Satyr had links to great books about economy and money in his blog, and one book in particular about economy and money in ancient Greece. Unfortunately while he deleted his blogs, and channels, they were lost as well.
Could you guys post if you still have links to those books.
Gender : Posts : 21910 Join date : 2009-08-24 Age : 54 Location : Flux
Satyr had links to great books about economy and money in his blog, and one book in particular about economy and money in ancient Greece. Unfortunately while he deleted his blogs, and channels, they were lost as well.
Could you guys post if you still have links to those books.
Richard Seaford : Money and the Early Greek Mind.
Morris Silver - The Economic Structures of Antiquity
Paul Cartledge - Money, Labour, and Land in Ancient Greece
This reminded me of a thought I had about the turbulences which seem to lie ahead. Voltaire wrote - If you want to know who rules you then find out who you are not allowed to criticize. And we are allowed to criticize the banks. It's done in the media quite frequently. I think this is to prepare the population for the loss of living standards which is going to hurt a lot, the majority of people. And somebody needs to take the blame.
And so I think that the banking sector elite knows about this restructuring which will happen and I think nobody wants to be the captain of those ships which have been selected to fail and to take the brunt of the public anger.
I think nobody really knows how it will play out precisely but I also believe that if the structures which are established will persist in some form. If it's not a major disintegration of the western globalized structures then they'll have to create some incentives to reignite production, and more vitality in the population. If so, then there will be more opportunities in that phase. We'll see.
Lyssa Har Har Harr
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If I understand this correctly then for some reason they don't have their customers money anymore, or a big chunk of it. I'm curious how this will develop. TWBB, I hope you cashed in before this situation started to develop.
Glad I sold a while ago. Buying once again as the Mt.Gox situation provides an oppertunity. Its dragging the price of other exchanges down, whilst nothing changed to the actual network value of Bitcoin.
That's one possibility. There is also the possibility that the Mt. Gox news is a good cover to make people think that it's the reason for falling prices. So they don't start to sell themselves but rather hold on.
That's part of the psychology which keeps people from selling - the hope that it will rebound any minute now. But I'm not trading. Just my view.
Lyssa Har Har Harr
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Recently I've just started reading a book entitled "The secret to money is having some". This is a 'self-help' book but essentially the premise (so far as I can understand) is psychological; if one is to open their eyes to the abundance of nature and the fact that a shit tonne of money is flowing throughout society on a daily basis, one will realise the massive potential to make an abundance of money through whichever means suits them. But ultimately, it's more about opening yourself and becoming abundant as a person, and the money follows. Also, it maintains the notion that money is flux as everything else in reality, and an individual must also remain fluid to capitalise on these opportunities. By contrast, I also have read and still maintain reading, The Moneyless Manifesto, a book (free to read online) by an Irish bloke who has been living now for three years moneylessly, and the tactics used to rid yourselves of the restrictions money does impart on yourself, and learn to utilise every opportunity, without simply falling back on money. In this vain, the books are similar, but the main premises are diametrical. The reason I like the Moneyless Manifesto is that it's a very practical guide on how to be more self-reliant, and far less reliant on the system of economics of scale (which- as argued in the book- is ultimately unsustainable and will not last forever). In essence it is a guide to preservation of skills which are in danger of being forgotten. On the other hand, I do believe the book is underpinned with socialist ideology, which is where my preference is for the secret to money book. There will never be a utopia of moneyless people all self-resilient (the author explicitly declares this) yet it is still a handy guide, particularly for younger people who haven't built up as many contacts and experience in life, to propel themselves forward. My personal motivations for readings both these books is primarily practical, to gain an understanding for ways to 'flow' through life, to learn to exploit and utilise each opportunity, and to widen my perception so as to not miss excellent opportunities. I consider this metaphor as appropriate: the path up the mountain is tough, there are many obstacles, but why not learn to use them to LIFT myself up, rather than constantly remaining stagnant at each one of them?
Lyssa Har Har Harr
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Generosity advances Competition, and so the former frame is more appealing to me. Yet, if the secret to having money is "having some", then you can't really do without the latter frame. Spartanizing your preferences on expenditures, with the aim of "having some" to circulate back is more sensible than dwarfing your heart, your needs and living in a barrel like the cynics for the sake of frugality itself.
Sloterdijk's thymotic economy of giving explains what the Pagan Potlatch was about...
"Nobility is a position with respect to the future. Nietzsche's innovative gift consists in provoking one to engage in a way of being in which the receiver would take up an active force as sponsor, that is to say, in the ability to open up richer futures. Nietzsche is a teacher of generosity in the sense that he infects the recipients of his gifts with the idea of wealth, which is necessarily not worth acquiring unless with a view to being able to squander it.
In the ascending line of gift-giving virtues, life praises itself as an immeasurable proliferation of chances to be given. It finds the reason for its thankful praise in its participation in events ofgenerosity. History splits into the time of the economy of debt and the time of generosity. Whereas the former thinks of repay ment and retaliation, the latter is interested only in forwards-donating.
Only unbilled expenditure has sufficient spontaneity and cen trifugal force to escape the gravitational field of avarice and its calculus. Savers and capitalists always expect to get more back than they stake, while the sponsor gets his satisfaction without any regard for "revenue." This applies to sentences as much as to donations. What Nietzsche calls the innocence of becoming is essentially the innocence of expenditure and eo ipso the innocence of enrich ment, sought for the sake of the possibility to expend. The leap into generosity transpires through affirming the prosperity of oneself and others, since this is the necessary premise of generosity. If there is a leap [Ursprung] into generosity, then it resides in the challenge that open generosity makes to concealed generosity.
The sponsor's generosity as such aims to generate dissensus, which is to say competition. It would consider itself to have failed were it to be said it had obtained a monopoly.To be as it would like to be, it must posit competition. It would prefer to lay itself open to rejection, than it would to subordinate imitations. The generous, then, stand in opposition to the good, who for Nietzsche are rightly called decadents, since they-as we have known since the Genealogy ofMoratS-pursue the dream of monopolizing merely good sentiments. For them, bad is anything that expects that they prove their goodness; while anything which belabors their consensus with questions and exits their circle of blackmail strikes them as immediately devilish. In Nietzsche, decadence represents the epitome of conditions in which resentment is guaranteed it will always hit upon its ideal lan guage situation. The relations bearing witness to decadence are those in which "the yes-man [Mucker] is in charge" - to put it in Nietzsche's words. If the good are so good, it is onlyfaute de mieux. The decadence ideal holds power only so long as, and because, "it has not had any competition." [Nietzsche Apostle]
The premise in the former book is to "open yourself up like a stream", to accept as much as you are given charge for the most part of everything else. Hence why this is not really a book about generosity. On the other hand, the latter is about generosity and giving, it's just about the individual CREATING abundance, rather than relying on the monetary system and what's already there. A point which you may be able to clarify for me, Nietzsche does advocate non-poverty yet non-wealth either (I guess guided by his contempt for industrial capitalists), but surely wealth and nobility have their parallels? I'm not suggesting decadent landed gentry, or American oil tycoons are noble in spirit, but a lot of wealth often proceeds from great deeds and refined taste?
Lyssa Har Har Harr
Gender : Posts : 9031 Join date : 2012-03-01 Location : The Cockpit
The premise in the former book is to "open yourself up like a stream", to accept as much as you are given charge for the most part of everything else. Hence why this is not really a book about generosity.
I haven't read either book, and its why I mentioned the kind of generosity that encourages, advances, or motivates "competition"; not the modern welfare program for sure.
On the other hand, the latter is about generosity and giving, it's just about the individual CREATING abundance, rather than relying on the monetary system and what's already there.
If I am not mistaken, the author himself mentions and accepts the critcism, he got lucky when someone decided to give away their truck for his living space. Something that could not have been without money gone into it. Not many would be as lucky. But I get the larger point, and primitivism is all about this kind of self-sustainable living, picking up in many places. I myself just posted on the Garbage Warrior recently in Craft thread. For me though, it has to mean something more than merely getting by.
A point which you may be able to clarify for me, Nietzsche does advocate non-poverty yet non-wealth either (I guess guided by his contempt for industrial capitalists), but surely wealth and nobility have their parallels? I'm not suggesting decadent landed gentry, or American oil tycoons are noble in spirit, but a lot of wealth often proceeds from great deeds and refined taste?
Definitely. A land, a piece of property is more than an object of hedonistic acquisition; its the sacred space that Real-izes your possibility, your immortality is it hoped down the lineage.. a home you leave to your children, an inheritance of luck, the weight of an announcement that you more than survived. You did not just pass it on, but managed to enhance it more than how you received. Spengler differentiates two kinds of "property" in his Decline of the West, but here's an excerpt from his Man and Technics:
"The more solitary the being and the more resolute it is in forming its own world against all other conjunctures of worlds in the environment, the more definite and strong the cast of its soul. What is the opposite of the soul of a lion? The soul of a cow. For strength of individual soul the herbivores substitute numbers, the herd, the common feeling and doing of masses. But the less one needs others, the more powerful one is. A beast of prey is everyone’s foe. Never does he tolerate an equal in his den. Here we are at the root of the truly royal idea of property. Property is the domain in which one exercises unlimited power, the power that one has gained in battling, defended against one’s peers, victoriously upheld. It is not a right to mere having, but the sovereign right to do as one will with one’s own. Once this is understood, we see that there are carnivore and there are herbivor ethics."
"Money is a subjective notion, connected with the idea of wealth; currency is an objective concept relating to the social organization of economic exchanges. . .. money (argent) is invested with a signifying value that does not necessarily coincide with the objective role of currency (monnaie) . . . this signifying value of money, as gift and affective exchange-value, differs essentially from the real function of currency as a universal equivalent not of any object whatsoever but specifically of commodities. With the signification of money, then, a secondary signification is grafted onto the real function of currency, this semanticization of the use of money must be distinguished from the real economic role of the monetary instrument of exchange in society. ...money (argent), seen simply as a quantitative force, as purchasing power charged with affective value. It is therefore necessary to go beyond the blurry affective notion of money, always located in the register of expenditure and acquisition, to accede to that of currency as a qualitatively determined structure of exchange. Only then do all the registers for which money (by virtue of its homologous structure) can serve as a metaphor become evident." [Jean Goux, Coiners of language]
An abridgement of Hawkes' excellent book on Usury that sheds light on the theological origins of socio-economic anti-semitism as the background for Hobbesian libertarianism: .
"What the people of Renaissance England feared was the efficacious power of signs.
Used as nature intended, signs designated referents beyond themselves, whether things in the real world or concepts in the mind. Understood correctly, signs provided a necessary, practical system of mediation between the subjective mind and its objective environment. The obvious danger arising from such a system is that the media of representation may come to be mistaken for the reality that they represent. Human beings have an innate tendency to fetishize signs—to mistake signs for concepts, and even for substantial things. From there it is only a small step to the illusory, and in the view of early modern people, metaphysically evil belief that signs are capable of achieving real, objective effects by working autonomously, that they can achieve a subjective agency independent of human beings.
The deliberate and systematic attempt to exploit the subjective agency of signs is traditionally known as “magic.” A magician deploys signs—images, icons, incantations—in an effort to intervene in and alter the condition of the objective world. Magic is the attempt to do things with signs. To understand how magic is supposed to work, it helps to consider words that indeed achieve objective effects; these are known to linguistics as “performative speech acts.” For example, a priest’s declaration that a couple is married performs the act it describes; it brings a new state of objective affairs into being. This is the same species of power as magicians try to harness. The magician tries to extend the repertoire of performative representation to include, for example, the ability to cause harm to people by damag- ing images of them, or the power to effect changes in the weather by the manipulation of icons and diagrams. Magic is an illegitimate appropriation of representation’s performative power.
The universal taboo held by monotheists against magic indicates the degree to which belief in the autonomous power of representation violates the West’s basic moral presuppositions. Aristotelian and Pla- tonic philosophy, like the Judeo-Christian-Islamic religious tradition, is founded upon the distinctions between essence and appearance, substance and accident, sign and referent. The notion that a more profound, essential reality underlies superficial, empirical appearances is the most basic belief behind such worldviews, and it is precisely this belief that magic denies. Magic suggests that there is no dis- tinction between appearance and reality, that the way the world is represented to us is the way it actually is, and even that representation can construct an entirely new, hyper-real environment. In magic, seeing is believing and power is truth. Magic may even lead people to conclude there is nothing real that exists beyond representation, that there is no referent beyond the sign, and as an inevitable correlative, that there is no soul within the body. People whose thought is formed by Plato, Aristotle, Moses, and Jesus will find these contentions not just ontologically absurd but also morally repugnant.
Orthodox opinion in early modern England held that this illusion was produced by the operation of “Satan,” and at times, this led people to conclude that those who suffered or fostered such illusions had made a formal or implicit pact with the devil. Many believed that this had rendered such people irredeemably antisocial and deserving of eradication in the name of the common good.
