# AKSELI VIRTANEN Co-Founder, Economic Space Agency, San Francisco - Berlin - Helsinki DSc(Econ.), Associate Professor (Docent), Aalto University, Helsinki Family with three boys @econaut6 akseli.eth # ![](https://i.imgur.com/7Fkv8qe.jpg) ![](https://i.imgur.com/3fcPxSu.jpg) Special session on the ECSA economic paper at MIT, March 2020 # BIO I am a radical political economist and finance theorist working with programmable economy: the economy and its key conventions as my design space. Based in Helsinki & Berlin. Five last years before Covid (2014-2019) in California, a visiting researcher at UCSC/History of Consciousness and Stanford University/School of Engineering, working to understand the changing nature of wealth in the digitally mediated society and to reengineer financial instruments to reflect the capabilities of the new software. Hardcore research background, nine books on the history and the future of economic conventions, subjectivity and finance. DSc (Econ.) 2006, Associate Professor (Docent) 2012, Helsinki School of Economics (Aalto University, Helsinki). Main focus at the moment: Economic Space Agency, a 21st century economic technology and imagination company. Motto: The economy is a place of creation. The economy is about to experience similar experimentation with its form, as art already has. Forms of economy will become more like a poetic experience. # ECONOMIC SPACE AGENCY We are a group of post-structuralist economists, software architects, game designers, distributed systems engineers, monetary theorists and intangible asset creators deeply passionate about the economy. We are organized through ECSA Inc. in San Francisco, California, ECSA Foundation in Zug, Switzerland, ECSA Labs Ltd. in Helsinki, Finland and the ECSA DAO in the cyberspace. We are researching and developing [*economic media*](https://glossary.ecsa.io/economic-media), a new medium for economic-organizational expression: a set of peer-to-peer economic networking protocols that give everyone the ability to natively speak the information economy: value intangibles, biosphere, care, social innovation and structure relationships around them. See the [ECSA website](https://economicspace.agency). The long-waited ECSA Economic Paper ***[Protocols for Postcapitalist Economic Expression](https://postcapitalist.agency)***, by Dick Bryan, Jorge Lopez & Akseli Virtanen, is now out as a book from Minor Composition (Colchester / New York / Post Watson, 2023). ![](https://hackmd.io/_uploads/SJXqusZu2.jpg) # RESEARCH BACKGROUND AND PUBLICATIONS [**COLLABORATIVE FINANCE, SYNTHETIC FINANCE, NETWORK DERIVATIVES**](https://hackmd.io/@econaut6/S1-8OsBIK) Cryptoeconomy is not just another tech sector. It is a different way of doing the economy. The economic space we need to discuss in relation to the cryptoeconomy is nothing short of imaging and engineering an alternative, post-capitalist mode of organizing and calculating that sits in parallel with the conventionally-conceived economy. That’s a big claim. It announces new economic possibilities that, while not entirely novel in their vision, are wildly new in the conception of their reach and mode of organization. The rise of joint stock company and stock markets in 1840s transformed capitalism. A whole new mode of production, capture and distribution of value was born. I think we are now at a turning point of similar significance. The new network technologies will produce a radically different economy. How value is created, captured and distributed, what is money, wealth, how people relate to production, are changing as radically as the first generation internet changed the way we communicate and relate to the presence of others in our social communication. [See related work](https://hackmd.io/@econaut6/S1-8OsBIK). [**BIOPOLICAL ECONOMY AND ARBITRARY POWER**](https://hackmd.io/@econaut6/S1AYl3rIY) One of the key questions that has guided my work - and is also behind the ECSA project - is the mutation of capitalism and the necessity to create new concepts for understanding the economy and its organization. Significant part of my research has traced the mutation of economic formation of value and the capitalist form of production both historically and logically. I have developed concepts such as *arbitrary power*, *semiocapital* and *biopolitical economy* in order to rethink and conceptualize economy and its organization from the same premise that has led political philosophy to speak of *biopolitics*. Why? Because if this premise is the absolute condition for thinking politics today (as Michel Foucault, Giorgio Agamben, and Hannah Arendt for example have so convincly argued) it must be so also for thinking the *economy* - since what is at stake in this premise is the general dissolution of the boundaries between the economy and other areas of life. [See related publications](https://hackmd.io/@econaut6/S1AYl3rIY). [**ECONOMY AND SOCIAL THEORY (2002-2018)**](https://hackmd.io/@econaut6/BJyv7nSIY) This project provided a comprehensive study and articulation of the ways that economy has been thought in different social theoretical and philosophical traditions and how the equation between economy-politics-society has been solved in them. The simple aim of the project was to underline that economy has a history. Economy has not always been what we today understand with it, it has not always functioned with the same principles and means and its place in society has not always been what it is today. That is why also changes in the future are likely, even if the rhetoric of the economical necessities – used at the moment, for example, in the current economical crisis of Europe – seduces one to think otherwise. On the contrary, in this lack of options and “there is no other way” there is something essential of the logic with which economy functions