Aesthetic sensibility and Genealogy of the Economic Reason

0. Introduction

1. Sensibility and the genealogy of Economic Reason

2. Economy of the image and Image of the Economy: Baroque culture in the genealogy of the economic reason

3 Territorialization of bourgeois capitalism: commensurability and truth

4. Puritanism and Virtualization: American capitalism

5. Resurfacing of the Baroque in post-bourgeois Semiocapitalism

6. Neo-Baroque and Aleatory Rules

0. Introduction

Infosphere and Economy have grown more and more intersected since the Semio-production (production of semiotic artifacts for the market) has become crucial in the capitalist cycle of accumulation.

The creation and development of the Internet has revolutionized the labor process worldwide, globalizing the circulation of goods and of labor.

By this point of view we can speak of the creation of a Info-Econosphere, as unified field of research for the social sciences.

Consequently, during the last two decades, Economics and Media sociology have undergone a process of integration. Many Authors have spoken of Net-Economy (see: Lovink, Levy, Kelly, Kroker, De Kerkhove among others).

But in the present cultural evolution which is marked by the financial globalization of the Economy, the field of investigation has to be widened, and the aesthetic sensibility has to be understood as an important level of the current mutation.

Infosphere – the sphere where information is circulating – is directly acting on the nervous system of the human society, affecting the social psychism (Psychosphere), particularly sensibility. This is why the relation between Economy ad Aesthetics is crucial, in the understanding of the present cultural becoming.

The etymological root of the word aesthetics refers essentially to perception (from the Greek: aiszanomai, that mean: I perceive). But in the philosophical tradition the aesthetic thought has come to comprehend not only the production of signs stimulating sensibility (Art, Poetry Music) but also sensitivity, the mutation of the social epidermis, of the psycho-reactivity to the social relation and culture change.

During the last decade of the past century, Net culture, particularly net art has been a cartography of the aesthetic evolution of the web. But it has failed to give us a cartography of the whole extent of the Mutation that is investing the psychosphere in its affective erotic dimension, and in its aesthetic artistic dimension.


1. Sensibility and the genealogy of Economic Reason

Can Economics be properly defined as a science?  If we think of science as the conceptual construction of an object of knowledge which exists on its own, if we think of science as the creation of concepts, and as the individuation of constants and laws of repetition and rules of variation, it’s hard to understand why Economics might be labeled as science.

Economics seems much more a technique than scientific knowlegde.

The reason why Marx was not interested in Economics, but in the critique of political economy, is here: cconomic categorization is not a description of the existing reality of human production and exchange, but is an attempt to fix a behavioral model, defining a goal which is essentially political: imposing the economic criterion as foundation of social relationships.

The economist is not looking for a concept able to better describe the reality of exchange, production and so on. He is rather looking for the operational tools which can force reality to bend to a certain model, and to enclose social culture into the behavioural model of the homo oeconomicus.

What is interesting is the understanding of the historical and anthropological process that has produced the modern subjugation of social activity to the economic reason.

In his seminary on the birth of biopolitics (published with the title Naissance de la biopolitique) Foucault speaks of the creation of the homo oeconomicus as the core of the of the Neoliberal project.

The genesis of the Economic Reason is linked to the history of capitalist domination. Capitalism is the subjugation of social potency (physical and intellectual) to the rule of scarcity and capitalist accumulation, and Economics is the ideological technique intended to erase use value and to emphasize exchange value of goods, to erase the concrete reality of human activity and to emphasize the abstract function of labor: creating plusvalue and making capitalis accumulation possible.

The potency of labor is forced to bend to rules of exchange that are not natural laws, but social rules, effects of a political decision and of a language act that is marking the social body.

Polany has described the Great Transformation  forcing the natural potencies of language and of labor into the social categories of capitalist Economy, and Foucault has described the creation of the modern disciplinary space as the modelling of the social body in order to make it subject (assujettissement) of the capitalist exploitation.

Here we want to retrace the history of the Economic Reason by the point of view of the modelling of sensibility.

During the Modern transformation, from the Renaissance perspectivization of reality to the baroque proliferation of perspective points of view, the Economic reason is installed in the  space of visibility and of the image.
Economics is a special way of making things visible.

