Castro & Ólafsson in the project The Cost of Wealth
The Cost of Wealth
Brussels, 13 – 30 October 2015 | Curated by Florian Wüst
A series of film screenings, talks and lectures on economy, labour, financialization and the history and present state of European integration and EU politics.
20:30 | CINEMATEK, Baron Hortastraat 9, 1000 Brussels.
In presence of Castro & Ólafsson and Erik Wesselius, Corporate Europe Observatory
The 28 member states of the European Union are linked through numerous supranational institutions and a shared market. People, goods and services move freely. Social and cultural relations create a practical sense of community, whereas the external borders are increasingly fortified. However, aggravated by the current debt crisis of Greece and the ruthlessly imposed EU austerity, it seems less and less clear how the political system of the union may develop further; nationalist agitation against the “European Project” rises dramatically.
The concept of a united Europe doesn’t just sell itself. It never did. After World War II, great efforts were made to promote (West-) European integration as a means to reconstruct and modernize the ruined continent. Against the background of the deepening division of the world, this process was instigated, supported and controlled by the United States. Between 1948 and 1952 the European Recovery Program (ERP), known as the Marshall Plan, provided direct financial and material aid to those European countries that stood outside Soviet influence. Accompanied by an extensive information and propaganda campaign in which film played a significant role, the Marshall Plan employed a politics of productivity: industrial rationalisation, new management and marketing methods as well as international trade and open borders were advocated as prerequisites to wealth and freedom for all.
After the labour movements of the late 19th century had won the battles for the first social reforms and union representation, the “age of redistribution” (Pierre Rosanvallon) peaked in the 1950s and 60s. Human labour had become expensive and politically powerful. In response, capitalists looked for new and better profits. One option was to shift production to where cheap surplus labour was located, in the global South, another to invest in assets on the financial markets. With the introduction of flexible currency exchange rates and the deregulation of the movement of capital in the early 1970s, a whole different universe of money-making emerged. Money is exchanged for money and generates new money. By virtue of computerised trading, the speed of these financial transactions accelerated immeasurably.
All capital circulation is highly speculative and eludes purely rational comprehension: the stock exchange as a place of magic has been a perpetual topic of literature and cinema. But the financial crisis of 2008 showed once more that the effects of allegedly abstract economic processes concern the real lives of those who lost jobs and houses. The dominance of banks and corporate interest over governments and people is seen by many as a great threat to democracy.
The Cost of Wealth deals critically with the relationship between neoliberal economy and democracy against the background of the drawbacks and benefits of modern industrialization in the 20th and early 21st centuries. The series reflects on our ways to exploit resources, work for money, trade assets, obtain services, use mobile technologies, build borders, develop urban spaces, and privatize the commons. It also aims to discuss the potentials of political struggle and social resilience that challenge and possibly change dominant narratives and power structures for the sake of a better life for more than just a few – an idea at the center of the historical foundation of a united and solidary Europe.
The Cost of Wealth presents international historical and contemporary artistic, documentary, educational and promotional films as well as cinema classics to address some of the most urgent and complex issues of post-industrial Western society. The screenings, talks and lectures take place at CINEMATEK, deBuren and the 25th floor of the World Trade Center in Brussels.