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Re: <nettime> Nobel laureate in economics aged 102 endorses the human ec
Keith Hart on Sun, 20 Jan 2013 21:26:38 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> Nobel laureate in economics aged 102 endorses the human economy approach

Hi Brian,

Oliver Williamson got a Nobel prize last year for his development of
Coase's idea. This is that everything inside and outside the firm is up for
grabs, especially the relationship between corporations and governments.
The Fordist phase of internalizing transaction costs is over for a number
of reasons, not least because the digital revolution has cheapened the cost
of transferring information reliably. This does not mean the corporations
have ceased to be large and powerful. Of the 100 largest economic entities
on earth two-thirds are corporations and of those half are bigger than all
but 8 countries. Moreover, I believe we are witnessing a drive for
corporate home rule which would leave them the only citizens in a world
society made to suit their interests. This is the logical conclusion of the
collapse of the difference between real and artificial persons in law,
since how could mere human beings compete with organizations of their size,
wealth and longevity?

The left has been effectively blindsided by this development because our
models of what is happening are more rigid and old-fashioned. We talk about
capital as if it is a static phenomenon that we know about better than the
fat cats, whereas Coase/Williamson underpins a fast-moving evolution that
we lack the intellectual equipment and experience to understand. Arrighi is
still recycling Kondratiev cycles, again an essentially static vision of
history that only looks backwards. To this extent, Coase at 102 is covering
his bets by embracing a more humane economics. Ning Wang by the way came up
through Human Development at the U of Chicago and is more likely to be the
main author.

Coase/Williamson provides the flexibility to imagine a world where
companies control the marketing of their brand, outsource production,
logistics and much else and internalize government. For example, the story
goes, why rely on governments for conflict resolution? Corporations also
have to handle conflict resolution. The discourse of Corporate Social
Responsibility is a major field for negotiating changes in the relationship
between firms and society. We all know about the privation of public
servcies which is another side of that coin. This is a matter of deadly
significance and we have to ask what kinds of political mobilization are
capable of resisting it.

The human economy idea may have its origins in small-scale informal
activities and its ideology may be humanist, but effective resistance to a
corporate takeover will require selective alliances between self-organized
initiatives on the ground and large-scale bureaucracies of the public and
private kind. For, as Camus told us in La Peste, the human predicament is
impersonal, even anti-humanist in scope. So we have to build bridges
between local subjectivities and world society as a whole. I share your
fears, Brian. It really is a dangerous situation.

I offered the Coase anecdote not as proof that our side is winning, but
because it makes it easier to say that the search for alternatives has some
prominent supporters inside the economics profession.


On Sat, Jan 19, 2013 at 6:55 PM, Brian Holmes <
bhcontinentaldrift {AT} gmail.com> wrote:

>> All of this is both fascinating and encouraging.

Prof. Keith Hart
135 rue du Faubourg Poissonniere
75009 Paris, France
Cell: +33684797365

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