Daily Archives: January 3, 2012

Military of the European Union – Comparative data on Greece from SIPRI

Defence spending

The combined defence budgets of the 27 EU member states in 2010 amounted to $299.7 billion.[12] This represents 1.63% of European Union GDP, second only to the US military’s $698.1 billion 2010 defence budget, which represents 4.5% of United States GDP. The EU figures include the spending for joint projects such as the Eurofighter and joint procurement of equipment.

via Military of the European Union – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

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National sources of the greek defence procurements (in %)

This is thoughout history the sources in % of the greek defence procurements.

1)1974-1980:

  • – France: 24,1%
  • – Germany 13,6%
  • – USA: 58%

2) 1981-1989

  • – France: 19,7 %
  • – Germany 16,8%
  • – USA 33,1%
  • – Netherlands: 15,1%

3) 1990-1993

  • – France 6,8%
  • – Germany 17%
  • – Netherlands 7,8%
  • – USA 64,3%

4) 1994-2004

  • – Germany 19,9%
  • – France 3,1%
  • – Netherlands 10,2%
  • – Russia 9,9%
  • – USA 51,1%

5) 2004-2008

  • – France 23,8%
  • – Germany 30,6%
  • – USA 24,1%

via What would you do to improve Eurocanards exports? – Page 3 – Key Publishing Ltd Aviation Forums.

 

BBC News – Private sector pensions in seismic collapse, says ACA

There has been a “seismic collapse” in private sector pensions, and the gap between private and public pensions is widening, a report warns.

The Association of Consulting Actuaries (ACA) says that nine out of 10 private sector defined benefit schemes are now closed to new entrants.

The ACA wants bold government action to reinvigorate workplace pensions.

via BBC News – Private sector pensions in seismic collapse, says ACA.

Εναν στους 5 Ελληνες απειλεί η φτώχεια | κοινωνια | ethnos.gr

Το 20,1% του πληθυσμού της χώρας απειλείται από τη φτώχεια, σύμφωνα με την έρευνα εισοδήματος και συνθηκών διαβίωσης του 2010 της Ελληνικής Στατιστικής Αρχής. Σύμφωνα με τα στοιχεία, προκύπτει ότι το χρηματικό όριο της φτώχειας ανέρχεται στο ετήσιο ποσό των 7.178 ευρώ ανά άτομο και σε 15.073 ευρώ για νοικοκυριά με δύο ενήλικες και δύο εξαρτώμενα παιδιά ηλικίας κάτω των 14 ετών.

via Εναν στους 5 Ελληνες απειλεί η φτώχεια | κοινωνια | ethnos.gr.

Sociology of money

E x c h a n g e,  I s s u e 5 | M a y 2 0 1 1

page 4.

Sociology of money

Jocelyn Pixley Jocelyn.Pixley@mq.edu.au

The experience of economic sociology in the 1980s and an account of chance encounters with various approaches since then may provide a more useful entry point into recent work than looking only at research on money. At that time, Marxian analysis was prominent in Britain and Australia, as were Weberian-inspired stratification analyses. The Australian research of Frank Jones, Ron Wild and Raewyn Connell was influential, in the context of this present, and highly selective, overview of debates. The divisions, at that time, were between theory and empirical work, status and class. Notable work of that kind was not then cast as economic sociology. Rather, it presented itself as a fresh general sociology after an era of functionalist domination heavily identified with Talcott Parsons.

