Sunday, April 24, 2011

song by Dead Milkmen



Commodify Your Dissent
Commodify Your Dissent
Who will sponsor my green revolution?
Will you buy the rights to my class war?
Purchase the t-shirts and the audio version of the book
They took your anger and polished up
Then they sold it back to you
They took your anger and repackaged it
And there's nothing you can do

Put your name on my new army's designer uniforms
Rebellion and subversion will make your Rom-Com cool
You'll capture that "indie" feel that the kids are crazy for
They took your frustrations and dressed them up
Before a focus group
They painted your frustrations in earth tones colors
And there's nothing you can do

Country music used to be about music and not about the county
There once was a time when rap was dangerous
Now flag-waving idiots and millionaire illiterates dance across the screen
Johnny Cash died for you

This sense of outrage can be yours if the price is right
Galleries and Poetry readings Jingles and cartoons
This is the river in which we've learned to swim
Sub-culture vultures circle above
The great unread white and blue
And there's nothing you can do

Country music used to be about music and not about the county
There once was a time when rap was dangerous
Now flag-waving idiots and millionaire illiterates dance across the screen
Jam Master Jay died for you

C'mon Bourgeoisie and get behind me
Captains of industry I'm waiting for your calls
Operators are standing by so don't delay
Your parents are reading hipster lit
And they try to dress like you
They took your anger and repackaged it
And there's nothing you can do

Punks, Goths, and Rivetheads disappeared into the mall
Just like the yippies, and the beatniks, and freaks
This is the river in which we've learned to swim
And this is the river in which we will all drown

new Living in the End Times afterword in Jacobin

from VersoBooks.com

at http://www.versobooks.com/authors/2-slavoj-zizek

Žižek and the Jacobin spirit unite in the latest installment of Jacobin magazine. In their Summer 2011 issue, the young quarterly publication known for its consistent quality and invigorating critical spirit will feature a timely excerpt from the new paperback edition of Slavoj Žižek's Living in the End Times.

The excerpt, part of an extensive new afterword written especially for the paperback edition, explores the de-fetishisation and de-mystification of both violence and democracy as necessary conditions for revolutionary Truth.

[....]

The excerpt ("The Jacobin Spirit") is online in Jacobin

http://jacobinmag.com/archive/issue3/zizek.html

Friday, April 22, 2011

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Neoliberalism is in Crisis

Interview with Greek Left Review

http://greekleftreview.wordpress.com/2011/03/28/slavoj-zizek-neoliberalism-is-in-crisis/

GLR: Today we’re witnessing in Britain the largest march since the Iraqi war. After a year of unrest in many European countries an image of possible solidarity appears. Is there anything to be gained by European solidarity and is this solidarity even possible? What is the European project about today?

SZ. Το paraphrase this quote from May 68: It’s not possible, but it’s necessary. If by saying Europe we mean what is worth fighting for like egalitarian legacy, the idea of solidarity, welfare state and so on, then, maybe it’s the only thing that can give us, some hope. Europe, not only, cannot realize its project but it cannot even see what this project is. What makes me happy in this protest today is that it gives me the pleasure to correct my previous analysis which was that today in Europe you only have two choices: On the one hand the pro-capitalist liberal parties which can at the same time be progressive in issues like human rights, abortion and so on and on the other – the only moment of true passionate politics – right-wing anti-immigrant formations. My claim is that this would be a dead end if these were the only choices. It’s a great hope for Europe that some kind of radical or authentic left is awakening.

GLR While Europe is reviving and rediscovering radicalism we have revolts all over the Middle East. How can we link this huge insurrection and revolution wave in Africa to what is happening in Europe?

