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The Power

at the End
of the
Economy

BRIAN
MASSUMI

BRIAN MASSUMI

The Power
at the End of
the Economy

duke university press

durham and london

2015

2015 Duke University Press


All rights reserved
Printed in the United States
of America on acid-free paper
Typeset in Quadraat Pro
by Westchester Book Group

the author acknowledges the


generous support of the social
sciences and research
council of canada (sshrc).

Cover art: Photograph by Brian Massumi, Flashpoint.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data


Massumi, Brian.
The power at the end of the economy / Brian Massumi.
pages cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
isbn 978-0-8223-5824-4 (hardcover : alk. paper)
isbn 978-0-8223-5838-1 (pbk. : alk. paper)
isbn 978-0-8223-7581-4 (e-book)
1. EconomicsSociological aspects. 2. EconomicsPolitical aspects.
3. EconomicsMoral and ethical aspects. I. Title.
hm548. m37 2015
306.3dc23

2014023497

for
art beyond interest
joy beyond reason

contents

1. The Inmost End 1


The Market in Wonderland 2
System Distrust 6
Collapse of the Affective Wave Packet 10
2. A Doing Done through Me 19
Deliberation without Attention 21
Jamming Rational Choice 24
The Primes of Life 26
Toward a Politics of Dividualism 32
Double Involuntary / Autonomy of Decision 36
Fielding the Event 43
Tribunals of Reason 48
Finessing the Event 53
3. Beyond Self-Interest 57
Your Life for My Little Finger? 58
Contiguity, Most Distant 65
The Argument from Intensity 68
The Other as Sign of Passion 73
A Freedom of the Event 79
The Flashpoint of Sympathy 84
Toward an Anticapitalist Art of the Event 93
supplements

I. The Affective Tasks of Reason 97


II. Keywords for Affect 103
Notes 113
Works Cited 121
Index 127

1. The Inmost End

The hypothesis of a calculable future leads to a wrong interpretation of the principles of behaviour which the need for action compels us to adopt, and to an underestimation of the concealed factors of utter doubt, precariousness, hope and fear.
John Maynard Keynes, The General Theory of Employment (1973, 122)

We are enjoined to rational choice. We are taught that our freedom is one
with the freedom of choice. We are told we become who we are by how
we choose. We are assured that if we choose well, according to our own
best interests, we will end up serving the interests of all. We are told that
there is a mechanism in place to ensure this convergence between our
interests and others. Market is its name. Its invisible hand adjusts best
choices to each other, its magic touch guided by the principle of competition. Competition weeds out suboptimal choices, selecting for efficiency.
Efficiencies multiply each other, minimizing effort and maximizing profit
for all. The market, we are further led to believe, is self-regulating. It has
a natural inclination toward optimization. As political subjects, we are
enjoined to vote, rationally, in its interests so that we may pursue our own,
for the general good. Rationally, the political subject coincides with the
economic subject of self-interest that we all are fundamentally, in private
pursuit of happiness. And what, if not that, gives meaning and motivation
to our lives? We are all paying guests at the tea party of choice, spreading
our favorite jam on our very own slice of the bread of life, served on the
silver platter of efficiency by the invisible hand.
But on closer inspection, a rabbit hole appears at the heart of the market. It plummets from the apparently solid ground of rational choice to
a wonderland where nothing appears the same. Affect is its name. The
concealed factors of doubt, precariousness, hope, and fearand
(why not?) love, friendship, and joytend to bubble back up to the

part 1

surface with rowdy abandon. In todays version of free-market ideology,


neoliberalism, the affective commotion has become so insistent that
something else surfaces as well: the creeping suspicion that it is upon
the groundless ground of these now not-so-concealed factors that the
edifice of the economy is actually built. Efficiencies, we are still assured,
multiply each other. They lasso each other, bootstrapping the economy
out of its periodic crises into a provisionally stable order that we are still
entreated to consider rational. But when markets react more like mood
rings than self-steering wheels, the affective factor becomes increasingly impossible to factor out. It becomes obvious that the rationality
of the economy is a precarious art of snatching emergent order out of affect. The creeping suspicion is that the economy is best understood as a
division of the affective arts.1
The implications of this groundless grounding in affective artistry
are worth a look, not least for what it might say about rational selfinterest as the guarantor of self-optimizing order, but also for the rethinking it might necessitate of the very concept of the rational in its
relation to affect. Michel Foucault provides a provocative starting point
in his 1979 lessons on the genealogy of neoliberalism (Foucault 2008).

