Tuesday, September 30, 2008

"Okay, where were we? Ah yeah, collapse of America"

Guy Rundle from Crikey -

This is not an economic crisis, this is a political and cultural crisis of capitalism, and if you don't understand that, well, you're a financial journalist.

That is the meaning of what happened today.

Rundle 08: A political and cultural crisis of capitalism
US correspondent Guy Rundle writes from Washington DC:

The final act of Monday the 29th of September – Black Monday? Greyish? Hawkstooth black and white Monday? It's like picking Cindy McCain's Nazi mistress wardrobe – was a press conference by Walnuts McCain himself in Des Moines, Iowa.

He'd put it off for a long time – so long, that CNN just played footage of tech setting the white balance, holding up a sheet of paper to the cameras, as they droned on about the day's events. It had a weird performance art quality, as if Laurie Anderson had taken over the airwaves. Eventually he hustled on like he was powerwalking, flourished a single sheet of paper and began:

I worked hard to bring everyone to the table .......we improved it greatly...our leaders are expected to leave partisanship at the door...Senator Obama and his allies in Congress infused the process with partisanship...Now is not the time to fix the blame, now is the time to fix the problem...

Good old John, the chuzpah kid – now is not the time for partisanship, especially from that partisan c-nt Obama – the old showman still got it. He gave the statement and then he hustled out as fast as he came in, not taking a single question. So, the whole Republican ticket is now off limits to actual scrutiny.

He had no choice but to do all that, because the silly boob had made a statement practically claiming credit for the whole bailout just before jumping on a plane at the exact moment the bailout went kablooey – and landed to find that his last statement zinging around the wires was a statement on his personal responsibility for the failed deal that may have killed America.

Obama didn't do a specific press conference, but he didn't need to – he gave two great speeches with a half-dozen zingers in each that the cable networks were more than happy to excerpt. They were old stuff --- "I think John McCain just doesn't get it" – but they were delivered with more authority than there'd been for a while. Most importantly politically, he took on the presidential voice urging everyone to "stay calm" and work through it – pretty much the stuff the President should be saying, if America currently had a President.

For those of you who missed the morning edition, and haven't had a chance to read the news before this bulletin: EVERYTHING IS F-CKED! CONGRESS DIDN'T PASS THE BAILOUT BILL, DEFEATING IT 228 TO 205, AND THE MARKET FELL NEARLY 800 POINTS! NO-ONE KNOWS WHAT THE HELL'S GOING ON, OR WHAT TO DO NEXT!

Okay, where were we? Ah yeah, collapse of America. People thought it could be over as night came down. But of course we live in a global society, so nothing is insulated. For it was morning in East Asia, and everything started tanking there too, falling by the requisite 5%. This fed back into the evening news shows, to create a fresh round of panic, disguised as earnest discussion.

By that point, any hope of sensible discussion had departed as the evening discussion shows took over. It is the particular tragedy of the US that its discussion programmes have become dominated by a particular type of telepopulism, in which various hosts – Lou Dobbs and Glenn Beck are the most prominent examples – present themselves as the unmediated voice of the people against a monolithic political class.

This has always been tiresome, but now it's starting to look ridiculous and noxious. It is part of the dominant political fantasy of American life – that government is, in the last analysis not a part of society, but a necessary evil, like an annual colonoscopy, to be despised, loathed and feared.

This mood took hold of America in the late 1970s, with Ronald Reagan humming the tune, as everything was going wrong for the country. Reagan and his supporters, taking up the themes of the failed Goldwater campaign of 1964, suggested that government was "the problem" and linked that theme to the American Revolution, effectively portraying the founders as a bunch of anarchists.

But the whole point of the American revolution, at least in terms of ideals, was not minimal government per se – it was virtuous government. The core of it was that there were good and bad governments, and you could judge them based on the principles they were founded on.

The weird thing is that survives to a degree. Watching Congress today, I didn't see caricatured, crony government, even though it was obvious that those voting the bill down would be members from both sides in danger of losing their seat. I saw complex, detailed arguments, the clash of ideas about what should be done, about what was happening, about different models of reality.

