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Let Them Eat Tech | Dissent Magazine
““Tech-for-all” campaigns build on a deep-seated tradition of modern liberals framing the problem of rural poverty in terms of the geographic and technological remoteness of rural areas. The famed Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) hydroelectric infrastructure project was one of the more notable accomplishments of New Deal liberalism, in no small part by virtue of its success in more fully integrating struggling rural communities into the national economy. Franklin Roosevelt and his brain trust believed that one of the main problems of “underdeveloped regions” in Appalachia and the broader South was their physical isolation from urban centers of capitalist production. Many New Deal architects, beginning with TVA chairman David Lilienthal, saw the project as a way of spurring economic growth by luring industry to rural places. During the early Cold War, growth-oriented liberals also funneled billions of dollars of research-and-development funds into previously overlooked areas, transforming cities like Atlanta and Charlotte and building the modern Sunbelt in the process.

Nevertheless, by the 1960s, rural areas across the South began experiencing new waves of economic uncertainty. Decades of agricultural modernization resulted in fewer rural workers being supported in farming occupations, which led to an increase in outmigration to cities, where there were more job opportunities. State leaders from both political parties responded by implementing a model of economic development that came to be known as “smokestack chasing”: using public subsidies and the promises of a low-wage and non-unionized workforce to recruit manufacturers to rural communities. This approach produced a surge in one-company towns and cities throughout the rural South—places like Arkadelphia, Arkansas, and Rocky Mount, North Carolina—which generated jobs and provided momentary economic stability. But by the late 1970s, those companies were finding even cheaper labor outside the United States, and rural towns began to undergo debilitating rounds of deindustrialization and capital flight.

A new generation of Democratic Party politicians burst onto the national scene at the height of this crisis. These “New Democrats” or “Atari Democrats” went to great lengths to distance themselves from the party’s traditional associations with the industrial manufacturing sector and its powerful labor unions, shifting their focus to relentless high-tech growth instead. Many of them hailed from Southern or Midwestern states with large rural populations that were experiencing the devastating effects of rural disinvestment, including James Blanchard (Michigan), Al Gore (Tennessee), James Hunt (North Carolina), Charles Robb (Virginia)—and, of course, Arkansas’s Bill Clinton. Their vision for how respond to the coordinated crises of deindustrialization and the decline of the agricultural sector offered a clear departure from the recent past; as Clinton boldly announced to Forbes in 1979, his first year as governor, “smokestack chasing doesn’t work.” Instead, Clinton and the other Atari Democrats looked to the success of Silicon Valley and Route 128 outside of Boston, which had recently become bastions of tech-focused industrial activity.

The New Democrats who served as governors pursued strategies that fostered collaboration between government and business, touting public-private partnerships with the high-tech sector (which had already developed a reputation for being anti-union) as the best way to help struggling communities in their states generate economic activity. The Southern New Democratic governors were members of the Southern Growth Policies Board, a state-funded research agency and policy shop focused on creating new development plans for the region. In the early 1980s, the board began laying out plans to incubate tech startups throughout the region—both in already-established local markets, like North Carolina’s Research Triangle, and in previously untapped rural areas. Clinton oversaw the creation of the Board’s Southern Technology Council, which promoted the more efficient transfer of knowledge and research between academia and industry. Tennessee Senator Al Gore, meanwhile, spearheaded the passage of a series of laws that turned the research networks controlled by the National Science Foundation over to the commercial sphere, so that both public and private sources could fund and benefit from its growth.

Clinton and Gore’s shared Southern roots, and their shared commitment to a new technology agenda, became key pillars of their successful bid for the White House in 1992. In stump speeches throughout the country, they discussed the power of technology to connect people and transcend not just partisan but also rural and urban divisions. They pledged to create a “door-to-door information network to link every home, business, lab, classroom, and library by the year 2015.” In a ceremony held in Silicon Valley during the first days of their administration, Clinton and Gore unveiled a new initiative called “Technology for America’s Economic Growth,” which affirmed that “accelerating the introduction of an efficient, high-speed communications system can have the same effect on U.S. economic and social development as public investment in the railroads in the 19th century.” They requested expanded public funding for research and development work and called on the federal agencies and Congress to eliminate regulations that hindered the private sector from investing in such a network.

These efforts culminated in the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the most sweeping overhaul to U.S. communications policy since 1934. The act deregulated all segments of the industry, premised on the idea that a more competitive marketplace would help to make phone, cable, and internet service cheaper and more readily available. Taken together, these policies put into action the Democratic neoliberal faith that fueling the growth of the tech sector offered not only the clearest route to ongoing economic prosperity but also the surest means of providing a key social service.”
newdeal  neoliberalism  billclinton  hillaryclinton  rural  technology  politics  digitaldivide  broadband  broadbandforall  internet  utilities  development  ruraldevelopment  2019  lilygeismer  tennesseevalleyauthroity  algore  ataridemocrats  democrats  ronaldreagan  liberalism  fdr  franklindelanoroosevelt  appalachia  davidlilenthal  south  us  newdemocrats  jamesblanchard  jameshunt  charlesrobb  virginia  tennessee  northcarolina  michigan  arkansas  siliconvalley  technosolutionsism  capitalism  public-privatepartnerships  economics  growth  telecommunications  whiteville  hillbillyelegy  jdnance  amyklobuchar  betoo’rourke  berniesanders  elizabethwarren  california  newyork  centrism  thirdway  antipoverty  poverty  comcast  finland  switzerland  spain  españa  publicoption  publicgood  kentucky  texas  southdakota 
5 days ago by robertogreco
Welcome to the Bullshit Economy - The American Prospect
"The Iowa caucus disaster is a function of a broken economic structure that rewards con artistry over competence."
economics  us  conartists  waste  experts  meritocracy  insiders  2020  iowa  money  politics  inequality  bullshitjobs  grifters  daviddayen  elections 
10 days ago by robertogreco
The Anonymous Companies That Buy Up Homes | KQED News
“Even if you can afford to buy a home in the Bay Area, you might get outbid by an anonymous shell company paying cash. Over the years, more American homes have been bought up by these companies, with fewer and fewer homes being owned by individuals and families.

And on top of that, we don’t even know who owns all of these properties. But the U.S. Treasury Department does - and the folks at Reveal are suing for that information.

Guest: Aaron Glantz, senior reporter at Reveal and author of the book “Homewreckers.” Check out more on Reveal’s ongoing lawsuit here.

We’re doing meetups in all nine Bay Area counties this year! Our first one is in Vallejo. Come hang out with us at Mare Island Brewing tap room near the ferry building on Friday, Feb. 7 between 5-7 p.m.

Interview Highlights

KQED’s Devin Katayama: First off, tell me why we’re standing in front of this house on Delano Avenue [in San Francisco's Balboa Park neighborhood].

Aaron Glantz: We’re standing in front of this house at 66 Delano Avenue because it’s one of many, many homes all across the country that have been bought up by shell companies where we don’t really know who the owner is.

If you look around and you wonder, why can’t I buy this house? Why can’t I buy any house? A lot of the time it’s because it’s been bought by a shell company.

A distant landlord owning a building like this instead of somebody who lives in it means that the building can sit empty, boarded up with a fence around it and get no attention for a long time, because Mr. LLC doesn’t walk up and down this block and see this burnt out building every day.

Is this pretty common? For houses owned by shell companies to just be sitting empty?

Well, I mean, this is one of the things that we don’t have a good understanding of. There are a lot of theories about who is buying up our real estate. Are we talking about Silicon Valley techies? Are we talking about international money from China and Russia? You know, are we talking about Airbnb? Are we talking about people just parking their money? We don’t really know. There’s a lot of unanswered questions. And that’s why Reveal has gone to court, suing the Treasury Department to get answers to some of those questions.

What’s the benefit of creating a shell company to own all these homes?

Well, the statute creating shell companies was created many years ago, and was actually created to help an oil company in the Rockies that had oil rigs in Central America. And it wanted to limit its liability in the case that something happened on those oil facilities in Panama.

So, LLC stands for limited liability company. They wanted to distance their liability for whatever happened in Panama to the company back in the Rockies. Over the years, however, this has been used by real estate moguls to amass property and hide the true source of their money from the public.

You have speculators like Wedgewood, right? You have bigger real estate investment trusts like the ones I spotlight in “Homewreckers,” run by Tom Barrack and Steve Schwarzman and these big private equity funds. You have international investors parking their money. You have mom and pop landlords that would just prefer to operate behind a limited liability corporation.

What we don’t know is the proportion of all of these against each other, and who the most significant actors are. This basic transparency exists in countries all over the world. In Russia, in Ukraine, in Argentina, in Israel, you can go online and see who the money is behind anything, any beneficial owner of real estate. In America, we can’t.

How can we make smart policy about issues of homeownership and wealth in America, about housing and homelessness in America, if we don’t even know who’s buying up the buildings?

The Treasury Department has been asking for information about these beneficial owners. Then, when we - Reveal - asked for that same information from the Treasury Department using the Freedom of Information Act, they said no, they won’t give it to us. So that’s why we sued them.

And what we’re saying to the Treasury Department is look, if you want to redact individuals, Social Security Numbers or other legitimately private information - absolutely. But you cannot hide everything from the public.

You have to share the answer to this very basic question: Who’s the money behind this house that we’re standing in front of? And all of the other homes, millions of them around the country that are being bought up by shell companies?”
housing  2020  finance  homes  economics  anonymity  moms4housing  commoditization  aaronglantz  vallejo  sanfrancisco  legal  law  airbnb  wedgewood  tombarrack  steveschwarzman  russia  ukraine  argentina  israel  us  fincen 
5 weeks ago by robertogreco
Unmasking the secret landlords buying up America | Reveal
“America’s cities are being bought up, bit by bit, by anonymous shell companies using piles of cash. Modest single-family homes, owned for generations by families, now are held by corporate vehicles with names that appear to be little more than jumbles of letters and punctuation”

“All-cash transactions have come to account for a quarter of all residential real estate purchases, “totaling hundreds of billions of dollars nationwide,” the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network–the financial crimes unit of the federal Treasury Department, also known as FinCEN”

“The Census Bureau reports that nearly 3 million U.S. homes and 13 million apartment units are owned by LLC, LLP, LP or shell companies – levels of anonymous ownership not seen in American history.”

