30 August 2016

Helen Thompson comments on political economy.

The Coming Crisis: we’re not in Kansas any more. In the surreal world of post-2008 financial markets and monetary policy ‘black swan’ events shouldn't surprise us any more. (25 May 2016)
"The western economic and political world that was in place before 2008 no longer exists and it is not coming back. In retrospect the last supposed boom of the middle years of the first decade of the twenty first century was the death throes of a leviathan roaring out its last fire.  The death of the old western economic and political disorder is in part disguised, at least in the United States, under a swathe of ‘recovery’ statistics which focus on apparent employment shown in payroll data.  But even on the surface of collective life evidence that something is systematically failing bleeds out for easy observation."
What follows is an incisive critique of credit culture in the USA, though it is short on what to do about it. We're so collectively deeply in debt that any attempt to deal with the problem threatens to destroy civilisation.

One thing is clear however. In a world overwhelmed by debt, central banks reducing interest rates to zero is not going to help. Governments are responding to the ongoing crisis as though more borrowing is the answer, which is how we got into this mess. But deleveraging without leaving huge numbers in poverty is a problem that no government has yet turned its mind to, let alone figured out.


29 August 2016


"Capitalism is the extraordinary belief that the nastiest of men for the nastiest of motives will somehow work for the benefit of all"  
- John Maynard Keynes

15 August 2016

Cyber Serfs

Letter to the Financial Times,
Sir, The $68bn market valuation of Uber (“Uber recruits hitch ride on lending schemes”, August 12) can only be based on a cynical assumption that the company will be allowed to expand its drove of cyber serfs. It is nothing less than 21st century share cropping that preys on the gullible, the ignorant or the desperate. An economic model that is based on workers providing the capital for their own tools and bearing the risk of individual business failure while delivering profits to the owners of an algorithm is as sure a method of returning income distribution to the feudal age as anyone could devise.

Guy Wroble
Denver, CO, US
This is relevant because the business model is expanding. It includes Airbnb and Deliveroo. Those of us concerned with living an ethical life need to think hard about whether we ought to be using these services.

For myself it seems clear that I could not use these services with a clear conscience and will be avoiding them.

(h/t @AnnPettifor)

08 August 2016

Fuck Neoliberalism

The academic world experienced a minor stir earlier this year with the publication of the text of a paper given at an AAG meeting in San Francisco, by Dr Simon Springer of the University of Victoria, Canada. Published on the academic website academia.edu, the paper entitled, Fuck Neoliberalism, has been viewed more than 14,000 times which has put Dr Springer in the top 0.1% of scholars using the website. The author is a serious academic with a long history of publishing on the subject of Neoliberalism, viewing it as an inherently violent ideology. The paper is unrepentantly vernacular in tone while still being rooted in the discipline. This quote gives a flavour of the former:
"Fuck the hold that it has on our political imaginations. Fuck the violence it engenders. Fuck the inequality it extols as a virtue. Fuck the way it has ravaged the environment. Fuck the endless cycle of accumulation and the cult of growth. Fuck the Mont Pelerin society and all the think tanks that continue to prop it up and promote it. Fuck Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman for saddling us with their ideas. Fuck the Thatchers, the Reagans, and all the cowardly, self-interested politicians who seek only to scratch the back of avarice. Fuck the fear-mongering exclusion that sees "others" as worthy of cleaning our toilets and mopping our floors, but not as members of our communities. Fuck the ever-intensifying move towards metrics and the failure to appreciate that not everything that counts can be counted. Fuck the desire for profit over the needs of community. Fuck absolutely everything neoliberalism stands for, and fuck the Trojan horse that it rode in on!"
Dr Springer sums up, in both his words and his attitude, so much of what I think and feel about the current situation in the world. I'm grateful for his articulation of the problem in this manner. It is calculated to offend a system which routinely offends those it feeds off. Neoliberalism itself is offensive, it is violent, and ultimately Dr Springer believes that it necessary to act against it, to resist Neoliberalism:
We must start to become enactive in our politics and begin embracing a more relational sense of solidarity that recognizes that the subjugation and suffering of one is in fact indicative of the oppression of all (Shannon and Rouge 2009; Springer 2014).
He also suggested using the hashtag #fuckneoliberalism though this has not really taken off. I'm using it however. There is a video of the talk on YouTube. The sound quality is not very good, but it is interesting to hear the author of the paper speaking the words in this context.

Neoliberalism is a Political Project

Interview with David Harvey via academia.edu


Eleven years ago, David Harvey published A Brief History of Neoliberalism, now one of the most cited books on the subject. The years since have seen new economic and financial crises, but also of new waves of resistance, which themselves often target “neoliberalism” in their critique of contemporary society.

Cornel West speaks of the Black Lives Matter movement as “an indictment of neoliberal power”; the late Hugo Chávez called neoliberalism a “path to hell”; and labor leaders are increasingly using the term to describe the larger environment in which workplace struggles occur. The mainstream press has also picked up the term, if only to argue that neoliberalism doesn’t actually exist.

But what, exactly, are we talking about when we talk about neoliberalism? Is it a useful target for socialists? And how has it changed since its genesis in the late twentieth century?

Bjarke Skærlund Risager, a PhD fellow at the Department of Philosophy and History of Ideas at Aarhus University, sat down with David Harvey to discuss the political nature of neoliberalism, how it has transformed modes of resistance, and why the Left still needs to be serious about ending capitalism.

Publication Date: Jul 23, 2016
Publication Name: Jacobin Magazine