Savitri Era of those who adore, Om Sri Aurobindo and The Mother.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Current financial crisis is the result of no models

L. Venkata Subramaniam has left a new comment on your post "When complex systems evolve over time the paths th...":

I think nobody took mathematical modeling seriously so they built very simplistic models with bad assumptions and bad data. I dont think the current financial crisis is the result of bad models, infact it is the result of no models. Posted by L. Venkata Subramaniam to Savitri Era Learning Forum at 12:48 AM, December 31, 2008 12:58 PM

R. Venkata Subramani has left a new comment on your post "When complex systems evolve over time the paths th...":

Mathematical models or no mathematical models - the present crisis is just on account of too much greed and throwing all common sense to winds. What else can you call the so called Credit Default Swaps on Fixed income securities - when the total bond size is 25 trillion USD and the notional value of CDS is 63 trillion USD? Do you call this protection or pure gambling? Posted by R. Venkata Subramani to Savitri Era Learning Forum at 11:24 AM, December 31, 2008

Intelligent agent modeling in economics from Marginal Revolution by Tyler Cowen

In my possibly overdogmatic view, economics is most useful when its models are relatively simple and intuitive. We've run out of new models which are simple and intuitive. So the theory game is over. The standard, old data sets have been data mined to death. We're now on to the "can you build/create your own data set?" game. That game can and will last for a long time; in some ways it will favor go-getter extroverts just as the theory game favored introverts.
I don't yet see that there is a new game in town. My preferred reform of economics involves more history and anthropology, I might add.

A Professor Forgets The Fallibility of Merchants and Manufacturers and That Ayn Rand was Not a Smithian from Adam Smith's Lost Legacy by Gavin Kennedy

Allen Greenspan was a adherent to the philosophy of selfish egoism of Ayn Rand, which had little enough to do with the self interest and moral philosophy of Adam Smith.

The sub-divisional judicial magistrate, Cuttack summons Peter Heehs

Court summons Aurobindo book writer
The Asian Age - Enjoy the difference Bhubaneswar, Dec. 30:

The sub-divisional judicial magistrate, Cuttack, on Tuesday ordered Peter Heehs, an American author, who wrote a controversial book on spiritual gurus Sri Aurobindo and Shreema to appear in the court on February 20, reports our correspondent.
In response to a petition filed by one Devi Prasad Dash, a devotee from Cuttack, the court took cognizance of the derogatory and defamatory information on the lives of both the gurus written in The Lives of Sri Aurobindo.
Although the book has already been published in America, the Orissa high court had stayed its publication and distribution in India last month, following a writ petition filed by one Geetanjali Bhattacharjya of Balasore, 200 km from here. About Us Contact us Advertise with us Careers Site Map Feedback © Copyrights 2006 Asian Age

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Revolutionary terrorists too were aware of the theatrical side of violence

OPED Saturday, November 22, 2008 The bomb that shook an Empire Peter Hees

Aurobindo Ghose and his band of youthful 'terrorists' stood as accused in the famous Alipore Bomb Case exactly a century ago. The issues they threw up still rankleA hundred years ago, a trial was being heard in Calcutta that brought the issue of revolutionary terrorism before the people of modern India for the first time. There had, of course, been acts of violence against the British almost from the moment of their arrival. But when Khudiram Bose threw a bomb into a carriage that he thought was carrying a district judge on April 30, 1908, he started something new. A bhadralok youth, recruited by an organisation that was established and directed by highly educated men, used a state-of-the-art bomb in an attempt to assassinate a member of the foreign bureaucracy. Khudiram was tried and executed for his act, becoming one of India's most celebrated revolutionary martyrs. The leaders of the organisation, notably Hemchandra Das, Upendranath Banerjee, Barindrakumar Ghose, and Barin's brother Aurobindo Ghose (later Sri Aurobindo), were also put on trial in what became known as the Alipore Bomb Case. After proceedings that lasted almost a year, the first three were convicted and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment. Aurobindo was acquitted but soon left the political scene, becoming a philosopher and yogi in Pondicherry.

Aurobindo had never thought that scattered acts of small-scale violence would do much to advance the movement. His original idea was the preparation of an "armed insurrection", consisting of "guerrilla warfare accompanied by general resistance and revolt". His organisation "did not include terrorism in its programme", he wrote in 1946; "this element grew up in Bengal as a result of the strong repression and the reaction to it in that province". It was Barin, Upendranath, Hemchandra and others who thought that terrorist methods would be useful. In this they were wrong. Despite all the drama of the Indian revolutionary movement, and the undoubted valour of men like Khudiram, Surya Sen, and Bhagat Singh, Indian terrorists were not very good at accomplishing their aims, and had little practical (as opposed to psychological) effect on the movement.

Sensing this as early as 1911, Aurobindo wrote to a collaborator that terrorism was "our only enemy". He called for an end to "these theatrical assassinations, these frenzied appeals to national hatred with their watchword of Feringhi ko maro, these childish conspiracies, these idiotic schemes for facing a modern army with half a dozen guns and some hundred lathis". Yet to the end of his life Aurobindo never renounced his belief that "a nation is entitled to attain its freedom by violence". "Terrorism" has now become such a charged word that it is hard to use it in a discussion of national heroes. Historians of the immediate post-Independence era preferred the term "militant nationalism". This was not a good choice: the revolutionaries had little military training. Later historians were not afraid to use the term "terrorism", but they defined it carefully as the use of small-scale violence by urban groups to achieve political ends. This is what Barin Ghose and his friends were doing, and there was no reason not to call them terrorists, however unpleasant the word might sound. However, over the last two decades, the meaning of "terrorism" has become restricted in the popular mind to certain types of violent acts, notably ones in which members of the public are targeted as symbolic stand-ins for an inaccessible government. There is a world of difference between terrorists who leave bombs in public places, or detonate suicide vests in buses, and revolutionaries who assassinate carefully chosen colonial officials.

Contemporary terrorism's association with random, often anonymous, violence has fundamentally altered the meaning of the word in public discourse. Another association that colours most people's understanding of the term is the perceived link between terrorism and religion. Certainly many contemporary terrorists, whether operating in Gaza, Baghdad, Mumbai, or London, claim to be inspired by religious beliefs. But this link is not inevitable. Viewed historically, terrorist methods were first used by the Jacobins during the French Revolution in an attempt to maintain state power against perceived reactionaries. Religion never entered into the picture, except perhaps to label Catholic institutions and individuals as ‘reactionary’.

The second great era of terrorism was during the 19th and 20th centuries, when revolutionary groups used small-scale violence against the state. Some of these groups had a religious identity, such as the Irish National Army and some organisations in India, but the fundamental aim of revolutionary terrorists was the weakening of an oppressive state as a step towards its replacement by a more popular one. Revolutionary terrorism is still with us, but the characteristic form of terrorism in the 21st century is what I call 'apocalyptic terrorism', as exemplified by groups such as AUM Shinrikyo of Japan, and the transnational group, al-Qaeda. Both of these made (and make) use of religious discourse, but it could be argued that their inspiration and aims were (and are) not religious but rather apocalyptic: the overthrowing of a whole way of life in all its forms. Apocalyptic terrorist groups are unlikely to achieve their declared aims. How do you attack or destroy a way of life? Well-trained terrorists can hit symbolic targets such as the Tokyo subway system or the World Trade Center, but the world goes on as it always has. Viewed pragmatically, apocalyptic terrorism is more a form of theatre than a means of bringing about constructive change.

