Friday, September 24, 2010

naïve and sentimental agencies of control (2)

In a way, I am mocking professional economists who do not get that their work is as arbitrary, and as unscientific, as the whole Springtime for Germany scene. But I still ought to be able to define my terms reasonably exactly:

An agency of control is the agency responsible for making decisions about the supply of resources,

e.g.: workers, industrial capitalists, landlords, bankers, parliament.

A sentimental agency of control has cognisance over the operations that generate its net income, and can alter those operations in order to maximise that income. This ought to include claims that are necessarily claims on surplus production,

e.g.: capitalists claiming profit, workers claiming wages, and the government imposing taxes on profits, capital gains, and high incomes.

A naïve agency of control does not have cognisance over the operations that generate its income, and can only attempt to claim income arbitrarily, thereby either fortuitously making a succesful para-sentimental claim, or causing unemployment of people or capital,

e.g.: landlords claiming rent, banks profiting from inflation, goverment imposing taxes on necessary consumption or poll taxes.

The point is, that an argument about the naïvety of the administration of a country is not just an argument about the naïvety of its tax system, but needs to take into account the structure of property, and the banking system, and their claims on production.

nihilism today

Barthes said that while a little formalism takes one away from history, a lot of formalism takes one back to it. One might include, within the scope of formalism, the normative impositions of bureaucratic organisations. The Economist's designers' forgetting, and pretending to forget, what it meant to be a punk, what it meant to be a radical, and what Britain's current government actually represents, finally results in the expression of an unwarranted truth: that the current British government is essentially nihilistic. It really is.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

naïve and sentimental agencies of control

Toward the end of his Confessions of an English Opium Eater, De Quincey discusses a pamphlet he tried to put together about Ricardo's economics. I remembered this story, wrongly as it turns out, as being about how De Quincey tried to apply some sort of method from German Idealism, or some kind of drug wizardry, to perfect Ricardo's system. Actually, De Quincey says his ideas could be expressed with algebra. I understand De Quincey's essay was published with his collected works, so maybe I should check it out.

It might be that the amazing aridity of Ricardo's prose contributed to his book's success, because it invited amateur literateurs to feel they could improve on Ricardo's arguments. People today might reasonably argue that Marx really did apply the wizardry of German Idealism, specifically Hegel's philosophy, to Ricardo, even if De Quincey didn't.

But a better marriage might be made between Ricardo's (actually Malthus's) theory of rent and Schiller's theory of naïve and sentimental art.

The theory of rent effectively hypostises -

naïve and sentimental agencies of control.

Capitalist production ought to have a sentimental agency of control, because the capitalist ought to be able to alter his level of production, methods and inputs to maximise his profit. Ricardo argues that rent should also have a sentimental agency of control, because it's against the landowner's interest to fail to rent his land by demanding an excessive rent that cannot be paid. This counterexample of a landowner trying to impose an unpayable rent is an example of a naïve agency of control. Basically, sentimental agencies are good, in the way economics thinks things are good, and naïve agencies are bad.

With these categories, we can easily state the point of neoliberal economics, which is to replace all naïve agencies of control with sentimental agencies of control. Ricardo insists that rent is always subject to a sentimental agency of control, but this isn't necessarily true, as anyone who's noticed the thousands of empty flats in this country will attest. Neoliberal economists are very keen on the theme of the governments naïvety: its subjection of taxation to a naïve agency of control. But the naïvety or sentimentality of the three main forms of claims on the productive economy ought to be considered together:

property - property income (rent)
banking - inflation
government - taxation

Friday, September 17, 2010

retro cinema review: Beverley Hills Cop

When Hegel expressed his observation, that consciousness of social forms as historical forms is often coincidental with their decline, with the aphorism "the owl of Minerva flies only at dusk", he had no way of knowing whether this principle might apply to Top Gun, Trading Places and Beverley Hills Cop.

I'm not sure if the popular background of neoliberalism is disappearing. In any case, the systematisation of pop neoliberalism probably won't speed its decline. But during the 80s and 90s a great mass of the Western professional class found it incredibly persuasive, to the extent that it was taken as nonpolitical modern thinking, rather than an ideology among others, and an ideology bound up with the entrenchment of capitalist dictatorship.

These ideas certainly influenced the cinema of that period, to the extent that a lot of 80s and 90s films hardly do anything more than preach pop neoliberalism.

For instance, if we look at Beverley Hills Cop, it seems that the writers of this film had a strong sense of the rottenness of excessive privilege and excessive bureaucracy, demonstrated by Beverley Hills and its ineficient police force. The environment this creates is unstable and malign, producing naïve and jobsworth cops, neo-feudal Eurotrash gangsters, and gay art lovers.

Capitalism as a whole isn't meant to be like this, it's a salutary lesson about the dangers of market failure. The real Beverley Hills is only pleasant at a superficial level; when viewed through the spectacles of pop neoliberalism, it is flabby and inefficient.

Anyway, just as estrangement from the market is seen to have a degrading effect on people, close contact with the market is seen to have an invigorating effect. So, the writers of Beverley Hills Cop seem to have had the idea that a streetwise person from outside their circle of privilege really ought to be able to play out his decadent contemporaries in Beverley Hills, purely on account of having "marinated" in an environment characterised by strong market imperatives.

Beverley Hills Cop would still work without having a black cop playing out decadent white Californians. The film could have had a streetwise Hispanic cop, or an Australian cop played by Paul Hogan. It wouldn't have worked with Eddie Murphy playing a cop who used to be a Trappist monk, or a professor of philosophy. At least it wouldn't have worked for a generation that voted for Reagan.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

great books - by crooks (1)

The Socialization of Money by E. F. Mylius (pdf)

Described by Claude McKay as a "worthless book", Mylius's treatise is like Keynes before Keynes, and without Keynes's mistakes. Proudhon had not come to that learned man's attention.

Anyway, Mylius was the bookkeeper for Max Eastman's Liberator, in which capacity he was able to "privatize" a great deal of money from the magazine's funds. I mention this, but really, why should a person have to have an account of their crimes hung round their neck, like a stupid cow bell? An ordinary person, I mean.