Friday, August 15, 2014

More Mazzucato (and others)

Really interesting radio show here with Mazzucato,  Arun Majumdar  and Mark Littlewood the head of the CBI.
What’s especially interesting is both how periperal Littlewood seems to the conversation and  how panic has stripped down the discourse of  a certain type of bluff Business bullshitter. This is the rhetoric distilled and then just repeated ad nauseum, a panicked grasping at the  talismanic. You can’t see Littlewood but you can imagine him quite clearly, a species of Farage,  the blokey pomposity, the lack of preparation, the  entitled assumption that as he is only talking to a couple of academics, not people who have  run an  actual business, he will be able to  just wave it all away,  the deliberate use of sloppy almost childish terminology and phrasing in the repeated use of “stuff”.

This latter feature is reminiscent of the recent attempted controversy over  Piketty’s Capital in which his detractors repeatedly used the  word “sums” to describe the highly complex  collating and  crunching required to elaborate his thesis ( he’s got his  sums wrong). This patronising of other people’s ideas  and  arguments is the default setting in which non neo-liberal worldviews or the efforts  of Governments and  theorists attempting to extend the argument is  automatically characterized as childlike, silly, the  adults not only talking  down to the wilful kids in the naughty corner, but also addressing the dim mass of sheeple, who really don’t and  never will “get it” in all its complexity.  It's a strategy that has proven highly effective  in subordinating dissenting thought  throughout the neo-liberal project,  but here, especially, this discourse seems impotent, drained of affective force, a windy, blustering cycling around that struggles to reclaim its incantatory elan, cut off from any kind of  wellspring of belief, the sound in fact of a discursive  practice being drained of hegemonic power.  Mazucatto is undeniably a smooth operator,  who having made significant inroads into mainstream discourse is starting to gently turn up the pressure, here questioning the use of the term bureaucrat.

Her fellow heterodox economist Ha Joon Chang also seems to be growing bolder. Chang is always worth listening to, but in this lecture, more explicitly than usual, perhaps also a growing sign of the  centre of gravity shifting leftward,  he offers  up a condensed  critique of both neo liberalism  and what he calls the humanist school of developmental theory. The  arguments of  both Mazucatto and  Chang are part of a wider questioning of  neoclassical economics and the elision of production as a site of enquiry, the cognitive  dissonance  that this elision provokes and the discursive dream work that attempts to stitch the  gap closed.


Also rather remarkable to see the immensely canny Richard Wolff on the broadly intolerable Bill Maher’s show. Back when Wolff  started out (well started out in the sens etahthe had just retired and  decided to see how far he  could push his theorising into the public realm) he was cagey  about using the M word (Marxism) or the C word ( Communism, he still prefers the term Economic Democracy) so it is interesting to see him here openly “admitting” to being a Marxist.  And talking of elisions,  as Wollf often points out, he  studied  Economics at  Harvard, Princeton and  Yale without  once being required to read Marx.
No doubt these guys are too liberal or post modern for some, no doubt they are too mainstream or carrerist, but in terms of overall shifts in sentiment, in terms of what’s thinkable, in relations to a widening set of possibilities in which experimentation and change might take hold at a broader grassroots' level they are reasonable barometers of emergent possibilities. Ten years  ago, this stuff was beyond marginal, almost unthinkable, you would have been at best ignored, largely laughed out of town, even five years ago it was eccentric but intriguing as people groped to understand the crisis, now it looks like it’s gathering serious momentum.

1 comment:

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