Ed Phillips on Sun, 27 Jul 2008 03:10:08 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Some reflections on global mapping

> What strikes me is the speed with which the capitalists adjust to the new
> situation:  replacing the privatisation of profits with the need to
> socialise losses. Even The Economist and the FT recognize that this means
> new rules for the market economy and an enhanced role for the state, but
> capitalism's critics are slower to acknowledge that neo-liberalism is over.
> My guess is that the political pressure for new public safeguards against
> what W called Wall Street getting drunk on itself will build up more
> gradually. The question is where and how a phase on enhanced regulation will
> take place. One recent example was a statement by  an EU commissioner that
> the credit rating agencies will be forced to erect serious firewalls between
> themselves and 'the markets'. But that is just a drop in the ocean.

Keith, I really appreciate your thinking and I've been waiting for you
to pull up your stool in the nettime pidgin bar:

I'll take a different tack. I too noted what was previously a lefty
trope of private profits and social risk making it into the economist
and ft. I see that as some acknowledgment of the way in which the
banking "markets" are already a shame-faced and inefficient
socialist-capitalist synthesis. American market watchers have been
watching the Mae/Mac system inefficiently underwrite the housing boom
for years, watching a "free market" pull off dazzling aerials of
weightless lending with a perfect safety net. Even intellectually
honest critics of the conservative stripe such as Gigot at the WSJ
have been at the Maes.

Where I don't see Liberalism euro-american style going is
acknowledgment of or direct open engagement in efficient, people's money,
peoples profit and loss governance. I looked at Gigot's recent words
on it and found a perfect example of where the ideology of what you
are calling neoliberalism is alive and strong and cloaking and
masking, and appears to have no end in sight. I don't say this in
despair or cynicism but rather in an attempt to intervene in and make
distinct the thinking. So here I see less of "a shift in rules for the
market economy and more of an enhanced role for the state" because the
state has already had the role and the rules in place.

The role is now revealed to more people than before. But some serious
thinking about investments in ideology will have to take place and I
don't see that quite yet with this crisis and at this level of
inequality. Remember in the 90's we thought that the inequality was
already too great to sustain the illusions? Perhaps the next major
crisis when the inequality will be exponentially greater and when the
tools of "those who are creating something new" will be that much
greater will be a major shift? I don't see it now.

Why this crisis is to be drawn out over at least the next year lies
somewhat in the waiting game that is happening with those that are holding
illiquid paper and those that are waiting to bottom feed. But it does
not look this time like collapse nor does it look like the
euro-american nations will take more than stopgap piecemeal measures,
with little change in role and rules.

Much work has to be done to reveal a kind of that is the way things
are thinking, an investment in false fig leaf rhetoric, in baldly,
ideology.  I can do a little bit of what I
think is useful revealing by discussing Gigot a little. (this should
make sense without having to read Gigot but he is a simple google
search away should anyone have interest).

Gigot's attacks are very well written and on point, especially when he takes
Krugman (third way liberalism) et al. to task for not pointing out the symbiosis between The Street
and the taffy candy companies. There is indeed a Countrywide-MacMae-IndyMac continuum.
That is an important and intellectually honest point. An enormous
synthesis lies in that little sentence (trillions of dollars in value).

Gigot attempts to unmask the symbiosis between the street and Washington
but he cannot go far enough; the cloak was not just "affordable
housing" as he says and apologists for the Maes say, but the very market
itself. The pretense of a free market in mortgages and banking and
agency securities was the deeper cloak that Gigot can't even see for
his own blinding ideology.

We are not just talking about a few fat cats at the maes, but the
entire housing-cum-banking industry and its rising tide promising not
just the affordable "ideology of home beautiful" but the promise of
profit to every jane and joe to boot. What a deadly combination that
is to the euro-american psyche! Watch the bubble burst.

MacMae also propped up IndyMac as its luxury super jumbo supposedly
wholly private cousin. The whole rising tide brought all those fat
mortgage banking operations up with it.

It is decidedly by-partisan, nakedly so, and the fake conservative, tax
cut and subsidize Booshies are as naked as any on the left side of the

Furthermore, Gigot over-errs in thinking that Krugman or the chattering
liberals had the power to prop up the
maes; Gigot has the professional blindness of the pundit to his own
powerlessness. The engine here was the perfect combination of apparent
profit for all (in the entire housing game) and growth, growth,
growth. It has to rise with the bubble, everybody has to appear to get
some glucose out of it, for this kind of colossal flimflammery to
fly. Krugman could have railed as hard as he did against Booshy's
executive power grab. The pundit rages in the wilds of op-ed
powerlessly.... Until the bubble bursts. (The pundits are a part of a
system of professional intellectual wrestling, staged with mock
outrage. The power is with the people if and when they seize it.)

On the downside of the bubble, the Agency paper is not worthless at all but rather illiquid
and will be very profitable to those that buy it when others need to
unload it. (think China and the bottom feeders). Debt will continue to
be one of the biggest games in global town, and
a very profitable one.

I take your point about the Bretton Woods institutions going through
major changes and that will be due as much to the rise of the
petrodollars and China as crisis in financialization. Such a dramatic

I also take your point about not writing off the state, which many
never did.

Popular wisdom euro-american style often has it that the nominally
socialist countries lack the dynamism of the countries with the free
market fig leafs. The current irony is that the naked
socialist-capitalist synthesis of China is looking decidedly more
dynamic at the moment than such popular wisdom would grant.