Revolutionary terrorists too were aware of the theatrical side of violence – Barin Ghose wrote that part of his aim in sponsoring terrorist attempts was capture headlines that would inspire young men to emulate him – but most revolutionaries had achievable and justifiable aims, and their acts contributed to some extent in their realisation. Can the same be said about the terrorism – much of it ostensibly religious – which continues to plague modern India? Most attempts over the past few years have succeeded in little else but sowing terror in the populace. The perpetrators have rarely identified themselves or their enemies, and achieved nothing beyond the immediate loss of life and property. This is duly reported in the Press, giving rise to frantic public debate; but neither the demographic makeup nor administrative direction of the country is changed in the least. Much of this recent terrorism seems to be nothing more than the simple acting out of revenge, one aggrieved community attacking another, leading to further retaliatory attacks, and so forth ad infinitum. In a democracy that offers all its citizens a chance (however slight in some cases) to air their grievances and bring about change, this terrorism of revenge looks like the pointless working out of a mechanical impulse.

On November 10, 1908, Kanailal Dutt, one of the accused in the Alipore Bomb Case, was hanged in Calcutta. Ten weeks earlier, he and his accomplice Satyendranath Bose had assassinated the government informer Narendranath Gowsami. Asked in court why he had pulled the trigger, Kanailal responded simply: "It was because he proved a traitor to his country." The funeral procession that followed his body to the Ganges was probably the largest ever seen in Kolkata. After his cremation, hundreds of people surged forward to take ash and pieces of bone as holy relics.

The Indian press hailed Kanailal as a martyr, most British papers condemned him as a coward; but an editor The Pioneer, a paper representing the interests of Empire, took issue with this: "Such a crime may be properly described as desperate action, but it is fatuous to call it a cowardly one. If the people of Bengal chose to enthrone Kanailal and Satyendranath "in popular remembrance" as the Greeks had done with the tyrannicide pair Harmodius and Aristogeiton, "it is not easy to see how anyone could justly object to the selection". It is hard to see how such an encomium could be published for those in modern India who leave tiffin-carriers packed with RDX in suburban commuter trains or holy places. -- The writer is an American historian on modern India. The Search Results are given below using word ALIPORE BOMB CASE 'God cannot be jailed' 22 November, 2008 The bomb that shook an Empire 22 November, 2008 100 years of righteous terror 22 November, 2008 Politics of reaching out 11 October, 2008 Alipore bomb case to be exhibited at SC museum 12 May, 2006

Monday, December 29, 2008

Western belief in the universality of Western culture suffers three problems

Samuel Huntington, seer of 21st-century cultural conflicts The Australian, Australia - FOR millions of ordinary readers, as for conservative politicians and pundits, Samuel Huntington was the man who predicted the grand narrative of the 21st century...

Staying strong in the face of outside threats was a classic Huntingtonian theme, but in his last book, Who Are We? (2004), he cautioned against the enemy within. The US's national identity, he argued, was in danger of being eroded in the face of sub-national, dual-national and transnational loyalties. Writing for a popular audience "as a patriot and a scholar", Huntington argued that some Americans, most notably liberal elites and Hispanics, were undermining America's fundamentally Anglo-Protestant culture.

Built on Christianity, the English language and British legacies of justice and government, and mixed with the "American Creed" and its principles of liberty, equality and individualism, this was a culture that every immigrant group had assimilated - until recently. But globalisation meant a growing chasm between "the cosmopolitan and transnational commitments" of elites, and the "still highly nationalist and patriotic values of the American public".

The most controversial chapter, on Mexican-Americans, warns that the fast-growing Hispanic population's reluctance to assimilate could lead to "a bifurcated America", with two languages, Spanish and English. These new immigrants would achieve the American Dream "only if they dream it in English", he argued.

Such bluntness led admirers to laud his bravery and critics to charge that he was pandering to nativist sympathies. Huntington was a self-declared conservative, but an old-fashioned one, critical of the neocons in the Bush administration. Though US and British pundits used his ideas to promote the invasion of Iraq, Huntington was a steadfast critic of it, dismissing George W.Bush's plans to install a Western-style democracy as a "joke".

"Western belief in the universality of Western culture suffers three problems," he had written in The Clash of Civilizations. "It is false; it is immoral; and it is dangerous." Huntington is survived by his wife, Nancy, and two sons. The Times

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Massimo says economics is founded on "complex mathematical models", when it is not

Massimo Pigliucci says so many false beliefs that it's far easier to tell all to ignore him than to attack each one of his falsehoods. Massismo confuses Academia with "science". Massimo says economics is founded on "complex mathematical models", when it is not. Massimo says economists get Nobel prizes yet neglects to tell you that the Sweden Central Bank pays for the Nobel prize in Economics, a central bank built on paper currency with a history of grave errors in central banking. Massimo seems to lack knowledge about the doctrine of rationalism and confuses being wrong with "irrational". Massimo seems to be unaware that economics is the science (recorded knowing) of exchange -- the trading of one right of claim for a thing for another.

Massimo seems to hold a false belief that because a former physics guy, Alfred Marshall, switched to the field of economics in the late 1800s and who wrote a wrong textbook for the field, which lasted for decades, that economics and economists base the field on physics. Massimo, by his words, shows he knows nothing about money, legal tender money, central banking, inflation and the crash results of any central bank driven credit expansion. Smack MacDougal (not verified) 12/24/08 15:23 PM

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Sri Aurobindo was well versed in both the Vedic and the Western philosophical and scientific traditions

Eric Weiss Category Link 1 / Category Link / Category Link / Category Link
Chapter Two–Doctrine Of The Subtle Worlds and the Cosmology of Sri Aurobindo

A decisive move towards the rehabilitation of the Doctrine of the Subtle Worlds in Western civilization was taken at the end of the Nineteenth Century by Helena Blavatsky and the Theosophical movement. While the Doctrine of the Subtle Worlds had fallen on hard times in the West, it had remained a significant part of the Vedic understanding of reality. The Theosophists were exposed to Vedic cosmology with its Doctrine of the Subtle Worlds by teachers in the East, and made a heroic effort to translate that Vedic cosmology into the terms of a scientific metaphysics23. The original Theosophical writings were supplemented in the early part of the Twentieth Century, notably in the works of Alice Bailey and Rudolph Steiner. The ideas they introduced have been influential, though they have yet to reach mainstream academic discourse.

Sri Aurobindo, the great Twentieth Century philosopher-mystic, took the work of the Theosophists to an entirely new level. Sri Aurobindo brought to his cosmological work three major assets: he was an accomplished yogi who seems to have had personal experience of the subtle worlds; he was well versed in both the Vedic and the Western philosophical and scientific traditions; and he wrote in English. The works of Sri Aurobindo are the only primary Vedic sources that have ever been written in English, and thus have not suffered the diminishment of translation.
Sri Aurobindo’s opus is a masterful synthesis which weaves together Vedic cosmology and Western evolutionary cosmology. In creating a framework for this synthesis, he developed a new version of Vedic metaphysics – a system which he called “Purna Vedanta,” or Integral Nondualism – which provides a context within which he can reconcile these apparently differing cosmological views. Sri Aurobindo has given us the most philosophically coherent presentation of the main outlines of Vedic cosmology that we have in the English language.
Our concern in this essay is the Doctrine of the Subtle Worlds. Therefore, in the following pages, I shall present just so much of Sri Aurobindo’s ideas as are necessary to illuminate his version of that Doctrine.

The Metaphysical Background of the Doctrine of the Subtle Worlds in Sri Aurobindo
Sri Aurobindo, in common with philosophers of many other mystical traditions, holds that the ultimate reality transcends comprehension by Mind. He holds, however, that the highest conception that we can form of that reality is the notion of a unity within which three aspects can be discriminated. Those three aspects are Existence, Consciousness/Force, and Bliss. This particular characterization of the ground of being is a traditional Vedic one. Existence, in Sanskrit, is Sat. Consciousness is Chit. Bliss is Ananda. Thus the ultimate ground is termed Sat-Chit-Ananda, or Sachchidananda. Force, or Shakti is held to be inherent in Chit.
Let us pause to wrap our imaginations around what it is that Aurobindo is here suggesting. Sachchidananda is the ground of all manifested existence. It is infinite Existence, infinite Being. Whatever substance or form comes to arise in any possible universe has it source here. Materialists also, at least implicitly, imagine an ultimate ground of Being, but the ground that they imagine is a dark, unconscious, and automatic play of blind potentialities. Sachchidananda is, by contrast, entirely transparent to its own knowing self-regard. It is not just Existence, but it is Existence that is conscious of itself – utterly self-illuminated. And the Consciousness which the Existence has of itself is inseparable from a Force, or Will that supports and upholds the being of the Existence. Finally, the Consciousness that the Being has of itself is inseparable from a profound self-enjoyment. Thus, for Sri Aurobindo, the ground of all manifestation is an absolute Existence that is absolute knowledge of itself, that is the absolute intention to be itself, that is absolute enjoyment of itself. It is conscious, intentional self-enjoyment of self-existence.
This notion of the absolute has immense philosophical and theological consequences, which Sri Aurobindo works out in some detail in his master philosophical treatise, The Life Divine.24 The question that concerns us here is this: how does this infinite, absolute Sachchidananda bring out of itself the kind of determinate universe in which we find ourselves?
The answer that Sri Aurobindo gives us is that Sachchidananda has the ability to manifest determinate universes through the operation of its Consciousness/Force, or Chit/Shakti. In particular, the Consciousness operates in various ‘poises.’ In one poise, the Consciousness knows and wills the Existence in its undifferentiated absoluteness. This is the poise of Consciousness in pure Sachchidananda, outside of manifestation. In the other poise, Consciousness picks out, discerns, or apprehends particular aspects of that Existence, particular truths of the One Truth. This is the ‘poise’ of Sachchidananda in manifestation. Now Sachchidananda, being ‘one without a second’, is entirely without any possibility of opposition. Those aspects of itself, or those truths of itself, which are discerned by Consciousness are, in the same movement, willed by its Force, and so they are manifested as determinate realities.
For finite beings such as ourselves, beings who live in a medium which appears to us as not-self, knowledge, will and manifestation are three different operations. But for a Being which is the absolute ground of all manifestation, these three operations are inseparable. What the Consciousness knows, the Will intends. What the will intends is invariably manifested. For Sri Aurobindo, then, manifested being arises when Consciousness discerns, and Force or Will intends, certain determinate aspects of the one truth of Existence.

This has, to Western ears, a rather mystical ring to it. But, as we shall see when we come to consider Alfred North Whitehead’s more thoroughly Western approach to the problem of manifestation, he comes to a rather similar position. In Whitehead’s mature metaphysical position, the two factors that logically precede the manifested universe are the Eternal Objects and Creativity. The Eternal Objects correspond rather well to that factor which Sri Aurobindo calls Existence. The Eternal Objects are like Existence in the unmanifested state of Sachchidananda — all possible forms of being are here latent, unmanifest in the One.25 Creativity is that ultimate principle by means of which those ultimate finite existents that Whitehead calls “actual occasions” come into being.26 Now actual occasions have two poles – a mental pole and a physical pole. These two poles correspond rather well to what Sri Aurobindo intends by Consciousness and Force. It is the mental pole of an actual occasions that discerns determinate truths of the one truth of being (as Whitehead would say, they “prehend” Eternal Objects), and it is the physical pole which enacts those determinate truths in the manifested universe. Thus what Sri Aurobindo describes as the process of manifestation has a rather strong resemblance to the process which Alfred North Whitehead calls ingression.
In any case, we have so far identified two major poises of Consciousness/Force – the poise which supports absolute Sachchidananda, outside of manifestation, and the poise which supports manifestation. This latter poise can be broken down into a number of other poises, and it is the analysis of these various poises of Consciousness/Force that supports Sri Aurobindo’s conception of the Doctrine of the Subtle Worlds.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Please Read: A Personal Appeal From Wikipedia Founder Jimmy Wales

Donate now Questions? Benefactors Donor comments Ways to give Show support Chapters Transparency Stories
Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge.
Jimmy Wales, Founder of Wikipedia
An appeal from Wikipedia founder, Jimmy Wales

Dear Reader,
Today I am going to ask you to support Wikipedia with a donation. This might sound unusual: Why does one of the world's five most popular web properties ask for financial support from its users?
Wikipedia is built differently from almost every other top 50 website. We have a small number of paid staff, just twenty-three. Wikipedia content is free to use by anyone for any purpose. Our annual expenses are less than six million dollars. Wikipedia is run by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation, which I founded in 2003.
At its core, Wikipedia is driven by a global community of more than 150,000 volunteers - all dedicated to sharing knowledge freely. Over almost eight years, these volunteers have contributed more than 11 million articles in 265 languages. More than 275 million people come to our website every month to access information, free of charge and free of advertising.
But Wikipedia is more than a website. We share a common cause: Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge. That's our commitment.
Your donation helps us in several ways. Most importantly, you will help us cover the increasing cost of managing global traffic to one of the most popular websites on the Internet. Funds also help us improve the software that runs Wikipedia -- making it easier to search, easier to read, and easier to write for. We are committed to growing the free knowledge movement world-wide, by recruiting new volunteers, and building strategic partnerships with institutions of culture and learning.
Wikipedia is different. It's the largest encyclopedia in history, written by volunteers. Like a national park or a school, we don't believe advertising should have a place in Wikipedia. We want to keep it free and strong, but we need the support of thousands of people like you.
I invite you to join us: Your donation will help keep Wikipedia free for the whole world.
Thank you,
Jimmy Wales

Learn More
How is the revenue spent?
How is the Wikimedia Foundation funded?
How much money are you hoping to raise?
What are the Foundation's specific goals?

Wikipedia is a project of the Wikimedia Foundation. Questions or comments? Contact the Wikimedia Foundation:
· हिन्दी ·

Every Indian, young and old, should have a feel of this great son of India

Just as air, water and the sun are freely available to all, even so all must be allowed to have a claim on land, which is equally a gift to God. S. V.-851

The present national boundaries are bound to be demolished, and it is already happening. The whole world is sure to become one, and this cannot be prevented. ...The people of a country with less land are entitled to go to another which has more. This is the application of Bhoodan and its message in the world context of today. S. V.-853

An Introduction to the Thoughts of Vinoba
In the form of 52 letters - one a week, written over a year - the author introduces some of the insightful thoughts of Vinoba to Pranav, a young man of twelve. Vinoba was a willing soldier, a keen student, a versatile scholar, a scintillating synthesizer, a social activist, a spiritual seeker and a great satyagrahi - all rolled into one. Every Indian, young and old, should have a feel of this great son of India.
Reading him is best and reading about him is the second best. The author hopes the reader will get sufficiently provoked to read Vinoba's writings.. COMPLETE BOOK ONLINE VINOBA BHAVE
Thoughts Biography Bhoodan Movement Books Pictures Talks on Gita Gandhi
Site designed, hosted and maintained by Bombay Sarvodaya Mandal
'MY DEAR PRANAV' (Complete Book Online)
For more information about Vinobaji :

Monday, December 22, 2008

They’re all over 80s, we have just had puberty

Create Wealth: Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, Raamdeo Agrawal ideate
Investment Guru Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, Raamdeo Agrawal of Motilal Oswal and Sanjoy Bhattacharya of Fortuna Capital, spoke to BSE, NSE member Ramesh Damani and tried to find the answer to an important question––Who creates wealth...

