Keynes and the making of “the economy” : part 1

In The General Theory of 1936, Keynes pictures banknotes buried in abandoned coal mines to explain the need for governments to organize the domestic circulation of money:

If the Treasury were to fill old bottles with bank notes, bury them at suitable depths in disused coal mines which are then filled up to the surface with town rubbish, and leave it to private enterprise on well-tried principles of laissez-faire to dig the notes up again … there need be no more unemployment and, with the help of the repercussions, the real income of the community, and its capital wealth also, would probably become a great deal greater than it actually is.

John Maynard Keynes, 1936. The general theory of employment, interest, and money, London: Macmillan, 129.

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Discrimination, you ask? Oh absolutely.

Suppose you want a job somewhere abroad. Why not, right? You’re qualified, you speak the language fluently, and you even went to college there, so you have a decent network. Pretty soon you’re even getting interviews, and they’re going fairly well because frankly, as an entry-level applicant, all you have to prove is a cheerful willingness to do grunt work and that you’re reasonably socially adjusted.

And then something happens. The tone changes, caution levels rise. Your interviewer asks you—fairly gingerly—what your citizenship status is. Easy question you think, and you answer truthfully. And before you know it, the conversation ends and you’re back at square one, wondering what could possibly have gone wrong.

Well guess what? This is probably what happens to many of your recently graduated international friends from Wellesley—at least the ones who even attempt to get non-corporate or non-technical jobs in America. And this is what is happening to me.

Forget the fact that most of the jobs companies advertise are protected by the Equal Employment Opportunities Act; one that’s supposed to protects job applicants from being discriminated against on the basis of race, color, religion, sex OR national origin. Or the fact that the Immigration Reform and Control Act ‘makes it illegal to for employers to discriminate with respect to hiring, firing, or recruitment or referral for a fee, based on an individual’s citizenship or immigration status.’ But unfortunately for many companies, the extra money, paperwork and effort that go into issuing work visas to qualified, legally authorized foreign employees usually acts as a deterrent to hiring them in the first place. (The economy sucks, and so on.)

And why not? Axing the foreigners seems like a harmless way to decrease the applicant pool. They don’t have voting rights, so who cares? And hey, they can go back home! Right?

Not for me. Sure, there are plenty of women who will endure a severe downgrade in independence and mobility, not to mention the very real prospect of being sexually harassed and humiliated on the street on a regular basis—all in the day of a working woman in the male-dominated environment back home. And I salute them. But can you blame me for wanting more than that? Especially after going to Wellesley?

But the saga continues. One by one, my international friends—all equipped with fantastic liberal arts degrees—are heading home disheartened and empty-handed. Because for many of them, a US degree won’t really make too much of a difference to their job prospects at home, especially if they aren’t already too well connected. Not to mention the tremendous social pressure to get married and have an army of children. So much for overcoming cultural adjustment, homesickness and that all-too-familiar guilt for leaving home for greener pastures—our reward is an international walk of shame to a fate that we couldn’t escape.

Most of us don’t even bother to fight it. Some of us are forced to consider options with less-stringent visa restrictions, such as non-profit jobs, or grad school. I know some people who got lawyers, but the fee was astounding, and the results, grim.

Ladies, I think it’s time you knew. It’s time you knew that for many of us, unemployment woes go beyond inner battles of pride, entitlement and whether or not we should get health insurance—it’s that sinking feeling of realizing that despite securing a number of great job interviews, something as arbitrary as our lack of citizenship will probably determine how employable we are. It’s time you knew that we continue to fight against the low odds of our success, while most Americans are oblivious that this is happening. It’s time you knew that discrimination in the workplace goes even deeper than you had imagined, and this needs to change. Because equal employment will certainly never exist otherwise. And if you believe that it should exist, then yes, it’s time you knew.