SZ. Obviously the “standard”, what we call the neoliberal ideological model is coming to a crisis. For me these two are kind of supplementary phenomena. Capitalism is coming into crisis in Europe, but not only. What happened in Egypt was both authentically democratic but also a call for economic justice. Yet, what I find extremely interesting is that the Egyptians and other Africans are demonstrating something much more important. Although, our official dream in the west was the silent presupposition of the western democracy, we secretly did not really want others to become like us. Until now the standard racist reaction of western Europeans was that, we would love Arabs to become democratic, but hey… they are primitive. The only way you can arouse the crowds there is either by religious fundamentalism, or anti-Semitic nationalism. So, now we get exactly what we wished for: A secular uprising, that in some cases even lifts religious divisions (Copts and Muslims are praying together in Egypt). But the result for us, is anxiety, instead of joy. “Where is this going to lead”? Not only we have a proof that all the distrust to the Arab democratic potential is false, but what is more important is that it proves that democracy is universal, it’s not our own. We desperately try to read out of the events that they want what we want. These events are authentically democratic but they are also a call for economic justice.

Now, we need to rethink even old events, like the Khomeini revolution in Iran. It’s now clear that the Khomeini revolution was not simply a fundamentalist takeover. We should remember that for over one year and a half there was a hard internal struggle, which allowed the fundamentalist clerics to take over. The Khomeini revolution was also an emancipatrory explosion, which is now returning through the green movement and Musavi. This is the most precious lesson: We need to break out of this cycle where our choices are either pro-western liberals or religious fundamentalism and here we come to the crucial point. Why do we focus on Libya now? Because it allows the re-normalization of the crisis. It fits in our standard western clichés. Qaddafi is a crazy leader, one of the axes of terror and so on. Here we know where we stand. We can translate this to the old anti-fundamentalism struggle and therefore the media can pass silent through what is happening at the same time in Bahrain where Saudi army is directly intervening into another country in order to crash the same as in Egypt democratic struggle. Where is Obama in this case, where are the western leaders? My only hope is that this procedure will go to the end. And the name of the end is clear. Saudi Arabia.

CD. I should probably add that this idea of re-normalization has also another part and that is that Libya gave the western powers the ability to go back to this idea of the nineties of humanitarian interventions, which had declined due to the catastrophes in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, what Sarkozy, Cameron and a little less maybe Obama, tell us is that we’re there to save civilians. That kind of cosmopolitan rhetoric can now reorganize or re structure the ideological field around the image of the west as a humanitarian power.

GLR. But the popular movement is facing its limits when bombs are falling and people die. How should we address this problem?

SZ. In Libya the situation is objectively mixed. I don’t think we have a clear-cut case. I have no sympathy for Qaddafi, but nonetheless I don’t think that what is happening in Libya is the same as in Egypt or elsewhere. We cannot say it’s simply and only about a bad tyrant opposed by the people. There are all sorts of tensions there like tribal relations and this is why the west loves it. The west liked that same phenomenon in the ex Yugoslavia as well. It was not politics, but tribes fighting each other. The only thing we can do, is simply ignore, side step Libya. For me what is going on now in Egypt is much more important. As I always emphasize, they are beautiful – we all cry. But these enthusiastic moments are in a way cheap.. What will happen now? How will this spirit of the revolution be institutionalized?

CD. We’re moving from constituents to constitutive powers

SZ. It would be very sad if Egypt only becomes a slightly more pro western, pro liberal capitalist society. It’s important to see now how trade unions are formed, how students organize themselves and so on. The true battle is going on now. And in regards to the whole area I find crucial what is happening to Saudi Arabia and the rich Emirates. It’s where you get the western hypocrisy and contradiction at its absolutely purest – the obvious paradox. US are worried about human rights and proclaiming Iran as the evil. I’m sorry but if you’re worried about women’s rights in the Middle East, Iran is a paradise compared to Saudi Arabia. Even Ahmadinejad named one or two feminine ministers. Friends told me that men are idiots there. If you go to a ministry even if the minister is a man you have to work with a woman in order to get your job done. In all of the emirates you have a neo-serfdom if not slavery with so many poor immigrant workers from Philippines… I think it’s crucial to bring these developments in front and sharpen the contradictions.

