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Frieder Vogelmann “Neosocial Market Economy”

December 28, 2012 Leave a comment

Vogelmann, Frieder 2012. Neosocial Market Economy. Foucault Studies No. 14: 115-137. Online: http://rauli.cbs.dk/index.php/foucault-studies/article/view/3895/4240.

By  working  on  the  level  of  knowledge  (savoir),  archaeology  attempts  to  explain  not why statements are true (or false), but why they are “in the truth,” that is, why they can exist as statements that have a truth-value. (117)

The question is not how true statements of political economy came to influence the political reflections on how to govern; instead, one has to show how the knowledge (savoir) that  makes  it  possible  to  qualify  statements  as  true  or  false  becomes  part  of  the  practice of veridiction for the political rationality. (118)

Liberalism’s  defining  feature  is  the  relation  it  establishes  between  the  market  and  the government,  which  on  the  level  of  knowledge  takes  the  form  of  a  reversal:  Driven by its central imperative “not to govern too much,” liberalism installs the market as veridical practice, a site that produces the knowledge according to which the government must act. Whereas  the  market  had  previously  been  a  “site  of  justice,” subjected  to the  truth  of  government, the  new  knowledge  of  political  economy  holds  it  to  be  an  autonomous  sphere  with  its  own laws  which  ensure  that  prices  will  assume  their  “natural”  or “normal”  value, as long  as  the “naturalness” of the market is not disturbed by governmental interventions. (120)

Thus, the market becomes the mechanism which can  verify (or falsify) governmental practices by  making  visible  whether  the  actions  of  the  government  conform to or disrupt,  distort  and destroy the natural truth of the market.  Accordingly, a “best governmental practice” can only be one that respects and preserves the operation of the market mechanism. (120)

If  ordo-liberalism’s  initial  concern  is  the  state,  neo-liberalism  begins  with  the  individual’s perspective and reorganises the concepts of political economy from there. The focus is on  the  concept  of  labour.    Whereas  the  neo-liberals  leave  the  market  as  it  stands—i.e.  as  an arena of competition—they criticise the notion of labour in liberal political economy as a mere abstraction resulting from unilateral concentration on processes of production, circulation, and consumption.  In order to make room for a different economic theory that can adequately con-ceptualise  labour,  the  scope  of  economic  analysis  itself needs  to  be  widened;  economics therefore  becomes  a  theory  of  human  behaviour  under  the  aspect  of  assigning  limited  re-sources to concurrent means. (123)

Ute Tellmann  has convin-cingly  shown  that  this  is  “the  truly  sovereign  subject-position” within  the  neo-liberal  ratio-nality,  for  “occupying  this  position  allows  […]  to speak the truth  of  the  market  against  its failing empirical counter-part.” In contrast to the other liberal political rationalities, this is a truly  remarkable  achievement,  for  it  erases  the fissure  between  the  expert  and  his  truth-pro-ducing machinery.  Whereas ordo-liberalism is easily criticised, because the expert positioned above the  market must raise suspicions even from  a liberal perspective,—Hayek’s critique of the “pretence of knowledge” comes to mind—the neo-liberal expert who speaks for the mar-ket enjoys the full legitimacy of this governmentality’s site of veridiction.  Thereby and against classical  liberalism,  neo-liberalism  reintroduces  a  place  for  the  economic  sovereign. (126)

classical liberalism  attacks the police-apparatus of the raison d’État, ordo-liberalism directs its criticism against the totalitarianism it sees  lurk-ing  behind  a  planned  economy,  and neo-liberalism  opposes  what  it  diagnoses  as  the  restric-tion of personal freedom by an ever-growing (welfare) state.  The neosocial market economy, by contrast, denounces the excessive self-conduct of individuals: the over-inflated use of per-sonal freedom so dear to neo-liberalism, which in consequence is one of the main targets of the neosocial market economy’s strategy. (127)