-Saba Sulaiman ‘09

“Writing machines”

“Of course, even where the instruments and strategies of post-structuralist thought have been enthusiastically adopted, they have often served as a modish disguise. Thus the reception and broad dissemination of Derrida in the United States has taken a shape as a blending of New-Critical immanent interpretation, on the one hand, with a negative theology of the literary work in which texts figure as the hopefully hopeless allegory of their own failure, on the other. The difficult term deconstruction has become a laxly used synonym for negative critique. Advocacy of this sort, held in thrall to fascination, is merely the inverse of the accusation of fashionableness. Information, according to Gregory Bateson’s definition, is a difference that makes a difference. By consigning post-structuralism to the realm of fashion, American literary criticism has systematically refused to be informed.”


“The precondition of this unweaving is the minimal experimental condition of psychophysics: that writing, as writing, be written down. In order for this detachment of writing from subjectivity to occur, however, inscription has to become mechanized, and this happens with the typewriter. The typewriter, Heidegger noted, alters our relationship to being: it takes language away from the hand, which – and here Heidegger is faithful, as so often, to Aristotle – distinguishes “man.” Kittler, without sharing the philosopher’s nostalgia, renders this Heideggerian intuition historically concrete. The typewriter frees writing from the control of the eye and of consciousness; it institutes spacing as the precondition of differentiation; it stores a reservoir of signifiers that strike the page much as Ebbinghaus’s syllables strike the body’s sensory surface. Nietzsche’s notion of moral inscription is modeled on the typewriter, one of the earliest versions of which he owned and used. Saussure’s linguistics, in Derrida’s reading a linguistics of arche-writing, has its technological correlate in the typewriter. Freud’s psychic apparatus, as he called it, is a writing machine. Moreover, as Kittler shows, the literacy production of the era is no less dependent, in conception and practice, on the new technology of the letter. Mallarmé calls for the disappearance of the elocutionary subject and derives poetry from the 26 letters of the alphabet and the spaces between them. Kafka’s instruments of torture are writing machines. Morgenstern develops a poetics of autonomous punctuation. Like psychophysics (for which it is a technological precondition as well), the typewriter alters the status of discourse and repositions literature, science, and theory. The end of “man” postulated by Foucault is brought on by a mechanism that writes writing.”

Wellbery, David E. Foreword to Discourse networks 1800/1900 by Freidrich A Kittler. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1990.

Internet Commentary

An excerpt from an interview between Adam Fish (from the blog and Charles Stafford, Professor of Anthropology at the London School of Economics, about Stafford’s new anthropology journal Anthropology of this Century.

AF: Its a simple one but one of the affordances that internet publishing has over hardcopy publishing is the capacity for fast dialogic commentary and the modeling of a virtual public sphere. As one of the moderators of this blog Savage Minds, I understand the work entailed in moderating commentary but I still find it a necessary component of online writing. Considering this, why don’t you allow comments on the articles?

CS: The question you ask is one that I anticipated. Not only does AOTC not have serious interactivity (e.g. readers’ forums etc.), we don’t even have a letters page! This may seem odd for an online open access journal. But if people want to respond to our articles my advice is that they should stop – think carefully – and then publish a response elsewhere, either on a blog (such as yours), or in an article, or a book. The instant response is in some ways antithetical to scholarship. I’m not a big fan of it, except in the context of research seminars, such as the anthropology seminar we hold on Friday mornings at the LSE. There I can be extremely critical of someone’s ideas but this is followed by us having a drink together, and then lunch, which obviously transforms the whole interaction.

read the entire interview here:

Anthropology, Moral Optimism, and Capitalism: A Four-Field Manifesto

We owe it to ourselves and to our interlocutors to say loudly that we have seen alternative visions of humankind–indeed more than any academic discipline–and that we know that this one . . . that constructs economic growth as the ultimate human value . . . may not be the most respectful of the planet we share, nor indeed the most accurate nor the most practical. We also owe it to ourselves to say that it is not the most beautiful nor the most optimistic.

–Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Global Transformations, p.139