Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Money Wisdom #392

" During the Second War, the U.S.O. sent special issues of the principal American magazines to the Armed Forces, with the ads omitted. The men insisted on having the ads back again. Naturally. The ads are by far the best part of any magazine or newspaper. More pains and thought go into the making of an ad than into any prose feature of press or magazine. Ads are news. What is wrong with them is that they are always good news. In order to balance off the effect and to sell good news, it is necessary to have a lot of bad news. "

Marshall McLuhan Understanding Media (1964) p.229

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Money Wisdom #391

"The uniformity and repeatability of print permeated the Renaissance with the idea of time and space as continuous measurable quantities. The immediate effect of this idea was to desacralize the world of nature and the world of power alike. The new technique of control of physical processes by segmentation and fragmentation separated God and Nature as much as Man and Nature, or man and man. Shock at this departure from the traditional vision and inclusive awareness was often directed toward the figure of Machiavelli, who had merely spelled out the new quantitative and neutral or scientific ideas of force as applied to the manipulation of kingdoms."

Marshall McLuhan Understanding Media (1964) p. 191-2

Friday, December 11, 2015

Money Wisdom #390

"As a piece of technology, the clock is a machine that produces uniform seconds, minutes, and hours on an assembly-line pattern. Processed in this way, time is separated from the rhythms of human experience. The mechanical clock, in short, helps to create the image of a numerically quantified and mechanically powered universe. It was in the world of the medieval monasteries, with their need for a rule and for synchronized order to guide communal life, that the clock got started on its modern developments. Time measured not by the uniqueness of private experience but by abstract uniform units gradually pervades all sense life, much as does the technology of writing and printing. Not only work but also eating and sleeping, came to accommodate themselves to the clock rather than to organic needs. As the pattern of arbitrary and uniform measurement of time extended itself across society, even clothing began to undergo annual alteration in a way convenient for industry. At that point, of course, mechanical measurement of time as a principle of applied knowledge joined forces with printing and assembly line as means of uniform fragmentation of processes.
     The most integral and involving time sense imaginable is that expressed in the Chinese and Japanese cultures. Until the coming of the missionaries in the seventeenth century, and the introduction of mechanical clocks, the Chinese and Japanese had for thousands of years measured time by gradations of incense. Not only the hours and days, but the seasons and the zodiacal signs were simultaneously indicated by a succession of carefully ordered scents."

Marshall McLuhan Understanding Media (1964) p.158

Note: I think it's possible that McLuhan over-emphasizes the measurement of time by smell. I like the idea, but if you read Silvo Bedini's The Scent of Time - a study of the use of fire and incense for time measurement in Oriental countries (link) which was published in 1963 by the journal of the American Philosophical Society, the year before McLuhan's book was published, telling the time by smell seems to be an effect of the technology of measurement, rather than the media of time-telling itself. Interestingly though, it's reported that up until 1924 some Geisha houses measured the 'entertainment time' provided by the use of a burning incense stick (see p.28). 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Money wisdom #389

" 'Money talks' because money is a metaphor, a transfer, and a bridge. Like words and language money is a storehouse of communally achieved work, skill and experience. Money, however, is also a specialist technology like writing; and as writing intensifies the visual aspect of speech and order, and as the clock visually separates time from space, so money separates work from other social functions. Even today money is a language for translating the work of the farmer into the work of the barber, doctor, engineer, or plumber. As a vast social metaphor, bridge, or translator, money - like writing - speeds up exchanges and tightens the bonds of interdependence in any community. It gives great spatial extension and control to political organizations, just as writing does, or the calendar. It is action at a distance both in space and in time. In a highly literate, fragmented society, 'time is money' and money is the store of other people's time and effort."

Marshall McLuhan Understanding Media (1964) p.147

Monday, December 7, 2015

Money Wisdom #388

"...America seems to be a land of abstractions, where numbers have taken on an existence of their own in phrases like '57 Varieties',  'the 5 and 10', or '7 up' and behind the 8-ball.' It figures. Perhaps this is a kind of echo of an industrial culture that depends heavily on prices, charts and figures. Take 36-24-36. Numbers cannot be more sensuously tactile than when mumbled as the magic formula for the female figure while the haptic hand sweeps the air."

Marshall McLuhan Understanding Media (1964) p.118-119

Money Wisdom #387

"It may very well be that in our conscious inner lives the interplay among our senses is what constitutes the sense of touch. Perhaps touch is not just skin contact with things, but the very life of things in the mind? "

Marshall McLuhan Understanding Media (1964) p. 117

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Money Wisdom #386

"Without language, Bergson suggests, human intelligence would have remained totally involved in the objects of its attention. Language does for intelligence what the wheel does for the feet and body. It enables them to move from thing to thing with greater ease and speed and ever less involvement. Language extends and amplifies man but it also divides his faculties. His collective consciousness or intuitive awareness is diminished by this technical extension of consciousness that is speech."

Marshall McLuhan Understanding Media (1964) p. 86

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Money Wisdom #385

JC We were going to do it [burn £1 million] live on TV live, but we wanted to make it as pure as possible, that's why we went to the island...
     Laughter and derision at the word 'pure'.
MBA Fucking bollocks.
BD OK, what's a purer way of burning a million quid? Come on... pure.
MBA Taking it to Buckingham Place and burning it...
BD No, that's based on bitterness and hatred, we're talking about purity.
MBA Who wants purity, man?
MBA Why are we here?
MBA But what inspired you?
BD I actually think that everyone in here knows why we burnt that million quid, and the reason why you're here is that you know you can't explain why. In the same way as we can't put into words why we did it, you actually know in yourselves why we did it - and you're hoping that we can put into words for you.
JC I'd go along with that.
BD And I'm afraid we haven't got those words.

Chris Brook K Foundation Burn a Million Quid (1997) p.130-2

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Money Burning at the Cube Cinema Bristol of the 23rd Nov's Eve

On Sunday 22nd November 2015, I was at the Cube Cinema event 'KLF: Chaos, Magic and the Band Who Burned a Million Pounds'. It consisted of a screening of an art film about the KLF, a talk by John Higgs and some ritualistic money burning. I was there to help with the burning.

The film was excellent (by David AKA hoppo or @mr_hopkinson). The audience all wore white ponchos with the cube logo on them which added a whole extra level of weird to the experience. It was a one off so I'm not sure you'll be able to see it now but the trailer below gives a taste of what you missed. I was lucky enough catch half of John's talk, which was as engaging as ever (and involved a brilliant new tale about 'prison currency'* from John's adventures talking about his KLF book). I had to leave John to it though because I needed to set up a 'burning-space' in the garden.

Thanks to Chiz at the Cube, I was offering a ritualized money burning to those that wanted it. Basically the Cube gave back to the audience part of their admission fee. They then asked that people add their own money to it and consider burning it all with me in the garden (see this image from folkhogskola's Instagram). Many people took up their offer and they met me in groups of five around the alter to make their sacrifice, where I performed a brief ritual.

I haven't written about it on my blog, but I did a money burning recently that had a more profound effect on me than normal. I've mentioned before that I wanted the burnings to be more ritualized, and I managed to achieve this with the help of Angela at a burning in Overhall Grove, Knapwell in Cambridgeshire on 23/08/2015. It was the very next morning that I got an email from Chiz at the Cube cinema telling me about his money burning idea.

To cut a long story short, I set about writing (what turned into) 'The Money Burner's Manual' in the space between the 23/08/15 Overhall Grove burning and the Cube event on Sunday 22/11/15. I managed to get it finished on the Saturday evening 21/11/15. I'd found a printer that was open 24/7 and had made 23 copies of the 105 page document. I kept one for myself. Saved another few for people that I thought must have one. And I then gave most of the rest away randomly at the Cube event. I had two left at the end of the night. But they've now gone. I was going to publish it online. But I've changed my mind. I'm leaving it at the 23 for the moment. I will eventually make something generally available along the lines of a 'Money Burner's Manual' - (perhaps with a few ideas for rituals which this one didn't have) - just not right now.