In effect, the TV pundits were the least intelligent thing going on, with their failure to get behind one or other model of reality, with its consequent course of action, one idea of what is going on.

Man oh man, this ain't the dumper – that will be the next one, in around 2017 – but it's starting to feel really, really big. What anyone in the know in the US is scared witless about, in the developing stockmarket tank, is the 401(k) situation. 401Ks are basically super funds, built evenly by employee and employer contributions, as in Australia.

Unlike Australia, employees still have little control over their 401ks, which can be regularly raided and ruined, even though hundreds of millions depend for their old age on them utterly.

The 401ks are all invested by various pension funds in the stock market – not in crazy stocks of course. In stable blue chip things, like Washington Mutual, or Wachovia or.....So the short point is that if the market tanks to the degree that 401ks slide through the floor, then this economic crisis will become a social and political one as people, faced with the prospect of lifelong penury and no reward for decades of work, will simply be disabused of any notion that the system has any legitimacy whatsoever.

That is already starting to happen, and to a degree, the general political cynicism is the beginnings of a more mature political push-back – which may or may not bloom in full – but which is being sold down the river by the Democrats and Republicans' acceptance of a deal that everyone calls "rotten", "the worst possible deal", "something I would normally never vote for". Etc.

But here is what is really, really important to understand about this current event is that this is not merely a financial system crisis – that is a mere ripple of a much deeper problem. Desperate to gain some political capital out of this, the right have been suggesting that the problem is over-regulation, which is mad. But no less illusory is the centre-left assertion that the problem is simply one of lack of regulation, and that if a proper framework could be put in place everything would be all right.

For the great truth of this mess is that the folks who designed the deregulation were, in a narrow sense, right -- if their goal was to give western capitalism another lease of life. What the market faced in the US at the end of the 90s, was a crucial lack of things to invest in, for the free money sloshing around the markets. By 2001, the dotcom bubble had burst and you couldn't shove $X billion into Ewidgets.com, and so there was a desperate need for another object that would keep the circus going. Mortgage backed securities was it – bricks and mortar, which looked like the most concrete investment was actually the most abstract, the notional capacity of people with no-deposit mortgages to repay.

Crazy, but what could you do? For the bitter fact is that without these pseudo-investments, the West is running on fumes. As China and the East roars ahead in classical 19th century high capitalist mode, the West runs on financial services, and rents – such as intellectual property, and debt and debt and debt.

For twenty five years, the US has been starving its public sector of investment – investment that would have created jobs and real growth and lowered overall costs – and allowed the rich to shuffle money into luxuries and useless services and waste, as the society decayed around them. To keep that running there was no choice but to keep coming up with increasingly unreal financial instruments, to give the illusion that a real economy was at work.

But there is no way to avoid what is now obvious to many people – the big sectors of the economy are not private products, they are social products – hence the need to keep them going, even when the morons who run them screw it up. The great great result of this crisis, is that hundreds of millions of people have now begun to understand this. Effectively what we have seen is the first glimpse of the shores of socialism. It may take another decade or two – and another two crises each worse than this – to get there, but we are on the way.

In the wake of this crisis, blame is being sheeted home to the average person, who is apparently running up too much debt. Well, mercy, what a surprise, it's the people's fault. Let's face it, people only consent to this crappy society because of what they can rack up on debt. If you're going to spend forty years of fifty hours a week – your whole one life on Earth – in the same office, doing crap you don't want to do, damn right you want a frikkin flat screen TV at the end of it. And to eat out. And drink stupid overpriced cocktails in awful resorts.

The short point is that if we close down easy credit, the rationale for Western capitalism collapses instantly. Because the rest of it is so godawful, that without rewards, no one would put up with it. Hence the need, over the last eight years, to keep it all bubbling, at any cost.

This is not an economic crisis, this is a political and cultural crisis of capitalism, and if you don't understand that, well, you're a financial journalist.

That is the meaning of what happened today.

Ya es da dia!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

"Fast and Loose, man . . . I feel tight but good."

Vale Paul Newman

A clip from The Hustler (1961): the initial meeting and beginnings of the marathon pool session when Newman's 'Fast' Eddie Felson competes and gambles with Jackie Gleason's Minnesota Fats.

