lundi 6 décembre 2010

Everyday economic insanity -- Daniel Mathews

Yesterday was hidden from them,
tomorrow was sealed ...
there was only the eternal now

Extrait de l'introduction :

It is a very common point of view. Almost surely you have seen it, heard it, read about it or discussed it at some point. Within present-day Western culture, there is a tremendously strong thread of deep-seated pessimism about our lives and our prospects for the future, even nihilism. Popular music groups sing songs about it; popular books are written about it; the commercial world is constrained usually not to talk about it, but it is there; it lurks behind all discussion of work, of economic life, of the environment, and of globalisation. The world is becoming a marketplace, with unrestrained capitalism impossible to avoid. Communism is dead, and there is no alternative, nothing better than the global capitalist system, or at least so says conventional wisdom. Greed is good, we are told; or at least, we cannot do any better. Our lives are saturated with advertising, marketing imagery, and urges to consume one or another product. Our work is becoming harder, dumber, more controlled, more supervised, more contract-based, and less secure. Companies downsize, lay off workers, transfer production to cheaper or more pliant labour markets; all as they reap record profits. Our lives are meaningless, not only in a philosophical sense, but also in the sense that there is no rhyme or reason, and no satisfaction, but only degradation, repetition, subservience, misery, and arbitrary bouts of suffering, in the actions we perform every day, in that part we call 'work'; and added to this, we are probably doomed. In short - everything is wrong.

We ought to be very careful before lapsing into hopelessness: indeed I think there are good reasons for avoiding it. The institutions of global capitalism, of corporate media, and of State power may not be as inevitable and eternal as they seem or are made out to be; indeed they are historically young, possibly aberrations, and the most cursory glance at history demonstrates just how quickly and thoroughly society can change. Given this flexibility - this notion that our social structures are actually contingent, temporary, and possibly arbitrary - there most certainly are alternatives.

But nevertheless, if we are to describe present-day Western culture, then we cannot avoid describing this phenomenon. This is what we hear, when in our culture we are not being bombarded by advertising, political spin, or triumphant academics ('conservative' or 'liberal') - which we are, most of the time, especially when we access the media. It is a theme pervading culture; whether we agree with it is another matter. If we are to examine this cultural phenomenon, we must look behind the specific cultural expressions of this mood, and avoidgetting bogged down in the psychology of this helplessness: what is the source of these sentiments?

Well, one can point to various things, for instance the decline of religion, the looming energy crisis, environmental disaster, the apparent collapse of alternatives to capitalism. But the phenomenon persists even among many people who do not think about religion or philosophy or environmental issues or the history or future of human society; they live and shop in the present. The opening passage of this chapter suggests that it runs together with our economics and its values: materialism, capitalism, individualism and consumerism. So let us try investigate the economic side of the question; let us try to be a little more precise about economics, at the everyday level.

En prime, le blog de l'auteur, "visiting assistant professor" au département de mathématiques du Boston College.