This weeks our guest is Dan Kervick. By day Dan works in the book publishing industry. By night, Dan is an independent scholar, specialising in the work of the British Philosopher David Hume, and a regular blogger on progressive and egalitarian economics over on http://neweconomicperspectives.org
We discuss the institutional working of the banking system, how reserves really work, bubble blowing and the logic of quantitative easing, military Keynesianism, and the role of capital flows in the modern economy.
An Interview with Remi Kanazi on the August 15, 2013, in New York. This interview was originally published on September 28th, 2013 in the German online daily newspaper Schattenblick. Interview by Riocard O’Tiarnaigh.
The poet and hip hop artist Remi Kanazi was born in 1981 in the U.S.A., the son of Palestinian immigrants. He grew up in the Western part of the state of Massachusetts and was educated as practically the only Arab pupil in a Catholic school. The plane attacks of September 2001 along with the anti-Muslim hysteria, which they triggered off in the U.S.A., motivated Remi Kanazi to publish his first political commentaries. After experiencing the Broadway production of the show Def Poetry Jam in 2004 Kanazi took up for the first time the spoken word as an art form. In 2008 he published „Poets for Palestine“, a collection of writings by well-known Palestinian as well as politically involved American poets, hip-hop musicians and artists. The book contained a number of his own pieces.
Kanazi’s first collection of poems, entitled ”Poetic Injustice – Writings on Resistance and Palestine“, appeared in book form (plus CD) in 2011. The legendary jazz and blues rapper Gil-Scott Heron and the Palestinian-American poet Suheir Hammad are among Kanazi’s most important influences. Kanazi is a member of the organising committee of the U. S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.
In the course of his political activism he travels widely and as an artist has already toured the U.S.A., Great Britain, Ireland and the Middle East. The Schattenblick spoke with Remi Kanazi, who has been living for a number of years in Brooklyn, on the 15th of August in Bryant Park in the heart of Manhattan.
Schattenblick: Mr. Kanazi, could you tell us a little bit about your family’s history and how it reflects that of the Palestinians?
Remi Kanazi: In 1948 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from their native country and more than 450 Palestinian villages destroyed. I’m the son and grandson of victims of this ethnic cleansing, which the Palestinians call the Nakba, which means the catastrophe. My mother’s family come from Jaffa, my father’s from Haifa. Both cities belong today to the state of Israel. My grandparents, my parents and their siblings fled along the coastal road to the Lebanon in the North. More than 30 years ago they emigrated from there to the United States. They experienced the expulsion for themselves and cannot return to their former homeland to this day.
At the Galway Film Fleadh, which takes place annually in July, a film called The Runner caught my eye. The short blurb promised the story of a long distance runner that competed under the flag of a country that did not exist. That country is Western Sahara and that runner is Salah Hmatou Ameidan.
The screening served as the film’s premier- with Salah and director Saeed Taji Farouky present. After the screening the two took questions; Saeed, a Palestinian, who has picked up a bit of his current London home in his accent and style and Salah, who carries the gauntness of a soldier balanced by his athleticism. The next day we met to talk about the film and the situation in Western Sahara.
I talk through Saeed, who translates for Salah and myself, though the subtle differences between Salah’s Sahrawri Hassaniya Arabic and Saeed’s Eastern Levantine Arabic sometimes make things difficult. They met in London and as Salah tells me their origins in struggle brought them together, though he uses sport and Saeed uses his camera to fight oppression. Saeed first visited Western Sahara with Salah to film the 30th anniversary of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic declared on the 27th of February, 1976. Western Sahara is Africa’s last colony, the territory originally colonised by Spain was handed over to Morocco and Mauritania who made historical claims to the lands.
This week Tom O’Brien’s guest is Dr Marco Raugei. Marco is a Senior Research Fellow at the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Mathematical Sciences, Oxford Brookes University (UK), and a Senior Researcher with the UNESCO Chair in Life Cycle and Climate Change of ESCI – Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona (Spain). His main research interests are in theoretical improvements of existing approaches for environmental sustainability assessment, and the development of strategic energy supply scenarios, with special focus on photovoltaic (PV) technologies. He has also been actively contributing to the theoretical and methodological advancement of Emergy Synthesis, which looks at human-dominated processes and systems as parts of and ultimately supported by the larger system in which they are embedded, namely the global geo-biosphere.
You can sometimes find his writings on Ugo Bardi’s blog:
We discuss his work on renewable energy, in particular his work on the current state of Photovoltaic or PV systems. We learn about the key differences between Energy Returned on Energy Invested and efficiency, bootstrapping fossil fuels to build a renewable future, re-organisation of our current economic system, and renewable energy’s storage problems.
The latest issue features an extended interview with Marxist geographer and social theorist David Harvey. Professor Harvey is one of the best-known radical thinkers of the twenty-first century and has published popular books on topics ranging from urban rebellion to postmodernism and from Marx’s Capital to the history of neoliberalism.
