Book review: Does Capitalism Have A Future?

Book review: Wallerstein, Immanuel et al. Does Capitalism Have A Future? Oxford: Oxford UP, 2013.

(crossposted to Firedoglake and to DailyKos.com)

This book is a "response" anthology, with the lead author being Immanuel Wallerstein, prominent world-systems theorist, laying out his hypothesis for postcapitalism. Even though I am sympathetic to Wallerstein's hypothesis, I find its logic a bit brief. Wallerstein argues that a number of trends in present-day world-society will converge and produce a transition to a postcapitalist world-society, and that what is going on now is the struggle to define what the world after capitalism will be like.

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Economic Populist: Orwell's Catastrophic Gradualism and 0.1% Apologetic

My attention was just brought to this essay by George Orwell (h/t geomoo, "Catastrophic Gradualism".

The essay is reflecting upon a reaction to the work of Arthur Koestler by Mr. Kingsley Martin, but before launching into that exchange, Orwell lays the foundation for what he means by "Catastrophic Gradualism":

At present this theory is most often used to justify the Stalin regime in the USSR, but it obviously could be—and, given appropriate circumstances, would be—used to justify other forms of totalitarianism. It has gained ground as a result of the failure of the Russian Revolution—failure, that is, in the sense that the Revolution has not fulfilled the hopes that it aroused twenty-five years ago. In the name of Socialism the Russian regime has committed almost every crime that can be imagined, but at the same time its evolution is away from Socialism, unless one re-defines that word in terms that no Socialist of 1917 would have accepted. To those who admit these facts, only two courses are open. One is simply to repudiate the whole theory of totalitarianism, which few English intellectuals have the courage to do: the other is to fall back on Catastrophic Gradualism. The formula usually employed is “You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs.” And if one replies, “Yes, but where is the omelette?”, the answer is likely to be: “Oh well, you can’t expect everything to happen all in a moment.”

For someone of my generation, on the trailing edge of the Baby Boomers or the leading edge of Generation X (and those kinds of boundaries are intrinsically ambiguous because generational cohorts are defined by their core rather than by their boundaries), the first reaction is that visiting the past is visiting a different country. Imagining a time and place when such arguments would be used to defend Stalin's Soviet Union is a bit mind boggling. But then, using the essay as a prism to look back with fresh eyes to the current time and place ... maybe not so mind boggling after all.

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Behaving Badly

Caleb Hannan writes for the ESPN-owned digital magazine Grantland. While watching an infomercial about a new putter last year he decided to do a story on the club's inventor, Essay Anne Vanderbilt, also known as Dr. V.

In doing his research for the article, he encountered difficulty verifying some of the "facts" about Dr. V's past. Vanderbilt was purportedly one of "the" Vanderbilt's, an associate of the Hiltons, a physicist specializing in aeronautics who was educated at MIT and had worked on the stealth bomber, and a graduate of Wharton School of Business. Hannan could find no evidence to corroborate any of that. So he kept digging and eventually published a 7700 word article on the invention of the Yar putter and its inventor. He couldn't even find a photo of Vanderbilt on the web. The infomercial apparently was done instead by CBS golf analyst Gary McCord and Steve Elkington.

But he refused to be deterred. McCord told the story of how an unknown woman approached an executive at TaylorMade who explained to him how everything involved in their design was wrong.

She just hammered them on their designs. Hammered them.

--McCord

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The Mountaintop, Revisited

Sappho Party, 1993 by Jade photo reserven.jpgI am an activist for my people. As I have grown older, I have more likely performed my activism with my words, which is the tool I have had at hand.

Sometimes I am repetitive. I am a teacher. Some lessons are hard. That's a clue to the fact that they are important. Important lessons need to be taught more than once, again and again, time and again, using different words, approaching the issue from different points of view. That's what I do. Some of you claim that I do it "ad nauseam." It's your nausea, not mine.

Many of you know me as the transsexual woman (or whatever you call me...I'm sure that it is not favorable in many instances). Some of you know me as an artist or a poet. Some of you see the teacher in me. Or the glbt activist and PFLAG parent. I am all of these. I am a human being.

I was born in a place and time. I have absorbed the life lessons presented to me since then. I am still learning.

I've tried to pass on what I have learned. I continue to make that effort, in whatever new venues are available, wherever I can find an opened eye or ear.

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Sunday Train: California Sierra Club Allies with Tea Party Against High Speed Rail

It's a quite odd alliance. The Sierra Club is fighting the Climate Suicide Club both on the side of Supply, with the fight against the Keystone XL pipeline as one example and the fight against the establishment of Coal Export Terminals in the Pacific Northwest and on the side of Demand, with the Beyond Oil campaign, which in the Green Transportation component promises among other points that: "The Sierra Club will:

  • Ensure that all Americans have access to safe, affordable, clean transportation options. ..."

