A Blog for Everyone and No One
I agree to an extent with Steve’s description of economics in his recent post as being a ‘guess-based pseudo science’ and thought it might be useful to consider briefly what economics is or indeed claims to be. Without wanting to give a full account of its terminological history we can turn to Agamben who in his recent book The Kingdom and the Glory reinstates the Greek word from which economy derives: oikonomia, as meaning household management or attendance to domestic needs. Agamben’s project argues that it is this form of household management that via the Christian Trinitarian doctrine rules us as a form of government – as an administration of man. I think the validity of this argument can be problematised on a number of levels, one being through the reintroduction of the modern notion of economics that must account for both the science of managing finite resources (oikonomia), as well as the production of wealth as seemingly infinite, as is the promise of the stock market. I wonder if it is therefore useful to introduce another Greek word to this discussion following the trajectory of Aristotle, Marx and more recently Alberto Toscano among others, which is ‘chrematistics’ – a term that is somewhat opposed to oikonomia in that it describes the art of accumulating wealth for the sake of itself rather than to satisfy need.
Perhaps the term ‘economic’ feels so inadequate to what Steve is discussing – a ‘flash crash’ that is ‘outside of human understanding at any given moment’ – because economics assumes an end (the successful management of things to satisfy need) and yet this end has shown itself to be wholly unattainable within the human-made system that is the material of economic investigation, namely capitalism. Chrematistics on the other hand serves itself as its own end (as an accumulation of wealth) and arguably offers us a better grasp of what the term ‘economics’ accounts for today. In this respect if we think of the transfer and accumulation of wealth that plays out in the stock exchange as an art form (a form of production existing outside of the realm of human necessity) as oppose to approaching it from the position of science, perhaps a different reading of the 20 minute period of the ‘flash crash’ can be carried out? I have not thought through the political implications of claiming the ‘flash crash’ as being available to some sort of aesthetic judgement but it might offer a further opening in this discussion of crisis that Steve has alerted us to.