lunes, 28 de mayo de 2012

Revisiting the Simulacrum from the Perspective of Financial Market

Key words: commodification, simulacrum, fetishism.

My personal interest is to import the perspective of modern finance to understand the commodification of knowledge [1]. For the financial market there is a continuum between utility value assets and the most liquid of assets –most often– money. But this spectrum started out from utility value in a non-standardized exchange economy. It's development was denounced by Marx as commodity-fetishism. This step corresponds to the 'perversion of reality' in the development of simulacrum (Baudrillard). But the spectrum between 'solid' and 'liquid' values is not just an evolutionary relation, as is stated by Baudrillard, it also constitutes a simultaneous interplay as observed in the financial markets. This sets a limit to schizophrenia –although the financial market may not be the best example– since the new realities are to be articulated into the older –without discarding functional replacements–.

It would be interesting to understand the mechanisms that channel and bifurcate the aggregate of knowledge as to satisfy the dual demands of production and financial utility. In particular, it could be useful to address the problem in terms of 'formats'. Take for example 'formalism' as a format for knowledge. It is suitable for precision and generalization. At the same time, 'generalization' is a suitable format for 'critical transmission' (efficient in terms of shannon's information), as in DNA. Contrast this with educational formats (pedagogy), technical formats (manuals) or aesthetics as format for fast reading processes. Behind the apparent label of formalism may be hidden a production of distinction in Bourdieu's sense, and therefore a commodifying process since knowledge loses its substantiality (perhaps one should say ironically, its original substantiality) to serve the ever alien purposes of power . How does commodification gets in conflict with the other uses of knowledge? how does commodification parasites the legitimacy of knowledge given by the other uses. This conflict is paralleled by the relation between the financial markets, the industrial sector and the labor unions.

It is also interesting to see how the very form of the knowledge-asset starts to 'mutate' from utility oriented to liquidity oriented. Just as the fathers of the nation with all their flaws become as compact as a coin, how does knowledge mutates to become an object oriented to self-control the decentralized emission ('fake copies' for central banks or academia). Rationality whose enlightened foundation is based on decentralized value starts to become his antithesis as it experience the pressure of commodification. It may take (and have taken) the form of baroque credentials, it may take the form of Books! they've been the units of knowledge after all. They may take the form of long doctoral thesis or of 'important' and insubstantial connections between authors or ideas –which nevertheless show that 'you know what you are talking about'–. All this extra structure coming from the very demand of commodification could be resumed in the impression: the quality of knowledge has become as alien to utility as the quality of paper money.

Related posts: Money as Simulacrum: The Legal Nature and Reality of Money by John J. Chung, Baudrillard's Radicalization of Fetishism by Mike Gane.

[1] In a way this study has been carried by many thinkers. Baudrillard extends the Marxist critic of commodity-fetishism to the realm of culture. Bourdieu points out the use of knowledge as an apparatus of distinction (social seggregation). Norbert Elias and Foucault have already study the nexus "power/knowledge".