Monthly Archives: December 2009

Deconstructing Neoliberalism, part I

note: This is the first in a series of posts, the idea for which I mentioned here. I am certain Sach’s arguments have been addressed by writers and thinkers far better than myself. However, I am writing this to deepen my own understanding of ideas to which I am relatively new. I hope it will also allow me to more readily address the points of mainstream economists.

The book jacket gives us the first indication of Sachs’ direction, and a very clear picture of the framework he’s using.

“Ultimately, The End of Poverty leaves readers with an understanding, not just of how grave the problem of poverty is but how solvable it is- and why making the necessary effort is a matter of both moral obligation and strategic self-interest of the rich countries.”

Sachs here is trying to sell his agenda to both the humanists and the capitalists alike, and judging by his stature and influence, he has been incredibly successful. He has received accolades for his pragmatism, though his desire to reconcile capitalist imperatives with moral ones smacks of utopian idealism. Žižek noted the hypocrisy of the modern capitalists: they accuse communists of being too utopian, while their ideals- universal healthcare, voting rights, decent living standards (all within a capitalist system of accumulation)- are every bit as utopian as those of Marx and Engels. Sachs’ focus, however, is on the “strategic self-interest,” of rich countries, indicating the plans he has for them.

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The pitfall of many amateur historians is to try and identify a “golden age” in the past, one that has supposedly universal or simply superior values and qualities to the present. To recognize the folly of this inquiry is merely … Continue reading

Open Ended: A Broader Dialectic Emerges

Richard Serra said that to him, sculpture means “…a life-time involvement.”1 He remains singularly committed to that involvement, working directly in the fabrication of his works. Seeking to establish a new perception for the viewer rather than represent an idea, Serra’s goal for many years has been to establish a space that an individual can experience. At first glance, however, his works seem almost too rough and intimidating to be engaged with properly. His ability as an artist, at least in some capacity, has been measured by his ability to overcome this apparent contradiction. In two of his recent works, he has achieved this by synthesizing the two considerations. Richard Serra’s construction of space in Blind Spot and Open Ended establishes a dialectic between the direct experience of the work imposing itself on the space of the viewer and the participatory experience of the viewer entering the work’s created space. This dialectic represents a masterful fulfillment of the smaller-scale considerations of Serra’s more recent works. Continue reading

Commodification in the Information Age

The images and theme come from the popular YouTube video Did You Know? 3.0

The focus of videos like these on the quantitative aspects of information (measured in bytes) rather than the qualitative demonstrates the treatment of information as a commodity. This focus presents a view of information with value intrinsic to itself rather than use value in relation to other commodities. In addition to reinforcing the pseudo-futurism of high-tech globalization, it presents the idea that regardless of how the information is applied or what the information itself is about, the information itself has value beyond its potential use or exchange value. The very act of producing information, whether that information concerns Harry Potter fan fiction or cluster bombs, is seen as beneficial to society. Continue reading