It was a great privilege to share the money burning experience with the folks at the Cube. I'm pretty sure that people gathering together in small groups to burn money in a sacrificial ritual has never happened before the Cube burnings. I hope that I can be forgiven for the times I didn't get the ritual quite right. I learned an awful lot from the night about how best to perform it and what circumstances are most conducive to it. I hope I soon get another chance to put those lessons into practice. 

Prior to burning I asked people if they'd write down the serial numbers of their notes for me. I lent them my most precious pen to do this (not £ valuable, but given to me by my kids). It felt somehow appropriate; because folks were putting their trust in me with the burning, I should put my trust in them too. Lending out my pen was the way I found to do that. I'm pleased to say it was returned to me safe and sound.

I must apologize to the first three or four groups of burners. I got so wrapped up in what I was trying to do, that I forgot to hand out some of the 23 'Money Burner's Manuals'. So they missed out. I'd meant to hand out one or two to each group. I feel bad about this because the within the first few groups there were some very powerful moments. When everyone joins in with the chanting, and really focuses on the burning money, the feeling of self-consciousness slips away, and the ritual can become a profound experience. As I say, I'm not sure I'm going to publish it online, but if anyone wants a pdf of 'The Money Burner's Manual', drop me an email to jonone100 [at] gmail [dot] com and I'll send you one privately.

I've created a 'Record of all £ Burnings'. If you subtract Bill & Jimmy's £1 million, and my £220, and Mark Sampson's £10, and Angela's £20 - then the Cube burnings amount to £190 according to this. Personally, I think it was a lot more. If you did burn, please have a look to see if I've included your money (where initials were given, I've shown them). Any additions or amendments you think need making, please comment under this post (or email me) and I'll make all necessary adjustments. I know I saw one £20 go up, and that's not there. The serial numbers appear in the order they were written down in the little book. 

And thank you to everyone who burned and help create such an extraordinary and singular event. This is what remained of the money.

I'm happy to help with any other burnings, if I can; anything from a quick chat about how the ritual might work and supporting you in performing your own burnings, to coming and performing them with you in the presence of the Staff. Just email, and I'll see how I can help. 

Oh, and one last little bit of sneaky synchronicity. When preparing the record of burn I noticed that two sequentially numbered notes were burned separately MC71 184637 & MC71 184638. I didn't notice any batches of particularly new-looking fivers among the money, so this struck me as a joyfully random event with a high degree of unlikelihood. And if he's reading this, could THE BLACKSMITH get in touch to share with me a few tips on how he managed to burn his notes in the most extraordinary way I've ever seen. By some magical trickery not known to us mere mortals he made his hand act like a hearth, and his notes burned fiercely without injuring him.

Thanks everyone. It was wonderful.

*(Money geek note: 'Prison currency' and 'Cigarettes as Money' plays a significant role in the economic/academic conceptualization of money the most famous paper being R.A. Radford's 'The Economic Organization of a P.O.W. Camp' published in the journal Economica in 1945)

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Money Wisdom #384

"In the electric age, when our central nervous system is technologically extended to involve us in the whole of mankind and to incorporate the whole of mankind in us, we necessarily participate, in depth, in the consequences of our every action."

Marshall McLuhan Understanding Media (1964) p.4-5

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Money Wisdom #383

" Language has never been more perfectly distinguished from mind, never more intimately bound to Eros, than by Kraus in the observation 'The more closely you look at a word the more distantly it looks back.' "

Walter Benjamin One Way Street - Karl Kraus (Verso) [1930-1931] (1997) p.284

Friday, October 9, 2015

Money Wisdom #382

" Any serious exploration of occult, surrealistic, phantasmagoric gifts and phenomena presupposes a dialectical intertwinement to which a romantic turn of mind is impervious. For histrionic or fanatical stress on the mysterious side of the mysterious takes us no further; we penetrate the mysterious only to the the degree that we recognize it in the everyday world, by virtue of a dialectical optic that perceives the everyday as impenetrable, the impenetrable as everyday. The most passionate investigation of telepathic phenomena, for example, will not teach us half as much about reading (which is an eminently telepathic process), as the profane illumination of reading about the telepathic phenomena. And the most passionate investigation of the hashish trance will not teach us half as much about thinking (which is entirely narcotic), as the profane illumination of thinking about the hashish trance. The reader, the thinker, the loiterer, the flâneur, are types of illuminati just as much as the opium eater, the dreamer, the ecstatic. And more profane. Not to mention that most terrible drug - ourselves - which we take in solitude. "

Walter Benjamin One Way Street - Surrealism (Verso) [1929] (1997) p.237

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Money Wisdom #381

" The trance abated when I crossed the Cannebière and at last turned the corner to have a final ice cream at the little Café des Cours Belsunce. It was not far from the first café of the evening, in which, suddenly, the amorous joy dispensed by the contemplation of some fringes blown by the wind had convinced me that the hashish had begun its work. And when I recall this state I should like to believe that hashish persuades nature to permit us - for less egoistic purposes - that squandering of our own existence that we know in love. For if, when we love, our existence runs through nature's fingers like golden coins that she cannot hold and lets fall to purchase new birth thereby, she now throws us, without hoping or expecting anything, in ample handfuls to existence. "

Walter Benjamin One Way Street - Hashish in Marseilles (Verso) [1928] (1997) p.222

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Money Wisdom #380

" But over there, on the other quay, stretches the mountain range of 'souvenirs', the mineral hereafter of sea shells. Seismic forces have thrown up this massif of paste jewellery, shell limestone and enamel, where inkpots, steamers, anchors, mercury columns, and sirens commingle. The pressure of a thousand atmospheres under which this world of imagery writhes, rears, piles up, is the same force that is tested in the hard hands of seamen, after long voyages, on the thighs and breasts of women, and the lust that, on the shell-covered caskets, presses from the mineral world a read or blue velvet heart to be pierced with needles and brooches, is the same that sends tremors through these streets on paydays. "

Walter Benjamin One Way Street (Verso Edition) [1928] (1997) p.212

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Money Wisdom #379

"When the consciousness of the latent presence of violence in a legal institution disappears, the institution falls into decay. In our time parliaments provide an example of this. They offer the familiar, woeful spectacle because they have not remained conscious of the revolutionary forces to which they owe their existence."

Walter Benjamin One Way Street (Verso) ([1921], 1997) p.142

Friday, October 2, 2015

Money Wisdom #378


If one had to expound the doctrine of antiquity with the utmost brevity while standing on one leg, as did Hillel that of the Jews, it could only be in this sentence: 'They alone shall possess the earth who live from the powers of the cosmos.' Nothing distinguishes the ancient from the modern man so much as the former's absorption in a cosmic experience scarcely known to later periods. Its waning is marked by the flowering of astronomy at the beginning of the modern age. Kepler, Copernicus and Tycho Brahe were certainly not driven by scientific impulses alone. All the same, the exclusive emphasis on an optical connection to the universe, to which astronomy very quickly led, contained a portent of what was to come. The ancients' intercourse with the cosmos had been different: the ecstatic trance. For it is in this experience alone that we gain certain knowledge of what is nearest to us and what is remotest to us, and never of one without the other. This means however that man can be in ecstatic contact with the cosmos only communally. It is the dangerous error of modern man to regard this experience as unimportant and avoidable, and to consign it to the individual as the poetic rapture of starry nights. It is not; its hour strikes again and again, and then neither nations nor generations can escape it, as was made terribly clear by the last war, which was an attempt at a new and unprecedented commingling with the cosmic powers. Human multitudes, gases, electrical forces were hurled into the open country, high-frequency currents coursed through the landscape, new constellations arose in the sky, aerial space and ocean depths thundered with propellers, and everywhere sacrificial shafts were dug into Mother Earth. This immense wooing of the cosmos was enacted for the first time on a planetary scale, that is, in the spirit of technology. But who would trust a cane wielder who proclaimed the mastery of children by adults to be the purpose of education? Is not education above all the indispensable ordering of the relationship between generations and therefore mastery, if we are to use this term, of that relationship and not of children? And likewise technology is not the mastery of nature but of the relation between nature and man. Men as a species completed their development thousands of years ago, but mankind as a species is just beginning his. In technology a physis is being organized through which mankind's contact with the cosmos takes a new and different form from that which it had in nations and families. One need recall only the experience of velocities by virtue of which mankind is now preparing to embark on incalculable journeys into the interior of time, to encounter there rhythms from which the sick shall draw strength as they did earlier on high mountains or at Southern seas. The 'Lunaparks' are a prefiguration of sanatoria. The paroxysm of genuine cosmic experience is not tied to that tiny fragment of nature that we are accustomed to call 'Nature'. In the nights of annihilation of the last war the frame of mankind was shaken by a feeling that resembled the bliss of the epileptic. And the revolts that followed it were the first attempt of mankind to bring the new body under its control. The power of the proletariat is the measure of its convalescence. If it is not gripped to the very marrow by the discipline of power, no pacifist polemics will save it. Living substance conquers the frenzy of destruction only in the ecstasy of procreation. "

