Archive for the ‘crisis’ Category
There’s a terrific article up at n+1 by Stephen Squibb on the origins of the current crisis. The piece loses none of its pertinence – in fact, probably the opposite – due to the “resolution” of the debt ceiling issue yesterday. Go take a look…
Feels like the old days, sitting here typing away at an academic review in my flat with the CNBC Europe playing silently on the television. Dow Futures are down 130 or so…. Suggests that things are about to get nasty and interesting in about 22 minutes when the NYSE opens. Shall I go buy a six pack of lager and settle in for the show?
Hint: you might want to get yourself down to your local Waterstones* and grab yourself a copy of this. It’s on 3 for 2, so the price is right. It’s post-Ballardian eco-catastrophe cut to follow the lines of Heart of Darkness - just right for reading in the here and now. Perfect for the beach, the bath, the garret, the park, the couch, the sweaty summer bed, the well-worn scholar’s desk or anywhere else you might care to read it. And if you come by the Fitz afterwork on selected days of the week with your copy, I will, I promise, secure you an autograph from the esteemed author himself. **
* Obviously you can also buy it from your local independent. I think the author gets more if you do, you get ethical-hipster points, either way James Daunt will flourish even more than he’s flourishing, blossoms will bloom, etc etc. Or just grab it on 3 for 2. That’s the beauty – it’s your call.
** If you buy me a Taddy Lager, as Alpine is out of stock for the summer. But it’s Sam Smith’s, and therefore only £2.41.
In my home state, things are starting to get quite dire… and to kick off….
Since I’ve left, the Huge Inflatable Union Rat seems to have made a friend:
Strange situation: not all that long ago, it seemed to me obvious that dystopian speculative fiction was one of the genres if not the genre best adapted to a left political stance. The drawing out of the inevitable ramifications of all this, the dramatic revelation of the crisis whose traces were already starting to streak the screen of things-as-they-are, the warning that the relatively bearable everyday was already pregnant with something much, much worse – these seemed to be close to the best one could do with narrative art today.
I even started writing some myself, a project that I’m constantly tempted to return to…. But honestly it’s feeling increasingly wrong-footed, if one would be even a mildly political narrative writer, to head in this direction given the way things are now.
Given that the fact is that the world over austerity measures, privatizations and rationalizations, and other efforts to starve out what vestiges of the welfare state remain are being sold to the public under the very brand of inevitable and interminable crisis. People sort of vaguely accept, I think, that things are bad and something needs to be done as it’s only going to get worse.
Depicted catastrophes tend to blur together into a generalized air of imminent expectation of the worst. We’ve seen two phases of this already, lately. Roughly the first stage with its quiet but persistent stream of “untimely” bleak visions amidst the high water marks of post-Cold War affluence, globalization, and tech bubbling. The second, much less discrete, came amidst the televised events and wild market swings of the first decade of the 21st century. The generalization of this atmosphere of imminent catastrophe – through films and books, news reports and editorials, the web, whatever – has served as a distributed and as if automatic PR machine better than any the right could have paid for in service of its quest to cut away the remainders of soft socialism. Even depictions of dystopian situations born of capitalism itself play into, I think, the message that those who administer capitalism need to have distributed right now…
Not a hard and fast position I’m taking here – just an inference, an intuition, that I’m trying to think through a bit. Of course I’m painting with too broad a brush, even if I’m just speculating at this point…
(Perhaps worth mentioning that I’m going to write something soon about Evan Calder Williams’s new book soon, once I’ve finished it….)
From Perry Anderson’s absolutely massive – and incredibly interesting – piece in the LRB on Lula this week:
When, midway through his second term its test came, he handled it with aplomb. The crash of Wall Street in 2008 might be a tsunami in the US, he declared, but in Brazil it would be no more than a ‘ripple’ – uma marolinha. The phrase was seized on by the press as proof of reckless economic ignorance and irresponsibility.
But he was as good as his word. Counter-cyclical action was prompt and effective. Despite falling tax revenues, social transfers were increased, reserve requirements were reduced, public investment went up and private consumption was supported. In overcoming the crisis, local banking practices helped. Tight controls, holding multipliers of the monetary base well below US levels, and greater transparency had left Brazilian banks in much better shape than those in the US, protecting the country from the worst of the financial fall-out. But it was concerted, vigorous state policy that pulled the economy round. Lula’s optimism was functional: told not to be afraid, Brazilians went out and consumed, and demand held up. By the second quarter of 2009, foreign capital was flowing back into the country, and by the end of the year the crisis was over. As Lula’s second mandate came to an end, the economy was posting more than 7 per cent growth, and nature itself was smiling on his rule, with the discovery of huge deposits of offshore oil.