My PhD supervisor, Maria Markus, one of Australian sociology’s treasures, provided a broad view. With her, German theories of the state and legitimacy and French approaches to inequality were prominent. Everyone discussed James O’Connor’s approach in the USA to state fiscal crisis. I do not remember his work being called economic sociology though, in hindsight, that’s what it was. Meanwhile, American economic sociologists moved into analyses of impersonal trust (Susan Shapiro), the ‘contingencies of markets’ (Harrison White) and uncertainties of firms (Arthur Stinchcombe). Only later did I come across these innovations. Feminist theory had a dramatic impact upon research at the time, but so too did neo-classical economics. Much economic sociology was then devoted to challenging the latter’s methodological individualism and positivism. Looking back, I wonder why many (myself among them) bothered to take on that challenge. That was the moment when ‘the rational actor model’ was so triumphant, including in its so-called post-modern forms. These remained closed to dialogue, let alone criticism. Debating these canons may now seem to have been a useless distraction. But from various efforts to contest that intellectual domination important new substantive and theoretical research in economic sociology emerged.

Among this new yield was inspired research on unpaid work and the capitalist labour market. My favourite (UK) feminist question at the time was ‘Does Lady Astor oppress her garbage man?’. Yet, in these important debates on class, gender and ethnicity, little was said about money. Interestingly, publishers (capitalist firms!) always support economic sociology. Hence (unlike ‘indifference curves’), many of our concepts have become part of public understanding and everyday speech. Meanwhile, government research funds and university support rapidly abandoned sociology and economic history in favour of neo-classical economics and later the MBA ‘approach’. That shift had many limitations yet in some universities SIBS, Sociologists in Business Schools, gave it strength. The economic landscape had changed. Women were more integrated in the formal economy, but divisions in labour markets grew, often to the further detriment of ethnic minorities. In ‘developed economies’, the rise of unemployment and ‘atypical employment’ (Iain Campbell) were sources of new analyses. Ideas about ‘post-industrial society’ – beyond paid work – were popular in the USA, France and Germany, but so too, for economic sociologists, was the very different work of the French ‘regulation school’ and comparative work on ‘types of capitalism’ often based on Karl Polanyi.

I pursued research on the exclusion from social citizenship (and social integration) of those without opportunities to find paid work or to fulfill basic social obligations (Pixley 1993). My dismal conclusion argued the post-industrial thesis was a mere justification for mass unemployment in wealthy countries. The unemployed would henceforth be called ‘dole bludgers’. After that bleak conclusion, it seemed that economic sociology was still missing something, or rather, despite the continuing vitality and urgency of labour market research, more clues in scholarly literature seemed needed to explain neo-classical impacts in policy prescriptions across the English-speaking world.

Another discovery, again purely by luck, was to find Geoffrey Ingham’s work. It suggested the theoretical and empirical work needed in economic sociology. (His essay on economic sociology in 1996 was a magisterial overview of the split between economics and sociology since the 1920s, and its deleterious effects on economic sociology). There was no ‘intellectual space’ to argue about unemployment once NAIRU (the Non-Accelerating Inflation Rate of Unemployment) became the sole policy of the US, UK, Australian, NZ and European central banks. Its implication was simple. Wage inflation would be beaten by mass unemployment. Only two main central banks — the US Federal Reserve System and the Reserve Bank of Australia — had a dual task, two remits: to ensure full employment and price stability. Both are decent social aims. Yet these leading central banks (not to mention all the others without that dual responsibility) gave up on full employment. Why was this?

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At the same time, Anglo-American populations were being ‘financialised’ with much easier access to credit, while in Australia superannuation became compulsory. The economist Hyman Minsky called this a new phase of ‘money management capitalism’, replacing the earlier ‘financial capitalism’ and the ‘commercial capitalism’ before that. This new form was allied with the application of ‘shareholder value’ as the sole requirement of all firms, including banks. Raising share value is the primary demand of money management (hedge funds, pension funds etc).

The question arose, what is money? Why, some wondered, have sociologists neglected this 400-year-old capitalist institution since the work of Simmel and Weber? In the 1990s, economic sociology was more concerned with ‘international competitiveness’ and then with that contentious term ‘globalisation’. Was it merely an expression of the ultimate triumph of a ‘Washington-Wall Street consensus’, as some claimed, to impose worldwide ‘a one best way’ of markets and especially the ‘capital markets’? These rising markets were not of individuals but huge, often new firms taking bets on price movements. They were preferred over relationship banking, except in late 2007 the biggest financial firms couldn’t exit with any winnings.

