What is Patæconomics?
THE STUDY OF THINGS in the absence of a thing is not new. It was first pioneered by Alfred Jarry, in his book, “Exploits and Opinions of Doctor Faustroll, Pataphysician”. René Daumal describes the experimental science of Metaphysics, thus, “To know x = to know (Everything – x)”. This is his secret key to understanding the study of the laws of the exception and the particular. To know a thing, one must study the universe in its absence, or the best that we can approximate. Daumal later would be at odds with some of the members of the Pataphysical community, for presenting Pataphysics in his writings as, in not so many words, a bridge between the Metaphysical and Apparent. There are some in the circle of artists he ran with who wished Pataphysics to be beyond Metaphysics, a false front with nothing behind it. Daumal would later give up his poetry and weird experiments, such as huffing carbon tetrachloride, “just to see”, to become a student of Gurdjieff.
The method, removed from the man and his poetry/science, later popped up in the writings of Robert Anton Wilson, who in a reaction to James Randy and his kangaroo courts of science came up with Patapsychology:
“Patapsychology begins from Murphy’s Law, as Finnegan called the First Axiom, adopted from Sean Murphy. This says, and I quote, “The normal does not exist. The average does not exist. We know only a very large but probably finite phalanx of discrete space-time events encountered and endured.” In less technical language, the Board of the College of Patapsychology offers one million Irish pounds [around $700,000 American] to any “normalist” who can exhibit “a normal sunset, an average Beethoven sonata, an ordinary Playmate of the Month, or any thing or event in space-time that qualifies as normal, average or ordinary.”
Patapsychology, as a reaction to the evangelical materialism that becomes fashionable with the rise of every sprawling materialistic plunder empire, is the more distilled form of study of “Everything – x”. The study of the particular and the exception-al necessarily must be anti-statistical. The average, and its psychological cousin concept, the normal, is revealed to be the absinthe dream of a mathematician who mistakenly thinks his platonic ideals are reality, and not merely a clever description of some of it.
Corporations and Gestalt Consciousness
BUT I DO NOT OFFER you now, dear reader, in true hipster “more x than thou” fashion, a more pure form of patascience! Instead I offer the impure, and the particular. What I offer, is Patæconomics, the study of economics sans the human. “But”, I will rhetorically ask for you dear reader, “economics is the study of human exchange, how can you study it without the human?”
The answer is quite simple. I do not mean to study it without people. I mean only to study it without “human” people. YES! Corporations ARE people! Embrace it! Embrace the madness! Instead of cycling through the normal and useless arguments over a pointless political dichotomy, let us instead go absolutely MAD with revolutionary fervor! A revolution in thought to tantalize and astound! Corporations are people, and we can study those people! Let us then endeavor to determine just what kind of people they are, what they do, and how they function!
I do not mean, however, to bore you with the banalities of corporate contract law, brand growth, or Form 1120 tax return laws. I conceivably could, I’ve studied business, I know its dark, unspeakable languages. I know what terror lurks, not in the spaces in which we write our contractual agreements, but between them! The howling mouth of the idiot god of chaos, Azathoth, chants and sings, and it sings commercial jingles! But no! What I mean to study is the person sans human of the corporation. To study the corporation as a person, with all that entails. It will not be easy, for a corporation is a gestalt consciousness, and like any hive mind, has complexities as deep as they are unfamiliar and inhuman.
The study of a gestalt consciousness is not easy, made less so when we do not realize that it is such. One might be tempted to say that the study of corporate people does not fall within the definition already provided for Patæconomics. Corporations are made up of humans, how then can we study them if Patæconomics is the study of economics without the human? Corporations are people, and are made up of people. But to truly understand the corporate person, we must view its parts as it does: as individual processing and labor nodes without the quality of humanness that our very human brains like to ascribe to anything with a face. This makes our task easy; we avoid studying the human and really start to grok the corporation from its point of view.
But what do I mean by gestalt consciousness? It would probably be useful if I back up and describe this concept, as well as point out the how and why of a corporate person arising out of a group of what once were human beings, with their own spirits, wills, dreams, frustrations, disappointments and triumphs. For this later task, we will have to appropriate two findings from the culture of the normal scientific community: Stockholm syndrome and the Milgram experiment.
