and to call it clear, given the huge volume of material written on the subject over the centuries. However, I think my statement is accurate regarding most attitudes here & now, and that that's not controversial.
For instance, resiliency factors have been scientifically studied for children in at-risk situations. A search on resiliency, risk, and early childhood education will yield many journal results detailing resiliency factors.
Nietzsche promulgated the concept of "amor fati" — to love your fate, whatever it is. Such ideas have also famously appeared in Kipling's poem "If..." and the book/movie Reversal of Fortune by Alan Dershowitz about defending Claus von Bülow. The "amor fati" idea was Nietzsche's way of countering existential resentment.
In that sense, the history is retrospective, seeking relationships to current ideas in the past, rather than mainly tracing past ideas forward. There's no question these ideas have transformed over time, which is a big part of McMahon's point, and so could be linked differently.
This distinction between what happens and how we react can be taken as a "cut" in the sense I discussed in Hierarchy as rupture. There is no necessity to making this cut.
Following on , the feeling-event difference is intertwined directly with the self-other duality. We are taught to make this separation, and in a particular way.
Note how such a criticism plays on self-other in a subtle way: We (self) are responsible for our feelings, but the other knows what they are & should be. This engages the "back side" of the self-other rupture, by positing an internal consistency between selves, while simultaneously emphasizing distinctness.
I am not above manipulating someone in this way during a political debate. In fact, let me suggest that the basic resentment that frequently shows in neoliberal argument reflects an unhappiness that is clearly not resolved by the stance.
This sounds much like contemporary product marketing, doesn't it? I do not intend to explore this area in any detail, although there is no question that ideas & myths on happiness animate much marketing output.
This idea is deeply embedded in contemporary education. In early childhood education, one of the principle goals is to teach "adaptive behavior." This can be interrogated: At what point should the child resist? According to standard California special education textbooks, never. But it does become the child's responsibility to be accepting, adaptive, and by implication, happy. You can read online what the California State Standards have to say about adaptive behavior.
Providence as in providing, whatever god provides, an inscrutable decision.
Augustine played a specific role in this development by adapting the Stoic philosophy to Christianity. There are complexities to this, however, and McMahon discusses Augustine and Stoicism in detail, particularly how these ideas evolved over the centuries.
It is, perhaps, worthwhile to view the modern death of god as a return to polytheism, in line with the polytheism of the ancient European empires. So the death is the death of monotheism, but why? The monotheistic god offered a single option, a single fortune, a fate already sealed. Breaking that seal opens up multiple fortunes to chase , gods from which to choose allegiances, etc. Although it's common to portray the ancients as not knowing any better, having gods from which to choose would seem to convey quite a bit of freedom.
Except that the modern concept of fortune became not about god, but about wealth or money, and singular yet again.
In You must change your life, Sloterdijk takes on some of the modern messages that tell people they cannot be content.
Cruel Optimism by Lauren Berlant is another approach to this basic issue, taking optimism to task, as optimism is usually considered to be an important ingredient in happiness.
See The Affect Theory Reader for a broad discussion of what affect is, as well as various examples relating affects to each other and to other things.
As a/the highest end, happiness can readily be linked with a/the first cause — a chain that places us firmly within the logic of Christianity. Here the "cut" is at god, pace , reducing circulation to a chain with beginning & end.
Not that I believe in some kind of generalized progress anyway, but I wanted to include the notion.
This begins to refer to assertion number three.
Although we still must deal with assertion number two. (I feel compelled to use this idiom "deal with" here, a reference to apportionment.)
To this point of view, polling people on their happiness is meaningless. You might as well offer them a simple yea/nay to no question in particular. The results should be basically identical. This is doubly true if people perceive a happiness poll as a test of their own personal character , as they often will, or a test of their optimism. The "no question in particular" poll queries the latter, perhaps, more directly. I do not know if such a suggestion has been tested.
The duty to be happy shades us into assertion number five.
The relationship between this void and the Buddhist nirvana can be explored. Indeed many religions or movements have posited withdrawal as a route to happiness. Alternately, one can view void as the opposite of chaos, which is certainly different from the Buddhist nirvana. This idea potentially shades into assertion number three, however it should probably be noted immediately that contrasting void & chaos can easily turn into a false duality.
So that economic theory hinges on happiness, which becomes no longer chance, but the mechanical following of micro-processes, that is, internal to the individual.
Although he does not apparently see it as tautological or void, McMahon discusses theories of happiness extensively as they relate to the creation of modern economics in the work of Locke and others.
In this remark, I am emphasizing the similarity between modernity & antiquity, and positioning the medieval era as different. It's also important, as McMahon does, to emphasize the threads of continuity. This is the double movement into modernity. In some sense, the rejection of the previous era was an intensification of its developments, and in some sense, it was the return to antiquity that its authors touted.
The correspondence between "afterlife" and Aristotle's highest end should be obvious. The ancients themselves generally agreed that the happiness of someone's life could only be judged in the end — much of tragedy is about premature conclusions. Again, see McMahon regarding the previous sentence.
That this was an "interested" position, used to justify the accumulation of wealth, should also be obvious: If the purpose of life is happiness, and wealth is happiness, then the wealthy are better at life! (And we need to obey them, so as to learn.)
What these specific criteria are is not terribly important for the present narrative. Rather, it's the idea that happiness can be determined or even measured: We close the loop of indeterminacy around happiness, and connect it to something particular, to determine who is happy.
And, of course, here my focus is on fortune, not only its changes, but its multiplicity, or fragmentation via a variety of discourse.
Economic game theory posits that everyone is always acting so as to maximize their wealth, broadly speaking.
The void of happiness can be directly analogized with the open-ended nature of money. Money is not any specific good , and in fact gets its value from this lack of specificity: It could be any good! Likewise happiness as what-you-want is nothing in particular. We could say the modern financial system has achieved Aristotle's model of happiness, by equating money between individuals. (By which I mean that everyone uses the same money.) It becomes everyone's good, yet it is unspecified. This is where fetishization moves beyond the commodity.
Although there is still a notion that it really "ought" to be gold, based on the historical relationship. Note, however, that the value of gold is very little related to its actual usefulness. The same statement elaborated about money in  could be applied to gold, but less purely, since gold does have some uses. (I suppose one could still say this of e.g. paper money, since one could burn it for heat, but once we're to the level of numbers in bank computers, the non-specific quality of money is rather pure.)
Our actions, no matter how damaging to others. After all, happiness is internal. Current neoliberal logic equates freedom with the right to oppress, not the right to avoid oppression. The argument concerns what is "happier," — implicitly — and the oppressors insist that being able to oppress people is necessary for them to be happy. It's difficult not to observe an analog with the logic of the abused child, knowing only two ways to be in the world, and knowing which one it prefers, or rather doesn't prefer. Breaking that cycle is no easy matter, but certainly not impossible, at least at the individual level.
We assert a right to the pursuit of happiness, to adopt one influential phrasing.
The translation can be taken as a return to antiquity as well, the superposition of different times. (This relates to assertion number four.) It is a sort of doubling, or pincher movement, that squeezes out the intervening history by simultaneously equating and severing: It's the very concept of Renaissance (a concept I've never liked), as a return to something — imperialism — glorious. (See assertion number five.) It's a reassertion of the singularity of fortune, of monotheism, as I've repeatedly referenced [26,25], while also separating it from chance. This basic doubling or pincher provides much of the difficulty in discussing assertion number one. If I had simply listed ways fortune & happiness have been related , for instance, I would have obscured this double movement — the ways they have been specifically severed — entirely.
That these ideas keep doubling back on themselves expresses the nonlinear character of the historical developments, and with them, the deceptively simple nature of the equation of this assertion as well. (This is despite its nature as a translation. The discussion of time in assertion number four might clarify.) That rejection can also entail intensification (or at least burying the remains of what is rejected too deeply to notice anymore — in our case, god); is, of course, one of the central insights of Hegel & and his followers.
And what is "chance"?: "A supposed material or psychical agent." That's a literal quote beginning the 1913 Webster's entry — from Old French, an allusion to the falling of dice. The OED begins with: "The falling out or happening of events." That seems more reasonable, and it includes "fall" again. (The OED mentions "hap" repeatedly as well). The ideas in Webster's entry bring up both assertion number two and assertion number three.
A formula, an inscription or ritual, but not a recipe or method. One could also ask what "living" is. Living is not an idea that necessarily stands to much scrutiny. How might one know when one isn't, for instance? (It's probably wrong of me to reintroduce the immanent-transcendent duality in this way. Having done so, the question stands.)
After the emotion — and, dare I say, fantasy?  — of assertion number one, this assertion starts fresh with the cold, hard facts of people's day to day existence. This is perhaps the most straightforward of the six assertions, and the most voluminous academic topic: Historical materialism has been widely accepted since Marx , and materialism generally continues to receive new bursts of interest. Because of the large volume of writing detailing & discussing the whats, hows & whys of people's material conditions and their association with "one's lot in life," I am going to focus on two more specific material relations to fortune: property & debt.
When it comes to debt, I will closely follow David Graeber's monumental, Debt: The First 5,000 Years. When it comes to property, which underpins debt , unfortunately (yes) I was unable to find a specific recent monograph suitable for orienting the discussion here. Perhaps for that reason, before moving on to some important points from Graeber's work on debt, it is necessary to spend some time on the following preliminary question: What is property? I will start with the Oxford English Dictionary (my comments interspersed):
We can note first, as with fortune & happiness, that the various forms of the Latin-derived property are defined in translation with the English word "own" in a circular manner. Moreover, the sense of the word "property" as implying something inherent to something, as in e.g. the physical properties of an object, is reflected in a similar double meaning in the English "own" as in e.g. "One's thoughts (or one's feet) are one's own." That the sense of property did not explicitly indicate land until the Enlightenment period could be one of those areas "where the chronological appearance of the senses does not correspond with the logical development," depending on what is logical. The term "real property" is tucked away in the OED under real a2,6 (with the word "real" related to "royal" , as in Spanish).
I need to do some more unpacking here: In short, (a) property is supposed to be inherent to something or someone. This is an amazing turn of rhetoric! Moreover, it's given a distance in these entries from property as land, and in turn as royal: Land as the essence, the defining trait, the property of medieval European aristocracy is somehow deemphasized in the definitions.[19,20,21] Instead, one's property is taken into, or as a part of, one's self — the self-own distinction as per Étienne Balibar via Locke.[12,14] What is the difference between a quality & an object, then? Old English makes no such distinction, at least when it comes to ownership, and we need to ask ourselves from where that originated. The point for me is not so much that qualities & objects could blend, but that the object itself — or at least what objects could be accounted under the heading "property" — could become so extended: It's no longer your clothing or ornaments, or things you personally carry , but all sorts of "property" rights in all sorts of far-flung objects. Today, all physical (and many intangible) objects must be owned by someone, even if it's the state: This creates a huge excess for exploitation, and in turn a barrier for others whose current material circumstances might be unacceptable. Everything is already owned. And if we're not sure who owns it, we'll figure that out (formally or informally) and assign an owner.
The timing of the OED usage above is hardly coincidental. I want to turn now to the Franciscans, Pope John XXII, and the Doctrine of Use.[25,26,27] The pivotal date here was 1322 with the bull Ad conditorem canonum, i.e. central to the period in which ideas on "property" were finding their way into the English language — and not long before Machaut composed the Remède in the 1340s. After John XXII, the Franciscans had to accept ownership (a late gambit had been to claim that everything they used was owned by the Pope ), and the idea that Christ had had no possessions was declared heretical. This marks, in Agamben's terms , the establishment of consumer society. The entire concept of "use"  (or "usufruct" in some legal scenarios) has since defined the way Euro-US society defines property rights. For instance, what is being "used up" when someone downloads a song? Similarly, what is the usufruct in someone else's genetic material? Moreover, is that genetic material "owned" by a single person, and why? Even if one believes that Pope John's decision was the best available at the time , late capitalism has pushed these concepts to their limits. And this barely touches upon how other cultural conceptions of property or ownership  can somehow be respected within the same system of law, when they have different senses of obligation.
Different cultures also have a different concept of the person or individual , and given property's (and "own"'s) sense of personal attribute, these ideas are very closely linked. Those of us who have been socially constructed as liberal subjects  may find it especially challenging to rethink personhood: The questions of the previous paragraph may seem vexing, but do they challenge our ideas of what a person is? Do they challenge our sense of personal responsibility? Thinking about who we really are is more difficult than thinking about who owns what, with the nature of that last "who" already safely circumscribed. I remarked earlier  that property underpins debt, implying property as the basis for debt: After all, if you don't own something, how can you lend it, or in turn, how can you owe it? Whereas that assessment would appear to be representative of mainstream euro-modernity, it continues a broad assumption about what constitutes a person, his/her personal properties (or qualities), and indeed whether debt even needs an explicit act of lending. In reverse , ideas on debt constitute personhood, can constitute society, and what property is.
Before turning to significant points from Graeber's Debt monograph, I want to relate some other concepts: I've already mentioned obligations & responsibilities; these are debts. I should also mention guilt — after all, why should we want to pay our debts? I also want to mention reciprocity as a powerful force of influence. We can conceptualize debt here as a kind of sediment of reciprocity, with reciprocity as a/the basis for society , inflecting the self-other rupture. So Graeber begins by asking, in the wake of the 2008 financial scandal, must one repay one's debts? He treats this question through anthropological & historical investigation, examining the various whats & hows & whys of debts and repayments. Leaving aside the psychological manipulations sometimes involved , a clear answer emerges: There have been many times & places where our Euro-US concept of debt repayment did not hold. To name one easy & conspicuous example, it was traditional for new Roman emperors to forgive all debts. As a simple thesis, then, questioning the rote (bourgeois, I might add) mentality that debts are sacred, it is highly successful & direct. There is much more to Debt, however.
Perhaps Graeber's most interesting work is in conceptualizing exchange & money. He talks of prototypical exchange in so-called primitive societies, consisting of three layers: The goods of everyday life (food, clothing, household tools, etc.), ritual objects, and human lives. According to Graeber, these forms of exchange are kept strictly separate until events force them together: The canonical such event is an accidental death, compensated in ritual objects, rather than reciprocal killing. Once the ritual object can be exchanged for human lives, it soon takes over exchange for everyday goods as well.[56,57] In the contemporary United States, we take it for granted that there should be a single unit of exchange value , so that it's difficult to even ponder the consequences of such irreconcilable streams. In any case, once we have exchange, issues of reciprocity raise issues of debt: And if we can mingle our streams, then owing someone your life can mean owing them the food you grow or gather or hunt. There's a logic here that says everyone is born into bondage, and of course that logic has been exploited in a variety of ways.[45,64]
So here in euro-modernity, we have a specific sense of what constitutes self & property, a closely allied sense of what constitutes debt, and also a particular sense of how property propagates between human generations: Although there have been various forms of "death taxes," inherited property is the norm, whether aristocratic title or more generally.[66,68,69] This inheritance — particularly if one includes newfangled ideas on genetic inheritance — constitutes much of one's material fortune.[70,71] In this way, euro-modernity uses property to propagate hierarchy [72,73], which in turn is both sustained by & produces force.[74,75] We can also look at the related way debt propagates hierarchy, with inter-generational personal debts less enforceable on the victims , but debt-derived financial commodities as a significant form of inherited property: What with land being limited by its nature, additional kinds of property are created from debts. This process impoverishes the public sphere , as more & more claims are made on future resources & production.
Returning to the assertion, it has a simple tautological sense: Your perception of fortune as your lot in life would be much less meaningful if it was not reflected in the material world. There is also a powerful normative sense, in play at least since Calvin: What you have is what you deserve: Your material circumstances are the expression of your fortune, and if your fortune is poor, it's your own fault.[81,84] You might be blessed, but if you are not (materially) blessed, it's because God knows best. Moreover, as is typically the case , the ways the words of this assertion (and those I've linked to them) are used opens up a rhetorical space, and that space is used by those who can. Returning to note , I ended a sequence with English law. The modern era ultimately imposed English common law, particularly English property law, on the world. This law, and its associated rhetoric & concepts, arose from an aristocratic-bourgeois argument & consensus. Should it be any surprise that common law itself, particularly via property, organically reproduces  the aristocratic-bourgeois arrangement around the world? I believe this is exactly what is happening, and that inherited wealth, as it plays out under English property law, is the main technique for (re-)creating (or maintaining) aristocracy.[88,89,90]
As noted near the beginning, many other topics could be discussed under this heading. However, I will stop here, having discussed a particular sequence of (historical) interest (i.e. property, debt, inheritance).
Happiness, as distinct from fortune, is basically constructed as a fantasy. It's the internal apprehension of the external condition. What is real? (See assertion number six.)
That Marx has been extremely influential is readily apparent, certainly in academia, but his influence is also very strong among his harshest critics. (Here they, in turn, confirm dialectics in a straightforward way.) The materialist conception of history, the economic motive as primary, dominates both neoliberal discussion  and the mainstream media that tries to "moderate" it. It fascinates me that someone can have a thesis be so widely accepted, over-accepted really [4,5], and still be reflexively criticized at every turn.
Taking control of the materialist-economic narrative apparently seemed paramount to neoliberals and their earlier intellectual kinsmen, and so embracing the materialist conception while simultaneously issuing the most hyperbolic refutations of Marxism provided a staging ground for another level of cognitive dissonance. Or, in the terms of Hierarchy as rupture, opponents colonized the rupture very aggressively. (The "rupture" in this sense is the assertion of a master narrative.)
These blanket explanations always have their limits, and various limits to Marx's ideas have been discussed over the years. If his work hadn't received its highly contradictory reaction, there would likely be fewer people who still strictly believe in Marx's explanations approximately 150 years later, despite huge changes to society. The contradictory colonization of Marxism has generated this static reaction, and it serves the purposes of the colonizers.
One can also argue that moving from the (admittedly tedious, or worse) "great man" model of history, to historical models oriented on impersonal forces, has provided the various individual actors of contemporary times with a degree of anonymity when it suits them. (See, for instance, Covert Capital by Andrew Friedman for how the same historical actors maintained a background presence through different US imperial developments.) This movement can also be linked to the fashion for scholarship to adopt an impersonal tone (both — "scientific" principles of history & scholarly style — linked to science's conceit of establishing the transcendent position) for much of modernity, this thankfully being modified more recently, particularly in queer & feminist of color discourse. Perhaps the impersonal tone should be interrogated more broadly as a defining feature of modernism (e.g. via a history of the royal we).
Mainstream texts that start saying something that might appear Marxist usually make a point of issuing disavowals or disclaimers simultaneously (for example, Daniel Pink in Drive, where he questions the motives imputed to people by classical economics, while trying not to be confrontational). To me, it's a rather surreal game, no doubt rooted in the McCarthy era. This format might also be compared to the early scientists and their reflexive need to defer to Christianity in their philosophical discussions.
New Materialisms, edited by Diana Coole & Samantha Frost, includes a variety of new & updated directions, for instance.
The relationship between property & debt will be explored further, so please take this statement as provisional, in order to begin the discussion.
Two fairly recent anthologies have proven useful in this regard, however: Changing Properties of Property, edited by Franz von Benda-Beckmann, Keebet von Benda-Beckmann & Melanie Wiber; and Accelerating Possession: Global Futures of Property and Personhood, edited by Bill Maurer & Gabriele Schwab. Moreover, this discussion of property extends through Engels & Marx into the origins of classical economics, medieval Christian debates, differing civilizations in antiquity, etc. The volume of material, whether in the historical or anthropological or legal fields (or others), has apparently worked against writing a more comprehensive text on the subject here in the 21st century. So, if anything, there is an embarrassment of riches. The volume of work is very extensive, greatly outpacing e.g. material related to happiness. Assertion number two is, therefore, likewise the least comprehensively explored. (In retrospect, I should have also consulted The Birth of Territory by Stuart Elden, but this monograph did not come to my attention until after this assertion was outlined. So it was not used for the present article.)
And so it was, perhaps, the novelty of Graeber's topic — or rather the subsumed "obviousness" it took in classical economics — that allowed his Debt monograph to appear so forcefully.
One could argue the contradictory nature of that assessment: Rather, the present assertion's discussion is based on the most thorough previous research of the six. Nonetheless, there are some different things to say here, and some different things that could be said. It will remain incomplete, and likely unsatisfying.
Much like discovering (more of) Sara Ahmed's writing in the course of writing Is postmodernism racist?, I realized to what extent Balibar has taken a similar approach to the one I adopt here only after I sketched this essay. Balibar takes up the own-self distinction in Locke in the opening essay of Accelerating Possession, and subsequently wrote an entire monograph: Identity And Difference: John Locke And The Invention Of Consciousness.[13,14]
I am generally pleased when I find that someone has written something similar to what I'm intending. It saves me time & effort, and also eases some nagging doubts that often express in the form "How is it possible that I'm the only person thinking this?" (I always assure myself that it's impossible, but actually meeting the other person's thoughts is obviously more concrete.) One of the longest running sequences of this sort for me, at least one that came to an "end" so to speak, concerned my thoughts on allegory in Plato — and admittedly I was working less generally in the humanities at the time, thus narrowing chances to encounter these ideas — finally being reflected in The Oxford History of the Classical World. The other aspect here, which I'll go ahead and note, is that the question of my own sanity nagged at me more in the past. It doesn't really concern me now, whether due to being older, or simply accepting some insanity, but it's still pleasant to discover someone's similar thoughts.
Although I refer the reader to Balibar, Locke's centrality here must be emphasized. His philosophy was extremely influential in the English-speaking world leading into the formulation of classical economics, as well as the defining documents of the American Revolution. Moreover, his thoughts on happiness, and their correspondence with Augustine's form a major component of McMahon's Happiness narrative, and thus strongly inflect assertion number one. The other thing I'll note regarding Balibar's writing, which I've had occasion to do for other authors and more generally, is that it could be clarified by concepts from both Buddhism and the Sanskrit grammarians. The latter in particular would appear to speak exactly to Balibar's thesis. I am not going to write this, but I think someone should.
I've developed an instinctive aversion to most everything Locke and his colleagues had to say, consequently. This is foolish on my part, since a closer examination reveals details of the origins of some of these strands of thought. Nonetheless, I must admit the aversion still remains.
A case in point, directly related to the present topic, as well as materials I've mentioned already, is Samantha Frost's discussion of Hobbes' ideas on fear & politics in New Materialisms. Frost does point out some worthwhile things Hobbes has to say on the topic, even as his overall direction is problematic. Hobbes was a man of his time, in his urge to construct a single evaluative criterion, and that sort of essentialism continues largely unabated in the mainstream today.
In other words, in what way is land "inherent" to being a person? This is not merely a rhetorical question, because humanity has relied on land. It's a question about the nature of that relationship.
The OED does not specifically endorse this connection: The "real" of a2 is given as derived from the Latin "res" — thing. However, looking at the chronology of the quotes cited there (and in a1), a series emerges: Real (or "reall") as royal is the oldest layer, followed by a transformation into our contemporary usage first via the concepts of law & real property. The contemporary usage is not well-established until the 17th century, but the property-related usage dates to the fourteenth. (I did attempt to trace the French version of this shift/etymology, but was unable to find good sources.) And the concept of the real is the subject of assertion number six, not to be too repetitive with that reminder, I hope.
Although one can also ponder the aristocratic (or haute bourgeois) mandate to be "proper." People with a good deal of material property are proper in their persons, evidently — or should be.
This entire sequence can be reinterpreted historically: If the domain of medieval aristocracy was not their property, that is if the land was not their property, but only their territorial responsibility, then there is no reason to associate "property" with land at this stage. Then the narrative becomes about associating the term property with land itself, the enclosure laws, etc. Perhaps I would have been more successful in taking this (historical) tack, but I wanted to retain an orientation to contemporary senses of "property," where land is canonical. The nexus of "real property" tells this latter story.
This is not really the place to register a political critique of the OED itself, but I do consider this an important aspect of being "always already English" on the world stage: English empire, English economic theory, English rhetoric of property, English law. The Latin terms serve this dynamic both as translation and as misdirection. Whether it was anyone's conscious choice to construct this sequence & situation is largely irrelevant to the resulting cover story. The translation opens up rhetorical space for justifying possession, worldwide.
What would be the primitivist reading here? It clearly suggests a different sense of self, perhaps totemic, with an object embodying a quality. This might suggest why the property of owning property was not first seen in object — or material — terms.
The formulation suggests a centrality for fashion in the extension of ideas on property & ownership: See Crusading fashion for some very modest & tentative thoughts on this centrality.
This is, in the most simplistic sense, one's material fortune. (We even divide the whole world into nation-states — well, not quite, and the following isn't entirely accurate in all nation-states — so that all land is staked to both "public" & private ownership before any of us are born.)
This discussion seems especially timely with the election of Pope Francis in 2013. I await the new Pope's commentary on this point, and I'm sure I'm not alone.
This discussion is largely based on Giorgio Agamben's The Highest Poverty: Monastic Rules and Form-of-Life. (In contrast, I have to say I find the discussion of this topic on Wikipedia to be utterly bizarre — highly politicized, of course, with a strong modernist bias, yet bizarre. But then, who knows what Wikipedia will say on the subject tomorrow!)
It underscores the point of the previous paragraph that a web search for "doctrine of use" largely turns up discussions of copyright law: Accelerating possession indeed.
This positioning of Machaut is central to the origin of the present discussion as a whole. (Machaut's idea of Fortune is directly material, i.e. fortune is what happens, as distinct from one's feelings.)
In the earlier words of Francis of Assisi: Does the horse own the oats it eats? (Agamben believes that Francis himself would have never made the rhetorical errors his followers did, and so not given John such an easy out.)
Perusing the definitions of the word "use" is also worthwhile, although note that the result is strongly conditioned by the Franciscan debate and the resulting Papal declarations.
For instance, in her article "Divided Origins and the Arithmetic of Ownership" in Accelerating Possession, Marilyn Strathern discusses other cultures' ideas of "use" & ownership in cultural objects. Her discussion produces almost a reversed idea of intellectual property from that derived from Pope John.
I do not believe it was the best decision. The Pope was pushed by the French landowners, who had put him into power, to resolve this situation to their benefit. The spiritual & intellectual reputation of the Franciscans prevented their wholesale slaughter , but was there ever a doubt that land rights would emerge triumphant? That said, I don't think there is any doubt that the Pope was wrong as a point of theology. More creativity was warranted here, and Agamben discusses some options.
If the reader is unfamiliar with this historical episode, take a look at the who's who involved: Michele di Cesena, William of Ockham, etc.
And in turn, conceptions of personhood.
The von Benda-Beckmann's treat "property" as a bundle of rights & obligations. The idea of property as an obligation still has a legal basis in Euro-US courts, although attempts are repeatedly made to push back on that aspect: There's little sense that caring for a revered cultural object can be a burden in euro-modernity, as it can be for some cultures (see e.g. Strathern again). If you don't want to do it, you simply stop; if you own the thing, it's your right. Still, there are property taxes, requirements of public maintenance, etc. We can go on to query that obligation: Is holding title a responsibility to pay taxes, or an opportunity to procure a capital loan? The bundle idea handles this kind of transitivity, meaning the same act can create both a right & an obligation, depending on perspective — and these perspectives are hotly contested.
A different negotiation of the self-other rupture, to put it in my own earlier terms.
Canonically, the "we" of "We the people...." The US Constitution is a document that adopts a very specific sense of personhood, largely derived from Locke and his contemporaries. This sense has, of course, been augmented on multiple occasions, to include African-Americans, women, etc. These have not been fundamental alterations, however, in the way the boundaries of a person are constructed, only in who qualifies.
Reproductive rights constitute an arena that has long strained concepts of the liberal subject, and that strain has only been increased with the creation of various new reproductive technologies.
The liberal subject was arguably formed together with ideas on slavery, rather than reproduction, with the sense of self-ownership derived largely from rights not to be a slave — and the negotiation of that right under industrial capitalism. (See Lindon Barrett in Accelerating Possession.) One can certainly compare this historical ordering to the order in which black men & then women became voting citizens of the United States.
And how might they be rephrased to challenge conceptions of personhood? Is "music" an entity beyond the individual that needs respect and nourishment? What does an individual owe to humanity, or the world? Can a person or thing be owned by multiple people or things, without division? (This is one very simple sketch of posthumanism, a topic gaining much momentum in academia at least.)
I would argue that the healthcare debate is currently one of the liveliest arenas contesting self-other & the responsibility that goes with it. Health is also highly material, apropos the present assertion. This is probably the place to quote Joyce Appleby's classic statement: "By the end of the eighteenth century the individual with wide-ranging needs and abstract rights appeared to challenge the citizen with concrete obligations and prescribed privileges."
I am admittedly being repetitive, but these ideas on "what" a person is are constantly being reinscribed by mainstream media, commercial advertising, etc. We're completely immersed in notions of the liberal subject before we're even aware of ourselves in that sense. Peeling away that indoctrination is challenging  to the point of risking dissolution. And it's very unlikely to be met with any positivity by most anyone we meet. (Although I commonly hear various ideas condemned as ideological, the liberal subject is the strongest ideology going today, sublime, to paraphrase Zizek channeling Kant.)
Perhaps "education" is not entirely about adding knowledge, but is also crucially about removing it — about recognizing it for what it is: Hence, critical theory.
Assertion number three concerns risk. And dissolution of the self? It's the goal of some, in a variety of ways.
For instance, "original sin" represents a debt we owe to the Christian god before we're even born. Although theology claims there was an explicit act originating the debt, even if we were to believe that, it's long out of our own personal control. Being saturated with debt goes back a very long time, and indeed Graeber tackles 5000 years worth, in order to conceptualize this "primordial" debt.
This is basically a straightforward statement of post-structuralism, not really a reversal. Which is the foreground or background, which is the top or bottom, etc.? These questions always need asking, especially when they seem obvious. (See e.g. Bruno Latour's Reassembling the Social for an introduction to poststructuralism aimed at scientific personalities.)
Maurizio Lazzarato's short monograph The Making of the Indebted Man uses a framework derived from Deleuze & Guattari to discuss why people come to believe so strongly in debt, and how it forms the basis of modern social life.
The term "reciprocity" is specifically taken from Robert Cialdini's Influence. I discussed this a bit in Hierarchy as rupture when discussing another principle from Cialdini, consistency. There I declared that reciprocity was broken in late capitalism, i.e. that most people can easily observe that they receive far less than they give. Meanwhile, strangling entire nations over debt has taken on ever-larger proportions, with more intense rhetoric, presumably to beat this point home.
To me, Graeber's account of the Tiv women (of Nigeria) returning similar but not identical items or quantities to those who had earlier given them something is one of the most clearly evocative stories of reciprocity (or debt) constituting society. To the Tiv, returning exactly what was given signifies a desire to end the relationship: no debt, no relationship.
For instance, questions such as these have been asked: Is free will self-ownership? (A very tight circularity with the Locke-ian tension.) Is the unconscious then an unowned other? (The "meat" of that tension, so to speak.) Is subject formation a kind of commodity exchange? (This is our debt to society? How can we decline?) Is property the result of individuality or is individuality the result of property? If intangible possessions constitute our selves, what of tangible possessions? Is the private what can be sold, or is the private what is inalienable? (Who decides?) In consequence, are financial matters (to be kept) private? (This is a pro-status quo, manipulative message.)
I have to pull this one out, because of the mind-body duality: We consider our bodies part of ourselves, of course, although perhaps lesser in self-formation than the mind. What of non-body tangible possessions? Do we really believe these are parts of ourselves under euro-modernity?
Strathern mentions Amazonian perspectivism, their idea that all minds are alike, but that it's differences in bodies creating differences in perspectives & ideas. (This can reasonably be compared with Rancière's premise of the absolute equality of intelligence.) I find this idea rather appealing, particularly when one ascribes the brain itself to the body, because it still might hold physical differences.
I consider Graeber's book a real tour-de-force, for the wide volume of material he integrates, and the wide history he considers (as far back as history is known). Debt was written in two years, however, and the haste shows. (He had reason for the haste, what with the politics of the time.) A second edition with various corrections, clarifications and additions would be most welcome, as far as I'm concerned. (Does this sort of thing even happen anymore?)
This did not begin with Debt. His earlier Toward An Anthropological Theory of Value: The False Coin of Our Own Dreams treats many of these issues around value.
Among other interesting examples, Graeber notes that Ireland continued to use "slave girls" as the basic unit of valuation, even after people stopped being used as forms of payment there. As this anecdote suggests, Graeber does not shy from the fertility of debt for feminist analysis.
This three-tiered system can be contrasted with Marcel Mauss's investigation of the gift economy, which would be a part of the ritual layer of exchange. Graeber compares various systems in some depth, and so again I refer the reader to his book.
This sequence argues for a great deal of caution in putting a price on human lives, a caution most readers will probably intuitively support. The problem, so to speak, is that finding a way to avoid revenge killings evinces a similar logic. (The Christian answer to this is supposed to be forgiveness, of course.) Then the other big issue is that once there is a price to avoid revenge, a price is established more generally (as in ).
For instance, in Cultural Studies in the Future Tense, Lawrence Grossberg describes the current conjuncture as prominently featuring a crisis of commensurability: There are various sorts of values (whether financial , religious, cultural, etc.) and we have trouble comparing them. My suggestion is that there have always been various sorts of values, and maybe we should have trouble comparing them. I'm not convinced that, in Grossberg's terms, multiple modernities need to be commensurable , although I'm certainly convinced that this "crisis of commensurability" creates various problems.
I'm specifically saying financial here, rather than economic, because I'm mentally reserving the idea of "the economic" more broadly around allocation, not money specifically.
I will give some more thoughts on this when discussing assertion number four.
One obvious issue dating to Marx: The fetish. We can view it as the residue of the ritual stream in money (or goods). Graeber has more to say about the fetish, particularly in Toward An Anthropological Theory of Value, where he sees it as a problem to be overcome — one might compare him here to the classical economist who rails against people's "irrational behavior." Respect for the ritual stream allows us to respect this behavior , and changes the problem into one of multiple streams, of not letting these ritualizing or fetishizing tendencies penetrate exchange for everyday goods like food & housing or human lives themselves.
The alienation produced by the fetish drove much of Marx's analysis, and we can see that only a century or so after Locke, there was already a sense that his "own" was fracturing under the load of capitalist production. The result is the self-alienation of property that is somehow not "own" but an unexamined hybrid of everyday necessity & ritual.
Graeber's approach is more to query people's motivations, and try to integrate that into value.
The idea that people are born with responsibilities rings true to me — maybe this is my cultural baggage showing, but I would say, for instance, that someone has a responsibility not to destroy the planet — but this sense of responsibility can be conceptualized (and therefore politicized) very differently. What do we really owe to the world, or to other people? This phrasing seems to me to propel the question far beyond the realm of economics, or at least how the latter is commonly understood. Those basic questions also go back to the beginnings of history, and surely beyond, something that cannot be said for classical economics.
This is probably a good time to raise the Enlightenment era urge to simplify: Narrow a problem down to a question that can be treated (pseudo-)scientifically, by ignoring and/or foreclosing the possible variations in context. It worked well to create the Fordist assembly line, and atomized context-free production, but that context returns in our post-production negotiations & alienation, even if it's still denied in some quarters. (Again, this is simply classical dialectics — a technique with its limits, but still far too poorly understood; see Dialectic of Enlightenment.)
There has been variation regarding whether a single descendent inherited property, whether it was divided, or how it was divided. It's also interesting that primogeniture dominated over notions of determining what descendent had the particular personal "properties" that made the previous ruler (presumably) a good one. After all, there are mechanisms (whether nature or nurture) by which such properties were inherited also, and with the vagueness in what constitutes property per se, these objects & qualities co-constitute in people's estimations.
I've long found it fascinating that it was believed the designated hereditary ruler — designated by a formula of primogeniture, that is, rather than some property of the individual, if that distinction can be made in these terms — would somehow mature into an adult leader when necessary. It's almost as if maturity itself was taken as an inheritance, to be triggered by the father's death, much as forest renewal can be triggered by fire.
We can also consider the way the Christians constructed a church hierarchy as different from the land/property-constructed hierarchy. Even with the success of the bourgeois movements, and the resulting strong overlap of aristocracy with general financial wealth, one can still perceive at least three strands of inherited value originating euro-modernity. (The intellectual strand would be contained in the religious, as I've just constructed things, but a major non-religious intellectual strand developed rapidly — perhaps exactly at the pace the aristocratic-bourgeois distinction collapsed.)
See Braudel's Civilization & Capitalism for discussions of how wealth transfer between generations was handled differently in e.g. China & the Ottoman Empire during the modern period.
We can also inquire on cultural inheritance, either as a form of, or as distinct from, wealth inheritance in this context. At a minimum, the cultural inheritance (or continuity) was necessary to insure the orderly transfer of wealth or power.
