Tag Archives: Economics

Where is the left? – One hand can’t find the other as Capitalism Collapses

Okay. A current conversation with the lovely PaulGrahamRaven on twitter is goading me into writing a piece I wanted to write a while back. This is going to get messy. And maybe it should.

Also, first up. A confession/analysis regarding the amount of research actually collected for this article. Basically, it is about the osmosis I’ve received from the mainstream press (which mostly consists of the Guardian, the BBC and a million random and variously significant web sources). I’m not massively diligent in my news scouring, but I grok the hypothetically left leaning dead tree Guardian cover to cover between once and four times a week and flitter around the website daily. Then I’ve got twitter news feeds and all sorts of bits and bobs. The point here being that I may (I hope) be missing a lot of the stuff I’m complaining about not being around, so I hope people can link me to the things I should be reading.

Anyway, the sum total of actual specific research rests on a text exchange with the delightful Sahil ‘I only like economics because it means I get to use tenuous cricketing analogies’ Vaughn from over at that there unlearned.

Basically, I asked him for an explanation of the current financial crisis and how it might represent the fundamental flaws of capitalism. Here’s his response (I haven’t asked his permission, but I’m pretty sure he won’t mind:

Well the millions and millions of consistently poor people suggests it [capitalism] doesn’t work. And in terms of economics, since the 60s there has been a decline in productivity, so in that sense it stopped working a while ago. Finance [as] a system has built in failure (its enabled by speculation). Socialising the finance through co op owned fund which we pay into and secure loans against would be useful.

I asked for clarification of some point (I don’t have the message to give details, sorry) and he responded again:

Finance works faster than production, so downturns become crises, which is what opens space for normative debate. I finish my exams today so chat we shallx

Last bit included despite irrelevancy merely so I can point out that he has not held his promise. The bastard.

Anyway. that is literally the sum total of my research into this piece. I just thought I’d kick off with that so that everyone can help me with the holes in my argument. I also read an issue of the New Internationalist on the subject, which was technically useful and proposed solutions, but it’s so niche and I can’t remember the details.

I am a shit journalist (or rather, I am simply not a journalist).

Right.

So.

Financial crisis, as vaguely explained above, means that the world economy is pretty damn fucked. We can all see this, and we are all hearing it.

The most striking part of it for me is that people ahve genuinely described this as the utter failure of capitalism. Proof positive that the system doesn’t work.

Now, as a dyed in the wool (whatever that means) socialist, all this doomsaying kinda got me excited. I know this is rude, as real people are really suffering, but I can’t help it. As Sahil points out, some people have known and seen for years the problems inherent in the system, and the inefficiencies, and immoralities it has a tendency to at best allow, and at worst promote. And it’s been at it’s worst for the last x number of years, where x is somehow proportionate to your propensity for nostalgia.

We’ve seen this coming. To some extent or another. We’ve known that it’s fucked, and now everyone can see it. Banks are being nationalised, governments are trying to salvage the system by giving vast sums of money to the people who fucked this all up in the first place. Jobs are vanishing and businesses are closing.

It’s visible, it’s real, and it’s everywhere.

But what can I not see anywhere?

Lefties. That’s who.

I’m not reading or hearing people talking about changing the system. I’m just hearing people despairing, or hoping it’ll all turn around in a few years and we’ll be on the up and up again. Nobody is calling for revolution or even devolution on the back of this. Nobody is calling on the bankers and bourgeoisie to get their backs to the wall and face the music. Nobody is revolting.

I don’t understand it.

Where’s Marx’s inevitable march towards Communistic utopia when we need it?

There is no antithesis left.

Seriously.

Okay, quickly for those not hot to trot on this. Dialectics states that a thesis (dominant ideology, in this case capitalism) contains or creates, inevitably, and antithesis or opposite. The two struggle, and eventually combine to form a synthesis, which is the new thesis. And so on, marching ever onwards towards perfect, state-free communism (according to Marx). Or just onwards (according to me).

But it’s not here. We’re reaching the crisis/tipping point where things could genuinely change, and as Paul points out. The press is covering the right wing ‘solutions’. Anti immigration policies are on the rise, and the press attacks the government for letting in foreign investors and workers.