In the printed interview he discusses his forthcoming book, ‘The Seventeen Contradictions of Capitalism’, illustrating how the emphasis on exchange value creates a crisis in housing and using contradiction as a basis to tease out a basis for postcapitalist imagination for the Left. Segments of that discussion have appeared previously in Red Pepper.
Below we print unpublished segments of the interview, conducted by journalists Ronan Burtenshaw and Aubrey Robinson, in which Professor Harvey discusses a variety of topics related to his own work and the politics of austerity Ireland.
Q. One of the reasons why this year is important to the Irish Left is that it is the centenary of the Dublin Lockout. That struggle was built upon a very clear class consciousness, which those engaged in left-wing politics today don’t enjoy. Is there a crisis of class consciousness at the moment? How might we address talking about or organising around class to revitalise it?
DH. The traditional way of thinking about class has always been to think about factory labour. During the industrial era factory labour was critical in terms of the creation of class consciousness and organisation. The Left has celebrated, in a way, the factory labourer as the centre of its critical consciousness and politics. We now face the problem that factory labour has largely disappeared in many parts of the world. It is still there in Bangladesh – what has been happening in factories there is similar to the Triangle Fire in New York in 1911 – the suicides in the factories in China and so on. You could take all of those things and put them in Marx’s chapter on the working day in volume one of Capital. You wouldn’t know the difference.
Nineteenth century capitalism is still a very strong presence in the world – it is just not here in the UK, Ireland, the United States in the same way it was thirty or forty years ago. As a result of that I think the concept of the working-class has to be revised. I was never happy with this concentration on factory labour, partly because of my urban interests. I ask questions like, ‘where did the Paris Commune come from?’ It was an urban event. People wanted to get their city back. You look historically and 1848 was about people wanting to get their city back as much as it was about the factories. The same in 1919 in Seattle. Then there’s 1968 – which was to do with Paris, Bangkok, Mexico City. If you look historically the city has always been the site of political activism.
My argument all along has been that we have got to pay attention to that dimension of class struggle. It is not class struggle which is as clearly defined as the factory – between bosses and workers. It is a struggle over who owns and has the right to the city. There has always been a dimension of class struggle which has been urban-based. Because of the transformations that have occurred over the last fifty years it seems to me that dimension of struggle has become even more significant. The Left has not caught up in its ideology with what is going on because it is still fixated with the notion of the factory labourer.
Why don’t we think about the city instead of the factory as the centre of what class action is all about? There is a very interesting moment in Gramsci. Around 1916 he wrote a piece saying, ‘I’m very much in favour of the factory councils, they are critical political organisations. But they need to be supplemented by the ward committees.’ These committees were organising all of those people who couldn’t be organised through the factory – the street cleaners, the cab drivers, and so on. Then he noticed something. He said, ‘the ward committees have a better idea about the condition of the whole working-class because the factory council is good at the sector but they don’t have a vision of the whole.’ So I think that labour should be organising around the whole working-class which includes all of those precarious and temporary workers right now that are servicing the city.
Take the immigrants rights’ movement in the United States in 2006. Without being conscious of this immigrants decided not to go to work on a day because they were protesting some of the legislation that was being proposed. Because of that Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles shut down. New York partially shut down. The immigrant population, including the undocumented, refused to go to work for a day and the whole city stopped. This is a tremendous power. I think that the Left has to have imagination and ask, ‘how do we organise a whole city?’
Renewing the republic, rebuilding the republic, a new republic, a Second Republic, how stands the republic: it all circulates in the verbal debris of Ireland’s political and economic crisis, but what does all this republic stuff mean nowadays? And what is to be done with it? I wanted to pursue the idea of the republic in relation to the wider Eurozone crisis. What follows is the first part of a dialogue with philosopher Juan Domingo Sánchez Estop on the idea of the republic.
Juan Domingo Sánchez Estop taught modern philosophy in the Universidad Complutense de Madrid from 1981 to 1986. He translated Spinoza’s correspondence into Spanish and, as a member of the Association des Amis de Spinoza, has taken part in seminars and congresses in France and Italy. He is currently working as a senior translator in the Council of the European Union and is specialized in foreign policy matters. He is an advisory editor of the review Décalages (on Althusserian studies). He writes in European and Latin-American publications on Spinoza, Althusser, modern philosophy and political philosophy. His latest book is La dominación liberal (Liberal Domination. Essay on liberalism as a power apparatus) (Tierra de Nadie, Madrid, 2010). He is currently linked to the Philosophy Center of the Université libre de Bruxelles, where he is preparing a PhD on Spinoza in Althusser. His blog, in Spanish, is Iohannes Maurus.