GLR. A theoretical question: There were articles in the leftist greek newspapers and websites endorsing the idea that anyone who is lacanian cannot support the idea of the revolution on the basis of this famous discussion of Lacan with the students of May 1968. Is a Lacanian position necessarily non-revolutionary? Can there even be a revolutionary policy in the Lacanian field?

I will not say the opposite. It is definitely not necessarily revolutionary. Here’s what I was claiming: In the confusion of today’s ideological contradictions, how does it happen and in our permissive societies we get to have more regulations and anxiety? We get sexual freedom, which means that half of us are impotent and frigid and so on. To even understand this you need something like the Lacanian theory. Off course I violently disagree with that statement if you read it like a kind of liberal wisdom (you wanted to play with the revolution so you’re going to get another master). I don’t read Lacan as a limitation, part of this nouvelle philosophie anticommuniste (which suggests that gulag follows the revolution). But nonetheless, this was the problem of 20th century communist revolutions.

There is a moment of truth for us. What will come after, how do we effectively avoid a new terror? I think the question is totally legitimate. What I’m saying is something more. Lacan is clearly inconsistent, often with himself. The big question today -and the left stilldoesn’t have a good answer – is what goes on ideologically. I think you cannot understand all the paradoxes today without psychoanalysis. Are we aware in what strange societies we live? I always love to mention this example. In the previous UK elections there was a show in BBC, on who was the most hated politician and Tony Blair came first. One week later he won the elections. This worries me. There’s a level of social frustration, which is simply not captured by simply parliamentary vote. I’m not against democracy. In the socialist times we liked to say “don’t bullshit me with ideals. Look at how socialism really is”. Let’s be honest and do the same today. Let’s see really what parliamentary democracy captures and what not. Precisely if you like democracy and you’re passionately attached to it you should worry about it. Does it function effectively? Does it capture the social discontent? We should search for solutions. See what’s happening in Latin America. In some cases the solution they give is to combine representative democracy (the model of Lula or Morales) with social movements. Isn’t it obvious that democracy is turning more and more to an empty ritual? If we even vote, we don’t know what we vote for. Look at NAFTA, one of the crucial economic agreements. Nobody was asked. Even in the congress they were more or less blackmailed to do it, nobody read the 5000 pages of the agreement. You in Greece are in the same position. Specialists are giving you their special opinion in a way you cannot judge. “Sorry people, these are the facts”. Up to a point they’re true – they’re not simply lying. If you are into the current system, it’s true. But it’s time to start questioning: Is the system our ultimate horizon? And then, even these experts, often cheat. Are they really honest?

I remember the late 90’s and the big economic crisis in south East Asia. These greater liberal economists here attacked Mahathir Mohamed because he suggested the Malaysian government to take over of all the bank transactions in the country. It worked triumphantly. Even in the existing space, the rules are not fixed in the way neo-liberal ideologists are trying to convince us. By the same time, Schroeder sacked Lafontaine who wanted to do the same in Germany. Forget about this idea -that even Toni Negri buys too much- of the disappearing state and the appearance of the global empire. The state is more and more important.

GLR. Are we watching the insistence of Neoliberals to impose an end to history?

SZ. It’s a bit more complicated than this. It’s easy to make fun of Fukuyama about the end of history. But I would argue that 90% of today’s leftists are effectively Fukuyamaists. Or, maybe, at least until a couple of years ago. They don’t ask the big questions. The alternate models are not clear. Even the most radical rhetoric in Porto Allegre or Seattle is basically moralistic. Is there a positive model? It’s very easy to play the card of local movements and local self-organization. This is not the model. I don’t believe in this Negrian dream that the multitude will somehow take over. We have to accept the need of some kind of regulatory apparatuses. Not only the standard dreams of social democracy and state socialism but even this dream of soviet councils, immediate local democracy has also reach its limits.