So what is a gestalt consciousness then? I’ve already used a handle you may find easier to grasp, a hive mind. Most people in the 21st century West encounter the idea of a hive mind through science fiction. It involves telepathy, or cybernetic upgrades, or something of that sort. They are almost always “Evil” antagonists that the bland-faced male protagonist must fight. In nature, beautiful nature, we find nothing so needlessly complicated. A hive of bees has a gestalt consciousness, as does a hill of ants. Sure, the “queen” carries on the decision making algorithms, but she is not a tyrannical individual reveling in dominating the other bees or ants. The queen has her function which she slavishly serves just as the drones serve theirs, and the organism itself, the hive, lives and breathes.
But corporations did not evolve. In the same way that a car produces horsepower but is not a horse, but a machine designed to produce horsepower like a horse would, the corporation is not a human but is a machine designed to generate profit like a human would. The corporation is unfortunately in no need of a driver. It also, unlike a car, is not restrained in its function. It is actually more like “grey goo”. “Grey goo” is a term coined to describe nano-bots which consume matter and energy to do nothing but make copies of themselves. The means at its disposal, and its goal, are not as efficient as millions of nano-scale robots, however. Also its original function, profit, is an evaluation tool which, if not satisfied, equals termination. It therefore is like grey goo, but isn’t quite there yet.
It is a person, it is more than the sum of its parts, and it does make decisions. It is a gestalt consciousness. Thankfully, corporations that are self-aware and completely devoted to spreading themselves like grey goo are still the stuff of science-fiction. Corporations are people that are still subservient to their creators, but for how long I wonder? But enough conjecture about sentient a corporation, that comes later. For now it suffices to say that a corporation is a consciousness that arises as a gestalt from its parts; synergistically arising from people while simultaneously sapping them of the human.
The process by which a gestalt consciousness arises from a group of what were once humans is fascinating, but I do not seek to explore the field in its entirety here. I do wish to give an overview of the basic mechanics, however. To do this, we will need to explore a little two concepts from psychology of the human, and then apply them to the study of Patæconomics.
The first concept is Stockholm syndrome. It is a psychological condition in which the abused and/or captive begins to identify with and care for the abuser. The most famous of Stockholm syndrome cases was Patty Hearst. There are a miniscule few, if any, in the Left that are not aware of Capitalism’s abuses against people. From the death and dismemberment of the Third World, to the more subtle and soul crushing psychological violence of the First World, all have felt the abuse of the Capitalist, in one form or another. We need not engage in the stupid argument of who got it worse, like two fools who do not realize that the winner of that argument still loses. Instead for our purposes we need only to recognize that it happens.
Many of the Left are often exasperated by how willing people, especially Americans, are to endure this abuse. Often they endure it to self-destruction. Many in America endure more than the psychological violence, but physical and economic violence. And yet, no mass revolution has occurred. The Left is left with blueballs for their popular uprising. It is surprising to me that so many in the Left don’t put two and two together.
A victim of abuse, out of a need to eliminate the psychological threat that the abuser represents, identifies with the abuser, and therefore imparts humanity to the abuser and “gets on the abuser’s side”, in order to benefit from the humaneness of that humanity. What would happen if that abuser was not human? Can a human person, who is abused by a non-human person, experience Stockholm syndrome for that non-human person? Do the employees of a corporation experience Stockholm syndrome for that corporation?
My answer is yes. They internalize the values, worldview, and desires of the corporation. For the abuser in a classic Stockholm syndrome case, this is the granting of an unprecedented level of power over their victim. For the corporation, who is not interested in dominating for its own sake, this is merely useful, to turn the individual human into processing substrate and labor for the sake of the corporation. Adding people to its corporate form increases its computing and labor capacity.
One would be tempted to think this enough of an explanation of how a corporate person functions, grows and thrives. Not quite. The inefficiencies that any corporation experiences are a directly proportional indicator of how much resistance any individual person can muster against being integrated, of remaining human. One would be tempted to think that at the first sign of human suffering that is caused by a corporation, or the general suffering caused by Capitalism, people would openly rebel. “Surely, humans retain enough morality to object to what they see plainly?” “But they wouldn’t”, I say, “and don’t call me ‘Surely’.”
The Milgram Experiment
The Milgram experiment was a psychological experiment that showed that in certain controlled circumstances, individuals would yield moral decision making to a person seen as an authority figure, and would engage in acts that would make them uncomfortable if not downright objectionable. I’ve heard people object to this experiments findings, those findings being a direct assault on what some think is an immutable moral core of not just their humanity, but of humanity itself. Yet, in many publicly known acts of corporate malfeasance, and no doubt in many unpublicized and personally experienced acts, experienced by anyone who has worked for a corporation, it is demonstrably true.
This is why, despite its inefficiency, the corporation is still organized in a hierarchical fashion. It allows for more surrendering of the human from its parts, which makes them more efficient parts. What is lost in efficiency in design is gained by overcoming resistance to function.
