Follow me on Twitter

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

A letter to PR Week: 'there are higher goods in life than the successful implementation of a crisis PR strategy'

PR Week, the magazine for PR professionals ran a piece last week on the Church of England's response to #occupyLSX.

I decided to 'green ink' the editor in response.

Dear Editor,

I suppose it would be too much to expect the PR industry to view the C of E’s response to #occupyLSX in anything other than its standard myopic view of the public domain (‘St Paul’s Cathedral and Adivisers in “PR Disaster” According to PR Experts ‘ PR Week 27 Oct).

As if every action could or even ought to be reducd to a #PRfail or #PRwin.

It’s precisely this kind of cynical, instrumental logic that corrodes the legitmacy of the political and business class.

PR professionals and journalists alike would do well to pay attention to what the Arch Bishop of Centebury, Rowan Williams, has said about how his church has responded to the occupation.

In an op-ed piece for the FT this week (02 Nov) he set out an argument that I think serves as a riposte to those in PR and media land who insist that the church’s response ought to be reduced to a bland exercise in PR efficacy.

In the op ed piece Rowan Williams explained that: ‘… the Church of England is a place where the unspoken anxieties of society can often find a voice, for good and ill. If the Church cannot find ways through, that is not an index of its incompetence, so much as the sensitivity of such matters.’

What the archbishop is saying here is that the issues raised by #occupyLSX are legitimate although ethically complex and difficult to resolve. But even if it were possible, it is by no means certain that the C of E ought to seek to reduce these complex issues to a simplistic set of ‘lines to take’ just to please the media.
Put simply there are higher goods in life than the successful implementation of a crisis PR strategy.

The Church took time to reflect on the contradictions of its position in a reasonable and transparent manner last week and three people resigned as a result (each in a dignified and conscientious manner that shows them and their  institution in a good light).

Far from ducking away from the issues, as most organisations do,  the C of E has shown that it is possible for an institution to face up to a dificult and contradictory set of issues. It has even forced the mysterious Corporation of London to ‘pause’ and ‘reflect’ on the way it should respond.

And by changing its position on whether or not to evict the occupiers, it has avoided the infinitely graver ‘#PRfail’ of consenting to what is depressingly likely to be a violent eviction at some point in the future.

Friday, 28 October 2011

At Occupy London LSX

I managed to spend a couple of hours at St Paul’s, London last week visiting the #occupylsx camp that’s rocked up there.

Most of the occupiers are young, perhaps early 20s. Whilst there a call went around requesting help from anyone on site able to argue the case for economic reform with a visiting banker.

A crowd of occupiers listened politely to what the banker had to say. From time-to-time he was interrupted, not least by me, (to my liking he was listened to far too respectfully ) but the occupiers tossed perfectly reasonable arguments back in his direction.

‘The reason we’re all in so much debt is because governments – in particular the last Labour government - allowed banks to lend so much money.’ said the banker.

This struck me as a novel take on the coalition government’s austerity propaganda. The argument that asserts austerity is a consequence of profligate public spending in the past and not merely a conservative rendition of the same policy of neoliberalism but with slightly less public investment. Here the banker appeared to be claiming that the previous Labour government had somehow forced the banks to lend irresponsibly, against their wishes.

I asked the banker if he did not see any correlation between the rise in debt and the suppression of wages during the last 30 years. I might as well have been clicking and clacking like a dung beetle, so alien did the proposition appear to him.

A woman clutching a baby interjected with the perfectly reasonable argument that an economy ought to work towards human ends, meet human needs etc.

Responding the banker implied that she was ‘foolish’ to think the coat she wore, the shoes she stood in or the food she ate could exist without the largesse of banks. At a stroke he illustrated perfectly how far the bourgeois can become alienated from its humanity. How the capitalist, who benefits most from capitalism, is himself, enslaved to it.

The occupation’s achievement is worth many times that of the absent politicians who ought to be championing its cause (John McDonnell MP and a few others have tabled a Early Day Motion inParliament expressing solidarity with the occupiers). Although Lord Glasman, the Blue Labourite has recently found common cause withthe occupiers over the issue of the Corporation of London.

