Friday, May 27, 2016

"Conceptualización del modelo económico y social Cubano de desarrollo socialista": The Cuban Comunist Party Seeks to Develop Principles of Socialist Development Beyond Markets



The recently concluded 7th Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) produced little by way of surprises.  The tone was set by the First Secretary when he suggested that a slow and steady course, with little deviation, should be the guiding principle of the Congress.  And indeed, there was some dissatisfaction and a sense of anticlimax that marked a congress most notable for its lack of either transparency or popular engagement (see e.g. here form a usually sympathetic observer).  

Raul Castro also noted the dilemma of the future of Socialist macro economic planning, balancing between direction by the state, open markets and managed economic activity. "El reconocimiento del mercado en el funcionamiento de la economía socialista no implica que el Partido, el Gobierno y las organizaciones de masas dejen de cumplir su papel en la sociedad de enfrentar cualquier situación que dañe a la población, ni mucho menos decir: “es una cuestión del Gobierno, yo no me puedo meter”. (Informe Central al 7mo. Congreso del Partido Comunista de Cuba, presentado por el Primer Secretario del Comité Central, General de Ejército Raúl Castro Ruz, La Habana, 16 de Abril de 2016, Año 58 de la Revolución, at p, 9). In this Chinese Press, this was interpreted as a broad commitment to gradual movement toward what the Chinese might understand as a version of a Socialist market economy (see, here).  They quoted an official commentator to that effect: "Rafael Hernandez, Cuban political analyst and head of the Temas magazine, said the task is among the hardest challenges facing Cuba in the last 20 years. "We are not rushing towards a free market economy, nor is our government taking us there. This is a gradual process of transformation, economic diversification and development of a nationalist private sector," Hernandez told Xinhua."

It is with this in mind that one should consider one of the principal documents that was produced by the 7th PCC Congress, the 'Conceptualisation of the Cuban socio-economic socialist development model' ("Conceptualización del modelo económico y social Cubano de desarrollo socialista"), which is intended to complement the Guidelines (Lineamientos) of the 6th PCC Congress, and provide the theoretical foundation for its further implementation.  Adopted in principle, the Conceptualización serves to answer the question: what sort of theoretical model will guide the development of Socialism in Cuba.  The Lineamientos carried forward a tension between an emphasis on the state as the foundation and controlling force of economic activity, or a move toward regulated markets as a basis for economic development, without deciding between them.   

For that reason alone the document is worth considering.  But it is also important as an attempt to theorize a very different (that is different from Asian) approach to the principles and theory of Socialist Markets Marxism as an economic and political force. In contrast to the development of Asian socialist theory, grounded in the notion of socialist markets, distinct from capitalist market constructs, the Conceptualización appears to reject the primacy of markets, unable to distinguish markets from capitalism (as it understands that notion) and sets at its center the ideal of economic activity, including market activity, managed by and under the direction of the state as the highest expression of socialist economics--and politics.

The Conceptualización is now is meant to serve as the basis for a debate about the future of Cuban political economy. For students of markets, and that includes most people involved in the construction and management of the global economic order, including  Marxist markets, this effort is worth considering.  Not that it is right, but that it may be influential is alone worth the time to engagement with its principles and approaches.  Indeed, the Conceptualización may serve as the most interesting theoretical counterpoint to the development of Marxism in a generation.  Perversely, that interest is generated in large part by its anachronisms.  Ironically, the advent of big data, of the algorithms that now increasingly automate markets, may itself make it possible to move the mechanism of the markets out of the private sphere and back into the state.  But that touches on the markets and not on states, and the Conceptualización fails precisely because it invert cause and effect.  The state can manage markets--can substitute itself for markets--only by becoming the market maker itself. And data management in transactions may make that possible (cf here).  And that is possible only because markets themselves are becoming free of individual volition, except in those areas that the Cuban state has left to the individual--the detritus of economic activity with the lowest value added  and the most marginal expressions of power. In this form, in the form that big data, that technology, makes possible, that this poses the most interesting challenge not just to Chinese socialist market theory but also to the core of Western neo liberal market ideology.

