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The awful new Oireachtas web site July 13, 2018

Posted by Tomboktu in Complete nonsense, Crazed nonsense..., Democracy, Luddite protest, Uncategorized.
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Who the f*** in their right f***ing mind f***ing would ever the-f*** think the f***ing useless new f***ing design of the f***ing g*d f***ing awful f***ing Oireachtas f***ing website was a good idea?

A basic starting point they missed: most of it is essentially a reference library of texts: dull, boring but important speeches, parliamentary questions, bills, amendments and other procedural documents which nerds, activists, scholars, civil servants, and (some) journalists and (some) politicians need to look up. The main content of parliamentary proceedings is not graphic-led — it is driven by the spoken and written word — and the removal of documents like the sedate boring PDFs of the debates in favour of the large chunky font size hip-to-the-groove ‘infographic’ that might fit well on a news magazine’s web site (albeit a decade ago) is just not suitable for presenting sober, technical, official records to the public.

Form won over function there.

Class essentialism January 17, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Class, Culture, Economy.
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Here’s an interesting piece on Slate that deals with perceptions of class essentialism, i.e. beliefs that genetic and or other factors determine class position. It’s unsurprising to discover that those who perceive themselves to be in “higher” class positions hold to this view more than those who perceive themselves to be in “lower” class positions. Discussing how Boris Johnson suggested that inequality can be linked to some degree to IQ when he said “I am afraid that [the] violent economic centrifuge [of competition] is operating on human beings who are already very far from equal in raw ability,”, Matthew Hutson – who wrote the piece – notes that:

That’s a satisfying worldview for someone who is successful and considers himself unusually bright.

As Hutson also notes, though, those in the top percentage of household earnings are unlikely to be ‘200 times as smart as the rest of the field… or have the capacity to work 200 times more hours in the week’ and therefore other factors including luck enter the picture.

Hutson continues:

But say you’re in that top 0.01 percent—or even the top 50 percent. Would you want to admit happenstance as a benefactor? Wouldn’t you rather believe that you earned your wealth, that you truly deserve it? Wouldn’t you like to think that any resources you inherited are rightfully yours, as the descendant of fundamentally exceptional people? Of course you would. New research indicates that in order to justify your lifestyle, you might even adjust your ideas about the power of genes. The lower classes are not merely unfortunate, according to the upper classes; they are genetically inferior.

Now, I’ve noted previously how this line of thinking is coming into vogue. Only recently Prospect had a most confused article on same where a sort of class essentialism was reflected in a belief that class structures and social mobility, or lack of same, reflected some sort of intrinsic intellectual, educational and work/career aptitude – an attitude that was obviously in error one would think but one which wasn’t for the most part picked up on the Prospect website by those commenting on it, or in letters subsequently. And worse again this was part of a broader ‘discussion’ which Hutson notes:

A top adviser to the U.K.’s education secretary just produced a report arguing that “discussions on issues such as social mobility entirely ignore genetics.” He claimed that school performance is as much as 70 percent genetic and criticized England’s Sure Start program as a waste of money. (As Scott Barry Kaufman, an intelligence researcher at NYU and the author of Ungifted, points out, “Since genes are always interacting with environmental triggers, there is simply no way to parse how much of an individual child’s performance is due to nature or nurture.”)

Hutson suggests that:

There is a grain of truth to social class essentialism; the few studies on the subject estimate that income, educational attainment, and occupational status are perhaps at least 10 percent genetic (and maybe much more). It makes sense that talent and drive, some portion of which are related to genetic variation, contribute to success.

But as he concludes:

… that’s a far cry from saying “It is possible to determine one’s social class by examining his or her genes.” Such a statement ignores the role of wealth inheritance, the social connections one shares with one’s parents, or the educational opportunities family money can buy—not to mention strokes of good or bad luck (that are not tied to karma).

One can quibble slightly about the use of the term ‘social’ as if this is divorced from economic, though as can be seen he’s not ignoring economic factors.

And there are other issues too. There’s been such a massive social and societal churn in the last few centuries that concepts of genetic inheritance determining class position are deeply unlikely, frankly the changing nature of societies has been too great to allow of that. Take this state as an example where the self-perceived uppermost layer in class terms was effectively sidelined in the independence struggle. Hard to argue any sort of class essentialism in regard to their right of inheritance or intrinsic excellence.

