Subject : ON UTOPIA: NO-WHERE IS NO-WHERE IS NO-WHERE IS NOW-HERE . . . .
23 October 2010
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
Many years ago during my high school days in South Texas I played basketball, and I remember once when our coach, who was married to a genuine Southern Belle, drove us in their large car to a night game in another town. It was a long, hypnotic drive across the South Texas plains. The team we were going to play that night had many good African American athletes, and our coach's spouse took it upon herself to warn us: "Don't let their sweat get on you; it really smells bad, and you can't get rid of the odor once it's on you." She went on to advise us, if any fighting occurs on the basketball court, "don't hit them in the head, they can't feel a thing. Kick them in the shins, above their ankles; that's the only place they can feel any pain." Our coach who was driving the car, appeared a little uncomfortable, but he let his pretty wife continue. She was really aroused by our playing a black team in this tournament, and she thought that she had a lot of useful information which she had acquired from her childhood living in Mississippi. Her husband, besides being a basketball coach at our high school, was assigned the duty of beating Spanish-speaking male students when they were caught speaking their native language on the school grounds. (They were always told theirs was not a real language, not the one spoken in Spain.) The schizogenic culture of racism is not uncommon. It was effectively communicated in my hometown that the only thing worse than a Black or a Hispanic was a white person who defended them. He/she was traitor to their race, a despised outcast for identifying with these inferior people.
My high school days in South Texas, until my escape at the age of 17, were a series of lessons of "negative freedom": how to avoid tyranny, how to resist abuse. It was only later that I began learning an approach to "positive freedom" : how to fulfil oneself, to live creatively with friends and family. (These two types of freedom, of course, are not mutually exclusive, but they do require different sets of tactics and logistics.)
The classic Hollywood musical, My Fair Lady (1956) arrived late at the South Texas drive-in theatres. The adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's (1856-1950) play, Pygmalion (1912), by writer Alan Jay Lerner (1918-1986) and composer Frederick Loewe (1901-1988), produced Eliza Doolittle, who became a thrilling cultural icon for white children hoping for individual transcendence into the world of the privileged bourgeoisie, thus fulfilling the historic bourgeois promise of "equal opportunity" and individual upward mobility through hard work and acquiring "the Queen's English." This transcendence, for example, is expressed in the film's song, I Could Have Danced All Night, sung originally by Audry Hepburn (1929-1993):
I could have danced all night!
I could have danced all night!
And still have begged for more.
I could have spread my wings
And done a thousand things I've never done before.
I'll never know What made it so exciting;
Why all at once My heart took flight. I only know when he
Began to dance with me I could have danced,
danced, danced all night.
For example, rather than conceptualizing "The dog-beater beat the dog," Leibniz would conceptualize the man carrying a stick, walking silently up to the dog from behind while it was absorbed in enjoying its meal, raising his stick into the air without a noise, and bringing it down hard upon the dog's back to inflict maximum pain over the pleasure in the animal's soul: "The man dog-beat the animal enjoying his meal." (Thus, the verb is the predicate and it is irreducible to the copula and to the attribute.) (The Fold, p.60-61)
What happened before the world lost its principles? Deleuze suggests this historic trajectory of Leibniz's thought:
According to Leibniz, "God has created not Adam-the-sinner, but the world in which Adam has sinned." Deleuze offers this interpretation of Leibniz, as "God's attorney" in the crises besetting the era of the Baroque:
[T]he roll of the dice is the power of affirming Chance, of thinking of chance in sum, which is above all not a principle, but the absence of all principle. . . . To think without principle, in the absence of God and in the absence of man himself, has become the perilous task of a child-player who topples the old Master of play, and who makes incompossibles enter into the same world, shattered (the board is broken to bits...).
But what happened in this long history of 'nihilism,' before the world lost its principles? At a point close to us human Reason had to collapse, like the Kantian refuge, the last refuge of principles. It falls victim to 'neurosis.' But still, before, a psychotic episode was necessary. A crisis and collapse of all theological Reason had to take place. That is where the Baroque assumes its position: Is there some way of saying the theological ideal as the moment when it is being contested on all sides, and when the world cannot stop accumulating its 'proofs' against it, ravages and miseries, at a time when the earth will soon shake and tremble . . . ? The Baroque solution is the following: we shall multiply principles --we can always slip a new one out from under our cuffs --and in this way we will change their use. We will not have to ask what available object corresponds to a given luminous principle, but what hidden principle responds to whatever object is given, that is to say, to this or that 'perplexing' case. Principles as such will be put to reflective use.. A case being given, we shall invert its principle. It is a transformation from Law to universal Jurisprudence.(pp.76-77)
The true nature of the Leibnizian game . . . is the proliferation of principles. . . . [I]t is a nonbattle closer to guerrilla warfare than a war of extermination, more like go than chess or checkers: You don't catch your adversary in order to reduce him to absence, you encircle his presence to neutralize him . . . . The Baroque is just that, at a time just before the world loses its principles. It is the splendid moment when Some Thing is kept rather than nothing, and where response to the world's misery is made through an excess of principles, a hubris of principles. . . .
