Saturday, April 29, 2006

 

I couldn't have said it better myself!

This article questions the "inevitability of globalization" argument so prevalent among neo-libreal pundits. Here's the main argument: "Advocates of the new model capitalism, and the globalization project that goes with it, like to present it as an expression of historical necessity, rooted in classical economics and embodying irrefutable laws. It is progress itself, they say. Those who do not conform to the rules of modern market capitalism, and do not offer the human sacrifices of lost employment and diminished living standards that the market demands, will fall by the wayside of history.
This is simply untrue, although most of those who say it undoubtedly believe it. The new American and British market capitalist model, which dictated deregulation of industry and privatization of state enterprises in the 1970s, and globalization of international markets in the 1990s, exists as a result of free political decisions and ideological choices that were anything but inevitable. History may one day describe them as having been perverse and socially destructive.
Two of the most important influences on the new capitalism were academic in origin, and the third, improbably, was an instance of romanticized egoism.
The first influence was monetarist economic theory. This in principle excluded social considerations from economic policy decision. Government economic policy was to be made chiefly in response to a single objectively determinable factor, the money supply. The effect of this new theory was to "dehumanize" economic policy, previously held to be closely related to political considerations, as was the case with the Keynesian tradition that monetarism challenged.
The second influence was primarily political, a reaction to 20th-century totalitarianism. Working in London in the 1930s, the Austrian political theorist and economist Friedrich von Hayek began as a critic of Keynes, but eventually widened his argument so as to assert as a matter of principle that state intervention in society, even in democratic political systems, amounted to a "Road to Serfdom" (the title of a book he published in 1944).
State intervention in economy and society threatened human liberty. The free market produced economic efficiency and human freedom. Hayek had a great influence on Margaret Thatcher.
The third influence was an eccentric one, important in the United States. It was the creation by a Russian-American novelist, Ayn Rand, of a "philosophy" of heroic egoism and pursuit of individual self-interest (against the mob and the weak) by superior persons. Her ideas responded to the longings of impressionable college students (including Alan Greenspan) and her views became something of a mid-century American cult, if not a sect. " For the full text, see here: http://www.commondreams.org/views06/0429-26.htm

Sunday, February 26, 2006

 

Qui serait le plus riche?

L'américain moyen sera deux fois plus riche que l'allemand moyen ou le français moyen? C'est au moin le constat de The Decline and Fall of Europe, Fareed Zakaria, que mon ami Frenchman in London, a annonce sur son blog, http://w-next.typepad.com/whatsnext/Ceci est peut-être vrai, je l'avoue, mais seulement si on ne prend pas en compte l'américain "médian" (j'espère que c'est le même mot en français); je veux dire par là que les grandes richesses aux USA écrasent toute tentative d'établir une image adequate de l'américain "moyen". Par exemple, les revenues "moyennes" de la famille moyenne américaine est à peu près 70.000 dollars par an pour une famille de 4; mais la revenue de la famille "médiane" (c'est-à-dire numériquement moyenne) est moins de 40.000 dollars pour 4 personnes. Ce qui est le plus grave ce sont les taux de pauvreté, calculé de la même façon en France et aux Etats-Unis. "Le monde" s'inquiète que la France a un taux de pauvreté vers le 6,3pourcent (http://www.lemonde.fr/web/article/0,1-0@2-3226,36-744748,0.html), mais aux USA c'est plus que le double! 12,7pourcent, ce qui veut dire que maintenant, en 2006, si on juge, non des plus riches, comme le ferait un économiste, mais des plus pauvres, oui je suis de gauche, l'Europe est deux fois plus riches (ou deux fois moins pauvre) que les Etats-Unis...

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

 

Oh the horror!

UNICEF bombs the smurfs! Rivers of blue blood will flow when the mega ton bomb hits their little village. And to think, it's all for the children...

Saturday, October 01, 2005

 

Mixed metaphors: where's my web surfboard?