The point of course is to increase consumer demand by increasing, not cutting, public spending in a crisis. Demand leads to growth, growth to jobs, jobs to more demand, more growth, whatever. Not all that complicated. As long as we’re going to be playing the capitalist game with its episodic crises, there’s only one way to handle the dips and it’s this one…. that is, the one we’re not doing.
Thus we’re on the streets…
UPDATE: Would love to hear what my few but treasured Brazilian readers think about the article as a whole, if they have time enough and interest to read it. And one particular point of idiosyncratic interest… Where can I find out more about the following?
In the arts, explosive forms continue to be produced, though they are now far more liable to neutralisation or degradation into entertainment: Paulo Lins’s novel Cidade de Deus reduced to cinematic pulp by an expert in television ads…
Short but healthy viewing for all current occupations.
Cuaron directing based on a Klein text and with Foreign Office doing the graphic work. What could possibly be better… or more lucid… or more absolutely and prophetically correct?
From Paul Krugman today:
Oh, and the UK: was it “forced to impose painful austerity”? Here’s the interest rate on 10-year UK bonds:
There was no sign of a crisis of confidence in the UK budget before the May election; the Conservative government chose to embark on austerity, it wasn’t forced into it.
Massive snowfalls (say, like 2 or so inches over the course of the month) destroyed the UK economy during December. Not coalition driven cuts and the incredible damage and futural pessimism that they engender.
The chancellor George Osborne, though, refused to change tack despite the evidence that Britain’s economy shrank again.
“There is no question of changing a fiscal plan that has established international credibility on the back of one very cold month,” he said.
“That would plunge Britain into a financial crisis. We will not be blown off course by bad weather,” Osborne added.
Really. I mean, you can see how incredibly snowy it is in the Guardian-stock picture above.
Despite the massive increases in productivity that have come of computerization and roboticization, the massive efficiencies that come of the continuous rerevolution in transportation and thus the globalization of markets, despite the possibility of “just in time production” and its low over-heads, despite the development of the internet and vaccines that render horrific diseases a thing of the past in much of the world, despite the end of the cold war and the necessity of massive state spending on armaments, despite incredible advances in the sciences of agriculture and mineralogy, despite labor saving advances in informational technology which render the necessity of expensive bureaucracy obsolete, despite steps forward in cheap and sometimes green energy and the introduction of the ethos of recycling and a general social campaign against waste, and despite the fact that nearly all of what would have been single-earner households have now been turned into dual-earner households, somehow we’ve run out of money and all of those mid-century advances, like cheap or free education, cheap or free medical care, cheap or free mass transit, welfare benefits for those who need them, the possibility of a reasonable state or private pension, the probability of a job for life, and affordable housing must now be phased out as they are no longer affordable. Sorry. Despite the fact that the future was supposed to be better than the past, and that capitalism is most tremendous engine for economic growth and social development that the world has ever known, we’ve discovered that the standard of living we’re accustomed to as citizens of modernity has to change profoundly and the free ride is now over. We’ve apparently run out of money.
Except for things like this:
It’s a funny old world, but that’s simply the case. And
everybody knows, right, that a national economy is exactly like a household wherein when things are tight, you have to cancel the satellite tv subscription, put off the renovation of the kitchen or… end the public funding of universities altogether.
Sifting around on twitter tonight for stuff in relation to the occupations. Found this from Mark Fisher. Obviously read it bottom to front.
- @PennyRed @leninology and it’s not as if anyone died or got very seriously injured.7:55 PM Nov 28th via web
- @leninology @PennyRed I agree – and the images are something that can be used to motivate others too7:52 PM Nov 28th via web in reply to leninology
- @PennyRed The police charge enabled that strategic victory, it didn’t prevent it.7:50 PM Nov 28th via web in reply to PennyRed
- @PennyRed We should be cold and clinical right down the line. What was the protest about if not winning a strategic victory?7:50 PM Nov 28th via web in reply to PennyRed
- @PennyRed it’s powerful propaganda in battle for hearts and minds, plus it emphasises antagonism and ruling class phobic panic7:44 PM Nov 28th via web in reply to PennyRed
- @PennyRed on the contrary, cops charging kids is surely a good thing, strategically speaking.
He’s talking about this of course:
Anyone who advocates, you know, people getting run over by police horses in the service of a cause, however just, doesn’t need to be listened to. This ain’t the Terminator, version 1 2 or 3. Spend some time at an occupation, and you’ll see that ”strategic victories” are achievable without weird Accelerationist ideas. (Alternately, if you’re not sure about this – pick the situation / organization that you like the least. Dunno, the Tories, the G8, or the Catholic Church. Celebrate when they do their worst, as it is only a sign that things are moving towards the end, despite, well, the human cost…. This is what he’s talking about….)