Leibniz's optimism is really strange. If [the best of all possible worlds] exists, it is not because it is the best, but because it is rather the inverse; it is the best because it is, because it is the one that is. The philosopher is still not the Inquisitor he will soon become with empiricism, and he is even less the Judge he will become with Kant (the tribunal of Reason). He is a Lawyer, or God's attorney. He defends God's Cause, following the word that Leibniz invents, 'theodicy.' Surely the justification of God in the face of evil has always been a philosophical commonplace. But the Baroque is a long moment of crisis, in which ordinary consolation no longer has much value. There results a collapse of the world; the lawyer has to rebuild it, exactly the same world, but on another stage and in respect to new principles capable of justifying it (whence jurisprudence). An aggravated justification has to correspond to the enormity of the crisis: the world must be the best, not only in its totality, but in its detail or in all of its instances.
We clearly witness a schizophrenic reconstruction: God's attorney convenes characters who reconstitute the world with their inner, so-called autoplactic modifications. Such are the monads, or Leibniz's Selves, automata, each of which draws from its depths the entire world and handles its relations with the outside or with others as an uncoiling of the mechanism of its own spring, of its own prearranged spontaneity. Monads have to be conceived as dancing. But the dance is the Baroque dance, in which the dancers are automata: there we have an entire 'pathos of distance,' like the invisible distance between two monads (space); the meeting between the two of them becomes a parade, or development, of their respective spontaneities insofar as their distance is upheld; actions and reactions give way to a concatenation of postures allotted now and again through distance (Mannerism).(pp.77-78)
The 7 items below reflect our contemporary multiple crises. Some of us may find this information a useful opportunity to follow the Zen Master's lesson, in which he raises a stick above his disciple's head and utters: "I will hit you if you move; I will hit you if your don't move; and I will hit you anyway." This lesson might be repeated many times before the student learns to stop cringing in panicked anticipation of the blow he/she is about to receive and to simply reach up and disarm the would-be assailant. The impact of these events below might inspire some CEIMSA readers to recognize good utopian teaching when it appears within the cracks and crevices of our pathological culture and serves to prepare students to reappropriate their lives, to quickly identify specific instances when Nowhere can be found to exist here and now . . . .
Item A., from Howard Zinn's Voices of a People's History of the United States (2004), is a series of dramatic readings, including John Sales' rendition of Bartolomé de Las Cases' report from Hispaniola in 1542.
Item B., from In These Times, is an article by Noam Chomsky on the role of China in the "New World Order."
Item C., sent to us by Edward Herman, is an article by Charles Ferguson on Lawrence Summers' role in the international economic debacle, called "Neo-Liberalism."
ItemD. is a The Real News Network Interview with Muhammad Junaid on the US war in Afghanistan/Pakistan.
Item E., again from TRNN, is a discussion on contemporary journalism by Paul Jay, talking this month to labor union organizers at The Labour College of Canada.
Item F. is a message from Grenoble graduate student, James Dalrymple sharing two documentary films by British filmmaker, Adam Curtis, director of the famous Century of the Self, and now : The Power of Nighmare and The Trap: What Happened to our Dream of Freedom, also now available on the Internet.
Item G. is a piece on perceptions, communications and logocentrism in the social context of monopoly capitalism, by Welsh university professor Daniel Chandler.
And finally, we share with CEIMSA readers the late George Carlin's inimitable political satire, sent to us by Queens College Professor of Political Science, John Gerassi (NYC) :
from In These Times :
Date: 5 October 2010
Subject: Chomsky Archives at In These Times.
Of all the "threats" to world order, the most consistent is democracy, unless it is under imperial control . . . .
The Obama administration recently announced that Larry Summers is resigning as director of the National Economic Council and will return to Harvard early next year. His imminent departure raises several questions: Who will replace him? What will he do next? But more important, it's a chance to consider the hugely damaging conflicts of interest of the senior academic economists who move among universities, government, and banking.
Summers is unquestionably brilliant, as all who have dealt with him, including myself, quickly realize. And yet rarely has one individual embodied so much of what is wrong with economics, with academe, and indeed with the American economy. For the past two years, I have immersed myself in those worlds in order to make a film, Inside Job, that takes a sweeping look at the financial crisis. And I found Summers everywhere I turned.