Whilst on site, I made a donation. I would have dragged bottles of butane (something the camp has been short on) or a truckload of wooden pallets (a secure base on which to site a tent in a windy public plaza). Instead I gave some money.  I hope they stay as long as they can and when I’m in London I will make sure I spend more time there.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

'What has to be explained is not the fact that the man who is hungry steals or the man who is exploited strikes, but why the majority of those who are hungry don't steal and why the majority of those who are exploited don't strike.' - Wilhelm Reich

A month on from August’s unprecedented riots in England, we can begin to ask the host of
questions needed to uncover why they occurred and what they mean. Tim Newburn and
the LSE’s Department of Social Policy, together with the Guardian newspaper, the Joseph
Rowntree Foundation and the Open Society Foundation are beginning a three-month indepth study into the causes and consequences of the recent riots.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Ed Miliband's Values

‘Value’ was at the semiotic core of Ed Milliband’s 2011 Labour Conference speech. In an oration of some 5,880 words,‘values’ popped up more than any other, a staggering 45 times in all (although a leak from Conservative Central Office puts a much lower figure).

By contrast he mentioned ‘predators’ and ‘producers’ six times apiece. Workers (zero), bankers (zero) and capitalism (zero) propped up the semiotic table.

A Guardian editorial linked to a recent paper on ‘ethical socialism’ by Jon Cruddas and Jonathan Rutherford with the implication that this might provide some intellectual background to Miliband’s conference rhetoric.

Miliband’s speech was to my ear one of moral certainty.

He spoke of: ‘the true values of Britain…’ adding that these truths were self-evident to his audience, ‘You know what your values are.’ He said.

But there are pitfalls for politicians who rely on moral certainty, see John Major’s ‘back to basics’ policy of the early 90s,  or consider the conscientious but ultimately erroneous moral position adopted by Tony Blair in his decision to invade Iraq. Conscientious in the sense that he probably believed it was the right thing to do. Erroneous in the sense that an appeal to individual conscience is inherently difficult to assess. Such an appeal could be insincere, untrue or mistaken; and therefore arbitrary and capricious (see Donkey passim).

Moral certainty too often leads to the adoption of arbitrary, fixed and inflexible positions and it leaves the politician exposed to contradictions.

‘…the lesson I have learnt about this job and myself over the last twelve months.
To be true to myself…. My values.

However, one reason why a politician like Ed Miliband would put morality at the core of his speech lies in the assumption that such ‘values’ are universal, or in the case of the speech in question, universal to Britain. In a liberal democracy, values are said to transcend categories like race, class, sex, occupation, they therefore they transcend political constituences. ‘Neutral’ appeals for greater ‘responsibility’ can in this way be aimed at the ‘benefit cheat’ and ‘bankster’ alike, all the easier to avoid the traps set by media and political opponents. This type of transcendence, it seems to me, might be crucial to triangulation , the tactical principle adopted by many politicians.

But it reasonable to question if such statements really are neutral and not in reality a reflection of a ruling set of values. One way to find out would be to subject such statements to a test. Habermas’s Discourse Ethics is helpful here in providing a set of discourse ethical rules of moral argumentation a corrolary of which is the highlighting of the ideological content of apparently neutral statements.

It is not uncommon to hear people talk of the run up to 2008 as a morally debased period, during which greed was said to have become a good. And whilst attitudes like this are rarely trumpted on live TV I sincerely doubt that greed has been vanquished.
What of the ‘enlightened self-interest’ advocated by Adam Smith deemed a necessary oil to the proper functioning of a capitalist society? In the Grundrisse, Marx re-phrased enlightened self-interest as ‘generalised selfishness’.

Call it what we may, enlightened self-interest / generalised selfishness can be viewed as a normalised social relation between individuals forced to compete in a capitalist society. Greed, selfishness and inequality seem to be hardwired into such societies.
Miliband’s position is probably that we should not seek to rid society of these selfish norms, but that we should tame them.
It will be interesting to see how specific policy proposals are value-audited in the future.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Adam Curtis and the Independent Commission on Banking

This was timely, since it coincided with the report of the Independent Commission on Banking about reforming financial capitalism (aka the Vickers report), a report that even commentators at the FT think was neutered by lobbyists.