Hutson, unhappily, notes that:

Social class essentialism is basically inciting social Darwinism. This distortion of Darwin’s theory of evolution, in one interpretation, is the belief that only the fit survive and thrive—and, further, that this process should be accepted or even accelerated by public policy. It’s an example of the logical fallacy known as the “appeal to nature”—what is natural is good. (If that were true, technology and medicine would be moral abominations.) Social class essentialism entails belief in economic survival of the fittest as a fact. It might also entail belief in survival of the fittest as a desired end, given the results linking it to reduced support for restorative interventions. It’s one thing to say, “Those people can’t change, so let’s not waste our time.” It’s another to say, “Those people can’t change, so let’s lock them away.” Or eradicate them: Only four years ago, then-Lt. Gov. of South Carolina Andre Bauer told a town hall meeting that poor people, like “stray animals,” should not be fed, “because they breed.”

This too is part of what we have to contend with.

On a tangent that links back into this, consider how even quite recently our societies had a certain orientation, for example the idea that all workers should work. That’s not a uniquely left wing position but it is one that has a currency on the left and can be regarded as being a part of social democrat and other left thinking. Now that approach has been diluted, note how in the current crisis unemployment is no longer regarded as the paramount issue as the market itself, in various forms – but most immediately its financial aspect, is reified as the central issue where all else is secondary. And those who are involved in the market are then reified as well and so on and so forth…

Of course one must be cautious about in part psychological analyses, but given the force of those behind attempting to shift discussion and policy on this area onto new and further rightward ground it appears to have some substance. Hutson, to judge from his piece, isn’t really attacking class structures in the way that many of us might wish, let alone aspiring to replace them, but any discussion of class – even, or particularly, in this area, begins to point out the contradictions and negatives aspects in relation to current structures. That’s no bad thing.

The strange naivety of some in the middle-class in relation to work… July 11, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Capitalism, Class, Culture, Economy, The Left, Uncategorized.

…there’s a piece in the current issue of Prospect magazine that will infuriate many. Under the heading ‘Middle-class survivalism’ it argues that since ‘we’ are ‘the prime target for politicians struggling to restore the public finances…is there any escape?’

The author is a former financial writer:

Looking back, I can put my finger on the time when clutch of appealing illusion I had carried unquestioningly with me throughout my adult life began to fall away. It was 2009, just two years into the financial and economic debacle that still surrounds us, but long before I or most other people finally realised that what we thought was just another temporary downturn – albeit a bad one – was in fact something totally different. it was game over. An old way of thinking and doing things was finished.

What was the cause of this damascene conversion? Well his wife was pregnant with their first child, there were issues with his extended family and…

…a happy and supportive relationship with my employer which had lasted almost 15 years, suddenly became the exact opposite. By the following sprint I had an infant son, a disorientated mother living among strangers behind locked doors and a cheque instead of a career.

Now, he appears a little trusting. For example, who could disagree with the following:

Life is a lot easier and less stressful if you like your job and the company you work for.

But I often wonder how much that would be true of many many working lives?

That said there’s a lot of truth in what he then says:

The money turns up every month and the seasons roll around. Colleagues can become good friends over the years and the social life of the office is something you miss when it’s gone.

And that is true, and inevitable, at least in many workplaces, because this is a primary focus of life in this period if one is working. The office, factory, whatever the space one is positioned in is where so much of living takes place. It may not take up all the conscious part of the day but it is easily the most prolonged period in a day in a single place – at least for most working.

And having been made redundant myself I know all too well, and this I’ve mentioned already recently, about how friendships, networks, contacts are broken, often for good. All pattern is taken from the day to be replaced if there is no work with… nothing much.

Still, again the thought strikes that he was particularly naive…

The first big illusion I left behind that spring was that any company would ever really care for me, as opposed to the role I was being paid to carry out.

Perpetuating this comforting illusion is a key function of middle management and stupidly I allowed almost 15 years of positive experience to lull me into believing it. That turned out to be a profound mistake and one I won’t make again.

It reminds me of a former boss, an MD of multiple companies. On occasion his thing was to drag his sales and management teams from the various companies into what were optimistically called a ‘sales meetings’ where in some magical ‘synergistic’ fashion great things would be plotted and achieved.

Unfortunately due to the nature of my work I was forced to lurk at these in the corner and saw that the drab reality was that he would proceed to talk for hours about what should be done with little or no purchase on what was actually feasible. Eventually, I realised, as many had before, that these served as a sort of therapy. His catharsis and us paid for the privilege. Fair enough, and there were sandwiches at lunch, so few complaints. As the years progressed these became more and more absurd and that was essentially the spirit in which people engaged with them.