The independent, efficacious power of signs asserted itself across the totality of human affairs, as did resistance to that power. The Protestant Reformation was an iconoclastic revolt against idolatry, which is the worship of images, and which was incessantly castigated as a form of magic.
The twentieth-century economist F.A. Hayek noted the primal link between usury and magic. He pointed out that, in the early stages of a capitalist economy, “[a]ctivities that appear to add to available wealth ‘out of nothing,’ without physical recreation and by merely rearranging what already exists, stink of sorcery . . . .” To minds not yet accustomed to it, the autonomous reproduction of money is so obviously unnatural, and yet so undeniably powerful, that its source can only be supernatural. In usury, the sign known as “money” repro- duces as if it were a natural creature. It abandons a sign’s natural role, which is to refer to an external referent, and it becomes self-referential and self-generating. If allowed to do so (and it was first allowed to do so in the English Renaissance period), money will attain an independent, sub- jective power, and impose an alien, supernatural, and as was generally assumed, evil culture on the people over whom it reigns. The inde- pendent power of money was instinctively recognized as a destructive force. As Gerard Malynes’s St. George for England described usury in 1601: “[T]his monster is an actiue element that consumeth all things.”
People’s ability to understand the rise of usury as one ele- ment within a broader pattern of assertive representation helps to explain the moralistic outrage it generated in the early modern period. Revulsion from usury is part of the same impulse that drove religious iconoclasm and the witch hunts: fear and hatred of autonomously powerful signs.
Every genre of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English writing testifies to the era’s horror of usury. At the beginning of this period usury is frequently portrayed as some variant of the devil himself—a hideous, predatory monster or a disgusting, voracious beast. As the seventeenth century progresses, usury sheds some of its abstract, allegorical qualities, and is more often depicted through the figures of realistic human beings, though these characters remain caricatures. The behavior and thought of such figures are shown to be completely determined by the influence of money, and although usury is humanized in them, the literary record leaves no doubt as to its supernatural origin, or to the metaphysical terror it inspired. Nor is there any ambi- guity about the reason for that terror: people assumed that usury was part, and by no means an insignificant or unimportant part, of the devil’s operation in the world.
In his General Discourse against the Damnable Sect of Usurers (1578), Phillip Caesar differentiates between the material cause of usury, which is human, and its efficient cause, which is supernatu- ral. He attacks usurers as those who “by their owne forecaste and wisedome, yea by vnlawfull trades, neglectyng the meanes whiche bee ordained of God, prouide for themselues, attribute that glorie whiche is due vnto God, vnto themselues, and their vsurie....” These usurers have arrogated to themselves the divine privilege of creation, and they make this mistake because they do not look further than the material cause of their profit. This in itself is a sure sign that the efficient agent behind their works is the devil. Caesar immediately goes on to announce:
“The efficient cause of Vsurie, is the forcerie and bewitchyng of Sathan. For euen humane reason, not altogether quenched by the Diuell, dooeth detest and abhorre all suche thynges as destroye nature, as Vsurie doeth . . .” (ibid.). This relation between usury as material and Satan as efficient cause is frequently restated by other writers. In Thomas Adams’s The White Devil (1613), “Vsury is a Coach, and the Diuell is driuer: needes must he goe, whom the Diuell driues.”
“Whence then springeth Vsurie?” asked John Jewell in 1584: “Soone shewed: euen thence whence theft, murther, adul- terie, the plagues, and destruction of the people doe spring. Al these are the workes of the Diuell . . . .” Usurers were thus “the children of the Diuel: their houses bée the shoppes, wherein the Diuel doth his worke of mischiefe.” According to Bishop Lake of Bath and Wells: “The devil is the plain image of usurers, who live by the sweat of other men’s brows.”
R.H. Tawney finds a notable absence of full-time, professional moneylenders among either plaintiffs or defendants in sixteenth-century usury cases:
Who are the lenders? Generally they are quite unpretending people, farmers who are a little more prosperous than their neighbors and see in their difficulties the chance of turning an honest penny, innkeepers who gradually worm themselves into the affairs of the unwary customer, give long credit, and at the critical moment foreclose, tailors, drapers, grocers, mercers, who have a little money laid by, and take to lending in order to eke out the earnings of their trade.
Under these circumstances hostility to usury was not usually directed against a particular social class, but against a certain kind of antisocial and exploitative behavior. When debt and credit are unavoidable elements of everyday economic intercourse, the exaction of usury becomes viscerally and visibly repugnant. Tawney discovered that, on a purely empirical level, sixteenth-century usurers tended to be unpleasant individuals whose lack of scruple in financial affairs was paralleled in other areas of life.
Usury, in short, was a vice, and as such it was practiced by those disposed to vicious behavior. Nor was it only the lenders who were morally implicated in usury. It was considered usurious to pay interest as well as to take it, and both the borrower and the lender were seen as easy prey for other vices. It was widely assumed that personal loans were for the purpose of immediate consumption, so that to take out a loan at interest was to submit to the temptations of sloth and gluttony, just as to make such a loan was to indulge in the sin of avarice. The existence of a money-based economy with insufficient cash ensured that few Londoners could have remained entirely uninvolved in what everyone agreed was a morally deplorable pattern of behavior. This was fertile soil in which a rigorous, comprehensive public debate concerning usury’s nature and effects could flourish.
Furthermore, personal hypocrisy over the issue was replicated at the levels of church and state. The Roman Catholic church grew rich on usury while forbidding it, and Protestants constantly pointed out the connections between the financial and liturgical fetishism that they saw manifested in Rome. The radical literature of Reformation England attacked the Anglican church on the same grounds, pointing out that many clergymen practiced usury, and that the English state permitted usury (while limiting the interest rate), which implied a degree of toleration. Church and state alike thus countenanced and practiced usury, even as the state church’s preachers advocated a ruthless intolerance.
In A Treatise of Usury (1611), Roger Fenton claims that the influx of Hugenot refugees had increased the tolerance of usury: “[T]hese exiles bringing stocks of money with them, and wanting skill to imploy it in those strange places; it was pitie they should haue been driuen to haue spent vpon the stocke: therefore their money was vsed by others who had skill, and some allowance made to them for the vse.” From the combination of material and spiritual reasons given for usury’s prevalence, it would seem that people perceived an alliance of human and supernatural forces at work in it. While the nature of usury’s power was a matter of debate, its unprecedented extent was not. Over the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, English people were forced to develop a new technical vocabulary to identify and understand the various human and conceptual figures who were coming to populate their economic landscape.
By the end of the sixteenth century, these accounts were producing the basic categories and terminology of modern economics. “Brokers,” “scriveners,” and “goldsmiths” became prominent professions, emerging first as aspects of usury, then as allies of the usurer’s enterprise.
The usurer’s closest and most faithful accomplice was the “broker.”
The scrivener facilitated and profited from the intercourse between creditor and debtor, and thus occupied the role of pimp in what was often described as usury’s prostitution. The usury debate’s rhetoric connects scriveners especially closely to Satan. The anonymous Character of a London Scrivener (1667) describes
[a] surreptitious race of men, not of God’s Creation, but born (like Vermin) out of the corruption of several Ages, or (like some Afric Monsters) the Amphibious Product of a Heterogeneous Copulation: for when Persons of different Interests and humours met together in a Contract, this Jarring Con- junction begat Scriviners....Sometimes he plays the Baud, prostitutes the same Title to all comers . . . sometimes he solders up a crackt Title, and passes it away for a pure Maiden-head . . . (A3)
Scriveners were produced out of the interstices of a money economy, like maggots breeding in a carcass. They were also akin to sexual pro- curers, facilitating perverse liaisons and making a profit on the deal without doing any work themselves. Along with “brokers,” “extortioners,” “flatterers,” and their motley colleagues, they represented the beginnings of the financial industry, and as such they were all placed under the general rubric of “usurers” by their contemporaries.
The etymological root of the Hebrew word for usury is nesach, or “serpent,” and the biblical resonance of this image evidently strengthened the construction of usury as a form of temptation.
Debt gave the usurer great power over the debtor, and once in debt people could easily be manipulated to serve the usurer’s will, even if this meant leading their companions into his clutches.
Henry Smith’s The Examination of Usury (1593) corroborates such accounts of “the Vsurers generall, which lurke about the Citie like Rattes, and Wesels, and Fulmers, of whome may bee saide the same which is saide of the diuels, They seeke whom they may deuoure. The utter lack of honor or decency among creditors was a constant literary theme throughout the Renaissance, generally mentioned along with the temptation to debt fostered by the burgeoning consumerism of London society.
It is often suggested that the acquisition of land was the true aim of the usurers, who would take it as security, then often refuse to take legal tender in cash as repayment even if it were offered.
Indeed, many of the most perspicacious observers pointed out that usury was commodity fetishism as applied to money. For Malynes, the evil of usury consisted precisely in treating money as a commodity. Such treatment violated nature by making the medium of exchange into an object of exchange, and such an egregious assault on nature could only have disastrous consequences.
Usury makes “merchandize” of money, thus attaining the ability to “falsify” its value, controlling it as a dragon controls its tail. Because the financial medium of exchange had become indispensable to a large and growing proportion of economic transactions, this practice inevitably spread its effects throughout all economic intercourse. To falsify the value of money was to falsify value in general, for money is “the rule and measure of things.”
Money is “nothing” in the sense that it is not a substantial essence but the measure of other substantial essences. But usury commodi- fies money, treating it as if it were a substantial essence, and bestowing upon it an imaginary and fetishistic power. The fetishism of commodi- ties thus had deeper and more sinister effects than merely stimulating reprehensible vanities in the minds of individuals. When money itself becomes a commodity, the natural relations between cause and effect, sign and referent, essence and appearance become perverted, with profound, far-reaching consequences for every aspect of life. As John Northbrooke put it in The Poore Man’s Garden (1571):
Usurie is iustly to bee had in hatred, and contempte, for bicause it is vsed as marchaundise, or chaffer, and of that, that by nature bryngeth forthe no fruite, he gathereth fruite. But money was made for the cause of exchaunge, one thyng for an other. It is greatly therefore against nature, to make money, a marchaundise, or chaffer.
The rational, Hellenic case against usury is based on Aristotle, who describes usury as “most justly hated” because it is unnatural. It is unnatural because it makes money breed: Aristotle describes usury as an artificial tokos, or birth:
Usury is most reasonably hated because its gain comes from money itself and not from that for the sake of which money was invented. For money was brought into existence for the purpose of exchange, but interest increases the amount of money itself and this is the actual origin of the Greek word: offspring resembles parent, and interest is money born of money; consequently this form of the getting of wealth is of all forms the most contrary to nature.
Money is neither a living creature nor any part of the natural world; it is an arbitrary and merely conventional human system of signs. To make it breed therefore involves the basic error of confusing nomos (custom) with phusis (nature). This is irrational, and therefore uneth- ical. The image of usury as an unnatural birth sank deep roots in the literature on the subject. In Thomas Adams’s The White Devil (1613) usury is a teeming thing, euer with child, pregnant, and multiplying: money is an vnfruitfull thing by nature made only for commutation: it is a praeternaturall thing, it should engender money: this is monstrosus partus, a prodigious birth.
In 1634’s Wit’s Commonwealth, Francis Meres connects this image to the tradition, based on the etymology of the Hebrew nesech, of figuring usury as a snake: “Vipers are borne by gnawing asunder the bellies of their dams: so Vsurie is bred and nourished by consuming the houses and substance of debtors.” This conventional image appears to influence the usurer John Milton’s depiction of Sin in Paradise Lost, as a half-serpentine, self-generating female monster who constantly gives birth to “hell-hounds” that endlessly gnaw their way back into her womb to be born again.
For the followers of Aristotle, then, the reason money cannot reproduce is that it is not an essence in itself, but an expression of the value of other essences. The essence of money is its lack of essence; its substance is its insubstiantiality. Value and essence are mutually definitive concepts, and thus also mutually exclusive: value is an accident, whereas essence is a substance. Unlike essence, which ceases to exist when it is destroyed, value is actually created in its own destruction. The essence of value is only realized when the value is used up, and thus, as early modern commentators often said, value is “lent to be spent.”
To hoard money is to simply waste it; only by being exchanged for use value can money realize its own value. For Taylor (as for Aristotle) money does not truly exist, it does not realize its purpose until it ceases to exist. Money, in other words, is a “fungible.”
