Hyper-rational

Illouz concludes her book with a story of a brain-damaged person whose brain damage resides in the part of the brain that is responsible for emotional or what we call intuitive decision-making. The patient with this defect preserved all of his rational capacities. In fact, he became hyper-rational because there was no emotional baggage lying in the way of his decision-making.

And you know what? He couldn’t make any decisions. Even trying to choose between two dates for a doctor’s appointment was an insurmountably task. The poor fellow would conduct an exhausting cost-benefit analysis of every possible consequence of choosing either date, and that would go on forever.

Observing this patient helps us think about the ways in which the demands of contemporary capitalism turn us into these hyper-rational idiots:

While industrial and even advanced capitalism enabled and demanded a split self, shifting smoothly from the realm of strategic to domestic interactions, from the economic to the emotional – the internal logic of contemporary capitalist culture is different: not only is the cost-benefit cultural repertoire of the market now used in virtually all private and domestic interactions but it is also as if it has become increasingly difficult to switch from one register of action (the economic) to another (the romantic).

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