“The proportion of residential rental properties owned by individuals and families has fallen from 92% in 1991 to 74% in 2015.

The lack of transparency not only represents an opportunity for money laundering, but it also has more prosaic implications.”

“With anonymity comes impunity, and, for vulnerable tenants, skyrocketing numbers of evictions. It wasn’t until reporters… began to investigate… that residents living in hundreds of properties across the South learned that they shared a secret landlord… Sean Hannity.”

“Historically, in the US, the true owners of residential real estate properties have been publicly available through county recorders offices. However, for more than a decade, the proliferation of all-cash buys by shell companies has begun to obliterate that transparency.”

“Countries around the world have addressed this problem head on. … In the US, we’re on no such path to disclosure. A bipartisan anti-money-laundering bill, which passed the House in October, would require banks to systematically disclose the true owners of shell companies to FinCEN but would keep the public in the dark, stripping out all “personally identifiable information,” including anything “that would allow for the identification of a particular corporation or limited liability company.””
economics  finance  housing  2019  anonymity  ownership  homeownership  homes  impunity  legal  law  seanhannity  fincen  evictions  moneylaundering  property  argentina  australia  israel  jamaica  netherlands  russia  ukraine  aaronglantz 
5 weeks ago by robertogreco
SB50 Could Make California Livable Again - The Atlantic
“You’ve probably never heard of the most economically transformative legislation of the Trump era. Granted, it has not yet passed and it might not pass. If it does, it would affect a large portion of Americans, but hardly all of them, unlike the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. And its potential effects are hotly contested by policy advocates, politicians, and economists.

Still, California Senate Bill 50, winding its way through the state legislature again this month, could generate tens of thousands of new jobs and billions of dollars of new investment, reshaping the geography of the biggest state and solving a large chunk of the cost-of-living crisis the Trump administration has assiduously avoided addressing by, essentially, forcing California communities to allow more construction.

It, or some version of it, desperately needs to pass. California has a hyperacute version of a problem affecting a number of states and, especially, metro regions within those states. Based on the housing-unit-to-population ratio in similarly wealthy and urban states, such as New York and New Jersey, California is short 2 million to 3.5 million housing units. (California has 358 homes per 1,000 people, whereas New York and New Jersey each have more than 400.) Right now, the state ranks 49th in units per capita, behind only Utah.

This deficiency has driven a cost-of-living crisis, leading to long commutes, desolate retail corridors, plunging net worths, bankruptcies, and shortages of child care, elder care, and other services. The average home in California sells for more than $600,000—far out of reach for many families. In San Francisco, the average sales price is $1.6 million. Spiking rents and hefty mortgage payments have worsened the state’s inequality, dimmed the economic prospects of millions and millions of families, and fueled the growth of the state’s homeless or housing-insecure population. There are 130,000 people experiencing homelessness on any given day in California, despite the state’s strong economic growth.

Any number of trends have collided to foster the housing shortage: surging income and wealth inequality, in-migration, growing construction costs. But in policy terms, there is one central culprit: zoning regulations, including local oversight rules. Neighborhoods have the ability to kibosh too many projects, and zoning rules favor sprawl over infill housing.

S.B. 50 would override local restrictions on building, letting developers create more housing and denser housing near train stations and high-frequency bus stops. Homeowners would be able to build accessory dwelling units or casitas; companies would be able to build small apartment complexes. The bill stalled in the California legislature last year. But earlier this month State Senator Scott Wiener announced changes that would give localities more flexibility in implementing the law, provided that they allow as much construction as S.B. 50 itself would allow, and would ensure that low-income residents get access to the new housing.

The bill is a technical one, steeped in arcana on parking requirements, height limits, and bus frequencies. But it would be a transformative one, both its detractors and its supporters agree. It would effectively disallow single-family zoning in many neighborhoods. It would force wealthy suburbs to permit the construction of apartment buildings and duplexes. And it would reorient the state’s growth away from sprawl toward infill. Housing would get more plentiful, and thus cheaper.

Its detractors sit in two camps. Tenants-rights groups and low-income-housing advocates argue that S.B. 50 would not do enough to create housing for the poor, and might supercharge displacement in neighborhoods where even high-income residents are seeing themselves priced out. “Incentivizing more luxury development and inflating property values in San Francisco will further exacerbate real estate speculation, which has already played a key role in displacing low and moderate-income tenants, immigrants, seniors and families across California,” argues the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco, which advocates for tenants.

Then there are the NIMBYs, who argue that S.B. 50 will destroy neighborhoods’ homegrown character, hurt home values, and harm the environment: Goodbye to green, single-family neighborhoods, and hello to traffic-gnarled, high-rise apartments. Livable California, for example, is warning that the legislation will turn “thousands of streets into free-for-alls where cities have NO planning powers.”

But S.B. 50 would not suddenly convert single-family neighborhoods into high-rise condo villages; it would merely stop some rich neighborhoods from disallowing multifamily housing. More to the point, it would stop neighborhoods from casting themselves in amber, preventing new building and forcing younger, poorer families to urban peripheries. As for the concerns about low-income housing and gentrification—they are fair. But California cannot fix its housing crisis without much, much, much more building, and fast.

If the bill passes, California would become denser, cheaper, greener, and more affordable—a state less centered on car culture, and more centered on walkable neighborhoods; less responsive to the aesthetic complaints of longtime property owners, more responsive to the needs of young families. The central economic crisis of the Trump years—high inequality, a shrinking middle class, and an excruciatingly high cost of living—would become less daunting. And California would be a lesson to other states whose residents are facing jumping rents and long commutes.”
housing  california  2020  sb50  annielowrey  law  density  scottweiner  sanfrancisco  losangeles  zoning  nimbyism  yimbyism  development  cities  urban  urbanism  publictransit  inequality  wealth  economics 
5 weeks ago by robertogreco
A Decade of Liberal Delusion and Failure | The New Republic
"The Democrats’ fecklessness, in other words, did not flourish in a partisan vacuum. It has been, at every juncture, inspired and influenced by the complete failure of the right to self-police. The American right, like the housing market and the banks and the hedge funds and the health insurers and providers, simply could not be induced to check its basest instincts in the face of an opponent that staked its entire political credibility on the promise that it could make Republicans fall in line with realigned incentives or One Weird Trick. If liberals want to get the next decade right, after the previous one in which we repeatedly failed to save the world while telling ourselves we were doing so, we will need to stop nudging and begin fighting."
2019  liberalism  barackobama  hillaryclinton  donaldtrump  technocrats  alexpareene  policy  government  us  afghanistan  jonmeacham  economics  inequality  socialism  greatrecession  noamscheiber  franklinfoer  georgewbush  johnjudis  2009  newdeal  fdr  austangoolsbee  timothygeithner  affordablecareact  obamacare  healthcare  medicaid  democrats  republicans  suzannemettler  governance  medicare  socialsecurity  ashleyford  glennbeck  tuckercarlson  seanhannity  howardkurtz  michellegoldberg  alexjones  michellemalkin  ronpaul 
6 weeks ago by robertogreco
The Collapse of Neoliberalism | The New Republic
"We should not be surprised by these dynamics. The arc of neoliberalism followed a pattern common in history. In the first stage, neoliberalism gained traction in response to the crises of the 1970s. It is easy to think of Thatcherism and Reaganism as emerging fully formed, springing from Zeus’s head like the goddess Athena. But it is worth remembering that Thatcher occasionally pulled her punches. Rhetorically, she would champion the causes of the right wing. But practically, her policies would often fall short of the grand vision. For example, she refused to allow any attempt to privatize the Royal Mail and the railways. She even preferred to use the word denationalization to privatization, thinking the latter unpatriotic and far too radical. The central problem, as she noted in her memoirs, was that “there was a revolution still to be made, but too few revolutionaries.”

A similar story can be told of Ronald Reagan. Partly because he faced a Democratic House of Representatives, conservative radicals were occasionally disappointed with the extent to which the Reagan administration pushed its goals. Under Ronald Reagan, William Niskanen writes, “no major federal programs … and no agencies were abolished.” The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was created during the Reagan administration, and President Reagan signed a variety of environmental laws. Early leaders were not as ideologically bold as later mythmakers think.

In the second stage, neoliberalism became normalized. It persisted beyond the founding personalities—and, partly because of its longevity in power, grew so dominant that the other side adopted it. Thus, when the Tories ousted Thatcher and replaced her with John Major, they unwittingly made Thatcherism possible. Major wanted to offer Britain “Thatcherism with a human face,” and he set himself to smoothing out the rough edges. The result was to consolidate and advance the neoliberal project in Britain. When Major was elected in his own right, in 1992, he got more votes than Thatcher ever had—and more than Tony Blair received in 1997. As Major himself noted, “1992 killed socialism in Britain.… Our win meant that between 1992 and 1997 Labour had to change.”

The American story is similar. Reagan passed the torch to George H.W. Bush. Although Bush was not from Reagan’s political camp within the Republican Party (he had challenged Reagan for the presidency in 1980 and was viewed with skepticism by the true believers), Bush moved to embrace Reaganism in his campaign commitments. At the same time, with the losses of Carter in 1980, Walter Mondale in 1984, and Michael Dukakis in 1988, Democrats began to think they had to embrace neoliberalism as a path out of the political wilderness.

Eventually, however, the neoliberal ideology extended its tentacles into every area of policy and even social life, and in its third stage, overextended. The result in economic policy was the Great Crash of 2008, economic stagnation, and inequality at century-high levels. In foreign policy, it was the disastrous Iraq War and ongoing chaos and uncertainty in the Middle East.

