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Thomas M. Hanna

This chapter integrates the various discussions around public ownership previously presented in the book into a sectoral analysis of the United States economy. Alongside the overview of public ownership in the United States, it represents the book’s most important and original contribution to the field. This chapter draws on real world experience, theoretical and empirical studies, and alternative systemic design to develop a framework in which public ownership is expanded and scaled up from existing levels across a wide variety of economic sectors. The sectors analyzed include: utilities; finance; healthcare; pharmaceuticals & chemicals; transportation; energy; defense; telecommunications & information; manufacturing; agriculture; and retail.

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‘The brightest spot in Ulster’

Total history and the H-Blocks in film

George Legg

In an age of global brands and ubiquitous consumption, the uniqueness offered by spaces of dark heritage has become big business. This chapter argues that a narrative of boredom underpins this industry, with dissonant history often mutating into more rationalised and marketable forms. Michel Foucault would describe this as a transition from a ‘general’ to a ‘total’ history, something epitomised by the 2006 and 2013 plans to commercialise Northern Ireland’s infamous H-Block prison. Through these plans the prison’s disruptive past is constricted by a broader imperative of peace and prosperity. But this tension is not restricted to sites of tourism alone. Alongside an analysis of the prison’s redevelopment, this chapter asserts that post-conflict cinematic portrayals of the H-Block crisis – Terry George’s Some Mother’s Son (1996), Les Blair’s H3 (2001) and Steve McQueen’s Hunger (2008) – complicate and reinforce this larger process of historical reductionism. With contemporary cinema adept at quick cuts, speed-ups and slow motion, the medium should be poised to capture Northern Ireland’s history in all its disruptive complexity. Where it struggles to do so, the chapter concludes, we can apprehend the historical amnesia upon which a ‘capitalist peace’ depends.

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Thomas M. Hanna

This chapter provides a general, birds-eye overview of public ownership around the world. It demonstrates that public ownership is ubiquitous, and gives a basic snapshot of some of the sectors where it is most commonly deployed. The chapter then focuses specifically on the United States, giving a comprehensive review of the nation’s contemporary experience with public ownership at all levels of governance (from the local to federal), including interesting new developments, areas in which public ownership is expanding, areas in which different forms of public ownership are being considered, and emerging signs of a new political movement developing around public ownership. It covers, among others: electric and water utility municipalization; community choice aggregation; the expansion of and political impediments to municipal broadband; public banks and related campaigns; public transit and transit oriented development; publicly owned hotels and convention centres; airports and ports; new forms of public healthcare facilities; sovereign wealth funds in various states; new public-public partnerships; federal land ownership; and federal public enterprises. It also presents a brief history of municipal socialism in the United States, which provides insights into some of the reasons why public ownership remains prevalent in the United States at the local, municipal level.

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Thomas M. Hanna

This chapter begins to look at how public ownership is conceptualized in a variety of alternative system models emanating from the political left. By focusing exclusively on ownership, this chapter is able to compare, contrast, and evaluate alternative system models and approaches in a unique way. Some of the models reviewed include those coming from market socialist, pluralist, and participatory economics traditions. Like previous chapters, this chapter also seeks to highlight sectors and industries that are particularly conducive to public ownership. Specifically, this chapter analyses where, in what form, and for what reason, various alternative system theorists believe public ownership should or could be deployed. The chapter also begins to discuss different possible manifestations of public ownership, including social ownership.

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Our common wealth

The return of public ownership in the United States

Thomas M. Hanna

Public ownership is far more widespread and popular in the United States than is commonly understood. Despite decades of ideological hostility, public ownership not only persists in such well-known large-scale forms as Amtrak and the Tennessee Valley Authority, but is expanding at the local level and in important sectors. Based on years of research, this book is the most comprehensive overview and up-to-date analysis of the scope and scale of U.S. public ownership, uncovering its prevalence at all levels from local municipalities on up. Drawing upon additional examples from the UK and elsewhere, it debunks frequent misconceptions about its relative efficiency and performance vis-à-vis the private sector. It also reviews how public ownership is treated in the emerging field of alternative systemic design. In a world plagued by inequality, instability, and ecological limits, this book argues that public ownership offers powerful, flexible solutions and should be restored to its rightful place on the full menu of public policy options. It ends with a vision of deploying new forms of democratized public ownership broadly, across multiple sectors, as a key ingredient of any next system beyond corporate capitalism. This book is a valuable, extensively researched resource that sets out the past record and future possibilities of public ownership at a time when ever more people are searching for answers. It situates public ownership squarely within existing, real-world experience, suggesting why, after decades of privatization, it is making a comeback—including in the radical agenda of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party in Britain.