The Hebrew term for usury was nesech, which means “biting,” particularly as in a snakebite. Indeed, the word derives from nachash, snake. As we have already seen, this furnished early modern polemicists with a rich vein of imagery, and consolidated the connection of usury with the serpent in Eden. In The White Devil (1613) Adams declares that “the vsurer is like the worme we call the timber-worme; which is won- derfull soft to touch, but hath teeth so hard, that it eats timber: but the vsurer eats timber and stones too.” Like a snake’s bite, and like Satan’s temptations, usury might at first feel innocuous, or even pleasant, but it would soon lead to terrible suffering. As Lodge put it in 1591:
The Hebrues well looking into the lamentable effectes thereof, called it Neschech, that is to say, a biting: a diction which is drawen from the theame Naschech, a word attributed to Serpents: for as the Serpent stingeth and biteth, so Usurie (according to the opinion of Rabbi Salomon) is the henemoust poyson among men. For as hee that is stung by a Serpent in the foote, with small paine falleth a sléepe, and in his slumbers (the poyson beeing dis- pearsed) suffereth death: so the biting of Usurie makes but a little wound at the first, vntill such time as it hath growen to fulnes, it consumeth a poore mans whole estate, and substaunce.
But at first glance, Deuteronomy appears more permissive:
23:19 Thou shalt not lend upon usury to thy brother; usury of money, usury of victuals, usury of any thing that is lent upon usury:
23:20 Unto a stranger thou mayest lend upon usury; but unto thy brother thou shalt not lend upon usury: that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all that thou settest thine hand to in the land whither thou goest to possess it.
It seems that if a “stranger” was to be assimilated into the Hebrew community, either temporarily and informally or officially as a “sojourner,” then usury must not be demanded from him. Usury was incompatible with shared membership of a community. It could, however, be exacted from those outside the community: the alien and hostile tribes surrounding the Israelites in Canaan, whom the God of Abraham had commanded His people to attack and dispossess. Many commentators claimed that it was specifically and only these peoples who were covered by the exception.
Deuteronomy assumes that usury is an aggressive act, calculated to damage and plunder the people subjected to it. As Paul Johnson observes, in biblical times “[i]nterest was . . . synonymous with hostility.” Authors of our period often reminded their readers of Cato, who, asked what he thought of usury, had replied: “[W]hat do you think of homicide?” They also remembered how Seneca had attacked ancient Britain, and sparked Boudica’s revolt, by the economic warfare of excessive usury. In The History of Britain Milton recalls how Seneca, “having drawn the British unwill- ingly to borrow of him vast sums upon false promises of easy loan, and for repayment to take their own time, on a sudden compels them to pay in all at once with great extortion.” Usury was an act of murderous hostility, warfare by other means, licensed against the peoples who the Israelites were attempting to destroy, but unthinkable among people who had to live amicably together.
In 1630 Taylor called usury “such a consumer of mens estates, and so uncharitable, as the Lord would not admit of it in Israel, but among his enemies whom he would have quite consumed.”
In a tract published posthumously Robert Bolton emphasized the historical situation of the Israelites, surrounded by enemy peoples whose land they had been commanded to expropriate. Only under these circumstances, the same circumstances that justified war, was usury allowed, and the Deuteronomic exception could not therefore be enlisted as a ratio- nalization of modern usury. Bolton denies that this is a matter of economic justice. It was sometimes argued that usury might legitimately be taken from those who could afford it. But Bolton notes that Deuteronomy characterized usury per se as hostility:
[N]ot so much, as the least Usury was lawfull towards a Brother, whether He were poore or rich. If the Scriptures had put such a difference betweene the poore and the rich, as betweene the Israelite and Cananite: To the rich thou maist; but to the poore Thou shalt not lend upon Vsury: Then the case were cleare. But Deut. 23. 19, 20. GOD makes opposition, not betweene the poore and the rich: but betweene an Israelite and Cananite. For by stranger in that Place, is meant the Hittites, the Gergashites, the Amorites, the Cananites, the Perisites, the Hivites and Jebusites...these the Jewes were commanded to destroy, Deut. 7. 12. And Usury was as teeth given them, and allowed by GOD to eate them up withall: Whence that of Saint Ambrose De Tobia, cap. "Ab hoc usuram exige, quem non sit crimen occidere. "Seest thou a man, whom Thou maist lawfully kill? take use of Him, but not of thy Brother."
Since the historical circumstances to which Deuteronomy addresses itself had expired long ago, to whom could the terms “stranger” and “brother” apply? In order to fashion the tribal God of the Old Tes- tament into the universal Redeemer of the New, Christians subjected the entire Hebrew Bible to a complicated framework of metaphorical readings collectively known as “typology.” In typological interpretation, the literal and partisan significances of the Old Testament are assimilated and subjected to the figurative, generalized meanings of the new dispensation. In this tropological register, Deuteronomy’s “strangers” and “brothers” cease to be ethnic terms. In the Christian view, all men are metaphorically speaking “brothers,” and a Christian reading of Deuteronomy therefore forbids usury absolutely. As Sander explains:
The carnall Jewes had certain infidels to their enemies: whom as they might kil, so they might oppresse them with usuries. But now seeinge everie man is both our neighbour, and our brother: we may not take usurie of any man at al.
Taylor echoes the sentiment 60 years later: “In the Law usurie is for- bidden onely to brethren, but in the Prophets to all absolutely: and in the Gospell much more, because all are now brethren”. Medieval Christian commentators claimed that the Jews read the Deuteronomic injunction literally and so, on their own terms, were justified in taking usury from Gentiles. This furnished the ideological justification for making the Jews into Europe’s moneylenders. However, Christians themselves were theoretically constrained to follow a figural or spiritual method of interpretation, eschewing the fleshy, literal “sense of the Jews,” and to read the text as metaphorical and thus universal in its application.
We should note that Christians did not universally abstain from usury in practice, and we should remember that the Christian concept of “brotherhood” is not necessarily universal. In the century following the Reformation it was often restricted to co-confessionalists. In 1591 Charles Gibbon glossed Deuteronomy as meaning that usury “might be offered to none but strangers (such as were addicted to Idolatrie & enemies to religion) but to their brethren (which were inclined to the true seruice of God) it might not, therfore amongst vs which be Christians (being all brethren by profession) it may not . . . .”
Gibbon nominally applies the rule to all Christians, but most Protestants would have agreed that Catholics were “addicted to Idolatrie” and thus “strangers” by this definition. Many Christians happily disregarded all strictures against usury, and the Lombards in particular became a byword for moneylending. Nevertheless, the association between usury and Judaism has historically sunk deep roots within the Christian mind. Successive church councils over more than a millennium assumed that usury was anti-Christian, specifying that usurers should be refused both Christian burial and communion, which were punishments reserved for heretics.
The abolition of the distinction between “strangers” and “broth- ers” could work both ways. If in one sense early modern Christians conceived of everyone as a “brother,” there was another sense in which they were coming to regard everyone as a “stranger.” As Benjamin Nelson has shown in his classic work, The Idea of Usury, the de-tribalizing of Deuteronomy could also be construed as justifying the taking of usury from everybody, rather than from nobody. In a process that began with Hobbes and gathered pace rapidly in the second half of the seventeenth century, the “economy” was defined for theoretical purposes precisely as the sphere in which people acted in their own self-interest, regarding every other participant in the market as an abstract “stranger.” Nelson traces the progress “from tribal brotherhood to universal otherhood” whereby, in the “economic” sphere of activity, it became ethically permissible to treat every other individual as an alien with different and competing interests. This Hobbesian reading of Deuteronomy produces homo economi- cus, the abstract, self-seeking, individualist actor of political economy. As Nelson puts it: “In modern capitalism, all are ‘brothers’ in being equally ‘others.’ ”
Joyce Oldham Appleby, Ellen Meiksins Wood, and many others have shown how the early political economists of the late seventeenth century, taking their cue from Hobbes’s depiction of human nature as essentially selfish, and of the state of nature as a ceaseless bellum omnes contra omnia (war of all against all), constructed an abstract theoretical model of a marketplace consisting of individual agents pursuing their rational self-interest. The marketplace was the sphere in which Hobbesian man was free to pursue his natural impulses unfettered by traditional moral strictures. The aggregate of such acts of individual self-interest became the “economy.” This tradition was famously adumbrated by Adam Smith at the beginning of The Wealth of Nations: “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their self-love . . . .” The psychological attitude that Renaissance England called “usury” thus becomes the definitive characteristic of economic activity.
But most writers saw no need to refer to any experience of actual Jews, because the conceptual fusion between Judaism and usury was so deeply rooted in Christian biblical hermeneutics. Of course, the legacy of this logic threw a long shadow over secular thought as well, and Karl Marx was still using “Judaism” as a synonym for usury in the 1840s. In Marx too, the connection is largely conceptual and tropological, rather than empirical. Usurers are figurative rather than literal “Jews.” Indeed, this metaphorical Judaism was often said to make them more Jewish than literal Jews. Thomas Wilson’s A Discourse of Usury (1572) initially argues for an empirical link between Jews and usury, but immediately discards it as irrelevant, on the grounds that all usurers are, figuratively speaking, Jews:
What is the matter that Jews are so universally hated wherever they come? Forsooth, usury is one of the chief causes, for they rob all men that deal with them, and undo them in the end. And for this cause they were hated in England and so banished worthily, with whom I would all those Englishmen were sent that lent their money or goods whatsoever for gain; for I take them to be no better than Jews. Nay, shall I say: they are worse than Jews. (232)
The idea that usurers were an especially intensified form of Jew is commonplace in the overtly didactic anti-usury tradition. Thomas Pie’s Usury’s Spright Conjur’d (1604) claims that usury is still practiced “as Jewishly as when the Jewes were here in their prime.”
It is not so much that usurers were perceived as akin to Jews, as that usury was considered the economic counterpart of Judaism. Usury was legal and yet sinful; it was based on a literalist misreading of scripture, and on a preference for representa- tion above reality. In all these aspects the early modern mind perceived a kinship between usury and Judaism, which they understood as a legalistic, literalistic, and ritualistic religion.
Satan had conceived of his debt to God in the same terms as the opponents of usury described moneylending. He imagined his relationship to deity in quantitative terms, so that “one step higher / Would set me highest” (Milton 4:50–51), and this led him to imagine gratitude as com- pound interest, a never-ending, always increasing burden exacted on a regular temporal basis.
Satan’s status as debtor is not temporary or temporal but inherent in his nature. His fall consists in his denial of that nature, which causes him to regard God as a cruel and unjust usurer.
Calvin was often cited by his contemporaries as the first religious thinker to sanction usury. The Institutes of the Christian Religion makes particularly prominent use of the conventional metaphor of human beings as “impoverished debtors” before God, and in Calvin and his commentators, the figure of God as usurer becomes so familiar as to acquire literalistic connotations, which could be deployed to legitimize financial usury. According to Benjamin Nelson’s famous hypothesis, it was Calvin’s reinterpreta- tion of Deuteronomy that “self-consciously and hesitantly, charted the path to the world of Universal Otherhood, where all become ‘brothers’ in being equally ‘others’ ” As C.B. MacPherson and others have shown, this acknowledgment of universal alienation, combined with the doctrine of “total depravity,” which assumed the entirely sinful condition of each individual soul, prepared the way for Hobbes’s assumption that market behavior is natural to human beings.
Calvin claims that any self-interested economic behavior is usury. According to the theoretical political economy emerging by the seventeenth century, the market by its very nature involved people striving “to make gain by the loss of the other party.” That is exactly what the market was: the individual’s rational pursuit of his or her economic self-interest. In this arena, each side of a bargain had a right, even a responsibility, to seek his or her own advantage. For Hobbe- sian man this was in any case the natural and inevitable course of behavior, regardless of morality, and by the end of our period morality was fast being exiled from the domain of economics. According to Calvin’s logic, every participant in a market economy must stand con- victed of usury, for he treats as “usury” any bargain in which one participant seeks his own advantage at the expense of the other. He therefore concludes that the Psalm cannot possibly intend to prohibit all usury...
While still condemning usury, therefore, Calvin decides that a limited amount of it must be permitted. Following much the same logic a century later, the new science of political econ- omy would define the economy as the sphere of human activity in which it is permissible to treat the actors as “strangers,” from whom taking usury is allowed. By this semiconscious ideological process, Europe was induced to accept the legitimacy of finance capitalism. Because of usury’s unavoidable ubiquity, Calvin distin- guishes between tolerable and intolerable usury. His position is that only those instances that are harmful should be stigmatized: “[T]he gain which he who lends his money upon interest acquires, with- out doing injury to any one, is not to be included under the head of unlawful usury.”
Calvin compares this text to the Psalm in which
David mentions, among other things—who has not lent his money on usury, (Psalm 15:5.) It seems, then, from these two places, that usury is in itself unlawful. But because God’s law embraces complete and perfect justice, hence we must hold that interest, unless it is opposed to God’s law, is not altogether to be condemned, otherwise ignominy would clearly attach to the law of God if it did not prescribe to us a true and complete rule of living justly.