Richard McAleavey: The explosion of the 15-M in the Spanish State in 2011 began with the slogan Real Democracy Now! as its focus. It appealed to the sense among growing sectors of the population that the existing political order, despite claims to the contrary, was not democracy, given that decisive political power rested with powerful political and financial elites. This conflict opened up between 'real' and 'fake' democracy -between the appearance of the multitude in public squares and the police forces sent in to batter and criminalise and protect the existing regime- in seems to support Jacques Ranciere's assertion that 'democracy is not a form of state'.
Juan Domingo Sánchez Estop: One of the main problems the 15M had to face after its sudden appearance is the lack of a real political culture. There was indeed an important pars destruens in the action and the reflection by the 15M: they recognized, after decades of the so-called “culture of the transition” based on the idea of a “consensus on the need for a consensus”, that no democracy could ever work without a real place for antagonism.
Unfortunately, in post-Franco Spain, a tight consensus was imposed by both Right and Left on two basic tenets: that there is no alternative to market economy and that a very particular brand of representative democracy based on strict partitocracy, with hardly any direct political participation from the citizen, was the only game in town. Beyond these limits lay the Hell of economic “irresponsibility” and, even worse, the Hell of terrorism. All the anti-democratic features of the Spanish regime could be in some way or other concealed behind the “necessary compromises” of the “young democracy”, but after more than three decades, the much admired “young democracy” didn't grow into an actually democratic form of government. In a country where the Left traded real citizens' empowerment in for its integration in the system and a broad liberty in moral matters -as symbolized by Madrid's “movida” and Almodovar's films- everything remained quiet until the advent of the crisis.
There is no doubt that the 2008 financial and economic crisis revealed the regime as what it really is to large social sectors, mainly younger educated people, most of them the sons and daughters of working class families. For one month the 15M occupied the central square of Madrid, the Puerta del Sol, in some way imitating the north-African movements against tyrannical and semi-colonial dictatorships. People suddenly noticed a certain parallel between despotic oligarchical regimes and what until then had featured as a European democracy. Like in the neo-colonial world, the Spanish government acted in behalf of economic and financial powers entirely alien to the Spanish people, which saw itself obliged to pay back a debt it had never decided to take out. The very difference between what democracy is supposed to be, i.e., empowerment of the citizens and active participation in public decision-making, and the reality of an autocratic pro-finance regime became apparent. And people reacted.
Many thank to Tom O'Brien for allowing us to post the interviews from his podcast series, From Alpha to Omega, as they appear. From Alpha to Omega provides regular in-depth interviews with leading figures in the fields of Economics, Peak Oil, Democracy, Politics, Science, Mathematics, Philosophy, Complex Systems, Agnosticism, Permaculture, Collapse, and the Environment.
Recent interviews have included those with Marxist economists Alan Freeman, Michael Roberts, Michael Perelman and Andrew Kliman. We have already featured the interview with L.Randall Wray, on Modern Monetary Theory.
We will post each interview on the weekend that it appears on From Alpha to Omega – usually every two to three weeks. You can check out the From Alpha to Omega archive here to listen back to the previous 39 interviews that Tom has conducted over the last two years.
#40: A Model Economist
This week the interview is with Professor Matheus Grasselli. Matheus is the Deputy Director of the Fields Institute for Research in Mathematical Sciences, and an associate professor at McMaster University, where he is the co-director of PhiMac, the Financial Mathematics Laboratory. He also writes a blog on Quantitative Finance for the Fields Institute, where he discusses his work, and thoughts on economic modelling, complexity theory, and probability.
Matheus has been working with Prof. Steve Keen to help give a mathematicians viewpoint on his ground-breaking monetary economic models of the capitalist system. We discuss the current state of neoclassical macroeconomic modelling, complexity and emergence, Wynn Godley and his stock-flow consistent models, Hyman Minsky and Ponzi finance, black swans and fragility, Bayesian vs Freqentist statistics, Poker, and Samuel Beckett.
You can check out his blog Quantitative Finance: Foundations and Applications here.
“How can women defeat austerity?” – Selma James at Maynooth, 13 March 2013
An MA Community Education, Equality and Social Activism podcast, available on the Community Education, Equality and Social Activism (CEESA) website here.
Founder of the Wages for Housework campaign and coordinator of the Global Women's Strike, Selma James brought a lifetime of movement experience to bear in this electrifying talk. Asked to speak to organisers' needs in the current crisis, she spoke to a roomful of 30 activists and researchers passionately, clearly and incisively for an hour without notes.
To understand austerity, we have to understand the struggles which gave birth to the welfare state, the poverty which went before it and the attacks it has been under since the 1970s, and the first part of her talk tackled these themes. In the second part she discussed the weaknesses of movements since that time in responding to the attacks: how NGOisation has demobilised movements and left them dependent on funders, far-left parties try to substitute themselves for popular action while social-democratic parties simply represent a slower attack on people's basic needs. In the third and final part she discussed the urgency of building a broader movement which does not see class and gender, anti-racism or environmental survival, as separate and opposed issues. A lively and engaged discussion followed.
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