On the so-called ‘Ceasefire’ between Israel and Hamas

Omar Hamilton from LRB states: On 26 August a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas was agreed, bringing a fragile end to a war that killed 2150 Palestinians (mostly civilians) and 73 Israelis (mostly soldiers). Since then Hamas has not fired a single rocket, attacked an Israeli target, or done anything to break the terms of the ceasefire. Israel has done the following:

1. Annexed another 1500 acres of West Bank land
2. Seized $56 million of PA tax revenue
3. Not lifted the illegal blockade (as required by the ceasefire)
4. Broken the ceasefire by firing at fishermen on four separate occasions
6. Killed a 22-year-old, Issa al Qatari, a week before his wedding
7. Killed 16-year-old Mohammed Sinokrot with a rubber bullet to the head
8. Tortured a prisoner to the point of hospitalisation
9. Refused 13 members of the European Parliament entry into Gaza
10. Detained at least 127 people across the West Bank, including a seven-year-old boy in Hebron and two children, aged seven and eight, taken from the courtyard of their house in Silwad – and tear-gassed their mother
11. Continued to hold 33 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council in prison
12. Continued to hold 500 prisoners in administrative detention without charge or trial
13. Destroyed Bedouin homes in Khan al Ahmar, near Jerusalem, leaving 14 people homeless, and unveiled a plan to forcibly move thousands of Bedouin away from Jerusalem into two purpose-built townships
14. Destroyed a dairy factory in Hebron whose profits supported an orphanage
15. Destroyed a family home in Silwan, making five children homeless
16. Destroyed a house in Jerusalem where aid supplies en route to Gaza were being stored
17. Destroyed a well near Hebron
18. Set fire to an olive grove near Hebron
19. Raided a health centre and a nursery school in Nablus, causing extensive damage
20. Destroyed a swathe of farmland in Rafah by driving tanks over it
21. Ordered the dismantling of a small monument in Jerusalem to Mohamed Abu Khdeir, murdered in July by an Israeli lynch mob
22. Continued building a vast tunnel network under Jerusalem
23. Stormed the al Aqsa mosque compound with a group of far right settlers
24. Assisted hundreds of settlers in storming Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus
25. Prevented students from entering al Quds University, firing stun grenades and rubber bullets at those who tried to go in
26. Earned unknown millions on reconstruction materials for Gaza, where 100,000 people need their destroyed homes rebuilt. The total bill is estimated at $7.8 billion

Sections in the bookstore

- Books You Haven’t Read
- Books You Needn’t Read
- Books Made for Purposes Other Than Reading
- Books Read Even Before You Open Them Since They Belong to the Category of Books Read Before Being Written
- Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Also Read But Unfortunately Your Days Are Numbered
- Books You Mean to Read But There Are Others You Must Read First
- Books Too Expensive Now and You’ll Wait ‘Til They’re Remaindered
- Books ditto When They Come Out in Paperback
- Books You Can Borrow from Somebody
- Books That Everybody’s Read So It’s As If You Had Read Them, Too
- Books You’ve Been Planning to Read for Ages
- Books You’ve Been Hunting for Years Without Success
- Books Dealing with Something You’re Working on at the Moment
- Books You Want to Own So They’ll Be Handy Just in Case
- Books You Could Put Aside Maybe to Read This Summer
- Books You Need to Go with Other Books on Your Shelves
- Books That Fill You with Sudden, Inexplicable Curiosity, Not Easily Justified
- Books Read Long Ago Which It’s Now Time to Re-read
- Books You’ve Always Pretended to Have Read and Now It’s Time to Sit Down and Really Read Them”

― Italo Calvino, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler

Why David Graeber is wrong about ‘bullshit jobs’

