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From the Market of Information to the Pharmacology of the Gift: Extensions of Stieglerian Neganthropology

Lecturer: Daniel Ross

Originally Taught: Evening Sem 1 2021

In the final period of his work, Bernard Stiegler focused on the notion that the Anthropocene could be construed as an Entropocene, provided that the concept of entropy is understood in the light of what Alfred Lotka called ‘exosomatic evolution’ (as distinct from the endosomatic evolution studied by biology). From this ‘exorganological’ standpoint, it is clear that the current macroeconomic model not only is unsustainable, but also that it requires urgent critique from the perspective of the struggle not just against thermodynamic entropy (for example, climate pollution) but also against biological entropy (for example, loss of biodiversity) and informational entropy (for example, the loss of what Stiegler calls noodiversity), and, furthermore, where resolving the first two problems (of thermodynamic and biological entropy) proves to depend on addressing the third: the entropic effects of computational technologies. This in turn led him in his last texts to call for a ‘refoundation of informatique théorique’, a renewal of theoretical computer science, given the centrality of data in the functioning of so-called algorithmic platforms and the macroeconomic model in general.

This Semester 1 Course aims to present and explore this standpoint, including the re-evaluation of the concepts of entropy, negentropy and anti-entropy, the critique of the current global macroeconomic model, and the call for a new theoretical approach to information and computation. Beyond Stiegler’s own work, however, it aims to rethink the very foundations of an approach to ‘economy’ from what Stiegler calls a ‘neganthropological’ standpoint, specifically by critiquing and transforming some of the most significant anthropologies of gift-giving and exchange, from Mauss to Lévi-Strauss, Bataille and Godelier, as well as the work of economic historians such as Philip Mirowski. This will necessarily entail reflection on the relationship between structuralism, cybernetics and information theory, with the aim of finding a path towards responding to Stiegler’s call. But in the pursuit of the most general question of gift and exchange, it will also open up a perspective from which it becomes clear that such questions cannot be divorced from other questions: those of aesthetics, technology, desire, kinship and sexuality. A genuine exorganological neganthropology, it will be argued, necessarily entails a very large transdisciplinary project involving all of these fields, and situating them in relation to what Stiegler has also referred to as a ‘sur-real cosmology’.

Course Schedule

1. Introduction to the Neganthropology of Bernard Stiegler

2. From Boltzmann to Schrödinger to Lotka to Longo

3. On the Call for a Refoundation of Informatique Théorique

4. The Market as Information Processor: Philip Mirowski

5. Marcel Mauss on the Gift and Georges Bataille on the Accursed Share

6. Claude Lévi-Strauss on Exchange and the Structuralist Critique of Mauss

7. Maurice Godelier on Inalienable Gifts and the Critique of Lévi-Strauss

8. Outline of a Pharmacological Critique of Godelier on Exchange

9. Kinship and Exchange: Lévi-Strauss, de Beauvoir, Godelier

10. Outline of a Pharmacological Critique of Godelier on Kinship

11. Sensation and Participation in the Light of Neganthropology

12. Conclusion: Steps Towards a Sur-real Cosmology


Evening Sem 1 2021