HYPERSTITION/ SUPERSTITION (Hyperstition)

william_gibson_by_fredarmitage

Philip of It’s All In Your Mind blog asks me via e-mail to elucidate the difference between hyperstition and superstition. This provides an excellent opportunity to explore some of the basics of hyperstition.

One difference is that superstitions don’t necesarily involve a becoming-real. It’s true that superstitional beliefs can have some impact upon the real. We can all easily produce numerous examples of this, no doubt: the sportswoman who performs better when she wears her lucky charm, the student who excels himself in an exam because it falls on a date he believes is his lucky day. Yet this is not always the case with superstitions. There are plenty of superstitional beliefs to which their adherents stubbornly adhere in spite of all manner of countervailing evidence.

Another reason why superstitions fall short of hyperstition, even when they ‘come true’, is that they fail to decode the relationship between belief and reality in the way that hyperstition always does. A crucial dimension of hyperstition is an appreciation of the hyperstitional process itself. The superstitious attribute their successes or failures to their fidelity to a talisman or a ritual (Freud was surely right that there is a strong relationship between the behaviours of obsessional neurotics and those of the religious, or superstitious, believer; in observing a ritual, the superstitious person is effectively propiating a god).

One way of illustrating this difference is by thinking about economics. Bush was wrong to consider ‘voodoo economics’ a particular abberational type of economics. Rather, economics is essentially voodoo: i.e. a sorcerous practice for producing changes in the real. The whole of Baudrillardian postmodernity falls under the aegis of hyperstition. A cursory survey of the capitalist economy reveals that beliefs, fears, hopes, anticipations and potentials are immediately effective. Gibson’s term, ‘consensual hallucination’, is as appropriate for capital as it was for the cyberspace for which he coined it. Similarly, Deleuze-Guattari’s multiply evocative term ‘fictional quantities’ gives us some valuable hints about the essentially hyperstitional character of capital.

Posted by mark k-p at July 6, 2004 09:37 PM

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