Tag: Kant

Excerpt: Joseph Vogl, The Specter of Capital

The critical mass of events endlessly argued over by economists resembles a picture puzzle in which reason and unreason, order and chaos, a foreseeable course of world events and sheer unfettered contingency appear as indistinguishable. Questions, exegetical efforts, and controversies of this kind weigh all the more heavily since they bear on the validity of one of liberal economic theory’s oldest and most deep-seated convictions: the conviction that market activity is an exemplary locus of integration mechanisms, harmonization, appropriate allocation, and hence social rationality, and that it demands to be represented in a coherent, systematic way. That is why it seems justified to identify, at the very heart of these disputes in the explanatory attempts occasioned by financial crises, the reprise of a problematic that only older attempts to establish a theodicy had been compelled to address with comparable [p.16] systematic rigor. Given that the capitalist economy has become our fate, given too our propensity to look to profit and economic growth to satisfy some remnant of the old hope for an earthly Providence, modern financial theory also cannot avoid confronting the baffling question of how, if at all, apparent irregularities and anomalies can exist in a system supposedly based on reason. In Leibniz’s terms: Which events appear to be compatible (and hence “compossible”) with which other events? Are relations between these events law-governed and if so, by which laws? And how can the existing economic world be “the best of all possible worlds”?

In any case, the questions that Kant used to test whether attempts at a theodicy were at all tenable would have to be directed, by analogy, to justifications of the current financial system. Here too it would be necessary to demonstrate that what seem to be “counterpurposive” and dysfunctional conditions are in fact nothing of the sort; or that they should not be judged as brute facts but as the “unavoidable consequence of the nature of things,” as tolerable side effects of a generally satisfactory world order; or that they are to be ascribed, in the end, to the flawed nature of “beings in the world,” the limited foresight of unreliable human actors.

Joseph Vogl, The Specter of Capital (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2015), pp.15-16.

Excerpt: Joseph Vogl, The Specter of Capital

If, then, in modern times the earth not only begins to rotate around the sun but money too starts to rotate around the earth […] these revolutions are evidently complemented by an anthropological one, which no longer presents a mere “image” of mankind but manking as it “really” is — and this redefinition becomes the starting point for new conceptions of socio-political order. At any rate, ever since the Baroque, teachers of natural law and moral philosophers have generally agreed that human beings are no longer to be understood simply as zoa politika, as political animals who are directly and instinctively adapted to life in society. In contrast to most other creatures, human beings have instead shown themselves to be dysfunctional and quite unsuited to communal existence. By nature, they are disagreeable companions for their fellows — and an extensive literature [p.19] about such concepts as “self-love” or “self-preservation” proves that here, so far as human beings are concerned, we can only join Kant in speaking of “unsociable sociability” or a “nation of devils.” According to this view, “real” human beings find themselves in a hopelessly “ruined state”; they are “creatures filled with all kinds of wicked cravings.” […] The identification of a new type of human being thus coincides with novel conceptions of social order, conceptions in which market events and political economy will ultimately assume a privileged role.

Joseph Vogl, The Specter of Capital (Stanford: Stanford University 2015), pp.18-19