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Four Theses about the Economic Mood of Our Time
by Jan Söffner

Tübingen University

Recent publications

SÖFFNER, Jan, Partizipation. Metaphern, Mimesis, Musik und die Kunst, Texte bewohnbar machen, Fink, Munich 2014; 
SÖFFNER, Jan, « How to Embody Technologies of Disability: An Enactivist Response to Margrit Shildrick’s Account on Technologies of Disability and Desire », forthcoming in: Contact Zones: Disability, Culture, Theory, hg. von Anne Waldschmidt, Hanjo Berressem und Moritz Ingwersen, Transcript, Bielefeld; 
SÖFFNER, Jan, Brunos Asche – Implikationen einer Hinrichtung, Philosophia.bg http://philosophy-e.com/brunos-asche-philosophische-implikationen-einer-hinrichtung.


About the author 
Jan Söffner holds a PhD in Italian Studies and a 'Habilitation' (second, post-doctoral dissertation) in Comparative Literature and Romance Studies. From 1999 to 2007 he was research associate at the Department of Romance Studies at the University of Cologne; from 2008 to 2010 he worked at the research project Emotion and Motion at the Centre for Literary and Cultural Research (Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung) in Berlin; and from 2011 to 2014 he worked at the Center for Advanced Studies Morphomata (Cologne) first as a fellow, and then as a research associate. Since October 2014 he holds the position of an interim professor for Romance and Comparative Literature at Tübingen. His most recent book publication is: Partizipation. Metaphern, Mimesis, Musik und die Kunst, Texte bewohnbar machen, Fink, Munich 2014.


Abstract
This paper deals with the experiential quality of currency, and how it changes in the digital age. Its aim is first to bring what is usually called the "mood" of the markets to conceptual clarity and then to argue that the quality of this mood changes drastically with the ongoing digitalization of our economies.


Key words 
Mood; capitalism; market; money; Europe.

Facing the latest fiscal crisis, Europe has been caught up in a strange development. Both, financial and political activities seem to remain strangely unrelated to the behavior of the currency. On the one hand, the sum of transactions on the stock and bond markets is increasing; transactions themselves occur at the speed of the most cutting-edge technology; people are constantly pushing themselves to work more hastily. On the other hand, even as a cascade of fiscal measures are taken to avoid deflation, strangely enough money remains pricy, in that the products of human labor are still felt to be less desirable than money itself. The phenomenon could be described through the metaphor of burnout, with the ongoing hyperactivity on the European markets as the overheating engines and worn-out tires of a somewhat dated muscle car, while there is a sense of losing the grip on the road; it appears that money has become a deficient junction between labor and economic success.

These are vague observations at best – pathetic at worst. It’s nothing you would expect from a talk about something as clearly defined, as calculable as money, data processing and the digital present. But I wanted to open with something as indefinable as the Heideggerian “Grundstimmung” (see Heidegger: 2006), the existential mood or atmosphere of an epoch. The concept of Stimmungen (literally: attunements) unifies the English notions of mood and atmosphere. As such, it offers a strange cognitive experience: extremely vague if brought down to predication (you’ve just heard an example of this problem); but at the same time extremely precise when it comes to feelings and attitudes as an orientation for actions and decisions. Indeed, drawing on the phenomenologist Matthew Ratcliffe’s (2007) definition of “existential feelings”, I think that moods should be considered similarly, as the ‘feel’ of (and for) situations – and hence as background-orientations for acting. Changes of mood change body posture, tone of voice, even thoughts in quite a precise way. And collective moods can change economic behavior.

There is little doubt about the dramatic increase of burnout syndrome. In the last seven years burnout diagnoses in Germany have risen by twenty times or 2000%, even as other maladies have decreased on the whole. Of course, burnout might be a kind of fashionable complaint – but fad illnesses, too, are very much linked to collective moods. These numbers give me some reason to turn to burnout in seeking a Grundstimmung about the current economy and labor.