Walter Benjamin One Way Street (Verso Edition) [1925-6] (1997) p.103-104

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Review of Stranger Than We Can Imagine by John Higgs

This review appears here on and here (update when it appears) on If it puts the omph in your omphalos, please do pop over there and click the like button.

An Exquisitely Crafted Perspective on the C20th

The scale and scope of what Higgs presents us with in this book is belied by its easy reading.

It reminded me a little of Bill Bryson's 'A Short History of Nearly Everything' in that Higgs's writing manages to combine breadth and depth without being heavy or obtuse. Key to this, is his choice of motif. As well as the recurrent theme of perspectivism (or what readers of Higgs's brilliant KLF book might prefer to call multiple-model agnosticism), the motif of 'the omphalos' acts for the book as it did in the ancient world, as the 'axis mundi' (or, centre of the world). Higgs's history of the C20th revolves around several often interrelated and seemingly solid and concrete ideas; certainties of science, belief, social order, and culture which bedrocked our conception of the world at particular points in the C20th. As the narrative seamlessly morphs from the destruction of one omphalos to the creation of another, the reader perceives a sense of a movement between certainty and uncertainty, order and chaos. That perception of movement acts to challenge the polarizing dynamic of dualism so inherent to our Western thought. This appreciation of the meaning of the movement itself, rather than a blinkered and functional view of where the movement takes us, also serves to help Higgs avoid the awful phrase that I most dread seeing in any historical treatment of the currents of thought, science and culture ; 'We now know'.

That Higgs considers his subjects contextually, with an empathy for the contemporary perspectives - and because of his tacit challenge to dualism - any quibbles one has with him, over the details and points of focus of his historical gaze, tend fizzle out. With such a huge landscape to map out, there are bound to be moments where his perspective will not coincide with your own [for me it was his general treatment of Money and the specific chapter on Sex]. But that your own and Higgs's ideas differ, does not make them incompatible within the larger framework. This isn't to say that anything goes. The reader still gets a sense of who Higgs is, what he believes, and a feeling for his moral compass, his sense of humour and his humanity. But rather, it says that our models of the world are always and necessarily limited. Some are better than others, of course. The real danger lies though, in straitjacketing ourselves within one particular set of ideas, rather than in those ideas being right or wrong. Over time, it seems pretty likely that actually they will be regarded as wrong at some point.

Fans of Higgs's KLF book, and those persuaded to the book by Alan Moore's endorsement, might wonder quite how much magical thinking permeates it. The only overt passage that springs to mind is very near the end where Higgs applies a concept from Alchemy to explain some ideas about reductionism and holism, and how it is that the isolating drive to individualism can conclude in its counterpoint - the creation of a network society. I think though, the influences of Chaos Magic and Robert Anton Wilson run throughout the book all the same. By not being laid bare within the body of the text they are perhaps, presented in their best light - that is, hidden in the shadows. I think this is actually helpful for general reader. The exigencies of offering an overt explanation of magical thinking would've created too much dissonance, especially for readers with a bent towards materialism and techno-scientific explanations of reality. And I expect, there will be many such readers. Higgs explanations of relativity, chaos theory and in particular his brilliant metaphor for quantum mechanics (the imagined media reaction to Vladimir Putin punching a kangaroo) will really appeal to this audience. But I also expect those alternative ways of thinking that have influenced Higgs himself, will take seed quietly within the mind of every reader.

In a way, this book is a bit like an Adam Curtis documentary - but whereas Curtis has sounds and pictures to get across more complex ideas than are expressed in his simple narrative, Higgs somehow manages to do that trick with words only and still made it read easy. It's a truly impressive book. And I can't think of anyone I know who wouldn't thoroughly enjoy it.

Money Wisdom #377

" Beyond doubt : a secret connection exists between the measure of goods and the measure of life, which is to say, between money and time. The more trivial the content of a lifetime, the more fragmented, multifarious, and disparate are its moments, while the grand period characterizes a superior existence. Very aptly, Lichtenberg suggests that time whiled away should be seen as smaller, rather than shorter, and he also observes: 'a few dozen million minutes make up a life of forty-five years, and something more.' When a currency is in use a few million units of which are insignificant, life will have to be counted in seconds, rather than years, if it is to appear a respectable sum. And it will be frittered away like a bundle of bank notes: Austria cannot break the habit of thinking in Florins. "

Walter Benjamin One Way Street (Verso Edition) (1997) p.96

Money Wisdom #376

" Nothing is poorer than a truth expressed as it was thought. Committed to writing in such a case, it is not even a bad photograph. And truth refuses (like a child or a woman who does not love us), facing the lens of the writing while we crouch under the black cloth, to keep still and look amiable. Truth wants to be startled abruptly, at one stroke, from her self-immersion, whether by uproar, music or cries for help. Who could count the alarm signals with which the inner world of the true writer is equipped? And to 'write' is nothing other than to set them jangling. Then the sweet odalisque rises with a start, snatches whatever first comes to hand in the mêlée of her boudoir, our cranium, wraps it around her and flees us, almost unrecognizable, to other other people. But how well-constituted she must be, how healthily built, to step in such manner among them, contorted, rattled, and yet victorious, captivating. "

Walter Benjamin One Way Street (Verso Edition) (1997) p.95

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Money Wisdom #375

"Work on good prose has three steps: a musical stage when it is composed, an architectonic one when it is built, and a textile one when it is woven."

Walter Benjamin One Way Street (Verso Edition) (1997) p.61

Money Wisdom #374

"He who loves is attached not only to the 'faults' of the beloved, not only to the whims and weaknesses of a woman. Wrinkles in the face, moles, shabby clothes, and a lopsided walk bind him more lastingly and relentlessly than any beauty. This has long been known. And why? If the theory is correct that a feeling is not located in the head, that we sentiently experience a window, a cloud, a tree not in our brains but, rather, in the place we see it, then we are, in looking at our beloved, too, outside ourselves. But in a torment of tension and ravishment. Our feeling, dazzled, flutters like a flock of birds in the woman's radiance. And as birds seek refuge in the leafy recesses of a tree, feelings escape into the shaded wrinkles, the awkward movements and inconspicuous blemishes of the body we love, where they can lie low in safety. And no passer-by would guess that it is just here, in what is defective and censurable, that the fleeting darts of adoration nestle."

Walter Benjamin One Way Street (Verso Edition) (1997) p.52

Money Wisdom #373

"The power of a country road is different when one is walking along it from when one is flying over it by airplane. In the same way the power of a text is different when it is read to when it is copied out. The airplane passenger sees only how the road pushes through the landscape, how it unfolds according to the same laws as the terrain surrounding it. Only he who walks the road on foot learns the power it commands, and of how, from the very scenery that for the flier is only the unfurled plain, it calls forth distances, belvederes, clearings, prospects at each of its turns like a commander deploying soldiers at a front. Only the copied text thus commands the soul of him who is occupied with it, whereas the mere reader never discovers the new aspects of his inner self that are opened up by the text, that road cut through the interior jungle forever closing behind it: because the reader follows the movement of his mind in the free flight of day-dreaming, whereas the copier submits it to command."

