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North Atlantic Oscillation

North Atlantic Oscillation

THE DARK ARTS OF FINANCE

The Dark Arts of Finance: Speculation, Collaboration and Artistic Labour

Max Haiven

Wednesday March 19th @ 3-5PM, University of Essex, Room 5B.202

Unlike his contemporaries, and unlike so many of today’s commentators, Marx was unsatisfied with approaches to the financial sector that saw it as merely parasitic (or as any more parasitic than other forms of capitalist accumulation). Rather, he suggested that finance represented one important means by which a key crisis endemic to capitalism might be (temporarily) averted: it provided a forum within which otherwise competitive capitalist actors might pool their wealth in the interests of their class and of the system as a whole. Such an approach to finance, and to the important but often overlooked forms of inadvertent cooperation at the heart of capitalist accumulation, may help us explore the politics and potentialities of artists’ collectives amidst today’s “financialization” of art. What might be gained if we imagined the infiltration of “art” by financial methods, measures and metaphors not as a parasitic imposition, but as new grounds for collaboration? Can we not imagine increasingly individuated and competitive artists as unwittingly enrolled in some form of (re)productive collectivity by the speculative currents of the art market? And, if so, how might this open up new ways to imagine radical collectivities that do not merely seek to return art to its allegedly pre-financialized pedestal, but that seize upon this new situation dialectically?

Max Haiven is an assistant professor in the Division of Art History and Critical Studies at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Canada. His book Cultures of Financialization: Fictitious Capital in Popular Culture and Everyday Life is forthcoming from Palgrave MacMillan in 2014. His book Crises of the Imagination, Crises of Power: Capitalism, Creativity and the Commons will be published by Zed Books in March 2014. More information can be found at http://maxhaiven.com.

Sponsored by the Centre for Work, Organization, and Society.
This seminar is part of an ongoing workshop series on artist collectives.
For more information contact Stevphen Shukaitis: sshuka@essex.ac.uk

 

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‘Human Herbs’ – a song by Cold Hands & Quarter Moon: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Au-vyMtfDAs

Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

Glenn Rikowski at Academia: https://independent.academia.edu/GlennRikowski

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Volumizer: http://glennrikowski.blogspot.com

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Merchant Bankers

STATES, BANKS AND CRISIS: EMERGING FINANCE CAPITALISM IN MEXICO AND TURKEY

States, Banks and Crisis: Emerging Finance Capitalism in Mexico and Turkey.

(2012)

Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing.

By Thomas Marois

 

Monday 29 Oct 2012
17:00 – 18:30

Room 4421

SOAS Main Building, London

 

‘Financialization is as financialization does. It is a mix of the universal characteristics of finance within capitalism, its contemporary powerful hold over, even defining feature of, the neoliberal age, and the myriad of specific global markets and countries into which it has penetrated. In a stunning work of comparative political economy, Marois brilliantly weaves together these aspects of finance drawing on both innovative theoretical insights and primary case study evidence from Turkey and Mexico to furnish what will become a classic and original contribution to the understanding of financialization in the developing world, highlighting both the role of the state in the era of putatively free markets and the possibility, indeed, necessity of alternatives.’ – Ben Fine, SOAS, University of London, UK

Event sponsored by SOAS Development Studies, Neoliberalism, Globalisation, and States Research Cluster and the London International Development Centre

Published first in http://www.historicalmaterialism.org/news/distributed/states-banks-and-crisis-emerging-finance-capitalism-in-mexico-and-turkey-by-thomas-marois-book-launch-29-october-soas

 

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Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

The Flow of Ideas: http://www.flowideas.co.uk

MySpace Profile: http://www.myspace.com/glennrikowski

Rikowski Point: http://rikowskipoint.blogspot.com

Volumizer: http://glennrikowski.blogspot.com

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Money Menace

FOURTH CRITICAL FINANCE STUDIES CONFERENCE

15-17 August 2012
Call for Papers
Essex Business School, University of Essex
Colchester, UK

‘…In what is broadly called commentary, the hierarchy between primary and secondary text plays two roles which are in solidarity with each other. On the one hand it allows the (endless) construction of new discourses. The dominance of the primary text…..is the basis for an open possibility of speaking. But on the other hand the commentary’s only role, whatever the techniques used, is to say at last what was silently articulated “beyond”, in the text. By a paradox which it always displaces but never escapes, the commentary must say for the first time what had, nonetheless, already been said, and must tirelessly repeat what had, however, never been said.’ (Foucault, 1981: 55-56)

Critical Finance Studies Conference

Studying finance critically is playing with / being played by the normative forces of financial apparatuses; risking one’s self in the course of producing radically novel ways of thinking and comprehending finance and, ultimately, of creating new possibilities of life. With this in mind the Fourth Annual Critical Finance Studies conference will be held this year at the University of Essex, Essex Business School, August 15th -17th. With a conference gap in 2011 and with a financial crisis that is still on the agenda, and perhaps even stronger than ever, even compared with 2008, we have decided to devote this year’s conference to the ongoing financial crisis.

The Financial Crisis– futures and pasts re-interpreted

We strongly encourage papers that contribute to our ongoing collaborative research project that seeks to engage finance in new and critical ways and from a variety of perspectives and disciplines. This is especially important when trying to understand the current ‘financial situation’, e.g. how people in everyday work and life are affected, how the environment is affected, how theories cope and adapt in the face of a protracted crisis, and how politicians, professional bodies and professionals respond to or promote change or not. We encourage papers that tackle these sorts of issues and, with this in mind, the conference is organized around three sub-streams: an open stream on theory, method, and critique; a stream on financial imaginaries/imagining finance; and a stream on sustainability/finance (see below for more details). The conference finale will comprise a semi-public and interdisciplinary panel in order to, we hope, create some interesting debates, and inspire new thoughts and create new possibilities of life.

Papers should be submitted to the allocated convenor for each sub-theme. We encourage and welcome passionate academic work in different stages and forms, but they all need to be developed enough so that the audience can be intellectually challenged and involved in discussions. The deadline for an extended abstract (about 1000 words) is 15th April 2012. A review panel will announce their decision of acceptance within two weeks from the deadline. Accepted papers should be submitted in their final form by 1 July 2012.

The conference is organised by Dr Ann-Christine Frandsen at Essex Business School, Essex University in collaboration with Dr Thomas Bay Stockholm University (Forslund and Bay, 2009). The venue will be at the University of Essex, Colchester Campus. The conference language will be English. Discussants will be appointed – introducing papers, chairing sessions, involving participants.

Open Stream: Theory, Method, and Critique

Convenors: Jason Glynos, Department of Government, University of Essex ljglyn@essex.ac.uk & Ann-Christine Frandsen, Accounting Group, Essex Business School, frandsen@essex.ac.uk

We invite papers in finance studies that provoke critical engagement with current practices, open up pathways for effective political mobilization and socio-economic transformation, or sketch out possible counter-visions entailing alternative practices and forms of governance. The open stream is designed to catch contributions that tackle issues that fit the conference theme but do not necessarily fall neatly into one of the titled streams. For example: How might critical engagements with finance tell us something about the way markets are performed in other areas of economic life? What forms of subjectivity might different finance practices promote? How should we think the connections between finance and other sectors of the economy? What role should key concepts such as merit and remuneration, surplus labour, speculation, technology, and competition play in how we theorize and imagine finance?

The politics of financial reform draws on a range of characterizations, diagnoses, and prognoses of the recent financial crisis. Such ‘problematizations’ matter because they set in train path dependencies that invite us to problematize those problematizations themselves. Some, for example, seek to avoid heaping blame onto a few individual ‘bad apples’, one of the most trenchant narratives repeatedly and insistently articulated in the mass media. Some seek to avoid locating the fault with finance as such. Others argue that the financial crisis should be understood as a hubris-induced elite debacle rather than a systems accident or fiasco (Engelen et al 2011). The tension between explanatory and interpretive dimensions in these problematizations is never far from the surface, but what is clear is that the way finance is characterized, problematized, and contested has consequences for citizens and for policy makers, not least because of the sorts of futures they open up or close down. This raises issues about how different theoretical perspectives and methodological techniques shape the way we characterize, problematize, and contest financial practices and associated policy and media representations at elite and popular levels; or about how different sorts of critique emerge, relate, and interact with one another, for example, normative and ideological forms of critique.

We encourage the submission of papers that draw on poststructuralist, post-marxist, psychoanalytic, Deleuzian, Foucauldian, and other traditions, and that explore a range of theoretical, methodological, and critical issues linked to the analysis of finance. What forms of innovative, progressive, and sustainable banking and finance do such perspectives enable us to imagine? What role should experiment play in these efforts to conjure alternative visions? How should these experiments be financed? What innovative means of critique are available to citizens living in democratic polities with a tightly coupled nexus of elites in politics-finance-media? What role should music, film, television, social networking platforms, and other media play in facilitating both the process of critique and the conjuring of counter-visions of finance practice and governance?

Stream 2: Financial Imaginaries/Imagining Finance

Convenor: Christian de Cock, Management Group, Essex Business School cdc@essex.ac.uk

A key area of concern in this stream is the “imaginary of finance”, the semiotic system that gives meaning and shape to the economic field in which finance is embedded. Empirically we encourage the submission of papers that explore how, despite the convulsions of 2008 and their continuing reverberations, this imaginary has remained pretty much intact anno 2012 (in that we have witnessed over and over again the re-articulation of established themes and genres). Established financial imaginaries have no doubt proved extremely powerful in shaping the thoughts and perceptions of key political and economic decision makers and it would be interesting to learn more about the mechanics of this. Theoretically we encourage papers that can enrich and develop the notion of “imaginary” itself within a financial context. Examples could include Lacan’s (Real-Symbolic-Imaginary) or Iser’s (Real-Fictive-Imaginary) triad.  We also encourage the submission of papers that can offer new ways of imagining finance. Following Yusoff and Gabrys (2011), we see imagination as “a way of sensing, thinking, and dreaming the formation of knowledge, which creates the conditions for material interventions in and political sensibilities of the world”. What are the conditions of possibility to change dominant framings of the financial imagination? Can we re-imagine the organization of finance as an ethical, societal, and cultural problem? Can we open up a generative space of unknowing which can create the possibility to take us beyond the seemingly eternal dialectic of economic catastrophe and ‘business as usual’? These are just some of the questions you may help formulate answers to.

