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Showing posts from March 4, 2012

Mangle of inequality redivivus

Over at Economists View , there is a post disputing, to an extent, a new study by Michael Bordo and Christopher Meissner that disputes the idea that inequality caused the crisis. I can't resist reprising my mangle of inequality idea, with a few changes from the way I originally formulated it after my friend S.'s wedding. As the discussion begins as one about cause, and I am all about conditions, I suppose I ought to say something about cause. Cause is difficult. Cause is an impossible quest. And it is made all the more impossible as economists bring a cumbersome machinery to the problem, which is pledged to a model forged from the idea of the market, of equilibrium, and of some kind of surreptitious base/superstructure idea - that is, one finds out the micro-foundations of macro-economic events, and we all go home then, to watch American Idol. I say nay, though, in bloggy thunder. Rather, I want us to go back and understand what

Digression: a vitruvian theme

    The second book of Vitruvius’ treatise on architecture begins by considering the origin of human building. That origin is, it turns out, connected with the origin of human speech, the origin of politics, and the discovery of fire – which form a sort of originary matrix: “Mankind originally brought forth like the beasts of the field, in woods, dens, and groves, passed their lives in a savage manner, eating the simple food which nature afforded. A tempest, on a certain occasion, having exceedingly agitated the trees in a particular spot, the friction between some of the branches caused them to take fire; this so alarmed those in the neighbourhood of the accident, that they betook themselves to flight. Returning to the spot after the tempest had subsided, and finding the warmth which had thus been created extremely comfortable, they added fuel to the fire excited, in order to preserve the heat, and then went forth to invite others, by signs and gestures, to come and witn

News from the Zona: Ireland, Negri and Chérèque

I was in Ireland last week. Ireland, surely, is a posterchild and ward of the Zona: rolling in tax evasion wealth in the 2000s, constructing like mad and paying its chief officials, it turns out, like mad too, in 2008 it went off the cliff and has contracted and contracted since, all the while hocking its future to the plutocrats of the financial sphere, and cutting funding for normal life elsewhere. That’s Ireland then. But in Wicklow where I went, and then in Dublin where I went after, there was not a strong sense of disaster in the air. Rather, what was in the air was something more delicate, like the air whistling out of a punctured tire: there was a slumping towards lower expectations. And in fact expectations were well and truly privatized – one probably heard more about politics than is usual – and we did talk to a journalist who had very articulate ideas about politics – but on the whole, there was no sense of a collective project at all. This is one of the remarkable s