Bruno Latour held a lecture in the Black Diamant library in Central Copenhagen last wednesday. Under the title “The affect of capitalism”, the basic premise of the lecture was to question what will happen if we get rid of “the economy”?
For me, probably rainbows will appear in the sky and all kind of beautiful phenomena will emerge.
Good news, the lecture is on You Tube already.
I was specially interested in how he described our relation with capitalism as a “pathological spiritual masochism”, a fascination for defragmentation, and that is why he propose to abandon the word all the way, because just thinking about capitalism – as a way to be affected by the world – and any discussion associated with economics , render the most of us helpless.
His description of financialisation as infinitecialisation is also very apt when you consider the religious and fake nature of economics, which leads to break boundaries constantly and therefore set the stage for “transcendent capitalism”: unbound, unregulated, extraterrestrial.
I founded a bit ironic he refers to the earth as Gaia, but when you think in Gaia the images of volcanoes exploding , floods and tsunamis became much clear than the also very real concept of global warming. But also, Gaia has historicity. That is why he didn’t let pass the chance of situating the negative affect of capitalism within the Anthropocene, the mix of geology with human action, and which is often indistinguishable from each other. The economy is subverting the planet earth and what will define time will be the winner: ecology or the economy. However, if we don’t get rid of capitalism, Gaia will and is doing so, the earth is just shaking it away.
The proposal of Latour is to go back to nature, first nature, kind of “Bring enterprise down to earth” and for do so he gives 11 points to consider, understand and act against the fallacy of trascendental capitalism. (Hence his tone at the end)
11. Economist can’t interpret the world
1. Economics marketing, finance, administration, business, etc.. do no not make science they are just a set of disciplines.
2. Economics as market organization should not be transformed into a system and certainly not a natural system
3. You need to be radical with an unfair destructive system. Capitalism is not transcendent is just the narrative fabricated around it.
4. if true economy comes with liberty there is no reason why liberty shouldn’t be expended vs the artificial economy. (Liberalism means not letting anything go, not letting anything pass)
5. Economy is the suspension of faith.
6. Trascendent capitalism: Time and space coordination had been suspended. Future and past has been turned into utopia. Capitalism is NOT transcendent.
7. There is a deep contradiction in the unleashing of boundless technology and the actual history of economics.
8. Market organization is clashing with the earth. Gaia. This new fight define ourselves. There is nothing natural in the market organization.
9. Homo economicus basically suck in every sense.
10. Destruction can’t be unmade. There is no faith in a landscape of inequalities.
He ended with an update on the slogan of the anti-globalization movement, Seattle style:
“Align with the globe vs the global”.
My only surprise was that he didn’t mentioned geo-engineering as the response of capitalism to the innevitable revolt of Gaia. Is not that capitalists forces are tinkering how to respond, they do have a response prepared and as Philip Mirowski explains in “Never let a serious crisis go into waste”, geo-engineering in many ways is the end of goal of neoliberalism.
At the end of the lecture, the economy, disguised as Carlsberg, made a ridiculous presentation about their foundation and great beer that made possible that lecture. Almost it felt as a test about the lecture. Felt so incredibly wrong but also a great performance to make clear how capitalism has the power of render helpless to the most of us while giving so much optimistic energy to some enterprises like Carlsberg - and pretend Latour didn’t say anything at all.