Tag Archive: cities

Feb 23 2014

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: The Power of the Flea Market by Annieli

Flea markets, Free market: not so much a pun as a reality, that informal economies flourish with the inevitable rise and subsequent failure of so-called free-markets, first as deregulated, then as re-regulated as discussed by The Regulation School. Scale is signified here and the expansion of a gloablized economy is not so much the work of invisible or virtual hands (one thread of my research), but the aggregation of so many marginalized sectors of that economy into their own systems of exchange. Bitcoin is but one example on the capital side; bartered labor might be its polar opposite. Alternative and heterodox economies and their institutions have been recent topics of discussion here, so while the implementation and functioning of such economies is paramount, some history to fill some gaps might be useful this week.

What wanton grace, what saucy innocence! What heroic wrestling with aesthetic problems! This nonchalance and originality are worthy of a Heine!

We have deceived the reader. Herr Grün’s literary graces are not an embellishment of the science of true socialism, the science is merely the padding between these outbursts of literary gossip, and forms, so to speak, its “social background”….How right was Heine when he said about his imitators: “I have sown dragon’s teeth and harvested fleas.”(1)

This chapter was published by Marx separately as a review in the monthly publication Das Westphälische Dampfboot in August and September 1847. Before that, in April 1847, Marx had published a “Declaration against Karl Grün”. He stated in it that he intended to publish a review of Grün’s book Die soziale Bewegung in Frankreich und Belgien (see present edition, Vol. 6) in the Westphälische Dampfboot.

For those less familiar with Heine here’s a particularly modern example from 1827 close to the time of the invention of the latent image technology called photography, where the absence and presence of meaning/message of the transmitted information while interdependent are only interoperable by thinking beyond the margins.

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My earlier experience in economic history led me to study with a scholar of medieval economies but he also showed me how to look at the variables involved in plagues and this history of fleas seems hygienically anomalous with the development of things like “flea circuses” or “flea markets”

Importantly, plague was spread considerable distances by rat fleas on ships. Infected ship rats would die, but their fleas would often survive and find new rat hosts wherever they landed. Unlike human fleas, rat fleas are adapted to riding with their hosts; they readily also infest clothing of people entering affected houses and ride with them to other houses or localities.

The idealized image of the free market is the seasonal trade route with its bazaars or agoras with exchange regulated not only by coinage but also the space in which these transactions occur: formal and informal, official and illegal. The market for speech in public spaces, as we have seen is even more controversial whether OWS or Citizens United. Those who would claim that the web is a free market attempt to base it on both conventional and less conventional “flea market” exchange sites: eBay, gunauctions, etc. many transactions and their prices/costs are less formal and perhaps as invisible or virtual as during any point in recordable or documentable history. Entertainment also accompanied the historical market-route culture so a variety of actions and exchanges developed with the more fundamental trade of basic sustainence goods and services. The space and scale of such activity is by its very actions marginal and gold mining and gold farming are not so different, and economies have treated such insurgent activities at their peril. insurgencies are like fleas, ubiquitous and virtually invisible.

The first records of flea performances were from watchmakers who were demonstrating their metalworking skills. Mark Scaliot in 1578 produced a lock and chain which were attached to a flea. Flea performances were first advertised as early as 1833 in England, and were a major carnival attraction until 1930. Some flea circuses persisted in very small venues in the United States as late as the 1960s. The flea circus at Belle Vue Zoological Gardens, Manchester, England, was still operating in 1970. At least one genuine flea circus still performs (at the annual Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany) but most flea circuses are a sideline of magicians and clowns, and use electrical or mechanical effects instead of real fleas.

Replacing actual fleas by mechanical and electrical effects is a parody of industrialized labor’s technological substitutes and their spectacular globalization. More spectacles to flee are found below the fold as conflict concentrates in urban centers and their peripheries are defined by linear demolition and alienated margins. All of these arterial relations experience blockages or barricades.

Jul 21 2013

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Capitalism causes cancer by bigjacbigjacbigjac

Capitalism causes cancer,

both the kind you’re thinking of,

and another kind:


Cities are tumors on the Earth,

our precious home planet.