Thursday, May 5, 2011

Stiglitz Salutes DSK Leadership of IMF

If, as widely anticipated, Dominique Strauss-Kahn becomes a presidential candidate, you can be sure that his stewardship of the IMF will become a major issue. Already the institution has been attacked both from the left (by J.-L. Mélenchon) and the right (by M. Le Pen). So it is noteworthy that Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel-winning economist and longtime critic of international economic institutions, thinks that DSK has done an excellent job:


For progressives, these abysmal facts are part of the standard litany of frustration and justified outrage. What is new is that the IMF has joined the chorus. As Strauss-Kahn concluded in his speech to the Brookings Institution shortly before the Fund’s recent meeting: “Ultimately, employment and equity are building blocks of economic stability and prosperity, of political stability and peace. This goes to the heart of the IMF’s mandate. It must be placed at the heart of the policy agenda.”
Strauss-Kahn is proving himself a sagacious leader of the IMF. We can only hope that governments and financial markets heed his words.

Besancenot Will Not Run

Olivier Besancenot ne se présentera pas à l'élection présidentielle

Le porte-parole du Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste (NPA) a annoncé, mercredi 4 mai, qu'il renonçait à se présenter en 2012, préférant "laisser le relais à un camarade". Il a été candidat en 2002 et 2007.

Interesting: not so long ago, Besancenot was the face of left-populist rejection of the "governmental left." Now he's withdrawing. Has Mélenchon sucked the air out of this space? Is this a product of internal divisions in the perennially fissiparous Trotskyist rump? Or is it just one of those things--personal fatigue, perhaps, of the sort that sometimes overtakes even the most militant?

French Philosophy Stood on Its Head

Via Bernard Girard, I learn of the appointment of Claudine Tiercelin to replace Jacques Bouveresse in the philosophy chair at the Collège de France. Tiercelin is a student of American pragmatism, with books on C. S. Peirce and Hilary Putnam. Bernard reports that Tiercelin has been interviewed by Mediapart, to which I am not a subscriber, but he reproduces enough of the interview to give the flavor, and quite a savory flavor it is. A sample:

Cela commence par un hommage appuyé à son prédecesseur : “je fais d’abord suite à Jacques Bouveresse que je tiens, sans aucune espèce de nuance, pour le plus grand philosophe français des cinquante dernières années.” Exit les Derrida, Badiou, Deleuze, Foucault et autres Jean-Luc Marion! Elle continue en s’étonnant que jamais l’on ne cite Jules Vuillemin, Gilles Gaston Granger, Emile Meyerson, Jacques Herbrand, Jean Nicod ou Jean Largeault. “Je suis, ajoute-t-elle, toujours abasourdie, quand j’entends aujourd’hui parler de philosophie «française», de devoir constater que personne ne juge indécent de ne pas simplement «évoquer» ces très grands noms à cette occasion.” Exit Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, Levinas et tous les heidegeriens. Quant à ceux qui se piquent d’éthique, elle leur réserve une de ses meilleures piques : “Je crois vraiment qu’il faut se méfier comme de la peste de «l’éthique» quand elle est devenue, comme c’est apparemment le cas pour certains philosophes, un véritable fonds de commerce. Mais comme disait Peirce, pour déverser la philosophie à la louche, il y a toujours eu des marchands de soupe à tous les coins de rue.


This could be fun. Of course I note that Bouveresse held similar views as to the wrong turn taken long ago by "French philosophy" (à bas le Heidegger français!), without noticeable effect on le grand public. But Mme Tiercelin seems to have a taste--nay, a zest--for polemic, which may rouse some philosophers from their dogmatic slumbers.


Many of her papers are available here.

Clearstream: The Remake

A strange business, this second trial on appeal of the Clearstream affair. A full account can be found here. What is so odd to American eyes is that the appeal seems not to be based on any allegation of judicial error or material new facts. It is just a rehashing of the same old case, with the difference that the lawyers now know what all the witnesses testified to in the first trial. Gergorin, who was found to be the brains of the operation the first time around, is now predictably playing the moron:

Au prévenu, ils ont donné une feuille de route qui tient en deux mots, humilité et autoflagellation. Jean-Louis Gergorin s’y prête sans faille. “J’avoue que j’ai tout gobé”, “j’étais aveuglé”, “j’ai complètement déraillé”, “j’ai une tendance à l’hyperanxiété et à développer des scénarios”, “j’avais une vision très manichéenne des choses”,répète-t-il.
Unfortunately, this is not a role that suits him at all. I happen to know two people who knew him at different points in his career, and "gullible victim" is not the way they see him, nor was it the picture that emerged in the first trial. "Humility and self-flagellation" were not the most prominent traits of his character. Of course the only thing that anyone cares about in this case is whether or not Villepin will be acquitted a second time, and so far there is no reason to think that he won't be. To convict him, you'd somehow have to persuade yourself that the vain and proud high muck-a-muck conspired with a figure as unlikely as the "humble and self-flagellating" Gergorin to hire a smalltime con man to do in Nicolas Sarkozy.