In Honor of a 2023 Parallax Course

Ivan Illich, Herbert Marcuse, and More on “Economic Incompleteness”

O.G. Rose
31 min readNov 2, 2023

Section V.4C of II.1 (“The Problem of Scale (Part I)”)

Photo by Jon Tyson

“The Hard Problem of Economics” might be the question of how we can “create demand/creativity” versus only stimulate it, which leads us to further consider the “essential incompleteness” of economics (as every field ultimately might be, especially if Hegel is right that all thought must “pass over” from A to B).⁵³¹ This problem has not been adequately addressed in my view, and, as we discussed in “The Net (67),” perhaps “the hard problem of demand and economics” is ignored precisely so that politicians might be able to maintain authority: Republicans in America can derive legitimacy from defending more Austrian economics, while Democracy can derive legitimacy from defending something more Keynesian or something like Modern Monetary Theory. This is a general rubric, and I’m not saying Republicans neatly and accurately defend Austrianism, etc., but regardless the point is that the political sides defend economic theories which hide and conceal “the essential incompleteness of economics,” for if that was acknowledged it would become clearer that economics is beyond political control, and then on what grounds to politicians manage and rule us? When people believed in God, we could speak of the king as authoritative because he was blessed by God, but now economics seems to operate as the “metaphysics” from which modern leaders derive legitimacy, and if economics turned out to be far more “unmanageable” at its most fundamental level, then “the rule of politicians” could be called into question (they certainly couldn’t promise as much).

To speak Hegel, both Republicanism and Liberalism in terms of economics are too “one-sided,” and what has happened is that we are caught speaking and debating back and forth in a dialectic, all of which helps distract us from the “essential incompleteness” underlying economics (of which again politicians might have an interest in distracting us from so that they can maintain their legitimacy). Further reason to think economics is “incomplete” is precisely that it requires a State to operate and set the rules (or so I believe, not being an anarchist), even if that State’s role is very limited and small. But if that State needs legitimacy to be involved in the economy, then it arguably must maintain “the dialectical debate” which conceals “economic incompleteness” (like ideology), for if it didn’t it might lose authority in the eyes of voters to be involved in the economy precisely as the State must so that the economy doesn’t self-efface. This is the kind of paradox which the State finds itself in currently, but if instead we would to see the State as helping create the conditions for Wordspread (and the spread of the Artifex), it might be able to regain legitimacy and authority that way further through a “dialectical performance” — but what I mean by this will have to be explained later.

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“Complete economics” is a fiction lurking behind both Republican and Liberal debate, for both are suggesting that if only we follow their ideas, the economy would work. But ideas and systematic adjustments only might lead to wealth-creation and economic strength, to the degree “stimulating demand” can work — but I believe there is a limit to this, as evidence with “The Great Stagnation.” But so long as “complete economics as fiction” lasts, politicians can derive authority and legitimacy from that fiction (perhaps like religion), and in this way perhaps the State doesn’t want an “adequate theory of value” which unveils “economic incompleteness,” for that would threaten their legitimacy. Furthermore, the average citizen might not be ready to face the abyssal reality that we have a lot less of an idea of what we should do so that society can thrive than it seems…

Conservatives can promise us more freedom (as legitimated by “the myth of autonomous freedom”), as Liberals can promise us more stimulus, but would any of us believe them if they promised us “more creativity?” Does that even make sense (or is it too “high order,” which we’ve been habituated by Discourse out of being able to think)? If the public was exposed to the “fundamental incompleteness” of economics, and told an Artifex and “spread of Childhood” is what was needed, could people even understand this claim before the “spread of Childhood” occurred? Can we speak of “high order causality” and people understand their need for it before it has spread and been experienced? This is our dilemma, and without a way to address this problem, it is understandable why “the fiction of economics” has been maintained like it has been. We’re just trying to get by, after all.

Creativity necessitates freedom, but freedom doesn’t necessitate creativity, and yet freedom seems easier for the Republican to promise than creativity. Unfortunately, it is not freedom that primarily defines Capitalism, in my view, but creativity (which entails freedom but isn’t reducible to freedom). The focus on “freedom” by many Capitalists versus “creativity” has resulted in confusion and inefficiency in regard to policies and purpose. Freedom without action is empty, while freedom with action can be world-changing. Furthermore, it is not freedom that results in wealth, though it might be the environment in which wealth/creativity arises; rather, it is creativity. Similarly, by focusing on “stimulus” and “stimulating the market,” Liberals have not helped us arrive at a distinction between “creating demand” and “stimulating demand,” which has also contributed to our trouble. Additionally, perhaps there is incentive in the State to focus on “stimulating demand” so that the State can position itself as necessarily and having “a power which can save us” in being capable of that (supposedly) “necessarily stimulus,” further legitimizing its role. So those in power might want us to focus on “stimulating demand,” for then they are in a position to tell us what to demand. Similarly, perhaps there is incentive to keep people from “creating (their own) demand” so that overall demand is easier to coordinate by the State, as the State might feel is its only option (as indeed seems to be the case where “create” and “stimulate” are similes). Also, Chetan made the great point that we seem today to have lost the capacity to be motivated “without necessity,” which means we require “external motivation” to function, but again that is arguably a good thing in a world where we can only “stimulate demand” and have little idea how to create it.⁵³² What would the economy do if people weren’t compelled by necessity and yet we also didn’t know how to help them be “intrinsically motivated?” We’d likely fall below the DEH and suffer the consequences; unfortunately, not falling below the DEH has not kept us from “The Great Stagnation,” suggesting that our previous strategy has an expiration date.

