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75
10
terms
4
notes

on the language used in World Bank reports from the 1950s to the 2010s--specifically, how it's gotten a lot more vague, "corporate", generic; obliterates time and space and any actual concrete goals. references Orwell's Politics and the English Language. surprisingly insightful

Pestre, D. and Moretti, F. (2015). Bankspeak. New Left Review, 92, pp. 75-100

(noun) a branch of metaphysics concerned with the nature and relations of being / (noun) a particular theory about the nature of being or the kinds of things that have existence

77

Apart from the Bank, three types of social actors appear in the texts during this period: states and governments; companies, banks and industry; engineers, technicians and experts. This social ontology confirms the standard account of post-war reconstruction as industrial, Fordist and Keynesian.

—p.77 by Dominique Pestre, Franco Moretti
notable
2 years, 3 months ago

Apart from the Bank, three types of social actors appear in the texts during this period: states and governments; companies, banks and industry; engineers, technicians and experts. This social ontology confirms the standard account of post-war reconstruction as industrial, Fordist and Keynesian.

—p.77 by Dominique Pestre, Franco Moretti
notable
2 years, 3 months ago

the use in manufacturing industry of the methods pioneered by Henry Ford, typified by large-scale mechanized mass production

77

Apart from the Bank, three types of social actors appear in the texts during this period: states and governments; companies, banks and industry; engineers, technicians and experts. This social ontology confirms the standard account of post-war reconstruction as industrial, Fordist and Keynesian.

—p.77 by Dominique Pestre, Franco Moretti
notable
2 years, 3 months ago

Apart from the Bank, three types of social actors appear in the texts during this period: states and governments; companies, banks and industry; engineers, technicians and experts. This social ontology confirms the standard account of post-war reconstruction as industrial, Fordist and Keynesian.

—p.77 by Dominique Pestre, Franco Moretti
notable
2 years, 3 months ago

the area of the production, distribution, or trade, and consumption of goods and services by different agents in a given geographical location

78

What has to be managed is the economy—‘the self-contained structure or totality of relations of production, distribution and consumption of goods and services within a given geographical space’, as Timothy Mitchell has put it

—p.78 by Dominique Pestre, Franco Moretti
notable
2 years, 3 months ago

What has to be managed is the economy—‘the self-contained structure or totality of relations of production, distribution and consumption of goods and services within a given geographical space’, as Timothy Mitchell has put it

—p.78 by Dominique Pestre, Franco Moretti
notable
2 years, 3 months ago

causing vertigo, especially by being extremely high or steep

79

Portfolio [...] undergoes a vertiginous rise

caption for figure 1

—p.79 by Dominique Pestre, Franco Moretti
notable
2 years, 3 months ago

Portfolio [...] undergoes a vertiginous rise

caption for figure 1

—p.79 by Dominique Pestre, Franco Moretti
notable
2 years, 3 months ago

a term for the loans provided by the IMF and the World Bank to countries that experienced economic crises, which come with strings attached: privatisation and deregulation, mainly (the conditions are also known as the Washington Consensus)

80

Though never absent from the Bank's vocabulary, management started its ascent in the late 1970s, when the debt question became central, and was subsequently associated with the drastic 'structural adjustment' policies of the neo-liberal offensive.

caption for Figure 2

—p.80 by Dominique Pestre, Franco Moretti
notable
2 years, 3 months ago

Though never absent from the Bank's vocabulary, management started its ascent in the late 1970s, when the debt question became central, and was subsequently associated with the drastic 'structural adjustment' policies of the neo-liberal offensive.

caption for Figure 2

—p.80 by Dominique Pestre, Franco Moretti
notable
2 years, 3 months ago
88

Issues, players, concern, efforts, platforms, dialogue, ground . . . ‘The whole tendency of modern prose is away from concreteness’, wrote Orwell in ‘Politics and the English Language’, and his words are as true today as they were in 1946. The Bank stresses the importance of what it’s saying—key, global, innovative, enlightened—but its words are hopelessly opaque. What is it really trying to say—or to hide?

—p.88 by Dominique Pestre, Franco Moretti 2 years, 3 months ago

Issues, players, concern, efforts, platforms, dialogue, ground . . . ‘The whole tendency of modern prose is away from concreteness’, wrote Orwell in ‘Politics and the English Language’, and his words are as true today as they were in 1946. The Bank stresses the importance of what it’s saying—key, global, innovative, enlightened—but its words are hopelessly opaque. What is it really trying to say—or to hide?

