The Cyberflâneur #7: Paul Mason

This week our resident cyberflâneur is the journalist, film-maker and author Paul Mason. We couldn’t time this better, given this week’s elections in the UK. Below, Paul reflects on his favorite pieces from the long short-list that we procured from our virtual stacks. As with all our cyberflâneur editions, the goal is to pause the maddening pace of social media, get a grip on what really matters, and salvage the content that vanishes in the hunt for eyeballs. And, of course, add some smart commentary on top – even if exceeds the 280 character limit.

Here is what Paul had to say about his cyberflâneur stint:

As a journalist, dealing with immediacy and minutae, you can get completely detached from the big picture and the long term. Being forced to curate a list of academic articles and scholarly analysis, plus podcasts, you become aware that what we really need is an automated version of curating: a machine that can judge whether an article is recycling old points of knowledge, or actually synthesising them or discovering new knowledge. Until somebody designs one, we are stuck with lists. Lists are the new newspapers. Here’s mine.

We couldnt agree more. And do check our previous editions, including those with Brian Eno, Hito Steyerl, Rem Koolhaas, Rana Foroohar, and others.

E.M.


I.

Beirut is Burning: Rebellion Against the Elites has Commenced

Dissident Voice

Paul Mason’s comment: Vltchek’s despatches from Beirut during the rising are proof that the art of reportage still exists. Lyrical, punchy, straight from the street. This and other mass movements, as he points out, are only going to end when there is direct democracy.


II.

Regulating Artificial Intelligence and Robotics: Ethics by Design in a Digital Society

Contemporary Social Science

Paul Mason’s comment: Unless we build ethics into artificial intelligences, they will evolve their own implicit ethical codes and become moral agents. This article is a useful jump-off point to issues covered in my book Clear Bright Future, where I argue that we are no facing point blank the problem of human control over autonomous systems


III.

“We Have to Move to a Post-Capitalist System”

Jacobin

Paul Mason’s comment: Bello’s voice has been consistent throughout the 20 years since Seattle: today his analysis of the counter-revolutions sweeping the globe, which he identifies with Goebbels’ strategy to “erase 1789” is a sobering read.


IV.

The World is in a Revolutionary Moment – How Can the Global Left Be a Serious Player?

openDemocracy

Paul Mason’s comment: Sahan Savas Karatasli calls the present unrest, from Chile to Lebanon and Hong Kong a “revolutionary situation” – and asks the right question: what would an International look like in the 21st century. I’m not sure I like his idea of having two: one vertical, one horizontal – because the more obvious synthesis is “parties that act like social movements”.


V.

Secular Stagnation: the Limits of Conventional Wisdom

Brave New Europe

Paul Mason’s comment: Amid the social turmoil, 2019 has also seen a landmark in political economy: the reluctant acceptance by some leading thinkers of conventional economics that their assumptions are bullshit, and that capitalism is about to stagnate. Stefano Di Bucchianico provides an accessible introduction to the “sec-stag” debate…


VI.

The United States’ National Debt and the Necessity to Prepare for Its Default

Campbell Law Review

Paul Mason’s comment: The title says it all. Because the neoliberal model cannot be allowed to fail, the USA is on a path to debts that are only sustainable through printing money. Schaefer argues it must be prepared to default on US savers and foreign governments alike. I think it will take a long time to come to this point, however – so read the article as a kind of memento more for the period we’re in: it will go on for a long time, fuelled by debt, but it will end catastrophically (probably when the dynamics outlined here hit a problem called climate chaos).


VII.

China’s great game in the Middle East

European Council on Foreign Relations

Paul Mason’s comment: As Trump jerks US policy towards the Middle East between random interventions and random withdrawals, this thorough and scholarly overview of China”s Belt and Road Initiative in the region, and its geopolitical ambitions, gives a snapshot of the global power imbalance that will shape the next 20 years.


VIII.

The Geoeconomics of Russia’s Greater Eurasia Initiative

Asian Politics & Policy

Paul Mason’s comment: I like the term “geo-economics” because, as a description of Russia’s switch to using economic power over military/diplomatic power, it allows us to understand how Putin, Xi and their successors will play the West in a massively asymmetric game during the mid-21st century.


IX.

Not So Right after All? Making Sense of the Progressive Rhetoric of Europe’s Far-Right Parties

International Sociology

Paul Mason’s comment: The far right is evolving, and in its most dangerous form it abandons social conservatism for the defence of eg gay rights and gender equality as a rhetorical tool to unite the nation against “backward” migrants, and to whip up islamophobia. This study draws on the experience of the hipster far right in the Netherlands, Sweden and France.


X.

Will Neoliberalism End in Chile?

Dead Pundits Society

Paul Mason’s comment: I’ve been too wrapped up in the British constitutional crisis to cover the revolt in Chile – this Jacobin podcast is a great overview of where the movement came from and why, like its parallel revolts in Lebanon, Iraq and Hong Kong, it is rooted in mass popular rejection of the authoritarian market state.


More about our Cyberflâneur series. You can also take a look at the previous versions of the Cyberflâneur: Brian Eno, Hito Steyerl, Adam Tooze, Rana Foroohar, Samuel Moyn, Rem Koolhaas.

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