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More on Todd's "After Democracy"

by Jerome a Paris Sun Jan 11th, 2009 at 11:40:47 AM EST

This topic was already discussed in marco's diary [last month], but as I have now actually read the book, and found it extremely insightful, I wanted to revisit it.

What struck me in the two reviews that marco posted (one from Le Monde, one from the Financial Times, with the more critical one being the French one) is that both fail to mention that Todd bases his arguments, like in previous books, on long-term demographic and sociological trends for which he provides a wealth of data. So presenting his work purely as a political pamphlet is already to deny his background in facts and figures and thus its strength.

It is not surprising, of course, that the media elite would try to dismiss his work given that it is a scathing indictment of said elite, using themes that are rather familiar here on ET:

Diary rescue by Migeru


[editor's note, by Migeru] Fold inserted here for the front page

  • that the underlying problems are economic in nature (and populism, islamophobia or racism are just diversions that, in his view, are unlikely to work in the long term),

  • that a very small elite has cut itself off from the rest of the population, accumulating massive wealth in the process and now engaging in an amoral power grab,

  • that the left is complicit in this process as its technocrats are fundamentally supportive of the neoliberal dogma of unfettered free-trade.

But his main theme is that economic trends have been driven by long-term underlying trends: one is the rise of a large class of highly educated professionals, whose education has allowed it to see itself as distinct from "the masses", and to behave in much more autonomous and individualistic ways; the second is the fall in the practice of religion, which has simultaneously killed the unifying secular republicanism whose main purpose was its hostility to religion.

His book is about France, and some of these notions are not easily replicated elsewhere, but his first point is that the end of society-shaping ideologies, combined with high level of education, has taken large swathes of the population into inchoate, narcisstic behavior with a focus on self, sex and money (Sarkozy being in that respect a perfect representative of our times). His second is that this has been fertile ground for inequality and, when the "elite" (the highly educated) is 20-30% of the population, you need something else to distinguish yourself, and that is capital. We have thus seen a massive quest to accumulate and concentrate capital, via globalisation which, as he notes, allows the re-creation within countries of the inequality that exists between countries. (As an aside, he notes that French has two words: mondialisation - which is the exogenous fact the communications and exchanges are easier - and globalisation, which is the chosen economic process whereby free trade imposes that wage levels converge).

What's happening today is that the educated middle class realises that it is not quite part of the elite, and is seeing its position, both in absolute and relative terms, worsen. But that growing awareness is being fought by various distractions like immigrant-bashing, islamophobia or berlusconesque populism (the difference between democracy and populism, in Todd's view, is not the absence of an elite; it is that democracy happens when the people trust their elite, and the elite does act on behalf of the people).

He sees worrying signs that the outcome could be fascism (populism turning nasty, as Sarkozy hints) or a suspension of universal rights (a temptation he sees on the left, as the technocrats are not happy with how the population votes, and suspend votes, as has been done already at the European level: elections could go on at the local level, but have no bearing on economic policy). His suggestion for a better outcome is for European elites to ackowledge that the underlying problems today are economic, and that they need to address these which, in Europe, means re-establishing protectionism at the continental level, with the explicit goal of increasing wages again.

It is hard to give credit to all the demographic data he provides, but these are at the heart of the book and, for that reason alone, the book is worth reading in full. His analysis is that France is in a rather unusual position, with a strong, deep-seated thirst for equality in its population and an elite which is rather more neo-liberal than anywhere else.

Display:
It sounds like a good analysis but a rather weak conclusion. At the moment I don't think it's difficult to convince the elite that the underlying problems are economic. But the political problem remains the power of the elite, which they won't give it up willingly, and the need to change this situation. Education, the widest sense, plays a role, cf. Geezer in Paris's diary.  

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Sun Dec 14th, 2008 at 11:48:11 AM EST
The problem is not that the crisis is not obvious, it is that its causes (neoliberal "reform") are not acknowledged - indeed, the elites are pushing for yet more of the same, whether because they don't know anything, or because they think they'll still get ahaead.