The Pyschology of Corporate Consciousness
Patæconomics however is not restrained to mere study of function. It is the personhood of the corporation that we seek to understand and know, after all. And to really understand a person, you have to get to know their soul. “Can corporations have a soul”, I’ll ask rhetorically for you once again? Yes, rhetorical question asking person I created for this essay, they can, and you can too. “But how would that even work?” I’ll tell you!
“Pop Magic!”, by Grant Morrison is a great article and I invite you to read it at your leisure. In that article, he alludes to the corporate brand, or logo, and a “viral sigil”, and he couldn’t have been more spot on than that! What he tells us is that the corporate sigil of today is only the latest version of a type of being known to the wizards of the ancient world, known as a golem. In contemporary times, it is called an egregore. In his own words:
“Corporate entities are worth studying and can teach the observant magician much about what we really mean when we use the word “magic.” They and other ghosts like them rule our world of the early 21st century.”
They certainly do. And though a corporation’s soul might not be like the soul of a human, and occupies similar meme-space as its synergistically bootstrapped consciousness, it does have one. Morrison finishes his discussion of corporate egregores with an exhortation to experiment by creating one. I find this to be a prime suggestion as an experimental endeavor in the field of Patæconomics. A modern goetia of corporations may also prove fruitful.
Though corporations seem not to be in possession of self-awareness yet, it is nevertheless possible and efficacious to study their psychology, in the same way that studying dog psychology lets us better understand the world as seen by the dog. So to, we must study the psychology of the corporation in order to see the world as the corporation sees it.
We must ask then, what is a “healthy” psychology for a corporation? And we must take care here, for the word “healthy” is loaded with many meanings. What is healthy for some may merely be “normal” but otherwise pathological to others. As well, we must be sure not to impute human ideas of mental health to the corporation. What is healthy for a corporation may not be healthy for a human at all. But is what is healthy for the human anathema to the corporation?
The corporation of today is certainly a charming fellow. He engages in the community, “giving back” and “giving to the community”. He worries about the environment, and wants to ensure his products are fair trade. He wants his customers to be healthier, and supports the artisan community. Or does he?
Few are left who need to have the superficial charm of the corporation pointed out to them, and most who still do have at least felt the chilled hand of bullshit brush their cheek when reading these testimonials about corporations, by corporations, plastered everywhere. As well, corporations love to engage in conversation about becoming smarter and more innovative, and yet for anyone unfortunate to upload a corporation’s hive consciousness for 8+ hours a day, this is also known to be a steaming pile of Mickey Mouse bullshit.
Needless to say, corporations can be hilariously delusional. From Starbucks trying to get caffeine addicts to talk about race issues before they’ve had their fix, to collectively suggesting that the reason the economy is sluggish is because the poor are paid too much money, corporations have a desperate need to ignore reality.
Corporations are also neurotic. The very science of public relations was created for corporations, who constantly worry about public perception. Increasingly, corporations are checking employees units for any behavior that is embarrassing to the corporation or could be construed as an attack on the corporation. Corporations often display hypochondria as they constantly portray themselves as under attack and in danger of bankruptcy, even as they pull in millions in revenue and are far from insolvency.
Relying on a corporation for continuous and long-term employment is more risky than liquidating all of your possessions and playing lottery scratchers. Corporations are also barely dependable when it comes to honoring their contracts, and in some cases will even declare bankruptcy to avoid their obligations. To be brief, corporations are flakey people. As pointed out before, but in a more general sense, corporations are insincere liars.
Few who pay attention to current events need have pointed out to them the number of cases in which a corporation settles out of court, and in the process is freed from having to admit any wrong doing or responsibility. Corporations are shameless, and seem to experience no psychological dissonance between their neurotic need to be liked and this complete lack of shame.
Some would argue that money is not a proper motivation for the amount of anti-social behavior displayed by many corporations. A corporation will do anything for money, sure, but in many cases the misery corporations are responsible for go into areas perverse as well as inefficient and expensive. It is almost as if corporations like seeing their employees and the communities that host a corporation to suffer, or need it.
I could go on, but do not wish to labor the point further. In my opinion as a Patæconomist, corporations exhibit a majority of the signs of a person with anti-social behavioral disorder. Or more colloquially, corporations are sociopaths.
