[-empyre-] On Currencies, Capitalism, and the Fed

Sally Jane Norman s.j.norman at newcastle.ac.uk
Wed Apr 8 02:35:35 EST 2009

hi Joe, all

this is a useful-saddening-maddening discussion with a crunch indeed.

Today's notification of "impact" criteria henceforth to be formally articulated by the fundable UK Arts and Humanities community might be of interest. Apologies for length - I've slightly truncated but felt that this might  resonate interestingly with discussion underway.

(How) can we make a plea for the deep social, moral, critical relevance of the seemingly irrelevant?  Or is this irrelevant? I'm impressed by the perspicacity of colleagues working on Knowledge Transfer questions within this same research council so am baffled and torn - keep having visions of a yes-men or bavos collective type grant submissions. Impact criteria and occult hermeneutics arising around them are throwing all kinds of questions onto academic desks. And onto those of potential partner organisations understandably keen to get their share.

Deep impact

kia ora

ps - nothing yet on Research Council bean counters that relates to hormone levels you'll be pleased to learn.
So how come the economics discussion scared all the gals off the list?

The New Impact Questions on Applications for Arts and Humanities Research Council Funding

I am writing to remind you that the AHRC has now altered applications for research grants to include questions relating to impact and to offer some guidance on the context and nature of this change. In return for its tripling the Science and Research Budget in the last ten years the UK Government reasonably looks to our achieving a range of benefits beyond academic excellence. It is not unreasonable to expect that the recipients of public funding should indicate the broader benefits of their work to the public at large. In addition, the Royal Charters of the Research Councils require that we foster impact, as well as research and postgraduate provision.

We can meet this challenge, since the magnificent research funded by the AHRC and the other Research Councils has a huge impact on the wellbeing and economy of the UK. Building on the HM Treasury definition of 'economic impact', the Research Councils jointly describe impact as: the demonstrable contribution that excellent research makes to society and the economy ... Impact embraces all the extremely diverse ways in which research-related knowledge and skills benefit individuals, organisations and nations by:
*         fostering global economic performance, and specifically the economic competitiveness of the UK, *         increasing the effectiveness of public services and policy, and
*         enhancing quality of life, health and creative output.
This very broad description is embodied in the questions that applicants for research grants have to answer when they are completing the Impact Summary that is being introduced into application forms for all the Research Councils over 2009:
*          Who will benefit from this research?
*          How will they benefit?
 *         What will you do to ensure benefit?

It would be very wrong to suggest that we have introduced these new questions as a way to pick winners who will help UK PLC. Rather, we want the researchers we fund to work with non-academic partners in private, public or third sectors to ensure that these varied impacts are effectively demonstrated and supported, throughout the research lifecycle, in order to add value, stimulate interest from wider stakeholders, including the general public, and, where needed, actively highlight the need for continued investment in the research base.
What impacts of this sort can we expect from arts and humanities researchers? Here are some examples (but many others are possible):
*              Collaborations with organisations such as these:
o    local, regional or national museums, libraries, archives or heritage centres
o    creative and performing arts organisations
o    commercial companies
o    Schools, colleges, youth organisations
o    Charities and voluntary organisations
o    Local, regional or national arts organisations and festivals
o    Hospitals and healthcare organisations
o    Faith groups
o    Prisons
o    Tourism and heritage organisations
o    Genealogy organisations
o    Media organisations
*         Impact on policy-related issues and organisations, such as:
o    Government (e.g. citizenship, IP, culture, security, ethnicity etc.)
o    Legal system (jurisprudence, international law, etc)
o    Local government (arts, culture, etc)
o     NGOs (e.g. charities, health-related organisations, think-tanks, etc)
*         Cultural impact
o    Issues of national, regional and local identities
o    Cultural histories (such as the Shah Abbas Exhibition at the British Museum)
o    'Hidden' archives and neglected histories
o    Widening access through digitised archives
o    Media partners such as TV networks, radio producers, documentary film-makers
*         Monetary impact
o    Spin-out companies/businesses
o    Consultancy advice

I cannot emphasise sufficiently that excellent research without obvious or immediate impact will continue to be funded by the Research Councils and will not be disadvantaged within the assessment process. While we are looking for a genuine and conscientious attempt by researchers to identify potential non-academic partners for their research, we are mindful of the possibility that for some projects there may not be any.