The old quarrel of idealism against the image has to be recalled here.

Since Plato the sphere of the visible is despised, condemned, on behalf of a higher sphere, which is the sphere of pure Understanding, of spiritual intellection.  A wide iconoclastic tradition is marking the history of Monotheistic religions.

By the point of view of the ancient dichotomy of materialism and idealism – which has something to do with the dichotomy of the visible and the invisible – Modern Economic Reason is playing an ambiguous role.  In its industrial phase, Capitalist economy is assessing the dignity of the material visible, of physical transformation of material stuff and of the bodily enjoyment of material things: creation of the Indust-Reality (see: Alvin Toffler: The third Wave, 1980).

But in its historical and technological development capitalist production goes beyond the visible (usefulness of material goods) and aims to the abstraction of value. The visible, material physicality of use value is only the introduction to the holy abstraction of exchange value.

This is the double movement that Marx is calling the fetishism of the marchandise.

The process of invisibilization of the world is the core of the abstraction process which is the main trend of the relationship between Real world and the Economy.

The Indust-Reality has produced a change in the field of visibility. The physical world has been inscribed into the principles of mathematization and perspective, the world has been modeled and transformed according to the rational shapes of the Renaissance urban landscape, and of the standardized mass production of modern manufacturing.

Simultaneously however, the result of social activity has been turned invisible and transferred into the abstract labor. The visibility of the useful stuff of goods is subjugated and re-coded by the invisible abstract labor.

By this point of view we may affirm that the fight against the visible that was waged in the premodern theological world as iconoclastic war, has resurfaced in the modern capitalist age. Abstraction and invisibility have been the aesthetic mark of the protestant culture, which has exalted the force of the word (truth, abstraction, measurement) against the proliferation of the Image.

But there is also a second Modernity that comes from the Baroque and resurfaces in the Semiocapitalist sphere of Simulation.

Further developments:

Appearance and Reality in the Sphere of modern capitalism.

Leibniz and the concept of recombination.

Marx and the concept of abstract labour.


Leibniz, Monadology

Perniola: La società dei simulacri, 1986

Mondzain Image Icône Economie, 1996

Foucault: La naissance de la bio-politique

2. Economy of the image and Image of the Economy: Baroque culture in the genealogy of the economic reason

The discovery of the New World and the colonization of the Americas marked the beginning of the modern expansion in the field of knowledge, wealth, and productivity.

The sudden change and  enhancement of the universe of experience is the source of the Baroque spirit, which is based on the idea of the infinity of God creation.

The Baroque opens the door to a new Onthology of infinite proliferation and therefore is opening the experience of modernity.

Following Deleuze we can say that “Baroque is a transition” involving mental, perceptive and imaginary environment. In the Baroque century the Infosphere underwent a mutation: a distorting expansion of the experience was provoked by the discovery of new lands, and by the proliferation of the written text, thanks to the printing technology. Previously a rare and expensive source of privilege, the written text spread largely in Europe in the XVI century. The dissemination of copies, of reproductions, together with the propagation of perspective in paintings opens the door to the simulation of imaginary words invading the sphere of daily experience and social culture.

In the xvi century the Economy is disarranged for the first time by Inflation. In Spain this new economic phenomenon is recorded as an upsetting event affecting the economic exchange, but also the psychic and linguistic sphere.  (see: Antonio Maravall: La cultura del Barroco, 1975, Barcelona).

Spanish authors (like Quevedo, and Gongora) speak of “locura” (madness) as an effect of the inflation of meaning that is provoked by the proliferation of semiotic stimulations.

Semiotic inflation can be described as excess of signs that are overwhelming and eluding their referents. More and more signs are buying less and less meaning: this is the effect of semiotic inflation – while economic inflation appears when more and more money is buying less and less goods.

Signs are no more complying with any possible interpretation, so that the linguistic exchange is undergoing an effect of aleatority and indetermination.

Baroque is the recording of this exhorbitation, of the excess of signs, and is the mark of the aleatority of meaning.

The phenomenon of fashion (moda) the infinite game of the appearance of things (dress, buildings, styles…) is linked with the aleatority of the referent: everybody is taking the signs of the other in order to refer to the self, rather to create the self as invention, as simulation, as becoming other. (see: Nestor Lujan: La vida cotidiana en el siglo de oro).

