“It is quite common to hear high officials in Washington and elsewhere speak of changing the map of the Middle East, as if ancient societies and myriad peoples can be shaken up like so many peanuts in a jar.”

― Edward W. Said

"A developing country that wants to develop its economy must first of all keep natural resources in its own hands."
- Deng Xiaoping

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Slavoj Zizek and the role of the philosopher

Slavoj Zizek and the role of the philosopher Zizek "disrupts" ideological structures, the underside of acceptable philosophical, religious and political discourses

25 Dec 2012 

There are many important and active philosophers today: Judith Butler in the United States, Simon Critchley in England, Victoria Camps in Spain, Jean-Luc Nancy in France, Chantal Mouffe in Belgium, Gianni Vattimo in Italy, Peter Sloterdijk in Germany and in Slovenia, Slavoj Zizek, not to mention others working in Brazil, Australia and China.

None is better than the others. All are simply different, pursue different philosophical traditions, write in different styles and, most of all, propose different interpretations. 

While all these philosophers have become points of references within the philosophical community, few have managed to overcome its boundaries and become public intellectuals intensely engaged in our cultural and political life as did Hannah Arendt (with the Eichmann trial), Jean-Paul Sartre (in the protests of May 1968) and Michel Foucault (with the Iranian revolution). 

These philosophers became public intellectuals not simply because of their original philosophical projects or the exceptional political events of their epochs, but rather because their thoughts were drawn by these events. But how can an intellectual respond to the events of his epoch in order to contribute in a productive manner? 

In order to respond, as Edward Said once said, the intellectual has to be "an outsider, living in self-imposed exile, and on the margins of society", that is, free from academic, religious and political establishments; otherwise, he or she will simply submit to the inevitability of events.

To read more......

Dawkins on religion

Special programme Dawkins on religion An interview with renowned atheist Richard Dawkins on whether religion is a force for good or evil.

23 Dec 2012 07:22

Special programme Dawkins on religion An interview with renowned atheist Richard Dawkins on whether religion is a force for good or evil.

Religion is getting a bad press these days. Much of the conflict in the world, from the Middle East to Nigeria and Myanmar, is often blamed on religion.  But how are things from a different perspective? Defenders of religion claim Adolf Hitler was an atheist. Communism under Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot or Mao Zedong banned religion, but also massacred millions. And science brought incredible and amazing advances, but also pollution and the atomic bomb.  A critic of religious dogmatism, Professor Richard Dawkins revolutionised genetics in 1976 with the publication of The Selfish Gene, which explained how evolution takes place at the genetic level. He has since written 12 more bestsellers, including The God Delusion which sold millions of copies, was translated into more than 30 languages, and catapulted him to the position of the world's foremost atheist.  Mehdi Hasan interviews evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins at the Oxford Union and asks: Is religion a force for good or evil? Can it co-exist with science? Is science the new religion? And why if god does not exist, is religion so persistent?

Global banking to be joined by 'Google Bank' and 'Apple Bank'

Russia Today
25 December, 2012

Conventional banking could soon become a thing of the past with the use of the internet and mobile devices booming. They are gradually replacing usual banking cards as a means to pay a bill, Deutsche Bank warns.

Following a technological revolution in payments the web services could take the final step by developing their own facility for allowing credits and taking deposits, says Interfax news agency referring to a research by Deutsche Bank.

A ‘Google bank’ or ‘Apple bank’ that’ll certainly emerge will swallow the greatest part of the traditional banking market. Despite falling incomes and tightened regulation, the existing banks need to invest into new technologies to remain competitive at a time when new technology is advancing, the research says.

Traditional banks are getting unexpected rivals like Google, Apple, Amazon and Paypal that are working out mechanisms to effect mobile payments. The client base of Paypal is already comparable to that of many banks.

The ongoing crisis has made many banking systems in the West suffer huge losses, with customers increasingly doubtful a bank is worth relying on. In countries such as Spain, Italy, Germany and Great Britain between 60% and 80% of people asked said they had become less confident about banks in 2012, according to the Deutsche Bank research. Also non-cash settlements through on-line purses are developing fast. Non-banking structures account for about 6% of total settlements, with the figure projected to increase to 8% in 2013.

Most recently, Google said in November it wanted to make virtual accounts in its Google Wallet service real by introducing plastic cards linked to its online payment system. Reports said then it could turn the world’s largest search engine into a sterling bank.

Heirs of Mao’s Comrades Rise as New Capitalist Nobility

By Bloomberg News - Dec 26, 2012

Lying in a Beijing military hospital in 1990, General Wang Zhen told a visitor he felt betrayed. Decades after he risked his life fighting for an egalitarian utopia, the ideals he held as one of Communist China’s founding fathers were being undermined by the capitalist ways of his children -- business leaders in finance, aviation and computers. 

