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Recently, Greg Sharzer interviewed me on South Korea, North Korea, and the rapidly changing nation of left and right in country. I am not an Koreanist, and I only educated myself on this in the course of research to live here and do some literary research on Korean American poets, but also began to engage with politics in general. This is a very brief summation of a lot I have come across here.
Here’s a teaser for the first part:
Q: You’ve had a long-standing interest in South Korea and been here a few years. In that time, what have you found most interesting about its political economy – or its politics – and how did that change your previous perceptions of the country?
A: That’s a complicated question: my interest in South Korea was personal and scholarly originally. I am not a Korean and my proficiency with the language is basic, but my aunt was Korean so I exposed to the culture briefly as a child. In graduate school, I became obsessed with Theresa Hak Kyung Cha and her novel/prose poem Dictee. While there is a lot going on in that book, one must have the context of the Japanese occupation of Korea and the French Catholic missionary history as well. When an accident of employment landed me here, I started doing historical research to further my literary research on Theresa Cha. I began to notice that, when looking for the origins of several crucial Korean ideas, such as 민족 (pronounced minjok. It means “race-nation”), that the traditions were modern and projected back on the past. Not only that, but often the origin of the ideology was either Japanese or Western. However, it had been obscured by some of the progressive nationalists’ attempts to construct a modern identity for Korean in the end of the Joseon period and the dissolution of the “Great” Han Empire. Even though you will hear the word 민족 in Korean historical dramas, portraying early Joseon or the Goryeo dynasties.
So there’s a strange history here: the Korean independence activist and historian Shin Chae-ho coined the word. Shin Chae-ho was linked to many anarchist publications and is revered in both North and South Korea today. He was, however, getting his idea of race-nation from the Japanese themselves, as a means to get a modern identity (and the Japanese had only come up with a similar concept in the late 1800s after exposure to German and Northern European racial notions.) It wasn’t hard for Chae-ho to adopt the concept: the Japanese themselves had used the idea that the Koreans and the Manchus were primitive versions of their own race. They had some sound linguistic evidence for this (Korean and Manchu are clearly linguistically related to Japanese) and cast their imperialism as a liberation attempt from the West. There is a good book on Japanese attitudes about this in English by E. Taylor Atkins called Primitive Selves: Koreana in the Japanese Colonial Gaze. Still one finds that a lot of the ancient traditional image of Korea would be, if we were using European time frames, “early modern.” Hobsbawm’s invented traditions are all over the place in this in a strange way: a lot of the local ideas about ancient Korea, quite like the rebuilt palaces in Seoul which were burnt by the Japanese, are very modern.
If you want to learn more about my understanding of Korean politics, please read Greg’s blog for the rest.
Boy, are the Keynesian economists boiling mad! Jeffrey Sachs is regarded as a 'liberal' or progressive economist in favour of government action to boost the economy and employment. He came out last week with an article attacking the basic tenets of Keynesian economics and their policy prescriptions for the US economy
(http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeffrey-sachs/professor-krugman-and-cru_b_2845773.html). Sachs denied that there were any beneficial effects for the US economy from the short-term fiscal stimulus packages that Obama introduced.
As time has passed, I've become increasingly hesitant about using the term "correlationism". For those new to Speculative Realism, it all began with a critique of correlationism. Coined by Quentin Meillassoux, "correlationism" denotes "the idea according to which we only ever have access to the correlation between thinking and being, and never to either term considered apart from the other" (After Finitude, 5).
The death of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez has without a doubt left a void in the politics of South America. Chavez was by far, for better or worse, the most viable figure of South America’s “Pink Tide”, the massive resurgence of left-wing/center-left ideology in South American politics. This represented for the first time in decades a true break from US involvement and hegemony in Latin America, which as we all know supported and even installed vulgar right-wing dictators from the military apparatus. Names and dates such as Nicaragua 1954 and Chile ’73 have become synonymous with US manipulation of democratically elected governments. As well as the fact that the Pink Tide starting at the beginning of the 21st century was a reaction against the Washington Consensus of the 1990s, at the end of the Cold War perhaps the height of South American docility against US hegemonic influence. The Washington Consensus was a major push for the neo-liberalization and total privatization of all state enterprises. Which was adopted by leaders such as Rafael Caldera of Venezuela, who cow-towed to the will of the IMF only to have Venezuela’s entire national resources owned by foreign corporations, a huge spike in poverty, a widening of the wealth gap, and a major economic collapse in the nation, which Hugo Chavez led a platform of overturning by nationalizing and taking control of those resources. And let us not forget what happened to another follower of the Washington Consensus; Argentina. Regarded by advocates of neo-liberalism as “the poster boy of the Latin American economic revolution”, came crashing down in 2002.