Stream 3: Sustainability / Finance

Convenor: Steffen Böhm, Management Group, Essex Business School and interdisciplinary Centre for Environment and Society, University of Essex, steffen@essex.ac.uk

Finance is arguably at the heart of what might be called the global capitalist economy, which is geared towards ever increasing growth of production and consumption. A whole host of critics and social movements have pointed to the unsustainable nature of this self-referential system, and particularly its negative environmental consequences. Specifically, financial service industries have been repeatedly accused of funding environmentally very damaging extractive industry projects (such an open pit mining, oil tar sands, etc), contributing to the creation of speculative bubbles of commodity markets (e.g. leading to higher basic food prices), and endangering the livelihood of indigenous and other communities (threatened by global industries invading their land, for example), to name but a few of the grievances that have been articulated. We are seeking contributions that map, evaluate and expand such critiques of finance and its problematic relation to sustainability.

On the other hand, however, finance increasingly likes to portray itself as part of the solution, rather than part of the problem. The financial services industry has arguably made some efforts to positively contribute to issues such as climate change (e.g. through carbon disclosure), land grab and livelihoods in developing countries (e.g. through the Equator Principles) and environmental protection in more general terms (e.g. through the UN Global Compact). While some might accuse such initiatives as ‘hot air’ or even ‘greenwash’, which often lack real power and impact, there are more concrete efforts to offer sustainable finance solutions, ranging from microfinance to carbon offsetting, from community finance to payments for environmental services. What should we make of this move of finance ‘going green’ and ‘ethical’? What empirical evidence is there to suggest that such finance approaches to solving environmental and social issues are actually working?

Overall, then, we encourage submissions that problematize the relationship between sustainability and finance in its broadest sense. We are not only interested in critiques of current finance approaches to sustainability, but particularly encourage studies of how groups and communities can use money and finance in novel ways to live more sustainable lives. We are hence keen to explore the ways of how finance can make a contribution to another possible world.

For any general enquiry about the conference please contact Ann-Christine Frandsen. Any specific questions related to one of the streams each please contact relevant convenor

Organising committee: (Alphabetic order)
Professor Steffen Böhm
Professor Christian de Cock
Dr Ann-Christine Frandsen
Dr Jason Glynos
Dr Pik Liew
Dr Sumohon Matilal
Chloe Warren – Marketing Officer, EBS

Organiser: Ann-Christine Frandsen Essex Business School, University of Essex, Colchester Campus, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester CO4 3SQ, UK

Phone: +44 (0)1206 87 869 809

Email: frandsen@essex.ac.uk

To find out more about Essex Business School visit: http://www.essex.ac.uk/ebs

In Collaboration with

Thomas Bay, Stockholm University

References:

D. Forslund and T. Bay, (2009). ‘The eve of critical finance studies’.  Ephemera: Theory and Politics in Organization. Vol. 9(4), pp. 285-299.

M. Foucault, (1981). ‘The Order of Discourse’ (Inaugural Lecture at the College de France, given 2 December, 1971). In R. Young (ed), Untying the Text: a Post-Structuralist Reader.  London: Methuen, 1981, pp. 48-78.

Dr Steffen Böhm | Professor in Management and Sustainability | Essex Business School | University of Essex | Colchester CO4 3SQ, UK | Rm 5NW.4.4 | Tel. +44(0)1206 87 3843 | http://www.essex.ac.uk/ebs/staff/profile.aspx?ID=727
http://steffenboehm.net

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‘Human Herbs’ – a new remix and new video by Cold Hands & Quarter Moon: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Au-vyMtfDAs

‘Stagnant’ – a new remix and new video by Cold Hands & Quarter Moon: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YkP_Mi5ideo  

‘Cheerful Sin’ – a song by Victor Rikowski: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIbX5aKUjO8

‘The Lamb’ by William Blake – set to music by Victor Rikowski: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vw3VloKBvZc

Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

The Flow of Ideas: http://www.flowideas.co.uk

Rikowski Point: http://rikowskipoint.blogspot.com

Volumizer: http://glennrikowski.blogspot.com

Online Publications at: http://www.flowideas.co.uk/?page=pub&sub=Online%20Publications%20Glenn%20Rikowski

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Socialism and Hope

SOCIALIST REGISTER 2012: THE CRISIS AND THE LEFT

Socialist Register 2012: The Crisis and the Left is now available on the website: http://socialistregister.com/index.php/srv

Socialist Register 2012

Leo Panitch, Gregory Albo, Vivek Chibber, Preface

David Harvey, The urban roots of financial crises: reclaiming the city for anti-capitalist struggle

David McNally, Slump, austerity and resistance

Ursula Huws, Crisis as capitalist opportunity: new accumulation through public service commodification

Larry Lohmann, Financialization, commodification and carbon: the contradictions of neoliberal climate policy

Frances Fox Piven, The new American poor law

Nicole M. Aschoff, A tale of two crises: labour, capital and restructuring in the US auto industry

Adolph Reed and Merlin Chowkwanyun, Race, class, crisis: the discourse of racial disparity and its analytical discontents

Adam Hanieh, Finance, oil and the Arab uprisings: the global crisis and the Gulf states

Claudio Katz, The singularities of Latin America

Ho-fung Hung, Sinomania: global crisis, China’s crisis?

Jan Toporowski, Eastern Europe: post-communist assets in crisis

Peadar Kirby, When banks cannibalize the state: responses to Ireland’s economic collapse

SYMPOSIUM ON THE EUROZONE CRISIS AND LEFT STRATEGIES

Elmar Altvater, From subprime farce to Greek tragedy: the crisis dynamics of financially driven capitalism

Costas Lapavitsas, Default and exit from the eurozone: a radical left strategy

Michel Husson, Exit or voice? a European strategy of rupture

 

Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

The Flow of Ideas: http://www.flowideas.co.uk

MySpace Profile: http://www.myspace.com/glennrikowski 

The Ockress: http://www.theockress.com 

Rikowski Point: http://rikowskipoint.blogspot.com 

Volumizer: http://glennrikowski.blogspot.com

Money, money, money

PRIVATE EQUITY, CORPORATE TURBULENCE AND LABOUR REGULATION

Call for Papers
Private Equity, Corporate Turbulence and Labour Regulation

ESRC/Middlesex University One Day Workshop
Monday June 13th  2011, University of Geneva, Switzerland

Concerns over the role of private equity in shaping corporate behaviour were already apparent in the years immediately preceding the Great Financial Crash of 2008. In 2006 alone buy-outs of businesses by private equity organisations amounted to US$ 725bn. – equivalent to the economies of Argentina, Poland and South Africa combined. One quarter of all takeovers before the financial crash were financed by such private equity.

Major household names, such as Nabisco, Carrefour, Gate Gourmet and EMI have already fallen to such venture capital. Private equity finance depends on leverage, or the ability to borrow money to raise more finance. There is thus a dependence on debt, which enormously increases the risk of such investment. Up until the financial crash such risky ventures produced huge returns for the financiers, but after the crash such debt led to huge losses. Harvard University, for example, lost millions of dollars from its funds after it had mistakenly switched to private equity investment as an alternative to stocks and bonds. The result was lay-offs and redundancies of workers to cover the cost, a pattern of events being repeated elsewhere for workers whose employing organisation is dependent on debt finance.

Such ‘short-termism’ appears built in to the private equity model, as the financiers seek immediate gains from their investments at the cost of longer term corporate stability. Employees and their unions are faced with continuous episodes of restructuring as corporations are treated as ‘bundles of assets’ and plants are sold off to make profits or avoid losses. Productive investment in a company becomes less likely, as it is an additional cost to the remote owners. Workers suffer from increased job insecurity as off-shoring and contracting-out is encouraged, while industrial relations and collective bargaining becomes a casualty of corporate instability and ‘invisible’ employers.

This seminar will discuss and debate the continuing problems of private equity finance and corporate turbulence by bringing together academics and practitioners from trade unions, government bodies, employers and NGOs to discuss policy initiatives. The seminar is convened by Middlesex University, London and funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council. It is part of a series of seminars examining global labour regulation in the international economy. Previous seminars reviewed problems arising from the increasing use of contract and agency labour, and migrant workers.

Overview speakers include:

Professor John Grahl (Middlesex University) on Restructuring under the Rule of the Capital Markets: the case of private equity? and
Professor Geoff Wood (Sheffield University), Professor Marc Goergen (Cardiff University) and Professor Noel O’Sullivan (University of Sheffield) with a data presentation on The Employment Consequences of Private Equity Acquisitions: The Case of Institutional Buy-Outs.

Plus speakers from International Trade Union Federations on the trade union response.

If you wish to contribute a paper to this seminar, or wish to attend as a delegate please contact below. We are particularly keen to hear case study presentations on labour-related problems flowing from private equity and institutional buy-outs. Some financial assistance may be available for selected presenters to cover costs of travel and accommodation.

For more information, and registration at the Seminar, please contact Professor Martin Upchurch, Middlesex University, London, UK: m.upchurch@mdx.ac.uk or Denise Arden d.arden@mdx.ac.uk

Further information on the seminar series can be found at Beyond Labour Regulation blog: http://www.globalworkonline.net/blog/private-equity-corporate-turbulence-and-labour-regulation/

Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

The Flow of Ideas: http://www.flowideas.co.uk

MySpace Profile: http://www.myspace.com/glennrikowski

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Work, work, work for capital

CENTRE FOR THE STUDY OF EDUCATION AND WORK – UPDATE 9th OCTOBER 2010

 EVENTS

WORKSHOP – BOARD-MANAGEMENT RELATIONS: BRIDGING THE GAP BETWEEN THE IDEAL AND REALITY IN THE GOVERNANCE OF COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS

with Vic Murray, Schulich School of Business, York University

October 29, 2010
9:30 am – 4:00 pm
Social Economy Centre (OISE/UT)
252 Bloor St. West (ROOM TBA), Toronto (St. George Subway Station)

Join us in this workshop to:

– Explore the gaps between the ideal and reality in board governance
– Learn how to develop ways of bringing the ideal and reality closer together
– Learn how to use contingency-based analysis and tailored board development approaches

Cost: $140 + HST; Each additional participant from the same organization will receive a $15 discount, as will those who register for more than one workshop. Student rate available. Refreshments, coffee & tea served, but lunch not provided.

To register: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/FY65KMM or contact Lisa White at secworkshops@gmail.com or 416-978-0022.

