Addendum

Surely k-punk is right when he criticizes the “quaint” and unjustified optimism of Gilbert Achar, as quoted in my previous posting by way of No Useless Leniency. I will stand by my basic point that I do not think that capitalist crisis somehow leads to increased opportunity for radical change. Crisis is how the capitalist system works: as Deleuze and Guattari say, it only functions — but precisely it does in fact function — by incessantly breaking down. I do believe that some sense of general abundance is necessary for there to be a radical questioning of the way things are — and that not being allowed to share in a general abundance is one of the most important stimuli for rebellion. When abundance seems to have vanished altogether, the largest effect is demoralization. I cannot even feel Schadenfreude over bank houses going under, once I am aware that I, and, non-rich people in general, are going to suffer from this more than the bankers and brokers will.

On the other hand, I do not see any possibility of an “optimism of the will” counterbalancing the necessary “pessimism of the intellect.” In fact, there is little that is more odious than the “positive thinking” and overall optimism that is a hallmark of our contemporary capitalism — as k-punk again was entirely on target in mentioning. As regards the current effort to save us from financial ruin and deep depression, I think this picture says it all:

Just one day of government injection of capital into the banks, and the Masters of the Universe at the Stock Exchange are back on Easy Street.

But I also don’t think that a dose of “negativity” is likely to help us in doing anything about the situation either. In fact, any optimism whatsoever seems to me unjustified. I am left, as always, in a position which could alternately be described as “Stoic” or as “petit bourgeois”: trying to observe and understand what’s happening with as much lucidity as possible, but utterly detached from any pretension of doing anything about it.

35 Responses to “Addendum”

  1. jane says:

    Agreed, but —.

    I’m not sure I see the same logical relationships here. If we agree that capitalism works by breaking down (we can call this idea D&G’s, though they’ve basically allegorized Schumpeter), that doesn’t actually imply that that the points of breakdown are inherently stable. Indeed one could argue just the same that even as such moment of crisis are entirely necessary for capitalist expansion, they are nonetheless moments of vulnerability.

    One might instead describe the situation as this: crises are systemic risks that capitalism is required to take. The payoff of the risk (a revivified rate of profit) is high, and as noted it is not an asystemic gamble but part of a historically stable dynamic. Still it remains a risk, and is the dynamic is to become unstable, it is far more likely to happen at one of these moments than another. Strategic thought requires attention to these moments of vulnerability, even if they are understood as internal to systemic functioning.

  2. immy says:

    I dont know much about D&G’s argument about Capitalism requiring crises for survival, could you kindly direct me to a source which would explain this specific concept in more detail? And do you know if anyone has written substantially on this specific subprime crisis from a D&G perspective? I haven’t come across any such commentary.

  3. Jasper says:

    I agree with Jane, as I agreed with some of disagreers in the last post.

    You’re right, Steve, to caution those who think crisis leads ineluctably or mechanically to revolution (and the implicit assumption that it must get worse to get better). But it’s equally a mistake to think that revolution can only arise in relatively stable times. The historical record provides examples that contradict both views. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that crises are times of both abundance *and* scarcity: abundance for the few and scarcity for the many. The rich remain rich, as any movie from the 30s will tell you. And then, on the other side, it’s probably best to say that majority of people on this planet live in permanent recessions and depressions, permanent conditions of scarcity–regardless of whether the world economy is growing or not. The point, I think, is that in modern, industrialized societies, crises lay bare the tremendous abundance (accumulation) that lies fallow because of the insanity of capitalism’s contradictions. That sense of general abundance (or possibility) won’t go away even if necessaries become scarce for many. Doesn’t the populist rage at the bailout stem precisely from the fact that the US is affluent enough to bail out Wall Street and therefore, by extension, affluent enough to provide for everyone’s basic needs and then some?

    You know, I always thought that D&G got their idea of crisis (at least in Mille Plateaux) from Marx, if only because their language about the limits of capital in the “Apparatus of Capture” chapter, if not the stuff in Anti-Oed, seems a direct match for Marx in the long “excursus on crisis” from the Grundrisse, all that stuff about capital positing and then suspending its own barriers. Do you know, Steve, if they’d read the Grundrisse by the time they wrote that chapter?

