February 2010

“I love life so fiercely, so desperately, that nothing good can come of it: I mean the physical facts of life, the sun, the grass, youth. It’s a much more terrible vice than cocaine, it costs me nothing, and there is an endless abundance of it, with no limits: and I devour, devour. How it will end, I don’t know” Pasolini

Sami is a 17-year old young worker who lives in a neighbourhood next to an industrial cluster (1000 factories in different size) of Istanbul, where I did research in 2007. The area reminds the conditions of the nineteenth century Manchester as depicted by Engels.

Emigrated from the Mediterrenean region of Turkey 10 years ago with his family, he refused to be part of the school system despite all his cleverness. His father, a highly qualified skilled worker in a very big factory in the area and who would be able to afford the higher education of his son, was very disappointed when he discovered that his son prefers hanging out with mates rather than attending his classes and did force him to work as an apprentice. Sami does not like to be an apprentice, he hates school but he does not praise manual labour like the “lads” of Paul Willis, who, by refusing to be part of school system and appreciating macho male culture, reproduced themselves as working class like their fathers rather than trying to go to the upper echelons of the social ladder…Sami knows that he has to work somehow, but he wants to set up his own business. He does not know what to do though. He dreams of becoming a hairdresser, for he has many friends who do this job. But what he likes the most is to spend time in the patisserie and help the waiter friends near his home since he can talk to people, play the music he wants there, hang out with friends when they are around…In fact, this is how I met him. I was having tea in my fieldwork break in that patisserie and heard this Turkish rap music which was unusual for the area (where workers and residents like more traditional type of music called ‘arabesk’). I asked who recorded that music and the waiter introduced me to Sami.

Sami is a young boy full of life. He hates the migrants who came to his neighbourhood from the Eastern regions of Turkey. He has mediterrenean skin, blood and temper….he humiliates the Eastern men by saying that they are underdeveloped. For him, the culture of those Eastern  migrant workers is backward, their personality underdeveloped. That is his close friends are the Turks who emigrated in the late 1980s to Turkey from the Balkans and were settled in that area. Those migrants are more open-minded and do not have the conservative beliefs as many other residents to have in the area.

The outfit of Sami is really like a middle class boy; so is his closest friend, the son of a Turkis family who emigrated from the Balkan region, who complains about his friend by saying that Sami is very naive and hangs out with stupid guys especially when they have some motorcycle to lend to Sami… He also tells me that Sami’s father forced him to work as an apprentice. Sami had hidden this information from me, because he was ashamed of it. Shame, as the most powerful feeling in working class boys, appears in different forms and contexts to me and turns out to be a major emotional ground for the reproduction of class cleavages. 

Sami hates the area he lives. He only enjoys a few modern cafes with leather sofas, billiard tables, plasma big screen TVs with music channels (which are rare but still do exist in the neighbourhood) When I ask what he does with friends, he says “nothing”…a nothing like the one pronounced by the working class boys interviewed by P. Corrigan in England..a nothingness which also reminds the negation of subjectivity by Accatone of Pasolini. Ilker does nothing in fact, he hangs out here and there, at this cafe and the patisserie a little bit, serves customers only when he wants (the owner likes him a lot, he knows how to make himself loved with his very warm personality) and then avoids apprenticeship as much as he can….Yes, again like Accatone of Pasolini, he is refusing to work, to be part of the capitalist work process, neither as capitalist, nor as worker, trying to enjoy life but finds resources in others (women to sell for the pimps of Pasolini, family money for Sami). But if he were given money, he would spend it with friends, would not invest in something….His mind is not working like a businessman neither.

Sami is full of life. You can feel it when you talk to him. He is also respectful. He offers his help to me, to teachers who come to live in the area. He even promises me to find a place to stay during the fieldwork. He is proud of knowing a lot of people and helping them in getting into contact with others. His body shows that his family cares about him, does not push him to work hard. He is not like those workers who have to work 16 hours a day, with tired bodies and faces. Sami’s eyes are shining, a bit scared about the future, but still live the present moment. He has one brother and one sister but he is so disinterested that he can t remember which class they are attending. And he is honest: He confesses that he is not a good brother to remember what his sister and brother are doing…He does not feel responsible. But he is very much attached to his friends.