For readers of Spanish I include below the introductory statements of the Conceptualización.  The entire document may be accessed HERE. This Background Brief may be accessed here.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Just Posted: Discussion Paper- "Normalization With Cuban Characteristics: How Might Cuba Navigate Normalization to Avoid Political Instability and Enhance Economic Development?" to be presented at the 2016 Latin American Studies Association Conference

(Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2016)


I will be participating in a panel entitled Normalizing Relations Between the United States and Cuba: A Door has Opened at the 34th International Conference of the Latin American Studies Association , LASA at 50.


Full Powerpoints (with links embedded) may be accessed here.

The Discussion Draft may be accessed here.

The Abstract and Powerpoints (jpeg) follows.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Latin American Studies Association 34th International Conference: LASA at 50


The upcoming international conference of the Latin American Studies Association will be held later this week in New York.  This 34th International Conference will mark the 50th anniversary of the association's meetings.  This is an important milestone in an academic discipline that is undergoing some transition.

This post includes information about the conference, including the conference theme, which follows.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Just Published: "Regulating Financial Markets: What We Might Learn From Sovereign Wealth Funds."


I am happy to report the publication of "Regulating Financial Markets: What We Might Learn From Sovereign Wealth Funds." It appears as part of Reshaping Markets: Economic Governance, the Global Financial Crisis, and Liberal Utopia 229-254 (Bertram Lomfeld, Alessandro Somma and Peer Zumbansen, editors, Cambridge University Press, 2016). In his introduction, Peer Zumbansen notes of these contributions:
Our counter-narratives focus on ‘the market’ as the primary site of critical investigation. The tradition of such a research angle is as long as its results appear frustratingly open-ended and inconclusive. But, similarly, perhaps, to the way in which we are obviously asked to overcome any remnant irritation with the lack of a clear definition of ‘globalization', we continue to be prompted to take ‘markets’ seriously. The trajectories of such serious engagement are prominent and promising–but only if, in fact, we allow them to be and if we join in the investigations already underway in an active and critical manner . . . . Our book can be seen against this background, as its authors intervene in important, sensitive regulatory areas and policy discourses, ranging from debt and credit regulation (Michos, Somma, Renner & Leidinger), corporate liability and banking regulation (Engert, Tröger, Conley & Williams, Catá Backer), contractualization of corporate regulation and banking (Zumbansen, Varellas), contract governance itself (Lomfeld, Haberl, Caruso) to national and transnational economic governance policy making and strategic choices (Campbell, Ferrarese). (Peer Zumbansen, "Introduction: reshaping markets and the question of agency" in Reshaping Markets: Economic Governance, the Global Financial Crisis, and Liberal Utopia 1-6, 3 (Bertram Lomfeld, Alessandro Somma and Peer Zumbansen, editors, Cambridge University Press, 2016))
The Introduction of my contribution follows, along with links to the collection and its table of content.


Sunday, May 22, 2016

New Paper Posted: "Theorizing Regulatory Governance Within its Ecology: The Structure of Management in an Age of Globalization"

(Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2016)




Regulatory governance is a protean idea that revolves around the structures and character of the exercise of governmental authority beyond the ancient command oriented forms of law.
The implementation of regulatory reform is critically dependent on the existence of appropriate government commitment and institutions. These institutions need to be transparent and accountable, with mandates and sufficient power to ensure that reform translates into action on the ground. They will need to ensure that regulation is part of the policy environment, not simply the tail end of the process. To meet policy objectives, regulation needs to be integrated into the policy cycle, so it can deliver those objectives. (Regulatory Governance: The New Frontier , Governance in Regulatory Oversighthttp://www.oecd.org/regreform/policyconference/46805205.pdf)
In effect, one might start thinking about issues of regulatory governance--within states--as the management of activity through the regulation of markets, activity that may no longer be adequately controlled through conventional law making

I have just posted a draft to the Social Science Research Network. The paper is entitled "Theorizing Regulatory Governance Within its Ecology: The Structure of Management in an Age of Globalization." It considers an aspect of regulatory governance--the management of activity through the regulation of markets, activity that may no longer be adequately controlled through conventional law making--within the broader context of globalized regulatory orders. It makes an initial attempt at thinking through structures of regulatory governance when multiple governance systems interact in globalization. The abstract follows with links to the paper. Comments and reactions always welcome.