I mean, honestly, why not suggest Mark gets run over by a fucking horse in order to enable our strategic victory. It’s happening again tomorrow – bet the horses will be out.
…my kids are doing well.
You really can’t have any idea how wonderful it’s been to be involved with this, to whatever extent I have been. Cliche, of course, but learning huge amounts from my students this week.
In addition to my IHT, I like a financial paper every day, as the “business section” is the only section where the actual news happens. I used to read the Financial Times until, at MSA 2008, I saw Frederic Jameson carrying around a copy to match mine (we’d probably both walked to the Borders down the road as there was nowhere else to buy such a thing in Nashville) and realized at that moment that this FT shit had, as they say, jumped the shark. So now I kick it old school with a subscription to the Wall Street Journal – European Edition, which is cheaper by miles anyway.
(a joke, btw – in case it’s not clear. maybe a joke. i dunno)
Anyway from yesterday’s WSJ, a strange melange of aesthetics / politics / commercialism that gives us the present state of play in snippets. First, from an article on Ireland’s debt crisis / IMF intervention:
It (an editorial in The Irish Times) went on: “There is the shame of it all. Having obtained our political independence from Britain to be the masters of our own affairs, we have now surrendered our sovereignty to the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund.” In Ireland’s parliament, a deputy recited the stanza of Yeats from which the editorial takes its title, an elegy for the dead of an earlier, failed, revolution.
Let a billion quasi-leftist grad seminar papers bloom. Folks have been – at times very cheaply and with a tinge of, dunno, residual and deeply perverse ethnocentrism – using Ireland and its literature as a way to be a “post-colonialist” without dealing with, you know, black people. This would seem to me to be the wet dream via Naomi Klein version of this…. The quotation in question, as another article in the WSJ indicates, was from ‘September 1913′:
Was it for this the wild geese spread
The grey wing upon every tide;
For this that all that blood was shed,
For this Edward Fitzgerald died,
And Robert Emmet and Wolfe Tone,
All that delirium of the brave?
Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone,
It’s with O’Leary in the grave.
Funny thing is that there are better bits from that poem to cite on this occasion, namely the first stanza (“What need you, being come to sense / But fumble in a greasy till / And add the halfpence to the pence” etc). If I were one of those erstwhile hibernian pocoists, that’s where I’d go with my deconstructively angled paper… Alternately, if I were still attending “mass” on weekend evenings at the Boston Arms in Tufnell Park, I’d ask and receive, I’m sure, incredibly fascinating analyses of this poetry-cum-or-anti-economics issue from the (sometimes) friendly and strangely erudite pensioners who go there to receive liquified communion.
And then there’s this from an article about the CGI in the new Harry Potter film(s):
Leavesden (Studios) is also home to the fictional Ministry of Magic, which is supposed to sit beneath a real street in the London government district of Whitehall. To create the ministry, which first appeared in “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” in 2007, Mr. Craig studied underground structures such as the London and Moscow subway stations.
For the new film, Mr. Craig added a towering monument to the ministry’s atrium. The Soviet-style sculpture shows wizards crushing cowering muggles—people without magic powers—and bears an engraving that says “Magic Is Might.” The totalitarian aesthetic, Mr. Craig says, highlights the theme of a world dominated by evil. He used seemingly long, winding corridors to give the ministry a Kafkaesque feel. As the characters explore the building, including an upstairs office and a basement courtroom, viewers soon feel as if they know their way around the place.
Leaving aside the sublation of the Red Menace into noseless (syphlitic?) baddy magicians, that final phrase is a bit bizarre: “viewers soon feel as if they know their way around the place.” Location, Location, Location real estate imaginineering meets Kafkaesque Unheimlichkeit in some sort of illogical and unholy union, no? Perhaps that, my friends, is the definition of the uncanniness of our times: bureaucratic befuddlement that somehow you feel cozy in, that you want to take out a variable-rate mortgage in order to buy-to-let, even though there are no mortgages to be had…
“You can think of a cross between the Apple store in New York and the Louvre,” is how Mauritshuis Director Emilie Gordenker describes the museum’s hopes for the extension and renovation. “We’re going to open up the gates. Then you come in and you end up in a very large, spacious and light-filled foyer.”
And things finally head full-circle. The Apple Store aesthetic, stolen from what I can tell (or remember) out of certain now-lost Soho (NYC) sleek coffeehouses, which in turn had stolen their look out of the galleries that were just then on their way out, returns to garnish the place where they keep Vermeer’s “Girl With a Pearl Earring.” What is the next turn of the screw to come in our frenetically static cultural world, the palpating infrastructure built atop an ever self-renewing base? Apple Stores shaped like Aeroflot terminals? Childish pre-sex fantasies (wtf?) cast in the light of Allende-ite democratic socialism? Ezra Pound cantos about usury and the Jews recited on the House floor?