First as Tragedy, Then as Farce

In this short RSA Animate, renowned philosopher Slak investigates the surprising ethical implications of charitable giving.


State Capitalism in Britain

James Heartfield, Mute magazine
Despite the State being the main investor in the UK’s national economy, the official rhetoric of private sector productivity is alive and well. James Heartfield takes a look at Labour’s failed strategy of privatising public services and the rise of ‘corporate welfare’

Two very contradictory stories about British capitalism are told today. The first is that the State is eating up more and more of the private sector. The sudden increase of public shares in the major banks and the falling of the railways into receivership is evidence of a return to the nationalisations of the 1970s. Some on the left even take heart from this, and urge the government to go the whole way and nationalise the banks. The Sunday Times runs stories warning of ‘Soviet Britain’, to show that in many towns in Britain (and especially in Scotland and Northern Ireland) state spending is a majority of output.

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Science reinvents the economy: An economy in a computer

Magazine issue 2711. New Scientist

More: Can science reinvent the economy?

Can we pack an entire economy, with all its complex human and political interactions, into a computer? Physicist Dirk Helbing of ETH thinks so – as long as we’re bold enough in going about it.

He points out that financial systems aren’t the only monsters we’ve let out of the box. How traffic flows in and around huge cities simply cannot be grasped by mathematical analysis, but computer models let millions of virtual vehicles interact on realistic road patterns – and often discover potential problems before they occur in reality.

The complexity of today’s economy, Helbing suggests, demands a similar approach. “We’re not currently using the best capabilities of science,” he says. “We need to bring together scientists from different fields and put together tools that can be used as a kind of wind tunnel for testing out social and economic policies.”

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Marx: the quest, the path, the destination

Alexander Kluge’s nine-and-a-half hour long film of Marx’s “Kapital” is not a minute too long says Helmut Merker

What is a revolutionary? The writings of Marx and Engels both use the metaphor of revolution as the “locomotive of history”. Is, then, the revolutionary a standard bearer of progress, a pace setter, a frontrunner?

None of the above, because in a world ruled by a turbo “devaluation” where only the new has market value, where commodity production spirals out of control, the “train of time” is a deadly trend. Alexander Kluge instead opts for Walter Benjamin’s idea of the revolution as mankind “pulling the emergency brake“. We must hold up the torch of reason to the problems at hand, and the true revolutionary is therefore the one who can unite future and past, merging two times, two societies, the artist who montages stories and history. And so we come to Alexander Kluge and his art.

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The breakdown of a relationship? Reflections on the crisis

The history of the capitalist mode of production is punctuated by crises. One could say that crisis is the modus operandi of capital, or of the capital-labour relation. This is true insofar as capital, the self-valorisation of value, the self-expansion of abstract wealth, is at any given time a claim on future surplus-value extraction: the accumulation of capital today is a bet on tomorrow’s exploitation of the proletariat.

The crisis today has taken the form of a financial crisis, while the prospect of a full-blown economic crisis looms ever larger. These two crises do not merely stand in a relation of cause and effect, however (whichever way one were to posit the relation). Rather they are the different manifestations of the same underlying crisis – the crisis of accumulation of capital, which is at the same time the crisis in the relation of exploitation between capital and proletariat.

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Michael Perelman on the Economic Crisis and the History of Capitalism

Michael Perelman’s talk at the San Francisco Peace & Freedom Party on the economic crisis available at:

Also, Michael Perelman’s blog:

Marx on financial crisis

In a system of production, where the entire continuity of the reproduction process rests upon credit, a crisis must obviously occur — a tremendous rush for means of payment — when credit suddenly ceases and only cash payments have validity. At first glance, therefore, the whole crisis seems to be merely a credit and money crisis. And in fact it is only a question of the convertibility of bills of exchange into money. But the majority of these bills represent actual sales and purchases, whose extension far beyond the needs of society is, after all, the basis of the whole crisis. At the same time, an enormous quantity of these bills of exchange represents plain swindle, which now reaches the light of day and collapses; furthermore, unsuccessful speculation with the capital of other people; finally, commodity-capital which has depreciated or is completely unsaleable, or returns that can never more be realised again. The entire artificial system of forced expansion of the reproduction process cannot, of course, be remedied by having some bank, like the Bank of England, give to all the swindlers the deficient capital by means of its paper and having it buy up all the depreciated commodities at their old nominal values. Incidentally, everything here appears distorted, since in this paper world, the real price and its real basis appear nowhere, but only bullion, metal coin, notes, bills of exchange, securities. Particularly in centres where the entire money business of the country is concentrated, like London, does this distortion become apparent; the entire process becomes incomprehensible; it is less so in centres of production.

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