Sami complains about his father who does not like earrings for males, who does not like the music he listens to. But still, he respects him in a certain way, even if he is angry with him for bringing him to that area. Sami feels stuck over there. He does not understand why this researcher came all the way from England to learn smg about his neighbourhood. I try to explain my research – it does not make any sense to him. Then I laugh and say: “I felt that a young intelligent boy like you would help me a lot, I had this intuition and therefore I have chosen this area.” This, he believes more than other scientific reasons I gave before.

Sami is not representative of the young working class boys living in the area. But he represents something else: He represents a natural desire and appetite for life, which is repressed inthousands of the young workers walking every morning to the factories where tea breaks are not allowed, strikes are punished, working hours extended. The desire is repressed because it did not have any chance to flourish due to the labour discipline of factory life. The bodies of many of the young workers were imprisoned before they could dream of an alternative; they had no other choice, they had to work in order to survive, in order to give money to families. Sami’s unusual existence which does not fit this neighbourhood is a constant reminder to the unfulfilled desires and appetites of other workers, which is invisible in the everyday practices of social life in an industrial cluster.

Journalists kept recording the small collective actions in the factories, which continued to proliferate despite extreme forms of repression. Those actions have a lot to tell about the extraordinary resistance of workers’ bodies and minds, a powerful possibility for negativity. Sami’s nothingess, fear of being a worker, hate of the school system, his indifference to what social order offers to him yet his attachment to life and friends, his refusal to think about the future but willingness to enjoy the present are not necessarily more liberating, yet tell something equally powerful about other workers. In Sami’s body (the exception in the neighbourhood) is hidden a potential unfulfilled for the worker’s body (the rule in the neighbourhood). Then, the exception is no longer a deviation from the rule; it suddenly turns into a proof of the unnaturalness of the rule.

Istanbul, May 2007

Last week while I was walking to submit my first academic job application in Central London, a very old but still charming lady asked me where Bloomsbury Street was. I accompanied her until the Street to help her find her way and learnt that she was running, at the Imperial College, an office where Ernst Boris Chain and Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin with Howard Florey. She tells me: “I am half Russian” and I respond “which explains your beautiful eyes!”. Flattered and shy, she also tells me how the whole research had started somehow coincidentally while looking for some paper at Oxford in order to help a PhD student’s thesis or smg. like that. If I did not have to submit this application, I would have invited her for coffee and cake at the LRB cake shop and listened to more stories…

This (again unexpected and lucky) encounter made me think once again about the roots of my fascination with natural sciences. Two days later a very interesting historian of science I had first listened to at Royal Society and then wanted to meet up to discuss his work on the history of neurosciences asked me: “But why are you interested in all this?” I could not give a proper and coherent answer at that moment apart from the fact that I am curious about everything or I believe that social scientists should engage with natural sciences…But really, why am I not only ‘interested’ but also a bit ‘crazy’ about all this?

First, the very obvious reason: This is not a human-centred world. This is a world guided by blind processes of evolution, of which we, humans, are only a part, a relatively novel part. If we want to understand the social, we need to understand the Mother Nature. Even the development of our brains is related to the regulation of our bodies, our relationship with the external world. I am not saying that the social scientist should be an ‘expert’ of natural sciences, but there is great value in following the developments in natural sciences to be more sensitive to the limits and possibilities of our own object of inquiry.