The instauration of the capitalist cultural space is marked by a perturbation of the codes of belonging. Who are you? Whence do you come? Whose are you son? What is your role? What’s your value?

Before the modernity, in the aristocratic order, social hierarchy was fixed forever by the theological knowledge, every question had an answer, every person had a place and a value. No more, when Copernican revolution declares that man is no more the center of the universe, and a new world is discovered beyond the Ocean, and the proliferation of printed texts and painted  images of perspective are replacing the divine Creation with the human simulation.

Here Capitalism finds its space and its epistemic foundation. Value is no more defined by god, is no more something fixed and referable to a natural criterion. Value is the product of labor, of time, and of force: simulation.

The picaresque novels that were incredibly popular in Spain during the golden centuries, (see: El buscòn by Francisco Quevedo) are the narration of this disorientation, effect of a social and cultural deterritorialization. The word Buscon in Spanish means seeker. Lazarillo, the buscon par excellence, is someone who is looking for something. Looking for what? He is looking for food, for money, but mostly he is looking for his own identity. The picaro is representing the passage from a society based on blood and traditional belonging to a society that is based on money. Blood and tradition were a guarantee of descent, of belonging and of a relation to the origin.

Traditional belonging was implying a relationship to the Truth (Truth is the origin: God), a reference to the ultimate Reality, beyond the appearance, beyond the mundane fabrications.

Money is the contrary of foundation, money is groundless, and the bourgeois wealth is implying a perpetual shifting from an appearance to the other. Money is an abstract equivalent, not the signifier of a fixed referent. And the picaro is son of nobody (opposite to the hidalgo, who is hijo de algo, son of someone), therefore he is looking for something, and is playing the game of appearance, of simulation.

Baroque is the research of meaning in the magical vertiginous kingdom of proliferating appearances (see Ludovico Ariosto: The castle of Armida in Tasso’s poem Gerusalemme liberata).

This research is doomed to fall into the desingano (deception) because the general condition of modernity is based on the consciousness of the absence of any ontological foundation, on the perpetual sliding and shifting from one level of simulation to the next.

The Baroque desingano is simultaneous with the spread of the image, the realistic (and deceiving) representation of space.  Jose Antonio Maravall speaks of Baroque cosmovision, referring to a cosmology which is based on the relativism of the vision.

According to Panofski, perspective is the symptom of the end of ancient theocracy, and the beginning of modern anthropocracy. The Infosphere is getting more and more complex, when the visual space is invaded by ostensible representations, simulated spaces, perceptual tricks.

The Baroque mind has forgotten that the Faith is the foundation of imagination, and has acquired a new consciousness of the surface, of the persuading power of artificial simulation. The visual scene of the Counter-Reformation is not based on ascetic contemplation, but on the spectacular profusion of images. Not the silence of monastic ecstasy, but the noisy explosion of the endless image production is the condition of the propaganda fide of the Catholic Church against Protestant Schism.

The capitalist frenzy started in the same cultural conditions. As perceptual experience is deceiving, and the proliferating simulation (labor, creation, invention, knowledge, art, technology of reproduction) is overflowing the mind with semiotic inflation, Economy takes the place of Theology as the ultimate source of truth.

From the Spanish colonization of the new continent to the XXth century Hollywood colonization of the planetary mind, the saturation of the space of imagination has always been the condition of the capitalist penetration into the Unconscious of the social mind.


Antonio Maravall: La cultura del Barroco, Anagrama

Serge Gruzinski: La guerre des images, Fayard

Nestor Lujan: La vida cotidiana en los siglos de oro

3 Territorialization of bourgeois capitalism: commensurability and truth

Although the Baroque spirit has played a role much more important than we are accustomed to think in the genealogy of the economic reason, Modern Capitalism has a dominant protestant mark, as Max Weber argued.

The Protestant imagination is essentially based on the severity of verbal semiosis, and is suspicious of the tricky language of the image. Basically the Protestant spirit, joining the bourgeois proprietary instinct, rejects the baroque ornamentality because ornament is a waste of labor, a waste of time.