  4. Jasper says:

    A couple of examples from Marx and D&G:

    “By its [capital's] nature, therefore, it posits a barrier to labour and value-creation, in contradiction to its tendency to expand them boundlessly. And in as much as it both posits a barrier specific to itself, and on the other side equally drives over and beyond every barrier, it is the living contradiction” (G, 421)

    “If the two solutions of extermination and integration [of capital] hardly seem possible, it is due to the deepest law of capitalism: it continually sets and repels its own limits, but in so doing gives rise to numerous flows in all directions that escape its axiomatic” (ATP, 472, italics mine)

  5. Joe Clement says:

    If we take the stance that (radical, Proletarian) Socialist revolution will not likely emerge out of this or any crisis in Capitalism, what does that mean said revolution will look like for us (how will it be televised?) if it were to happen in a “period of abundance”? If not a crisis, then what? I think it’s worth questioning the thought that some periods in the last 150 years are characterized by abundance and scarcity. From what I can tell, it seems like those who own society are simply more or less generous with our own abundance.

  6. schluehk says:

    I am left, as always, in a position which could alternately be described as “Stoic” or as “petit bourgeois”: trying to observe and understand what’s happening with as much lucidity as possible, but utterly detached from any pretension of doing anything about it.

    Hardly ever seen a leftist intellectual publically describing his own condition with such an honesty. But may I ask then why are you doing what you do anyway? It’s much like barking at the moon.

  7. Jane — I don’t disagree with you — in the sense that, the very need of capitalism to pass through crisis and contradiction implies that it is not seamless and total; that no matter how much it absorts and transfigures everything outside it (real subsumption), it remains at the limit vulnerable, at risk, etc. But I still do not see the current crisis (or its “resolution”, which of course will involve a prolonged recession, and considerable deprivation, difficulty, and pain for everyone aside from the banks that have been “rescued”) as offering any sort of real opportunity for change.

    Jasper — I think you are right re: D&G’s relation to the Grundrisse (actually, to the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts as well!).

    When you say:

    That sense of general abundance (or possibility) won’t go away even if necessaries become scarce for many. Doesn’t the populist rage at the bailout stem precisely from the fact that the US is affluent enough to bail out Wall Street and therefore, by extension, affluent enough to provide for everyone’s basic needs and then some?

    I can only answer that there is no movement from this rage to any sort of actual political action challenging capitalism. The US political system, in particular, both channels such things as “populist rage” into meaningless at best, and menacing at worst, political distractions (e.g. the rage at McCain/Palin rallies), and sets up a situation where anything substantive having to do with the economy is removed from politics, or from democratic governance, altogether — thus there is basically a bipartisan consensus on the bailout etc., and substantive policy decisions are either left to the “market” or made by instutitions like the Fed that (by design) have no democratic accountability.

    schluehk — I have never understood why one’s inability to actually effect change, or make things better, should entail that therefore there is no point or justification in analyzing the situation and expressing, even vehemently, one’s opinions and judgments about it. If this is “barking at the moon,” then so are making art, experiencing art, playing baseball, studying abstruse mathematics, and numerous other activities that can make human life (one’s own and others’) more worthwhile simply in themselves regardless of what pragmatic effect (or lack thereof) they have on changing society.

  8. Kirby Olson says:

    The entire bailout is only about 2,300 dollars per person. Hardly enough to pay the rent for a single month if you live in Manhattan or San Francisco.

    It’s just a little lump of coinage in the vast sea of silver that the Obama Left calls CHANGE. Hardly anything to get up on a seahorse about and starting to yahoo.

  9. Joe Clement says:

    “The US political system, in particular, both channels such things as “populist rage” into meaningless at best, and menacing at worst, political distractions (e.g. the rage at McCain/Palin rallies), and sets up a situation where anything substantive having to do with the economy is removed from politics, or from democratic governance, altogether — thus there is basically a bipartisan consensus on the bailout etc., and substantive policy decisions are either left to the “market” or made by instutitions like the Fed that (by design) have no democratic accountability.”

    I think this is why we’ve seen a surge of talk concerning “socialism” in the media, particularly on the internet, as a negative description of the bailout. Both House Republicans and David Sirota invoke it (HERE and HERE) in precisely this sense.

    While I understand the arguments for why crises aren’t inherently opportune times for revolution, are historically times when Capitalism re-enforces itself, I think we fool ourselves if take this as an argument against revolutionary rhetoric and projects. To riff off of Bill Cosby’s most commodilicious moment working for Jell-O, “There’s always room for change.”