So what's needed is a repudiation of the current common wisdom about the economy, rather than distraction or diversion. Massive debt-fuelled spending by the State on the same flawed instruments previously funded by private sector debt will get us nowhere - except that it will protect lenders/investors, ie the creators of all the counterfeit money at the dark heart of the system from the reckoning they deserve.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Dec 14th, 2008 at 12:19:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes but my general point remains - what is he suggesting is going to bring about the changes needed - hoping that the elite will see the error of their ways?  

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Sun Dec 14th, 2008 at 12:54:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
he hints strongly that the distractions and diversions are soon not going to be enough to prevent a full fledged revolution.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Dec 14th, 2008 at 12:58:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Build the vanguard party ! :-)

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Sun Dec 14th, 2008 at 03:59:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
.....he hints strongly that the distractions and diversions are soon not going to be enough to prevent a full fledged revolution....

 If the economic system is the underlying core problem, a revolution would result in what revolutionary new economic system?  What new economic system exists which haven't already been tried and discredited?  If the core problem is not solved, then revolutions would simply topple governments over and over and over.

by Jagger on Mon Dec 15th, 2008 at 08:09:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Are you saying Keynesianism was "discredited" in the 1970s to the point it cannot be brought back?


Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jan 12th, 2009 at 04:04:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, there is a hidden assumption that "Keynesianism" should always be more gov spending.

The fact that Keynes rightly deemed this the best course of action when confronted with the particular conditions of the 30's doesn't mean it is the right one every time. Keynes wanted to "engineer" economic policy based on constraints and opportunities to achieve a stated goal (at the time, full employment). Technical considerations drove his choice at the time (which included, basically no governement debt in the US). I just can't believe that Keynes, confronted with the problems of the 70's or our latest crisis, would think about the same remedy for more than 1s, and then dismiss it, for one simple constraint: we can no longer afford more public debt, and we are going to need confiscatory tax levels for quite a while.

Even the 70's crisis should have signaled that the framework developed for the 30's was of little help in a more globalized world: trade was already weighting more in economies, and monetary policy could no longer be optimized by each country in isolation, and besides price inflation readings where misleading because of the creep of cost-push from exogenous factor (the oil shock).

The solution is to go back to the drawing board and take into accounts those extra constraints, but also more opportunities (chiefly in my view, that less painful deflation and managed recession are possible in a context of decreasing demographics in the developed world, and also desirable from an environmental standpoint).

More of the same cannot work, because the disease is worst and more complicated. As long as politicians will present "more of the same" as Keynesianism, it will add to the discredit of Keynes in many conservative economic circles.

Pierre

by Pierre on Mon Jan 12th, 2009 at 08:50:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
US Federal Government Debt was about 40% when Roosevelt took over...and stayed that way roughly through the 1930's. The real Keynesian stimulus didn't start until the 1940's, and by 1945 the US Federal debt had been tripled in five short years.

I'm pretty sure I know how your logic works in a deflationary spiral...ie, it doesn't. Keynesianism is nothing if not a detached view of an economy and trying to ferret out, leaving moralism aside, what works best to get people working and an economy progressing. If it is true that trade conditions are notably different today (more globalized) than they were in the 1920's, it is a matter of degree, as there was plenty of trade in the 1920's as well. I'm curious to see your math on the impact increased trade has on what should be done relative to the crisis today. If anything, I suspect the response is the same: greater government spending, but that it requires ever greater coordination among trading partners. Precisely the reason Germany was being criticised in previous months, until it relented and got serious about coordinated response...

In any event, raising taxes and cutting spending in a deflationary spiral has a notable result: it exacerbates the spiral and increases the value of debt relative to both current price levels and GDP.

Not a recipe for full employment, nor one for progress.

But, it certainly is the recipe the EU is forcing on countries such as Latvia in response to the impact of the current crisis on the EU periphery. This is not a recipe for progress, but one for recession.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Mon Jan 12th, 2009 at 09:26:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I absolutely agree that more gov spending is needed. Yet at the same time, govt must close the budget gaps. There are plenty of places where taxation will catch money without impacting consumption, precisely because of income inequality. Tax will cut the incentive for this kind of grab.