Second, the way natural scientists (at least great ones) worked can be quite useful for social scientists. Great natural scientists (and I will limit myself to the ones I read) are looking at their data again and again. They interpret the same data with a new outlook or find new data to challenge a well-established perspective. They may be obsessed with empirical data, but they are also excellent in imaginative speculation. One of the great ideas of natural sciences are the result of the question which start as “What if the relationship between X and Y were not the way we thought?” The fact that several of those people deal also with real-life problems (e.g. finding a safety solution for miners for Humphrey Davy who works on gas, helping the British navy captains to measure the depth of the sea for Robert Hooke who works on scientific instruments) is a further advantage, which pushes them to be innovative. (In fact, that should be one of the reason why Gramsci is a great social scientist: His scientific inquiry is very much motivated by pragmatic and political tasks he set) Great natural scientists attack each other and after a serious attack, nothing is the same again whereas in our world of social science, we can live happily, with our “ideas” who are equally right or wrong, who can coexist in conflict yet in peace. How many times did you see a social scientist saying: “Actually I wrote ten papers on regulation theory and post-fordism, but I recently did studies and my new findings invalidate completely my earlier argument”? How many times did you see a social scientist, who dares to give up the intellectual investment he/she made in a theory/area and start everything again, who feels the scientific pleasure of being defeated by a contesting argument?

Of course, I am over-generalising and idealising here. There are very important shifts in social scientists’ intellectual trajectories as well and I am not discussing the working methods and insights of great social scientists (subject of another post). Also, my natural scientist friends could criticise me by saying that natural sciences can be as arid as social science several times. Yet, my aim is to be deliberately provocative.

Third, when I was an undergraduate student it was like a sin to say (probably until we read the refreshing Possibility of Naturalism by Bhaskar) that social sciences could be studied like natural sciences since this meant positivism! I would later discover that natural sciences did not need to be positivist at all and natural sciences had several  methodological and explanation problems social sciences had. Therefore if science is not equated to absolute truth, but a never-ending process of inquiry to explore different dimensions of nature and society, then it could be refreshing to overcome the very boundaries. It was perhaps wrong to make those distinctions in the first place. Damasio shows how Spinoza’s conatus was a very early intuitive understanding of self-regulating mechanism of human body; Bensaid shows how Marx’s writings resonate chaos and complexity theory; Jim Kincaid and Nicole Pepperell make very interesting parallels between contemporary theory of emergence and Marxist law of value; Levy Bryant uses thought provoking concepts (strange attractor, entropy) for a new understanding f ontology. The important thing is not to be simplistic and reductionist; i.e. attempts to reduce, for example, social behaviour to biological impulses or moments of institutional change and stability to punctuated equilibrium are not examples of what I mean by overcoming boundaries between social and natural sciences.

The last but not the least reason for my inclination to natural sciences: “Individuals make each other”. Friends introduced me to different dimensions of natural sciences: Apart from my father who triggered the initial impulse for all scientific inquiry, Murat Gulsacan (http://acaibialem.com/) introduced me to Darwin and evolution, Ergun Aydinoglu to Stephen Jay Gould, Toni Prug to Thomas Metzinger, Jim Kincaid to the theoreticians of emergence and complexity, Cem Kamozut to quantum physics, Cagla Altun to genetics, (sorry if I forgot others). Judd Books on Marchmont Street and London Review Bookshop gave me history of science and history of medicine books at cheap or discounted prices so that on the bus and tube I could read them with great excitement…That is how I met Daniel Dennett, Antonio Damasio, Hershchel, Humphrey Davy, Joseph Banks…Royal Society History of Science events further provoked my appetite (with the organisation of Felicity Anderson). In the library of Royal Society, those very old natural scientists, who came to hear the seminars every Friday with the passion and curiosity of a young student became other sources of inspiration. When one sees the long queues in front of Royal Society for an evening lecture, one could think that there is a rock concert inside. In a way that is true. Science can rock the stage, science can rock our minds. The show must go on.

