Towards a social logic of the derivative

This week is honorary Randy Martin week here at SpecMat.

Its not that we’ve been too preoccupied with other stuff to write anything worth reading lately; for instance:

It’s not that we’ve been watching too much TV, no –I don’t even like watching exciting baseball.

It’s not that we’ve been zealously following the soap opera called Washington DC (and the “I kidnap your money” (i.e. Congressional budgetary nonfunding of the US government) and then say “now give me the fucking baby!” (i.e. Obamacare/Affordable Care Act) logic; which reminded us how easy it is to watch Bill O’Rielly (on an empty stomach))…No that’s not why either.

It’s not that we’ve begun working on a new book titled Infinite Leverage, and that we’ve found that by connecting the deep history of financial leverage (or ‘gearing’ if your in the UK) -whereby you employ debt to augment the volume of gains and losses- with the principle of mechanical advantage -whereby an inert instrument (like a lever) exploits the positive differences between force and movement to amplify an output of power far beyond that of your input- we’ve opened up a veritable pantheon of financial ontology only akin to the veritable pantheon of culinary delights boasted by the (original, Japanese version of) The Iron Chef…No it couldn’t be that.

Allez cuisine! (translation: 'maniacal aggression never tasted so good)
Allez cuisine! (translation: ‘maniacal aggression never tasted so good’)

It’s not that we’ve been depressed because Walt died –which is natural and justice, of course; but honestly isn’t Jesse just as responsible for just as much objective violence (e.g. when someone smoked the blue stuff and neglects their kid, then their kid dies -this means that Walt and Jesse just killed the kid, indirectly, but objectively: they are both equally responsible for the countless deaths of people just like Brock)?..That’s not why we haven’t been posting things. No. that’s definitely not why. That would be stupid, it’s just a show.

It’s not that we’ve been making lots of money trading, because making money trading off Japanese monetary policy and emerging market debt is easier than losing money by believing that Gold will go way up when the money is kidnapped and held as ransom, and babies are demanded in exchange for ransom…I assure, dear reader, that would not be the reason, either. (Actually if you study the correlation you’ll see that Gold only eventually goes way up -so its just not time yet.)

No, its honorary Randy Martin week because Randy has written the best piece on the social logic of the derivative, period.

Randy identifies and defines a derivative sociality as a body without organs (as he puts it: ‘a decentered social kinesthetic…derivative mobilizations that do not require unity to move together’), and suggests that in the topological or ‘horizontal propulsion’ of dance and derivatives lie an aesthetic, a becoming-culture, a radical ensemble of practices of precarity.

This is really compelling to me, to us, and to those who are and have been and will be attending to the thought of what more our economic and social institutions could be, but which they currently are not. In Lozano’s Of Synthetic Finance, he pursues a case study on credit derivatives, in which he outlines a proposal for modifying and universalizing the technology of synthetic CDOs -which he wagers would act as a kind of lock and key mechanism (rather than requiring a wholesale systemic mutation –whatever that would even mean), and whereby operating a seemingly minor variation to our mode or distributing economic space could rearrange the interrelations between the metrics of our (financial) order. He argues that this could effect a nomadic distribution of economic space -and now wagers the notion that through the pooling and tranching procedure of synthetically-structured finance, we could, if universalized, effect an infinite leverage with all upside and no downside (i.e. we have no idea what our institutions are actually capable; let’s experiment with infinite leverage, universally, and find out). But this notion by Lozano, to be clear, is strictly an economic, quasi-tax-policy-oriented financial proposition grounded in his technical understanding of the peculiar but profound and monstrous material capacities of synthetic finance. But Randy’s thinking on this is one or two light years ahead; his piece goes a big step further by clarifying that the radicality of the synthetic is a social aesthetic as well: and after all, isn’t economics just a subset of social logic? To paraphrase Deleuze, we make and remake the topology of our identities on a moving horizon of fluid activities, interests, desires, and dark precursors. I agree. That’s why it’s honorary Randy Martin week.

His piece, which is beautifully written, can be found here.

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