Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Market Stalinism

It stops short of comparing John Denham to Joseph Stalin, but new research suggests that the Universities Secretary presides over a Whitehall regime that has much in common with the old Soviet system. A paper suggests that the "new managerialism" of higher education shares many of the pitfalls and dysfunctions that blighted the Soviet state. The argument is made by Hugo Radice, visiting research fellow at the University of Leeds' School of Politics and International Studies, in a paper titled "Life after death? The Soviet system in British higher education".

In universities and in the Soviet Union, he writes, "however apparently rational, orderly and comprehensive the plan looked at the top of the hierarchy, in its implementation the different levels of the system often pulled in different directions, with the result that objectives could often be met only by mobilising 'off-plan' resources". He likens the Higher Education Funding Council for England to Gosplan, the Soviet committee responsible for economic planning, and the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, which Mr Denham heads, to the Soviet state's political masters.

The rest here.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Beyoncé avec Marx

What's the sound of an imminent economic crash?

Apparently, low beat variance, as in Beyonce's frantically monotonous paean to matrimonial security (against the crisis?) Single Ladies (Put a Ring On it).

"According to findings by Phil Maymin, professor of finance and risk engineering at New York University, the more regular the beat on Billboard's top singles, the more volatile the American markets. After studying decades of Billboard's Hot 100 hits, Maymin found that songs with low 'beat variance' had an inverse correlation with market turbulence. Which is to say, the more regular the song, the crazier the stock market."

And who said the base does not determine the superstructure?*

[*We should of course oppose the idealist deviation that it's "as if certain hits can cause market shake-ups", much as it would be a great weapon in the sonic arsenal of revolutionaries.]