Returning to the notion of everyone being born in bondage from the previous paragraph, if one has already inherited the agreed upon sum to purchase one's freedom, this bondage is a mere formality, at least in the material domain. Even better, for people at the top of the hierarchy, there may be no one to pay but themselves.
Discussions of how genetic material interacts with ideas on property tend to leave out this part of the circulation between those items, the way that property has long propagated genetically. New arguments on gene property take genetics from the background of this circulation into the foreground. In that sense, these new arguments reconfigure old arguments, and the old arguments can in turn be reread through the new ones.
This raises a classic question of whether society is a relationship among people, or a relationship between people and things. Inheritance, at least of material property, suggests a two-part relationship, person-thing-person. (This can perhaps be analogized to Marx's money-commodity-money or commodity-money-commodity exchanges, although I admit this seems strained. Perhaps the better analogy is with the bird flu.) So in other words, in US euro-modernity, it would be a relationship between people mediated by things.
I feel a need to explicitly mention biopolitics/necropolitics & governmentality here. My main comment is nothing new.
The excess of force was also turned outward during the imperialist-modernist era. The extent to which this excess force could find a "productive" outlet helped strengthen the entire feedback cycle, of course. Contemporary euro-modernity is unthinkable without colonies, not only materially, but conceptually. We begin to see this excess of force, born of the same hereditary propagation of hierarchy, turned inward in the contemporary United States, a natural consequence of post-colonial movements. This force may prove to be extremely corrosive, as it has been everywhere else, and ultimately end US empire from inside. Unfortunately (yes!), it's difficult to imagine that series of events not involving a great deal of violence.
I have yet to mention usury here, and it might be fruitful, so to speak, to compare it with usufruct: In usufruct, one may "enjoy" the production of some piece of capital (to put it one way, or more historically, the food produced by a piece of land) as long as one leaves the capital intact for whomever owns it. In usury, one enjoys the fruits of the person (interest), while leaving the person (presumably) and the debt itself intact. Although that last might not be precisely true, that sort of perpetual income is a typical goal of usurers: It's not technically slavery, since the person isn't owned, but their production is (and creditors often claim first share). This is according to the "Doctrine of Use."
In other words, although a creditor may not be able to collect a debt after the debtor's death, significant forms of wealth arising from this relationship are still able to span generations and create exponential inequity over time. There is no "reset" as with the Roman Empire, or various other systems. The inequity accumulates, and the descendents of creditors believe they are "owed" something, although it's unclear exactly who owes it (because the formal debtor relationship does not survive). This belief is transformed into a general feeling of entitlement toward everyone , that is typically borne by those unable to transfer such an obligation to someone of lower status.
This feeling of entitlement is not only directed toward other people, but also toward the planet & environment as a whole. Perpetuated debt leaves not only perpetuated poverty, as people without inherited wealth are starved for resources, but a deepened sense of ownership & exploitation toward natural resources. One can even, tentatively, equate the uncollectible debts of the dead with the quantity mandated of the natural world to fulfill these supposed obligations.
I don't intend to discuss the public sphere in any great detail, but this is a concept that has changed over the centuries of modernity: Two very important developments in this area have been the enclosure laws that privatized formerly public lands in Europe, and the imposition of this style of law on the entire world via globalization. If it's still possible to find unclaimed land anywhere in the world, it surely will not be for much longer. Moreover, public resources are colonized more broadly: The "public airwaves," the sea of garbage in the Pacific Ocean, space junk, worldwide pollution and the greenhouse gases... all put to the use of private profit. And things will not end there: If it becomes possible to make a profit by processing garbage or space junk, then people will claim to own it, but of course not until then.
In other words, if people could simply choose to have more (or adequate) wealth — as neoliberal rhetoric frequently asserts — then this discussion would be very different. This inheritance, or debt, or property materially affects one's prospects. Perhaps this simple point shouldn't even be argued here, but it is disputed regularly & aggressively in the media.
This is also a restatement of the new racism: Because we posit there is freedom & equality in the market , if a racial group is not doing materially well, that is proof of their inferiority. These arguments are not only self-serving in the most obvious way, but also serve to reinscribe "the market" as primary.
Neoliberals do not stop there: They conceptualize any way in which "the market" is not free as unfair constraint on the wealthy. So for them, it's not equal, but it's the people who are most wealthy who suffer the worst discrimination. There is a logic to it, of course, since barring any regulatory restraint, these individuals would surely become more rapacious than ever. All the ways in which "the market" is tilted toward them, however, become invisible — or at least invisible in this line of rhetoric. They seem to be able to use their existing advantages quite well, practically speaking. Indeed, that's the magic: Look over there!
This becomes indistinguishable from religion. A belief in "the market" is basically a belief in the status quo, that whatever is happening in the world must be because god willed it. (One hears such statements all the time.) People who aren't so religious merely excise the god portion, but keep the same reverent attitude toward the status quo.
Note also how the lack becomes something you "own" via this wording, shading into the rhetoric of personal responsibility. This also takes us into ideas from assertion number five.
Any proliferation of terms creates distinctions that can be used to one's advantage: That's the point of introducing more terms or divisions: You might think that A is to B, but this is not A, it's C! (A similar rhetorical opening is discussed in assertion number one.)
And under the heading of ability (or "can") I include the ethical willingness to exploit. This is learned, both in families and in cultures.
In other words, if external constraints were removed, even if everyone's wealth was reset at the same level, the very existence of English common law in a country would yield a hereditary aristocracy over time (assuming the temporary power structure did not act quickly to rewrite the law).
Is there any way to dispute that this is what is currently happening in the United States? (This might be ironic if the American Revolution to throw off hereditary aristocracy hadn't been so crassly bourgeois from the start.)
If the reader does not like the word "aristocracy," that is OK. It was not an important choice, but I think it does create the correct associations.
Shall we then hope (or pray?) for the Good King? Such a pseudo-historical individual is surely an improvement on the greatest excesses of capitalism. What are "his" properties?
The reader can surely think of many other topics without my help. Despite the restricted discussion here, the broader assertion seems meaningful to me.
Although I am treating assertions three & four separately — and do indeed intend to take up some different ideas in keeping with literal meanings of assertion four — I also view them as more closely related than the others, in effect a two-part assertion. This is, then, the beginning of the central assertion of the set. Let me discuss personal motivation: The formation of this material was grounded in a fairly straightforward observation about Braudel's Civilization & Capitalism, namely that he barely mentions insurance in his narrative. I subsequently sought a critical history of insurance, but in vain.[1,3] Moreover, as its correlate, I sought a critical or broad anthropological discussion of gambling, with limited success. Obviously, these lapses could be attributed to my own failings in the library, but regardless, one conclusion seemed inescapable: The centrality of these topics had not been recognized. That was the beginning of the present article.
Further to this discussion of risk, I frequently hear the following, particularly in neoliberal tinged debate: Businessmen deserve large profits because they're the ones who take the risks. Let us begin there: This is, in the first sense, a straightforward glorification of gambling. Moreover, it's glorification of non-consensual gambling: The entrepreneur has rolled the dice, and should his number come up, he will demand his winnings, the winnings representing the sum of all the sides of the dice. In other words, there is an implicit totality out of which must be selected winner(s) & loser(s), and this conceptual totality is conjured into being by the entrepreneur's roll. Although some people might not know they are playing, they are , or rather they will be bound by the result. Backing up for the moment, there are basically two poles to dividing a fixed resource (or obligation) among a fixed number of people, splitting it evenly or winner-take-all. If the resource (or obligation) cannot be split , a strict egalitarian approach cannot be applied at every instant (shading to assertion four): Some sort of "winner" (or loser) is required. This can be determined according to or by  social hierarchy, whether might-makes-right or something else, including overlapping hierarchies with different claims in different matters. It can also be determined by chance, according to the roll of dice , perhaps as a matter of divination. Interestingly, there are or were human cultures that did not gamble , but they were exceptional, and indeed it may well be that their allocation or divination techniques were passed over by anthropologists looking for recognizable gambling. In any case, the role of chance — or fortune — can be viewed as divine or simply as dumb luck, and as this article frequently asks, we might do well to ponder why we consider the two so different. Such a dice roll is an egalitarian option in the moment, assuming the dice is fair. When we move to other questions, including "skill," the chances may not be equal: And dice did not begin equal; the astragali bones were not uniform.
Leaving aside the question of skill for the moment, what if neither the resource nor the number of people are fixed? Dice or odds-evens or roshambo are good at deciding amongst known finite options, but the world does not consist of known finite options. This is significant for our entrepreneur, someone who might even be described as conjuring options. The conjuring of options goes beyond those taken, to include some set of others considered to be losing, from which the successfully gambling entrepreneur should extract his winnings.[22,23] This notion of totalizability — being able to list all options in advance — underscores calculation, whether for gambling or insurance. The notion is ontological. Moreover, our entrepreneur, in conjuring new options, plays on a paradox: His winnings can only be calculated against a totality he has modified, as the calculation takes it to be fixed yet again. My first suggestion on this point is that an ontology of risk-chance-chaos must eschew the entire concept of totalizability. A simple goal or result of such an eschewal would be that an opening does not simultaneously become a foreclosing; an opening of possibility by our entrepreneur would not mean closing related possibilities to others via claims on property.[25,26] The idea of "the total" is crucial to the creation of modernity: Totality was no longer the god of monotheism, nor was ultimate judgment, but both entered the domain of humanity. Crucially, as divine, totality could not be circumscribed, but as human, there was the sense that it could be.
If totality was to be circumscribed, nowhere was that felt more keenly than in the analysis of risk.[27,28] If a world without divine order was chaos, analysis of risk represents one way of systematizing that chaos. And analysis presents an opening for skill. Such an opening had always been present, of course, except that it might have been considered cheating instead. The concept of cheating rests first on a fair allocation of pure chance, an equal throw of the dice as a social ideal. Yet the dice were not geometrically perfect, and a game like odds-evens enters the psychological realm: There was always a possibility of intentionally trying to win, rather than accept fate. If cheating is dishonesty [30,31], then what was expected behavior? To what extent did it mandate self-recognition? Was the allocation decision meant to be divine?[32,33] Does the relevant god punish cheating? Is winning evidence of god's favor? Is winning via "skill" even more evidence of god's favor?[35,36] In the modern era, having subtracted god from this question, we are nonetheless left with the same form: Is winning via "skill" evidence of superiority (favor)? The modern answer is emphatically yes.[37,38] In other words, allocation retains its ritual form, but its supposed justification has been evacuated of its theological component — there is nothing or no one to judge the result, it simply is.
Recalling Graeber's discussion of exchange & money from assertion two, the element of ritual is critical here. If it was ritual objects that came to appropriate currency (exchange) generally, then it is necessary to consider the means of allocating ritual objects specifically. Although analysis seems to be crucially absent on this point, this is a "natural" place for games of chance to influence, or even dictate, allocation. As long as ritual objects were only ritual objects, any material  harm due to gambling would be minimal. Moreover, such gambling could signify the divine order of the world. (Our material economic problem arises when ritual exchange takes control of everyday exchange, not because of ritual exchange per se.) This vision is absolutely critical, in my opinion: The idea that chance is integral to existence has been & is under attack: The historical course of this attack is according to divine providence , calculation of risk , and most recently neoliberal denial. My suggestion, and it is a critical suggestion, is that these views do not represent entirely contrary points of view, but are rather continuations of each other  in some significant way. And each is, in at least some significant way, worse than the last: Increasingly severe denial of chance — or fortune — by modernity has had serious consequences.
So what does "worse" mean above? I have in mind two basic declines: Most simply, it means worse material conditions for the average person in the world, relative to the most well-off. More provocatively, it means a less rich view of the world itself. I'll assume here that the typical reader is not fond of either divine providence, or neoliberal denial , and so I'll concentrate on the shift from divine providence to calculation of risk. Within this shift, the two basic declines go together: A "less rich view," that is, collapsing value systems into fewer master valuations or narratives, has meant less value attributed to various populations , and in turn, less allocation. It has meant, in fact, a keener sense of knowing what value is — perhaps the main issue, where obviously I question what this "knowing" entails: This is the basic instrumentality of the modern age: With no divine purpose, there is only human purpose, and that purpose is to make money. With concepts of fortune or chance no longer endowed with a higher meaning, steps can be taken to dictate or control them. While this sense of control can be taken as a positive , it descends everywhere into life, binding everything to the same system. There is an obvious paradox to this situation related to Christianity, namely that the omnipotent God and his providence represents an absolute totality. One might think that killing God provides more worldly variety by breaking apart this totality, but it is precisely the totality or unity that is retained, even intensified.[56,57] And it is concepts of risk that have structured this unity, down to the smallest act or occurrence. What then is the characteristic modern cure (remedy) for Fortune? It is found in risk management, insurance or hedging, constructing options  so that one "wins" regardless of events.
The idea of controlling (or managing) risk completely changes the medieval notion of Fortune's Wheel, the idea that one may be on the top today & on the bottom tomorrow, or vice versa. This is not merely conceptual , but comes with techniques for preserving one's wealth or advantage across divergent occurrences — stopping the wheel from turning. Such is, after all, the point of managing risk. And risk is bad for the people with something to lose; it's worse the more one has to lose. Advantages are locked in technically (mathematically), and intensified. The rich getting richer becomes religion itself, an evangelical religion: More aspects of the world are brought under this rubric, as many as possible. Accumulation increasingly revolves around risk management — without risk management, an activity is a mere gamble — and incorporating new layers of human activity into that management. Science becomes insurance, the science of risk aimed at eliminating risk (for the businessman, at least ). There is also a duality introduced by the concept of risk, between certainty & uncertainty. This is an epistemology, the modern epistemological rupture.[68,69]
So in my earlier discussion of gambling, we can take the introduction of risk management or insurance as an intrusion of skill. The dice are no longer fair, because of superior access to information or technique. Insurance is the opposite of gambling? The insurance industry would likely sanction that opposition, even if internally, risk management (in the context of profit taking) involves many acts of gambling. And despite its near ubiquity in human societies, we are frequently told that gambling is wrong — presumably making insurance right. Even Luther, setting the stage for Protestant instrumentalism & entrepreneurship, said that gambling winnings are theft.[71,72,73] If resources can be extracted from others without risk, somehow that is not considered theft, and classical economics likewise positions itself as opposed to gambling. Modern gambling is then circumscribed by risk management (or insurance), yielding not a binary, but a hierarchy or inversion.[74,75] (This is probably not what Mallarmé had in mind when writing "Chance is at last curbed....") Fortune is subjugated and cured ; difference, at least radical difference, is exiled as outside the system.[79,62] This is modernity: The suspension of chance, and with it, real decision  — managed risk is not risk at all. Modernity did away with divine providence, yielding to analysis & human control, recapitulated in the harsher uncertainties of those without such control. In that sense, risk management & insurance are not about eliminating uncertainty, but rather pushing it onto others in a very hierarchical manner.
So we  have an ancient world of gambling & (radical) chance, a medieval world of divine order (non-human system) admitting of changes in fortune, and a modern world where "risk" is increasingly carefully systematized & eliminated: The degree of system increases. Likewise, ritual decreases — or rather is deeply obscured: Ritual emerging somehow , to ritual objects conquering everyday exchange (prehistoric), to ritual sustaining the order of the universe (ancient), to ritual  sustaining the fabric of society (medieval), to ritual submerging beneath it all (modern) to silently preserve the same order of universe & society.[83,84] From harmless entertainment to deadly  seriousness? Such a flippant summation is surely incorrect in multiple ways, but the stern condemnation of "mere" ritual while past rituals are systematized haunts us. This is the classic double-move or fold, performed here on social behavior very broadly. I asked above concerning self-recognition with respect to gambling & cheating. Must we recognize our own cheating? First we must recognize the game, and with it the ritual sustaining the game. Are businessmen taking risks, or attempting not to take risks? Who or what is deserving, and of what? Perhaps chance is simply life itself — and in modernity, we are curbing life.
I have three concluding thoughts: I spoke above about an implicit totality being conjured by a roll or casting. Where or what is this ontology? If it's an opening, then let it be an opening, and open it more! To quote Nietzsche, "Chance itself is only the clash of creative impulses." In what consists contemporary creativity? It need not be divine, but it must not be the monotheistic world structure minus the divine spark itself — a husk. So is fortune risky? The modern age has strived to be able to give a conclusive negative answer to that question, even as it has retained ways to glorify  risk. We need to answer emphatically yes — that fortune is, should, and must be risky.
The closest I found is Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk by Peter L. Bernstein. This book has some interesting observations, but is also relentlessly modernist. Consequently, it cannot really be positioned within critique at all. Nonetheless, I will be relating some more observations by and about Bernstein's monograph.
Where Bernstein & I clearly agree is this: The modern concept of risk was a definitive feature of the era. On this point, he spares no enthusiasm. The reader will probably already realize that I am not so enthusiastic, but now it comes to explaining why.
A further fascinating example published in 1915 is The Documentary History of Insurance, 1000 BC-1875 AD by the Prudential Insurance Company. Although it certainly does not occupy a critical position, and indeed is rather self-glorifying, this little pamphlet embraces the notion that insurance was or had transformed capitalism. That this thought seems to have fallen by the wayside in the wake of other events of the first half of the twentieth century is unfortunate, because it seems clear to me that business thinkers of the era could have significantly elaborated the subject from their perspective. Moreover, I'll suggest that roughly the authoring interval of this pamphlet, namely 1875-1915, was absolutely decisive in constructing the current hegemony of insurance thought.
And by "insurance thought," I mean an analog to "marketing thought" as defined by Robert Bartels in The History of Marketing Thought. (Marketing thought had barely started its development in 1915.)
There are a number of histories of gambling, but they largely concentrate on its later formal history, the creation of particular modern games, casinos, etc. David G. Schwartz's Roll the Bones: The History of Gambling does attempt to provide a pre-modern (and even a bit of pre-historical) context for this history, and will be my concrete reference here. It is also, however, something of a puff piece for Las Vegas casinos, who funded the research. It seems to me that a broad-based anthropological study of the subject should be available, because there are a variety of field details relayed in scattered sources, but I was unable to find such a thing. Perhaps it will be written soon.
By way of context, it's only the first 67 pages (of 498) in my edition (trade paperback, 2007) that treat the pre-modern period at all, and a good percentage of that is allusion to, if not outright discussion of, the modern period.
For one, the gambling-insurance nexus would appear to be largely untheorized from the critical perspective. Moreover, this nexus had not been theorized as fundamental to capital formation.
This article began in concrete form in 2012. It has consumed much of my thought, which is something that I have largely regretted: I consider it a great inconvenience, but then I consider the contemporary dominance of neoliberal logic a great inconvenience. Consequently, I had avoided treating this issue for years, hoping someone else would do it. Even as I embarked on the present series of articles (this would be the third of four, as currently conceived), I had hoped for a much shorter result in this case, but gradually relented to a need — or rather, my perception of a need — for a broader discussion. Whether or not this resulting article ultimately serves any purpose for anyone else, it will presumably relieve me of this sense of obligation to the topic.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the adventures of the colonial corporations initiating modernity.
In practice, of course these options are mixed, particularly as a time series (per assertion four). In other words, discrete instances of decision of this sort are followed by various accretions (whether in resources/obligations or people) or diminishments, and sub-shares divided in some other fashion, or according to a mix of such previous simple decisions.
Or maybe it's simply more fun or exciting, perhaps by mutual agreement, not to split.
I am emphasizing the "winning" idea due to the previous orientation around entrepreneurial risk, but the reverse is significant as well.
Here I do not mean to foreclose the idea of the so-called enlightened despot, who chooses according to good  principles, instead of our all-too-familiar experience of limitless greed & selfishness from people in position to decide.
I prefer to leave the naïve circularity of this term undisturbed here.
This latter is presumably the result of some historical (or mythical) decision of a similar nature.
I am using the dice as a broad metaphor, partially in keeping with Schwartz's Roll the Bones title, where he traces the origin of modern dice from knuckle bones. Schwartz also mentions a variety of other simple allocation techniques  of this nature, such as odds-evens, etc.
He does not call them allocation techniques, but I do, as per the present context. Allocation techniques might also be called allocation rituals.
According to Alfred Kroeber, as cited by Schwartz, human cultures without gambling were: Australia, the Pacific Islands, subarctic North America, remote parts of India & South America, and Eastern sub-Sahara Africa.
This is only speculation on my part, but note that gambling histories immediately identify skill games (such as ball sports) with gambling rather than query allocation techniques beyond dice-type games. Moving from "games" of chance to games of skill is significant.
This, precisely, has been the problem with even our most sophisticated forms of financial prognostication, since these methods continue to make implicit or explicit assumptions about what is possible, and to base their decision-making models accordingly. Note, additionally, that even the recognition that something completely unforeseen could occur  does not mitigate this financial risk in our current world (i.e. driven by private enterprise), because a more aggressive stance, that is with more assumptions, will produce a higher profit — as long as the assumptions continue to hold.
I have seen this consideration of "the completely unforeseen" described as the defining difference between Keynes & Hayek by e.g. Nicholas Wapshott in the popular press. I do not want to dwell on this tedious twentieth century argument, however.
I assert that this dice & allocation metaphor is the conceptual origin of the belief that businessmen deserve large profits because of risk. A winner is asserted simultaneously with the conjuring of a "pot."
These other options can become quite concrete in legal cases establishing the entrepreneur's property rights. They become concrete as they are closed to others.
This suggestion is certainly not new: It can be credited in one concrete form, namely around Cantor & set theory, to Badiou in Being and Event. I might further assert that Western thought had to rediscover this otherwise obvious idea that had been suppressed in the early modern era.
Consider, for instance, the early modern period and the idea of "discovering" a non-European place. One could expect to obtain various (legal, according to Europeans) rights regarding exploitation of that place. We can consider the globe to be finite, but surely the exploitative possibilities (let alone the non-exploitative possibilities), even of a single place, are not finite. These possibilities were not necessarily proscribed immediately, but the "discovery" created proscription as a possible horizon. This can be considered an extreme example, including as it did, slavery and various direct forms of human atrocity, but it's also one of the formative events (rather, extended series of events) of modernity.
Such a statement could also be applied to binary logic and proofs via contradiction.
According to my copy of the OED (2009 CD-ROM), the origin of the word "risk" is uncertain, although dated clearly enough to the later seventeenth century (the era consolidating English world domination). The 1913 edition of Webster links it with the Latin to cut, and speculates that the word originates with sailors. Although it is apparently speculative, and the OED does not discuss this at all, such an origin fits well with the decisive seaward shift of the English entry into the modern. (Bernstein gives a different opinion on the origin of the word, but does not cite his.)
Note also that I did not adopt the dice imagery arbitrarily, but rather because so many of our words arise from that activity: Chance comes from cadentia, falling; aleatory from alea, a die. To paraphrase Caesar, there is no turning back once the die is cast: A decision has been made.
Bernstein portrays this move as going "from helplessness to choice." Obviously these are very loaded terms. This phrase represents his narration of the end of (the dominance of) religion also.
The word cheat is a variation of escheat, the confiscation of property by a lord due to fine or lapse. According to the OED, the word comes into the language about the time of Machaut's death, with many of the more interesting usage examples coming from the 1600s. This pattern should start to appear familiar.
It is possible to reframe this question entirely: The psychological realm, the decision to cheat, could be taken as the expression of an unconscious desire for a particular outcome. In other words, "cheating" might not be conscious, and the outcome might not be considered (see , among other possibilities) suboptimal: Who really wants this thing? This interpretation does not easily eliminate the potential for abuse, however.
To divine versus the divine: To decide the future, to know the future, to know the future already decided.
We could also do well to consider the I Ching on this point, and the related Chinese concept of the divine.
The Greek tragedies can be read as framing hubris in these terms: Perhaps more to the point, having taken it upon oneself to decide an outcome, is one now responsible for all of the consequences? This question contrasts with the idea of accepting fate.
This is, familiarly, the Protestant (Calvinist) position.
This inquiry can also be read in the narrative of Cortés & Montezuma, as Cortés's men started to cheat at gambling. What did that mean to a seasoned gambler — or diviner — like Montezuma? Through a modernist lens, this narrative is read as one of strength & weakness, or perhaps even exposing weakness, but that is only one lens. (As a further footnote, having ultimately won the Aztec kingdom, Cortés proceeded to outlaw gambling.)
Bernstein, for example, never even ponders the idea that compiling superior private information (on risk) could be unethical in dealing with others.
And here I also leave aside the question of whether "merit" even functions in current society. (This is, I believe, ultimately a theological question: It's a way to sustain the form of god-based justification, but with some sort of rationalization.)
We can also ponder the elaborate rhetoric constructed to justify the status quo, whatever it happens to be. It's no longer god's plan: It's evolution, or the market, or naked power. (Well, we don't usually admit that it's naked power.)
It is, at the very least, clear that the typical egalitarian allocation of the goods of everyday life has not maintained itself into the modern era. In other words, the formal properties of exchange have been modified, and modified by ritual. (This is one way to view the situation, according to Graeber's model of three streams of value.)
And Graeber suggests that these would typically be men's rituals. Their perceived seriousness was likely rather different from the inside & from the outside.
I hesitate to get into any sort of gender essentialism here, but the suggestion must at least be noted.
And I mean this in a very strict/limited sense, because the consequences of prestige could go on to be significant in other ways.
Schwartz represents this idea, among other ways, with the Egyptian Thoth.
A prominent medieval theological response was that, although the world appeared random, it was all a part of god's plan. This mentality continues in force for some people today, but typically subjugated to human choice.
This is precisely the "cure" for fortune promulgated by the modern age: We can subject chance or fortune or risk to our control, by mastering it.
Most conspicuous here, perhaps, is the continued avowal of a strict meritocracy: That people's life circumstances are irrelevant to their material success in the economy, the latter based entirely on merit. I suggest the term neo-Calvinism for this attitude.
I do not mean to suggest here either some idea of "progress" or inevitability, but rather a genealogy of where we are now.
For the present statement, whether that denial is positioned rhetorically or in suppression of events themselves is unimportant. The two converge, as between human thought & action.
And this material hierarchy, in turn, inflects thought & policy, which in turn inflect material hierarchy, etc. This obvious relative difference is, therefore, extremely powerful via feedback.
This mentality is discussed well in, for instance, The Fragility of Things by William E. Connolly. The topic is discussed, and I think understood, both fairly broadly & contemporaneously, but I do appreciate Connolly's presentation, and will mention some other ideas of his.
This statement can be generalized beyond the (implicitly) human population, to the environment and posthumanist concerns.
Again, this lesser allocation has been relative. At times, such as the famines of the early modern period, it has been absolutely less. In places, such as the least favored colonies, it has been absolutely less. At other times & places, economic growth has meant that even the worst off can receive some benefit, if only relatively less. From the USA perspective, the creation of the middle class was largely on the backs of others, originally more natives & imported slaves, and in time, more exploitation of people elsewhere in the world, out of sight. This "out of sight" era of USA world dominance & exploitation has created the illusion of general prosperity — and it's not much of an illusion in any case, since poverty was never eliminated from this country. I feel, however, that this basic USA mentality must be noted, for its ubiquity. From the very beginning, it has included a large dose of self-serving denial: At the time of the American Revolution, the white colonists were the most materially well-off population in the world, due to the multiple populations they were able to exploit both directly & indirectly. Nonetheless, they positioned themselves rhetorically as the aggrieved parties. So little has changed, in that sense, with neoliberalism.
The point is not that everyone thinks this way, but that enough people think this way, and it dictates so much about the events of the world. Proceeding in this manner, prioritizing making money, works just fine (or even better) if others are not following such a motive. The conflict, in that sense, is not direct: It only arises later, when the person who has gathered the money asserts it as a reason for control. Then others are forced to care. If, however, such accumulation (and money is intangible) could go on without subsequent assertion of control, such differing purposes could be readily accommodated. Of course, this assessment skips the entire point, which is that people currently seek money typically because they want control. However, I think it's fair to question how universally this is true; that is, the game of money & desire for control can be co-constitutive, or even the latter a temptation after the fact.
And as already noted, Bernstein takes it to be very positive.
This basic idea can be tackled dialectically. Adorno does not take this exact approach, but the exploitation of nature under the Enlightenment reflects a residual view of nature as one substance. So the denial of monotheism, the historical course of its abandonment, leaves a shadow of unity that cannot be queried. Perhaps ironically, then, the unified nature of the monotheistic god was more open to debate & inquiry (via the Trinity, for instance) than is the unified nature of the modern world (or universe).
If the reader does not believe that the modern age, via science, has intensified unity, consider the essential role of repeatability in the scientific method. Only the same is real (as we'll consider in assertion six).
Although it's evocative to use the word "options" here, with its reference to derivative financial securities, one of modernity's more advanced ways of manipulating risk, I mean something very social: (Contractual) agreement that these are the possibilities, and that in each case, one is in fact entitled.
We can also wonder how true this metaphor ever was, with e.g. the hereditary aristocracy of the period. Even as an ideal metaphor, it held some sway over thought.
Such an idea would have been tantamount to destruction of the world for the ancients. Perhaps they would view the modern age in exactly this way. Colorful imagery aside, this action completely changes the notion of creation (rather, creativity).
I perhaps over-emphasize this point, in terms of its linearity, since presumably there are diminishing returns to accumulation (although contemporary behavior does not necessarily support that conclusion), but there are no inflections or pivot points: more is more, less is less, and never do these intersect according to modern thought.
The more that is systematized under the same risk processes, the more spectacular the failure when something from outside disturbs them. Or put differently, the more that is connected in rigid ways, the more that is affected when something breaks.
Bernstein states that "Without risk, society might turn passive in the face of the future." It's probably a typical thought, and essentially entrepreneurial (recalling our earlier discussion). However, consider the actual incentives of the already-rich and the rigid control of risk. While one probably would not characterize control as passive, increasing systematization of risk forecloses possibilities. It's all already decided. Some sort of hypothetical extreme ability to systematize risk converges with an extreme fatalism — but as per , this convergence comes with massive instability (or singularity, in the mathematical sense). Consider, then, the risk management impetus to impose a harmonious totality in keeping with "divine" providence; the medieval is not really left behind, only obscured from view.
Or contrast, provocatively, with Carl Schmitt's view of modernity, as expressed in Hamlet or Hecuba (which I read via Carlo Galli & Adam Sitze ). Schmitt takes modernity to be inherently indecisive, exemplified by Hamlet. This is his crisis of sovereignty in the absence of God. In other words, systematizing risk is indecision, i.e. passivity. Bernstein's remark, and general thought, is fascinating from this point of view, even though we're immersed in essentially Bernstein's message via the mass media, particularly the financial press. Schmitt articulates a completely different pole.
These essays are in Political Theology & Early Modernity, edited by Graham Hammill & Julia Reinhard Lupton, a fascinating anthology oriented around Schmitt. Kathleen Biddick, in introducing her contribution "Dead Neighbor Archives," describes Schmitt rather concisely & well as "the brilliant and troubling theorist of sovereignty."
And thus, the idea of the businessman deserving profits because of risk is turned on its head.
My criticism of duality in general is to be found in Hierarchy as rupture, so I will not reiterate it here.
This might be termed an actuarial form of knowledge, more detection at a distance than direct apprehension — bureaucratic rather than active/creative.
Quentin Meillassoux describes the latest versions of this epistemology as "correlationism" in After Finitude. Although Meillassoux is a clear writer, and offers some good insights, such as on correlation, I disagree with significant portions of (the apparently trendy) speculative realism. The major parts of this criticism can be found in previous articles, although without my having known a name for this set of ideas. I will critique speculative realism more specifically in the course of assertion four.
In the present context, it would have been very reasonable to state instead: Insurance is the cure for gambling. That sounds very modern indeed.
But then Luther said a lot of weird things (and some much worse than "weird").
It's also worthwhile to consider the nexus between gambling & usury, something that was surely on the minds of Luther & others: The idea being that gambling leads to usury, because gambling losses cannot be covered. This is a perfectly reasonable concern, and one that maintains in the contemporary era, but doesn't necessarily reflect on gambling (or chance) as a form of allocation — the problem remains the borrowing (or put differently, the approach to time & future, per assertion four).
It's also worth looking at the relationships between gambling & gender, gambling & other subgroups, the mechanisms of gambling & addiction, etc. This is a big topic that I do not intend to foreclose, but it's also not my purpose here. The current "blame the victim" urge, seen in so many arenas of conflict, might be sufficient to explain many of these issues. The idea that one should be ashamed not to have one's number come up on the throw of a die is certainly not independent of context. It's possible, in fact, to be perfectly content with the result (as discussed in assertion one).
Consider the idiom "all bets are off." This means that something has changed, causing the basis for risk management in a situation to be put into doubt. The modern gambling house only takes bets when it can control the risk, and when it cannot, it cancels them. An assertion like "all bets are off" requires power to make, and cannot be made by just anyone. Consider the 2008 financial crisis around the USA housing bubble in this regard: The management took clear precedence over the gamble(rs).
Here I have written hierarchy or inversion instead of "cure" or "remedy" — the latter set of terms are appropriate and represent the broader figuration of this article.
This quote has apparently become quite popular via Badiou's In Praise of Love, considering the internet search results when I was seeking the exact wording. Badiou's take on love is quite relevant here: There is no "risk management" involved, but rather a commitment to a particular eventuality. This likewise relates to my comment on the "less rich view" and indeed also to Schmitt's emphasis on decision.
Machaut's Le Remède de Fortune is also quite relevant here, although there is a basic tension concerning whether he is offering love as the cure or the cause for suffering. This tension is constitutive of the work, although Machaut does "resolve" the tension via happiness through (even unrequited) love itself. It's very evident that he takes a stand toward commitment, and away from hedging. This is a very medieval aspect to his thought, as reflected in the present discussion of modern views on risk. (Of course, there's also no shortage of modern literary examples that resist the more powerful social trends.)
This remark evokes, perhaps, the comments from assertion one concerning the indeterminate relationship between such ideas as void, chaos, nirvana.
The idea that modernity is less tolerant of difference may not make much sense for some readers. After all, we're told about the medieval Crusades, heretics, etc. These were serious issues. But how do they compare to colonialism, a rigidly instrumental view of a person's value, etc.? We have only tackled these latter issues, somewhat, in the postmodern era, as I discussed in Is postmodernism racist?. What I would emphasize here is that the medieval view of "us" in us-them was rather different, although not without its potential for violent othering. There was a sense that even the lowest members of society were just that, members of society.
As noted in the opening to this article, I am taking a position internal to European thought here, and not attempting to offer external critique. The discussion seems complicated enough as is.
The emergence of ritual in human society is a fascinating topic. Here, I am content to let it remain enigmatic, as I concentrate on much more recent developments. There has been no disappearance of ritual, only haunting — the characteristic result of combining rationalization & denial.
Specifically, the Catholic Eucharist, according to many theologians of the time. (There were some differing views on this issue, but I will not attempt further discussion.)
Although I've given a chronological sequence, I've also used verb tense to indicate these things always already happening (in modernity).
Note also the move from sustaining the universe to sustaining society. The universe became increasingly "given."
In the sense of necropolitics.
The game might currently be money, but the ritual greatly predates it. Why is there a game? The Ancient Egyptians, among others, considered it to be of crucial importance.
The allusion to magic is intentional here. I could have, probably , used that imagery effectively if I had started it earlier.
The word "probably" starts to seem very strange as I come to the end of the current assertion. It's a word I use often, perhaps (is that better? — see assertion one) too often. I am now feeling alienated from my own use of the term. That was not really the goal, such as it was, but I feel compelled to note this result here for possible (again?) future inquiry.
Connolly speaks, for instance, of an "excess of life over a specific course of action." In other words, is this life conjured by the entrepreneurial roll, or is it merely recognized or captured? In this sense, risk management — and capitalism more broadly — has been a form of capture.
This last image is from Deleuze & Guattari, who unfortunately do not treat risk. The double meaning of the verb "treat" here is intentional, although as a clinical issue, one might better say treating the effect of denying risk (fortune). That can yield many effects on the individual, depending on circumstances. All are dire.
The Christian world structure minus god becomes a husk only if we decline to reanimate the void at its center with our own creativity.
And glory is another theological idea (or ideal). This shades into assertion five.
In selecting the word "timely" around which to orient the present assertion, I have, to a degree, failed my goal of using the most straightforward words in the most straightforward ways. This requires some discussion. To say, "Fortune is time," would not only break the string of predicate adjectives , but would yield an incorrect assertion. (The reverse certainly has a history, however.) What I want to convey here is the degree to which fortune is inextricably linked to time. Moreover, risk is inextricably linked to time , and whereas assertion three treated this aspect mostly implicitly , here the goal is to treat it very explicitly. I could have, therefore, selected other wordings for this assertion, such as "Fortune is temporal," or "Fortune is timebound." I leave it to the reader to judge the choice, but in any case, it is time to move toward the content itself.