And that’s the trade unionists. Ie, the grass roots left (again, hypothetically).

Now, I do appreciate the plight of skilled workers losing out on jobs, but I don’t like the idea of the proletariat mobilising on nationalist grounds, when they could be marching on socialistic ones. Whatever happened to ‘Workers of the world unite.’

We’re getting a step to the right when we need a jump to the left, or whatever the transvestite vampires like doing.

This troubles me, and makes the recession much gloomier. People aren’t taking this open space, to debate new possibilities, they are falling back on old prejudices.

So come on internets. Renege against this all. Start hanging out and discussing and challenging the media institutions that are failing to represent our honest reactions to this. Shout and scream and blog and tweet.

The world is at a point where revolution is possible. And technology has evolved to the point where people can actually connect fully and wholly across the world (ignoring the technological have nots, which happens to coincide with what could possibly be the new proletariat).

We have the forum to discuss this. We have the power to change. Hell, theoretically we’ve got at least one person in power who might be tempted to listen.

Let’s tear open our government to scrutiny, using the technologies of transparency we have before us (I mentioned in a tweet the other day that I’d like to see laws being written on a wiki, okay, probably a closed one that only elected representatives can edit, but where all edits are visible to everyone, so we can track who is being lobbied by who and what they are changing. The technology is with us, we just have to make it happen. Demand it).

Let’s be the left we want to be.

Lets change the world.

Advertisements

“Life ain’t Nothing but Bitches and Money” – A half arsed discussion of Psychoanalytic and Marxist Criticism

God…that title looks boring.

Anyway, basically, I’m going to do a half arsed version of an essay I’ve been intending to do for ages. But because its Sunday, I’m not going to do any research, and I’m probably going to stop halfway through to start tidying up my room.

Still, at least I’ve got an NWA quote in the title.

Anyway, lets get on this.

So, I guess this could be considered an attack on the grand narratives of Freudian Psychoanalysis and Marxism. Which is interesting because It think there are lessons to be learnt from both. Its just the old post modernist thing of attacking the grand narratives I guess. Plus when you try and summarise Freud and Marx using the words of Ice Cube…it becomes much clearer just how much the two can be seen to reducing everything to nothing.

Lets (for some reason) ignore the fact that Freud was a sexist pig who had no idea of anything that happened in the lives of people who didn’t live in Middle class Vienna. This is probably a gross oversimplification of him…but that’s all that everybody ever does with Freud, which is perhaps the problem. My housemate did Psychology at Uni, and she always finds it interesting that I did loads of stuff on Freud (in my Literature degree) when they were taught from the beginning that the whole thing was unprovable tosh. Freud and the interpretations of Freud (we’re talking Lacan’s phallus here by the way) are still prevalent modes of criticism in the field of Literature.

There is genuinely some really interesting stuff going on there. You can compare Freud’s understanding of ‘the dream work’, that is the way our subconscious presents thoughts in dreams but then we encode and disguise them so our conscious mind doesn’t have to face up to the unpleasant truths within, with the practice of writing and creativity. The construction of meaning in writing can be compared to an expression of the mind of the author (who, as we all know, is dead) being transmitted through the veiling and changing process of language. Does that make sense to anyone who isn’t a pretentious wanker? Possibly not. But there’s definitely some interesting stuff going on there. For the likes of Nick Royle, literature is a form of telepathy (I’ll post my dissertation on Philip K Dick at some point for more discussion of this) between the minds of author and reader. In fact this is probably a gross mis-interpretation, but that’s what I always got out of it. In fact I think that its closer to empathy at least half of the time. Good literature has an ability to make you feel a situation, rather than just think about it. That’s why we love reading even when its not the smartest and wittiest and most intelligent pieces of Canonical literature. That’s why ‘trashy’ and ‘lowbrow’ books are still damn good.

Michael Marshall Smith’s Only Forward is an excellent book that essentially deals with psychoanalysis through the medium of a witty and fast paced sci fi narrative. Read it now…its worth it. The writing seems a little stilted at times but the pace and humour is so good that you forgive it immediately…and its a first novel…so its a pretty damn fine achievement. I won’t analyse it now as it would spoil it. First person who lives in my area and e-mails me asking for it can borrow my copy.

