So the weekend bachelor party in Las Vegas, hosted in part by groomsman Ed from ginandtacos.com, was extended several days due to Hurricane Irene. There’s something about a vacation where you expect (and budget) it to end by a Sunday, and then are told all flight are down for an additional five days, so you hang out for a few additional days, fly into a different city and take a variety of buses and car rides from friends to get home, that makes one not keep up with the blogs. What did I miss? Did we Win the Future while I was offline?
– For those who are keeping d-bag score for me, feel free to put some more points on the board for leaving my financée to deal with a hurricane, evacuation zones and worries of flooding (and evidently a Bourbon shortage) while I went to play poker and blackjack (and didn’t encounter a Bourbon shortage).
– Note to self, advance Christian Parenti’s Tropic of Chaos to the front of the reading queue. I think libertarian attacks on preventing global warming are short-sided. A state that has to deal with endless climate disasters is a state that is all about moving bodies around randomly as if soliders on a battlefield or resources in a factory. It has to prioritize building walls and fences and evacuation zones and isolation regions, etc. The conflicts that will arise are ones states are already horrible at – mass migrations across increasingly shaky national borders, fights arising from resource depletion, etc.
(But a study has US GDP rising 1% as a result of a 3 degree C temperature increase by 2080 or something, so we at least have that going for us.)
– Vacation reading was reading prep work for two books I’m looking forward to getting to. First was the history article In Search of Progressivism by Daniel T. Rodgers, whose book Age of Fracture I’m about to read. I mention because I want to clip this from the article for theorizing about wonkery:
Rather what [progressives] seem to have possessed was an ability to draw on three distinct clusters of ideas – three distinct social languages – to articulate their discontents and their social visions. To put rough but serviceable labels on those three languages of discontent, the first was the rhetoric of antimonopolism, the second was an emphasis on social bonds and the social nature of human beings, and the third was the language of social efficiency….
The last of the three clusters of ideas to arrive…was the one we associate with efficiency, rationalization, and social engineering. Some of the progressives never stomached the new bureaucratic language of budgets, human costs, and system, nor felt comfortable translating social sins into the new-fangled language of social waste. For others, however, the language of social efficiency offered a way of putting the progressives’ common sense of social disorder into words and remedies free of the embarrassing pieties and philosophical conundrums that hovered around the competing language of social bonds. Like Charles Beard or John R. Commons they were ready to put their Ruskins and their Christian Sociology on the shelf in exchange for the stripped down language of social science-and for the new occupational niches available for social scientific experts…
It is not yet clear through what channels the language of social efficiency worked its way out of the laboratories and factories and into the political discourse-there to make it possible for many self-professed progressives to slide back and forth between criticism of business-made chaos and schemes to reorganize government on business lines….As late as 1905, the “state,” society grandly conceived, and philosophical idealism held preeminent place. By 1915 they were all being bushed into the corners by a new concern with governmental technique and political behavior, by the precise behavioristic curiosities of a new breed of sociologist, and by anti-philosophical scientism.
If it was impossible to simply legislate the money economy away, even in Russia, the least monetarized society in Europe, then perhaps revolutionaries needed to start looking at the ethnographic record to see what sort of creature the market really was, and what viable alternatives to capitalism might look like. Hence [Mauss’] “Essay on the Gift,” written in 1925, which argued (among other things) that the origin of all contracts lies in communism, an unconditional commitment to another’s needs, and that despite endless economic textbooks to the contrary, there has never been an economy based on barter: that actually-existing societies which do not employ money have instead been gift economies in which the distinctions we now make between interest and altruism, person and property, freedom and obligation, simply did not exist….
Before Mauss, the universal assumption had been that economies without money or markets had operated by means of “barter”; they were trying to engage in market behavior (acquire useful goods and services at the least cost to themselves, get rich if possible…), they just hadn’t yet developed very sophisticated ways of going about it. Mauss demonstrated that in fact, such economies were really “gift economies.” They were not based on calculation, but on a refusal to calculate; they were rooted in an ethical system which consciously rejected most of what we would consider the basic principles of economics. It was not that they had not yet learned to seek profit through the most efficient means. They would have found the very premise that the point of an economic transaction—at least, one with someone who was not your enemy—was to seek the greatest profit deeply offensive.
Also, for fun, I wish I could find pictures of this:
In fact the threat of that man with the stick permeates our world at every moment; most of us have given up even thinking of crossing the innumerable lines and barriers he creates, just so we don’t have to remind ourselves of his existence. If you see a hungry woman standing several yards away from a huge pile of food—a daily occurrence for most of us who live in cities—there is a reason you can’t just take some and give it to her. A man with a big stick will come and very likely hit you. Anarchists, in contrast, have always delighted in reminding us of him. Residents of the squatter community of Christiana, Denmark, for example, have a Christmastide ritual where they dress in Santa suits, take toys from department stores and distribute them to children on the street, partly just so everyone can relish the images of the cops beating down Santa and snatching the toys back from crying children.
Naked Capitalism ran an amazing interview with Graeber on his book on Debt. Highest recommendation. Also check out Peter Frase on the Henwood-Graeber book event, and a fun bonus, Graeber on the first two seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.