As for the weight of debt to GDP, it need not increase, for private debt should be defaulted on, and viable corporations reorganized by the govt during the bankruptcy (not exactly the path being taken with the big three).

It seems to me that it is paramount that the credit standing of the public force (gov debt) me maintained (no sovereign default, and no hyperinflation to do it stealth), because that is when things get really disorderly (as in break up of civil order, soviet style collapse, and a long slump in a failed state).

As for the weight of US debt relative to GDP, I believe the figure you quote corresponds to the beginning of WWII, not of the new deal. Per wikipedia (US public debt):

Year     US Gross Debt (B$)     as % of GDP
1910     2.6
1920     25.9
1930     16.2
1940     43.0                     52.4

The relative value is sadly missing for 1930, but the nominal GDP wasn't really bigger in 1940 and the debt was three times smaller in 1930. We could probably drill deeper from the quoted wikipedia sources.

Pierre

by Pierre on Mon Jan 12th, 2009 at 09:59:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ok, misunderstood you then.

Agreed on need for progressive taxation, we probably disagree on prioritisation and timing of this versus the spending (especially given current governments in power in EU and US), and of course on need to avoid hyperinflation and default on sovereign debt (though, depending on country, this may actually be defensible in my opinion).

On the US debt to GDP I was citing from 1932 to 1940.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Mon Jan 12th, 2009 at 10:22:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm just going with Keynesianism vs. Monetarism as macroeconomic theories with the respective associations with counter-cyclical fiscal policy and monetary policy as a way to manage the business cycle.

Keynesianism fell out of favour in the 1970's because stagflation was inconsistent with the Phillips curve which was empirical and not derived from Keynes' theory but very much a favourite of Keynesian economists. The failure of Phillips' curve was used to attack Keynes and it worked. Phillips' curve was replace by NAIRU (Non-accelerating-inflation rate of unemployment).

Monetarist policy has failed in this crisis. Will monetarist theory be discretited? What will it be replaced with?

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jan 12th, 2009 at 12:36:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's a good idea to frame that as counter-cyclical vs pro-cyclical.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Jan 13th, 2009 at 04:27:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
When neoliberal economics infects anyone who's got some education in economics and is less than, say, 50, you have a real problem getting the elite to change its ways.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jan 12th, 2009 at 04:03:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The elite think the current problems are financial. You just have to look at the kinds of analysis and proposals about the credit crunch that they produce. It's all about "restoring confidence", not rolling back deregulation and more "free trade", and the press worries primarily about the stock market (why??) and is surprised and disappointed when after a new policy is announced the stock market drops (why woud they be surprised? Government intervention dilutes "shareholder value").

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jan 12th, 2009 at 04:02:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's Todd, not Todt... I happen to be in touch with him for a seminar I'm organising.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Sun Dec 14th, 2008 at 11:59:21 AM EST
edited.

Have you talked to him about the Anglo Disease?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Dec 14th, 2008 at 12:15:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not yet. I only made a first contact and, so far, we haven"t found time to discuss the content of his contribution.

BTW, since last year, I have mentioned the Anglo Disease in several conferences, including in The European Parliament...

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Sun Dec 14th, 2008 at 04:39:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That proverb one cannot see the forest for all the trees.

that the underlying problems are economic in nature (and populism, islamophobia or racism are just diversions that, in his view, are unlikely to work in the long term),

that a very small elite has cut itself off from the rest of the population, accumulating massive wealth in the process and now engaging in an amoral power grab,

that the left is complicit in this process as its technocrats are fundamentally supportive of the neoliberal dogma of unfettered free-trade.

Said elite assholes always use race as a tool to secure more power for themselves in political and social venues.

Said elite assholes have also long had total and complete control of major media outlets and said media outlets have been on a generational basis been used to bring about the decline of America.