(While I am trying to work on a few more serious posts on neurosciences conference, law of value and natural sciences, here is smg I wrote long time ago, while I was thinking of mundane problems of organising time, deadlines, pressure put by the academia…)

According to all job descriptions from different sectors I read recently, the ideal candidate to fit the job perfectly should have an ‘ability to work under pressure and strict deadlines’. Correct me if I am wrong, but this should be rather a recent phenomenon: The tailor and carpenter needed to ‘take his time’ in order to create the perfect costume and chair rather than meeting the deadline put by the customer. The most appreciated feature of a secretary or any administrative worker was integrity and attention to details in a company rather than coping with pressure and anxiety, which would probably not add to a healthy and viable working environment and thus to the very benefit of the company itself. I will not deny how time at work was used as a labour discipline as E. P. Thompson showed to us, in the history of capitalism but I do not think that internalization of temporal coercion was considered to be such an important ability at all. Control over one’s work was always partly lost to the supervisor, but the anxiety and stress-related diseases show that you even no longer need any supervisor to control you, since the perfect controller of your own body became yourself: You feel that you are incompetent or a failure if you can not meet the deadlines, i.e. if you do not possess this ‘ability to work under pressure’, so you push yourself even more.  

Some extent of anxiety is good, say psychologists, but only if motivates us do better and exploit fully our potentials. Sometimes, when we are so much into what we are doing, we tend to forget working hours; we definitely put pressure on ourselves. Everybody knows that when an event is organized, for instance, until the last minute there are things to do in a hectic way until the actual happening of the event becomes a source of satisfaction and a reward. But here lies the secret: Pressure works well when it is temporary, not permanent; when it brings adrenaline rather than stress; when it is transformed into joy by human agency rather than exerted by some strict supervision. My flatmate looks so tired when he comes back from his job around 6 pm but is so energetic when he comes at 12 pm in the evening after his band practice.

My flatmate may not like his job but what happens to those lucky ones who do the jobs they like? Work conditions can transform the best jobs into nightmare: My sister who is a talented architect in her mid twenties, with an excellent CV, a master degree and good work experience can not find a job nowadays simply because in all her interviews she says that she refuses to work until late every day. She openly says to the recruitment panels that not only her health collapses due to intensity of work, which she does not want, but she also finds this counter-productive in terms of creativity and imagination. My sister simply refuses one of the golden rules of global capitalism, flexibility and the price she pays is unemployment. Apparently not all young architects are willing to rebel as my sister does since there is almost a ‘reserve army’ of architects and engineers ready to take any jobs.

But why did this ability to work under pressure become even more important than any other ability in personnel recruitments? The lowest grade administrative reception job would ask it, waitress jobs would ask it, big companies such as Norman Foster and partners ask it. And of course this is not their fault. Take Foster, for example. He taught us to love the high-tech architecture because our taxes were spent on the construction and then fixing of Millennium Bridge (because apparently it was not high-tech enough) rather than some social housing. I loved his idea of citizens watching over the City council in Berlin parliament and City Hall in London – after all nothing could be more honestly designed to remind us that we can participate to democracy only formally and symbolically, by ‘watching’, rather than invading the public places and pushing the doors. Brilliant thought. And the reason why bosses such as Foster humbly expect the ability to work under pressure from their workers is simply because they are themselves under the pressure of their customers. In the context of the competitive global architecture, they need to make a difference and he is himself subject to market pressures. In today’s capitalism even architectural companies have shareholders who are less interested in the aesthetics of City Hall than their profit margins.

Even in a completely different sector in which I had the (mis) fortune to work, the academic world, ability to work under pressure is praised so much. One should “publish or perish”, do teaching for income but not take care too much of students, attend lots of conferences (but not read speculative realism if doing a PhD in economics), scan readings but not reflecting long time on them, make project proposals attractive to funding bodies in correct deadlines but not to make collective projects with low “returns”. Let us see, I thought good scientific work required deep thinking and reflection – under that type of pressure even Karl Marx could hardly plan the next volume of Capital.

And it is not only academic work which requires deep thinking. A builder who was working at the big office building in King’s Cross where I was temping as a secretary and to whom I enjoyed talking occasionally once told me: “People think that we pause a lot and we are lazy. They do not understand that when we pause and are involved in deep thinking it is because building job requires calculating carefully the metres and looking at the material. We do also work while standing like this.” It is true. As Barbara Ehrenreich and Richard Sennett showed us the simple reality, even the low skill jobs require some skills and even the most manual labour requires mental work. And good work needs time and concentration. Have you ever told your gardener to come to your garden and finish in half an hour all the care your flowers do need?

