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Austerity No!

HISTORICAL MATERIALISM AUSTRALASIA CONFERENCE 2012 – CALL FOR PAPERS

Historical Materialism Australasia2012—Call For Papers
Following the end of the Cold War, Francis Fukuyama’s “end of history” thesis epitomized the prevailing attitude, summed up more brutally by Margaret Thatcher’s injunction that “There is No Alternative.” Twenty years on from Fukuyama’s assertion, liberal triumphalism has been battered by war, recession and political radicalization on the left and the right. In this context even Fukuyama has conceded that history does indeed have a future.

Karl Marx famously remarked that we make our own history, adding that we do not do so “under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past”. Today, history is being re-made on the streets of the Middle East and North Africa, and now also across the Global North. These struggles will shape the world’s future. Yet they take place in conditions marked by protracted economic crisis, continuing wars and imperialist “interventions”, and the rule of the market over all of life. The reoccupation of the world’s streets, squares and commons is matched by the ever-increasing subordination of parliaments to the dictates of the market, witnessed most profoundly in the imposition of technocratic rule in Greece, Italy and elsewhere.

These events have seen Marx return to mainstream debate, but all too often in the form of having his insights cherry picked and reified in an attempt to rescue capitalism from itself. There is a need to go beyond such appropriation, to re-establish a living critique of political economy, to work towards the “determinate negation” of capitalism that Marx spoke of. Such a project requires raising questions about the meaning, the form and the very desirability of democracy in an era of growing technocratic rule. Similarly, as human rights provide a moral cover for wars it becomes necessary to interrogate the language of rights in contemporary political struggles. And, as revolution re-appears on the global stage, if in new forms hardly recognizable to revolutionaries of the past, it is clear that the categories of our political thought and practice must be subjected to renewed thought and debate.

Historical Materialism Australasia is a one-day conference to be held in Central Sydney on Saturday 21 July 2012.

To facilitate this, Historical Materialism welcomes individual paper submissions and panel proposals that seek to contribute to this debate.

Please email paper abstracts of no more than 250 words and panel proposals of no more than 100 words to historicalmaterialism2012@gmail.com by Friday, April 13th.

—Jessica Whyte, Rory Dufficy & Tad Tietze (organising group)

Further details: http://historicalmaterialism2012.wordpress.com/

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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  

‘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

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

Cold Hands & Quarter Moon: http://www.myspace.com/coldhandsmusic

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

World Crisis

FROM CAPITALIST CRISIS TO CUTS TO … REVOLUTION?

Sunday 13 March 12.30-2pm, ULU, Malet Street, London
 
Debate between  David Broder (The Commune),  David Graeber (author on anarchism) and a speaker from Endnotes (communist theory journal).

Despite their arrogant insistence that ‘there is no alternative’, the Government are imposing these cuts from a position of weakness. The crash of 2008 exposed the fragility of the whole capitalist economy.

Now the revolutions in Arab world have shown the fragility of seemingly secure national states.

Could the fight against the cuts be the start of a new movement that goes beyond both the capitalist economy and the state? 

Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

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

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

Volumizer: http://glennrikowski.blogspot.com

Alternative Culture

ALTERNATIVE CULTURE NOW: THE POLITICS OF CULTURE AT THE PRESENT CONJUNCTURE

 

Call for Proposals:

‘Alternative Culture Now: The Politics of Culture at the Present Conjuncture’
Conference and Event
Budapest, Hungary
April 8-10, 2010

Proposal Deadline: January 25, 2010

How do things stand with respect to the fate of the alternative? Branded and normativized, incorporated into a whole ensemble of mainstream discourses, and no longer the threat it once posed to capitalist and communist states alike, the political and social force of the alternative seems to have faded away. And yet the dream of the alternative continues to inspire political and social movements, artists, theorists, and all kinds of creative practices. How might we begin to situate and think alternativity as a global phenomenon at this precise conjuncture in world history? What is alternative about culture today? And what might or can it become?

The alternative, of course, has always been phraseable in the singular and the plural. On the one hand, it is a phenomenon locked into local configurations, a multi-polar and non-totalizable practice of myriad deviation. Here, its ambit can be that of a family drama or workplace, a national concatenation, or the homogenizing logic of a dominant cultural medium or genre. The dreams it holds in reserve are vitally minor: the fissuring of a regime with a joke or dissidence, the freedom mobilized in small, almost imperceptible defections or reversals. The production of the alternative is in this sense the aggregate, spontaneous effort of innumerable cultural agents to resist every species of stasis and capture, every grammar and vernacular, every gestural hierarchy and total system.