Walter Benjamin One Way Street (Verso Edition) (1997) p.50

Money Wisdom #372

"First sketched in 1923, [A Tour of German Inflation] condensed Benjamin's reactions to the economic misery of the time, and the degradation of social and personal experience that accompanied it. The material crisis of the German intelligentsia evoked here was to be one of the most constant themes of this journalistic interventions, recurring again and again in his book reviews of the later twenties. The political conclusions he drew from it were now intransigently radical. Where he had written with contemplative resignation in the early draft of 1923: 'But no-one may ever make peace with poverty when it falls like a gigantic shadow upon his countrymen and his house. Then he must be alert to every humiliation done to him and so discipline himself so that his suffering becomes no longer the downhill road of hate but the rising path of prayer', he now reversed the terms of the same passage, to read: 'so discipline himself so that his suffering no longer becomes the downhill road of grief, but the rising path of revolt'. The change can stand as the motto of his political radicalization."

Publisher's Note in Walter Benjamin One Way Street (Verso Edition) (1997) p.34

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

My Offer to Those That Would Burn

I sense the winds of change. Two things, apparently unrelated but part of the same movement.

In these past few days my tips have gone up at work. My colleagues have noticed the same thing. You get more tips if you deliver to certain areas. It's not necessarily related to wealth. Essex is the best county, the London SW's the best area. But this increase has been across the board. It's a temporal variation rather than a spatial one. It's like it's Christmas. In fact, I've taken more in tips these last two days than I did over the whole of Christmas and New Year 2013.

The other thing, perhaps a bit more certain that my reading of the tipping runes, is that online some beautiful children of the future - reaching out as forward tastes begin to enter them - have been talking to me about money burning.

Anyway, ever the optimist, I take these events to mean that a time of waste and sacrifice is approaching. We might be picking up a wave of resonance from the Big Burn back on 23/08/1994. It's unconsciously directing us toward offering up our currency for no reward. This, my friends, is a crack in the logic of capitalism.

My offer to you then, is that I'll help you burn your money.

What this help consists of is tricky to specify. I can talk beforehand with you about how you're going to perform your burning, and about when to burn. If you want me present (and I really hope you do), I'll travel to you at my own expense. If you feel comfortable to do so, I can recite a mantra with you and suggest words that you might say yourself at the moment of burning. You might be surprised how compelled you feel to say something meaningful when you burn. If you like, I can bring with me some items that will help set the scene - a burning bowl, a beeswax candle, the Staff for the casting of a circle. I can't guarantee that I can also burn. That will depend. The right time for your burning, might not coincide with the right time for my burning. So much depends upon one's situation - not only in the literal sense of whether one has money to burn, but also in how the world and its events fits around each individual's burning. I give you my solemn word that I will respect your right to privacy. I'm an advocate for money burning, but I promise not to say anything about your burning without your permission. I won't pester you for your permission either.

I'm not for a second saying that you need me at your money burning. You don't. But what I have learned from my own burnings is that if you pay attention to the circumstances of the ritual and the ritual itself, the intensity of the experience is amplified. This amplification also occurs when others are involved as both witnesses and/or participants. I really want to develop these ideas with you, so that together we can find a form of ritual that helps us understand - and fully experience - what it means to burn money. An intellectual understanding of destroying currency is just the visible light in a wide spectrum of money burning radiation.

When the founder of Soft Machine, Kevin Ayers, was found dead in February 2013, there was a note beside his bed. Its thought to have been a title idea for a song, or part of a lyric. It said;

"You can't shine if you don't burn."

Email me. Don't leave it. Do it now.

Monday, August 10, 2015

(Nearly) First View of Museum Des Geldes I & II

These catalogues arrived a month apart. I hadn't realized there were two of them and so initially ordered the wrong one. They're quite expensive costing around £30 each especially when, like me, one can't speak or read German. I made this 'first view' video with the intention of sticking it at the end of an essay I'm writing. But writing-wise things have taken a different turn so I'm not going to use it like that.

I didn't want to waste it, though. I know watching it would have been useful to me before I spent my £60. Plus, I'm keen to make a bit more use of video etc on my blog. And the 'first view' thing has worked for me as a viewer on some of the weird music I like, so this serves a bit of an experiment to see if it works for obscure foreign language art-money catalogues.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Rear Cover of Museum Of Money I Dusseldorf 1978 & my translation

Vom Opferritual bis zur Tauschwirtschaft
Vom Labyrinth bis zur Börse
vom Altar bis zum Bankschalter
Von der Grabkammer bis zum Safe
Von der Kaurischnecke bis zur Scheckkarte
Vom Schlachtfest bis zum Sparschwein
Von der Großen Mutter bis zur Emanzipation der Frau
Von der Höhle bis zum Museum
Vom fetisch bis zum Kunstwerk

From Sacrificial Ritual to the Exchange Economy
From Labyrinth to Stock Market
From the Altar to the Bank Counter
From the Tomb to the Safe
From Cowrie Shell to Bank Card
From Ceremonial Slaughter to Piggy Bank
From the Great Mother to the Emancipation of Women
From the Cave to the Museum
From Fetish to Artwork

Rear Cover of Museum Des Geldes I Dusseldorf 1978

Monday, July 27, 2015

Money Wisdom #372

"The most praiseworthy way of acquiring books is by writing them, Benjamin remarks in 'Unpacking My Library'. And the best way to understand them is also to enter their space: one never really understands a book unless one copies it, he says in One-Way Street, as one never understands a landscape from an airplane but only by walking through it."

 from Susan Sontag's Introduction to the Verso edition of
Walter Benjamin One-Way Street (1979) p.21

Friday, July 24, 2015

Measure for Measure at the Globe and my problem with Shakespeare sorted

This is not a review proper.

In part, I'm writing simply because I haven't posted for a while. I've been trying to write a piece. Saying 'I think it's nearly there' or, 'I'll post it soon' seems to be the kiss of death for my writing, so I won't say anything more.

But also I just want to tell you how wonderful and brilliant my evening at the Globe was last night. My first time there, and my first time seeing Measure for Measure. In fact, a little secret - I had no real idea about the story line in Measure for Measure at all. Obviously, I knew a few of the themes. And I've mentioned on twitter that I've bought Marc Shell's The End of Kinship: 'Measure for Measure,' Incest and the Ideal of Universal Siblinghood. I wanted to see the play, then read the book. It maybe a month or two before I can do that, but I so enjoyed the play - I got lost in it so deeply, as many of the audience seemed to - that I'm not too worried that my memory of it will fade. Mark Shell's book will keep while I do other things.

Honestly though, the Globe. If you haven't, then do.

At school I had a couple of English teachers for English A level. One was a wonderful, rather effette and posh chap who was in love with William Blake. I have a vivid memory of him reading Chaucer and saying the word cunte in front of a shocked class. He manage to bring the words to life. No mean feat when teaching a group of disinterested and hormonally exuberant seventeen year olds.

My other English teacher was a cunt. Mr Heft was a nasty old nonce who ended up in prison for his abusive ways. He sent a letter home to my parents on my last day of school ever - just before my exams - saying that he wasn't responsible for my result because I hadn't turned up for his lessons in the final term. I think what had hacked him off most was that I turned up for everyone of the other teacher's lessons. Unfortunately, Heft did Shakespeare with us. Consequently, I've found it difficult to connect with the Bard ever since.

His modus operandi was to spend the term dissecting the text of a play word by word. He didn't believe you could understand what the play was about unless you knew precisely what every word meant. So we never got to appreciate any play as a whole - from memory I think we did Othello & The Winter's Tale. We didn't get to discuss the themes and ideas that the play explored. We just had to know what was said and by whom. It was Shakespeare by rote. We did actually go to see Othello at the Old Vic, but the possibility of me enjoying the play was already destroyed by then.