Jhunjhunwala: People talk about deflation, lower inflation – they compare us with Japan, America, and Europe – they’re all over 80s, we have just had puberty, we are young economy.


And I say that on that crucial dimension, it is not an American world anymore, it is the post-American world. If the US wants to change the outcome in Afghanistan today, it will find that it cannot do it on its own. If it wants to change the outcome in a lasting way in Iraq, it will need to involve the neighbours, including Iran. If it wants to change the global financial system, it will need China. Take that one country. If the US doesn’t get cooperation from China on the global economy, it is impossible to do anything. Now that’s a very different world from 10 years ago. When the Asian economic crisis happened, Washington issued fiat after fiat, dictating to the world what it should do. That world is gone.

Indian Express > Fullcoverage > Walk The Talk > Monday , 22 December '08
‘Pak military can only be reined in by itself. No civilian govt there ... He is among the most prominent public intellectuals of Indian origin in the US. In conversation with The Indian Express Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta on NDTV 24x7’s Walk the Talk, Fareed Zakaria discusses everything from the economic downturn to the post-American world, the challenges before President-elect Barack Obama and Indo-Pak relations

I think they made us realise — and this is an old lesson that the British learnt by the end of their empire — that you can have these extraordinary superiorities either technologically or numerically but the question is, what are you trying to achieve? If the object is to kill lots of people in a foreign country you can achieve that. If the object is to assert local control for a party, to change an outcome on the ground, that is a political task, and we haven’t yet invented high-tech politics. We may have invented high-tech military.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Many forms racism, nationalist chauvinism, etc. have taken around the world in the last half century and more

Biopolitics from The Pinocchio Theory by Steven Shaviro

Nietzshce remains the crucial reference point both for the “thanatopolitics” of Nazism, which he presents as the culmination of a certain kind of biopolitics, or politicization of “life” and death, and for the post-World War II emergence of a critical biopolitics, which Esposito sees exclusively as an attempt to rescue the forces of “life” from their subordination to the Nazi mythologies of the master race, of the centrality of childbirth, and of “the absolute normativization of life.”

Heidegger, Arendt, Foucault, Simondon, Deleuze, 20th century French neo-Spinozianism: these are all read as efforts to liberate the forces of life from racial and familial normativization, from myths of purity and the Fatherland, etc. In this way, Esposito (much like Giorgio Agamben) sees the Holocaust as the central reference point for all biopolitical thought (and indeed, for all political thought whatsoever) today; with Niezsche providing the crucial conceptual framework, since his thought is the source both of 20th century notions of racial “cleanliness” and “health”, and of any possible critique and overcoming of such notions.

Can I dare to suggest (without being denounced as a “self-hating Jew”) that such a focus on the Holocaust, on the Adornian lament about the difficulty (or impossibility) of poetry (or anything else) “after Auschwitz,” is at this point, 63 years after the end of World War II, an obscurantist evasion rather than a moral imperative? Not only is Esposito’s focus upon Nazi thanatopolitics blindly Eurocentric, but it also fails to take account of the many forms racism, nationalist chauvinism, etc. have taken around the world in the last half century and more.The politicization of “life” and the management of “life” have become all the more pervasive and ubiquitous in the last half century, precisely because of (rather than in spite of) the discrediting (for the most part) of Nazi racist/nationalist themes.

For instance, bigotry and genocide today tend to be expressed in “cultural” and religious terms, rather than in the terms the Nazis used; but these new terms are themselves related to how we have come to reconceptualize “life”. The same could be said about national and international responses to plagues (AIDS, SARS, bird flu), about population control measures (ranging all the way from the nativist encouragement of more births, and the attempts to ban all forms of birth control, to draconian attempts, like that of the Chinese government, to restrict population growth). And questions about agriculture and food production, about access to water and other vital resources, about the patenting of genetic material, about the use of biometric data to track both individuals and populations, and so on almost ad infinitum — all these are excluded from Esposito’s purview, largely because his reductively Eurocentric and Holocaust-centric view of the biologization of politics and the politicization of biology has no room for them.

More generally, the European (perhaps I should just say, Italian and French) view of biopolitics, which Esposito summarizes so well (and variants of which are upheld by Agamben, Negri, and others) ironically seems to ignore two things: biology, and political economy. It is telling that Esposito says nothing whatsoever about the ways in which biology and life have themselves been so totally reconfigured in the (more than) half-century following Watson and Crick’s determination of the structure of DNA. Biochemistry, genetics, neuroscience, genetic engineering, etc etc — all of these have profoundly changed how we conceive “life”, as well as how governments and corporations seek to manage and contain it — yet Esposito writes as if none of this were relevant.

  • You wouldn’t know, from reading his genealogies, that today we tend to conceive a life force more on the model of mindless viral replication, than as anything like Bergson’s elan vital.
  • Nor that eugenics has been recast, in its contemporary variant, as a matter of “bad genes” rather than “bad blood” (both formulations are lying, ideological ones, but they have entirely different connotations).
  • Nor that the alleged fatality of genetic makeup has become an alibi for all sorts of social discrimination and inequality.
  • Nor that the goal of contemporary biotechnology has to do with the pragmatic manipulation of genetic material — and hence with a certain notion of flexibility and differential control, rather than with the old-style racial essentialism.

Although he is ostensibly concerned with how our society conceptualizes “life”, Esposito fails to consider how changes in biology have changed this conceptualization, and how things are still very much up for grabs today, as witnessed both by the continually emerging new potentials of biological research and bioltechnology, and by the ways in which, on a theoretical level, the orthodox neodarwinian synthesis is itself under considerable challenge from other biophilosophical visions (as I have written about before).

Friday, December 12, 2008

Evolution of civil justice and the process by which moral sentiments were exchanged and agreed within society

The Long History of Markets and Exchange
from Adam Smith's Lost Legacy by Gavin Kennedy

It is the corruption of markets that attracted Adam Smith’s ire, and not markets as such. Adam Smith did not write a textbook of doctrine about markets; he wrote about what he observed, not what philosophers, both contemporary (example, J. J. Rousseau’s condemnation of improved society and its failings, of which he was hardly a shining moral example) and long-past luminaries of the ancient world (example, Plato), made of the quite enormous possibilities of wealth, the ‘annual output of the ‘necessaries, convenience, and amusements of life’, for the real lives of really poor people.

Smith’s historical, ‘looking backwards’, perspective, showed all too clearly the moral corruption of ‘the rulers of mankind’ as individuals in all societies, those with nothing, those with next to nothing, and those with a few artifacts, trinkets, and ‘baubles’ that made them ‘great’ compared to societies still running ‘free’ in the forest.

He wasn’t too impressed with the purveyors of superstition, the misleaders of men and their pusillanimity, the posers who pandered to their pathetic tastes for undeserved praise from their ‘inferiors’, and legislators and those who influenced them with patently false doctrines of political economy, civil government and ‘divine’ rule.

