Brian Holmes on Sun, 6 Feb 2011 15:28:19 +0100 (CET)

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

The critical quote below is great, thanks Angela. What's more, if 
governments were really to give formal title to everyone and manage to 
get every little business powering away with a micro-loan, what would 
ensue is an overproduction crisis on a massive scale - since that's the 
problem with competitive capitalism, the work-discipline and technology 
actually overproduces in the sectors where it's applied, and forces 
people to concentrate only on those sectors to the detriment of 
everything else. De Soto is one of those people that neoliberalism has 
produced in large quantities: they name a real problem and then they 
provide a seductive business solution that would never work, but anyway 
is just used as a cover to do something totally different. Which is what 
I already said in my earlier post, by the way.

What's striking is that throughout the Middle East - as in large parts 
of rural China and India and Africa and Eastern Europe and Latin America 
many other places, like the Midwestern USA where I live - there are 
people suffering economic stagnation, even hunger, in a world where 
fabulous wealth is being generated and distributed. This is gonna become 
intense this year, because food prices are passing historic highs, in a 
world where sustainable community agriculture has been largely destroyed 
and people's dinner is a commodity they have to pay for. If not just 
money-capital but instead, valuable productive activity including 
farming is not allowed to spread among the people, then I think there 
will be war on all levels - civil wars, wars between neighboring 
nations, maybe world war with atom bombs. Of course it is not up to the 
capitalist classes to achieve the transformation: what's been done is 
the reverse, maintaining dictatorships. I've been to Cairo, it was the 
most repressive place I've ever seen, may the Egyptians escape their 
dictatorship! May they escape from America! But it is not so easy for 
any society to achieve a good circulation of productive activity. A lot 
of revolutions have tried and failed. In the world today, the most 
successful bid toward a massive extension of productive activity is 
being carried out by China, but in ways that perfectly mirror 
contemporary Western capitalism with its stark class divides, its 
commodity fetishism destroying people's ability to think beyond their 
manipulated appetites, its ecological damage which drives people out 
into the street to protest every day. As we all know, the CPC has kept 
up its cut-rate, export-oriented industrial development out of a 
certainty that if they do not manage to create a hundred new cities of 
over a million in population in the next ten years, the people will 
revolt, yes, that fear is one of the engines of contemporary capitalism.

My question is: how to force the constituted powers to change direction? 
How to reconstitute the forms of social organization on other bases? How 
to create a people-state that will enable community-building productive 
activity, rather than suppressing it? Anarchists will say, you just 
gotta smash the state. In my view that's a fantasy, probably not 
entertained by serious anarchists either, the real questions are 
elsewhere. Among the common goods of society, the most important is 
organization, that's what we need to imagine, to conceptualize, to 
develop, to institute in replacement of the current capitalist norms. 
Create communities that work, support other communties with whom you can 
make contact, support revolutions against the capitalist classes and 
their repressive states, look for better models of urban and rural 
government that allow people to become ecologically productive, press 
for the adoption of those models, press for international agreements 
that sustain the local and national and regional experiments, create 
space for a viable future: that's what I'm trying to say. The thing is, 
a season of revolt has opened up. But in the past, such seasons of 
revolt have produced fascist/authoritarian responses. The same things 
could happen in our lifetimes. They are already happening to some 
extent. It's impressive and sobering. We on the left need to get 
working, to produce some ideas that work. Hopefully we can all look for 
the valuable parts in what others say and do, and reinforce it with 
positive critique, otherwise the go-to people are still gonna be the 
Hernando de Sotos. Neoliberalism absorbed most of the libertarian ideas 
and desires of the sixties and seventies and made them functional for 
capitalism, as is so painfully obvious in the States today. How to turn 
the tables?

best, Brian

PS: Ha ha, I just read MK's post and I agree that Ayn Rand was a 
textbook sociopath!!!! Via Greenspan she captivated the USA during the 
last decade... what a nightmare....

> "The program appeared to have a remarkable effect, although not the one
> anticipated. A number of studies of the Peruvian experiment found that
> property titles had no significant effect on access among the poor to
> business credit (Cockburn 2000; Field and Torero 2002; and other studies
> cited there). Mortgage lending did eventually increase, but only after a
> new government abandoned de Soto’s neoliberal prescriptions and began to
> subsidize low-income mortgages. However, another study found an
> unexpected change in the economic lives of those who became formal
> property owners: they began towork harder. Obtaining title to their
> property seemed to increase the average number of hours that members of
> a household worked by 17 per cent. The data suggested that over time, as
> the effect of titling intensified, the total number of hours worked
> might increase by 40 per cent." [From Mitchell, "The Work of Economics:
> How a Discipline Makes Its World," European Journal of Sociology (2005),
> 46: 297-320]

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