But on one occasion a new recruit, a senior manger in a company appearing for the first time made the rookie error of addressing the MD by his first name. None of us passed comment, but I heard back from the individual – let’s call him ‘Bob’ – involved that he had been taken aside directly afterwards by the MD and informed… ‘Bob, I’m your boss, not your buddy’.

This wasn’t news to me, given my political orientation, but a useful object lesson in terms of the real power relationships at work, nonetheless.

That someone, the author of the Prospect piece, could be a financial writer and not understand these from the get go is a disturbing testament to how orthodoxies actually function (indeed here from a few years back is another angle on this).

Sure, he says:

Being a financial writer, I’ve naturally come across other, more impersonal ways to view the true balance of power that exists between companies and the people that work for them.

But one has the sense that that penny never quite dropped. And note not a mention of unions or workers organising to ensure their rights or extend them further.

Anyhow he continues, being concerned with the anguish of the middle-classes in the newish dispensation. Though, I guess in fairness, it is worth considering how the precariousness of working life that has characterised lower paid work is now reaching well into the self-ascribed middle classes.

And also in fairness he makes an interesting point discussing his mother’s situation. He talks about the general sense of unease in the middle class, amongst the ‘well-paid’ and so on in the current situation. And he suggests that ‘having gone through the process of unravelling my mother’s finances after she went into the care home, I can see good reasons why they should be [uneasy]’.

I grew up thinking my parents were comfortably off and once we tracked downy he paperwork this belief turned out to be broadly true. As part of the wartime generation, she had worked hard, saved and owned property through its long bull market with the result that, at 85, she had a teacher’s pension, property she owned outright and a decent sum in personal investments. What she didn’t have was enough income to meet her monthly bills.

He asks…

How could this be? She had apparently done everything right but was till well short of being able to pay her way in the world.

And here it gets very interesting indeed.

The reasons will, I suspect, be depressingly familiar to many others who have been through the same process with their parents. From what I could discern, my mother must have had a financial advisor at some point – at least this was the most obvious explanation why her money had been spread across a roll-call of the UK’s leading fund management groups (all the big names got their share), and why all of its as invested in equity funds that held shares in the same narrow list of large companies. The other things these funds had in com,mon was that none paid out any regular income to her and they all charges at least 1.5 per cent a year in management feeds, around a third of which would be handed to the advisor who had channelled her money into these funds and then departed the scene.

But why is this a surprise? To be a capitalist requires capital, serious capital. Handing over the facade of capitalist endeavour, attempting to understand let alone play markets, requires much much greater resources than his mother could bring to bear. Add in the noxious intersection of deep self-interest that serves to pass for much of the financial industry and the capacity for personal losses are enormous. And that’s before we get to the marketisation of social services which really only the state has the heft, or the willingness (and even that increasingly partial in the current context), to provide.

He argues that it was an ‘accident of bad timing that meant we had to overhaul our mother’s financial arrangements to try to secure her a low-risk income form her investments at about the worst moment in living memory to attempt such a manoeuvre’.

Well, yes and no. These are cycles, subject to the market. Markets boom, markets bust. And they’re entirely indifferent to such matters as the welfare of his, or anyone’s mother or father.

What lessons does he take away from this? Tellingly he blames ‘the people we elected, trusted and paid to manage this country’s financial affairs knew what they were doing. They clearly didn’t.’

That’s okay as far as it goes, but it goes nowhere near far enough. It wasn’t just politicians, it wasn’t just supposed regulators, it wasn’t just the private sector, it was an ideology where the needs of the latter were serviced by the former and largely ignored by the regulators. Where political policy was dictated by laissez-faire approaches. Where markets became ever more central to socio-political activity with little or no questioning as to whether they were, or ever could be, fit for purpose.

And his solution is no solution at all. He writes that ‘I’d far rather rely on myself and my family than on any of the institutions I used to believe would ‘be there for me’ when I needed them’.

So he now works for himself, a nice place to be – well bar the enormous and very real pressures – but one that is beyond the scope of most working. He has decided to ‘make my own mistakes in deciding how to manage our money than pay for the privilege of having someone else to blame when things go wrong’. He’s gone off the ‘pensions system’ – though he doesn’t call it by its correct name, the ‘private pensions system’. And one presumes that he feels his mothers pension, which presumably was state, did such a bad job.

Still he also makes another interesting point.