But about commerce, he had few doubts. He debated Rousseau’s ideas, those of Bernard Mandeville, and those of mercantile political economists like Sir James Steuart and, instead, he saw commercial markets and exchange relationships in all areas of his Works, including in the origins of language, the progress of natural philosophy, the evolution of civil justice and the process by which moral sentiments were exchanged and agreed within society (and not through the senses), as being the cause and the consequence of the unintended, uncontrollable, and unforeseen actions, not plans, of human individuals relating through exchanges with each other since they finally began to secure themselves in their societies from the primitive, near animal, horizons of their earliest modes of subsistence.

Smith knew from his friend, the geologist James Hutton, how the world had evolved over ‘unimaginable’ long time periods (and not from 4004 BC!), and he achieved much a hundred years before Darwin discovered natural selection and before political economy began the long march away from how and why markets worked, and towards abstractions upon which there is still no agreement as to how they correspond to the real world of human societies.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Sri Aurobindo argued that pacifism can do nothing to root out the causes of war or oppression

Home Archives RSS Syndication Merchandise Donations Contact About Search Home Articles 29 Comments December 07, 2008
When elites eschew defense: The case of India By Ed Kaitz

Profound thinkers like Aurobindo Ghose, India's greatest 20th century philosopher, argued that the "ascetic ideal" etched into Hindu identity became oppressively "top heavy" in India and smothered the more warlike themes in Hindu tradition and culture. In his Foundations of Indian Culture Aurobindo claimed:

"Still it is true that the ascetic ideal, which in the ancient vigor of our culture was the fine spire of life mounting into the eternal existence, became latterly its top-heavy dome and tended under the weight of its bare and imposing sublimity to crush the rest of the edifice."

Although Aurobindo's vision was of a harmonious and peaceful international community inspired by Hinduism's spiritual grace and maturity, he was quite impatient with what he called the "fanatics of pacifism" whose myopia threatened this lofty goal. Aurobindo understood, as pacifists like Gandhi did not, that the international community was still a menacing state of nature. Aggressive national actors were always ready to fill, as Thucydides said in Greece over 2 millennia ago, any potential vacuum including the one in India. Therefore, for the Hindu warrior warfare could be an elevating experience if the conflict safeguarded the "principle of right, justice, and law which shall be the basis of the harmony towards which the struggle ends."

Nationalists like Aurobindo, in other words, were not foolish enough to believe that Islamic armies, or armies from the West for that matter, wouldn't continue to take advantage of India's "top-heavy" orientation toward gentle, non-violent renunciation. A "handful" of British occupiers for example managed to turn much of India's northern provinces into an opium industry. From here British entrepreneurs derived the powerful narcotic that British troops eventually helped to cram into the veins of helpless Chinese addicts during the Opium Wars of the 1840s. Aurobindo argued that pacifism can do nothing to root out the causes of war or oppression. Indeed, he said, the non-violent approach may be responsible for extending the shelf-life of international conflict:

"It is not enough that our own hands should remain clean and our souls unstained for the law of strife and destruction to die out of the world; that which is at its root must first disappear out of humanity. Much less will mere immobility and inertia unwilling to use or incapable of using any kind of resistance to evil abrogate the law."

Aurobindo and other nationalists recognized that traditions of renunciation in India together with the gentle wisdom contained in Buddhism, Jainism, and the inward-searching Upanishads had conditioned Hindu men to meet foreign aggression with passive resistance. This "top-heavy dome" of the spirit in other words had smothered the more aggressive and warlike features of the Hindu edifice. In fact, the roughly 4th century B.C. Bhagavad-Gita -- considered to be the "Hindu bible" -- highlights the spiritual adventures of Hinduism's greatest warrior in history, Arjuna. (Arjuna is something like a combination of Achilles and Socrates -- on steroids). In the Bhagavad-Gita, or "Song of God," Krishna - an incarnation of God - persuades Arjuna, through the lush philosophy characteristic of Hinduism's greatest thinkers that he should choose to fight when threatened by subjugation and injustice. In one famous passage Krishna tells Arjuna:

"Happy are the Kshatriyas (warriors) O Arjuna, for whom such a war comes of its own accord as an open door to heaven."

Indeed, of the four traditional castes in Hindu culture, the warrior caste, or Kshatryia, was created by God to be the "arms" or protectors of society. Their courageous protection and sacrifice allowed members of the other castes such as the Shudras (servants), Vaishyas (merchants), and Brahmins (priests) to accrue spiritual merit in the successive lives that would eventually result in the rediscovery of God as the ground of each person's entire being. God is telling Arjuna that to fulfill his caste obligations he should not shrink from battle. To be overrun by enemies would be to threaten the entire soul-making process at the heart of every individual Hindu's journey back to God.

The problem many modern Hindu nationalists noticed however is that those with the highest spiritual discipline and merit, the Brahmin priests, fulfilled their caste obligations by renouncing the same ties to nation and family that provided the bulwark against foreign invaders. By renouncing all earthly attachments -- including violence and anger -- in the pursuit of God those at the top of the Hindu hierarchy provided an example that was troublesome to the warrior's maintenance of national integrity. Simply put, it meant that the very existence of nationhood was an impediment to rediscovering God. This left India at the mercy of Western and Islamic civilizations, both of which had no problems combining religion and statecraft in the pursuit of their national interests...

Muslim and British conquerors met little resistance in a culture that had become, in Aurobindo's words, so spiritually top-heavy as to make any kind of violence a nauseating prospect... Nationalists like Aurobindo and Vivekenanda reminded Hindus however to evaluate for themselves the efficacy of pacifism. Weakness only invites invasion. Warrior energy, or rajas as the Hindus call it, is a normal and natural part of cultural survival... For Aurobindo, until that day arrives -- the day when we're all content enough to "stay with pleasure at home" -- a nation would be foolish to let its guard down in the name of "progress." 29 Comments on "When elites eschew defense: The case of India" About Us © American Thinker 2008 # Edward Kaitz, Lecturer University of San Francisco Philosophy Department 2130 Fulton Street San Francisco, CA 94117-1080(415) 422-5833 (415) 422-5356 Fax Office: CA D6 Office Hours: W-F 7:30am-9:00am (World Fare)

Saturday, December 06, 2008

India also produced intellects like Rammohun Roy, Sri Aurobindo and M.N. Roy

Of iffy gurus and mystic sufis Khushwant Singh HT December 05, 2008

I was reading Paul Johnson’s Intellectuals for the second time. It’s a highly readable series of essays on the role of intellectuals in Europe and the United States. The writings of some of them like Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzche, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Leo Tolstoy, Jean-Paul Sartre and Bertrand Russell had a profound and lasting effect on generations of Europeans and Americans.

India also produced intellects like Rammohun Roy, Sri Aurobindo and M.N. Roy. It has also some highly educated and perceptive thinkers today. But their impact on Indian society has been, and is, marginal. Why ?

I can assign two reasons for the failure of our intellectuals to change society. One is that all of them wrote in English that barely 10 per cent of educated Indians can read and comprehend. The masses never get to know about them. The second, and the more important factor in isolating intellectuals was, and is, the fact that the vast majority of our countrymen look up to their gurus or godmen for guidance because they speak their language.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Jean Yves talks about how Auroville sustains itself without any internal circulation of money

A society without monney?
Written by Radio Team Friday, 28 November 2008

Jean Yves is a teacher in French, Sanskrit and the economy and has lived in Auroville since 1993. In this interview he talks about the methods that Auroville uses in order to sustain itself without any internal circulation of money. He talks about the difficulties of measuring economic production and consumption but also the manner in which Auroville manages to make a profit and have a surplus of goods even without any commercial margin. To download this program click here.

