Sunday, 14 August 2016

Dotan Leschem's dotty Economics- part II

Has Prof. Dotan Leschem discovered a way to cure our current ills? It is a difficult and an obscure path he would have us take but apparently a necessary one if we moderns are ever to regain that felicity enjoyed by the ancients. As his publisher tells us, 'Only by relocating the origins of modernity in Late Antiquity, Leshem argues, can we confront the full effect of the neoliberal marketized economy on contemporary societies'
It seems entirely reasonable to me, an overweight 53 year old Babu, that some Semitic Imperator's 'Saeculum Novum' bred a Foucauldian biopolitics whose phramakon we must trace in the pharmakoi of Patristic literature so as to be free of this compulsion to offer up own bodies as korban- or in my case, endure this shrill bat kol in my ears demanding I go right now to the gym and suffer the tortures of the damned upon those infernal machines rather than hearken joyfully to the gospel of a bottomless prosecco brunch.
It is a beautiful dream, but alas not one dear dotty Dotan can recast in the shining garments of our wakeful world.
Well, for a start, he believes strange things like this- 
'Although word choices, whether innocent, contingent, or deliberate, can have little to no influence on the nature of what it names, this is not the case with oikonomia.'
Wow! What an astonishing discovery! Some Indians called Artha Shastra 'oikonomia' just as some called 'dharma' 'eusebia' because some Greeks once ruled bits of the country. Those bits necessarily had a completely different mode and means of production than the rest of the land but nobody noticed! This proves the ancient Indians were blind.
Or maybe I'm being hasty. Perhaps the ancient Indians weren't blind. Perhaps Dotan is simply dotty.
Consider the following-
 As the latter history unfolds in the book, it becomes evident that, upon migrating from the institution of the ancient oikos to the Christian ecclesia and later to the liberal market, the economization of these institutions was framed within the limits of an invariant question because of its seemingly divergent previous meaning and not in spite of it. 
Whoa there! Hold your horses Dotan. What exactly is migrating and from whence and to where is it migrating? Is it really something called 'economization'? Perhaps you think of it as being like a yeasting process based on airborne cells. So economization migrates in the manner that yeast migrates. But what type of microscopic animalcule is involved in this migration? What is its vector? Why does it migrate only to the Christian eccleisa and not the Jewish Sanhedrin? Why does it sullenly refuse to migrate to an 'illiberal market'? Why does it insist the market be liberal? 

You tell us that this particular migrating yeasting agent was framed within the limits of an invariant question.

 What was that question? How is it that it remains invariant? Why couldn't it evolve over time? 

The answer it turns out, is that you have created a magical realm- your book- in which you are the one true and great Wizard who can do what he likes.
But what is it you are going to do in your book with your amazing Wizardry?
You aren't shy. You tell us immediately what you are up to.
Reinserting the relegated Christian chapter into the history of the economy provides the essential hermeneutical key for the explication of its core invariant meaning, one that is simultaneously open to broad variations and compelling. 
Though Hindu, I know there are a lot of good people spread across the five continents who don't think 'the Christian chapter' in the history of the economy has been 'relegated' at all. On the contrary, there is not a day of their lives which goes by when they don't think about their own Christian duty, to provide 'oikonomia'- that husbandry productive of fellowship with what us Indians call 'daridra narayan'- that God amongst us who is always lonely and poor.
Some mathematically inclined Christian Economists seek to follow in the footsteps of the great Quaker poet, Ken Boulding. They incorporate a mindfulness of Gaia's fragility into their daily life. Others, whom I know of, embrace the message of the Sage Ninomiya in order to set at nought the 'paradox of thrift' and, by acting locally, contribute to truly global, for truly sustainable, solutions.
Tell me Dotan, are you going to highlight this 'Christian chapter' which is still being read, it may be more passionately, more urgently than ever before, and which also informs Anglo-American  'neo-liberalism' through the path-breaking work of people like Rev. Wicksteed- whom the late Ronald Coase claimed as a major influence? (Indeed Coase thinks the Americans never fully grasped the latter's global conception of opportunity cost- one reason why Coase's theorem was hijacked by the Right in my youth.)
Where is 'neo-liberalism' without Coase? As Aneurin Bevan was the first to point out (thus proving that the Worker's Education Assoc. was ahead of Cambridge and the LSE back then) the existence of a single benefit or cost received outside the market is sufficient to vitiate the mathematical theodicys of Gossen, Walras, Pareto et al. It was Coase's theorem which resurrected market liberalism. As a Curry & Chips Cockney, what's more a declasse LSE alumni, I rejoice in its harmonization of 'the boy preacher' Guy Aldred's 'Harbhat Pendse' and the Rev. Wicksteed's actually quite post-modern housewife (she doesn't make jam or bake cookies but preserves her looks and her temper by outsourcing noisome chores).
Oddly, this is sound Patristic 'oikonomia'- it is transactional, not autrakic. By contrast, the pious Roman- like the Brahmin patriarch of my father's generation- considered himself ill served if his showbread was not baked, his oils and unguents not pressed, nor his wind-fall preserves thriftily cellared under his own roof-tree.