My favourite and most repeatedly watched Paul Newman film, The Hustler is a redemption tale with Newman playing a cocksure, independent outsider who learns about the costs of the political economy of pool-hall and private-home stakes-based entrepreneurialism. While Cat on a hot tin roof (1958) is more visually lush and melodramatically dynamic, The Hustler's black and white scheme seems better suited to the dark pool hall scenes, the cool jazz soundtrack and the monchromatic evil of George C Scott's portrayal of Burt Gordon: the predatory investor and pander of Fast Eddie's talent. The suicide of the lame alcoholic Sarah, played by Piper Laurie, as she recoils in self-disgust from Gordon's 'management' of Fast Eddie haunts and angers him, and drives the redemption narrative.

Dyskairos: authoritarian liberalism

One of the paradoxes spoken in the McCain-Obama debate yesterday was of McCain asserting his low-taxing, small government ethos at the same time as supporting the urgency and necessity of the big government intervention in the US finance system. Of course, this is a crisis and so potentially damaging that there is no choice but to act against his small government principles.

Of course, as there-is-no-alternative.

Is this what is meant by the state of exception: a dyskairos (the worst possible decision made in a critical and opportune time) in which the state is impelled to act against its normal rationalities of governing? In the case of the Neoliberalised state the crisis of home mortgage defaults tied to derivates that are literally un-valuable presents the opportunity and full moment to strike with a technique designed to promote liquidity and confidence in the finance system. And yet why do many pundits fear that this 'surge' of state insurance will merely load up the Wall Street crack pipe for another session before the debt adddicts come knocking at the congressional door again, looking to draw that white heat-white light of confidence into the lungs just this one more time 'till we straighten out.

Just this one last time.


These acts of dyskairos are mulitplying. The states of exception in which Guantanamo Bay exists and by which a massive State-based intervention into the security market can be performed are part of "the permanent pole of liberal rule made possible by the liberal view of government as limited by the sphere of civil society external to it and the liberties of autonomous individuals within that sphere" (Mitchell Dean, Governing Societies. 2007: 200)

For Dean exceptions such as these are homologues to those that form an autonomous liberal citizen-subject self and autonomous civil society. " Authoritarian liberalism" effectively acts through states of exception to constitute, sometimes violently, the conditions and continuous existence of that which liberalism asserts ultimately authorises, resides exterior to and pre-exists the state. Thus the type of 'civil society' that the military or capitalist state has formed and joined itself to is that form and type of civil society that it must surround in a permanant condition of crisis. This condition is usually buried, narcoticized, displaced. But it is there to be drawn on in order that urgent action can become a matter of security.

It's not civil society, even the markets per se, that are in crisis and under threat from the US asthmatic convulsions, but those forms of civil society and markets that are suffussed with Neoliberal political rationalities and techniques of governing the self, the household, the local landcare community group, your portfolio of shares, treasury. The current state of exception will see the authoritarian hand of Neoliberalism reach into Congress for a big rock of crack.

Kairos is at large.

Will it be smoked or become a time of justice and democracy?

K-punk chimes in with some sensible analysis:
What we're seeing is not the collapse of capitalism, but the disintegration of the illusion that capitalism is about the untrammeled free market. The developments over the last few weeks only underscore Alex Williams's point that the State, far from being exterior to capital, is a "vital element of stabilisation" which prevents capitalism from accelerating to the point of self-destruction.

Velvet Underground - Waiting for the Man.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Reg-u-later: Liberal Governmentalities

Having been immersed in Foucauldian-based Governmentality writings on neoliberalism of late I've been tempted to contribute to some blog threads where the talk is over the Wall St crisis and one line of debate is structured around the bring-back-regulation vs the we-are-already-overregulated polemics. One comment I endorse is here:

Tom N. said:

Reading the soft-left media and blogs over recent weeks, together with retorts along the lines of Rafe’s post*, has reminded me of the barrenness of the “free-market vs government” debate. It seems that, for a number of people in the former group, the US meltdown is conclusive evidence of the failure of free markets, and all those economists who believe in markets free from government intervention - an empty set, but never mind - need to learn the lesson and repent. This line of argument has reminded me of Michael Pussey’s [sic] misrepresentations of “nasty narrow-indeed New Right neoclassical economic rationalists” a decade or so back. KRudd’s recent revelation that there is a role for government intervention, not just market forces, is another example of the false characterisation of the practice of economics.