Well, I think last night finally exorcised that ghost. I have enjoyed a little bit of Shakespeare - last year I watched the 2004 film of the Merchant of Venice - but that doesn't really compare to the immersive and magical experience that the Globe gave me. And I'm so glad I didn't read up on Measure for Measure before seeing it. Going in cold really gave the two fingers to Heft. I didn't understand every word - I didn't hear every word come to that (there's no amplification) - but it didn't matter. The play was written to be seen rather than read and dissected in a classroom. And so my mind is alight with it and consequently I'm looking forward to reading Marc Shell's critical analysis of even more.

Shakespeare won in the end.

[I don't really need to forgive Heft. To me he was just a nasty teacher who scared the shit out of me as a 12 year old. When I was a bit older - 17 & 18 - I just thought him a bitter man for whom life had been hard. He was of the generation for whom the harsh realities of WWII had been formative and resonated with him in his teaching career. But that doesn't excuse the fact that he was a terrible bully at times. I witnessed both verbal and physical abuse for which today, he would have lost his job in an instant. And obviously, he was far far worse to some poor kids who attended his boxing club. There was a bit of me that wanted to provoke him when I was older. I wanted him to try and hit me so that I could retaliate. But he didn't. After one particular row I had with him where he described my entire cohort as 'pigs living in filth' I decided the best thing I could do was just not turn up to his classes. He died in 2010.]

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Money Wisdom #371

"...every human being must be an artist...

If we want to achieve a different society where the principle of money operates equitably, if we want to abolish the power money has developed over people historically, and position money in relationship to freedom, equality and fraternity - in other words develop a functional view of the three great strata or spheres of social forces: the spiritual life, the rights life, and the economic life - then we must elaborate a concept of culture and a concept of art where every person must be a artist in this realm of social sculpture or social art or social architecture - never mind what terms you use. Once people have developed these imaginative concepts... ...having drawn them from their own thinking forces, their recognition and knowledge, but also their feelings and willpower - from the moment they have them, people will also understand that they really are the sovereigns of a state-like whole, and that it is they who formulate the economic laws which will allow money to be freed from its present characteristics, from the power it exerts because - and by saying this I'm already making a statement about money - it has evolved in the economic context as part of economic life and is now a commodity. They will recognize then that they can free money from being a commodity and that it must become a regulating factor in the rights domain. People will increasingly see that money today is a commodity, in other words an economic value - I'm trying to say something tangible about money here - that it is an economic value and that we have to reach a stage where it must become a necessary potential, must act as a rights document for all the creative processes of human work..."

Joseph Beuys What is Money (Meyer & Rappman) (2009 trans 2010) p.16-17

Friday, June 26, 2015

Money Wisdom #370

"...the notion of sex brought about a fundamental reversal; it made it possible to invert the representation of the relationships of power to sexuality, causing the later to appear, not in its essential and positive relation to power, but as being rooted in a specific and irreducible urgency which power tries as best it can to dominate; thus the idea of 'sex' makes it possible to evade what gives 'power' its power; it enables one to conceive power solely as law and taboo. Sex - that agency which appears to dominate us and that secret which seems to underlie all that we are, that point which enthralls us through the the [sic] power it manifests and the meaning it conceals, and which we ask to reveal what we are and to free us from what defines us - is doubtless but an ideal point made necessary by the deployment of sexuality and its operation. We must not make the mistake of thinking that sex is an autonomous agency which secondarily produces manifold effects of sexuality over the entire length of its surface of contact with power. On the contrary, sex is the most speculative, most ideal, and most internal element in a deployment of sexuality organized by power in its grip on bodies and their materiality, their forces, energies, sensations and pleasures."

Michael Foucault The Will to Knowledge - The History of Sexuality: 1 (1976 [tr 1978, ed 1998]) p.155

Money Wisdom #369

"Is 'sex' really the anchorage point that supports the manifestations of sexuality, or is it not rather a complex idea that was formed inside the deployment of sexuality?"

Michael Foucault The Will to Knowledge - The History of Sexuality: 1 (1976 [tr 1978, ed 1998]) p.152

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Money Wisdom #368

"The history of the deployment of sexuality, as it has evolved since the classical age, can serve as an archaeology of psychoanalysis. We have seen in fact that psychoanalysis plays several roles at once in this deployment: it is a mechanism for attaching sexuality to the system of alliance; it assumes an adversary position with respect to the theory of degenerescence; it functions as a differentiating factor in the general technology of sex. Around it the great requirement of confession that had taken form so long ago assumed the new meaning of an injunction to lift psychical repression. The task of truth was now linked to the challenging of taboos."

Michael Foucault The Will to Knowledge - The History of Sexuality: 1 (1976 [tr 1978, ed 1998]) p.130

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A Note on Foucault

Disclaimer: I've read 123 pages into The History of Sexuality Vol 1. That's about it for my reading of original Foucault. Obviously, I've read what other folks have to say about Foucault's thought. For example, specifically on money he features in Nigel Dodd's work, over on Lord Keynes' blog Foucault has recently been subject to a character assassination. I also read Elly Tams' Scribbling On Foucault's Walls in 2013 which imagines what would have happen if Foucault had a daughter (its available as a pdf). Elly's work delves more deeply into sex.

Mention philosophy and sex this always pops into my head - perhaps indicating that Elly was on track with her emphasis on the sexual - the sex lives of philosophers and its importance by a cheeky Derrida

So, anyway I'm about as far from an authority on Foucault as you can get. It's taken me a while to get to him. Basically my path to him (and Derrida) has been Freud>Norman O Brown>Bataille>. 

In this note, I just want to mention something that's been bugging me as I read. 

I picked up the three volume set of The History of Sexuality in the LSE Waterstones back in 1999. My head was full of Freud at the time. When pursuing the books, I noticed Foucault was questioning notions of repression, so I returned the books to the bookshelf and kept my credit card in my wallet. I take it as significant that I can so clearly remember doing so. When Sally did her Gender Studies degree she ended up studying a bit of Foucault so the three volume set appeared on the bookshelves at home, popping up like a bad penny. So the actual set of books has, in its physical form, acted out the return of the repressed ! (Jung would not be surprised). And this leads me to my criticism (misunderstanding?) of Foucault.

Perhaps because I was taught about Freud by Chris Badcock for whom the return of the repressed was a hugely important feature - in his book The Psychoanalysis of Culture he tried to construct a broad history of civilization based this principle - I'm quite sensitive about how 'repression' is presented. I've been a little obsessed by Hayek's complete misunderstanding of Freud and repression. I can also remember having a twitter conversation with Elly & someone else (name escapes me) - the suggestion was that repression buries things deeply in our unconscious and our task is to uncover that which is repressed. Both Elly and myself said that this isn't quite right. I've tried to think about a better metaphor for repression over the years - rather than the common 'burying' one.

It's not great - but I prefer to think of repression as like pushing down a ball under water. You have to expend energy all the time to stop it rising to the surface. When finally your mind wonders or when you get an itch you must scratch, the ball slips from your hands and pops up in a different place to where it started. My feeling is that Foucault sometimes slips into a more static idea of repression. He is rightly critical that casting history as a gradual lessening of repression (which is the general theme of The History of Sexuality) is a misguided way to view the past - but I'm not sure that this was really the way that Freud saw it. Even Norman O Brown - whose whole project is about achieving 'psychoanalytical consciousness' - doesn't really frame repression in this way. I think the key is thinking about the relationship between time and mind..... and the possibility that repression is constitutive of our experience of time passing (or I'd say, of time itself).

I completely accept that I simply might not have read enough Foucault (or maybe I'm getting him wrong). And I am enjoying him. Although, I really want him to tell me what power is..... I want him to explain where it is in the metaphysical landscape. 

[I'm also very glad that I read Bataille first. Foucault tends to throw in reference to the economy and the general economy without giving much away in the text. Having a bit of Bataille in my head has definitely helped give those references some context]

Monday, June 22, 2015

Money Wisdom #367

"If one considers the threshold of all culture to be prohibited incest, then sexuality has been, from the dawn of time, under the sway of law and right."

