Over the last four decades there have been repeated efforts by businessmen, economists, political scientists, journalists and others to understand the crises of the new world that emerged from the end of the Cold War and to work out solutions. In the confines of private policy groups and in international forums efforts have been launched to find, not simply the solutions to the technical problems of one crisis or another but ways of recreating an international system of growth and development in which all crises can be avoided by complementary approaches. The crises of the Eastern Block have also led to economic reforms in China and fundamental economic and political change in Central Europe. George Bush Sr.'s proclamation of a "New World Order" may have been overly optimistic in imagining the existence of a new "order", but it did express the kind of wishful thinking and planning which has been going on for some time.
However, there is considerable disagreement about the future course of social development. At the heart of the current issues - both West and East - can be found fundamental social conflicts over issues of social justice and economic equality. There are real political differences over the future course of global social and political development. For business and political leaders the current crisis is one to be overcome. For many others the current crisis provides opportunities for social innovation and political change that really could set the world on a new path into a quite different future.
The aim of this course is not to explore each of the various crises of this period in great depth but rather to give the student an overview of the whole gamut of problems and some understanding of their interrelation. This is done partly by examining some of the growing literature which deals with the crisis as a global problem, which sees the interrelationships between, for example, policies aimed at improving economic growth and those aimed at questions of democracy and social conflict and partly by examining specialized studies of specific problems and then discussing the interrelationships among them. The materials provided include studies by those working in many of todays most important national and international policy making bodies (both private and public) -as well as those outside who evaluate and critique their work from more radical perspectives - whether from the Right or the Left.
The following is an outline of the sections of the course (more detailed descriptions can be found below).
Because it would certainly be treated as a violation of copyright laws to scan and make openly available on the web many of the various articles, a few years ago I tried what seemed like, perhaps, the next best thing: students constructed detailed summaries of the copyrighted articles in the bibliographies. However, this process produced mixed results: some summaries were excellent and some were lousy - despite the fact that students were graded on the quality of their work. (Although I have discontinued this practice, I have left those summaries on the website of the readings.)
Since then we have a better solution available and I have taken advantage of it. The University of Texas library now has a system whereby electronic reserves can be created that are password, and therefore copyright, protected. So, instead of constructing summaries, articles have then been uploaded to the Electronic Reserves where they will be available to all members of the class. One of the nice things about these electronic reserves is that they can contain not only text pages but also audio files that can be listened to online through streaming software.
After US forces conquered official and conventional Iraqi military defense efforts and occupied much of the territory, they then had to deal with widespread and continuing resistance that took the form of guerrila warfare and political protest. At the same time US civilian administrators undertook a process of "nation building" to create a new government and reorganize the economy and its linkages to the wider world. That "nation building" led to a reduction in the number of US troops on the ground and the creation of a new Iraqi government which continues to struggle with the ethnic divisions and conflicts that have wracked the country since the controlling hand of Saddam Hussein was removed.
Through all of this, conflict and argument over the war - its motives, its costs, its impact on the region and on terrorism, its meaning for future American foreign policy - have continued. The First Gulf War and the Invasion of Afghanistan also constituted crises, but the first basically ended with the reconquest of Kuwait and the second faded from news reports, and contention, due to the low number of American troops still engaged in counter-guerrilla war and the low number of casualties. The very large number of troops and the daily casualties and deaths in Iraq, on the other hand, coupled with continuing conflict over the real motives for the war and the degree to which the US (and British) governments lied and misled their people to justify the invasion, made the crisis around this issue very much alive and on-going.
Therefore, part of the work of students in this course for a couple of years was the gathering of information and materials on these events and controversies. I proposed, and after some discussion we settled on, a division of labor for such work wherein small groups concentrated on particular issues, gathering and evaluating materials and making those materials available to the rest of the class. The formation of groups was intended to provide opportunities for small group discussion and mutual support. Each class session began with a brief discussion of whatever new material had been discovered that was judged of interest - before moving on to the day's lecture.