A point of clarification might be needed here: I’m no trying to claim that Modern Capitalism will necessarily “breakdown” or explode — by “Great Stagnation,” I mean something much more “boring” and “non-climatic” (which is arguably worse for it is easier not to notice). There is a lot of talk of the “breakdown of Capitalism,” and though I’ve used that language myself, it’s language we have to be careful with: Capitalism might just “slow down” and stagnate, which may lead to geopolitical consequences that are dire (for example), but technically that’s not the same as saying Capitalism itself “breakdown” (perhaps it will, but perhaps it won’t). On this line of thought, in On Classical Economics, Thomas Sowell argues that “breakdown language” in regard to Marxism is based on a misinterpretation: Marx believed that Capitalism was full of contradictions that created tension which would transform Capitalism into Socialism, but Marx did not believe Capitalism would really breakdown because of these tensions. ‘Words like ‘contradiction’ and ‘negation’ used by Marx in a Hegelian sense might suggest a nullification,’ but really it is more like ‘contradiction in the sense of contending forces, such as those within a germinating seed which breaks through its integument.’⁵³³ Marx believed the crises of Capitalism would expand but not increase in severity and that Capitalism was inherently unstable, but he did not think that this instability would lead to its collapse so much as it’s ‘metamorphosis.’⁵³⁴ Rather than deconstruction, Marx believed the tensions of Capitalism would bring about its evolution, which is to say Capitalism wasn’t erased and replaced by Socialism; rather, Capitalism became Socialism, like a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. Without Capitalism, there could be no Socialism: for Marx, Capitalism was a necessary component of its structure.⁵³⁵ But actually instead of a great information, “The Great Stagnation” suggests that “the fundamental incompleteness” of Capitalism (which might be different from an “inherent contradiction,” though it could depend on what we mean), leads not to evolution but stagnation — a whimper, to allude to T.S. Eliot.

‘[F]rom the standpoint of Marxian analysis, [Capitalism is] transformed from within by forces inherent in [it], struggling against one another — that is, by their ‘internal contradictions.’ ’⁵³⁶ There is certainly legitimacy to this view, but what we are seeing instead with Capitalism seems to be that it inherently stagnates because of its “fundamental incompleteness” if that incompleteness is not addressed by adequately by “the human element.” Capitalism might be more contingent than it is contradictory, though again it depends on what we mean by that language, and what Capitalism is contingent upon is the presence of creativity, Childhood, the Artifex, Rhetoric, and the like. Now, I’m not ready to say that Marx is wrong though, for if the “human contingencies” of Capitalism are not addressed, that might precisely because what lets the “internal contradictions” of Capitalism class and erupt, and perhaps Marx will prove right if that classing leads to reform and transformation in Capitalism that evolves into Socialism. Hard to say, but I fear we have not see that play out yet in history, which leads me to focusing more on the problem of “The Great Stagnation” and assuming contingency is more the problem of Capitalism than “internal contradiction.” Our focus should be on cultivate Childhood, not negating/sublating Capitalism into Socialism, for without Childhood, I think Socialism will fail as well.

Further evidence that economics is “fundamentally incomplete” in the Gödel sense could be supported by the notion of “shadow work” which Ivan Illich puts forth. In his book title Shadow Work, Illich suggests that modern economics is only possible thanks to a large amount of unpaid and unacknowledged work that makes possible that “wage economy,” with the clearest example being the work of housewives and childcare, at least as he understood them in his day. He opens his book in the Introduction:

‘The essays gathered here deal with the rise of the shadow economy. I have coined this term to speak about transactions which are not in the monetized sector and yet do not exist in pre-industrialized societies.’⁵³⁷

Illich’s analysis is focused on industrialized societies, and so perhaps his argument would not work to suggest a “fundamental incompleteness” in unindustrialized Capitalism, but then again if Capitalism leads to industrialization, the argument seems to apply at some point in its history, realizing a “fundamental incompleteness” which was always present but not always realized. Regardless, perhaps the “Economic Debate” (as I’ll call it) between Liberals and Conservatives ultimately serves Discourse and conceals the role of “shadow work,” which realizing might help us realize that economics is “fundamentally incomplete” and today requires “internal coordination” to avoid “The Great Stagnation” Hard to say, but Illich sees with ‘the rise of [the] shadow economy […] the appearance of a kind of toil which is no rewarded by wages, and yet contributes nothing to the household’s independence from the market.’⁵³⁸ If it did contribute to such liberation, that would be one thing, but instead the market needs the unpaid labor while at the same time not letting the unpaid work help people leave the markets (the market needs it but doesn’t acknowledge it). Where society spreads itself and its instrumentalization (through ‘the building of more schools, more modern hospitals, more extensive highways […]’), so too spreads the prevalence and need for “shadow work,” suggesting that the existence of “shadow work” is necessary for wage labor, not simply corollary with it.⁵³⁹

Artists, creatives, family members taking care of the elderly, neighbors who cut the grass of the disabled — the amount of “shadow work” is numerous and vast, and without it the society wouldn’t function. To put forth the main point, if the economy requires so much “shadow work” to be possible, in what way can we think of it as functional? As it seems to require “trans-economic” creativity to be possible (something outside of economics is what makes economic possible), so Illich is suggests that modern economics needs to make a distinction between “labor that is paid for” and “labor that is not,” and then proceeds to act as if “not paid labor” isn’t labor at all. But that labor is work and greatly matters, and if it is able to carry outside out without and beyond the market, then the need and value of the whole market is drawn into question (as the essentialness of creativity and “the human element” draws into question the field of economics in terms of modeling and theory). This doesn’t mean the market is bad or that it doesn’t matter, but it does suggest that there is more to the work that makes possible a society than the work which can receive wages, and without that “shadow work,” work which received wages would not be possible. This being the case, economics is possible because of something beyond its calculations and system.