In sketching this assertion, I originally believed that I would be tackling this exposition on my own , but in the course of writing the article, I found a related treatment , and so will start there, with Nick Srnicek's article "Abstraction and Value: The Medieval Origins of Financial Quantification" from the anthology Speculative Medievalisms. My first summary: What Srnicek and his colleagues have done is trace a particular assemblage with some accuracy. My motivation revolves around viewing this assemblage differently, its uses, its means of manipulation, its ideas on progress. Moreover, Srnicek & company engage a stratifying machine , or I might say, trace the contours of a stratifying machine, and this machine operates on time. Its workings are to be made explicit here, even (especially) if they remain opaque in the literature of speculative realism.
Simply put, Quentin Meillassoux's argument & exposition in After Finitude rests on a continuous & linear sense of time. This sense of time remains unexamined — it is simply "given." This is true both of his motivating assertion about the age of the earth or universe, and his logical demonstrations, when he chooses to stage them in time. It is no secret that I consider the statement about the age of the universe to be utter nonsense  — a possibility Meillassoux raises, but dismisses immediately. The logical arguments, relying on linearity & continuity, sit surprisingly easily next to his use of contradiction, and along with it, binary logic to demonstrate his points. From my perspective, the strangest part of the monograph is twofold around that point: First, there is Meillassoux's unusual section postscript where he raises the possibility of constructing a "positive" argument, rather than relying on (binary) contradiction. I think it's admirable for Meillassoux to raise this limit to his thought process, but at the same time, I wonder at his willingness to proceed: Constructing such a positive argument seems completely impossible, for the simple reason that his result is not true — steeped in the logic of contradiction. Second, given his emphasis on Cantorian discontinuity , and the inability to totalize, with which I thoroughly concur, taking this temporal continuity as given, and using (binary, no less) totalizability to construct an argument by elimination (contradiction) would only seem to undercut the main thrust, and in a significant way. I read much of After Finitude, for all its lucid criticism of some other positions, as being an argument that doesn't grapple with its own implications in this sense — and indeed I waited to have the opening motivation regarding age-of-the-universe nonsense reformulated into a different guise, but this does not occur. Not only does that transformation never occur, i.e. the monograph does not reread itself through itself, but Meillassoux ends with an even more passionate exhortation for philosophy to follow science into occupying the transcendent position, to take that position away from religion. He even seems to be asking sincerely why it has not done so.
So maybe it was unfair to have taken such explicit issue with the work of a specific individual, but I needed to situate my reaction to Srnicek and his colleagues, Michael O'Rourke  & Elie Ayache , who also rely heavily on Meillassoux. Srnicek traces out a particular progression regarding quantification & calculation, leading from the late medieval period to the risk management of the current era. (Srnicek calls this progress.) Srnicek follows Alfred Sohn-Rethel in placing a heavy emphasis on price, via the exchange relation, motivating mathematical abstraction per se. Moreover, he — correctly, in my opinion — identifies finance as a significant driver of contemporary ideas on ontology & epistemology, not least because of this emphasis on abstraction. Srnicek ends by citing Ayache, and the idea of volatility as a "general equivalent" — with price as input data, rather than outcome. In other words, they articulate a thesis regarding the relationship between finance (and risk management) and time: This relationship is becoming more complex, in a sense, and volatility can be abstracted from time-price to present a "more real" (that is, more amenable to risk management) sense of the way financial markets operate. This thesis presents (or recognizes) a thickening, a stratification of time, by which ideas derived from an overarching time scheme (volatility) are used to exert greater control. Ayache not only presents this stratification, but inverts the view, taking volatility not as a derivative of time, but as a "more real" entity. He goes on to present financial derivatives (options, etc.) not as derivatives (in a mathematical sense ), but as more fundamental to market operations. To summarize, then, a stratifying machine is engaged to take ordinary time into a thickened version, accommodating multiple layered time streams at once via volatility, and then a perspective is articulated from the "top" of this stratified assemblage for administering control. I believe they have described this assemblage, and progressive stratification, accurately.
So what do we make of this assemblage, particularly its ontological & epistemological implications? First of all, we need to consider the option : An option creates an event, and by specifying a point in time, it creates an event at a particular point in the future. Now consider the proliferation of options: Events are created at every future point in time, in a smooth & linear continuum. Not only is a specific (underlying) time coordinate constructed (enforced), but these different points in time are related to each other via the terms of the options themselves, when they are bought/sold, when they expire, how they link together via the "body" of a particular stock (financial product), etc. This is the stratifying machine: A smooth & linear time is posited while simultaneously being linked — and in essentially infinitely many places! — in a nonlinear manner. (In Ayache's terms, then, these stock & option prices can be used to measure an underlying volatility, that by its nature, transcends points in time.) Both "ends" of the machine are a problem, both the smoothing & the thickening: Both take us away from the moment, and by proliferating financial events, obscure "actual" financial events.[30,34] Such a process shifts the negotiation of risk, but also changes the nature of time. Risk can increasingly be viewed not as what one does per se, but as how that act is (multiply) embedded in time.
Setting aside Srnicek's example for now, what are some other issues underlying the present assertion? What is the nature of time? As I've discussed in the past — and I'm coming from a musical point of view on this subject  — the basis for time is repetition & counting. Linear (let alone continuous) time is an abstraction from overlaying various cycles or waves, forming a composite. This must be emphasized: Although in the current world, we are conditioned to view time as a linear continuum, there is absolutely nothing like this that exists: The closest we can do is a discrete event that repeats itself very rapidly. Therefore, taking this linear sense of time as "given" must always be scrutinized. Moreover, repetition itself must be scrutinized: What makes an event the same, so that it can be counted? This is likewise an abstraction. A sense of sameness can be creative, and in this, Deleuze & Guattari invoke the refrain (bringing in ethology) as the creation of a territory or a worlding. In this sense, time itself is creative: It can be invoked by repetition or refrain. The creation of time comes out of myth , and we must ask ourselves, given how many incommensurable cycles there are, how many times are there? At the risk of losing the topic (fortune), let's consider different times: There is colonial (or in USA, African-American) time ; there is queer time ; there is crip time ; there is messianic time ; there is stutter or disfluency ; there is finance time. I think we can safely say that modernity (or postmodernity, if we like) has some issues with time, and that a duality like being/becoming cannot fully capture them. Rather, while an idea such as "volatility" might suggest a coherence from above (so to speak), the stratifying machine yields only a rupture (or multiple ruptures, per the list) when viewed from below, that is from the individual perspective: Our risks are no longer undertaken at a specific moment in time. We cannot see the wheel of fortune turning — and turning is the basic medieval image of the timeliness of fortune.
The being/becoming duality, and historical (or concurrent) temporalities more generally, raise the issue of grammar & verb tense: They are an issue throughout this article , and in any temporally staged discussion of ideas. They are an issue in the material basis of fortune, i.e. now or in the future? Moreover, a play of verb tense reflects the temporal differences around us, Grossberg's idea of multiple modernities, and even his crisis of commensurability: Is there a need to compare different values now, or is there a need to recognize different nows? There is danger in either. Such a move (in the sense of opening the future) relies on the structure of now, of delinking stratification from the individual('s) moment. I claim that time can accommodate all of this — rather that modern conceptions of time are not necessary, for all their supposed "givenness." What, then, is the relation between narrative and (dis)continuity or (dis)equilibrium? Does a moment represent a rupture, or is continuity the rupture? If risk is always staged in time , does this mean time is always prior? I argue that it does not, because time itself is an abstraction, more so than risk (or fortune). As for the previous two questions, the answers depend on context, and the context must be interrogated: There is no single answer, just as there is no single subject. It's said that we live in a time of minoritization, and in turn relativism: This is context yet again, and seems to raise equal parts relief & panic — although not in a strictly hierarchical way. Rather the world is multiple , and opening the future relies not only on multiple times, but on the arbitrariness of time inside the moment.
If a fortune is a prediction, does that make it bound to occur? Such is the goal of risk management, to stop the wheel from turning in time: The unexpected (or accident ) is to be eradicated, as is anything not fitting the regularizing assumptions. Chaos is being without time. When something occurs again, via some kind of sameness (recognition) & repetition, it implies a counting, and with it time. Need such a second event occur? In a sense, yes, because our current experience is predicated on it, but in a sense, no: Everything might always be different, and so without time. Returning to the present assertion, then, first inverted: Time is money — not merely a conceit of the modern, but an inversion invoking (or initiating) stratification. Instead, fortune is timely, the forward statement, conjures the needed event — conjures it from the excess of creativity, exceeding the enumeration of possibility. By shining a light onto time, the assertion aspires to an unforeclosed future, but also to an unforeclosed now.
The string will break in due course, anyway, with assertion five.
The phrase "Time is money" is certainly famous (attributed to Benjamin Franklin, although not securely). We will go on to explore it as a marker of modernity, but it must be noted explicitly here at the beginning, because it is so similar to the present assertion itself.
For instance, Bernstein asserts (accurately) that "Time is the dominant factor in gambling," in conjunction with what is essentially a straightforward martingale discussion. In other words, if one can continue to bet indefinitely, and choose for oneself how much & when to stop, one should always be able to win. Such infinite possibilities are generally curtailed, however, whether by the design of the game or simply the circumstances of life.
The unexamined treatment of time within the general subjects of finance & risk management is the major impetus here. A specific nature for time is often assumed.
The prospect of writing such an exposition on my own was certainly exhilarating, but I am not wedded to such an emphasis, if there is something else that can assist the reader. I leave it likewise to the reader to determine if I've added anything worthwhile myself in the course of this writing, but frankly, I've never had reason to worry about having different ideas.
I feel compelled to emphasize that finding this area of literature was very interesting for me. As noted, it has changed the way this exposition will proceed, beginning here. However, the ideas to be discussed remain identical to the original conception. In other words, I see this related material as primarily an aid to communication.
I have found it particularly suitable to engage the language of Deleuze & Guattari here, so to speak of assemblages and stratification. This language is not found in the writing I am currently discussing, but in my opinion, readily clarifies the potentials & stakes. (I will leave some subsequent invocations of other authors unspecified, for the enjoyment of the reader.)
I will concentrate, briefly, on the age-of-the-universe assertion, because it is the more absurd of the two. Simply put, because something can be put into a language game does not assure that it has meaning; this is a well-known result, and should not need elaboration. Regarding this particular language game, there are three primary objections: first, scientific methodology, in that any real laboratory setting is obviously precluded; second, the result itself, which recapitulates looking into randomness as per information theory ; and third, the utter lack of practical meaning: If the universe is a trillion years old, or a hundred trillion years old, or half a trillion, or really any number, it means absolutely nothing to any choice you or I will be making in our lives.
I discuss these first two points already in notes to Part II of Hierarchy as rupture. I find that although methodological objections receive some credence from scientifically-minded people, objecting to the form of the result itself usually produces blank stares. I am not sure how to communicate this better, short of writing a book on information theory, but that has been done (and if I could remember whose graduate textbook I originally read circa 1990, I would tell you). The contour of the result, reflecting entropy , is exactly what would be predicted in using imperfect equipment to stare into a random field. In short, it would make far more sense to state "We have been able to peer backward X far" (with an explanation of how the actual measurements are translated into time units, or simply skip the time units). Indeed, this is typical of scientific reports, but these are translated into other formats before passing into the hands of e.g. Meillassoux. Note, crucially, that the "peering" formation does not invoke transcendence; it keeps observers where they actually are.
Some authors paint this correspondence not as damning the measurements themselves, but as uncovering some deeper truth about the structure of information in the universe, and how/when this structure was created. There is no motive for such a recasting other than pure wishful thinking or vanity. Moreover, obviously, such a result can be obtained with no measurement whatsoever, since it's a mathematical result!
Of course, Meillassoux does claim this "fact" means something: He claims it means, by way of second hand argument, that one must adopt different views on epistemology. Consider then a statement that has absolutely no practical implications for one's life other than as an argument for convincing one of something else seemingly unrelated. What might we say about such a statement? In my terms, such a statement enacts a rupture, and its purpose is to assert or maintain hierarchy.
There is a current television advertisement for the insurance company Geico — and someone has decreed, here in early 21st century USA, that insurance (especially automotive insurance) must be funny — with people in historical garb writing the oldest trick in the book. The first trick is: Hey, look over there! This is very insightful. (People laugh at this advertisement, but I hope they'll also think about it.)
To paraphrase the Deleuze of Difference and Repetition, the logic of contradiction is inherently bourgeois.
This motivation for a topology of the event makes good sense to me, even as I might raise limits to the way a strictly mathematical demonstration can circumscribe event psychology. Note, however, the implicit separation between event & time in this conception: Time remains resolutely continuous throughout, even as contoured by the event. (This is simply more transcendentalism.)
To be clear, an argument by contradiction is one specific form of an argument by elimination, meaning that the possible outcomes must first be enumerated, and then some eliminated. In the case of a binary contradiction, two possible outcomes are posited. This is not unlike a coin flip in gambling, exactly the sort of probability calculation Meillassoux seeks to eliminate (from practical consideration in the real world) by questioning the possibility of enumerating outcomes in advance.
It's natural to ask of every section of the book, what are the assumptions about time underpinning this argument? I suggest that the interested reader do this.
Meillassoux scolds that abandoning the transcendent position has left it to be reoccupied by religion. Perhaps so, but to mimic the form of religion is more than simply a strategy, it is transformational. This restages a basic colonization of rupture: Once established, if this position must always be occupied, then its danger can never be deflated, only contained. A refusal to occupy the transcendent position brings with it an urge to disassemble (or deconstruct) that position. If Meillassoux sees it as offering some kind of vacuum, then the appropriate image-repertory concerns shrinking this vacuum, the opposite of deflating a balloon: Open up, and let the nothing go! To assert that the transcendent position must be occupied, and to move to occupy it oneself no less, is an impulse toward hierarchy & stratification. There is no mincing words on this point: Combating religion by becoming religion (by occupying its place) is an inherently losing tactic from the start. So yes, let me do my own scolding.
Moreover, this is not the non-philosophy of Laruelle, which I sometimes see linked in these expositions, because that is resolutely non-stratifying. That entire project is to undertake a flattening, something that quickly gets lost in the labyrinth (totalizable when we want to totalize, for instance) of speculative realism.
Can it even be possible that Meillassoux does not realize the immediate motivation for eschewing the transcendent position in the second half of the twentieth century: in a word, fascism?
O'Rourke writes a response to Srnicek in Speculative Medievalisms, of which he is one of the editors. O'Rourke makes various worthwhile comparisons between & amongst Srnicek & Ayache & Meillassoux, but I confess I am unsure what the main point of his essay is, as he ends it with a cryptic staging in the body. Perhaps the point is an attempt to recapture the moment (or event), or simply to make some observations of comparison without a tangible conclusion.
Ayache's The Blank Swan: The End of Probability must be compared with Nassim Taleb's much more popular/mainstream The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable. Ayache seems to contest Taleb in some ways, although he states this is not really his point, but rather to continue the logic in the light of Meillassoux's ideas on the necessity of contingency (the subtitle of After Finitude). Ayache articulates a form of risk management (or finance) where unpredictability is the norm — uncertainty as the only certainty (to channel Meillassoux). His monograph is essentially a textbook for people working in finance.
I do not want to dwell on this "progress" idea overly much. Srnicek does not really dwell on a positive appraisal of these changes, but does emphasize that there have been changes in a particular direction, and not some kind of cycle. I agree with this assessment, if put in neutral terms.
Financial equations regarding option pricing are traditionally constructed via differential equations, meaning that volatility is literally viewed as a derivative of the time coordinate. Canonically, Brownian (random) motion on the real number line is represented as the square root (invoking plus & minus) of the linear differential of time. This is a basic model of stochastic theory.
Ayache & Srnicek believe, presumably motivated by the two-part closure of the square-root/square functions (meaning that they form a cycle without remainder, as inverses), as per , that this stratification has reached some sort of limit. This motivates the inversion. If the operation of the stratifying machine can continue — and I believe that it can — then there is no clear "top" to this assemblage from which to look down & control. In this sense, I do not believe that they have described the stratifying machine accurately, but rather only the progressive stratification to this point.
Most readers probably have some sense of stock options: A stock option is a financial product (meaning that one pays to acquire it) allowing the sale or purchase (depending on which type of option it is, put or call) of a specific stock at a specific price at a specific (future) point in time. (Like a gambling house, those in position to do so can balance put/call options so as to avoid exposure — or take a more aggressive position as an individual gambler might.) There are other types of "derivative securities," including insurance products more broadly , but this is the most significant for the present discussion.
Insurance likewise creates a nonlinear time by linking events (such as payments) from particular points in time to future outcomes.
The option need not be exercised (used), but the passing of an option time also presents itself as an event, because some decision must be made. (An option is quite worthless once its specified time has passed.)
The point here is that an option is a vehicle for linking one point in time to other points in time, and these points are not adjacent. Imagine a straight string as our smooth continuum, and then begin tying parts of the string to other parts of the string. It will no longer lie straight, or even in two dimensions, depending on the complexity of the ties. Option ties permeate the resulting figure, leaving only a topological (knot) sense of dimensionality.
Conversely, a particular exchange, at a particular price, happens at a particular point in time. Ayache is calling this less real (cf. assertion six) than a volatility linking different points in time.
And the more that is brought under the control of the system, via a coordinate axis of volatility, for instance, the more that will be disrupted by an event that arises outside of the system. As in assertion three, these models aim to reduce risk (in some absolute sense), but only displace risk. This is similar to Meillassoux's unwillingness to think through the consequences of non-totalizability.
This basic tension can be related to the Banach-Tarski paradox as follows: This paradox plays the basic incommensurability of the irrational numbers against the instrumentality (and "common sense") of the Lebesgue measure, to create a situation in which an uncountable set of measure one can be divided into two uncountable sets of measure one. In other words, the system is everything, except that there is just as much — if not more — outside the system as inside. Yet it is everything.
One might also analogize this paradox to the basic philosophical problem of multiplying entities since Plato. It's very easy to look over there, so to speak, and let the consequences of incommensurability fade behind practical concerns.
Medieval Christian theology attempted to engage this tension productively. Whether it succeeded is for the reader to judge, and in turn I'll leave it to the reader to consider the relevant theological paradoxes, if so inclined.
Note as well that this stratifying machine differs from the entropy-time scaling sometimes used in physics. Such a scaling, while it might not be linear, does not engage a re-entrant sense of time, meaning that the before remains resolutely before, the after after, etc. Options need preserve no such temporal order: They address the future relative to the current time, but may address the future in any (combination of) order(s).
The reader will, of course, note that I do not generally respect a temporal order when writing. The purpose is to engage these phenomena at their own conceptual level, but there is a danger as well — it's essentially a colonization battle.
I believe that changing the nature of time (and underlying this, as noted earlier, abstraction) should alarm the reader. This presents, as elsewhere in this article, a rhetorical opening to be exploited by those willing & able to do so (see  for emphasis, as totalizability returns).
And I should mention Nada-Brahma here, the world as vibration. (European & Indian ontologies became considerably closer when Western physics moved to the wave-particle duality.) Consider also "music of the spheres."
These various different & overlapping rhythms of life have been recognized for a long time. Even such obvious cycles as those of the sun & moon do not fit together without remainder. Observationally, these cycles can easily be incommensurable.
See Difference and Repetition for an examination of this subject. Basically, things are never exactly the same, so it's impossible for something to repeat identically , if only because the context has changed. (Measuring time astronomically is an attempt to get away from the messiness of earthly activity in this regard. It's a fascinating idea, if one really thinks about it, and yet even in astronomy, there are differences. Contemporary science has embraced smallness instead, choosing atoms for its clocks, as a miniature astronomy.)
I allude to identity here intentionally, as it's this tension of difference that Locke (via Balibar in Identity And Difference) plays on in order to create a sense of identity, i.e. consciousness. (Examining the shift from repetition to identity per se is fitting for Balibar as a student of Althusser.) This is actually a critical sequence, as identity is likewise formed out of repetition, just as is time. (And in an interesting piece of serendipity, I now see there is an anthology entitled Time and Identity, of which Michael O'Rourke is one of the editors. Reading this book will have to wait until after this writing, however.)
That the ancients viewed time as created seems insightful relative to current attitudes on time, although the idea that time is "given" does naturally raise the question of by whom? The Greeks saw, for instance, a definite difference between Chronos & Aion. More generally, the identification of e.g. planetary cycles does not immediately generate a human conception of time. This is a process. Further, consider the perceived (by myth) need to create time before creating space, and the implications for the refrain as a worlding. It has become far too easy to dismiss these ideas with our "scientific" ideas on time.
See Homi Bhabha & Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak on colonial time. This topic, including its relationship to African-American time, could easily form a monograph topic, but I do not know one specifically. I have discussed these temporal issues already, to some degree, in Is postmodernism racist?, around the logic of post-.
Queer time is already multiple: For two examples, there is time in or out of the closet, and there are time scales that do not relate to biological reproduction. Further e.g. Robyn Wiegman in Object Lessons stages queer critique in a different temporality from feminist identity. Queer identity formation has also been viewed as inherently temporally disjointed for these reasons. (Judith Butler sees identity formation, generally, as temporally disjointed.)
A sense of time generated by multigenerational biological reproduction is quite pervasive and part of our "given" sense of time, along with the scientific continuum. This bears strong consideration within the context of fortune.
See Feminist, Queer, Crip by Alison Kafer, as well as a burgeoning online literature on this topic (via web search). Expect to see much more of this topic (including more specific ideas such as ), as part of calling medicalization into question.
One of Schmitt's insights is that the narrative of the Messiah, awaiting the Second Coming, creates a specific type of time. (This idea can be staged via the idea of the refrain, or as a becoming of refrain-worlding.) If Christians have created a different time over the past couple of millennia, it is difficult for us to perceive now. A particular sort of anticipation is peculiar to Christianity, however, perhaps best typified  by the non-temporal afterlife. This observation has been made in various other ways, but Schmitt manages to evoke a completely different sense of time.
Explicitly invoking the Christian typology: Events are measured against how they fit a previous (ordained) scheme. A typological invocation would appear to have much significance for appraising different times or temporalities (and I've also yielded to typology in my listing in the main paragraph). This typology did not originate with science, but was greatly elaborated in Christian theology (with parts of each derived from the ancients, of course).
Although usually viewed as a medical problem, and the social pain can certainly be real, I had the following put to me around twenty-five years ago, although I've not seen it formally articulated anywhere: There is a sort of synchronization in human interaction, for example in the speed of talking, and the way pauses & phrases are interchanged. In other words, there is a temporal (and also language or vocabulary, tone, emotional tenor, etc.) synchronization to speech — one put to me, at the time, as analogous to that of a computer modem. From this perspective, a stutter or disfluency is an attempt (conscious or not, and do note that the "social pain" idea need not be in the least attenuated by this observation) to articulate a different temporality. Some people do this more easily, but I also think it raises a critical question: Just how similar are our various individual temporal perceptions?
This is becoming a sort of super-time, smearing or squashing the rest. And not merely smearing or squashing, via linearization or smoothing, but then ripping it apart via stratification: Compare this notion, driven specifically by finance & risk, with Grossberg's diagram of modernity: Now/Event, Everyday Life (this being only partly temporal), and Change/Chronos present themselves disjunctively with Institutional Space. The point here is not so much to critique Grossberg's diagram, but to identify the driver.
This rupture also tells us to delay satisfaction, but never yields satisfaction. It's indefinite delay, surely inspired by the forces mentioned in , and a further "smearing" of the moment.
For instance, when I say that the wheel is the basic medieval image of fortune, I'm suggesting that there is still a medieval image repertory. This suggestion is probably too naive for most readers, accustomed to all manner of literature, but along the theme of opening rhetorical space, verb tense is frequently used aggressively in this manner. A political argument might be only about tense (not to mention case), particularly with a subject like fortune that immediately evokes time.
And this article is very specifically temporally staged: Recall that it is set explicitly within the becoming of modernity, and in turn modern economics. I take a different approach to temporality in each assertion, but most explicit here in assertion four.
And heightened by environmental concerns — concerns yet to really feel the critique of queer time.
Whether different nows imply different pasts & futures, or vice versa, is an open question. In some sense, that question is an empty one, already assuming structures of time. In other words, that question cannot be formed in the context of Aion/becoming.
Different nows can evoke ideas on diversity, and diversity can be justified very easily to the volatility-narrated stratifying machine, by way of diversifying risk factors. Such a justification does nothing with the stratification problem, even if it argues for individual survival. Rather it splinters the "now" typologically, to be reassembled in the derivative volatility-time. (That's kind of an original critique of diversity narratives, isn't it? Yet the message is basically the same as many others.)
This justification at least undermines the Neo-Darwinism that already knows what will survive, and so seeks to enact its own prophecy. Such an impetus is very strong, and so (the value of) undermining it should not be dismissed.
This digression on verb tense may seem like filler, and I could have probably done a better job explaining why I think it's important here. Perhaps a useful summary on that point is this: Verb tense does not operate the same in different languages.
To refer to the ancients, is the tragedy an expression of equilibrium or disequilibrium? (We glimpse in that question an image of pre-Christian time. How can we, now, receive that question — and the tragic itself — as a question about time?)
Srnicek cites the late thirteenth century theologian Peter John Olivi for arguing that finance (or risk) is intrinsically temporal (that the price of money, so to speak, is not merely arithmetic, but geometric [60,61]). Although not noted by Srnicek, Olivi was of course arguing against usury  and for the usus pauper: Together the idea that man does not own time. The geometric nature of interest was meant to alarm the reader (and proclaim the glory of God), not to establish a new basis for human activity. Srnicek cites Olivi in this last sense, which is how history subsequently unfolded.
The geometric, or exponential, price of time has been extremely influential. Olivi saw these dangers clearly — the dangers of ever-widening wealth if people could sell time for a geometric return [62,63] — and yet, here we are. And here I am again, arguing the Franciscan case, setting the historical stage for the life of Machaut & his Remède.
There is no necessity to view time this way: Somehow, the value of time accelerates into the future, not only the value strictly speaking, but the way time's value is arrayed via the stratifying machine. There is little precedence for this in the counting cycles themselves. That is, it does not come from the mechanical cycles otherwise used to measure time, but rather has an analog in biology. That time should be viewed like biological reproduction when it comes to money & usury is not really a surprise, given that the control exercised is biological, but it's nonetheless a highly significant development. (This takes us into assertion five.) In any case, the world itself does not mandate compound interest.
Nowhere is "time is money" more obvious than in usury. Somehow this has become an acceptable social relationship, considered more humane than outright slavery. If anything, it is more prevalent now than ever.
We might also consider that inflation has become a liquidity tax, at least in contemporary USA. This is a specific & peculiar temporal-monetary relationship, usually disguised. Call it a USA tax "loophole" as that word is often used, as it affects some kinds of wealth differentially. There is nothing really notable about tax inequality, but I did want to note this temporal factor.
The danger of viewing time geometrically became the risk of not doing so, in an inversion anticipating exactly what Ayache is proposing around volatility.
In other words, ideas like relativism inspire panic or relief, depending on other aspects of one's perspective, in people at different places in the social hierarchy. Moreover, under a logic of minoritization, what is fortune itself? The present article has tackled the mainstream Euro-USA view, or rather its building blocks. Despite my presenting it as such at far too many points, there has never been a single view. (And I hope I've been clear enough regarding why I raise minoritization specifically under the heading of time. I will not be able to address this fortune-under-minoritization question fully in the present article, although I return to it toward the end. For one thing, I am constrained here by the very basic fact that I am not everyone.)
This perspective can probably be blamed, so to speak, on immersion in music. Music structures time, and can do so in a variety of ways, whether inclusively or not, whether as a confrontation or not, whether with simultaneity or not. This is, in some real sense, my main point, although I leave its elaboration for another place (and time).
I contrast multiple with relative. Both present issues for transcendental critique.
To recap, even what constitutes a repetition to inaugurate a counting (with "two," I should emphasize) is open to interpretation.
This applies only to certain kinds of accidents. The "everyday" accident is fine, because that can be successfully managed. In fact, it yields a profit.
Creativity can certainly be engaged here, particularly as some ambitious individual attempts an "end run" (a term from USA football) on a power block, so as to receive windfall profits. And when such moves fail, the consequences are pushed down hierarchically on those who cannot avoid them: We've seen numerous recent examples.
I am actually trying not to evoke myth here, but rather to be very plainly factual. Such an orientation obviously provides a challenge, but all I can do is interject this note to ask the reader to stop for a moment. (Yes, stop. And moment.)
This is more what I would call "after finitude" myself — perhaps more helpfully, this image is taken from Connolly channeling Whitehead.
Duty is not an adjective, and so here I make a departure in the series. Assertions such as "Fortune is dutiful" & "Fortune is due" do not make much sense, particularly the former. Perhaps a suitable adjective could have been found. However, emerging grammatically from description to substance makes a bit of sense here, considering that this is an explicitly theological statement. There is a fatalist obligation embedded in this assertion: Whatever one's circumstances, one's lot in life, etc., one must do as that station commands. Our task here is to interrogate the origin & nature of that duty, and how it has changed over time.
Fortunately , Giorgio Agamben has tackled this topic in his monograph Opus Dei: An Archaeology of Duty, and that book will serve to orient this discussion. Since, as with so many of Agamben's monographs, the sources and discussion mainly revolve around Christian theology, many readers might prefer a different contextualization. First though, it certainly bears noting that Agamben is treating the Latin officium, translated into English as duty. The idea of an office evokes more specific ideas here & now, although the Latin sense is probably most similar to what we still call a political office today. In English then, a duty is what is due. And why is it due? Because a person is in a particular position — or office — that comes with duties. Agamben treats the formation of this very tight circularity through centuries of Christian doctrine, and explains why it was crucially motivated by the need to assure the efficacy of the eucharist. The upshot is that someone's duties were defined by their position, and that someone's position was defined by their duties. And if this was true for religious officials, the attitude eventually came to be applied to everyone.
A tautology of this sort might seem meaningless. Let us inquire further: In some sort of hypothetical primordial state , one's fate or lot or fortune is absolute. In other words, the die is cast, and if one rolls a four, one is a four. The structural aspect of the tautology, however, is that — seeing as one's precise duties have not been written in stone already in such a state — whatever one does as a "four" constitutes what it means to be a four. These are absolutely bound together, without mediation or remainder. Moreover, there is no external value: Whether one is a two or a six, there are rights & responsibilities, and one is what one is. The one is not "better" than the other. The modern era saw not only an intensified imposition of external value, but an association of duty with being other than what one is. This shift requires careful examination: First, the modern reader will inevitably perceive material differences in these fates or duties (per assertion two), and this was one external value created. The danger arising from an embrace of materialism  is exactly what we have seen: That material wealth is taken to be a value and then linked to duty: Protestants asserted that greater material wealth reflected greater value in the eyes of God. And contemporary neoliberals go on to assert that — at least for some people  — keeping to whatever your (material, of course) fate or fortune has been is a moral failing. Your duty is to become other than who you are. The significance of this shift in duty cannot be overstated. According to neoliberal logic, it also follows that those who already have material wealth have no such duty. They are free to do as they please. Again, the significance of this shift — from the idea that the "upper classes" have a duty to others — cannot be overstated.
So we're dealing with a shift from the notion "you are what you are" (constituting your duty as tautology ) to the notion that, if what "you are" is not considered valuable , you have a duty to change. But what are you? This is the other half of the circular person-role duality, engaging typology.[20,21] Under the medieval conception of duty, a role corresponds to a person corresponds to a type: A type of person is defined by a role. Already these types-roles did not exist on the same plane; we might class them (typologically) as pertaining to mind or body, for instance. Turning first to the latter, the notion that biology is destiny  has been & is very influential, particularly as it interacts with duty. The basic limitation, and unfairness, of such an assessment is obvious to almost everyone at this point in time, but here I want to focus on the underlying tension of duty. I've already articulated the neoliberal conclusion that the poor have a duty to become non-poor. How does this apply to gender? Despite the contemporary potential to do so , there is no literal duty for women to become men. Indeed, that challenge to typology seems little more tolerated now than in the medieval era. Rather, modernity asserts that women, with an inability to become men, have a duty to support men. The tension of the role-person duality then reflects back with an ever more rigid conception of what a woman should be in-herself: Incapable of being a male, she should probably create a male. Typology itself calls out specifically for a feminist critique, which I have not done justice.
An emphasis on biology & reproductive duty reflects the shift in (monetary, usurious) time articulated in assertion four. In the early modern period, human biology itself became a resource to mine, instituting new concepts of duty. The duty to exemplify one's type remained intact as certain types were reconfigured to include a striving to be otherwise. Such a reconfiguration was possible within the earlier person-role tension, for the simple reason that duty emerged from the tension without a concrete referent: It was open, flexible. Thus was created the double bind , the duty to strive for something one is unable to be. The consequences for governmentality have been enormous: The double bind internalizes abjection, and creates the rhetoric of personal responsibility. What of rights & responsibilities pertaining to a type? Precisely this, duty, has shifted as it became ever more extended & distorted — Agamben suggests that it's losing its power via over-extension , but then what? Agamben turns to glory  — and although he does not suture glory to duty in an explicit way, I believe this is the correct conclusion: Glorifying god introduces an aesthetic duty.[41,42] The substantial medieval art directed toward glory is well known. Moreover, this glory was readily shared by royalty, via divine right. With the bourgeois drive to reach the summit of material wealth came a drive to glory: The Protestant rhetoric about favor is one way to join wealth to glory. From there, we have come, per Agamben, to have a "glory machine" that penetrates all areas of society. What sort of duty inheres in glory? Per assertion one, the duty to be happy fits tidily here: Whether it's god, the king or consumer society that needs glory, happiness becomes a duty. The modern period also saw biological reproduction joined to glory, in labor to the state, a connection that begins to falter.[46,47] We see the aesthetic argument working especially powerfully in the duty to be non-poor: Being poor is ugly & unpleasant, and does not glorify the powers-that-be. I should also mention the duty to be young.
Turning (typologically) to the mind, duty as what is due engages debt (and the bodily assertion two, again) as an attitude that permeates thought and leads us to morality & ethics. On that note, Francisco Suárez is an obvious referent: He believed & articulated that spiritual debt could never be satisfied or discharged by behavior or virtue, that duty is effectively infinite. Samuel Pufendorf, critiquing Hobbes on rights, placed duty ahead of virtue in the creation of morality. Thus the early modern era consummated an almost complete reversal of Aristotle's construction of ethics, and his analysis of virtue as including the potential not to act. Kant was then able to invoke respect (functionally related to his ideas on the sublime, to reengage with glory & aesthetics) as the feeling evoking duty. This history can be reframed according to a critique of free will: It pivots on Aquinas' argument that the goodness of virtue is effectiveness. Virtue can be found in thought, but duty can be consummated only in deed. In this gap is found free will, the "voluntarization of metaphysics." (The mind-body duality had its prototype here, prior to Descartes.) The command, as ontology, then embeds a freedom to obey: Obeying a logical argument is both duty and freedom.[55,56] Thus the glory of the word, and the word is law.[57,58] This correspondence between religion & law is highly obscured by modernity, although such a distinction is relatively recent. The ethical tradition itself is normative, even as it posits that it could be wholly otherwise. (Of course, at least for Kant, it cannot actually be otherwise, because of respect — for tradition.) Just as the tension between person & role is distended in duty, religion-law declares what ought to be in terms of what is not, i.e. it maintains a tension. Law itself becomes duty or dutiful.
As a reminder, Opus Dei means work of god, and focuses on the clergy, but explores a tension that has spread to all of society in the modern era. Turning specifically to the twentieth century, reflecting the death of god, as proclaimed already by Nietzsche, the void at the center of duty intensified: Sloterdijk traces the psychology of the twentieth century according to the maxim You Must Change Your Life. According to the strong form of this logic, even the rich have a duty, whether to become richer or to engage glory in another way. Duty, in keeping with office, has remained highly individualistic , even in its generic form. It demands individual results. Sloterdijk speaks of ascetology , and a duty to personal mastery: This duty recapitulates a kind of finalism that is thoroughly Christian, private (penitent), whether as afterlife or apocalypse. Moreover, related to ascetology, Sloterdijk poses the Olympic (sports) movement as definitional-epochal: Socially insignificant  achievement by the very few. The penitent's cell broadcast directly to every home. Duty to change one's life also accelerates in consumer electronics, again individualistic: Response to change inverts, from fear to craving, under the force of pervasive marketing. And change must accelerate! Yet, somehow, the status quo is reflexively defended: Change is both duty and impossible , with money mediating it as sacrament. And so poverty becomes a crime , and property relations harden into a persistent moral geography, becoming the map for the duty to change one's life. With the death of god, this duty leads to where & for what? Once again, the answer has vanished. We know only that where or what we are now is not where or what we are supposed to be.