“Turtle eggs,” he said to the visiting well-wisher, using a slang term for bastards. “I don’t acknowledge them as my sons.” 

Two of the sons now are planning to turn a valley in northwestern China where their father once saved Mao Zedong’s army from starvation into a $1.6 billion tourist attraction. The resort in Nanniwan would have a revolution-era theme and tourist-friendly versions of the cave homes in which cadres once sheltered from the cold. 

One son behind the project, Wang Jun, helped build two of the country’s biggest state-owned empires: Citic (6030) Group Corp., the state-run investment behemoth that was the first company to sell bonds abroad since the revolution; and China Poly Group Corp., once an arm of the military, that sold weapons and drilled for oil in Africa. 

To read more......

Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Book on Sociology and Political Science: Ideas and Politics in Social Science Research

Edited by Daniel Beland and Robert Henry Cox 

Writing about ideas, John Maynard Keynes noted that they are "more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else." One would expect, therefore, that political science--a discipline that focuses specifically on the nature of power--would have a healthy respect for the role of ideas. However, for a variety of reasons--not least of which is the influence of rational choice theory, which presumes that individuals are self-maximizing rational actors--this is not the case, and the literature on the topic is fairly thin. As the stellar cast of contributors to this volume show, ideas are in fact powerful shapers of political and social life.

In Ideas and Politics in Social Science Research, Daniel Béland and Robert Henry Cox have gathered leading scholars from a variety of subdisciplines in political science and sociology to provide a general overview of the theoretical, empirical, and methodological issues raised by social science research on ideas and politics. Throughout, they hone in on three central questions. What is the theoretical basis for studying ideas in politics? What are the best methods? What sort of empirical puzzles can be solved by examining ideas and related phenomena such as discourse, policy paradigms, and framing processes? In sum, this is a state-of-the-art academic work on both the role of ideas in politics and the analytical utility that derives from studying them.

  • Outlines an ambitious research agenda for the study of ideas and politics
  • Examines the relationship between ideas, interests and institutions
  • Stellar cast of contributors, among the best known students of the role of ideas in politics
  • Engages political science and sociology

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Why Innovation Won't Save Us

For more than a century, the U.S. economy grew robustly thanks to big inventions; those days are gone.

Robert J. Gordon

The Wall Street Journal
December 21, 2012

Nothing has been more central to America's self-confidence than the faith that robust economic growth will continue forever. Between 1891 and 2007, the nation achieved a robust 2% annual growth rate of output per person. Unfortunately, the evidence suggests to me that future economic growth will achieve at best half that historic rate. The old rate allowed the American standard of living to double every 35 years; for most people in the future that doubling may take a century or more. 

The growth of the past century wasn't built on manna from heaven. It resulted in large part from a remarkable set of inventions between 1875 and 1900. These started with Edison's electric light bulb (1879) and power station (1882), making possible everything from elevator buildings to consumer appliances. Karl Benz invented the first workable internal-combustion engine the same year as Edison's light bulb.

This narrow time frame saw the introduction of running water and indoor plumbing, the greatest event in the history of female liberation, as women were freed from carrying literally tons of water each year. The telephone, phonograph, motion picture and radio also sprang into existence. The period after World War II saw another great spurt of invention, with the development of television, air conditioning, the jet plane and the interstate highway system.

The profound boost that these innovations gave to economic growth would be difficult to repeat. Only once could transport speed be increased from the horse (6 miles per hour) to the Boeing 707 (550 mph). Only once could outhouses be replaced by running water and indoor plumbing. Only once could indoor temperatures, thanks to central heating and air conditioning, be converted from cold in winter and hot in summer to a uniform year-round climate of 68 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit.

To Read More......

Friday, December 21, 2012

A New Book: Religion in the Neoliberal Age

Religion in the Neoliberal Age: Political Economy and Modes of Governance Religion in the Neoliberal Age

Edited by François Gauthier, University of Fribourg, Switzerland and Tuomas Martikainen, University of Helsinki, Finland

January 2013    
260 pages    
ISBN: 978-1-4094-4978-2    
ISBN Short: 9781409449782 

This book, together with a complementary volume 'Religion in Consumer Society', focuses on religion, neoliberalism and consumer society; offering an overview of an emerging field of research in the study of contemporary religion. Claiming that we are entering a new phase of state-religion relations, the editors examine how this is historically anchored in modernity but affected by neoliberalization and globalization of society and social life. Seemingly distant developments, such as marketization and commoditization of religion as well as legalization and securitization of social conflicts, are transforming historical expressions of 'religion' and 'religiosity' yet these changes are seldom if ever understood as forming a coherent, structured and systemic ensemble.