The Market in Wonderland


The invisible hand makes at least a cameo appearance in every discussion of the free market. Foucaults is no exception. As its inventor,
Adam Smith, conceived it, Foucault argues, the concept of the invisible
hand had nothing of the godlike quality that has come to be attributed
to it. The whole point of the concept was that the economic system is
too churningly complex for there to be any possibility of a lordly overview upon it. In his genealogy of neoliberalism, Foucault makes the
point in no uncertain terms: when it comes to things economic, there is
no total transparency (Foucault 2008, 279). Not only is there no total
transparencythere is no transparency or totality. The concept of the
invisible hand, as Foucault interprets it, is a principle of blindness in an
open field of ceaseless activity whose contours, always shifting, are by
nature indefinite. Being in the dark and the blindness of all the economic agents is an absolute necessity (297).

the inmost end

For neoliberals, this is actually a good thing: it makes economic liberalism unavoidable. It means that the economy can have no sovereign.
The invisible hand actually means hands off. The liberals principle
of laisser-faire, Foucault quips, becomes for the neoliberals do-notlaisser-faire government: tie the governments hands (Foucault 2008,
247). Foucault is quick to add that in practice neoliberalism entails a
large and even expanding range of forms of governmental intervention.
But these are designed, paradoxically, to maintain the ability of market
mechanisms to self-organize the economy free from undue government
interference (175176). They do not operate from a position of sovereign
command. They are in the midst.2 Any governmental attempt from on
high to weave the strands together into a well-defined, predictably regulated whole will just fray the fabric to the ripping point. Government
purports to act all-knowingly in the general interest, and in its hubris
always fumbles. Individuals, too, are under the injunction, in the name
of the general good, to act without regard for it. For it is only then that
the invisible hand can work.
But its not a hand at all. Its an accumulation of little-handed decisions
which end up serving the general good in spite of being self-interested.
Individual decisions, made in the darkness of self-interest, percolate
through the field. To the extent that the results of these decisions form
positive feedback loops, they give rise to mutually beneficial multiplier
effects and there occurs a spontaneous synthesis of whats best for all
(Foucault 2008, 300). The synthesis is entirely involuntary with regard to
each individual (275276). This rationalization of the economy to which
the subject of interests decisions involuntarily contribute is an emergent
property of a complex, self-organizing system: a novelty and a creation,
forever self-renewing. The synthesis, Foucault continues, is a positive
effect of an infinite number of accidents occurring at ground level
in the apparent chaos (277), or quasi-chaos, of the market environment. These are bound together by a directly multiplying mechanism
competitionwhich, Foucault emphasizes, operates in the absence of
any form of transcendence (275276). In other words, the positive synthesis of market conditions occurs immanently to the economic field. The
choice of the subject of self-interest rabbit-holed in that field of immanence is irreducible and nontransferable (272). It is unconditionally

part 1

referred to the subject himself (272). At its core, Foucault says, the liberal
economic model is one of existence itself : it concerns first and foremost a relation of the individual to himself (242).
This is existence in its dissociative dimension.3 Here, in its relation
to itself, the subject circles itself more and more tightly around its individual power of choice, like a dog to sleep, wrapping itself centripetally around a center of promised satisfaction. It circles in on itself,
away from the social, unmindful of noneconomic societal logics. But it
all works out for the best for society in the end, they say, thanks to the
positive synthesis of multiplier effects. Relation to oneself involuntarily
amplifies across the multiplier effects to become a systemwide social
fact. The inmost dimensions of individual existence are operatively
linked to the most encompassing level, that of the market environment
that is the economic field of life. What is most intensely individual is at
the same time most wide-rangingly social. The smallest scale and the
largest scale resonate as one, in a quasi-chaos of mutual sensitivity. To
relate self-interestedly to oneself is in the very same act to relate, involuntarily, to everyone else.
But there is a problem. It has to do with the future. Success, of course,
is not guaranteed for any particular act, or any particular individual. The
self-organizing of the system at the largest scale can synthesize its way
past many a microfailure. As choices percolate through the economic
field, the negative impact of individual failures is compensated for overall by the multiplier effects of the successes. Given the infinity of accidents riddling the economic field of life and the existential blindness of
all economic actors, there is an ever-present threat of a misstep. Every
economic calculation is a calculus of risk. Behavioral finance (psychology) and rational actor models (the rational economic man, or rem)
rarely emphasize how uncertainty differs from risk and probability
(Pixley 2004, 18). You can calculate risk in terms of probabilities, but
probabilities by nature have nothing to say about any given case. The affect accompanying uncertainty is there in any case. Choices in the present become highly charged affectively with fear for the uncertain future.
The present is shaken, tremulous with futurity. There is no calculus of
risk independent of an individuals affective self-relation to uncertainty.