The previous narrative presents quite a departure from classical ideas on fortune, and the primordial casting of the bones. Akin to duty , fortune occupies the position between person/self & role/circumstance. Fortune thrusts one into circumstances, but one's self — one's will — remains one's own: One's thought or nature becomes act through the mediation of fortune. There is no rhetoric of effectiveness here. Indeed, Machaut feels no duty to be other than Fortune has decreed, but does articulate a (pre-modern) yearning for a consummation beyond circumstances. In other words, he feels no duty to Fortune either: Although both duty & fortune occupy the space between self & circumstance, they function at cross purposes. Machaut does, perhaps, believe that Fortune herself feels a duty , to challenge him  — but more likely this is rhetorical  or sarcastic. If duty is partially obscured in this scenario , where is glory? Machaut chooses to glorify his beloved , rather than god or fortune, and does so ultimately in a straightforward aesthetic way, by creating an enduring work of musical literature. The aesthetic duty to glory leads us back to a void anchored by god — for it's unknown if the beloved will ever see the result. Once that void is unmoored, law is no more than word, ethics presents itself as effective duty to respect, and the glory machine slowly consumes the social. Glory becomes the dutiful release of aesthetic tension , simultaneously the work (opus) of everyone & no one. Perhaps Machaut gives one answer  for how to direct the glory machine differently. Regardless, the turn to glory specifically engages the aesthetic.
The idea that Fortune is dutiful, i.e. owes something to the subject, could perhaps be framed as thoroughly modern. Even then, that articulation would mark a sharp class divide.
I could have been rather more oblique by using "glorious," for instance.
By this I mean the Christian theology that is my main touchstone here, centered on the fourteenth century. Concepts around chance or fate, in terms of happiness or risk, are already strongly evocative of even earlier religious ideas.
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Although the topic is of great interest to me, I do not consider this to be one of Agamben's best books. It is somewhat more awkward and ponderous than his more incisive presentations. Moreover, I think he treats a very similar circularity-void at the heart of language/role & action much more clearly in The Sacrament of Language: An Archaeology of the Oath than he does in Opus Dei. Even the Italian copyright of The Sacrament of Language (2008) is given as before that of Opus Dei (2012), which makes no sense to me, particularly considering that his note about the oath in Opus Dei seems relatively tentative. I find the conclusion that Opus Dei was written some time ago, and only published more recently in conjunction with his other economic theology monographs, inescapable. Nonetheless, it is still the only source I know to tackle this important question in this way.
These arguments revolved, crucially, around such topics as what happens to people baptized by priests who are later found to be sinners, or who were not ordained properly, etc. In short, the medieval theologians did not want lay people to (need to) worry about what their priests were doing. The priest was in the office of the priest, and therefore his actions were sanctified. This controversy continues to this very day, articulated in struggles between sacred & secular law. The role-person duality was always in tension, even as it was smoothed in an effort to secure the eucharist.
Privileging the priest here is wrongheaded from a basic historical point of view, in that other roles-people were surely always (whatever that means, as a staging in time) seen this way. However, this is where it was most thoroughly articulated on the intellectual level, and it's specifically these intellectual arguments that permeate later thought. In other words, idiosyncrasies introduced by theology in this period remain in the concepts associated with duty. This is a much more specific situation than merely noting that the role-person duality  was not always articulated as dual. Indeed, theology very specifically battled this duality at the theoretical level, leading to its wide elaboration (progressive colonization).
It remains reflexive, at least in contemporary USA, for many people (at least men, I should crucially add) to identify themselves by their economic-professional role.
The reader should understand here that theological arguments are often staged outside of time. This is for the simple reason that, according to Christian theology, god exists before/outside of time. (There are also other fundamental issues with time as a construction, as per assertion four.)
It might have been more clear for me to use an example such as "woman," rather than "four," but I have two purposes for not doing so: I didn't want to introduce emotional resonance at this stage, and I wanted to allude to the gambling-allocation of assertion three.
For instance, the creation of "gender" (with its social roles) out of the sexed body introduces mediation and remainder.
This has been a massive colonization battle per the dynamics sketched in Hierarchy as rupture. Note that I do not claim there that such a battle should be definitively avoided, but rather that its potential consequences should be considered, including while underway.
Of course, this designation is hierarchical. Much risk (as in assertion three), or assignment of duty, is pushed down and settles with those who cannot avoid it by pushing further.
Shrugging off this former duty has not been nearly universal. The so-called "liberal guilt" is one example — not only of how this feeling of duty lingers, but how it is rhetorically denied. A sense of duty is also reflected in intellectual communities , as well as in various other segments of society. Although it would likely be inaccurate to state a complete causality or association, the eschewal of duty — among those with some outstanding quality, whatever that may be — is most strongly articulated in the material realm.
(Leaving aside the notion of "liberal,") the shift to guilt suggests bad feelings (or conscience). If person-role remains tightly bound, then duty (as this binding) is not a feeling at all, let alone a bad one. That a distinct, debatable feeling could emerge from a duality in tension suggests a very high degree of colonization: It's the battle that engenders feelings.
I am certainly not immune to this feeling of duty. I want to be clear on this point, because my intention is not to tout some sort of moral superiority. Rather, although I can easily cultivate a very distinct sense of distance in discussing the other assertions (and yes, that very much includes assertion six), I am struggling with that here. This personal issue is reflected in the shift to a substantive, and I suspect will also be implicated in a relative lack of quality in explication. As I've stated elsewhere, a major reason for undertaking this article has been an attempt to relieve myself of a sense of duty. Eventually, I will presumably know if this effort succeeds. However, even with that statement, it's worth noting that I cannot conceive this project outside of a sense of effort.
We can see how materialism has been such a battleground  in these terms: The articulation of material differences as unfairness leads immediately to the justification of material differences as fairness, and in turn, to imposing those values more broadly. Although it's tempting to suggest that people who believe they deserve to have far more material wealth than others would be imposing such values anyway, this does not appear to have been the case. Perhaps more to the point, I simply do not believe they were clever enough — or had the incentive to do so — until these ideas were articulated by Marx et al. and were pressed. It's easy to be fat & happy, to paraphrase an old line. The consequences of the decision to open up "the material" as a measure of value have, therefore, been anything but straightforward. Perhaps this discussion of duty will help to unravel those consequences, so that only the desirable ones can be chosen.
To rephrase from earlier, Agamben's text not only confirms the tautological origin, but looks at the way the duality was pried apart: The person-role unity of the priest came under scrutiny when it appeared that the person was not fulfilling his role. So while the unity was affirmed for the needs of the laity, a disciplinary mechanism could not be foreclosed. Duty emerges, then, as the artifact of this duality. It marks the ways person-role is not unified, but in tension.
Again, under materialism, there is broad agreement on what is or isn't desirable or valuable. This is a basic pillar of liberal governmentality. Not many people dissent regarding where they want to be on the scale of material wealth, and if they do, it's usually modest dissent. (Some religious orders forming from the centuries leading up to the modern era are, of course, significant exceptions.)
And although it permeates contemporary Western thought, typology is specifically Christian-theological. (On this basis, I could have made the present assertion "Fortune is typical," but that would have been even more oblique, probably, relative to .)
In the social world, typology is enforced via interpellation. This is a simple observation, noted only to connect two strands of inquiry.
The relationship between role & roll should be noted. (Hence my previous dice analogy.) Roll is the origin of the term role, albeit roll comes from turning a wheel (another regular metaphor here).
This notion is usually attributed to Freud since the twentieth century, although his actual statement (no less problematic) was "anatomy is destiny." The implication that Freud originated the idea that biology is destiny, however, seems quite fanciful: It's embedded in much (if not all, at least in the modern period) earlier discussion of sex & race.
As in , I could mention race here as well, although I don't think the example is as interesting for the present purpose, particularly considering that the neoliberal response to race is to deny its relevance, and stick to the basic rhetoric of the duty to escape poverty. In other words, there are no "factors" to poverty — only a manifest personal defect. This follows from the assertion that all value is material value . However, considering that women participate in both wealth & poverty, the former in attenuated ways due to the power imbalance, ideas of duty around gender continue to be somewhat more complex under neoliberalism.
Of course, under neoliberalism, the wealthy are free to cultivate their own "other" values around leisure or creativity or collecting (and the latter can become very pernicious). It's clear they actually have many values. However, the assertion is that the value of wealth must be satisfied before any other value can become relevant. So we might describe wealth as a gateway value.
Transgender critique has great current potential. (Robyn Wiegman leaves off here in her rather baroque study of ideology, Object Lessons, for instance.) However, particularly in the neoliberal context (because this system relies on a strict value hierarchy), gender transition is extremely alarming & disruptive for mainstream politics. The conservative Christian response is already obvious within this discussion, as gender transition clearly challenges typology. As we can see, though, modernity has warped typology in particular ways. Although I have not seen this specifically elaborated, gender transition provides a powerful lens to examine how typology continues to operate, at a more basic level.
I do not concur with Wiegman's tentative framework — seeking gender — although I do believe it is a reasonable starting point for further discussion, which I will not elaborate here.
Considering the modern priority for money, particularly in its extreme neoliberal form, a woman acting like a man is generally considered reasonable in the pursuit of money in corporate America. It's not without its backlash, to be sure, but it does not strike at the heart of contemporary values: That someone should prioritize money is considered "natural," almost as natural as the body itself, it would appear. (And in the medieval era, there were women whose actions in the domains of men were tolerated or even embraced.) Today, women chasing money are, in some sense, comforting for neoliberals, because the chase affirms their values.
Gerda Lerner details many such women in The Creation of Feminist Consciousness, both the exceptions who were tolerated, and the more typical frustrations. Although some differences of opinion are noted, Lerner takes a modernist-progressive point of view throughout. Her text barely marks the historical ups & downs in the transition from medieval to early modern to enlightenment to late modernity. Conceptions of female duty certainly changed through this period, but not in a linear fashion. For instance, Lerner does not discuss the early modern impetus to increase the labor force via increased reproduction. This fits with Lerner's reception of Protestantism, which she consistently (albeit noting objections to this stance) praises for offering more opportunity for women — the basic instrumentality involved is pushed to the background. (It's also very surprising to me that music is never mentioned, not even once, in Lerner's book.)
Lerner discusses Hildegard von Bingen extensively, for instance, at one point listing an entire series of fields in which she excelled, omitting music. And most of those fields are not elaborated, so simply listing music would have made no demands of expertise in the subject. Likewise the music of the trobairitz is not listed with their poetry, the female composers of the early Italian Baroque are never mentioned, etc. With Lerner's emphasis on "the power to define," this oversight for e.g. Hildegard — what with Hildegard's use of melodies distinct from the dominant church modes — seems especially curious.
The nuclear family is a rather recent invention. So this duty has not always taken the same form.
This history is discussed by e.g. Mies in Patriarchy and Accumulation and Sloterdijk in You Must Change Your Life. The early modern push for increased reproduction continues to be felt very strongly. Examining these historical origins seems to me to be crucial to a reasoned discussion of the world population crisis (if it's indeed a crisis), and especially the world-wide economic transition from labor shortage to labor surplus. The latter demands a major conceptual rethinking.
Attitudes toward people with disabilities also changed in this period. The medieval era was remarkably accepting, relatively speaking, since it viewed individuals with such differences as made by god. They were able to enact their own types, in other words, and not be measured against general instrumental concepts.
This flexibility conforms to a basic theme in this article: Rhetorical space is opened, and maneuvers within it become possible, to the benefit of those willing & able to engage that rhetoric.
Perhaps the best explication of the double bind, in the postcolonial context (this phrase doing double duty  here), is by Gayatri Spivak.
The contemporary notion of "personal responsibility" is only applied, or at least applied differentially, to whoever is lowest on the hierarchy in an interaction. This has become almost axiomatic, at least in contemporary USA: Whenever we hear that someone needs to take "personal responsibility," it is someone with more privilege saying it of someone with less privilege. There are variants. For instance, the poor have a duty to be frugal, whereas such a duty is never claimed for the rich. Moreover, and perhaps this is more specifically a USA phenomenon , we've developed a duty to bully: Telling someone they need to be responsible is an ubiquitous form of bullying (for the reasons just given), and this duty to bully is again passed down hierarchically. One must bully thusly anyone less privileged than oneself, or face sanction from above.
As I write this, a "bullying awareness" project is gaining momentum in this country. It started only a few years ago. I agree with the proponents of this project that it has the potential to be transformative on a broad scale, basically for the reasons articulated in . However, it appears already that, as it gains mainstream acceptance, the anti-bullying project is simultaneously curtailed, and applied only to very specific situations of childhood. We shall see. It might only end up increasing governmentality (i.e. reducing outrage), without touching the status quo itself.
Notions of duty are, of course, inculcated very specifically in early childhood education. In that sense, broader optimism in the anti-bullying project is justified. Unfortunately, it must also be considered that our contemporary "early childhood education" does not take place primarily at the hands of the parents or teachers, but rather through the media. (Aspects of the anti-bullying project do get expressed in the media; I am not saying anything here the proponents do not know.)
This evokes Cialdini's notion of consistency, already raised in the course of assertion two. My previous suggestion was that reciprocity is already broken, and that consistency-commitment might explode under the increased pressure at any moment, leaving influence to fall crucially to "liking." (It's also worth noting that Cialdini's consistency-commitment duality, arrived at by totally different means, reenacts the duality inherent to duty, between nature & act.) This engages glory.
See The Kingdom and the Glory: For a Theological Genealogy of Economy and Government. This is, in my opinion, Agamben's most interesting text, more compelling than Homo sacer. Opus Dei is, in some ways, an appendix to The Kingdom and the Glory (or more like a prequel, if my intuition on the earlier origin is correct). The Kingdom and the Glory will be an important source for sketching the history of economy in one of the later sections of this article, but here I focus on the last sections of the book, on glory.
Note that whether this aesthetics is beautiful or sublime, it relates easily to the glory of god. (For all of Kant's verbiage, he never really departs with classic theology in his discussion of the sublime.)
It can be fascinating to ponder the theological arguments for why god does not glorify himself. People are needed, for some reason. (Perhaps that comment is too coy.) Consider, in contrast, the argument that god is the being that coincides with itself (or its name). But not with its glory.
Or as Kantorowicz put it, the king's two bodies. In other words, the glory of god is expressed by the sovereign together with his earthly body.
It can be interesting to view e.g. supermarket tabloids through this lens. Agamben goes on to mention Guy Debord's Society of the Spectacle in this context, calling it a truism. One can trace a contemporary history of glory & image from there to Baudrillard's Simulacra and Simulation.
Turning back to Political Theology & Early Modernity for the moment, in his essay "The Instance of the Sovereign in the Unconscious: The Primal Scenes of Political Theology," Jacques Lezra notes that smug recognition of seeing the bad conscience in mediation changes nothing, (channeling Nietzsche and) citing Baudrillard. Indeed, it's difficult not to see the latter's work as anything but a dead end, provided one has a taste for change. Baudrillard certainly takes up the aestheticization inherent to a pervasive glory, yet leaves the causes behind — or takes them as untreatable. In e.g. The Agony of Power there is a basic articulation that change is impossible, or at least uncontrollable: It seems to me an argument for simply going about one's life, and ignoring these topics, something I'm obviously unable to do. Perhaps the relevant questions in this context are: Does the glory machine function in one direction only? Can the glory assemblage be manipulated differently since the death of god?
Is it really the case that the duty to biological reproduction is easing? It's possible that my own social circles distort my view of this duty and how it is articulated elsewhere. There is an opposing view being voiced, at least.
The supposed glory of the Renaissance must be joined to this labor to construct a reasonable analysis. Imperialism and reproductive duty went hand in hand. This pairing raises a natural question regarding population growth and postmodernism, and it would have been a good idea to discuss the topic specifically in Is postmodernism racist?, although it is latent there.
It has not been so in all times & places that being poor is considered ugly. The Franciscans are an exception already noted, and respected mendicant orders can be found in various cultures. The contemporary duty to be non-poor has been far from universal.
Although related closely to aesthetics-glory, the duty to be young is very much in tension: Whereas being young is glorified, the young are also treated badly. (See for instance, Grossberg's Caught in the Crossfire.) This tension is not merely fabricated. After all, one will not remain young. The glory machine is used to displace this basic contradiction (the reverse of the double bind considered earlier): Glorifying something that cannot possibly remain turns part of its force against the person being glorified. (In contrast, the king remains king.)
I do not intend to treat the difference between morality & ethics in any detail here: A simple distinction would be to consider the former as received wisdom, whereas the latter is arrived at individually by intellectual effort. In practice, such a distinction is not so clear. For one thing, there is a basic poststructural issue around ethics, in that the problems posed arise from social context. (I add this note to, partially, assuage those readers offended by conflating morality & ethics — the latter "properly" philosophical.)
Infinite debt has had a clear effect on governmentality. The logic by which debt or duty are infinite, resting essentially on the idea that god is infinite, has converted very nicely into a perpetual duty to modern society. I will add that, considering the impossibility of owning everything about one's subject formation, owing to the various kinds of stimulation that predate the formation of one's own consciousness of self, the mystery of a primordial debt remains intact in a purely psychoanalytic & atheist world. Absent god, we can readily question whether it is infinite, however.
Aquinas is also careful to argue against the equal effectiveness of evil, noting that evil by its nature cannot know perfection — so there can be no ultimate evil, although there is an ultimate good.
Consummation in deed makes far more sense to those of us reading today, or so I imagine, than Ambrose's notion that offices are virtues. Note how much more closely that older formulation binds the person-role tension.
Agamben positions this idea relative to the non-unity & unity of the trinity. Voluntarization can be further figured in terms of the monophysite controversy, that is the debate on the human and/or divine nature of Christ and his will (viz. monothelite). This takes us rather far afield from the formation of modernity queried here. These controversies, however, forged the peculiarity of the scholastic argument on will.
I am following Agamben's argument somewhat loosely here, including from The Sacrament of Language. The command as ontology takes up, not in an explicit sense, but the parallel is striking, Deleuze & Guattari in Postulates of Linguistics. Agamben states, moreover, that "Will is the form that being takes in the ontology of command." One can know a being, in the subjective sense, by its potential not to follow a command, i.e. its will.
I feel compelled to remind the reader of the tradition of Christ as Logos (going back to the beginning of Christianity). The association is necessary to understand the statement in the theological sense. That the divine came with the word, rather than act itself, retains a space for free will. (In other words, the Christian god tells us what to do, rather than simply having us do so, something he could accomplish via omnipotence.) This "space" remains in tension with arguments on divine perfection.
Again, I am not intending to evoke mythological language here, but rather it appears when attempting to speak plainly.
To reprise a self-criticism of Judith Butler, even when I try to write about the body, I mainly seem to write about language.
Agamben demonstrates the inherent linguistic correspondence between religious & legal utterances in The Sacrament of Language, contrasting them with empirical statements. That ancient law is found in religious texts such as the Hebrew bible is easy enough to observe. Moreover, law itself rests on tradition: One is to always already know what is allowed, such that there be no surprises. It's a basic conservatism, reflected more recently in e.g. "strict constructionism" as the juridical accompaniment to neoliberal economics — that the one seeking wealth should be unencumbered by the law, whenever possible. There is also an impression that religious command cannot be changed, unlike law, which can adapt. However, canon law continued to develop throughout the medieval era; this impression is, once again, modern in origin.
Protestant desire for the average person to read the law — the bible — for themselves, and interpret it themselves, obviously conflicts with professional legal interpretation. Moreover, the fundamental emphasis on the earliest sources left the contemporary law to one side, so that civil & common law could become supreme while canon law atrophied. (Even so, there remains a great deal of Latin in law, including in USA.) The legal authority at stake is, for various reasons, left out of many historical narratives of the period.
As duty has lost its ground — duty to what, duty for what? — law has likewise lost its motivation. What is the law for? This question is increasingly pushed to the background. I might summarize strict constructionism as saying the law is for the law. It becomes a barrier for the entrepreneur to overcome, and subjugated to the economic.
That identity formation, per Wiegman, is often played out today in the law (referencing Kimberlé Crenshaw) engages this void as creation. Without creative engagement, it becomes a machine to reproduce the status quo. Perhaps that is the primary message embedded in the discussion of this assertion: Engage these voids-tautologies creatively. (I could not resist making that a command.) This is what the medieval theologians did.
Macpherson defines modernity by the move to a "conception of the individual as essentially the proprietor of his own person or capacities, owing nothing to society for them." So even if the rich have duties, these are individual duties, not social duties.
A priest is, after all, both an individual and a generic office.
Sloterdijk takes the term ascetology from ascetic, and asks concerning of what a person is (intentionally) deprived in order to excel in some other way. This inquiry meshes with the idea that suffering builds character — a kind of hazing, to take up the bullying thread from : What is the relation between ascetology and bullying? (Ascetic choices are voluntary?) How or why must someone prove their worth? Note further that ascetic pursuits are usually entirely private. In the contemporary age, they cannot even be directed at god.
I do not ask to whom. The neoliberal project provides a ready answer to that: A wealthy man who requires you to be useful for increasing his wealth. This individual seems a poor substitute for god, even with all the actual & potential abuse of religious hierarchy.
One arena in which contemporary ascetic pursuits are not usually entirely private, and might even be rather public (iconically in the spectacle of San Francisco's Folsom Street Fair, but also in various increasingly common body adornments), is that of kink & BDSM. That the Victorian era brought so many of these practices to light presents an eerie chronological parallel with the Olympic movement. (Both illustrate Sloterdijk's point about the twentieth century & ascetology, but do so in rather different directions.) These sexual practices, particularly of the public sort, are fertile ground from which to offer critique. For one, kink offers divergent perspectives on typology (although some segments of that population reflexively recapitulate typology). It also creates duties that might differ markedly from mainstream duties, or show those duties in new light. The entire domain of sexual duty, rather than reproductive duty, offers a different view of social relation (and, in turn, of ideology). This is, of course, why the arena has been historically suppressed. Even now, it has been little more than a footnote to scholarship — an oversight I'm guilty of making again. It has been over two centuries since the publication of Juliette, so perhaps philosophy should take BDSM seriously. (Although I give him credit for tackling the subject, Horkheimer's critique in Dialectic of Enlightenment misses the mark, in my opinion. Adorno's brilliant critique of The Odyssey, from the same volume, should probably be mentioned here around duty & individualism.)
Two supposed benefits of the Olympic movement: Peaceful competition rather than war, inspiration for others. (The amount of war since the twentieth century makes the first argument questionable at best.) The movement has undoubtedly been highly successful at instilling this inspiration toward socially meaningless mastery for the very few. That benefit-argument is entirely circular within the void of duty. However, it powerfully engages the glory machine.[69,70] This dynamic bears more consideration.
We return to physical glory in the absence of spiritual glory. This is reflected in the duty to beautify oneself also, spreading from women to men. (The same psychological marketing games from the twentieth century are now being applied to men.)
Speaking of the very few, Agamben (channeling Schmitt) points out that the modern population has become masochistic, by virtue of despising the very political leaders that they themselves acclaim. Contrast this with the glory of sports heroes. (The glory of sports or other celebrity can fade very quickly too. The glory machine glorifies itself above any individual, who in time has always already fallen.)
In the crowning circularity of ascetology, the masses deny themselves achievement so that they can watch (or glory in) the achievement of others.
Even someone like Connolly, who is very critical of neoliberalism and proposes practical avenues for change, contrasts the speed of change in consumption with the speed of change in selves by way of response. (He sees the slowness of the latter as a problem, although likely solved only by slowing the former.) The duty to change one's life is thus recapitulated, internalized anew.
Under the hegemony of biological (exponential) time, profits require acceleration.
Transparently, change is channeled in particular directions. Duty (or personal responsibility) is contrasted with entitlement, the latter demeaned rhetorically. Yet, inheritance — broadly conceived — remains a bedrock entitlement for the wealthy.
To return to an ancient example, money was put up to guarantee an oath in a Roman trial: The money served to instantiate the void of the oath itself (the latter per The Sacrament of Language). If money-currency arose from (male) ritual (per assertion two & Debt), its reinscription as void via oath & sacrament represents continuity. Money has its greatest power, becoming theological power, when it is nothing. Despite public rhetoric to the contrary, fiat currency is therefore necessary for a full-fledged neoliberal regime.
In the literature of people who are homeless (such as the Street Sheet circulated in San Francisco), the ways that homelessness & poverty are progressively criminalized is detailed. This is not merely metaphorical. Moreover, homelessness itself not only presents an affront to the glory machine, but a cultural assault on typology: The modern human does not live outside. This assault on typology can be engaged creatively, with much caution. Combined with persistent real estate marketing, I see a real culture war brewing: At least in California, the culture war instituted around Reagan (already played out in universities) remains very current. The 1980s have not ended, at least not in this one critical arena.
The map is to be scanned at a distance, never so close as to discover its local (individual) incoherence. Not only does a map evoke ocularcentrism, but as a moral geography, it embeds the rhetoric , "You're too close to judge." (This is common political rhetoric in this country, aimed at glorifying the — nonsense — objective-transcendent position.) In other words, your life is more accurately evaluated at a distance, where your duty can be truly gauged — typologically, expressed via interpellation. This (including ocularcentrism itself) is medieval heritage, with god sitting above in judgment.
Is it possible that people are still trying to bring about the second coming of Christ? If the contemporary world is an attempt to perfect ourselves, it's perversion can only be explained with concepts like "chosen" people — some are clearly discarded, whether Christian or not.
The mainstream media most often advances some variant on social Darwinism as both cause & destination. The one word answer, reflecting the Olympic movement, has become "competition." And then, in victory, comes a glory that must immediately reengage its machine.
Such a similar position reflects a relatively "flat" current assertion.
As specifically formulated here, this yearning illustrates Christian finalism.
An ascetology might emerge from the fatalism of Machaut's narrative, steeped as it is in the darkness of the plague, and coming from someone whose own office was atypical. The idea that fortune is typical  would not have occurred to Machaut. If anything, his conception of fortune cuts across typology, just as had the plague.
The rhetorical opening became meaningful soon enough, if it was not already: Despising one's fortune is perhaps the inaugurating impulse of modernity. (Ask Henry VIII about his attempts at an heir, for instance.)
Machaut's sense of duty is directed at his beloved. He constructs his own "office" as that of lover. He falls back on this office & duty in order to cope with Fortune, and does so as a matter of will. He wills which set of circumstances define his self (for the love was also brought by Fortune). Machaut thus erects his drama on the interplay between duty & fortune, resolving their constitutive tension toward a willed duty. The resolution is almost modern (and has little to do with ancient drama such as Oedipus, where fortune annihilates will).
This particular (aesthetic) choice was well-established in the troubadour tradition.
In other words, it is only god who is certain to perceive the aesthetic work, and with it, be glorified.
Such consumption raises an obvious question: What happens after the social has been fully consumed by the glory machine? (And WWII was pivotal in accelerating it.) Is there an after? Perhaps this is the question the postmodern has so desperately sought, in order to be an answer.
Anticipating assertion six, it's natural to ask if this aesthetic tension is derived from sexual sublimation. Such a question fits naturally with the priestly emphasis here, as Christianity began to demand celibacy of its priests in the medieval era.
If that answer is devotion, then the answer is echoed elsewhere, such as in the "bhakti rasa" of Indian classical music. Such an answer is probably a more meaningful response to glory than it is to duty. At this stage, however, I'm seeking any kind of redirection.
And so another motivation for the present article, within the present (musical) context, emerges.
The real — or reality — seems to be something everyone understands , but can be difficult to define , particularly in the positive sense: The real is often taken to be whatever is left behind after all identifiable elements of fantasy have been eliminated. It is an attempt to define shared experience , but shared how? If we are to examine fortune's relationship to reality, we need to examine what reality is, or in the adjectival sense, what makes something real. In a practical sense, most of us probably believe we know it when we see  it , even if we cannot define it. (And the cascading "it" of the previous sentence draws nicely on an etymology for real deriving from res, thing, while leaving the actual referent open.) The real is what our theories — whether of self, science, etc. — are tested against. Yet this does not define real, rather it constructs it as an inexhaustible remainder, always more than we might sense or think or know. The latter description sounds rather familiar to Christian theology, and so we might reasonably ask, is the real psychoanalytic theory's (and science's) replacement for god?
If the preceding is not provocative enough, there is much more to say about the real: Already in assertion two, I have queried its relation to royalty: The oldest meanings in the OED are royal (as in the Spanish word real), with our contemporary meaning emerging only with English world hegemony. So the king decides what is real? Such a leap of logic is not so far-fetched, particularly considering the traditional king as both divine & as judge.[8,9] Returning to assertion five, Agamben writes in the preface to Opus Dei that only effectiveness is seen as real. In a similar tautology to that circumscribing duty, the king's effectiveness — and hence reality in the double sense — is manifest by virtue of his office. Taking up effectiveness, in the domain of modern science, repeatability is a restriction on the real: Experimental results must be repeatable. In any of these conceptions, reality "sits" in judgment of our acts, and maybe our thoughts, whether this judgment is personal, quasi-personal, or impersonal. Moreover, this judgment is reactive. Reality is not said to create our thoughts or acts , but only to judge them once brought forth — via physical consequences, emotional consequences, juridical statements, etc. If the real is judge (perhaps I should call it sovereign), how then does it relate to fortune? For this, I need to move to a poststructural conception, but first I need to engage psychoanalytic theory directly.
Freud wrote  of three major human drives or principles personified by Greek deities : Eros, Thanatos, and Ananke. Much of Freud's analysis concerns a battle between Eros (love or pleasure) & Thanatos (death), but here we are mostly concerned with Ananke (necessity or inevitability or fate).[18,20] Although "fate" suggests a clear overlap with Fortune, the more literal translations "necessity" & "inevitability" might seem to be in opposition. I will need to return to this thought, but for now it is important to note that Ananke is the personification associated with what came to be called the reality principle. Arguably, the reality principle has come to dominate contemporary popular psychology. Freud, in turn, uses the interplay between Eros & Ananke to explain taboo, with the pair figured as the parents of civilization. So the real disciplines pleasure.[23,24] It remains external. In Lacan's terms, the real becomes a symptom, that is, the difference between one's lack of function and the world's (perfect ) functioning: The latter cannot be circumscribed, so the real is perceived as this difference (lack). It becomes the container  for what actually happens (to us), beyond our fantasies or internal preferences (drives): The real does not form our goals, but might deny our goals.
But whence goals (or drives)? The question engages the concept of free will , and with it the void-tautology represented by duty in assertion five: Free will is figured as creative engagement with this void, which I must now relate to the real. First, the negative construction of the real has already been demonstrated. However, I have neglected, thus far, the construction of meaning. Language is bound to sense perception (by which we know, partially, reality), but not tightly bound. It engages a void similar to duty. Moreover, with time, the binding slips from its original immediacy or spontaneity — language is repeated with a diminished link to what it was. Understanding of its meaning changes, is diminished. According to this diagram, meaning is spontaneous, bound to the simultaneity of utterance & (shared?) experience , while understanding happens at a remove. Repetition of language  enacts a chain by which understanding shifts incrementally from original meaning, but also erects new meanings in the experience of each link or increment. So we have a "cascade" of understanding: An original meaning is subtly shifted by innumerable steps, all of which engage new meanings, and are in turn shifted by steps, etc. (This is the signifying chain.) "Original meaning" is conceptual only — it cannot actually be reengaged: Distortion is inevitable, because the binding to experience is not tight enough. Rather, it itself is understood (as I've used the term above) from the standpoint of the present. So when, in the previous paragraph, I state that the real disciplines pleasure, or that the real is a symptom or denial, what does this mean (in the specific sense of "meaning" articulated here)? In other words, whence the meaning that figures our goals, whether in creation or denial?
Psychoanalysis deals with individual repression, by which a traumatic event  reemerges, unknown to the individual, into their current thoughts or behavior. In Moses and Monotheism, at the end of his career, Freud attempts not only to reconstruct various biblical events, but to explain how multigenerational cultural repression could be possible. His reading of history demands a repressed cultural memory that goes beyond what appears in language (or at least records), so how is such a memory communicated between generations? As understanding becomes more distant from earlier meaning , something unarticulated is transmitted in the gaps: If we think of communication as mirroring, the mirrors are not perfectly aligned, and patterns of misalignment transmit as well. The misalignment itself "reflects" repression, which might emerge at any subsequent point, to be re-repressed or to reflect more meanings forward. So in the chain imagery, looking backward, we do not know what many of our formative experiences were, and we do not know what many of the formative experiences of those conditioning ours were, and at each step, meanings are not only lost, but created: Meanings of unknown origin travel along the chain: They are like lost pieces of a puzzle, and whether we actually look for them or not, or even consciously perceive their outlines, they affect the way we perceive the rest. They are fabricated, somehow, by a combination of conscious & unconscious. Out of all of this (that is, meanings we know and meanings we do not know), we construct an understanding , but there remains a surplus: This last is the void of the real. We can see now how it both forms & (potentially) denies our goals, via a regime of (proto-historical ) meaning. Such a regime might last for thousands of years (as Freud explored), or be so brief that we would need to ponder  the lowest threshold at which a regime can be effective. The conjecture is that when particular patterns resonate along a chain, they can sustain themselves culturally, whether their meanings are articulated or not.
So if the real is packed with unknown previous meanings , how can we perceive or interact with them? Ideas about the conscious & unconscious provide a theoretical-analytic means of interaction. Psychoanalytic interaction remains historically oriented, querying earlier events. Likewise, religious ritual queries — rather, evokes — earlier events, often at considerable distance. Understanding of (partially) lost meaning is both constructed & affirmed in ritual: That might be taken as a definition of ritual, religious or otherwise. Because ritual carries distant meanings, it is fertile ground for injecting self-interest, whether consciously or unconsciously. Where self-interest conflicts across different ritual regimes, especially when that interest is not articulated consciously even to those benefiting, contestation can become very bitter. Religious ritual has been a particular site of struggle in this regard for science of the modern era. More recently , marketing has engaged ritual in a different way: Via empirical research, marketing engages chains of meaning for specific ends , and does not restrict itself only to some kinds of meanings; all are in play. In this sense, marketing engages the real. Over time, it comes to define the real.[65,67] That is, marketing creates its own ritual, and it certainly does not (usually) seek to expose its internal meanings : It engages intense feelings, whether from childhood or derived from other chains of meaning, including their resonances, and reconstitutes the real. The less that is known by the subject about these meanings, the easier it is to engage them. I have portrayed marketing as largely a negative development , but this only glosses a basic question: How is a meaning-making system to be judged? Given my current context, both medieval & more specifically in Machaut's Remède, I will turn to love as a figure of value.
Love, as both a means of evaluating a meaning-making system  and formative in the psychoanalytic real, provides an interesting perspective for the present assertion, but we must immediately guard against a purely structural interpretation: As the juxtaposition of means opening this paragraph already suggests, love is both input & output, that is neither a priori  nor final. That disclaimer aside, what we want of our meaning-making systems  is care for our own interests, especially when we don't know what those interests are.[81,82] In principle, marketing could care for our interests , but typically does not ; yet in some sense, it is more authentic for the disdain with which it treats us.[85,88] If love is authentic , this authenticity can nonetheless be critiqued: Love can interact in a variety of ways, particularly when engaging chains of meaning. What is cruel? What is transparent? The answers to these questions depend on what is understood and by whom. As identity formation moves into new arenas, specifically as some (gender, sexual) identities are not so culturally deprecated, love & desire engage more & different meanings. These developments have not tended to change how meaning is engaged in principle , but these identity discussions do illuminate ways in which love as engagement with the world has been thwarted. Love as engagement is also channeled (and new identity knowledge has not slowed this); this is the basic libidinal investment sought by marketing & propaganda.[95,96] It consists in a different kind of thwarting , and reraises the question of authentic love: It's easy to posit that authentic love is directed toward other people (or maybe toward the Earth as environment), but such an analysis becomes complicated when various chains of meaning are invoked. In other words, love is defined for us by the very system we are attempting to critique, and we consequently run up against the limits of a structural conception again. How does a meaning-making system create love, and what kind of love does it create? Where does the loving energy originate? Authentically, it should be with the subject (and directed toward the subject's goals), but we have chains of meaning forming the subject itself. (I believe this digression on love has been worthwhile, but we are at an impasse when it comes to measuring value.)
If love at least gestures toward the real, that is, indicates a surplus over experience, it does so immanently. My error above was to invoke transcendence via measurement, and that error arises from attempting to accept the self-other boundary as rigid. If the real remains external as judge (or void), love as distillation or umbrella of drives  gestures also away from void: Desire is productive. That love can gesture in "both" directions is because it (prototypically ) transverses the self-other rupture: We find ourselves in the love of the other. Machaut addresses this gesture in two relevant ways: He says that Fortune degrades ("her pupils") with contradictions, and finds in love (even unrequited love) a means of saving himself. Yet, he also exclaims that one is a fool to believe that anything is truly one's own. Both moves set the rupture in disequilibrium. Both moves also reengage Chance as a surplus over Fortune, with love itself as the ultimate gamble. That love invokes such a double move is a reflection of its — presumed  — mutuality: It is "supposed" to be mirrored, both from within & from without.