Yet, the even worst problem is that bosses who want us to work under pressure and quickly want also the job to get done well. Now, you have two options: Either you burn out at some point as I did once upon a time, or you are upgraded to be a boss and ask your own workers to work under pressure. Unfortunately the reason why I can t see so many Norman Fosters around is not because there are not even more talented architects and hopefully with some new ideas except for some “fancy-high-tech-glass-foster will sell anyway”, but rather because the very structure of the architecture market does not allow new brave market entries on the part of the young people.

Despite this rather pessimistic picture, I have some optimistic visions or illusions about the future: I think that one of the future of socialism lies, as some people warn for some time, in the power of administrative workers, secretaries, accountants, architects and engineers as much as workers and socially excluded. Can you think of what will happen if all those people stop working and the deadlines they are supposed to meet are not met? The customers will be angry, the payments will not be made on time, interest rates will get crazy and something I can only imagine and not forecast will happen to capitalism when it loses its ‘ability to impose the ability to work under pressure’. You may think that it is easy for capitalists to fire those people but let me remind you: While all the psychiatric diseases increase with alienation and work-related stress in modern life, it will be more and more difficult for bosses, to lose their workers who are, by then, used to work under pressure. This so-called ‘ability’ to work under pressure one day will be a scarcity.

But if you do not want to wait until this time to come, I have some immediate solution which you can even experience in your life span. You can join Space Hijackers, a group of anarchist and crazy architects. The criteria to join is not to work under pressure; on he contrary, you need to get rid of all pressures and create trouble to whose who make us work under pressure. Space Hijackers have an excellent ability to create diverse direct actions against the domination of space by corporate logic and culture. They organize parties in Circle Line tube to alter the memory of passengers, challenge parliamentarians in cricket matches they organize in Parliament Square, distribute tea and cucumber sandwiches in front of Starbucks they do hate, and invade the Arms Fair in London. Those are only a few among other actions they make in London. At least they teach us to look differently and critically at ourselves, whatever the City of London professionals or Foster’s architects or academic lecturers we are, who all walk to our work with our miserable take-away sandwich, take-away coffee and our ability to work under pressure.

I am writing those things because up to some time ago, I have had excellent skills to work under pressure until I collapsed, both physically and mentally. But, as I promised to myself, the next time I will only sleep 4 hours per day will be either a revolutionary period, a coexistence of hard work and collective joy devoted to a cause (well Che Guevera was sleeping four hours before the Cuban revolution) or, more modestly and realistically, when I am too excited to finish a piece or when I want to be awake enough to enjoy a late evening with nice wine, friendship and the stars in the sky. I recommend the same. Losing my ability to work under pressure was more difficult than acquiring it, but, if you believe me, once you lose it, even though you might not get the most prestigious jobs anymore, the reward would still remain priceless: an ability to make your life and the life of those we love worth living. Perhaps the architect would remember that one of the meanings to work with space was to make people happy, the engineer would enjoy pausing in front of the building whose careful and subtle geometrical calculations were his work of art and the lecturer would leave the classroom with shining eyes after a good performance with his/her students and still find the motivation to write the first sentences of an article in a nice café.

March 2008

Here are some reflections on another thought-provoking post on Labour and Time by Leniency. Apologies from Ben if I got anything wrong or misunderstood – given that I do not have always the sufficient philosophical vocabulary to deal with writings where so many thoughts and multiple references are presented in a condensed form. I do refer to his arguments, it is worth reading the whole post in the first place.


On the issue of time

Time is one of the central elements in Marx’s analysis and Bensaid is one of the best authors to identify multiple temporalities in Capital (His Leaps, Leaps, Leaps, on the other hand, is a real gem which focuses on the time of politics against the time of Capital). Ben is right to point out to the working class struggles (absenteeism, strikes) against the despotism of capitalist time. It was interesting for me to see how both in the history and at present tea breaks, for instance, (apart from the usual claim for reduced working time) have been very important issues of struggle for the workers, workers claiming time on their own at the workplace, reminding, with dignity, to the capitalist that their domination will never be complete. Whereas in previous fieldwork in industrial clusters in Istanbul (where working conditions resonate Engel’s Manchester), I witnessed how neoliberal forms of control first eliminated collective tea breaks to prevent collective talks which might dangerously lead to thinking and action.