…the other goal of this exercise [he’s put money into a small pension for his children] is to find more ways to pass on wealth from one generation to the next – not just by bequeathing what we have left when we die (inheritance tax permitting) but also by doing some of the hard work of saving for their old age well in advance, so that when they reach adulthood they will have greater scope to spend or save the fruits of their own labour, rather than racing against the clock to amass a pension fund from scratch.

To which the obvious response is that this generational socialism in one family is all very well (though one does have to wonder where individual effort and endeavour fits in), but it does absolutely nothing to address the wider system problems addressing millions both in the UK and further afield who are in a similar or worse situation, trapped in employments where they are, let’s not put too fine a point on this, exploited in a multitude of ways from low wages, poor working conditions and so on, where they have little or nothing to look forward to at the end of their working lives, where they are increasingly pushed whatever their circumstances towards the market. Even after the events that he describes which we have all lived through.

Why he can’t see that community/society/social systems are the way to go escapes me where instead of the risk being borne by the individual, which is what it has been and effectively what he seeks to perpetuate, albeit in a lower key way, it would be borne by all. His is an analysis trapped within the constraints of his own class horizon.

And in all honesty, his middle-class survivalism (sic) doesn’t strike me as that great to begin with. Yet more grabbing the crumbs and trying to make do. And what that means for his offspring…

Garret Keizer on Privacy and Class. September 14, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Capitalism, Class, Economy, The Left.

I’m never entirely surprised by the rage that enters into discussions of public versus private sectors, particularly from those in the latter. Having worked in that area for a large portion of my own working life the lack of autonomy in many jobs is something that – again having direct experience of same – is enraging. That that energy – understandable as it is – tends to be channelled towards attempting to pull others down (as exemplified by a comment the day before yesterday) rather that pushing everyone’s situation upwards is a depressing indictment of how orhodoxies aren’t simply economic but are broader and more constraining…

And in a context where the vehicles for shifting employments from one situation to another – the unions, are both enfeebled (or non existent) in the private sector, or can appear unconcerned with the situation of private sector workers, and add to that a suspicion of unions and the means for positive change are limited. Worse again one could argue that the best opportunity that unions had to ameliorate this in the private sector, the period of social partnership was simply blown by them. And of course it’s not just the workplace because this goes far beyond that.

Which brings me to an interesting podcast from Slate with an interview by the excellent (and Scottish) June Thomas with Garret Keizer who was discussing the issue of privacy in reference to his book on the same topic. What was telling was how explicitly Kezier positioned this in the context of class.

I just made a short check list of a whole bunch of things that people of certain classes can afford and people of other classes can’t. Not only does one’s privacy depend in some ways on ones class but one’s enjoyment of the private life that privacy protects can also depend on class. So you can talk about having the right to privacy that is protected by the Fourth Amendment that guarantees some protection against warrantless searches of your house but what if you don’t have a house, what if you’re sleeping under a bridge or what if you do have a house but you have to work three jobs just to pay for the mortgage. So you have an abstract theoretical right to privacy but your actual experience of the things that cause us to regard privacy as a value is extremely limited.

Again I think it is possible (and necessary) to draw that much wider and to reconfigure privacy as part of that broader area of autonomy’. Simply put in our societies privacy and autonomy are curtailed by economic position.

If one sees this starkly in the workplace in terms of power dynamics, it is also evident in every part of life, from the domestic space – where one lives, the nature of the accommodation (even to the issue of how much space there is from the neighbours or can one hear them through the walls>), interactions in the public sphere – and in particular with ‘services’, both public and private and so on and so forth.

The President used the ‘s’ word February 23, 2012

Posted by Tomboktu in Capitalism, Class, Community, Culture, Economy, Ethics, European Politics, Inequality, Ireland, Neo-conservatives, Political Philosophy, Social History, Society.

The archived speeches on the site of the President, http://www.president.ie go back only as far as 1997 (Mary McAleese’s inauguration speech), and even in a group that consists of nine members, a sample of two is not a good representation. That said, it is worth noting that this week, President Higgins caused the words socialism and socialist to appear on that site for the first time, by using them in a speech yesterday on Tuesday in London.

When the L.S.E. was founded in 1895 by the four leading Fabians, Beatrice and Sidney Webb, George Bernard Shaw and Graham Wallas, its founders were convinced of the power of education in not only lifting their fellow citizens out of poverty but also of such citizens understanding, participating, and in time, offering an alternative form of society, one that would be egalitarian, democratic, tolerant, one which would extend and deepen democracy in every aspect of life. Such an achievement would also constitute, they felt, the establishment of socialism as an alternative to capitalism.

