Posts Tagged ‘spain’


Flash report: apparently, there is a revolution in Spain.

The collapse of Bernard (Bernie to his friends) Madoff’s Ponzi scheme is exposing some interesting networks in the world of investment and philanthropy. Not only did the scam spread through word of mouth and country club contacts, but apparently a large part of the appeal of the scheme was in its apparent exclusivity. “Dealing with him was all about getting behind the velvet rope to get into a downmarket bar… His entire fund was structured around a cult of access,” in the words of Fabio Salvoldelli, global strategist of Optimal Fund Management (article here).

The extension of the fraud in Spain, where the financial elite has been hit hard, provides an interesting illustration of the personal networks through which ‘investment decisions’ and ‘trust’ flow. Especially, and this might well be a Spanish idyosincrasy, of the pivotal role of the son-in-law. Madoff’s funds were marketed to wealthy Spaniards by M&B Capital Advisers, which is run by Javier Botin-Sanz and Guillermo Morenes (respectively son and son-in-law of Banco Santander’s Chairman Emilio Botin). Another key agent of contagion in the spreading of the pyramidal scheme was Andres Piedrahita, fund manager at Santander’s Banif and a fixture of Spanish high society, who also happens to be the son-in-law of Fairfield Greenwhich owner Walter Noel. As a result of these ‘connections’, Santander has reported the largest exposure to Madoff’s plot so far: €2.33 billion, mostly invested by its clients.

Back in New York, Madoff seems to have been at the epicenter of the city’s network of Jewish charities, many of which are now on the brink of collapse due to their involvement (or the involvement of their benefactors) in Madoff’s funds. Dr Gary Tobin, President of the Institute for Jewish & Community Research offers some insight in an interview in today’s Wall Street Journal:

“Specifically, Jewish philanthropy is built on social and personal networks. High-end solicitations are person to person and built in the social culture of philanthropy. It’s like finding out your brother is a murderer, it’s really bad for the family, it’s bad for the family of Jewish philanthropy.” (‘Madoff: The Atomic Bomb for Jewish Charities’, Wall Street Journal. See also this Bloomberg article, this one in Haaretz, and this one in the New York Times)

This philantrophic angle might prevent Madoff from adopting the ‘Jerome Kerviel Defense’: namely, to claim he was only robbing the richest of the rich and become in the process a popular hero. ‘Free Bernie’ t-shirts on sale in Times Square? Unlikely, given that the institutions suffering the brunt of the scheme include the likes of the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation, or the Philoctetes Center for the Multidisciplinary Study of the Imagination.

Another great piece of thought by cartoonist El Roto from yesterday’s edition of El País, available here (“The path of nationalism is very short: the origin is the end”).

Two in a row, because the one from Monday’s edition, available here, is very educational too (“If capitalism fails, we can try cannibalism”).

El Roto provides here (in today’s edition of El País) an extremely interesting lesson on political deictics (“them”, “us”, “them or us”). His cartoon clarifies Mariano Rajoy‘s xenophobic campaign for this week’s elections in Spain — “aquí ya no cabemos más ellos” best translated as “there is not enough room for all of us them”.

In a recent interview, Antonio María Rouco Varela, the archbishop of Madrid, gives his opinion on contemporary transformations of kinship:

“Gay marriage has an impact on the public appraisal of the truth of family, and also some pedagogical consequences for future generations and for society as a whole. The belief that family is vital for the common good and for the safeguard of society can be lost. A young person needs to experience the love of a father and a mother, even for physical reasons. In the current state of psychological research, it is widely acknowledged that the loss of the unity of marriage — i.e. of a couple formed by one father and one mother — provokes suffering and distress. The human, spiritual, moral phenomena of the family should not be hampered with considerations or comparisons that deny this reality.” (from “La familia es la gran explotada, la gran víctima de la sociedad”, ABC, December 30 2007)

Now that everybody seems to be looking forward to express opinions about how traditional are traditional forms of kinship and how dangerous is their loss, it would be useful to have Maurice Godelier’s Métamorphoses de la parenté (Fayard, 2004) translated somewhere, for instance, so that people could catch up on how strange this priest’s point of view would be for some numerous and annoyingly traditional societies (such as the Baruya, just to start with) that, surprisingly, seem to have done quite well without that crap.

(On Godelier, see also a comment in That Said.)

A follow up on Treasures of Sociology: can the sociology of quantification also benefit from a journey through the gems of national sociology? Jesús Ibáñez’s great paper on “The Measures of Society” is freely available from the website of the Revista Española de Investigaciones Sociológicas. Check that out:

“When we are subjected to the sexuality device, we get payed in pleasure. When we are subjected to the numeral system of currency, we get payed in money. When we are subjected to the nominal system of language, we get payed in prestige. Quantitative sociologists receive considerable money and prestige, but little pleasure. Qualitative sociologists receive considerable pleasure, but little money or prestige.” (from Jesús Ibáñez, “Las medidas de la sociedad”, Revista Española de Investigaciones Sociológicas, 29, 1985, pp. 85-127)

The paper (roughly) is about the emergence of life, then people and then sociologists (quantitative, though) in the universe. But it is useful.

Sociology is often inclined to define itself in terms of programmatic calls. Sadly, many of these get lost — too old, badly published or, worse, not in English. But the blossoming of open-access PDF repositories of past issues from academic journals opens new sources for the recovery of old treasures of sociology:

“How many times one should write again what is meant to be said in order to have it said in a sufficiently intelligible way? How many years between the first vision and the definitive and penultimate conceptualization? This is the hard path of the concept, in both Philosophy and Science.” (from Carlos Moya, “Identidad colectiva: un programa de investigación científica”, Revista Española de Investigaciones Sociológicas, 25, 1984, pp. 7-35)

All these phenomenal echoes of the struggle (here in Madrid, early 1980s) for a unified, critical understanding of the confluence of human beings, at last, available to the crawler.