the inmost end

Even in the best-case scenario, rationality and affectivity cannot be


held safely apart. Unlike the juridical subject of the law and the civil
subject of society, the economic subject of interest is never called upon
to renounce its self-interest for the general good.4 Self-interestedness
remains unconditional. It is measured in satisfaction. We have been
successful in our self-interestedness if we have attained satisfaction for
ourselves. What the economically productive subject of interest ultimately produces is its own satisfaction (Foucault 2008, 226). Paradoxically, the measure of how rationally a subject of interest behaves can
only be measured affectively, in the currency of satisfaction. Rationality
and affectivity are joined at the self-interested hip, in one way or another, for better and for worse. Emotions function in the core structures of the financial world (Pixley 2004, 18).
The subject of interest is never called upon to renounce self-interest.
But it is frequently called upon to defer the very satisfaction by which its
self-interest is measured. Feeling insecure? Be reasonable. Defer your
satisfaction to a more secure time of life. Work toward retirement. But
this is a rational choice only if you trust the systems self-organizing. This
is an increasingly difficult sell as crises follow each other in rapid succession. Each crisis is a shock to the system, at all scales. Uncertainty
starts to feed on uncertainty. Fear builds into panic. Negative multiplier
effects take over. Household savings vaporize and national economies
crumble. Suspicions grow that the invisible hand suffers from a degenerative motor disease.
All signs are that the condition is congenital. Crisis no longer seems
a punctual interval between periods of stability. Crisis is the new normal. That this should be the case only stands to reason. The premise
of any rational calculation is that similarly strategized actions will yield
similar results. But the whole point of an economy that selects for creative multiplier effects is that multiplier effects are nonlinear. By definition, they are effects that are not commensurate with their causes, even
if the causes be known. The whole point of capitalist enterprise is to
leverage: to extract a surplus yield of effect over and above what would
normally be expected to follow from an investment. The capitalist process is driven by the potential for, and yearning after, an excess of effect

part 1

over any given quantity of causative input: surplus value. The more complex the system is, the more uncertain the future becomes. And complexification has been a constitutive tendency of the capitalist system
from its beginnings. Capitalism, always a far-from-equilibrium system,
is becoming ever more so. The same multiplier mechanism that promises future
satisfaction makes it exponentially less certain.
Why defer satisfaction if the capitalist future is constitutively uncertain? But on the other hand, how can you not play it safe by deferring your
satisfaction, precisely because the capitalist future is so uncertain? This
conundrum of deferral is an expression of the paradox that neoliberalisms promise of satisfaction unnerves the rationality it extols, giving it
the affective shakes that cannot be cured. The rational risk calculations of
the subject of interest become more and more affectively overdetermined
by the tension between fear of the future and hope for success, and between satisfaction and its uncertain deferral. The embrace of rational
self-interest and affective agitation becomes all the closer. They fall all the
more intensely into each others orbit, to the point that they contract into
each other, entering into a zone of indistinction, at the heart of every act.
Its a vicious circle. Positive multiplier effects can be counted on only
when individuals rational choices mutually reinforce each other, catching like a contagion. This is the point at which rational choice is indistinguishable from irrational exuberance (in the legendary phrase of
US Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan). This is also precisely
the mechanism that forms speculative bubbles leading to crisis.5 More
radical than the fact that the same mechanism that promises satisfaction makes it exponentially less certain is the fact that the attainment
of the very satisfaction promised can itself bring on a crisis. The tired
hound of self-interest, circling in for satisfaction, traces its own private
vicious circle in its self-relating movements. Its sleep will be agitated. It
will twitch with dreams of disappearing rabbits.

System Distrust
In times of crisis, the first words out of the mouth of any economic
leader are: we must restore trust in the system. But as systems theorist Niklas Luhmann blithely observed, under these endemic conditions

the inmost end

trust rests on an illusion (Luhmann 1979, 32). In a chaotic economic


field personal relations of trust are impossible to guarantee. In actuality, there is less information available than would be required to give
assurance of success (32). Linear causal explanations come to grief
(83). However well intentioned other parties may be, they cannot be
trusted. The nonlinear dynamics of the economy could well frustrate
their best intentions. Whats an enterprise system to do?
If relying on personal bonds of trust is out of the question, theres
only one option: depersonalize trust. Make it impersonal (Luhmann
1979, 93). Entrust the system. System trust is the only answer. But how
does an individual trust a system that doesnt trust itself to follow its own
line? There must be other ways of building up trust which do not depend
on the personal element. But what are they? (46). Luhmann has an ingenious answer to his own question. You actually shift forward the threshold of effective distrust (75). In other words, you foster distrust as a starting
condition (88). You foster distrust, but not as the opposite of trust: as its
functional equivalent (71).
What on earth does that mean? It means that you interlock them so
that they intensify each other (Luhmann 1979, 92). You bring trust and
distrust together into a zone of indistinction where they are in such immediate proximity to each other that one can easily tip into the other at
the slightest agitation. They resonate together, intensely. As actions are
taken, the resulting affective state of the individual oscillates between
them. Foucault notes that the horizon of the neoliberal field of life is
one of increasing differentiation that is constitutively open to oscillatory processes (Foucault 2008, 259).6 By differentiation, he is referring
to capitalist societys overspilling of disciplinary modes of power based
on normative models imposed on the individual, and the accompanying
proliferation of minority practices (259). When he mentions oscillatory processes he is talking about the fluctuation of economic indicators such as salaries, job creation figures, industrial orders, and most
fundamentally prices, which mark the ups and downs of the systems
self-regulatory mechanisms. But the same description applies equally
well to the smallest unit of the economy, the enterprising individual,
as it does to the system as a whole. On the individual level, trust and
distrust interlock and intensify each other, resonating together in

