October 12, 2008

Name that collapse I don't know if I over-dosed on financial disaster porn before the bailout (an enormous money shot if there ever was one; I can't help but wonder whether part of the effort was to get as much money as possible before "this sucker" went down; who really are the suckers and what exactly were we going down on?) and just lost interest, whether everyday life and the election has diverted me, or whether we are actually in a situation of such global volatility that there isn't a cohesive locus for thinking about it. Prior to the bailout, there was talk of the credit crisis. This is still present, obviously, but the massive impact of the credit freeze (or, as I like to call it, the massive over-production of debt) across the globe seems to have exceeded the boundaries of this framing. Should we speak of the collapse of the financial sector? Of global banking? Of stock markets? Of neoliberalism as an ideology? Of capitalism itself? Some suggest that the collapse definitively proves that neoliberalism is ideologically bankrupt (not just financially strapped or momentarily ill-liquid). Such a claim could well be performative, calling into being or helping produce a better post-neoliberal future. Yet, this will depend on the elements to which the claim is articulated. I read somewhere today something that suggested a change has thorough as 1989, as if all of a sudden everyone just stopped believing the lie and stopped going through the motions (not a bad way to...
Zizek bailout Excerpt from Zizek in the LRB (I thoroughly disagree with the second paragraph; the rich/Wall Street/financial sector are not the dynamic element at all; they are the parasitic element that has made debt the major US commodity; a far better plan would involve making 700 billion available to green energy development, infrastructure repair, restructuring transportation from private to public, beginning the long process of dismantling suburbs and exurbs in favor of livable urban environments; you can do a lot with 700 billion): If the bailout plan really is a ‘socialist’ measure, it is a very peculiar one: a ‘socialist’ measure whose aim is to help not the poor but the rich, not those who borrow but those who lend. ‘Socialism’ is OK, it seems, when it serves to save capitalism. But what if ‘moral hazard’ is inscribed in the fundamental structure of capitalism? The problem is that there is no way to separate the welfare of Main Street from that of Wall Street. Their relationship is non-transitive: what is good for Wall Street isn’t necessarily good for Main Street, but Main Street can’t thrive if Wall Street isn’t doing well – and this asymmetry gives an a priori advantage to Wall Street. The standard ‘trickle-down’ argument against redistribution (through progressive taxation etc) is that instead of making the poor richer, it makes the rich poorer. However, this apparently anti-interventionist attitude actually contains an argument for the current state intervention: although we all want the poor to get better, it is...

Jodi Dean

Jodi Dean is a political theorist.

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