The neoliberal version of "free" trade as you call it has always been a one sided free ride for all participants outside of the US or rather that forked snake's tongue of how best to create a global government and/or how best to exploit formerly oppressed people for greater profit margins for said elite scumbag assholes.  Simple isn't it.

3M6B, we, here in Af-merica-stan have been proven to be the greatest wasters of resources and such things, for a return of crap like Britney Spears...well such things just have to come to an end.

Your turn Europe, don't screw it up.

by Lasthorseman on Sun Dec 14th, 2008 at 09:24:56 PM EST
When he writes "protectionism," does he mean bad, old-fashioned cotton quotas? Or has he been drinking the neo-liberal kool-aid that equates capital controls, exchange rate policy and industrial policy with protectionism?

I don't think all protectionism is created equal. Protectionism that involves - say - not importing solar-generated electricity from North Africa because it undermines the solar power industry at home is IMO silly - North Africa clearly is better suited to produce solar power than England.

OTOH, if by "protectionism" he means actually enforcing environmental standards, giving exploitative transnats who underpay foreign workers a haircut, supporting various strategic industries and so on and so forth, then I see no problem. I also don't see anything protectionistic about it, however...

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Dec 18th, 2008 at 03:00:29 AM EST
When he writes "protectionism," does he mean bad, old-fashioned cotton quotas? Or has he been drinking the neo-liberal kool-aid that equates capital controls, exchange rate policy and industrial policy with protectionism?
I don't know if he's been drinking the kool-aid but, like the left elite he criticises, he operates within a neo-liberal frame where "free trade" includes free movement of capital and anything less than that is "protectionism".

Is there a difference between drinking the kool-aid and adopting the opposition's frame?

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jan 12th, 2009 at 03:58:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It depends on whether you critique the frame itself, I think.

If he's just calling for "protectionism" without distinguishing between real, rent-seeking protectionism and legitimate political tools that have been smeared as protectionism, then he's accepting the enemy's frame. If he's calling for "protectionism" in the headline, and then discusses the distinctions between "good" protectionism and "bad" protectionism and how you can tell the two apart, then he's adopting the frame in order to challenge it.

The former is not helpful, for the same reason that saying "we need more state spending NOW!" in response to the financial crisis isn't helpful as long as one fails to distinguish between useful state spending and bailing out Wall Street fatcats.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Jan 12th, 2009 at 06:38:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
[ET Moderation Technology™] Promoted, with typos and punctuation corrected.


Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jan 11th, 2009 at 11:41:51 AM EST
Is this book published in English yet? Good discussions here, and translations of bits, but it would be interesting to read the entire thing.

I have been reading Zakharia's Post-American World, and I'm struck by how generalized it is, although I suspect most of it comes as shocking news to many here. Todd's work sounds more in-depth.

by Mnemosyne on Sun Jan 11th, 2009 at 01:40:53 PM EST
Can you give a brief summary of Zakharia's thesis?

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jan 11th, 2009 at 02:56:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Zakaria looks at, as he says, not the  "decline of America, but rather about the rise of everyone else." How will the world be different when it's recognized that India and China are the major powers?

He says the time is coming when the US will no longer be the world's predominant power, militarily and especially economically (this was published nearly a year ago, so I'm guessing the writing took place around 2006-07). He cites the growth and accomplishments (high buildings, big things, lots of cell phones) occuring with rapid speed outside the U.S. and especially in Asia. Such changes will bring some problems, he says, but also many opportunities for all.

Overall, he's quite optimistic that peaceful economic growth will continue, that countries like India and China will remain relatively stable, and that the U.S. will remain A world power even when no longer THE world power.

It's a nice overview book (no footnotes, refs at the end), and I think it's aimed at the many millions of Americans who have no clue that there is anything out there beyond the national borders, the folks who would still chant "USA! USA!" He writes for Newsweek, which is not a magazine I've ever found particularly useful in finding out about the world, but more power to him for seeking to educate fellow cits about the larger world.