Love as immanent then provides some distance from the real , even as the real (as immersive ritual of meaning) forms our idea of love. Love is engagement, and so figures  our (creative) engagement with any of the voids encountered thus far. Finally then, what does the assertion mean? If the real is sovereign  (or judge), does that make fortune sovereign as well? Let me return to the question inspired by Ananke: Is fortune chance or unexpected, or is fortune inevitable? The answer is in the moment of the throw of the dice, whether just before or just after. Can the throw be suspended, and at what price? And what does it "mean" that the ancients focus on the moment after the throw, and we moderns focus on the moment before?[114,115] Where/when is the real? The real is both surplus-void, and transversed/formed by meaning-making rituals. In that, it is the ultimate extension of both what we receive & what we make. As even the result of the throw retains the echo of previous possibility [117,118], fortune is likewise what we both receive & make — what we engage in chains of meaning, as we do the real. (The assertion thus becomes an analogy, bridging historical eras.) What we accentuate about fortune becomes a matter of cultural style , proceeding in a sequence, as the psychoanalytic (or marketing) real succeeds the Christian god historically as sovereign. It is the tension in these concepts that is productive: Fortune is neither entirely given to us, nor entirely of our own making.
And now, it is time to end this sequence, before a hypothetical seventh assertion carries us hopelessly far afield. And before I overstay my own creative welcome in this mental space.
Although it's ordinary enough to claim not to understand reality in the flippant or rhetorical sense, an earnest & consistent denial is a ready way to earn scrutiny for mental illness. (Foucault's work on madness is an obvious reference for this opening aside.)
We could perhaps define the real, according to the logic of this sentence, as that which everyone understands. For the present purposes, however, I need to proceed immediately to break apart this circularity.
Meillassoux talks, for instance, of correlation and correlationism, with our various individual experiences yielding some common residue. (Note again, relative to this discussion, the absence of time in that formation.) It's not uncommon for conceptions of "the real" to derive from that kind of sharing (or subset).
The reference to the visual sense is intentional here, both because of the quote referenced , and because of ocularcentrism. However, studies do not conclude that vision is an especially reliable sense.
The reference is to the US Supreme Court ruling (specifically by Potter Stewart) on obscenity. A similar sentiment can be found lurking behind e.g. the general public's apprehension of art, as knowing what they like (source unsure). Both ideas raise sense perception above the ability to define. (I am not suggesting that this is inappropriate, considering that sense perception is chronologically prior: Rationalization always comes after.)
For instance, in contrasting it with the imaginary, Lacan tells us we cannot imagine the real.
As noted in assertion two, this transition seems to have taken place around the concept of real property, although the OED does not specifically sanction (or address) this interpretation.
Admittedly the historical logic is rather strained here, in that royal & judiciary had been diverging. However, the idea of the king as the supreme judge was still very much alive in myth & story, not to mention the real possibility of legal intervention. In a significant sense, sovereignty was only delegated to the judiciary to unburden the king.
Such an association also aroused skepticism, expressed in such stories as "The Emperor's New Clothes." By the time of Hans Christian Andersen, the idea that the royal could define the real held rather little intellectual sway, and the story attests to this shift, particularly as the tone changes from its precedents.
Please note how easy it is to invoke medieval theology seamlessly in a seemingly straightforward contemporary English statement. (I often wonder if adding notes such as this one detracts from the interest of reading.)
Note that repeatability does not exhaust the real, even under a scientific conception. It does, however, put some limits on what is considered knowledge of the real. These limits are significant.
I do not intend to draw rigid assignments here, but the basic implication is the king (or modern judge) is a person, god is anthropomorphic and so quasi-personal , and the scientific real is impersonal. The latter instantly becomes problematic in the social sciences when people can react in turn to judgment. None of this is really so tidy. After all, the king or judge is supposed to be impersonal, we are told. So these categories vanish quickly if viewed from other angles.
This is specifically a conception of god as active, that is provident, as per medieval theology. An absentee god (as per e.g. Spinoza) would be better described as an impersonal judge.
This is, once again, the doctrine of free will, taken up in its medieval guise, and sustained with little change into & through the modern era.
It is also worth asking about the delay in this judgment, or rather the delay in our knowledge of this judgment. God's judgment may not come until death, or even later. Superficially, this is very different from the judgment of scientific reality. However, effect does not always follow cause immediately in that conception. There can be a delay, and perhaps a substantial one that is very open to interpretation, such as in the current climate change debate. (Whether one believes the debate has merit or not, it certainly does exist. Time delay is the basic reason.)
In some cases, these names & assignments are actually by Freud's students, but I am not attempting to write a biography here.
Once again, an iconic Western author begins (chronologically, that is, not in principle) his analysis with the Ancient Greeks. I have already expressed my surprise that Deleuze & Guattari do so in What is Philosophy?, and I need to get over my surprise. That these important authors largely ignore non-Western thought is simply reality (sic).
Machaut can be said to intertwine Eros & Ananke, and indeed that combination is important to this article, even if I am focused more specifically on Fate or Fortune. Although Freud is most often praised for his analysis of Eros, particularly when it comes to libido and sexual instincts, his discussion of Thanatos & the death drive is perhaps his most distinctive & controversial. It should also be noted that Freud mostly treats these "characters" in pairs, as did Machaut.
The death drive strongly evokes Christian finalism, whether exemplified by afterlife or apocalypse. Finalism, and with it the death drive, can also be evoked in (defining) twentieth century ideas on personal mastery. The latter's reconfiguration of finalism reflects the death of god (death being used here in a coincident manner).
It should also be noted, as per assertion four, that Ananke's consort is Chronos, time. (This Chronos should be carefully distinguished from Cronus, the Titan father of Zeus, with which he is sometimes confused.)
It is Cronus (with a sickle) who is central to Freud's castration fantasies. Perhaps I should discuss this briefly: Freud's analysis of the father seems far too removed from ideas of aging & (natural) death. One needn't castrate or kill one's father — it will likely happen on its own (the former, functionally), and that is a source of guilt. Freud is a very strange thinker sometimes (often).
For instance, the popular television personality Dr. Phil derives much of his confrontational energy from the reality principle. Phrases like "don't pee on my leg and tell me it's raining" (popularized by the television personality Judge Judy) also articulate the reality principle in colorful language. The principle is very conducive to governmentality in late capitalism, as we will see.
The real as discipline is, at least, an idea of the twentieth century. The connection can be reversed: BDSM plays on this opposition. One can also relate it to Sloterdijk's ascetology, discipline-seeking behavior per .
A surplus of the real over pleasure can also be linked to Nietzche's ideas on existential resentment, or ressentiment. Nietzche's work, generally, traces the shift in sovereignty from god to the secular/atheist real.
The "perfection" of the world continues to support the parallel between the Christian god and the scientific real. It is impossible to criticize either, by definition: They are as they are & must be.
There is an inversion happening here: The real is the container, i.e. never filled, and not the events forming its contents.
This last formulation can be seen to parallel, exactly, Machaut's conception of Fortune.
The concept of free will is also engaged in the distinction between a goal & a drive. I am inquiring primarily as to the former, as conscious, however.
Saying that the looseness of the binding between language & sense perception or reality opens rhetorical space (as I have said for so many similar processes elsewhere in this article) is incredibly redundant: It is rhetorical space.
Here I am closely following Agamben's archeology in The Sacrament of Language.
Meaning is, then, the simultaneity of the word, tautologically. (The word is said when something happens, and so that word now means that happening.) It is also significant to note that the human animal, unlike most animals, possesses the trait of joint attention. That is, we can perceive, at least in the moment, to what the other is attending. This need not be conveyed verbally, and prototypically is not. Although Agamben's research does not pursue these directions, it seems easy to observe that the language-experience bind would have emerged from joint attention. It does so, repeatedly and into the present day, for the human child.
By repetition of language, I mean not only the verbal or written repertory of words, but the entire regime of signs (body language, image, etc.).
I am not attempting to precisely replicate anyone else's description. (For instance, to step rather far outside linguistics, Platonic Forms can be viewed as one way to discuss chains of meanings, pointing to the "original.")
Indeed, I suggest that even the original experiencer cannot reengage the original meaning of an experience with complete accuracy. (In some cases, this is a huge understatement. Hence the psychoanalytic emphasis on early childhood.) However, this is not my focus here, but rather on broader group experience & meaning.
Buddhist epistemology takes this statement to its logical extreme by denying the existence of memory: Everything is experienced in the present, even something perceived as memory. (See, for instance, Rediscovering God with Transcendental Argument: A Contemporary Interpretation of Monistic Kashmiri Shaiva Philosophy by David Peter Lawrence, which describes some of the classic Indian epistemological positions.)
I might also ask what is the meaning of fantasy (or in Lacan's terms, the imaginary)? This general question can easily lead farther into individual psychology than I want to go here, however.
The focus on traumatic events is, of course, derived from the origin of psychoanalysis in pathology (or provocatively, "nonadaptive" behavior). Positive events of early childhood are not well-remembered either. (They are more likely to be described repeatedly for us, however, to where they might seem like original memories.) Nothing is.
Lacan summarizes this sequence in his Discourse to Catholics. He also states, unequivocally, that religion has been the primary field in which meaning (in my current terms, understanding) is created. He states, moreover, his belief that psychoanalysis occupies a brief window before religion reasserts itself  — anticipating the so-called return to religion. I completely agree: Meanings cannot be entirely known, and understanding beyond the known will always be sought.[40,41]
Lacan also describes Freud as an enlightenment-style rational skeptic. This rings true to me, both in Freud's simplistic discussion of religion as purely illusory , and his related (seeming) belief in positivism, or at least the ability of scientific inquiry to reliably reconstruct meaning. This tension in his work, between the examination of the unconscious (as inaccessible barrier to finding meaning), and a hard core empiricism, comes out frequently in Freud's self-doubting style & various personal peculiarities. Freud seems not to realize that religion was already actively engaged with the unconscious, even if it did not name it as such.
The contemporary enthusiasm for scientific rationalism has given the latter great license to generate a broad range of meanings-understandings that are well beyond empiricism itself: These are called interpretation. Scientific interpretations differ from religious interpretations in their content, but their form increasingly coincides. This is the other half of the "return to religion," as science engages more aggressively in meaning-making. As the signifying chain of the epochal scientific discoveries becomes longer, I have no doubt the distinction (even in content) from religion will become cloudier. There is likewise no doubt (I shift from the first person) that future "prophets" will synthesize these various truths in various ways. The exclusivity of a contemporary scientific epistemology breaks down not only over its own internal limits (Gödel, etc.), but under the weight of public demand for meaning. This is obvious already in politics, where it is clear that scientific rationalism holds anything but a monopoly on knowledge (as power). It cannot, simply put, because its ability to explain is too limited. Even journalists feel a need to add "meaning" to scientific research stories.
The reactionary skeptic response to this fact is to blame the public for their failings (in wanting more). This response is obviously a waste of time.
Agamben's example of the various "sacred words" that were no more than the earlier terms for planting, harvest, etc. is a helpful one. (Freud's early Greek deities were already an example of the phenomenon by which a word loses its immediate meaning while becoming sacred.)
In other words, even in the individual, repression is not completely parallel-perpendicular in this sense. It is not mirrored exactly by its reemergence, although perhaps rather closely.
This rough imagery breaks down quickly under scrutiny, but hopefully has some explanatory value. The main problem with the puzzle imagery is that "pieces" are never really so discrete. The way our perceptions work (by which we perceive the pieces) is formed by a variety of previous factors, as is the way we view separateness itself. The "missing" pieces can be seen as farther back in time, for instance, and then the flatness of the puzzle comes into question, as each piece is assembled from different points in time (as third dimension), etc.
As in , religion — the term very broadly conceived here to signify any meaning-making system — "aids" us in constructing an understanding. Religion, or a meaning-making system, or more than one, can in turn be deconstructed from the chain. These systems do not arrive in some kind of purely external form either, but are constructed out of various meanings themselves. (I pull out this particular aspect to aid in explanation, not because religion-system is something inherently distinct within this conception.)
This is essentially poststructural, once we internalize apprehension of the chain. That is, we absorb the chain, make it vanish. In other words, the chain is not a foundation, but "only" a heuristic: It has no start, unless one takes the start to be the self-other rupture itself (which likewise does not form at once, and is conditioned by a variety of unknown & external stimuli ). Any heuristic is immanent, and to some degree, arbitrary.
Even eschewing structuralism in principle, as discussed in Hierarchy as rupture, the self-other duality is too ingrained in current thought to ignore in explanation. It is, however, possible to imagine this duality as being very different than it is in our culture.
Note that, according to this formulation, the things in this void "really" happened, but we do not know what they are. Their meanings have been carried down the chain, unarticulated. Note additionally that this formulation is, in some sense, a generalization & reversal of dialectical reasoning.
By proto-historical in this context, I mean that we cannot construct a narrative, because we do not know the beginning, but there is something of a historical form to the regime as sketched. (A history need not have an absolute beginning, of course, but is oriented around some specific earlier happening(s). In contrast, the only specific-known point in the regime of meaning is the present.)
We are not actually required to ponder this, and in fact, I will stop here. However, depending on our conclusion, the scale of such regimes of meaning can vary over many orders of magnitude.
And we know that e.g. child abuse can transmit itself across generations, so this is more than simply conjecture. The conjecture relates to the scope, i.e. whether at the level of an entire culture.
Or if we like, if the real is packed with the unknown results to experiments that have not been undertaken. Or experimental results that are forgotten....
The traditional orientation of the religious person is thus based upon a belief (faith) that even (deeply) flawed transmission of older meaning has value. Such a dynamic reenacts the (also very flawed) transmission of meaning to young children, which is not consensual (or fully conscious, or substitutable). So there is always already a basis for an orientation toward tradition: There was a previous experience of understanding past meaning. Moreover, it is not only in religion that this orientation persists: Various meanings in society are partially obscured, including to adults. The religious is not such a distinct entity, epistemologically.
There are different ways to query past meanings in different arenas, whether one takes them all under the umbrella of hermeneutics, semiotics, or something else. It is the way these meanings are sought that can define an activity, from religious repetition to empirical physics.
Ritual can be found anywhere there is a desire to convey meaning beyond the immediate event. Standards of scientific communication (repeatability , publication style, review, etc.) are a kind of ritual. Reading & watching television are kinds of rituals. Ritual is always tangible, a recreation of sense perception.
Repeatability is both a part of the ritual and an attempt to restore immediacy. That is, the experiment-experience is recreated for another. To what extent is meaning the same in different places & at different times? Empirical science takes a specific position (one very suited to industrial mass production, I might add) on this question, at least implicitly. The differences embedded in the question took on much more weight in the historically informed performance of early music, to give an opposite example. A repeated experience is, in some ways, fundamentally different.
This observation is analogous to Grossberg's discussion of a crisis of commensurability, in which we do not know how to compare different values. I have intentionally framed the matter around the idea of political contest here, disclaiming an analytic framework for comparing ritual meaning. In an important sense, meaning simply is, particularly when its origins are murky. This is where it meets with the real as surplus.
As "new" meaning versus traditional meaning, this contest had a specific dynamic in the early modern period. As the core of scientific discovery becomes non-new, even if we claim it is evergreen  because of repeatability , and various new religions are founded , this part of the dynamic changes. Self-interest becomes invested differently than when new-traditional defined much of the science-religion contest. Conversely, demanding a voice engages a different set of meanings than it did during the bourgeois revolution, because what is new is different.
I borrow the term "evergreen" from Indian aesthetic discussion, where it is popular in a general sense, meaning always alive or new.
Perhaps this is historical hindsight going beyond its reasonable limits, but it is impossible for me to view the advent of the modern, defined by imperialism & science, as separable from the fracture of religious meaning (ritual) in Europe. (Rereading this, I realize that the typical rational skeptic would wholeheartedly agree.)
The "official" history of marketing begins in the early twentieth century. Its victory over the world was achieved with WWII.
The end to which marketing is traditionally put is profit. However, marketing moves into non-profit domains, that is, using similar techniques to engage people in messages other than to buy a product, such as in anti-bullying or anti-smoking campaigns. Moreover, the great innovation during the WWII era was to apply marketing techniques systematically to governmentality. (We call this propaganda, the term predating systemization.) Marketing of government, social system, and particular products then play on each other, in reinforcing ways. Such marketing is usually constructed to reinforce, even when the surface message plays on conflict or dissatisfaction.
The crucial innovation of marketing is to measure what really works, rather than to position itself within one regime of meaning. Anything that will make you buy a product is fair game. (The exception would be a message that creates much larger resistance than the market for the product, although even that is usually redirected over time. In other words, a message that actually evokes substantial energy from the public will not be left alone, because that energy is to be mined.)
Psychoanalytic theory was one of the primary fonts of marketing, along with economic theory. However, its empirical techniques were novel. (See Bartels, et al.)
The heuristic I often use in casual conversation is to ask which of us was born only after the supremacy of marketing, whose parents were, etc. This timing is different in different places and for different people, regarding access, etc. However, it has been proceeding in a single direction. Young people are increasingly born into a world where the real (in the psychoanalytic sense) is defined  by marketing.
Aspects of this definition are not at all passive. The majority of people "doing marketing" are not very sophisticated, by which I mean that they simply engage messaging that has already been developed, perhaps with little scrutiny other than to adapt it to their specific conditions. However, there are also very sophisticated people who are mining & shaping meanings in much more conscious ways. (Given the control of government by business under neoliberalism, I see no further need to distinguish marketing & propaganda.)
To rephrase from the previous paragraph, people make (shape) context while being made (shaped) by context. Increasingly, this context is marketing. In twenty-first century USA, marketing messages are incredibly pervasive. Just how densely has religious symbolism ever permeated society? (I see it much more densely than is usually perceived, but I also leave the question open, historically.) With mass production, marketing appears to be taking symbolism to a new density. (I hesitate to write this in public, but it seems to me that a fractal density to symbolism is possible, isomorphic to traditional attempts to "read between the lines." This has yet to happen on any meaningful scale.)
Marketing is often quite tangible, but does not attempt to state in any detail what it means (beyond "buy this"). In contrast, religious meaning was once plainly articulated (by definition, in its immediacy), but becomes poorly understood with time (and so usable by marketing). Scientific meaning attempts transparency, but lacks engagement , which is where marketing connects with it & uses it.
In a sense, science seems to assert that the real provides its own meaning. However, that meaning can only be queried, and does not impose goals. Human goals remain external to science, which is both a strength & a weakness. The primary weakness is that goals are then enacted implicitly in the contemporary world by marketing techniques under the cover of scientific rationalism. (The issues of  are also engaged, as science continues to be positioned as the new.)
The sacred can be viewed as a desire to recapture an immediacy of experience, perhaps a very distant former immediacy. This is prototypical of language, and so marketing messages attempt to engage the desire for immediacy without illuminating the chain by which desire might connect with current experience. Such dissatisfaction will, the marketer hopes, present itself as a yearning for the product that has been linked to (or posited as a substitute for) this sacred immediacy. It is not hyperbolic to discuss a nexus between marketing & the sacred in this sense: Whatever your sacred experiences have been, the marketer will attempt to engage them (via the music from the first time you had sex, for instance ).
If you are young, the music offered for sexual situations is now marketed with an eye/ear toward that future marketing opportunity. A few decades ago, such long range planning was not so advanced.
Many, perhaps most, people of my acquaintance take a negative view toward marketing in principle. This view neither accommodates the basic neutrality of technique, i.e. determining what it is that people want, nor seems to diminish the effectiveness of marketing.
This might be analogized to the power that elements of religious ritual continue to hold over people who have officially disclaimed religion. Dislike of a meaning-making system does not appear to extend very deeply for most people. It's usually some surface element to which they've formed an aversion , and that aversion can be engaged in a different chain of meaning that fits the original goal just as well.
Perhaps this can be analogized in turn to e.g. how the immune system reacts to the protein coating of a virus, the coating the virus itself regularly mutates.
Such a mutation of meaning works fine for marketing, because it has a goal that isn't meaning itself. Divisiveness can therefore be used productively. On the other hand, if the goal of a (catholic) religion is unity, meanings cannot be set against each other in this way. The core meanings must remain valid somehow. This is the basic way that marketing is more flexible than religion. It is not that religion is unable to engage empiricism, but that it is bound to a particular regime of meaning.
One can argue that governmentality represents a core "meaning" that must be maintained. However, I would not agree that governmentality invokes meaning, not in the sense it's used here. It is, like marketing, purely instrumental.
Love is the crucible of meaning, according to Roland Barthes in A Lover's Discourse: Fragments — the major inspiration for this paragraph.
Love as a priori is the starting point of many religions. (A poststructural analysis is much harder to articulate, in comparison, precisely because by its nature, it has no identifiable beginning.) Not coincidentally, it's also the backdrop to self formation in psychoanalytic theory, at least ideally.
Defining "whatever happens" to the child as love has a simplicity, but that implicit definition can quickly cause problems in subsequent life interactions. In other words, whereas that definition will very likely be assigned regardless, it is not necessarily healthy.
I have not included economics among the meaning-making systems discussed thus far, although I could do so. As such, it is very crude: All economics can do in this regard is refer one to "the market" & price. In other words, its meanings were & are already created for it. It meshes very nicely with finalism (and in turn death).
Is it too much of a cliché to equate this care with the Mother (in abstract terms)?
As I write this, there is a television campaign for an Ashford University (I know nothing else about them) that uses children, presumably to engage the potential customer's thoughts of their own potential. It ends with a child saying "You can trust me, I'm a kid." Although similar messaging has become ubiquitous, I wanted to note it for its perverse reversal of childhood: The child is no longer fragile, but rather the authority by virtue of her innocence. I respond with another simplistic cliché: Garbage in, garbage out.
The critical techniques of marketing were developed to determine what it is people want. In principle, this knowledge could be applied directly. (Even within such an ideal model, there are possibilities for error, but there always are.)
In other words, marketing is not typically charged with satisfying our interests, but rather with satisfying the profit motive of someone else. (I cannot categorically state that subject knowledge is in our interest; it might not be. Therefore, that marketing does not explain how it affects us is not wrong according to this measure, even if using us to satisfy someone else is.)
This is the great scandal of religion: Despite its claims (or even attempts) to treat its community with love, self-interest nonetheless emerges. We might feel so betrayed that we prefer the impersonal instrumentality of marketing, because at least we know the giant corporation does not care for us. Similarly, compare the betrayal of one's parents or other loved one versus that of a random stranger.
Although people must know this, advertising campaigns telling us that a giant corporation cares for us continue to be effective. These two ideas can be kept together in the mind via differing kinds of consciousness, and how advertising engages affect in multiple ways. In other words, feelings of betrayal can be engaged in one affective register (perhaps with humorous sarcasm), while "we love you" messages are poured into another, as from abusive parents.
Together with the trend sketched in , the increasing sophistication of affective models should, I believe, alarm the reader. Something like an Oedipal model, as pernicious as it has been for e.g. queer identity formation, is rather quaint by way of comparison.
And why are we so certain that disdain is authentic? (These days, disdain itself might be cultivated.) This is the basic cynicism of the contemporary era — although it was never confined to this era.
By authenticity, then, I mean a transparent alignment between intent & act. An authentic act is one that both accomplishes & shows its intent. So by this definition, any kind of dishonesty or misdirection would be inauthentic. Since love can & often does involve hiding, it is not necessarily authentically expressed: A simple act, such as saying "I love you," can include a variety of intent, even if the statement is true.
A canonical example is parents explaining to a child. What will the child understand? With how much effort? What sort of trauma might there be from the knowledge? Does it make more sense to wait? Often these questions are answered imperfectly at best, in part because the parents do not possess perfect knowledge, not even of the child. (That is, there are often chains of meaning affecting the child of which the parents are not consciously aware.) So what is transparency in such a scenario? Particularly for laymen, intent can easily miss its mark.
It seems clear that models of human identity (Oedipus, etc.) make many assumptions based on current conditions or conjunctures. As these assumptions are overturned by new or different (already existing) possibilities, new models emerge. However, despite efforts to generalize, these new models usually invoke a typology of their own. Identity knowledges, as accretions of individual differences, pose a finite & discrete set of possibilities, and so are readily typological. We have already seen e.g. critiques of homonormativity emerge from queer identity study, and there is a danger that readily yielding to types will put everyone back in boxes (or closets, so to speak), but with a few more boxes from which to choose. (The counterargument is that without such an accretion into identity groups, there is no basis for political power.) Moreover, carving out space for a new ideology tends to involve recapitulation to all power relations that are not the relations specifically being contested. (Again, this has an obvious practical component.)
Typology itself can be set in opposition to the real. In other words, there is always some surplus beyond type, and this is the real. Barthes invokes this surplus as a matter of nuance, of finding ways to slide between (transverse to) types. The nuance figures love, and so love accesses the real beyond type. (There are some clear Christian implications here, particularly when he notes that the passion of Christ has set up the subject as the one who suffers ; see also .) Barthes highlights immediacy in nuance (as per ), contrasting it with distance, both in terms of love: Types are not bridged at a distance, but immediately connected (the "back" of the rupture, in my terms).
We can now inquire further (from assertion one/two) about happiness constructed as fantasy: Happiness is passion/engagement without suffering? Such might only seem unreal to Christians. (Lauren Berlant says, similarly, that love needs fantasy. It cannot thrive entirely in the real, even if it accesses the real.)
Freud's struggle between Eros & Thanatos has often seemed apt in this area, even as his Oedipal triangle proved so irksome for feminist & queer theorists.
Marx anticipated such an investment with his discussion of commodity fetishism. We have gone so far beyond it in the last hundred and fifty years. (And this is another of Marx's ideas that is used so very enthusiastically by his supposed critics.)
The lover's economy is disequilibrium, says Barthes. This is a penetrating statement: The science of economics claims to model equilibrium behavior, while marketing strives to create disequilibrium behavior.
The relationship between denying certain styles of human love relations, and directing libidinal energy into consumption or nation, can be explored: It's easy to believe that the former was deprecated in part because it demanded new means for the latter. With this problem solved, prohibitions can be lifted.
In the chain analogy, for instance, we might ask why we perceive the "links" to be discrete links, and not perceive meanings articulated to themselves in a different way. This is surely cultural. (Perhaps I should not blame culture for my own explanatory figure, but I do not believe the form of the figure to be novel.)
Although Freud, with many others, treats love (Eros) as a basic drive, it need not be seen this way. It can be derived as a packaging of other more basic drives, or it can be distilled as a common thread (i.e. engagement) within different drives. In any case, love is not perceived so immediately as e.g. hunger or fear, or (significantly) lust.
Love transverses  the self-other boundary prototypically, because it is via love that the self-other boundary is constructed. (Love is the subsequent rationalization for these events, in other words.) Is love safe? The subsequent appraisal of self-other defines its formation as "safe." Is one's boundary put up for renegotiation subsequently as well? That will not feel safe (because it would be happening consciously).
I use the (rather awkward) verb "transverse" to indicate the action of a transversal (in Guattari's sense). I.e., I did not mistype traverse. (It is probably also worth noting the similar definition of "thwart," which I use here in the sense of a blockage, so completely differently from "transverse" as moving across territories or types.)
If we find ourselves in this love, what if it is inauthentic? If marketing as the dominant meaning-making system is marked by its lack of concern for us, where does that place identity formation? (This is not unlike the medieval theological concerns revolving around duty from assertion five, except that there is no conceptual center around which to revolve.)
It would be easy to reprise a critique of typology here, and that has long been the answer. However, contemporary internet marketing includes the potential to market to every single person individually, i.e. not as a type. We are starting to see this, but the implications of the change are difficult to fathom. This shift to individual-based marketing should not be underestimated, however.
The contradiction sketched here regarding the gestures of love (toward the real, away from the real) is thus framed as under one's control, as a means of managing other contradictions.
Machaut follows Boethius in opposing the Wheel of Fortune to expectations.
Evocative of assertion three, it should also be noted that it's often said that gamblers deny reality (that this is their neurosis).
Much has been made of unrequited love, including by Machaut. (It can be analyzed as finding its mirror somewhere else, as a displacement.) However, in some sense, mutuality is also the definition of loving, prototypical again of the mother-child relationship (although see cautions in ).
The imagery of mirrors should evoke the imperfect mirroring of communication (from which love is not separate) in the earlier discussion of multigenerational repression.
This statement is evocative of the ideas on fantasy from .
By a figure, I mean a kind of illustration or diagram, immanent to what it figures.
The term "meaning" should feel highly contested after the preceding discussion.
This is a good place to note perhaps Schmitt's most significant oversight: He does not notice the rising dominance of marketing per se. (It likely would not have interested him anyway, since it has no ultimate decision maker.)
It is probably more important to ask who must pay. In our era, the answer is easy: Costs are always pushed downward hierarchically.
In this question, I refer specifically to the definition of the entities Ananke & Fortune. A hypothetical modern focus on the state of possibility preceding a throw of the dice is limited: The tension between possibility & result is used in a variety of ways in the contemporary era. For instance, a neoliberal might stress possibility while taking the result as paramount, in turn pronouncing failure. (There can be no failure without this hypothetical possibility, and so it is a rhetorical necessity.)
In other words, the ancients did view Fortune as sovereign. After the throw, Fortune is inevitable: The decision has been made.
This "we" refers not only to individuals, but also to families, nations, cultures, every set of people — whether arrayed temporally or spatially or both.
Results are still conceived comparatively: One is e.g. rich or poor relatively, with reference to other possibilities. There is something one either got or did not get: There is an embedded other in the individual result. (It is far too easy to turn to a binary or duality, however. This is one reason I keep using the image of dice, with their six sides.)
In the previous paragraph, I made a similar statement as follows: Chance is engaged as a surplus over fortune: Other possibilities than the one that has occurred are considered.
Accentuating fortune in different ways becomes a matter of governmentality & necropolitics. Accentuation is determined via, and determinate of, power.
It might be argued that the Christian god had succeeded Fortune. (And this god does not figure very strongly in Machaut's account, either, so this succession was not as total as sometimes portrayed.)
One would not want to tempt Fortune on this latter point, especially. (It has already been just over four months of writing.)
Depending on one's perspective, I am either done with the main portion of this article, and ready to proceed to appendices, or I am done with the preliminaries, and ready to proceed to the main argument. I support both interpretations, and in either case, there is now a change of emphasis.
What are we to make of the six assertions? Not only do the assertions concern one concept, fortune, but I have sometimes referred to them as equations. This raises the natural possibility of performing arithmetic or algebraic operations on them, and here I will attempt such a procedure in order to discover what might be learned from a construction of this type. The present heading, therefore, invokes the mathematical idea of transitivity, together with the image of a puzzle. It is readily apparent that these assertions are not as simple as mathematical statements, and so the utility of treating them as transitive equations will necessarily be limited, but the degree to which they do or do not present a coherent picture is worthy of investigation. Already, treating the copula as an equal sign, the commutative nature of the assertions has been questioned within the previous discussion: This will be revisited below as a precursor to discussing transitivity, and transitive relations will be explored in both directions (i.e. without assuming commutativity). Transitivity, in this way, should be reminiscent of the transversal (idea) sometimes invoked within the assertion discussions themselves. Beyond its purely mathematical sense, then, equating these different concepts to each other — that is, algebraically removing "fortune" from the equations — provides an opportunity to view concepts from different angles, and to move across boundaries. A major obstacle to extracting a coherent formulation from these assertions is their differing temporal characters: Not only do individual assertions suggest a different sense of time, but the meanings of the assertions have changed or developed historically (and even wavered in truth content). This temporal alignment, or lack thereof, must therefore be considered carefully here.[3,4] Considering basic questions about commutativity & transitivity , as well as the temporal dimension, the "puzzle" (as I've called it) does not yield spatially to a flat image. In other words, whereas the simplest mathematical equations have a flatness and/or linearity, here we have a more complex geometry. Moreover, we have no particular reason to believe that the "puzzle" is complete. These assertions do not exhaust the ways in which fortune can be viewed, nor do I claim that they span it. I claim, much more modestly, that these are some interesting ways to view fortune, and are necessarily incomplete. Therefore, any "formula" that might be deduced would be at most partial. Specifically regarding viewpoints, indeed these assertions have — at least implicitly — adopted particular perspectives that can be queried: This inquiry has already been broached in terms of noun or adjective forms, as well as language , but can be continued into subject domains, such as class or gender. With such differences in subject, the resulting geometry takes on a variety of threads, the result of which might best fit the image of weaving: I will undertake to weave these assertions into some sort of combined image.
So now I will turn to each of the six assertions, one at a time, provide a few thoughts derived from the preceding framework by way of reaction , and then consider it transitively (as subject) with each of the other five. I will carry out this latter procedure in a strictly algorithmic way, stepping through each possibility. After all six assertions are treated in this way, the resulting "puzzle" will be examined.
As narrated in the discussion of assertion one, fortune & happiness  began as similar concepts in different languages, with a shift over time into rather different English connotations. Moreover, the assertion discussion concludes by declaring fortune to be a "formula" for happiness ; in this sense, the equation is no longer commutative. Although this assertion can & has been applied to all modern subjects, it also reflects a sense of agency that has been in tension for many : It has often been a command. The historical shift in ideas on fortune & happiness can be related (and were, above) to human responsibility in a world without divine providence, and to protestant ideas on earthly reward (or signs of favor). This shift marks the modern era decisively, particularly as disembedded happiness became installed as a driver in economic theory. Turning to transitive possibilities: Happiness is material is a straightforward assertion reflecting material human need. Although suitable to inquiry in the historical social sciences, the assertion does lack the element of emotional well-being; there is also an "ends justify means" implication embedded similarly. (It might also be worthwhile to drill further into assertion two, and ask regarding the idea that happiness is property, i.e. the "American Dream.") Happiness is risky likewise seems straightforward, reflecting the (discussed above) notion of risk as deserving of reward. More broadly, such an assertion could also reflect an emotional intelligence and willingness to take personal risks outside of the economic domain. Finally, it could suggest an inevitability to risk, with which I concur. Happiness is timely does not seem especially meaningful today, although it can reflect a further sense of chance via time. Can happiness be summoned at a particular moment? Perhaps via ritual formula. Happiness is duty has been discussed here and by others. If anything, the duty to be happy has intensified in the contemporary period. Happiness is real does not seem very meaningful as a literal statement, but considering the psychoanalytic real, we can perceive in it how the contemporary world has sought meanings for unhappiness in e.g. our childhoods. The idea that happiness is real, rather than some kind of void (without referent), can also be related to the void of the real itself. There is an analogy here that fits within the analogy of fortune to reality. A final factor relating happiness to our inquiry is its singularity — its undefinable superiority — as the new god  of a resolutely lingering monotheism.
Assertion two was actually the last added to my outline, before I began writing this article. There were originally five assertions, but I decided that to skip over a discussion of materiality was a mistake, and ultimately I remain least satisfied with my narration of assertion two. That said, the assertion shows an easy commutativity, as well as an element of temporal consistency: Your fortune is (at least significantly) material in all eras, even if various specific effects change. A troubling part of the consistency arising from the materiality of property, however, is the cultural component: Simply put, it both posits and maintains a subject-object duality: A person is separate from (but linked to) property in this conception. Moreover, for some subject positions, a person might be property, with the latter assignment just as non-negotiable. If property creates personhood , via the relationship of rights, the duality nonetheless remains quite rigid under modernity. Materialism thus yields a rigid (immaterial) subject-object separation, conditioning lived experience , and in turn reflected back onto the material. Turning to transitive possibilities : Material is risky is another straightforward assertion, reflecting uncertainties in the material world or environment. It continues to be true, even if we've constructed a layer of insurance. Material is timely is also straightforward in the sense that one needs materials when one needs them, and not some other time. Material is duty suggests the social requirement to work & contribute. Material is real can, like fortune is happy, be seen as a translation or tautology: That a divergence has occurred between these meanings reflects the disciplines involved, whether history, economics, physical science, psychology, etc. We certainly retain the sense that material is real, in the most concrete way, and that sense propels materialism. Finally : Material is happy makes little sense to us; it might even seem to violate object relations. The latter assessment raises non-commutativity strongly, as "happiness is material" (from the previous paragraph) made a good deal of sense. I have already asserted the temporal commutativity of materiality, so the issue must be with happiness. Speaking of happy objects then , what of material inheritance? I believe it's crystal clear that the inheritance of material wealth in the Western style  must be strongly attenuated, and soon.[50,51]
As opposed to the more introductory nature of the first two assertions, assertion three was a major impetus for writing this article. Specifically, ideas on risk, as applied to an older concept such as fortune , have undergone significant changes in the modern era. These changes have also affected different subjects very differently. Although the urge to eliminate risk for those at the top of the social hierarchy has involved shifting that risk to others, it has also created new social costs beyond merely  such a shift. Risk management has even invoked a new ontology of totalizability , mandating the enumeration of possibilities, while foreclosing others. This enumeration-foreclosure is likewise played out in the entrepreneurial opening, to assess new value. The assertion therefore takes on an asymmetric tension, with the reverse increasingly posited  — and the forward assertion increasingly blocked. Against that epochal shift , transitivity first gives us: Risk is timely, an assertion that makes perfect sense within the modern risk regime. It's more in tune with contemporary thinking than the assertion itself: Know when to take risks (if you have a choice, that is). Risk is duty is likewise a very contemporary idea: The businessman may not have a duty to take risks, but his risk-taking somehow plays out as duty for others. Risk is real, consequently, takes on a spectral quality: Risk is perhaps least real for the person consciously choosing it, but comes back to haunt others. Moreover, as risk drives the ontology of totalizability, it creates new entities in the real. The double character of this assertion (derived from transitivity) arises with the certainty-uncertainty rupture, and the consequent ability to "realize" risk at different points in time & space. For many subjects, this risk takes on a form similar to the real, with unknown meanings erupting into experience unexpectedly. Risk is happy has become the mantra of the privileged risk-taker, looking for success  — also very modern, and intensifying. (There is nothing happy about risk in its original sense.) Finally: Risk is material makes traditional sense, but is abrogated by insurance: This notion is undergoing the same modern fate as the risk of fortune itself. The supposed taming of chaos, or rather reallocation of risk between different subjects, is a ready ground for feminist (& other) critique [67,68]: Different values must be disentangled from a singular (hierarchical) arbiter of risk, and risk spread once again to everyone.
