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Showing posts from January 29, 2012

Production, circulation and the self-organising market

Georges Perec wrote a novel entitled La disparition in which the disappearance in question was as much a matter of form – formally, the novel was written without ever using a word with the most common vowel in French, the e, in it – as of substance. Marx’s Capital doesn’t quite offer that stylistic coup de force, but one does notice that, in contrast with mainstream economists, one of the central figures is, if not missing, certainly de-centered – the market. Mostly, mainstream economists take it for granted that the market is the central fact of economic life, the place in which the price system does its work and the central economic agent, the sovereign consumer, does his. In a severe case of science envy, certain Marxists in the eighties and nineties fought to establish a ‘micro-foundation’ for Marxism that would reconstitute the sovereign consumer and, thereby, give the market back its central role. This, in my opinion, is an excellent case of missing the point. For Mar

the full and free development of the personality: a byway

… for the subject of sleep is not the eye, but the common sense, which once asleep, all eyes must be at rest. – Sir Thomas Browne Philoppovich not only has a sense, as an economist, of the intellectual structure of liberalism, but – and this is rare among economists – a sensibility attuned to the discontent liberalism produces. His survey of the triumph of the policy of free trade, with the ‘consumer’ as the fulcrum of society, does not stop there. He understands why one might question a picture of society that made it simply a vast tangle of transactions between buyers and sellers (even if he did not question the idea that, indeed, economic life had turned into a vast tangle of such exchanges, instead of – as Mauss would suggest – a richer tangle of different forms of exchange – and he understands inequality. Thus, after showing the success of liberal economics, he shows the unexpected result of the creating of vast enterprises and labor markets composed of increasingly de

A vienna pink: Eugen Philippovich

In Timm’s biography of Karl Kraus, the most uncompromisingly shaved prophet in history, there is the following reflection about the political meaning of beards: “In the Vienna of 1848 the student revolutionaries had worn beards, which became symbols of their political fervour. And after the defeat of the revolution, it is reported that the authorities forcibly shaved them off. By the 1880s, those students had become pillar of the Austrian establishment. Their beards, now grey and venerable, symbolized for the iconoclasts of Kraus’ generation a pompous Victorianism that had to be swept away. A study of Wittgenstein puts the matter very clearly: “The rebellious young men who were seeking to achieve consistensy and integrity rejected facial hair along with all bourgeois superfluities. To them, moustaches and sideburns were mere ostentation, like velvet smoking jackets and fancy neckties.” By these standards, Eugen von Philippovich, who taught economics at the University of Vienn

the neo-liberal virus: its not just in the U.S.!

Le Monde today publishes a long thumbsucker about the sudden collapse of electoral hope in Sarkozy’s camp. It concludes with the man himself, who was recently consoled by visits from two former European presidents – Gerhard Schroeder and Felipe Gonzalez. Note, well, that these consolers were the leaders of the ‘socialist’ parties in their respective countries. That they would form the cortege of Sarkozy’s well wishers tells us a lot about European politics over the last decade – marked by the utter betrayal of the left by  the elite within the leftist parties. I am noting this to preface my take on the recent debate between John Quiggin – a leftleaning economist – and Tyler Cowen – a rightleaning one – over what Quiggin calls “entrenched inequality.” There have been numerous papers lately that demonstrate the ossification of opportunity in the U.S. The upper class has entrenched its wealth and power, the upper middle class is stuck, the middle class is downshifting, and the poo