At least one beneficial casualty of the 2007 UK-US crisis is the term ‘globalization’. Recently so appealing, in this context it was suddenly killed. In the meantime, the sociology of money became essential reading. Ingham showed how Parsons gave up that debate on economics. Granovetter introduced a ‘new’ economic sociology but left ‘forces of deflation/inflation’, ‘supply and demand’ to the economists. He merely ‘added’ social networks and norms on top. But inflation or supply/demand are social relations, bitter ones (Ingham 1998).

Swedberg played a major theoretical role, and has recently discussed emotions under uncertainty in financial busts. Ingham’s work on money in the 1990s drew on many forgotten aspects of Simmel, Weber, Polanyi and Schumpeter. Swedberg (1991) also notes that while Schumpeter is a favourite among orthodoxy for his term ‘creative destruction’, he has hardly been read by orthodoxy. Schumpeter’s phrase ‘destruction without function’ now seems an apt description of the UK-US crisis.

Keynes and Frank Knight also provide intellectual inspiration, particularly for their position on ‘radical uncertainty’. Totally different from risk, which involves ‘known chances’, this is the basic uncertainty of money (and life). So while sociology proudly shook off Parsonian positivism, Milton Friedman and, more fatally, the financial sector at the same time embraced a new search for predictions. Robert K. Merton’s work on unintended consequences became a commonplace in government or central bank pronouncements. Yet, with a few honourable exceptions sociology was scarcely engaged in debates about the social horrors of uncertainty.

Keynesian and Schumpeterian economists (such as Minsky) remained in the wilderness of an open-minded heterodoxy, trying to stress the inescapable centrality of uncertainty while financial institutions — oligopolies, really — were devising (so they hoped!) ways to ‘beat uncertainty’. They produced dubious schemes built on ceteris paribus extrapolation from the past, now framed in fast-speed trading on algorithms of predictive models. Today, this is most pronounced in Wall Street and the City of London.

Against ideas of its value freedom —of money’s supposed ‘instrumental neutrality’ — and of a ‘theory of money’ in which (if it is thought about at all) money is simply another commodity, the sociology of money highlights the promise that money projects into the uncertain future. Money is a social relation as much as the wage-labour relation. Debtors (firms) ‘win’ in price inflation; creditors (big money firms) win in low wage/ unemployment; debt deflation is a disaster. The uncertainty of money results in a huge reliance by these corporations on anticipatory emotion-rules of trust and distrust. They are institutionalised in the major financial segments, in banks, money management firms, credit-rating agencies and accountancy firms — and now also ‘VIX’, colloquially called the fear index. But the future cannot be predicted.

Meanwhile the financial sector increasingly engages in ‘socially useless’ activities (Turner 2010). As uncertainty grows, these efforts are bound to fail ever more rapidly. Hence the development of the ‘carry trade’, or bets on currency prices, as well as regulatory arbitrage and securitisation of promises. Money managers demand rising share value to boost short-term performance benchmarks. Banks invest minimally in social developments to meet society’s needs (e.g., alternative energy), nor did they keep the global payments system going, as 2008 showed. Trust is fleeting. All this, I suspect, is above the heads of many bank CEOs, as my interviews attest. CEOs say that none of this is ‘their fault’ as profits must be made. Banks cynically take bets against the schemes that they aggressively market/sell to their very own clients. As for the wider population, my attitude surveys (in the UK and Australia) show people have a minimal understanding of money. But the 2007 run on a bank in England, the

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obscure Northern Rock, did show that popular sentiments are correct: banks are very different from ordinary firms. Populations are anxious about their financial futures (and rightly so). Here Australians have no trust in the finance sector. The sociology of money is crying out for more research, since money is difficult to understand and it provokes anxieties.

Keynes said he knew of three people who really understood money: a Professor somewhere else, a student of his and a minor official at the Bank of England at that time. How many are there today?