—p.88 by Dominique Pestre, Franco Moretti 2 years, 3 months ago

the use of a word, which is not a noun, as a noun, or as the head of a noun phrase, with or without morphological transformation (e.g., the noun legalization from the verb legalize)

89

In the passage from 2008, the terms action and cooperation belong to a class of words usually known as ‘nominalizations’, or ‘derived abstract nouns’

—p.89 by Dominique Pestre, Franco Moretti
notable
2 years, 3 months ago

In the passage from 2008, the terms action and cooperation belong to a class of words usually known as ‘nominalizations’, or ‘derived abstract nouns’

—p.89 by Dominique Pestre, Franco Moretti
notable
2 years, 3 months ago
90

What do nominalizations do, that the Reports should use them with such insistence? They take ‘actions and processes’ and turn them into ‘abstract objects’

—p.90 by Dominique Pestre, Franco Moretti
notable
2 years, 3 months ago

What do nominalizations do, that the Reports should use them with such insistence? They take ‘actions and processes’ and turn them into ‘abstract objects’

—p.90 by Dominique Pestre, Franco Moretti
notable
2 years, 3 months ago
91

[...] you don’t support countries which are cooperating with each other; you support ‘South–South cooperation’. An abstraction, where temporality is abolished. ‘The provision of social services and country assessments and action plans which assist in the formulation of poverty reduction policies’, writes the Report for 1990—and the five nominalizations create a sort of simultaneity among a series of actions that are in fact quite distinct from each other. Providing social services (action one) which will assist (two) in formulating policies (three) to reduce poverty (four): doing this will take a very long time. But in the language of the Report, all these steps have contracted into a single policy, which seems to come into being all at once. It’s magic.

And then—the authors of Corpus Linguistics continue—in nominalizations, actions and processes are ‘separated from human participants’: cooperation, not states which cooperate with each other. ‘Pollution, soil erosion, land degradation, deforestation and deterioration of the urban environment’, mourns another recent Report, and the absence of social actors is striking. All these ominous trends—and no one is responsible? ‘Prioritization’ enters the Reports as debt crisis looms; meaning, quite simply, that not all creditors would be treated equally: some would be reimbursed right away, others later; some in full, and others not. Of course, the criteria according to which X would be treated differently from Y had been decided by someone. But prioritization concealed that. Why X and not Y? Because of prioritization. In front of the word, one can no longer see—one can no longer even imagine—a concrete subject engaged in a decision. ‘Rendition’: an American secret agency kidnaps foreign citizens to hand them over to another secret service, in another country, that will torture them. In ‘rendition’, it’s all gone. It’s magic.

—p.91 by Dominique Pestre, Franco Moretti 2 years, 3 months ago

[...] you don’t support countries which are cooperating with each other; you support ‘South–South cooperation’. An abstraction, where temporality is abolished. ‘The provision of social services and country assessments and action plans which assist in the formulation of poverty reduction policies’, writes the Report for 1990—and the five nominalizations create a sort of simultaneity among a series of actions that are in fact quite distinct from each other. Providing social services (action one) which will assist (two) in formulating policies (three) to reduce poverty (four): doing this will take a very long time. But in the language of the Report, all these steps have contracted into a single policy, which seems to come into being all at once. It’s magic.

And then—the authors of Corpus Linguistics continue—in nominalizations, actions and processes are ‘separated from human participants’: cooperation, not states which cooperate with each other. ‘Pollution, soil erosion, land degradation, deforestation and deterioration of the urban environment’, mourns another recent Report, and the absence of social actors is striking. All these ominous trends—and no one is responsible? ‘Prioritization’ enters the Reports as debt crisis looms; meaning, quite simply, that not all creditors would be treated equally: some would be reimbursed right away, others later; some in full, and others not. Of course, the criteria according to which X would be treated differently from Y had been decided by someone. But prioritization concealed that. Why X and not Y? Because of prioritization. In front of the word, one can no longer see—one can no longer even imagine—a concrete subject engaged in a decision. ‘Rendition’: an American secret agency kidnaps foreign citizens to hand them over to another secret service, in another country, that will torture them. In ‘rendition’, it’s all gone. It’s magic.

