Month: October 2010

Riefer on the new Aristocracy

Tom Riefer, my great colleague in sociology, who seems to have read everything, has a new article up, and the abstract is below. He discussed some of this last night at the reading group event on China and neoliberalism:

In this paper, Reifer looks at the global financial crisis in a long historical context, drawing on the perspective of Fernand Braudel. In it we see how the legal ammendment in New Jersey that created the corporation in the 19th century led to the circumvention of barriers by private owners of capital, allowing them to play states off against one another in a neverending race to compete for mobile capital.

The lawyers themselves, de Tocqueville saw as “bullwarks against democracy” for their role in enabling the removal of laws that would prevent consolidation of private corporate power and the formation of monopolies. We see how this led to the rise of Wall Street, and the cycles of financial crisis and instability that enabled further consolidation over the next century. The military budget and imperial conquests of the United States helped maintain surplus accumulation despite falling profits and overaccumulation, while neoliberal measures helped extend and deepend the reach of the market with globalization. The paper traces this long-term development, dicussing the role of corporate lawyers and investment bankers as key agents driving the consolidation of capitalism, and considers what lies next, the role of a “Beijing Consensus” and the implications this has for global inequality and possibility of alternative, more sustainable paths for the world economy.

Reading Group lecture…

Tonight the reading group held a double-billed lecture on Marxism in China with Liangshan Lu and Lin Yuchuan going over their own recent research (both head back to China in the coming weeks after a stint in the U.S.) The discussion went really well and I’m thankful for their participation. Next week, the Marx reading group (or as one of my colleagues calls it, “you damn commies”) returns to Aroma’s cafe.

A propos of Nothing

But perhaps we can alert all post-50 year-olds with phone that voice mail does not equal an answering machine, that would save me a lot of irritated messages from people wondering why I won’t pick up the phone even as they get louder on the message (are you there? Can you pick up?…)…

Elden’s Claim

Stuart Elden here has a précis of chapter one of his upcoming book on territory. I’ll just c&p him:

The chapter begins with readings of Greek myths of autochthony, drawing on a range of sources – Plato, Euripides, Isocrates, Thucydides, Homer, Heraclitus, Apollodorus, Hyginus, Pseudo-Eratosthenes, Strabo, Aristophanes, Sophocles… Of contemporary writers, I probably draw most on Nicole Loraux. One bit I did add – on the suggestion of Veronica della Dora – was a paragraph on the founding of Alexandria, a story that is told in Plutarch, Arrian and Pseudo-Callisthenes. This is where Alexander is marking out the bounds of this new polis, but has no chalk to do so. So his soldiers suggest that they use the barley from their rations to mark it out. The story is that the birds from the nearby lagoon swooped down and ate the meal. The soothsayers said this would mean not simply that the city would have enough for itself, but could also provide for the neighbouring lands.

The chapter then moves through a longer discussion of Sophocles’ Antigone – which draws in part on a piece I published some time ago on Judith Butler’s Antigone’s Claim – and a discussion of Kleisthenes’ urban reforms of Athens. That too draws on previously published material – here. The next two sections are readings of Plato’s Laws and Aristotle’s Politics, before a concluding section on the polis as site and community. More of this chapter is previously published than any other, but since it was also the oldest material it needed quite a lot of stylistic work.

The last part is correct: I came upon an article (I can’t find the link) by Elden on this some years ago, right after reading a piece he had on Foucault’s “Society Must Be Defended,” and I remember thinking: well, I’d like to see the book that connect those thoughts…  Obviously, the notion of the polis as both “site and community” is of great interest, and I’ve been gathering recently some claims for sovereignty (I figure with the book due soon on that topic, I should get together new material for lectures) that are borrowed from Persia, and thus opens up the West at its supposed beginning to the sovereign claims of the East. There’s no getting around the trauma of Greece in the face of the Persian onslaught and, influenced in part by Elden’s previous work, I don’t think it’s enough to simply trammel once more on the ground of the ex post facto Greek philosophy for what it leaves for us. (Thus you see Elden’s sources, which in a way can include Plato’s Laws since it’s so often left out of the quick reading often given. And I’m beginning my Political Philosophy course [any other suggestions out there?] with Plato’s Laws next semester partly for that reason..)

Something you won’t see at SPEP… (?)

I caught this again as I was trying to close open tabs in Firefox (I must set records for how long some of them remain open: I am always so hopeful in my reading… and thus open articles in tabs I take a long time to get back to). Here, two young conservatives are on a panel, and the speaker ends up performing a rebuttal (on a panel simply celebrating a book launch, no less) by argument ad feminam, saying that the woman to his left has views that are particularly cruel and he knows it since he dated her. The best part is that he’s right: her views are cruel and inhumane, but that seems incidental… it just makes for the most awkward chairing experience of any panel I’ve seen…(the worst starts a couple of minutes in…)


SUNY Under Siege…

H/T John Protevi…

There’s a site with updates on the state of the State University of New York (in particular, Albany). I was, of course, a SUNY student back in the nineties and know well the history of the undoing of the SUNY system. The Board of Trustees was and is a horror show of political cronies producing no-nothing attacks on, you know, the very idea of a university not just handing out business degrees. SUNY Albany, at least, is close to the legislature, so well-timed protests would be far better heard than at other campuses… (And why not join them? Upstate New York is beautiful this time of year. Come for the foliage, stay for the protest, I always say…)