Yours faithfully,
Professor Philip F. Esler
Chief Executive,
The Arts and Humanities Research Council
web: www.ahrc.ac.uk

From: empyre-bounces at gamera.cofa.unsw.edu.au [empyre-bounces at gamera.cofa.unsw.edu.au] On Behalf Of joseph tabbi [jtabbi at gmail.com]
Sent: 07 April 2009 17:02
To: soft_skinned_space
Subject: Re: [-empyre-] On Currencies, Capitalism, and the Fed

This is a very helpful overview and (as a matter of personal politics)
I agree with everything Jeff says.

Especially the bit about 'poor legislature,' weak oversight, and (in
an earlier post) the systematic weakening of the dollar. I would just
add that these policies seem to me a part of a trend that Harvey
describes under the term, 'accumulation by dispossession.' An early
model, was when the Thatcher administration encouraged the sale of
tenement homes in an economically troubled district close to downtown
London, at what seemed favorable prices allowing distressed owners to
walk away (from the city) with what seemed like a nice chunk of cash
while others came in themselves to do the work of renovating the old
houses, bringing them up to standard and in the process often pricing
the homes out of the range of any who were not working in the city's
soon to be booming financial and service industries. Those who 'sold
out' might never buy back in, and that nice bit of cash, as it turned
out, didn't go very far in the brave new economy. That cottage in the
Isle of Wight turned out to be 'too dear' after all. The former
Londoners were "dispossessed" while prices increased and capital
accumulated (somewhere).

That's of course just one example (Harvey's example - and I hope I
don't get too many details wrong, I'm writing from memory here). I
expect we all have seen the same patterns in cities everywhere. Some
certainly benefited from having the dollar value of their house
appreciate over the years, although what this did was to make one's
home itself the site of speculation. The recent downturn indicates
that doing so may not have been such a good idea, for either national
economies or a large number of household economies.

Apart from the economics, though, there is the phenomenon described by
Davin, of the creeping commodification of everything, even weddings.
And certainly higher education - which of all the options Davin lists
does seem to me to be moving in the direction of a "skills-based"
legitimation for the better endowed universities, and a glorified
high-school setting for undergrads at not so well funded institutions.
At the graduate level, graduating Ph.D's without marketable skills are
clearly in no way guaranteed to work in the research tracks they've
trained for.

In an earlier post I set out a proposal for e-literature that I hope
might be a model for de-commodification of higher education generally
- at least in the Digital Humanities. (Ah, Bartleby! Ah, Digital
Humanities!) But at the same time, I notice that the grants being won
by people and institutions in this field are generally grounded in the
development of specific skills and tools. Given the highly
commercialized nature of the environment in which we work - computers,
offices, communications networks - I do think some modus vivendi has
to be reached between a skills-based economy and a protected ('soft')
space for research and unimpeded scholarly conversation.

Including a 'soundtrack' might not be a bad idea actually, since
that's something concrete you can ask for in a grant or proposal. A
Global Positioning System, a Second Life meeting space, lots of
software and meeting rooms and repeated conference travel and
computers that need upgrading yearly: these are all ways that
commodities can be worked into proposals and you can ask for something
seemingly concrete. These things ARE being worked in and often this is
done creatively and conscientiously. My only hope is that a space will
be reserved for what is perhaps measurable but not strictly
commodifiable: for example, the reading of works of literature, the
viewing of works of art, and the act of listening to composiitions -
this is a kind of literary/aesthetic 'work' that should not be
clocked, but can and perhaps should be registered more often in the
place where such things increasingly are performed: online. The
commentaries written about works, and the archiving of examples that
people in the field find valuable - this is a role for scholars in the
current media environment (in conversation with a 'public' of those
who just happen to be interested, but who need scholars to preserve
and organize the works so they can be discovered - past the time when
a work is released to its initial audience, and in an environment that
is at most lightly secured and doesn't require a credit card to

