Governance is economy. Economy is governance. What does this ECSA proposition mean? It is a thesis about the current relationship between governance and economy. Historically, the limited ability to know, the information deficit, which is just another name for information overflow, has been in the center of the equation of government and economy. The analysis of grain trade in the beginning of political economy in the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries was especially designed to indicate the point where government was always too excessive government. Whether it was a question of the physiocratic table (Quesnay) whose purpose was to make visible the formation of the cycle of value and wealth, or of Smith’s theory of the invisible hand, which presumed the natural invisibility of the connection between profit-seeking individuals and increasing general wealth, political economy was always trying to establish the fundamental incompatibility of the optimal progress of the economic process and the maximizing of (state) government. The French and English economists severed the tie with mercantilism and cameralism. The limitedness of the possibility of government was a direct consequence of its limited ability to know the economic process in its totality. For political economy, the economic regularities (discovered in the population/wealth relationship) expressed a fundamentally different rationality than the government of everything characterizing the earlier cameralist economic thinking. The ECSA analysis is in the economy of knowledge and attention where the mechanisms of valorization have spread into the entire time of life and entire space of society, into the production of subjectivity, that is, beyond and outside the limits of economy in its restricted sense as a semi-autonomous sphere of reality with its own regularities.

So, if economy has become the paradigm of government - as Giorgio Agamben and Michel Foucault for example claim – it is not in its modern sense (as a semi-autonomous sphere of reality with its own regularities), but in the original sense of economy as oikonomia. Economy has again become bare government, government without any purpose or end other than itself. That is why economy is the key to the central political questions of our time. Michel Foucault located very interestingly the particularity of the functioning of power in government, understood as economy in the sense of oikonomia (management of the household). For Foucault techniques of power did not emerge from politics, nor were they subordinate to economy in its modern sense, but they had their own particularity and they were to be approached as their own ”event”. The genius of Foucault was to be able to formulate a conception of a form of power, which was essential to the development of capitalism and to the society complying with it, but yet could not be conceptualized as sovereignty, ideology or repression. These new relations of power were functioning and productive and not only superstructural to relations of production. They could not be reduced only to the capitalistic mode of production, but had their own particular form, history and technologies. Power was not only economically functional, yet not only political in the sense that it would have been like a right, something that could be possessed like a commodity and thus surrendered, transferred, owned or sold. It did not belong to a particular institution or class, and could thus not be understood with means of the political-juridical theory of sovereignty. Foucault analyzed this change in the nature of government with his concept of biopower. He showed how the form of the exercise of power changed exactly at the moment when economy (oikonomia, the management of the family, its property and goods) and politics (the government of the polis) merged: the new order of biopower emerges at the moment that economy – i.e. the right way to govern one’s wife, children, slaves, and wealth and making the family fortunes prosper – enters politics and the minute attention of the father on the family becomes the way the “great family”, the state, is governed. This is the meaning of political economy in the original sense of the syntagma.

So what kind of a particular form of goverment is economy? For Aristotle oikonomia is not an epistemic paradigm so it could never become a science. Oikonomia is not an episteme but a praxis: its procedures and decisions can be understood only in relation to a particular situation and particular problem. In other words oikonomia is not bound to truth or to permanent rules but to continuously changing circumstances and the varying and even contradictory measures required by them. Xenophon uses a metaphor of a sailing ship (the word government comes from the Greek word kybernetes which means the pilot of the ship, to guide the ship) where all members of the crew are responsible for everything and they modulate their actions according to the changing circumstances: there is never an incessant truth in oikonomia, its ad hoc actions depend always on the situation. Absolute truth or good life (political life) are not essential to it. Pragmatic functionality and operationality is always a priority to oikonomia, not truth. That is why from the Greek perspective politics can never be reduced to economy. For Aristotle and Xenophon economy differs from politics just like oikos differs from polis: oikonomia is never governed by law or truth, it is indifferent to truth. That is why we can say that economy as government is fundamentally lawless, anarchic or without foundation (an-arché). It is anarchic, it does not have a foundation, a beginning or an end separate from itself. When an action does not have a foundation or a purpose, its politics and ethics become very problematic. It becomes arbitrary. It is through this an-archic nature of oikonomia where we find the path to the essence of the question of government, the question of its possibility and necessity. Oikonomia has no foundation (in being). If a human action had a permanent reason, purpose or meaning (founded in being) which guided it, it could not be governed. There is a secret solidarity between anarchy and government. The possibility and necessity of government is in its groundless or anarchic nature. Economy exists only because the elements that constitute this government are groundless and anarchic. For more, see Akseli Virtanen (2006): Oikos, Polis, Nomos. And Franco Berardi & Akseli Virtanen (2013): From Arbitrary Power to Morphogenesis - How to Govern without Meaning?

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