Saturday, May 12, 2012

Arundhati Roy on Capitalism

Much of what Arundhati Roy says in Capitalism: A Ghost Story seems right to me, one instance is the recent efforts to curtail the mandate of UNCTAD Why would policymakers want to gag a past master of economic prophecy?. But it is not clear to me whether it forms a coherant narrative or gives hints of plans for action. Perhaps one hint is in her comment "But which of us sinners was going to cast the first stone? Not me, who lives off royalties from corporate publishing houses." It seems to me most of us are involved in making a living and try to ensure some security for our families and have to do with the existing conditions and opportunities. A recent report of Gabriel Parma's work by Duncan Green ‘It’s the share of the rich, stupid’: brilliant inequality stats + politics from Gabriel Palma reports "‘There are two opposite forces at work. One is ‘centrifugal’, and leads to an increased diversity in the shares appropriated by the top 10 and bottom 40 per cent. The other is ‘centripetal’, and leads to a growing uniformity in the income-share appropriated by deciles 5 to 9. Therefore, half of the world’s population (the middle and upper-middle classes) have acquired strong ‘property rights’ over half of their respective national incomes; the other half, however, is increasingly up for grabs between the very rich and the poor.........‘In Latin America the middle classes seek to defend their share of income with different forms of alliances with the √©lite (some more successfully than others). This is different to India, for example, where the administrative classes defend their position mostly via alliances with the poor (which gives them the political power to mediate in the different conflicts between the capitalist √©lite and the state)’. Vintage stuff." In other words, all of us outside the top ten and bottom 40 perecent are in some ways involved in maintaining the status quo.But this does not explain why many in the middle classes often both husband and wife (possibly except government employees)are working harder and longer than before or that change is not possible. It seems that with globalization and debt of poor countries, many are caught in a circle from which it is difficult to escape. Perhaps, cancellation of odious debts and considering alternaives like Is this the UN’s most powerful critique to date of finance-driven globalization? may be a start.

2 comments:

Richard S. said...

For those, who like me, have tired eyes from revising the resume too many times and filling out too many futile job applications while wondering how long it will be before they get kicked out of their housing for inability to pay (some of the benefits that an ever-increasing population of millions enjoy while living in my country, the "wealthiest country in the world")...

You can find Arundhati Roy reading the article aloud here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JL9mzqLGjmQ

And you can find lots more of her on the YouTube channel where this is posted:

http://www.youtube.com/user/Roygroupies

When I read The God of Small Things back in the late '90s, it blew me away. And I have been keeping a close eye on Arundhati Roy's words (and sometimes Arundhati herself) ever since. Since she is just one month and two weeks younger than I am, I kind of feel as though I've grown old with her. While I might talk about "Bollywood beauties" on my blog devoted to classic Indian film/music/dance, when it comes to contemporary famous women from India, no woman from the film business comes close to Arundhati in my mind. Not that she is without her flaws...

Actually, I think her nonfiction has gotten much stronger in recent years, because she has become stronger in her opposition to capitalism and the ruling class(es) and more focused on the harsh realities of the present world. Sometimes, her prose does venture a bit much into hyper-advocacy, while I prefer the ironic dryness of, say, Noam Chomsky. And sometimes she does appear to have a bit of an ego and is too focused on the importance of her "role as a writer," which to me goes against an understanding of the artificiality of the bourgeois division of labor, which is the concept that drew me closest to Karl Marx. But, of course, I am not saying she's perfect here. On the other hand, for someone who has been able to turn her writing into profits (facilitated by the corporations), she has been taking bigger risks than most. And while she is constantly (and I would guess somewhat guiltily) pointing out her privilege and the irony of her enjoying it while being one of the system's harshest visible social critics, that doesn't mean she needs to make excuses for not doing things, because by all appearances, she is doing much more (in terms of "social activism," for lack of a better phrase) than most people who actually manage to make a living from writing, especially these days.

gaddeswarup said...

About ten years ago, I had some e-mail interaction with participants in a telugu site. One of them sent me a couple of articles by Arundhati Roy and asked me what I thought of them. When I replied that they seemed ok to me, he completely cut off contacts with me. For some reason or other, many educated iddle class people seeme to be turned off her. Part of the reson may be these are in the middle 50 percent. In any case, it seems even when one does not agree with Arundhati Roy, she provokes people to look at unpleasant truths which many do not seem to want to look at. A common friend in Delhi told me that she is actually a nice person but I have not met her. As a newcomer to these topics, I would like to spend some more time reading and thinking for myself.