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Minyan Mailbag - Socionomic Standpoint



Note: Our goal in Minyanville is to remove intimidation from the financial markets and encourage an interactive dialogue among the Minyanship. We share this next discussion with that very intent.


Understanding that Harper's Magazine has an overt liberal agenda, I read one of the most important socionomic signpost articles I've seen last night, an essay by Columbia School of the Arts professor Mark Slouka, "Quitting the Paint Factory - On the virtues of idleness." Unfortunately, I don't believe their website links to current articles, but this is something definitely worth reading if you want to bother finding a hard copy. Otherwise, below is my recap of the article:

The central thesis is that we have become a "perpetually busy" state where work and business is valued over all else. This embracing of perpetual business, the banishment of idleness, has left citizens vulnerable, easily manipulated by elected officials, unable to slow down to consider our actions, or reflect on their deeper contextual meaning.

Slouka writes that he sees our world increasingly divided into two opposing agendas:
1) things that aid work, or represent a path to it
2) those things that don't
Things in category 1 are "good and noble"
Things in category 2 are not.

A key point in his essay from a socionomic standpoint is his view that "Money eats time," that, "Money costs too much." He writes that, "We are impoverishing ourselves, our families, our communities - and yet we can't stop ourselves. Worse, we don't want to." Slouka writes that the God of money must be fed; fed our hours, our days and years.
Importantly here, Slouka draws out a criticism of modern society that is winked at by most citizens, a criticism that is "understood" if you will, and thus one that loses efficacy by the degree to which we all secretly acknowledge it but shrug it off. "...the marketplace has co-opted rebellion (see NYT article yesterday on punk fashion resurrection) by subordinating politics to fashion, making anger chic, so it has quietly underwritten the idea of leisure, in part by separating it from idleness."

Slouka's separation of leisure from idleness here: Leisure costs money, and is therefore acceptable, while idleness does not, and is therefore bad, is an important stepping stone in the appearance of a third wave down in social mood. One of the things I've watched very closely the past year is how entertainment categories, in which I include travel, vacation, music, fashion, hell, almost everything these days (panem et circenses), for signs of a face saving revulsion from consumption. In other words, how do the initial economic beneficiaries of consumption prepare for a cultural embrace of non-consumption? My thesis has been the initial reaction will be what Slouka writes about in terms of society's co-opting rebellions in order to commoditize them, capitalism's way of defusing threats. Because over the past 35 years consumption has been culturally ingrained, the reversal of consumption patterns, which will be both necessary and concurrent with a third wave down in social mood (and therefore markets), will first seek solace in the crowd , i.e. "Look, it's COOL to NOT buy the latest fashions. It's ok to save money, and it;'s even OK to NOT spend every waking hour figuring out a new way to obtain more money."

I think this article is the tip of the iceberg for a new way of thinking about money, lifestyles, and what it means to be a U.S. citizen. It echoes a book that was published in France earlier this year, "Bonjour Paresse," or "Hello Laziness", by Corrine Maier, which will be published internationally later this year. Of course, that book was laughed off as being "very French." We shall see.

Minyan Kevin D


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