Since then the reduction of US presence in Iraq coupled with a considerable expansion of that presence in Afghanistan has shifted attention from the former country to the latter. Despite being elected partly because of his promise to end US involvement in Afghanistan, Obama has not only continued his predessor's policies there but has expanded US troop committments and war making in the area. That expansion has involved not only expanded offensive operations in Afghanistan but expanded operations in Pakistan where many Taliban and Al Qaeda forces have taken refuge and from which they have launched attacks inside Afghanistan. These operations in Pakistan that have included both overt drone and covert special forces attacks have been controversial not only in the United States but in Pakistan as well. Opponents of the Pakistani government have used its cooperation with the United States government's military efforts in that country to mobilize nationalist sentiment against it.
A closely related dimension of this crisis in Central Asia has been the huge expense of the US government war making and nation building operations in that area. Both the George Bush Jr. administration that invaded Afghanistan and then largely abandoned it when it launched the invasion and occupation of Iraq and the Obama administration that has widened the war in Afghanistan have paid for these action not with increased taxes but with borrowed money. The result has been the replacement of a budget surplus bequeathed to the Bush administration by the Clinton administration with a massive buildup of US federal government debt. That buildup has become a central issue in the present economic crisis that expanded from a housing crisis in 2007 to a banking crisis in 2008 and a general downturn in the economy with millions of people losing their homes, their pensions and their jobs. The sources of these crises are many but include, most obviously, the progressive deregulation of the financial sectors since the late 1970s, through both Republican and Democratic administrations, and the refusal to finance expanding government programs - from entitlements to wars - by raising taxes. On the contrary, ever since the first Kemp-Roth tax cuts of the Reagan years, right through those of the Bush and Obama Administrations, the reverse has been the case: tax rates have been cut, those cuts have not provoked enough growth to raise total taxes (despite the promises of so-called "supply-side" economists) and as a result deficits have grown and grown. How to deal with them, within both the United States and many other countries has become a hotly debated issue.
This Spring of the year 2011 as the on-going crisis in Iraq has faded from the headlines, the recent financial collapse, the global economic downturn and the war in Afghanistan remain highly contentious issues. Whether in the headlines or not, many of the other crises that have received global attention in recent years also continue. Immigration policy is hotly contested not only in the United States but in several other countries. High food prices and resultant hunger are widespread provoking both suffering and revolt. The energy generation and use continue to be areas of crisis and conflict from conflicts in areas of production, e.g., the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and the United States, through battles over energy use, e.g., over emission standards, mass transit, to the ramifications in other areas, e.g., the diversion of corn into ethanol production has contributed to raising global food prices. High energy prices also undermine real wages and standards of living. The destruction of ecological systems has also continued and in many ways worsened as new areas of the earth have been subjected to increased exploitation and little has been done to reverse such phenonena as carbon emissions, species extinction, the poisoning of the ocean and global warming.
The organization of the examination of various crises will follow the same pattern as in the past - beginning with the collapse of Keynesianism, followed by that of Bretton Woods and so on. Along the way current moments of crisis will be a constant point of reference with the objective of understanding the present in the light of the past.
To help you organize the study of the material covered in lectures, and to reduce the time in lectures lost in taking notes, I have prepared a number of Powerpoint slides on several sections of the course. They are available on the web and you can download them and print them out ahead of time (three or six to a page usually works well). After using them to study, you can bring them to class and make marginal notes on things discussed in lecture but not detailed on the slides.
If you choose the second option, your grade on your research will be based on 1) a written account of what you have done and accomplished, 2) an annotated bibliography of the materials you have assembled, 3) digital copies of the materials, and 4) the quality of those materials and your evaluation of them. I will ask for a report, a preliminary accounting of what you have done around the middle of the semester with the final accounting (including the e-copies of the material submitted to be provided a week before the end of classes.
The tests will be essay type questions and, as a rule, you will have a choice of questions. Each exam will cover part of the course and there will be no final comprehensive exam. The third and last test will be given during finals week.
If you want to receive Latin American, European or REE Studies credit for this course, you can do so by chosing the second option and gearing your research to deal with some aspect(s) of the course in the context of your field of area studies - the content to be agreed upon through discussion between you and me.