Consider: As a rising economist at Harvard and at the World Bank, Summers argued for privatization and deregulation in many domains, including finance. Later, as deputy secretary of the treasury and then treasury secretary in the Clinton administration, he implemented those policies. Summers oversaw passage of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which repealed Glass-Steagall, permitted the previously illegal merger that created Citigroup, and allowed further consolidation in the financial sector. He also successfully fought attempts by Brooksley Born, chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission in the Clinton administration, to regulate the financial derivatives that would cause so much damage in the housing bubble and the 2008 economic crisis. He then oversaw passage of the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which banned all regulation of derivatives, including exempting them from state antigambling laws.
After Summers left the Clinton administration, his candidacy for president of Harvard was championed by his mentor Robert Rubin, a former CEO of Goldman Sachs, who was his boss and predecessor as treasury secretary. Rubin, after leaving the Treasury Departmentwhere he championed the law that made Citigroup's creation legalbecame both vice chairman of Citigroup and a powerful member of Harvard's governing board.
Over the past decade, Summers continued to advocate financial deregulation, both as president of Harvard and as a University Professor after being forced out of the presidency. During this time, Summers became wealthy through consulting and speaking engagements with financial firms. Between 2001 and his entry into the Obama administration, he made more than $20-million from the financial-services industry. (His 2009 federal financial-disclosure form listed his net worth as $17-million to $39-million.)
Summers remained close to Rubin and to Alan Greenspan, a former chairman of the Federal Reserve. When other economists began warning of abuses and systemic risk in the financial system deriving from the environment that Summers, Greenspan, and Rubin had created, Summers mocked and dismissed those warnings. In 2005, at the annual Jackson Hole, Wyo., conference of the world's leading central bankers, the chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, Raghuram Rajan, presented a brilliant paper that constituted the first prominent warning of the coming crisis. Rajan pointed out that the structure of financial-sector compensation, in combination with complex financial products, gave bankers huge cash incentives to take risks with other people's money, while imposing no penalties for any subsequent losses. Rajan warned that this bonus culture rewarded bankers for actions that could destroy their own institutions, or even the entire system, and that this could generate a "full-blown financial crisis" and a "catastrophic meltdown."
When Rajan finished speaking, Summers rose up from the audience and attacked him, calling him a "Luddite," dismissing his concerns, and warning that increased regulation would reduce the productivity of the financial sector. (Ben Bernanke, Tim Geithner, and Alan Greenspan were also in the audience.)
Soon after that, Summers lost his job as president of Harvard after suggesting that women might be innately inferior to men at scientific work. In another part of the same speech, he had used laissez-faire economic theory to argue that discrimination was unlikely to be a major cause of women's underrepresentation in either science or business. After all, he argued, if discrimination existed, then others, seeking a competitive advantage, would have access to a superior work force, causing those who discriminate to fail in the marketplace. It appeared that Summers had denied even the possibility of decades, indeed centuries, of racial, gender, and other discrimination in America and other societies. After the resulting outcry forced him to resign, Summers remained at Harvard as a faculty member, and he accelerated his financial-sector activities, receiving $135,000 for one speech at Goldman Sachs.
Then, after the 2008 financial crisis and its consequent recession, Summers was placed in charge of coordinating U.S. economic policy, deftly marginalizing others who challenged him. Under the stewardship of Summers, Geithner, and Bernanke, the Obama administration adopted policies as favorable toward the financial sector as those of the Clinton and Bush administrationsquite a feat. Never once has Summers publicly apologized or admitted any responsibility for causing the crisis. And now Harvard is welcoming him back.
Summers is unique but not alone. By now we are all familiar with the role of lobbying and campaign contributions, and with the revolving door between industry and government. What few Americans realize is that the revolving door is now a three-way intersection. Summers's career is the result of an extraordinary and underappreciated scandal in American society: the convergence of academic economics, Wall Street, and political power.
Starting in the 1980s, and heavily influenced by laissez-faire economics, the United States began deregulating financial services. Shortly thereafter, America began to experience financial crises for the first time since the Great Depression. The first one arose from the savings-and-loan and junk-bond scandals of the 1980s; then came the dot-com bubble of the late 1990s, the Asian financial crisis; the collapse of Long Term Capital Management, in 1998; Enron; and then the housing bubble, which led to the global financial crisis. Yet through the entire period, the U.S. financial sector grew larger, more powerful, and enormously more profitable. By 2006, financial services accounted for 40 percent of total American corporate profits. In large part, this was because the financial sector was corrupting the political system. But it was also subverting economics.