It is hence in need of a new, stable “order” to limit those excessive freedoms  neo-liberalism  unleashed.    The  lesson  drawn  from  that  diagnosis  is  a  “repetition” (not a copy) of ordo-liberal ideas, adapted to a globalized economy and embedded in a differ-ent  strategy. This  is  a  first  reason  to  call  the  emerging  governmentality  “neosocial  market economy,” and the formative system of strategies that makes its strategy possible is once again the critique of an excess: the excess of individual freedom that threatens to undermine itself. (128)

“Responsibility”  is  the  notion  which  this  new  governmentality  introduces into the system of concepts and which already showed up in neosocial market economy’s strategy. (128)

Note  that  “responsibility”  as  the  new  governmentality’s  central  concept  is  not  simply attached to an unchanging governable subject, nor is it something external to this subject.  It is seen as the force that is able to transform the egoistic, excessively individualistic subjects neo-liberalism has bequeathed to the present political rationality into new ethical beings.  And according to the strategic analyses of the neosocial market economy, this will also change society as a whole; becoming responsible subjects entails an ethical conduct that is able to “repair” all those  broken  communities:  families,  neighbourhoods,  city  districts, and so on. Secondly, responsibility is nothing external, but derives from the interconnectedness of the individuals. The  argument  runs  something  like  this:  Because  we  are  “always  already”  in  situations that prompt us to “answer,” responsibility—the ability and the duty to respond—is an undeniable fact  of  human  existence;  making  people  responsible  is  hence  just  a  process  of  “reminding” them. Responsibility  is  therefore  both  an  objective social  fact  and allows  the  ethical  impregnation of every action—even of market transactions. (129)

If the political slogan of a “new market economy” was a first reason for naming the new governmentality “neosocial market economy,” a second, theoretical reason stems from its formative  system  of  governable  objects. (130)

The activating welfare state constructs a specific linkage  between  self-conduct  and  the  conduct  of  others  that  makes  it  possible  to  attribute every action both to oneself and to “the society”. […] Conversely, any passivity or any failure to assume one’s responsibility is not just uneconomical or a sign  for  individual  irrationality  but  turns into anti-social behaviour. (130)

Overall, the reinvented “social” is assigned a new role within this governmentality. As in classical liberalism, it serves to govern individuals, though not because society is the subject of  interest’s  natural  environment  that  can  be  regulated,  while  the  individuals  are left to “laissez-faire”-policy.  The “neosocial” instead works directly within the subjects to be governed. (131)

The  construction  of  the  “neosocial”  as  the  formative  system  of  governable  objects distinguishes  today’s  dominant  governmentality  from  its  predecessor  neoliberalism that tried  to govern without society. (131)

For it is not just a diffuse entity called  “society” that is subjectivated. Rather, the neo-social is  formed  by  inscribing  a  variety  of  different,  very  specific  “communities”  or  “networks” into the subject, each of them corresponding to a governmental practice the subject is involved in. (132)

The new formative system of governable  objects  of  the  current  governmentality  is  not  comprised  of  the  structure  of  incentives  that  guide  the  interest-driven  homines oeconomici,  as  it  is  in  neo-liberalism. Instead, the  formative  system  of  governable  objects  is  the  neosocial  as  a  web  of  communities  or  net-works that is installed within the “networking agent” as the principle of responsibility for his or her own actions as well as for his or her communities. (133)

The  formative  system  of  subject  positions  that  establishes  the  subject  positions  of  the governed with his double responsibility for himself and for his communities and of the governor,  who  forges  new  relations  of  responsibility  and  makes  them  count,  is  based on a particular view of man: a “relational” account of individuals as constituted and sustained by their various connections to others.  In an ironic twist, the neosocial market economy is thus able to adopt much of what has been articulated as a critique of the sovereign individual and to turn it into a useful governmental instrument. (135)

Calling into question this formative system of subject-positions—and thereby doing critique’s job of  “desubjectification  (désassujettissement)”—cannot simply mean  opposing  the  bonds  of  communities  by  individualism,  a  move  that  would  still  remain within the same formative system.  Instead, other forms of communities are needed, and this should  not  be  read  emphatically  but  rather  as  an  act  of  self-defence:  what  is  called  for  are counter-communities  that  can  negate  the  claims  made  upon  us  to  provide  enough  room  for further action, not just different communities to fulfil the same subjectivation in another way. (136)