GLR How will we organize resistance in a bigger scale? And how would you characterize what the guardian calls the freedom flue?

SZ. I’m not a pessimist but I don’t think we know as much as we think we know. I don’t think we have what Frederick Jameson would have called cognitive mapping. Some leftists think we know what is going on today with new capitalism and neoliberals, we just don’t know how to mobilize people. I think we don’t even really know what is going on. In the short term I’m not an optimist. I cannot give you a recipe on what to do. All I know and on this I stand is that we will be pushed to do something, if not we will approach a new authoritarian society. This is the moment when utopias emerge. You invent utopias when you’re in deep shit and cannot do otherwise. You especially in Greece are pushed now to find ideas for popular control, the functioning of state and so on. The way they try now in Bolivia. This is my almost tragic position. I agree with you but I don’t take it as an argument to justify that therefore we should continue to live the way we do now. If we do that, I wouldn’t like to live in such a society. I think we have clear signs that we are approaching some kind of new liberal capitalism with new forms of apartheid where private freedoms will remain. You will be able to individually express any way you want but social mobilization will be less and less. We can no longer have this old Marxist confidence that we know where history is going. History is going into an abyss.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Žižek on Mao

"Mao Zedong: the Marxist Lord of Misrule"

by Slavoj Žižek
Please see the full article at
http://www.lacan.com/zizmaozedong.htm
[....]
It is ONLY this reference to what happens AFTER the revolution, to the "morning after," that allows us to distinguish between libertarian pathetic outbursts and true revolutionary upheavals: these upheavals lose their energy when one has to approach the prosaic work of social reconstruction - at this point, lethargy sets in. In contrast to it, recall the immense creativity of the Jacobins just prior to their fall, the numerous proposals about new civic religion, about how to sustain the dignity of old people, and so on. Therein also resides the interest of reading the reports about daily life in the Soviet Union in the early 1920s, with the enthusiastic urge to invent new rules for quotidian existence: how does one get married? What are the new rules of courting? How does one celebrate a birthday? How does one get buried?... [25]

At this point, the Cultural Revolution miserably failed. It is difficult to miss the irony of the fact that Badiou, who adamantly opposes the notion of act as negative, locates the historical significance of the Maoist Cultural Revolution precisely in the negative gesture of signaling "the end of the party-State as the central production of revolutionary political activity" - it is here that he should have been consequent and deny the evental status of the Cultural Revolution: far from being an Event, it was rather a supreme display of what Badiou likes to refer to as the "morbid death drive." Destroying old monuments was not a true negation of the past, it was rather an impotent passage à l'acte bearing witness to the failure to get rid of the past.

So, in a way, there is a kind of poetic justice in the fact that the final result of Mao's Cultural Revolution is today's unheard-of explosion of capitalist dynamics in China. That is to say, with the full deployment of capitalism, especially today's "late capitalism," it is the predominant "normal" life itself which, in a way, gets "carnivalized," with its constant self-revolutionizing, with its reversals, crises, reinventions. Brian Massumi formulated clearly this deadlock, which is based on the fact that today's capitalism already overcame the logic of totalizing normality and adopted the logic of the erratic excess:

the more varied, and even erratic, the better. Normalcy starts to lose its hold. The regularities start to loosen. This loosening of normalcy is part of capitalism's dynamic. It's not a simple liberation. It's capitalism's own form of power. It's no longer disciplinary institutional power that defines everything, it's capitalism's power to produce variety - because markets get saturated. Produce variety and you produce a niche market. The oddest of affective tendencies are okay - as long as they pay. Capitalism starts intensifying or diversifying affect, but only in order to extract surplus-value. It hijacks affect in order to intensify profit potential. It literally valorises affect. The capitalist logic of surplus-value production starts to take over the relational field that is also the domain of political ecology, the ethical field of resistance to identity and predictable paths. It's very troubling and confusing, because it seems to me that there's been a certain kind of convergence between the dynamic of capitalist power and the dynamic of resistance. [26]