'Religion in the Neoliberal Age' includes an extensive introduction framing the research area, and linking it to existing scholarship, before looking at four key issues: 1. How changes in state structures have empowered new modes of religious activity in welfare production and the delivery of a range of state services; 2. How are religion-state relations transforming under the pressures of globalization and neoliberalism; 3. How historical churches and their administrations are undergoing change due to structural changes in society, and what new forms of religious body are emerging; 4. How have law and security become new areas for solving religious conflicts. Outlining changes in both the political-institutional and cultural spheres, the contributors offer an international overview of developments in different countries and state of the art representation of religion in the new global political economy.
Contents: Preface; Introduction: religion in market society, François Gauthier, Tuomas Martikainen and Linda Woodhead; Part I Religions in the New Political Economy: Entrepreneurial spirituality and ecumenical alterglobalism: two religious responses to global neoliberalism, Joanildo A. Burity; Making religion irrelevant: the ‘resurgent religion’ narrative and the critique of neo-liberalism, James V. Spickard; The decline of the parishes and the rise of city churches: the German Evangelical Church in the age of neoliberalism, Jens Schlamelcher; Catholic Church civil society activism and the neoliberal government project of migrant integration in Ireland, Breda Gray; Faith, welfare, and the formation of the modern American Right, Jason Hackworth. Part II Political Governance of Religion: Neoliberalism and the privatization of welfare and religious organizations in the United States of America, David Ashley and Ryan Sandefer; Multilevel and pluricentric network governance of religion, Tuomas Martikainen; Regulating religion in a neoliberal context: the transformation of Estonia, Ringo Ringvee; Neoliberalism and counterterrorism laws: impact on Australian Muslim community organizations, Agnes Chong; From implicitly Christian to neoliberal: the moral foundations of Canadian law exposed by the case of prostitution, Rachel Chagnon and François Gauthier; Religious freedom and neoliberalism: from harm to cost-benefit, Lori G. Beaman; Bibliography; Index.

About the Editor: 
François Gauthier is professor of religious studies at the Université du Québec à Montréal, Canada, and a specialist of religious formations in 'ultra modernity'. He has previous experience researching and writing on the rapports between religion, politics and economics in modern and contemporary society as well as on religion theory. He has experience editing volumes on these topics in both English and French, in reputed journals as well as in book form. His research interests are in the dynamics of religion with respect to the consumer ethos, electronic media and neoliberal policy. He edits the 'Religion, ethics and symbolism' section of the on-line Revue du MAUSS permanente (www.journaldumauss.net) and is part of the editing committee of the influential French social science journal Revue du MAUSS semestrielle. He has published widely in journals and books in both English and French, and is currently writing a book entitled Le mythe de l'autonomie. Religion, politique et économique en modernité (Paris: Desclée de Brouwer).

Tuomas Martikainen is a docent and university researcher of comparative religion in the University of Helsinki, Finland. He is also member of executive general management team of the Post-Secular Culture and a Changing Religious Landscape in Finland Centre of Excellence in Åbo Akademi University, and a specialist of contemporary religious and ethnic diversity in Finland. He has previous experience researching and writing on religion and society and editing volumes on religion and immigration, including the textbooks and article compilations. Martikainen's research interest is in neoliberalism and new forms of minority governance in western societies, and he is currently editing Muslims at the Margins: Islam in Finland, Ireland and Portugal (forthcoming in 2012). He has also edited six books in the Finnish language and has published widely in English.

Introduction: Religion in Market Society 1
François Gauthier, Tuomas Martikainen and Linda Woodhead
PART I Religions In The new Political Economy
1) Entrepreneurial Spirituality and ecumenical alterglobalism:
two Religious Responses to global neoliberalism 21 Joanildo A. Burity
2) Making Religion irrelevant: the ‘Resurgent Religion’ narrative
and the Critique of neoliberalism 37 James V. Spickard
3) the Decline of the Parishes and the Rise of City Churches:
the german evangelical Church in the age of neoliberalism 53 Jens Schlamelcher
4) Catholic Church Civil Society activism and the neoliberal
Governmental Project of Migrant Integration in Ireland 69 Breda Gray
5) Faith, Welfare and the Formation of the Modern american Right 91 
Jason Hackworth
PART II Political Governance and Religion
6) Neoliberalism and the Privatization of Welfare and Religious organizations in the United States of america 109 David Ashley and Ryan Sandefer
7) Multilevel and Pluricentric network governance of Religion 129 
Tuomas Martikainen
vi Religion in the Neoliberal Age
8) Regulating Religion in a neoliberal Context:
the transformation of estonia 143 Ringo Ringvee
9) Neoliberalism and Counterterrorism laws: impact on australian
Muslim Community organizations 161 Agnes Chong
10) From implicitly Christian to neoliberal: the Moral Foundations
of Canadian law exposed by the Case of Prostitution 177 Rachel Chagnon and François Gauthier
11) Religious Freedom and neoliberalism:
From Harm to Cost-benefit 193 Lori G. Beaman