Heidegger considered two Stimmungen important in describing the human condition. One is “Angst”, i.e. fear or anxiety with no direct cause, anxiety as a basic existential condition of uncanniness (see Heidegger: 1993, § 40, Amos: 2006, 124-170). There are hints in his work that boredom was to be considered a Grundstimmung too (see Heidegger: 2004, § 20); Heidegger conceived of boredom as a state that inhibits an absorbed or imbedded relationship with the world, so that all the options for action offered by an environment lie fallow. Heidegger’s Grundstimmung of boredom is quite clearly the opposite of the hyperactivity of today – but it does have many things in common with depression, which psychologists associate with a state of burnout as well. On the other hand, while it is also easy to see that the Grundstimmung of Angst is closely associated with hyperactivity, it has nothing to do with the state of idle depression. The current economic Grundstimmung accordingly seems to combine – or rather, condense – two Heideggarian existential feelings, that Heidegger himself, with seemingly good reason, would have thought of as unrelated.

So let’s have a look at the orientation of human attitudes and actions Heidegger ascribed to the two Grundstimmungen. Angst, in his view, can be tamed by fear (Furcht), by giving it a concrete object to be afraid of. Dealing with fear, in turn, leads to care and concern (the Heideggarian term ‘Sorge’ means both terms), i.e. a further kind of emotive attitude, which translates into the act of securing and shaping one’s place in the world. So Angst, in Heidegger’s view, can lead to productive active work. Boredom, however, is about the productiveness of inactivity. The surrounding world seems to lie fallow; but therein the dimension of the possible begins to appear as such. The bored human, by leaving behind any kind of immersed activity, ‘discloses’ (erschließt) possibilities; these possibilities in turn are the habitat for a human being considered open to the world and capable of world-building (see also Agamben: 2002): The Heideggarian human subject is provided with a sense of what is possible, and capable of constructing their own world. In this context, both boredom and angst are essential to the human condition. Boredom is about a contemplative encounter with the world that opens human existence to what is not already given, but what could be; whereas Angst leads to active encounters with the world. Both, though, are about an attitudinal (rather than consciously intentional) openness to the world.

Against this backdrop, it becomes easy to understand what burnout as a Grundstimmung does to Sorge: it takes away the productive side of both Angst and boredom. A blind kind of hyperactivity replaces Sorge (as a concernful and caring activity), while depression replaces awareness of the possible, as what is instead revealed is the impossibility of meaningful action. Burnout makes it impossible to use idleness to perceive possibilities, and at the same time makes it impossible to execute care as a meaningful activity in approaching existential anxiety, thereby turning it into concern.

I now wish to make a further step towards rendering moods according to finance, and at the same time develop an economic notion of Heideggarian ‘Sorge’. To do so, I argue that:

 

Money is a perfect junction for moods and numbers.

At first glance, moods appear to be purely qualitative phenomena resisting quantification. But the opposite is true. I think specifically of Big Data analysis collating the words used on Facebook and Twitter in order to deduce users’ moods, which is then used to predict changes on the market. More embodied tools for measuring mood, in devices like Microsoft’s Kinect, Apple’s smartphone applications for collecting health data or apps for emotion recognition as already running on Android systems, are used for similar purposes. Moods are evidently turned into numbers all the time in our markets – and quantitative mood-analysis tries to trace this process as precisely as it can. Indeed, long before Big Data analysis, moods were quantified on the stock market; Big Data enlarges the take on mood, to understand and predict their influence on the markets on a scale not limited to stock (and bond) exchange.

I even argue that this quantification of mood on a larger scale is not so new either. In a way, currencies themselves are measuring mood all the time, and even partially depend on them; you only have to know how to read the numbers to find the underlying mood. Indeed, any currency is and must be embedded in a habitat of trust, which is a rather moody phenomenon manifested in a subliminal feeling. While handling a functioning currency, nobody consistently thinks about its reliability; a well-filled purse does affect your mood, but when you get back change from a cashier, you usually do not worry whether you will still be able to use these coins tomorrow. The trustworthiness of a currency becomes something conscious only in the moment you reflect on it – which is the moment when you doubt it. But these are rare cases in everyday life. For other cases in which we deal with money, mood is the important issue.

