Leaving Democracy to the Experts

On June 19, the second anniversary of Julian Assange’s confinement to the Ecuadorian embassy in London, WikiLeaks rendered public the secret draft text for the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) Financial Services Annex. The document was classified not only during TISA negotiations, but for five years after it enters into force. While the TISA negotiations have not been censored outright, they have been barely mentioned in the media— a marginalization and secrecy that are in[ …]

How capital captured politics

In May, an international trade agreement was signed that effectively serves as a kind of legal backbone for the restructuring of world markets. While the Trade in Services Agreement (Tisa) negotiations were not censored outright, they were barely mentioned in our media. This marginalisation and secrecy was in stark contrast to the global historical importance of what was agreed upon. In June, WikiLeaks made public the secret draft text of the agreement. It covers 50 countries[ …]

Disposable Life (+ transcript)

[Transcript below video.] Under capitalism, the problem is not there are evil people here and there. The problem is the basic logic of the system – as it was developed by Zygmunt Bauman and many others. Some people even claim that if you look, in a non-humanitarian way, just at the pure logic of today’s global capitalism, then you arrive at the ratio even – some people claim – of 20% to 80%. That is[ …]

If Nelson Mandela really had won, he wouldn’t be seen as a universal hero

In the last two decades of his life, Nelson Mandela was celebrated as a model of how to liberate a country from the colonial yoke without succumbing to the temptation of dictatorial power and anti-capitalist posturing. In short, Mandela was not Robert Mugabe, and South Africa remained a multiparty democracy with a free press and a vibrant economy well-integrated into the global market and immune to hasty socialist experiments. Now, with his death, his stature[ …]

Why the free market fundamentalists think 2013 will be the best year ever

The Christmas issue of the Spectator ran an editorial entitled “Why 2012 was the best year ever”. It argued against the perception that we live in “a dangerous, cruel world where things are bad and getting worse”. Here is the opening paragraph: “It may not feel like it, but 2012 has been the greatest year in the history of the world. That sounds like an extravagant claim, but it is borne out by evidence. Never[ …]

Capitalism can no longer afford freedom

In his recent re-reading of Marx’s Capital, Fredric Jameson identifies the inherent contradiction of the world market: that it is the very success of capitalism (higher productivity, and so forth) which produces unemployment (renders more and more workers useless), and thus that what should be a blessing (less hard labour required) becomes a curse. As Jameson puts it, the world market is thus “a space in which everyone has once been a productive laborer, and[ …]

Liberalism as politics for a race of devils

For liberalism, at least in its radical form, the desire to subject people to an ethical ideal – which is regarded as universal and thus universally binding – is the mother of all crimes, “the crime which contains all crimes,” for it amounts to the brutal imposition of one’s own view onto others, and is thus the root cause of civil disorder. This is why, liberals claim, if one wants to establish civil peace and[ …]

Capitalism and the assault on reason

In May 2010, large demonstrations exploded in Greece after the government announced the austerity measures that had to be adopted in order to meet the conditions of the European Union for the bailout money to avoid the state’s financial collapse. One often hears that the true message of the Greek crisis – and that of the more recent protests in France – is that not only the Euro, but the entire project of the European[ …]

A permanent economic emergency

[New Left Review 64, July-August 2010 – pdf] During this year’s protests against the Eurozone’s austerity measures—in Greece and, on a smaller scale, Ireland, Italy and Spain—two stories have imposed themselves. The predominant, establishment story proposes a de-politicized naturalization of the crisis: the regulatory measures are presented not as decisions grounded in political choices, but as the imperatives of a neutral financial logic—if we want our economies to stabilize, we simply have to swallow the bitter[ …]

Post-Wall

It is commonplace, 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, to hear the events of that time described as miraculous, a dream come true, something one couldn’t have imagined even a couple of months beforehand. Free elections in Poland with Lech Walesa as president: who would have thought it possible? But an even greater miracle took place only a couple of years later: free democratic elections returned the ex-Communists to power, Walesa was[ …]