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Next Cafe: A Resource-Based Economy?


Futures (Photo credit: LendingMemo)

Last year’s series of The Future for Wales events at CPC culminated in November 2013 with a discussion of the nature of money and its role in creating scarcity. This month we examine the idea of a ‘resource-based economy‘, in which all goods and services are produced and allocated without the use of money, credit, or barter. The use of debt as an organisational principle for economic relations is seen as enforcing servitude. The bottom line of such a proposal is that resources become the common heritage of all people, rather than the property of those who happen to have the power (economic or otherwise) to acquire them.

Would such an economy help us solve the problems we collectively face, or would it create new ones?

Ruffstylz AM (Dan Lloyd) explores the key concepts behind this idea and leads the discussion.

This Cafe will take place on 15 April. As usual, we’re in the Cafe Bar at The Gate from 8.00pm

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Last Night’s Cafe: What can science tell us about the future?

English: Floods on the Somerset levels. This w...

English: Floods on the Somerset levels.

To what extent can science tell us what to do about the future, especially in relation to novel phenomena like climate change. Flooding across the Southwest since early January and now across the south and some areas of the Home Counties saw a link being made last week in the mainstream media for the first time with human-influenced – or ‘anthropogenic’ climate change – ACC for short. A resident of a village on the Somerset Levels was widely quoted as saying

‘I’m used to seeing floods on the Levels, but this is just something else,” he said, noting that when the area flooded less severely last winter “we were told it was a one-in-100-year occurrence”, but that ‘the following year it happens again — only worse!”’

Several climate scientists were quoted as suggesting that we have found ourselves in an entirely novel situation. Myles Allen from Oxford University stated that:

What is clear is that just looking back at the historical record to plan flood defences or set insurance premiums is increasingly misleading.

Nigel Arnell from Reading University said that:

We have long been exposed to risk from flooding, but climate change is loading the dice

The implication of these statements is that the future will not be like the past, that the probabilities of flooding and other events will change, perhaps radically. The implications of this are important, both for understanding the role and limitations of scientific knowledge in helping us prepare for this future, and for thinking through the moral significance of the resulting uncertainty. Dr Chris Groves (Social Sciences, Cardiff University) explored these implications, and suggested that, even if scientific knowledge faces crucial limitations in what it can tell us about the future, this should not prevent us drawing firm conclusions about how we should act.

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Next Cafe: What can science tell us about the future?

Mean surface temperature change for 1999–2008 ...

Mean surface temperature change for 1999–2008 relative to the average temperatures from 1940 to 1980 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Human-caused climate change has now been openly linked to recent flooding events in Wales and Southern England. Last year’s report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reaffirmed that climate science is increasingly clear on the influence of humans on global climate. But there remain many uncertainties and complexities to consider. What exactly can science tell us about the future, and are there limits? If there are limits on what it can tell us, what does this mean for evidence based policy, especially when it comes to mitigating or adapting to climate change? When we argue about phenomena like climate change and what to do about them, are we really arguing about scientific evidence, or about something else?

In this month’s Cafe on 18 February 2014, Dr Chris Groves (Social Sciences, Cardiff University) examines these and other issues. As usual, we’re in the Cafe Bar at The Gate, from 8.00pm.

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Last Night’s Cafe: What is Money?

The role of finance in society has been under the microscope since the financial crisis of 2007-08. Since then, we have discovered that money can, under certain circumstances, seemingly be created out of nowhere. The bank bailouts of 2008-09 were not paid for out of taxes; somehow over £1.3tn in the UK was used to buy out bad debts to keep banks solvent. Yet at the same time money, in the form of credit, seems scarcer than ever for businesses and other organisations seeking loans from banks. How can money possess such divergent characteristics? Justin Lilley from Positive Money/Arian Cymru led our discussion on this topic on Tuesday 19 November, with an introduction from Chris Groves to some philosophical reflections on the nature of money, presenting it as at once utterly familiar and entirely strange.

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Next Cafe: What is Money?

What is money, where does it come from, and what are the consequences of how it is created?

In this Cafe on Tuesday 19 November 2013, Justin Lilley (Positive Money/Arian Cymru) and Dr Chris Groves (Social Sciences, Cardiff University) offer some perspectives on these and other questions. Money is a commodity that can be bought and sold on the currency exchanges, but more importantly, it is what Karl Marx called the ‘universal equivalent’, a measure of the value of anything that can be bought and sold. The creation of money, as we have seen in recent years in the UK and elsewhere, is a particularly politically sensitive process.

Money cash

Money cash (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

How is money made? Banks are granted licenses to create money through making loans, and earn interest as a result. This can lead to a ‘leakage’ from the real productive economy to the speculative financial one that has grown up around trading in loans, and thereby in debts. Debt-fuelled speculation led to the financial crisis of 2007-08. The ripples from this crisis continue to spread, with the latest concern being that banks could do as they did in Cyprus and reach into depositors accounts seizing funds to capitalize themselves. These so called ‘bail ins’ could be devastating to stability. Are there now so many holes in the current system of money creation that more ‘bailing’ is not going to keep us afloat? Is it time to abandon ship?

As usual, we start at 8.00 pm in the Cafe Bar at the Gate.

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Last Night’s Cafe: The Philosophy of Running

….or more specifically, ‘Really Trying and Merely Trying’. Dr Paul Faulkner (Philosophy, Sheffield University) introduced us to the connections between philosophy (and epistemology in particular) and running, last night, using the theory of knowledge to shed some light on the experience of running, and the experience of running to illuminate some issues in theories of self knowledge and the nature of action.

