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Showing posts from February 6, 2011

markets and talismans (changed a bit)

The great metaphor for George Foster’s thesis of the image of the limited good, published in the 1960s, preceded George Foster by one hundred years: it is the talisman in Balzac’s La Peau de Chagrin, or The Wild Ass’s Skin. Treasure, treasure-hunting and rarity are all bound up with each other in a stubborn cosmic vision of the distribution of goods in the world that appears in our dreams, love life and friendship. This world is ruled, as I will point out multitudinously in this essay, by Nemesis. No one saw the affective changes that were occurring in the switch between the regime of the old economy and the new – the economy of Polanyi’s Great Transformation, the economy of growth – better than Jules Michelet. Michelet, writing in 1846, picks up on the difference between the terms 'treasure' and "money" to demarcate a division not only between the emotional regimes of wealth but in how these dominant affects correspond to a basic division between urban and rural so

use value blues: finding products of human labor after the deluge

I am going to take off from where I left off writing about the market in antiques and objets d’art in Cousin Pons. Let me suspend, for a moment, the notion of the image of the limited good, and return here to the symbolic regime of treasure. As I have pointed out, this is a rather specialized secondary market – an after the deluge type of market, a combination of archaeology and panning for gold. In Balzac’s Cousin Pons, archaeology is one of the master metaphors, with now the authorial tone taking on the archaeologist’s role and disinterring Pons as a fossil, and now – descending a level to the characters in the plot itself - one of Balzac’s bourgeois heavies, President Camusot de Marville, giving a lecture on archaeology to his husband-hunting daughter, who has not recognized that Cousin Pons’ gift of a Watteau fan is not a ‘petite betise’, but evidence, on the contrary, that Pons is to be reckoned with. “The reunion of knowledges that demands these ‘petites bêtises’, Cécile, he

clerks and moralists

Two notes on what I have been working on: 1. The literature of the moralistes, a literature which is, at the center, a reflection on character, is the great ancestor of the literature of the clerks, the marginal Daoist tradition that runs from the clerk Hamaan to the clerk Kafka. Character, for the clerks, is a ruin, a roofless and desecrated temple, an archaeological site – the clerks all respond, in one way or another, to the Bartleby principle: I would prefer not to. The world of the clerks reflect fully the two removes that characterize the modern – the remove from nature and from production – both removes, of course, managed by Capital. The clerks inherit the moralists lack of systematicity (the idea of the essai, of experience as a trial, an experiment), but among the clerks that lack has turned to hatred. And this hatred, what is it? It is hatred of the dominance of substitution, a fear of losing their interiority, their difference, completely to substitution. It is a fear that