Yet, if the differentia specifica of capitalist society is not exploitation of the workers by capitalists (although it also requires and includes this), but abstract domination of capital over individuals in society (I follow M. Postone and N. Pepperell here), then there is extreme pressure capital puts on the individual capitalists as well with respect to time: The working hours of the labourer in a subcontracting company are increased because buyers put new standards for just-in-time production on the subcontractor; the trader in the London Metal Exchange (LME) has to make decisions about price offers in five minute out-cry Ring Sessions, which will determine the global referencing price; hedging at the LME has been first developed against price risk, because by the time the ships brought copper from Chile to England (with a travel time of three months), price of copper had already changed. That is why, apart from the important socioeconomic struggles at the work place, which ‘resist’ the time of Capital (but which are still ‘politically retarded’ as I mentioned in the post on Working Class Struggle as Information Conduit post), we should also imagine, for a post-capitalist vision, a completely novel understanding of time. I say “imagine”, because only novel forms of social practices can really alter experience of time and space. But imagining the new does not exclude completely some positive dimension of capitalist time: the production of goods at a tremendous quantity and speed, for instance, can and should be used for the meeting of the needs of millions of people. How you can take this positive dimension of production (even if it is related to the forces of competition) and insert it into a socialist configuration without falling back again into capitalism, is another question, which I am still thinking of though…

On the issue of negativity and resistance

Ben engages with the argument that real abstraction and real subsumption totalised everything to leave no room for agency. He offers a more relational approach which emphasises the articulation of negativity with a struggle ‘within and against’ despotism of capitalist time. I do share his criticism but wants to emphasise some points in relation to the way in which he substantiates his proposal:

1)    I agree that some approaches, which look from the perspective of totality, have implications of absorbing all forms of agency. But the idea of de-ontologising totality does not need to be incompatible with agency. Real abstraction “really” looks like absorbing any anthropology. But it is itself a very particular form of enacted social practice. For instance, after I did my fieldwork with the metal traders, producers and brokers, I tried to think of them as if I was an anthropologist who travelled to a capitalist society from a completely different world and recorded what they did in their everyday life as anthropological rituals, which are alien to me. In completely different locations of the same commodity market, individuals’ rituals contributed to the making of an impersonal power of the market (in their language, the market behaves, likes, dislikes, has a sentiment, which is independent of the people who participate to it). Their everyday rituals (buying, selling, consuming, producing, networking, hedging, gathering information, keeping stocks, offering new supply…etc.) contributed to the making of the market price, which assumed an independent character and to which all market participants were subject to. In turn, while buying, selling, producing….etc. they acted according to this market price. It is this anthropological root or practically enacted nature of real abstraction, which makes change not only a matter of agency (who can break the barrier of totality), but as an immanent possibility. Yet, struggle does not guarantee real change: Several struggles in history have been incorporated into capital (which requires another post to discuss)

2)    I do agree with “within and against” strategy. I do agree that the “immediacy of the relational extraction of value in labour provokes resistance, which is vectored through historically conditioned lived experience.” This is the potentials offered by the proletarian situation. But I think the ‘utopian traces of the critique of labour itself’ as Ben mentions is equally significant. I had already mentioned this problem in my Ontological Problem of the Worker. If we will be against the imposition of value-form, we should remember that this is not something a class of individuals imposes on another class. As Mark Fisher reminds in Capitalist Realism, we talk about a ‘centerless’ form of domination, of which workers’ reality is a part.