Time is already explicit in this section, tracing historical shifts in the meaning of the assertions. A natural question then becomes whether the meaning of time itself changes over time. As articulated in the assertion discussion, time has indeed been used in increasingly many ways, particularly in the arena of finance.[70,71] The previous discussion also already tackles the subject of commutativity explicitly: To reprise (with a difference), which is prior, time or chance? Which motivates abstraction? (Both do.) Perhaps the transitive assertions will prove helpful here: Time is duty makes sense in the modern industrial era, where one must use one's time wisely (to create profit for others). It would have made no sense previously (when time was owned by god ). Time is real has been significantly explored in the previous assertion discussion, addressing the nature of time. Time is happy suggests an enduring concept of time, enjoying life & the moment. Time is material suggests, in the current era, again the drive for profit, evoking duty. Given the abstraction inherent to time, it would not have made sense previously. Finally: Time is risky reengages commutativity, in that it has a very similar sense to "risk is timely" above. The strength or balance in this (transitively derived) assertion underscores the degree to which risk management has taken control of the time abstraction, as well as its mathematical basis. This discussion has yet to raise the issue of subject position, and indeed time claims to transcend subjects — this was true when it was under the domain of god or cosmology as well. However, the modern turn to biological time , replacing the cosmological, places a specific differential burden on subjects, particularly women & children. Time can also include a sense of finalism, from which even the ancients were not immune. This last is a European heritage that would be best consigned to a museum.
The discussion of assertion five already illustrates its changed sense in the modern era: A rather straightforward equation has been put into tension, subjects pulled by the logic of modernity to be other than who they are. This tension, as with so many others, is felt differentially by subjects in lower hierarchical positions. Moreover, the tension essentially turns the assertion inside out, with the reverse better illustrating the revised meaning. So modernity has enacted an inversion.[84,85] Neoliberalism intensifies the rhetoric of duty, and so we should ask not only about changes in these concepts during the modern era, but more specifically in the contemporary period. Our duties continue to develop.[88,89] Transitively then, the inversion of duty should yield especially interesting assertions: Duty is real illustrates this clearly with the imbrication of the real, in formative terms, by this modern sense of duty. Such an imbrication is performed relentlessly, and is taken to be a pillar of modernization. Duty conditions the real, indeed, progressively: The previous generation feels a duty to duty in its creation  of the next. Thus the intensification.[92,93] Duty is happy reinscribes (recursively) the very modern mandate to be happy in terms of a happiness with one's duty. (One void points to another, and then back in turn.) Duty is material is likewise thoroughly modern: The concept of duty began with spiritual concerns. Duty is risky, again, makes sense only in the modern era: There is no "risk" in fulfilling spiritual duty. It also expresses the differences between modern subjects: Doing one's duty is only risky for some subjects. Duty is timely returns us to the commutativity established around risk-time, with a sense much like its inversion: One does one's duty according to the industrial clock. As tautology-void, duty has proven to be extremely adaptable to the demands of liberal governmentality, essentially serving as the pivot to enact that governmentality. If duty is emblematic of modernity, and intensifies in the contemporary period, the various post- movements  have clearly been unable to slow this process: Nation building in other parts of the world has given rise to particular aspirations [98,99], but also to renewed calls to duty: Any such duty must be directed creatively toward the future, rather than toward replication of liberalism (or anything else).
As reality is the most recent of the six objects , discussing the historical shift in assertion six becomes potentially less meaningful, so I will approach that aspect differently. Reality is (like time) constructed as transcendent, and so is supposed to apply equally to all subject positions. In practice, negotiation of reality is — as suggested by its royal roots — mediated directly by power.[102,103] If reality is the modern container for regimes of meaning, we must inquire as to how regimes of meaning are propagated : Some methods include politics, religion, marketing, science, and economics. These meanings go on to reflect, via the real, how we interpret the current set of transitive assertions. Here, asking what they mean is explicitly self-referential. The reality of fortune — assertion six itself — is thus open to interpretation from the start, and this interpretation cannot be foreclosed. (It concludes only in analogy.) Reversing the assertion, reality is Fortune  invokes a similar analogy: Whatever reality is, living with it is your fortune. (Such a statement might appear to transgress modernity, were it not for psychoanalysis, within which it makes sense.) The transitive assertions are not always illuminating: Reality is happy can be taken as some kind of reprisal of duty , but otherwise makes no sense. Reality is material is part of the common definition of reality. Reality is risky reprises exactly the risk that modernity seeks to eliminate — this is where reality (at least as it pertains here to fortune) transgresses the modernity that created it. Reality is timely likewise suggests limits to its own construction; in the more immanent sense, it is constructed to be pervasive, no more needed or true at one time than another. Reality is duty sounds like a grim reprisal of the reality principle itself (as mediated by modernity), or perhaps of the backward assertion six. To address the historical shift, let me go ahead and repeat the observation that reality is modernity's substitute for god : Let us now consider each of the transitive assertions with god instead of reality: God is happy — the goal of Christians, achieved via duty.[113,114] God is material — like reality, god encompasses matter, by definition. God is risky — as above, raises the possibility of transgression. God is timely — a statement for which the discussion pertaining to reality likewise applies (including ). God is duty — the devotion modernity would like to see applied to itself. Perhaps most readers found that brief exercise boring or ridiculous, but the similarities remain striking to me, particularly as the god-based assertions tend to make more sense , so perhaps it's something to consider further: The historical shift in the assertion is a shift in what reality is. Does modernity tame chaos? Is fortune real? To rephrase: Does the construction of the real eliminate fortune?
Having mathematically eliminated Fortune in the forgoing transitive procedure, we can ask two basic & related questions about the puzzle or figure produced: What is Fortune? And what sort of "formula(s)" can be extracted from the resulting figure? The first question is transcendental relative to the figure , and I will return to it later. Treating the second, the figure deals with one-way (non-commutative) relationships, temporal shifts, and differences in subject position. If we want to reach some sort of conclusion from the puzzle, we'll need to consider these complexities. The temporal shifts involved happen at a variety of scales: Depending on one's perspective, this is an artifact of having looked at the historical development of these concepts into & through the modern era, or is due to the (perhaps micro) relations of time within current interactions. Considering these temporal poles, however, leaves the lingering question of how they themselves might interact: In other words, do the broader shifts characterizing modernity cast a temporal shadow over current interactions? I consider this an open question, with implications for how transaction-level analyses change over decades. In any case, these temporal relations can conceivably be — and are in stochastic finance — modeled with differential equations. Such an approach does not differentiate subject positions : The contemporary trend is to engage game theory to model individual actors. However, these game models, of necessity, have rather simple rules. Moreover, the non-commutative structure accentuates subject position difference, because even in the same relationship (i.e. two ends of one thread), one's location matters — the ends are asymmetric. Let me attempt a spatial image: We can consider various points (or nodes)  and relationships (lines, of some type) between them. Keeping to the physical imagery, if the line between nodes is like a rod, it can be pushed or pulled from either end; if it is a string, it can only be pulled. We can imagine non-commutative relations: A string that is elastic in one direction, or a rod that is stiff in only one direction, etc. And then we have fuzzy relations that aren't necessarily determinate, whether in action or in which nodes they engage, etc. So this image yields something of an assemblage, and we can imagine standing at some specific position relative to the assemblage, pushing or pulling or wiggling or etc.: Any way we can manipulate the relations from that position, we will try, with some energy types transferring to more distant nodes, some not, some again indeterminate, etc. This is the puzzling graphical knot I've woven, so to speak, and let me remind you that we do still have the temporal dimension with its complexities as discussed: The weaving is never finished.
What is the purpose of this exercise? Can one extract some mathematical formulation(s) from the figure as described thus far? Probably, but such an act only transposes the question of purpose. A basic purpose might be, to adopt a specific subject position, to understand exactly what one's possibilities are. What can one do in a given time & place? These might be straightforward economic possibilities, i.e. buy this specific item at this specific price, or they might be fuzzier, i.e. convince a stranger to change an attitude about duty. Either might have various repercussions (or might not). Within that context, what is the effect  of declaring a specific economic formula? First, what of the declaration? If we stick (immanently) to our figure, with its nodes & relations, there is no such thing as an overall application of force: It can be applied only to specific relations, and even one-to-one violence might be mediated by other relations. Such an economic formula can only emerge in a context: There is some amount of imposition, some amount of agreement & belief. After this moment, does the formula continue to hold? (We do observe a conservatism that keeps old ideas alive even if their contexts have passed. This is a kind of irreversibility in the system.) And what does an economic formula do? It does exactly the things just discussed: It might provide one with an accounting of possibilities  (i.e. what thing can I afford to buy); it might use the (presumed) authority of the issuer to impose; it might convince people via its rationality  that it is "true" and should be followed. Such a list of possible effects might not be terribly compelling until we observe how the third effect feeds back into the first. Reality is thus forged. The economic formula becomes a tool, with any truth value secondary to its effectiveness. Although it cannot be wielded perfectly, considering that it engages so many social relationships, it is generally wielded with self-interest. Any "successful" formulation modifies the figure , even as it describes the figure — this is true with or without intention to manipulate. If its construction is such that it resonates and becomes at least partially self-fulfilling, does that make it good? It does make it partially stable, and we are taught to fear chaos. (Any stability might suddenly be susceptible to other events, however.)
Returning to the figure described above, and declaring that the sum of these relations describes (or is ) Fortune, we might view it as akin to chaos: Whereas scrutiny of the many specific relationships in the figure, and how they might transmit, could (in principle) give us an overall understanding of the puzzle, with various pieces of information missing , the results we feel as individual subjects present with a sense of randomness. Fortune is then that sense of randomness conceived at a distance: It is a (classic) transcendent image of the too-complicated, too-incomplete puzzle. In that sense, it is not chaos, but rather chaotic, in that it includes social perception: One must have a particular sense of self-other in order to perceive Fortune. One could argue that I have presented Fortune as foundational instead of derived from the social. That has indeed been the form of the current article, but not because of a search for some fundamental structure. Rather, the choice is motivated by critique of modernity, its supposed overcoming of Fortune. Within that critique, the material exceeds the form, which is ultimately contingent. Moreover, whereas this article presents a specific equilibrium by its nature , equilibrium models must be called into question: Is there any kind of economic relation that has or will maintain forever? What do we lose by trying to force an equilibrium? The loss can be symbolized by the medieval turn of the wheel itself. That image represents constant change; divorced from god, it demands a change ontology.[148,149] For the present purposes, it also demands rethinking economy as a general aspect of social relation — not a thing apart: The old simplifications can be acknowledged as influential, but not on account of any special truth value. In a posthuman era, the formation of the social itself must be reconfigured, and with that, Fortune (at least as previously socially mediated) will cease to exist: The desire, then, is to go in a better direction, rather than a worse one. Hence figuring Fortune , and what has been lost (or discarded) by modernity.
Perhaps this entire introduction is tedious, or even ridiculous, to most readers, but with the emphasis the discipline of economics puts on mathematical equations, I intend to explore — implicitly, at least, somewhat — the limitations of mathematical properties per se in this (human) domain.
I believe it is accurate to state, however, that I have not been bound much by boundaries thus far.
It can reasonably be argued that I did not treat historical sequence in a coherent way in the discussion of the assertions. A task here, then, is to remedy any such deficiencies in the earlier approach.
Temporal character, and in particular the unidirectional nature of time, can be related to a lack of commutativity. In other words, time introduces an irreversibility that is reflected in the sometimes one-way nature of the assertions.
Note that, mathematically, algebraic structures can be defined that are neither commutative nor transitive, although these options are not often pursued.
One might describe the domain of analogy as "a more complex geometry." So here we are dealing with analogies, and thought concepts that might be fuzzy or permeable. Such a situation suggests a set theoretic approach, which might be worthwhile, but I intend to focus on a simpler algebraic comparison here.
These missing puzzle pieces are reminiscent of historical inquiries into the real from assertion six.
I have stated already that the ordinal numbers are arbitrary. This is certainly true as regards absolute value, but the sequence itself is not entirely arbitrary, as should become evident when I step through the transitive possibilities. (Unfortunately, whereas I believe this was a "good" sequence for the purpose of the current discussion, it was not a good sequence for the purpose of attracting reader interest.)
I insist upon the open-ended nature of this investigation. It cannot be foreclosed.
Although I'm in no position to offer anything close to a definitive conclusion, it seems to me that much of this discussion can proceed only in English: So much of it revolves around translation between one language and another, and the resulting rhetorical space. English has so much vocabulary from so many languages, and it has been fully mobilized around rhetoric. It's fair to ask about the relationship between the opacity of the English language (that is, its many arbitrary qualities) and world hegemony.
I have my own reactions to having concluded writing each. In separating the sections of this article, I've provided some space to react to myself, which I regard as a benefit of writing in reading order.
Hopefully this procedure will not be too tedious. I expect it to provide some worthwhile information & perspective.
I shifted immediately to the noun "happiness" in preparation for treating this assertion transitively as subject.
It's also worth noting that, at least out of context, "fortune" generally has positive associations, not the neutrality (or even dread) of antiquity.
The creation of this formulaic meaning can be tied to a specific time, the enlightenment era (e.g. the USA Declaration of Independence), also the time from which classical economics dates. This is also roughly the midpoint of the modern era (which I take to have ended).
In other words, although happiness might be demanded, the relevant agency has been withheld from many subjects.
Thoughts on the command ontology from assertion five can reasonably be considered here, although I do not have anything specific to add.
As narrated in the "pincher move" note to the assertion discussion, there was also a self-conscious step: The medieval world was refuted by a so-called return to classical glory (the "renaissance" label) that sidestepped any actual refutation via assertion of historical priority. That modern & ancient ideas on happiness do not actually coincide is readily apparent in e.g. McMahon's monograph. As the void that "everyone desires," happiness is thus a ready target for manipulation, and has remained so consistently since the enlightenment era.
Ascetology can provide us with examples where this assertion has been contradicted over the years. That movements have existed specifically to contradict such an equation between emotional & physical well-being, however, suggests how powerful the positive association has been. (I.e. one does not create a movement to contradict an assertion that no one really cares about anyway.)
These objections about "ends" and their emotional relationship seem especially pertinent, both given the impersonal character of classical economic evaluations, and the finalism sublimated throughout modern thought.
The traditional association between happiness & property was damaged considerably by the economic crash of 2008, although media forces have been working hard since to reassert it. The "American Dream" idea has been crucial to establishing lower class allegiance to upper class goals, and so will not be abandoned easily. This has been, perhaps, the single largest factor effecting liberal governmentality in modern USA.
This binding of risk & emotion takes us farther away from the "guarantee" of the monotheist god, i.e. that we will ultimately be happy if we follow the formula. Such a remark is just as true for the contemporary formula, namely to secure wealth.
Even if material risk is eliminated for the privileged by contemporary financial & economic techniques, their emotional health does not appear secure. Studies regularly appear to document that such "success" does not automatically yield happiness.
This ritual shift in fortune was mentioned already in the assertion one discussion. In addition, ritual interacts strongly with the time dimension: It often has prescribed timings, and even invokes the past. Ritual might be said to be about time, often enough.
Do we even have "unhappy" icons in the contemporary world, such as e.g. Our Lady of Sorrows? (Although the latter is still around.) Popular entertainment must have a happy ending. (Perhaps this is simply a straightforward perversion of Christian finalism.)
Inverting the discussion to unhappiness was critical, of course, because psychoanalysis responds to pathology. Lacking a positive component, the assertion can thus be framed as a continuation of the duty to be happy.
We might consider happiness the single god of the contemporary era, if we do not already consider that god to be wealth. Such an equation between wealth & happiness plays out in economics, as well as (differently) in the discussion of assertion one. The many layers of that association can be considered further.
I approve of my choice to discuss the sequence of property, debt, inheritance. These were the elements of materialism that I thought were especially relevant for the purposes of the current article, and as already noted, discussing the entire topic of materialism both would have been superfluous (to other efforts) and taken me too far away from my own priorities here. However, the approach I took to framing the property discussion itself was probably not the best. This is the part of the article with which, at least at the moment, I am least happy.[29,30] I do believe, however, that there are various positive components to the discussion of assertion two.
One might reasonably ask why I don't rewrite the discussion of property. If I did so, I would need to redo all of assertion two, of course, but that is not the real issue. Rather, it would violate my intention to write this article in reading order. Although others might not care about my decision to write in reading order (which I relate to musical improvisation), I will not violate it here. Beyond these notes, my only recourse would appear to be writing a differently framed discussion of property in the future, and that might happen. (Speaking briefly at this moment, I would probably orient it on the enclosure laws, and the modern creation of the idea of land as property.)
The present aside raises another material aspect to the present article, namely the physical (and temporal) component of writing it. It is not created instantly, is not a snapshot, nor without physical engagement with various materials (mainly a computer). The process of writing affects the result, including the various other life events (whether major or minor) that occur during the process. I reject the (neo-Platonic) notion that an "ideal" version of this article has any existence or meaning at all, except possibly emotionally (for me), and then only because such rhetoric exists.
Historical materialism was born of just such an observation.
This property-person duality is reflected clearly in the holy duality of classical economics, supply-demand.
Other qualities of personhood, such as gender, may be just as non-negotiable. I should be clear that the subject-object duality is only intensified by these enfoldings. Where the subject or object falls in a relationship is then determined hierarchically, according to social norms.
This sequence essentially reproduces the master-slave dialectic.
This kind of rigid (subject-object) separation of personhood  is a European inheritance more broadly, and not erected in modernity. It was, however, spread around the world by force during that era.
One might, quite reasonably, raise the question of grammar here, and other language families. The subject-object duality is reenacted constantly in European language acts.
We can ask whether "property" (whether object or quality or some kind of hybrid) is epistemological or ontological. Culturally, we reenact the division between these inquiries in the subject-object duality: The object exists and is to be known by the subject.
This inherent circularity has yielded to intense colonization of historical materialism.
I will use "material" as the noun-subject for these transitive inquiries, even though I've used (the more complicated) "materiality" at times when introducing them. Either is probably more or less awkward depending on the specific statement. I could have, or maybe should have, used "matter" on more occasions as well.
I might even suggest that "material is timely" was the driving force of civilization, constructing resources to satisfy material needs across seasons, years, etc.
Perhaps I should emphasize that I do not sympathize with the current sentiment that people must be forced to work or they will not. Such a situation holds only under a regime of alienation & corruption. Children are born wanting to contribute — that impulse can only be driven out of them, not instilled. The sentiment about forcing people to work actually revolves around for what, and for who, of course. (Having worked with small children of all ability levels, I am completely convinced that "human nature" is exactly the opposite of this oft-repeated sentiment.)
The popular singer Madonna does not live in the real world, for instance, but rather in a material world.
I will take a cyclical order throughout this transitive sequence, beginning with the assertion after the one under primary consideration.
The affective regime of objects has produced many scholarly titles over the past few years, however. Clearly this is an area of much interest. (The interest is, at least in part, driven by the way computer systems & the internet work, in my opinion.) The idea that there are "happy objects," for instance, has come into vogue in the theoretical realm, consequently. Part of this move comes out of queer theory, but it can also be linked to posthumanism more broadly. So perhaps "material is happy" will (or has) come to make sense.
My shift between noun & adjective can be blamed for this lack of commutativity, perhaps, although I'm disinclined to place the issue (if we consider it an issue) there.
Considering happiness as void, such an issue should be expected. Let me reframe: If we want to question the situation mathematically, I might posit the void of happiness as a zero divided by zero situation. How it is approached will determine the result, or in English language terms, it opens rhetorical space. We are thus faced with a happy-material singularity (in the mathematical sense) at the heart of classical economics.
I'm pleased with this turn of phrase, I confess, but it's also significant: The transmission of affect via object underlies much traditional inheritance debate. Such an affective stance continues to animate debate in the current era. Although they might be less in the foreground for huge material estates, emotional linkages nonetheless affect decisions, whether by courts or others.
Western-style inheritance laws are not a necessity for "civilization." Braudel discusses examples of where they have not held (principally the Ottoman Empire & China ) in Civilization & Capitalism.
Although one can certainly point out the hypocrisy of outlawing economic inheritance within a hereditary empire, I do not believe such hypocrisy nullifies the basic point: Eliminating economic inheritance is practical from a historical standpoint.
With such strong propagation of property through generations, the idea that we live in a merit-based society becomes a complete joke — if it wasn't a bad joke already. (We reward greed & selfishness, for instance.)
Of course, I am not speaking entirely of inheritance by individuals, but also of the way corporate ownership of property is maintained. This is more complicated from a regulatory standpoint, but must be addressed as well, or nothing will have been solved. Moreover, as in , the affective relationships pertaining to individuals are used by corporate legal (or marketing) arguments in order to extract similar concessions: In other words, laws are passed that make no distinction between individual and corporate ownership — pressed by the big corporations, but drawing on arguments pertaining to individuals. (The infamous Proposition 13 of California is a prominent example.) Now we even have legal rulings (e.g. the infamous Citizens United decision) that grant corporations the rights of individuals, retroactively. Inheritance reform must engage these developments, as well as differences in corporate structures (for-profit, non-profit, church, state, etc.). Basically, any entity that claims ownership of something needs to be considered in a thorough reform of how property propagates across generations.
I contrast risk to fortune in this remark, because studying one idea in isolation, rather than relative to another, provides no reference for change. (All historical studies of particular concepts are relative to other concepts for this reason, even if that isn't explicit.)
This "merely" remark is sarcastic, considering the suffering involved. However, the statement about creating additional costs is quite serious: The point is that it's not only a matter of making some people better off and some people worse off, but that the disparities — and specifically the methods used to preserve the disparities over time — cause everyone to be worse off on average. In other words, the preservation process is non-productive, and has a cost.
Classical economic theory even recognizes the "cost" of insurance. The theoretical result is intended to justify charging a price for insurance coverage, but the result can be read in the other direction, as a cost imposed on the economy as a whole. (Such an interpretation seems very meaningful in the context of the current USA healthcare debate, and in fact we have various layers of insurance cost.)
With this ontology of totalizability comes the actuarial epistemology, a certainty-uncertainty rupture. The entire ontology can be viewed as a neo-theological response to the ascendence of atheism: With god as the "total," it was given; now it is calculated.
This foreclosure is a result of the ontology of totalizability, not of the world itself.
The process of extracting value from entrepreneurial opening can be viewed as reciprocal to totalizing, with a new total reconvened immediately, as rewards are demanded. The new value of the opening is thus calculated in terms of the total again. (Or, to put it differently, victims are blamed in accord with their not having formed this opening that demands compensation, and rewards are extracted from them as if they are the "total.") So whereas gambling (as concrete, creating a specific horizon) is contrasted with insurance (as correlative & blurred/uncertain), the entrepreneurial reward calculation is always made within the correlative, i.e. the side of privilege. (For those unable to engage the actuarial total, bets are not only uninsured, but might be rescinded — if they win — by those with more privilege.) Entrepreneurial activity from within privilege is thus completely different from "gambling" outside it — for the agent, that is. The same people must pay in either case.
Liberal economic-social policy therefore, often, makes gambling per se illegal.
The idea that "risk is fortune" might make sense, in its older meaning, if one feels destined to enter the risk (insurance or gambling; or really, sailing) industries. There is also the contemporary sense, in which one is supposed to take (entrepreneurial) risks, with its contradictory nature, as discussed.
I could reframe this section as a battle between the forward assertion and the reverse assertion, and characterize that battle as part of the definition of modernity. Commutativity thus has a particular tension for assertion three.
Even as I write this, there are undoubtedly people hotly pursuing schemes to eliminate their own risk. The shift rushes onward in the contemporary era.
The idea of "knowing when to take risks" adds a different meaning to the unequal shape of the original (astragali) dice, as well as a background image to the history of gambling technology.
The 2008 financial collapse, over housing, illustrates this contemporary spectral quality to risk.
This dynamic was explored in some detail in the original discussion of assertion four.
The supposed happiness of risk is a justification for both harming others, and for the demanded reward.
Of course, not to be too repetitive, but it is only the privileged who are able to suppress risk.
I feel an urge to say something about mathematics here, but am unsure as to exactly what. I guess the disposition to study advanced mathematics associated with e.g. actuarial science or Wall Street modeling, not to mention the temptation of other rewards possible, as those are both very high paying jobs, does not correlate well with an interest in critique. (I hesitate to say more about my own personal path here, particularly since I have no explanation for many of my life decisions. I will share if asked, though.)
Let us not forget that the concept of chaos itself is usually rendered as feminine: I have in mind the ancient Sumerian Tiamat, as prototype. (Wikipedia debating the physical (animal) appearance of Tiamat, as I read it today to verify spelling, is among that source's characteristic bizarre concerns.)
The self-referential nature of this question must be acknowledged. It necessarily reinterprets itself via inquiry.
There was also the conceptual modification of time in the creation of the industrial work day, which was a very significant & specific change imposed by the modern era.
Regarding the present section, and shifts in the meaning of time, it also seems worthwhile to inquire about changes to the meaning of historical time itself. This topic could produce a lengthy discussion, but here I will simply note that ideas on historical eras have changed over time. Not only has the sense of those eras changed, but there have been (and are) ideas that time itself has been different in different eras. These ideas relate not only to "primordial" periods of presumed mythical difference, but to historical periods, such as that comprising Christianity. The concept of messianic time, for instance, is invoked only with the first coming, awaiting the second (as refrain). In turn, the death of god can be seen as inaugurating a new regime of time. We can also make physical inquiries on this topic, such as experiments on the human sleep cycle, suggesting that the day was a different length in the past. (Such an inquiry starts to lead rather far afield.)
Considering that time is an abstraction, the suggestion that it has been different should not invoke notions of right & wrong, at least not in a reflexive binary sense. Unfortunately, our contemporary (scientific) conception considers itself "right" rather than addressing what it does or does not allow via its specific abstraction. This is similar to pervasive rhetoric regarding the "wrongness" of considering the earth as the astronomical center: The strength or weakness of such a perspective derives entirely from what one wants to accomplish: Planetary motion can be described in simpler equations with the sun as center — no more, no less. (And this entire "center of the universe" question continues to be reprised, often with no eye to utility.)
Time-is-duty under the Christian god would have simply recapitulated a duty to god, if anything. We can see the continuity in the modern duty to capitalism.
Not only can the "reality" of the abstraction of time be questioned, as I have already done, but the real & time can be seen as co-constituted in self-formation: Time becomes a contour to the real, even when viewed as without memory. In other words, time is (a part of the psychoanalytic) real.
Some other thoughts on time-is-happy: If time is constructed via repetition or refrain, it suggests a sense of familiarity. In the older sense of happy, as (chance) happenings, time-is-happy suggests that time is full of happenings. These ideas continue to have some meaning in our era. Another sense with great staying power relates to notions of a golden age (which might also engage a difference in the meaning of time, as per ).
The notion that time is material might be the most significant hallucination of the contemporary era.
Commutativity & transitivity are not merely mathematical properties, that can be satisfied or not satisfied, they are the properties that are required for the richest developments of Western mathematics. In other words, although some inquiry has gone into areas where these properties do not hold, commutativity & transitivity are generally a basis for investigation, and are in turn imposed conceptually: They are imposed because they need to be imposed in order to use the tools at one's disposal. The financial markets are not merely reacting to events, but creating them, and have the freedom (via abstraction) to impose rules of creation, including mathematical properties. So the specific mathematical basis of risk calculation is a (cultural) choice.
I do realize that these sorts of statements infuriate particular sorts of people.
If food production was seasonal, for instance, the extent to which different individuals could have different senses of time was necessarily limited. However, such a remark does presume some kind of system or civilization. Tropical wandering does not necessarily project a sense of time beyond day & night — although that was surely significant.
As noted previously, this turn to biological time occurred with usury, and then the emphasis on population growth.
For instance, Aristotle & others believed that the happiness (or virtue) of someone's life could not be measured until the end. The precedent for Christian finalism is clear.
I do say museum specifically (rather than destruction), so that it can continue to be observed. We do not need finalism becoming even more spectral than it already is, which would happen with an attempt to suppress it (further) from view. Reframing: We need to put finalism up for explicit political debate, rather than leaving it implicitly in force.
In other words, the revised version is: Your duty is fortune (probably someone else's, depending on who you are).
The inversion can be conceived mathematically, in keeping with the present exploration of transitivity, etc. (This would take us away from a "flat" or linear conception in linking the assertions, a shift that is obviously warranted.)
The inversion can also be taken as a rationale for moving to a noun object for this assertion: The inversion strips nuance and bares fortune.
The duty to be other than oneself takes on a new — and perhaps terrifying — meaning, as we've moved from an epoch of labor shortage (i.e. basically all of history , until recently) to a period of labor surplus. This (accelerating) change is absolutely critical, and very poorly understood. (It might not be well understood until we've experienced it for rather longer, discussion aside.)
I use "history" very specifically here. I am not referring to prehistoric situations, which must have varied considerably. (It might be possible to learn from these experiences, but the focus here is on the move to & through modernity.)
The contemporary duty to mastery likewise takes on additional meanings in an era of broad necropolitical motives. (In other words, whereas necropolitical motives can always be found in urges to suppress dissent or simply in irrational hatred, the need for labor has generally mediated any resulting action.) One's contemporary duty may be nothing more than to die — or to somehow occupy or consume even less than in death (which, after all, includes disposal, etc.).
The duty to glorify society can, for instance, be related to sublimation: Aesthetic release (especially the most banal) becomes sexual release. In other words, a duty to sublimate libido to social conditioning finds its contemporary outlet in the glory machine (of celebrity, sports, etc.). Such duty is then tangibly engaged as libidinal investment in broader marketing (glorification) programs.
Various national reforms, such as those beginning with the liberal period in late nineteenth century Mexico, take up the instillation of duty as an explicit major goal. Institutional childhood education was established primarily for this purpose. Such an impulse has basically defined modern liberal initiatives around the world. (It's also unsurprising that this particular idea of duty was novel for people in other parts of the world. After all, it was originally an invention of medieval Christianity, taken up then by liberal modernism.)
A duty to duty is felt in both biological creation and assistance in self-formation.
In this sense, neoliberalism is less a self-conscious movement than it is a natural result of successive imbrication by duty. (Does that make it unstoppable without social collapse? I hope not.) This comment naturally raises the question: Duty to what? In this case, it is to liberal ideals — "the market" as sovereign. How does the market achieve sovereignty over the real? Via simplification: The real is too complicated, and progressivism serves as a motivation to sever (or attempt to sever) the historical dynamic that animates so much of the real. In other words, a move to the market as sovereign takes the past as given, and disclaims examining it or acknowledging influence. It becomes all very "rational" in the here & now: The market has no memory, and neither do we.
Duty to duty, and similar self-referential concepts, can easily be enacted in the void. An inward (toward the void) facing recursion of this type is essentially the opposite of creative engagement (with the void). So this recursion, duty to duty, is very intentionally named as such.
This is the rhetorical advantage of naming voids: A single void could not chain itself recursively by self-reference, at least not without the interiority being more obvious, but a void pointing to a void and back to the first void, etc.? (This basic idea plays on the self-other rupture across generations.) If these are all "different" voids, statements can link them, opening rhetorical space. In other words, you have a duty (to me) to be happy: Connecting the void via another person (if only implicitly) exercises more control.
If anything, spiritual risk appears with not fulfilling one's duty. Of course, there remains a risk to not fulfilling one's (declared) duty, but the positive sense is novel.
Duty-is-risky becomes, therefore, one of the most emblematic assertions of the modern era (at least within the context of fortune).
See Is postmodernism racist? for more thoughts on the post- movements.
When posing the question to myself regarding what a hypothetical seventh assertion might have been for this article, the first that came to mind was: Fortune is aspiration. However, I have not attempted to flesh out that thought beyond the brief remarks here, or to explore what might have been a better (doubly hypothetical) choice.
The notion of "hope" has been very powerful, and with some reason, but has also been colonized (consequently) very intensively over the past few years. Regarding USA specifically, with the Obama "hope" campaign coming to what it has, I'm unsure if the term has any rhetorical value at the moment, but it will surely be revived. Put another way, hope can name the creative opposite of duty-to-duty , and a creative opposition must be engaged.
Any significant endeavor will feel a similar pull: Do what has been proven to work! But the same event repeated elsewhere is not the same event — as an event, it happens only once. Then what does one do? One does not know until it happens! Such is creative engagement, and it can be frightening.
Whereas the real is an invention of the modern (enlightenment) era, risk (the other relatively new object here) was an invention of the early modern era. Roughly speaking, happiness & matter & time are ancient, and duty is medieval.
The liberal attraction to science as the arbiter of reality can be seen as an attempt to mitigate this power relationship. As institutional science has become part of the power block in the contemporary era, this "mitigation" has come to apply differently.
A political power dynamic is typical of the transcendent position.
We can also inquire, inversely, how to destabilize these regimes. (One answer does not necessarily imply the other.)
And so my interpretations thus far have been obviously political, in keeping with the goals spelled out at the beginning of this article.
I have, of course, given a particular interpretation.
Assertion six is thus far from being an "equation."
I have sometimes personified entities (or forces), such as Fortune, and sometimes not. I have largely left this to the reader's interpretation, and have often presented fortune in grammatical situations where capitalization is indicated regardless. I do not want to emphasize personification, or lack of personification: In keeping with analogy, an allegorical presentation of something impersonal as a character can have a worthwhile (didactic) purpose. Similarly, I see little reason to critique the ancients on this point. In fact, modern interpreters probably deserve more criticism for seeing personification (or even concrete physical instantiation) when it isn't there. In other words, a physical description or personification does not automatically apply to other engagements with the concept, even for the same author.
"Reality is happy" strikes me as a command, even though it is not in a command form.
Perhaps "reality is risky" could have been the title for this article. The challenge, of course, is not to array the risk hierarchically.
The earlier digression on love does provide another perspective on the notion that reality is timely. In that context, it invokes a return to reality after some flight of fancy (perhaps positive, perhaps negative).
This is the monotheist god, of course. We are not ready for more than one reality! (Or more than one truth. If monotheism comes to mean one truth, does atheism mean no truth? And we can guess what polytheism might mean.)
The concept of duty does not date to the beginning of Christianity, but even as a more recent idea, it serves as a tidy (and fortuitous) summation here.
This assertion might also be interpreted as installing happiness as god. The interpretation is not without merit, considering that happiness has been defined as the highest good. It might be worthwhile to explore a substitution of god for happiness elsewhere in this article. (See also .)
In other words, it would be equally incorrect to say that god or reality is only matter.
Although "transgression" can easily be overworked, particularly in a theological context, this god-based statement provides a ready prompt: If we do not obey e.g. "the market," then against whom are we actually transgressing? (The simple answer: The people who would have come out relatively ahead had we obeyed the dictate. Although the answer is simple, completely identifying that group is not always straightforward; but perhaps this entire note is too simple.)
Taking modernity as an actor (with feelings, no less) is — obviously, I hope — rather allegorical. We can ponder who the actual actors are, perhaps. The "message" about the greatness of modernity is relentless, however, to the point that we're asked to defend our values as properly modern, rather than the other way around.
One might argue that I planned it this way, and to an extent, I did. However, the topics covered in this article are not arbitrary, but rather forged significant components of modern economics: That the Christian religion haunts the discipline must be made very clear.
It might be better to write "a shift in how reality is conceptualized." In either case, I'm starting at the end (i.e. the present) with reality, a concept thoroughly instilled in my own here & now, and I'm guessing, that of the reader. (The necessity of addressing the past via the present leads to these constantly circular narratives.)