Now some find the documentaries of Adam Curtis problematic. Although employed by the BBC, he is not an archetypal Reithian to the extent that his films seem deliberately to eschew balance. The Curtis technique is  rather to openly impose a narrative on to the fragmented film cuts that he sloshes around in the bowels of the BBC archive. Curtis imposes a particular interpretation on to the mass of propaganda churned out by an institution which itself is central to British self-understanding and to how Britain is perceived. I imagine there are many, particularly those who are fond of Reithian ideals, who find this approach to documentary unnerving, even propagandist. His blog on the role of lobbyists and think tanks is a vintage example particularly since it feels like the UK state’s attempt to find a re-accommodation with financial capitalism has been heavily influenced by lobbying.

Banks don’t do PR. They don't seem to be particularly interested in justifying their work. Bank CEOs do not answer questions on the Today programme and when they do appear in public sessions, such as select committees, they rarely give a good account of themselves.We never see hedge fund CEOs defending their reputation on the TV, nor are the directors of derivative trading companies keen to stand in the media spotlight.
The exception among the UK financial class is probably Angela Knight, head of the British Bankers Association, a former right wing MP, who’s job it is to defend the banks’ reputation. Listen to this great exchange between Knight and the Liberal Democrat Peer, Lord Oakshott on the BBC's Today programme earlier this year. Knight is on the phone from a ski resort, perhaps aware of the dubious message this might send to an audience that is deeply sceptical about the financial sector. Never one to miss an opportunity for hyperbole, Lord Oakshott takes the chance to wind up her for deigning to take time ‘off piste’ and talk banking reform.

I suppose if there is a ‘lesson to be learned’ (since 'learning a lesson' is the default, abstract and contentless position adopted by all organisations when they are publicly crticised in the media) is that it is bad PR to try to defend the financial classes down the line from Klosters.
On the other hand, as the Vickers report and Adam Curtis’s documentary confirm, it probably doesn't matter anyway. Banks don’t do PR, because they don’t need to, instead it seems they influence policy behind the scenes, through ‘lobbyists’ or ‘public affairs’: an industry that increasingly embodies a form of instrumentalized class warfare.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

'Why oh why oh why oh why....'

Endemic anti-social behaviour among the [feral] proletariat; moral decline; race; and poverty are a selection of justifications used to ‘explain’ the August riots in England.
For the political elites and the BBC the debate mostly focusses on the idea of moral decline – as if crises within liberal democracy hadn’t always brought forth examples of immorality .
Racists have chipped with a strained line of doublethink that presupposes the culpability of black culture whilst concurrently transmogrifying skin colour… or failing that, blaming Jews.
Another commentator takes a narrowly discursive approach in arguing that the riotous underclass can barely talk nevermind develop a coherent set of reasons to justify their rioting.
Meanwhile, when it’s not whipping up vigilantism among the petit bourgeoise of Green Lanes, or mobilising fascists in Eltham, parts of the media draw subtle distinctions between ‘anarchist’ student riots (‘articulate, but silly’) and ‘mindless’ underlcass riots (‘just mindless’).
Zizek puts the riots’ lack of a political message within the context of the Badouist notion of ‘worldessness’. From this perspective we can understand the rioters’ political inarticulacy as the product of a neoliberal world that has transcended politics and become ‘non-ideological’.  A world in which technical ‘solutions’ for social ills are distilled into instrumental soundbites such as ‘what works is what’s best’.  A world in which, rather than encouraging political dispute, we are told that ‘ideology is dead’:  itself a statement with ideological meaning.
So, in response to the disturbances, all the mainstream political parties stick to a broadly similar narrative. It’s a narrative that reinforces the idea that there is nothing, even narrowly, political to be discussed about it.  It’s a world in which even a commonsense attempt to publicly think through what’s going on is drowned out by the performative/simulated rage of people like Michael Gove. Still, in his eye-bulging rant about  plasma screens and Boxfresh trainiers, Gove did at least name check an object that transcended most of the distubances: the commodity.
The media focussed on two types of riotous act that were, although not exclusive, almost universal across the disturbances in Tottenham, Peckham, Manchester and Solihull. These acts consisted of:
1 – the unlawful appropriation of commodities; and
2 – their destruction.
The commodity was a material witness to these riots, an always looming embodiment of human labour power, so why not summon it as part of this post mortem? Along Marxist lines, I wonder if the commodity, the genetic building block of capitalist society, might be a worthwhile object of study in these disturbances and I am not talking here about an Adbusters-style condemnation of ‘consumerism’.
I’m thinking about socially necessary labour and its ‘phantom-like’ existence in the:

Monday, 11 July 2011

'It's Adam Smith Wot Won It'

The lack of self-awareness in this pathetic broadhseet ‘opinion’ piece would be funny but for its concomitant perniciousness.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Mindfucked by Negri

Johann Hari’s claim that he writes ‘long intellectual profiles’ is for me the most absurd manifestation to emerge from the recent brouhaha about his work. Perhaps Hari wanted us to imagine him as a kind of impressionist reporter-artist (his keyboard clenched between his teeth; thumb and forefinger cocked at 90 degrees) when he framed the Marxist subject sat opposite him at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts in 2004?
The only truth to Hari’s artistic metaphor attaches to the word ‘long’ the remainder of his claim to write ‘intellectual profiles’ is bullshit,  or if you like, a crit unworthy of a Fine Art undergraduate. Deterritorial Support Group highlighted how a string of quotes from Hari’s 2004 interview with Antonio Negri for the Independent had in fact been ‘lifted’ from a book ‘Negri on Negri’ by Anne Dufourmentelle published in 2003.
DSG’s analysis forced Hari to admit that he has a taste for the technique of collage, the cutting and pasting of other people’s words into his own ‘interviews’. Whilst admitting the charge, he argued that this was not plagiarism, nor churnalism, Naomi Klein claimed it amounted to the lesser crime of ‘poor attribution’ (‘yes yes, but is it art?’ I wonder to myself).
The truth is that DSG is on the mark in describing the interview as nothing more than an attempted ‘take down’.
Hari’s ‘profiles’ are far from intellectual, a fact manifest in the quality of his work. The quality of Hari’s work (the ramblings of an ignorant liberal) is his downfall, in this case his open ignorance of Negri qua theorist. Apparently this point was brought to his newspaper’s attention in a letter by respected academics Alberto Toscano and Matteo Mandarini and Negri’s publisher, Rowan Wilson, shortly after Hari published his piece. The Independent failed to print the letter, a copy of which subsequently turned up on the comments thread at the Guardian CIF (scroll down to a comment by 'notwaving'). In the letter the authors allude to Hari’s ‘proud’ ignorance.

Hari himself talks of his aversion to Negri’s: ‘impossibly dense thickets of sociological prose', and his difficulty understanding Negri’s ‘unreadable gibber.’ The letter also cites what I will charitably refer to as the ‘hyperbole’ of our hysterical columnist when he confesses to having been mindfucked by Negri.

‘After 400 pages of this, I feel like I have been raped by a dictionary of sociology’, Hari tells us.
How can one embark upon a critical intellectual profile  worthy of the name whilst concurrently knowing nothing of the intellect that is the target of said critique?
Well I suppose one could always fall back on the vulgarisations of liberal ideology… oh hang on a minute.
‘I try to think of a polite way to remind him [Negri] of the fact that every communist revolution of the 20th century lead to tyranny and mass murder. And a nice way to say that communism was a betrayal of the democratic values of the left.’
“‘These communist regimes are waiting for a historical revision. They may not be seen so negatively in the next century," he [Negri] says, as though this was perfectly obvious.
‘I can't take it any more. None of the world's real problems - from poverty to tyranny to climate change - are discussed in Negri's work, except to claim that the poor are "more alive", and the citizens of liberal democracies are living under the "real tyranny", and... oh, I give up. It's not just that this preacher of Empire has no clothes; he is living in an intellectual nudist colony. There are some important anti-globalisation writers, such as Monbiot and Joseph Stiglitz. But Negri is trying to keep alive a patient - Marxism - whose heart stopped beating long ago.’