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LECTURE – HOW LABOUR IS (PART OF) THE PROBLEM IN BUILDING THE LEFT

The University of Toronto Department of Sociology is pleased to announce an important lecture by:

Professor Frances Fox Piven, CUNY Graduate Center

Friday October 15, 2010
1:30 pm
Room 240, 725 Spadina Avenue, Toronto

A leading scholar and political activist, Frances Fox Piven was recently president of the American Sociological Association and is former Vice-President of the American Political Science Association. Her most recent book is Keeping Down the Black Vote (2009). Other books include Challenging Authority: How Ordinary People Change America (2006), The War at Home: The Domestic Causes and Consequences of Bush’s Militarism (2004), Why Americans Still Don’t Vote (2000), Breaking of the American Social Compact (1997) and Regulating the Poor: The Functions of Public Welfare (updated edition, 1993).

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SEMINAR – A LIBERAL VISION: FILM AND MIDDLE CLASS IDENTITY IN POST-WAR INDUSTRIAL MEDIA

Friday, October 15
2:00 PM – 4:00 PM
108N – North House
Munk School, University of Toronto, 1 Devonshire Place

Speaker: Heide Solbrig (Assistant Professor of Media and Culture at Bentley College)

Sponsored by Centre for the Study of the United States

Co-sponsored by University of Western Ontario , Cinema Studies, Innis College , University of Toronto

Register online at: http://webapp.mcis.utoronto.ca/EventDetails.aspx?eventid=8801

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LUNCHBOX SPEAKERS’ SERIES – MICRO FINANCE

Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Noon – 1:30 pm
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto
252 Bloor St. West, Toronto
Room 12-199

With:

Susan Henry, Corporate Social Responsibility – Alterna Savings
Kenn Ross, Miziwe Biik
Alex Kjorven, ACCESS Community Capital Fund

– Susan Henry will discuss the Community Micro-Loan Program’s impact on clients, Alterna Savings itself, as well as the overall social return on investment.
– Kenn Ross will talk about the unique aspects of lending to Aboriginal entrepreneurs.
– Alex Kjorven will explore the challenges of lending in specific neighbourhoods; in particular, the new Regent Park area.

Moderator: Ann Jamieson, Toronto Enterprise fund, United Way Toronto, will provide context and background information for this discussion.

Bring your lunch and a mug. Water, coffee and tea will be provided.

For more information, please contact Lisa White: secspeaker@oise.utoronto.ca

This event will also be webcast live on the Internet.  Please see our website for detailed instructions: http://socialeconomy.utoronto.ca/english/webcast.php

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WORKSHOP – DEEP DEMOCRACY: WHOLE SYSTEM TRANSFORMATION

October 27th, 2010
5:30 – 7:30 PM
Centre for Social Innovation
215 Spadina Avenue, Suite 400
Toronto

We know we live in times of democratic crisis- only 60% of Canadians voted in the last election, and of that number, only 37% of 18-24 year olds. We hear everyone from politicians to pundits explaining reasons why more and more people are disenfranchised with the current system. And yet, the answers are always ‘out there’. Rarely do we look deep enough to understand the root causes of democratic disengagement.

Join special guest Julie Diamond for a provocative presentation and shared imagining of a society where everyone has agency. With municipal, provincial and federal elections coming up in the next year, deep democracy offers some tantalizing possibilities of how to evolve our system at the level of consciousness that created it.

US based thought leader Julie Diamond is a trainer, facilitator and consultant, who has been working in the field of human and organizational change for over 25 years. The author of two books, she currently serves as the Vice President of Academic Affairs for the Process Work Institute of Portland. She writes about issues of leadership, power and learning on her blog, A User’s Guide to Power.

Event Fee(s)   
General ($20 + HST)     $ 22.60
CSI Member ($10 + HST)  $ 11.30

To register: https://socialinnovation.ca/civicrm/event/register?id=30&reset=1

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SYMPOSIUM – TEMPORARY FOREIGN WORKERS (TFW)

Sponsored by the Work and Learning Network in partnership with the Prairie Metropolis Centre

Tuesday, October 19, 2010
10:00 AM – 3:30 PM
Stanley Milner Public Library
Edmonton Room, Downtown Edmonton

Come and join us as we share information about policies, practices, and research related to TFWs in Manitoba and Alberta.  

Acknowledging the diversity of workers involved, this symposium focuses on one area that has been a focus of recent recruitment — nursing.

Questions addressed by our speakers from health, government, and research communities in Alberta and Manitoba relate to the workings of immigration and credential assessment and recognition processes and program outcomes.

This symposium will provide a forum for discussion amongst policy-makers, employers, unions, academics, immigrant-serving agencies and others about the complex issues arising from the TFW program.

Registration fees (Lunch and service fees included)
– In person participation – $60.00
– Online participation – $40.00
– Low wage fee – $20.00

To register: http://tfw.eventbrite.com
Symposium website: http://www.wln.ualberta.ca/tfw_2010/welcome_tfw.html

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NEWS & VIEWS

MARK CARNEY ON THE “NATURAL RATE” OF UNEMPLOYMENT

by Andrew Jackson, Bullet No. 418, October 8 2010

I was disturbed to read this comment on the current state of the U.S. economy in Governor of the Bank of Canada, Mark Carney’s speech last week.

“The natural rate of (U.S.) unemployment may be increasing sharply. The scale of industry restructuring means that some unemployed workers do not have the skills suitable for the expanding sectors. Other job seekers are tied to their local area, due to an inability to sell their homes in distressed markets, hampering the mobility that has been a hallmark of the American labour market. The current cycle is also self-reinforcing. As long-term unemployment becomes more entrenched, workers’ skills deteriorate and their reintegration into the labour force becomes more difficult.”

Why is this disturbing?

Continue reading: http://www.socialistproject.ca/bullet/418.php

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PANTALONE CAN WIN…

by Gary Shaul, rabble.ca

On Thursday night I attended the monthly meeting of the Toronto & York Region Labour Council to hear Joe Pantalone speak. It was a very exciting part of the agenda. This report doesn’t do justice to the electrifying atmosphere in the room but I’ll do my best (I didn’t take notes). If anyone reading this was there, please feel free to chime in.

Read more: http://www.rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/gary-shaul/2010/10/why-pantalone-will-win

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THE VENEZUELAN ALTERNATIVE – COULD A NEW BRAND OF SOCIALISM AID AND INSPIRE OPPOSITION TO CAPITALISM?

by Al Engler, rabble.ca

Book review of The Socialist Alternative: Real Human Development
by Michael Lebowitz
Monthly Review Press, 2010; $16.41)

Michael Lebowitz is a professor emeritus of economics at Simon Fraser University now living in Venezuela working with Centro International Miranda, a government-supported think tank. In The Socialist Alternative: Real Human Development, he contrasts Venezuelan policies with the top-down socialism of the 20th century. The latter had focused on rapid industrial development through state ownership and top-down command. In Venezuela the government of Hugo Chavez focuses on human development, on the cooperative meeting of human needs, on social ownership and on participation in community and workplace decisions.

Read more: http://rabble.ca/books/reviews/2010/10/venezuelan-alternative

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JOB POSTINGS

INDOOR LOCATIONS FUNDRAISERS – VARIOUS CHARITIES/NGOS – NON-COMMISSION

Public Outreach http://www.publicoutreach.ca
Toronto, Ontario

We are seeking spirited, dynamic individuals who are looking to do either seasonal or full-time fundraising on a non-commission basis (meaning you are guaranteed a wage + bonuses) as part of our new and expanding Indoor Locations Program.

Public Outreach is Canada’s leader in face-to-face fundraising, and we take great pride in representing our charities using honest, respectful, and ethical practices.

The Indoor Locations Program is a business-casual, professional style of interactive fundraising, where we do not ask you to use pressure, but assurance, where you are the catalyst or the spark in bridging the gap
between monthly donor, and charity.

For more information and to apply, visit: http://www.publicoutreach.ca/flash/index.html

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JOIN OUR TEAM: RABBLE EDITORIAL INTERNSHIPS ARE BACK!

Fetch stories, not coffee as a rabble editorial intern. Immerse yourself in the world of activism, news writing, blogging and audio producing!

rabble.ca offers a wonderful work environment and a chance to hone your media-making skills.

We’re currently seeking volunteer editorial interns — please see snap shot descriptions of each at the website below and download the full application package. This year we are offering an honorarium for those who successfully complete the internships.

Read more: http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/rabble-staff/2010/10/join-our-team-rabble-editorial-internships-are-back

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COORDINATOR, HEPATITIS C COMMUNICATIONS & SOCIAL MARKETING

CATIE (The Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange) is currently looking to immediately fill this position (full time with finite term of 3 years).

Primary Role: The Coordinator, Hepatitis C Communications & Social Marketing is responsible for the overall coordination of the development and execution of communications and social marketing campaigns in support of CATIE’s Hepatitis C Program.

Click to be taken to CATIE’s website for position details and application directions: http://www.catie.ca/eng/GetInvolved/Career.shtml

We invite you to pass this e-mail on to anyone that you feel might be interested.

CATIE is an equal opportunity employer. Persons living with HIV/AIDS and/or hepatitis C are encouraged to apply.

CATIE is a national, not-for-profit charity committed to improving the health and quality of life of all people living with HIV and/or hepatitis C in Canada. We serve people living with HIV and/or hepatitis C and the people and organizations that support them by providing accessible, accurate, unbiased and timely information. We work in partnership with a network of other information providers to ensure that people have access to the information they need, in the form they desire, to make informed health care choices.

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For more information about CSEW, visit: http://www.csew.ca

—END—

‘I believe in the afterlife.

It starts tomorrow,

When I go to work’

Cold Hands & Quarter Moon, ‘Human Herbs’ at: http://www.myspace.com/coldhandsmusic (recording) and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2h7tUq0HjIk (live)

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Money

RESEARCH ON MONEY AND FINANCE REPORT

A groundbreaking new report by Research on Money and Finance (RMF), a network of political economists, censures the orthodox analysis which prescribes austerity as the solution to Europe’s crisis.  The Report provides rigorous, original analysis of the debt profiles of Spain, Portugal and Greece. It finds that austerity will worsen income distribution, further shift the balance of power against labour, and fail to solve the Eurozone’s underlying structural problems.  

While default is increasingly likely, it should be clear that creditor-led restructuring, while generating profits for the banks involved, will not significantly reduce the debt burden. Debtor-led default with the prospect of exit from the Eurozone is assessed from the point of view of its ability to restore competitiveness and alter the balance of social forces in favour of labour in the countries of Europe’s periphery as well as its core.