part 1

immediate proximity, forming their own oscillatory system. As do fear


and hope, satisfaction and self-denial, all in it together.7
The individual subject of interest forming the fundamental unit of
capitalist society is internally differentiated, containing its own population of minority practices of contrasting affective tone and tenor, in
a zone of indistinction between rational calculation and affectivity. In
other words, there is an infra-individual complexity quasi-chaotically agitating within the smallest unit. The individual remains the smallest unit
despite this infra-level complexity, because what resonates on that level
are not separable elements in interaction. They are intensive elements,
in intra-action (Barad 2007, 33).8 They are immediately linked variations,
held in tension, resonating together in immediate proximity. Their oscillatory co-motion expresses itself at the level of the individual, where
it is marked by fluctuating indicators, just as the actions of individual
economic actors express themselves on the systemic level in fluctuating
indicators such as prices. We call the indicators of the intra-action occurring on the infra-individual level moods. Moods, Gilbert Ryle writes, are
like the weather, temporary conditions which in a certain way collect occurrences, but they are not themselves extra occurrences (Ryle 1949, 83).
Moods collect infra-occurrences and sum them up in a general orientation giving direction to the next level up, just as price fluctuations collect
the microeconomic decisions of individual actors and sum them up in the
general orientation of the economy as a whole.
This means that we need to add a whole new dimension to economic
thinking. Beneath the microeconomic level of the individual there is the
infra-economic level. At that level, an affective commotion intra-churns.
Its variations are so immediately linked that we cannot parse them out
into separate occurrences. The individual, speaking infra-ly, is not one.
It may collect itself as one. It may figure as one, for higher levels. But in
itself, it is many. Many tendencies: potential expressions and orientations
held together in tension. The individual is buffeted by these tendencies
coming turbulently together, divided among them in its relation to itself.
Divided among them, awaiting their complex playing-out in a shift in
general orientation, the individual is the dividual (Deleuze 1995, 180).
The dividual is the individual as affective infra-climate, in relation to itself,

the inmost end

commotionally poised for what may come, storm or shine, doldrums or


halcyon days.9
Nothing divides and multiplies the individual so much as its own relation to the future. The uncertainty is not just external, relating to accidents and the unpredictable actions of others. It agitates within. Even
if you play it as safe as possible by deferring a decision until sunnier days
to come, all you have done is find another way to increase uncertainty:
now it is not just others decisions that are unknown to you but your
own as well. These unknown nondecisions recur endlessly (Pixley
2004, 33). Who knows what will possess you to decide when to decide,
or what you will decide when you do? You dont know your future self
yet. You are infra-buffeted by your own unworked-out tendencies awaiting a complex playing out that is as likely to surprise you yourself as any
stranger. Weather forecasting is as unpredictable in the infra-climate of
the (in)dividual as at other scales.
The affective infra-climate of the dividual poised for what may come
is the rabbit hole of the economy. The unknown nondecisions and
not-quite-occurrences recurring endlessly in a turbulence of tendency
are complex in the same way as the economy as a whole. Both are like
the weather, quasi-chaotic self-organizing systems. This puts a whole
new perspective on rational choice. The individual, Foucault said, is
unconditionally referred to itself, and this referral is irreducible and
nontransferable. This means that rational decision is unconditionally,
irreducibly, nontransferably referred to an infra-individual zone of indistinction with affect. Rationality and affect become functional equivalents
by Luhmanns definition: interlocked and mutually intensifying, in a
zone of indistinction, at the forward threshold of economic existence.
Luhmanns analysis of trust posits that this infra-level of individual
complexity is directly connected to the collective, macrolevel of the
economic, without necessarily passing through the mediation of the
intervening microeconomic level at which the individual is but one. It
is a defining characteristic of complex environment that the extremes of
scale are sensitive to each other, attuned to each others modulations.
This is what makes them oscillatory. They can perturb each other. Systemwide changes in the weather are sure to resonate at the infra-level,

