Dani Rodrik’s usually excellent blog falls down just a bit with this post:
The only time she has ever felt a whiff of utopia was in Buenos Aires, in 2002, when the political system had virtually disintegrated—during the time that she and Lewis were filming “The Take.” “That moment in Argentina was an incredible time because a vacuum opened up,” she says. “They had thrown out four Presidents in two weeks, and they had no idea what to do. Every institution was in crisis. The politicians were hiding in their homes. When they came out, housewives attacked them with brooms. And, walking around Buenos Aires at night, there were meetings on every other street corner. Every plaza where there was a streetlight, people were meeting under it and talking about what to do about the external debt, I swear to God. Groups of one hundred or five hundred people. And organizing buying groceries together because they could get cheaper prices, setting up barters because the currency was worthless. It was the most inspiring thing I’ve ever seen.”
This is the same Argentina which had just collapsed into a severe economic crisis, with a more than doubling of the share of population in extreme poverty and a 10 percent decline in GDP. I wonder how many Argentines were feeling equally euphoric.
And my response:
I recall this last summer a weed started to grow in my backyard. The previous owner of the house, an older man who obviously believed in zero maintenance, had installed concrete pavers over almost the entire backyard. This weed started to grow in between the pavers anyway, and my son, being just nine, insisted we allow it to grow. Not seeing any harm in this, I allowed it to grow and it actually was a quite interesting plant–it developed flowers as well as rather bizarre set of leaves. All and all it made a rather desolate place a little nicer.
I think Naomi Klein sees the plant and you see the pavement.
Who is more deluded? I would think a balanced view would take both into account.
I see nothing wrong with observing, and rejoicing in, the strength of the human spirit to overcome an unjust system.
By the way, I should thank Dani for mentioning Karl Polanyi’s book The Great Transformation. It’s not read or taught as often as it should be.