Caring for Village Children
Written by Radio Team Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Sathyamurthy and Anbu are from Ediyanchavadi. They both work at Thamarai in the role of social worker. Sathyamurthy also works at the Botanical Garden as an environmental teacher. He explains Thamarai's activities: what they are doing for the people, children and adults. Nearly one hundred children attend, learning different classes such as dance, drama, yoga, pottery, sports, mathematics, and so on. Kathy and Bridget are the two main persons who started Thamarai in Edaiyanchavadi; they have worked hard to develop its activities. To download this program (in Tamil) click here.

Government philanthropy based on paper money is from the poor to the rich

End False Philanthropy from ANTIDOTE by Sauvik

My column entitled "The Curse of False Philanthropy" has just appeared in Mint. It shows how we are all steeped in the "moral sentiment" of Sympathy for the poor, and discusses how this Sympathy is being exploited on all sides - by beggars, by charities and, most importantly, by governments. Especially the government of India, which claims to be a monopolist on poverty.

The article shows that government philanthropy based on paper money entrenches poverty. In other words, the "redistribution" that actually transpires is from the poor to the rich - the very opposite direction to that which politicians claim. The article is a must read for all those who truly want to "help the poor." To read the entire article, click here.

Turn Veggie to Save the World from Mirror of Tomorrow by RY Deshpande

Nobel Prize-winning Indian scientist Rajendra Pachauri and musician Sir Paul McCartney have teamed up to urge people to become vegetarian to save the planet from the greenhouse gases created by rearing livestock...

Peter Singer from Critical Animal by Scu
I recently finished teaching Peter Singer's Animal Liberation to my The Animal and the Ethical class...

I didn't particularly care for the book when I read it last, partially because I was full of a new found poststructuralist hatred of utilitarianism, and partially because even though I was a promoter of vegetarianism, it was all about the environment and nothing about animals themselves. Reading it now, I am really taken with it. Sure, there are large parts I disagree with or would do differently (and his short history of specisism reveals how much better at genealogy people on this side of the philosophical divide are at that sort of thing), but it's smart, politically compelling, a strong mixture of nuance and moral outrage.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

How religionification occurs, and reverse-engineer it

Re: Explanation of my Stand wrt The Lives of Sri Aurobindo
by Angiras on Mon 24 Nov 2008 11:08 PM PST Profile Permanent Link

Thank you, Rick, for your thoughtful comments on the potential of Peter's book to reach a wide variety of people, especially in the West. Much of its value is due, of course, to what you said: "The biographer, a good one like Peter, anyway, does not bind readers to his own set of views and limitations, but presents an approach through following which readers discover for themselves the subject of the biography and what he stands for, and the path he opens." Unfortunately, there are some who seem unable to appreciate this and expect a biographer to be a preacher.

Outside the circles of devotees, I expect this book to have at least as positive an impact in India as in America, once the publisher gets over the legal hurdles. As the late Dr. Nadkarni pointed out in an article entitled "Sri Aurobindo and the Indian Intelligentsia", there are four main categories of intellectuals in India who have been largely hostile or at best indifferent to Sri Aurobindo: the Hindu religious establishment, the Gandhians, the politically non-committed but Eurocentric academics and the Leftists. These account for much of the intelligentsia of the country.

With the publication of the Lives, we can look forward to a slowly increasing awareness of Sri Aurobindo in America, but in India the book is likely to attract immediate attention. Peter Heehs is one of the few writers on Sri Aurobindo who has earned some respect in academic circles. His biography is written in a way that intellectuals can take seriously. It challenges negative stereotypes of Sri Aurobindo held by many of them and is sure to provoke discussion and reassessment of his place in India's political, cultural and spiritual history.

Apart from the academics, the book may appeal to many other educated Indians who have neither disowned their own culture nor fled for shelter from the challenges of the global age in a traditional religious mentality. Even in Sri Aurobindo Ashram, among the few who have had a chance to read the new biography, there are Indians who like it, including young ones from the big cities with cosmopolitan upbringings. But at present they hardly dare to admit it. Reply


Yoga, religion, and fundamentalism in the Integral Yoga Community by Lynda Lester Science, Culture and Integral Yoga on Sat 29 Nov 2008 04:51 PM PST Permanent Link
Yoga, religion, and fundamentalism in the Integral Yoga community
Opening remarks for a panel discussion at AUM 2007
June 23, 2007
Lynda Lester

Sri Aurobindo and Mother did not want to found a new religion... but we do see a few examples of fundamentalism:

  • Satprem is one, in my opinion: his later writings reduce the complexity of Integral Yoga to a simplistic formula, and are full of angry rants against nearly everyone—the Ashram, Auroville, traditional spiritual seekers, scientists, bureaucrats, and basically all of Western civilization.
  • The BJP party in India is part of a right-wing Hindu nationalist movement who are quoting a small subset of Sri Aurobindo’s writings to justify fundamentalist political agendas.
  • There’s a group suing the Archives department of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram for revising and updating Sri Aurobindo’s books which, they say, were perfect on first publication.
  • And finally, there’s a small but aggressive group of people following Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet who are into esoteric numerology and claim the Matrimandir is a temple of falsehood because the measurements are wrong.

Between the these two poles of “anything goes” on one side and fundamentalism on the other there are some conventional, traditional-type religious behaviors in the middle.
One of those is devotion, which we do see in the Integral Yoga community. On Darshan day, for instance, there are huge crowds filing through the samadhi at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Also, many of us do regard Mother and Sri Aurobindo as direct incarnations of the Divine, and we do have altars with photos of Mother and Sri Aurobindo in our homes.


Re: Explanation of my Stand wrt The Lives of Sri Aurobindo Lynda Lester Mon 01 Dec 2008 08:04 PM PST

What we're seeing trying to happen here is the creation of a religion out of something Sri Aurobindo and Mother said should never, ever become a religion. Getting the details straight of what has happened would be quite helpful so that at least the basic facts are there to inform more enlightened decision making, become more educated about how religionification occurs, reverse-engineer it in this instance if possible ... and, as Ned says, to become more transparent as a community. --Lynda

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The two great means of communication are language and money

‘Economic revolutions are always monetary’
from The Memory Bank by keith
Mauss, Polanyi and the breakdown of the neoliberal world economy
Anthropology in the financial crisis

Everybody knows that we are living through a hinge moment in world history, the financial crisis of 2008. The collapse of the credit boom has already had dramatic social consequences: the default and nationalization of banks, dramatic losses of personal savings and mortgage foreclosures on a massive scale...

The rise and fall of national capitalism
In order to understand the potential of our moment in history, we need to reflect on competing visions of the development of capitalism in the twentieth century and before. There is no more fruitful place to begin such reflection than Karl Polanyi’s masterpiece, The Great Transformation, published in 1944 and largely gestated in England during the 1930s. It opens with a highly selective account of the making of world society in the nineteenth century, a society that Polanyi not unreasonably considered to be lying in ruins as he wrote. Money was a central feature of all four pillars of this civilization. Polanyi identified the interest that had sustained a century of peace in Europe with what he insisted on calling haute finance...

The conditions Polanyi described for the decades leading up to the First World War have been closely replicated in the last quarter-century. As the smoke rises from the rubble of neoliberalism’s demise, we should revisit the story of national capitalism’s rise and fall; and Polanyi’s account of that earlier cycle has lost none of its fascination for us.