The fourth and final stage is collapse, irrelevance, and a wandering search for the future. With the world in crisis, neoliberalism no longer has even plausible solutions to today’s problems. As an answer to the problems of deregulation, privatization, liberalization, and austerity, it offers more of the same or, at best, incremental and technocratic “nudges.” The solutions of the neoliberal era offer no serious ideas for how to confront the collapse of the middle class and the spread of widespread economic insecurity. The solutions of the neoliberal era offer no serious ideas for how to address the corruption of politics and the influence of moneyed interests in every aspect of civic life—from news media to education to politics and regulation. The solutions of the neoliberal era offer no serious ideas for how to restitch the fraying social fabric, in which people are increasingly tribal, divided, and disconnected from civic community. And the solutions of the neoliberal era offer no serious ideas for how to confront the fusion of oligarchic capitalism and nationalist authoritarianism that has now captured major governments around the world—and that seeks to invade and undermine democracy from within.

In 1982, as the neoliberal curtain was rising, Colorado Governor Richard Lamm remarked that “the cutting edge of the Democratic Party is to recognize that the world of the 1930s has changed and that a new set of public policy responses is appropriate.” Today, people around the world have recognized that the world of the 1980s has changed and that it is time for a new approach to politics. The central question of our time is what comes next."
neoliberalism  economics  government  policy  failure  politics  2019  ganeshsitaraman  greatrecession  finance  alangreenspan  barackobama  josephstiglitz  capitalism  latecapitalism  imf  coldwar  monetarypolicy  banking  competition  inequality  monopolies  us  margaretthatcher  society  class  privatization  ronaldreagan  ideology  technocrats  reaganism  thatcherism  denationalization  georgehwbush  jimmycarter  waltermondale  michaeldikakis  2008  crisis  richardlamm  1982 
6 weeks ago by robertogreco
The Obama legacy is not what many liberals think
“Obama’s illegal refusal to prosecute Bush-era torturers is not mentioned either in Audacity, nor his illegal justification for their crimes. Neither is his decision to back the CIA to the hilt in its bureaucratic trench fight with the Senate Intelligence Committee over suppressing the Senate torture report — recently dramatized in the film The Report.

Centrists like Chait have long pushed the idea that Obama’s style of finance-friendly moderation, which dominated the Democratic Party from the 1970s through 2016, is the best possible political stance. The idea that Obama might have been handed a golden opportunity to restore American institutions and bungled it in a doomed attempt to preserve the status quo is not an attractive one for them. So perhaps easier to just not mention the above parade of gruesome failure when boosting up such a “legacy.””
barackobama  legacy  2019  ryancooper  jonathanchait  centrism  democrats  greatrecession  billdupor  recoveryact  michaelgrunwald  fdr  ryangrim  georgewbush  larrysummers  christinaromer  economics  economy  policy  politics  2008  2009  2016  donaldtrump  carolynsissoko  timothygeithner 
6 weeks ago by robertogreco
The empty promises of Marie Kondo and the craze for minimalism | Life and style | The Guardian
“From the ‘KonMari method’ to Apple’s barely-there design philosophy, we are forever being urged to declutter and simplify our lives. But does minimalism really make us any happier? By Kyle Chayka”



“The most famous proponent of minimalism – or at least minimalism as a lifehack – was probably Steve Jobs. In a famous photograph from 1982, Jobs sits on the floor of his living room. He was in his late 20s at the time, and Apple was making $1bn a year. He had just bought a large house in Los Gatos, California, but he kept it totally empty. In Diana Walker’s photo, he is seen cross-legged on a single square of carpet, holding a mug, wearing a simple dark sweater and jeans – his prototypical uniform. A tall lamp by his side casts a perfect circle of light. “This was a very typical time,” Jobs later remembered. “All you needed was a cup of tea, a light and your stereo, you know, and that’s what I had.” Not for him, the usual displays of wealth or status. In the photo he looks content.

Yet the image of simplicity is deceptive. The house Jobs bought was huge for a young, single man with no use for that excess space. Wired magazine later discovered that the stereo setup resting in the corner would have cost $8,200. The lone lamp that illuminates the scene was made by Tiffany. It was a valuable antique, not a utilitarian tool.

Not only is simplicity often less simple than it looks, it can also be much less practical than it seems. People often conflate the phrase “form follows function” – the idea that the external appearance of an object or building should reflect the way that it works – with the self-conscious appearance of minimalism, as in Jobs’s house or the design of Apple’s iPhone. But Jobs’s empty living room was not particularly usable. Instead of the mantra that “form follows function”, Jobs echoes a slogan that could be glimpsed not long ago in one upscale New York shop front: “Fewer, better.” Possess the best things and only the best things, if only you can afford them. It was better to go without a couch than buy one that wasn’t perfect. That commitment to taste might be rarified, but it probably did not endear Jobs to his family, who might have preferred a place to sit.

Apple devices have gradually simplified in appearance over time under designer Jony Ive, who joined the company in 1992, which is why they are so synonymous with minimalism. By 2002, the Apple desktop computer had evolved into a thin, flat screen mounted on an arm connected to a rounded base. Then, into the 2010s, the screen flattened even more and the base vanished until all that was left were two intersecting lines, one with a right angle for the base and another, straight, for the screen. It sometimes seems, as our machines become infinitely thinner and wider, that we will eventually control them by thought alone, because touch would be too dirty, too analogue.

Does this all really constitute simplicity? Apple devices have only a few visual qualities. But it is also an illusion of efficiency. The company strives to make its phones thinner and removes ports – see headphone jacks – any chance it gets. The iPhone’s function depends on an enormous, complex, ugly superstructure of satellites and undersea cables that certainly are not designed in pristine whiteness. Minimalist design encourages us to forget everything a product relies on and imagine, in this case, that the internet consists of carefully shaped glass and steel alone.

The contrast between simple form and complex consequences brings to mind what the British writer Daisy Hildyard called “the second body” in her 2017 book of the same name. The phrase describes the alienated presence that we feel when we are aware of both our individual physical bodies and our collective causation of environmental damage and climate change. While we calmly walk down the street, watch a film or go food shopping, we are also the source of pollution drifting across the Pacific or a tsunami in Indonesia. The second body is the source of an unplaceable anxiety: the problems are undeniably our fault, even though it feels as if we cannot do anything about them because of the sheer difference in scale.

Similarly, we might be able to hold the iPhone in our hands, but we should also be aware that the network of its consequences is vast: server farms absorbing massive amounts of electricity, Chinese factories where workers die by suicide, devastated mud pit mines that produce tin. It is easy to feel like a minimalist when you can order food, summon a car or rent a room using a single brick of steel and silicon. But in reality, it is the opposite. We are taking advantage of a maximalist assemblage. Just because something looks simple does not mean it is; the aesthetics of simplicity cloak artifice, or even unsustainable excess.

This slickness is part of minimalism’s marketing pitch. According to one survey in a magazine called Minimalissimo, you can now buy minimalist coffee tables, water carafes, headphones, sneakers, wristwatches, speakers, scissors and bookends, each in the same monochromatic, severe style familiar from Instagram, and often with pricetags in the hundreds, if not thousands. What they all seem to offer is a kind of mythical just-rightness, the promise that if you just consume this one perfect thing, then you won’t need to buy anything else in the future – at least until the old thing is upgraded and some new level of possible perfection is found.”
kyleshayka  minimalism  2020  life  living  materialism  consumerism  maximalism  climatechange  environment  infrastructure  apple  mariekondo  stevejobs  cleanliness  clutter  happiness  konmarimethod  austerity  freedom  distraction  attention  economics  joshuabecker  courneycarver  2008  2011  capitalism  therapy  simplicity  society  civilization  excess  comodification  possessions  stuff  haording  joshuafieldsmillburn  ryannicodemus  2010  2017  ownership  mobility  lifestyle  marketing  perfection  disposability  design  jonyive  form  function  formfollowsfunction  efficiency  daisyhildyard  shopping  instagram  aesthetics  asceticism 
7 weeks ago by robertogreco
Anand Giridharadas on Twitter: "My theory of beating Trump. Run a true progressive. And sell their policies in a way too few progressives do — in the languages of patriotism and personal transformation. Show people your way is the American way. And your
"The languages of justice and corruption are powerful. They’re the ones I speak in much of the time.

But I think we sometimes forget that America will be more fun, more thrilling, more joyous, full of better marriages and better holidays and better youths if these ideas succeed.

Progressive candidates can do better at helping people picture their lives on the other side of the mountain of change.

What will your marriage be like when you’re not stressed by debt and healthcare?

What books will you read to your kids when you’re not working three jobs?

Personal transformation is a powerful American vernacular. Except it’s about what you can do alone, as a self.

What I’m suggesting is that progressives co-opt this language but for grand public policy.

Sell health and education and tax policy as the real enablers of a new you.

And patriotism.

Don’t let the incrementalists and the defenders of ruthless corporations own the flag.

Taking care of each other is the American thing. Learning is the American thing. Paying your fair share is the American thing.

Root this fight in the language of country.

I don’t hear enough of these things.

I was born in Ohio. I went to college in Michigan. I now live in New York.

I believe these policies would benefit people in all these places. But some languages work better than others in the heartland.

Languages that are true to the facts.

At the end of the day, the country progressives want to build will be a more fun country to live in. That truth gets lost in the very worthy talk of oligarchy, corruption, and billionaires. I’m guilty of this, too.

We have to help people visualize the new America — and new them.

So that’s one guy’s take on how to defeat Trump while defeating what enabled Trump, while being mindful that doing so requires speaking to people who are non-native speakers of the language of social justice.

