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:

**Note: For those who are interested, Alex also has a magnificent presentation available on mp3 here.  It’s the only one in the collection worth listening to.

About Graham Joncas

We are a way for capital to know itself.

Posted on September 8, 2011, in Economics, History, Politics, Review and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Hi there,

    Thanks very much for this, what a blast from the past! I am both flattered and touched by this. I actually quite like the idea of the blog as a closed project now, a kind of canon people can look at from my MA year. Makes me wish I had blogged a bit harder during my PhD so people could reflect on it also.

    Just a few things, I’ve never really written “confessional theology” or ethics from a Christian perspective, but always been interesting in political theology, economics and what could be called continental philosophy of religion (my BA was on the theory of religion in Rene Girard, and my PhD is on religion in early neoliberalism). This is why I fit in well with the AUFS crew. I cannot help my training, but think I get a little far from simple sermonising, indeed, I am getting increasingly interested in the need for the left to embrace technical economics to propose solutions combining the ethical with the technical. As for things I don’t talk about, I am well aware of all the things you mention. In my MA I explored the history of game theory and the involvement of RAND in its creation and so on, but I find game theory totally unconvincing as an approach. Paul Omerod’s book on chaos theory and economics is on my shelf (Butterfly Economics), but I haven’t particularly thought about it for a while. I am aware of econophysics, but I am dubious as to its value, considering it appears to repeat precisely the errors Mirowski ascribes in the Hands-Mirowski thesis just updating the physics to contemporary complex models to give it an additional scientistic veneer – but I’d have to reserve real judgement until a proper literature survey. My main problem with the most interesting heterodox approaches, for example critical realism, (while I have a platform!) is they seem to do well at the critique but poorly at the positive suggestions.

    Thanks again for this,


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: