Archive for September, 2009

Civilization and Barbarism

The fault with the Irish economy, according to the classical political economists, fell at the feet of the wretched peasantry itself. In general, these economists expressed impatience with the Irish culture (Boylan and Foley 1992). They wrote off Irish civilization as barbaric, while they condoned the barbaric measures of the English in the name of civilization.

In Ireland, classical political economy confronted a people not yet subdued by capital. Recall Smith’s concern about the want of order in Ireland. Rather than recognize this resistance to capital as a normal reaction to highly exploitative conditions, early economists were prone to attribute it to a racial defect. As Nassau Senior (1928: i, 233) told his students of 1847-48: “Races which like the Celts, have neither docility nor intelligence must be governed by fear.” Consequently, simple market solutions were not sufficient to govern Ireland.

Certainly, Ricardo the political economist clearly understood the nature of the substantial difference between the Irish economy and that of England. Ireland was distinguished by the vigor with which people resisted capital. By contrast, England appeared to have reached the point at which it could rely on “silent compulsion,” which becomes effective only after the “advance of capitalist production develops a working class which by education, tradition and habit looks upon the requirements of that mode of production as self-evident natural laws” (Marx 1977, 899-900)

Perelman, The Invention of Capitalism and The Secret History of Primitive Accumulation.


There are parallels between the matter of Cóir in the Lisbon Treaty referendum ‘debate’ and the fact that the British Labour party is planning on sharing a Question Time studio with a member of the BNP. Dick Roche seemed happy enough to appear on a RTE radio slot with a member of Cóir, having previously denounced them as a ‘sinister and secretive organisation’ . Garret Fitzgerald saw fit to focus on their ‘noxious propaganda’ in his Irish Times article on Saturday. I said on a Slugger O’Toole thread about Cóir that ‘there is no arguing with fascists since they will lie and obfuscate tirelessly, and they have no truck with anything approximating the truth and are bent on the destruction of the liberal order under which reasoned debate can be held. If you want to grant them legitimacy by arguing with them as a means of proving how reasonable you are by contrast, you will inevitably end up looking up like an idiot’. However looking like an idiot scarcely matters when compared to the act of allowing a fascist grouping to determine the course of public deliberations. The point here is that Cóir, or the BNP, are invited to occupy the space in the absence of anything approaching substantial political propositions. Their profile is so high now precisely because mainstream parties in both polities are severely incapable of articulating anything beyond glittering neo-liberal generalities. The fascistic groupings are then used by the same mainstream parties as a fearsome augury of what will happen if you don’t continue to vote for the latter.


LRB · Fredric Jameson: Then You Are Them

All the characters and their stories are thereby diminished, but this is no weakness: it results from an enlargement of narrative perspectives to include the deep space of institutions and collectivities, and a rather different kind of historicity from that projected by the individual fable of the first version. Here we are more clearly able to perceive the breakdown of modern capitalist society into the various private contractors to whom social needs are outsourced, and behind them the enormous corporations that have replaced all the traditional forms of government. (‘The Compounds were where the Corps people lived – all those scientists and business people Adam One said were destroying old Species and making new ones and ruining the world.’) Here also we glimpse the forms of resistance aroused by the devolution in which what we still consider social and technological progress consists – they range from the survival of the most sadistic to the banding together of small groups and the formation of new religions or, more ominously, to what is called ‘bioform resistance’. Food and sex are obviously the most immediate needs: they are supplied by SecretBurgers, into which all available protein matter is dumped, and AnooYoo spas, accompanied by hosts of dreary fly-by-night dollar stores, whose multiplicity scarcely arouses the free-market exhilaration of the cyberpunk visions of the world to come. A faceless power centre is embodied in the CorpSeCorps, which, as in medieval society (and quite unlike Orwell’s universal surveillance), keeps tabs only on what it needs to know and does not hesitate to organise para-political goon squads when necessary; anything more destructively criminal can then be dealt with in the Painball facilities, in which teams of convicts are organised to kill each other off. The well-being of the elite is assured by the HelthWyzer institutes, of which the reader has already heard something in Oryx, along with various scientific think-tanks that have, among other things, devised new species to supply human replacement organs, such as the memorable pigoons. Oryx gave us the view of this system from the inside and as it were from above, even though there really does seem to be no oligarchic ruling elite nor any totalitarian party or dictatorship on the old-fashioned modernist dystopian model; The Year of the Flood gives us the view from below – always, as we well know, the most reliable vantage point from which to gauge and map a society.