Questions about the reality of chance or fortune had a particular urgency in twentieth century scientific debates around quantum theory & other ideas. Physics seemingly decided in favor of fortune, but somehow that interpretation of reality remains unpopular in many other domains, and there remain scientists who seem eager to reinstall determinism. As suggested by the generality (and history) of the latter term, these questions can also be framed around the topic of free will.
From this perspective, after Fortune has been removed (pseudo-algebraically), it is no longer an explicit part of the puzzle. That Fortune figures the relations immanently is already explored in the previous assertions. We can instead view the figure from a distance, with the resulting relations presenting the shape of Fortune itself. This is the transcendental interpretation.
Thus engaging the stratification machine from assertion four.
For example, Braudel considers a number of temporal cycles, and originates the idea of the secular trend: This would be the broader shift characterizing modernity, as I've put it. Braudel does not look at very short times scales (transactional), however, and nor does he consider a nonlinear interaction between the cycles he does examine.
Differential equations rely on a mathematical "field" that mandates a smoothness against which differentials themselves can be reasonably constructed. (Thus, partially, the smoothing action of the temporal stratification machine.)
There are even some (modest) studies of game models in which different participants use different rules.
Modernity looks for simple rules. This priority is frequently called efficiency.
One simple interpretation is to consider the nodes to be people, and so in principle, one would have a node for each person. However, I do not want to overdo this interpretation. It would ultimately privilege the idea of people as separate — which requires a poststructural interpretation to avoid poor conclusions. (In today's world, it might make more sense to consider each affective register to be a node, although that interpretation is open to a similar poststructural critique.)
This figure is, in the general mathematical sense, a graph.
Perhaps the simplest reminder that the weaving is never finished is that people are constantly being born & dying.
I thus invoke the rhetoric of effectiveness from assertion five. It continues to be very... effective in the modern era. (See also ; efficient & effective are variants.)
We might be accustomed to thinking of situations in which broad impositions, or even personal violence, are successful. However, we can stop to think of many attempts that are thwarted, perhaps almost instantly, even to the point of absurdity: If I declare the end of private land ownership in North America, will I receive even a giggle? If I decide to punch someone in a bar, might I be tackled before I can even swing? Etc.
The general idea of manipulating this figure is called governmentality, after Foucault.
Such conservatism can be very practical: I can live with the current situation, I know, but what will happen with major changes? That is frightening. Such conservatism can also be built on ideas of correctness: I have learned that this is the one truth, and so I follow it. I don't quite understand why, but I have learned that it is the truth.
I should also note that accounting, as a formal discipline, predates economics (also as a formal discipline) by some centuries. (Some accounting innovations of the late medieval & early modern periods are described by Braudel.)
Human rationality is usually applied after a decision has been made — to, as the saying goes, rationalize it. (It came to my attention only while writing this article that e.g. Benjamin Franklin was well aware of this fact , which kind of surprised me. Apparently I underestimate these classic USA liberals sometimes.)
"So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for anything one has a mind to do." (Benjamin Franklin)
Yes, I am aware that I used exactly the same construction when discussing the figure of the previous paragraph, namely the commutative-temporal-subject breakdown.
Some readers will surely object to how I've marginalized the real here. Limits such as the size & resources of the Earth, for instance, are not negotiable. However, the extent to which human choice mediates any such economic limits is often grossly understated. This was especially true prior to coming close to planetary limits.
I do not mean to suggest by this statement that everyone is always acting out of self-interest — a classic economic saw. I do not believe that people are always so selfish. However, I do mean to suggest that people declaring economic formulas are usually acting to impose, and with some self-interest.
An "unsuccessful" formulation might modify the figure too. At the lower limit, lack of success can be equated to lack of effect. In the more general statement, by success, I have in mind the notion that the formula is — in some sense — true. Any such truth value can diverge from its effect , so at the upper limit, these cannot be equated.
This is in distinction to some medieval theological formulations of god: In god, truth & effect must converge. In everyday life, we can observe contradictions to this maxim, however. Because of the earlier Christian history, the divergence between truth & effect is not always queried in the social sciences, as truth & effect tend to be equated in the transcendent position.
We probably do not know of all the relations that affect us, for instance. This is true even at the biological level — and I might also question the arbitrary division of the biological from the social. Also, there is the matter of our own specific subject position limitations, and resulting poor knowledge of many other relations making up the full puzzle.
I believe I've questioned all such divisions (dualities) in the past, but do want to remind the reader, particularly since I have never attempted to enumerate them all. (That would be a foolish & infinite task, of course, likely leading away from circulation.)
Most of us will attempt to rationalize this random feeling (as per ), whether persistently & consistently, or on occasion. Such a persistent & consistent rationalization — and the reader is reminded of my thoughts on consistency from Hierarchy as rupture — is a primary affliction of modernity. Moreover, this rationalization can find its outlet in control: Perceiving randomness, or loss of control, from the world at large can be met by an increased urge to control (blame) those (relations) around us. (In this context,  almost reads as a recipe for domestic violence.)
This sense of self-other (and with it, Fortune) has a long history in European thought (as already indicated by the discussion of Fortune in antiquity from assertion one, and continued elsewhere in the current article). For instance, in Dialectic of Enlightenment Adorno traces it back at least as far as The Odyssey.
In other words, the various statements in this article do not continue to change after I've made them. (Their interpretation or reception might change, of course.)
The question regarding forcing an equilibrium seems especially pertinent when the motivation for doing so is to justify a model! (I.e., if equilibrium is the only kind of model we know how to construct, what makes us think that our own limitations in this area are a guide to truth?)
A thorough change ontology would overthrow many of our classic dualities, such as self-other & entity-relation. (One place twenty-first century scholars have turned on this topic is to Whitehead and process philosophy.)
God represented eternity & unchangeability in the medieval trinitarian ontology. (The "change" figure would be the holy spirit.)
Any truth value inhering in classic economic models has been thoroughly mined (and colonized) by now. It is difficult to believe there could be anything of value left there, if there ever was. The larger issue is that the topics over which economics claims dominion continue to be of great importance: allocation first among them. (And so a variety of people enter the field, some of whom do not work with the classic models, but there has been insufficient momentum to actually overturn them.)
I do not intend to foreclose the politics entailed in this statement. Rather, I am disputing the characteristic modern foreclosure.
There are already spectral aspects of Fortune that the previous assertions explore. These can be returned to conscious debate via examination.
Having discussed some concepts related to Fortune, as well as some relations between them, it is time to turn attention to a term (or idea) that is very well worn  in the contemporary era: What is economy? I will address the question with a brief listing  of historical events  that have affected contemporary understanding of the idea. (With apologies to other civilizations, the listing begins in Greece, where the specific word originated, and has a thoroughly European orientation.) Some current dictionaries retain the original meaning: Management of a household. That Greek definition passed through Christian theology to forge the modern understanding of the idea.[5,6] So without further ado, more or less in chronological  order:
Aristotle distinguishes between economy (private allocation of resources by the master of a household) and polity (public allocation of resources, or decision-making power, negotiated between citizens).[8,9]
Paul mentions "the economy of mysteries," referring to god's plan for the world as manifested in various mysteries.
Early Christians consider themselves to be (like) a single family or household, to which an economy in the Aristotelian sense can or should be applied. God is, of course, the master of their household.
Christian writers come to invert Paul's phrase to "mystery of the economy" — indicating that god's plan or arrangement is itself a mystery.
Augustine of Hippo & Thomas Aquinas both use the term "invisible hand" to indicate god's providential action in the world. Divine providence — god providing for humanity — becomes a pillar of Christian theology.
John XXII declares the Doctrine of Use.
Machaut writes Le Remède de Fortune.
The Black Plague & Little Ice Age occur.
Europeans "discover" the New World.
Bartolomé de las Casas ultimately fails in his attempt to prevent native exploitation in the Americas, as the Valladolid jury opts not to return a verdict.
Thomas Hobbes writes Leviathan during the English Civil War , grounding sovereignty in fear.
Baruch Spinoza denies divine providence, postulating an "absentee" god. (Leibniz claims this makes Spinoza an atheist.)
Nicolas Malebranche  argues that god's economy is made more perfect by following general laws, rather than relying on particular exceptions : God loves order above all.
Daniel Bernoulli postulates in Exposition of a New Theory on the Measurement of Risk, among other things, that the more one has of something, the less one will want to have even more of it.
Carl Linnaeus describes nature & its various life forms as an economy.
François Quesnay describes the physiological function of the body as an economy.
Denis Diderot's Encyclopédie defines economy as, among other things, the science of order as opposed to chaos.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau articulates a separation between sovereignty (with the people, or legislative body) and government (administration, providence).
Adam Smith forges the modern science of economics (or political economy), retaining the "invisible hand," while omitting an explicitly theological explanation of it. Moreover, Smith claims that individuals acting in self-interest will yield a perfect (or the best possible ) economy without intervention.[34,35]
With Rousseau & Smith, we are on recognizable ground, as their ideas continue to be reflected in contemporary thought on economy & government. (Smith continues to be taught to students around the world.) We are no longer in the realm of divine providence, but instead an economy (in the contemporary sense of resource allocation) with no sovereign: The laissez-faire of liberalism, as a general rule, asserts the superiority of economics over politics  — or rather, orders politics by way of an economy (see ). God is removed from an active role in modern administration or providence , while the economy continues to follow conceptual structures developed over centuries of Christian thought. (The "signature" — in Agamben's terms  — of theism is retained in contemporary economic thought.)
With god at a distance , liberalism thus enacts a characteristic reversal within the immanent-transcendent duality: The immanent action of self-interest, first justified according to a transcendent order, now generates that order. In other words, a transcendental argument is invoked to prove that immanent actions will not produce chaos, but rather recapitulate a higher order. However, that argument is based on declaring a general rule defining self-interest , while freeing self-interest from rule. With the death of god in the contemporary era, the transcendental order becomes entirely spectral, and self-interest itself (as principle ) occupies a transcendent position: Neoliberalism seems almost inevitable, but what now?
Perhaps I should say "very highly colonized" instead.
Regarding the title of this section, the history itself is a long one, covering more than two millennia, even restricting myself to beginning with the Greek term. However, many of these centuries seem not to have changed understanding of "economy" in any meaningful way, and in any case, the listing here will be a brief one. My intention is to raise a few highlights, particularly as they frame the formation of "economics" (the modern discipline) in the enlightenment era.
These are mostly intellectual "events" — publications or more generally, articulations of ideas. (A few are more ordinary historical events, largely for context.)
This is the precise first heading of the OED definition: "Management of a house; management generally." According to the OED, the word does not enter into English until c.1530, with precisely this (the ancient Greek) meaning. Still in the 1500s, the very common theological meaning relating to the economy of the trinity enters English. Various transitional meanings appear in the 1600s, with our more typical contemporary meanings evolving in the 1700s. At this point, the use of the term in English is in line with that elsewhere, and so I will refer back to the present historical outline, instead of continuing with the OED.
I am using the words "term" and "idea" somewhat interchangeably in this section. (And I'm using the word "word" to be very specific.) To some extent I'm talking about the use of language, but this in turn affects ideas: A term & an idea thus have a loosely bound circular quality to them, where different uses of one can prompt different uses of the other, perhaps simultaneously and perhaps over time.
Giorgio Agamben's The Kingdom and the Glory is a major reference for this historical narrative. According to Agamben, his investigation is a genealogy or archaeology, the latter two terms understood as derived from Derrida & Foucault, respectively. In other words, he asks where the contemporary world got its ideas on what an economy is.
After some consideration, I decided not to list dates in this historical outline. Perhaps this is the wrong decision. However, I do not want to worry about choosing a precise year, whether of publication, or when an idea might have been developed. The reader can easily find chronological discussion of these events elsewhere. (For those events that happened within a tighter period, namely during the eighteenth century, I also do not mean to imply an argument regarding which was first. The precise order is largely immaterial to my current narrative.)
A crucial original distinction between economics & politics, then, is that economics is dictated from a pure position of power without negotiation, whereas politics is (potentially, at least) negotiated with some contention in society. So whereas the master of a household economy reigns there without challenge, the polity requires constant discussion. The major implications of this distinction for the (entire) current article are, I hope, clear.
It should be noted that sexism abounds in Aristotle's writing. (Although sexism was rampant during the entire era, it is found especially forcefully in Aristotle.)
The use of the "management" sense of economy is very straightforward here. In other words, according to Paul, although some of the events associated with Christianity are mysterious, god has arranged them in this manner for a reason.
Rhetoric of early Christians about being one family or household was very common, and consequently remains common in Christian scripture today. Although this "family" orientation sounds very friendly, and was meant to be, particularly in an era of widespread persecution, its implications for our current situation must be appreciated: As one family, Christians were to fall under the logic of household economy, and not political argument.
Agamben emphasizes this inversion largely because it is this phrasing that fits so nicely into later discussions of economic theory: Should one understand how the economy works? No, it's a mystery! However, within the logical sense of the era, the inversion is not necessarily a major change: Both statements indicate that god has a plan that we might not understand. The inverted statement then gives rise to the specific idea of divine providence as itself a mystery.
In this era, divine providence was also mediated by free will. In other words, what one chooses to do could have an effect on how providence affects one's life. (This notion has continued to have modern repercussions.)
See European Universalism: The Rhetoric of Power by Immanuel Wallerstein for a good discussion of the ongoing consequences of this series of legal arguments.
Historical perspective applicable specifically to the current article: Leviathan was published at approximately the chronological midpoint between Machaut writing the Remède and me discussing it now.
The era saw various arguments over which human impulse or emotion was primary, as part of its drive to simplification. Hobbes' choice of fear continues to reverberate in contemporary arguments at all levels of society.
Such a drive to find a simple (or "master") explanation (or narrative) can be contrasted with the circumspect approach I took to issuing a more specific formulation in Part A.
The notion that divine providence was active in the world was thus very current even into the eighteenth century.
Agamben identifies Malebranche as being of particular historical importance in developing these concepts. I cannot attest specifically to Malebranche's personal influence, but the concepts themselves do seem critical.
We can easily perceive the motive for this argument in the problem of evil: Why does god not intervene to provide for everyone? According to Malebranche, such an emphasis on the specific would undermine god's own perfect wisdom. (Leibniz makes a similar case in his "best of all possible worlds" argument, which he subsequently recognizes as similar to Malebranche's.) This argument can be seen as a variant of Ockham's Razor, although Ockham advanced his argument to simplify explanation, rather than to justify action (or inaction).
Malebranche's justification of god's decision not to act is, indeed, identical to subsequent secular justifications not to act: The law is most perfect in its generality, and even if it does not provide for everyone, its perfection would be challenged more if it admitted exceptions — or miracles. That secular law must be the same for all, whether it is good or bad for the individual, is thus institutionalized. In that sense, not only do individual ethics potentially diminish social perfection, but providence itself wills one away from self-advocacy. This argument is a critical axis of the entire modern system. Please do stop and consider the idea that perfection must be of a general sort — with its wide-ranging social contradictions in the contemporary world  — juxtaposed with the perfect generality of the monotheist god.
"In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets, and steal loaves of bread." (Anatole France)
That god loves order is not only a matter of generality & perfection, but also of stability: Thus static (equilibrium) visions of society are the most general & perfect. A dynamic or non-equilibrium view is marginalized according to this rule of general perfection & the eternal nature of god and god's order.
Generality & essentialism provide a frequent temptation in their lack of complexity, making it possible to model some types of behavior (at least in some circumstances). Likewise, emphasis on equilibrium does not arise so much out of ideas on god's eternal perfection — although they provided a ready rationale — but because equilibrium modeling is (usually) easier to do. (So much social modeling has implicitly revolved around the question, "What sort of assumptions must we make in order to use the math we know?" — perhaps this is a place to reprise the "best of all possible worlds" notion again. The two fit together well.)
Bernoulli thus inaugurates the modern theories of risk & utility, the latter setting the stage for the Law of Demand. It's also very obvious that Bernoulli's notion does not hold for the very wealthy generally: They are insatiable.
Readers will likely recognize that I view the Law of Demand as deeply flawed from its inception. That Bernoulli was able to forge such a lasting social construct with such a — basically — offhand remark (I cannot call it an observation, perhaps a partial observation) is astounding in some ways. Much of enlightenment era social theory is of this type: A very simple observation, something that might be true at least sometimes, is expounded into a general law, and then elaborate theories are erected upon it. The essentialist thinking of the time concluded that, when it could be observed that the law did not hold, observation was probably at fault — some other applicable general law was not being observed. (Likewise today, economists speak of "shifting demand curves" to explain why downward sloping demand curves remain a general law, despite frequent contradictions.)
One could claim that the actions of the greediest members of society are the exceptions that prove the rule, so to speak, except that these greediest members of society are able to control increasingly large percentages of resources. So their supposedly anomalous behavior cannot be dismissed, or even contained.
These events are included in this brief history in order to indicate the extent to which "economy" was an explanatory principle of the era.
Thus Smith's use of "economy" to explain — or manipulate — politics.
As we have observed in this historical outline, it was already argued that god loves order above all. Therefore god loves economies.
Rousseau's writing was very influential for both the American & French revolutions. This separation of sovereignty from government, and in turn the idea of independent branches of government, can be related to trinitarian ideas. However, in the trinity, unity was always ultimately assured. This has obviously not been the case in modern government, and indeed, despite Rousseau's theory of sovereignty as resting with the governed, contemporary rhetoric continues to posit a chasm between government & governed. According to Agamben, this is largely because the idea of "government" (or administration) continues to rest on the idea of divine providence, and so the governed never take the active step to enact their own government-providence.
In the terms of Hierarchy as rupture, Rousseau can be viewed as emphasizing a particular cut or duality, while a potential unity (circulation) fades from sight.
Smith thus rests on the arguments of Malebranche & Leibniz to argue that, despite the obvious shortcomings of a liberal economy, it remains the best one possible. This argument is regularly reprised into the present day.
It should be noted that Smith was directing his recommendation for laissez-faire specifically at the aristocracy. At the time & place of his writing, there was an authority above the bourgeois liberals, and he was advocating the liberal view of letting the bourgeoisie do as they please in the business world. (With the American revolution, the liberals would then take full authority, at least within USA.) Smith included cautions about trusting businessmen, however, and likely would have been troubled by the idea that they would come to occupy the top of the social hierarchy.
It seems natural to ask what this argument does for free will: Free will for the bourgeoisie, but not for the aristocracy? (Enormous ritual demands on sovereignty can be found e.g. with the Byzantines and in Asia.)
Literally the day I was drafting this section, the International Student Initiative for Pluralism in Economics was brought to my attention: www.isipe.net. So perhaps we can hope that economics curricula will undergo some changes.
In other words, whereas politics is chaos, economics (as rule-based) is order, and we must prefer order. (What does this make political science, then?)
It seems natural to link providence to ideas on "supply" from classical economics. (Since the supply concept does not differentiate between hard environmental limits, and limits imposed by human whim — such as a desire to profit — any link to providence is distorted from its inception. The poles of the supply concept are not always clearly separable though, especially over generations.)
See, for instance, The Signature of All Things. That discussion might be too artistically (or occult) oriented for some readers, however.
In other words, according to enlightenment thought, god is unable or unwilling to intervene in specific circumstances, because that would compromise his general perfection: Man proceeds (at least in daily economic life) as if god does not exist.
Economists continue to follow the heritage of classical economics and define self-interest, rather than observe behavior. (There are exceptions, but the definitional approach continues to be very influential.) If self-interest proceeds exactly according to these definitions, then it becomes essentially transcendent (i.e. without immanent variation), as originally proposed. This is the tight circularity the classical economists echo: People follow god's plan because of their nature, not because of divine constraint on free will. Hence no laws are needed.
Because self-interest is defined not by law, but by theory, it remains open to individual variation — within hierarchically imposed limits. Enforcement of what is or is not appropriate application of self-interest also becomes psychological, yielding governmentality. The very postulation of specific kinds of self-interested behavior serves to enforce them, in another logical circle.
That self-interest is no longer arbitrary, but rather a principle, is a critical reversal. Returning to the distinction of , Aristotle sees the individual household master as acting rationally — an economy is rational — as opposed to a polity that might become irrational. (We are all personal dictators, and so consistent within ourselves?) The rational order of divine providence becomes, once again, the rationality of individual choice.
We have the following opening, given self-interest as a principle: Political argument without regard to transcendental order. Such is the completion of the circle of thought.
This article has already presented some suggestions that might be taken as possible cures for the current economic situation. Before proceeding to a political framework for such a remedy, I want to contextualize the idea of a cure: One particular perspective has been Machaut's Le Remède de Fortune, situated as it was in anticipation of the modern era. Machaut seeks a cure for his fortune, framed around the subject of unrequited love; more to the point, he adopts the novel position  of taking his fortune into his own hands via his own choice & attitude. My assertion here is that this is the basic impulse of the modern age.
The consequences of Europeans taking fortune into their own hands were many: Imperialism & colonialism have been historical focuses here, in particular for their economic implications. However, this attitude has permeated modernity, as figuring Fortune has illustrated. With its implications for how religious ideas were deployed in the modern era, and particularly in the economy, the attitude toward fortune serves as a thread to unravel the stitching of the triangle religion-modernity-economics. (Or at least I have chosen this particular approach ; undoubtedly many others are possible.) In these terms, trying to find a cure for fortune has had considerable negative consequences: To paint it very broadly, more certainty for some has meant more risk for others. Control comes at a price. If despising one's fortune inaugurated modernity , postmodernity (the arrival of which I put, with similar vagueness, somewhere in the twentieth century ) has presented points of continuity & discontinuity. I have largely framed the shift to the postmodern era, conceptually, around the death of god: As already examined, various aspects of Christian thought continue to dominate discourse, while their theological character is submerged. The postmodern shift has meant even more emphasis on "managing" risk , and even more emphasis on free will. So now let me orient the subsequent discussion more specifically: We are in the contemporary era, which I will call postmodern or postcolonial , the modern era having concluded, and we desire some sort of cure for the (economic ) conditions of today.
The current section is titled with an indefinite article, and framed as a question: Although I can be criticized for asking too many questions while offering too few answers , the indefinite nature of any cure offered here is structural. This is true not only because things change , but because my overarching emphasis is to open space for people to argue for their own interests. In other words, there is no (valid) transcendental law  that declares people must accept a bad deal : They can declare for themselves what they want, and it is not for me to say what that is. This is the basic idea of agonistics as articulated most recently & clearly by Chantal Mouffe in Agonistics: Thinking the World Politically. According to Mouffe, "world peace" is not only essentially impossible, but not a goal at all: The goal is to provide a setting for a respectful argument over differences, with the understanding that those differences can never be fully resolved, and that new/different differences will emerge. Agonistics is thus an ongoing process without end — and without a transcendent position.
Sovereignty continues to be a major issue , even though modern liberal democracy nominally invests sovereignty in the people as a whole: That this can (and I will say, should) lead us directly into agonistics is obvious. However, the investiture is perpetually displaced by other rhetoric on sovereignty. Traditional European sovereignty had a theological basis in god, and with the death of god, other transcendent forms have been sought. I am not proposing a return to the Christian form of sovereignty, but rather an examination of the ways it continues to hold: This can be summarized easily by the form of transcendence itself. Given that religion is simply a set of ideas & practices for making sense of the world, for generating regimes of meaning as already discussed , its form can be readily applied to other transcendental ideas. That contemporary society seeks a single overarching (master) idea (sovereignty) is a marker of a resolutely lingering monotheism — a continued belief in the superiority of one over many. A new transcendent law has been sought by some: Science as sovereign is supposedly enacted in part via the science of economics — largely unsuccessfully, but I will return to this idea soon. In the twentieth century, the search for truth (or effectiveness) in the absence of god & transcendence (or sovereignty) also led, among other places, to the existentialism of Sartre, et al.: The existential void became a generator of meaning, but only private individual meaning. Such privacy rested on a modern liberal construction of the person, and moreover the void was figured as negative : God no longer emanated from it. Such a negative construction of sovereignty did not enable agonistic politics, even if it allowed individuals to free themselves from transcendent law: Being was bound to nothingness (a transposition of god ), not to social negotiation.
Characterizing a regime derived from science, Darwinism  is another transcendental idea that has been granted effective sovereignty by some people. It reenacts finalism by positing an ultimate value to one's life in reproduction. (This is a simple inversion of the observation of survival: If a trait survives, its purpose  must have been genetic survival, and so its value consists in how well it survives.) Darwinism also fits very nicely with classical & neoliberal economic principles of self-interest, providing a supposed social-evolutionary basis for those principles. Where we get into bigger problems is when this "survival of the fittest" sovereignty, which is supposed to be latent in the world, is actively enforced. In that, it mirrors economic enforcement of self-interest. With the death of god, and consequent examinations of other forms of historical sovereignty , Darwinism arrived at a particularly pregnant moment: Whether in its more scientific or less scientific form, it has come to be the dominant counter-narrative to Christian finalism for many people (at least in USA). Darwinism has become the narrative figuring the sovereignty of the real. It also connects us with the biological per se, and in turn with concepts of biological time  that have been so influential in modern finance. With that context, a core contemporary question revolves around population growth: Given that rapid population growth was initiated in the early modern period to provide increased labor supplies for capitalist economic expansion , what is to be done now that we are in an era of labor surplus [48,50], rather than shortage?
Who gets a say? This has always been a fundamental political question. When attention turns to the unborn, the question is complicated further. However, we must consider that context, given population growth & environmental limits: "Future generations" abound in today's political rhetoric. Questioning economic growth  becomes especially dangerous ground in the necropolitical sense: We often touch upon questions regarding who is allowed to reproduce , if only implicitly. That these arguments not only come up against contradictory remnants of the modernist growth regime, but against differing cultural conceptions of personhood is not typically articulated. Who or what a person is  in a worldwide minoritization regime increasingly raises different values, particularly together with the rise of non-human stakeholders. A postcolonial conception of "labor" requires contesting these different values  — a new "labor theory of value" seems especially distant in a surplus era. In an agonistic sense, these value differences cannot be resolved in simple terms & should not be foreclosed: They must be renegotiated in very basic ways. How is duty transformed, for instance? Perhaps more to the point in the current context, who defines duty?[61,62] Definition brings us back to meaning, and its associated ritual regimes  (in a circle with exchange per ). These regimes of meaning then define the ground of value differences, and political contest. One contemporary move has been to reabsorb values into a unitary regime of finance-risk , which is a form of denial — or subjugation to a particular value.
Given the potential "chaos" of open political argument, the search for principles to order debate  has presented a temptation  since long before modernity. Such principles take different forms, whether more general (or transcendent ) or more specific, but the objective is to control segments of the population — to induce a particular political response, possibly silence or abstention. Another duality by which such principles operate is telling people they do understand something, or that they don't understand something. Either pole can involve confusion: If people do not know what their interests are [74,75], they cannot be expected to advocate for them, let alone act on them. Science is certainly not immune to this general criticism of principles, particularly as it generates meaning via interpretation. (And in the regime of law, including religious law, we can see the enforcement of principles.) Before discussing economics as a set of such principles, it seems worth mentioning a few thoughts regarding the terrain of agonistic contest: If (as per ) the nation-state no longer forms a coherent ground for political contest, the nature of the ground itself must be contested. If opening political contest results in "chaos" & violence, the political opening itself will assuredly be blamed for the violence. Similarly, any opening will be framed according to power (or sovereignty ), rather than according to politics, in an attempt to foreclose politics. Moreover, ideology will constantly emerge to frame similarities  — its danger is in reification or definition, not ongoing emergence. There is also the reflexive "this is the best we can do" argument in defense of the status quo , or a variant: If there is some great political position out there, why haven't I heard of it already? Finally, before turning to allocation itself, it must be noted that one needs some allocation (of resources, that is) before one can advocate — this circularity must be acknowledged in the contest over what constitutes a political ground.
If allocation comes first, what of value? This priority only seems to recapitulate, in opposition to politics, the original definition of economy: Allocation by the master of the house. Such priority is inescapable, however, in that we all begin as helpless infants, unable to advocate for ourselves. Moreover, self-formation, as a regime of meaning, engages unknown meanings prior to itself. The lack of scientific success for economics can be related — in part  — to a similar dynamic: Economic programs elicit responses from within the same domain economics describes, and on which they act. This very immanence should, perhaps, hearten us in a desire to revoke transcendent principles. It does locate critique naturally immanent to the domain of the social (rather than in the science ), at the price of erecting the economic over the social: The contests of politics & law come to be judged by the economic. The easiest response is a simple question: What is the purpose of the economy? That purpose is contestable via politics. If the purpose is framed in terms of allocation, we can already perceive the emphasis of economists on (defining) value to be a shift. In other words, a specific nexus between allocation & value is typically assumed, and that nexus is derived from the capitalist context. Perhaps we can declare it to be the value-allocation nexus of the previous (modern) era, and abandon it along with modernity : Recognition of planetary limits  requires a different view, not only in the cyclical nature of outputs as inputs , but in terms of different streams of value & allocation. A posthuman orientation puts such differences in stark relief: No one would believe that the various human & non-human entities & forces on this planet have the same — or even similar — needs or abilities.[100,101] Likewise, no one should believe that a single number , price (whether as value or allocation), or another unitary measure such as risk, can fully  explain the values or needs inherent to any particular globally contextualized event: No more totalizability; no more dice.
Economic principles engage rhetoric by their nature , and much of that rhetoric revolves around where particular simplifications can or do apply. The contest goes far beyond individual economic principles: The locus of human activity defined by the term "economics" is not inherently stable : It is artificially stabilized in order to preserve knowledge & control [108,110], and this artifice increasingly rests in language & symbol systems. It must be contextualized more broadly by analysis of those systems , and analysis cannot be satisfied with recapitulating discipline boundaries: All human activity & all planetary processes affecting resources (for any entity) are of potential significance ; such recognition opens a huge rhetorical domain. Whether that domain can be meaningfully traversed with concepts like economic satisfaction , happiness  or wealth  remains to be seen. Moreover, the rhetorical nature of contemporary governmentality invites literary technique. (And as noted already, I do wonder if a similar analysis can take place outside of the English language, with its many divergent threads & combinations of external influences.[118,119]) It invites the creation of narrative, and narrative forges & interprets regimes of meaning, yielding values  — good & bad. To what narratives does the economic regime conform? This question must be asked at every point. Neoliberalism invents new narratives, as all these regimes do, reinventing values in turn.
Already having mentioned literary theory invokes forms beyond narrative. Other modes of expression are even more extensive in the arts generally, and offer more means to interpret & contest values. (If art is contextualized within a duty to glory, this kind of contest is already minimized.) Art also offers a regime where disinhibition can reign in the twenty-first century. (It can be observed that I am using it as a disinhibiting factor here.) Besides the opportunity to refashion narrative, whether via narrative itself or via some other form, art interacts with a material nexus in its own materiality (or lack thereof ). Music, specifically , presents a creative ordering of time & temporal logics , something needed to penetrate the (largely immaterial) stratification machine formed around risk. Artistic transversals can cut across types, and disrupt or reconfigure chains of meaning: What is separate is no longer separate, or vice versa , presented in stark materiality — or stark immateriality. Art is a way to rethink possibility. Art is also a way to rethink content & expression themselves , a topic of some urgency while "content" is being redefined for profit on the internet. The internet is also redefining presence , and so presumably ecstasy. Art participates & interacts in both the commercial & non-commercial aspects of these developments. Perhaps more to the point, marketing takes up the techniques of art to inflect subject formation toward consumption (and use ). The aesthetic dimension, via glory, comes to be in conflict with itself, in contest over symbolic meanings that transcend the concept of rhetoric.[145,146,147] This contest is a political opening itself, ongoing in that its symbol system is constantly changing  in order to forge a new opening.
If value is contested, including symbolically via art , how then is it rearticulated into allocation? The nexus itself is an area of contest, in part because there are many values & many resources  to be allocated. There are also many allocation techniques , and these generate their own meanings: The meanings then generate values, leading to new contests over the relation between value & allocation. Not only must the primacy of equilibrium in the usual sense (of modeling) be questioned, but the "equilibrium" of the separate existence of individual entities themselves: How we divide the world into discrete entities is also open to contest, and this goes for the liberal subject itself.[154,155] If who or what  is engaged in contest is itself open to contest, traditional economic dualities such as supply-demand become incoherent : Allocation can be contested directly, rather than only as mediated by value. With real (environmental ) limits, what is actually contestable? Reality has certainly been contestable. What is the ethics of political contest? This question is mostly beyond the scope of the present article , but I will give one simple answer: It is unethical to convince someone to agree to a deal you know is bad for them. A much more troubling question, at least for me : If you do not understand the issue (question, argument), should you defer to others to decide? Decisions often have deadlines , and one cannot acquire all relevant knowledge in a short time. One cannot acquire all (relevant) knowledge in any amount of time. Elevating contingency cannot mean perpetual indecision. So put another way , when does one defer? That decision must ultimately be made in the moment. (Thus "future generations" fold into "the moment" as time collapses in decision.) What is a cure for Fortune? What is its horizon?
My intention has been to limit such commentary thus far, leaving specific suggestions to specific points of summary.
My typical frame for modernity, i.e. beginning with European exploration & imperialism , is reflected in a variety of other broad historical narratives, however e.g. art history pushes the early modern back into Machaut's time with Giotto (and Petrarch, by relation, in poetry). Historical periods always have an arbitrary, or we might more properly say, overlapping nature in this way.
Also, perhaps coincidentally, or perhaps fortuitously within the context of the present site, music printing began in almost exactly the same era, most prominently with Petrucci in 1501. That event has therefore served me as a reasonable demarcation for the close of the medieval era in music, although it has not been adopted by most music writers.
As discussed previously, this position on fortune had precedents, especially among the ancients. Machaut's work can thus be seen as anticipating the Renaissance in its rediscovery of themes, in his case via Boethius.
Although I sketched this article extensively before I began writing it, the act of writing it over these months has become a personal experience in itself. I feel changed by this, despite that the basic activity was to articulate my own existing thoughts, and it remains to be seen how this feeling of change will play out subsequently.
In analogy (or parody?) to the second law of thermodynamics, I also suggest that this reallocation of risk is not neutral. In other words, the risk eliminated for some segments of the world population is met with an increased risk for others that is larger than what is eliminated. Overall this procedure increases risk in sum, just as an air conditioner creates more heat than cool. (One obvious result of this structural implication regarding randomness is in the crisis of climate change.)
The psychic cost of this control can be examined via e.g. dialectics or other means. This is sometimes called, dismissively, "liberal guilt." There are also various rationalizations that accompany an urge to deny randomness. (I really deserve to be born into wealth!) Many of the latter were met already in religious discourse.
We can think of Henry VIII as a canonical figure who despised his fortune — his situation regarding an heir — and took unprecedented steps to deny this fortune.
Indeed, one of the working titles for the current article was Fortune my Foe after the popular Elizabethan tune of that name. However, I decided that a 14th century orientation would be more fruitful overall.
Various authors place the end of the modern era at various points, whether with the rise of the Olympic movement, the end of WWII, widespread national independence  in Africa, the student movement centered on 1968, USA fiat currency & the oil embargoes of the 1970s, or the hegemony of neoliberalism consolidated in the 1980s. Choosing a precise date is not important, but in any case, we are now in a postcolonial  world dominated by neoliberal economic policy. Put another way, the era of global (European) expansion is over, at least in the geographic sense.
I specifically say "national independence" because these movements happened at the level of the nation-state. They did not necessarily entail independence for the people themselves.
The meaning of this postcolonialism is still being explored & articulated. Obviously it has not meant an end to differential exploitation. Even e.g. Sloterdijk, in In the World Interior of Capital, admits that global capitalism cannot function without excluding people.
One risk-related goal has been a business with assured profits, i.e. hedging calculations that provide a profit regardless of (which enumerated ) outcome. The insurance companies that came to dominate the financial scene in early twentieth century USA are the canonical example, but today, so-called hedge funds etc. make similar attempts.
As examined earlier, enumerated outcomes can include significant omissions that are exposed only during unusual events, and can also serve to structure & harden (reify) the events they supposedly describe.
That free will should become more of an emphasis in a post-god universe seems obvious enough, at least superficially. (The neoliberal talking point for this emphasis is "personal responsibility.") This superficiality can be observed in the contemporary double to free will: The development of many mechanical models for human behavior. Such ideas are often held simultaneously by the post-religious in contemporary USA. (In a different context, the concept of "god" might be asked to mediate them.)
The rhetoric of personal responsibility provides a ready means for dismissing any responsibility the national or international regime might otherwise have toward its citizens or constituents. (This is in contrast to the ancien regime, which could never invoke such a blanket disclaimer, for structural reasons.) Thus, although the emphasis in the phrase is put on "responsibility," the actual rhetoric concerns where this responsibility is placed — on the person.
For more thoughts on how I view the relations between these & other post- terms, see Is postmodernism racist?.