At the same time, this molecular vision of the alternative, of a plurality of fissions and margins, has always been accompanied by attempts to think what it is in the tendency of a moment which suppresses cultural possibilities on a global level. This is a dream of a communication or inter-mediation between margins, a system of deviances which comprehensively address the conditions which negatively hypostatize the life of the virtual. Global patriarchy, violent state expansionisms, the inhibiting logics of capital, and the globalization of the English language can be envisioned as transnational, systematized normativities that threaten cultural specificity or possibility in a way that is never exhausted by its expression on the register of the local. Is there, in this sense, only one alternative: an alternative to which there is no alternative? This notion of a single alternative-a universal difference necessary to shelter the future lives of difference–immediately sets into motion its own paradoxical dialectics of alternativity, itself appearing to erase the thing it promises. How do we escape this vortex, or at least make its impasses productive?

Is one alternative more important than another? Can alternatives be exhausted or rendered obsolete? What kind of method could we develop to test the valences of alternatives? Can or should alternative culture polemically charge the space of its own marginality, or would this degenerate into an infinite sectarianism?

We understand “alternative culture” to include diverse forms of cultural expression and activity, which are connected by their shared goal of creating just, humane, and equitable human relations by means of their opposition to existing cultural, social, and political forms.

This conference encourages contributions from scholars, educators, artists, cultural workers, policy makers, journalists, and others involved in alternative culture and international cultural policies. We are especially interested in contributions addressing alternative culture in Central/Eastern Europe and countries/regions of the former Soviet Union.

Areas of inquiry for submissions may include, but are not limited to, the following general topics in relation to the politics of alternative culture today:

Aesthetics – Collectivity – post-Communist Culture – Creativity – Cultural Studies – Eastern Europe – Geography -Globalization – Higher Education – Media – Memory/Nostalgia – Music – New Media – ex-Socialist History – ex-Soviet Urban Spaces – Visual Culture

The “Alternative Culture Now: The Politics of Culture at the Present Conjuncture” conference will take place at the OSA Archivum in Budapest, Hungary, April 8-10, 2010. It is organized and sponsored by the International Alternative Culture Center, with the support of the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology (Central European University) and the Canada Research Chair in Cultural Studies (University of Alberta). The conference format will be diverse, including paper presentations, panels, round-table exchanges, artistic performances, and exhibitions. We encourage individual and collaborative paper and panel proposals from across the disciplines and from artists and community members.

Paper Submissions should include: (1) contact information; (2) a 300-500 word abstract; and (3) a one page curriculum vitae or a brief bio.

Panel Proposals should include: (1) a cover sheet with contact information for chair and each panelist; (2) a one-page rationale explaining the relevance of the panel to the theme of the conference; (3) a 300 word abstract for each proposed paper; and (4) a one page curriculum vitae for each presenter.

Please submit individual paper proposals or full panel proposals via e-mail attachment by January 25, 2010 to 
alternativeculturenow@gmail.com with the subject line “Alternative Culture Now.” Attachments should be in .doc or .rtf formats. Submissions should be one document (i.e. include all required information in one attached document).

Website: http://www.alternativeculture.org

Conference Organizing Team: Sarah Blacker (University of Alberta, Canada), Jessie Labov (Ohio State, USA), Andrew Pendakis (University of Bonn, Germany), Justin Sully (McMaster University, Canada), Imre Szeman (University of Alberta, Canada), Maria Whiteman (University of Alberta, Canada), and Olga Zaslavskaya (OSA, Hungary)

Sarah Blacker
Department of English and Film Studies
3-5 Humanities Centre
University of Alberta
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
T6G 2E5

Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

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

Pink Tide

Pink Tide

THE PINK TIDE: RECONFUGURING POLITICS, POWER AND POLITICAL ECONOMY IN THE AMERICAS?

 

2nd Call for Papers

The Pink Tide: Reconfiguring politics, power and political economy in the Americas?

Key-note speakers include: Noam Chomsky, William Robinson, John Holloway, Liam Kane, Marina Sitrin

22-24 January 2010, Centre for the Study of Social and Global Justice in conjunction with the Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies Department, University of Nottingham, Nottingham,UK.

The global credit crunch and election to power of governments and presidents that identify as left and left-of-centre throughout the Americas offers one of the most visible political challenges to the TINA discourse that appeared to reign unchallenged for much of the past 15 years. With presidents such as Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Bachelet in Chile and Obama in the United States the region and its peoples are experiencing one of the most exciting and dynamic political periods of recent history.