"Every class regime has had its administrative, judicial, religious and military bureaucracies. These bureaucracies taken as a whole constitute an instrument of the class in power, but their members do not constitute a class because a class is the totality of those who have identical relations with the means of production and consumption. The class of slave owners had already begun to break apart—it could not feed its own slaves (see the Manifesto)—when the imperial bureaucracy was still in power and fighting against the anti-slavery revolution and mercilessly repressing it. Much later, the aristocrats were brought to misery and the guillotine even though the military and clerical structures of the state were still fighting for the Ancien Régime. The bureaucracy in Russia cannot be defined without arbitrarily distinguishing between the big bosses and the rest of the bureaucrats: in state capitalism everyone is a bureaucrat. This alleged Russian bureaucracy, just like its counterpart, the American “managerial class”, is nothing but a lifeless tool without any history of its own, at the service of world capital against the working class. The conclusions towards which class antagonism is tending correspond to the Marxist perspective of the economic, social and political facts, and not to any other previous perspective, much less to a new elaboration that is the product of today’s dismal atmosphere.”


Words to avoid because of their excessive theoretical freight: ‘signifier,’ ‘symbolic,’ ‘text,’ ‘textual,’ and then ‘being,’ and the finally all words, and this would still not suffice, for since words cannot be constituted as a totality, the infinity that traverses them could never be captured by a subtracting operation; it is irreversible by reduction.

Blanchot, Writing of Disaster

Problems with world veganism

"Vegan lifestyles—as ostensibly nutritionally adequate—are part and parcel of social class distinction outside the proletariat. Maybe you have spent too long in certain metro areas or subcultures to see it for what it is. You can definitely be vegetarian cheaply in the “rice and beans” sort of way although you”l probably eat the same thing all the time too. A can of black beans, from what I’ve seen, typically has about 21 grams of protein for three servings (the whole can, whereas for 3 oz of lean meat it’s typically 20-30 grams). A sedentary 150 lb man has a protein RDA of about 60 grams of protein a day. That’s less than bodybuilding magazines act like it is, but when it takes one can of black beans to get to 20 grams of protein and you need three times that it’s a bit more complicated because who wants to consume three whole cans of beans or lentils a day? (You can only cook it so many ways until you hate it, you need time to cook and I think that probably would get a little expensive… and there’s a lot of sodium.) The meat replacements can be more protein dense but they’re also expensive (like five dollars for a whole box of tofu where it’s only 20-35 grams of protein for the whole thing, veggie burgers are from what I’ve seen probably the only sometimes cheap meat replacement that typically give you 8-20 grams a serving). If I’m fairly active and weight lift typically about 4 days a week so my RDA probably puts me at around 115 grams of protein needed a day and hence I don’t think I could afford currently to both not eat the same thing constantly but still continue growing.”


One large complication of “worldwide veganism” would be the fact that it is not biologically possible to get B12 in any necessary amount with a vegan diet and hence you have to take a B12 supplement. Actual B12 is too complex to put into supplements economically (it takes at least a hundred steps) so B12 supplements contain a vitamer (something that acts just like a vitamin) called cyanocobalamin. It’s made by having bacteria in a well controlled fermentation produce hydroxocobalamin and other variations of cobalamin.They must be combined with potassium cyanide to produce cyanocobalamin (since that’s the most stable version). The main way so far to produce cyanide would be the Andrussow process or BMA process, where you have to heat methane and ammonia inside a platinum covered pipe from 1200 to 1400 celsius to get one carbon atom triple bonded to a nitrogen atom which is cyanide.

In short, producing B12 is some pretty complex shit that requires a lot of heavy machinery, trained chemist and a whole bunch of other things a very good portion of the world doesn’t have in much amounts. Eighty percent of the world’s B12 is currently produced in France (so it has to be transported long distances to a lot of consumers, and so large portions of the world becoming vegan would require some serious reorientation of production if it were to ever be efficient and better yet ecologically friendly), and even though 55% of it is currently used in animal feed even if we were to quit eating animals I have no doubt it would still take a rather large increase in production to ensure that the whole world wouldn’t be B12 deficient (about 50% of the US —a high percent for most countries— takes a multi-vitamin that probably has B12 in it, that’s about 150 million people, but imagine 7 billion or more). It don’t think I would ever say it’s wholly impossible to do, but it’s really something that needs to be thought through when people talk about veganism on a very large scale. Yet I’ve honestly never seen any vegans anywhere talk about this possible logistic and production complication which is just annoying.

