Wednesday, August 19, 2015

For Love or Money

"L'amour est a reinventer, on le sait." 

The title is stolen from an essay of Michael Hardt that starts like this:
The expression “for love or money” is generally used to indicate the two extremes, which cover between them the entire spectrum. “I wouldn’t do that for love or money” means I wouldn’t do that in exchange for anything. It can be interesting, however, to read that or as marking not an opposition but a common function that love and money share, somewhat like the or in Spinoza’s famous phrase “deus sive natura,” which claims polemically that god and nature are two names for substance itself. I do not intend to propose that love and money are the same thing, but rather, that putting them in relation can reveal the power to create and maintain social bonds that is proper to money and can (and perhaps should) be also the vocation of love. Posing love in relation to the power of money can help us construct a properly political concept of love.
We lack such a political concept of love, in my view, and our contemporary political vocabulary suffers from its absence. A political concept of love would, at the minimum, reorient our political discourses and practices in two important ways. First, it would challenge conventional conceptions that separate the logic of political interests from our affective lives and opposes political reason to the passions. A political concept of love would have to deploy at once reason and passion. Second, love is a motor of both transformation and duration or continuity. We lose ourselves in love and open the possibility of a new world, but at the same time love constitutes powerful bonds that last.
I was reading a post about crafts and society and this phrase struck as totally, completely wrong. "At this point in time we are faced with the fact that we may only have a one method to make change and it's through where we put our money." I think it was the god young Oscar Wilde who said you cannot fix poverty with the same means that create it. If it wasn't he, tan pis.

It doesn't really matter where you put your money, it eventually spills to BP and BP spills it back at you.

(I do love how ideology at its purest appears here, by recourse to the facts.  "Sie wissen das nicht, aber sie tun es," they know it not, but they they do it, said my german friend. )

Then I was reading yet again a very poignant text on the extinction of crafts in Japan:

I like to re-read things I like, since I always find mistakes on the text that the previous time I didn't see because I was too thrilled by the content. The mistaken sentence was this: "There were always cold, hard economic reasons for the extinction of a trade." Then he goes to argue what happened with natural resources and labour, and finish with: "But the most basic reason was that demand for the hand-made items produced by these cottage industries had declined sharply."

It's true that there are cold, hard, very real economic reasons for the extinction of manual work around the globe. But those cold, hard and phallic economic reasons are put forward with a big shovel of politics and violence. Political violence as in Greece, or pure violence as in Chile 50 years ago. Oh wait, didn't they throw something like a nuclear bomb in Japan before transforming its means of production from hand made to machine made? I may be watching too much anime and started to see violence in every economic transformation I find —my bad.

And now for the Gonzalez turn: saw sharpening was always a labour of love. If you don't believe me, sit there and learn it. Without love you end up nowhere. Saw sharpening as a technique is not coherent with global capitalism because is a work of love. And if you want to keep saw sharpening alive you need to simply restructure the whole of the global economy. Besides that, you would be stopping more global warming — but that's secondary, what's important is that we have sharp saws, and that our children have sharp saws, and the children of those children have them too. If they also have an environment and wood to cut, it wouldn't hurt.

Somewhere further along the article Hardt says that love should be able to organise social relationships. Ya know, instead of working for wages working for love. Instead of paying teachers to develop a curriculum in a university and teach it, make it ourselves and teach it ourselves, not for money but for love. You see where I'm going no?

Sounds crazy, I know, but the only crazy ones are the ones thinking that a steady growth and GPD indices will solve all our problems. They have been not only proven wrong by history and the environment — they didn't solve any problem and destroyed the biological support for pretty much life on earth in the attempt, in just a few years —, they have also showed themselves stupid, mad and selfish.

Love is to be reinvented, said Rimbaud. And one knows it.

A gut feeling that is, but a truth nevertheless.


  1. You mean to say we have a choice in the kind of economic system we have? That if we don't like what it delivers we can change it? Incredible!

  2. So its not phallic economic domination that makes individuals prosper, but love for what we do, and sharing that love. It was a kind of revelation for me to understand there are many kinds of capital that we must work with to be successful, money is actually not as important as developing social capital.

    1. Even though it's a step in the right direction, I think calling them "capital" already is part of the problem. Take "natural capital" for example, as something you see appearing in scientific journals. Of course you need to value nature but there is no scientific reason, there's no reason tout court, to call it either "natural capital" or "mother eath", and each gives a complete different relation towards the world. I'm actually not comfortable with either for one mystifies while the other objectifies the world. I guess just having some humbleness and saying we actually don't know is far better than putting names on things and making nice powerpoints about how they are supposed to work, like economist do. So yeah, to paraphrase you, skills, knowledge and people you can count on are far more important than money. Maybe not from an economic point of view but from your very experience of the phenomenon that life is.

    2. I do not know, perhaps it is a particularly American affectation to think of everything in terms of economics and capital formation, a sort of mutual brain washing we've all been exposed to that makes you believe that everyone needs to be investing in the stock market and the reserve banking system is the source of all wealth, sorry about that. Part of what attracts me to the Japanese ethic in work is the humbleness and respect with which everything is approached, there is no care for waving the foam finger "We are number one!". The work can speak for itself, even after we are gone. Too many people take the opposite approach of being obnoxiously fatalistic, as if that somehow makes your life more cool, and then you go out and buy to numb the pain of what you perceive as a pointless existence. What it comes down - are you getting shit done?

    3. Here I have to speak up. Japan is far from humble, if we are generalizing countries. Japan is known for having a sense of superiority over the rest of humanity. This culminated in imperial Japan's genocides and atrocities that were on par with the Nazis. One prominent example is the rape of Nanjing, along with Imperial Japan's lack of concern for their own civilians, and Unit 731 (don't read about those experiments if you get sick easily) The US also warned Japan, gave them more than three days to surrender after the first bomb, and dropped leaflets warning civilians to evacuate.

      Relations are still strained as Japan has not apologized and their atrocities are ignored/hidden by their officials, due to still common racism and sense of superiority:

      All countries have patriotism and nationalism. Japan isn't excluded from this. Part of what drives their work is to be number one, and lets be honest, that is what drives most countries. Japan itself changed its means of production, to become better than other nations.

      That's the end of my rant. I don't really care for much philosophy. I find more truth in the mad dash of a squirrel than in all the convoluted theories of bored men. Beauty in my eye is simplicity. I do like the idea found in both Buddhism and Christianity: nothing material will last. Entropy cannot be reversed. You can make the worlds most enduring object, but it too will become as dust in the wind. Might as well focus on what is real while you are here.

    4. Stop thinking of things in terms of nationalism, what does that do for you? And why comment anonymously? I can't respect a person who will whisper behind a wall. I'll not disagree that atrocities have been commited and unaccounted for, but you're really missing the point...I am not interested in what drives countries, some vague idea of what a small oligarchy wants. Were interested in the individual, the work of the individual, in woodworking and the ethic that produces a meaningful life on a small scale regardless of national identity.
      If you're going to focus on what is real while you are here than how about telling us about the great work you are certainly engaged in, not the mistakes of a bygone generation half way across the world, quoting a shill newspaper like the Washington post.