There IS thus, beyond all cheap jibes and superficial analogies, a profound structural homology between the Maoist permanent self-revolutionizing, the permanent struggle against the ossification of State structures, and the inherent dynamics of capitalism. One is tempted to paraphrase here Brecht, his "What is the robbing of a bank compared to the founding of a new bank?", yet again: what are the violent and destructive outbursts of a Red Guardist caught in the Cultural Revolution compared to the true Cultural Revolution, the permanent dissolution of all life-forms necessitated by the capitalist reproduction? It is the reign of today's global capitalism which is the true Lord of Misrule. No wonder, then, that, in order to curb the excess of social disintegration caused by the capitalist explosion, Chinese officials not celebrate religions and traditional ideologies which sustain social stability, from Buddhism to Confucianism, i.e., the very ideologies that were the target of the Cultural Revolution. In April 2006, Ye Xiaowen, China's top religious official, told the Xinhua News Agency that "religion is one of the important forces from which China draws strength," and he singled out Buddhism for its 'unique role in promoting a harmonious society," the official formula for combining economic expansion with social development and care; the same week, China hosted the World Buddhist Forum. [27] The role of religion as the force of stability against the capitalist dynamics is thus officially sanctioned - what is bothering Chinese authorities in the case of sects like Falun Gong is merely their independence from the state control. (This is why one should also reject the argument that Cultural Revolution strengthened socialist attitudes among the people and thus helped to curb the worst disintegrative excesses of today's capitalist development: quite on the contrary, by undermining traditional stabilizing ideologies like Confucianism, it rendered the people all the more vulnerable to the destabilizing effects of capitalism.)

This capitalist reappropriation of the revolutionary dynamics is not without its comic side-effects. It was recently made public that, in order to conceptualize the IDF urban warfare against the Palestinians, the IDF military academies systematically refer to Deleuze and Guattari, especially to Thousand Plateaux, using it as "operational theory" - the catchwords used are "Formless Rival Entities", "Fractal Manoeuvre", "Velocity vs. Rhythms", "The Wahabi War Machine", "Postmodern Anarchists", "Nomadic Terrorists". One of the key distinctions they rely on is the one between "smooth" and "striated" space, which reflect the organizational concepts of the "war machine" and the "state apparatus". The IDF now often uses the term "to smooth out space" when they want to refer to operation in a space as if it had no borders. Palestinian areas are thought of as "striated" in the sense that they are enclosed by fences, walls, ditches, road blocks and so on:

The attack conducted by units of the IDF on the city of Nablus in April 2002 was described by its commander, Brigadier-General Aviv Kokhavi, as "inverse geometry", which he explained as "the reorganization of the urban syntax by means of a series of micro-tactical actions". During the battle soldiers moved within the city across hundreds of metres of overground tunnels carved out through a dense and contiguous urban structure. Although several thousand soldiers and Palestinian guerrillas were manoeuvring simultaneously in the city, they were so "saturated" into the urban fabric that very few would have been visible from the air. Furthermore, they used none of the city's streets, roads, alleys or courtyards, or any of the external doors, internal stairwells and windows, but moved horizontally through walls and vertically through holes blasted in ceilings and floors. This form of movement, described by the military as "infestation", seeks to redefine inside as outside, and domestic interiors as thoroughfares. The IDF's strategy of "walking through walls" involves a conception of the city as not just the site but also the very medium of warfare "a flexible, almost liquid medium that is forever contingent and in flux. [28]

So what does it follow from all this? Not, of course, the nonsensical accusation of Deleuze and Guattari as theorists of militaristic colonization - but the conclusion that the conceptual machine articulated by Deleuze and Guattari, far from being simply "subversive," also fits the (military, economic, and ideologico-political) operational mode of today's capitalism. - How, then, are we to revolutionize an order whose very principle is constant self-revolutionizing? This, perhaps, is THE question today, and this is the way one should REPEAT Mao, re-inventing his message to the hundreds of millions of the anonymous downtrodden, a simple and touching message of courage: "Bigness is nothing to be afraid of. The big will be overthrown by the small. The small will become big." The same message of courage sustains also Mao's (in)famous stance towards a new atomic world war:

We stand firmly for peace and against war. But if the imperialists insist on unleashing another war, we should not be afraid of it. Our attitude on this question is the same as our attitude towards any disturbance: first, we are against it; second, we are not afraid of it. The First World War was followed by the birth of the Soviet Union with a population of 200 million. The Second World War was followed by the emergence of the socialist camp with a combined population of 900 million. If the imperialists insist on launching a third world war, it is certain that several hundred million more will turn to socialism, and then there will not be much room left on earth for the imperialists.

It is all too easy to dismiss these lines as empty posturing of a leader ready to sacrifice millions for his political goals (the extension ad absurdum of Mao's ruthless decision to starve tens of millions to death in the late 1950s) - the other side of this dismissive attitude is the basic message: "we should not be afraid." Is this not the only correct attitude apropos war: "first, we are against it; second, we are not afraid of it"? There is definitely something terrifying about this attitude - however, this terror is nothing less than the condition of freedom.

Notes:
[....]

[25] Was Che Guevara's withdrawal from all official functions, even from Cuban citizenship, in 1965, in order to dedicate himself to world revolution - this suicidal gesture of cutting the links with the institutional universe - really an ACT? Or, was it an escape from the impossible task of the positive construction of socialism, from remaining faithful to the CONSEQUENCES of the revolution, namely, an implicit admission of failure?

[26] Brian Massumi, "Navigating Movements," in Hope, ed. Mary Zournazi, New York: Routledge 2002, p. 224.

[27] See the report "Renewed Faith," Time, May 8 2006, p. 34-35.

[28] Eyal Weizman, "Israeli Military Using Post-Structuralism as 'Operational Theory'," available online at www.frieze.com.

Karatani on Earthquake and Japan

From "Earthquake and Japan"
by Kojin Karatani
http://www.kojinkaratani.com/en/article/earthquake-and-japan.html
[....]
It is commonly thought that when order dissipates, a Hobbesian natural state arises in which people behave as wolves toward one another. The reality, however, is that people who regarded one another with fear when living in the social order created by the state form communities of mutual aid amid the chaos following disaster, a spontaneous type of order that differs from that which exists under the state.

It was this type of community that was born in the aftermath of the Kobe earthquake. Yet Japan's particular historical experience also came into play. For the ruins of the earthquake strongly evoked the psychological conditions following World War II, when people came together to reflect upon the war and the history of modern Japan that led to it. The "paradise" formed in the wake of the disaster, however, was short-lived, and the memory of the war disappeared along with it.

When order was restored following the Kobe earthquake, the dominant tendency was to try to use the disaster as a business opportunity to effect economic revival. Prime Minister Koizumi encouraged neoliberalist policies all the more, and he trampled on the postwar pacifist constitution by pushing through the dispatch of Self-Defense forces to Iraq. Yet the end result was continuing economic stagnation and a widening gap between rich and poor. As a result, the Liberal Democratic Party, which had held sway for so long, yielded power to the Democratic Party of Japan. Yet the new administration was unable to embark on a new course.

This was the situation in which the recent earthquake occurred. Once more, the disaster evoked the burnt-out ruins after the war. In addition, the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plant cannot help but call forth memories of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Postwar Japanese have had a strong, even excessive, aversion to nuclear weapons and to nuclear power in general. Needless to say, there was strong opposition to the building of nuclear power plants in Japan. Nonetheless, following the oil shocks of the 1970s, the state affirmed and encouraged the development of nuclear power plants. Early campaigns proclaimed the necessity of nuclear power for economic growth, while in recent years it was claimed that nuclear power could help reduce carbon emissions and therefore benefit the environment. That such claims were a form of criminal deception on the part of industry and government has been made all too clear by recent events.

