Economists, the post-coronavirus world and that cat in need of belling.

Let’s start with the joke. No, I don’t mean the last 10 years of non-dealing with climate change at a local authority level. That’s not funny.  Let’s start with this:

A physicist, a chemist and an economist are stranded on a desert island, with a large can of soup.

The physicist says “We could drop it from the top of that tree over there. The kinetic energy involved will make it break open.”

The chemist says “We could build a fire and sit the can in the flames until it bursts open.”

Those two squabble a bit, until the economist says “No, no, no. Come on, guys, you’d lose most of the soup. Let’s just assume a can opener.”

Okaaay.   And?

And this. Without exception, all the articles I have seen about the post-coronavirus world and how it could be a wonderful place (nature is returning, after all) are as deluded and hand-wavy as the economist.

They assume the existence of what is needed to Make the Good Things Happen.

They assume that policymakers are going to put the long-term ahead of the short, the needs of their species (and let’s not even bother to speak of other species) over the people who are in their ears, in their faces, whose pockets they in turn are in, mentally and financially.  They assume that somehow the tragic trajectory of the last 50ish years – of states realising that the problems of the modern world are too tricky for the post-war planning assumptions to hold (academics call this reflexive modernisation. It’s one of the useful bits of conceptual toolkit you might wanna grok) – no longer matter, can be wished away.

Or they assume that there is a vibrant, connected, resilient set of civil society actors – unions, community groups, academics, students, think tanks, church groups etc etc – just champing at the bit, waiting to force through the policies and bolster the institutions (in both senses) that will Make the Good Things Happen.

Uh, no.  This is to make the economist seem wedded to the reality principle.

It Just. Is. Not. So.  There are reasons for this, to do with the hierarchies, secrecies of ‘normal’ states, and with the prolonged, determined and sophisticated attack on democratic structures that flies under the banner “neoliberalism”.  If we do not admit that this is the case, what is the actual point?

We might get some twitter shares for our latest glossy well-meaning and well-written report, that lays out a coherent set of things that SHOULD happen.  But if it is not answering the basic question –

How do we open the can (of whoopass on the status quo actors)?

then we are not any further forward, we are, in fact, further behind.

Who. Is. Going. To. Bell. The. Bloody. Cat?  If you don’t have an answer to that, if you are pretending that question can be assumed away, why don’t you do everyone a favour and shut your cakehole? You’re just taking up bandwidth.

6 thoughts on “Economists, the post-coronavirus world and that cat in need of belling.

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  1. Definition of cat belling (or hotlink to same) definitely needed. But agree – how TF does this get done.

  2. The only community glue i can conceive of that might bell the cat is religion, a new ecocentric one. Failure of xtians & economic rationalism has left a gap. Hard times will drive demand for mutual aid and mystery/hope. Communal ritual & song, demonstrations of shared values & good will, these ancient social tools can rebuild a common good strong enough to bind. Might take a decade or three, might be too late to stop +3C etc, but it’ll come.

      1. Yes, I expect ol’ time religion will be doing solace & control. What i’m interested in tho is religious innovation, for solace, community building, mutual aid, and cultural reorientation. Its absence from modern life is an aberation from most of human history.
        God knows flooding ppl with info [bad news] hasn’t worked to motivate much change, and neither have tepid impersonal moralising & tokenistic actions.

  3. Absolutely. I think – as an atheist – that Liberation Theology absolutely scared the crap out of both the Vatican but also the US elites. I think the assault on Liberation Theology (leading up to, including and extending beyond the assassination of those Jesuit intellectuals in 1989) is indicative of that.

    Are you familiar with Ian Christie? You two would, I think, get on like a house on fire. Happy to introduce you if you don’t already know him.

    PS And I am interested in the same stuff – how do we move beyond the failed models of community-building and “activism” based on guilt, facts, more guilt, more facts and sterile information deficit model approaches and teidious stale repertoires in an “emotacycle”

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