While Baroque draws its strength from deterritorialization (conquest, proliferation of the images, triumph of dissipative energy of the imagination) protestant culture affirms the individuality of Christian consciousness as the site of the uniqueness of truth (direct relation between the Christian person and God, and direct relation between the bourgeoisie and his economic property). Protestant sensibility is by nature puritanical and severe. What does it mean puritan? What is the purity puritans are talking about?

Modern capitalism in its prevailing form is based on the affirmation of a measurable relation between labor and value. In traditional pre-capitalist economies the value of goods was linked to the mere relation of resources and social needs, but the dynamics of capitalist accumulation defines the measure of value on the basis of the time that is necessary for its production. The value of a good is not established in the psychological domain of perception, but in the measurable domain of labor time. Need, desire, craving and so on do not define the economic value of a good. The value of a good is defined by something that is measurable: the amount of time socially needed to the production of the good.

Bourgeois capitalism is based on the production of a territorialized form of wealth, and  bourgeoisie is an essentially territorialized class. The very definition of this class is related to the territory of bourg, the city, the place where the productive energies are assembled, where factories are built and property is protected.

The protestant ethics, based on direct responsibility of the individual, supports the sense of belonging to the local community, so strong in the modern bourgeoisie, because the community is the witness of the grace of God, testified by the accumulation of wealth.

Also the wealth of the bourgeois capitalist is territorialized: the factory, place where workers are producing value is located in a place, and the accumulation of capital is made possible by the production of things that are made by physical materials linked to the place, the land, the territory. Therefore we can speak of affectio societatis of the bourgeois, as the capitalist is devoted to the physical place where wealth can be produced, and is attached to the community of workers whose exploitation makes the accumulation of capital possible. Consequently bourgeois society is the place of universal rational measurement: truth, conventional agreement on something that does not depend on the arbitrary will, but by the fundamental convention: the relationship between labor time and value.

The severe individualist culture of Protestantism is mixed with the pathos of historic progress and of the Enlightenment, act of inscription of Rationality into the social world. Language is conceived as the fixed relationship between sign and meaning, signifier and signified.


Max Weber: T he Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (original – 1904 to 1905, translation – 1930)


4. Puritanism and Virtualization: American capitalism

The Protestant religion, especially in its puritanical form is based on the prevailing of the word on the image. The old Platonic despise and disavowing of the image comes back on the modern cultural scene. The colonization of Newfoundland, of the Northern territories of the new Continent discovered by Colombo, is the best example of the puritanical form of capitalism.

After the discovery of the new continent, at the beginning of the Spanish colonization of Central America, Bartolomeo de las Casas, a religious man who accompanied the Spaniards in their conquest, asks a question:

“Should we consider that the natives we have found in the new territories as humans? Do they have a soul as we do? Can they receive the Christian message, that can only be transmitted to human beings?”

The answer of the Catholic Church was the evangelization of the so called Indians, the conquest of the soul of natives, and the creation of a synchretic religious imagination. The evangelization went along with the colonization, the exploitation of indigenous labor and the spread of devastating epidemics which destroyed the pre-colombian civilization.

But the answer of the protestant Christian in the lands of Northern America was less inclusive. The puritans who disembarked on the Eastern Coast of North America did not ask themselves the baroque question about the soul of the natives. The Indians were only seen as an obstacle to the expansion, not as people to convert. The people who lived in the Northern prairies had to be removed, cancelled, destroyed. Their obliteration was the condition of the establishment of the new perfect humanity, whose goal was the realization of the word of God on the smooth space of Newfoundland.

The indian’s genocide was not an accident, but the distinctive character of the neo-human culture that is embodied in the history of the United States.

The perfect capitalist paradigm is established in the space of a deterritorialization – the displacement from the European lands and the rooting out of God from the Mediterranean space. Perfect capitalism is based on the building of synthetic faiths, on the cancellation of history and of historic sensibility. This purified form of economic reason is opening the way to the reformatting of the social mind, which happens in the late modern age, with the shift from the alphabetical to the videoelectronic techno-scape.

A neo-human society has been generated in the virgin territory of the American Utopia, a smooth space oblivious of the roughness of historical and cultural legacy. In this puritan space language is no more conceived as an ambiguous process of conflict, creation and negotiation, but is conceived in terms of pure information: operational truth, reduction of sign to unambiguous meaning.