If mood is so important for the functioning of currencies, this means that many ideological and cultural issues become important for the functioning of currencies as well – mood is, in a way, the gateway for these issues to become part of what is going on in the markets. Take the East German Mark in 1989: People urged the adoption of the Deutsche Mark so frankly that, in addition to the democratic “we are the people,” they shouted “if the Deutsche Mark comes, we will stay – if it does not come, we will go to where it is.” The developments leading to this came in the usual way. Put simply: Temporarily fixed prices saved a weak market, causing accumulating debt, while certain goods could be bought only with Western currencies (mostly Dollars and Deutsche Marks); those goods became more and more important; and debt simultaneously increased so steeply that the currency collapsed. My point is about the affective development going on in the background. So, let’s take a phenomenological view on the same story: The experiential quality of the East German Mark was based on a rotten feeling towards communism on a large scale. So, the question was also about a mood. This mood did not only involve the exchange of goods and debts; as Vladimir Sorokin described, the communist governments tried to mitigate the “lack of things” with an even bigger “abundance of ideas: … proletarian internationalism, conquest of the cosmos, free love, disarmament (of the West), education of the soviet humanity, export of the revolution, subjection of nature, atheism, worker’s heroism, perestroika, glasnost and so on” (see Sorokin: 2003). But if a currency is mostly fueled by ideas, people will search for physical things in different (black) markets, forcing governments to take desperate measures to uphold the currency – so that in the end the ideals become untrustworthy as well. The currencies then end up with losing the experiential quality of calculation for a bright future (rather than the frugal present). And lacking this future, people turn even more to the present, i.e. increasingly seek out what Sorokin called “things.” Just as the Stalinist buildings that had once seemed to fall upon the earth out of a bright, ideal future were decaying before even the first steps towards realizing the ideated society had been made, and respective mood led to an economic behavior that made the currencies collapse too.

If told this way, the story is no longer about simple economic facts – it is also about the collective mood fueling the economic facts, and vice versa. Or, to put it differently: It is about the quantification of mood by currency, and vice versa the affective quality mood can lend currency, even to the point of shouting slogans against them. A different parallel says that:

 

The current mood goes along with a particular temporality

The West too faced an economic crisis in the late 1970s – but Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan imposed quite a different solution that very much strengthened the feel for capitalist currencies. Both administrations shifted from focusing on the revenue of enterprises to shareholder value, thereby fueling so-called financialization, i.e. the growing importance of the financial industry, the industry whose product is money itself. The paradigm is the stock market: There, money is literally augmented by money itself; any dollar you put into a stock makes other stocks more expensive; the amount of money involved increases, and can then be invested. The leading economists of the 1970s and ‘80s understood that this alchemy produced by the mere demand for stocks would be able to fuel the economy and thereby allow for a turn away from state investment. This was possible because that alchemy made the currencies seem stronger and independent from public intervention. The currencies were perceived as self-sustaining, releasing the markets from the need of Keynesian interventions. Money felt strong.

Financialization, though, brings about a different temporality too – and I wish to argue that in the background this shift prepares a change in the economic dimensions of Heideggarian care too. On the stock market, money is not made by realizing opportunity, but merely by selling opportunity as opportunity. The investment is thereby deprived of its directedness towards realization; rather than suggesting a possible future, financialized money is tied to a virtual present. So, while trust in communist currencies depended on whether or not people believed in the future realization of ideas and plans, the new Western arrangement cut the future out of the equation. Or to put it differently: While the communist governments failed to save the Bloc markets with utopian fiction, Western markets were indeed saved by financial virtuality.

Again, a parallel movement in philosophy and literature can be observed. Utopian thought – i.e. thought about possible futures – was abandoned on a large scale in the West; Continental philosophy turned instead towards the imaginary or virtual, or semiological constructedness of reality at any given present moment. David Graeber (2001) has stated the parallels between presumedly leftist French theory and what he calls economic neo-liberalism, but I think the point is much larger and less limited to a struggle of ideologies. I’d rather take up the anti-ideological impulse of postmodern thought, in the sense that any utopian idealism was convincingly criticized in a turn towards the socio-cultural constructedness of any given reality at any given time. This constructedness, though, was no longer conceived of as something human thought and craft could consciously create – rather, human existence was thought of as an effect of larger autopoietic systems. Moreover this shift entailed a turn away from a concept of fiction that was about building and realizing models of a possible future. 

