Monday, December 05, 2005

OK. I do realize that it's after 2 am, but I still have to post these quotes because I've been having some "a-ha!" moments (not like the 80's band) while reading a chapter of Fredric Jameson from a book that he co-authored (The Cultures of Globalization). My first impression of Jameson a few weeks ago in Intro to Grad Studies was not good (overwrought prose style, the sort that takes you 5 minutes to read one page). So my excitement tonight seems miraculous (maybe that bad writing award went to his head, because the prose in this piece is amazing).

Anyway, so here are my favorite quotes, so far, in this week's reading:

After discussing the syllogism that goes: lack of democracy interferes with development of a free enterprise system, so therefore development of democracy "is dependent on development of the free market itself" (68). Ok so here's where it gets good:

"Suppose, however, that what are here identified as so many levels of the same thing were in reality in contradiction with each other; for example, suppose that consumerism were inconsistent with democracy, that the habits and addictions of postmodern consumption block or repress possibilities of political and collective action as such?" p. 69 Ah-ha!

Ok, and the second:

"But in the Anglo-American first world, I'm tempted to say, the state can still be a positive space: its powers are what must be protected against the right-wing attempts to dissolve it back into private businesses and operations of all kinds. The state is the place of welfare and social legislation, the source of the safety net of a whole range of crucial legislative powers (over employment, health, education, and the like), which must not be surrendered to the fragmenting and disintegrating effects of American business" (72).

I love this, I think in part because I've recently realized/decided that a laissez-faire model of capitalism doesn't work in the real world of post-industrialization. And why? Because big business doesn't care about worker safety or welfare until they're FORCED to. Example: I'm reading through anthologies of Victorian mags (such as Punch), and I ran across some details of the state of factory workers ... a group that included 13 year olds with phosphorous poisoning from working in match factories, which caused the destruction of vocal cords and the loss of teeth... and women and children working in cotton factories who "gained" a ten-hour work day after, get this, FORTY years of protests.

OK. So surely we've moved on now (as in, now workers can sue), but there are other areas in which we're still woefully like the Victorians. Their Smoke Acts are our "Clean Air Acts," which these days don't really do anything substantial. And the protests in Punch against train tracks in the Lake District seem eerily familiar to the administration's attack on National Parks -- their rewriting that makes "preservation" a secondary aim to certain high-up cronies' desires to go snow mobiling in Yellowstone. Not just eery, actually...

So, in my late-night Jameson-induced epiphany, I've decided that government intervention is necessary and vital for a responsible and sustainable brand of capitalism. Because people making millions/ billions of dollars don't consistently give a s*#$ about the environment (they can always buy a private island, right?) Now if only the government could extract itself from the pockets of big business, we'd actually get some real protection for the environment...

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