Reified Life: Speculative Capital and the Ahuman Condition

Reified Life: Speculative Capital and the Ahuman Condition

Reified Life: Speculative Capital and the Ahuman Condition

Reified Life: Speculative Capital and the Ahuman Condition

Synopsis

Reified Life addresses the most pressing political question of the 21st century: what forms of life are free and what forms are perceived legally and economically as surplus or expendable, human and otherwise. The 2008 economic crisis solidified the dominion of neoliberal and financial capital to organize human societies much to the detriment of the world's populations. Reified Life theorizes the dangerous social implications of a posthuman future, whereby human agency is secondary to algorithmic processes, digital protocols, speculative financial instruments, and nonhuman market and technological forces.

Employing new readings of Deleuze, Guattari, Foucault, Marx, Vico, Gramsci, Berardi, and Gilbert Simondon, Narkunas contends that it is premature to speak of a posthuman or inhuman future, or employ an 'ism, given how dynamic and contingent human practices and their material figurations can be. Over several chapters he diagnoses the rise of "market humans," the instrumentalization of culture to decide the life worth living along utilitarian categories, and the varied ways human rights and humanitarianism actually throw members of the species like refugees outside the human order. To combat this, Reified Life argues against Reified Life calls to abandon the human and humanism, and instead proposes the ahuman to think alongside the human, what philosopher Gilbert Simondon calls the transindividuation of ontogentic processes rather than subjectivity. To aid the "figurating animal," Reified Life elaborates speculative fictions as critical mechanisms for envisioning alternative futures and freedoms from the domineering forces of speculative capital, whose fictions have become our realities. Narkunas offers, to that end, a novel interpretation of the post-anthropocentric turn in the humanities by linking the diminished centrality of humanism to the waning dominion of nation-states over their populations and the intensification of financial capitalism, which reconfigures politics along economic categories of risk management.

Excerpt

On May 6, 2010, the New York Stock Exchange tumbled one thousand points over several minutes due to an algorithmic-driven buying and selling spree, when high-speed artificial intelligence bots created an autonomous reality far beyond their programming. Dubbed the “flash crash” in the U.S. media, this event signaled to the world the automation of global stock markets, the pervasiveness of high-frequency trading in the age of financial derivatives, and new frontiers of economic risk in the digital age. Computer programmers and quantum physicists had created automated forms of intelligence (programming robots) that replaced human financial traders, resulting in what Wall Street Journal writer Scott Patterson calls the “algo wars.” the automated high-frequency trading systems within over seventy different online exchanges operate by exercising calibrated semiautonomous judgment through the virtual buying of stocks and selling them nano seconds later for a profit. These fast-moving algorithms, which were programmed for opportunistic traders at small firms, detect the intention of institutional investors (that is, pension funds or large investment houses such as Fidelity or Vanguard) to buy or sell large orders of investments, and purchase them beforehand. This raises the stock, bond, or asset price in the interim between . . .

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