    The financial meltdown is effectively a symptom of Capitalism, which can be appreciated in one of two ways. On the one hand, it can be taken superficially, and the best response is to remove the problem. On the other hand, it can be taken as an illustration, an eruption of a deeper conflict that draws us into a more productive struggle with the issue(s) at hand. Lacan’s critique of ego-psychology had this in mind, both regarding psychoanalytic theory and practiced psychoanalysis, and so does the more recent Darian Leader article you referenced regarding Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. The problematic view is the same whether we’re in a “crisis” or a “period of abundance”: no symptom means no problem. It’s a false equivalence that we don’t correct by simply getting rid of it (or with holding our critical attention from it until it “goes away”), but by pressing all involved to look deeper into what it reveals.

  10. Aaron P. says:

    The crisis of the thirties produced fascism in some parts of the world, a New Deal in another. Can either be entirely reduced to the operations of capital? And if so, why have capitalist radicals been trying to destroy the New Deal ever since? (Not that I’m endorsing the New Deal).

  11. Jasper says:

    Steve,

    I have a lot of respect for you. I’ve learned a great deal from your reflections here, so perhaps for that reason I bring a particular ardor for dissuading you from your iron pessimism. . .

    Myself, I’m not exactly filled with irrepressible optimism or anything. I know how brutal this will be for people, and on whom the brutality will fall. I’m well aware that populisms of the vilest sort tend to flourish in times like this. The point to be made in response to the Achair article is that crises are equal opportunity radicalizers–they bring out the far left and the far right alike. It’s true that the non-liberal left, for all extents and purposes, is weakened and invisible in the US. Other countries, however, are different.

    I don’t think you need a crisis to make an argument about the inanity and violence of capitalism; but it certainly does help. People are going to be more susceptible to an explanation about why capitalism doesn’t work. And since we already know that fascism is a menu item for the coming period, it only makes sense to try and make sure that socialism and communism are on offer as well.

    This is potentially a profound opportunity. I’m not making claims for anything other than potential here. The system is foundering, and the entirety of the US military is overseas. We won’t see another opportunity like this soon.

    Plus, you know, it seems unlikely the ecological balance of the planet could sustain another period of “abundance” in the way that capitalism produces abundance, and even if it could sustain such a recovery and return to full growth, it’s less than certain that such a period will be forthcoming within capitalism. There are cyclical patterns and waves, and then there are some vectors and tendencies that are not, precisely, cyclical.

  12. schluehk says:

    If this is “barking at the moon,” then so are making art, experiencing art, playing baseball, studying abstruse mathematics, and numerous other activities that can make human life (one’s own and others’) more worthwhile simply in themselves regardless of what pragmatic effect (or lack thereof) they have on changing society.

    You intend to make the life of yourself and other people more enjoyable by showing them how miserable and inevitable their conditions are and how Cthulhu reigns the world? Maybe there is something about the idea of turning theory and analysis into story telling and why then omitting horror stories? But there I’m still missing a plot…

  13. schluehk says:

    Something else. Why wasn’t there ever a Hollywood super movie about the events and aftermath of 1929? Are people still scared about what happened at that time?

  14. Kirby Olson says:

    Locke argued that the four basic God-given rights were LIFE, HEALTH, LIBERTY, and PROPERTY.

    Somehow the left doesn’t believe in private property (or to some extent in liberty).

    I still like all four of these rights, and think they are universally valid.

    When I heard Obama talking to Joe the Plumber about how he was going to redistribute Joe’s wealth, it just reminded me of a pickpocket. Even if he’s going to redistribute the money among the money, or among his associates, it’s still a crime against the God-given right of PROPERTY.

    Audacious?

    I don’t know why the left is so anxious about private property.

    Proudhon did write early on that property is theft, but at the end of his life in his book on Theorie de la Propriete, he argued that he had gotten it wrong, and that in fact, private property is the pole of the prole, and the only stay against the monolithic power of big government. It gives Joe the Plumber a stake in civic life, and divides the power so that it doesn’t all belong to Senator Pickpocket or whoever happens to be in the Oval Office.

  15. Halldor Laxness says:

    “Why wasn’t there ever a Hollywood super movie about the events and aftermath of 1929? ”

    Wizard of Oz.

  16. Lydia Olidea says:

    Kirby, ever the slyest anarchist among us, argues eloquently for the annihilation of Senators and Presidents — and while we’re doing away with pickpockets, let’s toss out the expropriators of labor as well. Okay? Okay. Now I’m up for discussing private property…

  17. G says:

    Could you elaborate on how optimism or positive thinking is an odious hallmark of contemporary capitalism? Do you not think that one can be optimistic today in spite of capitalism’s problems? In other words, is optimism today an illusory and immoral condition that capitalism fosters or can it be harbored in spite of the system, because of what good can be in the system or can be in life today? I’m also wondering if your “petit bourgeois” attitude does not simply become a sort of pessimism. I like the idea of following the economy with lucidity instead of pessimism, but I’m concerned from your incessant rejections of optimism in the post that what you’re calling lucidity is actually a sort of bitterness.

  18. Aaron P. says:

    “The system is foundering, and the entirety of the US military is overseas. We won’t see another opportunity like this soon.”

    Jasper, if this is a tacit call for revolution, I think you’re forgetting the National Guard and the massive domestic police force–not to mention the probable reticence of the American population.

    If not, sorry for misinterpreting you.

  19. El Nino says:

    I agree that the current crisis will not lead to ‘radical’ change, but I don’t agree with the reason given. We have already entered a super-rationalist age due to the large amount of data available to decision makers (or ‘revolutionaries’) that rules out ‘radical’ anything. The power of mass data increases the predictability of particular events; it also narrows the range of action. At the height of a market (or nadir for that matter) the increment of change will be modified by a ‘margin of error’. The interesting feature of this is that decision makers concentrate on the immediate past to predict the immediate future at the expense of understanding ‘long wave’ change. Of course, any change maybe quite extreme if we take an ‘a priori’ standard from which we measure radicalism. But then that becomes a potentially uber-academic exercise. This relates to the coming crisis in scientific method whereby hypothesized cause becomes irrelevant so long as we can identify correlation on mass data: but that is a post for another blogoshpere…

  20. El Nino says:

    In other (less convoluted) words, revolution ain’t coming from the Wal-Mart masses.

  21. Steven is correct. This crisis is not a green light to revolution.

    What we are seeing is simply the process by which private capital, driven by its profit motive has taken on a direction that is completely suicidal, in one sense, but completely normalistic in another.

    suicidal: any growth that is based on percentages is exponential. At every “period”, the value has doubled by way of the “law of 70″ (due to proximity of 70 to log2). So, a measly 2% per annum growth rate doubles the value in question every 35 years. 35 years after that, it DOUBLES again.

    1
    2
    4
    8
    16
    32
    64

    Note: each doubling EQUALS the amount of all previous doublings COMBINED. Obviously, this is a completely unsustainable practice – ANY growth that is continuous cannot be sustained. The rest, sadly, follows very neatly.

    Here is the US stock exchange index 1900 – 2000:

    http://tinyurl.com/5nct97

    Wen it started, the index stood at 40.94. On October 9, 2007, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at the record level of 14,164.53.

    So, let’s do the math 14,165 – 41 = 14,124.

    41
    82
    164
    328
    656
    12,112

    14,124

    So we have just over 5 periods of doubling. Let’s be generous and round it to 5, and round down the total time to 110, just because it divides nicely. That’s a period of 22 years. 70/22 = 3.18% growth. If left to the averages, In 2030, we’d see a stock exchange at 28,000, and in 2052, 56,000, and in 2074, 112,000. By 2100, it would be around 230,000, and by 2200 well over a million.

    And that is ridiculous -if it wasn’t simply impossible, I would find it offensive. The size of the economy would be measured in quintillions. Short of a massive inflation, such numbers and quantities are an absurdity, and, IMHO, an offensive obscenity.

    However, there are other numbers that come into play here. The most important one is this:

    http://tinyurl.com/6jjesv

    Oil production has been slowly dropping since May 2005.

    Total global production of non-petroleum based energy production has not kept pace with the drop in production. Therefore, there has been a deficit, and this has been the root fact underneath the oil price speculation. Recent events have produced “demand destruction” – reduced consumption – causing the price to reduce. However, even as the price reduces, the production continues to decline.

    The traditional “left” want industrialism, only run by and for the working classes (proletariat). The right have other notions as to who should get the biggest share of the fruits of surplus value. They are both predicating their social and political economies on fallacious assumptions. The resource situation is so precarious and the population showing no signs of abating its growth, that there will, by necessity, be a reckoning, and it will have to come at the expense of industrial culture itself.

    Both Marx and Ricardo and Smith and Mills and Jevons presume a continuous availability of energy and resources for their models to work: these resources are intrinsic to capitalism and industrialism. As the energy decreases and resources retreat, industrialism itself will have to be rethought, and it is THERE that more “progressive” notions of social organisation can (and should) be advocated and implemented. When we literally *work* in a different way, and organise amd *live* our lives in a different way, then we can talk about actual transformations of society.

    The failure of the soviet model was predestined: the way of industrial work is, by its nature, alienating. No amount of worker solidarity can change that.

    The constant lurching from crisis to crisis is inherent to capitalism. Once the resources are not available for “recovery”, the lurching will, be definition, stop. The “growth” economy will be replaced, again, by necessity, by the “steady state” economics. Ricardo and (IIRC) Mills both warned of the deleterious effects of a steady state economy, seeing it as stagnation and a framework for degradation.

    It will be at that juncture – when industrialism itself begins to fail – that a true “post-capitalist” system can be brought into existence.

    What comes after science? I shudder to think.

  22. Kirby Olson says:

    No, Lydia I think government is one pole, and the workers the other, and there is a kind of magnetic attraction of opposites between them, and that in order to make the economy into a perpetual motion machine, you have to utilize the laws of attraction (Fourierist). The bankers and the wankers have to be attracted by profits, or the machine won’t go. There has to be some levelling of risks, or not enough players will play. Someone must govern, but they don’t have the right to wipe out the profits of those who’ve won and give it to the losers, otherwise you wreck the laws of attraction that made the winners into hard workers willing to win, and then the perpetual motion machine of the economy collapses, and everybody is out of work, or work becomes no fun, like in the killing fields, where the Pols owned everything, and the workers’ only role was to obey.

    Bad, bad, bad.

    Naughty, even.

    Work must have a charismatic element if people are to do it, and to want to improve their lives through it.

    In our economy people are free to join into unions or even work in cooperatives, if they believe that this will get them further down the road towards winning, on their own terms.

    Expropriators of capital are not the same as pickpockets, Lydia, because entrepreneurs have contracts with labor, freely chosen by both sides, and terminated at will on both sides (unless the union is too powerful, which then kills the will of the entrepreneur to want to lay out their capital and instead they go to Costa Rica to make baseballs, since the unions are not so strong there).

    Obama is too heavy-handedly on the side of labor which actually kills the labor market.

    McCain is JUST RIGHT in terms of siding with the entreprenurial spirit, and preserving the notion that one can win without having all one’s marbles taken by the government. Government like Obama wants it, makes it easier to just do nothing but lie and wait for a coconut to land at your feet.

    That might work in Hawaii, but not in Detroit.

    In Detroit you need Fourier to close the straits of production between workers and entrepreneurs such that the perpetual motion machine continues to hum and buzz. It’s the poetry of motion, with no ideas but in machines.

  23. schluehk says:

    As the energy decreases and resources retreat, industrialism itself will have to be rethought, and it is THERE that more “progressive” notions of social organisation can (and should) be advocated and implemented.

    Energy is a conserved quantity. The only thing that vanishes right now is a cheap and simple to handle carrier like fuel. I’ve no idea why it can’t be substituted by something else. It’s only for sure this hasn’t been done yet because of the technical advantages and availability of oil.

    Considerations about a slowdown of exponential growth ( decrease of growth rate ) of economy are correct but irrelevant. In effect interest rates are decreasing as well. In some models interest rates are even negative. This has interesting consequences for the control of some parameters of a national economy but it wouldn’t change much else.

  24. Henry Warwick says:

    schleuk wrote:

    Energy is a conserved quantity.

    But it is a degraded quality. Second Law of Thermodynamics. It all gets radiated out as heat, eventually. There is irretrievable loss, and, per Sagan and Schneider, it is an essential fact of life, as life itself is an entropic system which stores solar energy to do work, which is centred around reproduction of more entities to store solar energy to do work…

    I’ve no idea why it can’t be substituted by something else. It’s only for sure this hasn’t been done yet because of the technical advantages and availability of oil.

    No, it has to do with, again, the second law of thermodynamics, but even more so with a related principle of EROEI, Energy Return On Energy Invested. It boils down to this: We have an energetic income. It comes from the sun. We have an energetic savings account. It is in the form of oil and radioactive metals.

    That’s. It. Period.

    Wind? Driven by the Sun.
    Hydro? Ditto.
    Alcohol? Ditto.

    Even oil itself is from the sun, as it is the result of millions of years of sealife (esp. plankton and diatoms) dependent on sunlight for their energy.

    So, that’s it. We can make clever technologies to harvest and distribute these resources (oil, sun, etc.) but [and this is important...] We Cannot Make Energy. Period. Technology Is Not Energy. Period.

    So – from this we then have to look at the various methods by which energy is acquired and distributed. As life systems store energy in various chemical bonds, we can see food as a fuel. It was the energetic surplus created by agriculture in the Nile Valley that built the pyramids. As increasing amounts of energy become available (agriculture -> wood -> Coal -> Petroleum) fewer people were required to raise food (make energy) and more people were freed up to use energy, hence the development of culture – from Professors at huge Universities to nail salons to receptionists at Advertising Agencies – all those professions are possible through excess energy.

    Remove the energy, and you remove social complexity (Tainter, Diamond). Remove it quickly with no real planning, you have a Collapse. (viz. Easter Island, Norse Greenland) Remove it gradually with a plan and you have a transition to either a more sustainable society (viz a certain few islands in Polynesia, see Diamond) or a less sustainable but growing society based on a different energy source (viz. Japan during the Tokagawa Shogunate and the eventual transition from Japanese wood to Chinese coal).

    Considerations about a slowdown of exponential growth ( decrease of growth rate ) of economy are correct but irrelevant. In effect interest rates are decreasing as well. In some models interest rates are even negative.

    On the contrary: exponential growth is only possible when you have an exponentially growing (or exponentially depleting) energy base. Negative interest rates won’t put more oil in the ground.

    This has interesting consequences for the control of some parameters of a national economy but it wouldn’t change much else.

    On the contrary – the end of the “growth society” will devastate the capitalist system.

    Gotta go..
    hW

  25. schluehk says:

    So, that’s it. We can make clever technologies to harvest and distribute these resources (oil, sun, etc.) but [and this is important...] We Cannot Make Energy. Period. Technology Is Not Energy. Period.

    I admit having problems discussing with someone whose apodictic style tends to be unintentionally funny.

    I’m not an expert on energy technologies and I’m not inclined to engage in a debate about them with another layman. Whether or not mankind finds new ways to extract energy from their environment using biotechnology, nanotech, geothermal power plants, sun, wind, nuclear fusion etc. within a time frame of 10-50 years is out of my reach. The hypothesis that any technological civilization in the universe is bound to some initial quantity of oil, is one I find not very interesting.

  26. I admit having problems discussing with someone whose apodictic style tends to be unintentionally funny.

    I’m glad to keep you amused. i have no such problems dealing with you.

    I’m not an expert on energy technologies

    I’ve been studying these issues with some intensity since 1998 (after reading March 1998 Scientific American article by Campbell and Laherrere), and with serious focus since 2002. I am not the level of “expert” like Deffeyes (Princeton) or Youngquist (Oregon) or Heinberg (former New School, now with PostCarbon Institute), but I have read and own all of their books, so, insofar as their expertise is revealed in their published work, I am expert in that. So, you need have no worry about having to

    engage in a debate about them with another layman.

    because I’m not exactly a “layman” on this, as I have lectured a number of times on this and related subjects. Also, I am in continuous contact with a variety of people who have made it their business to know about this stuff and even more expert in this than I. In addition, I’m on the planning committee for PostCarbon Toronto, part of the PostCarbon Institute.

    Whether or not mankind finds new ways to extract energy from their environment using biotechnology, nanotech, geothermal power plants, sun, wind, nuclear fusion etc. within a time frame of 10-50 years is out of my reach.

    There is only our energy income (from the sun) and energy savings (from the sun and earth’s core). Geothermal is “savings” as it was bequeathed to us by a supernova before our solar system existed. As noted, wind and hydro are derived from solar, and are part of our energy income. The other forms of “savings” are harvested energy that has been stored (viz, oil, natgas.)

    There is no risk of “running out of oil” in 15 years. There will be plenty of it for a very long time. That is not the problem. The problems in energy facing humanity are:

    1. the total energy per capita continues to drop due to a flattening of energy production from the depletion of petroleum sources in the face of continuous population growth.
    2. excluding nuclear, which has its own set of problems, the density and transportability of alternative fuels do not compare with petroleum.
    3. The EROEI on fuels other than Petroleum, Solar PV, Wind, and Hydro are subjects of dispute. Most tend to locate their ratios at very low values, and in some cases (like Hydrogen) are deeply negative or (like Ethanol) marginally positive.

    The hypothesis that any technological civilization in the universe is bound to some initial quantity of oil, is one I find not very interesting.

    I made no such claim, and I challenge you to find such a statement in my post.

    cheers,

    HW

  27. To add to my original post in this thread, Steven is still correct and I would add this crisis presents no opportunity for a “revolution” by the left to overthrow capitalism. The contradictions simply aren’t manifest in society, and there is not enough solidarity in a mediated culture to effect the kind of social change necessary.

    Media, or Information and Communication Technology ( ICT ) in general are extremely efficient at isolating individuals while providing illusions of autonomy and power and entertaining people at the same time.

    ICT does have the ability to rapidly form networked orgainsations, and from this, the potential to develop Organised Networks (Rossiter), but any such networks are predicated on the continued existence of enormous industrial combines that are, by and large, vast corporations that don’t necessarily have or share the interests or values of said networks.

    Given the technology is based on extreme energy extraction and exotic materials (germanium, gallium, indium, etc.) such networks are no more sustainable than the ICT underneath them. So, even if such systems were able to effect social change within the context of contemporary ICT production and practice, there is no guarantee, and good ground for skepticism, of the notion that it can or ever will be even vaguely sustainable, much less be central in the demolition of capitalism.

    Schluehk wrote:

    Something else. Why wasn’t there ever a Hollywood super movie about the events and aftermath of 1929? Are people still scared about what happened at that time?

    I agree. It is an odd thing, no?

    To that end, this summer there was a children’s movie (my daughter insisted we all go see) called “Kit Kitteridge, an American Girl”. Yes, Kit’s blonde and cute and ever so sweet, that said, what I found interesting was that it came out this summer, and it depicts a family at the depth of the Great Depression (1931/32). The father loses his job goes to Chicago to find work, the girl (Kit) stays with her mother and they take in borders. They grow chickens and sell eggs. They make clothes out of chicken feed bags. They turn the backyard into a food garden. A large encampment of homeless forms by a bridge at the river. Crimes are blamed on the “hobos” who are simply poor and homeless. A young black girl loses her family and has to travel as a boy for safety. A stockbroker (one that didn’t commit suicide in ’29 – where are the honourable stockbrokers today???) hasn’t seen his family in years, since the crash. Is it a sticky sweet kids movie? Yeah, for the most part. But it also looks at the poverty and the powerful changes people went through during that time.

    If the economy continues to collapse, who knows? Perhaps “Kit Kitteridge” may be seen as a prophetic film… that would be too weird…

    But to your point – I agree – I think a clear eyed film about October 1929 would be excellent! I’d go see it…

    cheers,

    HW

  28. Kirby Olson says:

    Ralph Nader calls Wall St. a socialist Las Vegas for the financial elites, and said they should at least take down the flag over the Stock Exchange, since it is so obviously un-American.

    It’s weird that the Stock Exchange is allowed, and that people can bet on it. But it’s really just ownership in a company, but it’s ownership without any kind of loyalty of any kind to the company except insofar as it produces.

    Money is so weird.

    Baseball plays in the MLB are in a sense owners of the means of production in that it is they themselves who produce the hits, and so in a sense they are banking on themselves, and if they commit too many errors, they are out of work.

    All finances should be based on baseball.

    The only problem is that their unions have now raised the cost of baseball so high that ordinary people can’t get in to see the games any longer. I don’t know how much a ticket costs at a big stadium any longer. It used to be 5 dollars to see the Seattle Mariners if you were willing to sit in the Left Field bleachers, but the problem was that you were in there with angry drunks who would yell racist things at the players who were often just fifteen feet away, and so it was such an unpleasant experience that I don’t know why anybody went.

    You’d think that the Christian notion that each person is the same as any other since we each have a soul given us by God, and that we are therefore exactly equal, would have caught on by now. But I felt like I was in the Coliseum, watching unfortunates about to be eaten by lions, which in this case were the spectators. It was odd to say the least that those who were being eaten by the lions made on average approximately 2.3 million each.

    Like you, I feel we have to try to understand what’s going on before we can change it, a reversal of the Feuerbach Thesis.

