sábado, 21 de septiembre de 2013

sábado, 17 de agosto de 2013

Roma en llamas / Rome in flames

El agotamiento del liberalismo como discurso hegemónico, víctima legítima de su éxito, corre el riesgo de ser cooptado por fuerzas pre-liberales.  Por ello es urgente el desarrollar una distinción entre post y pre-liberalismo.  Hay que tenerlo claro: pre-liberalismo es peor que liberalismo; así como la sabiduría (la memoria), si tiene coraje, no tiene precio.

The anachronism of liberalism as an hegemonic ideology, victim of his own success, risks being exploited by pre-liberal regimes.  That's why is urgent to study the latter and decide what can be useful or not for post-liberalism.  With this fine distinction one can advance more safely in the post-liberal revolution.

lunes, 5 de agosto de 2013

Economics in a full world, by Herman E. Daly

Link (.pdf)

"Young, growing ecosystems have a tendency to maximize growth efficiency measured by production per unit of existing biomass. In mature ecosystems the emphasis shifts to maximizing maintenance efficiency, measured by how much existing biomass is maintained per unit of new production--the inverse of production efficiency." 

"[...] When all these adjustments are made, the result is the index of sustainable economic welfare [ISEW], as developed by Clifford W. Cobb and John B. Cobb, Jr., and related measures. These indices have been used by ecological economists but are largely ignored by others in the field."

miércoles, 29 de mayo de 2013

Notas sobre populismo(s)

No debe confundirse el populismo anglosajón con el latinoamericano. Ambos combaten cosas diferentes.  El populismo anglosajón tiene como principales derroteros el elitismo político-intelectual, entre sus enemigos esta el conservadurismo ilustrado. También ataca al socialismo pero anglosajón, y solo en los últimos tiempos, con la innegable migración, al populismo latinoamericano.  Lo que es más, el populismo americano defiende el hiperliberalismo (dirán los liberales que eso no existe), no exactamente el ethos del populismo latinamericano.  Por otro lado, el populismo latinoamericano tiene como principales derroteros al neocolonialismo; no tanto al capitalismo burgués de factura anglosajona, ni mucho menos a la (otrora?) burguesía europea del estado de bienestar.  A la hora de defender o atacar el populismo latinoamericano desde una postura intelectual –con su equilibrio entre sensibilidad política y filosófica– se deben incorporar estas distinciones histórico-coyunturales y desde allí establecer las alianzas discursivas.  Su proyección trascendente debe ser gradual, las discontinuidades precipitan los anacronismos.

lunes, 15 de abril de 2013

A Centralized Policy for Behavioral Value

Why is there pain and pleasure? Wouldn't be enough with one of them? If you expose your skin to fire, the absence of pleasure will not guarantee your instinct of protection. Well, unless your body is filled with pleasure every time it stays away of the flame, but that would be too expensive in terms of body energy. For that same reason we shouldn't expect to find in ubiquitous pain a stimulus for action. But what if action is the stable social state, then it has sense for pain to be associated to the lack of action. As a social invention, action may have different meanings; a modern society may nurture action for change (innovation) while actions for preservation would be nurtured by tradition. The ordering of modern societies may have achieved a "critical mass" allowing some traditional ordering mechanisms to be relaxed (phase transition/dynamic stability/"positive to negative pressure transition and the cohesion of society").

 Whenever we make something ubiquitous, no matter if at the beginning is associated with pain or pleasure, on the long run it will become emotionally neutral. That is why designed stimulus for action have to be carefully crafted. If a person is used to a condition that to your eyes is painful, you shouldn't expect that person to respond in the same way as you. That is why to stimulate population which is used to not having regular or productive jobs, even if they live in poor conditions for certain standards, you must first get them used to better conditions. Is not like they will tell you they are living well if you ask them, they may deny it for other reasons. But with exceptions, those latter reasons on the long run are not the ones that determine crucial economic action.

 The closer are the living conditions between people, the closer will the criteria of stimuli be. Creating a standard of living conditions and allowing slight fluctuations leads to the ideal regime of behavioral economics where there is a standardized form of behavioral value. This is similar to the role of central banks with regard to the value of national currency: stabilization and estimuli. This analogy not only provides a reference for policy but also for analysis. 

miércoles, 3 de abril de 2013

Materialism Beyond Class

[In the following text I refer to Marx and Engel rather rhetorically. In other words, I don't know these guys. I also reflect on a debate which is rather outdated. As a matter of fact, if I were you I'd ask myself: what am I doing reading this?]

