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Contents contributed and discussions participated by Arabica Robusta

Arabica Robusta

The time of the nation: negotiating global modernity | openDemocracy - 0 views

  • This depoliticised nature of the contemporary, seen as the conceptual and experiential embodiment of globalised capitalism, consequently poses problems far more significant than the mere survival of the nation-state.
  • Undoubtedly, since the demise of the postmodern epoch in the popular and academic imagination, the acceleration of technological forces in commerce and communication - that have paved the way for increased capital accumulation, exchange and crisis - have only heightened what Foucault and Jameson gesture towards as a lived sensation of pure simultaneity.
  • In opposition to the crisis of the political generated by the false amalgamation of coeval living experiences, we might propose the concept of modernity; a concept that the nation-state might be perfectly situated to help elucidate. On this model, I would argue, modernity can be seen as linked to a increased self-consciousness of a secular conception of one's individual finitude (in the form of mortality but also one's personal and societal limits), and the collective negotiation of this issue via a democratic politics.
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  • Undoubtedly some of the impotence of movements such as Occupy can be attributed to the same false utopianism of a borderless world of cyber-communities and multinational companies, whose liberating effects have been a far cry from lived reality.
  • However, the heterotopian potential of the nation-state is vividly problematised through the realisation that twentieth or twenty-first century globalisation, divorced and independent of the influence of varying nation-states, is in fact a fallacy.
  • The question then becomes: how to conceive of the self-determining impulse of modernity - here encapsulated in nationalism - in the form of a  socio-political body that would be capable of maintaining that impulse through preserving the logic of democracy, and foster the requisite representative power in opposition to the power of transnational capitalism?
  • Borders are no longer simply dotted lines between nation-states, but often manifest themselves as ‘spontaneous’ entities such as security and health check zones all over major social and transit spaces, particularly in Europe and the West.
  • But how to conceive of a democratic entity powerful enough to appropriate the multiplicity and heterogeneity of globalised borders, that would also be able to withstand, what Balibar outlines as "the risk of being a mere arena for the unfettered domination of the private centres of power, which monopolise capital, communications and, perhaps also, arms"?
  • If this modern or modernist kernel is latent within the nation-state, then a significant reconfiguration is required since the language of nationhood and nationalism is certainly not one of contingent universality. Rather it is one of mythology: mythologies of ethnicity, of genealogy, of autochthony.
  • If we cannot do away with borders, then they must remain out of necessity. This necessity is discrimination. As Nairn rightly argues, "cultures...depend upon conflicts unsustainable without borders". Contrasts and distinctions are internal to any logic of identity, as Balibar similarly suggests; "the very representation of the border is the precondition for any definition". Once identity is philosophically understood as differential and not self-sufficient, globalisation raises a very modernist dilemma. How to make the very diversity (of choices, cultures, of the new) that modernisation and globalisation make possible, resist the paralysing repetitive logic of what Walter Benjamin terms the 'ever-same' (i.e. the temporality of the contemporary)?
  • The mythological language of nationalism asserts an enduring order, paradoxically so inasmuch as the precise origin or origins of any nationalist discourse remain a shrouded mystery. Myth, as structurally detached from historical or circumstantial origin, becomes a vehicle of interpretation and pathos, splitting into a potentially infinite number of manifestations in each 'national' subject (where each standardised narrative is appropriated as a personal one).
  • By arguing the case for global modernity in the form of the nation-state, however, one faces the immediate problem that modernity is almost unthinkable without capitalism (despite any such attempt to render modernity as a democratising force tied to a conception and experience of time).
  • Although the European tradition has established laws and institutions (including the nation-state) that remain significantly flawed, these still provide a democratic logic that guarantees the possibility of revision, of perfectibility, of the future. If the nation-state can embody a heterotopic space that permits identification through processes of willed negotiation and division, guaranteeing the possibility of the present to always be changed, then it might still serve as a tool for resistance.
Arabica Robusta

Bourdieu on neoliberalism - 0 views

  • Without a doubt, the practical establishment of this world of struggle would not succeed so completely without the complicity of all of the precarious arrangements that produce insecurity and of the existence of a reserve army of employees rendered docile by these social processes that make their situations precarious, as well as by the permanent threat of unemployment. This reserve army exists at all levels of the hierarchy, even at the higher levels, especially among managers. The ultimate foundation of this entire economic order placed under the sign of freedom is in effect the structural violence of unemployment, of the insecurity of job tenure and the menace of layoff that it implies. The condition of the "harmonious" functioning of the individualist micro-economic model is a mass phenomenon, the existence of a reserve army of the unemployed.
  • Economists may not necessarily share the economic and social interests of the true believers and may have a variety of individual psychic states regarding the economic and social effects of the utopia which they cloak with mathematical reason. Nevertheless, they have enough specific interests in the field of economic science to contribute decisively to the production and reproduction of belief in the neoliberal utopia. Separated from the realities of the economic and social world by their existence and above all by their intellectual formation, which is most frequently purely abstract, bookish, and theoretical, they are particularly inclined to confuse the things of logic with the logic of things.
  • All direct and conscious intervention of whatever kind, at least when it comes from the state, is discredited in advance and thus condemned to efface itself for the benefit of a pure and anonymous mechanism, the market, whose nature as a site where interests are exercised is forgotten. But in reality, what keeps the social order from dissolving into chaos, despite the growing volume of the endangered population, is the continuity or survival of those very institutions and representatives of the old order that is in the process of being dismantled, and all the work of all of the categories of social workers, as well as all the forms of social solidarity, familial or otherwise.
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  • Like it or not, the public interest will never emerge, even at the cost of a few mathematical errors, from the vision of accountants (in an earlier period one would have said of "shopkeepers") that the new belief system presents as the supreme form of human accomplishment.
Arabica Robusta

