Introduce yourself, meet other people, post information about scholarships and jobs, and talk about anything else.

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Postby gibinhong » Wed Dec 10, 2008 11:22 pm

Hello everyone. My name is Gibin Hong. Though maybe a little presumptous, this short self-introduction may be needed to familarize myself to everyone in this group.

I am a doctoral student in York poli sci, supervised by Jonathan Nitzan. I entered our program in 1997 Fall (soooo long time ago ;) ) and now am struggling to finish the draft. The theme is to develop the concept of Capital-Control-Complex as an alternative approach to the so called "varieties of national capitalism" from global political perspective. The basic idea is that the state, corporate ownership/governance structure, and the financial system are the tripod of the same entity, capital at large as "megamachine". I think the coalescence of the three pillars, although implicit already from the birth of capitalism, was made explicitly institutionalized in the twentieth century. The latter half of the thesis is the illustration of the CCC concept by applying it to the Japanese capitalism 1932-1968.

I first worked with Stephen Gill. When I entered, there doesn't seem to be many options (Jonathan came to our program in 1998). But as time goes on, I found that the direction of my research become more and more incompatible with so-called "neo-gramscian" paradigm. As I saw it, its lack of the analytical concepts and theories on capital accumulation, ruling bloc formation, restructuring social sphere brought pernicious setback to the endeavor from the status as was first initiated by Robert W. Cox in 1980s, rendering it mere heap of commentaries upon varoius global issues without offering systematic analysis of causality in the global restructuring propelled by capital accumulation. As you would be able to expect, my research had to meet a number of "devils" in so many complicated theoretical issues: what is the nature and origin of modern money? how the domestic/external dimensions are related? who really govern(s) corporations? and so on. But this too much "obsession" with thoretical issues might have contributed to aggravating my communication with the supervisor. Obviously, Jonathan was an indispensable source of inspiration and courage to proceed on my research. Now he is my supervisor. I am based on Seoul, Korea, but temporarily staying in Montreal.

I am truly glad to see this forum and grateful for those whose endeavor made this take place. For those past years, I sometimes felt like autist, because there seem to be no on, even in our department, with whom I can share my views on power, capital accumulation, global restructuring from common ground. I do hope this venue will be a global forum for everyone in the world who share the same disenchantment, fear, and hope with the current status of human knowledge of what is happening to our globe. So that I could keep being motivated and encouraged even when I go back to Korea. I would send my warmest greetings to everyone.
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Re: self-introduction

Postby dtcochrane » Fri Dec 12, 2008 7:53 pm

Hi Gibin,
Thanks for your self-introduction. Do you continue to think Gramsci is an important thinker, despite how he has been used by those who seek to theorise (read: prophecise) based on hermeneutics and deconstruction rather than delving into the empirics?

I'll follow your self-introduction with my own.

My name is Troy Cochrane. I'm PhD III in Social & Political Thought. My previous degrees are both in economics. I did my undergrad at Carleton and my Master's as the University of Ottawa. Neither are heterdox economics programs, so I'm well versed in the dominant neoclassical paradigm. You would think that one degree in economics would have left me frustrated enough that I wouldn't have continued down that path. Alas, I suppose I'm a glutton for punishment. Instead of the broader debate I hoped to find in the Master's program, all I really found were more rarefied mathematics; and as we all know, most elite economists are actually failed mathematicians. I knew there was no way I could continue down that path and sought something else.

At the same time, I was a social justice organizer. I'd actually gone into economics as an activist. My naive reasoning was that economics was the language of power and I wanted to learn the language to use it against power. I also decided to give the doctrine four years to convince me that capitalism is the ideal system, despite all the ills I saw and opposed. After two degrees, I was less not more convinced. At the same time, I'm not upset I did the degree. Most critical thinkers recognize that mainstream economics is a sham. Yet, few have the tools to expose the degree to which it is a sham. I hope that among my work is opening up the ridiculousness of neoclassicism to those outside its domain.

Although I was an anti-capitalist I never turned to Marxism as an alternative theory. I was somewhat adrift in terms of theory or concepts to understand capitalism. When I was thinking about moving on to a PhD a friend told me about SPT. I went online and began to look at research interests of the professors cross-listed with the program. It was there that I discovered the work of Professor Nitzan. His work provided me with a new perspective on capitalism and fit with my heterodox interests in the work of Thorstein Veblen.