Check out the rest of my chat with @MMFlint: https://anchor.fm/rumble-with-michael-moore "
justice  corruption  anandgiridharadas  politics  progressive  progressivism  elections  2020  2019  patriotism  society  solidarity  personaltransformation  healthcare  inequality  medicine  change  debt  education  highered  highereducation  taxes  policy  centrism  incrementalism  corporatism  care  caring  us  economics  relationships  language  messaging  oligarchy  socialjustice  transformation  elizabethwarren  berniesanders  michaelmoore 
7 weeks ago by robertogreco
Ep. 9: Please Let Me Rob You, I'm Woke (feat. Anand Giridharadas) from RUMBLE with MICHAEL MOORE on RadioPublic
[also available here:

https://anchor.fm/rumble-with-michael-moore/episodes/Ep–9-Please-Let-Me-Rob-You–Im-Woke-feat–Anand-Giridharadas-e9s5iu/a-a182c6l
https://open.spotify.com/episode/3j3jewq1yxOQ5eQpE5GdtJ
https://overcast.fm/+V18Uxlflk ]

“While the majority of Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck and one emergency away from financial peril, a new study shows that the 500 richest people in the world gained a combined $1.2 trillion in wealth in 2019. In the U.S., the richest 0.1% now control a bigger share of the pie than at any time since the beginning of the Great Depression.

But what happens when the very people hoarding this wealth at the expense of democracy, the environment and an equitable society, re-brand themselves as the people who will fix society’s problems? What happens when the arsonists pose as the firefighters?

Anand Giridharadas has been studying these questions and he joins Michael Moore to name names and discuss what to do about it.

Rumble Reads:

Anand’s book, “Winners Take All” is here:

https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/539747/winners-take-all-by-anand-giridharadas/9780451493248

Follow Anand here:

https://twitter.com/AnandWrites

The Jamie Dimon “60 Minutes” episode that Michael and Anand ridicule is here:

https://www.cbsnews.com/video/jamie-dimon-jp-morgan-chase-ceo-the-60-minutes-interview-2019-11-10/

The new survey about the wealthiest people in the world is here :

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-12-27/world-s-richest-gain-1-2-trillion-as-kylie-baby-sharks-prosper
anandgiridharadas  michaelmoore  inequality  winnerstakeall  winwin  2019  us  wealth  power  economics  society  war  polarization  internet  work  labor  democracy  capitalism  abuse  proximity  barackobama  lloydblankfein  democrats  markzuckerberg  jeffbezos  billgates  politics  policy  wapo  washingtonpost  class  republicans  corporations  taxes  profits  mikepence  elections  corruption  finance  financialization  profiteering  banks  banking  investment  stockmarket  michaelbloomberg  liberals  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  philanthropy  charitableindustrialcomplex  charity  oligarchy  plutocracy  kleptocracy  healthcare  cities  problemsolving  culture  elitism  climatechange  reputationlaundering  reputation  business  neoliberalism  wokemanickypercapitalism  latecapitalism  poverty  walmart  healthinsurance  pharmaceuticals  wendellpotter  change  profiteers  berniesanders  2020  fun  debt  education  highered  highereducation 
7 weeks ago by robertogreco
How Slavery Shaped American Capitalism
"The problem is that the causal channels identified by Desmond don’t really explain the low road on which American capitalism undoubtedly runs. What do the monetary flows between the antebellum North and South, or the technologies developed on slave plantations, have to do with America’s low levels of social protection today? In the end Desmond’s argument comes down to the diffusion and persistence of what he calls (quoting Joshua Rothman) a “culture of speculation unique in its abandon.”

Leaving aside the question of how unique that culture actually was (the 1929 and 2007 financial crises that Desmond attributes to it were after all global crises), it remains a mystery how this culture persisted so long after the abolition of the institution which supposedly gave rise to it. Desmond’s language reflects the murky, even ghostly, character of that persistence: he points to “eerie” analogies between past and present; slavery is described in religious terms as a “national sin” that is “visited upon” later generations; and of course we get that most modern, and most American, of all metaphors for mysterious lineage: “slavery is necessarily imprinted on the DNA of American capitalism.”

But in truth there need be no mystery. For there are straightforward ways that slavery clearly influenced the development of American capitalism — ways that don’t require us to pad the numbers or believe in ghosts. The first and most obvious one is the legacy of anti-black racism that is powerfully described in other contributors to the 1619 Project. That legacy undoubtedly divided the American labor movement, weakened progressive political alliances, and undermined the provision of public goods (see for instance the excellent pieces by Kevin Kruse and Jeneen Interlandi in the same issue of the New York Times Magazine).

There is also a lesser-known but equally clear and durable influence of slavery evidenced in the work of legal and institutional historians that Desmond neglects, such as David Waldstreicher and Robin Einhorn. These historians point out that a major effect of slavery on US economic development came through its foundational influence on America’s legal and political institutions.

One of the central problems faced by delegates to the Constitutional Convention in 1787 was how to create a common legal and political framework that would unite the slave states of the South with Northern states that were then in the process of abolishing slavery. The slave states were concerned that a strong federal government dominated by Northerners might tax their slaves or even abolish slavery.

The solution the delegates found was two-fold. On the one hand they ensured that the South was disproportionately represented at the federal level through the three-fifths clause. On the other hand, they reserved the bulk of fiscal and economic policymaking to the states themselves. Thus the constitution effectively restricted federal taxing and regulatory power to international and interstate commerce.

But even here slavery shaped the way that power would be used. Slave states were concerned about federal power to tax slave imports and slave-produced exports, but they also wanted the federal government to enforce their property claims when it came to fugitive slaves who might flee to the free states. The result was a restriction on the federal government’s taxing power (banning export taxes and limiting taxes on slave imports) and a strengthening of its power (vis a vis the states) to enforce property claims in the “fugitive slave clause.”

This division of federal and state power over slave property is not just manifest in now-dormant articles of the constitution dealing with slavery. It imbues all parts of the constitution and arguably lent to the American state system its distinctive form, which combines strong property protections with weak regulatory and fiscal powers (the introduction of a federal income tax in 1913 required a constitutional amendment).

Apologists for this system call it “competitive federalism.” The fugitive slave act and the commerce clause restricted the domestic power of the federal government — the most powerful entity in the state system — to protecting large merchants and enforcing property claims across state lines, i.e., ensuring the mobility of capital. Its powers to tax, spend, and interfere with the interests of the wealthy (e.g., through regulating banks or providing debt relief) were explicitly curtailed. Even the legal scholar Richard Epstein, a libertarian champion of competitive federalism, acknowledges that “it’s quite clear that the cause of limited government was advanced by the institution of slavery.”

In principle the states were left to regulate and tax as they liked, but their practical ability to do so was constrained by federally mandated capital mobility. This created a fiscal and regulatory race to the bottom, as the wealthy could force relatively weak state legislatures to compete for their investments — just as city and state governments prostrate themselves before Amazon and Boeing today. The infamous Dred Scott case was itself a matter of the federal judiciary protecting capital mobility (in that case the right of slave-owners to move through the territories with their slaves) and Robin Einhorn points out that the same principle was at work in later judicial interpretations of the Fourteenth Amendment that allowed federal courts to strike down state-level labor regulations.

Einhorn’s point is not that the framers were all proslavery (they were not) nor that they intended to produce a capitalist paradise of unfettered accumulation. Her point is that in making certain concessions to the slave-owners the framers unintentionally generated those conditions. Slave-owners were particularly afraid of allowing democratic control over property because they were literally afraid of their property. They were haunted by the threat of slave insurrections, as well as foreign armies turning their slaves into enemy soldiers through offers of freedom (as the British had recently done). Einhorn concludes that “if property rights have enjoyed unusual sanctity in the United States, it may be because this nation was founded in a political situation in which the owners of one very significant form of property thought their holdings were insecure.”

The resulting balance of strong property protections and weak regulatory and taxing power may or may not have been conducive to economic growth (that’s for economic historians to figure out). But there is no doubt that it helped shift American capitalism onto the low road. In addition to the profound effect of slavery on America’s enduring racial inequality, slavery’s legacy for American capitalism may thus be found more in the structural constraints on US politics than in its direct contributions to the nineteenth-century American economy."
capitalism  history  slavery  us  2019  1619project  johnclegg  nytimes  matthewdesmond  civilwar  constitution  law  economics  race  racism  labor  work  unions  organizing  division  kevinkruse  jeneeninterlandi  davidwaldstricher  robineinhorn  politics  policy  commerce  taxes  taxation  fugitiveslaveact  capitalmobility  fourteenthamendment  abolition  propertyrights  property 
8 weeks ago by robertogreco
Alec Resnick on Twitter: “OK, via prompt by @vgr, 1 like = 1 opinion about unschooling”
“1. Unschooling’s greatest mistake was situating itself in the negative space of school. It doesn’t have a coherent position on what learning is.

2. Because unschooling is reacting to school’s coercive structures, it has developed an overly naturalistic view of learning that’s about “getting out of the way” which idealizes youth, learning, and often glosses over the complexities of actually learning and working.

3. The future of unschooling is much more likely to be invented in the world of work than the world of school or unschooling. And it probably won’t even be named as education per se for much of its infancy.

4. Mostly we talk about “learning” only to make sense of either (a) doing something inauthentic, or (b) being a novice. At some point, you stop “learning” the guitar and start just getting better. The most radical perspectives abandon treating learning as a distinct activity.

5. The most meaningful part of “unschooling” is the phase people go through in learning to learn and get things done without school-like structures. Understanding why we go through that phase has much more to do with psychology than education and is woefully under-explored.

6. Education won’t see meaningful reform until the time and money associated with schooling is made available for invention and experimentation. Unschooling, as long as it remains an “exit” strategy (in the AO Hirschman) sense, will never be instrumental to this.

7. One’s opinion about the relative decomposition of the premia which formal education earns people into human, network, and social/cultural capital is a far more important term in the mid-term future of school, learning, and unschooling than anyone’s pedagogy.

