Jonas Tinius and Johannes Lenhard interview anthropologist Matthew Engelke from the London School of Economics in this first piece for the new strand on the ‘Good Life’. Building on earlier research on what it means to be good for a Christian, Engelke talks about achieving a good life and happiness as a secular humanist in Britain today. In short, such a good life emerges through debate, contemplation, reason and argument – always in relation and conversation with others – and it comes now, in this world, as part of this life’s happiness. Engelke provides us with starting points to explore important questions about wellbeing, ethics, and a good life – without god.
Few vices of contemporary life have been more publicly derided yet institutionally persistent than short-term thinking. “That social and economic planning with intergenerational foresight is a rarity in most parts of the world today,” Ryan Rafaty writes, “at the very moment when there is a ubiquitous surge in criticism of short-termism, should be puzzling. It should prompt some rather difficult questions about what kind of ‘long-termism’ we are after.”
Threading together the push of technology, the pull of society and business forces to fashion a narrative about the future of money brings us away from an undeniably utopian Star Trek version and towards a richer and more complex (although not necessarily dystopian) view of the money that we will be using in the future. If we will be using money at all, that is, argues Dave Birch in the second installment of his article on the technological future of money.
This article examines the role of solidarity politics in the recent Baltimore Uprising, sparked by the death of Freddie Grey. Drawing from both on the ground observation and lessons from past social movements, the complexities of interracial solidarity and the role of ‘outsiders’, whether by racial identity or place of origin, is explored. From this exploration, a call for new visions of solidarity which challenge power dynamics and consciously unite intersecting struggles emerges.
Is technology going to drive money to a utopia or a dystopia? While technology is first about tools and not about how society chooses to utilize them it can create a direction of travel and nudge society along, however. Given the current direction —broadly towards decentralization, distribution and an overall lessening of state power—Dave Birch is inspired by social anthropology and the study of “paleofutures” to make an informed and surprising prediction.
Looking at Peter Strickland’s latest film, The Duke of Burgundy, Darius Lerup explore the vicissitudes of masochism, boredom and the ways in which they are brought together at the intersection between traditional narrative film and the avant-garde.
How to democratize development? Annabelle Wittels sets out on a journey to find some ideas in between power play, empathy, human failure, corruption and grand utopia. She argues there are three challenges in between the status quo and a more democratic development: information is costly and hard to come by, open dialogue and democratic decision-making process are complicated to establish and the accountability of donors, governments and international actors is opaque. A daydream about a new kind of bureaucracy and more direct democracy could be a start for tackling these issues.
Two and a half thousand years ago, Athens was in crisis. It was struck by a crisis of private debt. Not unlike today, the Athenians were looking for a saviour and found Solon. Daniel Unruh traces – partly through original translation of Solon’s poetry – how he abolished debt-slaves, relieved all existing debts and established a system of universal vote. Who is going to be today’s boundary stone between the rich and the poor, the honest and neutral broker who can bring the people together?
The blockchain underlying Bitcoin is moving beyond money and into record keeping and law. This essay explores recent efforts to harness the ledger-like qualities of blockchains to create contracts. Along the way, it considers the forms and functions of other historical examples of ledgers, the dynamics of visibility and publicity, and shifts in the incentive structure of blockchain systems. Distributed, autonomously-executing contracts sound like science fiction. Their non-contractual basis in social relations, cultural assumptions, and human-computer labor, together with their particular system of incentives, may make of contract a kind of game with real-world consequences.
In the second of his two-part series, Paul Sagar suggests that to understand what Neo-liberalism is not, we would do well to look at the intellectual history of recent economic theory. Drawing on work by James Forder, he suggests that we presently labour under a collective misapprehension about the terms of modern political economy.
The term Neo-liberalism is a staple of contemporary political discourse. But what does it actually mean? In this two-part article Paul Sagar draws on recent work in political economy to suggest that we are astonishingly unclear about what this key term signifies. Engaging with recent work by Helen Thompson and Martin Wolf, he argues that it is in fact hard to pin down where neoliberalism or its alternatives stand between the market and politics.
