Monthly Archives: June 2010
Just spotted this animated version of a recent David Harvey lecture up on his website. Really nice way of visually representing the lecture. Besides looking nice Harvey is dealing with an important topic, namely an analysis of (false) readings of the crisis and his argument for its underlying structural reasons. After dismissing species, cultural, institutional and the state of current neo-liberal theory as valid reasons he puts forward his own argument about its basis within the structural processes of capital. I’ve been a fan of Harvey for a while now and in my opinion his analysis of the geographical nature of capital is vital in understanding what is happening today. One strength of this lecture is his shying away from discussing solutions. This is helpful given his tendency to hark back towards some form of enlightened social contract between labour and capital as a solution to the present. (see his “A Brief History of Neo-Liberalism”)
Harvey see’s the crisis as an internal one related to the very dynamic of capital itself. The search for constant compound growth (I.E. growth on previous growth) results in various methods for ensuring this. Since the seventies there has been a systemic attack on labours claims to a portion of social wealth (particularly in the global North which has previously seen a higher portion of the proceeds of production ensured via trade unions), this has consequently led to the rise of indebtedness for which we are paying the price now. As wages are squeezed yet value creation has continued to rise a crisis of underconsumption has been avoided via a debt financed consumer economy, with this looking increasingly toxic now the crisis has been shifted towards a sovereign debt crisis as states around the world tighten their belts at out expense. As Harvey, quoting Engels, is correct to say Capital cannot solve its internal contradictions, merely temporarily “fix” or alleviate it spatially and/or temporally (an argument he developed in the 1980’s). As more capital sloshes around our financial networks, is temporally displaced via urban development projects or spatiall reorganised via the huge amounts of capital flowing into developing states such as China the greater will be the pressure to find profitable ways for this capital to be reinvested. Paraodoxically the more wealth human society posseses the greater the need to eke out even more social wealth, when this hits barriers (be they environmental or social) the disciplining of human populations is often deemed necessary. Ours is a crisis not of poverty but of abundance, the first step to relieving it is in recognising this.
Spotted this interesting discussion posted up by Shift and I thought I’d throw my ten pence worth in as well.
So, the world cup is upon us. The air waves, newspapers and broadband cables are humming with the sound of vuvuzelas (the ubiquitous plastic horns which FIFA are already considering banning) and England, once again, fail to inspire hope. The two authors to which I am responding have covered several important points, namely, that in a world in which geographical space is divided into discreet political territories supporting the side which happens to be organised around this specific territory does not compromise an anti-statist position. Supporting the England football team in itself does not make one a supporter of the nation state. The hostility many involved in our movements show towards football and the world cup shows a misunderstanding of the nature of football. The state, much like Capitalism, isn’t a belief system, it exists regardless of us criticising it. However much we may dislike it, football will continue to be organised around specific politico-geographical units.
However, I disagree with Boyd’s statement that we should “feel the unity” of the world cup, that we should indulge in what Carly Lyes labels “plastic nationalism”. The “unity” of the nation state is based upon the physical or political exclusion of many, be that migrants on the perimeter of fortress Europe, or Christians in Iraq. Whilst the international politics of the World Cup certainly aren’t as sinister as anti-immigration politics or the expansionist nationalism we witness in many areas of the world, they still function as a nation building project. Nation states are social constructs which must be continually reinforced. This can be materially, border controls and passports to define who belongs and who doesn’t, or cultural and discursive, the introduction of national anthems, flags, authors etc. Global events such as the World Cup provide states, in particular the hosts, with the opportunity to consolidate their national identity. This can happen in many ways, from China’s acceptance of its vital role in the global economy (The 2008 Olympics) to the German world cup in which signs of patriotism were once again seen to be positives (prompting the response of the Anti-German’s with their “hit”, Ten German Bombers). There in South Africa it appears the World Cup is being portrayed as a chance for South Africa to demonstrate its success post-Apartheid. Alongside football analysis, the coverage has been focusing on the progress and development which is happening in South Africa as it seeks to rub shoulders with other newly industrialising states such as Brazil and Russia. Of course this ignores the slum clearances which took place to develop the stadiums, the mistreatment of stewards which resulted in clashes with police and the rising inequality. Although the skin colour of the managers of capital in South Africa may have changed the underlying logic of capitalism (unsurprisingly) has not.
Perhaps then the attitude that those who wish to enjoy the world cup whilst maintaining their anti-statist politics should take is one familiar to England supporters (no, not the riots), that of cynical support. Like the nation state itself, the rainbow image of unity projected by international sporting events such as the World Cup and the Olympics is based upon multiple levels of exclusion, from those who lose their homes to make way for new stadiums to those unable to afford expensive tickets for matches. However, this is only the political context in which football (as a social product) must be framed. So, enjoy the football, support who you want but don’t forget the context in which it will be played out.
What is going no with the Guardians coverage of the Bilderberg conference in Catalonia?
They’ve been giving a lot of coverage to Charlie Skeltons Bilderblog http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/series/charlie-skelton-bilderblog, indeed two of his posts are in the Guardian’s website top 5 posts. This blog comes correct with the usual Guardian house style when dealing with (peaceful) activists. At times it felt like being on Safari in Spain with frequent reference to the increasingly exotic pants being worn by the heroic activists (who are apparently our best friends) attempting to alert the world to the architects of a new world order just the other side of the security fences.
I mean, no wonder the Bilderberg delegates are embarrassed. They’re strategising to make the world a better place – who’d want to be seen doing that?
These activists, and Charlie Skelton apparently, have seen through the facade of late capitalism. The global economy is being shaped by powerful conspiracies in a host of exotic, secluded resorts. Whilst it may be comforting to believe that a cabal of the worlds mightiest are scheming to rule the world and that, therefore, social liberation requires us only to realise this and thwart them, it is not very accurate.
Seeing capitalism as something external, as a conspiracy fails to deal with the reality of our social existence. But an analysis based on the domination of our abstract labour time doesn’t sell as many papers does it?