And now the Director of Sierra Club California, Kathryn Phillips, has stepped up her attacks on the High Speed Rail project from "expressions of serious concern" to giving direct support for the attack from the Legislative Analyst's Office that is working in concert with the Tea Party attack that is their most promising hope for killing the project :

“Inherent in AB 32 is that we need to act sooner rather than later,” said Kathryn Phillips, the Sierra Club’s California director. “The problem with taking that [cap-and-trade] money and applying it to high-speed rail is that we don’t anticipate that we’re going to get those benefits — reductions in greenhouse gas emissions — in the short-term. Given how urgent the problem is and has become, and how much we’re seeing the effects of climate change in this state, especially in water availability, it feels irresponsible to not apply that money to those programs that will get you greenhouse gas emissions reductions now.”

Given that we cannot feasibly arrive at a carbon neutral energy generation and transportation system within the next seven years, this implies that we should abandon the pursuit of a carbon neutral generation and transportation system and content ourselves with fighting for a slower rate of suicide as a national industrial economy than the faster rate of suicide that Big Oil, Big Coal and the rest of the Climate Suicide Club is pushing for.

Indeed, given that Sierra Club California had an official position in support of Prop1a which got the California HSR project moving , this could well be as strong an attack on the California HSR project that Kathryn Phillips is in a position to make.

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Greenwald: Obama's NSA 'reforms' are little more than a PR attempt to mollify the public

From The Guardian:

And now we have the spectacle of President Obama reciting paeans to the values of individual privacy and the pressing need for NSA safeguards. "Individual freedom is the wellspring of human progress," he gushed with an impressively straight face. "One thing I'm certain of, this debate will make us stronger," he pronounced, while still seeking to imprison for decades the whistleblower who enabled that debate. The bottom line, he said, is this: "I believe we need a new approach."

But those pretty rhetorical flourishes were accompanied by a series of plainly cosmetic "reforms". By design, those proposals will do little more than maintain rigidly in place the very bulk surveillance systems that have sparked such controversy and anger.

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Maryland to give it another try

On Tuesday Maryland state Senator Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) introduced another bill that would outlaw discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodation against individuals on the basis of their gender identity.

A similar bill last year died in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee by a vote of 6-5 in March. Proponents of the bill feel optimistic this year, citing cultural progress and the endorsement of some key political figures.

I am very hopeful. Given the way our culture has changed in a progressive direction in Maryland and given the support we now have from the Senate and House leadership we will get the votes in the Judicial Proceedings Committee to move the bill.

--Dana Beyers, executive director of Gender Rights Maryland

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Gender Prison: Not Pono

It's not surprising that Hawai'i Republicans dipped into some culture bashing in their most recent rhetoric.

Basically the story concerns the curriculum developed by the Hawaii Department of Education and the University of Hawai'i to combat teen pregnancy and STI transmission by giving the young people there accurate information in order to make informed choices about their sexual health. The name for the program is Pono Choices. A rough english translation of the concept Pono is "righteousness," but with deeper culturally and spiritual connotations involving living in harmony, balance, and unity.

The core concept is that it is not who you are that puts you at risk; it is what you do.

As you might imagine, this does not fly well in right-wing circles. Their extremist vision is that Pono Choices is being forced on children and their parents…even though parents have the right to opt out of the program, like all reproductive health programs. But also, they are warning everyone that the program "encourages the homosexual lifestyle," even though it is in compliance with an abstinence-based education policy.

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Sunday Train: The Rumored Death of Peak Oil Was Greatly Exaggerated

From Earth Insight by Nafeez Ahmed, hostsed by the Gardian, Former BP geologist: peak oil is here and it will 'break economies':

Dr. Richard G. Miller, who worked for BP from 1985 before retiring in 2008, said that official data from the International Energy Agency (IEA), US Energy Information Administration (EIA), International Monetary Fund (IMF), among other sources, showed that conventional oil had most likely peaked around 2008.

Dr. Miller critiqued the official industry line that global reserves will last 53 years at current rates of consumption, pointing out that "peaking is the result of declining production rates, not declining reserves." Despite new discoveries and increasing reliance on unconventional oil and gas, 37 countries are already post-peak, and global oil production is declining at about 4.1% per year, or 3.5 million barrels a day (b/d) per year:

"We need new production equal to a new Saudi Arabia every 3 to 4 years to maintain and grow supply... New discoveries have not matched consumption since 1986. We are drawing down on our reserves, even though reserves are apparently climbing every year. Reserves are growing due to better technology in old fields, raising the amount we can recover – but production is still falling at 4.1% p.a. [per annum]."

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