Friday, February 21, 2014

Geography I

Increasingly I'm interested in various critical theorisations of geography and was reading David Harvey's critique of Foucault's concept of heterotopic space.

Might be worth looking up Harvey further on this because he mentions Kropotkin, and already I can see how the spatialisation and use of multiple sites is central to forthcoming critical strategies and has been on my mind:

Geographers of various stripes struggled towards the century's end to give their geography a more  evolutionary and emancipatory twist. The social anarchists - geographers like Elisee Reclus and Kropotkin - invented a version of the geography of freedom (Fleming, 1988) which has remained influential as a subversive strain of thought to this day, but for obvious reasons it suffered marginalization from the mainstream (except in the refracted versions in the urban and regional planning of Patrick Geddes and Lewis  Mumford). Friedrich Ratzel took the innovative step at the turn of the century of collapsing Kant's inner and outer distinctions into something called "Anthropogeographie" but unfortunately got so lost in organic metaphors (of the state in particular) and social Darwinism as to be later regarded, unfairly as it turns out, as the founder of Nazi geopolitical thought. This kind of Darwinian geopolitical and imperialist geography (which had its Anglo and French counterparts in Mackinder and Demangeon) along with environmental determinism (the other major strain of independent geographical thinking) lost respectability even as it struggled to retain some semblance of Humboldtian synthesis. When the Readers Digest condemned "the hundred geographers behind Hitler" in the midst of World War II, professional geographers suffered all the indignities that Heidegger was later to experience without having any of the deeper intellectual resources needed to defend themselves Geographers for the most part retreated into the safety of mere description of spatial orderings.

One good formalisation to be used in relation to Kropotkin might be through Geddes and Mumford architecture, which i of course know nothing about. 

Anyway more thoughts on geography to follow in the coming weeks.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Generational theory

Another cyclical and very dubious theory is Strauss Howe generational theory which sees history as a pendulum swinging between on one pole collective vision, constructivism, institutional formalisation, and cultural conformism with another pole of individualism, institutional decline and renewal and crisis. 

I don't love this theory at all, but i do like how there is an intergenerational dynamics to history introduced. I think if I ever take that much justified swipe at baby boomers, this at least suggests some aspects of analysis.


There is a weird minority of online economists who seem to present, aesthetically at least, as paranoid conspiracy theorists. While at this stage I am just flagging this cultural group as potentially interesting for further research, some initial observations spring to mind:

- many are obsessed with geopolitics, and reading economics through this lens. Especially wrt the gold price and oil supply. This makes them more interested in economic history and less interested in technicals and data.
- several purport to operate quite successfully as traders, both within banks and other institutional settings, and sometimes as more dubious independents
- several have gotten in trouble for being frauds and scammers
- many resemble the manic street preacher predicting imminent apocalyptic collapses
- they are interested in naturalising the economy, particularly through the idea of cycles

I guess one might like to somehow generalise these figures in some way so as to read them as not the exception to the economy but the rule. Im sure there are other such readings for such a subculture, I guess as types of cult leaders, heretics, or heterodox figures.

One example I read was Martin Armstrong a convicted trader who claimed he could predict the entire economic cycle based on the number Pi. 

Interestingly, he argues that it is a Western conceit of teleological progress that denies the markets ability to function smoothly by recognising cycles in human nature. What is funny to me here is that there seems to be some weird reversals of what constitutes Western Modernity:

For some strange reason, cycle theory is feared by many professionals in the field of economics most, who are not even willing to look at the concept as if it were some black occult invention or a new version of voodoo economics. The incredible reality of this theoretical battle is man’s own nature, which presents enormous resistance to any change in his philosophy itself. The majority of people want security in knowing the future is somehow just the same. Forecasts of the economy are generally whatever trend is in motion they assume will stay in motion. Therein lies the reason for their demise.
In Asia cycles are part of the religion. Richard E. Nesbett wrote a good book entitled “The Geography of Thought, How Asians and Westerners Think Differently … and Why.” He attributed his work to a Chinese student who said: “You know, the difference between you and me is that I think the world is a circle, and you think it’s a line.” He goes on to quote him:
“The Chinese believe in constant change, but with things always moving back to some prior state. They pay attention to wide range of events; they search for relationships between things; and they think you can’t understand the part without understanding the whole. Westerners live in a simpler, more deterministic world; they focus on salient objects or people instead of the larger picture; and they think they can control events because they know the rules that govern the behavior of objects.”
Indeed, there is a substantial difference between the thinking process in Asia compare to the West. It is our goal to open your mind, and above all else, make you wide before your time. Understanding that the entire universe is constructed on a cyclical model where there are even 4 seasons, is the primary step in realizing that there is a whole new way of looking at the world, the economy, and life waiting to be discovered.
The very theory of Communism and Socialism are predicated upon trying to eliminate the business cycle. The single objective was to equalize wealth and eliminate the boom and bust cycle. These theories failed and resulted in justifying the killing of more people in history than any single idea accounting for both the Russian and Chinese Revolutions.
Former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Paul Volcker even called the failure of the fixed exchange rate system and Keynesianism in eliminating the business cycle has proven these theories seriously flawed calling the Rediscovery of the Business Cycle.
During the 13th century, the majority believed that the world was flat. In some cases, individuals who believed otherwise were put to death. Man had also mocked the idea of an automobile, flight and interplanetary travel. Of course all these things are now commonplace, accepted into the fold of modern society. But such a simple thing as understanding the business cycle remains unaffected by man’s advances in technology or his awareness of nature and physics.

Detention centre

 Quite interesting too


I guess my hesitation with ngo culture is that we are never supposed to think both this and development together, as linked in a greater process. We are constantly presented with a series of individual problems that seem to come out of thin air.

Primitive accumulation

I quite like this short.
Interesting how one has to frame a dyed in the wool leftist concept a little differently within the ngo order

Saturday, February 1, 2014

To see - 10 thousand waves

Here the spirit of progress comes to china in the form  of a chinese water god.

And still keeps a nod to old fashion critique.

Julien seems to like to use old art history references for his visual vocabulary. In Playtime he posits a type of capitalist sublime, referencing caspar friedrich.