Review by Martin Savransky

Martin Savransky, whose writing on the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead has been particularly helpful for me in my work, has kindly reviewed Lived Economies of Default for Science as Culture. The full review can be accessed on the journal site. Here’s an extract:

Because of the interest in emotions that the book displays by eclectically combining in practice a Spinozian and a phenomenological understanding of affect, one may perhaps wonder whether the book itself is in fact a critical psychology of default. But to come to such a conclusion would, perhaps, be a mistake. Because Deville’s intimate exploration is oriented towards an image of the body which much of psychology—but by no means all of it—still struggles to come to terms with. That is, the debtor’s body not as the locus of an individuality, however socially shaped, from which motivations, desires, and emotions emanate, but as an expressive space of intensity through which a multiplicity of desires, drives, incitements, hopes and fears, pass.

In this way, by articulating the ancient wisdom of patterned thinking in his conceptual approach, with a subtle attention to the minute, and often fleeting, details of empirical situations and life stories, Lived Economies of Default provides more than a highly engaging and insightful analysis of the dark sustenance of the ecology of late capitalism. Because of the attention to the mundane and living economies that sustain it, this book also illuminates some of the paradoxes inherent in them that authors more prone to grand epochal claims about the culture and subjectivity of neoliberal capitalism might easily miss. It shows, for instance, that due to the internal pressures of the debt collections industry, ‘[d]ebtors who have ostensibly failed to enact themselves as responsible economic citizens are (more likely to be) left alone, being, from the point of view of the collector, “rewarded” for their non-normative behaviour’ (p. 133).

More than descriptions of lived experience, then, what reading this book also offers are vital, living resources for resistance; tiny weapons to begin to transform the attachments that bind us, and to pose anew the problem of how to live with one another. As with other tools, however, these living resources for transformation do not produce effects without engendering novel challenges, and they do not provide solutions without at the same time producing new problems. One of the problems posed to STS scholars and social scientists alike is that, in order to cultivate forms of patterned thinking, it is not enough to expand our attention to the many human and nonhuman actors involved in the making of things, but we also need to experiment with novel manners of paying attention. Manners that may enable us to inquire into the degrees and modalities by which things come to matter to themselves, to each other, and to the worlds of which they are a part.

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