Again, I'd like to see as much of the eonomy as possible
de-commodified, and certainly the education sector. But it won't be
all or nothing - and those working in education need judiciously to
determine what affordances are helpful (and what are incidental) to a
scholarly or curatorial mission, to argue for these in department
meetings and in proposals to administrators and granting


On Mon, Apr 6, 2009 at 9:26 PM, jeff pierce <zentrader at live.ca> wrote:
> Davin,
> My jaw literally dropped when I read your question about what would be wrong
> with a one world currency. Now let me preface this by saying that I don't
> have all the answers, but I think based on some of the events that have
> transpired over the last 6 months we can come to a few conclusions and go
> from there.
> 1. Government policies created this problem through easy credit, poor
> legislature, and low interest rates. If you let people borrow money at an
> historically cheap rate for an extended length of time, bad things will
> happen. I'm sure Greenspan was telling himself that "this time it's
> different" and we can leave interest rates low, but believe me it's never
> different. Every time a trader tells himself those 4 words they're setting
> themselves up for a fall. Greenspan took the interest rate down from 6% to
> 1% and kept it there far too long.
> Easy credit encourages leveraged speculation. This fuelled the housing
> bubble as everybody thought their house would appreciate at 10%/year, every
> year. And all of this led to the ensuing subprime debacle and credit crises.
> 2. The SEC failed to do it's job allowing major corruption with the
> financial system like Madoff.
> 3. The Government's reaction to all of this proves time and time again that
> they have no real idea on how to handle this. They are throwing everything
> at this hoping something will stick, literally gambling the future of
> American on a hunch that massive money printing and quantitative easing will
> solve everything. Why can't they realise that you can't solve a problem with
> the very same cause of the problem in the first place.
> So why is a one world currency bad? In theory it's not, but in the practical
> application and the greed that lives within the financial industry would
> ruin it.
> It's puts to much power in the hands of too few. I'm so tired of hearing
> about "centralized this" and "globalization that" as every time I hear it in
> the media I get the feeling that they're just warming us up to what will
> eventually be. Governments are too big to begin with, as they are a big part
> of this problem. They can't handle their affairs on a national level, what
> makes anybody think they can handle the affairs at a world level. The
> thought alone makes me shiver. Where would you hide if you didn't like the
> system that is in place? At least now if you don't like the the United
> States, you can move (like me--to Canada). The world needs diversity as much
> in the cultural sense as in the financial sense. Checks and balances if you
> will.
> The currency should be the health barometer of a country. I can't even
> fathom how a one would currency would effect the business cycles between
> countries with different types of governments. I feel that people throw
> around the term "capitalism" too much. The United States does not operate
> under a capitalistic state at this point in time. It's some hybrid cross of
> socialism, capitalism, and possibly totalitarianism. At one point between
> October-December it was so hard to trade and carry any positions over the
> weekend because we (traders) feared some type of government intervention
> over the weekend which would cause the markets to move in totally random
> ways. This is still very much a concern, but it hasn't been as bad as of
> late.
> This is not a free market system. Who are the government to decide which
> companies are bailed out and which ones aren't. Last time I checked the
> survival of the fittest in the business world was the model of choice. If a
> company wasn't profitable, then they should fail. End of discussion. Don't
> use taxpayers money, print unlawful amounts of money, and destroy the
> currency in the process.
> The final piece of the problem is the Fed. It doesn't even make sense to me
> for the government to borrow money from a private institution to conduct
> business. Our federal taxes go to pay the interest only on the debt to the
> Fed, making those bankers filthy rich. This house of cards will collapse
> sooner rather than later as the money printing goes to exponential heights.
> It's so bad now that the Fed doesn't even report it's money growth anymore.
> No fiat currency lasts and this one will be no different. But instituting a
> one world currency will result in more of our privacies being taken away,
> more surveillance, and more control. It makes more sense for the government
> to print it's own money, thus relieving itself from hefty interest
> repayment.
> My solution is dissolve the Fed, cut the government in half, stop policing
> the world and bring home the troops, stop the bailouts and quantitative
> easing, and focus on infrastructure and sustainable energy sources that
> would create a whole new sector of job growth. In my opinion everything else
> would fall into place. Yes it would be bad for a few more years, but at
> least we would come out the other end a cleaner, debt free nation.
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