I've been reading it in bits and pieces for several months, not quite sure whether to be amused or alarmed by the dichotomy I see developing between his rather sunny optimism and the growing financial and political black clouds obscuring the immediate horizon. I hope he's right, that it will all work out, and probably his time frame is longer than mine.

by Mnemosyne on Sun Jan 11th, 2009 at 09:27:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I thought part of the argument was that during the "dark ages" when there was more labor than needed, the elites could easily keep the poor under control. And that the plague reduced the population in Europe to the point where labor scarcity gave some economic power to the masses, leading to the Enlightenment.

If that's the model, then it would seem that there's no chance that the elite will voluntarily change their ways. The question is whether, with today's "everybody has a mortgage or pays rent" arrangement, and with an excess population that provides more labor than is needed, we are really very far from the dark ages.

My question is, what if you wake up one morning and realize that you are living in the dark ages? What do you do? What would you do as a peasant in the 12th century?

by asdf on Sun Jan 11th, 2009 at 03:31:46 PM EST
This comment deserves to be a diary, IMO.
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Sun Jan 11th, 2009 at 04:15:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Without education but with common sense, a 12th Century peasant might be able to enter the service of his local lord as a footman, etc., move to the city and learn a trade or become a merchant of some low sort.  "City air makes free," if your immune system could handle it. The other options were to find some way to exploit unclaimed or ignored commons areas and/or to become a Robin Hood.  The crusades provided an outlet for many such individuals, only a few of whom returned.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Jan 11th, 2009 at 04:50:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"What would you do as a peasant in the 12th century?"

Um, raise an army and sack London, like Wat Tyler did? Those people had more balls, and nous, than any of us moderns. When we get stiffed by our rulers, we either (a) don't notice, or (b) say 'Oh well nothing for it then', or (c) perhaps go on a demo and shout 'Whadda we want?' (but whoops, better not break anything!)

by wing26 on Mon Jan 12th, 2009 at 12:39:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm afraid of waking up one day and finding myself in the 14 century, not the 12th. That is, not the Dark Ages but the Plague.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jan 12th, 2009 at 03:55:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Reminds me what the new (brilliant) Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, the historian Peter Englund, said when a journalist quizzed him about the current economic crisis.

He answered that as an historian, things don't look that bad and could quite readily have been a lot worse. Like during the plague.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Mon Jan 12th, 2009 at 11:23:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]


A 'centrist' is someone who's neither on the left, nor on the left.
by nicta (nico@altiva․fr) on Mon Jan 12th, 2009 at 12:17:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
His (Todd's) analysis is that France is in a rather unusual position, with a strong, deep-seated thirst for equality in its population and an elite which is rather more neo-liberal than anywhere else.
I have been under the impression that France is perhaps a country which prizes "individualism" more than does the USA.  Perhaps it could be that the USA prizes individualism and exults in that trait in its media generated self image while in France the trait is more commonly exhibited.  

It would seem that individual liberty can survive on a broad scale more easily with more equality.  It is easy to have liberty for the few, as with feudal society.  A corrupt version of individual liberty is one in which the many gratify their desire for liberty by identifying with the few who actually possess it in greater degree, usually exemplified by possession of greater wealth.

...the second (theme) is the fall in the practice of religion, which has simultaneously killed the unifying secular republicanism whose main purpose was its hostility to religion.
A fly for every ointment, indeed!  Would he like 60 million Christan Fundamentalists?  I would have thought that such a decline in religious fervor would be an advantage and would happily make the trade were that possible.  At least the Baptists have a tradition of opposing state involvement with religion dating back to Roger William's flogging at the hands of the Puritan Governor Bradford in Mass. Bay Colony, but they seem to have largely forsaken that tradition these days.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Jan 11th, 2009 at 05:30:41 PM EST
...the second (theme) is the fall in the practice of religion, which has simultaneously killed the unifying secular republicanism whose main purpose was its hostility to religion.
A fly for every ointment, indeed!  Would he like 60 million Christan Fundamentalists?  I would have thought that such a decline in religious fervor would be an advantage and would happily make the trade were that possible.
This is one of the key differences between the US and France...