10

part 1

for example, in a localized patch of fog. Perturbations channeling back


up from the infra-level are apt to amplify into multiplier effects. Think
of the way a local fog can amplify into a mega traffic jam. The individual
blindness of the subject of interest is the fog of the economy. When multiplier effects channel upward, the individual is not mediating between
the levels in any conventional sense. Self-organizing effects channel
through the individual level on their infra-way to larger things. The individual is an amplifier mechanism for multiplier effects self-forming. It
channels the threshold noise of the systemthe functional indistinction
between rational calculation and affective responseinto an emergent
economic ordering that is as ever-changing and continually self-renewing
as the winds. In a very real sense, the infra-individual is the crucible of the
system.
When Foucault says that the individuals choice is irreducible, he can
only mean that the individuals tendential dividedness in relation to itself is irreducible. The dividual is irreducible. The infra- of the individual
is irreducible, in the sense that when systemwide perturbations blow
down its hole, they can go no further. They have nowhere else to go but
to turn around and blow back out. The economy ends in the recesses
of the infra-individual, which as Foucault said is not only irreducible but
nontransferable. What is nontransferable is inexchangeable. At the infraindividual level, the possibility of exchange comes to an end. If the economy is defined by exchange, then the economy ends in the recesses of
the infra-individual. It reaches a limit, as a function of which it is organizedbut
which lies outside its logic. Foucault speaks of this affective infra-level as the
regressive endpoint of the economy (Foucault 2008, 272).
The infra-individual is the regressiverecessive or immanent
endpoint of the economy. The dividual is the noneconomic wonderland
of intense and stormy life on the brink of action that lies at the heart of
the economy: its absolute immanent limit. Endpointand turnaround.
It is only ever possible to approach an absolute limit. The movement toward the endpoint of the economy either disappears into its own infinite
regress, or spins itself around into a movement of return.

the inmost end

11

Collapse of the Affective Wave Packet


Returning to Luhmanns analytic of trust, to say that trust and distrust
resonate together in a zone of indistinction of immediate oscillatory
proximity to each other means that what is felt in the lead-up to an economic act, as it is brinking, is neither one nor the other, neither trust
nor distrust. Luhmann says that what is felt is a readiness to feel either come next (Luhmann 1979, 79). The individual is in an infra-state
of readiness potential. Trust and distrust are together as co-present potentials for what might come next. They are in superposition, in the sense
in which the word is used in quantum physics. Though inseparable,
their distinction is not erased. It is held in ready reserve.
The affective feeling of the readiness potential, Luhmann continues,
presupposes a corresponding reserve of energy which is elsewhere not
determined (Luhmann 1979, 80). In other words, the system itself, because it is similarly complex and nonlinear, is in an energized state of
readiness potential that is structured in a fashion homologous to the
subjects affective state. The economy is ready and responsive, poised,
like its individual units, for what may come, in a state of brinking agitation. On the infra-level, the brinking is a superposition of trust and distrust in readiness potential. On the macroeconomic level, what is held
in readiness potential are the system states of success and failure. At the
moment a given choice is made, the success or failure of that action is
undetermined elsewhere. Which way it goes will depend on actions
still in tendency, as yet undecided. The economic outcome depends on
how these tendencies expressions will inflect and amplify each other
as they turbulently play out across the economic field in a cascade of
caroming choices. When this self-organizing process works itself out,
the cumulative effects will be collected and summed up in a system
indicator. Until the mood of the economy comes to expression in this
way, success and failure will remain in a state of superpositionas will
trust and distrust at the individual level. The affective states of trust and
distrust and the system states of success and failure lie at the two oscillatory poles of the economic process. They are sensitive to each other.
They reciprocally determine each other, effectively connecting across

12

part 1

their differences of nature and the distance between levels through a


complex, nonlinear process of feedback and feedforward.
Under these conditions the subject of interest is not in a position to
know how any given act it takes will turn out. But it cannot not act. You
can only defer so long, or so much, and only in certain areas of your
activity. Any act you perform triggers the process leading to a resolution
of the commotion of affective states held complexly together in tension
on the infra-individual readiness potential into a determinable outcome
registrable in terms of success or failure. In short, making a choice leads
to the collapse of the superposition of affective states. To borrow the
vocabulary of quantum physics, it collapses the affective wave packet.
A particle of trust or distrust spins off into the world, where it will perturb the infra-individual complexity of other (in)dividuals poising for
action. Again like quantum physics, the causality is recursive. The determination of what the act will effectively have been, which state it will
be found to have been in, is in suspense until a measurement is made.
The measurement makes what comes what it will have been. Until then,
what has occurred is less an act or a choice than an as yet unresolved perturbation. The perturbation must percolate up to the level at which it is
collected and bundled into overall economic indicators before it can be
determined. Figures are released monthly and, in the case of the most
affectively weighted and eagerly awaited, quarterly. In the meantime,
particular indicators, such as the stock market or the price of oil, fluctuate continuously like the batting of tiny butterfly wings. Now with the
Internet the fluctuations can be followed minute by minute or even second by second. Without the quarterly indicators to contextualize them,
extrapolating a trend from this passing economic wing batting is highly
conjectural, to say the least. Extraeconomic events, such as a political
crisis in an oil-producing region of the world, can spook investors and
consumers. These extraeconomic perturbations are all the more affecting in anticipation. The uncertainty of these so-called negative externalities occurring, and what their exact fallout will be if they do occur,
sends shivers through the system. The shivers almost instantaneously
amplify into a low-grade fever that may prove at any moment to have
been the onset of a chronic illness. The system is in a continual state of
pathological excitability, if not because of the publication of new indica-