I do not mean to reenact the superiority of the economic over other forms of human relation with this statement, as I hope the subsequent discussion will make clear. However, such is indeed the (contingent) emphasis here.
I can only claim a Socratic impetus for a portion of my questions. That is, some do come from an intent for the reader to engage with a particular train of thought, but some I consider to be very much open questions. (Some might not quite be at either of those poles.)
As discussed elsewhere here, and by myriad people over the centuries, not only do things themselves change, but language or writing about them is understood differently. Perhaps the most classic example, albeit non-European, of such an articulation is that by Lao Tzu in the Tao Te Ching.[21,23]
I am going to go ahead and be self-indulgent, and quote the entire opening section of Lao Tzu :
This translation is by Gia-Fu Feng & Jane English (1972).
Much of the Tao Te Ching is currently read as advocating for passivity. Leaving aside the context of that advocacy, and the point of such an exercise is tied closely to context , I am definitely not advocating for passivity in the face of the current necropolitical regime.
Let me put it this way: Lao Tzu was not writing for people who could not read.
There is no transcendental law, meaning there is no higher power to decree such-and-such. If there is an earthly power making such decrees based on violence — or logic , it matters not — then such a decree can be challenged.
Let us remember that logic is based in logos, that is the Christ position of the Trinity. Its (purported) transcendence is theological.
It would be tempting to say "accept something unacceptable" except that modern liberal governmentality, via its assertion of transcendent laws, among other things, has convinced people to accept what might otherwise be unacceptable. So I'll call it a bad deal.
It can certainly be argued that these ideas retain a liberal bias. I believe there are components that can be applied to agreement & disagreement more broadly, or at least to open up discussion for ongoing contest. Everything can be renegotiated.
These issues often arise in the practical political arena, currently, around arguments concerning the European Union.
The exercise of Part A figures Fortune as removed from (or sublimated into) its relations in much the same way that the Christian god has sublimated into current social & economic relations.
Any regime of meaning will generate its own rituals. We can then ask, regarding the economic questions, and development of money, does a ritual ("naturally") develop its own form of exchange? Although it's probably wrong to give a single answer to this question, it's difficult not to imagine such an outcome. The result is circular as soon as we let exchange develop meaning.
Even e.g. speculative realism, in its attempt to elevate contingency (which we might relate directly to fortune, in the current sense), invokes transcendental argument.
Existentialism did establish, in part, the right to be unhappy — in opposition to the traditional mandate.
What is void? One definition is found in . Is void without substance or without form? Does substance require form? Does form require time? Void becomes chaos in the becoming of perception; Fortune can form only after perception. Which of these is existence? Void (or we could say, God) is where these concepts coincide. That God becomes nonexistent, nothing, void, does not break apart these concepts — it disconnects their names, to be used for rhetorical-political openings. The void is opened: Can we imagine these questions in a courtroom? And how are they to be answered without (liberal) sovereignty? Perhaps this is too much of a digression.
God coincides with the power of manipulation (or confusion) in void, also: It is the unknowable (possibility?) generally. God coinciding with absurdity itself reinterprets Tertullian.
Nothingness as a singular, transcendent idea reenacts the singularity of monotheism in a very straightforward way. The main difference is simply that it is negative (or harsh), rather than "good" or provident.
I do not mean to blame Darwin for all the excesses of Darwinism. I do not see the two as synonymous, and indeed Darwin took pains to disclaim some of the popular interpretations.
A more rigorously scientific approach to natural selection, eschewing any idea of purpose, is of course possible — and even practiced by some scientists. However, popular narrative is saturated with rhetoric of purpose. That this is lifted straight from Christian theology, despite the often combative (toward religion) nature of these statements, is rather obvious from their form. Many people are therefore not arguing about whether the concept of higher purpose makes sense, but only about what that purpose is.
Predictions about the future are often implicit as well. If one does not know the future context — or future environment — one does not know what traits will be useful for it, in whatever sense that entails. Value is thus hypothetical, although typically stated with extreme certainty.
The primacy of the future is enacted through this narrative of value. Shifts in attitudes toward the future have been noted by many authors, whether around risk or other topics.
The legacy of social Darwinism also includes the eugenics movement, etc. Apparently letting evolution take its course was not enough for those people, so they needed to help it along. Or so they said; there must have also been fear that they were not actually "chosen," and so they needed to enforce their superiority — call it the Protestant version of survival of the fittest. Or call it freezing "fitness" at a particular moment when they are able to act, the anti-future double to so much rhetoric about the future.
Carl Schmitt was the leading figure considering these questions of sovereignty in the twentieth century. For instance, he examined differences between sovereignty on land & at sea, constructing a narrative around at-sea principles  coming to dominate the modern era. (Sloterdijk transforms this nomos idea into a faith in the orb of the Earth itself — as sphere — as a marker of globalization.) He also concerned himself extensively with messianic principles, and how these influence perceptions of time & decision.
Tangentially to Schmitt's Christian emphasis, and related to ideas of chaos as feminine (as discussed elsewhere in the current article), I feel compelled to make note of the Marian hymn Ave maris stella — hail star of the sea. That this hymn had renewed popularity in the fifteenth century does not feel like coincidence, even as it engages simple wordplay.
As we have already seen, the sovereignty of the real is a variant of the sovereignty of fortune as inevitability. Pre-modern conceptions of Fortune reenter postmodern consciousness here.
I discussed biological time in assertion four, in the context of usury.
We can thus observe a thread tracing the divinity of finance (and debt) via the biologization of finalism in Darwinism: The ultimate debt must be paid. (We can also inquire into the relation between biological & messianic through this figure.)
Some references (Mies, Sloterdijk) for this history were given in the notes for assertion five.
I do not want to spend a great deal of time arguing about this point. Perhaps some readers will disagree. Let me describe my reason for declaring a labor surplus succinctly: Only a relatively small percentage, and declining, of the population is needed to produce all of the material goods needed for the entire population. By this, I do not mean that everyone's needs are met, but rather that failures are not the result of a lack of material production. (I also do not mean to reduce needs to material needs — thus invoking the "immaterial labor" of Lazzarato, et al.)
Whether one credits this to technology — or even sees it as a positive thing to "credit" — is beside the point for now. (However, I will freely admit that one way to eliminate the labor surplus is to eliminate industrial production.)
The current era might be better defined as the era of labor surplus, following the modern era, where desired increases to production defined the population policies. Such a definition has the advantage of not invoking a post- logic, i.e. the absence of previous conditions, but of stating a particular current situation that must be addressed. (This condition, also arriving in the twentieth century, can be added to the list given in , together with the creation of the psychoanalytic real, etc.)
In contemporary financial terms, we might want to rephrase this question thusly: Who/what is in the shared risk pool? Much contemporary political rhetoric comes down to this (typically) unstated question.
It must be emphasized that classical macroeconomic models only function under regimes of growth. This is an outcome of biologization.
These questions come to transcend biology per se in e.g. queer politics, and issues of social replication generally. (One might reframe this issue around creativity rather than replication.)
I see that Lazzarato has tackled a similar topic in Signs and Machines: Capitalism and the Production of Subjectivity, released here only this month. Other than noting it (and that Lazzarato was already in the notes for this section), I will not stop to read that monograph now, leaving it for another time.
It can become only too easy to find reasons to stop, even in the middle of writing, and do more reading. Perhaps I do not always make the best decisions on this point, but I believe readers can also see that I reference many texts that have appeared in the past year or two, so I am not completely out of touch with current ideas. However, there is no end. I make this point explicitly because of its parallel with political decision making, which can never accumulate all possible information, but still needs to occur. (Whether the current writing needs to occur is more a matter of personal perspective, admittedly, but I do feel a need to finish this article.)
For instance, who or what a person is has direct implications for the definition of a voluntary transaction. (When large corporations also get to be "persons," such questions take on even more weight.)
My primary intent was to raise other forms of biological life & related environmental processes, but other stakeholders (for better or worse) do include human-formed organizations. The latter cannot be ignored, even (especially) if their claim to human (or other) rights is contested.
One tangible contest over the transition from modernism can be found in arguments over national borders & immigration, with all of their sensationalist rhetoric. The differential movement of capital & labor in the twenty-first century has been (rightly) identified by many sources as both a major political issue, and a residual issue from the modern era (with its primacy for nation-states).
In Cultural Studies in the Future Tense, Grossberg suggests that politics not be assumed, or defined according to the concerns of previous generations, but rather studied & allowed to emerge from the concerns of the contemporary conjunction itself. Reframing "labor" strikes me as particularly significant for the contemporary conjuncture in this sense.
Using Grossberg's term, this crisis of incommensurability is also an opportunity. Previously, differences in values were disregarded — able to be disregarded, so if they can no longer be disregarded, that presents an opening.
An important legacy of colonialism can easily be observed in how duty is defined & enforced at the level of nation-states and international organizations. Debts form a specific legacy of modernism, and these are generally articulated via duty.
Disability theory provides a particularly fertile ground, largely unexplored thus far, for critiques of duty & labor.
For instance, we can view environmental movements as new ritual regimes. This is expressed in dismissive fashion by neoliberal interests already, but the ritual aspect can as well be embraced. (So-called irrational actions in response to poorly understood meanings are unavoidable , after all. The phenomenon is easily observed  within neoliberalism itself.)
Given the embedded nature of the "void" (empty) concept in the term unavoidable, it is probably worth noting this coincidence with irrationality: This is basically a constituent reference to the unknowable. (See also .)
Lack of understanding, and associated "irrational" response, is also cultivated for personal gain: The claimed superiority of the market, with its theoretical freedom to know, is doubled under neoliberalism (as well as many previous economic regimes) by intentional suppression of information.
It's also becoming increasingly clear that regimes of meaning are not often structured according to the hierarchies established by nation-states. In other words, the latter (modern) form of organization no longer represents a fully coherent layer with larger & smaller sets, but rather a web of organization that is penetrated & consolidated in multiple ways & at multiple levels. In these terms, the nation-state has come to form a layer of rhetorical misdirection that can itself be exploited for differential benefit by those able to do so. Political contest must view it as increasingly conceptual, as e.g. one interrelated conduit of wealth accumulation & allocation.
The public-private duality likewise breaks down in a number of directions. We see this not only in longstanding uses of public positioning to enable private wealth (the Elizabethan printing monopolies, for instance), but in the alarm over new forms of public prying into private activity. When the prying is done by international corporations, the traditional duality is further distorted, even as its rhetoric remains in force. (These corporations get to choose when to be "private" or not, for policy purposes, so that the duality comes to serve a transparently rhetorical purpose.)
Reabsorption into a single value (risk) engages the stratification machine, which as we saw in assertion four, acts on time.
An "economy" is, by some earlier definitions, exactly such a transcendental (external) arrangement.
Whether the temptation to "principles" arises from a fear of populist chaos, or from a more directly cynical desire to control others for personal gain, the forms are similar. And in fact, those two motivations are not actually separate — the former is only a version of the latter, for the person who benefits from order (or non-chaos, so as not to imply a single opposite).
For instance, it can be argued that Mouffe & Laclau position "antagonism" transcendentally. Even within the construction of agonistics, such an appeal to principle can occur. (To replace antagonism as a principle, individual differences can be positioned within the immanent domain/plane, as they are encountered in opposition — not opposition as a principle, but as individual instances. Within the immanent domain, there is no transcendent position to characterize these instances more generally.)
An appeal to "instances" is already a concession to separateness, and so I suggest not automatically viewing any differences as between people/subjects — rather differences can cut across the self-other duality, or be internal to the self. In other words, one's drives will have differences, possibly in opposition to other drives — whether someone else's (or something else's interests) or one's own.
In other words, we might try to convince someone using "logic" (quoted per ), but that is only one possibility.
It seems worth noting explicitly that we use the term "interest" to denote both the (presumed) basis of a political position, and the (monetary) rate of debt increase. The implied conception of who ("rent seekers") can properly engage in political activity goes back to Aristotle (or beyond).
Not knowing one's interests is a serious obstacle to the entire program of this article. My basic response is that there is a level where interests are known, and that one kind of "principle" serving control is insistence on decision-making at a level removed from that knowledge. This is a form of confusion.
In In the World Interior of Capital, Sloterdijk discusses the idea of "disinhibition" — going ahead and acting. He applies it to the European conquerors, and I think it's worthwhile to take a moment and consider what made these men think they should do what they did: Various answers are possible. Conversely, and this question revolves (at least for him) around sovereignty, from where does the contemporary authorization to act arise? Often it does not. He speaks of a "culture of fun," for instance (and here we can relate that to happiness, whether via assertion one or USA founding documents); there is also a "culture of innovation" (and I experience that strongly here in Silicon Valley); there are surely other regimes of meaning that act as disinhibitors. Prominent to the current context is "profit" — not only do businesses feel justified in acting to make (more) profit, but many segments of the population will reflexively defend the profit motive: Of course people should be trying to make profits! This sequence is therefore a sketch of a particular kind of economic sovereignty.
Grossberg discusses "disembeddedness" in similar ways: This is how a territory can be positioned outside of discourse, or a principle put into a sovereign or transcendent position, in my terms.
Legal enforcement can retain a rhetorical basis, of course, such as an appeal to duty. However, the explicit enforcement mechanism provides a supplement (and with it, some clarity) to the more general methods used in rhetorical manipulation via principles. That clarity can also be viewed as a weakness, more likely to engage resistance, particularly as the law is contested via other regimes of meaning.
In other words, poststructural principles are required in order to fully engage the idea of a political ground. (Fortunately, one does not need to know what poststructural principles are in order to use them. They arise from structural resistance.)
Instead, such violence can be viewed as latent within the current system: The opening exposes it, rather than creates it. (The locus will also shift.)
As Agamben says in The Kingdom and the Glory, and in contrast to my emphasis of three paragraphs ago, the central mystery of politics is not sovereignty, but government or providence. Thus the economic factor is reintroduced.
In other words, whereas politics engages & (potentially) transforms power, it is not reducible to it. Politics is not sovereignty. The latter is especially true if politics remains open to contest.
Identification can be strategic. It's been required of e.g. the gay rights movement (within the current context).
The "best of all worlds" hypothesis is from Leibniz, defending the Christian god against the existence of evil: It is thoroughly theological.
The quote from Derrida opening Cultural Studies in the Future Tense seems apt here: "If things were simple, word would have gotten around." With all of the drives & interests on this planet, politics is not so simple.
The goals (and hence allocation) of the householder are theoretically inscrutable & uncontestable.
I did frame this as "scientific" success, i.e. ability to carry out a demonstrable program as claimed. However, if the goals are actually strategic obfuscation and/or apology for power, then those programs often seem to be successful. The conflicts — and these are political conflicts — between the various goals (or by analogy, drives) also muddle the programs of economics itself: So we get unclear (contested) programs in response to unclear (contested) goals. No (political) choice is actually made, leading to critique based on the failure of sovereignty or disinhibition.
If this is not clear, contrast with physics: Articulating the law of gravity is not an act that, in turn, affects gravity. Articulating an economic law affects how people behave, which is what the law purportedly describes.
The result is often, however, the kind of "embedded disembeddedness" that Grossberg criticizes, making it difficult to locate the economic at all.
The most basic transcendental critique of the science of classical economics is: It uses concepts & methods that are amenable to the mathematical techniques & understanding of the early modern era. In other words, its limits were never in the realm of observation, but rather in the theoretical capacity itself. Those limits are now traditional, and continue to be reinscribed into the present.
The theory of classical economics does not survive only in sublimated form: It is taught explicitly to students, including children, around the world. One cannot receive a high school diploma in California, for instance, without demonstrating an indoctrination in economic dogma. It's also the case that this dogma is usually taught first , with other ideas coming later, and often only in relation to it. (Hopefully the pluralism advocated by www.isipe.net will have a positive effect on this situation.)
It is a dramatic understatement to locate the beginning of teaching economic dogma in an economics course itself. Such dogma appears relentlessly in the media, and so already permeates much self-formation.
This question, and the opportunity to see the varied (and often bizarre [94,95]) responses of the general public, is from Heather Busch (unpublished), who helped me throughout the development of the present article.
A shockingly typical response was: "It has no purpose, it just is." This is one way to maintain the inscrutability of god (or the householder), but without any "goodness" associated with divine providence, after the death of god. Such an attitude makes political contest essentially impossible, while leaving a free hand to those in position to act to shape the economy.
A response never given explicitly, but often implicitly: "The purpose of the economy is to serve as validation for people who deserve validation." (Many people responding this way will claim to need no validation, if asked.) This is the sublimated Calvinist message.
Whether we view the mercantilism of Smith's day as full-blown capitalism or not, the ideas of that time show a strong continuity into the era of industrial production (and, of course, continue to be a refrain today). Moreover, Marx's emphasis on production did not allow (or require) dramatic rethinking of a value-allocation nexus: His emphasis on labor on the "value" side changed allocation in response, but was more limited in its examination of this relationship itself. In other words, if labor is accorded its appropriate value, appropriate allocation follows from already existing principles. This nexus is then severed in the slogan, "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need," painted as a utopian end: With abundant wealth (production), value itself can be reassigned from production to "humanity." In neither case does a more complex or sophisticated nexus emerge.
If "the market" has no memory, surely we can forget what we supposedly knew about value.
It should be noted that divine providence is frequently cited as a specific reason to disavow planetary limits.
Various ideas emerge to discuss a unified world environment in this sense: Monographs have appeared naming fragility, complex systems, hyper-objects, etc. (Some of the associated frameworks are more problematic than others.) Complexity is a real barrier to understanding limits, as these are not often of the straightforward linear variety.
An ecology might (or does) function precisely because different species have very different, and complementary, inputs & outputs. This is true of a variety of chemical cycles, for example, each being one thread or pathway that can be traced through an ecology.
A hypothetical return to the "three stream" model (goods of everyday life, ritual objects, human lives) of prototypical human interaction is also insufficient for the purpose of a posthuman, global conception. However, I do maintain that appropriate attention to ritual streams is the correct approach to the fetishization problem. None of these prototype streams can be dismissed, but they are not sufficient. That they do not generalize well to a posthuman environment can easily be observed in e.g. animals (their lives, so third stream) as food (first stream) — and humans aren't the only animals that eat animals.
The desire to reduce complicated interactions to a single number is easy enough to explain. Such simplicity is comforting to many people. And such desires for simplicity are exploited via confusion, as per the previous paragraph: Price (or "the market") is an example of telling people they do understand: There is nothing more to consider, you already know, so continue with your business. (See also .)
Adding the word "fully" to this observation might soften the point more than I intend: It's entirely possible that a price provides no information meaningful to any of the other linked events that create a sale's conditions of possibility. It is limited, local information — at best.
By the phrase "no more dice," I certainly do not mean an end to randomness, but rather an end to such simple conceptions of randomness. (Perhaps I should contextualize this typologically, but then, this entire article is a critique of typology.)
Their nature in this case (simply!) being that they engage with human behavior via human language & symbol systems.
It is often — maybe always — necessary to simplify. Issues arise when a simplification is reified, rather than taken on a particular basis. Simplification seems important to contemporary disinhibition, for instance (as per ). It has also been, together with its reification, a structural factor in classical economics (as per ).
The cuts that enact different human sciences as separate from each other, or form them around their own central ideas, are arbitrary & contingent. This topic is discussed in more detail in the final section of Hierarchy as rupture.
Stabilization of a regime of meaning in order to preserve the applicability of knowledge interior to that regime can be undertaken with the best of intentions. After all, preserving that applicability can preserve social stability more generally, organized according to well-known principles. This can be appealing. However, the boundaries of the regime of meaning will nonetheless be tested, to the point that the meaning attached to the boundary within the regime will lose all relationship to the already arbitrary nature of those boundary areas in relation to other regimes. Perhaps a physical image: Consider a state border negotiated to be a river, and then surveyed accordingly at a particular moment in time, only to have the river shift. That image actually overstates the coherence of regime boundaries, because regimes of meaning do not operate on a single plane. Their boundaries were never agreed upon, and in some cases, only became implicit due to their distance from the central meanings of the regime.
In more Deleuzian terms, a territory is defined by its characteristic internal contradiction.
Conversely to the intent imputed in , regimes of meaning also seek to expand themselves, to increase their own control & prestige. This dynamic is obvious.
I do not intend to imply that violence is no longer present, but rather that the violence is mobilized via symbol systems, more so than directly — for values of "directly" from the modern era. This can be framed as a change in mechanisms of disinhibition.
I do not intend to erect the superiority of philosophy, or any particular discipline, here. However, it should be clear that a poststructural analysis of the economic domain itself is warranted. Reification of this domain presents a major issue for the move to a posthuman economic conception.
The potential significance of any happening or process is sometimes evoked with the image of a butterfly flapping its wings — and supposedly (eventually) changing the weather in some other part of the world. (This image is not absurd from the mathematical point of view, having worked on climate modeling myself back in 1992.)
Theoretical economic satisfaction has not matched "real" satisfaction as measured either in resource statistics or happiness surveys anyway.
As we have seen, the concept of happiness does have some historical precedence, not only for having predated the modern era, but for having predated Christianity. It seems open to a comparative or non-European analysis.
There are many indicators that wealth does not equate to happiness, and so it is perhaps already foreclosed, despite my listing it here. However, there are layers of meaning associated with happiness & wealth, and these could warrant further study, particularly on a worldwide basis.
Here it is natural to mention Derrida's technique of deconstruction, in contrast to a more physical-scientific orientation toward analyzing a model as a device, which might better be called disassembly. Some figures of social theory, economic or otherwise, might be more amenable to disassembly, whereas rhetorical regimes of meaning must engage deconstruction (or similar technique). In other words, symbol systems never consist entirely of their own internal structures: There are decisions about when & where to apply them. (This latter might go on to inflect the "internal" structures, etc.)
The differences & combinations in English provide so many rhetorical openings.... These yield a wedge between word & fact (or life), breaking apart the oath, in Agamben's terms. (He also presents an image of these circular aporias as fugues, which I find agreeable.)
I certainly do not intend to discourage anyone from taking up these themes in other languages. My wonder over the result can perhaps serve as encouragement instead, or simply as recognition of the limits of this particular English-language discussion.
I hope it's clear that I'm invoking "value" as economic language here & for the remainder of this section.
These comments refer in part to Gayatri Spivak's An Aesthetic Education in the Era of Globalization, which largely retains a literary emphasis. My own orientation is more musical.
Glory thus becomes a container: Its contents are pre-directed toward a particular structure. The contemporary media is constantly looking for ways to contain anything new, so as to direct it toward glorifying the status quo. Reification of description as label is one common way to forge & strengthen containers.
Together with artists (broadly conceived), other disinhibited postmodern actors include terrorists & entrepreneurs. Art is also suited to acting in what Sloterdijk calls the "dense space" of our era: It finds gaps & openings.
Art creating gaps & openings is somewhat different from e.g. Debord's ideas on spectacle. (Marketing is also looking to find gaps & openings, so as to insert its product.)
Placing this entire series of articles within a framework defined by creative improvisation in music creates an explicit aesthetic context. It also, for whatever reason, induces me to write.
Immaterial art seems like a natural complement to immaterial labor.
A little pun applicable here, borrowed from a Polish record label of the same name: For-tune.
Via polyphony, for example, music can articulate multiple time streams that do not need to coincide in any set-theoretic or hierarchical way.
Engaging the stratification machine & finance suggests engaging with biologization, which in turn suggests engaging biological time musically. (I mean this in a multi-generational & exponential way, not only in areas such as the heartbeat.)
As confusion works as well by telling people that they know something they do not, or that they do not know something they do, and especially when combining these poles, the separate & non-separate poles can work together. In either direction, e.g. reification can be challenged.
Deleuze & Guattari already tackled the content-expression duality in A Thousand Plateaus.
Overall, there is a huge bifurcation in what is considered "content": There are e.g. the Hollywood studios and the big-money music producers who have hired people to enforce their ownership of content on the internet, and there are random people who write for (usually commercial) websites for free, thus establishing an economic value of zero for this kind of content. Then the profit is extracted from serving content, after the first group has been paid (with obvious incentive to place any new kind of "content"  into the second group). Moreover, I suggest that the "diversity" of user content not only increases due to (relatively) open access, but is assigned an economic value of zero  via the process of using uncompensated creation for corporate profit: The diversity itself takes on a null meaning, in keeping with other media platitudes to see everyone as the same in their differences. "Color blindness"  is still (metaphorical) blindness, but thus takes on new layers of meaning on the internet.[137,138]
Perhaps I should be criticized for giving away content for free, and thus reinforcing a market value of zero. I do not see the situation as similar when I am my own publisher, and thus not making profits for a commercial entity, nor relinquishing my rights of ownership. However, with search engines involved in framing results, and controlling where people go online (for their own profit), not to mention current & future technologies that attempt to profit from content on third party sites, perhaps I should not posit such a clear difference. (Engaging advertisers, as so many free sites do, would already change this dynamic from my perspective, even as my own publisher. Ad-based sites can reinforce the worthlessness of content for readers, too.) Truly being non-profit on the internet today is difficult, perhaps impossible: It is probably worth considering how one can use the internet without making profits for anyone else. (I can still go for a walk without anyone making a profit.)
For example, taking pictures of one's home for mapping purposes comes with no compensation (or choice). The same is true of tracking one's internet activity, etc. Many of the recent internet products — at least the ones that make money — are based on extracting some form of content for free. (These are resources to plunder before someone else gets there!)
Economic dogma reinforces the push to use people's content for free, for the profit of the companies serving content, by positing the complete substitutability of one person's output for another's: If you don't write a review for free, someone else will. (This is very much what I mean by saying that diversity takes on a null meaning.)
I invoke the term "color blind" only because it is the most common here in USA: It is the exhortation not to see someone's race (and thus reenact the status quo). Various kinds of "blindnesses" could be named, all with similar results, and all purportedly designed to end prejudice. (None is exclusive to the visual sense.)
It is, of course, very easy to pose as someone entirely different from oneself on the internet — at least to other users. (This is not automatically a negative thing.)
These meanings are also inflected by the current trend: Present everyone with personally customized results (based on tracking) to internet searches. If such "customization" — particularly as combined with identity blindness required from the user — takes the institutional proportions it appears to be taking, and is reinforced over the course of generations, the outcome is likely to be very disturbing. I do not see anything resembling a utopia in this scenario.
The internet substitutes a dizzying array of "content" for presence. The "office" of internet user has a substantially less active & willful profile than Machaut's office of lover , however, despite completely opposite rhetorical positions on choice.
For a final time, I turn to Machaut: His narrative of unrequited love is partially an exploration of presence. The (typological) office of lover is constructed to substitute for presence. The internet user takes this substitution through ever more layers of mediation. (The sequence seems more apt if one considers the "multimedia" character of Machaut's work.)
Ecstatic expression has been an important part of ritual (as well as divination, improvisation, etc.). Presence as mediated by technology would seem to eliminate traditional forms of ecstasy, but what we see is a reconfiguration: After all, it was pornography & other forms of sexual release that forged some of the first commercial successes on the internet, and continue to account for a great deal of its traffic. I am convinced, for this & other reasons, that sexual activity is an important domain for art to engage. This engagement seems to be lacking in contemporary USA, as well as elsewhere (largely, it would appear, as a legacy of modernism ).
There are many things that can be said about sexuality & modernity: I already noted the move to increase the labor force. There was the related Protestant focus on work (not art) as glory. There is the mind-body duality projected via colonial rationality onto other subjects. An entire monograph is quite possible on this topic.
The commercial market for art per se is its own topic, and I will spend just a few sentences on it: A masterpiece selling for millions of dollars acquires that value over time, as meanings accrete to it. Most or maybe all of this is outside of the artist's control, as a masterpiece is essentially a social phenomenon (more so than a material thing). It may well have been regarded as being of no value until some external regime of meaning captured it somehow.
The Doctrine of Use has a specific historical origin: It is not a fact for all time, and people are socialized into conforming.
One way to conceptualize a symbol system of influence beyond (strictly) language is via affect theory.
Many contemporary declarations that something is "not art" are transparent attempts to win symbol contests by invoking a transcendent principle. (Many more are simple copies of those declarations, without awareness.)
The conquistadors & their accompanying religious orders had no doubt regarding the power of physical symbolism: Ritual symbols were replaced as soon as possible. Today, after the death of god, we're told that concrete symbols have lost their power, while they are used just as relentlessly — a significant source of confusion.
As I argued in The form of aesthetics, separating art from (generalized) discussion of art has increasingly limited meaning. They become similar symbolic contests. (This result has consequences for interpretation via .)
Insisting on the separation of art & discourse does have meaning, much like any cut or duality. However, I view it as limiting from the aesthetic or artistic perspective — (political) limit is often the meaning intended.
I certainly do not mean to place art in a transcendent position here. (The ability to interact with & via the immanent-transcendent duality, rather than occupy a particular position, has been one of the most significant powers of art. I will refrain from reframing this in Kantian terms.)
I do not mean to restrict allocation to material resources. Please also consider psychic resources, and everything else a person (or anything) might want or need.
I have attempted to frame gambling as a significant example of the general class of allocation techniques, particularly as random or arbitrary processes forge so much of allocation, rhetoric aside. (Moreover, considering that luck is a significant contributor to confidence, which in turn affects one's subsequent actions, these processes create their own machinic driver. Fortune could be figured again according to this luck machine.)
Classical economics has favored an implicit, stable nexus between value & allocation in part because it favors equilibrium (or status quo) generally. That mathematical (or modeling) simplicity would favor the established hierarchy is not coincidental, not only because of the social conditions of its development, but because simpler principles are more amenable to transcendental rhetoric.
The idea of "the posthuman" was developed (by Rosi Braidotti & others) to address this move past the liberal subject, not only to consider non-human life & environmental processes, but to dispute the primacy of historical European concepts of self & subject formation. Although more mainstream approaches have involved augmenting the liberal subject, for instance in the postcolonial arena with newly freed people, these approaches retain the historical contours of the liberal subject. Hence, the posthuman seeks to abandon the augmentation model, and completely rethink self & subject possibilities.
Although more modest than a fully posthuman approach, it's also worth noting the concept of "voice," particularly in scholarly writing style: Does one attempt to project a totally neutral & de-individualized point of view, speak in the third person, give no personal details or (explicit) personal feelings? This is a traditional approach. Does one attempt to situate oneself, describe one's experiences & feelings, articulate one's social groups and how they might affect perspective? This approach has become more common in the twenty-first century, at least in social theory (although it also appears throughout history). Which is more posthuman, a generic or individual voice? The generic voice hides information: It can also be related to universalism, and projects a sense of superiority. In that sense, the situated voice is clearly superior, and has largely arisen with the widespread use of deconstruction techniques. So how does a highly personal style become a posthuman style? I think this is an open question, but one thought is that one's personal situation is not discrete or stable, and so influences that transverse the self-other rupture can be noted as well. In that sense, the individual voice itself is not firmly discrete or stable , but can open to a variety of possibilities in which details become richer than the individual. (This thought is related to my borderline discussion elsewhere. It becomes an issue of simultaneity in moving inward & outward, i.e. transverse to the rupture.)
The traditional approach of third person, "objective" exposition is most often used today by people in privileged positions. It can be seen as a marker of privilege, especially the privilege of being able to view one's own perspective as objective. It can also simply mean that the speaker has never thought about these issues (although that can be willful, or not), or is trying to mimic a privileged style.
Opening the individual voice to scrutiny, perhaps breaking it into parts, or considering differential relationships to other parts elsewhere, is in sharp distinction to frequent rhetorical use of individual differences within the liberal tradition: Once encountered, individual differences are firm & inscrutable, so that the first person (voice) shifts rhetoric as if at an impenetrable nodal point. (Prototypical of this notion is the phrase De gustibus non est disputandum. I should note that engaging such statements is often pointless, but I do not believe this maxim for a moment.)
If we aren't in agreement over what a person is, or indeed whether we're restricting a contest (or process) to people, traditional metrics such as "happiness" — together with their accompanying exhortations — become even less meaningful. (As per  & , perhaps there is still something to be learned there, if we allow ourselves to rethink on a posthuman basis.)
If the subject is called into contest, then likewise subject-object, likewise person-property, and of course demand-supply as a particular kind of subject-object relation. ("Demand" is named first here to correspond with subject & person, rather than in the traditional order intended to subjugate human needs to providence.) Supply-demand is thus seen to rest upon the liberal concept of subject & personhood. As with the liberal subject itself, it is typically modified only by augmentation.
Environmental economics has received much attention over the past few decades, although again, this attention typically proceeds via augmentation: Externalities are articulated, and some are brought within the supply-demand price model via regulation (or otherwise). However, real limits are not to be found within the core model, because supply can as well be based on human whim (or quest for profit) as on physical limits. In other words, the limits in the traditional economic model are not real, and any real limits are typically refused admittance to the discussion, or given a secondary character. (The recognition of planetary limits is itself highly politicized.) Supply could be totally rethought along ecological lines, but even then, would represent a particular view (or cut) in a circulating input-output model.
I do not want to overstate the existence of physical limits either. We do not know what kinds of processes or interactions are possible.
The power to define or describe reality creates a critical position. This can only be done via language & symbol systems. (Even dropping two balls from the Leaning Tower of Pisa requires subsequent interpretation, if it is to have a meaning.)
The impetus of the present article was, as frequently articulated, to remove obstructions — particularly transcendental economic rhetoric — to agonistic politics. Hypothetically, the point at which such an agonistic contest can take place is the end of this impetus. Of course, simply because I would like to define such a point to mark a tidy division does not make it so. There are always other questions, which is part of what makes the process of seeking openings — as articulated here — constantly ongoing.
The answer on ethics is intentionally simple. (After all, it is about time to end this article.) Various questions can be raised in response: What is "knowing" under those circumstances? What is convincing? What is agreement? Whose concept of bad? What if everyone feels like they're getting a bad deal, so it's "fair?" Etc. We can immediately plunge back into interpretation & contest, which is a reason I do not necessarily place as much meaning on the ethics question as some might. In some sense, it is only rhetorical itself. However, I have offered a simple answer, for whatever it's worth.
The ethics around political contest can be reframed as self-interest, for example: If you convince someone to accept a bad deal, they might soon regret it, take revenge on you, or simply refuse to cooperate further. If all the parties to an agreement are satisfied, the agreement is much more likely to be kept. (This is standard mediation advice, from my years spent as a city mediator.)
I find the question about knowledge & deferral to be troubling largely because it implies a question about hierarchy, via knowledge. It can be made more explicit & provocative: To what extent is the elimination of hierarchy actually possible? In what sense, and with what implications? (And yes, I'm now questioning my own premises, not because I've had a change of heart, but because my conceptual articulation was always arbitrary and in danger of reification.)
Sometimes supposed deadlines are rhetorical devices only. However, e.g. one cannot put off the decision on what to eat (or where to find food) until after one starves.
As a now overused example, I had to make decisions about how to structure & write this article, despite that I knew new thoughts & information would come to me while writing, and would continue to do so after I finished. (One can argue that I did not have to make any decision, and could continue to wait, but for all its self-indulgence, I do think this example fits the dynamic of everyday life rather well: Many decisions are not of any great importance, but still "must" be made — barring some sort of deferral that becomes its own decision.)
Yet another way to frame political decision & indecision concerns identity formation or the constitution of a public. Robyn Wiegman (in Object Lessons) places identity formation in a state of tension largely derived from an inability to agree completely with any particular group, combined with an inability to act (politically) entirely independently. Correspondingly, Michael Warner (in Publics and Counterpublics) emphasizes the layers of meaning in a declaration of "we," by which a public is basically conjured within a contest. Both reframe classic approaches to ideology, although the central problem remains. (Queer theory is rich with discussions of identity — and consequently, at least implicitly, ideology — because many restraints on queer identity formation have recently been removed in USA. This is quite an opportunity , in both senses.)
The term "opportunity" derives from a reference to the state between on-land & at-sea sovereignty (i.e. port). This seems worth noting in the present context.
Did the reader expect me to offer a transcendent principle for judging deferral?
The collapse of time during a decision  can certainly be taken as a negative outcome: We want the future to be considered. (And we've created regimes of risk, and the stratification machine, to forcibly prevent the collapse of time.) However, it can also be taken as an opening itself, opening from now toward the future, rather than bearing the weight of something that hasn't even happened.
(Perhaps I should mention Schmitt again here, and allude to the last part of . Or I could mumble indecisively.)
We seem to be more willing to ponder hypothetical future children — as a proxy for "the future" — than to consider actual contemporary children, however.
The stratification machine not only smoothes time, making it infinitely divisible (continuous), but extends the domain of time to infinity as well. These two actions form together. Regimes of risk are thus erected without temporal horizon. In a sense, financial biologization defies biology : Although the life insurance policyholder is certain to die, the risk regime is perpetual.
Apparently perpetual time is the contemporary alternative to finalism. (Neither is oriented toward the present.)
And this is simply dialectic....
Todd M. McComb 5 June 2014