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Second that emotion, if any

This should be a long, long post but I don't have the ideas straight in my mind (yet). So the theory of everything will have to wait for another day.

Recall (from this post) the shorthand representations of capitalism and financial capitalism:

That is, Marx [gasp] got this right for capitalism:


and this right for finance capitalism:


What I am, er, philosophizing about is this part of the dynamic:


Capital passes through human flesh in Marx's dashed area (see, e.g., Eph 6:12). That's why "rape," as a folk philosophy, seems appropriate. But as I argue above, it's not.

Here's a bit more on why "it's not." (My language here is going to be really sloppy. If anybody knows where I can go for a technical vocabulary or apparatus for tropes, metaphors, and the like, please leave some links in comments. I don't mean sites that gives lists of tropes. What I want is a site that shows how to critique them.)

Now, if we look at those formulas, we realize, if we are not capitalists or financiers (or at least not sociopathic capitalists or financiers) that everything, literally everything we care about is not represented by M (money) or C (commodities) but only by the dashes between them, that is, by the relationships between M and/or C and M, which are mediated by entities that are neither M nor C; for example, human flesh as such; emotions like love and hate; sensations like taste or touch or sight; kin, culture, society, which (contra Maggie Thatcher) really do exist... And yet, an intricate network of millions and billions and trillions of M-C-M' and above all M-M' transactions dominates and invades whatever is "inside" the dashes, turning (for example) "humans" into "human resources." We might envision this as a continuous and recursive process of transforming "-"s into "M-C-M's" (with the new dashes now ripe for invasion, or colonization, or exploitation; pick your word). And, oh yeah, this intricate network is killing a ton of people, sicking many tons more, destroying both itself and the planet, and so forth.

What is the emotion that is adequate (poor word, but I warned you) to this intricate network considered as a single, total object?

TS Eliot writes, in Hamlet and his Problems:

The only way of expressing emotion in the form of art [blogging; writing] is by finding an “objective correlative”; in other words, a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula of that particular emotion; such that when the external facts, which must terminate in sensory experience, are given, the emotion is immediately evoked.

It’s almost as if our situation the reverse of what Eliot wrote:

In all the work on political economy that is being done at places like Corrente, at Naked Capitalism, in the various occupations, in the carré rouge movement -- wherever people are seeking new forms of civic engagement outside the dominant neoliberal paradigm -- we seem to be developing stronger representations of the “external facts” (control fraud, looting, the modeling permathread), but we seem not to have the emotion that should match the “objective correlative.” Hate and fear are simple emotions. They are not adequate as a response to the infinitely recursive and dynamic system in which we are enmeshed.

I once visited Disneyland in Orlando -- coincidentally enough the location of the Republican National convention this year. With a friend, I took a bus from my (rather cheesy but branded) hotel to the "town" at the heart of Disneyland. It was night, and the searchlights raking upward from the city to the clouds reminded me powerfully of Nuremburg. However, when we reached the "town" (mercifully, I forget its name), and walked along the paths looking for a restaurant. But I didn't see any searchlights. Finally, I spotted one, carefully hidden behind a bush. Unlike Nuremburg, you see, the "town" had no single central focus. There was no platform with flags or a leader.

Hate and fear (or love), as emotions, seem to me to demand a single central focus; generally a person. And many of the available emotions are already branded and strategically managed. (Other options include diet- and media-induced depression and despair (feature not bug).) But “days of rage” don’t seem to “work” any more than “hate” (from left or from right), if we define "work" as "change the system" of trillions of recursive M-C-M' transactions.

We have the “objective correllative”: It sails serenely on, untouched because we do not have an emotion adequate to correlate with it. Does such an emotion exist? (If it does not, and evolution is true, then the possibility exists that humans will display adaptability by developing it.)

Perhaps “joy” (at agency) and “disgust” (at lack of agency) would be more appropriate; disgust especially, perhaps, because more induced by complexity than hate or rage, and hence more adequately induced by the “objective correllative,” the system in which we are enmeshed.

Shorter: Yes, "dispassionate," but what is the passion adequate to represent and alter our current plight?

Like I said: Sloppy. But I think this is an interesting space to consider.

NOTE Inspired by this comment at Naked Capitalism.

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malagodi's picture
Submitted by malagodi on

"Give to Caesar that which is Caesar's". It is advice not just about taxes, but all M-C-M transactions. Your concerns are elsewhere.


"There is another kind of justice than the justice of number, which can neither forgive nor be forgiven. There is another kind of mercy than the mercy of Law which knows no absolution. There is a justice of newborn worlds which cannot be counted. There is a mercy of individual things that spring Into being without reason. They are just without reason, and their mercy is without explanation. They have received rewards beyond description because they themselves refuse to be described. They are virtuous in the sight of God because their names do not identify them. Every plant that stands in the light of the sun is a saint and an outlaw. Every tree that brings forth blossoms without the command of man is powerful in the sight of God. Every star that man has not counted is a world of sanity and perfection. Every blade of grass is an angel singing in a shower of glory." ~Thomas Merton from Atlas and the Fat Man.


"There was once an old blind rabbi walking along a road in a terrible storm. Suddenly a bolt of lightening struck and knocked the rabbi off the road and into a ditch. Climbing out, soaking wet and covered in mud, the rabbi lifted his hands to the sky and said 'Praise God! The Devil is on Earth and is doing his work marvelously!'"


"Let the dead bury the dead."