The Pink Tide that came in the aftermath of all this destruction of state and economical institutions promised a clean break of business as usual with Washington, which the Latin American nations would by far receive the short end of the stick on. Chavez emerged as a major ideological figure of anti-imperalism and South American self-determination, citing Simon Bolivar, leader of South American independence from the Spanish empire, as a major inspiration. And the Pink Tide, in some form or another, spread from Venezuela to Bolivia, Ecuador, Brazil, Uruguay, Chile, and Argentina. I would make the statement that there are two different forms of the Pink Tide. One mirrors very similarly to the center-left social democratic parties of Europe, welcoming capitalism but having the desire to institute some policies of welfare to make capitalism in the country more tolerable to the average poor and working class people. This form can be seen in Brazil with it’s former president Lula da Silva and it’s contemporary one being Dilma Rousseff, as well as Uruguay with Jose Mujica, now famously known as “the world poorest president” because of the vast amount of his paycheck he gives to charity. And then there is the other form of the Pink Tide, which is a much more left-wing ideological based movement, coming from countries which have been dealt a great deal of pain in the past because of neo-liberal policies. This type of Pink Tide, while still keeping a market based economy it sees it’s goal as to make dramatic changes in altering capitalism. These changes can be for example implementing measures of participatory democracy within the country and nationalization of industries. And usually these countries are led by charismatic leaders, Hugo Chavez being the most obvious form of this Pink Tide, but it is also in Bolivia with Evo Morrales and Ecuador with Rafael Correa. There is a tendency among center-left/left to view this type of Pink Tide with suspicion and skepticism, fear that because of the more heavy handed attitude of this form of Pink Tide it may be associated with the authoritarian history of leftist (in this case Marxist-Leninist) governments. While potential destabilizing, it seems unlikely these governments have any attempt in staging a dictatorial coup over their country, unlike the right-wing, US backed governments decades ago. Instead this type of more ideologically left-wing Pink Tide wishes to push major reform as hard as it can to improve the condition of their country without sending to turmoil.
Now in this time of uncertainty with the death of president Hugo Chavez, those in South America who do not want to see it return into becoming just an asset of the United States government must try to unite together in solidarity, and build political and economical ties with one another. Building upon the “Union of South American Nations” and discussing the possibility of a single South American currency can do great benefits. In the end, besides just the major gains the left has made in South America, this is not just a question of what is “the left’s” place in South America, but more importantly this is a question of South American self-determination, the independence of an entire continent. For all those countries in South America, forced under brutal right-wing dictators for decades because US hegemony have now found a voice of independence and self-determination. There may be ebbs and flows between democratically elected conservative and socialist leaders, but there is no going back on this progress. Simon Bolivar’s dream of an independent South America has come true. And it has Hugo Chavez to thank for it, among many others as well.
Descanse en paz el presidente Chávez.
Notes toward a brief history of work in Christian thought and praxis from Creation to the present
Apologies for the poorly documented, perhaps rambling post to follow. I am tired and don’t have much energy for something more well thought-out and organized.
The inspiration for what I write here is a couple of articles in Jacobin Magazine:
As I think it would be horribly boring for me to summarize their arguments and what I think of each one, I will begin my little excursus and hope that you keep the cited links in mind.
The proliferation of the micro-party in the West is a subject many times examined, and I would not pretend to say too much that is original about it. Already Hal Draper wrote much on this subject, the libertarian communist tradition has had various critiques, and there has moreover been a very considerable literature of self-examination and party histories among the micro-parties in different countries.
i recently read Anne Norton's On the Muslim Question (Princeton 2013), and thought i'd post some quick comments. A friend over last night to watch Seven Psychopaths and play a few rounds of dutch blitz noticed the book lying on the table and asked, "so what's the answer?" What is the answer to the Muslim question? "All of the above," I replied.
Since I recently wrote an extended, appreciative review of Zak Cope's book of Third Worldist Marxism Divided World, Divided Class on this blog, some other radical commentators have provided reviews and replies as well. One of these is Don Hamerquist, who wrote what is in essence a review of my review. It can be found on the blog Sketchy Thoughts…