B12 is very complicated to make (just compare the chemical structure of this to morphine, Round Up/glyphosate or fluoxetine/Prozac, which aren’t incredibly easy to synthesize). Robert Burns Woodward was the first to find a way to make it (and his route for making it is the only one so far), he’s considered to be one of the leading organic chemist of the 21st century but one real landmark of his career was artificially synthesizing B12. He was also the first to artificially synthesize a few other naturally occurring chemicals like cholesterol, cortisone, chlorophyll and strychnine, but B12 was by far the hardest and considered still probably one of the most hardest naturally occurring things to produce artificially. I just can’t imagine looking at this chemical and having to find a chemical to start with.

The “R” is where carbon-nitrogen (cyano group) could be attached, oxygen-hydrogen (hydoxyl) could be attached or methyl could be attached to the cobalt atom in the center to make vitamers like cyanocobalamin, hydroxocobalamin, methylcobalamin and so on

#vegan  #chemisty  

I love the kinetic sculptures next to the Centre Pompidou by Nikki de Saint-Phalle in collaboration with Jean Tinguely. Fun fact: Nikki was the wife of Harry Matthews, a poet and writer of the Oulipo Group (who wrote according to mathematical formulas).

There have been lots of discussions lately of ‘cisgender’ as opposite to ‘transgender’. One concern is that ‘trans’ was adopted to unite a range of gender positions and open space to create new ones, so the concept of an opposite is tricky, and often leads to circular definitions. But it’s not an attempt to create a new binary, but to frame one that already exists, as I know from a lifetime on the ‘wrong’ side, in less unfavourable terms than ‘women-born-women’ and the more recent appendage of ‘living as women’ once the trans-exclusionary radical feminists remembered that trans men exist. (Janice Raymond barely mentioned them in The Transsexual Empire but afterthought them into her scheme by saying they were buying into the patriarchy.) Post-transition, I still feel – and I am still made to feel – discomfort with my body and social expectations of it, but nothing like the discomfort that made me seek hormones and surgery. Truthfully, my experiences have been far more complex than the words, categories and theories available to describe them, and historically, attempts to cram the realities of people’s lives into pre-existing belief systems have rarely ended well. In the New Yorker, Michelle Goldberg presents the laments of Jeffreys et al that it’s become harder to hold a trans-exclusionary radical feminist conference in terms that are reminiscent of a 19th century farming community fearing the arrival of the threshing machine. She notes their objection to the TERF acronym as ‘a slur’. (Far nastier than describing elective surgery as ‘mutilation’, obviously.) Originally, the term was intended to acknowledge that radical feminism accommodated differing positions on trans inclusion. The aim in using ‘TERF’ was to discourage rejection of all of the good political theory and work, and often great art, done in or around radical feminism – another problem, not new to Twitter or exclusive to this conflict, is a tendency for people to dismiss an individual or movement because they disagree with just one of their positions. If I applied this to my personal relationships, I wouldn’t have many left – certainly not with my family, and probably not even myself: looking back over old writing, diaries and letters as I wrote my memoir, I was amused by how often I said to myself: Fucking hell, I thought that?


Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery’s account of being arrested last night in Ferguson

(via theriotmag)

Irma ›

Irma is an intimate musical portrait of Irma Gonzalez, the former world champion of women’s professional wrestling. Filmed in Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl — a notorious district of Mexico City — Irma contradicts everything we have come to expect from stories reported from Mexico. Featuring music written and performed by Ms. Gonzalez, Irma’s story surges with love and deceit, masculine strength, feminine charms, and an extraordinary sense of humor.


Ferguson Police have dogs and shotguns. The unarmed crowd is raising their hands.

