The New East End: Kinship, Race and Conflict by Geoff Dench, Kate Gavron, Michael Young. Fascinating social and economic study of the various groups living in Tower Hamlets in the East End of London, and the conflicts between them.
One group is the Bangladeshi population coming from a small region in Sylhet. Originating from a small population of Lascars, sailors living temporarily in the docks, after the split from India left them unable to work in Indian ports, the numbers grew. Some worked in local industry, some originally moved to the garment industry in the North of England but resettled in London, and a growing number of the young people are unemployed.
They maintain strong links with Sylhet The authors have visited Sylhet and find that the homes owned by "Londonis" are usually bigger and more prosperous than others. However, property prices have been raised and it's no longer easy to buy land: one respondent complains that he can't persuade any younger members of the family to farm the land he bought there.
The book has a very good chapter on the role of women and religion in this group. The common assumption that women are oppressed and reluctantly subservient to Islamic fundamentalist men, is not accurate. Women frequently control the household budget and make financial decisions, sometimes taking in the wages and issuing their husbands with pocket money. The traditional tensions within the family is usually that of the wife with her mother in law, who is traditionally the head of the household. Women actively seek out more religious men as husbands, who they believe to be more committed to the family and self-controlled.
The second population is the traditional white working class of the area, who still make up about a third of the population. They're generally hostile to the Bangladeshis. While they're often dismissed as racists, the book is fairly sympathetic to them.
It points out that there was a transition from a community-based welfare system to a needs-based system. Under the older system, you got council accommodation based on the length of time you waited, and extended family connections to others living there. This system was changed to a needs-based system, where overcrowding and children get a higher priority. This underlies the constant complaints that Bangladeshis "jump the queue": their view is that the old system still holds or should hold.
The book is also perceptive when it points out the extensive bombing of the East End docks in World War Two, and that thus population believed that the purpose of social housing and rebuilding was in some way a reward for keeping the docks going: they perceive it as unfair that people who weren't there in the war get social housing.
The third population is occasionally referred to as "yuppies". General while people who have moved into the East End as part of city gentrification, the book spends relatively little time on them. However it points out that in local politics they essentially wield the balance of power between the other two communities, often siding with the Bangladeshis.
The book is short but dense and detailed, it's hard to cover much of it. It combines personal testimonies with statistics and analysis.
Very good book. Absolutely essential reading if you're interested in the area. Could well be an interesting social study even if you're not.
What I'm Watching
Saw the BBC 4-part documentary The Impressionists, presented by Waldemar Januszczak. Liked it a lot, though it's a bit gimmicky in places. Though they're pretty familiar, the Januszczakesque style is energetic, and he goes into a lot of detail on the techniques and tools they used.
What I'm Watching 2
Saw the Banksy produced documentary on various pranksters The Antics Roadshow. Describes various public oddballs like Michael Fagan who managed to wander into the Queen's bedroom, Comedy terrorist Aaron Barschak, and so on Fairly interesting, but it's a pretty conventional documentary. Not as good as "Exit Through the Gift Shop".
Economics: why isn't the developed world recovering?
I follow several economics blogs, this isn't based on any particular one but the impression I get from all of them.
The original recession wasn't that hard to understand. There is debate about the significance of the various causes at play, but there have been plenty of recessions before, and the basic mechanisms are fairly well understood.
But the failure to recover, except in a very slow and fragile way, is not well-understood at all. Most people would have expected a much stronger revival in growth and jobs by now.
Lots of explanations are being offered, but we don't really know which of them are significant at all. Some of them follow.
- Consumer confidence. Consumers just aren't willing to spend because they're in an unusually long period of emotional nervousness.
- Consumer debt repayments. Consumers aren't spending because they borrowed too much in the boom, and now their disposable income is going into debt repayments.
- The Great Stagnation. Tyler Cowen's theory is that we've run out of easy economic gains "low hanging fruit" and the pace of innovation has slowed.
- Credit drought. Banks aren't lending to businesses, so they can't grow and expand.
- Uncertainty shock. Firms, markets and consumers are all unsure what's going to happen.
- Recessions caused by credit crises and housing busts just last longer.
- Intellectual property gridlock is harming growth
There are several other explanations that I don't think are realistic, but are commonly expressed.
- Over-regulation. I don't think this makes sense because the UK has relatively low regulation, and levels of regulation don't seem to be associated with better performance.
- International trade is to blame. Mostly expressed by people who don't understand Comparative Advantage. It doesn't explain the lack of growth. The high corporate profits at the moment are interesting but don't indicate everything is going well in the private sector. If some companies have gone bust, and new businesses aren't being formed, corporate profits can be high for the corporations that exist, but the sector as whole can still be suffering.
- Taxes are too high. The effect of high taxes on hindering growth are real, and can be profoundly important over the very long term: since growth is an exponential process, a tiny boost in growth can have great benefits over decades. But the effect of tax on growth is pretty small: cutting spending and taxes by a whopping 2.5% of GDP would only boost growth by 0.2% to 0.3%. Important over decades, but doesn't explain why growth is so weak over the last couple of years.
Economics. School leavers at back of jobs queue. Eurobonds won't work. Saving capitalism from itself. US is in depression not recession, more
Random. Cisgender News.
Articles. Submitting New Yorker cartoons, via. Why UK political polls differ. Why Arabic is terrific. Missing White Woman Syndrome: "the only group whose fear of crime was influenced by watching TV stories about the murders was middle-aged white women."
|< Eight days | bah, I'm going to have to try to talk to them on the phone >|