‘Women’s serfdom in the domestic sphere is the most obvious example today [of ‘shadow work’],’ not only because it isn’t salaried,’ but because it has been ‘standardized by industrial commodities […] toward the support of production.’⁵⁴⁰ “Shadow work” is the work which makes production possible (economic) which is itself not considered production (non-economic), and in that way is not coordinated by priced but “internal and personal coordination,” which suggests that currently “internal coordination” is mostly in service of “price-side coordination,” which means what could be a source of Rhetoric is instead serving Discourse (and is legitimated only to the degree it enables Discourse). This doesn’t mean all unpaid work is necessarily “shadow work,” but it does mean that wage labor requires some unpaid labor to some degree, and for Illich this needs to be understood and brought to light (and also suggests the “fundamental incompleteness” of economics and markets, for it means there is only productivity for economists to measure because there is work which is not considered productive by markets). Furthermore, with time ‘[g]rowth-oriented work inevitably leads to the standardization and management of [basically all] activities, be they paid or unpaid.’⁵⁴¹ Eventually, there comes to be a ‘monopoly of wage labor over all other kinds of work,’ for good and for bad, and the Economic Debate occurs within this monopoly, hiding “the fundamental incompleteness” (in “shadow work”) which this monopoly conceals.⁵⁴² It is witness this state of affairs that Illich can then say that ‘[w]age labor, as the dominate form of production, and housework, as the ideal type of Its unpaid complement, are both forms of activity without precedent in history or anthropology. They thrive only where the absolute and, later, the industrial state destroyed the social conditions for subsistence living.’⁵⁴³ Perhaps this has been worth the tradeoff (that’s a different question), but the point is that Illich’s analysis suggests that economics requires the non-economic to be possible, which is the realm where either Discourse or Rhetoric determines which is victorious.

“Shadow work” has seemingly been overlooked like the distinction between “simulating demand/creativity” and “creating demand/creativity,” and Illich’s consideration of “research by the people” might suggest why our ability to cultivate an Artifex will ultimately be decided by the degree we might defend a (non-market and non-political) “space of leisure” in which creativity might be cultivated (the success of which seems contingent on the degree that all of life doesn’t feel like it has to justify itself in “low order” terms of market and wage forces). ‘ ‘Research by people’ does convey a search for something which is widely practice yet difficult to name in the twentieth century language […] It represents an effort to unplug its practitioner from the market.’⁵⁴⁴ Though I might be misunderstanding Illich, this could be considered “the work of leisure” in light of Pieper, and it does seem to be akin to the philosophical and intellectual work we see arising today in “The Liminal Web,” say in organizes like Philosophy Portal, Other Life, Voicecraft, The Stoa, and others. This is the work of autonomous scholars and thinkers trying to seek and find the truth to the best of their abilities, and this indeed constitutes real work, and yet it is “shadow work” that Is often considered “not real work” because it is not acknowledged by the market or compensated in terms of “wage of labor.” And yet if much of the Artifex and much of Childhood is thanks to these kinds of spaces (say like the Bloomsbury Group or Vienna Circle), and if the market indeed self-effaces without an Artifex, then this would qualify I think as another example of “shadow work” which suggests “the fundamental incompleteness” of economics.

“Shadow work” is not simply ‘underpaid wage labor; its unpaid performance is the condition for wages to be paid.’⁵⁴⁵ Why is this though? Is it the case that “shadow work” can’t be paid, or that it cannot be brought to light without unveiling “the fundamental incompleteness” of economics, threatening to deconstructive everything we’ve build up in economics (while also threatening political legitimacy in threatening the Economic Debate)? Perhaps we haven’t tried to finance “shadow work” because of this threat to political legitimacy, but must it be kept unpaid? This is what concerns me, for it is the question of if economics might include “internal coordination” (as Anthony discusses) or only stay considering “price-side coordination,” which for me is inadequate if we are to overcome the problem of “The Great Stagnation” through “spreading Childhood.” What Illich has identified is a real problem, but if “shadow work” must stay “shadow work,” we might have a problem. Indeed, though is no doubt that acknowledging “fundamental incompleteness” is very difficult for the majority, but this is precisely why we are interested in the possibility of “spreading Childhood.” If it is impossible, then so be it, but I’m not ready to accept that conclusion just yet.