Anthropos02, the perfect homo oeconomicus is sensible to the code, but inapt to perceive the analogical impulses of sensibility, and to navigate the ambiguity of ironic language.

The protestant culture has affirmed the superiority of the word on the image. God is speaking words, and at the beginning was the Verbum.

The verbalization of linguistic exchange, the purification of language from bodily ambiguity is the pre-condition of the reduction of social relationship to calculation, and this is the core of the Economic reason.  The reduction of the world to calculation is a condition of superior potency of capitalism in the field of operational efficiency. But the reduction of the world to calculation implies a de-activation of the cognitive decoders of emotion, and of historical difference. Americans are talking so much about emotions because for the puritanical neohuman culture, emotion is a problem. This is why the Puritanical Anthropos02 is in perpetual misunderstanding with the human kind, and is obliged (willy nilly) to use violence in order to impose its calculation to the reality of social life. Humans do not comply with calculation. So the neo-human puritanical unconscious is often at odds with the impure world of historical cultures. And the impure world of historical cultures is perceiving the puritanical empire as an alien being and sometimes as an enemy.

American history seems to develop on a tabula rasa, or better on the line of a frontier in continuous an-historical displacement. After the American Revolution there was no feudal past to overcome, no religious or national conflicts, no tradition to get rid of. This is the difference of the American history, compared with European modernity. In the American continent there is no past to overcome, past is nothing. What you have to face, is only a frontier, an ever displaced frontier. So the future is meeting no contamination and no resistance. American Puritanism is first of all purity of the horizon. Universe is smooth and prepared for a binary ethical perception. World is totally verbal, and God is the original code. Puritan God is a code, acting in the operational space of technological perfection. And history is a text that wants to be interpreted, decoded.  Only what can be verbalized is real, and what cannot be reduced to word-god is not real, or is devilish suggestion.

“The primary problem of Protestantism is word-fixation. Scripture-study is at its heart. No fleshy mediator is needed between the soul and God; no images of saints, Mary or God are permitted, though portraits of the Good Shepherd began to slip into some denominations within the last century. In highly ritualized Italian and Spanish Catholicism, by contrast, there is a constant, direct appeal to the sense.” (Camille Paglia: Sex Art and American culture, Vintage, 1992, pag. 29).

The capitalist God is a verbal function that can act on the minds of men provided that they are pure, clear from the impurities of cultural becoming.

The protestant severity has engendered the smooth space of puritanical reduction of the world to calculation, and this purified space a neo-human model can take place, one that has evolves in the process of virtualization. But the perfect operationality of this model presupposes the removal of any imperfection (emotional, cultural), which is a factor of insecurity and irregularity of the info-flow and of economic value. The manifest destiny of the neo-human entity is cleaning the world, removing human imperfection and perfect the identification of world and god’s will, that is spoken.


Camille Paglia: Sex Art and American culture

Simondon, Gilbert: L’individuazione psichica e collettiva, Derive approdi Roma, 2001

Panofski, E.: La prospettiva come forma simbolica Feltrinelli, Milano, 1961

5. Resurfacing of the Baroque in post-bourgeois Semiocapitalism

During the XXth century, the standardization of mechanical technologies and manufacturing, has opened the way to the process of serial reproduction, and the creation of Indust-reality. At the end of the century, however, thanks to the digital technologies, Indust-reality has been integrate and partially replaced by a new kind of environment which is essentially composed by signs, images and simulated stimulations.

Industr-reality and the mechanization of labor have shaped the perception of the modern world, the Modernist aesthetic which has reached its peak with the experience of the Avantgarde, mainly Futurism, Cubism… The effect of the Avantgarde has been the proliferation of the artistic object, and the overlapping of art and production, and the esthetization of daily environment has been one of the distinctive features of late modern world. Aesthetics has invaded mass production, and every real object, losing its singularity appears the reproduction of a model.

By this point of view late modernism can be viewed as a process of replacement of original reality by the artifact. Art is dead, says Jean Baudrillard, not only because critical transcendence is dead, but also because reality itself is becoming confused with its image.