Eurozone Between Austerity and Default: http://www.researchonmoneyandfinance.org/
___________
Jeff Powell
School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)
University of London
+44 (0)7817184435
www.researchonmoneyandfinance.org

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Money Menace

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DAVID HARNEY ON THE CURRENT CAPITALIST CRISIS

A tremendous interview with David Harvey on the current crisis of capitalism. It’s on HARDtalk, BBC iPlayer.

You can view it at: http://beta.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00scbd2/HARDtalk_David_Harvey_Marxist_Academic/

Glenn Rikowski

The Flow of Ideas: http://www.flowideas.co.uk

Economic Crisis

DEBT, THE IMF, AND THE WORLD BANK: SIXTY QUESTIONS, SIXTY ANSWERS

Debt, the IMF, and the World Bank: Sixty Questions, Sixty Answers
By Éric Toussaint and Damien Millet

Translated by Judith Abdel Gadir, Elizabeth Anne, Vicki Briault, Judith Harris, Brian Hunt, Christine Pagnoulle and Diren Valayden, with the collaboration of Francesca Denley, Virginie de Romanet and Stephanie Jacquemont

http://www.monthlyreview.org/books/sixtyquestions.php

ISBN: 978-1-58367-222-8
$17.95 paperback
368 pages
September 2010

Economics / Imperialism & War

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BUY THIS BOOK

“This excellent handbook on the Washington-based international financial institutions and the debt mechanism by means of which the Global South is subjugated is not only an indispensable tool for pro-poor anti-debt activists, but also a very useful synthesis that can and should be used in classrooms.” —Gilbert Achcar, Professor of Development Studies School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

“Éric Toussaint is one of the brightest and most influential economists of his generation. He is the founder of the CADTM, and has gained a worldwide reputation for his exemplary struggle against the ‘odious debt’ strangling countless countries in the South.” —Jean Ziegler, former UN Special Rapporteur

Mainstream economists tell us that developing countries will replicate the economic achievements of the rich countries if they implement the correct “free-market” policies. But scholars and activists Toussaint and Millet demonstrate that this is patently false. Drawing on a wealth of detailed evidence, they explain how developed economies have systematically and deliberately exploited the less-developed economies by forcing them into unequal trade and political relationships. Integral to this arrangement are the international economic institutions ostensibly created to safeguard the stability of the global economy—the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank —and the imposition of massive foreign debt on poor countries. The authors explain in simple language, and ample use of graphics, the multiple contours of this exploitative system, its history, and how it continues to function in the present day.

Ultimately, Toussaint and Millet advocate cancellation of all foreign debt for developing countries and provide arguments from a number of perspectives—legal, economic, moral. Presented in an accessible and easily-referenced question and answer format, Debt, the IMF, and the World Bank is an essential tool for the global justice movement.

Éric Toussaint, a doctor in political science, is president of the Committee for the Abolition of Third World Debt, CADTM Belgium. He is author of A Diagnosis of Emerging Global Crisis and Alternatives, and The World Bank: A Critical Primer, among other books.

Damien Millet teaches mathematics and is spokesperson for CADTM France. He is the author of L’Afrique sans dette, and co-author with Éric Toussaint of Tsunami Aid or Debt Cancellation.

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Dharma Initiative

THE RISE AND FALL OF NEOLIBERALISM

The Rise and Fall of Neoliberalism: The Collapse of an Economic Order?
London and New York: Zed Books, 2010
Edited by Kean Birch and Vlad Mykhnenko

Hardback: £70.00   ISBN: 9781848133488
Paperback: £18.99  ISBN: 9781848133495

Book website: http://www.zedbooks.co.uk/book.asp?bookdetail=4351 

About the Book

The recent, devastating and ongoing economic crisis has exposed the faultlines in the dominant neoliberal economic order, opening debate for the first time in years on alternative visions that do not subscribe to a ‘free’ market ethic. In particular, the core contradiction at the heart of neoliberalism – that states are necessary for the functioning of free markets – provides us with the opportunity to think again about how we want to organise our economies and societies. The Rise and Fall of Neoliberalism presents critical perspectives of neoliberal policies, questions the ideas underpinning neoliberalism, and explores diverse response to it from around the world.

In bringing together the work of distinguished scholars and dedicated activists to question neoliberal hegemony, the book exposes the often fractured and multifarious manifestations of neoliberalism which will have to be challenged to bring about meaningful social change.

What People Have Said About the Book

‘Since the 1970s, the politics of “neoliberalism,” based on the purported concern to minimize state interference in the economy and thus to unleash “free” markets, have been mobilized at various sites and scales across the world economy. This book provides useful intellectual tools for deciphering the ideological, social and institutional foundations of neoliberalism and its wide-ranging implications for the still ongoing regulatory reorganization of capitalism.’ – Neil Brenner, New York University 

‘This is an outstanding book not only because of the sophisticated critiques offered by some of the most highly regarded thinkers on the topic of the destruction and misery wrought through neoliberal capitalism, but also because its forward looking emphasis on a more egalitarian and hopeful future offers insights about the work that needs to be done by activists and scholars alike. Moreover, this book helps us recognize that the emergence of any talk of a post-neoliberal era is premature beyond helping to construct a road map for ways citizens of the world can collectively, and deliberately, move forward.’ – Nik Heynen, University of Georgia

‘This timely and wide ranging book traces the changing contours of neoliberalism, demonstrating how market-oriented policies gave rise to a globally hegemonic political-economic project. The emphasis is on identifying the different forms neoliberalism takes and the diverse responses to it. At a juncture when this political-economic project is under increasing scrutiny from supporters and opponents alike, the book challenges existing conceptions of neoliberalism and makes an important contribution to the reinvigorated search for political alternatives.’ – Wendy Larner, Professor of Human Geography and Sociology, University of Bristol

‘A timely volume on the nature, varied manifestations, and above all limitations of a an economic order that is failing so spectacularly with the financial crisis. Highly recommended for academics, students, or for that matter anyone interested in the politics of our times.’ – Magnus Ryner, Professor of International Relations, Oxford Brookes University.

Table of Contents:
1. Introduction: A World Turned Right-Way Up – Kean Birch and Vlad Mykhnenko

Part 1: The Rise of Neoliberalism

2. How Neoliberalism Got Where It Is: Elite Planning, Corporate Lobbying and the Release of the Free Market – David Miller

3. Making Neoliberal Order in the United States – Kean Birch and Adam Tickell

4. Neoliberalism, Intellectual Property and the Global Knowledge Economy – David Tyfield

5. Neoliberalism and the Calculable World: The Rise of Carbon Trading – Larry Lohmann

6. Tightening the Web: The World Bank and Enforced Policy Reform – Elisa van Waeyenberge

7. The Corruption Industry and Transition: Neoliberalising Post-Soviet Space? – Adam Swain, Vlad Mykhnenko and Shaun French

8. Remaking the Welfare State: From Safety Net to Trampoline – Julie MacLeavy
Part 2: The Fall of Neoliberalism

9. Zombieconomics: The Living Death of the Dismal Science – Ben Fine

10. From Hegemony to Crisis? The Continuing Ecological Dominance of Neo-Liberalism – Bob Jessop

11. Do It Yourself: A Politics for Changing Our World – Paul Chatterton

12. Dreaming the Real: A Politics of Ethical Spectacles – Paul Routledge

13. Transnational Companies and Transnational Civil Society – Leonith Hinojosa and Anthony Bebbington

14. Defeating Neo-liberalism: A Marxist Internationalist Perspective and Programme – Jean Shaoul

15. Conclusion: The End of an Economic Order? – Vlad Mykhnenko and Kean Birch

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Daniel Faraday

RETHINKING EUROPE AFTER THE FINANCIAL CRISIS

JMCE Postgraduate Workshop: Call for Papers!

Date: Friday, 8th October 2010

Place: London, King’s College London

Theme

As we approach the end of the first decade of the 21st Century, the European Project continues to show its age-old problems – and a new powerful vector of instability. While the tormented path of the European Constitution, as amended by the Lisbon Treaty, has made palpable the gravity of the democratic deficit and has compounded the obstacles in agreeing to common foreign and economic policies and in coordinating the response to external events, the shock-waves of the global economic crisis have for the first time threatened the stability of the Euro and prompted speculation on defaults, exit strategies and a two-speed Europe.

How can we assess the impact of the financial/economic crisis on the future trajectories of the European Union and of the individual member states? And how does it force us to reconsider the tools and methodologies of the different disciplines and to develop new analyses and approaches? 

Suggested topics

Suggested topics include but are not limited to:

– the relationship between the European core and the Southern and Eastern European peripheries: uneven development, structural imbalances and political dimensions;
– national or comparative assessments of the impact of the coming austerity measures on class, gender, racial, generational and other divides;
– new developments in the law and governance of the EU and member states;
– theorising the role of the national state after the rescue of the banking system; 
– the debate over Euro and over a common European economic government;
– social and political mobilisation between apathy, mass anti-cuts struggles and the rise of far right movements; 
– rethinking the European disciplines: critical evaluations, interdisciplinary dialogue and new approaches;
– rethinking the EU as a multilayered/interdisciplinary scientific object; 

Further details

The day-long interdisciplinary workshop is organised by the Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence of King’s College London, with the aim of providing an opportunity to showcase the work of leading postgraduate research students on the future of Europe in the light of the most recent developments.

Postgraduates from across the European Union and from all European disciplines (e.g. European Studies, Public Policy, Law and Economics) will be invited to present their original contributions and to discuss the key issues in a closing round-table debate.

The proceedings of the workshop will be published on the JMCE website. Limited travel bursaries may be available to help speakers with travel expenses, please e-mail the organisers for application details.

Further details will be published in due course on the JMCE website (www.kcl.ac.uk/projects/jmce/workshop.html).

Deadline for abstracts 

If you would like to submit an abstract for the workshop to be selected by the organising committee please e-mail us your proposal, including the title, author, university and an abstract of 250 words, by Monday 19th of July 2010.