Interestingly, Illich seems to include in “shadow work” the “bull-krap job” as some have called it, and what he discusses also brings to mind unpaid internships and “adjunct professorships.” To summarize, Illich writes:

‘I propose ‘shadow work’ to designate a social reality whose prototype is modern housework. Add the rising number of unemployed to the increasing number of people kept on the job only to keep them busy, and it becomes obvious that shadow work is by far more common in our late industrial age than paid jobs. By the end of the century, the productive worker will be the exception.’⁵⁴⁶

Ominous, and seemingly prophetic given the rise of AI, and it makes sense that Illich would also write on “disabling professions” and “the right to useful unemployment.” Illich claims our ‘Age of Disabling Professions […] is now at an end,’ unless that is we see instead the rise of ‘a new fascism’ — as arguably we indeed have.⁵⁴⁷ Illich claims that:

‘The Age of Professionals will be remembered as the time when politics withered, when voters, guided by professors, entrusted to technocrats the power to legislate needs, renounced the authority to decide who needs what and suffered monopolistic oligarchies to determine the means by which these needs [would] be met.’⁵⁴⁸

This Age did not seem to pass as Illich hoped, it could be argued, but regardless the point is that there have been “disabling professions” which (in my view) have unintentionally shrunk the Artifex which the economy requires to avoid self-effacement. Saving Childhood and the Artifex likely requires us to follow Illich’s admonishment:

‘Only if we understand the way in which dependence on commodities has legitimized wants, coined them urgent and exasperated needs while simultaneously destroying people’s ability to fend for themselves, can the progress into a new dark age be avoided, an age in which masturbatory self-indulgence might be the safest assertion of independence.’⁵⁴⁹

Powerful, and I would say that the Child is the opposite of this way of life that seems moralized today as best and “rational.” In addition to this disablement of average people, Illich saw how professionalism was disability civil society, and his thinking brings to mind the work of Burnham in The Managerial Revolution, which Theory Underground has covered so well. Illich that professionals in past communities:

‘demonstrated visibly his limited and circumscribed expertise and enabled the jury to decide for themselves which barrel the bullet might have come [per se]. Today, most experts play a different role. The dominant professional provides jury or legislature with his own and fellow-initiates’ global opinion, rather than with factual self-limiting evidence and specific skill. Armed with an aura of divine authority, he calls for a suspension of the hearsay rule and inevitably undermines the rule of law. Thus, one sees how democratic power is subverted by an unquestioned assumption of an all-embracing professionalism.’⁵⁵⁰

Illich has been proven right, and he also seems to have had a sense of the problem of timenergy which McKerracher has written so well on (‘[t]ime scarcity may soon turn into the major obstacle for the consumption of prescribed and often publicly-financed services’).⁵⁵¹ They key reason for Illich we see “disabling professions” emerge is because of “monopolies” which form but go undetected (perhaps because they are more “social monopolies” and “high order”), say the monopoly of “wage labor as the only legitimate work over shadow work.” Thus, if we are to realize our “right to useful (un)employment,” these monopolies will have to be deconstructed. Illich writes:

‘The fundamental reason for counterproductivity must be sought in the specific environmental impact that results from every form of mass production. Medicine makes culture unhealthy; education tends to obscure the environment; vehicles wedge highways between the points they ought to bride. Each of these institutions, beyond a critical point of its growth [suggesting ‘the problem of scale’], thus exercises a radical monopoly.’⁵⁵²

‘A radical monopoly paralyzes autonomous action in favor of professional deliveries,’ and from this professionalism is then moralized as “most real” and “the only true productivity” (for that is the “low order conclusion” that is then easy to draw), benefiting Discourse.⁵⁵³ A way this problem is then solidified into dogma is through the socializing process described by Herbert Marcuse in One-Dimensional Man, a text in which we can find Marcuse agreeing with Illich on “the problem of manufactured needs,” which I would argue is understandable for a society to do where we only know how to “stimulate demand” and yet the threat of the DEH is always looming large. Critiquing the “manufacturing of needs” is important, but we also must keep in mind that if we do this we better know how to “create creativity/demand” in light of this deconstruction, for otherwise we are highly vulnerable to falling below the DEH.

Marcuse’s most basic argument is that we can hardly even think the idea anymore that we aren’t progressing: so deep is “the myth of progress” that it’s become “thoughtless” (perhaps like Hannah Arendt’s “banality of evil”). As of the 1960s when Marcuse wrote, perhaps that was an effort to make progress a “given” to make up for “the loss of sociological givens” as described in Belonging Again (Part I) — hard to say. Still, even if “the myth of progress” isn’t as unquestionable today as it was in the past (meaning we might have lost that “given” as well), the remnants of that myth are still with us, benefiting Discourse, for we can assume that all the socioeconomic changes which Illich describes are “signs of progress” and thus changes we should embrace, and these changes benefit Discourse over Rhetoric (contributing to “The Great Stagnation”). Marcuse studied under Heidegger, and ‘Marcuse’s analysis is based on a conception of the historical rise of a technological world which overpowers and controls its subjects’ (a point which sounds straight from Illich).⁵⁵⁴ Furthermore:

‘In this technological world, Marcuse claims that metaphysics is superseded by technology, in that the previous metaphysical concept of subjectivity, which postulates an active subject confronting a controllable world of objects, is replaced by a one-dimensional technical world where ‘pure instrumentality’ and ‘efficacy’ of arranging means and ends within a pre-established universe is the ‘common principle of thought and action.’ The self-contained and self-perpetuating technological world allows change only within its own institutions and parameters.’⁵⁵⁵

And the “institutions and parameters” just happen to be controlled by the system and Discourse, which also benefits Discourse in that a people who are ‘one-dimensional’ are those whom ‘conform[] to existing thought and behavior and lack[] a critical dimension and a dimension of potentialities that transcend the existing society.’⁵⁵⁶ And our society is one that ascribes to “the myth of progress” to legitimize itself and to help us “rationalize” the shortcomings as “one day proving worth it,” and so it is according to that structure by which we organize our lives and thinking, which “feels” to be the right course of action because of the pleasure with which the society also provides us.