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Ruminations 62: Sexual Assault at the American Law Institute (ALI)--Consensus and Control in the Legalization of Cultural Norms

(Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2015)


 I have been following the extraordinary controversy about the proposed changes rt the criminal law of Sexual Assault in the American Law Institute's (ALI's) Model Penal Code (e.g. here, and here). The proposals are important, not only for what they tell us about the use use of law to effect politico-cultural ends, but also have significant implications for the aggressive efforts by the Federal Government to us its influence and regulatory authority to change the cultures of noncriminal sexual assault governance frameworks within American universities. 

And, indeed, the debate over the legalization of the cultural taboos about sex--that is of access to the bodies (especially of women)--is telling for what it reveals about the limits of tolerated behaviors among people and the extent to which deployment of the state is effective either in policing those borders or in effecting changes to the borders themselves. Certainly, that is the entente of the federal government is using its Title IX authority to change the behavior norms of rising demographic cohorts at a time of peaking sexual activity.

But there is a greater object then (merely) the mediation of cultural rules disciplined through criminal and administrative regimes (though that is a great object indeed). That object is cultural assimilation. That object is meant to bend the multi cultural variation in sexual mores, as part of the cultural variation that is otherwise celebrated as the cultural patchwork that somehow works as American sociopolitics into an orthodoxy that is mediated by the state and its legal-administrative apparatus. This is not a criticism, though it is an insight not without a certain amount of irony. And it is necessary at the borderlands of cultural variation that can incite substantial violence (see, e.g., here) when they come into conflict in the actions of its otherwise tolerated (indeed celebrated) variation (see, e.g., here, here. here, and here).

The cultural politics of the legal architecture of sex (not a new project by any means but as old as the organization of society in some respects) is made more difficult under the three conditions at the center of the ALI's project. The first touches on memorializing cultural norms in law in the absence of cultural consensus. The second touches on the feasibility of reducing cultural norms in the context of sexual conduct to law or administrative regulation in ways that was coherent, much less just (except in theory). Third, the legalization of power relationships. Let us consider each briefly.

May 2016 Newsletter from John Knox, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment






Professor Knox has just released his May 2016 progress report on the work of his office.  It makes for interesting reading.  Two points are worth noting.  The first focuses on a laudable effort at capacity building. The good news is that this represents an effort to expand the knowledge base for an important project of environmental and human rights globally.  The bad news is that the focus remains substantially elitist. It is meant to train leaders rather than empower people.
"This course is designed for government officials from ministries of the environment, energy, development, water, foreign affairs and other related areas. It also targets international civil servants, NGO representatives, academics, private sector professionals and graduates working in the fields of environmental law/management, international relations/politics and sustainable development." (Human Rights and Environmental Protection for Sustainable Development Online Course).
The second goes to the establishment of appropriate mechanisms for ensuring states' commitment to respect human rights in the climate change regime.  Professor Knox has urged adoption of what has become the signature markers of institutional mechanisms: "including prior assessment, requirements of public participation, and the establishment of effective grievance mechanisms." This is also to be lauded.  Yet it has a downside--the addition of yet another mechanism attached to another body suggests both a proliferation of enforcement me3chanisms that will eventually trip all over themselves as they seek to apply in related and overlapping areas. The second is that such proliferating mechanisms tend to suck up an increasing amount of resources.  It may be time to start thinking about the consolidation and coordination (coherence would be better) or enforcement and capacity building mechanisms among all of these related efforts. 

Professor Knox's May 13, 2016 Newsletter (with links) follows.