Europe in crisis: a satirical take from Greece

Europe has perhaps been in crisis for longer than we think, given that the elite driven move to marketization and a neo-liberal model has even less of a mandate at a pan-EU level than in individual countries, not least because of the EU’s notorious democratic deficit. As long as structural funds were building roads and Europe benefited from the debt-fueled boom, people could still be swung in line, often reluctantly behind the project, with elites able to draw on some of the population’s large reserves of pro-European idealism. Now, with the crisis, all the contradictions have been driven to the fore and elite Europe and popular Europe have clearly come apart. Europe once signified modernity and prosperity to its new members. Now it is more associated with structural adjustment, savage cuts in services and what is effectively blackmail. European idealism may survive but can no longer place its hopes in the EU. A lot of this is summed up in this great little video from Greece (here).

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Lazzarato and the governmental power of debt: La Fabrique de l’homme endetté or The Making of Indebted Man

There can have been few more timely recent books than Maurizio Lazzarato’s La Fabrique de l’homme endetté, originally published by les Editions Amsterdam in 2011 and now published in translation by MIT press as The Making of Indebted Man. An analysis of how debt works, across a whole range of social practices and levels (from nation states down to individuals), the book seeks to update Foucault’s analysis of modern governmental techniques as developed in his famous Birth of Bio-politics lectures from the Collège de France in 1978-1979. The core of Lazarato’s argument is that, writing at a time when neo-liberalism was still on its upcurve, Foucault over-estimated the liberty associated with entrepreneurial individualism and failed to foresee the distinctly authoritarian turn that neo-liberalism would take, noticeably through the use of debt as governmental tool. Continue reading

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Student movement in Quebec

Showing admirable stamina and no little inventiveness, students in Quebec have been mobilising for much of the year in opposition to government plans for a sharp increase in their tuition fees. News of their latest demonstration can be found here. For the website (in French) of one of the most prominent associations behind the movement see here.

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Culture and the crisis

Leading French journal Esprit gives a list of cultural works that address the crisis here. Its editorial on the difficulty of representing the current crisis and the need nonetheless to represent it can be found here.

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Lost Elections’ Strategic Lessons for Workers’ Movements Everywhere Tuesday, 12 June 2012 12:01 By Richard D Wolff

Last week’s elections in Wisconsin and in San Diego and San Jose, California, brought victories for capitalists’ over workers’ priorities. Majorities of voters endorsed politicians’ plans to ease state and city budget difficulties by cutting public employees’ jobs, wages, pensions and rights to bargain collectively with employers over those crucial dimensions of their lives. Private-sector workers reacted to five years of economic crisis with little help from their government by voting against benefits won in collective bargaining by public-sector workers. Conservative and pro-business ads had persuaded them that their taxes paid for public workers’ better benefits and salaries. Majorities of private-sector workers believed voting to cut those benefits and break public employee unions would relieve their present and future tax burdens. Continue reading
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Programme pour une démocratie économique et une alternative écologique

Une des grande questions qui a été posée par tous les mouvements Occupy est comment repenser une démocratie qui ne marche visiblement plus. Une réponse possible, qui émane d’un contexte américain mais qui a une valeur bien plus générale, se trouve ici. Pour les auteurs de ce texte, la réinvention de la démocratie doit recommencer sur les lieux de travail et dans les communautés locales. Pour un film d’Oliver Ressler sur le même thème d’une démocratie à réinventer, voir ici.

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Economic Democracy, Not Austerity or Keynesian “Growth” by Rick Wolff,

Recent defeats of Dutch, Greek and French governing parties show rising opposition to their austerity policies. Across Europe and North America, similar oppositions mount. Bailing out large financial and other corporations with borrowed money has been the almost universal government plan for coping with global capitalist crisis. The result – rising government deficits and debts – was followed by “austerity policies” to reduce those deficits and debts. After suffering a crisis and then bailouts that bypassed them to favor major corporations, people now face austerity cutbacks of government jobs and services to offset the bailouts’ costs. As opposition mounts, will it seek Keynesian “growth” or go beyond capitalism to economic democracy? Continue reading

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