Aeron Davis

Herding not only increases the chances of survival; it means the trappings of leadership can be retained. It also means that leaders get to keep their professional legitimacy, networks and options open. Westminster is awash with fast followers and herds. This is particularly the case in political lobby journalism which has a lot in common with the financial world. It was the Tony Dye story that really showed me just how hard leaders run for the safety of the herd in times of crisis. Finally, Tony Dye gave me his own version of the Tony Dye story, while also predicting the 2007–8 crash to come. And that was the final bit of the Tony Dye morality tale. Those people who had done the wrong thing, in finance and politics, had not only survived, they had flourished.

in Reckless opportunists
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Aeron Davis

Lying is an occupational hazard for those at the top. It's hard to both sell and tell the complete truth. Leaders need lies, not just to persuade people, but because they need to persuade themselves. If individuals operate with a certain degree of self-deception, then larger elite networks and professions appear almost entirely engineered towards keeping secrets. Denial and obfuscation are daily practices, learned and internalised. Over the years, a whole set of professions have evolved to help keep institutional secrets. In many accounts of power, those on top maintain their positions through forms of ideological domination. The predominant elite ideology of recent decades is neoliberalism. This is both a political project and a broader set of ideas and values such as individualism, laissez faire, free choice and free markets. A core component of neoliberalism is neoclassical economics.

in Reckless opportunists
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Aeron Davis

For many leaders today, professional life is all about being a star salesperson. A large component of leadership seems to revolve around meetings. Meetings dominate the working lives of financiers and business leaders too. Many professional investors insist on seeing the management of the companies they invest in a few times a year. Successful leaders also need to sell to the larger audiences that the mass media can generate. The need to sell oneself through the Westminster mediasphere increases as one climbs the ladder because political leaders have become human brand logos for their parties. All this hard-selling has drawbacks for both leaders and led. The first problem is that this skill-set is becoming all important in many leadership sectors, even though an ability to sell does not necessarily make one a good leader.

in Reckless opportunists
Kathryn Nash

Unlike the Organization of African Unity, the African Union was created through a multi-step process over several years. The Constitutive Act of the AU was ultimately adopted by the OAU Assembly of Heads of State and Government at the Lomé Summit in July 2000, and it entered into force in May 2001 with the AU then officially launching in July 2002. The Constitutive Act of the AU is far more encompassing than the OAU Charter and includes not only defending member states and facilitating cooperation but promoting peace, good governance, human rights, and development among other things. This chapter draws on the scholarship of Thomas Tieku and primary sources to illuminate the period immediately surrounding the creation of the AU. It discusses the African leaders who were most influential in the adoption of new AU norms, notably Thabo Mbeki and Olusegun Obasanjo, and it shows that the new norms that were proposed and accepted as the basis for the regional body did not appear suddenly but were rather the result of decades of contestation and evolution.

in African peace
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Regional norms from the Organization of African Unity to the African Union
Author: Kathryn Nash

African regional organizations have played leading roles in constructing collective conflict management rules for the continent, but these rules or norms have not been static. Currently, the African Union (AU) deploys monitors, authorizes peace support operations, and actively engages in internal conflicts in member states. Just a few decades ago these actions would have been deeply controversial under the Organization of African Unity (OAU). What changed to allow for this transformation in the way the African regional organization approaches peace and security? Drawing extensively on primary source documents from the AU Commission archives, this book examines why the OAU chose norms that prioritized state security in 1963 leading to a policy of strict non-interference and why the AU chose very different norms leading to a disparate conflict management policy of non-indifference in the early 2000s. Even if the AU’s capacity to respond to conflict is still developing, this new policy has made the region more willing and capable of responding to violent conflict. The author argues that norm creation largely happened within the African context, and international pressure was not a determinant factor. The role of regional organizations in the international order, particularly those in the African region, has been under-theorized and under-acknowledged, and this book adds to an emerging literature that explores the role of regional organizations in the Global South in creating and promoting norms based on their own experiences and for their own purposes.