Money, much as Durkheim argued for religion, is the principal means for us all to bridge the gap between everyday personal experience and a society whose wider reaches are impersonal. Money is often portrayed as a lifeless object separated from persons, whereas it is a creation of human beings, imbued with the collective spirit of the living and the dead. Money, as a token of society, must be impersonal in order to connect individuals to the universe of relations to which they belong. But people make everything personal, including their relations with society. This two-sided relationship is universal, but its incidence is highly variable. Money in capitalist societies stands for alienation, detachment, impersonal society, the outside; its origins lie beyond our control (the market). Relations marked by the absence of money are the model of personal integration and free association, of what we take to be familiar, the inside (home). This institutional dualism, forcing individuals to divide themselves between production outside and consumption at home every day, asks too much of us. People want to integrate division, to make some meaningful connection between their own subjectivity and society as an object. It helps that money, as well as being the means of separating public and domestic life, was always the main bridge between the two. That is why money must be central to any attempt to humanize society. It is both the principal source of our vulnerability in society and the main practical symbol allowing each of us to make an impersonal world meaningful...

We also need ways of reaching the parts of the macro-economy that we don’t know, if we wish to avert the ruin they could bring down on us all. Perhaps this was what Simmel had in mind when he said that money is the concrete symbol of our human potential to make universal society.

The two great means of communication are language and money. Anthropologists have paid much attention to the first, which divides us more than it brings us together, but not to money whose potential for universal communication is more reliable, in addition to its well-advertised ability to symbolize and even generate differences between us. We cannot afford to neglect money’s potential for universal connection, choosing rather to demonize it as the source of our vulnerability to those who have a lot more of it. It is high time for us to return to a more inclusive philosophical tradition of anthropology, building on Kant’s example, but also on the neo-Kantianism of Durkheim, Mauss and Simmel in the early twentieth century . I have been driven to this conclusion by studying money as the most tangible manifestation of the new human universal that is our shared occupation of the planet.

Mauss and Polanyi
Do anthropologists have something to say about all this? It would help if we could bring the distributive consequences of finance down to a concrete level. Our readers might then be able to engage with money not as a superhuman force with devastating effects, but as the outcome of ideas and institutions that can and should be changed by human action. Kula objects have magical power for those who exchange them, but anthropologists have shown their social logic and instrumentality. We have always invented concepts to describe and explain social processes quite different from those familiar at home. The current crisis presents us with a compelling reason to do so again, this time in a global context. When others may be losing their heads, there are rich precedents in the anthropological literature for where to start.

We can do no better than to renew our engagement with the writings of Marcel Mauss and Karl Polanyi. The ideas of these foundational writers in economic anthropology have been sliced and diced – like mortgage debt – to serve different purposes over the years, but their perspectives on political economy can help us to make sense of the current situation and to recommend a path forward beyond market fundamentalism. Mauss’s reflections on money and exchange in The Gift have often been misunderstood. Probably his essay’s title and later academic discourse have obscured his concern there to use unconventional money forms to illuminate some potentially dangerous aspects of money forms based on capitalist corporations and the welfare state. Mauss was a cooperative socialist in the British tradition of the Rochdale Pioneers, Keir Hardie and the Webbs. He was a tremendous Anglophile and spent the war on the front line as a translator for British and Australian troops. He also kept a close eye on the cooperative movement in Switzerland and Germany. He lost part of his inheritance financing a cooperative bakery in Paris. But his metier was as a political journalist. His political writings were published together in 1997 and they run to 700 pages, about two-thirds of them written in 1920-25, the period when he wrote The Gift. He was anti-capitalist, but not anti-market. He was pleased that his uncle’s idea of an organic division of labour was extended to international economy after the war. He also tried his hand at financial journalism, notably in the context of the exchange rate crisis of 1922 when he wrote that “Economic revolutions are always monetary”, a pregnant comment whose implications I would like to apply to our present circumstances.

In analyzing practices such as the kula ring or potlatch, Mauss pointed to how monetary means were a crucial constituent of the social order. The social distinctions allocating rights to engage in different exchange institutions organized the monetary media and were organized by them in turn. Malinowski showed that not everyone had the right to engage in the kula ring; and this had particular implications for social rules and hierarchies. The imagined ‘force’ of the monetary ‘objects’ also defined the multiple but limited possibilities of the participants. If the ‘gift’ implied disinterest, it was in fact a site of sometimes violent power struggles. These helped to define, reproduce or transform the social order and even the boundaries of particular groups. Mauss observed, on the basis of these reflections, that in contemporary capitalism the wealthy classes acted increasingly as if they did not belong to a social order that made redistributive obligation a condition of their hierarchical privilege. Their amnesia when it came to the ‘gift’ was not just a function of power, but of an accumulation of power that considered itself to be socially unbounded. As a result, heightened strife put the social order itself at risk.

Although Polanyi’s analysis of how markets became disembedded from the rest of society, in The great transformation and after, is often thought of as a general critique of market relations, like Mauss he considered markets and money to be fundamental elements of any social order. He too contended that the classes who benefited from markets, particularly high finance in the decades before the First World War, neglected the interests of the rest of the population, with devastating consequences for society. The distribution of resources, according to him, should not be left to the search for profit in market relations, but needed also to acknowledge solidarity between all members of society. Like Mauss, Polanyi was concerned with the ideas that defined money, the rules of its use and the social distinctions that made its circulation possible and legitimate. Above all, he identified the historical dialectic or ‘double movement’ whereby the drive of capitalists to escape from social constraints met the countervailing power of classes and institutions (such as those adhering to the welfare state) acting in society’s self-defense. Polanyi analyzed the specific effects of shifts in the distribution of resources, showing how this was the object of violent power struggles culminating in untold human misery and the protracted death of a civilization. Anthropologists following him would thus explore how the social struggles over money are understood by the participants, and with what consequences for distribution itself. This would offer a critique of the pretense that economics is not social or political; beyond that, it would constitute a research programme.

The two authors could be said to be complementary. Mauss reminds us that monetary relations may be understood by analysing how the objects of exchange and the social roles of the participants are defined. This process is not restricted to the political utopias of liberalism. As much as the kula was a particular way to understand political economy in the Western Pacific, the ‘rationality’ of homo economicus is just another version of this, not simply a human universal to be accepted without reflection. Polanyi drew attention to how economic institutions organize and are in turn organized by a plurality of distribution mechanisms that, in the modern world, affect the lives of millions of people who participate in them, without being granted any measure of control. This led him to highlight the inequality created by these institutions, as they swing between the poles of market and state, of society’s external and internal relations. In the current crisis, the immediate reaction is to turn to a variety of government institutions with Keynesian redistribution in mind, flipping the coin from tails to heads as it were, instead of insisting that states and the markets have to work together in less one-sided ways than before. To this end, Polanyi’s call for a return to social solidarity, drawing especially on the voluntary reciprocity of associations, reminds us that people in general must be mobilized to contribute their energies to the renewal of society. It is not enough to rely on impersonal states and markets.

Polanyi and Mauss made sure that their more abstract understandings of political economy were grounded in the everyday lives of concrete people, thereby lending to field research the power of general ideas. I have already noted a significant stream of recent research on aspects of capitalism, but anthropologists have largely left the global effects of an unequal distribution of money, the class conflict between rich and poor everywhere, to other branches of the academic division of labour, especially to economists of whatever political persuasion. There are rich precedents for the anthropological study of distribution in particular contexts, but we still tend to privilege the rural inhabitants of the former colonial empires and settle for cultural representations of isolated social fragments.