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Nothing Left

'The Left’ is fucked, so says the thinktank of that erstwhile poster boy of radical socialism Peter Mandelson.


The argument that the 'left’ ought to be on the up, but instead wallows amid the 'right's’ ascendency is, for Policy Network, one of the salient contradictions of the present crisis of capitalism.

The thinktank is not the first  to spin this banality. I have overheard my favourite drunk mutter about it too - with greater eloquence - and in a less salubrious locale than that within which the European 'left' will find time to peruse it this week.

Of course the real contradiction is that which manifests itself from the frankly psychotic view that there is anything ‘left’ at all about the ‘left’ referred to in Policy Network’s delusional flyer.

The idea that the people ought viscerally to be throwing themselves into the arms of the ‘left’ is fine but for the fact that, in Britain at any rate, the ‘left’ of which Policy Network speaks exists only as a mask for the castrated puppy of unfettered capitalism that is the British Labour Party.

I am not the first to say this, indeed I have heard my favourite drunk mutter something similar: People don’t vote for the ‘left’ because, quite literally, there is NOTHING LEFT.

Monday, 21 March 2011

The Story of Economics

The BBC is running a three-part documentary, The Story of Economics
It started well with a routine by a Greek Professor explaining Aristotle’s distinction between use value and exchange value, a distinction that Marx was to adapt to his critique of political economy.
Apparently Aristotle saw the activities of those who engaged in exchange based trade as morally suspect. This provided the programme's cue  to fast forward a few thousand years to deliver a familiar ‘credit-crunch-as-morality-tale ’ of today’s  crisis of capitalism. I was disappointed the documentary unfolded this way. I wanted to hear a discussion of what Marx has in mind in his account of use vs exchange value and how this differs from Aristotle's. The moral critique of the credit crunch has been played out time and time again.

Okay, such an approach illuminates interesting arguments, eg – whether the axiom‘greed is good’ became (remains) normalised and the dileterious effect of normalised greed on liberalism’s own moral aims (justice, equality etc). But it tells only a partial story.
One characteristic of the post-metaphysical world is morality’s absence, morality’s power to prevent inhumanity is limited, it is also constantly eroded by, for example, instrumental forms of technical knowledge.
Humans do share a capacity for mutual recognition that supports ethical self understanding. And normativity plays a role that is both funcitonal in its capacity to bind people and critical in that it enables the adoption of strong justificatory positions against those who seek to mistreat or dominate. I’m with Habermas on this. But morality is limited in its capacity to prevent cunts from doing shitty things to people. Morality fails, it breaks down
A further example of the type of task to which the moral category has been applied (and is not sufficient) is the credit crunch.
This crisis is not only financial but also a crisis of bourgoeise democracy. Exorbitant wages do have an impact on equality and liberals ought to thrash this out.  The normalised rent seeking behaviour of individuals working in the financial system ought to be open to moral critique. If there was such a thing as economic democracy then bankers would be forced to justify their behaviour. Laws might be put in place, or at least retained, regardless of what financiers or the CBI think in order to prevent further harms.  There are aspects of the financial crisis that lend themselves to moral critique.
I will be tuning in to the following episodes to see if the BBC addresses the other ways it might be possible to critique this present crisis of capitalism.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

A review from Wikipedia
Threads is a British television drama produced by the BBC in 1984. Written by Barry Hines and directed by Mick Jackson, it is a documentary-style account of a nuclear war and its effects on the city of Sheffield in northern England.
Filmed in late 1983 and early 1984, the primary plot centres on two families: the Kemps and the Becketts — as an international crisis between the United States and the Soviet Union erupts and escalates. As the United Kingdom prepares for war, the members of each family deal with their own personal crises. Meanwhile, a secondary plot centered upon Clive J. Sutton, the Chief Executive of Sheffield City Council serves to illustrate for the viewer the United Kingdom government's then-current continuity of government arrangements. As open warfare between NATO and the USSR-ledWarsaw Pact begins, the harrowing details of the characters' struggle to survive the attacks is dramatically depicted. The balance of the film details the fate of each family as the characters face the medical, economic, social, and environmental consequences of a nuclear war. Both the plot and the atmosphere of the film are extremely bleak.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

