Thesis Info

Thesis Title
Excessive Economies: information and symbolic exchange
David Teh
2nd Author
3rd Author
Number of Pages
University of Sydney
Thesis Supervisor
Julian Pefanis
Supervisor e-mail
Other Supervisor(s)
Language(s) of Thesis
Department / Discipline
Art History and Theory
Languages Familiar to Author
English; French
URL where full thesis can be found
critical theory; information; Baudrillard; symbolic exchange; Bataille; the object; pataphysics; terrorism; excess; general equivalence; general economy; Derrida; intellectual history; postmodernity
Abstract: 200-500 words
Excessive Economies: information and symbolic exchange Capitalism’s regime of general equivalence progressively liquidates all values. Today’s information economies take this liquidation to a new level. But the markets over which general equivalence presides continue to give rise to anomalies, things that cannot be described in its terms, non-values or excessive values, values that are inexchangeable. Meanwhile the critique of political economy has fallen into a general desuetude with the end of the cold war and the global march of market economy. But the ‘progress’ of value has not gone untheorised. One critic, Jean Baudrillard, has been particularly attentive to it, and described it with unusual clarity. While his critique of political economy has been taken seriously, other conceptual figures that he mobilizes (symbolic exchange, the fatal object) have been largely ignored in critical literature. The dismissal of these concepts has been too swift: if we accept his critique, why not explore the properly radical ramifications of his whole theory? This thesis does precisely that. If the infoscape is pataphysical, then only a pataphysical theory can describe its operations. In addressing this lacuna the thesis argues that equivalence is always shadowed by ambivalence, taking economies of information and knowledge as exemplary. It shows how Baudrillard’s concept of symbolic exchange illuminates an alternative order of values that haunts political economy. It explores the concept’s genesis in Bataille’s ‘general economy’, suggesting refractive objects that defy the laws of the ‘restricted economy’. It proposes a category of the ‘general object’ after the general economy. The issue this thesis addresses is a pressing one: what is the status of value in the information economy? Drawing on cultural theories of value and on Baudrillard’s theoretical framework, finally elucidated, the thesis concludes by identifying an excessive, meaningless core in every political economic object, something inexchangeable at the heart of exchange, something worthless at the heart of value.