How (Not) To Write A Book

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Information about How (Not) To Write A Book

Published on May 8, 2008

Author: MarvinRio


How (not) to write a book about poverty

I – What this presentation is about II – How I got started III – Brazil IV – South Africa V – Apologies and excuses

I – W HAT THIS PRESENTATION IS ABOUT It is n ot (really) about Poverty What is wrong with other poverty writ ing Feeling guilty   It is ( s ort of) about How I have been trying to write a book about poverty.  

A word or two about chickens

II – HOW I GOT STARTED Where I was coming from What I had to work with What I was aiming for

Where I was coming from Psychology & Anti-psychology Do-gooding & Anti do-gooding Uncertainty – economics, justice, good life Poverty as an arbitrary project/object

It is often argued by psychologists that unless people’s ‘lower-order’ needs such as food and safety are met, they will not be able to properly focus on ‘higher order’ needs such as belonging, self-esteem and creativity. But does this mean that poor (mostly black) South Africans are psychologically deficient? And are wealthy (mostly white) South Africans therefore necessarily ‘self-actualized’? This volume emphatically rejects such a position. Instead, it offers a more nuanced and potentially transformative perspective on the relationship between poverty and subjectivity in South Africa today. It shows how neither poverty nor individual subjectivity is a natural given -- they are products of a very specific history and demand a response that transcends the dichotomy between social engineering and psychotherapy.

What I had to work with Lots of books and stuff The internet Some experience Militant Utopianism (Critical appreciative enquiry) A personal crisis “ We are reaching a point where the number of inputs we have as individuals is beginning to exceed what we are capable as humans of managing. The demands for our attention are becoming so great, and the problem so widespread, that it will cause people to crash . ” (Steve Rubel, 2008)

Ernst Bloch “ Utopianism is immanent in the present, and the issue is to detect, to recognise, and to discern, rather than to criticise, the blurred and fuzzy manifestations of hope — as the emotional energising ground of utopianism — that exist within everyday life. ”

Real < > Utopian

Real Utopian Real Utopian Militant Utopianism: Real < > Utopian

REAL virtual actual desiring machines Territorialization L ines of flight Deleuze

“ O ne should be aware that we are dealing with a mere theat er of shadows, with no substantial existence. Thus we need not fully engage ourselves in the capitalist game, but play it with an inner distance. Virtual capitalism could thus act as a first step toward ‘ liberation ’ . It confronts us with the fact that the cause of our suffering is not objective reality—there is no such thing—but rather our Desire, our craving for material things. ” Žižek

What I was aiming for Visual Free N ot boring Not preachy Evocative Everyday life related to social structures A psychological theory of how we relate to the material world Not a coherent whole, but not completely incoherent either


New York Times 12 May 1920

Stuff that happened before I could get there Years ago 14 billion - Universe start s to expand 5 billion - Planets start to form 3 billion - Ur forms 750 mill i on - Gondwana forms 170 million - Gondwana breaks up 25 millon - Pão de Açucar forms 10 thousand – People settle around Rio

Years ago

14 billion - Universe start s to expand

5 billion - Planets start to form

3 billion - Ur forms

750 mill i on - Gondwana forms

170 million - Gondwana breaks up

25 millon - Pão de Açucar forms

10 thousand – People settle around Rio

More stuff that happened before I could get there 1502 1808 1831 1961 1985

“ I found myself dead center in the worst poverty I have ever encountered - in the favela of Catacumba, a desolate mountainside outside of Rio de Janeiro. ”




Stuff that happened after I got there I developed a method for (not) writing a book about poverty I took some photographs I saw lots of rich and poor people It was nice to know that it wasn’t really my problem









Problems How to make visual Granularity How to sequence Doing a Da Vinci Premature foreclosure versus indefinite procrastination Oddness, sillines s P s ychology

The commons The information commons What you would be reading … Why pay more (behavioural economics) Big money (the super-rich) To those who have Habitus Globalization Psychic economies I – lack Travel gear How to make a buck on the street T he informal sector The c hanging structure of work A place to sleep Psychic economies II - The gift Bread and circuses Commodification - Stacking high and selling cheap Losing it – on becoming poor The shrinking middle class Pick & Pay – the mall Middle class life – the bunker Free to choose Freedom of movement If you must be poor, be male Happy families Race and poverty Illegal and poor BIG money II (basic income grant) Other welfare grants Vouchers Minimum wage “ Let the poor speak ” The visible poor Fictional poor Poor culture GINI in a bottle – measuring inequality Measuring poverty Life expectancy & infant mortality The slum book industry Slumming the American Dream Hunger I’m gonna eat some worms Whack them with the facts, make them feel guilty Volunteering Aid and charity The international aid business The poverty research industry Debt Structural adjustment Development Home ownership Spot the poor Uncle Ronald and Auntie Maggie To have and to be Consumer goodies Affluenza Blessed are the poor Slavery Prostitution The economics of abundance Participatory culture Network economy I - Here comes everybody The attention economy “The Bottom Billion” (Micro) credit Feeling poorly – health and poverty Imaginary money Community currencies Limited liability Dr Strangelove Steal this book Militant Utopianism Psychic economies III: The virtual #62 Knowing what’s best for poor people Living small Migration and refugees Flaunting wealth The spatial organisation of poverty Parallel powers Networks and social capital Beyond the deficit view Urban versus rural poverty Poor uprisings Favela chic Crisis economics I – The poetry of stockpiling





V - Apologies and excuses 1. “ We write only at the frontiers of our knowledge, at the border which separates our knowledge from our ignorance and transforms the one into the other.” (Deleuze, 1968)

2. “Social theorists confuse what they should explain with the explanation. They begin with society or other social aggregates, whereas one should end with them.” (Latour, 2005)



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