He also said

the great founding texts of Marx, Weber, Durkheim, Croce and others

and, quoting Frederick Powell,

“Privatisation is the road back to autocracy, in which a hollowed-out state is bereft of anything meaningful to attract the support of the citizen – especially the marginalised, excluded from the mainstream of society.”


Standing in support of unregulated markets, of unaccountable capital flows, of virtual financial products, are scholars who frequently claim the legitimation provided by a university. The university is at times put under pressure to demonstrate its utility as the seat of the single hegemonic model of society and economy that prevails.

I believe universities are challenged now not only to recover the moral purpose of original thought, emancipatory scholarship,


Weber, of course, could not have envisaged the consequences of the journey intellectual thought would make from reason to rationality, but then on to calculable rationality, and finally, in our own time, to the speculative gambling that is at the heart of so much global misery with its view of those humans who share our fragile planet, not as citizens, but as rational choice maximizing consumers.

We are in such a winter as Weber foretold. For example, we have arrived at quite widespread acceptance by policy makers of a proposition rejected by the majority of serious economic historians, that markets are rational. This, on occasion, leads, in the extreme, to the suggestion, absurd and all as it may sound, that it is people who are irrational, the markets rational


The mid-twentieth century constituted an atmosphere where social capital emerged and social democracy mediated conflict. The twentieth century saw too a public debate about the role of the State, the rights of the individual and social policy, of the balance between these areas.

In succeeding decades political philosophy and social theory gave way to issues of administration analysis of the role of the State faded and gave way to applied studies, in an administrative sense, of the State’s actions.

A discourse based on solidarity interdependency, shared vulnerability, community, gave way to a discourse on lifestyle and individual consumption. A society of citizens gave way to a disaggregated mass of individual consumers.


There is not, for example, any better future for economics as a subject and discipline than as political economy within a system of culture.

Wow. That won’t go down well on Merrion Street.

See the video here: http://www2.lse.ac.uk/newsAndMedia/videoAndAudio/channels/publicLecturesAndEvents/player.aspx?id=1362

DCTU – MARCH AGAINST AUSTERITY – 26th November November 26, 2011

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Class, Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.

Leaflet can be downloaded DCTU Pre Budget Demonstration 26 Nov 2011 Leaflet 3

Colleges and third level and school league tables… November 22, 2011

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Capitalism, Class, Culture, Economy.

It’s fascinating some of the assumptions that underpin the 2011 Irish Times School League Tables published this week in the Irish Times. Not so much the following, though it seems to indicate that talk of access remains fairly rhetorical given the structural aspects of the system:

WHILE VIRTUALLY every student in middle-class areas proceeds to college, the progression rate is less than 40 per cent across huge swathes of working-class areas in Dublin, Cork and Limerick. The two-tier nature of Irish education is highlighted in the “2011 Irish Times School League Tables” published this morning.

But more so this:

Overall, this year’s list shows fee-paying schools and Gaelscoileanna tightening their grip on the top positions in the league tables. State schools within the “free’’ education scheme perform well in the overall top 50 list, which tracks progression to all third-level colleges.

And this:

But they perform less well on tables which track progression to high-points courses in the seven universities, the teacher training colleges and the College of Surgeons.

Note the distinction between ‘all third level colleges’ and ‘high-points courses in the seven universities’. I find it curious that these are the metrics used. What particular virtue do those courses, or indeed the seven universities, bring that ‘all third-level colleges’ don’t. In a way it reminds me of a piece in the Sunday Business Post some time back by Adrian Weckler which I took some exception to but which had a grain of truth to it where he noted the aversion by some of the middle classes to tech. My problem at the time was, as I noted… ‘He’s definitely correct in that we need to have the best and the brightest engage with science and technology. But… Weckler’s argument seems rooted firstly in misconceptions as to what represents the best and the brightest and secondly how that should be achieved.’ But I think we see some of that aversion in operation here in a back-handed sort of a way.

There’s a clear over emphasis in parts of the society as regards some types of education as against others and this list is evidence of same.

What does it tell us really? Nothing we don’t know already. That certain schools, and certain social groups, focus upon narrow outcomes. I tend to think that that’s a bad thing both societally, and perhaps individually. I suspect little or nothing will be done to alleviate this. In a period where economic intervention is seen as beyond the capacity of the state why should social interventions have any greater strength.

