“Nietzsche and the Economics of Becoming”

Posted: 10 July 2009 in Uncategorized
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Hmmm. . .So, mainstream economists (or at least one mainstream economist) have discovered Nietzsche: Richard Robb, “Nietzsche and the Economics of Becoming.” Capitalism and Society 4/1 (2009): article 3.

It’s not the Nietzsche Jack Amariglio and I invoke in chapter 5 of Postmodern Moment in Modern Economics, in which his view of morality is used to criticize and produce an alternative to the humanism and positivism of economists’—both heterodox and mainstream—treatments of values and the positive/normative split.

For Robb, Nietzsche provides a theory of consumption based on the will to power and the “journey in itself,” as against the existing Benthamite/Becker models based on “gratification from quantitative consumption.”

According to Nietzsche, pleasure is not a cause of action but an effect. We decide on an action, experience the pleasure that results, and then we invent a cause, like a sleeping person who hears a ringing bell and places it into the narrative of a dream.

In the Nietzschean view as it is interpreted here, our criticism of rational choice should not be with the “rational” part but the “choice.” Human activity is not characterized by moments where time stops and we are presented with alternative bundles. Instead, it is the choosing occupies us. Striving for a particular outcome – setting a goal – anchors the struggle in our consciousnessand language.

Credit Robb with beginning to explore a much more interesting way to think about economic agency, including decisions agents make about consumption, than can found in the usual treatments of intertemporal utility maximization.

  1. […] connected to economics. I have only had the occasion to mention his name three times on this blog (here, here, and here), although Jack Amariglio and I do devote the better of a chapter of Postmodern […]

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