Grades are an obnoxious part of any course, but unavoidable as things stand now. Therefore I want to be clear with you about how I handle grading. Grading will proceed as follows. I will write the tests and answers to each question on the tests. My answers will provide the TA with a point of departure for grading your answers. The TA will record the numerical grade of each student, the class average for that test, and the deviation of each student's grade from that average. I will not assign letter grades until the end of the course. However, for the first test (effectively a first mid-term examination) I will let you know what the distribution of numerical scores looks like so you have a sense of your standing in the class as a whole. When you get your tests back, with grades, you will be able to request of a copy of my answers to the test. You can then use those answers to evaluate the evaluation that was done of your test and perhaps to see where and how you failed to answer the questions asked. If your evaluation convinces you that you deserved more points than you received you will have the opportunity to attempt to convince the TA of that. If you succeed the TA will raise your numerical grade, and so will I. If you fail, you can make the same attempt with me. In either case the onus will be on you to make a convincing case - neither of us will go "looking for points" for you. At the end, after the third test has been graded, I will examine the final numerical grades, their distribution and decide what numerical intervals will be associated with what letter grades. As a general rule, the final class average will determine the middle of the C's. I will then assign letter grades to be handed in to the registrar. While so doing I will watch for and evaluate any improvement you may demonstrate in the grades you receive for the tests. For numerical grades in the high end of the intervals, substantial improvement could result in a higher letter grade than would otherwise be the case.
You are strongly advised to keep up with the material - to read the articles in advance of class lectures. For the most part in lectures I will not explain the readings in detail but will offer you one possible synthesis of all the material covered. You, therefore, will get the most from this approach if you have thoroughly studied the articles assigned and have the necessary background to understand and evaluate the synthesis which I present in class.
NB: Students with disabilities may request appropriate academic accomodations from the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, Services for Students with Disabilities, 471-6259.
Background reading: Part I of my essay "The Rise and Fall of the Keynesian State," plus a review of any chapter in any introductory or intermediate text you find necessary to understand this essay. You will find a careful reading of this essay extremely useful as a guide to the kinds of materials we will be covering and the kinds of background you need to have to get the most from the materials of the course.
These initial lectures will be followed by others on the breakdown of the international monetary system through chronic balance of payments disequilibrium and the failure of adjustment mechanisms, with some discussion of the national economic problems underlying the international collapse. We will then turn to the heart of the kind of analysis on which this course is based: an examination of the socio-political roots of these macroeconomic phenomena. The object is to learn how to read through the "economic" crisis to discover the social and political conflicts which underlie both the various crises and the attempts to resolve them. Read Part II of my essay "The Rise and Fall of the Keynesian State." The last section of this part gives an overview of the other sections of the course.
The attacks on Nixon/Kissinger were not simply liberal/conservative conflicts nor were they based on fundamental disagreement with most of their policies. They originated in the growing isolation and hence inefficiencies of the administration's foreign policy making procedures and approaches to Diplomacy. The attacks led to the creation of Foreign Policy magazine, the Trilateral Commission and Jimmy Carter's presidency.
During Carter's term in office members of the Trilateral Commission occupied most of the important positions in the State Department and other foreign policy wings of his administration. Despite their critiques of Nixon/Kissinger diplomacy, this new group failed to mend the rifts that had been opened in American relations with its allies and the Third World.
The first Reagan Administration -rooted in a new counterestablishment of Right Wing institutions- repeated many of the same errors of the Nixon/Kissinger period as well as inventing new ones of its own; partly, as Schlesinger suggests, because its ideological blinders prevented it from recognizing options, partly because of chronic internal discord and infighting within the administration and partly because of a preference for force over diplomacy among many in the White House. As a result there was a growing separation between the White House and Congress which led to the formation of a secret government whose covert foreign policy activities were exposed in the Irangate scandals. To some degree in the second Reagan adminstration, and in George Bush's there was a shift back toward the "moderate Republican" center which had long participated in the old "liberal" Establishment. Nevertheless, the fundamental problems of recrafting a new basis for "diplomatic" (or international) relations in the not-yet-New-World-Order continued without resolution.
The Clinton Administration followed its two republican predecessors in grappling with first one foreign policy crisis after another with little success in finding any new approach or vision to the recrafting of the world order.