the inmost end

13

tors, then in the intervals between them, in the urgency of the feeling
of the need to respond to trends before they emerge onto a macro-enough
level and are tidily summed up in the indicators.
To act on threats before they emerge was the Bush administrations
definition of preemption (Massumi 2007). The economy is continually
agitated by the affectively fraught, felt need to preempt it. As the neoliberal economy takes hold, deferral becomes less and less of an option
and preemptive action more and more of an imperative.10 This makes
the economy more affectively activating than it is effectively rationalizing.
It runs more on perturbations and cascading amplifications than determinate acts of choice.
As this state of affective agitation heightens, what economic actors
often end up reacting to most directly are the agitated affective states of
other actors. This has given rise to a whole new ser vice industry, that
of Internet mood analysis. The Internet is trawled by algorithms that
search out affectively laden words and terminology to provide a realtime pulse taking of the mood of the economy. One such ser vice goes by
the name AlmagaMood, whose catchy slogan is Leveraging Big Data to
Enhance Investment Foresight.11
It is not just economic sites that are mood-mined. It is the entire
Internet, including blogs, news sites, and the expanding Twitterverse.
The economy as a whole vibrates with the fickleness of what the pundits call social mood. This Internet-based mood registering occurs
informally through the social media and all manner of networking. In
our networked society, with the global media reach and cross-platform
convergence of the Internet, any act anywhere resonates, potentially,
everywhere, in the economic analogue of Einsteins spooky action at a
distance. Readiness-potential wave packets collapse, affectively systemically, in real time (or its functional Internet equivalent). Individual actions are affectively entangled at a distance. It is only the complex playing out of the entanglements that decides in the end what will have been
a success and what a failure. Complexly correlated to each quantum of
success or failure, there will come to expression determinate affective
states of trust or distrust, satisfaction or frustration.
Individual economic actors are infra-connected. They are connected at
a distance, in the recesses of their affective rabbit holes. They communicate

14

part 1

at a distance, in immanent affective proximity, churning in and turning


around the regressive endpoints of their respective (in)dividualities. The
infra-level resonates transindividually. Individuals spook each other or goad
each other on, turning around what is nontransferable in them as individuals: their infra-individual affective commotion. They resonate, at
the limit of the economy, in their dividuality. As they reciprocally perturb
each other, their readiness-potential wave packet collapses, correlated
transindividually at a distance. Quanta of trust and distrust fly off in all
directions. These affective emissions feed up into macrolevel expressions of economic success or failure, which no sooner feed back down
from the systems macro level into the affective infra-fray.
Given the cross-sensitivity between scales, at the limit the economic
system and the subject of interest are themselves in a functional state of indistinction. The whole system is always going down the rabbit hole. It is just as
continually reemerging, through multiplier effects, channeled through
affectively inflected individual actions, back onto its own level. It does
not make the trip to its own regressive endpoint and back unchanged. It
becomes en route. In addition to the economic systemthe precarious
emergent orderings of the economy as more or less regulated by macroeconomic market mechanisms, and as more or less analyzable using
quantitative indicatorsthere is the chaotic process of this back-andforth between levels from which economic determinations periodically
emerge.12 The process as a whole is neither governable nor quantifiable. It is affective-relational. Given the paradoxical bond between the
affectivity of the relational process and the troubled rationality of its
emergent orderings, the system that is the sum of the orderings is at best
metastable: precariously stable, tottering between bouts of system equilibrium loss and processual vertigo.
Each dizzy individuals rabbit hole of affect is at the immanent limit
of the economy. The multitude of these regressive endpoints communicate, entangled at distance. Their transindividual entanglement
composes what Deleuze and Guattari would call the plane of immanence of the economy. The plane of immanence of the economy is the
irreducibly affective limit of a complexly relational field. It is the economy at its absolute co-motional limit of tendential stirrings in uncertain
readiness potential.

