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Plunder Blog! Do ideas have power?

“The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed, the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. […] I am sure that the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas.”

This is how Keynes concluded his General Theory. I wonder whether this is still true (if ever it was) in the post-modern era when tecnology rather than culture seems to be the dominating force.  But if it was at least in part still the case, than we must develop a system of political ideas that are capable of enslaving "practical men" to serve the building of a new society of justice, truth and absence of plunder.

I do not think this set of ideas can be scientific. Rather they should form an ideology and a practical strategy. Because an ideology disconnected from a long term strategy is like theory without practice or practice without theory: "theoria sine praxis rota sine axis. Praxis sine theoria coecum in via".

 

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A couple thoughts about the

A couple thoughts about the ideas raised in this post.

First, here is one possible assessment of the situation that I find somewhat compelling. It seems that the established rich do understand the consequences of their economic philosophy, but simply do not have any check from using it cynically for personal aggrandisement. The inability of the Obama administration to relinquish 350 billion dollars in tax cuts from the plan, the effort to 'revise' social security, the eggregious bail out oversight and over-spenditure for stocks and so on just seem to me very obvious in their implications, and I'm sure they are not lost on the executive boards at places like Citi as well. At the same time, however, there is a complete disconnect between more 'serious' thinking that the cultural elite and rich have access to, and the level of conversation on the media outlets which seem to fasten upon buzz words (keynesian/socialism, etc) and look for drummed up, loud drama and accusations. This is coupled with a journalist core that seems predominantly under the belief that going beyond recording talking points is somehow unprofessional. So while those in governance positions may have a more nuanced understanding of the situation, it is either in their interest to continue or alternatively they are forced into various fake conversations to have mass political appeal. I agree it is not an issue of science/intellectual argument, but one of political strategy - the question to me is, how do we intervene?

Second, to the degree that we need to formulate a coherent theory or set of theories about how to recognize things, it seems to me that it is already out there, in Plunder, in CLS and to a lesser extent NAIL literature, in socio-legal writing, in Chomsky and Chalmers work, with Marxist legal theorists like Melveille and Chimni, and so on. The issue may be more how do we promote these ideas in one form or another - do they become textbooks? if so, how do we get profs to pick them up for their classes? how do we pitch it to the publisher? or if not only textbooks, what other media do we have access to?

This conversation was very much alive at the last Critical Legal Studies gathering up in Glasgow, led primarily by Rasulov, Chimni and Bowring.

Best,
John