Anyway. The point is that you need to get the whole breadth of Psycholanalysis being considered in order to get something useful out of it. I don’t like the way that one tiny element has effectively become the whole grand narrative. Its a simplification. Everything is about sex…apparently…it just becomes a hunt for phallic symbols and returns to the womb. Eye removal is apparently synonymous with castration anxiety…as is almost anything else that can happen. I mean…I can appreciate that people think about sex a lot…I sure do. I can even see how it could be considered one of the primary motivational drives. The reproductive drive (continuance of DNA…the selfish gene and all that jazz) is the obvious motivation. But even Freud had to override that with the Death Drive once he saw the results of the First World War. I don’t know…I guess its the reductionism of most psychoanalytic criticism that pisses me off. It is possible to take note of Siggy and not actually have to make everything about a couple of out dated and genuinely quite ridiculous statements. If most psychologists think that its nonsense…then why is the literary world still so obsessed with the Mother Loving Austrian Prick.

And I haven’t even mentioned Oedipus yet.

Anyway. Marxism is something i like. The key reduction here is viewing everything through a system of economic relationships. Sahil believes that every relationship is a constant series of negotiations…and that applies on International levels and on personal relationships. For Marx it’s about class war (aside: protest on campus once…someone yelled out ‘its a class war’ and got the biggest laugh of the day as everybody noted that in fact the only classes present were the middle…that’s what University protests are all about..middle class kids pretending they aren’t) and the constant dialectic struggle between the oppressor and the oppressed. The important thing however, is that everything becomes economic. The money and the value of goods is exchanged, and this leads to the exploitation and alienation of the proletariat etc etc blah blah blah.

We all know about it. If you don’t (or just like re contextualised works) look at this .

Anyway, I’m talking through a literary lens today…so lets go into what Marxist literary criticism is like. Basically, (I think) literature is considered complicit in the oppression of the ‘people’. It forms part of the ruling hegemony (unless it is subverting it of course) and creates and uses language to promote the status quo. The ideology of the ruling class controls the language and uses its meanings to impose its thought upon people. Language itself is guilty of oppression, which is why people try to screw the system up by subverting language itself. Look for those experimental poets fucking shit up. My mate Jeffers does a fine job of it. I think its all well and good. I kind of tend to agree with bits and pieces of it to an extent. But at the same time…I don’t like the idea that language is to blame. Can we not change language. I mean…I know language and meaning has its limits. But the beauty of language is in the fact that it changes every fucking time you use it. Every time I use a word in the company of someone…then for both of us that word acquires a meaning related to that moment. It adds an extra level to it. A lot of the stuff in my short story posted below (Abort , Retry, Fail) is little words and phrases that only make sense to me and a couple of people who will recognise the original situation. I don’t know if it makes sense to put them in there…but I think it actually challenges other readers to associated new meaning with those phrases. The story isn’t as subversive as I’d originally hoped…but it certainly is a struggle to read…it makes you think…but at no point to I make up or invert language. Everything is in vaguely accurate English. The grammar is disjointed…but you generally understand what is going on.

Anyway, I’m going to edit it soon and hopefully it’ll be better then.

I’ve rambled off topic.

Basically..the general point is that grand theories must be looked at in all their intricacies, and should be only used as a lens. You must be aware that you are making a certain judgement of something using a certain set of rules laid out, by that something.

Life is more than sex and economics. Don’t reduce things to that. Look at everything. If you’re being Marxist..then note that you’re being Marxist and try and think of what the other side is. same for Freud…don’t just glue yourself to his ideas so that eventually all you can see is cocks flying through tunnels or whatever it is that Freud saw everywhere.

Hmm,

I haven’t said anything have I…ah well…any thoughts? Any questions? Want to call me a big shit and tell me I’m wrong? Go on…make a comment…I dares ya.

Edit: Read the commments if you haven’t. My second comment below actually ends up saying what I was trying to say above but couldn’t quite figure out.