the inmost end

15

On the plane of immanence, the economic system and the subject of


interest are jointly in potential, in a functional state of indistinction at the
level at which action is just beginning to stir, in the incipience of what is
to come. The symmetry between the infra-individual and the economic
field as a whole, across their difference in scale, is only apparent. The
infra-level is in a very real sense the larger of the two, in that it germinally
includes the relation between levels, at the immanent limit. Entangled in
the zone of indistinction of readiness potential, the subject and the
system come together, to become together. Every little act turning out
from the regressive endpoint collapses the wave packet, destroying the
infra-state of functional indistinction. The commotion on the infraindividual level acts out. It is then registered as an indexable occurrence,
summing up the individuals irreducible and nontransferable relation to
itself in an economically significant act. Through the registering of the
action, discernible levels bounce back into place. Scales accordion back
out. The system re-self-organizes out of its processual rabbit-holing.
The individuals self-relation, in the dissociative dividual dimension, is the crucible of the systems integral self-organizing. Each little
act helps inflect the systems global direction, as the economy bootstraps its future on the fly. The systems future is also each individuals
future, as it navigates a life journey through economic successes and
failures. The system and its denizens become in tandem. Every little act
exerts a quantum of creative power, globally and locally, in accordionplaying correlation. Every little choice exerts, to some degree, a power
of local-global becoming: an ontopower. What has been lost to the system
and to individuals in terms of knowability, calculability, and predictability is regained in resonant ontopower. An ontopower, as a power of
becoming, is a creative power. The economic model, Foucault said, is
now one of existence itself. Existence itself: where being is becoming.
When what is created is a state of system trust, Luhmann emphasizes
that the trust is entirely unjustified (Luhmann 1979, 78). It may be rationalizable after the fact, but in its genesis it is rationally unfounded. It
did not occur as the separate result of a rational decision judiciously preceding the actions that brought it into being. It came flush with an affective regress, and its turnabout playing-out. At the limit, all economic acts
are rationally ungrounded in the endpoint of the economy. This does not

16

part 1

mean that they are affectively grounded there. Any state of system trust
that emerges is just as affectively unjustified as it is rationally unjustified. It was not grounded in anything preparatory to action that could
be qualified as in any way trustworthy. The transactions that worked out
well and led to success proved themselves trustworthy. They became trustworthy, as a function of how they played out. The state of system trust
is effectively self-justifying. It justifies itself, Luhmann writes, in the
way that it has become creative (78): in the emergently creative way it
is generated as a trust-effect of the economys complex self-organizing.
The self-organizing emergence of the trust-effect is retroactively validating. It is affectively validating in the currency of satisfactions gained.
If enough trust-effects emerge at a sufficient rate of generation, then
however unjustified they are, the system has a chance of continuing, in a
positive orientation, trending up. Trust in the system has been restored.
The affective conditions for continued surplus-value production are in
force. Follow-on actions reinforce the trend. Positive feedback between
the systemic and infra-individual levels locks in. Positive multiplier effects bubble through the economy.
When the indicators come out, the effects are there to see, rationally
summed up in a trend. The summing up can then be projected forward
into future trends. Based on these statistical projections, a calculus of
risks and probabilities can be made. The affective-effect is now as rationalized as it can get. The rationalizing indicators stoke economic activity, reinforcing the affective conditions for growth. These feed back to
the regressive endpoints of the economy composing its plane of immanence. Turning around them, they resonate transindividually across the
economic field. Feedback loop. Economically, affectivity and rationality circle creatively through each other. The regress to the endpoint of
the economic and the upward progress of the economic indicators are a
single two-way movement of reciprocal feedback. They are systemically
superposed pulses of the capitalist process, together ontopowerful.
Mirroring the quantum vocabulary of the reduction of the wave packet,
Luhmann refers to the production of a state of system trust as a reduction of complexity. The economy cannot be micromanaged: do not
laisser-faire the government. Although the economy cannot be micromanaged, through the feedback process it can be infra-stoked toward the

the inmost end

17

emergence of trust-effects. The instability of the economy can, at least


for certain hiatus periods, be affectively primed into metastability: a provisional stability snatched emergently from far-from-equilibrium conditions. Halcyon days. Vacation days from the full destabilizing force of
complexity. Provisional stability: no one really knows how long the trends
will hold. System trust is a fragile artifact hypersensitive to perturbation.
Luhmann drives the point home: in the reduction of complexity,
resolving into a metastable state, at the immanent limit, at the heart of
the process, there always lies an unstable, incalculable moment (Luhmann 1979, 74). It is around this unstable, incalculable, hypersensitive
moment that everything begins to revolve. The principle of decision at
work cannot lie in cognitive capacity actually involving a calculation that
guides action before the fact (79). Ultimately, there is no prospectively
knowing economic act. The whole process actually works best, Luhmann maintains, if the consciousness of trust and distrust are lost, so that the
reduction of the readiness-potential wave packet becomes autonomous
(71)so that decision becomes autonomous. The affective churning of
the system, through which the rationality of the system cycles, is best
left unbeknownst even to itself.13
Nonconsciousness becomes the key economic actor.

