This dialogue between Thomas Piketty (author of Capital in the 21st Century) and David Graeber (author of Debt: The First 5000 Years) is supposedly about economics. But what shimmered for me was another subtle aspect. At one point Piketty says:
“Part of our role as intellectuals is to say what collective institutions we want to construct.”
A statement that seems to imply that if intellectuals can just say “what
they we want” the rest of society can simply “construct” it … obviously. Then a bit later Graeber challenges this assumption with an example:
“For thirty years a combination of the IMF, the World Trade Organization (WTO), the financial institutions that came out of Bretton Woods, the investment banks, the multinationals, and the international NGOs has constituted an international bureaucracy of global scope. And unlike the United Nations, this bureaucracy has the means to enforce its decisions. Since this whole structure was explicitly put in place in order to defend the interests of financiers and creditors, how might it be politically possible to transform it in such a way as to have it do the exact opposite of what it was designed to do?“
To which Piketty replies:
“All I can say is that a lot of people would need to be convinced!”
Piketty … and the “intellect” he represents is at a loss … facing an impossible task … rendering all the “smart” ideas useless.
- How many people is “a lot”?
- Is convincing a right way to go about it?
- Do we have the ability to “convince” … and “a lot” of people at that?
- Who will do the “convincing”?
- Even if “everyone” would be convinced would that be enough to divert the existing systemic inertia?
All Piketty can say is … nothing!
It is going to take more than intellect to digest and partake in the coming changes.
via Cory Doctorow