Saturday, September 01, 2012
'No man but a block-head ever wrote, except for money' department
Here's a story for our times. It's got it all: the glories of the unbridled entrepreneurial spirit; the gargantuan overproduction and instantaneous dissemination of information (the possibilities generated by e-publishing for "vanity presses" seem limitless, and it doesn't seem the good intentions of the FTC can keep up); the mighty egalitarian ethos of the internet -- "Reviews by ordinary people have become an essential mechanism for selling anything online"; and the genial exploitation of the morally ambiguous zone between what is deemed corrupt and repugnant by acclamation and what the market can stomach without actually vomiting.
As somebody who thinks well of the reading and writing of book reviews, it's a little discomfiting to be told just to depend on the inherently moral foundations of consumption to distinguish between "artificially embellished reviews" and the genuine article (or review), but I'm sure I'll get over it. "Consumer reviews are powerful because, unlike old-style advertising and marketing, they offer the illusion of truth." It's enough to make one wistful for the days of honest lying.
And then there is this helpful assurance: "The market will take care of the problem of insincere enthusiasm." 'Insincere enthusiasm' -- what a suave euphemism.
Posted by Marc DeGirolami on September 1, 2012 at 11:11 AM | Permalink
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First, the role and function of these (solicited and paid for or not) “consumer reviews” bear comparison with the rise of ghostwriting and “ghost management” in the practice of modern clinical research, both being part and parcel of promotion of the “quick and dirty” over the “calm and measured.” Each form of “writing” conforms to new market imperatives in the respective overlapping (and intertwined) worlds of the New Information Economy and the regime of commercialized science. Nothing must be allowed to interfere with, that is, slacken, the pace in the production and consumption of novelty.
And it well illustrates with a vengeance the neoliberal proposition that markets are a solution to everything (and when markets cause problems or fail, we’ll find a ‘meta-market’ solution for that too…States and transnational institutions and agencies are useful insofar as they can be vehicles for assuring complete capitulation to markets). It further reminds one that, “For many, the Web exemplifies the neoliberal in the ‘wisdom of crowds’ and Google’s mantra that ‘nobody is as smart as everybody,’ with the market as a stand-in for the hive mind” (Philip Mirowski, as all other quoted material*). The story embodies the consequences of the Hayekian claim that “most intellectuals are generally nothing more than crass, self-serving spinmeisters working for themselves and not the public,” hence the corresponding wholesale rejection of the idea of knowledge as a public good. All hail the New Information Economy, for it conforms to the Technocratic Creed that the engine of economic growth in our time is private investment in commercialized techno-science (the modern regime of globalized privatized science) and human capital bound to the marketplace of ideas (despite ‘numerous empirical disconfirmations’).
This should serve to remind us that markets do not so much produce knowledge, as information, and they’re not boundless or perfect in their capacity for provision of the latter, indeed, they can be “intermittently unreliable information processors.” Moreover, markets “can be equally well deployed to produce ignorance” (not just in the sense that the more we learn the more we discover we do not know, or because of the exponential growth in the production of knowledge as evidenced in scientific publications, but rather in the sense that such ignorance is in fact, however unintentionally, ‘manufactured’). On this (essentially Hayekian) model, the common or greater good (here in the form of organic solidarity) is not an aggregative result of individuals alone and in concert deliberately pursuing “the good” or eudaimonia, but the unintended consequence of individuals following their own self-interested (in a crass or sophisticated sense) or selfish idiosyncratic ends (or perhaps even acting without clear knowledge of the hankered after) such that they are “busily (re-)producing beneficent evolutionary regularities beyond their ken and imagination,” it being but a reflection of “ultimate hubris” to deliberately formulate conceptualizations of the nature of public good and construct stratagems or conform our means so as to achieve it.
* See, among his other important works, Science-Mart: Privatizing American Science (2011).
Posted by: Patrick S. O'Donnell | Sep 2, 2012 9:33:10 AM
This also describes our political process
Posted by: jt | Sep 2, 2012 10:08:32 AM
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