In philosophy and cultural theory, too, this process went along with a shift towards the virtual. As e.g. Jean Baudrillard (1981) famously observed in the very same years, the social imagination too shifted towards virtual construction of reality. Again some thoughts about temporality make clear what this shift was about. Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht (2014) has argued – in my eyes, very convincingly – for a shift in the construction of time that has taken place in the last two decades of the 20th century. Gumbrecht calls the kind of temporality that arose in those years the “broad present” – as opposed to the short and momentary present necessary for any progressive thought.

This brings me finally back to the Heideggarian notion of care and concern (Sorge). Sorge in Heidegger has three temporal dimensions. One is about the past, and concerns the disposedness of a human being (a human being’s exposedness to the world as well as their dispositions). A second is about the future, and concerns projection and projects, i.e. a human being’s way of handling the future by means of being directed towards the possible. And a third is about the present, taking on the form of fascination or immersion (see Heidegger: 1993, § 67-69). It is clear that, if we accept these three dimensions, when a human being’s Sorge is reduced to the virtual, their existence is reduced to immersion too: Projection is deprived of its fictional, opportunity-directed dimension and is turned into a virtual presence. The disposedness instead appears to become optional and can be changed at any given moment, since any reality is only constructed and can potentially be constructed differently at any given moment.
 
The downside of this ‘Power of Now’ (to quote the title of a best-selling book of the late 1990s) is accordingly that Heideggarian Sorge becomes impossible. The sense of the possible changes into that of the virtual, and thereby bored detachment changes into absorption. Moreover, those who inhabit a virtual present are unable to change Angst into the more productive, directed fear and then into Sorge, because the only thing you have to worry about while living in a virtual habitat is what happens outside of it – and this outside is ungraspable from the inside. It’s like playing a video game: The game itself cannot is as immersive as to come along as its own world; but the flipside of this world is, that it brackets whatever might be going on outside in a way that this outside becomes quasi transcendental. Everything outside the game turns into what Donald Rumsfeld has so famously called an “unknown unknown”, a thing that we are both unaware of and unaware that we are unaware of.
 
The shift from the fictional to the virtual, and from Heideggarian Sorge to absorption and angst is one of the major issues of my talk; and I think that temporality offers the best approach to understanding the economic shift taking place in the 1980s-’90s. When Benjamin Franklin in his famous “Advice to a young tradesman” 1748 coined his famous dictum that “time is money”, he did so against a classical backdrop of an economy, whose issues were still labor and investment. Time was applied to productive work through which you make money, and to the dynamics of realizing lucrative plans for the future. This kind of temporality made it possible for Adam Smith and others to ponder on the immense aspirational capacity of entrepreneurs, foreseeing the possible worlds in which their future product could play a role (see for example Smith’s famous pin speech of 1778). A time that “is” money enables the dialectics of fiction (inventing a future product, and the market in which it works) and realization (the revenue obtained when the fiction was realized). The investment in producing the first pins foresees a market in which pins are needed – all is about a “sense for the possible”, as Robert Musil (1994, 16-18) would later call it.
 
This “sense for the possible” reflects the inventive logic of both investment and literary fiction. Musil, in this, was drawing on the theories of the so-called Austrian School of economics, who had considered the subjective creativity of entrepreneurs and their quasi-utopian minds anticipating futures, and building these futures by investing money. But at the same time he relates it to the inventive process of a novelist modeling a possible world. This equation, in turn, is only possible against the backdrop of the dialectics of invention and realization.

