Development reaches bottlenecks due to the inherent normativity and positivity of economic thinking. Development beyond these impasses requires transactions which are conducted under more radically uncertain conditions, such that development loses its definitive direction. The research of Ellie Ayache turns around this problem, but where his work focuses on finance, the term “nuomenal commerce” defines another matrix of relations.
This conceptuality has a fuzziness, such that we speak of “products” as vague aleatory approximations of fields where productive forces could be involved. Such nomination attack the composition of phenomenal reality through a prismatic shattering of mirror relations. This opens dimensions which are not so much economic – which would imply both positive and normative – but rather an ethics of involuntary memory which pertains to the disturbances that may result from economic activity. This especially concerns the idleness of the obsolete, and the secret productions the conceal.
According to the argumentative customs of academia, reality is only worth discussing where there is substantiation through proofs. To academicize is to seek positive confirmation through agreement among the community. Such values render discussions of the radically singular faux pas indulgences. The epistemological, Habermasian bias assumes ideals of professional communication, where intellectual expression is intended to convince the other. This assumed striving for agreement reflects a sensibility which is promotional, democratic and scientific. This ethos is an entrenched and persistent legacy of liberal capitalism – that customary orientation of the progressive bourgeois public sphere.
Psychoanalysts have conceived desire as an alienation from our own words which is abolished by the imaginary agreement of an other. This ultimately means that another speaks through us, and our desire depends on deferring recognition of the identity of the speaker and the meaning of the words that pass through our lips. Desire implies an aestheticization of speech that leaves us bewildered by how our words are not really ours, and it’s that uncertainty which draws the horizon of an nonscientific realism. A realism that seeks no proof, but rather gasps and stutters, gesturing mutely in the hysterical uncertainty beyond expression. Yet this thought is not skeptical because it’s posessed by an ambivalent belief which turns on a disjunction between form and time.
Nuomenal commerce is a political spirituality that doesn’t seek validation or consistency but rather molecular participation. This gets carried along with the consistence of the course of natural things. This “being carried along” implies a deep ambivalence, which sits in the ontological gaps of action-passion and being-having. There is an equivocity of possession, where there is unheimlich uncertainty about who possesses who, such as the crowd or the other. There is a seizure between the promiscuous and the prejudiced, or between the popular and the partisan. This contradiction has to do with the Freudian disjunction between perversion and neurosis. It also relates to the Benjamin’s dialectics of the aura, where the exlusive images of antique aristocracy are compromised by popular reproduction. There is a sense of authenticity which concerns whether this dialectic gets exhausted. A problematic ensues which turns on the selection of modes of participation where this incapacitation can be temporarily overcome.
This term “commerce” is loaded with a Nietzschean politics that turns on a particular concept of power. This conceives essence as a contest between forces over the determination of sense. This is to say that identity concerns the chances regarding which forces might appropriate bodies and things into their discourses. Nuomenal commerce assumes a partisanship in this struggle, in that it takes sides over the bestowal of sense. It assumes a fidelity to the nuomenal against the phenomenal, and also a fidelity to the commercial against the financial and the industrial. And going beyond this abstract double-fidelity, there are commitments to particular schemas of assembly. Next we shall perform some mise-en-scene to introduce the background for a more circumscribed politics of commercial noumena.
Capitalism has been targeted by a host of polemics over recent centuries. It is accused of injustices against something supposedly more deserving, which can be a community, nature, environment, tradition, workers, culture, life, minorities or aesthetics. Since these struggles have failed to prevent capital’s ongoing development, we might accept that it has a certain invincibility. The durability of capitalism has been proven by the experience of history. And since capitalism cannot be opposed from the outside, the wager of commercial realism is to divided against itself.
The capitalist system is constituted by a trinity of incongruent dimensions: the financial, the industrial and the commercial. The operations of capitalist power involve obfuscations where these conceal and substitute for each other. The expansion of consumer choice is prostituted as a pretext for financial and industrial machinations. And there is the assertion of the equality and inseparability of the trinity, such that the dollars which buy financial derivatives are equated with those which buy bubble gum.
The commercial is a remainder that is left through the subtraction of the financial and industrial from capitalism. So, we propose to tear apart this trinitarian alliance by composing a partisan image of the market from a commercial perspective. A commercial image of the market – not an empirical image, but a transcendental one – to break the spell of industrial finance. A transcendental contamination, a dirty spirituality of fetishistic ambivalence.
Commerce is a crack on the margin of the capitalist trinity, a breaking away from it’s symbolic integrity. It’s the risky site where flesh gets implicated in the machine. This is like Kant’s third antimony, where the unpredictably of human freedom disturbs the catagories of technoscience. In Borromean terms, we would say the structure is exposed to its abgrund at the margin of the imaginary-real. Where industry and finance relate on the symbolic father-son axis, the commercial ghost is the dynamic third that forges and erodes that paternal relation into fluidity. Its a mercurial term that brings turbulence into the calculations. This amounts to a eucharistic praxis. Drawing on the ancient Catholic mass – its spirituality, figurations, drives and affectations – where oral intensities can be marshalled against the logic of industrial finance.
Commerce gets refigured as the circulation of sacred wafers that bring us into a circuit of transcendental prostitution. A transgressive commercial disposition of a population blurs the distinction between buying and selling, working and consuming. Nuomenal commerce verges on a decadent aesthetics. Commercial destiny is a decision about how to die by the mysterious gift of work – a dialectical enigma at the apex of liberal sovereignty.