We can see here how Calvin’s doctrine of “total depravity” informs his view of usury. According to this gloomy thesis, postlapsarian human beings were completely and utterly alienated from God, to the extent that we are by nature completely sinful and incapable of doing any- thing good. There are no degrees of alienation from God. The fall means that we will inevitably commit sin, just as economic circum- stances dictate that we will inevitably commit usury. Given that usury is inevitable, the aim is not to prevent it but to control it. This argument both reflects and rationalizes the self-interested practices of the market economy. While usury must certainly be condemned, any attempt to eliminate it altogether would be worse than futile, it would be to commit the sin of self-righteousness. It would be arrogantly to pretend that human beings can behave in a righteous manner, thus ignoring Paul’s warning in Romans 3:10 that “there is none righ- teous, no, not one.” This conviction of universal alienation and total depravity led Calvin to become, in Nelson’s words, “the first religious leader to exploit the ambivalence of the Deuteronomic passage in such a fashion as to prove that it was permissible to take usury from one’s brother” (ibid.).
Calvin’s thought also announces a new epoch in the history of representation; he is the first to offer an eth- ical justification of the performative sign. Calvin confessed that the bread and wine of the communion were merely symbols of Christ’s body and blood. In this he agreed with the radical Anabaptists, and departed from both Catholics and Lutherans, who believed in a lit- eral real presence. He differed from the radicals, however, in claiming that the sacrament was not merely a memorial but had a real, objec- tive effect on the mind of the communicant. Although it was not a literal but a metaphorical embodiment of Christ, the Eucharist was objectively efficacious. The sacrament, in other words, was a performative sign.
Calvin’s willingness to sacralize such signs is his most important innovation, and it affected his views on usury as well as liturgy.
Joseph Hall gives them careful consideration in The Righteous Mammon (1613):
Euery stampe or impression in his coyne is to the couetous man a very Idoll; And what madnes is there in this Idolatry, to dote vpon a base creature, and to bestow that life which wee haue from God, vpon a creature that hath no life in it selfe, and no price but from men.
Here it is specifically the “stampe or impression” in the coin that is idolized; Hall wants to call attention to the difference between the inherent value of precious metals and financial value, which is created by the sign of the coin’s stamp. This is another difference between usury and covetousness: unlike covetousness, usury specifi- cally fetishizes signs, not material things. Hall’s mind then leaps to Psalm 115’s account of idolatry as the subjectification of the object:
“Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. / They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not” (4–5).
He identifies the artificial “price” that usurers bestow on money with the artificial life that idolators bestow on idols. We see in his thought the mingling of scriptural depictions of usury as idolatry with the Greek description of usury as unnatural birth, which also gives life to what is naturally lifeless. The people of Renaissance England synthesized the Hellenic and the Hebraic traditions by drawing on what was common to them both: the equation of usury with fetishized representation.
This way of connecting usury with idolatry owes more to Luther’s semiotics than to Calvin’s. Whereas Calvin was most often cited by those who wanted usury limited rather than outlawed, Luther was frequently invoked by the absolutist opponents of all usury. Luther insisted that the efficacious power of the sacrament was inherent in the bread and wine. He thought that the Eucharist’s value was innate, rather than symbolic. He objected to the Catholic Mass, not because of its belief in the real presence, which he shared, but because of its claim that the priest’s liturgical actions had caused a transubstantiation. Luther believed that this reduced the sacrament to magic, making a fetish of the priestly ritual. This fur- nished another point of comparison between idolatry and usury, which also fetishized alienated human activity. Like Calvin, Luther applied the same ethics of representation to money as he did to the sacra- ment, when he objected to the idea that labor power can be stored up in the form of a symbol.
As long as the political situation allowed, Luther inveighed against usury in all of its various forms. In the early 1520s he wrote against the usurious traffic in annuities, or Zinskauf : “The devil invented this system, and the Pope by confirming it has injured the whole world. . . . Truly this traffic in rents must be a sign and a symbol that the world, for its grievous sins, has been sold to the devil....” Luther was especially vehement against usury as it was practiced by the Catholic church.
The equation of hospitality with charity meant that, as the antithesis of hospitality, usury was confirmed as a synonym for the pursuit of self-interest. To be opposed to charity was to be Satanically antisocial, a public enemy, and this is exactly how usury is generally portrayed by its opponents.
Hobbes observes that “[a] man’s Labour also, is a commodity exchangeable for benefit, as well as any other thing.” Exchange value represents labor power in symbolic form so that “[t]he Value, or Worth of a man is, as of all other things, the Price; that is to say, so much as would be given for the use of his Power”. A human being’s “power” can be used by somebody else if it is represented in the form of money. Money is transferable power, congealed human activity, the force of which can be stored and released because it has been encapsulated in symbolic form. It was the efficacious power of the sign; the same kind of power as magicians aspired to exercise. Usury was magic perfected by other means.'''
The great witch hunts of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries reflect a hysterical reaction against the power of the performative sign, which had traditionally been the preserve of magic.
The witch hunts, which reached their height in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, were directed against attempts to manip- ulate signs in order to achieve objective effects. It was not the deeds perpetrated by the witch that concerned the witch-hunters, but the means by which s/he had effected them. Because images were not naturally efficacious, any more than money is naturally fertile, any attempt to use images for objective effects was a violation of nature, and thus Satanic.
The witch’s crime was not any material harm, or maleficia, s/he might have done through his or her magic. Magic was a crime even if its effects were benign. Indeed, it was a crime even if it had no effects at all; the attempt to use magic was itself a criminal offence. The crime, of which “good” and “bad” witches were equally guilty, was simply to believe in the efficacious power of performative representation.
Idolatry, magic, and commodification are parts of a single wider enter- prise, which is the representation of human life in a symbolic, alien, and potent form. It naturally occurred to people to enquire after this enterprise’s purpose and source. Whose enterprise was it, who was really performing the magical feats that the signs themselves seemed to perform on their own? It was as the answer to such questions that the figure of “Satan” achieved unprecedented cultural promi- nence during the English Renaissance.
The exclusion of magic, and its attribution to Satan, are fundamental to Christianity’s self-conception, and they seem to reveal a neurotic sensitivity (and vulnerability) to accusations of sorcery. Such accusations were loudly revived in the Protestant Reformation’s attack on Catholic miracles, liturgy, and sacraments.
Learned sorcerers might claim to be able to control the dark pow- ers, but a concerted propaganda campaign, in which the story of Dr. Faustus figured prominently, was designed to refute such proud assertions.5 Anyone who practiced magic, it was claimed, was a slave of the devil, although Satan might encourage the magician to form the opposite impression. That is exactly what happens to Marlowe’s Faustus.
The usurer’s unnatural reproduction is the negation of art, and thus also of nature. While art is the legitimate offspring of nature, imitat- ing her to produce a healthy second nature, usury is an illegitimate, bastard child, which brings into being a different, unhealthy kind of second nature, on the basis of custom. Unlike art, custom does not imitate nature but obscures her and aspires to replace her. Where art exalts the works of nature, custom subverts them. And usury, the reproduction of the nomos that is opposed to phusis in Greek thought, is the active embodiment of custom. This is another strand of thought that contributed to the denunciation of usury as the alien- ated antithesis of subjective activity. Mason’s A Mirror for Merchants (1609) scornfully dismisses the usurer’s assumption that money can reproduce over time, on the grounds that this reproduction is actu- ally achieved by the labor power that money merely represents. What people actually purchased in usury was their own labor power.
The knowledge that usury was alienated human activity meant that it confused the proper roles of subject and object, which in the con- ceptual vocabulary of the Western philosophical tradition correspond to the roles of master and servant. Usury reversed these roles, in an objectification of the subject that was also a subjectification of the object, and this was often likened to a revolt of the servile. The essential moral of the city comedies as a whole is encapsulated in Massinger’s A New Way to Pay Old Debts (1621) when riches are called “a useful servant / But a bad Master” (4.1.188–89). Money is properly “useful” when it serves human needs, but the “abuse” that was usury made human beings serve the needs of money. In usury man was represented in alien form, and this objective representation achieved artificial life, coming to dominate over the people whose activity it represented.
The Mayor of London, known to practice usury, was named Swinnerton. In the play he becomes the “Hog” of the title: “Is his name Hog? It fits him exceeding well, for as a hog in his lifetime is always devouring, and never commodius in aught till his death, even so is he, whose goods at that time may be put to many good uses” (1.1.66–69). Possibly evincing some awareness of Islam’s strict pro- hibition of usury, Thomas Nashe’s Quaterino (1633) claims that “the Turks” believe that at the final resurrection “usurers...shall appeare with faces like vnto hogs and swine.” The fact that Renaissance England could envisage usurers simultaneously as threadbare misers and gluttonous hogs indicates that such tropes were not understood as designating empirical characteristics of actual usurers, but rather as figural expressions of various theoretical features of usury: it denigrated use value in favor of exchange value, like the hoarding miser, and it also fostered an unproductive conspicuous consumption that seemed akin to the behavior of hogs.
There was, however, one (and only one) real risk to the usurer’s investment: the character of the borrower. This had the effect of making character itself into an economic category, a quantifiable object that could be measured and expressed in terms of financial creditwor- thiness. Hence Shylock’s famously ambiguous musing that “Antonio is a good man,” to which Bassanio responds with angry incomprehension: “Have you heard any imputation to the contrary?” (1.3.9–10). Bassanio does not understand that Shylock is employing the term “good” to mean financially “sufficient” to justify a loan. This reduction of moral character to financial viability struck many people as an objectionable degradation of the soul itself, the source of which must be the very principle of evil.
To sell time was to sell life, and the essence of life was the soul. Usury was thus understood to involve the sale of the soul to Satan. The infernal source of usury is emphasized with especial assiduity when the anti-usury pamphlets discuss the sale of time.
The usurer’s property rights over the money he loaned gave him the right to control the physical body of the debtor. The objective representation of human activity had the power to inhibit the subjective activity of actual human beings. Nietzsche traces the sem- inal assertion of the human will over arbitrary fate in the promise to repay a debt, and he explains the origin of the conscience as a response to the failure to keep that promise.
In Middleton’s Michaelmas Term the usurer Hoard bestows a higher degree of authenticity on financial than on linguistic signs: “[A]re not debts better than words, Sir?” (4.4.181). In response, however, Witgood points out that debts, like promises, are merely words to which efficacious power has been attributed: “Are not words promises, and are not promises debts, Sir?” (4.4.182).
Nietzsche claims that morality itself originates in the enforcement of debt obligations, and he adduces as evidence the etymological con- nection between “guilt” (Schuld) and “debt” (Schulden). The entire concept of legal punishment, in Nietzsche’s view, can be traced to the imperative of finding an equivalent to a debt owed. Until very recently, he points out, that equivalent involved the infliction of a quantifiable degree of pain on the debtor’s body:
In order to inspire trust in his promise to pay back, in order to give his promise a guarantee of its seriousness and sanctity, in order to impress on his own conscience the idea of paying back as a duty, an obligation, the debtor, by virtue of a contract, pledges to the creditor, in the event that he does not pay, something else that he still “owns,” something else over which he still exercises power, for example, his body or his woman or his freedom or even his life. . . . That means that the creditor could inflict all kinds of ignominy and torture on the body of the debtor, for instance, slice off the body as much as seemed appropriate for the size of the debt:—and this point of view early on and everywhere gave rise to precise, sometimes horrific estimates going into the smallest detail, legally established estimates about individual limbs and body parts.
It is this idea that a financial debt can be rendered equivalent to a portion of the body that renders the plot of The Merchant of Venice so profoundly disturbing. The idea that arrears in a sum of money could affect the physical liberty of the human body added weight to the impression of usury as the antithesis, the negation, of life itself.
The first man to introduce a comprehensive system of paper money as a national currency, John Law in eighteenth-century France, declared: “I have discovered the secret of the philosopher’s stone: it is to make gold out of paper.” Law’s ultimately disastrous but perspicacious experiment was used by Goethe as the inspiration for the “paper money scene” in Faust Part Two, which explores the connections between alchemical and financial value at length. Several historians of ideas have recently expounded the homology between alchemy and usury, arguing that the latter is the successful culmination of the former. As Jean-Joseph Goux puts it: “[T]he philosopher’s stone has become the prosaic money in the ledgers of capital.”
In Jonson’s Every Man out of His Humour (1599) the usurer Deliro is called an “alchemist” (2.2.304) who can turn his debtors’ lands into money. The implication is that alchemy did not disappear because it failed, but because it succeeded. As recent financial thinkers such as George Soros have suggested, usury is simply alchemy conducted by other, far more successful means.
As with Milton and Middleton, the financial and the erotic are not fully distinguished spheres, but shape and form each other in the poet’s imagination.
The concept of “sodomy” was more expansive in the early modern period than it is today. The Aristotelian association between usury and unnatural birth, combined with the conception of usury as an addictive sensual pleasure, produced an instinctive connection between usury and all forms of unnatural sexual activity. In the scholastic tradition this meant any sexual activity that was not directed toward the natural telos of sex, which is reproduction. All nonreproduc- tive sex acts were gathered under the category of “concupiscence,” and usury was frequently likened to concupiscent sexuality. Thomas Dekker’s Worke for Armorours (1609) is one of many tracts to claim that “[u]surie was the first that ever taught Money to commit incest”.
