A Shout-out to Je Est Un Autre
I recently went through the archives of Je Est Un Autre in full, and was quite impressed. Alex Andrews (now affiliated with AUFS) wrote the blog while in graduate school for theology, interweaving portions of his thesis (on John Ruskin’s theological economics), conference papers, and his side job as a DJ. Especially near the latter portion of his blog’s lifespan, he provided some very clear and perceptive essays on political economy.
His blog is named after a quotation by Antonin Artaud: “Je est un autre, évidemment. La difficulté consiste à savoir de quel autre” [‘I is an other, obviously. The difficulty consists in knowing which other.’]. Artaud said this in his letter on the 13th of May 1871 to Georges Izambard and then again on the 15th May to Paul Demeny: his famous “lettres du voyant.” Alex explains it thus: “my I is formed by another, that which is outside myself.”
It always interests me when people are interested in economics enough to research it in their own free time; Alex reflexively takes into account his non-specialization in economics, analyzing the place of heterodox economics in relation to canonical schools, and finding that this supposed division is absent from actual practice, though this false division is nevertheless retained due to hegemonic neoclassicism in academia. Alex attacks the mathematization of economics (as well as its scientific status), revealing the immense ontological presumptions of the neoclassicists, econometrics in particular. He possesses an admirable knowledge of the history of economics, which, he emphasizes, is not as linear a path from Adam Smith to contemporary neoclassicists as the latter would like us to believe. As well, he clarifies many oversimplifications in David Harvey’s Brief History of Neoliberalism, and in his philosophical writings draws parallels among various disparate intellectual figures (e.g. Brassier & Bataille).
My complaints about Je Est Un Autre are as follows. First, it seems to me that his theological approach motivates him to utilize a somewhat facile moral view (i.e. ‘sermon on the mount’ principles). As he is a theologian by training and not an economist, this is forgivable; on the contrary, his willingness to leave the cloistered confines of theological canon is very impressive. I am disappointed, however, that he does not try to deal with more contemporary economic lines of thought in detail (e.g. chaos theory, game theory, analyzing the Hands-Mirowski thesis in terms of contemporary physics, etc.); Alex contents himself at most with describing how such movements fit into the historical development of neoliberalism.
Nevertheless, many of Alex’s essays are eminently worth reading, in particular:
- Prog & Deleuze – On Deleuze’s collaboration with the prog band Heldon.
- More Excursions Into Deleuzian Music – A list of musical tributes to Deleuze.
- Noise* Minimalism – A concise historical summary of the history of minimalist music.
- Radical Orthodoxy After The New Wittgenstein (part 1) (part 2) – On new interpretations of Wittgenstein in theology.
- Tony Lawson on the Definition of Heterodox Economics – Problematizing the division between orthodox & heterodox schools of economic thought.
- Lawson on Closed Systems in Economics – Debunking the ontological presuppositions of neoclassical economics
- The Grandeur of Treason: Religion, Markets, & Neoliberalism (part 1) (part 2) – A history of economics, with a focus on neoliberalism.
- A (Slightly Longer) History of Neoliberalism – Correcting some of the oversimplifications of Harvey’s book.