philosophy as not philosophy: para-ontology, hauntology, schizoanalysis

"Articulating the past historically does not mean recognizing it ‘the way it really was’. It means appropriating a memory as it flashes up in a moment of danger. Historical materialism wishes to hold fast that image of the past which unexpectedly appears to the historical subject in a moment of danger. The danger threatens both the content of the tradition and those who inherit it. For both, it is one and the same thing: the danger of becoming a tool of the ruling classes. Every age must strive anew to wrest tradition away from the conformism that is working to overpower it. The Messiah comes not only as the redeemer; he comes as the victor over the Antichrist. The only historian capable of fanning the spark of hope in the past is the one who is firmly convinced that even the dead will not be safe from the enemy if he is victorious. And this enemy has never ceased to be victorious."
- Walter Benjamin, Thesis VI

"The materialist doctrine concerning the changing of circumstances and upbringing forgets that circumstances are changed by men and that it is essential to educate the educator himself. This doctrine must, therefore, divide society into two parts, one of which is superior to society. The coincidence of the changing of circumstances and of human activity or self-changing can be conceived and rationally understood only as revolutionary practice."
- Karl Marx, Thesis III

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Proposal for Division III Project (Senior Thesis)

tentative title - Clandestine Agency: Blueprints for a Machinic Economy

areas of study - Philosophy, Economics

description - Economics has as its object of inquiry the arrangements of productive, allocative, and consumptive forces composing material and social life, and specifically those arrangements involving humanity as their defining element. The way in which this inquiry is conducted, as a scientific analysis of empirical phenomena on the one hand, and a prescriptive formulation of policy and strategy on the other, will depend upon the philosophic conception of the relation between the former and the latter. Thus the concepts involved and the models in which they have determinate relations both account for and actively shape the passage or movement between arrangements as existing, actual things available for analysis, and arrangement as the process of actualization by which things are produced and situated as such, and which we hope to guide and direct strategically.

The problem I wish to raise is twofold: what are the concepts and conceptual models employed by economic theory, constituting its frame of reference, both currently and historically? And how does it understand the process by which concepts are created or recreated and related in models that are then applied to the actual world? Such a research program will require analysis of the key concepts in economic theory, including agency, free will and choice, individuality, the nature of social bodies, markets, corporations, utility and desire, exchange and value. My hypothesis is that analyzing these concepts along with the processes that engender them and relate them to each other and empirical reality will shed light on overlooked potentials for the conceptual composition of economic theory. Perhaps there are modifications to be made to existing concepts, other concepts to be created or taken up, dynamic new models to draw, a superior consistency and practicality to be attained. Perhaps an emphasis on the process of conceptualization will give new impetus and new insight to the positive and normative aspects of economics, and make room for an ethics of economy at the very heart of the field.

I plan to survey the history of economic theory, from Smith, Ricardo, and Bentham to Jevons, Walras and Keynes, as well as the more neglected Marxian and Institutionalist lines, reading them through this double problem. I will draw on histories of economic thought, especially the fine accounts provided by Philip Mirowski, among others, in order to map the processes of conceptual modeling at work in these different thinkers. To chart alternative directions and possibilities for economic concepts and models, I will look to the pioneering work of Herbert Spencer on decision, agency, and rationality; Fernand Braudel's rich accounts of the historical processes composing economic reality; the growing literature on non-linear dynamics and dissipative structures in economic systems; and to a lesser extent, the approaches of World-Systems analysis and neo-institutionalism.

Finally, I will construct my overall approach, both the analytic and creative aspects, by using the works of philosophers Manuel DeLanda, Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari, and Michel Foucault. Their canons, particularly those of the latter three, are very difficult and specialized, but I am confident I can mobilize the relevant concepts in a manner that will be clear and comprehensible for readers without a strong background in philosophy and the specific niche they occupy. In this way, I hope to channel the inspiration and conceptual creativity I find in their works into a project that will be accessable to economists and offer a renewed approach to the field of economic theory.


Ryan/Aless said...

I was an Economics major in college and I pretty much concur with what Marx says that Political Economy simply takes its various assumptions as given and then analyze economic phenomena using them. I think it's high time somebody did a philosophy of economics. Promising thesis

Reid Kotlas said...

Thanks, I appreciate it, especially considering that I'm going to be working on this project for the next twelve months or so.