In the ruins of postwar Japan, people reflected upon the path the country had taken in modern times. Standing against the Western powers, modern Japan strived to achieve the status of a great military power. The shattering of this dream in the nation's defeat led to another goal, to become a great economic power. The ultimate collapse of this ambition has been brought into sharp relief by the recent earthquake. Even without the earthquake, it was fated for destruction. In truth, it is not the Japanese economy alone that is failing. In the early 1970s, global capitalism entered a period of serious recession, and since then it has been unable to overcome the decline in the general rate of profit. Capital has sought a way out of this decline through global financial investment and by extending industrial investment into what had formerly been "third world" regions. The collapse of the former strategy has been exposed by the so-called Lehman shock. Meanwhile, the accelerated development of countries such as China, India, and Brazil, continues. Yet such accelerated growth cannot last long. It is inevitable that wages will rise and a limit on consumption be reached.

For this reason, global capitalism will no doubt become unsustainable in 20 or 30 years. The end of capitalism, however, is not the end of human life. Even without capitalist economic development or competition, people are able to live. Or rather, it is only then that people will, for the first time, truly be able to live. Of course, the capitalist economy will not simply come to an end. Resisting such an outcome, the great powers will no doubt continue to fight over natural resources and markets. Yet I believe that the Japanese should never again choose such a path. Without the recent earthquake, Japan would no doubt have continued its hollow struggle for great power status, but such a dream is now unthinkable and should be abandoned. It is not Japan's demise that the earthquake has produced, but rather the possibility of its rebirth. It may be that only amid the ruins can people gain the courage to stride down a new path.

(March 16, 2011)

(Translated by Seiji M. Lippit)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism

23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism is a nice little book from University of Cambridge economist Ha-Joon Chang, incidentally a supporter of capitalism, and is worth a careful read. It is easy to follow and avoids difficult jargon.

Chang's focus is primarily on a critique of "free market" ideology and policies, which in his introduction he identifies as the cause of the current economic and financial catastrophe (xiii).

He also notes that over the past 30 years the countries that have implemented "free market" reforms have seen "slower growth, rising inequality and heightened instability." And in countries, like the U.S. where stagnant wages in the face of increased working hours, this dour economic picture has been covered up by expanded credit – a system that has now collapsed (xiv). Countries like China and India, by contrast, refused to go all out with "free market" reforms and have consequently seen tremendous growth (xv).

Chang goes to special pains to emphasize his pro-capitalist credentials, calling it "the best economic system that humanity has invented." His goal is to improve it.

Of course, Marxists respond by noting that while reforms that increase equality, reduce exploitation, or generally improve economic conditions for working families are good policies to pursue, "free market" ideology and policies are not the sole problem or glitch in an otherwise well-functioning capitalist system.

"Free market" ideology and policies, while they specificallyare designed to increase the intensity of exploitation and inequality and to inflict great damage, are a but symptom of the basic problem with capitalism. This will sound abstract, but "free market" policies are put in place when social democratic policies – generally the social wage for working families – seem (from the perspective of capitalists) to inhibit the maximization of profits. This explains why some far-right politicians today want to eliminate child labor laws, civil rights protections, health and safety protections, healthcare coverage, anti-poverty programs, etc. They use the cover of balancing budgets to do so.

Consider this perspective: there is NO urgent fiscal reason for emphasizing a balanced federal budget. Indeed, paying for social goods (like education, healthcare, infrastructure) with debt that will ultimately be repaid with inflated dollars actually makes more fiscal sense that paying for everything now with more expensive dollars. Contrary to rhetoric of right-wing politicians, a national debt is nothing like your family budget.

