nettime's_frenemy on Mon, 8 Jul 2002 10:29:12 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> stiglitz is not the digest [rosler, holmes]

Re: <nettime> Stiglitz is not the Answer
     martha rosler <>
     Brian Holmes <>

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Date: Sun, 7 Jul 2002 12:39:18 -0400
From: martha rosler <>
Subject: Re: <nettime> Stiglitz is not the Answer

dear soenke zehle,

in the midst of your very interesting analysis and dismissal of j stiglitz
et al.and their route toward global equity of sorts, you write:

But then
>the "people of Seattle" are mostly white and middle-class anyway.

which ones? the protesters? the thousands of labor leaders and rank and
file who showed up? (I am assuming you are not referring to the residents
of the city)
and what does "mostly" mean?
and which is important to your analysis, the white part or the middle class

i'd appreciate the clarification!

best wishes,
 martha rosler

by the way, as a nonintitiate, i hardly see how your particular argument
against the principle market rationalism, which i would tend to accept, is
more than a description of complexity.

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Date: Mon, 8 Jul 2002 02:00:55 +0200
From: Brian Holmes <>
Subject: Re: <nettime> Stiglitz is not the Answer

You're so right about Stiglitz, Soenke. And for me, this is the main point:

"In the academy, postcolonialism has become an acceptable conceptual
substitute for Third Worldism. I am not sure if observers of the
geopolitical crisis of "Third Worldism" have found a comparable solution.
But at least someone ought to write an obituary so we can move on."

A real obituary would have to start by recalling the departed. It's 
almost impossible to imagine today what decolonization and the Third 
Worldism meant to people 40 to 50 years ago. "Identity politics," yes 
- but in a powerfully utopian sense, the notion that other histories 
and destinies were available in the world. At the same time, this 
otherness was totally connected to a program of modernization which 
had both its own utopian charge and a concrete reality, a productive 
project. Together, the two painted a new future for a historical left 
facing the dead end of really existing, Stalinist, bureaucratic 
socialism. So people all over the world, in very different ways, put 
their lives on the line to see how far that promise could lead.

People put their lives on the line: risked their own safety, but also 
their careers, their mental and emotional balance, their deepest 
habits and beliefs, their identity, in fact. The projects were not 
the same, from North to South and East to West, but the imagination 
was there and in some cases, the solidarity was real. Which doesn't 
stop the whole thing from having been a failure, with huge debts and 
structural adjustment policies, in the eighties, being the IMF/World 
Bank nails in the coffin.

I think that it will be impossible for any counter-project to arise 
in the world without a new form, a new and serious form of solidarity 
between North and South, East and West (though the very coordinates 
may not refer to the same places, the same directions anymore). In 
the counterglobalization movements of the nineties up to now, we have 
gotten a first glimpse of this, through the People's Global Action 
movement among others. But what does a new and serious form of 
solidarity mean?

9-11 has forced at least some people to ask the question. My answer: 
It's going to mean opposing at once the "ethnocracies" and the 
globalizing project that uses them as an excuse to back itself up 
with police and armed repression. And it's going to mean opposing 
them with a viable project.

You say: "Leftist-Keynesian recipes will make protesters a mere
junior partner in the process of capitalist restructuration." You're 
right to think that the days of pure, confident, ideological 
neoliberalism are gone. But nothing suggests that we will get any 
leftist-Keynesian recipes. Rather we see the United States responding 
to the collapse of the so-called "new" (read: speculative) economy by 
turning to the good old state capitalism of the military-industrial 
complex, and we see the Europeans still putting the finishing touches 
on deregulation, flexibilization and so on, while hiding that through 
populist police rhetoric and hoping that their economies aren't going 
to cave in too (which is a completely vain hope of course). The 
limited, national solidarity that was required to put real Keynesian 
redistribution into practice, after the Great Depression and above 
all, after WWII, is not on the horizon, because contemporary society 
would have to go through serious disasters before it could get over 
its intense individualism. In fact, the globalizing project will go 
on, with its increasingly visible "contradictions," but without the 
optimism and the postmodern sense of giddiness that surrounded it in 
the 90's. Let me be more blunt: the globalizing project of capitalism 
will go on, without anyone even pretending it's in any way equitable 
or in any way under control. And over the next ten to fifteen years 
there will be enough swings in the economy, enough temporary "returns 
to prosperity," to keep the irrational reason of the world market 
very much alive.

But this means that the protest movement too will grow, because too 
many people perceive the irrationality that you talk about in your 
post. And maybe they will also see the need for some kind of far more 
extensive solidarity than the planet has ever known before. The old, 
Keynesian demand for a regulatory state, in which the basic human 
rights can become substantial, could slowly become a demand for 
transnational regulation, which is a quantum difference. And that 
transnational regulation need not be of a state capitalist type, 
maybe not even of a regional extension either. Where Europe is 
concerned - if you're optimistic enough to think something could 
begin anywhere near there - I'm talking about a codevelopment process 
that would at least bring north Africa, the near East and all the 
former eastern Europe into sustainable productive relations without 
the current extremes of exploitation and abandonment. And one could 
imagine this codevelopment as being suppler, not just regional, a 
global model "competing" with mainline capitalism. But how do you 
think that such a political project, which asks for a new form of 
collective organization - a vastly different kind of state - could 
evolve beyond romantic anarchism, antiquated national Keynesianism 
and Third Worldism, and also beyond the mock reformism of someone 
like Stiglitz?

My guess is that it can only happen when large numbers of people see 
their lives on the line, and at the same time, cease believing in the 
rationality of the market, and in ethnocentrism as a way out. A deep 
political demand doesn't form out of thin air or light idealism. 
Between now and such a time undoubtedly lie the horrifying 
experiences of war and terrorism and the slow, unbearable accretion 
of police controls, particularly for immigrants. Is it possible that 
a very local solidarity with the struggles of a rising 
immigrant-labor population for rights in Europe could be one of the 
bridges on which the new transnational solidarities will be built? 
And is it imaginable - with the predictable failure of the 
Leftist-Keynesian recipes to ever get implemented again - that some, 
perhaps many people from the current counterglobalization movements 
will actually start upping their expectations, and forging a 
believable political-economic project, one that could make broader 
solidarities possible? Of course such a future is very hard to 
imagine. And yet it may be somehow appropriate, right now, to begin 
preparing for it.

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