My conclusion is that the financial sector is a mess and the authorities do not know what to do. Desperate, often unconscionable, improvisation is their main response. If they cannot put hope in trust they will place their trust in ungrounded hope. The rise of more short-term indecencies began as early as 2009, after the biggest bank bailout ever seen. What may happen next is not looking pretty. Although who knows?

References

Ingham, G. 1996 ‘Some recent changes in the relationship between economics and sociology’, Cambridge Journal of Economics 20: 243–75

Ingham, G. 1998 ‘On the Underdevelopment of the ‘Sociology of Money’’, Acta Sociologica 41(1): 3–18

Ingham, G. 2008 Capitalism Cambridge: Polity Press

Pixley, J. F. 1993 Citizenship and Employment: Investigating Post-Industrial Options, Cambridge University Press

Pixley, J. F. 1999, ‘Impersonal Trust in Global Mediating Organisations’, Sociological Perspectives 42(4): 647–71

Pixley, J. F. 2004 Emotions in Finance: Distrust and Uncertainty in Global Markets (Second Edition forthcoming 2012) Cambridge University Press

Pixley, J. F. 2007 ‘How do Australians feel about financial investment?’ Australian Social Attitudes 2: Citizenship, Work and Aspirations, D. Denemark et al (eds), Sydney: UNSW Press.

Pixley, J. F. 2010 ‘The use of risk in understanding financial decisions’ The Journal of Socio-Economics 39 (2), 2010: 209 – 222

Swedberg, R. (ed) 1991 Joseph A. Schumpeter Princeton University Press Turner, Adair (Chairman, FSA) 2010 ‘What do banks do, what should they do and what public policies are needed to ensure best results for the real economy?’ Lecture at CASS Business School, 17 March 2010 (http://10: 1900www.fsa.gov.uk/pubs/speeches/at_17mar10.pdf).

Newsletter | Economic Sociology Australia.

Economic Sociology Australia | The website of TASA’s sociology of economic life thematic group

Economic Sociology Australia | The website of TASA’s sociology of economic life thematic group.

Karl Polanyi Institute of Political Economy

EMES European Research Network

via Karl Polanyi Institute of Political Economy.

* International Centre of Research and Information on the Public and Cooperative Economy (CIRIEC)

International Centre of Research and Information on the Public and Cooperative Economy(CIRIEC)

CIRIEC International.

Crash Course on Hyman Minsky, L. Randall Wray – YouTube

L. Randall Wray, professor at UMKC, talks about Hyman Minsky, an American economist who, even in the relative stability of the 1950s, predicted financial collapse because of “speculative euphoria.” Interviewed by Peter Leyden at King’s College, April 2010.

via Crash Course on Hyman Minsky, L. Randall Wray – YouTube.

Hyman Minsky – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Minsky proposed theories linking financial market fragility, in the normal life cycle of an economy, with speculative investment bubbles endogenous to financial markets. Minsky claimed that in prosperous times, when corporate cash flow rises beyond what is needed to pay off debt, a speculative euphoria develops, and soon thereafter debts exceed what borrowers can pay off from their incoming revenues, which in turn produces a financial crisis. As a result of such speculative borrowing bubbles, banks and lenders tighten credit availability, even to companies that can afford loans, and the economy subsequently contracts.

via Hyman Minsky – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

John Gray on the Former Middle Class and the End of Equality

The Discreet Poverty and the Former Middle Class: Bourgeois life was based on the institution of the career – a lifelong pathway through working life. Today professions and occupations are disappearing. Soon they will be as remote and archaic as the ranks and estates of medieval times. Our only real religion is a shallow faith in the future; and yet we have no idea what the future will bring. None but the incorrigibly feckless any longer believe in taking the long view. Saving is gambling, careers and pensions are high-level punts. The few who are seriously rich hedge their bets. The proles – the rest of us – live from day to day. In Europe and Japan, bourgeois life lingers on. In Britain and America it has become the stuff of theme parks. The middle class is a luxury capitalism can no longer afford.”