In reality, day-to-day economic policy advising is - as it has long been - about optimum levels and the design of regulation; not whether or not there should be any. Similarly, no economist I know thinks that the appropriate place of the free market is anywhere other that in the textbook, as a useful device for thinking about some matters, but not as something that should, or could, exist in practice in a modern society.

Of course, discussion of the nuts and bolts of good regulation and policy is unlikely to keep the interest of many readers, so one can understand the attractiveness of “government vs market” type grand narratives. I just wish commentators would label this stuff “fiction”. Perhaps its another case for appropriate regulation.

Late-Foucault scholar, and yes there is a late-late Foucault emerging as the English transationas of his College de France Lectures are still coming, Thomas Lemke writes:

The concept of governmentality . . . proves useful in correcting the diagnosis of neo-liberalism as an expansion of economy in politics, that takes for granted the separation of state and market. The argument goes that there is some "pure" or "anarchic" economy that will be "regulated" or "civilised" by a political reaction of society. But as we know since Marx there is no market independent of the state, and the economy is always a political economy.

Foucault's discussion of neo-liberal governmentality shows that the so-called "retreat of the state" is in fact a prolongation of government, neo-liberalism is not the end but a transformation of politics, that restructures the power relations in society. What we observe is not a diminishment or a reduction of state sovereignty and planning capacities but a displacement from formal to informal techniques of government and the appearance of new actors on the scene of government (e.g. NGOs), that indicate fundamental transformations in statehood and a new relation between state and civil actors.

From "Foucault, Governmentality, and Critique"

Calls for a return to regulation miss the opportunity to have a debate about the how, who, what and aims of techniques of government (the conduct of conduct). There's an interesting post at Mark Davis' blog where he articulates the disappointing recommendations on the carbon emissions reduction scheme to regulation in the financial markets and the sense that the Neoliberal era might be over and that a new paradigm is needed. As Lemke's quotes above seek to make clear, the separation of economy and state, whether the economy is rule-of-the-jungle anarchic or a beautiful self-regulating machine conducted by the invisible hand, is a form of liberal rationality and provides the basis on which practices of government forms its problems in need of solution.

Foucault talks instead of the state as subject to governmentalisation. This is certainly evident in the embedding of market rationalities (forms of knowledge and reasoning, vocabularies) into apparatuses of the state over the last 35 years: managerial & enterpreneurial regimes, flexible, competitive and efficient teams. While one understanding of these changes is that they evidence the abandonment of the state to the market, the expansion of the state contradicts what amounts to the ideological rhetoric that masks the practices of a Neoliberal governmentalisation of the state. Rather than the economy overpowering the state Neoliberalism amounts to political techniques of conducting behaviour that are based on market practices and reasoning, against a desired for horizon of market-enabled plenitude.

While I don't think we can go back to Keynesian practices of government, and clearly neoliberal modes have proven to be atopic (like atopic illnesses - asthma and eczema - where the symptoms of the disease are temporally deferred and physically displaced) in that they generate power through payouts and interest from finance capital for an elite who are immunised from the toxic waste that their wealth abjected, my feeling is that we should be looking to a combination of rhythms of governmentalities: a healthy harmony of governmental rhythms or eurhythmia of government. The danger is that there will be a call, fearful and even religious, for an isorhythmia.

America is Waiting . . . [David Byrne and Brian Eno]

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Green[back]house Effect

The language of economics is traversed by and indeed represented and performed through figures of speech, analogies, metaphors, allegories. One of the figurative sets of economic-speak refers to money in various temperature states. On the one hand you can 'have' frozen assets, like an investment property that is tied into long-term lease agreements so that it is impossible to sell until the lease is completed. At the other end of the temperature scale you can have liquid assets and liquidity - cash.

