Posted on BARRY C. LYNN — Elusive Monopolies and Global Upheaval

BARRY C. LYNN recently returned to the Critical Theory and the Arts department and the Serious Times Lecture Series to discuss with students and faculty his recent work on the development of contemporary monopoly corporations. His books, END OF THE LINE and CORNERED investigate the destruction of markets that fulfill human needs and their replacement by ‘arbitrage’ corporations, such as Walmart and Target, that seize economic control by disaggregating production—that is, sending production off-shore—and using computerized techniques for dominating the mechanisms of commodity distribution. The drive for ‘efficiency’—which LYNN shows to be by no means a self-evident value—hyper-rationalization, the opportunistic manipulation of prices, in the global market since the 1990s, has defeated the much touted promises of globalization. Instead, a precariously fragile web of powerful but elusive monopolies and closed markets has emerged that can be all too easily disrupted by political, economic, and environmental upheaval. LYNN has struggled to present the treacherously perilous situation that has emerged. The globalized economy is now such that the shock to one node in the production cycle is felt by all, the imaginable consequences of which are potentially catastrophic. That the mechanisms of these systems have been made mostly invisible by corporations that are now adept at eluding national regulation and oversight has prevented governmental and political assessment of the reality of our situation: “our,” here meaning the hardly conceivable world as a whole.

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