Yoda: a supporter of disjunctive theories of basic actions?

Yoda: a supporter of disjunctive theories of basic actions?

A keen runner, Paul discussed the difference between his experiences of two recent races, the Brighton marathon in 2010 and the London race in 2011. The latter case, he felt, was a race that ‘went badly even if it didn’t go wrong’. What could this mean? He drew on the epistemology of self-knowledge to explore the experience. Some actions, he pointed out, are ‘basic’ in the sense that one knows what is going on ‘from within’, simply by doing something. For example, one knows one has raised one’s arm simply by carrying out the action of raising one’s arm. The ‘first-person’ epistemic authority possessed by reports of such experiences is different to that which attaches to observational ‘third-person’ reports.

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Next Cafe: The Philosophy of Running

This month at Cardiff Philosophy Cafe, we change tack from recent events to focus on issues surrounding self-knowledge – and particularly in relation to our bodies and what we do with them. On the 15 October, we welcome as our guest Dr Paul Faulkner from the University of Sheffield, a runner and a philosopher.

Hit the Wall

Hit the Wall

How do you know what you are doing? Here is one answer: I know I am raising my arm because this is what I am trying to do (and trying is all I need to do to raise my arm). The philosophical view behind this answer is the standard view of our knowledge of our own actions. This view, Paul will argue, is threatened by cases of effort. By ‘effort’ is meant cases of action where all one needs to do something is to try to do that thing, but where trying is hard. To argue this, and to explore the implications of effort for self-knowledge, Paul will focus on running, and specifically what goes on in running a race. A related paper can be downloaded here, and you can watch a talk from Paul on this topic below.

We begin as usual in the Cafe Bar at the Gate at 8.00pm. Paul will also be giving a talk at Cardiff University the following day as a guest of the Department of Philosophy. More details here.


Last Night’s Cafe: The Future for Wales – Waste

If we want the future, in Wales and elsewhere, to be one in which unsustainable societies become a thing of the past – in which the urge to consumer is replaced with a broader, more authentic drive towards well-being, where energy is produced cleanly and used less intensely – then how societies manage their relationship with waste will be central to bringing this about. We are used to receiving a variety of messages about waste, with the emphasis generally falling on the need to reduce it. In the shape of waste, the relationship between sustainability and our personal lives becomes particularly immediate and tangible. But is waste simply an aspect of contemporary life where we can ‘do our bit’ to reduce the impact we collectively have on the earth, or is there more significance to our relationship with it than this? In last night’s Cafe, Dr Chris Groves (Social Sciences, Cardiff University) explored four different ways of thinking about the philosophical significance of waste.

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Next Cafe: The Future for Wales – Waste

Cardiff Philosophy Cafe returns this month on 17 September for the final thematic session of our Future for Wales series, before our end of programme event at the Senedd on 27 November (about which more soon…).

This month, we turn to the last of our keywords, waste, with Dr Chris Groves (Social Sciences, Cardiff University). We are increasingly familiar with pronouncements about the need to move towards a ‘zero waste‘ society. The means of achieving this are generally presented as a mixture of measures, some popular and some much more controversial. In Wales, recycling and composting target, together with other measures, have been set out in a number of Welsh Government measures, the latest of which is the Waste Measure 2010. At the same time, the problem of nonrecyclable, non-compostable landfill waste has led an increase in the popularity of incineration as a disposal method, which many see as posing persistent ‘waste’ issues of its own, in the form of pollution.



Yet underlying these governance measures is a social, economic, psychological and philosophical relationship with waste that is extremely complex. Mainstream economics refused to acknowledge the existence of waste, with the well-known problem of externalities being a major manifestation of this refusal. Ecological economics, with its focus on energy as the basis of life, has striven for the creation of closed loops in production and consumption to ensure nothing is wasted. But do waste and acts of wastage play other roles in human life, ones that carry with them important but more problematic meanings? Phenomena like potlatch, carnivals, and other unruly social rituals place waste at the centre of social life rather than at the margins. If we are unprepared to acknowledge our ambiguous relationship with waste, can we truly understand what sustainability might mean?

As usual, we’re in the Cafe Bar in The Gate from 8.00pm.

To tweet about this event, use the hashtag #cpcwaste

Watch Slovenian social theorist Slavoj Zizek on the topic of waste:

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Last Night’s Cafe: The Future for Wales – Creativity

At last week’s Cafe on Uncertainty and Emotions, we explored how confronting the kind of uncertain future evoked by issues like sustainability, climate change, energy, and the changing nature of work can produce strong emotional reactions, ones that change our sense of who we are, our place in the world, and our sense of possibility – of what we are capable of doing. Hope, fear, anger – all these and more ‘disclose’ the world to us in different ways, as Martin Heidegger might have said: they show us the same things in a different light, opening up different possible futures in each case.

In discussion last week, one theme that came to particular prominence was the role of stories or narratives in helping us make sense of an uncertain future, and to help us deal with negative emotions. In last night’s Cafe, we explored this contribution that narratives – and imagination more generally – can make to how we confront the future, with the aid of a performance from Rhodri Thomas, Carolina Vasquez, and Chris Young, an extract from their upcoming multi-media piece, Who’s Afraid? (based on a poem and artworks by Susan Richardson and Pat Gregory). Dancer and choreographer Siriol Joyner was unable to attend in person due to illness, but a video of her recent performance at a workshop organised in Aberystwyth by the Environmental Futures Dialogue project and Cardiff Philosophy Cafe is embedded further down this post. More about Environmental Futures Dialogue and the workshop.

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