Landon Tran - NY Times Article - 6969922.pdf - Friendship...

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Friendship in an Age of EconomicsBY TODD MAYJULY 4, 2010 5:15 PM1)When I was 17 years old, I had the honor of being the youngest person in the history of NewYork Hospital to undergo surgery for a herniated disc. This was at a time in which operationslike this kept people in the hospital for over a week. The day after my surgery, I awoke to find afriend of mine sitting in a chair across from my bed. I don’t remember much about his visit. I amsure I was too sedated to say much. But I will not forget that he visited me on that day, and satthere for I know not how long, while my humanity was in the care of a morphine drip.2)The official discourses of our relations with one another do not have much to say aboutthe afternoon my friend spent with me. Our age, what we might call the age of economics, is inthrall to two types of relationships which reflect the lives we are encouraged to lead. There areconsumer relationships, those that we participate in for the pleasure they bring us. And there areentrepreneurial relationships, those that we invest in hoping they will bring us some return. In atime in which the discourse of economics seeks to hold us in its grip, this should come as nosurprise.3)The encouragement toward relationships of consumption is nowhere moreprominently on display than in reality television. Jon and Kate, the cast of “Real World,” theKardashians, and their kin across the spectrum conduct their lives for our entertainment. It isavailable to us in turn to respond in a minor key by displaying our own relationships onYouTube. Or, barring that, we can collect friends like shoes or baseball cards on Facebook.4)Entrepreneurial relationships have, in some sense, always been with us. Using peoplefor one’s ends is not a novel practice. It has gained momentum, however, as the reduction ofgovernmental support has diminished social solidarity and the rise of finance capitalism hasstressed investment over production. The economic fruits of the latter have lately been with us,but the interpersonal ones, while more persistent, remain veiled. Where nothing is producedexcept personal gain, relationships come loose from their social moorings.5)Aristotle thought that there were three types of friendship: those of pleasure, those ofusefulness, and true friendship. In friendships of pleasure, “it is not for their character that menlove ready-witted people, but because they find them pleasant.” In the latter, “those who loveeach other for their utility do not love each other for themselves but in virtue of some goodwhich they get from each other.” For him, the first is characteristic of the young, who are focusedon momentary enjoyment, while the second is often the province of the old, who need assistanceto cope with their frailty.What the rise of recent public rhetoric and practice has accomplishedis to cast the first two in economic terms while forgetting about the third.

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