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jan 12th, 2009 at 03:53:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is one of the key differences between the US and France...
An unintended consequence of Louis XIV's expulsion of the Hugenots. Fascinating.  

In the USA the rise of fundamentalism was largely the unintended consequence of the success of the Transcendentalists, including Emerson, in finding light and reason in the Christan Tradition.  This was and is aesthetically and intellectually appealing to educated elites, but it left the great mass of believers cold.  Unable to prevail in rational or learned argumentation over the meaning of the message, more populist divines retreated into assertion of the literal truth of scripture as the "revealed word of God."  As to the numerous contradictions between various scriptures, well, "God works in mysterious ways..."  But those ways do not include questioning scripture.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Jan 12th, 2009 at 04:31:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
it left the great mass of believers cold.  Unable to prevail in rational or learned argumentation over the meaning of the message,

This is not a problem where the message and its underlying concept (God) has, for most, lost its meaning.

"God works in mysterious ways..."  But those ways do not include questioning scripture.

In France, there is no big tradition of questioning scripture, because few read it.

by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Tue Jan 13th, 2009 at 01:28:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
generationally, the US is following france's general arc, just way behind on the curve. americans under 30 are far less religious than the rest of the country, and falling.
by wu ming on Wed Jan 14th, 2009 at 11:58:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
At one time France produced almost all the leading philosophers. Their ideas are still discussed hundreds of years later.

There was a burst of such creativity with the existentialist movement, but since then most of the books produced seemed to have failed to have much impact outside of France.

Is it that they are too inward looking and can't produce ideas that generalize well? Or perhaps, philosophy has just lost a following and even good work gets ignored?

It seems to me that some of the most outrageous works by American authors gets discussed elsewhere: Samuel Huntington and Frances Fukuyama have been used to provide cultural basis for aggressive foreign polices, for example. I'm not sure, but I think they get debated in Europe. We see almost nothing like that happening in the US with works from elsewhere.

Perhaps it is just cultural chauvinism or the inability of most Americans to read a foreign language, but I think there is something else happening here. I just don't know what it is.  

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Mon Jan 12th, 2009 at 02:07:51 PM EST
Something that happened during the 70's and remained ever since has been a crystallisation of the media and the intelligentsia around a few "philosophers" not worthy of the name - BHL, Glucksmann, Finkielkraut... The same thing happened in the media elite circles, where the same people have been in power for 40 years. The interesting philosophers in France haven't really been publicly debated since...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Mon Jan 12th, 2009 at 05:56:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
has kept a firm grasp on its power... Maybe we can expect the same wit hthe first generation to understand the internet...

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Jan 13th, 2009 at 04:24:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's an interesting point.

The Internet tends to decentralise power, and I think the logic of Peer to Peer connection - and particularly the fact that it makes "Organisations" redundant - will mean that power can no longer be "imposed" in the way it has been historically.

I presume there must have been Diaries on the subject before...?

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Tue Jan 13th, 2009 at 06:31:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You mean of course that it makes vertical 'organizations' redundant ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Tue Jan 13th, 2009 at 06:40:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think all Organisations - with the exception of certain types of partnership - are vertical, by virtue of the "Principal/Agency" distinction between owners and those who work for them.

The distinction becomes blurred when the owner is also the agent - as in (say) a two man Company - but legally there is a hierarchy even there between the Organisation and those who work for it.

Which reminds me of the Tower Colliery, which was a Welsh pit bought out by its (totally Left Wing) work force, who one day actually went on strike against themselves - probably because there was a rugby match on they wanted to see...

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Tue Jan 13th, 2009 at 06:55:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the information in the comments alone speaks volumes and is light years above the crap one gets from lamestream media controlled by the corporate giants of US "news".  
by Lasthorseman on Mon Jan 12th, 2009 at 09:30:48 PM EST
And I love the phrase "lamestream media!"  Thanks.
by cambridgemac on Wed Jan 14th, 2009 at 10:52:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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