The missing link between the everyday and the world at large can be found in the work of Polanyi and Mauss. An unblinking focus on distribution at every level from the global to the local reveals how the social consequences of political economy and the way it is understood by those who make it are one and the same social process. The current crisis renders this insight particularly visible, since it challenges contemporary financial ideas, while its tangible distributive effects are felt and feared throughout the world. We are clearly witnessing a power struggle of potentially awesome consequences. Each new political response to the latest economic calamity evokes the spectre of the Great Depression and its bloody aftermath. The mask of neo-liberal ideology has been ripped from the politics of world economy.

Money in the making of world society
What light do Mauss and Polanyi throw on the part played by markets and money in the making of world society? Mauss held that the attempt to create a free market for private contracts is utopian and just as unrealizable as its antithesis, a collective based solely on altruism. Human institutions everywhere are founded on the unity of individual and society, freedom and obligation, self-interest and concern for others. The pure types of selfish and generous economic action obscure the complex interplay between our individuality and belonging in subtle ways to others. He was highly critical of the Bolsheviks’ destruction of confidence in the expanded sense of sociability that sustained the market economy. In his view, markets and money were human universals whose principal function was the extension of society beyond the local sphere, even if they did not always take the impersonal form we are familiar with. This was why, in a long footnote to The Gift, he disputed Malinowski’s assertion that kula valuables could not be considered to be money. Mauss advocated an ‘economic movement from below’, in the form of syndicalism, co-operation and mutual insurance. The true significance for him of finding elements of the archaic gift in contemporary capitalism was to refute the revolutionary eschatology of both right and left. Most of the possibilities for a human economy already co-exist in our world; so the task is to build new combinations with a different emphasis, not to repudiate a caricature of the market in the name of a radical alternative. Here Mauss follows Hegel — rather than Aristotle or Marx — in seeking the integration of institutional possibilities that have been variously dominant in history rather than representing them as mutually exclusive historical stages.

Mauss was interested in how we make society where it didn’t exist before. Hence we offer gifts on first dates or on diplomatic missions to foreign powers. How do we push the limits of society outwards? For him money and markets were intrinsic to this process. Hence giving personalized valuables could be considered to be an exchange of money objects if we operate with a broader definition than one based on impersonal currencies and focus rather on the function of their transfer, the extension of society beyond the local level. This helps to explain his claim that “economic revolutions are always monetary”, meaning that they push us into unknown reaches of society and require new money forms and practices to bridge the gap. The combination of neoliberal globalization and the digital revolution has led to a rapid expansion of money, markets and telecommunications, all reinforcing each other in a process that has extended society beyond its national form, making it much more unequal and unstable in the process.

All economic possibilities coexist now, including those that have been variously dominant in history. Our task is to build economic solidarity through new institutional combinations and with a new emphasis. This is a concept that animates much progressive intervention in Brazil and France, as well as a new collection produced by the US Social Forum. It means combining the equal reciprocity of freely self-organized groups with the redistributive powers of the state. It is, however, no longer obvious, as it was for Mauss, Polanyi and Keynes, where the public levers of democratic power are to be located, since the global explosion of money, markets and telecommunications over the last three decades has severely exposed the limitations of national frameworks of economic management. We are clearly witnessing the start of another long swing in the balance between state and market. Before long, a genuine revival of Keynesian redistributive politics seems to be inevitable. But the imbalances of the money system are now global, as the financial rescue operation recently performed on failing American banks by the ‘sovereign funds’ of some Asian and Middle Eastern governments shows. Society is already taking the form of large regional trading blocs like the EU, NAFTA, ASEAN and Mercosul; and the Bretton Woods institutions (World Bank, IMF, WTO) promote no interest beyond that of western capital. The strength of any push to reform global institutions will depend on the severity of the current economic crisis. A return to the national solutions of the 1930s is bound to fail.

Conclusions: Polanyi’s prophecy then and now
So what are the lessons to be drawn from comparing our situation with the one Polanyi depicted before? He explained the world crisis then as the outcome of a previous round of what many today would call “globalization”. There are substantial parallels between the last three decades and a similar period before 1914. In both cases, market forces were unleashed within national societies, leading to rapid capital accumulation and an intensification of economic inequality. Finance capital led the internationalization of economic relations and people migrated in large numbers all over the world. Money seemed to be the dominant social force in human affairs; and this could be attributed to its greater freedom of movement as the boundaries of society were extended outwards, then by colonial empire, now by the digital revolution and transnational corporations. The main difference is that the late nineteenth century saw the centralization of politics and production in a bureaucratic revolution, while a century later these same bureaucracies were being dismantled by neoliberal globalization. Moreover, the immediate winner of ‘the second thirty years war’ (1914-1945) was a strengthened national capitalism whose synthesis of state and market was hardly anticipated by Polanyi.

It is odd that Polanyi appears sometimes to reduce the structures of national capitalism to an apolitical ’self-regulating market’. For his analysis of money, markets and the liberal state was intensely political, as was his preference for social planning over the market. His war-time polemic, reproducing something of his opponents’ abstractions, was more a critique of liberal economics than a realistic account of actually existing capitalism. This would explain the lingering confusion over whether he thought a ‘disembedded’ market was possible or just a figment of liberal ideology, ‘market fundamentalism’. Similarly, one could argue either that neoliberalism did effectively disembed the market economy or that its claim to have done so was a mystification of the fact that markets were still embedded in largely invisible political processes. In either case, the postwar turn to ‘embedded liberalism’ (Harvey) or social democracy — what I have called the apogee of national capitalism — is only weakly illuminated by The Great Transformation.

I have made much here of Mauss’s idea that the principal function of money and markets is to extend society beyond its present limits. Thus Malinowski’s ethnography of the kula ring could be taken as a metaphor for the world economy of his day, with island economies that were not self-sufficient being drawn into trade with each other by means of personalized exchange of valuables between local leaders. These canoe expeditions were dangerous and magical because their crews were temporarily outside the realm of normal society. This always happens when society’s frontiers are pushed rapidly outwards, as they have time and time again in the last two centuries and long before that. The period of ‘neoliberal financialization’ could be compared with previous episodes in the history of global capitalism, such as the dash to build continental railroads, the gold strikes in California, Alaska and South Africa or the wild rubber boom of the mid- to late nineteenth century. There are many analogous episodes to be found in the mercantilist economies that emerged during the period 1500-1800, notoriously the ‘South Sea bubble’ and the ‘Tulips craze’. Similarly, the last three decades saw a rapid extension of society’s frontiers after the postwar convergence of state and market in national capitalism reached its limit in the 1970s. The quick wealth and cowboy entrepreneurship we have just witnessed was made possible by the absence of regulation in a period of global economic expansion. The end of the bubble marks an opportunity to consider how world markets might now be organized in the general interest.

It is easy enough to harp on the irrational excess and sheer inequality of the neoliberal era — the heedless speculation, corporate skullduggery, outrageous looting of public assets, not-so-creative destruction of nature and society. But there are lasting institutional effects, just as there were to previous booms which generated transport and communication systems; a mildly inflationary gold standard; new industrial uses for rubber; stock markets and colonial empires. I have suggested here that the extension of society to a more inclusive level has positive features; and, before we demonize money and markets, we should try to turn them to institutional ends that benefit us all. The world economy is more integrated than it was even two decades ago; we need new principles of political association with which to put in place more effective regulatory frameworks. Fragmentation would be a disaster. Clearly the political questions facing humanity today concern distributive justice. The long period of Western dominance of the world economy is coming to an end. New actors on the world stage will have their say about who gets what. An escalation of war and general fractiousness is quite likely. Under these circumstances, a focus on the socially redemptive qualities of money and markets might be quite salutary. In this constructive sense, I depart from Polanyi’s conclusions; but I fear that his time as a prophet is yet to come.