in the era of floating values and continuous state of emergency and with which it forces us to believe in the a-historicity of a certain form of production. [See related publications](https://hackmd.io/@econaut6/BJyv7nSIY). [**CARTOGRAPHY OF NEW WORK (2004-2006)**](https://hackmd.io/@econaut6/BJHTrnrLt) This research project started immediately after the initial two-year long Economy and Social Theory lecture series (2002-2003), as its next step, to deal specifically with the displacement into knowledge and attention economy, or into immaterial labour and production, which we thought received still too little attention in the Economy and Social Theory project: the paradoxes of new work and immaterial production could not be understood with the concepts of modern sociology, economics, management theory or political theory. By these paradoxes I mean for example the strange condition where I am expected to put into work more and more of my “soul” – my thoughts, tastes, emotions, memories, relations – while at the same time the magic of work, the security and predictability it once offered, has lost all its credibility. I, for example, a pretty educated, yet not so young Dr.Sc.(Econ.) anymore, had back in the day no longer than one 3 year employment relationship, while most of them, if I have had any, were always cut in six month deals after another. To understand the transformation of work and production we need concepts which go beyond the industrial welfare and wage work society. There is no doubt that the paradoxes of biopolitical economy cause problems to the old meanings, distinctions and approaches as if it did not fit within the boundaries of normal world and common opinion. In economy where value is produced by action rather than work, by words and images rather than machines, where products are “communicative acts” rather than actual material things and where tools blend in human abilities and memory, it no longer makes sense to use concepts that separate “economy” and “life”, “organization” and “philosophy” (or words and things, action and work, spirit and matter, mind and body, subject and object) at the very moment when the analysis of economy ought to combine them. The understanding of the dynamic of the creation of value and its control requires new conceptual openings, new tools of thinking, new theory of economy, new philosophy of management. [See related publications](https://hackmd.io/@econaut6/BJHTrnrLt). [**MENTAL ECOLOGY IN COGNITIVE CAPITALISM - A FELIX GUATTARI MASTER CLASS (2007-2010)**](https://hackmd.io/@econaut6/SkEQD3HLK) Economy does not function only through exchange values, monetary values, but also through mechanisms of subjectivation. They are the most important means of organization of the accumulation in a biopolitical economy where our abilities to understand and learn, to feel and create meanings and to relate to the presence of others have replaced direct labour and machines as the central forces of production. Economy has become production of subjectivity. It is a “productive-economic-subjective” compound as Félix Guattari says. We are ourselves integral organs to the functioning of this compound: our feelings, perceptions, hopes, desires and imaginary ghosts are not something separate but integral components of the functioning of economy. This transfer of the mechanisms of production of value into our mental environment is far more important to the analysis of our psyche than the mother relationship or family. This is what Deleuze and Guattari meant in their famous analysis in *L’Anti-Oedipe*: desire is social, capitalism is about the appropriation of desiring production. This thesis as a starting point, we wanted to study in detail the relationship between the functioning of cognitive and affective forms valorization and the subjectivity we were experiencing. The project organized three series of international workshops to map how the mechanisms of production of value have spread into our mental and social environments: the ecological disequilibrium of our mental environments (precarious states of mind, panic and depression as a forms of life, the erosion of subjectivity and its foundations etc.) were like an organ of the mutation of capitalism where the structures and risks of production have spread into structures of subjectivity, meaning, desire and relationships. The project was called (following Félix Guattari) a project on “mental ecology”, because the question of the ecology of these regions – the question of the future and environments of the incorporeal species of ideas, feelings, states of mind and modes of cooperation – is as pressing a problem as is the ecology of the natural world. The problem is not only something “external” to us, but resides already “inside” us, in our hearts and minds, in our friends and modes of cooperation. [See related publications](https://hackmd.io/@econaut6/SkEQD3HLK). [**EXHAUSTED SUBJECT, IMPOSSIBLE COMMUNITY (2009-2011)**](https://hackmd.io/@econaut6/B1HwunBUt) What are the organizational and political consequences of our “mental ecology”? The aim of this project has been to study the difficulties of cooperation of precarious workers and to create tools for the “impossible community” of immaterial labour and its performers. Taking the “discreet charm” of the precariat or call it the “dark side” of the multitude, the depression, panic, impotence, continuous micro-catastrophes of cooperation and the easiness of turning all the potential in cooperation into vicious violence between friends as its starting point, the project has tried to think and develop a basis for a positive organization of cooperation. How to connect with others without the preconditions of a community, the spatial proximity and temporal continuity of existence? How to connect with others when the pathos of