Sunday Reading

A famous Chicago factory gets Occupied:

"Unions may not be willing to push the envelope the way Serious workers were, but the stage appears to be set for Serious-style occupations to spread to other parts of the progressive movement in a way they couldn’t after Republic. Occupations in 2012 have two crucial pieces that 2009 occupations would have lacked: a new political space opened up in the country that sympathizes with the plight of the ever-more-squeezed 99 percent, and the material support that a fluid but organized movement like Occupy can provide."

On Syria: Where the Left is right and the Right is wrong

They say you can conquer a land on horse, but you must descend in order to rule it - the same is true about Syria: From the US and Israel to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, and then from Russia and China to the Islamic Republic and Hezbollah, there certainly are many machinations at work to conquer Syria. But when all the dust is settled and these mighty machinations end, the new conquerors must come down to rule it - and when they do, they will find themselves facing the indomitable spirit of the people that have left their inner dungeons of fear - and who will never ever again be subject of either domestic tyranny or external treachery. Syrians have already won their revolution - for the next tyrants now wishing to conquer Syria will come down from their horses, facing a nation refusing to be frightened or fooled into obedience.

The Arab Spring has unleashed the power of ordinary people and staged the public space they occupy and the civic associations they will eventually and inevitably form on that space. The Arab Spring has already given birth to a robustrevolutionary gemeinschaft that will stay with these societies no matter who and what is in power. Unbeknown to the political machinations that have divided the Left and the Right, people of Syria - as indeed people from across the Arab and Muslim world - are dispelling their agoraphobia and realising the power of their communal gatherings.

The Myth of the Sole Inventor:

The canonical story of the lone genius inventor is largely a myth. Edison didn’t invent the light bulb; he found a bamboo fiber that worked better as a filament in the light bulb developed by Sawyer and Man, who in turn built on lighting work done by others. Bell filed for his telephone patent on the very same day as an independent inventor, Elisha Gray; the case ultimately went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which filled an entire volume of U.S. Reports resolving the question of whether Bell could have a patent despite the fact that he hadn’t actually gotten the invention to work at the time he filed. The Wright Brothers were the first to fly at Kitty Hawk, but their plane didn’t work very well, and was quickly surpassed by aircraft built by Glenn Curtis and others – planes that the Wrights delayed by over a decade with patent lawsuits.

The point can be made more general: surveys of hundreds of significant new technologies show that almost all of them are invented simultaneously or nearly simultaneously by two or more teams working independently of each other. Invention appears in significant part to be a social, not an individual, phenomenon. Inventors build on the work of those who came before, and new ideas are often "in the air," or result from changes in market demand or the availability of new or cheaper starting materials. And in the few circumstances where that is not true – where inventions truly are "singletons" – it is often because of an accident or error in the experiment rather than a conscious effort to invent.

Crooked Timber's "Debt" Symposium:
Chris Bertram, Introduction
John Quiggin, The unmourned death of the double coincidence
Henry Farrell: The world economy is not a tribute system
Barry Finger Debt jubilee or global deleveraging
John Quiggin (slight return): The end of debt
Neville Morley: The return of grand narrative in the human sciences
Malcolm Harris: The dangers of pricing the infinite
Daniel Davies Too big to fail: the first 5000 years
Lou Brown: Good to think with
Richard Ashcroft: Money out of place: ‘debt’ and incentives
Rob Horning: Debt on the 12th planet