Industrial finance imposes paternal conditions of necessity on commerce. This imposes what psychoanalysts call the “existence of the Other”, such that commercial behavior proceeds under the spell of an imaginary das Man, who is a conflation of customers, bosses, invertors, neighbors, spouses… While it may be the case that we are necessarily chosen by the Other, or that the ecstasy of communication is contingent on the Other’s choice, there is also the inverse chance that the Other might be chosen by us. This is how we interpret the ancient custom of ascetic withdrawal into the desert: as a search for another Other. This is a mystical rite where the chooser is chosen in turn.
This search for another Other isn’t a search for an anti-thesis to the Other. This is to say that the concept of commerce implies some invariance or normativity. Commercial realism must bear the burden of some minimum of paternal responsibility – some dues must be paid to patriarchal representation. Perhaps we could name that invariance by saying that commerce is essentially American, and that there is no possibility of discovering some anti-American commerce. The problem is not to invent a counter-commerce, but to facilitate an original (spirit) possession of the concept as it already exists. And so, the problem is to discover another America which is a negative image reflected through the other continents. This would be a negative image or an anti-America which is positively implicated with the standard one.
This line of thought responds to an elementary problem concerning the gauging of powers and the drawing of battle lines. Dispensing with the old leftist tactic that would oppose it from outside, this would set capitalism into conflict with itself. There are problems concerning the immanence of war which pertain to the initiation of new phases of the cold war. This term “cold war” names a singular partitioning of the social, where there is a ghost-struggle over the subordination of alterity. This implies an enigmatic modality, which is a medium that carries racial traces. The ideals of political-economy get conflated with geohistorical identities.
Commercial orgies such as Christ-mass proceed in an automated fashion under the spell of industrial finance. The traditional priest-function in the mass has been redistributed among celebrities, officials, experts, coaches, managers, journalists, critics, family, teachers, judges, and accountants whose gestures guide passages into the ecstasy of commerce.
Perhaps the problem is to discover another Christ-mass which is no longer subordinated to industrial finance. This wouldn’t necessarily be a festival held on December 25th, but rather some event that can replace that festival. Such a commerce is the mysterious breaching or sublimation of an imaginary body without conceptual identity. This death involves a blurring between the affects and movements of various crowd formations such as festivals, political parties, aesthetic vanguards, spectator crowds, audiences, bands, circus troupes, comraderies, collegialities, nations, unions, and professional organizations. Elias Canetti described this virtual modality.
The liberation of commerce from industrial finance is never ultimately achieved once and for all. The commercial spirit must remain always trapped within the body of the commodity as it is cast by industry and finance. This endless exile defines what we call the secular age oriented between the limits of the “two comings”. An ultimately liberated commercial ecstasy would be the death-points at the alpha and omega of this history – the garden of eden and the final judgment. But within the limits of the saeculum, commerce shall always remain partially bound to the commodity form of industrial finance. This secularism implies a dialectical ambivalence or perversion which is essential because industrial finance provides commercial spirituality with a vital inertia and gravity of material incorporation. Without the weight of the commodity, commerce would vaporize into the cosmos.
This value-contradiction has the form of a Chinese dialectic, such that the good is confused with the bad. The commercial good is the intensive energy of a virtual spirituality. But that intensity can only exist on the condition that it is alienated within the bad extension of industrial finance. Without that alienation (that secularity), the commercial intensity would dissipate or collapse into presence. Gilles Deleuze was suspicious of this sort of mortal dialectics, though he was not dismissive. This dialectic risks becoming obsessive, and so it should remain in the background.
This dialectical confusion of life and death reinterprets a certain Christian hypocrisy. Christianity has been denounced for exalting the “eternal life” (which is eternal death) over the “temporal life”. But commercial realism can salvage something from this dubious metaphysics, such that spirituality is treated as an intensity of death which survives only within the alienating ordeal of life. Secularism then is a paradoxical commitment to this vital alienation. A minimal tribute must be paid to the evil life-deity of industrial finance. Only through such tribute is the commerce of death afforded.
A certain conventional sensibility assumes that life requires the undergoing of some death. This is the idea that living well requires dying a bit, such as work and sacrifice. This is the idea that some things must die in order that the quality of some lives be increased. Commercial realism reverses this exchange, so that the good we pursue is identified as death, and for the sake of that good-death we are required to endure a painful and unfortunate ordeal which is called life.
This takes up ancient humanistic traditions and converts them to thanatology. It reconsolidates an spiritual legacy that runs between communion, communism, and commodity. This idea of spiritual commerce then is appropriated as a ancient custom which has been highjacked by industrial finance. The liberation of commerce requires connecting it with its antique spirituality. Commerce has been captured into economic ideologies of growth, optimization and efficiency. It has been caught between the logic of the engineer (the one-armed captain of industrial technology), and the financier (the one-eyed captain of activist accounting). Between these strata, populations are yoked, intimidated, stigmatized, scapegoated, stereotyped… eucharistic wafers of commerce are deployed as lures in elaborate traps of pain and pleasure. Industrial finance imposes models onto commerce, such that only limited forms of participation can be entertained, such as was the case with catholic mass.
This rejects the liberal and Marxist assumption that the commodity represents stored potential of labor or value, whether use-value or even exchange-value. From the perspective of commercial realism, the commodity rather appears as a shard of sacred death, which is to say that it’s a breach in the fabric of symbolic exchange. Industrial finance insists that this death has equivalence with work, or with other commodities, whereas commercial realism denies any such equivalence. Commercial spirituality then is a death that has nothing to do with work, or any sort of exchange.
This suspension of value representation was the aesthetic experience of 19th century realism, where the work of art was able to displace the commodity. That was the realism of the avantgarde: a taste that denies the need for exchange. Art has since been re-commodified and subordinated again to industrial finance. But commercial realism takes this commodification for granted and adopts a dialectic that assumes the necessary subordination of commercial spirituality to industrial finance. The commodity is treated as the damned body of the spirit, the extension in which spiritual intensities undergo their essential alienation.