But perhaps the most abiding sexual similes applied to usury in this period were prostitution and pimping. Commodified sexuality seems an appropriate metaphor for usury, because it brazenly substi- tutes money for the natural telos and product of sexual intercourse.
Before the sudden dissociation of sensibility that was imposed on English people in the second half of the seventeenth century, it was naturally and automatically—and, surely, correctly— assumed that usury’s rise to power would be accompanied by conse- quences for sexuality, politics, philosophy, and psychology. To insist on the homologies between these spheres is not economic determinism; on the contrary, it is a challenge to the very concept of the “economy.” It was their awareness of usury’s implications beyond the sphere of “economics” that inspired the people of Renaissance England’s implacable hostility toward it." [David Hawkes, The Culture of Usury in Renaissance England]
Cumulative guilt disrupts the archaic economy of gift-giving. The principle of reciprocity is inseparable from cyclical time, while in cumulative time accounts are always unbalanced. The first solution to the problem of guilt, to share it (the totemic brotherhood), is no longer adequate. But cumulative time, which disrupts the old solution to the problem of guilt, organizes a new solution, which is to accumulate the tokens of atonement, the economic surplus.
Prestige and power, always attached to virtuosity in the arts of expiation, are now conferred not by giving but by taking, by possessing. The need to share the guilt is to some extent transcended; in accumulating possessions the individual shoulders his own burden of guilt and thus negates the first solution. The modern psychology of taking is constructed, by a process of denial, out of its archaic opposite, giving. Thus the individual (and the economic surplus) is emancipated to some extent from the archaic submergence in the social group. The new equally guilt-ridden schema of possession inaugurates the predatory pattern which Veblen described, and transforms archaic masochism into modern sadism.
At the same time the new schema imposes on the human being a second degree of dehumanization. The archaic man, to assuage his guilt, used his freedom, his surplus, to construct society, and hid himself in the group. The possessive individual emancipates himself to some extent from the group, but he is still in flight from himself; his essence now passes into things, his property. (Consider the etymology of "property.") The compulsion to work remains; life remains an exercise in overcoming guilt. Property accumulations are outward and visible signs of an inward and spiritual grace; they are also the man's life. And being the man's life, things become alive and do what the man would like to do. Things become the god (the father of himself) that he would like to be: money breeds. The institution of interest presupposes not only cumulative time but also the displacement of the parental complex from the totemic group to the totemie possession, money. Thus money in the civilized economy comes to have a psychic value it never had in the archaic economy.
We thus arrive at a further level of meaning in the equation of money and excrement. Money is inorganic dead matter which has been made alive by inheriting the magic power which infantile narcissism attributes to the excremental product. Freud pointed out that it was an integral part of the anal symbolic complex to equate the feces with the penis. The infantile fantasy of becoming father of oneself first moves out to make magic use of objects instead of its own body when it gets attached to that object which both is and is not part of its own body, the feces. Money inherits the infantile magic of excrement and then is able to breed and have children: interest is an increment (cf. Greek tokos, Latin faenus, etc.).
This emergent individualism has other complicated and obscure psychological dimensions. In psychoanalytical terms it appears to involve a restructuring of the core of the guilt complex (the Oedipus complex and castration complex). The psychology of giving is intimately feminine; the psychology of possession and taking is masculine. And factually, the new guilt complex appears to be historically connected with the rise of patriarchal religion (for the Western development the Hebrews are decisive). In psychoanalytical terms, the gift complex resolves guilt by identification with the mother, while the possession complex resolves guilt by identification with the father. And it would seem that identification with the father involves a transformation of guilt into aggression. In the gift complex dependence on the mother is acknowledged, and then overcome by mothering others. Identification with the father is a way of denying dependence on the mother. (And, like all sustained denials, simultaneously affirms it; the classic Oedipus complex is a superstructure based on relations to the "pre-Oedipal" mother.) "Taking" is a denial of dependence, and thus transforms the guilt of indebtedness into aggression; and the masculinity complex, the obsessive denial of feminity, is inherently aggressive.
We therefore in principle agree with Bettelheim: "Only with phallic psychology did aggressive manipulation of nature by technological inventions become possible." In another terminology, we can identify the new individualism with Apollonian masculinity and Apollonian sublimation. But as long as the psychoanalytical theory of the pre-Oedipal mother remains backward, and as long as psychoanalysis leaves it to the Jungians to exploit Bachofen's discovery of the religion of the Great Mother, this turning point in history remains psychologically obscure.
Whatever the mechanisms involved, the history of the neurosis (the neurosis of history) produces over the long term a definite strengthening of the human ego, as measured by its capacity to face the problem of guilt. The man who gives seeks to get rid of his guilt by sharing it. The man who takes is strong enough to shoulder his own burden of guilt. Christian man is strong enough to recognize that the debt is so great that only God can redeem it. Modern secular Faustian man is strong enough to live with irredeemable damnation." [Life against Death]
Money, mind, and matter: a psychocultural digression - Doug Henwood
"Money is a kind of poetry.
— Wallace Stevens (1971, p. 165)
Who drinks on credit gets twice as drunk.
— Turkish proverb
One virtue of Keynes’s attention to psychology and sentiment is that it forces us to think about economics in a way that most economists find squishy and unscientific. This narrowness of vision has harmed the dismal science immeasurably.
Credit is money of the mind, as James Grant (1992) put it in a book title, though of course every now and then mental money faces an unpleasant coming to terms with matter. Still, in these days of multibillion dollar bailouts, it seems that mind can sustain fantastic valuations for far longer than ever seemed imaginable in the past.
We might date the modern credit culture’s beginning to the severance of paper currencies from gold in the early 1970s. It waxed during the 1983–89 binge, waned during the 1989–92 slump, and waxed again starting in 1993. At its root, it’s based on the assumption that a munificent river of liquidity will flow for all time. Someone will always be willing to take an overvalued asset off your hands tomorrow at a price comfortably higher than today’s. Two famous axioms from apostles of credit illustrate this faith. In the late 1970s, Citibank chair Walter Wriston, a promoter of Third World lending, rebutted skeptics with the argument that “Countries don’t go bankrupt” (quoted in Kuczynski 1988, p. 5). Last decade’s chief debtmonger, the junk bond supremo Michael Milken, used to argue in the days before his incarceration that capital isn’t a scarce resource, capital is abundant — it’s vision that’s scarce (quoted in Bruck 1988, p. 272).
This credit culture is a long way from that described by a 19th century Scottish banker, G.M. Bell, who thought his colleagues to be finer moralists than clerics:
Banking establishments are moral and religious institutions. How often has the fear of being seen by the watchful and reproving eye of his banker deterred the young tradesman from joining the company of riotous and extravagant friends…? Has he not trembled to be supposed guilty of deceit or the slightest misstatement, lest it should give rise to suspicion, and his accommodation be in consequence restricted or discontinued [by his banker]?… And has not that friendly advice been of more value to him than that of priest? (quoted in Marx 1981, p. 679).
‘The cult of money,” wrote Marx (1973, p. 232), “has its asceticism, its self-denial, its self-sacrifice — economy and frugality, contempt for the mundane, temporal, and fleeting pleasures…. Hence the connection between English Puritanism or also Dutch Protestantism, and money-making.” In a phrase Keynes also used, it is auri sacra fames — the sacred hunger for gold.
This austerity strikes moderns, supersaturated with commodities, as quaint — though there’s nothing passé about sadomonetarist adjustment programs. But there’s another sense in which money and religion travel together — especially when money takes the form of a promise rather than a hard form of settlement, that is, when money becomes credit (from Latin, “I believe”). A credit agreement is a profession of faith by both parties: short of a swindle, both parties believe the debtor will be able to repay the loan with interest. It is a bet on the future. This theological subtlety is lost on the information asymmetry theorists, who, even as they concede the possibility of deception, don’t allow departures from rational self-interest.
For most of history, credit’s dreamier excesses were limited by gold, a metal at once seen as both “natural money” and pure enough to touch the body of Christ. Marx (ibid., p. 727):
The monetary system [i.e., gold-based] is essentially Catholic, the credit system essentially Protestant…. [T]he monetary existence of commodities has a purely social existence. It is faith that brings salvation. Faith in money value as the immanent spirit of commodities, faith in the mode of production and its predestined disposition, faith in the individual agents of production as mere personifications of self-valorizing capital. But the credit system is no more emancipated from the monetary system as its basis than Protestantism is from the foundations of Catholicism.
Money conflates the sacred and profane; it’s no accident that American currency states that “In God We Trust.”
This conflation of high and low, of matter and spirit, is enough to send a student of money to Freud. By the lights of classical psychoanalysis, money is gold, and gold is transformed shit, and exchange relations, sublimated rituals of the anus. Though this is by now a commonplace, readers found this a rather shocking thesis almost 90 years ago. Freud’s (1908) essay on the anal character began by noting the coexistence of a trio of features in such cases: orderliness, obstinacy, and thrift. Freud speculated that this unholy trinity — hallmarks of the Victorian bourgeois — spring from an infantile interest in the anus and its products. Orderliness, said Freud, gives “the impression of a reaction-formation against an interest in what is unclean and disturbing and should not be part of the body.” Obstinacy represents the baby’s lingering reluctance to part with his or her stool on command.
And the infantile roots of thrift are perhaps the most interesting of all. Freud noted the rich associations between money and dirt found in folklore and everyday language. In English, there are expressions like “stinking rich” and “filthy lucre.” In legends, “the gold which the devil gives his paramours turns into excrement after his departure…. We also know about the superstition which connects the finding of treasure with defaecation, and everyone is familiar with the figure of the ‘shitter of ducats’ [a German idiom for a wealthy spendthrift; we have our goose with its golden eggs, more fertile than fecal, but emerging from a neighboring bodily region]. Indeed, even according to ancient Babylonian doctrine gold is ‘the faeces of hell.’” Finally, Freud suggested that “it is possible that the contrast between the most precious substance known to men and the most worthless…has led to th[e] specific identification of gold with faeces.”
Freud’s early followers — notably Abraham, Ferenczi, and Jones — trod the anal path blazed by the master. The accumulation of money is a sublimated urge to retain feces for the very pleasure of it, and the production of commodities is the psychic derivative of the expulsion of feces. Money, in Ferenczi’s (1976) marvelous phrase, is “nothing other than odourless, dehydrated filth that has been made to shine.”
The psychological equivalence of dirt and money is suggested by the low social status of bankers in pre-modern times. Using decidedly non-fecal reasoning, philosopher of money Georg Simmel (1978, p. 221) speculated that “the importance of money as a means, independent of all specific ends, results in the fact that money becomes the center of interest and the proper domain of individuals and classes who, because of their social position, are excluded from many kinds of personal and specific goals.” Among Simmel’s examples are the emancipated Roman and Athenian slaves who became became bankers, as did Armenians in Turkey; Moors in Spain; and Huguenots, Quakers, and Jews across Europe. Reading Simmel eighty years later, one thinks how the social prestige of banking increased along with the development of credit, that is, with its evolving liberation from gold.
Norman O. Brown, not the most fashionable of writers these days, found this psychoanalytic orthodoxy wanting. Brown returned the sacred to the analysis of money and demeaned both equally. For Brown (1985, p. 297), money and the sacred were both sublimated products of a revulsion from the body. And such sublimation, whether aimed at god or mammon, is “the denial of life and the body…. The more the life of the body passes into things, the less life there is in the body, and at the same time the increasing accumulation of things represents an ever fuller articulation of the lost life of the body.”
To Brown, the exchange relation is imbued with guilt, and the debtor–creditor relation with sadomasochism. In this, Brown followed Nietzsche, for whom all religions are “systems of cruelties” and for whom all creditors enjoy “a warrant for and a title to cruelty” (Nietzsche 1967, Second Essay, sections 3 and 5). (Modern usage confirms the link of debt with both sadomasochism and the sacred: “bonds” impose conditions known as “covenants” on debtors.) Creditors in the ancient world “could inflict every kind of indignity and torture upon the body of the debtor; for example, cut from it as much as seemed commensurate with the size of the debt.” Creditors can take pleasure in “being allowed to vent [their] power on one who is powerless, the volutptuous pleasure ‘de faire le mal pour le plaisir de la faire,’ the enjoyment of violation.”
For Brown, debt is a sickly tribute paid by the present to the past. (Of course, we postmoderns often see — consciously or not — credit as a way to steal from the future.) But for a partisan of the body, Brown was nonetheless guilty of the ancient psychoanalytic habit of dematerializing its needs. As the early analyst Paul Schilder (1976) — who rightly lamented the absence of a psychoanalysis of work — noted, “When one looks over large parts of the psychoanalytic literature one would not conceive the idea that one eats because one is hungry and wants food for sustaining one’s life but one would rather suppose that eating is a sly way of satisfying oral libido…. Silberer once said…[that] according to psychoanalytic conceptions…the Danube…is merely a projection of urine and birthwater.”