Contact: Please send your application and any enquiries to Paolo Chiocchetti at paolo.chiocchetti@kcl.ac.uk 

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The Enigma of Capital - David Harvey

ORGANIZING FOR THE ANTI-CAPITALIST TRANSITION – DAVID HARVEY

Organizing for the Anti-Capitalist Transition
by David Harvey, CUNY Graduate Center, New York

The historical geography of capitalist development is at a key inflexion point in which the geographical configurations of power are rapidly shifting at the very moment when the temporal dynamic is facing very serious constraints. Three percent compound growth (generally considered the minimum satisfactory growth rate for a healthy capitalist economy) is becoming less and less feasible to sustain without resort to all manner of fictions (such as those that have characterized asset markets and financial affairs over the last two decades). There are good reasons to believe that there is no alternative to a new global order of governance that will eventually have to manage the transition to a zero growth economy. If that is to be done in an equitable way, then there is no alternative to socialism or communism. Since the late 1990s, the World Social Forum became the center for articulating the theme “another world is possible.” It must now take up the task of defining how another socialism or communism is possible and how the transitions to these alternatives are to be accomplished. The current crisis offers a window of opportunity to reflect on what might be involved.

The current crisis originated in the steps taken to resolve the crisis of the 1970s. These steps included:

(a) The successful assault upon organized labor and its political institutions while mobilizing global labor surpluses, instituting labor-saving technological changes and heightening competition. The result has been global wage repressions (a declining share of wages in total GDP almost everywhere) and the creation of an even vaster disposable labor reserve living under marginal conditions.

(b) Undermining previous structures of monopoly power and displacing the previous stage of (nation state) monopoly capitalism by opening up capitalism to far fiercer international competition. Intensifying global competition translated into lower non-financial corporate profits. Uneven geographical development and inter-territorial competition became key features in capitalist development, opening the way towards the beginnings of a hegemonic shift of power particularly but not exclusively towards East Asia.

(c) Utilizing and empowering the most fluid and highly mobile form of capital – money capital – to reallocate capital resources globally (eventually through electronic markets) thus sparking deindustrialization in traditional core regions and new forms of (ultra-oppressive) industrialization and natural resource and agricultural raw material extractions in emergent markets. The corollary was to enhance the profitability of financial corporations and to find new ways to globalize and supposedly absorb risks through the creation of fictitious capital markets.

(d) At the other end of the social scale, this meant heightened reliance on “accumulation by dispossession” as a means to augment capitalist class power. The new rounds of primitive accumulation against indigenous and peasant populations were augmented by asset losses of the lower classes in the core economies (as witnessed by the sub-prime housing market in the US which foisted a huge asset loss particularly upon African American populations.

(d) The augmentation of otherwise sagging effective demand by pushing the debt economy (governmental, corporate and household) to its limits (particularly in the USA and the UK but also in many other countries from Latvia to Dubai).

(e) Compensating for anaemic rates of return in production by the construction of whole series of asset market bubbles, all of which had a Ponzi character, culminating in the property bubble that burst in 2007-8. These asset bubbles drew upon finance capital and were facilitated by extensive financial innovations such as derivatives and
collateralized debt obligations.

The political forces that coalesced and mobilized behind these transitions had a distinctive class character and clothed themselves in the vestments of a distinctive ideology called neoliberalism. The ideology rested upon the idea that free markets, free trade, personal initiative and entrepreneurialism were the best guarantors of individual liberty and freedom and that the “nanny state” should be dismantled for the benefit of all. But the practice entailed that the state must stand behind the integrity of financial institutions, thus introducing (beginning with the Mexican and developing countries debt crisis of 1982) “moral hazard” big time into the financial system. The state (local and national) also became increasingly committed to providing a “good business climate” to attract investments in a highly competitive environment. The interests of the people were secondary to the interests of capital and in the event of a conflict between them the interests of the people had to be sacrificed (as became standard practice in IMF structural adjustments programs from the early 1980s onwards). The system that has been created amounts to a veritable form of communism for the capitalist class.

These conditions varied considerably, of course, depending upon what part of the world one inhabited, the class relations prevailing there, the political and cultural traditions and how the balance of political-economic power was shifting.

So how can the left negotiate the dynamics of this crisis? At times of crisis, the irrationality of capitalism becomes plain for all to see. Surplus capital and surplus labor exist side-by side with seemingly no way to put them back together in the midst of immense human suffering and unmet needs. In midsummer of 2009, one third of the capital equipment in the United States stood idle, while some 17 per cent of the workforce were either unemployed, enforced part-timers or “discouraged” workers. What could be more irrational than that!

Can capitalism survive the present trauma? Yes. But at what cost? This question masks another. Can the capitalist class reproduce its power in the face of the raft of economic, social, political and geopolitical and environmental difficulties? Again, the answer is a resounding “yes.” But the mass of the people will have to surrender the fruits of their labour to those in power, to surrender many of their rights and their hard-won asset values (in everything from housing to pension rights), and to suffer environmental degradations galore to say nothing of serial reductions in their living standards which means starvation for many of those already struggling to survive at rock bottom. Class inequalities will increase (as we already see happening). All of that may require more than a little political repression, police violence and militarized state control to stifle unrest.

Since much of this is unpredictable and since the spaces of the global economy are so variable, then uncertainties as to outcomes are heightened at times of crisis. All manner of localized possibilities arise for either nascent capitalists in some new space to seize opportunities to challenge older class and territorial hegemonies (as when Silicon Valley replaced Detroit from the mid-1970s onwards in the United States) or for radical movements to challenge the reproduction of an already destabilized class power. To say that the capitalist class and capitalism can survive is not to say that they are predestined to do so nor does it say that their future character is given. Crises are moments of paradox and possibilities.

So what will happen this time around? If we are to get back to three percent growth, then this means finding new and profitable global investment opportunities for $1.6 trillion in 2010 rising to closer to $3 trillion by 2030. This contrasts with the $0.15 trillion new investment needed in 1950 and the $0.42 trillion needed in 1973 (the dollar figures are inflation adjusted). Real problems of finding adequate outlets for surplus capital began to emerge after 1980, even with the opening up of China and the collapse of the Soviet Bloc. The difficulties were in part resolved by creation of fictitious markets where speculation in asset values could take off unhindered. Where will all this investment go now?

Leaving aside the undisputable constraints in the relation to nature (with global warming of paramount importance), the other potential barriers of effective demand in the market place, of technologies and of geographical/ geopolitical distributions are likely to be profound, even supposing, which is unlikely, that no serious active oppositions to continuous capital accumulation and further consolidation of class power materialize. What spaces are left in the global economy for new spatial fixes for capital surplus absorption? China and the ex-Soviet bloc have already been integrated. South and SouthEast Asia is filling up fast. Africa is not yet fully integrated but there is nowhere else with the capacity to absorb all this surplus capital. What new lines of production can be opened up to absorb growth? There may be no effective long-run capitalist solutions (apart from reversion to fictitious capital manipulations) to this crisis of capitalism. At some point quantitative changes lead to qualitative shifts and we need to take seriously the idea that we may be at exactly such an inflexion point in the history of capitalism. Questioning the future of capitalism itself as an adequate social system ought, therefore, to be in the forefront of current debate.

Yet there appears to be little appetite for such discussion, even among the left. Instead we continue to hear the usual conventional mantras regarding the perfectibility of humanity with the help of free markets and free trade, private property and personal responsibility, low taxes and minimalist state involvement in social provision, even though this all sounds increasingly hollow. A crisis of legitimacy looms. But legitimation crises typically unfold at a different pace and rhythm to that of stock markets. It took, for example, three or four years before the stock market crash of 1929 produced the massive social movements (both progressive and fascistic) after 1932 or so. The intensity of the current pursuit by political power of ways to exit the present crisis may have something to do with the political fear of looming illegitimacy.

The last thirty years, however, has seen the emergence of systems of governance that seem immune to legitimacy problems and unconcerned even with the creation of consent. The mix of authoritarianism, monetary corruption of representative democracy, surveillance, policing and militarization (particularly through the war on terror), media control and spin suggests a world in which the control of discontent through disinformation, fragmentations of oppositions and the shaping of oppositional cultures through the promotion of NGOs tends to prevail with plenty of coercive force to back it up if necessary.

The idea that the crisis had systemic origins is scarcely mooted in the mainstream media (even as a few mainstream economists like Stiglitz, Krugman and even Jeffrey Sachs attempt to steal some of the left’s historical thunder by confessing to an epiphany or two). Most of the governmental moves to contain the crisis in North America and Europe amount to the perpetuation of business as usual which translates into support for the capitalist class. The “moral hazard” that was the immediate trigger for the financial failures is being taken to new heights in the bank bail-outs. The actual practices of neoliberalism (as opposed to its utopian theory) always entailed blatant support for finance capital and capitalist elites (usually on the grounds that financial institutions must be protected at all costs and that it is the duty of state power to create a good business climate for solid profiteering). This has not fundamentally changed. Such practices are justified by appeal to the dubious proposition that a “rising tide” of capitalist endeavor will “lift all boats” or that the benefits of compound growth will magically “trickle down” (which it never does except in the form of a few crumbs from the rich folks’ table).

So how will the capitalist class exit the current crisis and how swift will the exit be? The rebound in stock market values from Shanghai and Tokyo to Frankfurt, London and New York is a good sign we are told, even as unemployment pretty much everywhere continues to rise. But notice the class bias in that measure. We are enjoined to rejoice in the rebound in stock values for the capitalists because it always precedes, it is said, a rebound in the “real economy” where jobs for the workers are created and incomes earned. The fact that the last stock rebound in the United States after 2002 turned out to be a “jobless recovery” appears to have been forgotten already. The Anglo-Saxon public in particular appears to be seriously afflicted with amnesia. It too easily forgets and forgives the transgressions of the capitalist class and the periodic disasters its actions precipitate. The capitalist media are happy to promote such amnesia.

China and India are still growing, the former by leaps and bounds. But in China’s case, the cost is a huge expansion of bank lending on risky projects (the Chinese banks were not caught up in the global speculative frenzy but now are continuing it). The overaccumulation of productive capacity proceeds a-pace and long-term infrastructural investments whose productivity will not be known for several years, are booming (even in urban property markets). And China’s burgeoning demand is entraining those economies supplying raw materials, like Australia and Chile. The likelihood of a subsequent crash in China cannot be dismissed but it may take time to discern (a long-term version of Dubai). Meanwhile the global epicenter of capitalism accelerates its shift primarily towards East Asia.

