Provocation #106. Treating the economy as if it is a thing.
Imagine a car parked on the street We think we see that car for what it is. But we do not see the flows within which it is embedded. – the finance, the road rules, the factory, the material extraction from open iron-ore pits and reducing trees to plastic, the flow of oil from ancient submerged forests to oil platforms and the ships and pipelines coming to our house, and what this did to the culture of the Bedowins.
In the same way we think we “see”the economy, but are unaware of its embededness in flow and change.
-We see it as changeless natural object, unaware of the influence of Plato’s thinking that concepts are real and hidden in phenomena ready to be discovered. Hence “economy” must be real, a pure stand-alone thing.
-That surplus of economy is the result of a well managed estate (said Aristotle and Plato) and should be used, not for consumption, but for leisure for philosophy and politics.
– Capitalism is a tweaking of the understanding of sexual reproduction, cap, new head of cattle with all the questions of who owns it, and what can be done with it.
– That private property comes from proper, what is proper to a man of rank to show his status in society, (are you dressed properly for the meeting?) and private comes from privatus, to remove from the public sphere. Private property is a shifting concept, and could keep on shifting.
– The Gnostic use of economy is borrowed from the Stoics to describe the way the cosmos is dispensed by Devine oversight. Hence a community with a structure and a purpose – economy, from Christianity and the idea of the community under god’s plan called, from the time of St Paul throughout Christianity “God’s household”, using the word economy, an expanded sesne of household management, that sets the conditions for the modern economy as separate from politics, and maybe larger. than the realm of the mere political
-And the Christian sense of the limitless human in quest for a limitless God in the 4th century, the first model of unlimited growth as the human person could grow, becoming, in relation to understanding god. Becoming was a new concept, and the idea of growth used for society and people a new innovation that grips us still.
– Harvey’ s blood flow as a model of an economy and the metaphor taken back and forth in the decades before Adam Smith: from body as flow of blood to economy as the flow of the “blood” of money and manufactured goods. Freud used the “economy of sexual desire.”
– Galileo and friends: numbers are real but words are arbitrary. Hence he said society should be measured, not described.
Adam Smith thought market came from barter by individuals, not realizing that “individual” is a social construct. -we start from society and evolve individuals, not from individuals, to society, and that barter never happened: the hunt or harvest was brought to the camp, settlement or village, stored and distributed, and that the nomos in eco-nomos came from early greek anomia meaning equal distribution. So nomos, law, moves full circle from protecting distribution to protecting private property. The market evolved from that distribution system.
We need a much more fluid recognition and imagination about economy and what it is about if we are to figure out to what it could be about and avoid the. systemic failures we are already in.