For anyone not following the Mike Brown story on Twitter: a 17 year old black boy named Mike Brown, who was supposed to start college tomorrow, was shot to death in Ferguson, Missouri by police while jaywalking. He was unarmed. He was shot 9 times.

Initial media reports claimed that an 18 year old black man had been shot and killed while fleeing police after shoplifting.

People in the neighborhood, including members of Mike Brown’s family, came out of their homes and began to protest, shouting “no justice, no peace,” and keeping their hands in the air.

Media reports claimed that a violent mob quickly formed around the shooting location shouting “kill the police.”

Spread this. Tell the truth about what happened to this boy. Tell the truth about what is happening NOW. The police and the mainstream media is painting him as a criminal, and his community as a violent mob.

SPREAD THIS. Don’t let them lie.


(via untodeath)

Capital in the Twenty-First Century - Review by Hans G Despain - Marx & Philosophy Review of Books ›

This is essentially the best TLDR of Thomas Piketty’s Capital.

Preview of the forthcoming translation of Michael Heinrich’s ‘The Science of Value’

From The Science of Value

'Labor-Power – A Commodity Like Any Other?'

The fact that the independent existence of exchange value is only expressed adequately as self-valorizing value still does not say anything concerning the question as to how this valorization is at all possible. The question therefore arises as to how the existence of an increase in capital can be explained on the basis of the exchange of equivalents. This is the fundamental question that Marx seeks to answer with his theory of surplus-value. 

Early economists had regarded capital profit as a mere premium upon the value of commodities. It was clear to Smith and Ricardo that the existence of the return on capital as a phenomenon that is not merely coincidental or marginal could not be explained by a premium, but had something to do with the labour expended by workers. But they assumed that the workers sell their labour. For a labour theory of value, then, the problem arises of explaining why a worker receives for (for example) 10 hours of labor a wage containing a sum of value that is less than the value that he adds to the value of the available means of production during this ten hour period. Socialists and Left-Ricardians had concluded that the exchange between capital and labor is “unjust”, that it does not correspond to the laws of the exchange of equivalents, and raised the demand for a just exchange or for the “full output” for the worker, a demand that Lassalle had also raised. The “vulgar economists” used this problem as an argument against the labor theory of value: since the workers receive the full value of their labour in the form of the wage, the value of the product could not depend exclusively upon labour. Smith also drew a similar conclusion. As already presented in the first chapter, Ricardo was not a proponent of the labor theory of value that Marx attributed to him, but Marx was not entirely wrong with his accusation that Ricardo had ignored the problem. Ricardo assumes without further ado that the relative value of goods – for the production of which a specific quantity of labour has been expended – is greater than the relative value of this expended labour. 

In contrast to the classical political economists, Marx distinguishes between labour and labour-power, i.e. the ability of a person to perform labour:

It is not labour which directly confronts the possessor of money on the commodity-market, but rather the worker. What the worker is selling is his labour-power. As soon as his labour actually begins, it has already ceased to belong to him; it can therefore no longer be sold by him. Labour is the substance, and the immanent measure of value, but it has no value itself. 

Marx attempts to explain the valorization of capital on the basis of the exchange of equivalents by distinguishing between value and use-value of the commodity labour-power. Analogue to the value of all other commodities, Marx sees the value of labor-power as determined by the quantity of abstract labour necessary for its reproduction. The use-value of labour-power consists of the labour that it can perform. The capitalist, by allowing the worker whose labour-power he has purchased to work, consumes its use-value. The commodity labour-power has the curious property that its consumption constitutes value. The valorization of capital is explained by the fact that during the consumption of labour-power in the capitalist process of production, a greater value is created than the value necessary for the reproduction of labour-power. The difference between the value produced by labour-power and the value necessary to reproduce labour-power is appropriated by the capitalist as surplus-value.

