We are shocked about the attacks on Friday 13 because, for the West, Paris is an ideal city of love, equality and democracy. Being hit there shakes a misleading dream which we finally need to wake up from and adjust, argues Johannes Lenhard.
Fishermen learn to set traps and nets to maximize their harvest, but the rules that govern these behaviors can limit their overall success. Commons management is appealing to our mind’s inclination towards systems that combine fairness and punishment. Both fishermen and sustainability-minded groups want fish stock to be preserved. However, argues Chelsea Hayman, formal conservation policy makes the greatest impact when it considers the significance of fairness and punishment in fishing communities and the breakdown of relationships and successes that occurs when these components are compromised.
When reports circulated in 2014 that the Central Bank of Ecuador had banned Bitcoin and planned to introduce its own digital currency, the focus on Bitcoin distracted from the world’s first publically mandated and operated mobile money system and the intense controversy that system provoked in Ecuador. As Taylor Nelms explains in this article in the ‘Future of Money’ strand, that controversy was linked to anxieties about the durability of money’s value. The anxities stemmed from Ecuador’s dollarization more than a decade before, pointing back towards the politics of value at stake in contemporary experiments with the infrastructures of money.
Ten years after Hurricane Katrina, the U.S. government’s response to the storm casts a revealing light on the humanitarian crisis taking place on the United States’s southern border. Conditions that arose quite dramatically in New Orleans in 2005 – criminalization and militarization of the population, structural apathy toward heightened rates of gender-based violence, and the increased privatization of public institutions – are now prevalent in the border region as well. This article compares these conditions and suggests the possibility of a broader solidarity between disparate populations fighting against marginalization by the neoliberal state.
Do projections of future savings to society justify the seemingly exorbitant pricing of potentially life-saving drugs? Victor Roy takes apart the pharmaceutical industry’s often specious rationale for high prices: “Underneath a veneer of long-term thinking hides a more pernicious pathology of short-termism. [...] The most important reason for treating a patient—their chance at health—is lost amid all the arithmetic. The consequences are significant.”
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.
The Peacock has landed. Today it was announced that Aung San Suu Kyi and her party have won a landslide victory in Myanmar’s recent elections. However, throughout her election campaign she has repeatedly downplayed the issue of the persecution of ethnic Muslims in the western state of Rakhine, and growing Islamophobia in the country. While – rightly or wrongly – this can be explained by political expediency, what is important is that the she and the party realize the power they have to reform the people of Myanmar’s views on the issue, and therefore the great potential they have to stop further suffering.Nov 5
Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1651?-95) speaks to us across the centuries as a woman who was driven by the desire to follow her greatest inclination, learning and the study of letters. Prof. Catherine Boyle and spoken word artist Amerah Saleh give us an insight into Juana’s strong poetry and share their inspirations with us.Oct 22
Berlin’s Muslim communities are taking an active role in supporting refugees, thus shaping German civil society and its responses to the arrival of hundreds of thousands fleeing war, persecution, and poverty. This new engagement is both an expression of, and a call for, emergent self-confidence among minority communities that redefine their role within German society. Jan Bock documents ethnographically one such initiative at the end of the Eid al-Adha, the Festival of the Sacrifice, in Berlin’s Sehitlik mosque.Oct 17
A basic function of artworks is that they hold a mirror up to our selves. Doubled figures in art therefore tell us something about that process of mirroring, and can make it explicit. Chris Townsend explores doubles in David Lynch’s cult TV series Twin Peaks, to begin to understand how a TV show can shed a little light on our own dual natures.Sep 27
The Nasty Party is back. By this, Christopher Prendergast means the Disaffected Labour Party, the gaggle of MP’s, former ministers, shadow ministers, superannuated grandees, spinmeisters and hacks, collectively throwing their toys out of the pram over the prospect and then the actuality of the Jeremy Corbyn election. Prendergast takes the Trident issue, a debate over the UKs nuclear submarines, as an angle to look at the current state of the Labour party.Sep 22
A home is never a static entity; it demands continuous making and re-making, both materially and spiritually. Such home-making requires work and creativity – something Johannes Lenhard found during his work with homeless people on the streets of London and Paris. As more and more of the world’s population become displaced in search of new and better homes, it is time we deploy the same work and creativity in re-thinking the very concept of ‘home’. This article is the first in a new strand investigating the topic.Sep 8
Tobias Haeusermann argues that by dispelling all the stereotypes of ageing we risk falling into the normative and crippling positive ageing trap. Rather than neutering old age for mass consumption, we ought to look at how stigmatisation and exclusion occurs within the cohesively imagined group of the elderly. And the only way we can release old age from its negative and normative straightjacket, is by becoming aware of how we, the old, are the makers of our own misery.Jul 3
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.