Latin America's Document-Driven Revolutions - washingtonpost.com - 0 views

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    This article makes important points about current Latin American constitution-writing but does not examine how such constitutions were written in the first place. The ability of people to argue that the Honduran constitution supports a coup, shows the importance of knowing the history of Latin American constitutions.
Arabica Robusta

Democracy and democracy-support: a new era | open Democracy News Analysis - 0 views

  • The "end of the end of history" has many architects. Today, several states (an increasingly assertive Russia and China in particular) embody alternative political models that have come to challenge any notion of liberal-democratic hegemony; others (such as Venezuela and Iran) experiment with forms of rule that too take them further away from its orbit. These models and forms face many problems of their own, but they may not be quite as unattractive - either to the people of these countries or to many observers around the world - as lingering triumphalists in the west might assume.
  • There has been a tendency to focus the work of democracy-support in very practical ways: toolkits, implementation, strategy and policy. This was and remains essential; but there is also a need to reflect on the underpinnings of these practices in how democracy itself is understood in this new, testing global environment.
  • The dominance of a liberal-democratic conception with an American accent is reflected in the overwhelming predominance of United States institutions, academics, journals - and ideas - in the democracy-support "industry". Again, this is not in itself a problem: all discourses of democracy are grounded in specific social-political contexts and  power-relations. But the current circumstances of the kind described above - authoritarian challenges, stalled democratic transitions, discontent with democracy, deep and growing economic problems - suggest that an expanded understanding of democracy might be a route towards a healthy redefinition of democracy-support.
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  • This is not to advocate a simplistic "mix and match" approach, but to suggest that a creative inclusion of new elements from different sources could contribute to democracy's rethinking from within.
  • For most people, at the heart of democracy is toleration of difference combined with an openness to listen to a plurality of voices and opinions. This makes it more than a little strange that there is so little debate over what democracy can and should mean in relation to democracy-support. The logic here is that democracy-support itself needs to be "democratised" - in part by engaging in continuing dialogue, interaction and learning between communities moving to democracy and those seeking to support these processes.
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    This article is good in that it advocates examination of the many models of democratization/democracy. However, it does not adequately question the terms of the debate, in particularly looking more deeply at how the movement is driven and what the role of corporations and other key exploiters (members of the "capital class"?) is.
Arabica Robusta

Economics, the soulful science | openDemocracy - 0 views

  • I believe (as I argue in my book The Soulful Science) that economics offers a uniquely powerful way of thinking about society, and how individuals make choices in their social context. Other approaches, those of the other social sciences, or history or literature and music, are valid too - I feel no need to dismiss them. But only economics with its choice-based models emphasises the opportunity costs and trade-offs that inevitably arise from the social and physical realities of our existence.
    • Arabica Robusta
       
      Perhaps the reason why so many 'non-economists' as well as non-neoclassical-economics are dismissive of neoclassical economics (even of the neoinstitutional sort) is that so many celebrated neoclassical economists combine study of a discipline whose assumptions are relevant only to a very restrictive set of uses, with arrogant and misguided proclamations that neoclassical economics is the savior of the social sciences.
Arabica Robusta

Tibet, Palestine and the politics of failure | openDemocracy - 0 views

  • The victims of "post-colonial sequestration", by contrast, failed to make it past the barrier of independence and international recognition. Instead they fell into a state of half-recognised, but contested, existence. After the war of 1948-49 the "Palestine question" disappeared almost entirely from the international scene, only to re-emerge with the defeat of the Arab armies in the six-day war of 1967. Tibet too has undergone long years of neglect in the international arena, punctuated by periodic (and notably near-half-century) reincarnations of interest: the bloody British occupation of Lhasa in 1904-05, the insurrection against Chinese rule and flight of the Dalai Lama in 1959, and now the uprising of March 2008 (see Gabriel Lafitte, "Tibet: revolt with memories", 18 March 2008).
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    The victims of "post-colonial sequestration", by contrast, failed to make it past the barrier of independence and international recognition. Instead they fell into a state of half-recognised, but contested, existence. After the war of 1948-49 the "Palestine question" disappeared almost entirely from the international scene, only to re-emerge with the defeat of the Arab armies in the six-day war of 1967. Tibet too has undergone long years of neglect in the international arena, punctuated by periodic (and notably near-half-century) reincarnations of interest: the bloody British occupation of Lhasa in 1904-05, the insurrection against Chinese rule and flight of the Dalai Lama in 1959, and now the uprising of March 2008 (see Gabriel Lafitte, "Tibet: revolt with memories", 18 March 2008).
Arabica Robusta

FT.com / Comment & analysis / Comment - Ethical finance standards must be restored - 0 views

  • it should be apparent to all of us that sometimes senior executives, including the chairman, do not fully understand the businesses in which the company is involved.

