A Crisis AND A Trick

One of my Twitter followers pointed me to this documentary:

It is quite nice, for a change, to listen to social scientists that are neither psychologists nor economists discuss the current crisis. And I would argue that only sociologists are properly equipped to discuss social movements as the one that have been taking emerging all over the world.

It is indeed interesting to listen to Craig Calhoun, John B. Thompson or Michel Wievorka discuss the crisis and offer some sociological insights on the subject. I was surprised to not see Richard Sennett or Saskia Sassen. After all, they are the sociological power couple on this.

But the real star of this film is Manuel Castells, who perceived before anyone else the importance of the Indignados that sparked massive protests against austerity all over Europe as various institutions imposed the 2.0 version of structural adjustment programs, with the same results as the version 1.0 imposed on developing countries 30 years ago.

Castells is a thinker as important as Joseph Stiglitz or Paul Krugman, with broader sociological insights than strictly economics. He is my sociologist of the semester, whose Information Age trilogy certainly is on a par with most important sociological works, such as Max Weber’s Economy and Society.

This is why I think could have gained from using more of, and singling out, Castells in order to have a tighter focus. The film delineates a lot of threads but leaves a lot of loose ends. There should have been more precise and detailed analysis of the movements themselves rather than what sparked them. The story of the causes has already been told. The analysis of social movements, using the tools of sociology, still needs to be propagated far and wide.

I really liked the film but would consider it a first draft that is promising but needs some improvements.

This is What Should Happen When Governments Threaten Pensions and Retirement


Whereas these days, the only demonstrations are those in favor of racism and xenophobia.

As Echidne explains:

“Such demonstrations for such a reason would never happen here. The wingnuts say that it’s because the socialist-islamofascist-French-surrender-monkeys are like that and, besides, Europe is dying out, what with all that leisure time spent in godless activities and the wimminz refusing to breed. That last bit about the uppity and selfish women is also the reason why the French need to raise the retirement age.

Which is a very sloppy way of saying that the wingnuts do control the conversation here to some extent and what they don’t control the corporations and the protestant work ethic do. And the government budget concerns.”

What is especially interesting is that, in both the French and American cases, governments wishing to “reform” (i.e. cut benefits while not touching the wealthy) retirement and pension systems have to lie about it. The lies about the so-called Social Security crisis are well-known. But there is also quite a bit of deception and con game going on with the French reform (link thanks to Pierre Maura). One has to wonder why obfuscations and deception are necessary if one were not a cynical sociologist.