The point is that capitalists would like to shift resources away from working families – especially during a crisis – in order to ensure their bottom line, hence massive new tax cuts as the primary if only real goal of the congressional Republicans. This power differential and the private appropriation of social wealth is a defining feature of capitalism that is contradicted by another defining element: a system of commodity production depends on consumption by workers for its sustenance. And as exploitation increases (wages fall) that commodity system is jeopardized, demanding further exploitation to protect profits.

A strong safety net, planning and public ownership are the best protections against this inherent capitalist contradiction, and as Chang notes, despite the revulsion of the "free marketeers" toward these protections, they are always present in capitalist economies – to one degree or another with varying amounts of success. Primarily they serve the interests of the most powerful, Chang admits, and it is up to everyday folks to understand what's going on and why in order to deploy their "active economic citizenship" to counter this trend.

In the end, Chang explains that "human decisions" rather than market "forces" cause economic outcomes. Human decisions led to the decline in real wages, technological developments, choices to allow manufacturing sectors to collapse, and the emergence of financialization of the economy as separate from the "real economy."

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Marx Reloaded

Sen. Bernie Sanders: The Worst Corporate Tax Avoiders

USA: Right-Wing Indoctrination

Mike Huckabee Wants Americans to Be Indoctrinated at Gunpoint

By B.E. Wilson, AlterNet

31 March 11

id Mike Huckabee just flush his presidential aspirations down the proverbial toilet? Well, if American mainstream media has an ounce of journalistic gumption remaining the answer most certainly would be "yes". Huckabee has just been caught on video, at a Christian supremacist conference, stating that Americans should be forcibly indoctrinated at gunpoint. The organization which hosted the "Rediscover God In America" conference, United in Purpose, has edited Huckabee's comment from footage of his speech, but not before People For The American Way's Kyle Mantyla captured the unedited footage, in which Mike Huckabee states, "I almost wish that there would be, like, a simultaneous telecast, and all Americans would be forced - forced at gunpoint no less - to listen to every David Barton message, and I think our country would be better for it."

David Barton is the leading promoter of a brand of falsified American history altered to support the claim that America was founded as a Christian, rather than a secular, nation. As Chris Rodda, who has authored an entire book debunking Barton's brand of pseudo-history, writes,

I was quite surprised ... to come across a video clip from this conference on the People for the American Way (PFAW) Right Wing Watch blog with the headline "Huckabee: Americans Should Be Forced, At Gunpoint, To Learn From David Barton." I had watched Huckabee's speech. How on earth could I have missed a statement like that? Well, I didn't. It had been edited out of the webcast that I had watched.

Kyle Mantyla over at PFAW's Right Wing Watch had recorded Huckabee's speech when it was streamed live on Thursday, and posted the "forced at gunpoint" clip on Friday. By Saturday, when I watched the webcast on the United in Purpose website, that part of Huckabee's speech had been edited out.

The webcast that I saw showed Barton leaving the stage as he ended his presentation, then the screen going black for a moment, and then what appeared to be the beginning of Huckabee's speech. What was edited out was Barton returning to the stage to introduce Huckabee, and the first two minutes and forty-five seconds of Huckabee's speech, during which Huckabee made his "gunpoint" comment and praised David Lane, the man behind all of the American "Renewal" and "Restoration" projects that have popped up across the country during the past few elections.

[below: the unedited footage from Huckabee's speech, with the "joke" about indoctrinating Americans at gunpoint. Footage courtesy of Kyle Mantyla of Rightwing Watch, who might have almost single-handedly consigned Huckabee's presidential hopes to the dustbin of history.]



I should also note that what Chris Rodda has to say about this has especial weight given that she's arguably been the most indefatigable author to challenge David Barton's sprawling falsified American history oeuvre, as a Talk To Action site search on Rodda's extensive posts debunking Barton would suggest. Chris Rodda is author of the book Liars For Jesus: The Religious Right's Alternate Version of American History which prominently features David Barton, head of Wallbuilders and arguably king of the "liars for Jesus". Rodda is also Head Researcher for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.