Similarly, Brown’s gold is more a fetishized projection of intrapsychic drama than an alienated embodiment of real social power. His moneyed subjects lack class, race, nationality, and gender. For Marx, what made gold valuable was that it embodied human labor and served as the universal exchange equivalent for all other commodities, whose value arises from the labor that made them. But the nature of market relations — anonymous, mathematical — is to hide the social nature of production and exchange behind the veil of money. As psychoanalysis lacks a theory of work, so does orthodox Marxism lack an understanding of the passions that sustain the disguise. With credit comes a set of passions entirely different from those of gold.
Money, Brown said, is but part of the “commitment to mathematize the world, intrinsic to modern science.” But modern science has now almost completely mathematized money. Aside from doomsayers, survivalists, and other goldbugs, the monetary functions of dehydrated filth are all but forgotten. Even paper money is getting scarce — only about 10% of the broadly defined money supply (M2). Most money now lives a ghostly electronic life.
With this dematerialization of money has come at least a partial banishment of the guilty sadomasochism of the anus. That banishment was seen at its fullest during the 1980s, when fantasy ruled the financial scene; in the early 1990s, the repressed made a partial return, and the exuberance of the Roaring Eighties seemed a distant memory. But the psychological dethronment, however complete or incomplete, of anality and guilt, has an interesting analogue in the cultural and social transformations that so trouble American reactionaries. Capitalism, having undermined the authoritarian–patriarchal family, now produces fewer guilt-ridden obsessives and more hungry narcissists than it did in the days when gold and daddy reigned as the harsh taskmasters from whom there was no appeal. Like the narcissist, today’s consumer seems less interested in the accumulation of possessions than in the (novelty-rich, credit-financed) act of purchase itself. Rather than the guilty obstinacy of the anus — or the Puritan character identified by Max Weber as the spirit of capitalism — one detects a more primitive, fickle, and eternally dissatisfied orality. In contrast with the dry, tight, fixed, “masculine” aura of gold, modern credit money seems protean, liquid, and “feminine.”
Unlike the classic neurotic, whose conflicts centered around anxiety and guilt over what were seen as dangerous or forbidden desires, the modern narcissist complains most about a sense of emptiness, of disconnectedness, of a free-floating rage and anxiety attached to nothing in particular. Under a superficially well-functioning veneer, the upscale narcissist, in Joel Kovel’s (1980) words, “is unable to affirm a unity of project or purpose, a common goal, with other people in a way that goes beyond immediacy or instrumentality.”
According to Kovel, the transformations of domestic life that have occurred since the capitalist industrial revolution first gave us the authoritarian–patriarchal–obsessive personality type, only to be succeeded by the modern, or postmodern, narcissistic type. The breakup of traditional social arrangements that came with the development of the capitalist labor market meant that the scale of social life simultaneously expanded — transportation and communication making people far more mobile and informed about life beyond their locality — and shrank, as the nuclear family became the central focus of all non-work life. “Childhood” in the sense of a protected, privileged phase of life was invented sometime in the 19th century.
This child-centered, father-dominated life became increasingly penetrated, Kovel argued, by the state, the media, and the increasing power of the commodity form. The family, in Kovel’s coinage, became de-sociated. People’s lives became increasingly determined by institutions far beyond their immediate sphere of experience. Decisions about lives in New Jersey are often made by executives in Tokyo; about lives in Brazil made in Grosse Pointe and Milan. The family has effectively ceased to be a barrier against outside events, a haven in a heartless world.
A right-wing version of this analysis calls for a return to the patriarchal family, which is both impossible and undesirable. But leaving aside the issues of the politics of the household, we have to wonder how capitalism can survive this new personality type? On one hand, the system, especially its American variant, depends on credit-financed consumption to keep the wheels spinning, but on the other, the financial system can’t live indefinitely with its consequences. Central bankers and partisans of fiscal austerity can impose sadomonetarism (to steal Dennis Healey’s fine coinage), but it’s not clear that the system can bear it either economically or psycho-politically over the long term. The attempt to evade the sadomonetarist logic produces only a bizzarria of hollow prosperity, speculative bubbles, and an atmosphere of generalized irresponsibility. The attempt to conform to it provokes economic stagnation and corrosive popular resentment. This is another way of looking at the Minsky paradox." [Doug Henwood, Wall Street]
Anyone who has observed modern goldbugs knows that behind their faith often lies a deep snobbery, a contempt for “common,” debased forms of money like paper, which lack the aristocratic status of the sacred metal. Economically, they love the austere, punishing regime of a gold standard, which makes mass prosperity difficult, and hate loose money, which threatens to make prosperity more widespread than it should be. Though there is an economic point to this, the psychosocial truth is another matter entirely; while gold is certainly rarer than feces, both are undifferentiated substances; an ingot is as characterless as a turd. But, as Fenichel (1945, p. 281) wrote, the anal characters who love money love the kind that appears to be “notdeindividualized; they love gold and shining coins.”
 Or as The Slits put it in their 1979 song “Spend, Spend, Spend”: “I need something new/Something trivial will do/I need to satisfy this empty feeling.”
Needless to say, the gender contrast alludes to convention, not to timeless sexual essences.
"Gifts and money are unconsciously associated with anal eroticism. In "On Transformations of Instinct as Exemplified in Anal Erotism" (1916-1917e), Sigmund Freud writes, "It is probable that the first meaning which a child's interest in faeces develops is that of 'gift' rather than 'gold' or 'money.' . . . Since his faeces are his first gift, the child easily transfers his interest from that substance to the new one which he comes across as the most valuable gift in life. Those who question this derivation of gifts should consider their experience of psycho-analytic treatment, study the gifts they receive as doctors from their patients, and watch the storms of transference which a gift from them can rouse in their patients" (pp. 130-131). The gift is meaningful because of its connection to the libido and eroticism. Freud's investigation led him to the discovery of the unconscious link with defecation and its relation to treasure hunting.
Karl Abraham (1916) examined the connection between excessive giving and anxiety. He investigated (1919) the transference meaning of the associations—occasionally excessive—presented by the patient to the psychoanalyst as a gift. This attitude is an expression of narcissism and is characterized by its view of analysis as something governed by the pleasure principle.
What happens to the instinctual impulses of anal eroticism after the genital organization has been established? Freud in "On Transformations of Instinct as Exemplified in Anal Eroticism" (1916-17e) responds with the idea of the transformation of instinct. In this schema, gift equals excrement according to the symbolic language of the dream and daily life.
The first gift is excrement, a part of the infant's body he gives up only upon the mother's insistence and through which he manifests his love for her. Defecation and its relation to the object thus become the first opportunity for the infant to choose between bodily pleasure (narcissism) and object love (sacrifice).
Later in life the interest in excrement is transferred to an interest in gifts and money. The concepts of excrement, infant, and penis are poorly distinguished and are frequently treated as if they were equivalent; they can easily be substituted for one another. Freud perceived the identity of the infant with excrement in the linguistic expression: "to give a child." Similarly, Freud wrote in the "Wolf Man" (1918b), "By way of this detour demonstrating a common point of departure in their significance as gifts, money can now attract to itself the meaning of children, and in this way take over the expression of feminine (homosexual) satisfaction."
Freud views the transference relation of certain patients as a vague recollection of this problematic, arising whenever the patient wants to interrupt the unfinished treatment and place himself in a situation of disdain that originates in the outside world. The patient then replaces the urgent desire to have a child with promises of significant gifts, most often as unrealistic as the object of his past desire. This concept is developed in Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920g).
Melanie Klein (1932-1975) demonstrated the importance of the theme of poison gifts as a source of depression and melancholy toward the object. "For the child gifts attenuate his guilt by symbolizing the free gift of what he wanted to obtain by sadistic means." In this same article, Klein clarifies the role of ambivalence and sees it as a step forward compared to archaic mechanisms. The gift provides access; it is a preliminary form of sublimation within the compulsions of reparation and restitution associated with obsessive behavior."
"The way analysts talk, behave, and feel in relation to money is replete with an uneasiness that is the surface manifestation of a deep, psychocultural contradiction between money and love that cannot be thought, willed, or wished away. For the clinical project to succeed, this contradiction can and must find a temporary, reparative resolution in the paradox between love and hate. This essay takes up the question of money in the spirit of the Marx-Freud tradition, in postmodern perspective, and through several languages, not only psychoanalysis, but social theory, anthropology, and less centrally, feminist theory as well. It addresses money's unconscious and emotional resonance, and its cultural meanings; money's clinical and theoretical vicissitudes in the context of cultural symbolism and economic change, as well as the class position of psychoanalysis and the psychology of class itself; and money's relational meaning in transference and countertransference.
It begins to look as though Freud was right, doesn't it? Recall his (1913) ubiquitously quoted observation: “Money matters are treated by civilized people in the same way as sexual matters—with the same inconsistency, prudishness and hypocrisy” (p. 131).
Ferenczi (1914) augments this line of reasoning by assigning money a role in development; he argues that the adult attachment to money
represents a socially useful reaction formation to repressed anal eroticism. Fenichel (1938) suggests that anal-erogeneity is made use of, and strengthened, by a social system based on the accumulation of wealth and competitiveness.
The approach to money taken by Ferenczi and Fenichel was political as well as psychoanalytic. Ferenczi (1914), for example, concludes that the “capitalistic instinct … contains … [both] an egoistic and an analerotic component”; standing at the disposal of the reality principle, “the delight in gold and the possession of money … also satisfies the pleasure-principle” (p. 88). Fenichel (1938) points out that what he identifies as the drive to amass wealth is born with capitalism, adding that in precapitalist, tribal society it did not exist, while, in a future classless society, it would have disappeared (p. 108). They were not the only classically trained psychoanalysts who wanted to unite two of the three great and diverging arteries of 19th-century European thought, Marxism and psychoanalysis (to put them in their chronological order; the third and temporally intermediate one is Darwinian evolutionary theory).
Money is, Freud (1913) says, to be approached in the consulting room with the same matter-of-factness as sex, for while money has a narcissistic dimension, being “in the first instance … a medium for self-preservation and for obtaining power, … powerful sexual factors are [also] involved in the value set on it” (p. 131).
Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud. Each … diagnosed the sickness of the western Judaeo-Christian cultures: Marx in terms of the alienated person in society; Freud, the person alienated from himself” (p. 9). And, of course, we would add today, “herself.”
After much cross-cultural comparison, then, anthropologists have come up with a universal definition of money, that, spelled out, helps us see, as if anew, money's meaning in psychoanalytic context: Money is any material object that performs one or more of the following five functions—a medium of exchange, a standard of value, a unit of account, a store of value, and a standard of deferred payments. While there may be different objects serving each different function in any one society, the first function tends to be controlling; whatever is the medium of exchange likely serves the other functions too. Finally, money itself may be a commodity, as it is in capitalism, where you buy it with what we call interest, that is, with more of the same (LeClair and Schneider, 1968, p. 468).
The aspect of Freud's interpretation that awaits elaboration, however, is the relation between the gift and the act; what needs unraveling is the relation between the Devil and his lovers so that we may, in turn, decipher the relation between money and love, as well as the relation between those who exchange both, and therefore the place of money in psychoanalysis. Freud and the European folktales had something very subtle in mind, and if you have ever been loved by the Devil, you will know what I mean. Shakespeare did. Recall sonnet #129, which begins:
The expense of spirit in a waste of shame
Is lust in action,
and ends with this couplet,
All this the world well knows; yet none knows well
To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.
When the Devil has left you, you know not that you have been fooled, but that you have fooled yourself. Your feelings, yearnings, longings have betrayed you. You now see you knew all along that what you thought was pure gold was false, that what you thought would uplift you only degrades you. You have searched to be better than you are, in fact, to be the best you can be. The Devil's betrayal crumbles your dreams, destroys the ideal self into which you have breathed life by imagining it in the other's form. In the end, you become less, not more, than you hoped to be. This degradation, then, is the Devil's gold: the Devil's gold is a gift, not a payment. It is a gift given after passion is spent. But, instead of honoring an encounter that, we must assume, was glorious, as glorious as love, this gift degrades it. Gold given to mark love becomes worse than nothing, degraded desire and lost illusions. Hopelessness.
That capacity to make everything less than it is and so to make us doubt what it was we had in mind when we worked so hard to get it—that capacity, says Freud, is what money has. That's why it's the Devil's gold. Money is a pact with the Devil. That's what Marx (1964) said expounding on Goethe (and having also just quoted Shakespeare):
That which is for me through the medium of money—that for which I can pay (i.e. which money can buy)—that am I, the possessor of the money. The extent of the power of money is the extent of my power. … Thus, what I am and am capable of is by no means determined by my individuality. I am ugly, but I can buy for myself the most beautiful of women. Therefore I am not ugly, for the effect of ugliness—its deterrent power—is nullified by money. I, as an individual, am lame, but money furnishes me with twenty-four feet. Therefore I am not lame…. Money is the supreme good, therefore its possessor is good [p. 167].
