Re: Giovanni Arrighi "Tracking Global Turbulence" NLR Mar-Apr/03

From: rakeshb@STANFORD.EDU
Date: Tue Apr 29 2003 - 13:03:27 EDT


It seems that we are condemned to speak past each other; I never
did understand exactly why you believe the Cartesian legacy
impoverished Marx's work.

As for the new set of concerns:

1. digital technology raises many social and cultural questions
and there is no question that it has led to productivity improvement;
the question however was whether the assimilation of digital
technology would raise the rate of productivity growth and whether
its impact would be comparable to or exceed that of the
electrication of the economy (as Paul David famously argued).
Anecdotal evidence is not the best way to approach those

2. the pointing not only to the actual existence of psycho-technics
but also to their real effects does not impose manichean divisions
on the world. As pointed out by Schumpeter whose dynamic vision
of the capitalist system seems more consonant with yours than
Marx's, "the neoclassical economic vision of the consumer may
lead one to believe falsely that new wants  arise spontaneously in
consumers and then the productive apparatus swings through
their pressure."

" But as a rule the producer initiates economic change and
consumers are educated by him if necessary. They are taught to
want new things. At any rate, railroads did not emerge because
consumers took the initiative in displaying an effective demand for
their services in preference to the services of mail coaches. Nor
did the consumer display any such initiative wish to have electric
lamps or rayon stockings, or to travel by motorcar or airplane, or to
listen to radios, or to chew gum. There is obviously no lack of
realism in the proposition that the great majority of changes in
commodities consumed have been forced by producers on
consumers who, more often than not, have resisted the change
and have had to be educated up by elaborate psychotechnics of

Of course the very elitism which had Schumpeter locate dynamics
in the mythic personality of the heroic entrepreneur shows here in
his portrayal of the passive consumer. But as Nathan Rosenberg
underlines there is indeed a successful assault here on the
sanctum sanctorum of the neo classical citadel:  the commitments
to the exogeneity of consumer preferences and the associated
virtues of consumer sovereignty.

3. It does seem to me that you had misquoted Arrighi seemingly in
order to set the stage for the expression of your disgust at the
culture of contemporary Germany. At any rate, it does not seem to
me that you explain why Asian central banks seem to be willing to
make less of a return on their dollar assets  than American
investors are making on their foreign investments.

By the way, I do not to think that peace chains are an expression of
the fundamental cultural sickness of any society, but then perhaps
I am not as impressed by Ernst Junger as you are.


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