The current Bush Jr administration has seen a return to positions of influence of many from the first Reagan administration and also a return to a taste for ideology and unilateralism in foreign affairs. On the one hand, Reagan's rhetoric of the USSR as "Evil Empire" is echoed in Bush Jr.'s talk of the "Axis of Evil" (Iraq to North Korea). On the other hand, the current administration has asserted, since the events of 9/11, a willingess and readiness to intervene unilaterally to the point of military invasion irregardless of other countries opinions or international law. The Bush Sr.'s vision of "a New World Order" has been converted by Bush Jr. into the crafting of a new American Empire (at least in theory and rhetoric) that is causing major diplomatic rifts with many of the US's traditional allies. The crisis of diplomacy continues.
While crises of diplomacy, properly speaking, are crises in diplomatic relations among nation states, those crises have often originated or been accentuated by rifts within nations between national foreign policy making elites and citizens who have organized to force changes in international relationships. The upheaval in grassroots political power that undermined elite consensus about Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s and then forced Reagon interventionism underground in the 1980s (the contras in Nicaragua) continued and grew in the 1990s with opposition to Bush Sr.'s Gulf War and then against neoliberalism more generally -- in an increasingly global movement that forced its way into the mainstream media with the disruption of the World Trade Organization's meetings in Seattle. That movement continues to grow as the US and other governments seek to use 9/11 as a vehicle to crush such dissent under the guise of fighting "terrorism" and achieving "homeland security".
At a more abstract level -but embodied in every mutation of the monetary system- not only does money embody the basic power structure of social relations but any appearance of monetary disfunctionality can be discovered to be a manifestation of underlying crises in that structure. In the light of the failure to deal with underlying problems, the efforts to return to fixed rates in Europe have proved difficult and involved considerable conflict and controversy. The articles in this section show the evolution of discussion and institutional change at the level of money itself but often include indications of the underlying political factors.
The initial move in the mid-1970s from fixed exchange rates to floating rates among the major currencies quickly became a dirty float because people would not accept the "discipline of [foreign exchange] market." The achievement of the conditions deemed necessary for monetary union in Europe was so difficult as to have delayed the process by years finally culminating in union and the subsitution of the Euro for national currencies.
Complicating these movements have been those of unregulated and unchecked speculative capital flows across both old and new/emerging capital markets. The volatility of such flows produced the Peson Crisis in 1994 and then the Asian crisis in 1997. The world's monetary institutions are struggling even now to find ways of warding off a recurrence of such crises.
Despite the success in raising total output in several parts of the world, however, the Green Revolution soon turned Brown and optimism faded as a series of dramatic increases in food prices and famines emerged to constitute an unexpected sequence of global food crises. While the first dramatic period of these crises was 1971-74, there were recurrences of crisis in the 1980s, and then again in the 1990s, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, to such an extent that famine is beginning to appear as a chronic phenomena. Perhaps most dramatically, this chronic famine is by no means simply a problem of recurrent bad weather, but can be seen to be a Political phenomenon in which hunger has been wielded as a weapon by governments against parts of their own populations, and in a closely related manner, high prices have been used to undercut real wages and shift income from workers to business.
For an overview of the first period of crisis in the 1970s you should read my article "Food, Famine and the International Crisis," from Zerowork #2, Fall 1977 which is included here as the first reading. You will want to re-read parts of this article as you work your way through sections A-E of this collection. Only the material in the last section (F) on the 1980s and 1990s post-dates the period analysed in this first article. You should draw on the later material to evaluate and criticize this first overview and to form your own synthesis.
The initial lectures in this section will deal with the analysis of the social meaning of energy for workers and for business and the conflicts between the two groups. This discussion will include the question of entropy and the relationship of the problems of thermodynamics to capitalist social relations.
The subsequent lectures will deal with the history of the crisis from the 1970s to the 1990s and its role within the overall economic crisis. This will include a discussion of the relationship between the energy crisis and social relations in the energy-importing countries as well as a consideration of the relation of the energy crisis to the growing social unrest in the energy exporting countries.
Theoretically as well as concretely, the energy crisis is closely related to the food crisis, in as much as the latter is, in part, a crisis of the energy needs of human beings. Moreover, as you will see, the rise in the price of energy played a central role in the shift of income from workers to business that occurred with the dramatic rise in food prices. The energy crisis is also, in ways to be discussed in Part VI, closely related to the international debt crisis -partly because much of the debt, which has since fallen into defacto default, was acquired to finance the importation of higher priced oil. Partly because the rise in oil prices led a number of oil exporting countries to themselves borrow vast quantities of money (against future oil value) and subsequently to join the ranks of debtor countries. Therefore this Part V should be studied in close relation to Parts IV (food) and VI(debt).