Money can create all that we are and desire and, by the same token, destroy it. Marx therefore asks, “Can it not dissolve and bind all ties? Is it not therefore the universal agent of separation? It is the true agent of separation as well as the true binding agent … of society” (p. 167). The agent of alienation, it absorbs all creative power into itself, robs people of their own potential; just as money transforms imperfections into powers, so it “transforms the real essential powers of [human beings] and nature into what are merely abstract conceits” (p. 168-169). In a way, money occupies the place in modern society that kinship has in premodern culture; it is the cultural nerve center, the institution that organizes economic life, structures social relations, underlies political power, and informs symbol, ritual, and systems of meaning. Kinship, however, unlike money, can't be taken away from you; as the aphorism has it, “Home is, when you go there, they gotta take you in.” In contrast, “money … is the alienated ability of [hu]mankind” (p. 167). That's why it's the Devil's gold.
Money degrades because it makes everything the same.
"The American people . . . had neither serpents nor golden calves to worship. They had lost the sense of worship; for the idea that they worshipped money seemed a delusion. Worship of money was an old-world trait. . . . The American wasted money more recklessly than anyone ever did before; he spent more to less purpose than any extravagant court aristocracy. . . . The American mind had less respect for money than the European or Asiatic mind, and bore its loss more easily." [Henry Adams, Education]
Often designated "anal erotic," this character type is described by Karl Abraham as follows:
"They like to make presents of money or its equivalent, and tend to become patrons of the arts or benefactors of some kind. . . . They limit their parsimony or their avarice to certain kinds of expenditure, while in other respects they spend money with surprising liberality. . . . We can quite understand, from their contradictory attitude towards defecation, the meanness many neurotics show in saving small sums of money while they will spend largely and generously from time to time. These persons postpone emptying their bowels as long as possible . . . but every now and then they have an evacuation on a grand scale."
Before exploring the historical manifestations of the eliminative mode and the purification impulse, we shall first discuss one of its corollaries, namely, the ancillary traits of procrastination, on the one hand, and "feverish and concentrated activity" and "thoroughness and dogged persistence," on the other. According to Ernest Jones:
Such people are given to procrastination; they delay and postpone what they may have to do until the eleventh or even the twelfth hour. Then they plunge into the work with a desperate and often almost ferocious energy which nothing is allowed to thwart, any interference being keenly resented. Undue sensitiveness to interference is very characteristic of this type, especially when combined with marked concentration out of proportion to the importance of the occupation. A kindred trait is intense persistence on an undertaking once engaged on, from which they allow nothing to divert them.125 Related to Obstinacy, this diphasic process of "inhibitory procrastination" and "feverish concentration" is further delineated by Jones as follows:
First there is a period of silent brooding, during which the plan is being slowly, and often only half-consciously, elaborated. . . . Then follows a spell of feverish and concentrated activity, when all interference is resented and nothing is allowed to prevent the programme laid down being carried through to the bitter end in all its details . . . when the unconsciously accumulated energy bursts forth in an orgy of . . . activity. These outbursts of activity are commonly followed by a marked sense of relief and self-satisfaction, to which succeeds another fallow period of apparent inactivity.
These rhythms, as described here, constitute a major component of the American success ethic and the gospel of work. A sampling of the literature of the Gilded Age, for example, reveals that success is "nothing more or less than doing thoroughly what others do indifferently." A brilliant mind or a college education "not only is not required but is not desirable"; to Andrew Carnegie, it was "a simple matter of honest work, ability, and concentration." The persistent American belief in free will and the identification of poverty with laziness also seem to be derived from this biological pattern.
If, as in Freudian metaphysics, feces represent condensed guilt, the act of defecation seems to represent the release, or purge, of that guilt. The paradoxical coexistence within an American value system of cosmic optimism and innate depravity, of prelapsarian innocence and exponential blackness, can only be maintained by perceiving human evil as a stain or blemish which must be continually cleansed or purged.
The cathartic impulse -- which William James called a "letting go" -- is manifested not only in the psycho-theological concept of conversion as a "re-birth," but also in such institutions as the diary, the jeremiad and the revival, or "Great Awakening," cycle. Ritual rebirth and purification is also a common theme in the writings of Thoreau: bathing is a "religious exercise"; "moral reform is the effort to throw off sleep. . . . To be awake is to be alive.""
Protestantism has played a large part in creating and maintaining the Capitalist ideology, and Protestantism itself began in a privy.
This little-known fact is worth stressing, in the light of psychoanalytical theory. Luther’s own words are: “But once when in this tower I was meditating on those words, ‘the just lives by faith,’ ‘justice of God.’ I soon had the thought whether we ought to live justified by faith [the central doctrine of Protestantism — R.A.W.]. This knowledge the Holy Spirit gave me on the privy in the tower” (quoted in Luther by H. Grisar).
All Protestant theology begins from, and pays tribute to. this “experience in the tower” — Thurmerlehnis, as it is called. That this experience could hardly have happened anywhere else but in a toilet is well documented by the anal and excremental style of Luther’s fantasy: at least twice he had visions of the devil in which that Evil Spirit assaulted him by the time-honored gesture of contempt — “showing him his posterior,” in Grisar’s words.
More: this anal preoccupation colors Luther’s entire sensibility. The Pope and his Bishops are, Luther says, “urine, excrement and filth... the filth of squiredom, dung splattered on the sleeve,” etc. The devil wants to “stink us and stab us with his dung.” As for mankind, “we are but worms in ordure and filth.” Such quotes could be multiplied almost ad infinitum, certainly ad nauseam. Alfred North Whitehead was being accurate, not polemical, when he compared Luther’s rhetoric to Hitler’s, and said that Luther was “more foul-mouthed.” Even facing death Luther could think in no other imagery: “I am the ripe shard,” he said, “and the world is the gaping anus.”
It was, I believe, Erich Fromm who first explained the connection between the Protestant ethic and the rise of Capitalism — a connection long noted and well documented by such sociologists as Tawney and Weber — by pointing out that both Protestantism and Capitalism are creations of what Freud called “anal personalites.” Fromm, of course, has to dilute and obfuscate the basic Freudian insight in order to get it in line with his sociologicalization of psychology.
This dilution and obfuscation is what Fromm and other neo-Freudians celebrate as their “advance” over Freud’s “biological orientation.” What is primary to Fromm is not body-sensations but “attitudes toward the world” occasionally expressed “in the language of the body.” (I am paraphrasing and condensing from his Escape from Freedom.) Thus Freud’s clear and eminently scientific conception of the “anal personality” becomes vulgarized into the foggy and uselessly vague notion of the “authoritarian personality.”
I leave this de-materialized psychology to those professors who, finding it useful in mixed classrooms and inoffensive to the public at large, have embraced it. I take it that I have a body, and my reader has a body, and that we both had them long before we began developing “attitudes toward the world,” and that any psychology worth elbow-room at the counter of scientific consideration will have to be centered on these facts and on the pulsating rhythms of the living flesh.
Freud, like Marx — and, in a different way, like Cezanne — was gifted with a special kind of stupidity; a kind of stupidity which (I flatter myself) often appears in this column to the irritation of its readers. I mean the kind of stupidity that the little boy had in Anderson’s legend when he refused to see the Emperor’s new clothes. Marx was just dumb enough to ignore, or disbelieve, all the cultural prejudices of his infamous century and see with his own eyes that the relation of boss and worker is chiefly a physical relationship, an energy relationship, in which part of the worker’s energy is drained off much in the manner that a vampire’s victim has his blood sucked.
All ideological super-structure is built upon this simple energy process, and Marx was right in refusing to let any other fact or set of facts distract him from his unblinking examination of this central circumstance of our economic system. When the “natural sciences” and the “social sciences” are finally synthesized, this basic energy process will be their chief link, and will be formulated. I am convinced, in a Third Law of Thermodynamics.
Freud’s stupidity was of an equally brilliant kind: he was the first psychologist really to understand the implications for psychology of the simple fact that people have bodies. (Cezanne’s stupidity, similarly, was to look at the world as a child does and not as an art teacher tells one to.)
“...refresh my bowels in The Lord.” St. Paul, Philemon 1:20
But to return to my friend, standing there at the urinal in the grip of an unusual variety of impotence.
Readers are beginning to write in accusing me of being a Reichian. and I don’t want to lend support to so terrible an accusation, but I also don’t see, and can’t see, how we can account for what happened here except by saying, in Reich’s terms, that the presence of the President of the firm created an anxiety — and anxiety, to Dr. Reich, meant simply, physically, the withdrawal of life-energy from the periphery of the body to its core: a contraction. My friend’s genital-urinary apparatus went dead as the energy flowed back into his center.
(For some interesting data tending to indicate the increasing prevalence of this anxious energy-contraction in American culture, see Lawrence Barth’s column in the October 1960 Realist.)
An experience of my own comes to mind here. Recently, a guy I know got so damned mad at me that he refused to speak to me anymore. Readers of this column may figure he had good justification — and I would be the last one in the world to deny that, intent as I am on becoming known as the meanest literary bastard since Brann the Iconoclast — but the point is that my offense, in this case, was merely speaking against the Capitalist system. Being sent to Coventry for this, by a cat who has been only mildly peeved by my sexual and religious heresies, is what prompted the question asked in the title of this column: “Is Capitalism a Revealed Religion?” Has it now become so sacred that questioning it is more dangerous than, let us say, asking if Jesus ever pulled his pudding as a boy?
I am going to come on so strong as to say that, in a Freudian sense, Capitalism always has been a revealed religion. (“Religion,” old Papa Sigmund once succinctly said, “is a public neurosis; neurosis is a private religion.”) Capitalism, I would in all seriousness suggest, can best be understood as a public neurosis characteristic of societies in which the life energy has been driven out of the genital area into the anal area. Being a public neurosis, it is institutionalized, ritualized and mystificated with all the pomp and folderol of any other religion.
Let us look into the age that gave birth to Capitalism. The Late Middle Ages were a time of hysteria (always a result of prolonged anxiety states) and of witch-hunting (a symptom of hysteria) — and, finally, of impotence. The whole style of the age, as Spengler would call it, is well illustrated by Rull Summa desiderantes issued by Pope Innocent VIII:
“It has indeed lately come to Our ears,” wrote His Holiness, “that in some parts of Northern Germany... many persons of both sexes... have abandoned themselves to devils... and by their incantations, spells and conjurations... have slain infants yet in their mother’s womb, as also the offspring of cattle... These wretches further afflict and torment men and women... with terrible piteous pains and sore diseases; they hinder men from performing the sexual act and women from conceiving, whence husbands cannot know their wives, or wives receive their husbands...”
It seems evident that, as G. Rattray Taylor notes in his brilliant Sex in History, Innocent was concerned “solely with certain pathological sexual phenomena... particularly psychic impotence and frigidity.” Taylor produces considerable evidence that such Papal fears were well-grounded because the dictatorship of the Medieval Church was indeed so thoroughly destroying the normal sexual functioning of men and women as to create widespread impotence and infertility.
The witch-hunts of the period were almost all, Taylor demonstrates, brought on by people who, finding themselves impotent, accused some neighbor of “bewitching” them. The infamous Malleus Malificarum, the handbook used for centuries by witch-hunters and Inquisitors, reads like nothing so much as a modern textbook of sexual pathology.
It was out of the maelstrom that Protestantism and Capitalism emerged. As the genitals of the Western World died, its anus, so to speak, came to be its central living preoccupation — inspired and guided by the hysterical vision of one neurotic monk sitting on a john.
The psychoanalytical insight that money represents to the anal personality — the feces which it covets — is not really new or novel. Have we not always spoken of “filthy lucre?” Doesn’t Dante put the usurers and the buggers in one pocket of hell because both are “against natural increase?” Five hundred years after Dante, didn’t another great poet, who is markedly hostile to Freudian theory, intuitively make the same discovery:
Usury kills the child in the womb And breaks short the young man’s courting Usury brings age into youth; it lies between the bride and the bridegroom Usury is against Nature’s increase.
Yes, that is Ezra Pound, in his Canto 51. Elsewhere, Pound has indicated the same awareness of the pro- anal, anti-genital direction of the Capitalist (or, as he calls it, Usurocratic) temperament:
his condom full of black beetles, tattoo marks round the anus, and a circle of lady golfers about him.
the courageous violent slashing themselves with knives the cowardly inciters to violence...
the beast with a hundred legs, USURIA and the swill full of respectors bowing to the lords of the place, explaining its advantages, and the laudatores temporis acti claiming that the shit used to be blacker and richer
At the end of Arthur Miller’s novel. The Misfits, the hero curses, not “money,” but, significantly, “shit, and money.” Another artistic expression of the anal orientation of the modern world occurs in Norman Mailer’s “The Time of Her Time,” in which the protagonist, trying to cure his girl of frigidity, finds he can bring her to orgasm by entering per anum.
