Monday, November 27, 2006

The 1956 Hungarian Revolution - by DoDo

/ hungarian / revolution /
DoDo (owner of the lately inactive Manic Net Preacher, inter alia) has completed his "1956 Hungarian revolution" series over at the European Tribune, offering an excellent acount of the events of half a century ago, their context and their aftermath.

It's an exemplary article, and if somewhere, someone, is thinking about an award for "Best Historical Blog Post of 2006", or something, this should be a major contender.


  • Prelude (communism in Hungary and the forces behind the revolution)

  • Outbreak (the turbulent events of 23 October)

  • Turmoil (the hectic events in the next twelve days)

  • Fighting (the final losing battle against the Soviet tanks and its background)

  • Personal Memories (eyewitness accounts from DoDo's relatives)

  • Aftermath (what happened to the country and the people, and what role did its memory play later)
  • Monday, November 20, 2006

    Mike Davis: Fear and Money in Dubai

    / neoliberal / dreamworlds /
    From the New Left Review, Mike Davis writes about the new entrepreneurial, feudal modernity of Dubai:

    "On the rim of the war zone, a new Mecca of conspicuous consumption and economic crime, under the iron rule of Sheikh al-Maktoum. Skyscrapers half a mile high, artificial archipelagoes, fantasy theme parks—and the indentured Asian labour force that sustains them...
    ...Al-Maktoum, who fancies himself the Gulf’s prophet of modernization, likes to impress visitors with clever proverbs and heavy aphorisms. A favourite: ‘Anyone who does not attempt to change the future will stay a captive of the past’. Yet the future that he is building in Dubai—to the applause of billionaires and transnational corporations everywhere—looks like nothing so much as a nightmare of the past: Speer meets Disney on the shores of Araby."

    Thursday, November 16, 2006

    Post-American Geopolitics

    / empires in upheaval /
    There has been ample discussion of the USA's decline as a superpower, other than as a military superpower that is. Immanuel Wallerstein has been arguing as much for a long time, most recently in his essay "The curve of American Power". Dennis Redmond chips in, in a piece in MRzine titled "Post-American geopolitics", about the emerging multi-polar world, a world of "three metropoles and four peripheries", as he puts it. Excerpt:

    Many of us on the Left have pondered what would replace the Cold War division of the planet into the First, Second, and Third World. Though the three worlds thesis was arbitrary at best -- the social divisions within nation-states are often more significant than the distinctions between nation-states -- it did have the merit of emphasizing the primacy of the US Empire. From 1945 to 1985, the US was the reigning global superpower. It had the richest economy in the world, the most advanced technology, and the most productive workforce on the planet. While it did have significant regional challengers, e.g. the Soviet Union and China, and suffered local defeats everywhere from Cuba to Vietnam, it had no truly worldwide economic or cultural competitors.

    Times have changed. Today, the European Union and the East Asian region have caught up and surpassed their erstwhile mentor. The EU and East Asia are self-financing, autonomous economies, endowed with world-class technologies and some of the highest productivity levels on the planet. They dominate world trade and financial flows the way the US once did. Both are the leading creditors in the world-economy, and control most of the key levers of the world financial system. Today, the US is not only the world's biggest debtor, it is also shockingly dependent on capital inflows from East Asia and Europe.

    Perhaps the best way to think of the contemporary world-system is to see it as "three metropoles and four peripheries." Contrary to what you may have heard, most global trade occurs within each metropole and its corresponding semi-periphery, and only secondarily between metropoles or semi-peripheries. The four peripheries, by contrast, have the blessing (or curse) of not yet being fully integrated into any single bloc. They do have significant trading links with one or two metropoles, but they are not structurally integrated into any single metropole. This makes it more difficult for them to access metropolitan markets, but also gives them more freedom to maneuver.

    The article contains some interesting data, notably on world banking shares and "cultural production" world-wide.

    Also interesting, and related to this whole discussion, is Jerome's commentary in Eurotrib, on an Economist article regarding Asian technological ascendancy. Note the graph on published articles in Phys.Rev. - an unimaginable inversion since the early nineties, to be sure.

    Chomsky and Trivers on deceit

    / faculty of undeceit /
    Seed magazine has a transcript of a discussion between MIT linguist and political activist Noam Chomsky and Robert Trivers, an evolutionary biologist at Rudgers, a founder of sociobiology, and (surprising for those that expect a close correlation between perceived political implications of scientific theories and actual political positions) member of the Black Panther Party. The subject discussed is deceit and self-deception, an issue that they have written about from different perspectives. A brief part of the discussion is shown in the video below: