what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Surfing in the Carpathians

"How can I know what I think until I read what I write?" is a lovely quotation (from Henry James) which sits at the masthead of a rather specialised economics blog by a German Professor. It very much summarises the spirit of this blog and today’s in particular.

For a couple of days I’ve been wanting to do a post on the “Manual for Counter-technopols” which was an Annex in a sadly-forgotten book called The New Zealand Experiment produced in 1995 by Jane Kelsey.
I was reminded of it as I read Mirowski’s Never Let a Serious Crisis Go To Waste.

The Manual is a list of injunctions for those who wanted (in the 1990s) to fight neo-liberalism. Twenty years on, the phrases still resonate eg –
- Resist marketspeak – maintain control of the language, challenge its capture, and refuse to convert your discourse to theirs. Insist on using hard terms that convey the hard realities of what is going on.
Be realistic and avoid nostalgia—recognise that the world has changed, in some ways irreversibly, and the past was far from perfect. Avoid being trapped solely into reaction and critique. Many neo-liberal criticisms of the status quo are justified and will strike a chord with people. Defending the past for its own sake adds credibility to their arguments and wastes opportunities to work for genuine change.
Be proactive and develop real altematives – start rethinking visions, strategies and models of development for the future. Show that there are workable, preferable alternatives from the start. This becomes progressively more difficult once the programme takes hold.

The Manual can be read in its entirety in the link – but, somehow, failed to move me. It was too general, too vague….too rhetorical. 
So, as the dawn come up over the mountains at 05.00 today, I started to surf for inspiration and hit first a review in Book Forum of Utopia or Bust  which is a look at some of the key left theorists about the global crisis - by Benjamin Kunkel who, I remembered, had written the recent great review of Thomas Piketty’s current blockbuster to which I referred a few days ago. Kunkel – like other great reviewers of the London Review of Books – is actually a writer.
The publisher of his latest book is one of several fascinating small publishers who are coming to my attention - Zero Books (Not to be confused with Zed books !)

From there, I was led on to Poor but sexy – culture clashes in Europe West and East  by a Polish writer Agata Pyzik who writes for the Guardian’s new East Network which had rather passed me by.

My study faces due east and the morning sun (when it appears!) always hits my eyes. At 10.00 I can’t help but notice that the skies are cloudless – but with quite a chilly breeze making it impossible to sit on the open terrace for more than 5 minutes. I began to realise that I don’t write very much about Europe these days; and manage to come across a new website – the European Cultural Foundation and an interesting booklet on the Dwarfing of Europe which in turn led me to a worthy-looking journal on things European founded by a Bulgarian – EUInside with this useful overview of a recent forum in Croatia

From there, just a quick flick of the wrist to Wolfgang Streeck’s most recent book Buying Time - a sense of which he gave in a New Left Review article

On days like this, I wonder whether I shouldn’t call this blog – Surfing in the Carpathians. It reminds me of the great book Europa Europa by Hans Magnus Enzensberger which contained an essay entitled “The Seacoast of Bohemia”

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