Marx writes of exploitation to the extent that the labourer works longer than is necessary for his own reproduction, and the capitalist appropriates the fruits of the surplus labour without offering an equivalent. The laws of the exchange of equivalents are not thereby violated, since the labourer, to the extent that he sells his labour-power as a commodity, only has a claim to its value, but not to its use-value. The consumption of use-value is the right of the purchaser. The fact that the consumption of labour-power yields a greater value than that which must be paid for it, is the “luck” of the capitalist, but not a violation of the laws of the exchange of equivalents. 

The problem of mediating the creation of surplus-value and exploitation with the exchange of equivalents is solved by Marx not only by means of considering the sphere of circulation, but through a combined investigation of the spheres of circulation and production. If only the sphere of circulation is considered, than equal values always confront one another, the exchange of equivalents occurs. However, the form M-C-M’ breaks down into M-C…P…C’-M’. There are two acts of exchange, where each taken for itself adheres to the laws of the exchange of equivalents, but which are separated by an act of production (P). Within this act of production, exploitation occurs; the labourer creates a greater value than he obtains, he expends more labour-time than is necessary for his own reproduction. However, since this process of production is also the process of consumption of the commodities purchased by the capitalist, the process of value-creation occurring there has nothing to do with the exchange between labourer and capitalist: exploitation and the exchange of equivalents do not contradict each other.

Marx’s conception of labor-power was criticized from various sides. The objections can be summarized in two points.

Firstly, there is the objection that in his determination of the value of labour-power, Marx does not consider the reproductive labour of women. Attention is thus called to an actual difference in the determination of the value of labour-power as compared to all other commodities. Whereas the entire direct and indirect labour necessary for its production enters into the determination of value of an ordinary commodity, only indirect labour enters into the value of the commodity labour-power, i.e. the value of the commodities that must be purchased for the labourer’s household. The direct labour that must be additionally expended by the labourer and his wife remains disregarded. To that extent, Harvey states that Marx did not propose a labour theory of value for the commodity labour-power, but rather a production costs theory. For many feminist authors, the basis of exploitation is thus shifted: the foundation of exploitation and of surplus-value is no longer the exploitation of the (male) wage-labourer in the factory, but rather the unpaid reproductive labour of women.

Secondly, in contrast to all other commodities, the commodity labour-power has a further peculiarity that provides further occasion for critique of Marx’s conception. The basket of goods that is supposed to determine the value of labour-power is not firmly established. What Marx refers to as a “historical-moral element” enters into the value of labour-power. Against this, the objection is raised that this element, even more strongly than Marx emphasized, is determined by class struggle, so that it’s ultimately class struggle that determines the value of labour-power. However, one can also raise the fundamental objection as to whether the value of labour-power can at all be bound to the conditions of reproduction, however these are determined. For example, considerable differences in wage levels cannot be explained by referring to different necessities of the reproduction of labour-power. Furthermore, the objection that Keynes (1936, p. 11) raised against the neo-classical theory of wages can also be brought to bear upon Marx’s determination of the value of labour-power: the labourer does not receive a specific basket of goods as compensation, but rather a particular sum of money; the real wage and therefore the “value of labour-power” thus first emerge subsequently, when the prices for individual goods on the market have emerged.

Concerning the first objection, it must be said that Marx presents the determination of the value of labour-power as it presents itself from the result. Labour-power is a special commodity: the process of its production is not capitalist, but it is also not a case of simple commodity production. Labour-power is not produced from the get-go as a commodity, but it is sold as a commodity. The worker’s household, which produces labour-power, is distinguished from the usual producers of commodities by the fact that it cannot switch branches of production: if furniture production is no longer worth it, a cabinet maker can become a weaver, and if this also is no longer possible, he ultimately has the option of: selling his labour-power. But the seller of labour-power has already arrived at this final level with no alternative. Production of labour-power is ultimately identical with the production of one’s own life and can therefore not simply be abandoned like the production of any other commodity.