Over the past 30 years, the economics professionin economics departments, and in business, public policy, and law schoolshas become so compromised by conflicts of interest that it now functions almost as a support group for financial services and other industries whose profits depend heavily on government policy. The route to the 2008 financial crisis, and the economic problems that still plague us, runs straight through the economics discipline. And it's due not just to ideology; it's also about straightforward, old-fashioned money.
Prominent academic economists (and sometimes also professors of law and public policy) are paid by companies and interest groups to testify before Congress, to write papers, to give speeches, to participate in conferences, to serve on boards of directors, to write briefs in regulatory proceedings, to defend companies in antitrust cases, and, of course, to lobby. This is now, literally, a billion-dollar industry. The Law and Economics Consulting Group, started 22 years ago by professors at the University of California at Berkeley (David Teece in the business school, Thomas Jorde in the law school, and the economists Richard Gilbert and Gordon Rausser), is now a $300-million publicly held company. Others specializing in the sale (or rental) of academic expertise include Competition Policy (now Compass Lexecon), started by Richard Gilbert and Daniel Rubinfeld, both of whom served as chief economist of the Justice Department's Antitrust Division in the Clinton administration; the Analysis Group; and Charles River Associates.
In my film you will see many famous economists looking very uncomfortable when confronted with their financial-sector activities; others appear only on archival video, because they declined to be interviewed. You'll hear from:
Martin Feldstein, a Harvard professor, a major architect of deregulation in the Reagan administration, president for 30 years of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and for 20 years on the boards of directors of both AIG, which paid him more than $6-million, and AIG Financial Products, whose derivatives deals destroyed the company. Feldstein has written several hundred papers, on many subjects; none of them address the dangers of unregulated financial derivatives or financial-industry compensation.
Glenn Hubbard, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers in the first George W. Bush administration, dean of Columbia Business School, adviser to many financial firms, on the board of Metropolitan Life ($250,000 per year), and formerly on the board of Capmark, a major commercial mortgage lender, from which he resigned shortly before its bankruptcy, in 2009. In 2004, Hubbard wrote a paper with William C. Dudley, then chief economist of Goldman Sachs, praising securitization and derivatives as improving the stability of both financial markets and the wider economy.
Frederic Mishkin, a professor at the Columbia Business School, and a member of the Federal Reserve Board from 2006 to 2008. He was paid $124,000 by the Icelandic Chamber of Commerce to write a paper praising its regulatory and banking systems, two years before the Icelandic banks' Ponzi scheme collapsed, causing $100-billion in losses. His 2006 federal financial-disclosure form listed his net worth as $6-million to $17-million.
Laura Tyson, a professor at Berkeley, director of the National Economic Council in the Clinton administration, and also on the Board of Directors of Morgan Stanley, which pays her $350,000 per year.
Richard Portes, a professor at London Business School and founding director of the British Centre for Economic Policy Research, paid by the Icelandic Chamber of Commerce to write a report praising Iceland's financial system in 2007, only one year before it collapsed.
And John Campbell, chairman of Harvard's economics department, who finds it very difficult to explain why conflicts of interest in economics should not concern us.
But could he be right? Are these professors simply being paid to say what they would otherwise say anyway? Unlikely. Mishkin and Portes showed no interest whatever in Iceland until they were paid to do so, and they got it totally wrong. Nor do all these professors seem to make policy statements contrary to the financial interests of their clients. Even more telling, they uniformly oppose disclosure of their financial relationships.
The universities avert their eyes and deliberately don't require faculty members either to disclose their conflicts of interest or to report their outside income. As you can imagine, when Larry Summers was president of Harvard, he didn't work too hard to change this.
Now, however, as the national recovery is faltering, Summers is being eased out while Harvard is welcoming him back. How will the academic world receive him? The simple answer: Better than he deserves.
While making my film, we wrote to the presidents and provosts of Harvard, Columbia, and other universities with detailed questions about their conflict-of-interest policies, requesting interviews about the subject. None of them replied, except to refer us to their Web sites. Academe, heal thyself.
Charles Ferguson is director of the new documentary Inside Job and the 2007 documentary No End in Sight: The American Occupation of Iraq.
from The Real News :
Date: 20 October 2010
Subject: Interviews with Muhammad Junaid.
Muhammad Junaid is a researcher and lecturer at the Institute on Management Studies, University of Peshawar in Pakistan. He holds a Masters degree in Business and IT and contributes regularly to blogs. He is currently doing his PHD in entrepreneurship from University of Essex, UK. His particular topic of interests include the identity of Afghan (Pashtun) entrepreneurs. As a Pashtun himself, he communicates the events in Afghanistan and Pakistan by interpreting them with respect to Pashtun culture.
by Daniel Chandler
Professor of communication