My own interests are on processes of social/cultural/political/economic change. Where did capitalism come from and why? How does change occur within the capitalist system? What might a post-capitalist system look like and how might we get there?

I look forward to this forum as a place to discuss the power theory of capital, the on-going machinations of dominant capital and more. I particularly like this quote from Castoriadis concerning the role of theory: "[T]he task of theory will not be directed to discovering 'laws', but to the elucidation of the conditions with in which human activity unfolds."
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Re: self-introduction

Postby gibinhong » Sat Dec 13, 2008 12:21 am

Thanks for your self-introduction. I still count Gramsci as one of my most influeces, after all those chatttering about "postmodernist" Gramsci and "Neo-Gramscian" Gramsci. I have many reason to discredit these Anglophonized Gramsci, nor do I endorse French or even Italian interpreters' Gramsci. I truly have some hiatus against and even contempt for numerous monographs and "re-thinking Gramsci" or "re-imageing" or "textualizing" kind of stuff. The most important reason for me to be dismissive of them is that they don't give a damn about the central question of his intellectual and political project: how is it possible to build an alternative historical bloc? All his endeavor into history of Italian literature, languages, and other "cultural" stuff is organically related to this interest in the existing power structure. However, after Western left has lost appetite in engaging in actual social change, Gramsci has been reduced to a kind of rabble-query full of trashed gems where idea-hungry zombies are roaming around. I do not want to have anything to do with this herd, and their idolized Grasci: it's what I call Gramsic. Same goes with the Neo-Gramscian Gramsci, except for Robert Cox's.
My still hanging on with Gramsci has two reasons. First, as I said, I found his notion of historical bloc is a very powerful framework in which to study the rise and transformation of exsiting ruling bloc. Secondy, partly guided by Cox's works, I came to apprehend his philosophy of praxis can trace back to Giambattista Vico's view of history, society, and human consciousness, rather than Karl Marx. I personally do not believe Gramsci was a true Marxist in spite of the fact that he thought so. The philosophical tradition from Vico to Gramsci, what I call the philosphy of praxis, provides the most sensible world view in which the scientific analaysis of power structure, imagination of alternatives, and strategy for real actions can co-exist as well as fuse into one. (personally, I count Castoriadis in this tendency too, considering what he said about the futility of beforehand revolutionary theory, the position of human imagination in her endeavor to change environments and so on.)
Sorry for this unorganized apologia. I hope someday we have chance to talk more about (very critically) real value of Gramsci. In the meantime, I do appreciate your neo-classical background: I myself was run down by all the numerical things in my undergrad in economics. And I couldn't agree more with your point that there can be no real resistence and alternative to capitalism without thoroghuly going through the grammar in which they register their power: neo-classical economics and financial theory. That's another reason I wish to avoid those "leftist critics" of capitalism based on deconstruction and self-deconstruction. You said you were a glutton for punishment, but I think the day will come when the glutton changes to a dragon who pour fires from its mouth. I'm just glad that I can discuss here.
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Re: self-introduction

Postby TwinkleStarrs » Sun Dec 14, 2008 11:21 pm

Hi Everyone!

I'll start off by introducing myself, and spend the next week or so slowly catching up on all the posts, and try to contribute (I emphasize "slow", however, as my priority is the current strike at York U, esp with the escalation of actions this week). I'm very excited about this Forum, and am extremely grateful to Sandy and the others who put this up.

My name is Sean Starrs and I'm a 1st year PhD student in Political Science at York U. I did my second MA last year also here, and that's when I was introduced to the Power Theory of Value, Differential Accumulation, and so on. I'm still not confident in these areas, and am still learning all the time, so I relish the opportunity of this Forum.