Michael Foucault The Will to Knowledge - The History of Sexuality: 1 (1976 [tr 1978, ed 1998]) p.109-110

Money Wisdom #366

"Sexuality must not be thought of as a kind of natural given which power tries to hold in check, or as an obscure domain which knowledge tries gradually to uncover. It is the name that can be given to a historical construct: not a furtive reality that is difficult to grasp, but a great surface network in which the stimulation of bodies, the intensification of pleasures, the incitement to discourse, the formation of special knowledges, the strengthening of controls and resistances, are linked to one another, in accordance with a few major strategies of knowledge and power."

Michael Foucault The Will to Knowledge - The History of Sexuality: 1 (1976 [tr 1978, ed 1998]) p.105-106

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Money Wisdom #365

"Let us put forward a general working hypothesis. The society that emerged in the nineteenth century - bourgeois, capitalist, or industrial society, call it what you will - did not confront sex with a fundamental refusal of recognition. On the contrary, it put into operation an entire machinery for producing true discourses concerning it. Not only did it speak of sex and compel everyone to do so; it also set out to formulate the uniform truth of sex. As if it suspected sex of harboring a fundamental secret. As if it needed this production of truth. As if it was essential that sex be inscribed not only in an economy of pleasure but in an ordered system of knowledge. Thus sex gradually became an object of great suspicion; the general and disquieting meaning that pervades our conduct and our existence, in spite of ourselves; the point of weakness where evil portents reach through to us; the fragment of darkness that we each carry with us: a general signification, a universal secret, an omnipresent cause, a fear that never ends. And so, in this 'question' of sex .... two processes emerge, the one always conditioning the other: we demand that sex speak the truth...., and we demand that it tell us our truth..."

Michael Foucault The Will to Knowledge - The History of Sexuality: 1 (1976 [tr 1978, ed 1998]) p.69

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Money Wisdom #364

"But this often-stated theme, that sex is outside of discourse and that only the removing of an obstacle, the breaking of a secret, can clear the way leading to it, is precisely what needs to be examined. Does it not partake of the injunction by which discourse is provoked? Is it not with the aim of inciting people to speak of sex that it is made to mirror, at the outer limit of every actual discourse, something akin to a secret whose discovery is imperative, a thing abusively reduced to silence, and at the same time difficult and necessary, dangerous and precious to divulge? We must not forget that by making sex into that which, above all else, had to be confessed, the Christian pastoral always presented it as the disquieting enigma: not a thing which stubbornly shows itself, but one which always hides, the insidious presence that speaks in a voice so muted and often disguised that one risks remaining deaf to it."

Michael Foucault The Will to Knowledge - The History of Sexuality: 1 (1976 [tr 1978, ed 1998]) p.34-35

Money Wisdom #363

"Silence itself - the things one declines to say, or is forbidden to name, the discretion that is required between different speakers - is less the absolute limit of discourse, the other side from which it is separated by a strict boundary, than an element that functions alongside the things said, with them and in relation to them within over-all strategies. There is no binary division to be made between what one says and what one does not say; we must try to determine the different ways of not saying such things, how those who cannot speak of them are distributed, which type of discourse is authorized, or which form of discretion is required in either case. There is not one but many silences, and they are an integral part of the strategies that underlie and permeate discourse."

Michael Foucault The Will to Knowledge - The History of Sexuality: 1 (1976 [tr 1978, ed 1998]) p.27

Money Wisdom #362

"This is the essential thing: that Western man has been drawn for three centuries to the task of telling everything concerning his sex; that since the classical age there has been a constant optimization and an increasingly valorization of the discourse on sex; and that this carefully analytical discourse was meant to yield multiple effects of displacement, intensification, reorientation, and modification of desire itself. Not only were the boundaries of what one could say about sex enlarged, and men compelled to hear it said; but more important, discourse was connected to sex by a complex organisation with varying effects, by a deployment that cannot be adequately explained merely by referring it to a law of prohibition. A censorship of sex? There was installed rather an apparatus for producing an ever greater quantity of discourse about sex, capable of functioning and taking effect in its very economy."

Michael Foucault The Will to Knowledge - The History of Sexuality: 1 (1976 [tr 1978, ed 1998]) p.23

Monday, June 8, 2015

Money Wisdom #361

"Ours is, after all, the only civilization in which officials are paid to listen to all and sundry impart the secrets of their sex: as if the urge to talk about it, and the interest one hopes to arouse by doing so, have far surpassed the possibilities of being heard, so that some individuals have even offered their ears for hire."

Michael Foucault The Will to Knowledge - The History of Sexuality: 1 (1976 [tr 1978, ed 1998]) p.7

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

And so it begins...

I've been anticipating June 2015 for a long while. Long story, short - I've been saving money like a cheeky little squirrel in some dodgy sharesave scheme that work offered (dodgy in a meta philosophical/moral sense, rather than a legal sense) and June 2015 is the date I've been waiting for to get my greedy little paws on the protein enriched goodies. 

Okay, I'll stop with the squirrel analogy. Just deleted a whole paragraph on the correspondence between Money, spunk and nuts. I really need to stick to the plan.

So I haven't burned all the money. Of course, I have to pay some of my daughter's master's fees - she's at Cambridge you know. Did I mention that? At Cambridge. Yes. And I've promised my son that I'll pay for him to get his full bike licence, conditional on the fact that his Harley Davidson must always be smaller than my Harley Davidson. I haven't actually got a Harley, and I do really want one, which goes to show just how committed to the money burning cause I am. Because the chunk of the money is going towards persuading you, and everyone else in the world, to burn their money.

This has been in my imagination for a good few years now, so I'm actually quite thrilled to be getting on with it. I'm sticking the following up on my chosen design crowdsourcing site in the next week or so. If you have any thoughts or suggestions let me know.

Oh, yeah..... it contains a sneaky preview of the thing at the edge of my imagination - 'The Cathedral of Money Burning'. I was thinking of 'The Church of Money Burning' but I figured, fuck it, why not go the whole hog. I like churches, but I love cathedrals. Long road to travel until we get there, though. My attempt at the logo/sigil is below the brief. It's embarrassingly bad, but does give you the idea.

Logo design to help save the world 
You might think this is crazy. And if you don't, you're probably a little crazy yourself. 
For the past seven years I've been burning money. I don't mean spending it, I mean actually setting light to it and watching it burn. It's become a kind of magickal ritual for me. There is no fakery involved, I really do burn my own money. 
I've also been trying to figure out what it means to burn money. I've been writing a blog with some quasi-academic musings on the nature of money for the past eight years or so. Where I'm at with it now, is that I think money burning is an act of pure forgiveness (or at least it's as close to we can get to it). 
The world needs forgiveness. Bad stuff happens a lot. Retribution just creates the same story over again. A clean slate is something we really want to avoid. Which leaves forgiveness as the only option.  
So, I've figured that I need to spread the word about money burning and get more people to do it to, so we can get more forgiveness into the world. So far I've only persuaded a couple of folks to join in with me. Which is where you and your design comes in. I need you to help me save the world.  
I'm not rich. I drive a van to earn a living. So as well as having an almost certain prospect of failure, this project is not at all likely to connect you to some corporate oligopoly where you secure private health care and a good pension in return for your soul and the odd T-Shirt design. But as well as burning money, I've also been saving hard for the last few years and with the help of a little good fortune on the stock market I have managed to build up a few quid, hopefully enough to get me to the next stage of the project - the crowdfunding of a The Cathedral of Money Burning (Well, a tent that I can take round to festivals - but tents are expensive!). Meantime, there's lots to do. T-shirts, a blog make-over and new website are on the cards, and over the course of the next year or two there is a whole lot more I need doing. I need some money burning designers to come along for the ride. 
The start of it all is the design I need done today. What I want you to try to create is more a Sigil, than a Logo. Fire in a circle and Money in a square. 
This is all much too serious to be taken too seriously. If you still have a little bit of crazy alive in you, and you can believe just for a moment in the impossible, I'd love you to fire up your imagination, engage whatever magical box of tricks it is you use cast your design spells, and create something wonderful, excellent and brilliant for me (and the world).
PS Design Tip [added 03/06/15] - I want you to work up the design however you want BUT what I need fundamentally is something simple that can be stuck on a T-shirt, used in a blog header, graffiti-ed on a wall, OR even tattooed on my arm. Basically, it needs to work in black and white.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Money Wisdom #360

"What could it possibly mean to “owe” one’s life to the Absolute, or to be able to “pay” the Divine, the source of all Being, anything back through sacrifice? How would one possibly imagine paying off one’s debts to God? The absurdity of the situation was of course not lost on Nietzsche, who like Walter Benjamin and Norman O. Brown later concluded that the Christian idea of a God that offered to pay back himself, in the end, for debts we supposedly owe him, was simply the hysterical logical conclusion of a neurotic subject that craves its own domination and is incapable of living its life without servitude and subjection, and so projects a divine being who lives and dies in the same pathetic way (hence both the absurdity and the genius of this sacrificial myth)."