I do believe in materialism and I do acknowledge Marx and Engel's ideas on the subject; what I'm critical of the them and specially of some of the orthodox ghosts they left is that they landed too quickly the general idea of materialism into a specific historical form, that of class struggle. I'm fine with the idea of landing general ideas –although I believe that it is a task that not always has to be undertaken by the same author– and I realized that all forms of praxis will lead to historical incarnations, my concern on marxism is that it failed to emphasize the historical nature of that particular body which is class [1]. I recognize this is a cumbersome issue as it may facilitate an argument to critics with bad faith, but is also important for those socialists with an honest interest to explore the possibilities of social change with a sense of responsibility. Once the socialist regime has taken place a whole new set of social conditions are at place and the need for sociological guidance becomes just as imperative as during revolutionary times. Is not just the formulation of a new economy; one needs a new ego; the utopian counterpart of the revolutionary proletarian; a subject rooted within relations of production but still holding an emancipatory conscience. This is lacking in a depiction of post-revolution. Is difficult to blame Marx for this, after all he had more urgent tasks [2]. But this is an issue that marxism would have to settle eventually. Should we wait for the new conditions to asses this new ego? If we do, then how to distinguish the issues we should anticipate and those for which is wise to wait after revolution?

[Interlude: Marx and Engel talk about the historic rise of socialist revolution; one may use this account to explore how would it be the evanescence of the socialist myth. The future may bring conditions resembling a pre-revolutionary society, not as a reversal of civilization, but as a rediscovery of former lifestyles within an hyper-modern setting. Something similar to McLuhan's new tribal.]

Post-revolutionary debates may show new insights that hegemonic thinking hides today, but we need to be careful not to use the future as the rug to sweep under the seeming contradictions of our utopian visions. In a world of increasing ecological power, proving right one of this contradictions may have catastrophic results if undertaken at too large scales (as indeed we can). I don't pretend to discourage all  forms of revolution; although we've seen catastrophes before, we may also be seeing them now. They may not show off in the form of an alien flag, we no longer die in the battlefield. In a time of peace and modern medicine we've learned that death still makes his way by walking squat. But if you pay attention you may still hear it before is too late.

[1] Precisely that is where feminist theory comes to the rescue... I guess.

[2] I guess Marx tried this on his early writings, before becoming mature.

martes, 2 de abril de 2013

Please excuse my solemnity; I cannot help it

Within my generation to persist in political literature is an anachronism. In my defense I'd say that in my life politics came before writing; there's no reason why I should pay tribute to literature. There is nevertheless an anachronism; my approach to politics. I belong to the theater of morality in a time of behavioral economics. I'm unable to go beyond the last –perhaps the only– debate of moral politics, that of realism against utopians. I'm not alone and I'm not sure if that is a motive of hope. Behavioral economics proved to be something far from utopian; surprisingly, it has also proved to be far from what we understood as realism.

viernes, 22 de marzo de 2013

Conversaciones en La Catedral

What I'd I like to ask Mario Vargas Llosa...

Is there a place for radical change in your vision of a liberal society? 

Please, before answering I want to point out why I believe this question matters and why it has sense, even if at the very end is contradictory. 

Your defense of liberalism is emphatic in opposing reformism to almost any form of radicalism. One may understand this as a needed emphasis given that a major obstacle of liberalism in regions like Latin America is our obsession with revolution; seen often as the only vehicle of politics, as if under its epic aura we could bypass the burden of dealing with policy and leadership disappointments. Which of course, would not be a burden if it wouldn't carry as corollary a deception on our own identity. 

I want to know, not just if you are aware that liberalism has a place for radical change but if this consideration has played a role on your speech. Or if is just something you know but don't bother to bring about.

By the places of radical change in a liberal society I think of the market. Seemingly, the only one with the blessing to take society into unknown places. It does so in the form of new financial products or the nurturing of new consumption habits. We not only allow the market to destroy traditions, often celebrate it as a conquest of modernity. Your writing on the devastating effects of popular culture to the humanist intellectual tradition suggest that you are not always in favor of the cultural "innovation" coming from the marketing of cultural products, or the culture of marketing products. Should we expect of a liberal politics and economy only an enhancement, a greater fulfillment of our traditional anxieties, as projected in politics and culture in general, or is there a room for tectonic displacements comprising the very core of their strategies and purposes?

I said it was a contradictory question, but it has a lot of sense in its relative solutions. On the one hand we have the paroxysm of the "place for radicalism" in the circus: from the roman arena to the Santiago Bernabéu. On the other, we have the notion of innovation which in the realm of financial economy and consumption technologies enjoy unprecedented freedoms, hardly found in the realm of politics which seems to recreate the kind of radicalism akin to the Bernabéu. As  for the contradiction, as you surely understand, lies in the fact that the most profound revolutions do not only lead to totally unpredictable futures but come from totally unpredictable places, beyond the intricate but still compact territories of the stock market or a bourgeois public sphere.

