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.