3)    Even though I do agree with the emphasis on the “collective” articulation, there are some very interesting things individual forms tell us about negativity. In Pasolini’s Accattone, the pimp who wanted to work for the woman he loves could not subjugate to the transformation of his body into a proletarian chose negation in his own death (see Fabio Vighi’s political reading of the film via Zizek and Agamben and his special analysis of signs which refer to exclusion, negation and death http://tcs.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/20/5/99) The stories of workers I heard or myself witnessed include those unemployed family fathers who burnt themselves out of despair, those young men in poor neighbourhoods who cut themselves (and say that their physical pain replaces suddenly a much deeper one or take a pleasure they can not explain), those who always depend on someone because they hate the idea and practice of being a “worker” (about whom I will post a working class portrait I wrote). I do not necessarily see a point of resistance in those stories, but they tell us smg. about reality of class experience, which can be very important for the organisation of collective action.

4)    I also do agree that labour process offers points of collective articulation for ‘within and against’ strategy. But we need to develop what we understand from labour processes in contemporary capitalism, what are the diverse forms of mediation by which labour experiences conflict and antagonisms….etc. Migrant rural workers in the developing countries experience direct conflicts with labour contractors, public sector workers with their managers who are themselves employees, small farmers with middlemen and moneylenders, home-based female workers with intermediaries sent by factories. But each time there are mediated yet broader levels of conflict in which different actors are involved (landowners, government, banks, large traders, factory owners…etc.). We are trying to transform a centerless form of domination, yet, collective organisation has to be made in multiple centers of conflict. Qualitative improvements in the latter does not necessarily lead by itself to a better achievement of the former.

I recommend that we support Clare Solomon for ULU President 2010. You can join the facebook group: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=317503527760&ref=nf and you can check her personal statement on http://ulucampaigner.wordpress.com/

Clare is a wonderful activist and friend; she was one of the key organisers of the campaign against deportations last year at SOAS, has recently organised a fantastic event (Love On Trial -http://jointhemutiny.wordpress.com/) which I myself missed unfortunately. Clare has the great capacity to combine creativity and diversity of action with carnavalesque, joyful but still sharp radicalism. Her use of web tools is always efficient and inspiring. She is tireless and works like a one-person army sometimes 🙂 If commitment, passion and real labour of love will be rewarded at the elections, Clare is the perfect candidate. Both as a student and a teacher at the University of London, I support her.

Today, I was at Ray’s Jazz Cafe to finish marking student essays. I can never mark essays at home since I tend to do other things and Ray’s Jazz on the first floor of Foyles Bookshop is one of my favourite places to hear free jazz concerts, sit at the tables with people I do not know but who love books. The latte is one of the best in London. During concerts, the whole place turns into a very very big cosy living room with people who seem to have come for a party…

Two middle age ladies sat at my table and asked me about the essays since they were English teachers and loved their job but hated marking. One said that rather than marking, she would order new books on Amazon. She said she was not only reading literature but also medicine, science, art, history…. Can you believe that after harrassing so much my friends about the importance of reading History of Natural Sciences (for us social scientists), I found, in this high school teacher, a perfect company to share my appetite for Joseph Banks, Royal Society, combination of poetry and science…I could see a pair of eyes shining when I mentioned the Age of Wonder by Richard Holmes… I think it would have been odd if I had asked her mobile number to meet up again.

Donald Mc Kenzie is speaking at Queen Mary, School of Business and Management seminars, next wednesday (17 February 2010) at 4 PM.


McKenzie’s work on sociology of financial markets and arbitrage as well as his concept of performative economics is the by-product of very interesting and serious scholarship. If you are not familiar with his work, you can have a look at this popular piece published in the LRB:


It is not only McKenzie who is interesting, but also the School of Business and Management people (Gerry Hanlon, Stefano Harney, Matteo Mandarini, Peter Fleming, Ishani Chandrasekara). Sometimes people who organise and/or come to an event may be equally important. As in the case of yesterday’s talk given by Mark Fisher at Goldsmiths on Capitalist Realism (http://k-punk.abstractdynamics.org). I simply could not leave the pub after the event for hours…Blogosphere is great, but it can not be a substitute for exciting face-to-face intellectual engagement.

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