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Showing posts from May 15, 2011

revelatory preferances

As economists with a psychological bent have discovered, there is a problem with the way economists talk about preferences. Preferences in the neo-classic paradigm, codified by Arrow and Debreu, are invariant and logically sorted by a simple transitivity rule, so that if preference a is preferred to b and b to c, a is preferred to c. There is no test ‘in the wild’ that has ever reproduced this theorem. However, economists generally dismiss tests in the wild as non-relevant, for, they claim, either the psychological tests that show non-transitivity are due to the special circumstances of the experiment itself, or empirical non-transitivity itself doesn’t count, because models that are transitive approximate the collective reality of markets. There is, however, another problem with the idea of ‘choice’ as it is used in mainstream economics. It divorces consumption from what Simmel considered one of the hallmarks of modernity: the increase in both the number of links and the complexit

Freedom and money

And everywhere we go people be like damn where you from, where you from I'm from moneyland So give me some money, man In the last post in this series, I wrote about Caillois’s sense of the morphology of the game. Whether it is the triangle of baseball, the rectangle of the football field, or the strew of different bits of plastic models under the Christmas tree, play ultimately forms a circle about itself, much like God – that archetype of the circle in which the center is nowhere and everywhere. As I also pointed out, one of the grounds of play, in Caillois’ schema – the freedom of choosing to play – seems to have a deep connection to one of the grounds of modern capitalism in Marx’s view – free labor. The player’s choice to obey certain rules – whether scripted or spontaneous – and the laborer’s choice to sell a certain product for money – one’s ‘time – both give us moments of relative freedom, the bounds of which are determined in the system in operation. Georg Simmel wa

Some rambling notes on entanglement

In 1991, an anthropologist, Nicholas Thomas, wrote a book entitled “Entangled Objects” in which he proposed that other dimensions of commodity exchange exist outside of what is usually analyzed in terms of production and circulation. That is, objects are entangled with other objects and situations to a degree that confounded both the theory of revealed preference and the Marxist analysis of surplus value, the latter of which held production and circulation too far apart, the former of which had forgotten production and overlapping markets altogether.   The idea of entanglement was taken up by two different economic sociologists, Daniel Miller and Michel Callon, who have clashed about just what it means. Callon, who is better known, is one of the architects of Actor Network Theory, has made field studies of fishermen and stock brokers to study markets and producers. His theory of markets, based in this research, accords a great role to what he calls the performativity of economics mo