The Spent and the Extended

A good place to begin thinking about social infrastructure and the impact of epidemics is to trace with Sontag the economics of psychic investments and divestments…

Susan Sontag
Illness as Metaphor

Early capitalism assumes the necessity of regulated spending, saving, accounting, discipline — an economy that depends on the rational limitation of desire. TB is described in images that sum up the negative behavior of nineteenth-century homo economicus: consumption; wasting; squandering of vitality. Advanced capitalism requires expansion, speculation, the creation of new needs (the problem of satisfaction and dissatisfaction); buying on credit; mobility — an economy that depends on the irrational indulgence of desire. Cancer is described in images that sum up the negative behavior of twentieth-century homo economicus: abnormal growth; repression of energy, that is, refusal to consume or spend.

I was wondering how she would raise this in AIDS and Its Metaphors

The culture of consumption may actually be stimulated by the warnings to consumers of all kinds of goods and services to be more cautious, more selfish. For these anxieties will require the further replication of goods and services.

What would she have made of the economic reading of 21st century epidemics?

These epidemics bring attention to the social infrastructure (undermined by years of neoliberalism). No economic health without public health and no public health without accessible infrastructure which includes a population’s physical and mental health – we are all disabled at some point or other (ill or not we are subject to stress and its hinderances of maximal functioning). Self-care depends on a network of care. Infrastructure’s true test is accessibility.

Fiesta Farms - Toronto - Sign Announcing Xpress Hours for elderly, disabled and pregnant women

The rewards from collectively learning how to achieve appropriate social distancing without debilitating isolation depend upon a libidinal economy of temporal mindedness, a being constantly attuned to both immediate and delayed gratification — being knowledgeable about when and how one takes one’s pleasure.

Take for instance, in the microcosm of one’s online interaction: there is an intrinsic reward in hitting the send button (knowing you could repurpose what you have written) that is distinct from the reward of receiving a reply. Dépense in a sense becomes accumulation.

You bet I will repurpose this post! And exercise some temporal distancing.

And so for day 2724

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