Then, the process of digitalization has transformed things in signs, objects in messages. This is what Alvin Toffler intended in his book The third wave, (1980), where he writes that animism is resurfacing in the electronic sphere. The proliferation of semiotic goods is producing the effect of a saturation of social attention, and is producing a neo-Baroque effect.

The passage from Modern capitalism to Semiocapitalism is marked by the end of measure and by the come-back of the Baroque spirit

In the book Vuelta de siglo, Bolivar Echeverria argues that we should differentiate between two conflicting and interweaving paradigms in the genealogy of Modernity. The first paradigm was developed by the dominant bourgeois vision of modernity based on the Protestant Ethic and on the territorial centrality of industrial production. The other vision of modernity emerged from the Counter-Reformation and the Baroque. This second modernity, he argues, became subordinate and marginalized when the industrialization of the human environment reduced the social field to a process of mechanic production and reproduction, elevating the former paradigm to become the sole depositor of modern subjectivity.

The life of the industrial bourgeoisie was based on severe dedication to tireless labor and on proprietary attachment to its products. The bourgeoisie was strongly rooted in a local territory because the accumulation of value could not have been separated from the buildup (and expansion) of material products derived from the conflictive cooperation of workers’ manual skills and capitalists’ entrepreneurial and financial skills.

Echeverria remarks that since the 16th century the Catholic Church has created a different strain of modernity, based on imagination and deterritorialization. The spiritual and immaterial power of Rome has always been based on the ideological control of the imagination, but this influence was hardly considered by the pragmatic ethics of industrial culture.

The Catholic Spain of the 16th and 17th centuries was the harbinger of a non-industrial brand of accumulation, based on massive robbery of the Americas. This strain of modernity was marginalized after the military defeat of the “Invincible Armada” in the naval war with the British Empire, which led to the economic and political decline of Spain. The affirmation of Northern European capitalism opened the way to the Industrial Revolution and to the industrial production of material goods. Protestant modernity defined the canon, but the Baroque strain of modernity was not erased: it went underground, tunneling deep into the recesses of the modern imaginary only to resurface at the end of the 20th century, when the capitalist system underwent a dramatic paradigm shift towards post-industrial production.

This new production sphere, which I call Semiocapital, is centered on the creation and commodification of techno-linguistic devices (from financial products to software to back-room service communication) that have by their very nature semiotic and deterritorialized character. With the emergence of a semiocapitalist economy, economic production becomes tightly interwoven with language (see Marazzi 2008, Virno 2008).

            While the territorialized bourgeois economy was based on the iconoclastic severity of iron and steel, post-industrial production is based instead on the kaleidoscopic, deterritorialized machine of semiotic production. This is why we can speak of Semiocapital: because the commodities that are circulating in the economic world are signs, figures, images, projections, and expectations.

Language is no longer just a tool for representing economic process, it becomes the main source of accumulation, constantly deterritorializing the field of exchange. Speculation and spectacle intermingle, because of the intrinsic inflationary (metaphoric) nature of language. The linguistic web of semio-production is a game of mirrors that inevitably leads to crises of over-production, bubbles, and bursts.

We need to see the social implications of the two different strains of modernity: the relationship between the industrial bourgeoisie and the worker class has been a relationship based on conflict but also on alliance and mutual cooperation. The dynamics of progress and growth, stemming from the territorial physical space of the factory forced an agreement between the two fundamental classes of industrial times, industrial workers and industrial bourgeoisie. This agreement was based on collective negotiation and the creation of the Welfare State. The bourgeoisie and worker class could not dissociate their destiny, despite the radical conflict opposing salary and profit, living time and time of valorization.

A new alliance became possible between labor and capital in the last decade of the 20th century. The experience of dotcom enterprises was the expression of this alliance that made possible the extraordinary technological progress of the digital sphere. But this alliance has been broken when financial power prevailed on the cognitive labor, and predatory behavior of the financial class has filled the empty space of aleatory value. When language becomes the general field of production, when the mathematical relation of labor-time and value is broken, when deregulation destroys all liabilities, predatory behavior becomes the norm. This is what has happened since neoliberal politics has occupied the scene of the world. The first principle of the neoliberal school, the deregulation that destroyed the political and legal limits to capitalist expansion, cannot be understood as a purely political change. It has to be seen in the context of the technological and cultural evolution which has displaced the process of valorization from the field of mechanical industry to the field of semiotic production. The relation between labor time and valorization becomes uncertain, undeterminable. Cognitive labor is hardly reducible to the measure of time. It is impossible to determine how much social time is necessary for the production of an idea. When the relation between labor and value becomes indeterminable, what reigns in the global labor market is the pure law of violence, of abuse. No more simple exploitation, but slavery, pure violence against the naked life of the workers of the world.


