File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0110, message 20

Date: Thu, 04 Oct 2001 19:52:54 +0100
Subject: Re: the event

Eric and All
The discussions that could develop from the below..... To try to begin 
somewhere - lets start from the welfare state. The underlying purpose of 
the welfare state is to ensure that elements like medicine, unemployment 
benefit, education (as three things chosen more or less at random) are 
available free at the point of need and supply.  Consequently we can 
extrapolate some reasonable scenarios that a child or woman could live 
through, in London or Nairobi they should be able to recieve free 
anti-Aids treatments or if they have no money to buy food or clean water 
it should not prevent them from recieving it. It should not be the case 
that the existence of arbitrary nation-states should prevent us as 
subjects living in the north being forced into paying taxes to enable 
this welfare state, this protection of the unfortunate, and the unlucky 
from  receving adequate help.

The welfare state is one of great inventions of the twentieth century 
which will continue to mutate whatever the socio-economic structures we 
live within.

Of course I agree that it can exist within capitalist and even-more 
despotic regimes.  But this does not prevent us from supporting such 
inventions. The welfare state is of course a political activity and as 
such is an experiment.... In the UK because of the non-censensual 
polticial system - that is when a party is in power they become in 
effect benign temporary dictators - in some european countries because 
the system produces coalitions the situation is different and the 
possibilities for consensus and the need for it is greater. Consequently 
Thatcher could attempt to commercialise whole elements of the welfare 
systems and turn them into areas for the expansion of capital. Blair has 
continued this process. Note however that they have done so against the 
wishes of the public - they have attempted to 'drag' the public into a 
new neo-liberal consensus - this has failed. Consensual overhaul of the 
welfare state has been successfully carried out in Denmark and Holland. 
(see Hirst and Thompson for case studies). In a sense this persuedes me 
that the welfare state(s) have a more dynamic future and potential for 
the improvement of peoples lives than they have a history... I find it 
difficult to comment on the US situation as my understanding of the 
situation is that (compared to Europe) there is no welfare state, there 
is certainly no employment protection, no free medical worth speaking of 
and so on...

It is this that leads Negri and Hardt to argue for those elements that 
you discuss below as part of the welfare state. The extensions to the 
concept - derive from the Autonomia movement (See Negri for example) and 
the European green movement - well documented in Gorz's late 70s texts. 
 From here then the question is how we can extend the concept into 
countries such as America where the relations to ideology, and the 
economic mean that they can treat their internal subjects as a resource 
in the most disgusting way.  I believe that N&H may be onto something in 
thinking that the developing empire, 'development' as Lytotard would 
say,  may not only agree to such demands but may in some circumstances 
positively welcome it.

(lyotard 1978) Regarding this I would suggest that we are on the edge of 
discussing the 'multiplicity of justices each of them defined in 
relation to the rules specific to each game...' The specific game is the 
difference between the USA and Europe in terms of understandings of why 
one place produces such a utopian constrcut as the welfare state and 
another place does not. The prescriptive may resolve around the myth of 
a universal value which we cannot maintain in this unjust world...


>Again, I like what you are saying about the counter-globalism movement.
>I just want to hit you with one question. Hardt and Negri strongly
>advocate 1) universal citizenship (2) guaranteed annual income (3) free
>access to information and technology.
>Isn't there a way in which this is merely extending the welfare state
>into the global arena.  I can imagine a more enlightened capitalism
>agreeing to all of the above as a way to limit bureaucratic interference
>by the state and reduce populist resistance. After all, each one of
>these ideas have been advocated by libertarian neo-liberals at some time
>or other.  Milton Friedman is a case in point.  He argued for a GUI (or
>negative income tax) way back in the sixties.  It almost was passed into
>law under Nixon of all people.  Granted the framing of this was pretty
>reactionary, but my point is this. Are the proposals of Hardt and Negri
>really just a new form of globalism liberalism?  Would a real revolution
>call for something more or is this the necessary step to get there?
>Be careful what you wish for!


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