'One strikes a blow at the sack, intending the donkey'

I want to make a confession.
I confess that I find the speeches of Adair Turner, chairman of the Financial Services Authority, interesting.
Turner appeared in the public imagination in 2009 when, during a roundtable discussion chaired by the liberal Prospectmagazine, he floated the idea of a Toibin tax on the ‘socially useless’ transactions of investment banks.
The howls of anguish this prompted led then Chancellor of the Exchequor, Alastair Darling, to slap down his mouthy regulator for voicing publicly, what amounted to a mere reform.
According to Turner we got into an economic mess becasuse the Masters of the Universe got the theory wrong... because they vulgarized. The problem is not with neo-liberal economic theory itself, but with the second rank minds who's job it was to apply asset price nous to concrete trading floor activity. Their failure being mirrored by the equally mediocre minds regulatng this activity.
In a speech at the Institute for New Economic Thinking during 2010 he quoted Keynes to illustrate this point:
‘Keynes, of course, famously wrote that “the ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than commonly understood. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.”
But I suspect the greater danger lies not with entirely practical men or women exempt from any intellectual influence, but with the reasonably intellectual men and women who are employed in the policy making functions of central banks, regulators and governments and in the risk management departments of banks, who are aware of intellectual influences, but who tend to gravitate to simplified versions of the dominant beliefs of economists who are not yet defunct but still very much alive.[i]
There is much of interest to consider in this quote: the conditions of knowing that an argument is 'wrong', whether the assumed criteria of 'wrongness' employed by Turner is useful at all (might it not be possible for an argument to remain a good argument, regardless of how things turn out?)
Turner is an exponent of the ‘shit sandwich’ approach to berating financial capitalism.  You can tell he is about to say horrid things  in the prefatory moment of his speeches. It’s a routine most liberal economists perform effectively (it reminds me of the ‘I’m not a racist but…’ prefatory so beloved of the bigot). For example in a 2010 Mansion House speech, Turner said:
'…it is important to understand, amid the public suspicion of traders and trading rooms, that market making and liquidity provision in key markets is an important economic function, delivering important indirect economic benefits – even when the traders involved are focused day by day simply on making money, even though their activities look to some people like pure speculation, even though they do indeed entail position taking for speculative gain.  Adam Smith’s insight that good economic results can flow from the private pursuit of profit remains valid and vital.’[ii]
Generalised selfishness repackaged as 'englightened self-interest'.
Turner thinks that recent applied economic wisdom  is based on a vulgar mis-understanding of economic theory and applied as ideology. This again from his speech to the Institute for New Economic Thinking.
‘…while academic economics included many strains, in the translation of ideas into ideology, andideology into policy and business practice, it was one oversimplified strain which dominated in the pre-crisis years…’
For someone apparently so intellectually curious it appears, to me at least, an act of repression to stop here, to fail to enquire any further. It’s all the more disappointing since Turner qua economist is actually on to something interesting  although he eventually ends up getting into a confused muddle. His speech to the Institute for New Economic Thinking continues…
‘…Market efficiency and market completion theories can help reassure the top executives of major financial institutions that they must in some subtle way be doing God’s work even when it looks at first sight as if some of their trading is simply speculation. Regulators need to hire industry experts to regulate effectively; but industry experts are almost bound to share the industry’s implicit assumptions. Understanding these social and cultural processes which straddle the interest to ideology divide could itself be an important focus of new researchBut we should also not underplay the importance of an ideology in itself – of a set of ideas complex and internally consistent enough to haveintellectual credibility, but simple enough to provide a workable basis for day to day decision-making. Complex human institutions – such as those which together form the policymaking and regulatory system – are difficult to manage without guiding philosophies – and guidingphilosophies are most compelling when they provide clear answers. And a philosophy which asserts that financial innovation, market completion and increased market liquidity are always and axiomatically beneficial, provides a clearer basis for the decentralisation of regulatory decision, making one which teaches that innovation is sometimes valuable and sometimes not, depending on the market and depending on the circumstances.’
In Turner’s mind, ‘economics’ mutates into ‘philosophy’ and philosophy into ‘ideology’ as if ideology and philosophy were synonymous. As if philosophy and economics were invovled in the same business. How frail the human mind which seeks reassurance that it is doing superstitious ‘God’s work’. How philosophy works best when distilled for fools.
Capitalists used to justify their grind via  the general good of englightened self-interest (legitimated general selfishness).  Apparently they lost their way and needed an ideology to justify their 'god's work' whatever that means.
I don’t know Adair. I understand philosophy as being about good arguments. Have you considered that perhaps  the ‘philosophy’
‘which asserts that financial innovation, market completion and increased market liquidity are always and axiomatically beneficial’
Might not be a philosophy at all?