Bolivar Echeverria: Vuelta de siglo, 2006, Editorial Era, Mexico DF

Alvin Toffler: The third wave, 1980 New York Doubleday

Marazzi Christian: Capital and Language, Semiotexte, 2009

Virno Paolo: Quando il verbo si fa carne, 

6. Neo-Baroque and Aleatory Rules

Simulation and fractalization are essentially Baroque categories.

In the shift to postmodernity, the rationalist balance of industrial architecture gave way to the proliferation of points of view. In his book L’età neo-barocca (Laterza, Bari, 1989) Omar Calabrese claims that the postmodern style recuperated aesthetic and discursive models that first emerge in the 1600s. Baroque was essentially a proliferation of points of view. Whilst the Protestant rigor produced an aesthetic of essential and austere images, Baroque declared the divine generation of forms to be irreducible to human laws.

In the fordist age, the fluctuations of prices, salaries, and profit were founded on the relation between time of socially necessary labor and determination of value. With the introduction of micro-electronic technologies, and the consequent intellectualization of productive labor, relationships between the different quantities and different productive forces entered a regime of indetermination. The process of deregulation, launched by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan at the beginning of the 1980s is not the cause of such indetermination, but its political registration. The neoliberal economy registers the end of the rule of value, and transforms it into an economic policy. The decision Richard Nixon took in 1971 to deregulate the dollar from gold gave an absolute role to American capitalism within global economy, subtracting it from the constitutional frame established in Bretton Woods in 1944. Since then the American economy has been freed from the control of economic laws (if this control ever existed), having been ruled by force only, so American debt could grow indefinitely, since the debtor was military stronger than the creditor. Far from being the subject of an objective science, economy reveals itself as a modeling of social relations, an enterprise of violent obligation. Its task is that of imposing arbitrary rules on social activities: competition, maximum profit, unlimited growth.

In Symbolic exchange and death, Baudrillard writes the following lines:

«The reality principle corresponded to a certain stage of the law of value. Today the whole system is swamped by indeterminacy, and every reality is absorbed by the hyperreality of the code and simulation.» (J. Baudrillard: Symbolic exchange and death, 1976)

The entire system fell into indeterminacy, since the correspondences between referent and sign, simulation and event, value and time of labor, are no longer guaranteed. The decision that inaugurated the end of dollar’s convertibility inaugurated an aleatory regime of fluctuant values. The rule of convertibility was dismissed performing an act of political will, while in those same 1970s, the entire technical and organizational system, ruled by the mechanical paradigm, started to crumble.

How is value established within the aleatory regime of fluctuant values? It is established through violence, tricks and falsehood. Brutal force is legitimated as the only effective source of law. The aleatory regime of fluctuant values coincides with the domination of cynicism in the public discourse, and in the public soul.


Jean Baudrillalrd. L’exchange simbolique et la mort, 1976


(Difference between transformation and mutation: mechanical and biological, physical and cognitive)

The mutation takes place in the sphere of sensibility.

Image proliferation in the electronic sphere.

Image, body and tactility. The loss of tactility and the emergence of visual in the alphabetical culture.

Economy and the replacement of tactility with visuality.

(Diane Atkinson: A Natural history of the senses)

Deterritorialization of the image: Globalization and the visual media.

Conjonction connection and the economic mutation of sensibility.

Biopower and sensibility. from disciplination to control, the cablation of the sensitive brain.

Sensitive Infosphere. (on tthe distinction between “sensitive” and “sensible”).

Precarization in the sphere of the sensitive (sensuous, erotic) and in the sphere of the sensible (meaningful).

Precariousness and recombination.

Meaning and the skin.

Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi

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