—p.91 by Dominique Pestre, Franco Moretti 2 years, 3 months ago
92

[...] Nominalizations remained unusually frequent because they ‘worked’ in so many interconnected ways: they hid the subject of decisions, eliminated alternatives, endowed the chosen policy with a halo of high principle and prompt realization. Their abstraction was the perfect echo of a capital that was itself becoming more and more deterritorialized; their impossible ugliness—‘prioritization’: come on!—lent them a certain pedantic reliability; their ambiguity allowed for the endless small adjustments that keep the peace in the world order. And so, this mass of Latin words became a key ingredient of ‘how one talks about policy’. Specific semantic fields rise and fall with their referents [...]

an unexpectedly beautiful section on nominalization, of all things

—p.92 by Dominique Pestre, Franco Moretti 2 years, 3 months ago

[...] Nominalizations remained unusually frequent because they ‘worked’ in so many interconnected ways: they hid the subject of decisions, eliminated alternatives, endowed the chosen policy with a halo of high principle and prompt realization. Their abstraction was the perfect echo of a capital that was itself becoming more and more deterritorialized; their impossible ugliness—‘prioritization’: come on!—lent them a certain pedantic reliability; their ambiguity allowed for the endless small adjustments that keep the peace in the world order. And so, this mass of Latin words became a key ingredient of ‘how one talks about policy’. Specific semantic fields rise and fall with their referents [...]

an unexpectedly beautiful section on nominalization, of all things

—p.92 by Dominique Pestre, Franco Moretti 2 years, 3 months ago

a slogan refering to globalization popularised by Margaret Thatcher; means that the market economy is the only system that works, and that debate about this is over

92

It’s hard to believe, but the verb to disagree never appears in the Reports; disagreement, twice in seventy years. It’s the formula made famous by Margaret Thatcher: There Is No Alternative.

—p.92 by Dominique Pestre, Franco Moretti
notable
2 years, 3 months ago

It’s hard to believe, but the verb to disagree never appears in the Reports; disagreement, twice in seventy years. It’s the formula made famous by Margaret Thatcher: There Is No Alternative.

—p.92 by Dominique Pestre, Franco Moretti
notable
2 years, 3 months ago

(adj) relating to parataxis, a grammatical concept involving the placing of clauses or phrases one after another, without words to indicate coordination or subordination, as in "Tell me, how are you?"

94

But those ‘ands’ connect them just the same, despite the total absence of logic, and their paratactical crudity becomes almost a justification: we have so many important things to do, we can’t afford to be elegant yes, we must take care of our clients (we are, remember, a bank); but we also care about knowledge and partnership and sharing and poverty!

this is gold

—p.94 by Dominique Pestre, Franco Moretti
notable
2 years, 3 months ago

But those ‘ands’ connect them just the same, despite the total absence of logic, and their paratactical crudity becomes almost a justification: we have so many important things to do, we can’t afford to be elegant yes, we must take care of our clients (we are, remember, a bank); but we also care about knowledge and partnership and sharing and poverty!

this is gold

—p.94 by Dominique Pestre, Franco Moretti
notable
2 years, 3 months ago
99

[...] All extremely uplifting—and just as unfocused: because the function of gerunds consists in leaving an action’s completion undefined, thus depriving it of any definite contour. An infinitely expanding present emerges, where policies are always in progress, but also only in progress. Many promises, and very few facts. ‘Everything has to change, in order for everything to remain the same’, wrote Lampedusa in The Leopard; and the same happens here. All change, and no achievement. All change, and no future.

the last few lines of this paper. so good

—p.99 by Dominique Pestre, Franco Moretti 2 years, 3 months ago

[...] All extremely uplifting—and just as unfocused: because the function of gerunds consists in leaving an action’s completion undefined, thus depriving it of any definite contour. An infinitely expanding present emerges, where policies are always in progress, but also only in progress. Many promises, and very few facts. ‘Everything has to change, in order for everything to remain the same’, wrote Lampedusa in The Leopard; and the same happens here. All change, and no achievement. All change, and no future.

the last few lines of this paper. so good

—p.99 by Dominique Pestre, Franco Moretti 2 years, 3 months ago

(noun) a discourse or declamation full of bitter condemnation; tirade

99

We’ve heard so many philippics on ‘accountability’, in recent years, we would expect a landslide of past tenses in the Bank’s language; after all, accountability can only be assessed with reference to what has been done.

thought it meant some kind of person lol

—p.99 by Dominique Pestre, Franco Moretti
unknown
2 years, 3 months ago

We’ve heard so many philippics on ‘accountability’, in recent years, we would expect a landslide of past tenses in the Bank’s language; after all, accountability can only be assessed with reference to what has been done.

thought it meant some kind of person lol

—p.99 by Dominique Pestre, Franco Moretti
unknown
2 years, 3 months ago