In the older financial centers, the young financial sharks have taken their bonuses of yesteryear, collectively started boutique financial institutions to circle Wall Street and the City of London to sift through the detritus of yesterdays financial giants to snaffle up the juicy bits and start all over again. The investment banks that remain in the US – Goldman Sachs and J.P.Morgan – though reincarnated as bank holding companies have gained exemption (thanks to the Federal Reserve) from regulatory requirements and are making huge profits (and setting aside moneys for huge bonuses to match) out of speculating dangerously using tax-payers money in unregulated and still booming derivative markets. The leveraging that got us into the crisis has resumed big time as if nothing has happened. Innovations in finance are on the march as new ways to package and sell fictitious capital debts are being pioneered and offered to institutions (such as pension funds) desperate to find new outlets for surplus capital. The fictions (as well as the bonuses) are back!

Consortia are buying up foreclosed properties, either waiting for the market to turn before making a killing or banking high value land for a future moment of active redevelopment. The regular banks are stashing away cash, much of it garnered from the public coffers, also with an eye to resuming bonus payments consistent with a former lifestyle while a whole host of entrepreneurs hover in the wings waiting to seize this moment of creative destruction backed by a flood of public moneys.

Meanwhile raw money power wielded by the few undermines all semblances of democratic governance. The pharmaceutical, health insurance and hospital lobbies, for example, spent more than $133 million in the first three months of 2009 to make sure they got their way on health care reform in the United States. Max Baucus, head of the key Senate finance committee that shaped the health care bill received $1.5 million for a bill that delivers a vast number of new clients to the insurance companies with few protections against ruthless exploitation and profiteering (Wall Street is delighted). Another electoral cycle, legally corrupted by immense money power, will soon be upon us. In the United States, the parties of “K Street” and of Wall Street will be duly re-elected as working Americans are exhorted to work their way out of the mess that the ruling class has created. We have been in such dire straits before, we are reminded, and each time working Americans have rolled up their sleeves, tightened their belts, and saved the system from some mysterious mechanics of auto-destruction for which the ruling class denies all responsibility. Personal responsibility is, after all, for the workers and not for the capitalists.

If this is the outline of the exit strategy then almost certainly we will be in another mess within five years. The faster we come out of this crisis and the less excess capital is destroyed now, the less room there will be for the revival of long-term active growth. The loss of asset values at this conjuncture (mid 2009) is, we are told by the IMF, at least $55 trillion, which is equivalent to almost exactly one year’s global output of goods and services. Already we are back to the output levels of 1989. We may be looking at losses of $400 trillion or more before we are through. Indeed, in a recent startling calculation, it was suggested that the US state alone was on the hook to guarantee more than $200 trillion in asset values. The likelihood that all of those assets would go bad is very minimal, but the thought that many of them could is sobering in the extreme. Just to take a concrete example: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, now taken over by the US Government, own or guarantee more than $5 trillion in home loans many of which are in deep trouble (losses of more than $150 billion were recorded in 2008 alone). So what, then, are the alternatives?

It has long been the dream of many in the world, that an alternative to capitalist (ir)rationality can be defined and rationally arrived at through the mobilization of human passions in the collective search for a better life for all. These alternatives – historically called socialism or communism – have, in various times and places been tried. In former times, such as the 1930s, the vision of one or other of them operated as a beacon of hope. But in recent times they have both lost their lustre, been dismissed as wanting, not only because of the failure of historical experiments with communism to make good on their promises and the penchant for communist regimes to cover over their mistakes by repression, but also because of their supposedly flawed presuppositions concerning human nature and the potential perfectibility of the human personality and of human institutions.

The difference between socialism and communism is worth noting. Socialism aims to democratically manage and regulate capitalism in ways that calm its excesses and redistribute its benefits for the common good. It is about spreading the wealth around through progressive taxation arrangements while basic needs – such as education, health care and even housing – are provided by the state out of reach of market forces. Many of the key achievements of redistributive socialism in the period after 1945, not only in Europe but beyond, have become so socially embedded as to be immune from neoliberal assault. Even in the United States, Social Security and Medicare are extremely popular programs that right wing forces find it almost impossible to dislodge. The Thatcherites in Britain could not touch national health care except at the margins. Social provision in Scandinavia and most of Western Europe seems to be an unshakable bed-rock of the social order.

Communism, on the other hand, seeks to displace capitalism by creating an entirely different mode of both production and distribution of goods and services. In the history of actually existing communism, social control over production, exchange and distribution meant state control and systematic state planning. In the long-run this proved to be unsuccessful though, interestingly, its conversion in China (and its earlier adoption in places like Singapore) has proven far more successful than the pure neoliberal model in generating capitalist growth for reasons that cannot be elaborated upon here. Contemporary attempts to revive the communist hypothesis typically abjure state control and look to other forms of collective social organization to displace market forces and capital accumulation as the basis for organizing production and distribution. Horizontally networked as opposed to hierarchically commanded systems of coordination between autonomously organized and self-governing collectives of producers and consumers are envisaged as lying at the core of a new form of communism. Contemporary technologies of communication make such a system seem feasible. All manner of small-scale experiments around the world can be found in which such economic and political forms are being constructed. In this there is a convergence of some sort between the Marxist and anarchist traditions that harks back to the broadly collaborative situation between them in the 1860s in Europe.

While nothing is certain, it could be that 2009 marks the beginning of a prolonged shake out in which the question of grand and far-reaching alternatives to capitalism will step-by-step bubble up to the surface in one part of the world or another. The longer the uncertainty and the misery is prolonged, the more the legitimacy of the existing way of doing business will be questioned and the more the demand to build something different will escalate. Radical as opposed to band-aid reforms to patch up the financial system may seem more necessary.

The uneven development of capitalist practices throughout the world has produced, moreover, anti-capitalist movements all over the place. The state-centric economies of much of East Asia generate different discontents (as in Japan and China) compared to the churning anti-neoliberal struggles occurring throughout much of Latin America where the Bolivarian revolutionary movement of popular power exists in a peculiar relationship to capitalist class interests that have yet to be truly confronted. Differences over tactics and policies in response to the crisis among the states that make up the European Union are increasing even as a second attempt to come up with a unified EU constitution is under way. Revolutionary and resolutely anti-capitalist movements are also to be found, though not all of them are of a progressive sort, in many of the marginal zones of capitalism. Spaces have been opened up within which something radically different in terms of dominant social relations, ways of life, productive capacities and mental conceptions of the world can flourish. This applies as much to the Taliban and to communist rule in Nepal as to the Zapatistas in Chiapas and indigenous movements in Bolivia, the Maoist movements in rural India, even as they are world’s apart in objectives, strategies and tactics.

The central problem is that in aggregate there is no resolute and sufficiently unified anti-capitalist movement that can adequately challenge the reproduction of the capitalist class and the perpetuation of its power on the world stage. Neither is there any obvious way to attack the bastions of privilege for capitalist elites or to curb their inordinate money power and military might. While openings exist towards some alternative social order, no one really knows where or what it is. But just because there is no political force capable of articulating let alone mounting such a program, this is no reason to hold back on outlining alternatives.

Lenin’s famous question “what is to be done?” cannot be answered, to be sure, without some sense of who it is might do it where. But a global anti-capitalist movement is unlikely to emerge without some animating vision of what is to be done and why. A double blockage exists: the lack of an alternative vision prevents the formation of an oppositional movement, while the absence of such a movement precludes the articulation of an alternative. How, then, can this blockage be transcended? The relation between the vision of what is to be done and why, and the formation of a political movement across particular places to do it has to be turned into a spiral. Each has to reinforce the other if anything is actually to get done. Otherwise potential opposition will be forever locked down into a closed circle that frustrates all prospects for constructive change, leaving us vulnerable to perpetual future crises of capitalism with increasingly deadly results. Lenin’s question demands an answer.

The central problem to be addressed is clear enough. Compound growth for ever is not possible and the troubles that have beset the world these last thirty years signal that a limit is looming to continuous capital accumulation that cannot be transcended except by creating fictions that cannot last. Add to this the facts that so many people in the world live in conditions of abject poverty, that environmental degradations are spiraling out of control, that human dignities are everywhere being offended even as the rich are piling up more and more wealth (the number of billionaires in India doubled last year from 27 to 52) under their command and that the levers of political, institutional, judicial, military and media power are under such tight but dogmatic political control as to be incapable of doing much more than perpetuating the status quo and frustrating discontent.

A revolutionary politics that can grasp the nettle of endless compound capital accumulation and eventually shut it down as the prime motor of human history, requires a sophisticated understanding of how social change occurs. The failings of past endeavors to build a lasting socialism and communism have to be avoided and lessons from that immensely complicated history must be learned. Yet the absolute necessity for a coherent anti-capitalist revolutionary movement must also be recognized. The fundamental aim of that movement is to assume social command over both the production and distribution of surpluses.

We urgently need an explicit revolutionary theory suited to our times. I propose a “co-revolutionary theory” derived from an understanding of Marx’s account of how capitalism arose out of feudalism. Social change arises through the dialectical unfolding of relations between seven moments within the body politic of capitalism viewed as an ensemble or assemblage of activities and practices:

a) Technological and organizational forms of production, exchange and consumption

b) Relations to nature

c) Social relations between people

d) Mental conceptions of the world, embracing knowledges and cultural understandings and beliefs

e) Labor processes and production of specific goods, geographies, services or affects

f ) Institutional, legal and governmental arrangements

g) The conduct of daily life that underpins social reproduction.

Each one of these moments is internally dynamic and internally marked by tensions and contradictions (just think of mental conceptions of the world) but all of them are co-dependent and co-evolve in relation to each other. The transition to capitalism entailed a mutually supporting movement across all seven moments. New technologies could not be identified and practices without new mental conceptions of the world (including that of the relation to nature and social relations). Social theorists have the habit of taking just one of these moments and viewing it as the “silver bullet” that causes all change. We have technological determinists (Tom Friedman), environmental determinists (Jarad Diamond), daily life determinists (Paul Hawkin), labor process determinists (the autonomistas), institutionalists, and so on and so forth. They are all wrong. It is the dialectical motion across all of these moments that really counts even as there is uneven development in that motion.

When capitalism itself undergoes one of its phases of renewal, it does so precisely by co-evolving all moments, obviously not without tensions, struggles, fights and contradictions. But consider how these seven moments were configured around 1970 before the neoliberal surge and consider how they look now and you will see they have all changed in ways that re-define the operative characteristics of capitalism viewed as a non-Hegelian totality.