My background is slightly different as my Undergrad is in Classical Archaeology and Ancient History from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. I became political in my early 20s (from around 2002), by reading Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, William Blum, Michael Albert (and the rest of ZNet), Edward Said, and others. Especially Noam Chomsky- I've read over 20 of his books, scores of articles, seen several DVDs, seen him speak 4 times... so it might be an understatement to say he's influenced my thought. Thru Chomsky I have a very broad understanding of power, and am interested in theorizing Capital as a mode of power that arose over the past few hundred years, in conjunction with state power. I still think geopolitics and nationalism are very important today, despite much talk of the transnationalization of capital and the state. In fact, that will probably be my PhD Dissertation topic- attempting to discern the relevance/ irrelevance of the nationality of capital, esp with the recent (since the early 1990s) explosion of cross-border mergers and acquisitions. It seems that the actual ownership structures of dominant capital along with their implications (and the fact that they are changing) are relatively understudied, despite all the ink spilled on "globalization" over the past 15 years.

I'm also interested in East Asian political economy, and questions of world order. In particular the "rise of China", relations within Northeast Asia and with the US, and the G5 and G20. I think it is more than a coincidence that more of the top corporations in the world are based in the US than any other country, and that the US state is still the most powerful in terms of driving the thrust of global policy in many key areas, in its military power, in its diplomatic relations, and so on.

And like most of you I suppose, I'm interested in revealing the irreparable holes in neoclassical economics. I am also almost equally interested in identifying and revealing all the holes in Marxian economics, as it seems that Marxism (and/ or historical materialism) dominates Left Academia, and I find that unfortunate. I'm particularly interested in value theory, and overcoming the bifurcation of the "real" and the "nominal". I'm also interested in theories concerning profit and accumulation, and finance.

Ok, that's it for me. I'm really looking forward to participating in this Forum!
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Re: self-introduction

Postby dtcochrane » Tue Dec 16, 2008 10:36 am

Hi Sean,
I agree that the state continues to be a relevant actor, although I do think its purpose and mechanisms need to be newly understood and retheorised in the context of the power theory. The transnationalisation of capital is an undeniable fact. That most members of dominant capital continue to maintain their legal roots in the US is also undeniable, although the number appears to be falling: in 2007, 294 of the 500 largest firms - as measured by market capitalisation* - were US based; ten years prior it was 333 of 500, ten years before that, 402. It would appear that the US remains the most hospitable home for the ownership mechanism of the corporation. However, clearly other places are becoming as, if not more, amenable. What does this mean? Is it less that dominant capital is moving from the US elsewhere and more that the lines between previously nation-state based dominant capital are becoming blurred in favour of a global dominant elite? The blurring of those lines would have required the legal maneuvering of state actors. How did that come about and why?

I'm interested to see your work on this. Anyone who can avoid the knee-jerk response 'neoliberalism' when explaining the shifts of power in the last three decades will always win my ear.


* equity plus long term debt plus retained earnings (data from Compustat)
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Re: self-introduction

Postby Aaron_Muchelle » Mon Dec 22, 2008 5:59 pm

I find this amusing.

I'm not a Marxist nor a critical theorist. I'm Aaron Arjun Singh-Muchélle, in the first year of my MPhil/PhD in European Political Economy at the London School of Economics where I also completed an MSc in European Political Economy. At the degree level, I read Global Political Economy with a minor in Existentialism at YorkU.

My research specialisation has led me to work with the proponents of the Varieties of Capitalism theory here at the LSE and my supervisor, Mark Thatcher, specialises in the Public Policy aspect of the theory. My own work centres around the national public policy divergences in market regulation between the Member States of the European Union.

In other words, I'm trying to find out whether the regulatory capture of the European Union is leading its Member States toward one variety of capitalism (i.e. Liberal Market Economy) or whether different varieties (i.e. Co-ordinated Market Economy, Mixed-Market Economy etc) are capable of thriving within the beauty that is the Union. Thus far, the reasearch is pointing toward the latter. This then, raises another question, are the diverging tendencies starting to get weaker or stronger? Thus far, research is pointing in the direction of the latter. What then of concepts such as internationalisation, globalisation and Americanisation? So far, I have been able to argue that these mis-placed concepts are not creating one variety of capitalism, but rather, different varieties of capitalism with a form of bifurcated convergence in the realms of the archetypes. The reason? Nationally-specific institutional structures.

