Tuesday, August 29, 2006

economy, war, deterrence, bodies

some not terrible economic news this morning:
The nation's poverty rate was essentially unchanged last year, the first year it hasn't increased since before President Bush took office.

The Census Bureau reported Tuesday that 37 million Americans were living under the poverty line last year -- about 12.6 percent of the population. That's down from 12.7 percent in 2004, but census officials said the change was statistically insignificant.

The median household income -- the point at which half make more and half make less -- was $46,300, a slight increase from 2004.

However, the number of people without health insurance increased to 46.6 million in 2005. About 45.3 million people were without insurance the year before.
that doesn't mean, however, that consumers are out skipping with glee:
Worries about the job market caused consumers' confidence in the U.S. economy to tumble more than expected in August to its lowest level in nine months.

The Conference Board, a New York-based research group, said Tuesday its confidence index fell to a reading of 99.6, down from 107.0 in July. The index was lower than analysts' expectation of 102.5.

The last time the index fell below 100 was in November, which saw a reading of 98.3.

Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board's consumer research center, said this month's drop -- the largest one-month decline since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast a year ago -- means expectations of slower growth in the coming months.
then there's the slowdown in the housing market, which doesn't make things look too rosy either:
The downturn in the US housing market will force businesses to slash 73,000 jobs a month in the new year and could be more damaging to the world economy than the dotcom crash, economists have warned.

After official figures last week showed that the number of new homes sold in July was 22 per cent lower than a year earlier, while prices were almost flat, fears are mounting that the 'orderly' housing slowdown predicted by the Federal Reserve will become a full-blown crash.


in our ongoing attention to that largely forgotten other site in the global war on terror, turns out it's gone about as well as iraq, as ann jones writes in the asia times...
Remember when peaceful, democratic, reconstructed Afghanistan was advertised as the exemplar for the extreme makeover of Iraq? In August 2002, US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was already proclaiming the new Afghanistan "a breathtaking accomplishment" and "a successful model of what could happen to Iraq". As everybody now knows, the model isn't working in Iraq. So we shouldn't be surprised to learn that it's not working in Afghanistan either.


gabriel kolko on "the death of deterrance" -- essentially arguing that iraq and lebanon have proved (if vietnam hadn't already) that american military superiority can in fact be fought off with a combination of guerilla tactics and increasingly cheaper and more lethal weaponry. he concludes:
The United States, whose costliest political and military adventures since 1950 have ended in failure, now must face the fact that the technology for confronting its power is rapidly becoming widespread and cheap. It is within the reach of not merely states but of relatively small groups of people. Destructive power is now virtually "democratized".

If the challenges of producing a realistic concept of the world that confronts the mounting dangers and limits of military technology seriously are not resolved soon, recognizing that a decisive equality of military power is today in the process of being reimposed, there is nothing more than wars and mankind's eventual destruction to look forward to.


pleasant discovery of the NLR online yesterday. interesting review by perry anderson (my fave of the brit academic marxists) of L’avènement du corps by Hervé Juvin, a center-right management consultant who teases out the sociocultural implications of increasing life expectancies.
The market economy, he argues, was the bearer of the project of the West, ‘born under the sign of reason, mistress of universalism and of individuation’, and long remained its last criterion of the real and rational.[...] ‘That is finished. A welfare economy, under the aegis of the primacy of the body, is operating an immense reshuffling of values and prices, of preferences and norms’—one that ‘places health, well-being and physical integrity above the economy’, and in so doing signifies a return of ‘collective choices’. In no way does this mean an eclipse of markets, which on the contrary are poised to invade ever more domains of the corporeal, and privatize them. But the financial markets that are today our nearest thing to a regime of truth will have to adapt to this successor system, and derive their legitimacy from subserving it, by ‘introducing calculations of value-added into the production of welfare’. [...]

What is the upshot? Juvin’s central message is a sinister paradox: what communism set out to do, and disastrously failed to achieve, capitalism is in the process of realizing. The wildest of all the utopian dreams of revolutions gone by is now taking shape, unseen, before our eyes. ‘The project abandoned by a defunct political ideology, the transformation of the human condition, has become the object of the unexpected couple of science and the market’. For the discredited messianic conception of an anthropological transfiguration of humanity is at length coming to pass. ‘The economy of free enterprise has succeeded in delivering, and more, what the various socialisms promised and what they pursued with all the means at the disposal of a virtually unlimited power, in China as in the USSR: it has given birth to the new man’.
fascinating, if perverse. makes me at least understand what the psycho market fundamentalists who want to privatize the human genome are really on about...

a much longer NLR project on my plate is giovanni arrighi's two-part "hegemony unravelling:...

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