Sunday, November 21, 2010

Reflections of Crisis

My final year's project from Hampshire College has been published by a German academic publishing company. It is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and elsewhere.

From the back cover:
"A specter is hanging over the the United States: The specter of the Great Depression. This is a journey through the looking glass of economic crisis, and a study of how it is reflected across time and space into the present day and our own lives. It is an attempt to learn from the Great Depression and, in reflecting on its causes and consequences, to apply these lessons to the twenty first century and the current economic crisis. Unconventional and innovative in both form and content, this is a spirited trans-disciplinary investigation and analysis of both the dynamics and tendencies of capitalism as an economic and social system, and also of organized social movements in times of crisis."

Below is an excerpt from my faculty committee's final evaluation of my work, chaired by Laurie Nisonoff, with Stan Warner and Marty Ehrlich.

"In his economic research project Quincy seeks to cover a very ambitious landscape, exploring the differences and similarities between the Great Depression and the most recent U.S. and world economic crisis. His purpose is to reveal a fundamental set of critical factors in the very nature of capitalism that tends to produce crisis and to exploit a significant proportion of the working class.

Some of the issues he covers span the financial sector, consumer credit, the wages and working conditions of labor, international capital flows, monopolization, environmental consequences, and more. He begins his journey by exploring the nature of finance capital before and during the Great Depression. He tracks the rise of consumer debt, the rapid growth of non-bank financial institutions, the role of income inequality, and the interplay of productivity and unemployment. His 51 pages on this historical period are divided into 73 individually numbered sections. Some are quite terse, such as section 38 which states: “Debt is damnation in the genesis story of capitalism. Debt is the perverse form that trust takes in the capitalist mode of production.” By contrast, section 40 is a four-page essay that begins with a discussion of the paradox of a “dual economy,” in which the collapse of “plantation fiefdoms” in the South is presented as part of a larger “continental catastrophe of capitalist agriculture in the United States.” Sections 41-48 provide an insightful perspective on the social upheavals of labor migration and environmental collapse in the context of a marked intensification of monopoly in the North.

Part II of Quincy’s study turns to the current economic crisis in capitalism, again starting with the role of finance and identifying the specific ways in which that sector has been transforming itself. He details the argument that the globalization and deregulation of finance have served to heighten the vulnerability of the economy and to widen the gap between private profit making and the social good.  

It was an explicit objective of Quincy’s analysis to experiment with the way ideas are organized and expressed. The form of his essay, and his, at times, richly metaphorical language, reaches for an often literary effect. He adopted a style of short vignettes or snapshots that took up a particular issue in one or more paragraphs and focused on an aspect of that topic. He  frequently quoted from such writers as Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Adam Smith, Upton Sinclair, John Maynard Keynes, John Steinbeck, Rudolf Hilferding, Josef Stendl and a variety of contemporary political economy theorists as a springboard for his discussions. Quincy hoped that the reader would treat these offerings as building blocks of accumulated knowledge and commentary that could be assembled and interpreted by the reader to come to an understanding of how capitalism performs in situations of crisis. He writes, “This is not a random buffet of ideas. On the contrary, I have avoided connecting the dots in certain ways in order to enable the reader to connect them in others. … This is an attempt to make many stories possible… These are pieces of a broken mirror. Shattered reflections of a country and a world in crisis.”"

Readers of this blog who are interested in knowing more about this project, scheduling a presentation by the author, or obtaining a copy, should leave a comment with their contact information and I will get back to you.

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