An encounter: Steven J. Fowler is a British poet and artist working in the modernist and avant garde traditions. KR chats to him about the place and politics of his poetry.
A selection of poems on the struggle for autonomy in dietary choices and in old age, from writer and professor of philosophy Felicia Nimue Ackerman.
Today’s most known representatives of the sharing economy discussed in global media are online platforms built on top of venture capital backed, hierarchically structured organizations. Francesca Pick and Julia Dreher argue that there is a fundamental misunderstanding today in the discussion of the subject: the sharing economy is built on rhizomatic network structures holding the potential for deeper societal transformation.
A perplexing party in the East Village, New York, involving fashion models and Bangladeshi labour activists inspires Theo Di Castri and the King’s Review to explore the meaning of solidarity in the twenty first century.Jun 26
Rowan Williams delivered this text as a Sermon Before the University King’s College Chapel, Cambridge on Sunday 17th March 2015. It was the fourth in a series commissioned, as part of King’s commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the completion of the stonework of the Chapel, to examine ‘Education’, ‘Religion’, ‘Learning ‘ and ‘Research’ – the four purposes of the College as defined in the nineteenth century. The sermon explores what it is realistic to expect to from the activity of research, not only in terms of direct outcomes but also as an indirect consequence of exploring the unknown. The impact of questioning on the questioner is offered as a subject of practical, intellectual and spiritual importance.May 15
Bitcoin represents a fascinating technological innovation which might have a number of potential applications. In contrast to the aspirations of some of its supporters, rivaling existing money is not among its likely uses. This results from an underappreciation in Bitcoin’s design of what are important features of money, argues Beat Weber, economist at the Austrian Central Bank.Apr 17
During the recent surge in university occupations, ‘neoliberalism’ has been the enemy du jour. But does it still even exist? Did it ever exist? Jack Browne believes we shouldn’t care. The occupations are affirming political ideals that are outside of the norms of the twenty-first century university. We too need to abandon the inertia of terminological infighting and articulate the unexpected.Apr 8
Occupy LSE recently protested the neoliberal university. But, what does ‘neoliberalism’ actually mean? Eric Lybeck suggests the term denotes an historical epoch which is nearly over. Bankers are more often trained in business schools than advanced economic science, which is itself undergoing curricular change as we speak. Further criticism of neoliberalism is therefore unnecessary. Instead, we should focus on the intellectual incoherence of evolutionary psychology and behavioural economics which is the wave of the future.Feb 10
A long history of coups d’état dating back to the respective Independence days, have not delivered political or economic stability in sub-Saharan African. Mary Serumaga argues that the pattern is for an elite class of politicians and their collaborators capturing the organs of state for their own benefit and to the detriment of what are variously called the urban and rural poor living on a dollar a day.Nov 27
Let’s talk about ethnic conflict and national politics. Take the example of one country, where an ethnic group makes up 80% of the population, yet the remaining four ethnic groups exert considerable political influence. These minority ethnic groups together have …Nov 19
Eric Lybeck sympathizes with the thousands of students who are going to be on the streets of London today protesting for ‘Free Education’. While declining public funding for universities and student debt are serious problems, Lybeck argues that the root of the injustice is not that wealth defines who can go to university or that working class students suffer over proportionately from paying back the debt. For him, the problem is that future generations will have to pay for what we think is a collective good.Oct 27
Clément Mouhot and Lorna Finlayson reflect on the enduring crisis in Palestine and respond to critics who say that singling out Israel is “misguided”, “myopic”, or “immoral”.Sep 24
Kara Walker’s installation at the Domino Sugar Refinery has received a lot of attention, much of it problematic. It is Walker’s ironic enlistment of racist stereotypes that gives her work its power, but this can also lead to inappropriate laughter and racist reactions. Kyle Stoneman explores how we tackle race and female bodies in a museum setting, looking at the installation and its impact.