All entries for Saturday 22 October 2005

October 22, 2005

Travel in England

One of the things that you do not take for granted in Coventry and areas is public transport. Unlike London, where access was always so easy to public transport, Coventry area has poor public transport and the University of Warwick area has even worse transport. However, these are things that you learn to live with. And manage.

I´ve done well in terms of travel around England so far. I´ve been to a lot of places including Foleshill (Indian Market), Leamington Spa and also now to Rugby. Always new experiences and new insights to be gained. One of the big ones is that the creation of the super market.

The logic of the super market has been that things can be cheaper as there is bulk buying and therefore things can be much cheaper than with a small shop. However, Foleshill butcher is almost half the price of Tesco when it comes to chicken. Why? Coz he really is a tiny operator and I don´t see him having huge amount of bargaining power at all Same with the vegetable vendors in Foleshill who are significantly cheaper.

However, there was a new super market called Aldi set up in Rugby. This place is almost half the price compared to Tesco. Why is it that this supermarket is able to sell the same thing (bread in this case and most branded stuff) at half the price? It kind of gets you thinking of supermarket strategy. Are lower prices purely an entry gimmick for the super market to drive the small players out of the market? And is the resurgence of the small corner store in England a reflection of what economists refer to as super-normal profits? What about the proliferation of the one pound shops. What is the reason for their emergence? Anything to do with supermarkets overpricing small items in order to rip people off? What about the strategy of the supermarket to counter these one pound items by introducing a ´value´ range?

I´ve also now been on the train for the first time. To know how much it costs to travel on one of them needs like a PhD!! It is sooo difficult! Messy I tell you! So, finally I was told that the cheapest way to get to London would be through the Leamington to London Marlyborne route at ten pounds. Also, will pick up the cycle from Nikhils place and then take it to Coventry. That should really reduce significantly my own expenses and also use it in London. I think its a good plan…

Will be staying at Gauri´s house most of the time in London. And it is eminently cycleable to get to LSE.

Today was a good day in that I did organise all my papers and files first thing in the morning and then went to Rugby. And did do a bit of reading. Right now however, am waiting for Jiti´s dinner call. It´s been a while and the one thing that I cannot do is rely on her to ever provide me dinner. Coz she always eats late! Not a good idea for me.

Initial Impressions of Empire

4 out of 5 stars

This has to be one of the most provoking books that I have read. As the authors suggest in the first chapter, it is meant to generate a discussion on what really is Empire. At one end is the possibility of a single unitary power that predetermines everything that is going on in the world. At the other, is this giant conspiracy theory. The authors clearly articulate that the reality is somewhere in between these two.

However, you cannot but help feeling despondent on the first read of the book. It paints such a gloomy picture of the world that it appears as if any sort of activism and intervention is a futile exercise against the force of ´Empire´. What it is is never clarified in the book with different people taking different positions on whether it is a giant power, or a monopoly of ideas/ ideology or something else.

The book looks extensively at networks of power. Of the networks of resistance. Of the world no longer being operated as if it had a centre, but multiple nodes out of which alliances emerge and people and institutions form strategies to live with Empire or counter it.

Thoughts of mine that emerged out of a reading of empire included the nature of globalisation and the nature of coporate strategy. While the economic logic of outsourcing is what is driving a large percentage of work to India, one wonders, if it is also a part of a strategy to fragment worker power around different centres.

What about the emergence of the large corporation as the saviour of developing countries? Especially in the way it relates to basic services like water, electricity and other services.

Other thoughts including responses of the World Trade Organisations to protests like that in Cancun. Did the change of venue after that to Doha suggest the work of Empire? Are sites like Singapore and Doha deliberately chosen in order to minimise dissent? There are just so many questions that emerge out of the reading of this book.

The other big one is whether Empire is something that is really an alliance of middle class interests? Or is it the victory of a particular way of life. Much like the victory of a particular lifestyle as suggested in Ishmael? Questions Questions.

The book overall is a bit difficult to read. But worth it and over cups of tea provides hours and hours of restless questioning!

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  • Jacob and I were talking about this the other day..on the train to Cove.And as much as most people w… by Shibi on this entry
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