New technologies confuse languages as much as they do the people who speak them. I have already written of the strangeness of the word "blog", but when I think about my own blog and its (my) obsession with places, I am reminded of the web's mixed metaphors. Already the web or the inter-net (la toile), is an interactive network composed of individual "sites" (itself composed of "pages"). Yet the threads of this web are never seen, the "links" in the internet chain remain simple highlighted hieroglyphs, like mini Aladin's lamps that instanteously transport us to far away places when we wave our prosthetic digital hands over their enigmatic signs. These hands on the screen are metonymically called "mice" because of the hardware used to manipulate them.
Nietzsche, in "Truth and Lies in the Ultra-moral Sense", reminds us that all words, all language, derives from metaphors, metaphors which we have forgotten. Language is always imprecise, it is always different from the object it describes. The seemingly idiotic choice of metaphors used to describe the unfamiliarness of the internet (how do you surf a web? Why aren't web pages web points or web waves? Is their an internet tide or undertow?), is a constant reminder that when we say anything we speak in metaphor. The very velocity with which new technologies are born and die guarantees that the terminology remains strange, the metaphors mixed and awkward, and that is how it should be...

 

The mystery of atmosphere

What is it that makes me so attached to certain places and so repelled by others? I seem to have an overly developped sensibility to the atmospheres which surround me at any given moment. I have been blessed in the past, some would say spoiled, since I have lived in some of the most beautiful places in the world. Now that I live far from anything of natural or manmade beauty, I feel a constant sense of horror. Now that I am in the middle West, the plainness of people, landscapes and buildings seems to reflect a deeper reality, that of a plainness of speech and more insidiously thought and soul. I am afraid that ugliness is contagious, that I will start to blend in here. After a while, I will start buying clothes at K-mart and eating at Red Lobster for my birthday... I know for most, this sentiment is only a factor of my own incurable snobbishness. And yet, as a snob, I am not alone. Nietzsche, who's memory and thought this blog is of course indirectly dedicated, theoriezed that great philosophy and great art was only possible in the geographic arc that extends from Rome, through Tuscany and then over Southern France and ending in Paris. Everywhere else, the atmosphere (too hot or too cold) extinguishes the spirit, stiffles hope, and forces man to focus on his survival. If one were to translate (move across) F.N.'s European geography to an American one, we would get the very familiar coastal divide, or the red/blue America. Maybe thought is only possible in blue states (maybe this explains much).

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

 

Immediacy and intimacy

I am in the process of discovering the world of blogging, led here by close friends who have become fascinated by its possibilities. Blog is short for "web log" which sounds too technical, too bureaucratic. It has since been transformed into something more intimate, visceral and political, without, however losing the element of time implied by the word "log". When I "log" in to my blog, I am alone, in a hurry, writing for a, presumably, anonymous public who can then read my blog at and for leisure. Part of the intimacy of the blog comes from this exchange of loneliness, my being alone communicated to your being alone, through writing (it seems like more people actually write blogs than read them). Yet this intimacy is also linked to immediacy, both because blogs are written so quickly that our rational logic does not get in the way of our deeper emotions and unconscious thoughts, and because the web itself breaks down barriers, is an "immediate" medium.
I am constantly preoccupied with perfection, with refined style and grammar. As a professor, I have to police the inaccuracies of my students. But maybe their problems, our imperfections, come, not from too little reflection, but from too much. As in the book "Blink," too much logical thought can confuse our intuitions and emotions, causing us to second guess what we really know ho to do (react). Is the blog a new way to write in the blink? Maybe there's nothing new about it. We all know surrealist automatic writing techniques, but the great Stendhal wrote his masterpiece of fiction, "The Charterhouse of Parma," in 52 days. That's 625 pages of perfection in 52 days. In 1832. Without a typwriter, laundrymat, microwave, or any other "time-saving" device. Let's speed up our blogs, and keep blinking, keep writing...

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

 

Introductions: my mountains

Pisa, Italy
Rue Monge, Paris
Rue Guy de Maupassant, Paris
Point Sur, Big Sur California
Cambridge, MA

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