Archive for February, 2010

Off to Peru

Posted: 17 February 2010 in Uncategorized
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Nuestra gente [Our people]

Faber

I’ll be back in 10 days. . .

Public art of the day

Posted: 16 February 2010 in Uncategorized
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Peter Fuss

In a recent article in Economic & Political Weekly [ht: is-i], Farshad Araghi (pdf) argues that “the failure of the Copenhagen climate talks is indicative of the depth of the crisis of ‘long Keynesianism’ that has exhausted its positive and negative ways of dealing with the ‘unsustainability’ of global capitalism.”

Araghi’s first point is that neoliberalism is not the opposite of Keynesianism, nor is global Keynesianism a possible alternative to global neoliberalism. Instead, he views neoliberalism as a moment within Keynesianism: “negative Keynesianism” (a reaction to wage inflation and stagflation at home and unruly developmentalism abroad, based on wage deflation, negative regulation, and financialisation of demand management) versus “positive Keynesianism” (based on wage-labour contracts and effective demand management leading to “wage inflation,” amidst competitive pressures and expansion of democratic rights). “Long Keynesianism” is therefore “a contradictory unity of liberalism and neoliberalism.”

Araghi views the current period as a crisis of long Keynesianism, and concludes that a return to positive Keynesianism simply won’t work.

The fantastic desire for a pendulum shift, in the form of a return to positive Keynesianism, fails to see that post-war Keynesianism was (1) an externalising regime fundamentally standing on the shoulder of the “cheap oil regime” of 1953-73, and (2) that the mass consumption component of high wage Keynesianism in the North was always standing on the shoulder of “forced underconsumption” in the South. . .Precisely for these reasons, green and global Keynesianism is a contradiction in terms.

Araghi’s eco-socialist perspective is valuable, as a way of prying progressives away from a narrow (and one might say naive) focus on stimulus spending and financial regulation. What is missing from his approach is a concern with class—both the role class exploitation has played in creating the conditions for the current crises (in both the South and the North) and the role eliminating class exploitation can play (again, in both regions) in moving us beyond capitalism.

The new book, Rethinking Planning, Development, and Globalization: Essays in Marxian Class Analysis, is finally done and off to the publisher.

The cover illustration, by Mercamutanterio, is above. Here’s the table of contents:

Foreword by Stephen Resnick and Richard Wolff

Introduction

1 Rethinking Planning, Development, and Globalization  from a Marxian Perspective [here is the pre-publication version: pdf]

Planning

2 Essentialism and Socialist Economic Planning: A Methodological Critique of Optimal Planning Theory

3 Planning and Class in Transitional Societies

4 The State and Planning in Nicaragua

5 Nicaragua: The State, Class, and Transition

Development

6 Radical Theories of Development: Frank, the Modes of Production School, and Amin

7 The Costs of Austerity in Nicaragua: The Worker-Peasant Alliance, 1979-1987

8 When Failure Becomes Success: Class and the Debate over Stabilization and Adjustment

9 Power and Class: The Contribution of Radical Approaches to Debt and Development

10 Capitalism and Industrialization in the Third World: Recognizing the Costs and Imagining Alternatives

11 “After” Development: Reimagining Economy and Class

12 Reading Harold: Class Analysis, Capital Accumulation, and the Role of the Intellectual

Globalization

13 Fordism on a World Scale: International Dimensions of Regulation

14 Class Beyond the Nation-State

15 Global Fragments: Subjectivity and Class Politics in Discourses of Globalization

16 Globalization and Imperialism

David DeGraw has assembled a report (part 1 of 2) on how the “Economic Elite Have Engineered an Extraordinary Coup, Threatening the Very Existence of the Middle Class.”

It’s what I’ve been arguing for quite a while now: that, apart from (but also in part as a result of) the current crises, there has been a steady immiseration of the U.S. working-class.

The devastating numbers across-the-board on the economic front are staggering. I’ll go through some of them here, many we have already become all too familiar with. We hear some of these numbers all the time, so much so that it appears as if we have already begun “to normalize the unthinkable.” You may be sick of hearing them, but behind each number is an enormous amount of individual suffering, American lives and families who are struggling worse than they ever have.

DeGraw goes through the numbers, with links to the original sources. The upshot is, for the past 30 years or so, the balance has slowly but steadily shifted in favor of capital and against working people. The current crises are both a result of that shift (since the financial bubbles are at least in part a consequence of a worsening the distribution of income and wealth) and one more cause of that shift (since the current crises, and the policies enacted to “save” the system, are enhancing profitability but lowering living standards for the vast majority).

The fact is, neither the mainstream media, which fails to connect the dots, nor mainstream academic economists, who are obsessed with defending their models and pinning the blame on one or another financial enterprise, are helping us make sense of these changes. They are merely serving to normalize the unthinkable. It’s people like DeGraw and Elizabeth Warren who are putting the pieces together and sounding the alarm. The question is, who is listening? And when will we do something about it?

Altug Yalcintas, Research Fellow in the Department of Economics at Ankara University, has just sent me a copy of his insightful review of Economic Representations.

The full review appeared in the December 2009 issue of the Journal of Economic Issues (43/4, 1089-90). Here are some excerpts:

Re-evaluating economics as a social science, in the broad sense of the term, David Ruccio, of the University of Notre Dame, provides the reader with a glimpse of the theoretical richness that feeds economic imagination from all fields of intellectual life, including popular music and visual arts, as well as humor and irony. . .

One prominent painter once claimed that painting is not about a self-represented reality; it is about colors and lines that painters use to represent colors and lines in nature. Economics, too, is not about a self-represented reality; it is about metaphors, stories, and models that economists use to represent the economy. Reading Ruccio’s Economic Representations, one tends to conclude philosophically that there is nothing “out there” but representations.

Radioactive commons

Posted: 12 February 2010 in Uncategorized
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The zone of groundwater contaminated by the radioactive tritium leak at the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant is now estimated to be about the size of a football field and 30 feet deep. And it’s headed toward the Connecticut River.

Local newspapers have had daily reports about the leaky plant (here’s a compendium). And now the national media, from CounterPunch to the Wall Street Journal, are watching. That’s because there’s a resurgence of interest in “clean” nuclear power—but Vermont Yankee (owned by the Entergy consortium) is demonstrating that capitalist nuclear power is simply not safe for the groundwater or the rest of the commons.

The Journal has one set of concerns:

The closure could ripple beyond the Green Mountain State to New England’s wholesale power market, the broader nuclear-power industry and Entergy itself. Several reactors were shut across the U.S. in the 1990s, but more recently the trend has been to prolong the life of plants because they produce low-cost, power with practically no greenhouse-gas emissions.

Vermont itself has another set of concerns: one one hand, jobs (about 670) and electricity (1/3 of what the state uses); on the other hand, contamination of the groundwater and a renegade company, one that has deliberately lied to state regulators.

Fortunately, the future looks less radioactive: First, the plant, whose license expires in 2012, needs the approval of the state legislature to renew its contract. Second, all 5 of the current Democratic candidates for governor are opposed to renewing the contract—in contrast to the current governor, who has stood behind Vermont Yankee. Finally, the state could replace Vermont Yankee by purchasing electricity from Hydro-Quebec. The province-owned company already provides about a third of Vermont’s power now, and Hydro-Quebec’s growing low-emissions power from hydro-electric dams and wind farms is certainly appealing.

Those are good omens for safeguarding the commons of the Green Mountain State.