Costas Panayotakis

This chapter interprets the rise of consumerism as the result of capital’s subsumption of consumption. Adapting Marx’s original distinction between capital’s formal and real subsumption of labor, this chapter shows how capitalism has, over time, not only commodified the means of subsistence, thus achieving capital’s formal subsumption of consumption; it has also used scientific research, advanced techniques, and cultural resources to reconstitute consumer preferences in ways that serve capital. The chapter traces this process to the dynamics of capitalist competition and the pursuit of profit, while also discussing its negative impact on human well-being and the ecological integrity of the planet. In this sense, this chapter represents a first step in the analysis of the destructive ways that capitalism uses the surplus it extracts from workers.

in The capitalist mode of destruction
Costas Panayotakis

Following the discussion, in Chapters 3 and 4, of the negative effects of capitalism’s consumerist culture, this chapter continues the analysis of capital’s destructive uses of the surplus. Introducing the term “forces of destruction,” it highlights the increasingly destructive employment of capitalism’s rapid scientific and technological advances. In particular, the chapter pays special attention to capitalism’s rapid development and regular deployment of increasingly lethal military technologies, as well as to the ways in which capital’s productive technologies contribute to a deepening ecological crisis. By advancing a critique of market-oriented strands of the environmental movement, the chapter also initiates this work’s analysis of “new social movements” as, in part, a reaction to capitalism’s increasing destructiveness. In this respect, this critique also forms part of a recurring theme in this work, namely that new social movements cannot pursue their objectives effectively without also challenging capital’s undemocratic control of the surplus. Last but not least, the chapter argues for the need to analyze social and historical development through a complex three-way interaction between capitalism’s (or any other class society’s, for that matter) forces of production, forces of destruction, and relations of production. In so doing, it also lays the ground for reformulating the contradiction underlying contemporary capitalism.

in The capitalist mode of destruction
Austerity, ecological crisis and the hollowing out of democracy

The book analyzes capitalism’s growing destructiveness and the cost–benefit contradiction it generates. Its new conception of the surplus, which recognizes not just capitalist businesses but also households and the public sector as sites of surplus production, links capitalism’s destructiveness to that system’s use of the surplus. Capital’s use of the surplus turns scientific knowledge and technique into forces of destruction, and the book illustrates this dynamic by making reference to the growth of a consumerist culture, to massive military spending, and to other technologies that fuel a deepening ecological crisis. This crisis, along with economic and public health crises as well as a crisis of political democracy, are also analyzed as being intimately linked to capitalism’s use of the surplus. It is capitalism’s undemocratic control of the surplus by capitalist elites, moreover, that ultimately leads to the cost–benefit contradiction of contemporary societies: the futility of our consumerist culture no longer translates productive development into correspondingly growing human well-being, while the simultaneous growth of capitalism’s forces of destruction increasingly endangers human beings and the planet. Thus, this contradiction creates the potential for an opposition to capitalism and its exploitative and destructive nature by a wide range of social movements, both “old” (such as the labor and socialist movements) and “new” (for example, the feminist, anti-racist, ecological, and peace movements). To address capitalism’s contradiction, a democratic classless society is required, but the book also analyzes how capitalism’s operation obstructs the formation of an anti-capitalist coalition fighting for such an alternative.

Kathryn Nash

The 1990s marked a time of tremendous turbulence and transition for Africa and the global community. The Cold War came to an abrupt end, and African leaders knew this would have ramifications for Africa. There were also critically important events that happened within Africa, including the end of the last vestiges of white-minority regimes. This chapter examines how the Organization of African Unity reacted to changing regional and international dynamics. It demonstrates that the immediate post-Cold War period is an important part of the story when examining the change from the OAU to the African Union, though it should not be seen as the whole story but rather the final chapter. The contestation of norms that underpinned non-interference and the rise of alternative ideas happened largely within the African region. Events and reforms preceding the end of the Cold War as well as events within Africa during the 1990s also had a profound impact on the transition from the OAU to the AU. As such, this chapter also examines the impact of African civil society and sub-regional organizations on the development of human security ideas that would feed into new AU norms. Specifically, it will explore the impact of the Kampala Forum and the intervention by the Economic Community of West African States in Liberia.

in African peace
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Rethinking the relationship between capitalism, communism, and democracy
Costas Panayotakis

The conclusion recapitulates the central themes of the book as well as the lessons that one can draw from the trajectory of capitalist development. It argues that, in view of the tensions between capitalism and democracy that chapter 7 discussed, further democratization requires the attainment of a democratic classless society consistent with the communist ideal. Noting the potential for an anti-capitalist alliance between “new social movements” and the “old left” that capitalism’s cost–benefit contradiction creates, the book’s conclusion also briefly reviews the obstacles to the formation of such an alliance. Informing this discussion are the historical lessons of the last century, namely the fact that the hope that capitalism can be humanized by democracy has faded as social democracy has retreated and neoliberal restructuring has followed the passing of capitalism’s post-war “golden age.” Facilitated by the end of the Cold War and the capitalist elites’ perceived need to make material concessions to working people, the neoliberal regression reminds us that an effective response to capitalism’s multidimensional crisis requires more than reforming the existing capitalist system. What is needed is a struggle for a democratic classless (as well as genderless and raceless) society conducive to human well-being and the ecological integrity of the planet.

in The capitalist mode of destruction