Brian Holmes on Fri, 4 Feb 2011 17:49:02 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> Hernando de Soto: Egypt's Economic Apartheid (WSJ)

Thanks for this, Patrice.

De Soto's analysis is striking and the problems he reveals are part of 
what needs to be addressed. One area where neoliberals a la Hayek have 
been right is that the self-organization of individuals and small groups 
is more effective than attempts at total state planning of production 
and distribution. The problem is they draw from that an ideology of 
abolishing the state, while in reality the state reshapes itself to 
favor the self-organization of... huge corporate oligopolies whose first 
rule of business is 'don't let anyone else into the market.' As I 
understand from reading, the most ever done to help Egypt's rural poor 
was land redistribution (with or without ownership title, I am not sure) 
under the socialist Nasser. To help poor people in the Middle East and 
elsewhere overcome basic problems, we need to forge a new conception of 
the state as an enabler of everyday life and not as a driver of 
corporate growth. Failing this, the Middle East is set to become the 
ground zero of a world war marking the end of American hegemony.

Right now there is a food crisis in the world, which I am sure no one on 
this list has noticed except maybe in a few specialized articles. But 
people in Tunisia and especially Egypt have noticed it, to the point 
where many think it is a proximate cause for the uprisings (not of 
course the only one, far from it). Food availability is an issue of 
global well-being (a better concept than global security). To achieve it 
requires the suppression of commodity speculation and the provision of 
emergency funds on the global scale, the way bail-out funds are 
provisioned except, of course, only a tiny percentage of such funds 
would be needed. However, none of that essential stuff is gonna work in 
any country where the state does not facilitate individual and above 
all, community self-organization, not just so that money can change 
hands but so that vital needs can be met and communities can flourish.

Can capitalism as we know it today deliver such a solution? De Soto's 
implication is that it would, if we just allowed its true nature to 
shine through. Reminds me of the arguments about really-existing 
communism. What we see with really-existing capitalism is the 
intensification of global oligopolies on the one hand, and the 
maintenance of oppressive regimes in the name of order and stability, on 
the other. With Israel armed to the teeth and marauding sadistically 
every year, with Iran developing a nuclear bomb, with Hezbollah showing 
the world how to organize both a victorious army and an effective 
solidarity system on the ground, and with the US pledged to intervene in 
favor of its key allies (Israel, Saudi Arabia), it is not even sure that 
a starving Egypt is required to set off the biggest war this world has 
seen since the 1940s.

Voices ask, rightly of course, what does the blather on lists like this 
really mean? They know it does not mean much. But we are all more or 
less intellectuals, of the organic kind that Gramsci described. What we 
need to do is to conceptualize and to demand a new kind of state. 
Techno-fetishism is over, it was never worth anything and it has played 
into the hands of the key producers of neoliberal ideology in the US and 
Britain. Rather than celebrating the prowess of technology in creating 
more or less failed revolutions, or alternately, moaning about one's 
inability to do anything except pointlessly blather, the thing to do is 
to create and demand an effective understanding of how we are going to 
survive the historical crisis that is opening up right now before our 
eyes, since the financial meltdown. You can do that, each one of you, in 
whatever functions you occupy as an organic intellectual, and not just 
in teaching or direct politicking. Because the threat is real. There is 
no one-off solution. We need a people-state, operating at different 
scales -- global, continental, national, territorial -- and allowing 
community self-organization for survival and cultural flowering.

warmly, Brian

On 02/04/2011 07:42 AM, Patrice Riemens wrote:
> Mr de Soto plugs here (some will say 'peddles') his usual 'make the
> informal sector legit" message, yet it sheds an interesting light on teh
> Egyptian regime's stagnation and cronyism which is now unraveling it in
> popular revolution. It also illustrates an aspect less covered in media
> and analyses: when the throne of a tyrant is under attack, the trickiest
> party to deal with is not the tyrant him(her)self and immediate circle,
> but the rather large (and fairly anonymous) group around him/her that
> profits by its rule. Fisrt they thwart all reform - since it goes against
> their interests - and when the day of reckoning arrives, they have nothing
> to lose (unless they bolted to Abu Dhabi or the Bahamas, and had stashed
> they loot away beforehand), and will go on the rampage.

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