‘Can we speak of a juncture between the erotic and political dimension?’ Marcuse asks, perhaps suggesting that war and violence is erotic and hence the State’s “monopoly on violence” gives it a kind of “monopoly on a certain manifestation of the erotic,” but the question can also be asked in terms of market.⁵⁵⁷ Marcuse is like Illich in that he realizes that ‘[t]echnical progress, itself a necessity for the maintenance of the stablished society, fosters needs and faculties which are antagonistic to the social organization of labor on which the system is build.’⁵⁵⁸ ‘According to Freud, the history of man is the history of his repression,’ and after humanity knows of Freud, how can humanity continue to be repressed?⁵⁵⁹ Well, what represses us has to seem like it frees and liberates us, and that is exactly what modern professionalism seems to promise us (in “building a career” and “making something of ourselves”), a promise which seems echoed in modern consumer culture where we can “express ourselves” and “be who we want to be.” But this is not deepest freedom, for we learn from Aristotle and others that real freedom requires something more akin to “leisure” and “flow.” But if we don’t know about these kinds of freedom (for ‘the reality principle enforces a change not only in the form and timing of pleasure but in its very substance’), then indeed we are free (in our repression).⁵⁶⁰ And so ‘[t]he instincts are drawn into the orbit of death,’ socializing us through a pleasurable means of ‘[descending] toward death [in] an unconscious flight from pain and want.’⁵⁶¹ ⁵⁶²

‘The ‘body’ of the reality principle is different at different stages of civilization,’ so how we see the “reality principle” in operation today will not necessarily be how we see it operate throughout history, a point with which I think Illich would agree.⁵⁶³ One age of people might be repressed and socialized by a direct and oppressive State, while another is controlled like Josef K. Furthermore, a people ‘must be trained for its alienation at its very root — the pleasure ego,’ which means we must associate our alienation with pleasure and success — exactly as Illich sees happening in professionalism, which again is possible because of the “shadow work” that it doesn’t seem productive.⁵⁶⁴ ‘The historical possibility of a gradual decontrolling of the instinctual development must be taken seriously, perhaps even the historical necessity — if civilization is to progress to a higher stage of freedom,’ and here we are associating the move with a training instincts and habits to align with Childhood and Rhetoric — but again, can the needed conditions spread?⁵⁶⁵

Where we are “one-dimensional,” we lose ‘control [over our] own destiny,’ and Illich sees professionalism as making us “one-dimensional.”⁵⁶⁶ However, where I would diverge from Marcuse in favor of Illich is in what strikes me as emphasis on “criticality” in Marcuse versus “creativity” (which for me is a very consequential difference that can lead Marcuse from an accurate analysis of society to an ineffective medicine, of say “autonomous deconstruction”): Marcuse notes that ‘[f]reedom of thought, speech, and conscience [are] […] essentially critical ideas, designed to replace an obsolescent material and intellectual culture [with] a more productive and rational one.’⁵⁶⁶ Fair enough, and Rauch might concur to some degree with this, but I think we have to be careful to place our focus on “criticism,” for “autonomous criticism” will not necessarily grow the Artifex any more than will “autonomous freedom.” As written on throughout O.G. Rose, “being critical” can create problematic self-impressions of “being a critical thinking” and “helping build something” when really we are only being critical — we have to be careful, for it will benefit Discourse if we confuse “being critical” with “helping create.” Those a place for critique, yes, as there is a place for freedom, but neither is totally sufficient.

Marcuse makes the point that “economic freedom” doesn’t mean “freedom from economics, as “political freedom” doesn’t mean “freedom from politics’ (this ‘would amount to the negation of the prevailing modes’), so what kind of freedom are we talking about, exactly?⁵⁶⁸ It’s the freedom if Discourse, certainly not the freedom of timenergy or leisure, and, because of Discourse, ‘[t]he more rational, productive, technical, and total the repressive administration of society becomes, the more unimaginable the means and ways by which the administered individuals might break their servitude and seize their own liberation.’⁵⁶⁹ Without criticism this will not change, but criticism along cannot constitute the whole of the change. Marcuse also makes the fascinating suggestion that ‘the concept of alienation’ might contribute to the problem where “being unalienated” is a state of identification ‘with the existence [of Discourse which has been] imposed upon them’ (say where people simply see “retirement as freedom”).⁵⁷⁰ And ultimately we can see Marcuse as a thinker of Discourse who is trying to help us understand how Discourse makes us “one-dimensional” (which is basically his term for Discourse), which is especially difficult where the quality of life Discourse gives us is “good” (hence a reason “The Meta-Crisis” is hard to resist, especially seeing as engaging in Rhetoric seems hard “for no good reason” according to “low order thinking”). Marcuse writes on society today:

‘It is a good way of life — must better than before — and as a good way of life, it militates against qualitative change. Thus emerges a pattern of one-dimensional thought and behavior in which ideas, aspirations, and objectives that, by their content, transcend the established universe of discourse and action are either repelled or reduced to terms of this universe. They are redefined by the rationality of the given system and of its quantitative extension.’⁵⁷¹

Here, we must be careful to ignore what Thomas Sowell warns about regarding “The Unconstrained Vision,” which is to say a utopianism that imagines a world better than the one we have that ends up making things far worse. I fear this is the mistake of some of the Left, but a mistake of the Right is denying the problem of Discourse, the makes us incapable of “high order thinking” beyond our current zeitgeist, as needed to deal with major problems, until those problems manifest and it might be too late (which describes how most of history has advanced and changed, but of which might not be an option, at the very least because it won’t help us overcome “The Great Stagnation”). It all comes down to “spreading Childhood,” and generally neither the Right nor Left speaks to this problem.