But this frozen to liquid scale has a blind-spot: overheating, or what we might call thet Greenback effect. Being metaphor-curious I've sometimes wondered what the condition of capital or cash would be if you kept heating it. Heating liquids produces steam: useful for powering trains and other forms of energy but also capable of dissipating into the atmosphere. Is the steam stage of money equivalent to hyperinflation: where money is devalued so rapidly that you'd be better off burning it for heat?

Economic journalists and politicians employ figures of speech and narratives in order to explain what has, is and will happen; to persuade and convince us of what action and attitudes we should take. Describing the financial system as a body that gets sick positions government as doctors and enables the metaphors of economic illness to talk in terms of curable diseases like influenza. Economies can also be described as cars and machines: capable of mobility, of acceleration and government as the driver or mechanic - touching the brakes, fine-tuning the engine, changing the oil, pulling the levers, reading the dashboard indicators.

Talking and writing the economy, whether global, national, regional, local, household or even the self, as body and machine are powerful rationalities for techniques of government: for the conduct of (economic) conduct. But what if we talked of the government of the economy using the tropes and language of ecology? What if overheating an economy wasn't taken to conjure up a car engine driven too hard or with a burst radiator, but taken to connect into the overheating that is the greenhouse effect? To think on this global scale over a slower and longer time-frame might change the way we approach governing the economy: to think in terms of a long duration and globally.

Any other thoughts? What sort of work is circulating on these lines of thinking that I'm sure I'm yet to read?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Tomorrow, Yesterday and Today: Songs for Wall Street

Fleetwood Mac - Don't Stop (thinking about tomorrow)

Tom Waits - Yesterday's Here

10cc - Wall Street Shuffle

Derivatives: financial W M D

Warren Buffett in 2002 Newsletter to shareholders of insurance company Berkshire Hathaway warned of the dangers of Derivatives:

The derivatives genie is now well out of the bottle, and these instruments will almost certainly multiply in variety and number until some event makes their toxicity clear. Knowledge of how dangerous they are has already permeated the electricity and gas businesses, in which the eruption of major troubles caused the use of derivatives to diminish dramatically. Elsewhere, however, the derivatives business continues to expand unchecked. Central banks and governments have so far found no effective way to control, or even monitor, the risks posed by these contracts.

[. . .]

We try to be alert to any sort of megacatastrophe risk, and that posture may make us unduly apprehensive about the burgeoning quantities of long-term derivatives contracts and the massive amount of uncollateralized receivables that are growing alongside. In our view, however, derivatives are financial weapons of mass destruction, carrying dangers that, while now latent, are potentially lethal.

Paul Krugman argues that the shadow banking system is now beset by "postmodern bank runs":

To understand the problem, you need to know that the old world of banking, in which institutions housed in big marble buildings accepted deposits and lent the money out to long-term clients, has largely vanished, replaced by what is widely called the “shadow banking system.” Depository banks, the guys in the marble buildings, now play only a minor role in channeling funds from savers to borrowers; most of the business of finance is carried out through complex deals arranged by “nondepository” institutions, institutions like the late lamented Bear Stearns — and Lehman.

The new system was supposed to do a better job of spreading and reducing risk. But in the aftermath of the housing bust and the resulting mortgage crisis, it seems apparent that risk wasn’t so much reduced as hidden: all too many investors had no idea how exposed they were.

And as the unknown unknowns have turned into known unknowns, the system has been experiencing postmodern bank runs. These don’t look like the old-fashioned version: with few exceptions, we’re not talking about mobs of distraught depositors pounding on closed bank doors. Instead, we’re talking about frantic phone calls and mouse clicks, as financial players pull credit lines and try to unwind counterparty risk. But the economic effects — a freezing up of credit, a downward spiral in asset values — are the same as those of the great bank runs of the 1930s.

And here’s the thing: The defenses set up to prevent a return of those bank runs, mainly deposit insurance and access to credit lines with the Federal Reserve, only protect the guys in the marble buildings, who aren’t at the heart of the current crisis. That creates the real possibility that 2008 could be 1931 revisited.

ABC's Economics Correspondent the fabulous Stephen Long today:

ELEANOR HALL: So if the Federal Reserve is that worried why didn't it bail Lehman's out?