An anti-capitalist political movement can start anywhere (in labor processes, around mental conceptions, in the relation to nature, in social relations, in the design of revolutionary technologies and organizational forms, out of daily life or through attempts to reform institutional and administrative structures including the reconfiguration of state powers). The trick is to keep the political movement moving from one moment to another in mutually reinforcing ways. This was how capitalism arose out of feudalism and this is how something radically different called communism, socialism or whatever must arise out of capitalism. Previous attempts to create a communist or socialist alternative fatally failed to keep the dialectic between the different moments in motion and failed to embrace the unpredictabilities and uncertainties in the dialectical movement between them. Capitalism has survived precisely by keeping the dialectical movement between the moments going and constructively embracing the inevitable tensions, including crises, that result.

Change arises, of course, out of an existing state of affairs and it has to harness the possibilities immanent within an existing situation. Since the existing situation varies enormously from Nepal, to the Pacific regions of Bolivia, to the deindustrializing cities of Michigan and the still booming cities of Mumbai and Shanghai and the shaken but by no means destroyed financial centers of New York and London, so all manner of experiments in social change in different places and at different geographical scales are both likely and potentially illuminating as ways to make (or not make) another world possible. And in each instance it may seem as if one or other aspect of the existing situation holds the key to a different political future. But the first rule for a global anti-capitalist movement must be: never rely on the unfolding dynamics of one moment without carefully calibrating how relations with all the others are adapting and reverberating.

Feasible future possibilities arise out of the existing state of relations between the different moments. Strategic political interventions within and across the spheres can gradually move the social order onto a different developmental path. This is what wise leaders and forward looking institutions do all the time in local situations, so there is no reason to think there is anything particularly fantastic or utopian about acting in this way. The left has to look to build alliances between and across those working in the distinctive spheres. An anti-capitalist movement has to be far broader than groups mobilizing around social relations or over questions of daily life in themselves. Traditional hostilities between, for example, those with technical, scientific and administrative expertise and those animating social movements on the ground have to be addressed and overcome. We now have to hand, in the example of the climate change movement, a significant example of how such alliances can begin to work.

In this instance the relation to nature is the beginning point, but everyone realizes that something has to give on all the other moments and while there is a wishful politics that wants to see the solution as purely technological, it becomes clearer by the day that daily life, mental conceptions, institutional arrangements, production processes and social relations have to be involved. And all of that means a movement to restructure capitalist society as a whole and to confront the growth logic that underlies the problem in the first place.

There have, however, to be, some loosely agreed upon common objectives in any transitional movement. Some general guiding norms can be set down. These might include (and I just float these norms here for discussion) respect for nature, radical egalitarianism in social relations, institutional arrangements based in some sense of common interests and common property, democratic administrative procedures (as opposed to the monetized shams that now exist), labor processes organized by the direct producers, daily life as the free exploration of new kinds of social relations and living arrangements, mental conceptions that focus on self-realization in service to others and technological and organizational innovations oriented to the pursuit of the common good rather than to supporting militarized power, surveillance and corporate greed. These could be the co-revolutionary points around which social action could converge and rotate. Of course this is utopian! But so what! We cannot afford not to be.

Let me detail one particular aspect of the problem which arise in the place where I work. Ideas have consequences and false ideas can have devastating consequences. Policy failures based on erroneous economic thinking played a crucial role in both the run-up to the debacle of the 1930s and in the seeming inability to find an adequate way out. Though there is no agreement among historians and economists as to exactly what policies failed, it is agreed that the knowledge structure through which the crisis was understood needed to be revolutionized. Keynes and his colleagues accomplished that task. But by the mid-1970s, it became clear that the Keynesian policy tools were no longer working at least in the way they were being applied and it was in this context that monetarism, supply-side theory and the (beautiful) mathematical modeling of micro-economic market behaviors supplanted broad-brush macro-economic Keynesian thinking. The monetarist and narrower neoliberal theoretical frame that dominated after 1980 is now in question. In fact it has disastrously failed.

We need new mental conceptions to understand the world. What might these be and who will produce them, given both the sociological and intellectual malaise that hangs over knowledge production and (equally important) dissemination more generally? The deeply entrenched mental conceptions associated with neoliberal theories and the neoliberalization and corporatization of the universities and the media has played more than a trivial role in the production of the present crisis. For example, the whole question of what to do about the financial system, the banking sector, the state-finance nexus and the power of private property rights, cannot be broached without going outside of the box of conventional thinking. For this to happen will require a revolution in thinking, in places as diverse as the universities, the media and government as well as within the financial institutions themselves.

Karl Marx, while not in any way inclined to embrace philosophical idealism, held that ideas are a material force in history. Mental conceptions constitute, after all, one of the seven moments in his general theory of co-revolutionary change. Autonomous developments and inner conflicts over what mental conceptions shall become hegemonic therefore have an important historical role to play. It was for this reason that Marx (along with Engels) wrote The Communist Manifesto, Capital and innumerable other works. These works provide a systematic critique, albeit incomplete, of capitalism and its crisis tendencies. But as Marx also insisted, it was only when these critical ideas carried over into the fields of institutional arrangements, organizational forms, production systems, daily life, social relations, technologies and relations to nature that the world would truly change.

Since Marx’s goal was to change the world and not merely to understand it, ideas had to be formulated with a certain revolutionary intent. This inevitably meant a conflict with modes of thought more convivial to and useful for the ruling class. The fact that Marx’s oppositional ideas, particularly in recent years, have been the target of repeated repressions and exclusions (to say nothing of bowdlerizations and misrepresentations galore) suggests that his ideas may be too dangerous for the ruling classes to tolerate. While Keynes repeatedly avowed that he had never read Marx, he was surrounded and influenced in the 1930s by many people (like his economist colleague Joan Robinson) who had. While many of them objected vociferously to Marx’s foundational concepts and his dialectical mode of reasoning, they were acutely aware of and deeply affected by some of his more prescient conclusions. It is fair to say, I think, that the Keynesian theory revolution could not have been accomplished without the subversive presence of Marx lurking in the wings.

The trouble in these times is that most people have no idea who Keynes was and what he really stood for while the knowledge of Marx is negligible. The repression of critical and radical currents of thought, or to be more exact the corralling of radicalism within the bounds of multiculturalism, identity politics and cultural choice, creates a lamentable situation within the academy and beyond, no different in principle to having to ask the bankers who made the mess to clean it up with exactly the same tools as they used to get into it. Broad adhesion to post-modern and post-structuralist ideas which celebrate the particular at the expense of big-picture thinking does not help. To be sure, the local and the particular are vitally important and theories that cannot embrace, for example, geographical difference, are worse than useless. But when that fact is used to exclude anything larger than parish politics then the betrayal of the intellectuals and abrogation of their traditional role become complete.

The current populations of academicians, intellectuals and experts in the social sciences and humanities are by and large ill-equipped to undertake the collective task of revolutionizing our knowledge structures. They have, in fact, been deeply implicated in the construction of the new systems of neoliberal governmentality that evade questions of legitimacy and democracy and foster a technocratic authoritarian politics. Few seem predisposed to engage in self-critical reflection. Universities continue to promote the same useless courses on neo classical economic or rational choice political theory as if nothing has happened and the vaunted business schools simply add a course or two on business ethics or how to make money out of other people’s bankruptcies. After all, the crisis arose out of human greed and there is nothing that can be done about that!

The current knowledge structure is clearly dysfunctional and equally clearly illegitimate. The only hope is that a new generation of perceptive students (in the broad sense of all those who seek to know the world) will clearly see it so and insist upon changing it. This happened in the 1960s. At various other critical points in history student inspired movements, recognizing the disjunction between what is happening in the world and what they are being taught and fed by the media, were prepared to do something about it. There are signs, from Tehran to Athens and onto many European university campuses of such a movement. How the new generation of students in China will act must surely be of deep concern in the corridors of political power in Beijing.

A student-led and youthful revolutionary movement, with all of its evident uncertainties and problems, is a necessary but not sufficient condition to produce that revolution in mental conceptions that can lead us to a more rational solution to the current problems of endless growth.

What, more broadly, would happen if an anti-capitalist movement were constituted out of a broad alliance of the alienated, the discontented, the deprived and the dispossessed? The image of all such people everywhere rising up and demanding and achieving their proper place in economic, social and political life, is stirring indeed. It also helps focus on the question of what it is they might demand and what it is that needs to be done.

Revolutionary transformations cannot be accomplished without at the very minimum changing our ideas, abandoning cherished beliefs and prejudices, giving up various daily comforts and rights, submitting to some new daily life regimen, changing our social and political roles, reassigning our rights, duties and responsibilities and altering our behaviors to better conform to collective needs and a common will. The world around us – our geographies – must be radically re-shaped as must our social relations, the relation to nature and all of the other moments in the co-revolutionary process. It is understandable, to some degree, that many prefer a politics of denial to a politics of active confrontation with all of this.

It would also be comforting to think that all of this could be accomplished pacifically and voluntarily, that we would dispossess ourselves, strip ourselves bare, as it were, of all that we now possess that stands in the way of the creation of a more socially just, steady-state social order. But it would be disingenuous to imagine that this could be so, that no active struggle will be involved, including some degree of violence. Capitalism came into the world, as Marx once put it, bathed in blood and fire. Although it might be possible to do a better job of getting out from under it than getting into it, the odds are heavily against any purely pacific passage to the promised land.

There are various broad fractious currents of thought on the left as to how to address the problems that now confront us. There is, first of all, the usual sectarianism stemming from the history of radical action and the articulations of left political theory. Curiously, the one place where amnesia is not so prevalent is within the left (the splits between anarchists and Marxists that occurred back in the 1870s, between Trotskyists, Maoists and orthodox Communists, between the centralizers who want to command the state and the anti-statist autonomists and anarchists). The arguments are so bitter and so fractious, as to sometimes make one think that more amnesia might be a good thing. But beyond these traditional revolutionary sects and political factions, the whole field of political action has undergone a radical transformation since the mid-1970s. The terrain of political struggle and of political possibilities has shifted, both geographically and organizationally.

There are now vast numbers of non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) that play a political role that was scarcely visible before the mid-1970s. Funded by both state and private interests, populated often by idealist thinkers and organizers (they constitute a vast employment program), and for the most part dedicated to single-issue questions (environment, poverty, women’s rights, anti-slavery and trafficking work, etc) they refrain from straight anti-capitalist politics even as they espouse progressive ideas and causes. In some instances, however, they are actively neoliberal, engaging in privatization of state welfare functions or fostering institutional reforms to facilitate market integration of marginalized populations (microcredit and microfinance schemes for low income populations are a classic example of this).

