Kicking off? This is just the start

March 29, 2012

MARK KOSMAN reviews Paul Mason’s Why It’s Kicking off Everywhere: The New Global Revolutions

Some people may dismiss Paul Mason as just another journalist, especially since he advocated more effective policing to contain the ‘Black Bloc’ after the 26 March TUC demo.[1] Yet, this is no reason not to read Why It’s Kicking off Everywhere: The New Global Revolutions.

Simply by bringing together insightful reports from the uprisings of 2010/11 – in Egypt, Greece, Israel, Spain, the UK and the US – Mason helps the reader get an overview of the present state of global class struggle. But, more than this, he puts these struggles in a historical and theoretical context and so provokes more interesting questions than any other recent book.

Mason’s main historical analogy is to compare the uprisings of 2011 with the waves of unrest in Europe in 1848 and in the period before the First World War. He argues that the radical intelligentsia, the newly unionised workers and the slum dwellers of the 19th century can be compared to the ‘graduates without a future’, the shrunken trade unions and the precarious workers of today. He also claims that the globalisation of the world economy, the revolutions in communications technology and the striving for individual freedom at the start of the 20th century can be compared to similar tendencies at the start of the 21st century.

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Human “madness” in an inhuman society

March 14, 2012

This essay by STEVE DRURY reviews recent research in genetics and psychology, and argues that it can deepen our understanding of the forms of alienation experienced by humans through the succession of social systems in which they have lived since Palaeolithic times

What people are now is very different from what they were before about 10,000 years ago, when agriculture emerged. Before then, humanity lived more as part of the natural world, taking only what was necessary by

Horses drawn at Chauvet 30,000+ years ago

gathering easily-had foodstuffs and increasing their protein intake by hunting. There is little, if any, evidence suggesting that they stored produce, but plenty to show that people were continually on the move – on a continent-wide, even global scale.

This simple truism – that people are very different – masks huge social changes: the tendency to remain in fixed locations and growing communities following the so-called “agricultural revolution” of the late Stone Age; storing grain surpluses; and having living protein supplies tamed and on the hoof. Central to how people have changed is the expropriation of surplus produce that inexorably led to class society and to what Marx saw as the downward spiral of “the isolated individual in civil society”, through the alienation inherent in such expropriation and growing control of the majority by minority groups, both economically and culturally.

Here I hope to explore evidence for the relationship between these changes and the inner world of individuals. That inner world has interacted with the world at large through these changes in society. The study of psychological characteristics that set an increasing number of humans apart from the rest can throw light on the way that all humans live. The discussion centres on recent discoveries in the fields of genetics and psychology, and the links between them. They appear to have uncovered wholly unexpected natural factors at work that may revolutionise our general view of people who experience deep inner turmoil. Continued HERE


Deconstructing “energy security”: some questions

March 4, 2012

The rhetoric of “energy security” – most often heard from rich country governments angry that oil and gas imports are not being delivered in the way they want – is skilfully deconstructed in a new report from The Corner House, a research and advocacy centre for community movements and NGOs.

The report keeps to the high standard of research established at The Corner House, which has supported campaigns such as those around the social impact of the Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline and against the UK judicial cover-up of bribery by weapons exporters. However I think that when the authors venture into history and social theory they sometimes loses their way. In this post I highlight what I think are the report’s strengths, and raise some questions.

The focus of “energy security”, as the term is generally used, is “on ‘securing’ new and continued supplies of oil, coal and gas, building nuclear plants and even Read the rest of this entry »


Ecological servitude

March 4, 2012

The idea that damage to the environment can be stopped by personal restraint gets a well-deserved hammering in a pamphlet (in French) posted on the web here … and the introduction is now published in English on People & Nature here.

Here’s a little bit of the first section, so that English language readers can get the flavour:

“You, you little guy! ‘Make yourself aware of your responsibilities’ with regard to the spoilation of the planet. By sorting your rubbish bins, and saving water and electricity … you can tighten your belt, in order to allow the industrial magnates to keep polluting in complete peace! That’s what ‘being aware of your responsibilities’ is all about!!!

“Why does society encourage this type of ‘responsibility’?

“Because it’s a way of making people accept austerity. Economise on water, gas, electricity. …

“‘Save the planet’, they say. A pretty shrewd way to make us tighten our belts! In fact why not get us to stop breathing all together?! That’s not far off. […] Read the rest of this entry »