Under professionalism, success and ‘the realization of all man’s ‘essential powers’ becomes the loss of their reality,’ as is the case also with “being a good worker.”⁵⁷² ⁵⁷³ And yet escaping work entirely isn’t the answer either, for we seem to need “a work” for our lives to be fulfilling (there was work in Eden, after all, just not toil). ‘[A]s all freedom depends on the conquest of alien necessity, the realization of freedom depends on the techniques of this conquest,’ if it is according to Discourse or Rhetoric, for if we escape “the work of Discourse” into “a freedom of Discourse,” we will gain little.⁵⁷⁴ Rhetoric requires some kind of work, but this seems to be a “creative work” versus the professionalism Illich critiques, hence why “useful (un)employment” matters for Illich. This suggests Marcuse’s point where ‘[t]he dividing line between the pre-technological and the technological project’ is not based on ‘unfreedom [versus] freedom,’ but instead on the divide which emerges ‘in the manner in which the subordination to the necessities of life — to ‘earning a living’ — is organized and, in the new modes of freedom and unfreedom, truth and falsehood which correspond to this organization.’⁵⁷⁵ I agree with Marcuse here, as with Illich, but here we must be careful to reverse “The Great Enrichment” which Deirdre McCloskey stresses and defends. We must somehow address Illich and Marcuse but at the same time not forsake Rhetoric, hence why we must continually emphasize “creativity” and the Artifex.

But you see, what else can we do but so organize work and labor according to Discourse if we don’t know how to “create creativity/demand?” Yes, in the past we see that Rhetoric caused “The Great Enrichment,” and I have hope this could happen again, but if we don’t make a case for “how,” then though Illich and Marcuse might have some good points and critiques, if we listened to them, we might find ourselves exposed to falling below the DEH and suffering profound poverty in which war and totalitarianism become likely. We can rightly critique Discourse all we want, but without an understanding of how to spread the conditions which make possible Rhetoric and Childhood, we will have no other options but Discourse and “stimulating demand/creativity,” even if ultimately these efforts might prove incapable of moving us out of “The Great Stagnation.”

To close this section, even if the arguments on “shadow work” do not hold for some reason, economics could still be “fundamentally incomplete,” but the point here is that “the wage economy” is foolish if its participants act as if everyone who doesn’t receive wages is “unproductive,” for those “shadow workers” are who make the rest of the economy possible (“The Liminal Web,” for example entails work just as much as does those in professions). None of this is meant to say that work and career are necessarily bad, but it is to say that economic notions like “employment,” “demand,” “liquidity,” and the like are all terms of which do not take into account “shadow work,” but instead are the terms of models seeking to understand and coordinate “wage work,” an undertaking Illich suggests would not be possible without “shadow work” (work outside of “wage work”).

“The Great Stagnation” might be evidence that we have reached the point in history where we can no longer ignore “shadow work” and “internal coordination” as being irrelevant to markets and economic development. Without an Artifex, it all stagnates and “whimpers away,” and the conditions that incubate the Artifex seem to be “shadow conditions” which exist outside market forces, in spaces which we can view as irrelevant because we have been trained by money not to value what can be priced. These “shadow conditions” are the conditions which make possible leisure and timenergy, and they are also conditions which money needs to acknowledge but not infringe upon, thus maintaining a space where “markets don’t reach” so that markets might thrive (thanks to Rhetoric). This might seem strange, but it is similar to how “rationality” must not try to infringe upon the space in which “truth” must be given prominence (a theme throughout O.G. Rose); otherwise, we end up with self-effacing, “autonomous rationality.”

We must stress here that Illich is not arguing that we need to bring “shadow work” into the market, but instead he is helping us understand that “autonomous markets” are problematic. We must maintain a space which reminds us to “internally coordinate,” just like the “non-political” and “non-economic” space of “the home” in some Classical Conservative thought, which is to say economics must be dialectical with non-economic spaces. Why must economics be dialectical? Well, that’s for us to “speculatively reason” about (following Hegel), and it might be because everything hinges upon us learning to “internally coordinate” ourselves as Children.

Like people, where the economy refuses to acknowledge its “fundamental incompleteness,” it will likely to try to conceal and hide from itself that incompleteness, causing pathology, inefficient policy, and trouble. However, where we don’t know how to “create creativity/demand,” it is understandable that we would not be eager to acknowledge “fundamental incompleteness,” for what could we do in response? It seems like accepting a trouble that we would then have to live with, which might distort the perceptions and minds of the people, changing how they behave in the economy, and causing unintended consequences that we then couldn’t reverse (because once people see the truth or read about it a book, they can’t “unsee” it). It’s one thing to tell people a truth with a course of action how to respond, but something else to acknowledge a truth and nothing more — the second can lead to dismay and hopelessness. But if we don’t face this problem, Discourse will prevail, which is to say we will be stuck in “one-dimensionality.” Perhaps that’s our fate, though? Perhaps, but even if it is hard, we must see if we might “spread Childhood” and cultivate Childhood so that the majority might prove skillful and discerning enough to avoid and counter the Discourse fueling “The Great Stagnation.”





