Posts tagged ‘Principia Dialectica’

September 3, 2011


This is a journey through a publishing house in Saudi.

Whereas Iranian publishers are complaining that cost-saving plans to print Qur’ans in China have led to an embarrassing number of typographical errors.

Officials are now discussing a ban on Chinese-printed Qur’ans.

Nuclear power – never safe

A nuclear power plant has reported that last week’s 5.8-magnitude earthquake may have created stronger shaking that it was designed to withstand, prompting the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to send additional inspectors to the Virginia facility this week.

“We’re perplexed,” said Jim Norvelle, spokesman of Dominion, which operates the North Anna nuclear plant, located about 10 miles from the quake’s epicenter in Mineral, Va. He said the plant’s engineers had estimated that the two reactors, which went online in 1978 and 1980, could withstand quakes of between 5.9- and 6.2-magnitude.

Half of Manila’s population live in slums

Paul Mason reports on San Miguel, in the Phillipines here.

Top international money brokers drop a bombshell

Tullett Prebon plc is one of the largest inter-dealer money brokers in the world. It is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 250 Index. They have just released their analysis of British economic fortunes.

Tonight, George Osborne will not get any sleep:

The bleak reality

An overview of the current world economic situation from today’s Financial Times:

‘Don’t expect China et al to save the world’ by Dani Rodrik

In a world economy rapidly running out of bright spots, many are putting their hopes on the emerging and developing economies. Many experienced very rapid growth over the past decade, and most have recovered quickly from the 2008-2009 crisis.

Optimism abounds. Citigroup predicts real gross domestic product will grow more than 9 per cent a year in Nigeria and India, and more than 7 per cent in Bangladesh, Indonesia and Egypt over the next two decades. In a new Peterson Institute for International Economics study, Arvind Subramanian projects that aggregate output of developing and emerging economies will expand at an annual rate of 5.6 per cent over the same horizon.

If they prove correct, developing countries will make a substantial contribution to aggregate demand in the struggling rich countries and ensure the world economy’s steady growth. We shall witness the most impressive closing of the gap between rich and poor in history.

Unfortunately, these predictions are largely extrapolations from the recent past and they overlook serious structural constraints. China’s problems are already well recognised. The country’s growth has been fuelled over the past decade by an ever-growing trade surplus that has reached unsustainable levels. China’s leaders must refocus its economy away from export-oriented manufacturing and towards domestic sources of demand, while managing the job losses and social unrest this restructuring is likely to generate.

At least China has successfully built broad-based modern industries, something that remains a daunting task for most other countries. India has scored important successes in IT and business services, but it must expand its manufacturing base if its economy is to generate decent jobs for a vast, low-skilled workforce and sustain growth. In Nigeria, formal employment has actually shrunk due to public sector retrenchment, privatisation, trade liberalisation and lack of job creation in new industries. Nigerian workers are flocking back to family farms.

In Latin America, global competition has fostered productivity gains in manufacturing and non-traditional agriculture. But gains are limited to narrow segments of the economy. Labour has migrated to less productive service sectors and informal activities. In Brazil, for instance, despite an exceptional performance last year, the average growth rate over the past decade is just a fraction of what the country achieved for decades before 1980.

Other countries are hooked on dangerous, unsustainable levels of foreign borrowing. Turkey has grown rapidly, despite pitifully low levels of domestic saving, thanks to an ever-widening current account deficit . This renders the economy susceptible to swings in markets, as the beating the lira has taken in recent weeks shows. Growth booms based on capital inflows or commodity booms have typically been shortlived.

Optimists believe this time will be different because policies and institutions have greatly improved in the developing world. They point to these countries’ commitment to macroeconomic stability, openness to the global economy and better governance (as exemplified by the spread of democracy and end of civil wars in Africa). These changes portend well, but they serve mainly to reduce the risks of crises. They do not constitute a growth engine.

Sustained growth, of the type that a handful of countries in Asia have managed to generate, requires more than conventional macroeconomic and openness policies. It requires active policies to promote economic diversification and foster structural change from low-productivity activities (such as traditional agriculture and informality) to mostly tradable higher-productivity activities. It requires pulling the economy’s labour force into sectors that are on the automatic escalator up, such as formal manufacturing.

This structural transformation is rarely the product of unassisted market forces. It is typically the result of messy and unconventional interventions that range from public investment to subsidised credit, from domestic-content requirements to undervalued currencies. Few countries have managed such industrial policies well.