This dialectics, though, does not apply to what – even in Musil’s own time – was already going on in the stock markets. And another Austrian-born literary writer pointed that out. As early as 1923, Italo Svevo described the complete exhaustion of his protagonist Zeno Cosini, after making bets at the Stock Exchange (Svevo: 1963, 913-4). Svevo observed the huge labor taking place without any activity that could be called ‘work’ according to Franklin’s understanding of the word. More precisely, he showed that the stock market functions without Franklinian time. The main issue is instantaneous decision-making – deciding on possibilities in the aggregate state of their complete virtualization. All is about betting on overseas companies “with bizarre names”. The work in the financial industry did not so much require a sense for the possible future, but rather for the virtual present, i.e. a sense of what other people on the Stock Exchange will do in the here and now. The realization of plans, in which the overseas companies invested, counted only in a secondary way (if at all). Thereby the humanist dialectics of invention and realization is lost. Once more, temporality is the essential issue here: To quote the hiphop artist PARTYNEXTDOOR (“Right now”), one can state that, in a financialized market, “Timing is money and money is time” – meaning that there is a new kind of asymmetry in the Franklinian equation between money and time. The financial industry makes money by way of timing – but there is still a Franklinian side to the market, where you can use money to buy time.
 
The historically correct term for the exhaustion Svevo describes is neurasthenia – which very much resembles today’s burnout syndrome. So let’s try to describe the relation between neurasthenia or burnout with the temporality of financialized markets.

 

Financialized markets disconnect money from Heideggarian ‘Sorge’

As can easily be seen, both the relation between Angst and Sorge and the relation between boredom and awareness of the possible have a temporal habitat that is future-directed. This is why boredom reveals the possible, rather than the virtual; and this is why angst leads to Sorge rather than hyperactivity. So, if (in a very un-Heideggarian move) we think of his moods in monetary terms, the backdrop of both Grundstimmungen would be a Franklinian notion of time: Heideggarian Angst has its counterpart in Sorge, i.e. concernful work done to affect existence. In a financialized market, though, money is not made where work is defined by an existential concern and care; it is rather made where work is defined as split-second, game-theoretical decision-making. And while Heideggarian boredom is about awareness of the possible, in a financialized market, money is made through a process of adjusting decisions based on the decisions of other players – a process in which any possibility is only dealt with as something completely virtual.
 
Now, I do not want to argue that the temporality of the financialized markets has simply done away with awareness of the possible. Both most consumers and entrepreneurs still live in Franklinian time, investing their time in work or inventing possibilities to be realized. Against the premises of a financialized market, however, these efforts can appear strangely unrelated to money, because they takes place in a different temporality.
 
This co-existence is a bit like that in Zeno’s paradox (the man who gave Svevo’s character his name): While working requires linear time and projection, the big money appears to be beyond this logic, only calculating given moments. The temporality of work thus loses its relation with the temporality of money – a bit like how, in burnout, the gear of a muscle car loses its relation with the distance covered. The unrelatedness of the two temporalities has been aggravated by digitalization of the already financialized markets, which has shortened the time span of financial transactions – making money – down to milliseconds: The temporality of money-production has become literally “un-chronic” or “a-temporal”. 
 
The dissociation of the two temporalities leads not only to two different ways of how to make money, it leads to two different kinds of money: One that deals with the possible future, and one that deals with the virtual present. To come back to the issue of burnout: If unifying money and Sorge by means of working becomes difficult, jobs that that bring monetary profit will tend to be experienced as meaningless in existential terms – and some people (those who can afford to do so) will chose less well-paid jobs instead; on a larger scale this might lead to the increase of non-profit enterprises, i.e. enterprises that are about ‘concern’ and ‘care’ rather than they are about making money. And indeed, this increase appears to be going on in the present, where we experience a growing non-profit sector. This leads Jeremy Rifkin to ponder on a newly arising “empathic consciousness”; but my own point would be that the issue is to experience work as meaningful – which, in a way, would still be an egoistic impulse. In my eyes the point is that a growing number of people chooses the experience of a ‘care’-ful work over the experience of making money.
 