STEPHEN LONG: Well I think that there's two reasons that the US government chose not to bailout Lehman's. The first is the sound policy reason that if the government keeps on bailing out failing financial institutions you create a situation where it actually over the longer haul encourages excessive risk taking and unsound borrowing and lending which is at the core of this crisis, a situation known as moral hazard.

And the other thing is that there comes a point where the US government just has to say well we can't afford to keep on bailing out failing institutions. They've effectively nationalised Fannie May and Freddie Mac, half a trillion dollars of mortgages and one in three mortgages in the US are failing at the moment. And so they're underwriting massively the housing market in the States. You've got an irony that a neo-conservative-neo-liberal government is effectively socialising a whole lot of assets and they have huge debt.

ELEANOR HALL: And today we've got President George W. Bush saying he's confident that Wall Street can manage this. But what if that confidence is misplaced? How bad could it get? And for real people?

STEPHEN LONG: Well don't trust anything that politicians are saying at the moment and take even what market participants are saying with a grain of salt because they have clear vested interest in accentuating the positives. How bad could it get? Well it's already really bad. We have every major economy in the Euro zone in the US with subpar growth. You've got a collapsing housing market in the US and in Europe and you've got serious capital problems.

But beyond that you've got this situation where there are tens, hundreds of trillions of dollars in the credit markets in fancy financial products that were designed to mitigate risk, but have come sources of speculation. Credit default swaps which are essentially a form of insurance against companies going bankrupt.

Well there's a real concern in financial markets that if you're having big investment banks going down and they've essentially been selling these products and you're having hedge funds which have bought these products en masse going down, you could get to a situation where you have essentially a nuclear meltdown where people on different sides of trades in these markets can't meet their obligations and you get just an implosion in the financial markets.

ELEANOR HALL: So no money available for businesses?

STEPHEN LONG: Yeah and the irony is that credit derivatives where people invested in stuff that was meant to be an insurance against the risk of a LB event happening and credit default swaps insurance against company collapses could come back and bite them because of the complexity in the financial system.

So much of this opaque, it's a shadow system unregulated. It's not clear what all the exposures are.

ELEANOR HALL: We heard Robert Reich the economic secretary under Clinton speaking earlier in the program about the need for a sort of super regulator; would that solve things?

STEPHEN LONG: Well it won't solve anything immediately, it might help in the next crisis, but it can't solve anything in this crisis. This has to play itself out and I would expect it's going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

Welcome to the Palindome

Neoconservative and Tory Libertarian glee at the apparent confusion McCain's nomination of Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin is causing the Left-Liberal A-Leets is the sort of schadenfreude that dare not face the financial and thereby cultural storm fronts still breaking on the US.

Major investment bank Lehman Bros is bankrupt and considering the reach of its financial 'products' stretches to charities and Local Councils throughout Australia, not to mention major Insurance companies in the US, the waves are only going to grow.

Palin seems to be a culture war distraction to what should be the main game in US political culture: fashioning a language and project of popular policies that unites the country behind something like a New Deal. Clearly this is a task that calls as much for cultural as political work. If the American Middle class starts to get it in the neck, financially, there is a danger that the de-democratising effects of Neoliberal governmentalities will have them increasingly seeking Neoconservative solutions. The semiotic turnstile that is Sarah Palin would, in this scenario, seem to attract a moral-authoritarian political affect.

A similar sequence of culture-war politician time occurred in Australia from around 1996 to 2000 over a disendorsed Liberal Party (read Neoliberal-Social Conservative) small Business owner Pauline Hanson. Hanson's tone of grievance was aimed at the urban 'elites' and the Canberra-based political power centre that ruled in favour of everyone-except-ordinary-white- people-like-us. After 13 years of 'economic reform' and a concerted attempt by the Labor-led Government to modernise Australian culture and legislate sympathetically around a Native Title decision, white rural and suburban men who had been 'hurt' by these restructures to the economy and loss of their central place from Australian culture identified with Hanson's simplistic egalitarianism and reactionary monoculturalism. Hanson-ism fed on her treatment by Australian journalists - in ways very similar to Palin's - and her political appeal was strong for at least 2 years, until the new Government under John Howard slowly reeled in her constituency by pandering to her right to speak (against political correctness) and to the resentful and chauvanistic feelings that good Australians had a right to.

