Slavoj Zizek, Robert Shiller, China, Banking, Samuel Beckett, Baltic States


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Obligingly Noxious

Stuart Walton | review31 | 18th January 2017

Thought-provoking review of Slavoj Žižek’s latest book, Disparities. “Žižek points out that the innermost component of authentic religion is not certainty but doubt, so that the believer is repeatedly surprised by signs of the divine presence. Religions have been supremely adept at disregarding or violently prosecuting attempts to shine light on their incongruities and contradictions, but only Christianity has incorporated such moments of disparity into its own canons” (1,450 words)

Illusions And Asset Prices

Robert Shiller | Project Syndicate | 18th January 2017

Two illusions have US investors enthralled. One is “the carefully nurtured perception that President-elect Donald Trump is a business genius who can apply his deal-making skills to make America great again”. The other is that asset prices are soaring. About Trump, time will tell. As for asset prices, they are soaring in nominal terms, but not in real terms. Adjusted for inflation, the Dow Jones Index is up only 19% in 17 years — and house prices are still 16% below their 2006 peak (1,020 words)

China And World Trade

Brad Setser | Follow The Money | 18th January 2017

When China joined the World Trade Organisation 15 years ago, the expectation was that WTO rules would oblige China to open its home markets, boosting imports as much as exports. That hasn’t happened, mainly because pervasive state ownership and state control have allowed China’s government to keep foreign firms at bay without violating the letter of WTO obligations. China now “supplies roughly three times as many manufactures to the world as it buys for its own use” (3,300 words)

Libor: The World’s Most Important Number

Gavin Finch & Liam Vaughan | Guardian | 18th January 2017

How and why banks colluded to rig global interest rates for much of the last decade, as told by the “Jesse James of Libor”, Tom Hayes, the UBS trader who became a police informant in Britain to avoid a jail term in America. The key interest rate, Libor, was set in London each day by aggregating reports from a few large banks about market conditions. Hayes and other traders systematically cajoled and bribed colleagues and counterparts to submit false reports designed to keep interest rates down (5,030 words)

Black Diamonds Of Pessimism

David Wheatley | Times Literary Supplement | 18th January 2017

Varied and entertaining review of Volume Four of Samuel Beckett’s Letters, covering the final 23 years of Beckett’s life from 1966 to 1989, during which he wrote 9,000 letters. “Dans vos ruines je me sens à mon aise”, he tells Cioran in 1969, acknowledging receipt of Le Mauvais Demiurge. In 1980 he writes to Franz Wurm: “I try to think with what mind remains, that now is the time at last, the chance at last, in these remains, with those remains, though think is not the word, at last not the word” (3,000 words)

The Baltic States In A Post-Nato World

Will Mawhood | Deep Baltic | 16th January 2017

Interview with Economist journalist Edward Lucas about European security in general and the Baltic States in particular, caught between an increasingly threatening Russia and a decreasingly reliable America. “We are moving into a post-NATO environment. We need to be able to survive without NATO. The security assumptions of the past 25 years have been fundamentally undermined. We need to find regional and sub-regional security arrangements which will allow us to defend ourselves” (3,600 words)

Video of the day: Theodor Adorno

What to expect:

Overview of Adorno’s life and work, narrated by Alain de Botton (7’36”)

Thought for the day

When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other
Eric Hoffer

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