Updated Reading Group Details

Hello all,

I can confirm that the reading group will meet in Attenborough Seminar Block Second Floor TR 215 for all sessions for the period 9th October 2013 to 11th December 2013 inclusive.

The meeting on the 2nd October 2013 will take place in Attenborough Room 104.

I look forward to seeing you there!


The Zone

Very interesting essay by architect and theorist Keller Easterling in Design Observer concerning the grwoth and proliferation of ‘The Zone’ – the plethora of urban offshore economic spaces that have developed over the past century or so.  Easterling traces the origins of these spaces back (at least) to the Roman port of Delos which prefigured many aspects of the freeport and the Export Processing Zone.

Although, as she argues, these contradictory ‘sovereign’ spaces are ancient, their contemporary spread is changing the nature of urban space – turning it, as she puts it, into “a mobile, monetized technology”.  Whilst this itself is not new, the spread of these spaces, and the many different forms they now take suggests that any attempt to regulate them will be confronted with such a bewildering array of different ‘zones’ as to be utterly confounded.  Certainly the history of attempts to rein in the excesses of such zones as tax havens and tax shelters (not that it has been particularly robust) is not encouraging.

I particularly like the concept of ‘extrastatecraft’ she develops – neatly encapsulating the contradictory process of a statecraft that is specifically intended to use the state to evade the state in any and all forms.

Call for ‘Hard Cash’ proposals

Further to the email that has been round the CPPE list, here is a call for proposals/submissions* for the edited book ‘Hard Cash’ that myself and Stephen Dunne will be compiling over the next few months: 

 Hard Cash Invite

As you’ll see from the attached file, we’re planning to kick the whole thing off formally in the Autumn with a CPPE-hosted workshop at ULSM at which those participating can outline what they intend for their contribution, play with ideas, get feedback and/or snarf the biscuits.

In addition to putting this on the blog. we’ll also be targeting particular individuals that we might want to encourage to contribute.  If anyone knows of anyone doing deeply funky money-related stuff that we might not already know about, please let us know and we’ll get on to them.  We have a few names already, but more are very welcome. 

Angus and Stephen

* the Chapter titles included in the call have all been proposed already, but are at varying stages of development – hence we have anonymised them.  They’re just here for guidance.  And yes, we’ve cleaned at least one of them up a bit so that no “members” get put off by vulgarity.  We know how sensitive you all are…..

The Neoliberal Commons?

By strange coincidence – on the same day that CPPE is hosting the ‘Organising the Commons’ workshop – a colleague from Florida State, Phil Steinberg sent me a forthcoming paper on the so-called ‘Seasteading’ movement.  It is well worth a read.

What initially sounds like a interesting alternative lifestyle thing (and, indeed, seems to have been inspired by experiences (some pharmacological in origin) at the Burning Man Fesitival), turns out to be the libertarian super-rich trying to occupy the marine commons with permanent or semi-permanent floating enclaves. One of the leading players in the ‘movement’ is Patri Friedman – Milton Friedman’s grandson and inheritor of the neo-liberal torch.  As this might suggest, the ‘seasteadings’ are little more than mini tax-havens, though the opportunity to take mind-altering substances without the intervention of the legal minions of the state also seems to be a major motivation behind them.  Despite the Ayn Rand-inspired techno-babble and explicit anti-statism, however, it could hardly be more obvious that these people are in fact simply trying to set up their own states in which they will be king (they’re nearly all male!).  Indeed, the front page of The Seasteading Institute’s website even has a link to a short film suggesting flag designs for these new ‘non-states’.

Most of the proposals for seasteadings are no more than pipe-dreams at present, but in case anyone was wondering what ‘organising the commons’ might look like in practice, depressingly this might be it!

Pedagogy of the Neo-Liberally Oppressed?

Things have recently gotten all quiet on the virtual front. Within the classroom, on the other hand, things are presently very active. This surely must have been expected. Most of us have more people listening to our lectures than we (will ever) have studying our papers or reading our blogs. That has to be the experience upon which we organise, both individually and collectively. I’m not so sure it is something to worry about. After all, if we can’t speak to the interests of the captive audiences whose attention we attain more on the basis of compliance than enthusiasm, we really shouldn’t expect to capture a willing readership online. Teach first, then blog!

Here I’d like to briefly describe what has been happening within one of my classes and hopefully others can share similar experiences and concerns.  

Within a course on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) my students and I have been speculating upon the extent to which the occupy movement, alongside a variety of ongoing and proposed parliamentary responses to the global financial crisis, might be considered  historically monumental events in 100 years time. The students are being asked to review Colin Crouch’s The Strange Non-Death of Neo-Liberalism, particularly his account of CSR, and in so doing they are being asked to speculate, with Crouch, as to whether CSR is likely to become a more prevalent feature of the post-crisis landscape, or not. The students are also being asked to discuss these issues from their own position as potential managers and employees of post-crisis profit-making firms by considering the extent to which the debates and struggles currently in evidence might eventually serve to re-allign their own lives, for better or for worse.

This is, I think, a very concrete set of concerns. Nevertheless, the potential lines along which these concerns might be meaningfully pursued have very quickly proliferated. The reading list I’ve developed looks very much like a whistle stop tour of classical political theory. Whilst I know that an excellent occupy reading list is already being created I find it difficult to endorse anything other than the classics, at least in the context of a 10 hour module. I’m open to debate, of course, but with the likes of Aristotle, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Mill and Marx on my side, my opponent will need to come armed with some pretty strong artillery! 

Sometimes I worry that I am doing the students a disservice by not telling them what they really need to know about CSR. These worries rarely last long, however – the resources within the CSR literature are entirely inadequate to the task. So maybe the task itself is the problem? Maybe I shouldn’t bring the student’s own hopes and fears into the pedagogy but instead offer stable points of orientation as if I was really in a position to offer them. Try as I might, I find it hard to adopt that course of action. So maybe that’s the problem.