notes

1. The Inmost End


1. Art: the then US Federal Reserve chairman, Alan Greenspan, underscored
the centrality of the creative factor in an October 2001 speech where he credited
the economys ability to bounce back from the shock of 9/11 to a different kind
of efficiency that is none other than the superflexible creativity of our system
(Greenspan 2001b). Greenspan liberally employed the affective vocabulary of
shock to the system in the immediate post-9/11 period (see, for example,
Greenspan 2001a). Of course, 9/11 was not the first or last shock to affect the
market.
2. William Connolly makes this same point: The state does not manage
markets much directly, except through monetary policy, but it takes a very active
role in creating, maintaining, and protecting the preconditions of market selfregulation....So neoliberalism solicits an active state to promote, protect, and
expand market processes (Connolly 2013, 21). According to Foucault, the original
neoliberal project was for a government from which nothing escapes...but
which nevertheless respects the specificity of the economy (Foucault 2008, 296).
The dream was that this balancing act would be ensured by a well-functioning civil
society. The breakdown of that dream (Hardt 1995) led to a transition to a new form
of governmentality, which Foucault glimpses in an isolated passage and to which
he gives the name environmentality (Foucault 2008, 259260). Environmental
mechanisms are precisely aimed at the preconditions of economic activity that
Connolly refers. In Foucaults words, they modulate the rules of the game from
within rather than directly target the actions of the players from above. They operate on a supposedly leveled playing field, neither from on high in a sovereign manner, nor structurally coupled with a separate sphere operating according to its own
noneconomic juridical principles. In the present essay, environmentality is taken as
a starting point. On environmentality, see Massumi (2009a). Deleuze and Guattari
emphasize that this fundamentally changes the nature of the State, henceforth
more essentially a model of realization for how capitalism will implant itself in
order to traverse the national territory than a sovereign ordering of the national territorys interiority (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 454459).
3. On the dissociation of the social and the economic, see Foucault (2008,
200201). It is the concept of human capital (touched on later) that existentializes

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notes to part 1

this dissociation and simultaneously overcomes it by collapsing the social into the
economic. On human capital, see Foucault (2008, 224265).
4. Foucault (2008, 272276) insists on the incommensurability of the subject of
law (or right) and liberalisms homo oeconomicus, the subject of economics (subject of
interest).
5. On contagion and market psychology, see Marazzi (2008).
6. Oscillatoire is rendered as fluctuating in the English translation.
7. For a more detailed development of the concept of processual polarities
entering into proximity in a zone of indistinction and the corresponding logic of
mutual inclusion, see Massumi (2014).
8. In what follows, the prefix infra will be used in preference to intra.
Intra connotes interiority, and thus boundedness. Infra, on the other hand,
connotes a threshold on an unbounded continuum, below which there is a qualitative phase-shift in the nature of the phenomena on the continuum.
9. Simon Critchley, in Infinitely Demanding, uses the term dividual in a different
sense (2007, 89). For Critchley, it denotes a splitting of the subject, in dialogue with
the psychoanalytic concept as interpreted by Lacan.
10. On new approaches to modeling the economy that must be categorized as
preemptive (although they do not claim that title), see A Doing Done through Me,
n. 3, this volume.
11. AmalgaMood.com; accessed March 6, 2013.
12. On the distinction between system and process, see Massumi (2009a).
13. On becoming autonomous of system-level affective self-organizing in its political dimensions, see Massumi (2005).

2. A Doing Done through Me


1. For US presidential candidate Mitt Romneys infamous pronouncement, see
Rucker (2011). The Supreme Courts Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission
decision of 2010 extended the individual right of free speech to corporations and
used the assertion of a homology between individual personhood and corporate
personhood to strike down campaign contributions limits as a violation of the
personal right to free speech guaranteed in the US Constitution.
2. Of course, not all commentators in the literature of nonconscious decision
making give up entirely on rational choice, but there is a consensus that it is in
crisis. Some commentators emphasize the need to manage the biases of gut choice
(such as the difficulty mentioned below of responding affectively to probabilities)
by training of our rational-choice skills. Others emphasize the need to create propitious conditions for intuition to work on its own to best advantage. Here is a list of
some of the best-known titles in the popular literature on the prowess and problems of nonconscious decision making: Sources of Power (Klein); Strangers to Ourselves
(Wilson); Blink (Gladwell); Nudge (Thaler and Sunstein); Predictably Irrational (Ariely);
How We Decide (Lehrer); The Power of Pull (Hagel, Brown, and Davison); and Thinking