Now relating money and Sorge is in a way the backbone of a free-market economy (at least it is the backbone of the traditional ideal of such an economy, balancing collective concern and individual financial profit). Currencies are the place where similar problems become visible. Take the Euro in southern Europe as an example. People there appear to sense ‘currency’ as something that does not relate to the way they struggle for their existence; it is rather some abstract power they no longer want to bow down to. The ‘Euro’ does not appear to have enough connection to their everyday economy and infringes upon a sense for the possible – and so it is no wonder that the urge to either modify or abandon this currency can take on quite irrational forms. 
 
This asymmetry of the two temporalities at work within the same currencies is, in my eyes, also the common ground where thinkers as different from one another as Thomas Piketty (2013), Jeremy Rifkin (2014) and Andrew MacAffee (2014) come together: All separate the functioning of old-fashioned work and the functioning of money; the investment of a time-span for production can no longer be the place where money is made. Making money takes place in a different kind of temporality; one that is about timing rather than time-span. What Piketty thinks of as big money made in unproductive sectors is, in my view, rather the money made in a kind of a time capsule, of a constant virtual present – whereas future-directed work rarely pays off equally well. In this sense, things are not about the rich and the poor; they are not even about the (still future-directed) interest rates. They are about two productive kinds of moneymaking, that differ in their underlying temporality.
 
Again, fiction seems to be a good indicator of this shift in the relation of time-span and monetary temporality. As examples, I have chosen literalizations of Franklin’s “Time is money”. Rainer Maria Rilke’s Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge (1910) e.g. offers the parable of Nicolaj Kusmic, who wishes to save the time left to him and save it in a bank; the idea was later on picked up by Michael Ende for his children’s book Momo (1973). In both examples, time is monetized in terms of an investment for the future – not in the sense of the temporality of timing, but as invested time-spans. Both are about the failure of this equation, and point out how much subjective temporality and monetary temporality are two different pairs of shoes. Subjective time passes, regardless of how it is invested and turned into numbers. The economy of subjective time is exposed as an economy of abundance: Time constantly gives itself away to anybody regardless of how much he or she owns. The economy of money, however, is an economy of shortage. And when trying to equate these two economies, it turns out that only time itself is real time, whereas money is just money. Both temporalities are about concerns for the future – but only the subjective temporality regards Sorge in the full sense that is about human existence; monetary concern is viewed as unessential.
 
The more recent dystopia In Time (2011) literalizes Franklin’s dictum in a way that avoids the problem. Time – or to be more precise, the lifespan of people – here works as a currency. The movie speaks to the experience of an economy wherein existential time (the time for concern about one’s existence) is no longer abundant (as it was in Rilke and Ende), but extremely short. The movie turns towards the double temporality of the economy: On the one hand, the currency of time is about the investment of working time; on the other hand, the same currency moves beyond this temporality and thereby opens up the option of abundance and a life without concerns. The film thereby alludes to the fact that the ‘working poor’ still live in a Franklinian temporality, where work means the investment of life-time for their existential cares. The rich however are able to accumulate time, since they accumulate it in an abundant, time-less and nearly eternal present. This time is accumulated regardless of any existential Sorge; and only this care-less time is abundant. The scenario makes me think of Piketty’s insight that capital reproduces itself faster than output increases and that therefore the entrepreneur tends to become a rentier. But the more interesting and perhaps more unsettling perspective is, once more, the co-existence of the two completely unrelated temporalities of concern and accumulation. Money is time only for those who care for existential needs – and unlike in Rilke and Ende, there is no way for them to step apart from this equation. Those living in the abundance of time are instead set free from the burden of existential Sorge and the temporality it brings about. The movie portrays a concern for existence that is strangely unrelated to a world where time is accumulated in complete idleness.

