“All that is real in the universe is an infinity of void space, and an infinity of primary particles in random and everlasting motion. Such is the physics of Epicurus…The Epicurean idea of an infinite universe of matter and space, indifferent to human hopes and concerns but whose workings can be understood, is the predominant scientific idea with which we now live. We have fellow feeling with the importance Epicurus attaches to happiness in this life, with his desire to diminish pain and overcome irrational fears, and with his attempt to understand and come to terms with death, the frontier we shall all reach but not cross as the individuals we now are…
The one world realism of Epicurus is made sharper by the principles 1. No thing is ever created out of nothing by divine will; everything happens according to natural laws without the aid of gods. and 2. No thing is ever put out of existence: natural laws resolve each thing again into its primary parts.
…This would commonly be taken as a contradiction of the Genesis story which forms the foundation of Jewish, Christian and Islamic credos about God creating ex nihilo.
But there is an ambiguity. The first two verses of the Book of Genesis may mean either (a) ‘In the beginning God created (out of nothing) the heavens and the earth and (when he had done this) the earth was without form and void…’ or (b) ‘In the beginning the earth was without form and void and (from the pre-existing condition) God created the heavens and the earth…’
The first time that meaning (a) appears unequivocally in the Hebrew canon is in Maccabees 7:28. Generally Christians have preferred (a) and Muslims (b)” (Gaskin, John. 1995. The Epicurean Philosophers: ix, xxiv, xxvii.).
”A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at.”
Establishing a local currency, together with taking over credit union boards (to gain access to credit), can provide the complement to Community Economic Development (social enterprises including cooperatives, and social enterprise networks) to fortify the working class against capital strike, blackmail and dysfunction.
Common Good Finance in Ashfield, Massachusetts.
“We need to re-democratize the monetary system, to have a set of alternatives for issuing credit outside the banking oligarchy. Alternative currencies can play a vital role in that”
Josh Ryan-Collins, the New Economics Foundation.
This Guardian article, “Currency stays close to home,” reviews the successful rise of the local chiemgauer currency in Rosenheim-Traunstein, Germany. The chiemgauer was designed and operates to stimulate spending in the local economy, as well as to provide a work-around (or strategic counter to) financial capital illiquidity.
Yes! Magazine covers local currency innovations in “Dollars with Good Sense: DIY Cash.”
Other promising social movement initiatives that OWS has opened up space for:
Note on UK cooperatives:
There are some quite big co-ops in the UK. They’re not perfect, and still run on similar lines to normal corporations. On the other hand they are far better than corporations, treat their workers better (who after all are technically the owners of some of them – others are owned in theory by shoppers) and tend to take social responsibility quite seriously. Executive pay, while still too high, is far lower than comparable private companies.
Along similar lines, Building Societies in the UK were owned by customers (so essentially non-profit) and for the most part were run fairly well. They offered a better service, better rates and were fairly conservatively run. They were famirly limited in the activities they were allowed to engage in. They were strictly a consumer financing deal (mostly houses). Most of them were force-privatised by the conservatives, but the remaining ones have mostly weathered the crisis fairly well. In comparison to their private breathren, none of whom now survive. The bank which endured the bank run in the UK, Northern Rock, was an ex building society.
W. L. Gore and Associates is perhaps an example of an interim culture existing in the US. Far far from perfect, but hints of what might be nonetheless.
Economic Value: A Sociological View
I think one of our problems right now is that we don’t know how to think about value. There is an excess of hurried, automatic, breathless dismissal of Marx’s classic political-economy theory of value, including by Marxists and other leftists; but I think we ought to stop for a moment, and reconsider the common-sense dismissal we’ve arrived at, at this point in history. It’s blinding us to things we need to think about.
I think we’re missing Marx’s point about value, which perhaps requires a sociological perspective (and, Varoufakis, is not incompatible with theories of value that recognize entrepreneurial activity as the locus of value in an economy). Paul Burkett (Marx and Nature 1999) is one of the clearest contemporary writers on the Marxist understanding of value.
Simply, economic value is a social product, created through creative, reflexive, semi-deterministic/semi-voluntaristic relational, social (human) work upon nature. Value isn’t something that is made within the capitalist market, when profits are realized in the sphere of circulation. That production-circulation separation is maintained through money, so that value can be controlled by capitalists–but price and value cannot be identical. Value is a product of creative, active human relations. Price is a product of capitalist control of value.
That economic value is produced by creative, active human relations is why capitalists are always trying to privatize, to mine the public and the commons–there’s value in them thar human creations.
People, even leftists, who are overly trained in marginalism and other modern conservative economics get caught up in the price calculation mode, and so sometimes fail to see that people coming together to build alternative economic institutions is creating value, and creating independence from capitalist coercion. Didn’t capitalists once create institutions that afforded them independence from the feudal value system, when the contradictions of that feudal system created crisis?
A Day at Occupy Wall Street. (video)
Occupy the World. (photos)
Chris Hedges and Amy Goodman on OWS (Charlie Rose Show).
The Human Amplifier technique, used in a Zizek speech to Occupy Wall Street protesters. A link to a transcript of Zizek’s speech is on that webpage.
John Foster’s “Why We Occupy, What We Know” OWS speech.
Here’s a map of where NYC’s richest 1% (financiers) live.
An historical overview of “corporate fascism” (yes, redundant)–essentially, corporate violence.
Less process-oriented, more creative protest:
Most Americans think that Wall Street has too much power, economic inequality is too extreme, the rich should pay a higher proportion of taxes, and Wall Street executives should be held accountable, according to a recent Time magazine poll. As of mid-October, 2011, over half of Americans polled viewed OWS favorably (by contrast half that percentage of Americans approve of the Tea Party), though over half of Americans are doubtful that the social movement can disrupt capitalists’ control over the political class.
Cohering a Left Bloc: Coalitions and Setting Movement Trajectories
Bruce Dixon (October 12, 2011) “From Occupying Financial Districts to Occupying the Goods in Our Hoods,” Black Agenda Report (BAR):
“The student loan bubble, along with the shrinking job market has made newly poor white hipster kids mad enough to stage 24/7 street corners protests in scores of US cities, where they have connected with longtime leftist and community activist types, often older and not always white. These are helping keep them focused on the connections between the warfare and prison states and the unavailability of funding for anything else.”
The social citizenship builders say, “Occupy!”
Capital sics its current police on its retired police
“Therein resides the dialectic of the Old and the New: it is those who propose the constant creation of new terms (‘postmodern society,’ ‘risk society,’ ‘information society,’ ‘postindustrial society,’ etc.) in order to grasp what is going on today who miss the contours of what is actually New. The only way to grasp the true novelty of the New is to analyze the world through the lenses of what was ‘eternal’ in the Old. If communism really is an ‘eternal’ Idea, then it works as a Hegelian ‘concrete universality’: it is eternal not in the sense of a series of abstract-universal features that may be applied everywhere, but in the sense that it has to be re-invented in each new historical situation.” Slavoj Zizek. 2009. First as Tragedy Then as Farce.
British students put their foot down!