Peter Gowan, Viz 181, Exhausted Nature…

Peter Gowan is

“Professor of International Relations at London Metropolitan University and course director of the MA in International Relations. He is a member of the editorial board of the New Left Review, on the advisory boards of other journals and is a member of the America Discussion Group at the Royal Institute of International Affairs.”

He’s a startlingly smart guy, IMHO. His article “Neo-Liberal Theory and Practice for Eastern Europe”(New Left Review 1/213 Sept/Oct 1995) is brilliant on the political choices around how Eastern Europe was dealt with after the collapse of the Soviet empire.

His book The Global Gamble (1999) has heaps of useful things in it, on what he calls “the Dollar Wall Street regime”. One day I’ll blog on suzereignty…

Often my NLR’s get left in their plastic wrapper for a bit. However, when latest thudded onto the mat with an editorial by Gowan “Crisis in the Heartland”, it got put in the “urgent gym reading” pile. There’s HEAPS of good stuff in it. Tasters-

“All modern economic systems, capitalist or not, need credit institutions to smooth exchanges and transactions; they need banks to produce credit money and clearance systems to smooth the payment of debts. These are vital public services, like a health service. They are also inherently unstable: the essence of a bank, after all, is that it does not hold enough funds to cover all the claims of its depositors at any one time. Ensuring the safety of the system requires that competition between banks should be suppressed. Furthermore, policy questions as to where credit should be channelled are issues of great economic, social and political moment. Thus public ownership of the credit and banking system is rational and, indeed, necessary, along with democratic control. A public-utility model along these lines can, in principle, operate within capitalism. Even now the bulk of the German banking system remains in public hands, through savings banks and Landesbanken. The Chinese financial system is overwhelmingly centred on a handful of huge, publicly owned banks and the Chinese government does indeed steer the credit strategies of these banks. It is possible to envisage such a public-utility model operating with privatized banks. The post-war Japanese banking system could be held to have had this character, with all its banks strictly subordinated to the Bank of Japan’s policy control via the ‘window-guidance system’. The post-war British commercial bank cartel could also be viewed as broadly operating within that framework, albeit raking off excessive profits from its customers.”

and

“This crisis of the American and European set-ups will no doubt have two intellectual effects. Firstly, to raise the credibility of the Chinese model of a state-owned, bank-centred financial system. This is the serious alternative to the credit models of the Atlantic world. The maintenance of capital controls and a non-convertible currency—which China has—are essential for the security of this system. Secondly, as the crisis unfolds, broader discussion of the public-utility model seems likely to return to political life, re-opening a debate that has been silenced since 1991.”

I think there IS doubt about its intellectual effects. I think there’s no guarantee a proper debate will be had. But then again, in a debate on this topic with Gowan, I’d back him every time…

Viz is something which, if I had any guilt/shame I’d call a “guilty pleasure.” It was the cause of most of the early rifts between me and my now-wife (I’ve found new ways to annoy her, mostly to do with not doing my share of the housework…) I’ve subscribed for a long long time, back before you saved any money doing so. It’s gotten better over the years, I think. More frequent, funnier. I don’t buy these myths of the golden age, and narratives of decline.

True, it’s uneven, but you usually get a bellylaugh or two. Occasionally three. This time mine came while I was on the stepper, which was a bit disconcerting for me and t’other punters. It was during a cartoon in which Director-General of the BBC, Mark Thompson, is trying to leave an apology on Andrew Sachs’ answer machine, but keeps getting drowned out by farting elephants and “swearing” presenters etc. It’s entirely formulaic, a little puerile and very very funny. I don’t know if I was laughing with the cartoonist, at him, or at myself for laughing at it. And I didn’t care.

Other good bits- “Ban this Filthy BBC filth”
Saint versus Saint- Santa Claus trying to get the ascetic Saint Augustine to accept consumerism
Tasha’s mam- all your class prejudices at chavs/scallies etc rolled into one, magnified and reflected. God bless ratboy, eh.
Christmas with the Drunken Bakers- makes Samuel Beckett look like Benny Hill.
Raffles the Gentleman Thug with what looks to me to be some quite rude Italian bits
The incomparable Roger Mellie writing a misery memoir
John Fardell’s “The Critics” getting another comeuppance when they rub a genie up the wrong way (oh yes they do)
Sid the Sexist with a horribly wrong-placed wet dream

A couple of Profanisaurus entries-
“to punt from the Cambridge end”
“shituation”- a bad situation
worm-burping

Brilliant stuff.

Finally, I just had time to start reading more about the Exhaustion of Nature, in Monthly Review.

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About dwighttowers

Below the surface...
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