Actually, the psychoanalytical theory of money as a symbolic turd is already implicit in the Judeo-Christian myth of work as Adam’s Curse. Dr. Karl Menninger’s The Human Mind recounts a case-history of a millionaire who was compulsively busy to escape anxieties connected with infantile anal guilts. Similar cases appear in the works of Freud, Ferenczi and Jones, among others. Abraham describes in his Selected Papers on Psychoanalysis a patient whose anxieties centered around the idea of being forced to eat excrement as a punishment for sin: the theme of two or three of the most popular jokes in capitalist society.
“Work,” says Durkheim briefly, “is still for most men a punishment and a scourge.” Freud, perhaps, put it even more simply, in his study of Dosteovski, saying that Dosteovski was under a compulsion to make his burden of guilt take tangible form as a burden of debt. Norman Brown’s brilliant Life Against Death (to which I am greatly indebted) sums it all up thusly: “Money is human guilt with the dross refined away till it is a pure crystal of self-punishment, but it remains filthy because it remains guilt.”
It may seem almost too pat if we now remind ourselves that the congenital problem of Capitalism, never yet solved, is the problem of dumping the surplus.
The psycho-dynamics of Capitalism, in short, seem to consist of what cyberneticists call a circular-causal process. Born of neurotic anxiety and desensitization (contraction of the life energies), it constantly generates more anxiety through its unpredictable boom-and-bust cycles and the wars incident upon its imperialistic necessity to dump the surplus. But this second-order anxiety (which afflicts the boss as well as the worker, for he, too, is the victim of the cycle) breeds that “busy-busy-busy” compensating activity which drives the whole system ever onward into contradictions, crashes and further anxieties.
Dr. Wilhelm Reich’s theory was that cancer is caused, partially, by the contraction of life energies, i.e., anxiety. (And anybody who doubts Reich’s theory of anxiety only needs to observe himself in a moment of stress to be convinced that Reich was absolutely right. Improper breathing and what A. S. Neill calls “the stiff stomach danger” make up the feeling we call “anxiety” or “tension,” and both are symptomatic of muscular contraction, such as we see on a very gross level in an infant cringing with fear.)
Consider, in the context of Reich’s idea, the following words of one of the most enthusiastic defenders of modern American Capitalism, Dr. Ernest Dichter, President of The Institute of Motivational Research: “Possibly more than half of all human diseases are psychogenic.” says Dr. Dichter in The Strategy of Desire; “worry, maladjustment and other emotional disturbances can be responsible for almost anything from heart attack to cancer.” Dr. Dichter’s job. as high-priest of Motivational Research, is using this “worry, maladjustment and other emotional disturbances” to influence people to allow themselves to be exploited still further by the Power Elite of Capitalism.
According to the University of California’s recent symposium on psychological factors in cancer, all the women with cancer of the breast examined by Dr. Franz Alexander in one study showed severe psychiatric disturbances, generally with some degree of sexual malfunctioning; another study, of women with cancer of the uterus, showed even more conspicuous sexual disturbances, especially of the sort called “frigidity” (Psychological Variables in Human Cancer, University of California Press).
Vihjalmur Stefansson’s Cancer: Disease of Civilization points out that this pathology is rare, or non-existent, among primitive tribes. Need we add to this that the physical bearing of primitive peoples is so different from that of our so-called “civilization” that almost every explorer on record comes back with bemused comments on the subject? Primitive man, free of the anxieties and armors-against-anxiety characteristic of our culture, stands and walks and sits as a human being should, gracefully and naturally. Look around you and notice how much visible tension you can see in people’s postures; and you will know why Dr. Reich called cancer a shrinking biopathy.
Our kindly editor has asked me to stop using the example of the guy walking into the park with a radio in his hand every time I want to say that people are dead in modern America. Okay. I will use another example. I once said to a young lady (who happened to be the wife of the guy who stopped talking to me when he found out I’m a socialist), “Dig that tree there — wow!” She replied, icily, “I dug it,” putting me down for being so corny as to talk that way. The point was that shehadn’t dug it; she had hardly glanced at it. Basho could flip over a sight as simple as a tom cat with the Yen, and write a poem about it:
Yawning. Then, fully awake, the cat goes out to a night of poontang.
This is not just “the poet’s eye”; Cezanne had it. Nor is it the “artist’s eye”; Darwin had it when he looked at the iguana and intuited the law of evolution. It is the special kind of stupidity I was talking about earlier in this column. It is the innocent childish eye of a man who is not completely blinded by the organized bullshit and desensitization of an unjust social system. It is obvious, or should be, that the prejudiced white never “sees” a Negro; he sees the social lies, stereotypes, in his own mind. (This is the point of the best novel ever written about the Negro in America, Ralph Ellison’sInvisible Man.)
It should be equally obvious that, in a social system motivated by anxiety and a deadening of life energy, nobody even sees the street on which he lives anymore. We are walking dead men, as Lawrence tried so hard to show us in Lady Chatterley’s Lover, that great and mostly unread novel in which average readers hop around looking for symbolic sexual gratification and skipping the passages which give the book half its meaning — the passages about how Clifford’s impotence and paralysis drove him to becoming a successful businessman.
The whole world has been stunned for 17 years now by the opening, in 1944, of the Nazi annihilation camps. We still don’t know how to explain such things, how they could be possible. Let me bring this column toward a conclusion with a set of facts that may throw some light on what happened in Germany — and is happening here — facts which are all explained by my hypothesis that Capitalism derives from deadening of the genitals and centering of the interest in the anus, but which cannot be explained, so far as I know, by any other hypothesis.
The English of Shakespeare’s day were a bawdy, sexy, uninhibited bunch of hipsters. As Capitalism grew in England, this national character changed markedly, so much so that it is difficult for us to imagine Falstaff and his friends as truly English. The modern post-Capitalist Englishman is the epitome of the armored individual, rigid, compulsively “moral,” utterly lacking in spontaneity. Simultaneously, England was the first nation consciously to idealize the completely frigid woman.
Capitalism was born in Germany, chiefly, and chiefly in the age of Luther.
Calvin’s fanatically anti-sexual regime in Geneva was also one of the primary creators of the Capitalist spirit. Raleigh, observing the deadness of the Genevese, remarked that they had “nothing left but their usury.”
As Capitalism came to dominance in Germany, the German national character became more and more rigid, armored, “closed” and secretive, lacking in play and spontaneity, etc. Out of this came the automaton who is a living caricature of humanity, the goose-stepping tin soldier known as the Nazi.
America, the only surviving 100% Capitalist nation, is the most Puritanical nation in the world. It is the only nation, indeed, which has executed a man in the 20th Century, not for murder, but (in effect) for a Sexual offense.
Desensitization in America is growing more appalling all the time. Lawrence Barth recounted in the Realist a few months ago an incident at a racetrack in Illinois where a section of the grandstand collapsed, killing and injuring a great number of people; the people in the uncollapsed part of the grandstand were completely unmoved, according to reports — even those sitting only a few feet from the groaning bodies of the victims. It is this country also which twice dropped atomic bombs on two cities full of men, women and children, and which poured burning napalm on its enemies in Korea.
Recently, in Harmony, North Carolina, the American Legion staged a little rabbit hunt — for charitable purposes, of course. The rabbits were beaten to death with baseball bats.
The mysteries of Capitalist economics are held to be as sacred as those of any other religion — i.e., every other organized social neurosis. Only the “experts” are supposed to be able to understand “the rate of interest,” “the price of money,” the “dangers” of “inflation,” etc. The whole system — “the black magic of money,” as Pound once called it — simply rests upon breeding money as if it were alive. (“Is your gold ewes and rams?” — Shakespeare.) Or, as Paterson, the founder of the Bank of England, put it, “the bank hath interest on all moneys it creates out of nothing.” This creation out of nothing is just what the infant wants to do with its feces, according to Freud, Jones, Ferenczi, Abraham, Menninger and other psychoanalysts. (Rexroth once paraphrased Dante’s analysis of this system by saying that, to Dante, the usurer is a pederast who wants to make his turds his heirs.)
I could go on, but what’s the use? Those who have had a little experience in psychiatry will know what I’m getting at: others will just laugh, as they’ve been laughing since Freud published his first case histories. I ask only one thing of skeptics: don’t bring up Soviet Russia, please. That horrible example of State Capitalism has nothing to do with what I, and other libertarian socialists, would offer as an alternative to the present system.
Dante said of the damned in hell that they were persons who had lost il ben del’ intelletto, which I don’t think it’s at all extravagant to translate as: their ability to dig things. This is not a Marxist kind of social criticism I have been presenting in this column, but just a way of saying that there’s something pathological, literally so, about a system which increasingly blinds people to the joys of the senses and ties them down to a narrow groove of profit-seeking.
"A sub-atomic particle has a thin region surrounding it that keeps the particle anentropic (stable).
The anentropic shell is probably the most critical subject in all of RM:AO, yet perhaps the most difficult to explain (to homosapian at least). The anentropic shell is actually a situation that constitutes the line between profit and loss, the "middle-man" between the consumer and the entrepreneur, the wealthy and the poor, the haves and the have-nots. It is the discerner of good and the discriminator of personal value. And when those two become the same throughout society, you have that infamous Utopia. And that isn't a merely a theory.
In mathematics, if you were to sequentially raise a number to its own value, the numbers greater than 1 would increase toward infinity and the numbers less than 1 would decrease toward zero. You would have a discriminating mechanism for numbers. With particles this type of thing happens as well. The compression of affect wavelets can cause more compression of more wavelets. Inside a volumetric region, the compression of minute wavelets cause sufficiently more compression of others that the immediate area compression heads toward infinite. Outside that region, the compression isn't sufficient to propel such hysteresis. Thus a type of "shell" is established where the precise direction of passing waves either causes them to become a part of the whole, or somewhat ignored as they pass by. It isn't a precise line or surface, merely a small shell of discrimination.
Society does this same thing. The wealthy make those around them wealthier. The poor make those around them poorer. The middle man does a little of both.
When you minimize the middle man, you cause the slope between the poor and the wealthy to become more exponential (as shown in a recent BBC production). When wealth is perceived as relative, the wealthy to have to make those around them wealthier by making the poor poorer rather than the middle men poorer (creating "consumerism"). You thus create an anentropic shell around the wealthy. A person becomes either an insider or an outsider and hysterically established as so. You raise a ruling class and a King and/or Emperor, "World Governor" of unimaginable power kept separate from those they govern and dispassionate concerning them.
But note that the sub-atomic particle never causes the reduction of compression ("making the poor poorer"), yet still maintains an eternal anentropic shell. And that is because it isn't trying to get above its surroundings, rather merely trying to gain more regardless of its surroundings. A particle is altruistic and doesn't respond to relativity issues and confusions. It isn't formed from any competition between wavelets, rather merely their devotion to keep propagating regardless of what any others are doing.
The mind of Man is currently thinking in terms of relativity, relative wealth, "I am wealthy only because I have more than others." The problem is that even though subtle, Reality is not relative (as the Stopped Clock Paradox reveals). Regardless of how rich or poor someone else is, wealth is wealth and poverty is its lack. But homosapian has a hard time discerning that thought. And those who gain their wealth because of that thought of relative wealth, seriously dislike theories to the contrary. They hold a monetary religion wherein God ("money") belongs to them alone. Thus they create an even greater artificial anentropic shell, a "glass ceiling" depicted on the FED's dollar bill as that floating pyramid peak above the rest of it. That space between, the "excluded middle", is their "anentropic shell" keeping the wealthy extremely distinct from the underclass."
"The following is a joke told by Jacques Attali – a prominent member of the French ruling class, Socialist Party member, theoretician of globalism, and Jew – to a Jewish audience during a conference organized by the Adath Shalom Conservative Jewish Community of Paris. Attali wore a kippah and sat beside a rabbi during the event, marking the pious solemnity of the occasion. To be filed under chutzpah and goyishe kop.
The [following] story is the one which I believe sums up the best, better than any economic theory, what is happening today.
Schlomo telephones David saying: “Listen, I have a great deal for you. I have a truck full of pants worth $1. Do you want them? Great.”
David takes the pants. He telephones Jonathan and tells him: “Listen, I have a great deal for you, a truck full of pants worth $2. Do you want them? Great.”
Jonathan call Shaoul who proposes $3 and the story continues. Until at a certain moment Moshe calls Christian and says: “I have a great deal for you. I have pants worth $49.” “Great, great, I’ll take them.”
The following day Christian telephoned to Moshe saying: – Listen, you’re really a crook. – What do you mean I’m a crook? – But yes, you sold me unwearable pants for $49. – What do you mean? – You know very well. I opened the truck and the pants only had one leg. What do you want me to do with pants which no one can wear? – You don’t understand. These aren’t meant to be worn. They are meant to be bought and sold, to be bought and sold, and bought, and sold!
This is exactly, exactly the best lesson one can have on what is at stake today if you want to understand what is happening in the modern financial system. You understand everything once you have understood this story."