Monthly Archives: October 2011

Measuring Justice

I haven’t read it all yet, but this report( SGI11_Social_Justice_OECD ) on OECD nations is intriguing, largely because it attempts to establish a “social justice index”– the kind of metric that most policy think tanks in the US would never even consider. In fact, the term “social justice” is red meat to the political right, for whom it signifies something like communism. Such distortions ought not to detain us, however. The larger issue concerns the fact that the way we conceive of problems (objects of study) shapes the solutions we arrive at. As one of my teachers once said, “To ask the question is to answer it.”

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The Poetry of Anti-Imperialism (HUM455)

From Pablo Neruda’s Canto General

Standard Oil Co.

When the drill bored down toward the stony fissures
and plunged its implacable intestine
into the subterranean estates,
and dead years, eyes of the ages,
imprisoned plants’ roots
and scaly systems
became strata of water,
fire shot up through the tubes
transformed into cold liquid,
in the customs house of the heights,
issuing from its world of sinister depth,
it encountered a pale engineer
and a title deed.

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CBO Study

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office just released a new study. Here’s one of the graphs from the summary. Market income is defined as “labor income (such as cash wages and salaries and employer-paid health insurance premiums), business income, capital gains, capital income, and other income” before taxes. The top 1% almost tripled its income between 1979 and 2001.

The Pregnant Vacuum

The comment piece below from Zizek complements Mark Fisher’s Capitalist Realism. Note that he argues that the absence of a particular set of demands which the Permissive Father may register, trivialize, and dismiss represents a strength of OWS . The Right attacks OWS incoherently as dirty hippies or Stalinist wannabes while the Democratic Party– the “Left” of the truncated US political spectrum– seeks to channel their energies into enthusiasm for “new” policies (Obama’s tepid jobs program, more public $ for private financial companies, etc.).

Neither of these positions is correct, and in the absence of an ideological position congruent with the status quo, the usual suspects (cash-bloated politicians, establishment pundits, think-tank “scholars,” et al.) are at a loss as to how to interpret OWS. In this sense, moralizing about the avarice of bankers would be a false gesture, one which would fail to reach the root of the matter. Anyway, haven’t we heard that story before? The terrible abuses at Abu Ghraib, Donald Rumsfeld assured us some years ago, were the work of “a few bad apples” when in fact they were the result of a detention system pioneered in Guantanamo. If OWS is to survive this co-optating logic, it will have to think structurally, to assert that the problem lies not with apples but with the barrel itself, which rots everything that it touches. (Except for those ones at the top.)

CR: 1st 4 Chapters (HUM415)

These notes cannot possibly substitute for reading Fisher’s book, of course.

Mark Fisher’s Capitalist Realism

Ch. 1

Fisher uses Cuaron’s Children of Men as a way of introducing what by now should be a familiar idea: that the contemporary socio-economic system has produced a distorted temporality in which the future– beyond more of the same with extra options– no longer exists. The core theme of sterility in COM is, in this sense, to be read metaphorically, begging the question: “How can a culture exist without the new?” (3).

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