Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The chance meeting of Jeremy Bentham and Friedrich Schiller on the floor of the NYSE

The following quote, from an article by Brian Holmes about recent art-into-life experiments and their unexamined collaboration with techniques of people-management, is exactly what I was getting at in my essay over at Action, Yes. Worth checking out.


The concept of ‘deep play’ – or the quality of artistic excess that Bruegger and Knorr
Cetina wanted to transfer from Clifford Geertz’s Balinese cock-fighters to their own
postsocial traders – was itself, as a kind of intellectual fate would have it, an invention
of Jeremy Bentham. He used it to describe the irrational activity of inveterate
gamblers, whose speculative excesses could not be resolved into any calculus of
individual pleasure, and should therefore be outlawed. Geertz sought to go beyond
Bentham’s shallow moralizing by portraying the deep play of Balinese gamblers as an
arena for the meeting of self and other, an affirmation of the social tie. But in a further
turn of the screw, it is now this speculative irrationality that lies at the heart of a selfdenying
and ultimately self-destructive tie, in the age of a fully realized post-social
Benthamite utopia. And this is what we are being taught to calculate, this is what we are
being encouraged to create in the cultural field.

What has to be understood, expressed, and then dismantled and left behind in the
movement of the artistic experience, are the specific modalities whereby the planetary
middle-managerial classes share, through our work, our labour, in the concrete
deployment of sovereign, disciplinary and liberal devices of power, and in the depths of
systemic madness they together configure. I have focused on the relations between the
cultural and financial spheres as a key articulation that permits, structures and at the
same time hides this deployment of power over the movements of both body and mind.
It is precisely this articulation that should be challenged, questioned in its legitimacy
and its very sense, so that the entire communications machine of cognitive capitalism
can be used to open a debate on the crisis of the present. The systemic ‘device’ must be
confronted by deliberate and delirious processes of social experimentation, which can
dismantle it, derail it, while opening other paths, other modes of production and selfproduction.
This is the counter-urgency of our times.