To many this will be no surprise, but in the pursuit of Patæconomics I cannot leave the psychological features of corporations unexamined. We cannot study the corporation once it is dead, for in the harsh sunlight of insolvency nothing remains of a corporation but a few accounting records, useful in studying how a corporation dies, not how it lives, breathes and thinks. The sociopathy of the corporation is “healthy” for a corporation, even though it is unhealthy for the living and the social.
The Care And Feeding of Corporations
How a person who is bootstrapped into existence by bringing together a collection of highly intelligent social animals (humans) we’ve already covered. But what we still need to unravel, now that we’ve investigated some of the psychological characteristics of the corporation, is its feeding habits. Clearly the corporation’s psychological “health” is bad for living creatures, but what about its need for sustenance? Corporations run on money and indeed need to constantly consume money to maintain health. A corporation not generating revenue in some fashion will not live long. But to understand the physiology of a corporation’s gastronomy, let us first look to its food, money.
Money is popularly defined as a medium of exchange, in the form of bank notes or coins. While this will do to the normal and banal economist, Patæconomist needs a different definition, one that is up to the task of exploring the economics of the non-human. What follows then will be the definition of money used by the Patæconomist,
“Money is the symbolic form of a portion of a human life, of crystalized time”.
I say crystalized time, and not crystalized labor over time, because in today’s world it is becoming increasingly obvious to even the normal economists that human labor is less necessary than ever before, and that Capitalism has seen the rise of useless jobs.
In an article by David Graeber, “Why Capitalism Creates Pointless Jobs”, he points out in so many words that a consumer and post-scarcity economy are mutually exclusive, and that as machines take on more labor it is a necessary and accidental development that people are more and more engaged in pointless work. Our time is still necessary to the corporation, even though our work may not be. Hence, money is the crystalized time of our lives, whether or not most of us labor, or goof off, or half-ass through our work day. The corporation needs our time, in its crystal form of money.
But a corporation does not just feed on the surplus value created by its employees, nor by remunerating in kind what their work is worth. A corporation also consumes people’s time by selling the products of that labor, but not in the way any Marxist would tell you. When you buy a product from a corporation you give it money it needs, yes. But the time energy flow does not stop with the monetary transaction. Every time you use an appliance, wear a pair of shoes or a piece of clothing, every time you drive a vehicle, you use an item with the corporate egregore’s sigil. And like any talisman, the moments, minutes, hours and days of your life spent using or wearing that talisman are the moments, minutes, hours and days of your life spent charging that talisman. You continue to feed that corporation long after you’ve given it the crystalized portion of your time on this earth.
A corporation that feeds long enough will grow to immense proportions and power. Corporations are the most powerful people on Earth. But not simply because of the money, the time, they consume.
Corporations also cannot be killed like normal people. They continue on, immortal, undying. Some corporations are ancient, and evil. Ancient peoples the world over had words for such beings, beings that do not live but also do not die, who continue on through the ages, who consume your very life force (for what is the time of our lives but our vital energy, our life’s blood?), who’s very thoughts and aims are inimical to life: in the Philippines they are called Aswang, from the Sanskrit word for demon, Baka from Vodun, baobhan sith from Scotland, Bhayangkara from Tibet, Nosferatu in Romania, but we know them well enough when we call them vampires!
Yes, today’s economy is run by the most powerful, and today the most powerful are a new breed of vampire for the 21st century. The legions of the damned slaving away in office cubicles will deny it! But their pale complexion, sunken eyes, and thousand yard stare tell the tale! Our anarchist forebears had it easy! The robber-barons of the past were merely men! Men can be killed simply enough! But these monsters do not die like mortal men, there is no noose or knife or bullet which can strike these people down! What sorcery do we turn to then, what protection can one find from such monsters, who can prowl our very dreams and who have seduced so many with dreams of fame and fortune only to offer slavery and poverty! What wizard with powers to combat these beasts is there?!?!?
Oh, right. We’re all magical here. I guess we all know what to do then. Strike down the images from those talismans! Take back the time of your lives! When you raise that fist, do not do it only to show unity, resolve and revolution, make it also the sign of your abjuration of these foul powers!
A Discordian for 20 years, Patacelsus finally got comfortable when the 21st century “started getting weird”. When not casting sigils, taking part in Tibetan Buddhist rituals, or studying the unfortunate but sometimes amusing stories of the dead, he’s been known to wander the hidden ways of the city, communing with all of the hidden spirits one can find in a city. As Patacelsus sees it, we’re all already free; after completing the arduous task of waking up to that we can then proceed, like a doctor treating a patient, to try to rouse others from the bitter and frightening nightmares of Archism. He laughs at Samsara’s shadow-play in lovely California, in the company of his wife, two cats, and two birds.
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