The transitional phase is usually much longer than people imagined, it sometimes lasts several generations. But it’s the absolute worse is to be caught in the transitional phase, like now when people still think in terms of a career or a profession. It’s like being an aristocrat who is clinging to a Family Crest under the smokestacks on the industrialization.

“The End of Equality: The welfare state was a by-product of the Second World War. The National Health Service began in the Blitz, full employment in conscription. Postwar egalitarianism was an after-effect of mass mobilisation in war. Look back to the nineteenth century, to the time between the end of the Napoleonic Wars and the outbreak of the First World War. That great era of peace in Europe was also a period of great inequality. The majority of the population lived from hand to mouth, and only the very rich were safe from sudden poverty. Today, nearly everyone is much better off. Yet the rackety existence of the majority is as far removed from the security enjoyed by the truly wealthy as it was in Victorian times. In affluent, high-tech economies, the masses are superfluous — even as cannon fodder. Wars are no longer fought by conscript armies but by computers – and, in the collapsed states that litter much of the world, by the ragged irregular armies of the poor. With this mutation of war, the pressure to maintain social cohesion is relaxed. The wealthy can pass their lives without contact with the rest of society. So long as they do not pose a threat to the rich, the poor can be left to their own devices. Social democracy has been replaced by an oligarchy of the rich as part of the price of peace.

via John Gray on the Former Middle Class and the End of Equality.

John Gray on Marx and Reproletarianisation of Capitalism

Economists and politicians who celebrated the triumph of capitalism in the 1990s imagined that the result would be a “property-owning democracy”. In fact, the result has been a type of reproletarianisation – an economic system in which middle-class life has ceased to be a viable option for most of the population. Here, if nowhere else, Marx was prophetic, but that does not mean we can turn to him for an understanding of the current crisis. Hyman Minsky’s post-Keynesian account of the inherent instability of finance-capitalism is more illuminating and practically useful than anything produced by Marx or his disciples

via John Gray on Marx and Reproletarianisation of Capitalism.

Capitalism is in the process of destroying the very middle-class way of life on which it depended —John Gray « Citizen Action Monitor

We’re only part of the way through a financial crisis that will turn many more things upside down. Currencies and governments are likely to go under along with parts of the financial system we believe to have been made safe. The risks that threaten to freeze the world economy only three years ago haven’t been dealt with. They have simply been shifted to states.

via Capitalism is in the process of destroying the very middle-class way of life on which it depended —John Gray « Citizen Action Monitor.

ΠΕΡΙΟΔΙΚΟ ΖΕΝΙΘ

ΠΕΡΙΟΔΙΚΟ ΖΕΝΙΘ.

2012: Το τέλος της μεσαίας τάξης; Του Γιώργου Στάμκου | TVXS – TV Χωρίς Σύνορα

Η εφιαλτική ύφεση σε συνδυασμό με τη βίαιη υποτίμηση των εισοδημάτων, των περιουσιακών στοιχείων και την τεράστια ανεργία, οδηγεί αναπόφευκτα στην πληβειοποίηση της μεσαίας τάξης. Επέρχεται έτσι μια βίαιη κοινωνική αποδιάρθρωση, καθώς τα μεσαία στρώματα αποτελούσαν τη συνέχουσα ύλη, που τροφοδοτούσε την ευημερία και την απορρέουσα κοινωνική ειρήνη, στήριζε τη δημοκρατία και προωθούσε τον εκσυγχρονισμό. Μια διαρκώς συρρικνούμενη μεσαία τάξη οδηγεί νομοτελειακά στην αύξηση των κοινωνικών ανισοτήτων και στις εκρήξεις βίας και καταπίεσης.

via 2012: Το τέλος της μεσαίας τάξης; Του Γιώργου Στάμκου | TVXS – TV Χωρίς Σύνορα.