Keith Hart on Sun, 6 Feb 2011 20:55:07 +0100 (CET)

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

The point of my post was that Hernando de Soto, neoliberal stooge and hate
figure of the left, once wrote a couple of books that some people on this
list might find interesting if they want to learn more about the history of
repressive bureaucracy and the informal economy. Many peoples' lives in
Egypt and Tunisia have been substantially defined by this pair, as they were
in the Soviet Union and are still in many other places. This is not just a
fabrication of the latest phase of American empire. The way forward for
Africa and the Arab world as a whole requires an understanding of the social
conditions under which they have lived. There are many sources for that, but
mention of de Soto in the Egyptian context gave me the idea of making a

I actually think that his program of extending legal title is ludicrous and
ineffective. No doubt it serves cosmetic purposes that distract from a more
powerful analysis and prescription. I would not take de Soto's participation
in a public scam in Egypt four years ago as a reason not to read what he
wrote long before. Pumping up the volume with caps and exclamation marks
never stuck me as a persasive mode of argument either.

While I am here, I would like to recommend Beatrice Hibou's wonderful book,
*La force de l'ob?issance : Economie politique de la r?pression en Tunisie*,
an English translation of which will be published by Polity in August. She
showed considerable courage persisting in ethnographic research despite
serious harrassment from Ben Ali's thugs. Her analysis is based on a
synthesis of Weber and Foucault, but unlike them her main focus is on the
disruption of everyday economic life as means of spreading fear. Whatever
happens next will depend in part on how people articulate their wants and
needs in the light of that experience. If the issue is buried by propaganda
of both right and left, the dark forces that took over the Russian economy
under similar circumstances will flourish unchecked.

Curiously enough, a large part of any post-revolutionary phase will concern
the restoraration of law in everyday life. De Soto's prescriptions are
hugely inappropriate to that task, but I find some of what he once wrote
illuminating. Can't help it. Please don't write again to say that I should
read Marx or some study of houseownership in Peru.


On Sun, Feb 6, 2011 at 4:02 AM, Angela Mitropoulos <>wrote:

Thank you for this Amy. And I was also thinking that I was giving too
much credence to any distinction between de Soto's property titling
programmes and those which come with overtly normative and/or punitive
policies (such as the Intervention in AU - ie., effective bans on
pornography, alcohol, welfare income management, heteronormativity, etc).

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