While there are many radical and dedicated practitioners in this NGO world, their work is at best ameliorative. Collectively, they have a spotty record of progressive achievements, although in certain arenas, such as women’s rights, health care and environmental preservation, they can reasonably claim to have made major contributions to human betterment. But revolutionary change by NGO is impossible. They are too constrained by the political and policy stances of their donors. So even though, in supporting local empowerment, they help open up spaces where anti-capitalist alternatives become possible and even support experimentation with such alternatives, they do nothing to prevent the re-absorption of these alternatives into the dominant capitalist practice: they even encourage it. The collective power of NGOs in these times is reflected in the dominant role they play in the World Social Forum, where attempts to forge a global justice movement, a global alternative to neoliberalism, have been concentrated over the last ten years.

The second broad wing of opposition arises out of anarchist, autonomist and grass roots organizations (GROs) which refuse outside funding even as some of them do rely upon some alternative institutional base (such as the Catholic Church with its “base community” initiatives in Latin America or broader church sponsorship of political mobilization in the inner cities of the United States). This group is far from homogeneous (indeed there are bitter disputes among them pitting, for example, social anarchists against those they scathingly refer to as mere “lifestyle” anarchists). There is, however, a common antipathy to negotiation with state power and an emphasis upon civil society as the sphere where change can be accomplished. The self-organizing powers of people in the daily situations in which they live has to be the basis for any anti-capitalist alternative. Horizontal networking is their preferred organizing model. So-called “solidarity economies” based on bartering, collectives and local production systems is their preferred political economic form. They typically oppose the idea that any central direction might be necessary and reject hierarchical social relations or hierarchical political power structures along with conventional political parties. Organizations of this sort can be found everywhere and in some places have achieved a high degree of political prominence. Some of them are radically anti-capitalist in their stance and espouse revolutionary objectives and in some instances are prepared to advocate sabotage and other forms of disruption (shades of the Red Brigades in Italy, the Baader Meinhoff in Germany and the Weather Underground in the United States in the 1970s). But the effectiveness of all these movements (leaving aside their more violent fringes) is limited by their reluctance and inability to scale up their activism into large-scale organizational forms capable of confronting global problems. The presumption that local action is the only meaningful level of change and that anything that smacks of hierarchy is anti-revolutionary is self-defeating when it comes to larger questions. Yet these movements are unquestionably providing a widespread base for experimentation with anti-capitalist politics.

The third broad trend is given by the transformation that has been occurring in traditional labor organizing and left political parties, varying from social democratic traditions to more radical Trotskyist and Communist forms of political party organization. This trend is not hostile to the conquest of state power or hierarchical forms of organization. Indeed, it regards the latter as necessary to the integration of political organization across a variety of political scales. In the years when social democracy was hegemonic in Europe and even influential in the United States, state control over the distribution of the surplus became a crucial tool to diminish inequalities. The failure to take social control over the production of surpluses and thereby really challenge the power of the capitalist class was the Achilles heel of this political system, but we should not forget the advances that it made even if it is now clearly insufficient to go back to such a political model with its social welfarism and Keynesian economics. The Bolivarian movement in Latin America and the ascent to state power of progressive social democratic governments is one of the most hopeful signs of a resuscitation of a new form of left statism.

Both organized labor and left political parties have taken some hard hits in the advanced capitalist world over the last thirty years. Both have either been convinced or coerced into broad support for neoliberalization, albeit with a somewhat more human face. One way to look upon neoliberalism, as was earlier noted, is as a grand and quite revolutionary movement (led by that self-proclaimed revolutionary figure, Margaret Thatcher) to privatize the surpluses or at least prevent their further socialization.

While there are some signs of recovery of both labor organizing and left politics (as opposed to the “third way” celebrated by New Labor in Britain under Tony Blair and disastrously copied by many social democratic parties in Europe) along with signs of the emergence of more radical political parties in different parts of the world, the exclusive reliance upon a vanguard of workers is now in question as is the ability of those leftist parties that gain some access to political power to have a substantive impact upon the development of capitalism and to cope with the troubled dynamics of crisis-prone accumulation. The performance of the German Green Party in power has hardly been stellar relative to their political stance out of power and social democratic parties have lost their way entirely as a true political force. But left political parties and labor unions are significant still and their takeover of aspects of state power, as with the workers party in Brazil or the Bolivarian movement in Venezuela has had a clear impact on left thinking, not only in Latin America. The complicated problem of how to interpret the role of the Communist Party in China, with its exclusive control over political power, and what its future policies might be about is not easily resolved either.

The co-revolutionary theory earlier laid out would suggest that there is no way that an anti-capitalist social order can be constructed without seizing state power, radically transforming it and re-working the constitutional and institutional framework that currently supports private property, the market system and endless capital accumulation. Inter-state competition and geoconomic and geopolitical struggles over everything from trade and money to questions of hegemony are also far too significant to be left to local social movements or cast aside as too big to contemplate. How the architecture of the state-finance nexus is to be re-worked along with the pressing question of the common measure of value given by money cannot be ignored in the quest to construct alternatives to capitalist political economy. To ignore the state and the dynamics of the inter-state system is therefore a ridiculous idea for any anti-capitalist revolutionary movement to accept.

The fourth broad trend is constituted by all the social movements that are not so much guided by any particular political philosophy or leanings but by the pragmatic need to resist displacement and dispossession (through gentrification, industrial development, dam construction, water privatization, the dismantling of social services and public educational opportunities, or whatever). In this instance the focus on daily life in the city, town, village or wherever provides a material base for political organizing against the threats that state policies and capitalist interests invariably pose to vulnerable populations. These forms of protest politics are massive.

Again, there is a vast array of social movements of this sort, some of which can become radicalized over time as they more and more realize that the problems are systemic rather than particular and local. The bringing together of such social movements into alliances on the land (like the Via Campesina, the landless peasant movement in Brazil or peasants mobilizing against land and resource grabs by capitalist corporations in India) or in urban contexts (the right to the city and take back the land movements in Brazil and now the United States) suggest the way may be open to create broader alliances to discuss and confront the systemic forces that underpin the particularities of gentrification, dam construction, privatization or whatever. More pragmatic rather than driven by ideological preconceptions, these movements nevertheless can arrive at systemic understandings out of their own experience. To the degree that many of them exist in the same space, such as within the metropolis, they can (as supposedly happened with the factory workers in the early stages of the industrial revolution) make common cause and begin to forge, on the basis of their own experience, a consciousness of how capitalism works and what it is that might collectively be done. This is the terrain where the figure of the “organic intellectual” leader, made so much of in Antonio Gramsci’s work, the autodidact who comes to understand the world first hand through bitter experiences, but shapes his or her understanding of capitalism more generally, has a great deal to say. To listen to peasant leaders of the MST in Brazil or the leaders of the anti-corporate land grab movement in India is a privileged education. In this instance the task of the educated alienated and discontented is to magnify the subaltern voice so that attention can be paid to the circumstances of exploitation and repression and the answers that can be shaped into an anti-capitalist program.

The fifth epicenter for social change lies with the emancipatory movements around questions of identity – women, children, gays, racial, ethnic and religious minorities all demand an equal place in the sun – along with the vast array of environmental movements that are not explicitly anti-capitalist. The movements claiming emancipation on each of these issues are geographically uneven and often geographically divided in terms of needs and aspirations. But global conferences on women’s rights (Nairobi in 1985 that led to the Beijing declaration of 1995) and anti-racism (the far more contentious conference in Durban in 2009) are attempting to find common ground, as is true also of the environmental conferences, and there is no question that social relations are changing along all of these dimensions at least in some parts of the world. When cast in narrow essentialist terms, these movements can appear to be antagonistic to class struggle. Certainly within much of the academy they have taken priority of place at the expense of class analysis and political economy. But the feminization of the global labor force, the feminization of poverty almost everywhere and the use of gender disparities as a means of labor control make the emancipation and eventual liberation of women from their repressions a necessary condition for class struggle to sharpen its focus. The same observation applies to all the other identity forms where discrimination or outright repression can be found. Racism and the oppression of women and children were foundational in the rise of capitalism. But capitalism as currently constituted can in principle survive without these forms of discrimination and oppression, though its political ability to do so will be severely curtailed if not mortally wounded in the face of a more unified class force. The modest embrace of multiculturalism and women’s rights within the corporate world, particularly in the United States, provides some evidence of capitalism’s accommodation to these dimensions of social change (including the environment), even as it re-emphasizes the salience of class divisions as the principle dimension for political action.

These five broad tendencies are not mutually exclusive or exhaustive of organizational templates for political action. Some organizations neatly combine aspects of all five tendencies. But there is a lot of work to be done to coalesce these various tendencies around the underlying question: can the world change materially, socially, mentally and politically in such a way as to confront not only the dire state of social and natural relations in so many parts of the world, but also the perpetuation of endless compound growth? This is the question that the alienated and discontented must insist upon asking, again and again, even as they learn from those who experience the pain directly and who are so adept at organizing resistances to the dire consequences of compound growth on the ground.

Communists, Marx and Engels averred in their original conception laid out in The Communist Manifesto, have no political party. They simply constitute themselves at all times and in all places as those who understand the limits, failings and destructive tendencies of the capitalist order as well as the innumerable ideological masks and false legitimations that capitalists and their apologists (particularly in the media) produce in order to perpetuate their singular class power. Communists are all those who work incessantly to produce a different future to that which capitalism portends. This is an interesting definition. While traditional institutionalized communism is as good as dead and buried, there are by this definition millions of de facto communists active among us, willing to act upon their understandings, ready to creatively pursue anti-capitalist imperatives. If, as the alternative globalization movement of the late 1990s declared, ‘another world is possible’ then why not also say ‘another communism is possible’? The current circumstances of capitalist development demand something of this sort, if fundamental change is to be achieved.

These notes draw heavily on my forthcoming book, The Enigma of Capital, to be published by Profile Books in April 2010.

David Harvey, CUNY Graduate Center, New York

December 16th 2009

Originally from David Harvey’s WordPress blog, at: http://davidharvey.org/2009/12/organizing-for-the-anti-capitalist-transition/

David Harvey Home Page: http://davidharvey.org/

This text need to be read as widely as possible in my view!

Glenn Rikowski

The Flow of Ideas: http://www.flowideas.co.uk