My interest in critical theory and, in particular, the work of Profs Nitzan & Bichler stem from my time spent at YorkU where I read most of Prof Nitzan's courses. I find them to be compulsory reading for any political-economist and, thus, have a natural tendency to take them into consideration in my own work.
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Re: self-introduction

Postby sanha926 » Sun Dec 28, 2008 10:54 pm

I find this amusing.

Well, I'm glad we've been able to provide you with a source of entertainment.

Thus far, research is pointing in the direction of the latter. What then of concepts such as internationalisation, globalisation and Americanisation? So far, I have been able to argue that these mis-placed concepts are not creating one variety of capitalism, but rather, different varieties of capitalism with a form of bifurcated convergence in the realms of the archetypes. The reason? Nationally-specific institutional structures.

Sounds interesting: what then, if anything, explains the emergence and persistence of 'nationally-specific institutional structures'?
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Re: self-introduction

Postby Orator » Fri Jan 02, 2009 5:33 pm

This is quite interesting. However, since I too have been busy with the strike at York U I have not had much time to become well-informed of the debates going on here. Still, I would like to take the time to post a brief introduction of myself;

My name is Chris DeCarlo. I am a first year MA student at York and like most everyone here, am interested broadly in Global Political Economy. I first became interested in political economy by being introduced to Marxism late in my second year of undergraduate study. I had known about Marx and his work, but had not read anything up to that point. I was well on my way to studying what I thought was 'Political Economy' when I took 3 (!) of Dr. Nitzan's courses in my 4th year. Needless to say those experiences truly opened my eyes.

Although I don't have any concrete projects at the moment, but suffice it to say that I am taking the MA to better understand the theories of understanding and critiquing capitalism. That being said, over the last several months I have become increasingly interested in Banking and Government spending ( my MA will be a study of the later) . I hope this gives a bit of a sketch as to who I am and what my interests are. However, they should come out more in the coming months as I post more and more.

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Location: Toronto

Re: self-introduction

Postby jbrennan » Sat Jan 10, 2009 2:00 pm

Dear CMers:

I also think the introductions a good idea. My name is Jordan Brennan and I’m PhD III in political science at York Univ. I will just give a brief bio. My interest in political economy and capitalism came from, of all places, Ayn Rand. I was a disciple of hers as an undergrad in economics/accounting/finance. I stumbled upon her fictional work and then proceeded into her non-fiction. Reading through Rand I stumbled upon names like Hayek, Friedman, Popper, Nozick, Mises, and so on. Upon reading them I stumbled upon names like Mill, Locke, Smith and Mandeville. After a few more stumbles I was over on the Left investigating Marx, Marxism and Anarchism. Needless to say, an education in economics/accounting/finance prepares you for the neoliberal crowd, but does little to prepare you for the political Left.

After a brief tour of universities in southern Ontario, I came to York to study Marxism. Although I had been reading Marx and Marxists for about a year prior to coming to York, I was still shocked at the intellectual culture I found. While remaining very sympathetic to Marx, I still couldn’t convince myself to wave that banner. I was lucky enough to take one of Jonathan Nitzan’s courses. It was in his course that I found the theoretical, technical, historical and methodological sophistication that I was searching for at York but had not yet found.

I have asked Jonathan to supervise me, but he has not yet agreed. For my dissertation research I would like to look at the development of big business in Canada. I am still in the early phases of conceiving this project, but I envision using Nitzan and Bichler’s approach to map out: (i) what regimes of accumulation dominant capital has used in Canada to differentially accumulate; (ii) how this has impacted the structure of ownership in Canada; and (iii) how this relates to major transformations in state policy (e.g., the move away from Keynesianism to neoliberalism, for instance, or the move away from trade protectionism to deep integration with the US via NAFTA). This project is still very preliminary and somewhat tentative. I look forward to sharing some of my research with members of this forum and getting critical feedback.

I have enjoyed reading the bios posted so far and hope that this forum becomes a fruitful place for aspiring critical political economists to share their research.

Thanks to the creator (Sandy) and to all those who have made the effort to get this site going.

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Re: self-introduction

Postby egeorge » Mon Nov 02, 2009 1:33 am

Last edited by egeorge on Sat Jun 09, 2012 3:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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