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New Translation of Living Currency Is Now Available

To my great excitement, Jordan Levinson has just posted an independent translation of Pierre Klossowski’s Living Currency (La Monnaie Vivante) on his website, available for perusal and download.

To those who have not read my recent (p)review of the text, Living Currency has been praised by Foucault as “the greatest book of our times” and is purported to provide the missing link from Bataille to Baudrillard and from Lacan to Foucault and Deleuze. It also played a key rôle in Lyotard’s Libidinal Economy, and doubtless (though less explicitly) in Deleuze & Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus.

If anyone is interested but finds Klossowski’s style of writing too abstruse, I intend to engage in a close reading of the text, delineating Klossowski’s thought in more accessible language, in addition to tying it in with other theoretical accounts of political economy (such as those of the authors mentioned above, plus the more contemporary For a New Critique of Political Economy by Bernard Stiegler). Optimally, I hope to figure out the text’s implications for the way we think about the economy & economics in general, and to incorporate these into my honors thesis on the work of Piero Sraffa (which you’ll hear more about in the near future).

(For the record, Levinson’s translation is unaffiliated with the translation by Reena Spaulings which I mention in my review.)

A Primer on Neuromarketing

Neuromarketing is one of the latest paradigms making itself felt in the sphere of marketing. Its premise is simple: given the vast amount of inaccuracy in data-collecting methods (e.g. disparities between stated preference in surveys & revealed preference in purchasing), a more objective means of assessing consumer responses is to use neurotechnology to get straight to the heart of the consumer. Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and Electroencephalography (EEG) are used while exposing consumers to products and advertisements, and their cognitive responses are recorded and interpreted. Significant progress has been made, but due to the current expense of neurotechnology (not to mention the legal issues surrounding it, as in the case of France), neuromarketing companies are relatively scarce, with 13 worldwide as of 2007. One of the more prominent companies, NeuroCo, charged $90,000 per study in 2005 (Mucha, 2005: 2-3). Nevertheless, many powerful companies have begun to enlist the service of neuromarketers, such as Hewlett-Packard, Frito-Lay, Google, Motorola, Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Nestlé, Unilever, Proctor & Gamble, L’Oréal, and Fox, for issues ranging from the optimal color of packaging to the effectiveness of movie trailers. Inevitably, the widening availability of such technologies has lead to much bombast and panic, particularly fears about locating a ‘buy button’ in the consumer’s mind, forcing them to buy things they don’t need or to eat until they’re obese. In this essay I hope to briefly explain the technology in use by neuromarketers, to address some of the fears (groundless and justified) about neuromarketing, and to highlight some cases of neuromarketing in practice.
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Defending ‘Human Rationality’

[Edit 17/01/24: This is one of the first posts I made on this blog. I wrote it when I was a freshman. While it’s embarrassing to reread my ‘juvenilia’, to my surprise it’s not nearly as piss as I thought it would be (at least after a few edits). While editing, a link accidentally got posted on my social media accounts. While I’m mortified to think people might actually read this, the post has a charming spontaneity to it that I feel I’ve lost since then.]

Out of all the precepts of economics, that of rational human actors is the one most criticized by laypersons (particularly continental philosophers). However, economists usually find their propositions quite self-evident (we should think of ‘rationality’ as a utilitarian sort):

  • Agents have stable, well-defined preferences and make rational choices that are consistent with these preferences.
  • Whatever their preferences, agents will attempt to maximize their satisfaction subject to the constraints they face.
  • Agents prefer more of what they want to less.
  • Agents will satisfy more urgent needs before less urgent ones.
  • The goal of an action is to remove an uneasiness.

…et cetera.

This problem can be circumvented by separating ‘rationality’ from the set of premisses on which an individual or group bases their reasoning at a given time. In doing so, all of the above propositions can be retained, while ‘irrational’ behaviour can be explained as due to false premises. In this fashion, one can act ‘irrationally’ while still being fully consistent with the above principles of human rationality. Thus, ‘irrational’ behaviour, in logical terminology, can be said to be ‘valid’, but not ‘true’.

In fact, the scope of human action which is outside the range of rationality or our meaning of irrationality is exceptional, as the following examples will endeavor to show. Michel Foucault, in Madness & Civilization[1] (a condensed version of his History of Madness), writes of a man who believes that he is made of glass, and who is subsequently diagnosed as melancholic (in an archaic use of the term) and sent to an asylum. Foucault notes with interest that this man behaves in an entirely rational manner, except for his false premise (a mode of behaviour referred to by early psychologists as ‘melancholia’). That is to say, he behaves exactly as a person would if they actually had become glass. In a similar episode, a man who believes that he is dead is sent to an asylum, where he was entirely docile, but refused to take meals because, after all, dead people do not eat. The head of the asylum, in an experiment, recruits a troupe of volunteers to dress up as dead people, via make-up, et cetera. They are put in a room with the ‘dead’ patient, where a feast is set before them. The ‘dead’ man queries “But I thought that dead people do not eat?” “Of course dead people eat!” replied one of the volunteers. Thereafter, the patient ate heartily, all the while still believing that he was dead. Read the rest of this entry