It is this political conjuncture that the conference would like to explore as it is the organisers belief that the development of our understanding of the political processes occurring will enable us to conceptualise and contribute to the furtherance of more inclusive democracy and development in the region and beyond. We believe that this discussion can be most fruitfully developed between academics, practitioners, policy-makers and community/social movement participants. We also believe that our understanding of the development of alternatives to neoliberalism can only be enhanced by intra-regional dialogue between the North and the South of the Americas.

The conference conveners welcome the participation of a wide range of actors (academics, scholar-activists, social innovators and practitioners) whose work is related to the following themes: the role of political parties and/or the state in social change; grassroots social movements; the creation of new forms of politics and development; LOC governments and neoliberalism; movement and academic knowledges; the US and the ‘Pink Tide’; opposition to ‘pink  tide’; culture/art/media and social change. We particularly encourage cross-disciplinary contributions.

Various kinds of contributions will be considered, both in situ and remotely. We invite proposals for panels, individual paper and poster presentations, round-table debates, workshops and open spaces. Please could you send a 250 words abstract of your proposed contribution clearly stating the authors postal address, email, phone number and institution to cssgj@nottingham.ac.uk by 20 September 2009.

For further information, please see the Events page on the CSSGJ website:
http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/cssgj/PinkTide.php

Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

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

Why Third Way Politics Refuses To Die

 

 

 

 

Why Third Way Politics Refuses To Die


By Louis Proyect

 


COME ON, GOOD PEOPLE, COME ON! We know, this is the time of the year when you receive letters galore from the ACLU, Amnesty International, Greenpeace, and countless other organizations and charities that want to reach into your wallet. They do have a big marketing budget, don’t they? — and they all tell you they want to change the world, or at least alleviate its suffering. We have no marketing budget and we are not promising to change the world — not that we aren’t trying…but one has to be realistic. What we bring you is different voices, some darn serious, others quite humorous or poetic. We bring you book reviews. We bring you analysis. We bring you an extraordinarily diverse pool of authors from many countries. We bring you famous and not so famous authors. We bring you alternatives. We bring you originality and quality twice a month, rain or shine. Again, where else can you find what we bring, and all commercial free? So open your checkbook and write that darn check. It won’t save the auto industry but it will save Swans, and it will make a huge difference both emotionally and practically for our work ahead. Thank you and our very best wishes for the coming year.
Donate Now!

 

(Swans – December 15, 2008): In 1997 Tony Blair became Prime Minister of Great Britain ending eighteen years of Tory rule. For left-leaning Britons, the 1979-1990 rule of Margaret Thatcher and her successor John Major easily rivaled George W. Bush’s as an odious symbol of class injustice. When she was not embarking on foreign imperial adventures in the Malvinas, Thatcher was attacking the working class at home. Her most notable victory was in defeating the coal miner’s strike of 1984, an achievement that was as effective as Reagan’s assault on the airline controllers in preparing the way for a neoliberal economic regime.

 

 


When Blair was elected, the sense of relief evoked this “Wizard of Oz” ditty sung by the Munchkins:

 


Ding Dong! The Witch is dead.
Which old Witch? The Wicked Witch!
Ding Dong! The Wicked Witch is dead.

Wake up – sleepy head, rub your eyes, get out of bed.
Wake up, the Wicked Witch is dead.
She’s gone where the goblins go,
Below – below – below.

Yo-ho, let’s open up and sing and ring the bells out.
Ding Dong’ the merry-oh, sing it high, sing it low.
Let them know The Wicked Witch is dead!

 

However, British voters did not get exactly what they voted for.
As soon as the euphoria wore off, it became clear that Tony Blair was no friend of working people, as Thomas Friedman observed in an April 22, 2005, New York Times Op-Ed:

 


The other very real thing Mr. Blair has done is to get the Labor Party in Britain to firmly embrace the free market and globalization – sometimes kicking and screaming. He has reconfigured Labor politics around a set of policies designed to get the most out of globalization and privatization for British workers, while cushioning the harshest side effects, rather than trying to hold onto bankrupt Socialist ideas or wallowing in the knee-jerk antiglobalism of the reactionary left.

 


Blair demonstrated that he was no slouch when it came to sending British troops abroad, joining the U.S. in imperial aggressions against the Serbs and the Iraqis. Indeed, one would be hard put to really tell the difference between the Tories and New Labour other than the rhetoric.

 


Although the eight years of George W. Bush was a lot shorter in duration than Tory rule in Great Britain, it did manage to do as much violence to working people at home and abroad. Bush was notoriously lazy but he did have a kind of zeal for punishing those not fortunate enough to be born with a silver spoon in their mouth.