⁵³¹Belonging Again (Part I) suggested “lack” was fundamental in society, and perhaps O.G. Rose seeks “a theory of fundamental lack” to describe reality, though I don’t believe this is “a theory of everything,” for my argument is that everything entails something ultimately abyssal. “Fundamental lack” means everything cannot be “autonomously explained,” that everything requires a particular “address” which is contingent upon the human element. My argument is that everything requires a human response, which I don’t believe is “a theory of everything,” but “a call of address to everything.” To allude to “Monotheorism” by O.G. Rose, even if “lack” is somehow a Monotheory though, the response to it in every field requires a unique theory, hence there is Polytheorism. Furthermore, to say “everything is made of matter” sounds like a Monotheory, but instead it is just a recognition of universal composition: so it goes with “lack.”

⁵³²The State might further be forced to act in this way if we have been trained out of the capacity to “create values for ourselves” and so be “internally coordinated” and “intrinsically motivated,” as might be something which naturally occurs in First World Nations (further contributing to “The Great Stagnation”). We are surrounded by “the priced” today, which trains us to outsource our ability to value things to those prices (and the collective). Surrounded by prices, which we require to coordinate resources following Hayek, it is easy to conflate “price” and “value” and thus get out of the habit of “internally coordinating” ourselves. Perhaps this is a reason why space in our lives for a “Sabbath” is so important? To maintain a space which reminds us to “internally coordinate,” just like the “non-political” and “non-economic” space of the home?

Yes, we might still see “value” in places were we regularly live, but regarding things we don’t interact with regularly or directly experience (which the internet makes possible for us to experience ever-more of), we tend to see price before we have a sense of value or direct relationship. When we pick up vegetables from the store, we might be able to easily check the quality against the price (and we might also have experience with growing them), but many things in the world today are things we predominately experience as abstractions. “Abstract worlds” are perhaps more likely to price-steered than value-driven, further contributing to us losing the habit of “internal coordination.”

⁵³³Sowell, Thomas. On Classical Economics. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006: 170.

⁵³⁴Sowell, Thomas. On Classical Economics. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006: 171.

⁵³⁵Considering this, if Sowell is correct, I have erred regarding “The Creative Concord” whenever I’ve used the language of “breakdown,” “self-destruct,” “collapse,” and so on. Perhaps unlike Sowell, I do think it is the case that Marx believed that the inherent tensions of Capitalism could lead to social collapse. It may be the case that he did not think Capitalism would necessarily self-destruct, but it does seem that he believed it would necessarily give rise to revolutionary activity that would bring about the evolution of Capitalism, and that if this revolutionary activity wasn’t properly implemented, channeled, or developed, the nation would suffer.

Though I think Marx is correct that “the material dialectic” leads to societal alienation and tension that manifests in revolutionary form, if it is the case that Capitalism doesn’t necessarily lead to Socialism and/or Socialism doesn’t work, then this “revolutionary sentiment” found in Marx could bring about socioeconomic collapse in practice, seeing as it might not bring about the evolution Marx predicted (especially without an Artifex). “The material dialect” still exists in Capitalism, but without the evolutionary redemption that Marx believed Capitalism necessarily entailed (according to Sowell). On these grounds, I will defend my “breakdown”-language in “The Creative Concord,” though not without admittedly engaging in intellectual gymnastics. Furthermore, even if I have misinterpreted Marx, I believe I have properly used elements from Marx to argue a thesis that I believe is true even if based on a misinterpretation, though it would not be the first time I was wrong.

⁵³⁶Sowell, Thomas. On Classical Economics. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006: 171.

⁵³⁷Illich, Ivan. Shadow Work. Salem, NH: Marion Boyars Inc., 1981: 1.

⁵³⁸Illich, Ivan. Shadow Work. Salem, NH: Marion Boyars Inc., 1981: 1–2.

⁵³⁹Illich, Ivan. Shadow Work. Salem, NH: Marion Boyars Inc., 1981: 9.

⁵⁴⁰540Illich, Ivan. Shadow Work. Salem, NH: Marion Boyars Inc., 1981: 14.

⁵⁴¹1Illich, Ivan. Shadow Work. Salem, NH: Marion Boyars Inc., 1981: 14.

⁵⁴²2Illich, Ivan. Shadow Work. Salem, NH: Marion Boyars Inc., 1981: 15.

⁵⁴³Illich, Ivan. Shadow Work. Salem, NH: Marion Boyars Inc., 1981: 21.

⁵⁴⁴Illich, Ivan. Shadow Work. Salem, NH: Marion Boyars Inc., 1981: 78.

⁵⁴⁵5Illich, Ivan. Shadow Work. Salem, NH: Marion Boyars Inc., 1981: 100.

⁵⁴⁶Illich, Ivan. Shadow Work. Salem, NH: Marion Boyars Inc., 1981: 113.

⁵⁴⁷Illich, Ivan with Irving Zola, Jonathan Caplan, John McKnight, and Harley Shaiken. “Disabling Professions,” as found in Disability Professions. Lacy Road, London: Marion Boyars Publishers LTD, 2011: 11–12.

⁵⁴⁸Illich, Ivan with Irving Zola, Jonathan Caplan, John McKnight, and Harley Shaiken. “Disabling Professions,” as found in Disability Professions. Lacy Road, London: Marion Boyars Publishers LTD, 2011: 12.