[i]Turner, A,
[ii] Turner, A, Mansion House Speech, Sep 2009,

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Gerry Cohen: Against Capitalsim

A TV monologue by Marxist philosopher Gerry Cohen, brilliant stuff.

Part 1 here

Part 2 here

Gerry Cohen: Against Capitalsim

A TV monologue by Marxist philosopher Gerry Cohen, brilliant stuff.

Part 1 here

Part 2 here

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Things I enjoy about the Financial Times

I love the weekend FT. Its 'how tos' about organising un-ostentatious hedge fund charity parties;
Its good practice guides for tax avoiding family trust fund administrators.
Tim 'austere' Harford's 'Undercover Economist'
Counting the number of  times the words 'non' and 'dom'  appear per page
And, of course, the unmissable problem page where agony aunt Adam Smith puts his hidden hand (see what I did there?) to solving readers' problems via the medium of political economy.
The letters are not quite as good as the Mail's, but still a marvel.
My favourite 'Am I alone in thinking' from this week's green inker is here:

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Gearge Soros: A Marxist?

George Soros has had an epiphany about Marx, Eric Hobsbawm tells us.
In an interview with the Observer the hostorian includes Soros among those capitalists who think Marx might have been on to something afterall.
Soros is not alone in re-positioning himself in this way; in deciding that there must be ‘something about this Marx guy.’
Apparently Nicolas Sarkozy allowed himself to be snapped carrying a copy of Capital at the height of the Credit Crunch. And I recall an anecdote about Tony Blair devouring the Quran during a bout of shuttle diplomacy post 9-11.
I think it unlikely that either Sarkozy or Soros actually read Marx, much less understand his work.
Check this interview with Bill Moyers.
BILL MOYERS: One of the British newspapers this morning had a headline, "Welcome to Socialism." It's not going that way, is it?
GEORGE SOROS: Well, you know, it's very interesting. Actually, these market fundamentalists are making the same mistake as Marx did. You see, socialism would have worked very well if the rulers had the interests of the people really at heart. But they were pursuing their self-interests. Now, in the housing market, the people who originated the houses earned the fee.
And the people who then owned the mortgages their interests were not actually looked after by the agents that were selling them the mortgages. So you have a, what is called an agent principle problem in socialism. And you have the same agent principle problem in this free market fundamentalism.
BILL MOYERS: The agent is concerned only with his own interests.
GEORGE SOROS:That's right.
BILL MOYERS:Not with...
GEORGE SOROS:That's right.
BILL MOYERS:The interest of...
GEORGE SOROS:Of the people who they're supposed to represent.
BILL MOYERS: But in both socialism and capitalism, you get the rhetoric of empathy for people. [????]
GEORGE SOROS: And it's a false ideology. Both Marxism and market fundamentalism are false ideologies.
BILL MOYERS:Is there an ideology that...
GEORGE SOROS:Is not false?
GEORGE SOROS: I think the only one is the one that I'm proposing; namely, the recognition that all our ideas, all our human constructs have a flaw in it. And perfection is not attainable. And we must engage in critical thinking and correct our mistakes.
BILL MOYERS: And that's one...
GEORGE SOROS: That's my ideology. As a child, I experienced Fascism, the Nazi occupation and then Communism, two false ideologies. And I learned that both of those ideologies are false. And now I was shocked when I found that even in a democracy people can be misled to the extent that we've been misled in the last few years.
BILL MOYERS: The book is "The New Paradigm for Financial Markets: The Credit Crisis of 2008 and What It Means". George Soros, thank you for being with me.