One last thing. Lets recall that the market is not the only place for radical change within liberalism. As many other modern (dis)utopias, there's also room for technological disruption. Even then we seem at the mercy of the market as it sets the criteria on whether new discoveries or technologies are to become social realities. I'm not just talking about your personal robotic assistant but also vaccines and therapies for cancer.

jueves, 28 de febrero de 2013

Perspectivas provinciales (1a Parte)

¿Qué lugar ocupa la vida rural dentro de la narrativa moderna, posmoderna, su existencia más allá de etiquetas y su proyección histórica? Esa periferia que suele ser llamada lo rural y suburbano. La respuesta no es estática, son categorías que sufren los avatares de la historia. La asimetría entre lo rural y lo urbano es ya patente en el registro migratorio. Y si bien el transfondo es la desigualdad económica, también hay una asimetría mediática e ideológica. El citadino moderno ve lo rural como inferior, perteneciente a un pasado que precisa distanciamiento. El citadino posmoderno es algo más complejo en su relación con lo rural. Puede llegar a verlo como algo superior pero aún se debate entre una valoración romántica y una de vanguardia, ambas muy distintas. Mientras la primera idealiza lo rural como un regreso a la vida tradicional, la segunda ve un potencial que requiere de proyección y transformación hacia nuevos horizontes. Diferente, este último de la conquista, que transforma hacia lo conocido. En el ideal romántico lo rural es bueno porque no es urbano (sencillez social, aire fresco, ausencia de ruido, etc.), lo que contrasta con las vanguardias rurales de ecologistas y socialistas utópicos, y las vanguardias suburbanas de la clase media industrial, de académicos y visionarios empresariales y políticos (un sector bastante reducido de la población hasta el punto de hacer francamente sospechosa su referencia).

Pienso que la Ilustración y la modernidad de posguerra del siglo XX le deben mucho al ethos del suburbio. Y es que el suburbio no solo es un lugar geográfico, esa es la forma concreta que toma en el siglo XX, ya en épocas anteriores este ethos tenía morada en las reflexiones que contrastaban la vida rural con las nuevas costumbres de la urbe; relatos de viajeros, comerciantes que se nutrían del intercambio entre la ciudad y el campo. La pureza conceptual de la máquina y la integridad de la existencia rural remiten no solo a los pensadores Ilustrados como Rousseau, Diderot o Descartes, pero al mismo Renacimiento, a Brunelleschi, Da Vinci o Miguel Angel. Debo aclarar que mi defensa de la vanguardia no se reduce a la apología del virtuosismo. Para mí este último es acaso una revelación profética. Bien se hace en desafiar la vanguardia solipsista por su realización colectiva.

A veces temo que el habitante rural este condenado a una existencia bovina, un destino absolutamente subordinado a la voluntad del hombre de ciudad. Cómo ignorar el historial de parasitismo, de depredación de las ciudades sobre la producción campesina (alimento y talento humano). Bien parece que la conflictiva relación entre el campo y la ciudad es de nuevo el lugar histórico del colonialismo, la ciudad-estado. Y es que en lo cultural la asimetría es abrumadora; si acaso el citadino consume cultura rural lo hace bajo la ironía kitsch o la nostalgia, nunca como sentimiento de vanguardia y mucho menos de irreverencia. Pero la población rural no siempre ha sido víctima, también ha tenido su momento de victimario, al menos eso es lo que sugiere la idea del fascismo como proyección (modernidad) del ethos rural. Pienso en Heidegger y su vulnerabilidad al encanto fascista; pienso en Mao y su socialismo de sello campesino; pienso en Charles Fourier, de quién Vargas Llosa hace un magnífico recuento I, II; o en ejemplos más recientes como el cinturón bíblico (Bible Belt), parte de la base social de la dinastía Bush. En general la población rural es aún una parte importante del conservadurismo político de muchas naciones. Pero hay que desconfiar de la desconfianza a la modernidad provincial que despiertan las vanguardias planeadas. Esos maosimos terminan por implantar solo simulacros de la vida campesina. También hay que desconfiar del mercado que presenta al campesino como un consumidor de nostalgias (el hombre Marlboro y sus reencarnaciones). Es precisamente la vanguardia colectiva, la promesa no cumplida de la posmodernidad.

Ya se me antoja percibir un incipiente conservadurismo en los habitantes de la metrópoli, que en su turbulento amor por la gran ciudad se vuelven autoreferenciales. Finalmente han encontrado su tierra prometida. Cierran sus ojos o simulan estar abiertos bajo esa digestión de lo rural que es el exotismo. Mientras tanto el ciudadano de la provincia tiene el problema opuesto, es vulnerable a toda influencia, incapaz de desarrollar su propia narrativa. Pero hablar de enamorados de la metrópoli tal vez solo aplique a citadinos de primera generación. ¿Cómo evolucionan las figuraciones de la ciudad a través de las generaciones? Esa ya es otra historia, como también la de narrar los diferentes cosmopolitanismos, porque esta el de marineros, de pioneros y funcionarios imperiales, de inmigrantes económicos y exiliados políticos, de nómadas y errantes, eruditos de la tradición intelectual y hasta de la más moderna cultura popular (esa libertad que aprendió a cabalgar las balas sentada en un sillón).