8. Education is a prematurely professionalized sector. Basic standards of rigor, consistency, shared vocabulary, and similar which other professions take for granted don’t yet exist. Unschooling has inherited and amplified this hubris as a reactionary position and community.

9. Human development is slow. Experimentation requires longer time horizons than most investment vehicles permit. To a first approximation, you can probably ignore research or reform efforts which don’t have built into their structure deep acknowledgment of this.

10. By framing its superiority in terms of rights, humane-ness, and ethics (as opposed to, e.g., efficacy), unschooling opts for the losing side of the political economy in conversations about the future of learning. This is a harsh critique of both unschooling and education.

11. Unschooling hand-waves at the reasons school exists (e.g. “industrial revolution factory model”), but has failed to develop a coherent analysis of school’s robustness to change and staying power. “What’s adaptive about school for whom?” is an underappreciated question.

12. School [and un-schooling] have much more to learn from kindergarten and the world of work than either appreciate.

13. It is a deep and important question why, for the most part, graduates from graduate schools of education (having nominally studied how people learn and grow), are not some of the most highly paid and sought after designers/managers in fields where knowledge work dominates.

14. A basic incoherence in discussions of unschooling, learning, and education, is that [mostly] people treat learning as a domain-independent activity. Domain specificity of methods’ relevance/efficacy is ignored because of the political functions of discourse around learning.

15. The set of things people worry about learning is ~arbitrary, a minute sliver of what’s out there. The process of identifying, creating curricula for, and developing educators to support learning a topic is so slow so as to make content-first reformers largely irrelevant.

16. Most discussions of learning wildly overindex on “fit” of topic-defined interest. Learning and motivation are driven by the social and cultural contexts in which people find themselves.

17. When given the chance to focus on “cognitive” or “affective” factors in someone’s learning, returns are almost always higher emphasizing the affective. We don’t yet have fundamental explanations for this, but it is a fact largely ignored by unschoolers and schoolers alike.

18. At most conferences, you hear about new ideas and new work. Unschooling/alt-ed conferences are much more similar to a political caucus coming together around values. Whether this is cause or effect, the intellectual stagnation has yet to even be identified by the sector.

19. Unschooling [and school] has never really grappled with the reality that choice amongst “education options” is better understood as choice among “insurance products” than “investment products”. i.e. it is about raising the floor to which you can fall.

20. The timescale required to capture the long-term returns of human capital development mean that for all intents and purposes, only governments, churches, universities, and visionary billionaires will be in a position to meaningfully experiment with new K12 institutions.

21. Much of the work of unschooling has as little to do with school and learning as remediating an unhealthy relationship to body image has to do with the theory of nutrition.

22. One of the greatest unrecognized reform strategies is to leverage new, salient skills (e.g. programming) to create cover for new pedagogy. Doing this in K12 requires inventive, intellectual work connecting these skills to all the disciplines for which school is responsible.

23. Dewey, Montessori, Reggio Emilia, Waldorf, etc.—the extent to which these have succeeded or not has ~nothing to do with their pedagogical efficacy. It is a political/financial/cultural fact. Efforts which do not have a historical analysis and story about this are unserious.

24. One of the most important [false] things you learn in school is that you learn by being taught. In unschooling, many people never unlearn this, instead substituting other classes or courses for the classroom that’s now gone.

25. Many explain away counterfactuals about people who drop out/unschool/homeschool by pointing to privilege. This is a fascinating datum. If it were an honest point, then educators would be interested in the pedagogical and managerial insights of the upper-middle class family.

26. There are approximately as many people homeschooled as there are in charter schools. “Charter school” is a design and governance mechanism. As is “homeschooling”. Talking about them as though they are pedagogies—e.g. “Does homeschooling work?”—is pure confusion.

27. Just as corporations have offered us new [often dark] visions of what the next nation states look like, so too will the first entities to figure out how to leverage tools like income share agreements to securitize human capital offer us new [maybe dark] visions of cities.

28. The bias to emphasize the cognitive in education leads people to vastly overestimate the power of remote technologies and experiences to transform learning. If it is fundamentally social, much of it will be fundamentally local.

29. To the extent unschooling recognizes learning is a slow, social, high-touch, and therefore local process it has one up on every company tackling this space which aims to be the first in history to create a large-scale, high-touch organization anyone wants to join.

30. One of the most valuable skills those who unschool and support others who unschool develop is the ability to introduce people to a map of an intellectual territory without confusing exposure for attempted mastery. Formal education could learn a great deal from this.

31. The most important ratio in the future of learning is the relative balance of dollars and minutes which go into (a) investigating how school works and could be improved, (b) investigating how “non-traditional” learning works, & (c) inventing new tools/approaches.

32. Pick any organizational unit (company, lab group, whatever). The first 100h of activity on-boarding a junior colleague to that group likely represents 1000h (8–10m full-time) of rigorous activity for a young person. Unschooling should focus on organizing access to this.

33. One of the cleverest sleights of hand—whose provenance I’m still mystified by—is that we discuss learning’s future in terms of methods instead of entrants/products. Learning is one of the most “execution-dependent” and “recipe-resistant” activities I can imagine.

34. Once you assume the moniker of “alternative”, you’ve lost the whole ball game.

35. Unschooling is really a battle against legibility. Competing with school will mostly be about subverting or competing with its measures of legibility. School’s measures are far less meaningful than most will admit. In whose interest is it to improve them?

36. To the extent that unschooling (and school reform) must confront legibility, as work product becomes increasingly structured and digitized (e.g. Figma, GitHub, etc.) there is a growing opportunity to leverage passive process artifacts for analysis and evaluation.

37. Conversely, most attempts to leverage portfolios or similar dramatically underestimate the sensing bandwidth constraints they’re up against. Last I checked, MIT spends an average of eleven (11) minutes evaluating a candidate.

38. Unschooling rightly recognizes an opportunity to unbundle (often leveraging online and community resources). Its efficacy requires knowing youth well (which dramatically increases CAC). No one knows whether, including that, there’s any value to be unlocked by unbundling.

39. Many undertake alternative educational arrangements/endeavors prompted by their own children. Though an authentic motive, it is not durable: Starting and growing the organization will outlive your kid’s needs.

40. A core challenge in organizing for educational change (in unschooling and elsewhere) is that your constituency (youth and families) are definitionally … [more]
unschooling  alecresnick  education  learning  deschooling  legibility  credentials  charterschools  howwelearn  pedagogy  howweteach  schools  schooling  society  work  chezpaniesse  local  alicewatters  learningecologies  environment  rahcelcarson  resources  tools  organization  organizing  montessori  reggioemilia  portfolios  formal  informal  informallearning  mastery  labor  homeschool  waldorf  johndewey  history  psychology  humandevelopment  skills  coercion  alternative  altedu  greatbooks  networks  networking  class  canon  classism  inequality  universalbasicincome  ubi  constraints  economics  race  institutions  flexibility  disciplines  specialization  exposure  edg  srg  mitmedialab  ledialab  xeroxparc  access  identity  opportunity  edtech  branding  culture  culturalcapital  rent-seeking  bureaucracy  sudburyschools  sudburyvalleyschools  reality  social  technocrats  publicschools  publicgood  apprenticeships  mentoring 
9 weeks ago by robertogreco
The Candidates: Bernie Sanders - The New York Times
“We spoke with the Vermont senator about his journey from the fringes of American politics to the forefront — and the ideas that shaped him along the way.”



“In Part 2 of our series on pivotal moments in the lives of the 2020 Democratic presidential contenders, we spoke with Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator and democratic socialist. Mr. Sanders reflected on his education in politics and how he galvanized grass-roots support to evolve from outraged outsider to mainstream candidate with little shift in his message.

Four key moments from our interview with the senator

His arrival in Vermont and early involvement with the Liberty Union

Although Mr. Sanders is best-known for his association with Vermont, the schoolhouse for his early career in politics, he spent his childhood in a rent-controlled apartment in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn. “Sensitivity to class was embedded in me then quite deeply,” Mr. Sanders has said of this time.

The factors that took him from Brooklyn to Vermont reflect an insistence on revolution that has colored his career.

Born to Polish immigrants and raised in precarious financial circumstances, Mr. Sanders had early inclinations toward socialism that were cemented with the death of his mother. Caring for her during his college years exposed him intimately to gaps in the American health care system.

Mr. Sanders went in search of a place that could nurture his nascent political ideology, visiting a socialist kibbutz in Israel and ultimately landing with the peaceniks of rural Vermont.

“I was doing some writing. I was banging nails, doing a little bit of carpentry work,” Mr. Sanders said of this time. He freelanced for an alternative newspaper, The Vermont Freeman, writing articles like “The Revolution Is Life Versus Death” while making film strips about a socialist he admired: Eugene Debs. Mr. Debs was the “Socialist Party candidate for president six times,” Mr. Sanders noted. “You know, somebody I admired a whole lot.”

Mr. Sanders and Mr. Debs have something in common: resilience in the face of political failure. In Vermont, Mr. Sanders became involved with a fringe political party, the Liberty Union, that sought to champion industrial nationalization and opposition to the Vietnam War. Mr. Sanders ran as a Liberty Union candidate in four state elections, receiving less than 5 percent of the vote each time.

His promise to address wealth inequality and his condemnation of billionaires began to resonate with working-class people upstate. Soon, he had his eyes fixed on the 1981 race for mayor of Burlington, the state’s largest city.

Winning his first election — by 10 votes

“You would literally not believe if I told you how little we knew about politics,” Mr. Sanders said of his first race for mayor.

“I mean real politics,” he said. “It’s one thing to run for statewide office knowing you’re not going to win and get on a radio show and talk about issues, which I could do. But the nitty-gritty of politics, you know.”

Mr. Sanders’s strategy was to mobilize grass-roots support in the working-class districts of Burlington — specifically people in “low-income housing projects where people were getting a raw deal from the city,” he said.