⁵⁴⁹Illich, Ivan with Irving Zola, Jonathan Caplan, John McKnight, and Harley Shaiken. “Disabling Professions,” as found in Disability Professions. Lacy Road, London: Marion Boyars Publishers LTD, 2011: 14.

⁵⁵⁰Illich, Ivan with Irving Zola, Jonathan Caplan, John McKnight, and Harley Shaiken. “Disabling Professions,” as found in Disability Professions. Lacy Road, London: Marion Boyars Publishers LTD, 2011: 22.

⁵⁵¹Illich, Ivan with Irving Zola, Jonathan Caplan, John McKnight, and Harley Shaiken. “Disabling Professions,” as found in Disability Professions. Lacy Road, London: Marion Boyars Publishers LTD, 2011: 26.

⁵⁵²Illich, Ivan with Irving Zola, Jonathan Caplan, John McKnight, and Harley Shaiken. “Disabling Professions,” as found in Disability Professions. Lacy Road, London: Marion Boyars Publishers LTD, 2011: 32.

⁵⁵³Illich, Ivan with Irving Zola, Jonathan Caplan, John McKnight, and Harley Shaiken. “Disabling Professions,” as found in Disability Professions. Lacy Road, London: Marion Boyars Publishers LTD, 2011: 33.

⁵⁵⁴Marcuse, Herbert. One-Dimensional Man. (From the “Introduction” by Douglas Kellner). Boston, Mass: Beacon Press, 1991: xxv.

⁵⁵⁵Marcuse, Herbert. One-Dimensional Man. (From the “Introduction” by Douglas Kellner). Boston, Mass: Beacon Press, 1991: xxv.

⁵⁵⁶Marcuse, Herbert. One-Dimensional Man. (From the “Introduction” by Douglas Kellner). Boston, Mass: Beacon Press, 1991: xxvii.

⁵⁵⁷Marcuse, Herbert. Eros and Civilization. Boston, Mass: Beacon Press, 1966: xxi.

⁵⁵⁸Marcuse, Herbert. Eros and Civilization. Boston, Mass: Beacon Press, 1966: xxii.

⁵⁵⁹Marcuse, Herbert. Eros and Civilization. Boston, Mass: Beacon Press, 1966: 11.

⁵⁶⁰Marcuse, Herbert. Eros and Civilization. Boston, Mass: Beacon Press, 1966: 13.

⁵⁶¹Marcuse, Herbert. Eros and Civilization. Boston, Mass: Beacon Press, 1966: 25.

⁵⁶²Marcuse, Herbert. Eros and Civilization. Boston, Mass: Beacon Press, 1966: 29.

⁵⁶³Marcuse, Herbert. Eros and Civilization. Boston, Mass: Beacon Press, 1966: 37.

⁵⁶⁴Marcuse, Herbert. Eros and Civilization. Boston, Mass: Beacon Press, 1966: 47.

⁵⁶⁵Marcuse, Herbert. Eros and Civilization. Boston, Mass: Beacon Press, 1966: 134.

⁵⁶⁶Marcuse, Herbert. One-Dimensional Man. (From the “Introduction” by Douglas Kellner). Boston, Mass: Beacon Press, 1991: xxvii.

⁵⁶⁷Marcuse, Herbert. One-Dimensional Man. Boston, Mass: Beacon Press, 1991: 1.

⁵⁶⁸Marcuse, Herbert. One-Dimensional Man. Boston, Mass: Beacon Press, 1991: 4.

⁵⁶⁹Marcuse, Herbert. One-Dimensional Man. Boston, Mass: Beacon Press, 1991: 6–7.

⁵⁷⁰Marcuse, Herbert. One-Dimensional Man. Boston, Mass: Beacon Press, 1991: 11.

⁵⁷¹Marcuse, Herbert. One-Dimensional Man. Boston, Mass: Beacon Press, 1991: 12.

⁵⁷²Marcuse, Hebert. Studies in Critical Philosophy. “The Foundations of Historical Materialism.” Boston, Mass: Beacon Press, 1973: 6.

⁵⁷³Marcuse considers Luther and Calvin in one of his essays, and perhaps we today need a reminder that “good works do not save us,” but strangely we might think we need to prove that we don’t believe “good works save us” by working as hard as we can, for this shows that not only that we’re Saved but that we’re also not using Salvation to get out of work (a point which suggests Weber’s famous work). Luther teaches us that ‘earthly work […] always lags behind fulfilment,’ and though this might suggest that there’s no point in working, instead we’ve taken this teaching to mean we shouldn’t expect fulfillment in work and so our ready to keep working despite howe we feel.(A) In this mode, we engage in ‘a continual habituation, through which [we] become[] accustomed to subjection.’(B)

(A)Marcuse, Hebert. Studies in Critical Philosophy. “A Study on Authority: Luther and Calvin.” Boston, Mass: Beacon Press, 1973: 59.

(B)Marcuse, Hebert. Studies in Critical Philosophy. “A Study on Authority: Luther and Calvin.” Boston, Mass: Beacon Press, 1973: 78.

⁵⁷⁴Marcuse, Herbert. One-Dimensional Man. Boston, Mass: Beacon Press, 1991: 18.

⁵⁷⁵Marcuse, Herbert. One-Dimensional Man. Boston, Mass: Beacon Press, 1991: 128.




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