 

With the election of Barack Obama in November, the same pattern seems to be unfolding as it did with Tony Blair’s prime ministry. Both Blair and his American counterpart Bill Clinton sought to govern through the “Third Way,” a philosophy that permeates Obama’s “Audacity of Hope.” For those who have been surprised by Obama’s apparent determination to serve in the capacity of Bill Clinton’s third term, the evidence for such a proclivity was there all along for those with the patience to read through his gaseous prose. Obama wrote:

 

 

“In his platform — if not always in his day-to-day politics — Clinton’s Third Way went beyond splitting the difference. It tapped into the pragmatic, nonideological attitude of the majority of Americans.


“Just as Blair was determined to continue the free-market policies of Margaret Thatcher, so was Obama ready to apply the same kind of lash to the backs of American workers first applied by Ronald Reagan, her American counterpart that Reagan’s message “spoke to the failure of liberal government,” which had become “too cavalier about spending taxpayer money…” He added that, “A lot of liberal rhetoric did seem to value rights and entitlements over duties and responsibilities…. Reagan offered Americans a sense of common purpose that liberals seemed no longer able to muster.

 


Labour and liberal disappointment with Tony Blair and Barack Obama respectively tends to sidestep the all-important question of why these politicians try to mediate between their own party and the organized Right. In contrast, John McCain fought hard for Republican Party core beliefs. Triangulating between conservative and liberal positions originates on the left rather than the right apparently and when the conservatives keep shifting to the right, the end result of triangulation is a center further to the right than in the past.

 


Rather than seeing “Third Way” politics as a kind of conscious policy choice, I would suggest that it is better understood in structural terms as the defense mechanism of Empires in decline perhaps not even understood fully by the politicians who carry them out. In broad historical perspectives, the rise of centrism in two of the most powerful imperialist nations in history is stoked by their decline as economic powers.

 


At a time when the British Empire was relatively powerful, the Labour Party pushed relatively hard for the class interests of the rank-and-file voter. It was no accident that socialized medicine arrived when British steel, shipbuilding, coal-mining, and auto manufacturing were vibrant, profit-generating industries.

 


When British industry lost its competitive edge, not coincidentally around the same time that its former colonial subjects were winning their freedom, the capitalists understood that the old rules did not apply. The worker’s slice of the pie shrank steadily, all in the name of “modernization” and “efficiency.

 


The same ineluctable processes that gave rise to the “Third Way” in Great Britain have matured in the United States, thus giving birth to the candidacies of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama alike. In one of the greatest con jobs in history, Obama was elected because voters decided that “change” meant something different from both George W. Bush and the Clinton administration that preceded it.

 


The liberal pundits who helped to get Obama elected still hold out hope that he will push through a new New Deal and thus return the U.S. to some kind of golden era of prosperity. For many of them, the proof of Obama’s FDR type credentials is his announced intention to push through a 700 billion dollar public works project. Once again demonstrating the indifference to history that characterizes the world of Huffington Post, Nation Magazine, et al., there has been no attempt to analyze whether FDR’s public works program did much good in breaking the back of the Great Depression.

 


It turns out that it was World War Two that had such a salutary effect, according to a letter written by the late Harry Magdoff in reply to a Monthly Review contributor who betrayed Keynesian illusions in a submission.
Magdoff wrote:

 


[D]espite a promise of heavy government spending, and Keynes’s theoretical support, the New Dealers were stumped by the 1937-38 recession, which interrupted what looked like a strong recovery. There was then as there is now an underlying faith that capitalism is a self-generating mechanism. If it slowed down or got into trouble, all that was needed was a jolt to get back on track. In those days, when farm life supplied useful metaphors, the needed boost was referred to as priming the pump. The onset of a marked recession after years of pump-priming startled Washington. Questions began to be raised about the possibility of stagnation in a mature capitalism, the retarding effect of monopolistic corporations, and other possible drags on business. These concerns faded as war orders flowed in from Europe, and eventually they disappeared when the United States went to war. The notion of the “Keynesian Welfare State” has tended to disguise the fact that what really turned the tide was not social welfare, Keynesian or otherwise, but war. In that sense, the whole concept of Keynesianism can be mystification.

 


War, of course, is not a feasible option today for the U.S. or any other imperialist power given the likelihood of mutually assured destruction. That being the case, how likely is it that public works programs will accomplish today what it did not in the 1930s? The answer is not very likely at all. The irony of American politics today is that the weapons it created to help win the last world war serve to inhibit it from launching new wars against powerful rivals. Without resort to war — what Randolph Bourne called “the health of the state” — the U.S. is destined to lurch from one economic crisis to another with politicians on the right and the nominal left competing with each other to turn back the clock to a glorious past that never really existed.

 

 

Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

The Rikowski web site, The Flow of Ideas is at: http://www.flowideas.co.uk