Joshua Ramey Indebted to Blackness (2105) (link)

Thursday, May 14, 2015

My Review of 'Love's Body' by Norman O Brown

I went straight from Bataille to Brown. I finished reading Love's Body a couple of weeks back. So just giving it time to sink in. Everything I read now seems a bit pedestrian after the Dionysian boys. Anyway, if my review makes you drunk with the joy of life do head on over to Amazon and ritually click the 'Was this review helpful to you? YES!' button like a madman.

"A wondrous exploration of the silent language of the unconscious

This is a stunning and unique work. Built around sixteen themes Brown provides no central narrative, but instead through relatively short sections averaging, I'd guess, between 100 and 200 words he creates a transcendental effect. A review on the US site rather aptly describes it as 'Philosophy as a fever dream'. It's philosophy laced with poetry; psychomagic invocation of the intellect.

I'd love to able to say that any reader should jump straight into it, but I'm not sure that'd be great advice. Certainly I'd recommend reading Life Against Death prior to Love's Body if you're not too sure of your psychoanalysis and philosophy. I would love to be wrong about this. There is a mystical element to the work that perhaps some readers might be able to connect to regardless. But generally, if you're approaching it on an intellectual level, work your way up to it. I think if you can approach it with a degree of intellectual confidence - and an open mind - you'll be more likely to enjoy the experience. At it's best I found it simultaneously profound and hypnotic.

Don't confuse this description of my reading experience with Brown's academic credibility, though. He is a very serious scholar (and hugely overlooked in my view). Even though Love's Body has this dream-like quality, I still find more solid ground in it than in much European postmodern writing. The full expression and exploration of psychoanalytical ideas (Freud, Klein, Ferenczi - Jung is not mentioned) would certainly put off anyone grounded in a materialist ontology. They even made me grimace at points. But somehow the totality of the work gets across that these uncomfortable words, about how polymorphous perversity develops into sexual desire directed by familial relations, are an attempt to reach toward a kind of silent language that mediates unconscious processes. And moreover, that its not just the flows of sexual energy but its also the silent language, that's real.

I came to appreciate that, more through reading this work than any other. And I suspect that has less to do with intellectual journey and more to do with what is somehow invoked by it's other more magical qualities of tone and tempo and rhythm and structure. I'm never going to convince any skeptical materialists of this, nor of the value of psychoanalytical thought and existentialist philosophy generally and how it offers a rich and meaningful understanding of what it is to be. But hey, fuck 'em. I loved it."

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

My Review of What Money Wants by Noam Yuran

Here you go then. As ever if my review does provoke the desire, make sure it doesn't take away the performance and do click the like button here . (I don't remember that many Shakespeare quotes but I can remember one related to booze and erectile dysfunction - its from the Scottish play as my theatrical friends would say).

Putting desire at the heart of some exciting original - but not wholly unique - ideas about money

"When Noam sits at home watching crap TV, I bet he keeps pencil and paper handy and excitedly scribbles down notes about how some beer advert, or an episode of Sex in the City, mirrors the socio-economic circumstances through which we create our history.

It's great that books like this are being published these days. The heady mix of ontology, psychoanalysis, social theory and money doesn't make Yuran's efforts to elucidate his 'economy of desire' all that easy to understand. However, because he occasionally grounds it in mundane examples he manages to take the reader with him as he explores some difficult and contradictory territory. All those hours watching crap TV weren't wasted. I'll come back to waste'. It's an important idea for Yuran.

There are indeed many difficulties in understanding Yuran's thesis. First up is his concept of desire. Bravely, and I think rightly, he chooses not to define the term too tightly. But the effect of this is to make his overall metaphysical picture hard to get hold of. To compensate Yuran subsumes us in talk of subject and object with desire as seemingly able to flit between these two poles. And then - somehow - the poles themselves are able to fold into one another so that an object has a kernel of subjective desire. I'm sure if you're used to talking in these terms - as Yuran plainly is - understanding the nuances of his theory is made easier by his use of subject/object metaphysics. And - as Simmel understood - money and value seem to have a special relationship to the subjective and the objective. Yuran's focus on them, and use of them, is fair enough then. But certainly for me personally, I found those sections the hardest going. He cites Žižek quite a bit.

Another element in Yuran's work is how he thinks about history and 'the truth' of history and facts. This is important not only in and of itself - he contrasts Marx's dialectical history with Veblen's evolutionary history - but because it directly relates to his conceptualization of money as desire. Money as desire is that which has persisted through change. And persistence through change is what constitutes history - when we seek the historical narrative, we are looking for something immovable within the flux of time. In this sense then, Money is outside time.

Yuran is very critical of the notion of utility. There is he says 'something fundamentally wrong with it'. He also ties this in to criticism of behavioral economics and the general way that economics tends to refract everything it observes through its own particular set of cosmological conceptions. I was cheering at this point. There were a few mentions of money's relation to secrecy and invisibility that I found very interesting and I wish he'd expanded on. Often academics cite Marc Shell's brilliant work on this, but although Yuran does cite Shell a few times its not so much in relation to these themes.

I'd give this book 4.5 stars if I could. I settled on four because, although there is some original thought and clear writing, there were points when it was struggling to maintain 3 stars for me. Yuran cites Zelizer (I gave her 'The Social Meaning of Money' an overly harsh review) but he fails to follow through Zelizer's work. Some ten years or so after The Social Meaning of Money was published, Zelizer was an early protagonist in an important debate about how the terms money and currency should be distinguished within academia. Yuran fails to make any distinction between them, nor does he mention the debate. This is a pity because I think doing so might have allowed him to separate out the idea of money from the empirical reality of currency. Alternatively, he might have drawn on Deleuze and Guattari's distinction between payment and finance money. This would been particularly appropriate given that desire is so central to their work. Whichever distinction he'd chosen and however basic it was, applying it would have enabled Yuran to tell his story more easily, I think. It certainly would have helped me.

The other author that I kept expecting to see pop up, but who never did, was James Buchan. He wrote 'Frozen Desire - The Meaning of Money' back in 1997. Oddly Buchan's book was mentioned in the most glowing terms by Keith Hart in Money in an Unequal World; Hart wrote the forward to Yuran's book. But again, Yuran doesn't mention it. I said that not defining 'desire' too tightly was a fair thing to do but it might have helped me understand a little better if Yuran had put Buchan, Deleuze and Guattri in his picture. Yuran seems to have unnecessarily isolated his work. It is original, but not wholly unique.

I'm beginning to sound like one of those annoying types that scrawls in the margins of essays in red ink 'why didn't you consider so and so'. Really though, I just wanted to enjoy the book a little more than I did. It was - at times - a little too much like hard work. Fair enough. It's for an academic audience. But with his crap TV examples, Yuran so nearly nailed it and produced something that was both readable and deep.

