[OPE-L] Adam Smith's "knowledge economy" ?

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@TISCALI.NL)
Date: Mon Sep 04 2006 - 13:04:54 EDT

Of course - a musing, this - the knowledge economy could also be viewed in
terms of *carnal* knowledge, involving the transformation of the knower, the
knowing subject.

Belatedly/obliquely the postMarxist Perry Anderson comments on this a bit in
his usual prosaic style, via a short though interesting review of Hervé
Juvin's French philosophical essay "L'avènement du corps" - here is an

"For Juvin, born in 1958, the culture of the body descends from the sixties,
when the rebels of 1968 raised the demand for sexual freedom. 'Naturally,
behind it, nothing, or very little was at stake; the only real liberation in
this area is one that individuals achieve for themselves-collective
political demonstrations are of small consequence for it'. Behind the
banners and slogans, in fact, the deadening opposite of desire was on the
march, the saturation and banalization of sex, with its generalized
appropriation by the market. Alongside this flattening of the libidinal
landscape, moreover, has gone the fading of all past forms of the
transcendent. Longevity extinguishes belief in eternity. Not that a need for
the sacred simply disappears. Religion, like nature, still has its appeal.
But in this regime, genuine belief in either of them has all but vanished,
and will not return. Instead, we have ersatz versions: techno raves rather
than holy communion, not woods or wetlands but municipal parks. Still,
whatever the fate of desire or devotion, surely democracy itself is safe?
Unfortunately not. The new technologies of permanent connectivity 'put the
world at the disposal of the body, dispensing it from belonging, being
represented, debating or voting'. They thereby undermine the traditional
institutions of democracy without as yet creating any viable forms to
replace them.

"With the exhaustion of collective adventures, the deep weariness of the
mind at the futile quest for the truth of History, of nature or of matter,
only the narrative of the body, of its satisfactions and pleasures, and the
search for new modes of sensibility, experience and emotion, still hold our
attention." [quote from Juvin]

"What is the upshot? Juvin's central message is a sinister paradox: what
communism set out to do, and disastrously failed to achieve, capitalism is
in the process of realizing. The wildest of all the utopian dreams of
revolutions gone by is now taking shape, unseen, before our eyes. 'The
project abandoned by a defunct political ideology, the transformation of the
human condition, has become the object of the unexpected couple of science
and the market'. For the discredited messianic conception of an
anthropological transfiguration of humanity is at length coming to pass.
'The economy of free enterprise has succeeded in delivering, and more, what
the various socialisms promised and what they pursued with all the means at
the disposal of a virtually unlimited power, in China as in the USSR: it has
given birth to the new man'." http://www.newleftreview.net/?view=2620


It is not really clear here what exactly is "sinister" - the new
technologies remove the body from "belonging, being represented, debating or
voting"? -  but anyway the idea seems to be that the sexual revolution
culminates not in greater liberation and more knowledge, but in eroding
democratic institutions and freedoms - whether satiated/saturated/exhausted
or not, capitalism literally has us by the balls now, as it were, rather
than opening up new vistas of human experience.

Reading between the lines, the whole of sexuality becomes fully subsumed to
the functionalities of trade - carnal knowledge becomes a form of political
economy itself. It is doubtful though whether such a picture of monumental
domination, reification or alienation - recalling the novels of Zamyatin,
George Orwell, Ira Levin and the critiques of Wilhelm Reich - really
corresponds to a social reality in which norms are just as much resisted
and - more or less playfully - subverted, as they are imposed and coerced.
Why not acknowledge that what is allegedly "the taking shape of the wildest
of all the utopian dreams of revolutions gone by" might have a progressive
content as well, in the sense of Marx's phrase that "all that is fixed and
frozen melts into air". Wouldn't you rather have the 'new man' than the 'old

Looks to me that the 'old man' - the old generation - which President Bush
and the neoconservatives personify, is rather at a loss explaining the
realities of the new era, and in its doublespeak thus clutches for shallow
historical analogies from a distant past to rally the troops, meanwhile
overtly and covertly imposing draconian strictures on liberty - with
rhetoric that is often as vague as it is banale:

"The war we fight today is more than a military conflict; it is the decisive
ideological struggle of the 21st century. On one side are those who believe
in the values of freedom and moderation -- the right of all people to speak,
and worship, and live in liberty. And on the other side are those driven by
the values of tyranny and extremism -- the right of a self-appointed few to
impose their fanatical views on all the rest. As veterans, you have seen
this kind of enemy before. They're successors to Fascists, to Nazis, to
Communists, and other totalitarians of the 20th century." (recent speech
delivered by Mr Bush)

For one thing, it is not at all clear that the new ideological bogey -
"Islamic terrorists, fascists..." - has any cultural or political connection
to the Western tradition of fascism, Nazism, Communism or totalitarianism,
unless the imagination is stretched to the point where anything means
anything you care to name...

War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.

The real fanatic... would seem to be the 'old man' who seeks to defend the
past against the future and against the 'new man', perhaps a bit like Don
Quixote charging windmills...


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