There are other issues as well. I wonder what it is like to be in a school where every single one of ones peers is going to third level and few if any are going to make any other choices as regards their life. Hard to think that that is the sort of pluralistic environment that opens minds in ways other than the academic. Or even that.

Willie O’Dea is OK (on the video) December 17, 2010

Posted by Tomboktu in Art, Class, Music, Reaction, Society.

I don’t listen to Joe Duffy, but Panti blogged about yesterday’s programme where the Rubberbandits’ Christmas video was the topic of discussion. Interesting to hear Willie O’Dea making sense and one of the indignant caller having their lack of understanding of art exposed, and by somebody with a broad working class Limerick accent to boot.

A tape of the show is here.

24 minutes into this Joe Duffy show, some of the up-on-their-high-horse set get ripped apart by somebody with a broad Limerick accent.

Rubberbandit: “Somebody needs to give that man a dictionary and he needs to look up the word ‘irony'”

and later …

Indignant caller: “I don’t watch MTV like Martin Scorcese”.

Rubberbandit: “Then, man, you’ve no business looking at art […] We don’t create music for people like you who are going to interpret something literally. […] It’s about metaphor, it’s about art, it’s about different viewpoints creating the meaning. Do you know what I mean?”

Indignant caller: “Absolutely not. Why would I as an individual who would watch that video once and listen to that track once come away with all that? That’s rubbish. […] What’s coming out of that video is the usage and promotion of drugs. It’s a joke.”

Rubberbandit: “It is a joke, yeah. You’re hitting the nail on the head there, kid.”

And the offending video:

David Harvey Interviewed in the Weekly Worker August 1, 2010

Posted by Garibaldy in Marxism, Political Philosophy.

I stopped reading the Weekly Worker some time ago. It bore a certain lurid fascination with its accounts of the sometimes bizarre goings on in the various British far left groups, interspersed with the occasional interesting long article. At the end of the day though, most people read it for the gossip, and with blogs having taken on that role, there didn’t seem much point in wading though its often deeply strange screeds any longer. However, I was flicking through its archives this weekend, and came across an extended interview from June with the current doyen of the left on the web, David Harvey. Definitely worth reading in full; both for his basic analysis of the crisis but especially for Harvey’s reflections on the idea of the historic mission of the proletariat, which help put his overall ideas, and what benefit they may have for political activists, in better persepective.

Asked about what has surprised him about the crisis, he talked about the class nature of the crisis, and the propagadanda that stock market recovery meant the economy had recovered.

what surprises me is how clear and unambiguous the nature of this crisis is and – paradoxically – the inability of people to grasp what is happening and why, even when it is staring them in the face.

It seems he isn’t a regular reader of the Sunday Independent, nor are its columnists fans of his.

Now nobody sane would attribute the current crisis to the idea that labour has too much power. I have not heard greedy unions blamed this time around, as opposed to in the 70s. At that time, you could say the crisis really was in the labour market and in shop-floor discipline.
Since then we have had the mass disciplining of the working classes by offshoring and by technological change. If that ‘peaceful’ process did not work, people like Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and general Pinochet were ‘invented’ to do it violently.


Elsewhere today March 17, 2010

Posted by Tomboktu in Capitalism, Class, Economics, Housing, Human Rights, Ireland, Justice, Political Philosophy.

HumanRightsInIreland, a blog run by Irish academic lawyers, has a series of posts today on the theme (to my ear, hi falutin) of ‘Human Rights Lexicon’. However, don’t let that put you off. I recommend the post by Illan Rua Wall on the right to housing in a post-crash Ireland. It gives some thoughts that are new to me on how we might approach economic injustices through the legal concept of human rights. (Whether it will ever get legs is another story.)

To begin the task of shifting the neo-liberal imagination, I suggest the crime of squatting (for it is a criminal offence in Ireland). Squatting is to take direct action, not against this or that policy of the government, but against trite neo-liberal abstraction and injustice. By placing people, real lived experience, in these ‘toxic’ assets, the reality of the situation is manifested in a material sense. Ireland is increasingly a country which is divided between the rich within their neat comfortable zones, and the poor who are increasingly subjects of toil, insult, degradation and burden. It is not alone in this, but that is not the issue. What if the 43,000 families currently waiting for social housing, broke into the empty houses and apartments all over the country, now in state (or at least NAMA) ownership? I suggest this would at once be an a-legal vindication of their economic rights, but it would also present an attempt to rupture the neo-liberal ideological hold on the country.

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