In doing so, Mr. Sanders generated a higher turnout than most mayoral races commanded. After a recount, Mr. Sanders won by 10 votes, beating a 10-year incumbent and roiling establishment politicians in the city.

“Lessons of this moment is that winning politics is grass-roots politics.” Mr. Sanders said “that winning politics is developing coalitions of working people, of low-income people, of women, of environmentalists.”

A parallel city government

Mr. Sanders faced the limits of his political outrage during his first term as mayor, which became an education in coalition building. He was viewed by the Board of Aldermen, Burlington’s version of a city council, as “an accident that should never have happened,” he said.

“Bernie Sanders is a fluke,” he said. “That was the word they used.”

Mr. Sanders had to figure out how to accomplish his agenda despite opposition from Democrats and Republicans. After the board fired his secretary, Mr. Sanders got the message that his appointees would not be welcome in the city government. “It was a brutal year,” he said. “So what we had to do was literally form a parallel city government.”

He gathered volunteers to staff his informal team of unpaid appointees. They started “neighborhood planning associations,” allocating city funds to neighborhood councils to spend at their discretion. In doing so, they cultivated a widespread sense of antagonism toward the board.

By knocking doors in a freezing Burlington winter, Mr. Sanders nearly doubled voter turnout in the board election the coming year. Turnout “was just off the charts,” he said.

Unseating board members in working-class districts gave him the support his agenda needed, enabling his rise as a major political figure in the state.

Going national

Mr. Sanders began to connect his structural grievances with national politics to his constituency — working to convince local voters that the actions of far-off politicians in far-off places should matter to them.

In doing so, he managed to fix Burlington’s pot holes and plow the streets while also establishing relations with the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. His rejection of American intervention in Latin America resulted in his controversial support for the Nicaraguan leftist leader Daniel Ortega.

Asked about this stance, Mr. Sanders said he believed at the time that the United States should not be involved with “overthrowing small governments.”

“We were aware that this was a very controversial moment,” he added. “We were also aware that the United States at that time was supporting many governments in Latin America who were much more brutal than Ortega was.”

Mr. Sanders says that his campaign against intervention was relevant to Burlington. “If we were spending a whole lot of money in Washington under Reagan — investing in military spending or we’re giving tax breaks to the rich — that impacted the city of Burlington,” he said.

Today, his insistence that the global affects the local still forms the bedrock of his presidential platform — one that is built on overhauling health care, tax policy and the national budget. He says that if Washington is “spending this money on the military or they’re busy invading another country or whatever they’re doing, we should be speaking up on those issues.”

“All of this,” he said, “has to do with empowering people to understand that in a democracy, they can determine the future.””
berniesanders  history  burlington  vermont  politics  grassroots  coalitions  2020  2019  us  organizing  sandinistas  danielortega  nicaragua  sovietunion  sistercities  integrity  local  national  economics  democracy 
10 weeks ago by robertogreco
My So-Karen Life - The New York Times
“All our teachers were Jeans, and the Jeans loved the Karens of course, for their neat, sexy cursive and their indifference to pedagogy. “Why is our state bird the chickadee?” I wanted to know. “Why not the robin, or the blue jay, or the sea gull? Why, in fact, not the mallard duck?”

Karens never asked why we had to memorize all the state birds. They just did it. If Karens were a state, their motto would be “Because.””



“You know how Karens are because we live on Planet Karen.”
patriarchy  sarahmiller  feminism  generations  2019  centrism  selfhood  freedom  happiness  karens  whiteness  pettiness  sameness  bullying  economics  education  pedagogy  unschooling  deschooling  groupthink  brainwashing  injustice  justice  socialjustice  intersectionality  race  racism  gender  power 
10 weeks ago by robertogreco
The Young Left Is a Third Party - The Atlantic
“The United States is a fortress of gerontocracy besieged by a youth rebellion. America’s leaders are old—very old. The average age in Congress has never been higher, and our national leaders are all approaching 80. Nancy Pelosi was born in 1940, Mitch McConnell came along in 1942, and Donald Trump, the baby of this power trio, followed in 1946, making him several weeks older than his predecessors Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. The two leading candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, are 77 and 78 years old, respectively. Every individual in this paragraph came into the world before the International Monetary Fund and the CIA; before the invention of the transistor and the Polaroid camera; before the Roswell UFO incident and the independence of India.

The nation’s finances are almost as skewed toward the elderly as its politics are. Americans 55 and up account for less than one-third of the population, but they own two-thirds of the nation’s wealth, according to the Federal Reserve. That’s the highest level of elderly wealth concentration on record. The reason is simple: To an unprecedented degree, older Americans own the most valuable real estate and investment portfolios. They’ve captured more than 80 percent of stock-market growth since the end of the Great Recession.

Americans under the age of 40, for their part, are historically well educated, historically peaceful, and historically law-abiding. But this impressive résumé of conscientiousness hasn’t translated into much economic or political power.

Instead, young Americans beset with high student debt ran into the buzz saw of a painful recession and slow recovery. Today they are poorer, in income and in wealth, than similarly young groups of previous decades. “In the U.S, as in the U.K. and in much of Europe, 2008 was the end of the end of history,” says Keir Milburn, the author of Generation Left, a book on young left-wing movements. “The last decade in the U.K. has been the worst decade for wage growth for 220 years. In the U.S., this generation is the first in a century that expects to have lower lifetime earnings than their parents. It has created an epochal shift.”

Young Americans demanding more power, control, and justice have veered sharply to the left. This lurch was first evident in the two elections of Barack Obama, when he won the youth vote by huge margins. And young Americans didn’t edge back to the political center under Obama; they just kept moving left. Obama won about 60 percent of voters younger than 30 in the 2008 primary. Bernie Sanders won more than 70 percent of under-30 voters in the 2016 primary, which pushed Hillary Clinton to the left and dragged issues like Medicare for All and free college from the fringe to the mainstream of political debate.

To many observers, it might seem like young voters have remade the Democratic Party in their image—as a claque of “woke” socialists. In May, the historian Niall Ferguson and Eyck Freymann, a research analyst, wrote in The Atlantic that the U.S. was at the brink of a great generation war, in which older conservative Republicans would do battle with Democrats, who were “rapidly becoming the party of the young.”

But upon closer examination, the Democrats aren’t really the party of the young—or, for that matter, of social-justice leftists. In the most sophisticated poll of the Iowa caucus, Joe Biden polled at 2 percent among voters under 30, within the margin of error of zero. Nationally, he is in single digits among Millennials, the generation born between 1981 and 1996. Yet Biden is the Democratic front-runner for the 2020 presidential nomination, thanks to his huge advantage among older voters—especially older black voters—who are considerably more moderate than younger Democrats.

Bernie Sanders, by contrast, leads all candidates among voters under 30 and polls just 5 percent among voters over 65. In a national Quinnipiac poll asking voters which candidate has the best ideas, Sanders crushes Biden 27 percent to 4 percent among those under 35 and receives an equal and opposite crushing at the hands of Biden among voters over 65: 28 percent to 4 percent.

Age ‬doesn’t just divide Republicans and Democrats from each other, in other words; age divides young leftists from both Republicans and Democrats. Democrats under 30 have almost no measurable interest in the party’s front-runner. Democrats over 65 have almost no measurable interest in the favored candidate of the younger generation. ‬This is not a picture of Democrats smoothly transforming into the “party of the young.” It’s evidence that age—perhaps even more than class or race—is now the most important fault line within the Democratic Party.‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

It might be most useful to think about ‬young progressives as a third party trapped in a two-party system. Radicalized by America’s political sclerosis and economic and social inequality, they are a powerful movement politically domiciled within a larger coalition of moderate older minorities and educated suburbanites, who don’t always know what to do with their rambunctious bunkmates.

What would this progressive third party’s platform look like? In one word, justice: Social justice, sought through a reappraisal of power relationships in social and corporate life, and economic justice, sought through the redistribution of income from the rich to the less fortunate.

One can make out the contours of this agenda in “Hidden Tribes,” a 2018 study of the political views of 8,000 Americans, which sorted the country’s voting-age population into seven political groups. The study called the youngest and most left-wing group in the survey Progressive Activists. They accounted for 8 percent of the population and as much as one-third of likely voters in the Democratic Party, due to their higher-than-average engagement in politics. (I don’t want to imply that Sanders voters and the Progressive Activist tribe are synonymous: The demographics of Elizabeth Warren’s support suggest that she attracts a large number of Progressive Activists too.)

Compared with the average American, Progressive Activists—“young, secular, cosmopolitan, and angry”—were more likely to be under 30, college-educated, and white; twice as likely to say they never pray; and three times as likely to say they’re “ashamed” of the country. They are motivated by the existential threat of climate change, strongly pro-immigration, and more concerned about police brutality than about crime or terrorism. Perhaps most distinctive, they are attuned to structural challenges in society and skeptical of the individualist strain of the American dream. In response to a question about whether personal responsibility or broader socioeconomic factors are more important for determining success, 95 percent of Progressive Activists said that “some people’s situations are so challenging that no amount of work will allow them to find success.” Most Americans, including 69 percent of moderates, preferred this statement: “People who work hard can find success no matter what situation they were born into.”

This group’s support for Medicare for All, free college, and student-debt relief is sometimes likened to a “give me free stuff” movement. But every movement wants free stuff, if by free stuff one means “stuff given preferential treatment in the tax code.” By this definition, Medicare is free stuff, and investment income is free stuff, and suburban home values propped up by the mortgage-interest deduction are free stuff. The free stuff in the tax code today benefits Americans with income and wealth—a population that is disproportionately old. Medicare for All might be politically infeasible, but it is, taken literally, a request that the federal government extend to the entire population the insurance benefits now exclusively reserved for the elderly. That’s not hatred or resentment; it sounds more like justice.