  29. wedge says:

    “Why wasn’t there ever a Hollywood super movie about the events and aftermath of 1929? ”

    King Kong
    The Public Enemy
    Little Caesar
    Scarface
    42nd Street
    Dracula
    Frankenstien
    A whole load of Weimar German films

    And that’s just the 30s – it was tackled without using acute metaphors in later decades…

  30. wedge says:

    “All finances should be based on baseball.”

    Baseball players as a fair representation of worker/owner relations? Blaming the unions when the team goes under? Screwing over labor rights in defense of – gag – ‘entrepeneurial sprit’? Corny sports metaphors for economic disasters?

    Is this ‘McCainomics’? If it is, let’s hope racism actually does defeat ageism!

  31. Kirby Olson says:

    Here’s a couple of poems by Obama that he published in his college literary magazine, with commentary by a Brit. The information in the commentary is wrong. The poem is an ode to OBama’s communist poet friend Frank Marshall Davis (a very good poet):

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/2007/mar/29/barackobama.uselections2008

  32. Rick Terror says:

    Hi, Mr. Shaviro. I’m probably the only chilean who reads your excellent blog. I hope you don’t hate creative plagiarists like me. I used your text about Southtland Tales recently to do a little cut-up. By the way, I haven`t found a better text about the movie on the net.

  33. Nate says:

    hi Steve,

    I think your basic point is dead on, and important: that you “do not think that capitalist crisis somehow leads to increased opportunity for radical change.” There’s no automatic link between crisis and positive political change, revolutionary or otherwise. Likewise, it’s not the case that crisis is always the effect of class struggle (I used to think this when I was more enthusiastic about Negri and co). It seems to me there are crises which are generated by class struggle and crises which are generated by internal dynamics to capitalism (other than class struggle I mean). Likewise there are crises which pose opportunities and crises which don’t. I think those are only determinable in context, basically by the presence of movements and organizations of the working class.

    All of that said, while there’s no automatic link between crisis and positive change, there’s also no automatic link between abundance (or, the absence of crisis) and positive opportunities. So I can’t agree with you when you say

    “Revolution will never come from sacrifice. It is only under conditions of (relative) prosperity and abundance — which capitalism does provide, after a manner, during one part of its cycle — that we will ever find the power to imagine things differently, and that people will have the motivation and the energy to devote themselves to hopes for the future, rather than being stuck in the moment-to-moment struggle for bare survival.”

    I don’t think that’s knowable. I think this _is_ an important point against a sort of catastrophism a la “I’m going to vote McCain so things get worse, then people will wake up”, but it’s not true that only in conditions of abundance do we see revolutionary potentials. The zapatistas in Mexico in the early 90s and the piqueteros in the late 90s and early 00s both demonstrate this I think (not that they were fully successful revolutionary movements, but either was closer than anything in any situation I know of that’s characterized by abundance).

    take care,
    Nate

  34. Kirby Olson says:

    I have been waiting for you to gloat a little over the election results.

    You’ve waited 8 long years.

    Please be happy!

  35. Perhaps I’m a little late to the game, but I find that a recent reading of Virno really affirms Steve’s theory concerning the contemporary “crisis.” I’m most interested in Virno’s adaptation of the Greek *katechon* as he describes the processes of the State:

    “Katechon, a radically antieschatological and theologicopolitical conceptt, is opposed to the ‘end of the world,’ or, better yet, to the atrophy of the opening to the world, to the various ways in which the crisis of presence can be made manifest. Both victorious evil and complete victory over evil lead to the same end, that is to say, to the same state of atrophy. Katechon protects us from the deadly instability that emanates from the Antichrist, but that emanates equally from the messianic state of equilibrium; from terrifying instability, and equally from the redeeming entropy” (Virno 60).

    Though Virno uses this to his own ends, especially as he discusses the excess and defect of semantacity, I am interested in reading Shaviro’s assessment of the current “crisis” as being somewhat akin to the process that Virno describes. In a sense, following on Grammar of the Multitude one can be read the crisis as that which is both abated and, in a strange sense, encouraged. What we have, and I agree whole-heartidly with Shaviro, is, to phrase it pretty poorly, the self-preserving tendencies of capitalistic forces. Katechon is a force that preserves, that holds in continual stasis – it wants neither to destroy the crisis nor, perhaps, encourage it.

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