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Northern Ireland and the politics of boredom

Conflict, capital and culture

George Legg

In this book, George Legg provides a new interpretation of the Northern Irish Troubles. From internment to urban planning, the hunger strikes to post-conflict tourism, Legg asserts that concepts of capitalism have been consistently deployed to alleviate and exacerbate violence in the North. Through a detailed analysis of the cultural texts, Legg traces the affective energies produced by capitalism’s persistent attempt to resolve Northern Ireland’s ethnic-national divisions: a process he calls the politics of boredom. Such an approach warrants a reconceptualisation of boredom as much as cultural production. In close readings of Derek Mahon’s poetry, the photography of Willie Doherty and the female experience of incarceration, Legg argues that cultural texts can delineate a more democratic – less philosophical – conception of ennui. Critics of the Northern Irish Peace Process have begun to apprehend some of these tensions. But an analysis of the post-conflict condition cannot account for capitalism’s protracted and enervating impact in Northern Ireland. Consequently, Legg returns to the origins of the Troubles and uses influential theories of capital accumulation to examine how a politicised sense of boredom persists throughout, and after, the years of conflict. Like Left critique, Legg’s attention to the politics of boredom interrogates the depleted sense of humanity capitalism can create. What Legg’s approach proposes is as unsettling as it is radically new. By attending to Northern Ireland’s long-standing experience of ennui, this book ultimately isolates boredom as a source of optimism as well as a means of oppression.

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Monotony and control

Rereading internment

George Legg

Reading the introduction of internment without trial as an exercise in social control – not containment – this chapter argues that the operation initiated monotonous temporalities that would soon be synonymous with a global late capitalist economy. Shifting the discussion of internment away from the renowned prison writings of Gerry Adams (1990) and Danny Morrison (1989), the chapter analyses how more marginal modes of literary address by Ciaran Carson (1974), Seamus Deane (1972) and Mary Beckett (1987) try to represent the operation’s new digital and temporal matrices. Because the majority of internees were male, this chapter emphasises how it is through the female experience of internment that we can actually come closest to apprehending how this operation formed part of a bigger, collective exercise in social control – constructing an information economy intent on ‘managing’ Northern Ireland’s potentially dissident populations. Placing archival material alongside this gendered reading of internment, the chapter illustrates how this operation marked a new intersection between military capital and sectarian division – one that accelerated capitalism’s computational logics, while also breeding non-capitalist modes of resistance.

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‘Middle-class shits’

Political apathy and the poetry of Derek Mahon

George Legg

This chapter draws upon the work of Jacques Rancière to trace how Northern Ireland’s middle class have come to engage in a politics of apathy. Apathy is something of a pervasive phenomenon in the Global North but, by attending to its emergence in Northern Ireland, the chapter uncovers the complexities, contradictions and seductions that have served to shape the Peace Process. Focusing on the poetry of Derek Mahon, it charts how the politics of the middle class evolved from ‘pre’ to ‘post’-Troubles. In particular, the chapter pays close attention to how Mahon’s poetry is indebted to W.H. Auden as it attempts to induce a more socialist reading of the Troubles – one that reads the violence as formed around ideas of class conflict. The chapter hereby contests conservative readings of Mahon’s work and emphasises, instead, Mahon’s potential for a poetics of political ‘dissensus’. Taken seriously, this approach has the capacity to challenge the collectivised sense of apathy that otherwise overwhelms so much of present-day politics.

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Introduction

Public ownership in urgent political perspective

Thomas M. Hanna

This chapter makes the argument that contrary to conventional economic orthodoxy, as well as popular (mis)understanding, public ownership continues to thrive around the world—including the United States. In many places, especially at the local level, it remains popular and resilient, despite decades of privatization pressure. Moreover, there has been a resurgence of interest in public ownership in recent years, especially in response to the Great Financial Crisis and Recession of the late 2000s (the effects of which are still being acutely felt both economically and politically). This can be seen in, among other things, the commitments to public ownership being made by Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party in the UK. This chapter defines and contextualize public ownership, lay out the goals and structure of the book, and explains why understanding the importance of public ownership is critical in our rapidly changing world.

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George Legg

This chapter argues that the Northern Irish New Town Craigavon provides a unique insight into what David Harvey has described as capitalism’s potential for ‘geographical inertia’. Constructed between 1967 and 1977, Craigavon became a geography of boredom not because it embodied a banal (‘placeless’) design but because its infrastructure was developed against the wishes of its attendant population. In this, Craigavon represented a disjunction between fixed and mobile capital, but its fortunes were ruptured further by the political convulsions of the North. Using archival research, the chapter documents how Craigavon’s design conjured memories of Ulster's plantation – a traumatic history which was finding a renewed currency during the Troubles. Victor Sloan’s photography and the Troubles and Joys anthology of Craigavon’s women’s writing group, help to further distil these tensions. Rather than simply visualising sectarian violence, Sloan emphasised how the rigidities of capitalist planning evacuated human relationships from this landscape. Craigavon’s women writers, by contrast, highlighted the politics of co-operation that emerged from a female experience of this geographical ennui. Attending to the contradictions in these processes, this chapter rethinks existing understandings of Irish modernity, particularly in the work of David Lloyd.