Ben Judah: The Millennial left is tired of waiting

Most Americans over 40 support several measures of both social justice and economic justice. But across ethnicities, many Americans have a deep aversion to anything that can be characterized as “political correctness” or “socialism.” And this might be the biggest challenge for the young progressive agenda.

For example, the Democratic presidential candidates who focused most explicitly on sexism and racial injustice have flamed out. In its premortem for Kamala Harris’s presidential run, The New York Times quoted one anonymous adviser who blamed the candidate’s struggles on the misguided idealism of her younger staffers, who took their cues from an unrepresentative sample of Twitter activists. Beto O’Rourke’s campaign, too, was widely derided as a shallow attempt to create viral moments for his woke online followers. ‬Notably, these candidates failed to win much support among the very demographic groups for which they were advocating. ‬‬

Second, the progressive economic agenda might be suffused with the egalitarian ethic, but its landmark policies aren’t that popular. While Medicare for All often polls well, its public support is exquisitely sensitive to framing. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the net favorability of eliminating private insurance or requiring most Americans to pay more in taxes—both part of the Sanders plan—is negative-23 points.

The Medicare for All debate is a microcosm of a larger divide. The young left’s deep skepticism toward capitalism simply isn’t shared by previous generations. According to Gallup polling, Gen X is firmly pro-capitalist and Baby Boomers, who came of age during the Cold War, prefer capitalism over socialism by a two-to-one margin. (You can point out to your parents that Social Security and Medicare are, essentially, socialism for the old, but that’s not the same as converting them into Berniecrats.)

“This is only the … [more]
politics  us  2019  derekthompson  progressive  berniesanders  boomers  generations  geny  millennials  government  medicareforall  highered  highereducation  justice  socialjustice  economics  priorities  democrats  democracy  socialism  medicare  socialsecurity  wealth  inequality  babyboomers  generationy 
10 weeks ago by robertogreco
The Tragedy of "The Tragedy of the Commons" - Scientific American Blog Network
“The man who wrote one of environmentalism’s most-cited essays was a racist, eugenicist, nativist and Islamophobe—plus his argument was wrong”



“Fifty years ago, University of California professor Garrett Hardin penned an influential essay in the journal Science. Hardin saw all humans as selfish herders: we worry that our neighbors’ cattle will graze the best grass. So, we send more of our cows out to consume that grass first. We take it first, before someone else steals our share. This creates a vicious cycle of environmental degradation that Hardin described as the “tragedy of the commons.”

It’s hard to overstate Hardin’s impact on modern environmentalism. His views are taught across ecology, economics, political science and environmental studies. His essay remains an academic blockbuster, with almost 40,000 citations. It still gets republished in prominent environmental anthologies.

But here are some inconvenient truths: Hardin was a racist, eugenicist, nativist and Islamophobe. He is listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a known white nationalist. His writings and political activism helped inspire the anti-immigrant hatred spilling across America today.

And he promoted an idea he called “lifeboat ethics”: since global resources are finite, Hardin believed the rich should throw poor people overboard to keep their boat above water.

To create a just and vibrant climate future, we need to instead cast Hardin and his flawed metaphor overboard.

People who revisit Hardin’s original essay are in for a surprise. Its six pages are filled with fear-mongering. Subheadings proclaim that “freedom to breed is intolerable.” It opines at length about the benefits if “children of improvident parents starve to death.” A few paragraphs later Hardin writes: “If we love the truth we must openly deny the validity of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” And on and on. Hardin practically calls for a fascist state to snuff out unwanted gene pools.

Or build a wall to keep immigrants out. Hardin was a virulent nativist whose ideas inspired some of today’s ugliest anti-immigrant sentiment. He believed that only racially homogenous societies could survive. He was also involved with the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a hate group that now cheers President Trump’s racist policies. Today, American neo-Nazis cite Hardin’s theories to justify racial violence.

These were not mere words on paper. Hardin lobbied Congress against sending food aid to poor nations, because he believed their populations were threatening Earth’s “carrying capacity.”

Of course, plenty of flawed people have left behind noble ideas. That Hardin’s tragedy was advanced as part of a white nationalist project should not automatically condemn its merits.

But the facts are not on Hardin’s side. For one, he got the history of the commons wrong. As Susan Cox pointed out, early pastures were well regulated by local institutions. They were not free-for-all grazing sites where people took and took at the expense of everyone else.

Many global commons have been similarly sustained through community institutions. This striking finding was the life’s work of Elinor Ostrom, who won the 2009 Nobel Prize in Economics (technically called the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel). Using the tools of science—rather than the tools of hatred—Ostrom showed the diversity of institutions humans have created to manage our shared environment.

Of course, humans can deplete finite resources. This often happens when we lack appropriate institutions to manage them. But let’s not credit Hardin for that common insight. Hardin wasn’t making an informed scientific case. Instead, he was using concerns about environmental scarcity to justify racial discrimination.

We must reject his pernicious ideas on both scientific and moral grounds. Environmental sustainability cannot exist without environmental justice. Are we really prepared to follow Hardin and say there are only so many lead pipes we can replace? Only so many bodies that should be protected from cancer-causing pollutants? Only so many children whose futures matter?

This is particularly important when we deal with climate change. Despite what Hardin might have said, the climate crisis is not a tragedy of the commons. The culprit is not our individual impulses to consume fossil fuels to the ruin of all. And the solution is not to let small islands in Chesapeake Bay or whole countries in the Pacific sink into the past, without a seat on our planetary lifeboat.

Instead, rejecting Hardin’s diagnosis requires us to name the true culprit for the climate crisis we now face. Thirty years ago, a different future was available. Gradual climate policies could have slowly steered our economy towards gently declining carbon pollution levels. The costs to most Americans would have been imperceptible.

But that future was stolen from us. It was stolen by powerful, carbon-polluting interests who blocked policy reforms at every turn to preserve their short-term profits. They locked each of us into an economy where fossil fuel consumption continues to be a necessity, not a choice.

This is what makes attacks on individual behavior so counterproductive. Yes, it’s great to drive an electric vehicle (if you can afford it) and purchase solar panels (if powerful utilities in your state haven’t conspired to make renewable energy more expensive). But the point is that interest groups have structured the choices available to us today. Individuals don’t have the agency to steer our economic ship from the passenger deck.

As Harvard historian Naomi Oreskes reminds us, “[abolitionists] wore clothes made of cotton picked by slaves. But that did not make them hypocrites … it just meant that they were also part of the slave economy, and they knew it. That is why they acted to change the system, not just their clothes.”

Or as Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez tweeted: “Living in the world as it is isn’t an argument against working towards a better future.” The truth is that two-thirds of all the carbon pollution ever released into the atmosphere can be traced to the activities of just ninety companies.

These corporations’ efforts to successfully thwart climate action are the real tragedy.

We are left with very little time. We need political leaders to pilot our economy through a period of rapid economic transformation, on a grand scale unseen since the Second World War. And to get there, we are going to have make sure our leaders listen to us, not—as my colleagues and I show in our research—fossil fuel companies.

Hope requires us to start from an unconditional commitment to one another, as passengers aboard a common lifeboat being rattled by heavy winds. The climate movement needs more people on this lifeboat, not fewer. We must make room for every human if we are going to build the political power necessary to face down the looming oil tankers and coal barges that send heavy waves in our direction. This is a commitment at the heart of proposals like the Green New Deal.

Fifty years on, let’s stop the mindless invocation of Hardin. Let’s stop saying that we are all to blame because we all overuse shared resources. Let’s stop championing policies that privilege environmental protection for some human beings at the expense of others. And let’s replace Hardin’s flawed metaphor with an inclusive vision for humanity—one based on democratic governance and cooperation in this time of darkness.

Instead of writing a tragedy, we must offer hope for every single human on Earth. Only then will the public rise up to silence the powerful carbon polluters trying to steal our future.”
eugenics  environmentalism  mattomildenberger  science  2019  race  racism  nativism  islamophobia  garretthardin  elinorostrom  economics  immigration  population  sustainability  climatechange  behavior  naomioreskes  alexandriaocasio-cortez 
10 weeks ago by robertogreco
On the Tragedy of Paul Volcker
“The Volcker Rule

In 2009, when the world was falling apart, a lot of people were asking new President Barack Obama to turn to Paul Volcker, the tall and prestigious former central banker whose reputation was of near God-like stature. Obama did, asking Volcker for advice. But Larry Summers, key advisor to Obama, sabotaged the relationship. Volcker encouraged Obama to stop banks from gambling with internal hedge funds, but Summers wanted banks to keep gambling with internal hedge funds. Summers won the bureaucratic fight.

Volcker’s titanic reputation was by then decades old. But so too was Volcker pursuing honesty in finance, and getting pushed out because of it. In 1986, Ronald Reagan essentially fired Volcker from his position as the head of the Federal Reserve because Paul Volcker was trying to crack down on the junk-bond fueled mergers craze that was clearly corrupting America’s savings and loan banks. Felix Rohatyn, a Democratic fixer and Lazard investment banker, pleaded with the Republicans, “if we sacrifice Paul Volcker for the junk-bond mania, we will clearly show the world that we’ve lost any sense of financial responsibility.”

Here’s a story from 1986, at the height of the frenzy.

Volcker lost the battle at the Fed, and ultimately Alan Greenspan, who was on the payroll of one of the largest corrupt savings and loan banks, took over. Volcker, in pursuing financial rectitude, had no allies except the ‘respect’ of the financial world, which, as it turns out, isn’t worth much at all. And the reason, ironically, is because Volcker killed his greatest would-be allies.

I first ran into Volcker’s career while researching Penn Central, the train system that went bankrupt in 1970 in the greatest then-collapse in American history. It was like the Enron of its time. The Nixon administration tasked the conservative Volcker with overseeing the fiasco, and he was a fairly honest broker. He tried, not very hard, to get a bailout, but when Congressman Wright Patman said no, that was that.