distance, cynicism and opportunism, have become essential parts of our survival? How can art work with that which cannot be said, and perhaps create compassionate spaces of connection and copoiesis? What kind of tools do philosophy, political theory and artworking offer for escaping the self-evidencies and patterns of behaviour through which the preemptive controls work in us – for co-creating mutation of subjectivity, resistance at the “molecular level”? What is a community of the depressed? How do opportunists and cynics cooperate? The traditional organizational and political thought has always considered these states of mind dangerous, because it is impossible to control people who are not interested in anything, who do not commit to common task, who don’t keep their promises, have no clear direction, purpose, or consistency in their action or who just pretend to participate. It is precisely here where the classical methods of politics and organization face today their limit: they face the pathos of distance, human subjectivity without any particular direction or task, apathetic, indifferent and possessing a paradoxical immunity to any meaningful attempts of organization. But perhaps it is this very instability, ambivalence, a kind of distance or indifference on which any serious thinking of organization of cooperation should today start. Or as Nietzsche says (Genealogy of Morals, I §2): “From this pathos of distance they first arrogated to themselves the right to create values”. Could we think that Guattari’s “pathic foyer” of subjectivity is also a-pathic? That is, interpreted positively as restlessness or indifference to what is calculated to move feelings, to excite interest and action and that perhaps it is in this autonomy, untouchability or indifference (to all attempts to direct and organize behavior and thinking), that we should start looking for the possibility of creation and cooperation – not chaos but the essence of becoming that gives us consistency and that is necessary for creation. [See related publications](https://hackmd.io/@econaut6/B1HwunBUt). [**POLEMOS BOOKS, SERIES EDITOR (2006-2012)**](https://hackmd.io/@econaut6/SJCRF2BUF) We started the Polemos series to create a new language and sense to our experience of biopolitical economy to which the existing concepts and approaches did not seem to talk anymore. The concepts and openings introduced in the series looked at first perhaps exceptional or even extravagant. Yet concepts such as immaterial labor, multitude, mental ecology, precariat, basic income, semiocapitalism, feminization of work, attention economy, copoiesis, cognitariat, arbitrary power were mapping the already changed social and political territory on which we are standing. The series tried to find words for things which existed, but which were still lacking them. It tried to build a new language and sense to our experience. Polemos (Gr. war, battle) is a means of creation. It is a creator of ideas and cooperation, their father and king, as Herakleitos said, others it makes Gods and others men, others it makes slaves, others free. [See related publications](https://hackmd.io/@econaut6/SJCRF2BUF). [**FUTURE ART BASE (2009-2013)**](http://www.futureartbase.org/) FAB was a research unit I directed at the Aalto University which focused on radical organizational experimentation and innovation. The idea was to use and experiment with the power of art to create unforseen, unknown or unthinkable (economic, political, social, organizational etc.) processes. We studied and developed the bases of such an art, art of imagining and creating a new social future. The production and development of the tools and raw materials needed in the building of the bases of this art – the ideas, concepts, relations, affects, methods, inventions, approaches, networks… – took place in our experiments. Future Art Base Experiments were like immaterial factories, production lines, to create new combinations of people, economy, art, politics, philosophy, technology, organization, partial components of subjectivities.... The relationship between art and economy, or art and politics, cannot be about content: art expressing views of social resistance or art making things more sellable is not relevant. We think that the common ground of art and politics and art and economy is in the collapse of old forms of life and in the creation of new forms, this is where they meet. Future Art Base Experiments were a method to bring and hold together many essential but heterogeneous elements. They create new forms, new combinations, new assemblages, paradoxes, monsters that don’t seem to fit the boundaries of normal life, the easy flow of things and action. [**n-1 PUBLICATIONS, SERIES EDITOR (2011-2015)**](https://hackmd.io/@econaut6/SJpghhHIt) ”n-1” is a concept of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari which refers to a necessity to create new organizational ideas and forms – to which “one” (leader, value, idea, principle) belongs only as subtracted. This is exactly the nature of our series published by n-1 Edições: we don’t organize to make the series, we make the series to organize. To organize at n-1. Just as the publications of the series fold as results of cooperation between brains they also unfold into events – theatrical montages, installations, exhibitions, master classes, dinners between friends… – that go beyond the book-form and reverberate the theoretical and sensitive questions found in each of them. In the series we want to produce more-than-books, object-books which talk you your senses, which you want to touch and which reach beyond the basic media of book. More-than-book triggers multiplicity, n-1, whereby any element aspiring to a position of centrality is subtracted. [See related publications](https://hackmd.io/@econaut6/SJpghhHIt).