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Greek Test

According to The Guardian, these are the conditions that Syriza, the alternative (non orthodox communist) left party that has finally smashed the post-dictatorship political party system in Greece, is setting for parties that want to be part of a possible coalition. The recent elections saw the combined share of the vote of the socialists (PASOK) and the conservatives (New Democracy) that have dominated the poitical system since the mid-7os, fall from 80% to around 30%.

1) The immediate cancellation of all impending measures that will impoverish Greeks further, such as cuts to pensions and salaries.

2) The immediate cancellation of all impending measures that undermine fundamental workers’ rights, such as the abolition of collective labor agreements.

3) The immediate abolition of a law granting MPs immunity from prosecution, reform of the electoral law and a general overhaul of the political system. According to Keep Talking Greece, that would include abolishing the 50-seat bonus for the party which wins the most seats.

4) An investigation into Greek banks, and the immediate publication of the audit performed on the Greek banking sector by BlackRock.

5) The setting up of an international auditing committee to investigate the causes of Greece’s public deficit, with a moratorium on all debt servicing until the findings of the audit are published.

Can the EU really reject such a call and still pose as a ‘club of democracies’?

Can any of the other parties reject these conditions and have any hope in any resulting general election if  a government cannot be formed?

It will also be interesting to see how much of the deficit was due to money flowing back to the ‘core’ EU economies and not into the pockets of the ‘lazy Greeks’.

Who would have thought 10 years ago that the alternative non communist left anywhere in the world would ever be in a position to pose such a ‘test of explication’ that would have markets all around the world going into a dive a few minutes after its announcement!

With the markets reacting like that, is Merkel really ready to take the test and see what will happen if she lets Greece go to the wall?

From some very preliminary opportunistic fieldwork conducted during an important organisational studies conference in Barcelona this summer it was found that expenses receipts were a major preoccupation for many society testers. A particularly poignant vignette from this fieldwork was provided by an experiment in the collective ordering of the highly refreshing drink of orxata (unknown to many of those involved in the experiment until then). Apart form providing an opportunity to see Douglas AdamsBistromathics “in the wild”, the vignette also raised a number of interesting calculatory and ethical issues about whether such an “unknown” (unknowable?!) object would fit into the increasingly rigid categorisation and classification schemes of the administrative bureaucracies of the institutions to which the various self experimenters belonged to and then, on seeing a plethora of discarded receipts on the floor, about whether to exploit or not the get-rich-quick opportunity presented by these trampled pieces of paper. Now, in true STS fashion, a completely new direction to such experimentation is being provided by the technological innovation of  the  Random Expenses Receipt Generator. The article includes some ‘bonus tracks’ in the form some brilliant accounts of the expenses practices of British journalists and a link to an article about the institution by this profession of the proto-market device of the London Bill Exchange.

Latour’s rehabilitation of the title ‘actor-network theory’ (including the hyphen) points to the parallels between the acronym ANT, the English word for the insect ‘ant’, and the work of those using ANT that resembles (or should resemble) the activities of ants. Whether one is favourably or negatively predisposed towards ANT and/or Latour, it is understandable to react to this about-turn with a wry smile, appreciating the skill of the manoeuvre but finding it also slightly underhand. The kind of reaction one has to a skilful magician or card trickster.

Like the cavalry in cowboy films coming over the hill to save the hero, an army of ants has now come to dispel any residual irony surrounding Latour’s rehabilitation of ANT. One of the lead stories on the flagship BBC Radio 4 Today morning news programme this morning concerned the invasion of Northern Europe by a new species of ant, Lasius neglectus. While the detailed sociologics of the effectiveness of Lasius neglectus as an invader are explained in more detail on the BBC website and the PLos One research article on which the news story was based and have to do with the sexual habits of the colony queen, one of the authors, Dr Sylvia Cremer, explained that in effect what made Lasius neglectus such an potent invader was its ability to propagate across rather within the boundaries of established social units. Who needs Big Brother when there are ants to watch? And what’s more, when ants have sex, it really matters!

Most people, even those who study and work at the LSE, tend to ignore — or find annoyingly cumbersome — the full title of the School which is ‘London School of Economics and Political Science’. One felt that it was inevitable that the implosion of economies being witnessed at present would have implications for a place that most people call only ‘London School of Economics’. Nobody would have expected, however, that the first shot in an epistemic assault on it would have been fired by HM the Queen during her visit to open the School’s latest building in its relentlessly street-by-street colonisation of Aldwich and Holborn. In a moment that brings to mind the well-known childrens’ story about the emperor’s new clothes, Simon Jenkins of the Guardian describes in a hilarious way here how Her Majesty, talking about the credit crunch asked one of the LSE economics professors ‘Why did nobody notice?’ Her Majesty put into a nutshell an issue that others such as Nassim Nicholas Taleb have spent much more time, text, and effort articulating, sometimes also with hilarious results as the recent priceless BBC TV clash between Taleb and Kenneth Rogoff shows. The difficulty in answering this simple question on the side of economists might force them into a re-assessment of the epistemic toolkit of economics. And it is not just a case of the analytical tools but also about how the economic can be known, accessed, but also discussed. Payback, the latest book by Margaret Atwood described in a recent Guardian review as an ‘intellectual history of debt’, and the project by German film maker Alexander Kluge to make a feature film of Marx’s Das Kapital, might provide some inspiration. The LSE marketing people might be better off re-arranging its name to something like ‘London School of Political Science and Economics’. Then again, LSPSE is not so catchy and LSE is such a well established brand. Maybe, as someone at the LSE itself had commented in the recent past, they might want to consider changing what LSE stands for to something like ‘London School of Entertainment’.


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