Hanson has ended up spending time in Gaol for electoral breaches, and has maintained her profile by appearing on a Reality-TV dance show and being mooted as star of her own find a husband show. Her star faded, not least because her racism was directed at Aborigines and Asians in a time when markers of Islamic practice and Arabic connection had become greater sources of fear.

Hanson's political affect was a conduit for forms of anger and fear directed at the media and cultural workers who had been targetted as 'elite,' and her entry into the culture wars of that period did much to distract attention from the ongoing neoliberalisation of Australian political culture.

Like Palin now Hanson presented a weaker sort of semiotic turnstile: she appealed to the Neoliberals who wanted smaller government and to attack cultural gatekeepers and to those full of ressentiment, who envied the minority groups that appeared to enjoy the privilege of recognition and redistribution.

Pinocchio Theory analyses Palin's turnstile affect through the concept of paradessence:

If Palin embodies any sort of plenitude, it is that of the commodity economy, rather than that of an economy of gender. Palin was (quite brilliantly) chosen by McCain because — like any successful commodity product in the postmodern marketplace — she embodies what Alex Shakar, in his novel The Savage Girl, calls a paradessence: a “paradoxical essence,” a conjunction of contradictory qualities. “Every product has this paradoxical essence. Two opposing desires that it can promise to satisfy simultaneously.” The paradessence is the “schismatic core, [the] broken soul, at the center of every product.” Thus coffee promises both “stimulation and relaxation”; ice cream connotes both “eroticism and innocence,” or (in more psychoanalytic terms) both “semen and mother’s milk.” The paradessence is not a dialectical contradiction; its opposing terms do not interact, conflict, or produce some higher synthesis. Rather, the paradessence affirms everything indiscriminately; it is a matter of “having everything both ways and every way and getting everything [one] wants” (from pp 60-61 and 179).

Palin is a paradessence, and hence a wildly popular commodity, because she combines the family-centeredness of the ideal suburban Mom with the ruthlessness of a corporate “warrior” in the dog-eat-dog neoliberal economy, or of a hard-core ideologue/foot soldier for the Far Right. She is sort of a perfect combination of June Cleaver and Ilse Koch. She both energizes the GOP’s fundamentalist-Christian base (which was previously very suspicious of McCain), and appeals to non-fundamentalist, independent white voters (who find her even more charismatic than Obama — with the added advantage that she’s white, to boot). It is probable that, given how gender formations work in America today, so powerful a paradessence would have to appear in the form of a woman, rather than a (heterosexual) man. But the most valid categories for comprehending Palin remain those of media theory and political economy, rather than those of the metaphysics of gender difference.

Hanson is an entrepreneur of herself. Her reactionary conservatism increasingly exposed as a marketing tool: a way of promoting herself as an affective-identification-circuit that promised to sidestep Canberra and represent 'ordinary Australians' without mediation. Her reactionary conservatism a technique for garnering shareholders whose investment in her enterprise would be marketised with the funding that the Australian Electoral System rewards successful candidates and parties that obtain a slim percentage of the vote. Hanson's trajectory embodies the disjunct between ideology and political rationality: a professed neoconservative drive to use the state for moral purposes all the while practicising an entrepreneurial investment strategy centred on her 'self' as human capital.

The first sign that her model was a business one came after it was learnt that her political party was not democratically based at all, but was a three-person company: a political enterprise.
Her last (failed) run at public office has been seen as a cynical ploy to obtain election funding based on gaining a minimal percentage of the vote. Her continuing dalliance with Reality-TV points to a B-Grade circuitry in which celebrity is the currency that trades through entertainment on former political investments and afffect. Slipping from politics into entertainment it remains to be seen if she can generate enough media-capital to make another run at an election.

In the meantime Hanson's currency is falling. She still has fans-constituents but her public is shrinking. Maybe in our hypermediatized instantaneous times Palin's trajectory can be like Hanson's but even quicker. From Paradescence to bankruptcy.