    The financial instruments now causing such turmoil were not properly priced for their inherent risk and managers were unaware of the integral problems with these instruments. Much of this was made possible by the advanced technology used to devise and distribute these instruments.

    • Arabica Robusta
       
      A good example of "strategic naivete". Financiers pretend they did not know that their structures of speculative greed would cause so much ruin. "Plausible deniability"
Arabica Robusta

Can democracy save the planet? | openDemocracy - 0 views

  • The questions addressed included: can a world of 9-10 billion people vote its way to a sustainable future - or are new forms of leadership (even forms of authoritarian rule) going to be necessary? Are the rising global powers (China, India and Brazil among them) best placed to move towards more sustainable forms of development?
  • What of the link between democracy and sustainable development? Most respondents held that voter pressure meant that democracy was of benefit to sustainable development. Yet consultation with a more specialised group of experts found that only 28% believed that capitalism (often paired with democracy in its liberal variant) aided sustainable development, against 36% who said that capitalism inhibited it. Overall, Doug Miller saw in the figures an activation of people's survival instinct: as the planet "speaks" through extreme weather events, citizens are starting to listen.
  • Many of the issues the roundtable addressed had been highlighted in a keynote paper commissioned ahead of the meeting from Ian Christie. This made four basic propositions about democracy, ecologically sustainable development, and environmental/sustainability campaign organisations (SD-NGOs). He argued that together, these phenomena offer a paradox about the relationship between democracy, civil society and sustainability; and that resolving it is now an urgent and complex task - for the west, for newly industrialised democracies, and for emergent democratic civil society in the global south.
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  • Democracy poses huge problems for sustainable development. In the advanced liberal capitalist states, democracy is tightly coupled to the promise of economic growth, ever-rising consumption and individual freedom. Democracy in such states now entrenches the interests of the affluent majority and well-funded lobbies in the political system (a point analysed by, among others, JK Galbraith and Mancur Olson).
  • Environmental/sustainability campaign organisations (SD-NGOs) are a massive success for civil society worldwide. Without them, we would not have anything like the progress we have seen in the past half-century in protecting the environment, cutting pollution, raising resource efficiency, highlighting linked issues of environmental and social injustice, and saving wildlife and habitats from destruction. Without them, the discourse and practice of sustainable development would not have become established in governments worldwide, and huge issues such as climate disruption would not have been acknowledged or tackled sufficiently by governments and businesses.
  • SD-NGOs are a massive failure by their own standards. For nearly fifty years they have campaigned and educated citizens and governments and businesses worldwide; yet ecological damage continues on a vast scale, environmental injustices abound, and dangerous climate disruption seems to be unavoidable. SD-NGOs have achieved limited gains in specific areas of policy but have failed to mobilise and energise citizens on a large enough scale to put real pressure on politicians and businesses in the west and beyond. Moreover, they lack clear answers to challenges to their own legitimacy and accountability, and have sometimes spoken as though they were representative voices of "civil society", when in fact they constitute a small and highly unrepresentative section of it in many countries.
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    a Consultation on Democracy and Sustainability was held at the Science Museum in London on 18 March 2008. It was convened by the Environment Foundation, the 21st Century Trust and SustainAbility, and supported by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

    The questions addressed included: can a world of 9-10 billion people vote its way to a sustainable future - or are new forms of leadership (even forms of authoritarian rule) going to be necessary? Are the rising global powers (China, India and Brazil among them) best placed to move towards more sustainable forms of development?

    Democracy has a central role to play in any discussion of the future of the planet. But democracy is in trouble in many parts of the world, and must - if it is to deliver, remain relevant and meet people's needs and aspirations - mutate and evolve (see Larry Diamond, "The Democratic Rollback", Foreign Affairs [March-April 2008]).
Arabica Robusta

Philanthropy on the commons | openDemocracy - 0 views

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    The future of philanthropy lies in joining the wave of open source peer-production that is enriching public assets, says Mark Surman.
Arabica Robusta

Philanthrocapitalism: after the goldrush | openDemocracy - 0 views

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    "Wealth is like an orchard", says the Mexican philanthrocapitalist Carlos Slim, "you have to distribute the fruit, not the branch", presumably because the branch, tree and forest all belong to him.
Arabica Robusta

ZNet |Activism | Online Activism 2.0: Movement Building - 0 views

  • Another successful story was my experience organizing against sweatshops with the Notre Dame Progressive Student Alliance as part of the United Students Against Sweatshops network. We were adequately connected to the network to model our local campaign on those of other groups – and we won.
    • Arabica Robusta
       
      It is critical, in the context of sweatshops, petroleum corporations and so on, to concentrate movement strategies on the global level. In this case, the connections (or lack of connections) with international sweatshop organizations should be more explicit.
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