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by Rob Horning

22 Jan 2009

David Harvey’s The Limits to Capital makes for especially interesting reading, given that he argues (extrapolating from Marx) that contradictions in “the circulation of capital” lead inevitably to economic crises that get expressed in the credit system (which had evolved, in his view, to solve lower-order crises of “overaccumulation”—aka “savings gluts”). He looks at bubble phenomena from a Marxist viewpoint—bubbles form when capitalist accumulation necessarily fails to achieve balance; the crises that occur when they pop are tentative, temporary solutions to the contradictions inherent in capitalism. When the capability to reinvest in capital formation is constricted for lack of viable opportunities—- when profit can’t go back into making more capital—fictitious capital is created via the credit system. That yields a speculative frenzy (since the relation between opportunity and underlying economic capapcity has been severed) that is unsustainable. So then, inevitably, there must be devaluation, to re-create opportunity in the ashes.

Perhaps that is where our economy is now. Indeed, Eliot Spitzer writes in his Slate column that we have yet to see enough creative destruction:

Although everybody claims to love the market, nobody really likes the rough-and-tumble of competition that produces the essential “creative destruction” of capitalism. At bottom, this abhorrence of competition and change are the common theme that binds together the near death of the American car industry, the collapse of the credit market, the implosion of the housing market, the SEC’s disastrous negligence, the Madoff Ponzi scheme, and the other economic catastrophes of recent months.

He points to those tell-tale marks of capitalist decadence—cronyism and rent-seeking—and appears to be wishing for a real rain to wash the system clean. He concludes:

Both GM and the SEC need to see a change in market conditions as an opportunity—not a challenge to market share…. This is a unique opportunity for President Obama and the Congress to take two seemingly different entities and force them to play by the real rules of capitalism: compete and transform to produce better products.

It’s the word force in that passage that strikes me as a bit ominous. That’s probably because state repression of that sort plays a prominent role in Harvey’s crisis theory. After differentiating between “periodic crashes” and “long-run problems that arise with the irreversible transformation of configurations in the circulation of capital, class formation, productive forces, institutions and so on,” Harvey argues:

The latter, as Marx observed, are strongly affected by the increasing socialization of capital itself, first via the agency of the credit system and ultimately through socially necessary interventions on the part of the state. The character of periodic crashes is thereby also transformed. Instead of being the aggregate social effect of an essentially atomistic, individualized process, they become a social affair from the very outset. The state, via its policies, becomes responsible for creating what it hopes will be a ‘controlled recession’ that will have the long-run effect of putting accumulation back on track.
The options for the internal transformation of capitalism become increasingly limited, more and more confined to innovations within the state apparatus itself [think TARP, et. al.]. And once the limit of the state’s capacity to manage the economy creatively is reached [think, the zero interest bound] the increasingly authoritarian use of state power—over both capital and labor (though usually with far more devastating effects upon the latter)—appears the only answer. Crises embrace the legal, institutional and political framework of capitalist society and their resolution increasingly depends upon the deployment of naked military and repressive power.

Not to get all paranoid, but this sort of argument puts Rahm Emanuel’s intention to never let a crisis go to waste in a much more sinister light. Harvey reminds readers of Lenin’s view of the matter, that imperialist nations can always resort to war to solve crises; nothing works better for devaluation than some wanton wholesale destruction. That may go a ways toward explaining Bush’s inexplicable foreign policy. Obama has promised to end one war; let’s hope the deteriorating economy doesn’t force us into another.

by PopMatters Staff

22 Jan 2009

A.C. Newman
Submarines of Stockholm [MP3] from Get Guilty
     

 

Cut Off Your Hands
Turn Cold [MP3]
     

Happy As Can Be [MP3]
     

 

Lithops
Handed [MP3] from Ye Viols! [27 January]
     

Richard Swift
Lady Luck [MP3] from The Atlantic Ocean [7 April]
     

It Hugs Back
Work Day [MP3] from Inside Your Guitar [3 February]
     

The 1900s
Age of Metals [MP3] from Medium High EP
     

Animal Collective
My Girls [Video]

Loney Dear
Airport Surroundings [Video]

by Bill Gibron

22 Jan 2009

Today’s the day. By the time you read this, Forrest Whitaker and Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Sid Ganis will have announced the nominees for the 81st Annual Academy Award. Set to be presented on 22 February 2009, the coveted gold statue is considered the film industry’s highest aesthetic achievement. In celebration of this momentous day for film, we here at SE&L will offer up a special selection of material.

First, in honor of presumptive favorite Slumdog Millionaire, Farisa Khalid will present her take on this clever cross-culture fable. By noon EST, an actual list of all the names and categorical recognitions will be made available on the site (with links to reviews, where available). Finally, by mid-afternoon, we will offer commentary on the yearly debate over what Oscar got right (the surprises) and those films and creative individuals that definitely deserved better (the snubs). We’ll even look at the unnecessary nods and glad-handing hack acknowledgements that seem to spring up every year.