But behind this bottom line crisis lay a continuing series of social crises in both the debtor and creditor countries. The increase in interest rates and decline in output in the U.S. and other so-called developed countries were aimed at wages and the power of workers that lay behind the inflation of the 1970s -itself a continuation of the crisis that began in the 1960s. The loans taken on by what became known as the "debtor" countries were also aimed at the management or resolution of social problems and at least some of the reasons for the difficult of repayment derived from the failure to employ those resources in ways conducive to greater control.
The continuation of the debt crisis over the last ten years, its generalization around the Third World, its appearance in the Second World and finally its emergence in the the United States, which has now become the world's greatest debtor (where once it was the world's greatest creditor) all bespeak the continuation of the crisis of the present order. Digging behind the financial veil to discover the social roots of the rise and perpetuation of the debt crisis, together with an attempt to link these roots to other aspects of the general crisis, is the object of this section of the course.
Throughout the Keynesian era of growth immigration was managed by business and nation state governments in such a way as to pit lower waged foreign workers against higher waged local workers and to use the conflict between the two groups to control both. In Europe this involved the management of a diverse flow of multinational workers from the Third World into Northern Europe: Turks to Germany; Algerians to France; Indians, Pakistanis and West Indians to England, and so on. In North America this involved primarily controling the movement of Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Columbians and others from Latin America into the United States and of Italians and Caribbean workers into Canada. Given the large number of these workers in a variety of industrial and service sectors, their control provided business with a powerful weapon in its management of the labor force.
It was against the background of these conditions, that the struggles of these workers proved so important in the disruption of accumulation that precipitated the crisis of the Keynesian system. Their struggles broke the molds of control into which they had been fitted, partly by overcoming their differences with local workers and partly by carving out and rigidifying their own space, on the job and in their communities. Both movements undermined their roll as maleable labor and established the solidity of their own subjectivity against the demands of investment and profit.
Against the disruption of production, labor markets and reproduction brought on by these struggles, business and the state launched a wide ranging attack which combined violence and intimidation with legal changes designed to undercut what strength the multinational workers had been able to mobilize. In Europe and in the United States round-ups, harassment and deportations were complemented by a rising propaganda campaign against the suddenly "alien" labor which was stealing jobs from real citizens. Unleashed by the shift in official rhetoric, the frustrations of historically high unemployment that has characterized the last 20 years of crisis have taken the form of a violent racism which has been nurtured by Right Wing politicians on both sides of the Atlantic. The result have been vicious attacks against immigrant workers from the U.S.-Mexico border to the cities of Eastern Germany.
Resistance to these attacks by multinational workers has been staunch and has involved not only physical and legal battles, but also the building of ever greater rhizomatic networks of struggle linking immigrant communities and a variety of supporters, both within and across national borders. Some of this has involved day-to-day struggles and some has produced large-scale demonstrations against racism and for hospitality and diversity (e.g., from the demonstrations of hundreds of thousands in Berlin in the Fall of 1992 to that of thousands in Austin in January 1993.
The material in this section includes a small sampling of an enormous literature that has been produced within this framework of social conflict.
Closely connected to the energy crisis have been problems of deforestation, the depletion of firewood, erosion and flooding, and the crisis of the nuclear power industry. Closely connected to the food crisis have been environmental poisoning and desertification. Closely related to the debt crisis have been deforestation, debt-for-land swaps, environmental poisoning and the destruction of primitive peoples. Closely related to the crisis as a whole has been the flight of manufacturing industry away from countries with strict environmental controls towards those with few or none and thus an accentuation of global pollution. All of these various ecological problems are interrelated and knit together, in ways both seen and unseen, with the totality of world events at this historical junction.
We will examine both the issues, the policy proposals which have been put forward in response and some of the efforts by those most concerned with these problems to rethink their nature and find new ways in which humans can manage their affairs and recraft their relationship with the planet as a whole.