I read Oryx and Crake some years back. It scared the underpants off me, especially the pigoons. I do not have the constitution for that sort of thing. Hence I doubt I shall be reading The Year of the Flood, even though it is probably a superb piece of work, as Fred Jameson indicates here. Thank goodness I have not bought it yet. The idea of having to read it would weigh too heavily on my mind. Besides, I have a ton of other books to get through as an excuse:

  • Manufacturing Discontent: The Trap of Individualism in Corporate Society, by Michael Perelman
  • Abnormal: Lectures at the College de France, 1974-1975, by Michel Foucault
  • The Frock-coated Communist: The Revolutionary Life of Friedrich Engels, by Tristram Hunt
  • Pocket Pantheon: Figures of Postwar Philosophy, and Polemics, both by Alain Badiou
  • Ethics-Politics-Subjectivity: Essays on Derrida, Levinas and Contemporary French Thought, by Simon Critchley
  • Reading Capital by Louis Althusser and Étienne Balibar
  • The Power Elite, by C Wright Mills
  • Society of the spectacle by Guy Debord
  • Stepping Stones: Interviews with Seamus Heaney
  • Contrary Notions: The Michael Parenti Reader
  • En Busca De José Antonio by Ian Gibson
  • Espejos: una historia casi universal, and Las venas abiertas de América Latina, both by Eduardo Galeano
  • Anatomía de un instante by Javier Cercas
  • Noah’s Compass by Anne Tyler
  • The Lost Revolution: The Story of the Official IRA and the Workers’ Party, by Brian Hanley and Scott Millar
  • Therapy by David Lodge

Lots of laffs to be had reading that lot. I hereby resolve not to procure any other books until that list is cleared. Worryingly, I also picked up a copy of The Watchtower during Sunday lunch yesterday, when a couple of Jehovah’s Witnesses called at the door and caught me unawares. Luckily a raucous infant calling from the kitchen provided me with the perfect pretext for swiftly turning down the offer of a free bible class. But I took the magazine because it was pissing down outside and I didn’t want the two witnesses on my doorstep to feel their visit had been entirely in vain, probably an unwarranted courtesy on my part.

Civilising Mission Progress Update

Nato airstrike kills 90 including 40 civilians in Afghanistan – World news, News –

A police official in northern Afghanistan said a Nato airstrike on two hijacked fuel tankers killed 90 people, including 40 civilians.

Police and government officials in Kunduz Province say the blast occurred after the Taliban hijacked two trucks delivering fuel to Nato forces.

Chief of Police Gulam Mohyuddin said the trucks were hit by a Nato airstrike late last night.

Mr Mohyuddin said the Taliban were distributing the fuel to area villagers when the airstrike occurred. He said that 90 people were killed, including 50 Taliban and 40 civilians.

Nato confirmed that there was an airstrike in Kunduz Province overnight but gave no details.

Sure they’re only Afghans.

The Smart Money

Smart economy – The Irish Times – Fri, Sep 04, 2009

For a start, there is no certainty that a smart economy will solve our unemployment problems. Such an economic model ultimately aims to transfer workers from supplying labour to skills and brain-power.

It seems you can supply skills and brain-power without supplying labour, which is a good trick. I look forward to an economy so smart that one can do as one pleases, playing the odd round of golf, pacing back and forth in the drawing room discussing the latest Margaret Atwood book, going for a hike across the fields with one’s mind on higher things, safe in the knowledge that one’s skills and brain-power are simultaneously getting put to work elsewhere in exchange for money.

Lisbon Treaty Whup-Ass

I am not going to be saying too much about the upcoming Lisbon Treaty referendum as it will be a waste of time, but I thought this was interesting.

Below is a piquant little Yes-to-Lisbon video from a fresh new grouping called The Age of Consent, sorry, Generation Yes.

It explores the bona fides of the groups campaigning for a No vote in the upcoming Lisbon Treaty referendum.

Against a white background it asks the question whether the groups campaigning against Lisbon can be trusted to tell the truth.

Against a black background it introduces the Socialist Party as an Irish Trotskyite group.

A picture of Leon Trotsky standing over the naked buttocks of two women fades in.

Here is the picture:


Here is another picture.


Perhaps Generation Yes should get onto Harper’s Magazine and denounce their Stalinist practice of using doctored photos.

Things I Could Have Done

I watched most of the counterfactual history documentary about Jack Lynch invading Northern Ireland last night. I also had a look at the census forms for my great-grandfather’s family. My great-grandfather is listed as a ‘yarn shaker’, which I presume refers to a particular process in the manufacture of linen. He was 32 years of age and had 5 children under the age of 5, and lived out his days in Armagh. That gave me an idea, which I’m planning on submitting to RTE. It’s a counterfactual history documentary titled ‘What if my great-grandfather had assassinated Hitler?’ I am planning on getting Danny Elfman to write the score.

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September 2009
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