Christianity formally, not abolished-it hadn't the power- but anathematized, by revealing the ridiculousness of, the taboo on meat sacrificed to strange gods, bread baked by strange fires, a leaven not ancestral. The result was that wives could, girdled or garlanded with a superior normativity, better fulfill their domestic duties while out shopping in the light and open air of the market place rather than sweating solitarily over smoky ovens.
No doubt there is a wide difference between St.Monica getting into a drunken brawl and having her teeth knocked out while traipsing from Church to Church to glug Communion wine and the recurrent motif of the meltingly beautiful Quaker or fair Jansenite which is a stock figure in the ongoing romance of Christianity- yet, there is here a sisterhood under the skin.

Dotan, if you had indeed written a book which pays tribute to the ever yeasting spirit of Christian oikonomia- from Amal Clooney to St. Monica with her teeth bashed in- you would have done a worthy thing. 
But you haven't have you?
What you have done instead is write an antagonomic, availability cascaded based, entirely self-serving screed based on an- perhaps exemplary?- impartial ignorance of both Christianity and 'liberal markets'.
What's more, you are pretty up-front about it. You say-

A comparative account of the economy of the oikos, ecclesia and market based on such a philological history suggests a typology of four criteria according to which a model of human action is called an economy: 
1. it involve the acquisition of a theoretical and practical disposition of prudence;
2. which faces the human condition of excess that transcends human rationality;
3. this rational engagement with excess generates surplus;
4. Finally, this action takes place in a distinct“economic” sphere alongside other spheres such as the political and the philosophical. This fourfold typology of economy also establishes the Christian moment as the missing link, which, nevertheless, functions as the turning point in the use history of the economy between the ancient oikos where excess was despised, the economic sphere kept to minimum,and the neoliberal marketized economy where excess is desired, the economy infinitely growing.
Let me try to parse this sublime utterance phrase by phrase.
A comparative account of economic activity in the household, the forum and the bazaar can either be based on economics or else it is nonsense. You want to base it on your own private, wholly idionomic, 'philological history' which isn't actually philological at all. It's just ignorant. Why? Well good philology is concerned with pragmatics. In this case, the pragmatics involves economics and nothing else. Take the word 'villein'. The philologist might initially be consulted by a Jurist or Economic historian researching usage of the term. However, it is their findings which alters the philologist's view of its pragmatics and acceptation. Words don't really have magic powers. The can't protect or alter the 'essence' of what they name.
If I wished to emulate you, I could, with equal cogency say, 'I'm going to give a comparative account of newts and Newton based on a philological genealogy such that the great Physicist was actually the son of a newt. This suggests that newts keep getting hit on the head by apples while splashing about in their ponds.' 

What about your four criteria for 'a model of human action being called an economy'?
They certainly fit my proposal that all human action should focus on observing apples fall on the heads of newts so as to eventually recover the one belonging to Eris, for once strife is abolished from the human realm, we will enter a second Eden.
According to your criteria- I have created an economy because, granted my premise,
1) it is prudent to acquire the theoretical and practical knowledge it calls for
2) it transcends human rationality in that it monstrously previsions an incompossible regret which it nevertheless must most rigorously minimize.
3) it generates surplus- lots of apples not belonging to Eris yet giving rise to discord.
4) it is a distinct 'economic' sphere because politics and philosophy won't stop till we get Eris's apple or the World ends.

By contrast, Samuelson's famous textbook is not 'a model of human actions' and thus has nothing to do with the Economy or Economics. Why?
Start with (4)- The Economy can't grow infinitely. If it did there would be at least one asset with an infinite present value.
(2) refers to 'regret minimization' which is incompatible with Samuelson's turnpikes
(3) is held to be meaningless.
(1) is false because prudence is satisfied by a procedurally rational solution- e.g. a Tardean mimetic decision rule- it being too cognitively costly to compute substantive solutions. In any case co-ordination problems tend to be mathematically intractable.

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