Gangster Capitalism

by Henry Farrell on November 27, 2007

My (longish) review of Roberto Saviano’s _Gomorrah: A Personal Journey into the Violent International Empire of Naples’ Organized Crime System_ is “now out”: in _The Nation_. I liked the book quite a lot – as I say in the review it’s a little like Ryszard Kapuscinkski’s melanges of fiction and journalism, but it’s far starker, more direct, and angrier in its conclusions. One of the things I found most interesting about the book (although I don’t think his argument ultimately works), is Saviano’s efforts to connect together the Camorra and global capitalism. This is something that the “NYT reviewer”: didn’t get – he complains that the first chapter of the book (on Chinese smugglers) doesn’t say anything about the Camorra at all. As I read the book, that was rather the point that Saviano was trying to make – that the fundamental problem lies not so much in the florid stories about the Camorra clans as in the underbelly of globalization; the myriads of clandestine and informal markets and of relationships between the legal and illegal economies that help sustain global capitalism. The book is at least as much about markets as about crime – two extended quotes after the jump give some of the flavor. [click to continue…]

A Switch in Time

by Kieran Healy on November 27, 2007

This is awesome.

For a year from September 2005, under the nose of the Panthéon’s unsuspecting security officials, a group of intrepid “illegal restorers” set up a secret workshop and lounge in a cavity under the building’s famous dome. Under the supervision of group member Jean-Baptiste Viot, a professional clockmaker, they pieced apart and repaired the antique clock that had been left to rust in the building since the 1960s. Only when their clandestine revamp of the elaborate timepiece had been completed did they reveal themselves. “When we had finished the repairs, we had a big debate on whether we should let the Panthéon’s officials know or not,” said Lazar Klausmann, a spokesperson for the Untergunther. “We decided to tell them in the end so that they would know to wind the clock up so it would still work.

“The Panthéon’s administrator thought it was a hoax at first, but when we showed him the clock, and then took him up to our workshop, he had to take a deep breath and sit down.”