An additional complication now is that policymakers in the US and Europe have long stopped viewing subsidies and undervalued currencies in developing nations with benign neglect. With high unemployment and stagnant economies, they are likely to be even more vociferous in opposing such policies.

Hence, the policies optimists hope will sustain growth in the emerging markets are unlikely to work, while the policies that would deliver growth are unlikely to be permitted by industrial countries. Growth in the developing world will most likely remain episodic and too weak to propel the world economy.

The writer is a professor of international political economy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and author of The Globalization Paradox

Warren Buffett says: ‘tax the rich!’

The third richest man in America, and the original liberal communist, wants to get the world back to work here.

According to today’s Financial Times, ‘Pakistan allowed Chinese military engineers to photograph and take samples from the top-secret stealth helicopter that US special forces left behind when they killed Osama bin Laden. The action is the latest incident to underscore the increasingly complicated relationship and lack of trust between Islamabad and Washington following the raid.’

Meanwhile, the military machine gears up for new battles:

Meanwhile…on the eternal return of the toxic

“So where did the highly toxic effluvia of the financial system go? They ended up in a final repository: the central banks.” Read the article here.

That picture of the capitalist production process as ‘industry’ pumping out ‘wealth’, suggested by the title of Adam Smith’s masterpiece, The Wealth of Nations, deserves a few comments. First, the celebration of ‘industry’ and ‘wealth’ is an expression of what may be called ‘wealth fetishism’ or ‘wealthism’, inasmuch as it declares the endless spurting of contextless ‘wealth’, that is, use-values purportedly lacking any definite social form traceable to the production process (such as the gift, commodity or commodity capital form), to be the purpose of production. By contrast, in Book I of the Politics, Aristotle observed that true wealth is limited, making the point that nothing should count as wealth but what contributes to the attainment of some identifiable human good, which inescapably stands in relation to the good of the polis. Second, the fiction of ‘wealth’ operative here is itself a by-product of the value form, which displaces the appearance of social form into a thing, money. Third, though ‘wealthism’ is a by-product of the value forms constitutive of the capitalist mode of production, the notion that what drives capitalism is the restless desire to accumulate ‘wealth’ is a falsehood stemming from the incapacity of common sense and various economic theories to recognize the actual social forms ruling capitalism. For it is the uncanny impulsion to accumulate surplus value, not ‘wealth’, that keeps capital’s heart throbbing. Finally ‘wealthism’ paints a conveniently false picture of the reality of capitalism; it gives capitalism a thin but tolerable tale to tell about itself: to speak with the French, it provides a ‘metanarrative’ of material progress that is only an ‘alibi’.

Beyond the ‘Commerce and Industry’ Picture of Capital by Patrick Murray, an essay from The Circulation of Capital. Essays on Volume Two of Marx’s Capital Edited by Christopher J. Arthur and Geert Reuten.

Henryk Grossman: an introduction

Henryk Grossman is particularly relevant today and not only because of his explanation of economic and financial crises, which I will briefly recapitulate. That theory was formulated and can only be understood as an element in a broader, classical-Marxist analysis of capitalist society and the way it can be superseded. The specifics of Grossman’s political outlook help explain the generally hostile reception of his work in the immediate wake of the publication of his best-known study, The Law of Accumulation and Breakdown of the Capitalist System,Being also a Theory of Crises, and subsequently. Grossman expressed his revolutionary Marxism not only in his writings but also in political activity. That was not always flawless – on the contrary. But his views about the responsibilities of socialists are superior to fashionable notions of the responsibilities of intellectuals. Furthermore, the continuities and discontinuities in his practice and, in some periods, the inconsistencies between it and his theoretical commitments are instructive.

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April 13, 2010

COMMENT: Hairdressing in Cuba [Principia Dialectica]


Hairdressers’ and beauticians’ salons in Cuba are to be privatised. Raoul Castro is relaxingn the rules. Cubans now can have the haircuts they want , and beauticians can manicure toe-nails and hand-nails on demand. As the crisis of the economy hits harder , it spares no country on earth. Cuba is no exception. You don’t have to be a top strategist to come to the conclusion that something must change in Cuba.  This is why the Raoul Castro regime has to introduce a “new economic policy”. 52 years of Castroite politics are coming to an end.