 

A further temporality might already be arising

When people sense that their money does not relate enough to their existential Sorge, they turn to a different currency. This is what happened e.g. with the East German Mark, as described above. But the ‘kind of money’ you use is not necessarily dependent on the currency – it can also consist of how you use it. As has recently turned out, a growing number of the abundant start-ups present in Silicon Valley are no longer fueled by banks, but rather by private funding. Moreover, as Thomas Rappold in his forthcoming book Silicon Valley Investing (2015) seems to observe (see Kremer: 2015), only few of the successful companies end up choosing a stock market launch, generally preferring to remain independent from the financialized economy. New ways of production appear to be prompting this development – most of these start-ups, in one way or another, depend on prosumers, i.e. consumers who are also producers. Uber is about prosumer-based logistics, AirBnB prosumer-based accommodation. Moreover, some people like Jeremy Rifkin (2014) or Jaron Lanier (2013) take the growing market for 3D-printers as an argument that a prosumer-based economy is already developing even in the realm of the material production of goods. Once enough people own such a printer, they might need nothing more than some raw material and a downloaded file to print out clothing, hardware, or even food. But even if this does not come to pass and 3D-printing remains an industrial phenomenon, it still changes the current lines of production in a way that abolishes the clear differentiation between prototype and product, making the production of new inventions cheap and allowing more start-ups to emerge with less capital than they would have needed only a few years ago. In this context, both Rifkin and Lanier see a chance for the end of capitalism and the turn towards an ‘open-access’ market run by the crowd or non-profit style ‘commons’ (as Jeremy Rifkin calls them).
 
I do not share this view, but I do see in this development a new chance for capitalism to turn back to Sorge. Actually, all these developments ar still about virtual designy – but the essential point, where they make money, is the act of turning the virtual into its actualization. It is difficult for me to decide whether I would prefer to describe this shift in terms of virtualizing the actual (turning hospitality into a market run by software – as does AirBnB), or whether to call it the actualization of the virtual (the production of real goods out of mere software files). Be that as it may, the temporality of this market, this way, is no longer focused on the given virtual moment – and this is possible only insofar as the market turns away from financialization and towards crowd funding and prosumer-activity. Whether this development is capable of putting an end to burnout, though, remains to be seen.

 

Conclusion

In concluding I would like to come back to the question raised in the beginning, of the quality of money and its relation to epochal Grundstimmungen. I have tried to argue that the economy of money has detached itself from the economy of existential Sorge. I do not have any moral issues with this development. But I wish to trace some consequences. The first is that currently we have to face two kinds of work – one that is about timing, and one that is about time-spans. Secondly, money tends increasingly to be made by timing rather than by investing time-spans. Third, due to this development, the financialized economy is on the verge of losing its connection with the economy that is about concern and a sense for the possible. And fourth, this loss of connection is, in my view, what can be sensed in terms of the burnout-Grundstimmung, which defines the current crisis: Money tends to lose what can be called the connection with the kind of work that is about human existence.
 
I have turned to Stimmungen in describing this issue because I think that mood has become a much more important issue for the current financial system. Attitudinal orientations of action, indeed, share somewhat the temporal structure of decision-making as embedded in collective moves of the markets. Consequently, Big Data analysis, as used on the markets for decision-making, is aimed at adjusting decisions to swarm behavior, which very much is oriented by collective moods.
 
The second reason for turning to mood is that – at least according to Heidegger – Stimmungen bring in what would be the existential qualities of human ‘Dasein’ or existence. When considering these qualities, I do not think that this loss of connection is adequately described in terms of ‘bubbles’. Rather than bubbles, the issue of the ongoing crisis is the structural mismatch of a virtual present and a possible future, of split-second-decisions and existential Sorge. And this is precisely what a Stimmung of burnout is about. Instead of being two complementary poles, in this Grundstimmung, Angst and boredom are immediately connected in a very strange way. Burnout, indeed, is about the short-circuit between these moods. The outcome of boredom is no longer a sense of the possible, but Angst. The outcome of Angst, in turn, is no longer concern, but (either hyperactivity or) depressed boredom.
 
If, as I have suggested, the Grundstimmung of burnout speaks to the monetary situation of our broad present, then the Western economic system has turned from a land of unlimited opportunities into a land of virtualized opportunities; or to put it, once more, in Heideggarian terms: The current crisis is about a certain “Seinsvergessenheit” of money, a situation in which the monetary system no longer relates enough to ‘Being’. Nevertheless, as I have pointed out in the last chapter, the virtualization of care and concern might already be coming to an end, at least in economic terms; and if this is the case, it might be due to the fact of finding a solution for how to relate the virtual present to Sorge.

 

References

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