Friday, 19 April 2013

The Reinhart-Rogoff Controversy


This is a comment on the Reinhart-Rogoff controversy about the statistical relationship between government debt and GDP "growth discussed by Gavyn Davies here http://blogs.ft.com/gavyndavies/2013/04/19/how-much-of-reinhartrogoff-has-survived/

I believe that the point Gavyn Davies is making - far from being obvious or irrelevant - opens the door to a much broader debate that is central to the critique of bourgeois "economic science". Essentially, Davies has discovered a kind of Einsteinian "cosmological principle", to wit, that the universe is the same regardless of which point you are at when you observe it. Bourgeois economic "science" does and must believe in the existence of an "Archimidean point" - that is to say, a point from which the cosmos can be observed "objectively". We know that such a point does not exist because the observer is part of the observed cosmos (this is the crux of Heisenberg's Indeterminacy Principle).

But what does this mean? Reinhart and Rogoff were looking for an "Archimedean point" when they falsely believed that a simple statistical relationship between data could reveal a "truth" about social relations of production. Davies has discovered that social reality is far more complex - far more political! - than that. So what was the "point" to the entire millenary holy-grail search for a "cipher", a "number" that could provide the "key" or guide or pointer to socio-economic policy? Is bourgeois economic "science" just an absurd game of hypostasis, of reification?

My own blog has been devoted almost exclusively to understanding the "effectuality" of "ciphers" in bourgeois economic "science" - what I call "mathesis". The entire process of how a cipher can be used as a "talisman", as a phantomatic "Archimedean point" that can guide the actions of the bourgeoisie as a dominant class - this entire process was outlined by Nietzsche in what I have called "Nietzsche's Invariance". In a nutshell, bourgeois economic "science" does not and cannot describe an "objective reality", but seeks rather to provide "pointers", abstract numerical figures or "ciphers" that are then used to guide political action ("policies", if you like) in a determinate direction. What makes Nietzsche's Invariance possible is precisely the fact that all social life ultimately comes down to relations of power - and most certainly not to "economic laws" or "quantitative relations". It is to these relations of power, rather than to "economic laws" that our attention should turn.

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