As a final word I'll make one more annoying suggestion. I said I'd come back to 'waste'. Yuran must read Bataille. He is merrily skipping along in Bataille's footsteps seemingly completely unaware that he's doing so. There is absolutely no shame in this. In fact, that Yuran seems to have got so far along Bataille's path without being aware of him, is cause to celebrate. Bataille is not that well known. I hadn't heard of him until a year ago, and I've only recently read him. But, for me, Bataille is where many of Yuran's arguments are heading. Bataille's themes are very much aligned with Yuran's work. Not least with the idea of 'waste'; and not to mention utility, the erotic, sacred logic, servility etc, etc. Yuran even plays around with nothing and no-thing which is a motif Bataille uses. But what Bataille does in his work is give us a clear idea about sovereignty. And this was missing from Yuran's work. Some conception of sovereignty - some mention maybe of the Nietzschean Ubermensch - would have helped ground desire in a solid form. As a reader it would have helped me understand the relation between desire, money and being. By focusing on desire I felt caught up a little in its flow around different concepts so I think a clearer idea of 'being' - or an idea of what it is to fully be - would have stopped some of the giddiness I felt when I tried to get inside Yuran's idea of desire. To be fair, he did approach these themes obliquely by mentioning movements towards perfections and pure forms but I didn't get a proper sense of how they relate to desire.

But overall its exciting to read a contemporary book that considers these sorts of ideas. I look forward to his next one very much."

Money Wisdom #358

"What sustains money in its unique position is its mysterious nature, which is a code name for the way it traverses time without an explanation for its unique position - that its persistence is entailed with its absence of past."

Noam Yuran What Money Wants (2014) p.247

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Money Wisdom #357

"[Money] is a genuine historical object in the sense that it can be really perceived only through the change in its form.
This movement strictly mirrors the Freudian conception of the course of human sexual development."

Noam Yuran What Money Wants (2014) p.201

Saturday, May 9, 2015

My Review of Bataille's The Accursed Share

A few months since I've read it. Man, this book (these books) is/are brilliant. I've got Georges Bataille and Norman O Brown (Love's Body) coursing through my veins at the moment. It makes other reading seem so pedestrian. Very unfair, of course. But these guys give me such a reading high. Anway, if my review burns a flame under your tinfoil releasing an intoxicating vapor then do pop over to amazon and click the like button before you pass out. Ta, my darlings.

Magnificent. Wonderful. Brilliant. 

"It always feels a little awkward writing a review of a book like this. It's a couple of months since I read it and its still resonating very strongly with me. I expect the feeling to last. I was intending only to read volume 1, but was so impressed and entranced that I read straight through volumes 2 and 3.

If, like me, your intellectual groove runs from Nietzsche through Freud to Norman O Brown then you will love Bataille. I would encourage anyone to read him, though. I found him intensely readable. His style is not dry or overly academic, on the other hand there is no sense of it being simplified or anodyne. And yet, he works on the very edge of how it's possible to think.

I came to Bataille from Nigel Dodd's book The Social Life of Money. Money is my thing. I'm particularly interested in explorations of it that revolve around sex and being. Bataille, through an overarching concept of  'general economy', links together sex (which he characterizes as Eroticism, the subject of volume 2) and being (which he characterizes as 'sovereignty', the subject of volume 3). This is not an idea that is easily grasped through an accessible aphorism - but it is one that you become more aware of through your reading of the three volumes. Bataille's famous quote is that by reading the Accursed Share you'll come to know: 'that the sexual act is in time what the tiger is in space'.

I expect that quote has put people off. I urge you, not to let it put you off. The key to the riddle is in understanding - or, perhaps it's better said, by reforming in your own mind - the concept of waste. There are psychoanalytical undertones here, of course. But conceptually waste has a moral stickiness. And it's this moral stickiness that Bataille so effectively washes away allowing 'waste' to be contrasted with 'utility' on a level playing field. At another point in the introduction he says that he is trying to answer the question of Keynes' bottles (Keynes' demand side economics in the form of an thought experiment). However much economists pretend otherwise, this question - which basically stated is 'what is economic growth' - has never really been answered.

I'm not sure I'd say Bataille answers it, of course. I have problems with his distinction between the sexual and the erotic and the way in which this then acts as a sort of delineation between human and animal form. If you look at the negative reviews of Norman O Brown's Life Against Death you'll find similar criticisms. I also worry (generally) about where such purity of thought takes us - well, takes me. Bataille says that if he'd followed his line of thought to its conclusion then he ought not to have written the book at all.

I'm glad he did, though. Very glad. He might not have answered the big question of what is economic growth? (and, maybe there is no answer) but he does paint a metaphysical picture that helps us see things afresh. He's right about his famous phrase. You get a new sense 'that the sexual act is in time what the tiger is in space' that wasn't there before your reading. It's tricky to put into words what that glimmer of understanding is - but - you become newly aware of limitations. You become aware, for example, of how language itself is subsumed within Bataille's metaphysical picture. He's trying to step outside of all these constraints and contortions that silently refract our view of the universe and show us how we really are.

It's magnificent. "

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Money Wisdom #356

"Whereas the economist thinks of the mystery of money as something that must be solved through historical speculation, Marx conceives of the mystery as the historical substance itself. History is a process through which the mystery becomes explicitly articulated. And it is the mystery that accounts for the narrative's continuity, what is handed down in it through time. In a sense Marx simply takes seriously the notion of the mystery of money: he does not take mystery to be merely an epistemological fault, a mere misunderstanding that must be clarified, but a part of the historical reality of money. In his view, 'the mystical character of gold and silver' is not something to be explained away by history by invoking less mysterious means of exchange."

Noam Yuran What Money Wants (2014) p.106

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Money Wisdom #355

"Rephrasing this ontology [of money] in terms of everyday experience, we can speculate that the fantasies about the things we can do with money are related more to the reality of money than to the actual things we can do with money (which is another way of explaining how money is worth more than anything money can buy). But maybe we can notice this peculiarity also in a plea that Marx sends to Friedrich Engels during his exile in London: 'Never has anyone written about money in general amidst such total lack of money in particular.' In ontological terms, these inversions call for conceiving of the reality of money as intertwining presence and absence. The money that is absent [...] is somehow much more vivid and visible, much more present, than is the dull money that actually exists..."

Noam Yuran What Money Wants (2014) p.74-75

Money Wisdom #354

"By formulating claims of behavioral economics in terms of rationality - an enormously wider concept than utility maximization - it somehow shifts the blame to people: it is people who are not rational. (This is the oldest trick in the book of outdated science: if reality does not conform to theory, then reality must be mistaken.) But this is a preposterously ridiculous claim. It boils down to the meaningless statement that the economic subject, this figment of imagination that has informed economic philosophy for more than one hundred years now, is rational, while people are not.


Our discussion suggests considering the opposite view, namely that it is the object rather than the subject that is irrational. Economic objects confront people with crystallized patterns of irrationality regardless of how rational or irrational these people are.


A direct demonstration of how an allegedly irrationally behavior is actually inscribed in economic objects is found in Ariely's work. Ariely wonders why ordinary people might steal small items in certain circumstances - a can of Coke from a refrigerator in a common area, office supplies from their work place, and so on - but would not steal an equivalent sum of money. Ariely conducted a series of experiments to verify that this is indeed the case and to explain 'how does this irrational impulse work?'


The simple explanation is that people are honest, and they would not steal an object of value. Of course, in strict economic terms a $1-pencil is equivalent in its value to a $1-bill. Yet this equivalence is in contrast to the reality of contemporary consumer economy where a $1-pencil is in fact a type of rubbish. The pencil has no economic value whatsoever once it is purchased. It ceases to be an economic thing (i.e. something that can be sold and bought) and enters the untraceable sphere of objects that the consumer economy places at our disposal - some of them more useful, some less, but as a whole comprising a burdening mass we constantly take care of. (Every citizen in a consumer economy gets a sickening feeling from time to time; we simply have far too many things - something we never say of money.) In other words, what Ariely's question fails to notice is Marx's insight about the monetary economy - money is more valuable than any specific thing that money can buy. Ariely's experiments confirm the status of money as an irrational object: a thing that surpasses its equivalents.

Noam Yuran What Money Wants (2014) p.66-67