Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Ron Paul/Ben Bernanke exchange

(The army and police in Ron Paul's imagination have a status comparable to Tiepolo's angels)

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Do Republican voters believe in progress?

People sometimes think I have an unnecessarily dystopian view of the future. Brazilian development: favelas, palm trees, ten percent of the population owning seventy five percent of the wealth. To what alternative view could one realistically subscribe? It's possible to isolate, within the spectacle, a "vision" of exogenous "waves of progress": the specific basis of trickledown economics. I recall at university this being pushed as the dominant view: that which is actualised, the most modern, the most scientific. It's worth asking to what extent this view is accepted.

America's CEO

I don't pretend this is especially scientific, but I think the recent recent Republican contest in the U.S. approximately gauges assent to neoliberal ideas (against a limited pallette of alternatives) within a bloc of the population important for the manufacturing of consent: America's middle class. Support for Romney could be taken to more or less track approval of these ideas as explanation, narrative, packaging. Support for the other two main candidates would track dissent from this.

For no good scientific reason I'm persuaded that for most people Romney's very comportment radiates the "stable waves" of neoliberalism:

"your boss is a worker like you. He just works more productively. This work benefits everyone. You ought to vote for your boss"

(My paraphrasing. And I think it's right to stress this aspect of his campaign. It's surely a mistake to think Romney's neoliberalism is polluted in some way by a militarism in contradiction with it, or at another level, his mormon beliefs.)

I suspect the failure of these ideas to be adequately persuasive is testified to by thousands of now useless "America's CEO" mugs, caps and mousemats piled up in a warehouse somewhere in Michigan.

But what on earth can the platforms of McCain and Huckabee represent if they are obliged to depart from the dominant ideas of the dominant classes whose interests they aspire to serve?

Again, rather subjectively, McCain strikes me as a proponant of disaster movie rhetoric; the whole thing in The Towering Inferno, security guards improvising a useable system, the bourgeois system having melted into air. An odd relation with bourgeois civilisation and it's institutions, this imagination exceedingly pleased by the thought of setting up a control checkpoint in MOMA or the central library; making up a barricade from a Richard Serra installation or amid an Ice Age diorama: "The Museum's under control Maam". A reified pragmatism, basically.

liberalism in contradiction (2): the Gaza blockade

Back in January Hamas managed to bring down the Gaza/Egypt border, only for a few days. This was driven by necessity of course, but also demonstrated a sophisticated sense of contradiction (which costs nothing and unfortunately isn't exchangeable); possibly a sharper sense of contradiction than various "leftists" might have employed.

What was demonstrated? Massive hypocrisy. The technocratic rationale of the various networks of power that happen to be ranged against the residents of Gaza: the administration of Israel, but also that of Egypt and the United States; this rationale is starkly contradicted by a practical policy of mass social imprisonment. We're used to being presented with an imaginary trade-off between vague humanitarian concerns, to be appraised in a manner unfortunately approximating aesthetic criticism, and the more positivistic, and so more apparently real concerns of the economy; here both are being curtailed.

Of course Israel's administration isn't known to be particularly liberal; and it isn't, but it's important to recognise what are really secondary phenomena; e.g. the strange religious parties are more or less peripheral to a power structure that ressembles that of other highly developed countries: business, journalism, academia, banking.

The point is that in the situation in Gaza one is presented with the apparently universal language of modern technocracy in contradiction.

Nitzan and Bichler wrote an excellent book about, among other things, Israel's power structure. This is their take on a tengentially related issue, the contradictions of the Likud party(and Kadima deserve no greater charity):

"When preaching economic liberalisation, Likud members usually meant exactly what they said. Most of them were socialised during the British Mandate era, and many of them, even today, remain locked into the petty bourgeois mentality of "free markets" and "small government". But that is precisely the point. In their imagination, they were removing the shackles of government from an otherwise competitive economy. What they did in practice, though, was deregulate an oligopolistic war economy, effectively inviting dominant capital to take the lead. Viewed from this perspective, their "political folly" no longer seems senseless. On the contrary, it looks as if their actions, unbeknown to them of course, were in fact serving a broader "latent function". For Israel's dominant capital, stagflation, rising military spending, growing dependency on the United States, and a ballooning debt, were the basic ingredients for successful differential accumulation. These very policies were also consistant with the interests of dominant capital groups in the United States, particularly those related to armaments and oil, which benefitted from the escalating regional conflict, and which played an important role in shaping U.S.-Israel relations. The most promising political platform for achieving these results was a combination of laissez-faire economics and racist militarism; and the party which believed in these principles, was ready to implement them, and, most importantly, was to never fully understand their consequences, was Likud."

from The Global Political Economy of Israel

There's actually a decent BBC report on the situation in Gaza here

Monday, April 07, 2008

what we need (1): a new logo for deconstruction

I didn't get so far with literature studies. It's sort of like, the premises in contradiction, and the materiality of that. Why not make this image up as a flag to display outside your place of study? wherever deconstruction is practiced.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

liberalism in contradiction (1): Camp Bondsteel

Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo. Even the Serb nationalists who suspect it to be a facility for processing heroin concede it is productive

The success of neoliberalism is expressed in the contrived aura of rationality that surrounds these institutions. The development of Kosovo during the SFRY period is, not without good reasons, often considered to have been particularly inefficacious. For example, Misha Glenny writes of Priština:

"The Grand Hotel itself is an unmistakeable monument of late Titoism in Prishtina. It was constructed in the 1970s at a time when the federal government in Belgrade pumped endless funds into Kosovo in the hope of curbing unrest among poor Albanians in the region. These monies fell into the hands of the Kosovo League of Communists bureaucracy, largely Albanian, whose ideal of infrastructural renewal was to erect many grandiose buildings in the capital. Such white elephants, however, should have been built after investment in jobs and primary requirements, such as improved road and rail access to Kosovo. Of the many pompous buildings which litter this provincial backwater, the Grand Hotel takes pride of place as the most ridiculous of all."

Reliable official statistics concerning Kosovo are difficult to find. According to a "marxist resource" "unemployment grew from 18.6 to 27.5 percent in the ten years from 1971 to 1981". The rate among the majority Albanian population would have been considerably greater.

Nine Years after the Kosovo war unemployment in this country may exceed 50%. Some of these unemployed have "jobs" in an unofficial economy probably more than half the size of the official one.

Camp Bondsteel, whose efficacy is beyond challenge, cost an estimated $350 million dollars to build and around $50 million dollars to run per year. Kosovo's annual budget in recent years has been around $1 billion dollars.

(more about Camp Bondsteel here)