Archive for February, 2009

I’d Prefer Not To

Slavoj Žižek’s Bartleby Politics and the Economic Crisis | The Exception Magazine

The second and most popular response to the current crisis is to blame it on the greed of the bankers and financial speculators (‘looting stars’), and to call for a more moral form of capitalism that puts an end to ‘casino banking […] murdering honest-to-God commercial banking’ and ensures ‘that capitalism will be arranged more fairly in future’. Understandable as it is, to blame rapacious CEOs as the central causal agent of the current dilemma is politically misleading and factually wrong.

Indeed, the vast majority of “greedy” managers have acted in conformity with the imperatives of the system, insofar as their primary responsibility within this system is neither to serve their customers, nor to look after the common good, but to make profit (and enough of it to stay afloat and keep their shareholders happy). Far from being a pathological preference of the individual entrepreneur, ‘the production of surplus-value, or the making of profits, is the absolute law of this mode of production’. That the bankers dealt with “toxic credits”, rather than with “honest-to-God” products, did not matter so long as the going was good. On the contrary, their financial wizardry triggered waves of rapture while the social standing of hedge-fund managers reached staggering heights.

Now that things have turned sour, we ought to abstain from the ubiquitous lament over the usual suspects – greedy managers, incompetent government, the idle rich –, step back for a moment – ‘don’t just do something, talk!’, as Žižek puts it – and turn to the elementary question why the banks were able to act so irresponsibly in the first place, knowingly dealing with “toxic assets” from subprime mortgages and collateralized debt obligations to credit default swaps and other “derivatives.” In fact, why they had to act like this.

I added the bold. ‘Bartleby politics’ sounds a bit gimmicky for my tastes, but the article is a useful corrective to getting hung up on golden circles, politicians showing manly leadership, multi-million pound pension pots for senior executives, and so on.

The Republican We

Time finally to tackle our blatant failings – The Irish Times – Tue, Feb 24, 2009

We cannot fail as a nation, as a people, in some pyrrhic victory. Let us be stark bloody naked together.

I’d rather not. There’s something about all this talk about ‘we’ ‘as a nation’ that I find mathematically offensive. Let’s say that everyone who is an Irish citizen is a member of the Irish nation. Unless we are to invoke magic, that means that any statement regarding what ‘we as a nation’ ought to do must be true of each and every Irish citizen. But to be honest, I’m just not all that comfortable about standing in the buff alongside Brendan Kilkenny, Peter Sutherland and yo mama.

Adds: thinking this through, I may be wrong. After all, if someone says ‘we as a nation need to inseminate more pigs this year’, they don’t mean a visit to the farm for everyone, just for those among us whom we have designated pig inseminators. So there is a question of context I had not addressed. But in the context of the article, the sense still appears to be that we -you, me and Enya- should stand exposed.

Specifically General

U2 on the move again after their lost decade – The Irish Times – Fri, Feb 20, 2009

It is a tribute to this album that it can be described without reference to the virtues of individual songs.

Or, the dog ate the tracklisting.

More Power To Vote Elbow

Some reasons why the Brit Awards are so uncool | Opinion | The First Post

The pandering to the public vote is completely uncool. Who gives a fuck what the public thinks? It may well afford the recipient the opportunity to get up and say with absolute ease “this award means more to me than anything…”. but the hyper-enfranchising of the public is the worst thing in modern life. “Send your tweets in now”, “be a part of the debate”, “get phoning”, “it’s your turn to get involved” – the ultimate in dread expressions. The sheer anxiety on the Brits website to reassure us that the awards are not just voted for by ‘industry insiders’! Whenever the reach of an award is enlarged to involve you the people, they carry on as though it’s the Magna Carta. You, The real members of the public! Yes you too can vote. (But only for Girls Aloud and Elbow.)

Well said.

Now You’re Stalking

For those who give a toss, I am now on Twitter. Good grief.

Let Me Count The Ways

Disappointingly, the five million ways are not enumerated. But anyway.

Ireland Today

Via Notes On The Front. Brilliant.

I on Twitter

February 2009