One could accuse Marx of not sufficiently emphasizing the peculiarity of the determination of the value of labour-power. However, it was not at all the case that Marx overlooked the reproductive labour in the household performed in particular by women. It was clear to Marx that this labour did not enter into the value of labour-power as value-constituting labour. This is first the case when reproductive labour has become a commodified service. A more exact investigation of the particular determination of the value of the commodity labour-power probably would have been a topic for the “special study of wage-labour” planned by Marx. For the analysis of a particular capitalist society, the more exact determination of the value of labour-power, the level of reproduction, and the mode of reproduction are of course of decisive importance. However, the argument that the exploitation of (male) workers in the factory is only made possible by the exploitation of women in the household seems to mistake concrete historical conditions (particularly in countries of the so-called Third World) with the possibility of exploitation as such. The fact that a large part of reproductive labour is still performed in the household is more a pre-capitalist remnant and characteristic of a less developed capitalism, rather than a general condition for exploitation. 

If reproductive labour is taken over by state or capitalist institutions (nursery schools, bakeries, canteens, etc.), then it can be performed with a generally lower expenditure of time on the basis of increases in productivity that are now made possible. Releasing women to a large extent from domestic labour and subordinating them to the direct exploitation by capital not only allows capital to appropriate a greater mass of surplus-value, but also to increase the rate of surplus-value: since the reproductive costs of the family have to be paid from the wages of two labour-powers, the value of an individual labour-power decreases.

The second objection fundamentally calls into question whether the price of labour-power has anything at all to do with the conditions of its reproduction. However, Marx’s determination of the value of labour-power is not intended as an explanation of the prices of individual labour-powers or all differences in wages. In determining the value of labour-power by its (monetary) costs of production, Marx expresses nothing further than a condition for the existence of capital: the existence of capital requires the reproduction of labour-power as mere labour-power. Individual labour-powers must therefore obtain at least as much money as is required for their reproduction. On the other hand, they cannot be released from the compulsion to sell their labour-power.

However, the question arises as to how this condition of existence of capital can be secured, since the deviation of the market price of labour-power from its value cannot be compensated for by the flow of labor that was used in the production of labour-power into other spheres of production, or from these spheres into the sphere of the production of labour-power. Classical political economy solved this problem by its law of population: in the case of wages being high, working class families would procreate at a considerably higher rte due to the favorable material situation, thus leading to an extraordinary increase of the working class, so that wages would then once again decline.

But even if this simple mechanism actually existed, the period of time required by it would be too great to reduce the price of labour-power to its value. In contrast to the “natural” law of population assumed by classical political economy, Marx formulated in the 25th chapter of the first volume of Capital a specifically “capitalist” law of population. As a consequence of the production of relative surplus-value, it is capital that not only determines the variation in its demand for labour-power, but also the supply of labour-power, by releasing previously employed labour-power. It is not the procreation of working class families, but rather the changing value composition of capital (the relation of constant to variable capital) that produces a relative surplus population (see the 8th chapter below). Only the existence of a constant “industrial reserve army” ensures that the commodity labour-power is sold at its “value”, i.e. its cost of reproduction, even without extra-economic force. 

So it is class struggle that immediately decides the price of the commodity labour-power, the conditions of labour, etc., but class struggle is not an independent factor, exogeneous to the economy. The strength of social classes is bound up with the dynamic of capitalist accumulation. The strength of classes is itself inextricably linked to the dynamic of capitalist accumulation.

These considerations show that the commodity labour-power is a special commodity. The determination of its value cannot be placed directly alongside the determination of value of all other commodities, as Marx does in the fourth chapter of the first volume of Capital. Rather, it’s a case of an analogous conceptual construction. When Marx therefore claims to have explained the exchange between capital and labour under the preconditions of the exchange of equivalents, one must however agree to the extent that in distinguishing between the value and the use-value of labour-power, he dissolves the aporias connected with this problem.


'The cool communists'

"What could I change? We have everything - free medical care, free education, free vacations. What else do we need?"


Andre Gorz being hella #doom right now #Marx #hegel #critiqueofeconomicreason