So stick with SE&L over the next 30 days as we offer regular looks at the obvious omissions (especially in the always dreaded documentary and foreign film sections), the inarguable no-brainers (the late Heath Ledger, we’re looking at you), and what this year’s picks mean to the always intriguing artform in general. While they don’t always celebrate the best in film, the Academy Awards are a lot like the much debated College Bowl Series. The final result may not reflect the absolute number one, but its existence sure does make for some lively discussion. 

by Mike Deane

22 Jan 2009

In 1978 in Leeds, England there were three excellent post-punk groups emerging from a group of friends in an art program at the University of Leeds.  Of course the biggest was Gang of Four, then the catchy and dancey Delta 5, and then there was the Mekons.  As a post punk band they emerged and quickly faded away releasing a series of excellent singles and a couple of inconsistent albums from ’78 into the early ‘80s. Once they disbanded and reformed things were a lot different as they focused on trad folk and soon got into country music where they have stayed until this day. 

As a post punk band, the Mekons were never a success like their compatriots in Gang of Four or, even, Delta 5; they didn’t even put out the consistently good material like their friends, they never even released a decent album. But the singles! The singles were outstanding. Songs like “Where Were You” and “Work All Week” were like amazing ‘76/’77 styled punk with the self

Never Been In a Riot

Never Been In a Riot

awareness spawned by the post punk scene. Near enough to punk’s origins to sound exciting, raw and legitimate, but removed, allowing them to stray from spitting political rhetoric.

Their first three singles were an exciting progression from snotty and noisy to more focused and still sloppy punk rock. The first was “Never Been in a Riot”, an off tune, off time, slacker anthem with the memorable lyric: “I’ve never been in a riot / Never been in a fight / Never been in anything / That turns out right”.  As a direct response to the Clash’s suspect “White Riot”, it embodied post punk’s awareness, not to mention its conflict with punk’s original ideals.

The following two singles explored the vulnerability, uncertainty and defeatism first introduced here. Where punk groups were only able to show two emotions: anger and outrage, the Mekons and other post punkers were able to reveal emotions outside of that narrow scope, moving on to often complex and conflicting conditions. Beginning with “Where Were You” and moving onto “Work All Week”, we’ll go through a lyrical exploration of the Mekons’ early singles.

by Nikki Tranter

22 Jan 2009

A Matter of Justiceby Charles ToddHarperCollinsDecember 2008, 336 pages, $24.99

A Matter of Justice
by Charles Todd
HarperCollins
December 2008, 336 pages, $24.99

Charles Todd is the pen-name used by mother and son writing team, Charles and Caroline Todd. They are the authors of 11 books featuring Scotland Yard inspector, Ian Rutledge. Separating the Todds’ detective hero from others within the genre is his secret: Rutledge is haunted by a young soldier he was forced to execute during the First World War. Rutledge is back in A Matter of Justice, released last month. In this new work, Rutledge must piece together the clues to solve the murder of Private Harold Quarles, found brutally murdered at his estate. Quarles, Rutledge discovers, made a horrible choice following a attack on a military train during the Boer war. He’s hardly the most admired man in his community, and the suspects are many. Rutledge must sort though the rabble, while sorting out his own demons.

Charles and Caroline Todd are today’s Re:Print Special Guests here to answer Five Questions about Edgar Allan Poe.

Describe your first Poe experience.
Caroline Todd: My father read The Gold Bug to me when I was seven and our beach day was rained out. I read it to Charles when he was eight or so. I wondered if he, as a boy, would picture it differently, and he did—he remembers the action while I remembered the deciphering of the code.

What would you consider Poe’s greatest work, and why?
Charles Todd: I’d say Murders in the Rue Morgue and The Purloined Letter. They were the first mystery stories, and all mystery writers owe Poe a debt for creating a fascinating detective. That’s why the symbol of Mystery Writers of America is the bust of Poe. 
Caroline Todd: I have to agree. But I love his poems as well, and the lyricism with which he wrote them.

How has Poe’s work shaped you as a reader/writer?
Charles Todd: As a reader? Probably his use of words has had the greatest influence, aside from his detective stories. And as a writer, that’s true also. Use of language is an important tool, and when you grow up reading good books and poetry, this becomes a yardstick for your own work. 
Caroline Todd: Because my father and mother read to us as children, I still hear their voices as I read Poe now, and the fascinating thing is that when I write, I hear the voices of characters in my head as if they too were being read aloud. It’s a marvelous way to edit yourself as a writer, and I recommend it.

Charles and Caroline Todd

Charles and Caroline Todd

Which of your own works owes the largest debt to Poe and why?
Charles and Caroline Todd: The second book in the Inspector Ian Rutledge series required us to write a body of poetry for a woman who is dead and possibly a murderess. The clues to finding the killer are in the slim volumes she’d written under a man’s name, and our readers had to see what Rutledge was seeing in order to following his thinking. That’s playing fair. If we hadn’t had a background in poetry and a sense of the use of words to convey feeling and atmosphere, especially Poe’s, we could never have created [fictional character and poet] O.A. Manning’s works.

If you were hosting the celebrations for Poe’s big day, how would have your guests celebrate?
Caroline Todd: There’s a Park Ranger in the Poe House in Philadelphia who did an impersonation of Poe for the Delaware Valley Sisters in Crime chapter. We’d invite her because she’s so believable, and ask her to greet our guests.
Charles Todd: And we’d ask each guest to bring something representative of their favorite story or poem. I think because of the shadows in Poe’s life and his early death, it would be interesting to celebrate by candlelight and mark major events of each decade in a moveable feast of courses, and a few words from “Poe” himself as we acknowledged each stage. Anybody know where we could find a cask of Amontillado? 

Charles and Caroline Todd are currently on tour around the country. Visit their website for details.

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