Where looking at the intersections of global capital and the loosely
affiliated groups of nation states as a non-determining totality is
helpful I think is in both seeing the interdependence and the ways in
which certain less "totalized" ways of looking at geoeconomics are
inadequate to the unprecedented present. One could miss, for example,
the self-scaling of the investment portfolio. I am fond of the failed,
frayed in-determinist totality, the globe if you will, as a tool for
thinking and mapping out what is the not yet mapped out or unthinkable
present. The profit on it is more than learning to curse, but in
undramatically seizing a means of understanding.

I take an active interest.

> It has been obvious enough for some time that world society needs to adjust
> to the internet, to the counterrevolution unleashed after Sept 11th, to the
> rise of India and China and now to the end of the neoliberal boom. I don't
> claim that the new social forms I study and sometimes promote are all that
> big, when placed alongside dominant institutions, or that our side will win.
> But I do know whose side I am on, the one that would grant more economic
> power to the people, economic democracy. And I don't find the idea of
> capitalism as a totality all that helpful to that end, even though the idea
> has to be taken into account.

> sponsoring community currencies.

The creation of working syntheses is really interesting and is I think
something of a nowtopia as Peter Carlssen is putting it. These forms
collecting assumption of means are the future in the present. The
optimism that see in these movements the future is in no sense naive.

> In my previous post I said we need stories more than maps. I have plenty of
> them, have been storing them up for years and refurbish them daily from the
> news. But I don't have concrete foresight into institutional possibilities.
> When it becomes obvious, the Bretton Woods institutions -- World Bank, IMF,
> WTO -- will have to be scrapped. What gets put in their place depends on the
> severity of the economic collapse and the combined social forces pushing for
> a new deal. I know something of what is going on in the Bank, but nothing
> that will keep them going in anything like their present form. The buildings
> may still be there, but the functions will take a new form, perhaps even
> with some new functions and interests to serve. Sorry that this is so vague,
> but it is important to figure out what the political game is right now and
> whose side we are on. You can be sure that institutional economics will be
> revived, since the problem of saving the economy in practical terms ranks
> higher than preaching the virtues of free markets now.
> There are several stories in play: where we are in the history of the
> boom/bust cycle; how the BRIC countries and others will use their economic
> strength in dealing with the west; what forms a revived state apparatus will
> take and not just in relation to the economy; the US empire, the dollar and
> the war for oil; the future of European integration in face of a $2 Earp
> exchange rate; the future of the internet, especially if revived governments
> find new ways to serve corporate interests (see the latest on ISPs and the
> record companies); how all this is transformed into a green panic or its
> opposite. Take your pick. It's all probably too complex and uncertain to be
> mapped as a totality, but some political and intellectual movement is
> desirable, rather than pining for a past of greater ideological clarity.
> > > Against fascism and war, a revival of redistributive
> > > politics at appropriate levels of world society would be one strategy.
> >
> > The famous "global Keynesianism" that's been talked about for decades.
> > Could it be done? How? By whom? Are there any plans afoot?
> It might have been talked about for decades, but now is a new historical
> context for any such strategy.  I content myself professionally by writing
> about Africa's prospects and motorists (and South Africa in particular). Then
> by dusting off the Polanyi via Stiglitz playbook to see if any old tunes can
> find a new resonance. My bet is that redistribution will move back up the
> political agenda, at least as a way of selling a rescue deal for global
> deal, perhaps for more democratic reasons. It means that those of us who
> wrote off the state in the dot com boom will have to think again.
> > > Promoting the voluntary reciprocity of decentralized groups another.
> >
> > Anywhere this is really happening? To any degree? (sincere questions, I
> > am ignorant)
> This is where I really put my professional effort, lately supported and
> influenced by French economic sociologists such as Jean 'Louis Lilly and
> Alain Caille. Brazil and France have both kept the anti-capitalist flame
> burning after the demise of the Soviet Union. The very successful
> Dictionnaire dye l'autre economie (Milliard 2006), with its origins in Porto
> Alegre 2000, is a major source. I have been approached by Brazil's central
> bank to see if they can help Lula's programme of economic solidarity by
> sponsoring community currencies. A friend in New York who was a derivatives
> quant is now a trader in exotic markets specialised in Brazil. I am soon
> giving the keynote for a Southern California conference on 'Everyday digital
> money' sponsored by Intel. Michael Linton, inventor of LETS, will be
> showcasing his plans for smart cards capable of registering 15 alternative
> currencies. Kenya is a major centre for new developments in mobile phones,
> IT and money using poor people's organization, technology and lout.
> It has been obvious enough for some time that world society needs to adjust
> to the internet, to the counterrevolution unleashed after Sept 11th, to the
> rise of India and China and now to the end of the neoliberal boom. I don't
> claim that the new social forms I study and sometimes promote are all that
> big, when placed alongside dominant institutions, or that our side will win.
> But I do know whose side I am on, the one that would grant more economic
> power to the people, economic democracy. And I don't find the idea of
> capitalism as a totality all that helpful to that end, even though the idea
> has to be taken into account.
> So your request for clarification, Brian, shows that I have no answers in
> those terms, but lots of stories. Want to hear some more over a drink?
> Keith
> www.thememorybank.co.uk

 LocalWords:  Bretton WTO BRIC internet ISPs Keynesianism Polanyi Stiglitz
 LocalWords:  playbook Caille Dictionnaire l'autre economie Alegre programme
 LocalWords:  quant specialised centre neoliberal nettime

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