In 1979 Jimmy Carter nominated Volcker to be the head of the Fed. Carter’s advisor warned him that Volcker was the “candidate of Wall Street.” In an era of red-hot inflation, Volcker’s goal was to cut the growth of prices, with the ultimate end of keeping the dollar strong globally. He had popular backing, Americans saw inflation as the most pressing economic problem. Volcker went straight at the auto sector, the unionized pace setting industry which set the informal wage growth patterns of the entire country since the 1950s.

His goal was to crush wages, straight out. To give you a sense of how strongly he felt about this goal, consider that during this period, from the late 1970s to the mid-1980s, Volcker walked around with a card of union wages in his pocket to remind himself that his goal was to crush the middle class. Volcker even angered Reagan officials by keeping interest rates too high for too long. When they complained, he would pull “out his card on union wages” and note that inflation would not come down permanently until labor “got the message and surrendered.” Volcker said that the prosperity of the 1950s and 1960s was a “hall of mirrors” and that the “standard of living of the average American must decline.”

Volcker was a deeply conservative, but not corrupt, official. I think the speech that best exemplifies how he thought was one he gave in 1981 before the Economic Club of New York, lauding the bankruptcy and turnaround of the city.

Five years ago, when I last addressed the Economic Club, the preoccupation of the day was the acute financial distress of this great City and State. That big black headline in the Daily News—”Ford to New York: Drop Dead”—was not quite accurate. But in its bold and brazen way, it did carry an essential message. Any lasting solution to our economic problems would have to begin, and end at home.

A month or so ago, I was struck by another headline, this time in a Wall Street Journal editorial: “The Supply Side Saves New York.” Somehow, in five years, New York had become an example for the rest of the country to follow.”

Volcker, in other words, was an ardent fan of austerity. And in his speech, he explicitly noted that New York City had no printing press to get out of the fiscal jam it had been in. That was, as Volcker put it, “fortunate.” Instead, the city had to slash expenditures, particularly on the poor. Volcker hoped that the America would take this lesson to heart nationally, and since he ran the printing press, that’s what he made sure happened. He also believed strongly in slashing taxes, government spending, and in deregulation, as he said to businessmen in Kansas City that year.

Volcker raised interest rates radically, crushing small businesses, farms, banks, and credit unions. To many of his fans, and even his opponents, this was simply what had to be done to get inflation out of the system. But there was a brief experiment, if forgotten, experiment in trying a different path, In the spring of 1980, Jimmy Carter encouraged Volcker not to raise interest rates, but to place “credit controls” onto consumer borrowing. Credit controls are direct public rules on specific lending institutions that make it more or less expensive to lend or borrow, and were a major mechanism to keep inflation out of the system during World War Two and the Korean War. And the Fed had the authority to make it more expensive for banks and financial institutions to issue credit cards and lend money to consumers.

Volcker used these tools incredibly poor, clumsily even, with some suspecting he was intending to sabotage the use of regulatory tools he didn’t like. Inflation collapsed, as did interest rates and the economy slid rapidly. Within a few months, Volcker and the bankers got rid of credit controls. Inflation and interest rates jumped right back up, and Volcker was able to discredit credit controls. He then inflicted massive pain on the middle class instead of the banking system by using interest rates and monetary policy, instead of explicitly telling big banks to stop lending.

At the same time as Volcker was destroying unions, small banks, small farms, and small businesses, he was structuring the Too Big to Fail model of finance. In 1980, Nelson and Bunker Hunt, two oil billionaire heirs, tried to corner the silver market in league with Arab interests. Volcker organized a bailout. By 1980, Wall Street had gotten the message. Economist Albert Wojnilower explained, “It is now everywhere taken for granted that no monetary authority will allow any key financial actor to fail.”

In the middle of the 1980s, Volcker’s strategy looked like a success. Inflation was gone, the economy was growing, technology seemed to be restructuring society, and the workforce had largely been de-unionized. But there was a something of a mirage, as a bubble in financial leverage through savings and loan banks and junk bonds emerged. Volcker tried to crack down on this bubble, to block the use of junk bonds for certain kinds of seedy transactions. He knew a scumbag when he saw one, and the junk bond peddlers and M&A artists were scum. But by then, his allies against financial corruption, notably the small banks, small business, and unions, were dead or dying. So it was Paul Volcker and all his vaunted respect, versus an army on Wall Street.

There was no contest. The predatory bankers won, as they did again in 2009.

Towards the end of his life, Volcker railed against the corruption he saw everywhere. But he never connected the dots between his own actions destroying public institutions and the inability to constrain the financial corruption he despised. Many people in finance have fond memories of an incorruptible Paul Volcker standing up against financial corruption and reigning in inflation. Which is true. But Volcker really wasn’t on the side of democracy, and that’s why he oversaw nothing but decline.

I ran into Paul Volcker a few years ago at a conference when I was a Democratic Congressional staffer. He harangued me and said ‘why are you Democrats so weak?’ I wish I had responded, ‘because you killed the unions.’

And that is the tragedy of Paul Volcker.”
mattstoller  paulvolcker  2020  economics  middleclass  finance  us  policy  toobigtofail  labor  employment  unemployment  inflation  richardnixon  jimmycarter  corruption  democracy  work  banking  unions  smallbusiness  farming  albertwojnilower  austerity  creditunions  wages  responsibility  savingsandloancrisis  felixrohatyn  barackobama  larrysummers 
10 weeks ago by robertogreco
Dr Sarah Taber on Twitter: "it's happening folks time to talk about agrarianism in the United Federation of Planets send tweet" / Twitter
[also here: https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1200166974292140033.html?refreshed=1575055374 ]

“it’s happening folks

time to talk about agrarianism in the United Federation of Planets send tweet

Ok so first off there are little nods to agrarianism- the idea that farming is the ideal lifestyle, and that there are “rural values” that are both different from those of urban areas and also inherently better- all over in Star Trek.

Who’s the smartest person on Starfleet Academy campus?

Boothby the gardener.

Giving the Federation a gardener for its moral guidance is an aesthetic choice. It says “this might be sci-fi where we’ve eliminated survival labor, but somehow we’re still down to earth.”

Gardeners are great, but I had this job for a while and let me just say we are also subject to moral foibles.

I would live for a sci fi universe where space captains get their moral guidance from plumbers. “Tell us what to do when the shit hits the fan, pipe daddy” they say.

Ok I’m actually gonna digress on plumbing for a minute

Plumbing is arguably MORE key to life support than farming, esp on a starship. But in the Star Trek universe it’s treated like a joke. This is a reflection on real life where farming’s revered but sanitation is unspeakable.

Anyway back to agrarianism in Star Trek

Captain Kirk is from Iowa because that tells us he is down-to-earth. Like, a REAL man. It’s v important to the theme of TOS that Kirk is the Most Authentic Guy Ever, & Iowa is a symbol of authenticity (see also: US presidential primaries).

Let’s look at some pics from the reboot. Kirk was born in 2233, so this car chase takes place around 2240-2245.

While y’all were watching the FX I was checking out the cornfields and let me tell you, THE IMPLICATIONS ARE STAGGERING

[annotated image from show]

*also this corn is weird, it’s short but already tasseling

chalk it up to future superdwarf varieties idk

1) Iowa is still dominated by corn monoculture in 2240. The scene where Kirk motorcycles to the Enterprise being built IN A CORNFIELD (0:25:00, iTunes won’t let me screenshot) clearly shows straight rows w no intercrop, confirming corn monoculture still in place in 2250-2255.

2) Corn monoculture in the 2250s implies we haven’t figured out any better way to do it, which is kind of a bummer. The current corn/soybeans regime feels eternal & inevitable, but it’s only been around for about 100 years. “How did the soybean become such a common crop in the U.S.?” https://www.agprofessional.com/article/how-did-soybean-become-such-common-crop-us

3) Corn monoculture implies bulk markets for starch, fuel, alcohol, &/or livestock, in a Federation where these needs are theoretically met by replicator & advanced engines. Not only is corn a platform @SwiftOnSecurity, it’s still a platform in the 2250s.

WHEN WILL THE LIES STOP

3) Small sample size (we only have a couple shots of 2250s Iowa farm country), but no soybeans are seen. Where did they go? Do we just … not need to eat protein or rotate crops anymore?

4) Corn pollen is sterile above ~95°F. Small rises in average global temperature may keep midwest corn from setting a crop.

Corn in 2250s Iowa implies either climate change has been reversed (good if true), or the Federation pays farmers to grow Potemkin crops for the aesthetic.

5) Midwestern corn monoculture is aided by a private property-based land tenure system. (Corn monoculture can exist *without* private land ownership, but in the event of a different land tenure system, other cropping methods are more likely to emerge.)

This implies that while the Federation is a moneyless society, it is NOT a property-less society. Land ownership is a zero-sum game. The existence of people who own real estate, especially large plots when population is high, implies the existence of haves & have-nots.

In short, the agrarian realities of Federation-era Earth suggests cracks in its post-scarcity public façade. However, the agrarian politics of Iowa merely *suggest* cracks.

It’s the Picard family vineyard where shit gets downright dystopian. STAY TUNED

*also does anybody have population estimates for Earth, either in the TOS/Kirk era or the Next Generation? I’m having no luck at all

ok time to talk about the Picard wine estate

*deep breath*

Slightly belated: just gonna put this out here for the folks in the replies suggesting “maybe folks keep farming in a post-scarcity economy because it’s ‘recreational’”

In “Family” (s4 e2), Captain Jean-Luc Picard goes home to recuperate after being turned into a Borg

and then you start to wonder why because that whole family situation is a shitshoooowwww

Setup: the way it’s played is the older brother, Robert Picard, is the dutiful son who stayed home to tend the vines like their father. He’s grumpy about how Jean-Luc “left” and won’t stop bitching about it.

HOWEVER. If you know anything about land tenure and how it’s passed on for multiple generations, this situation is even more messed up than it looks.

If you divide up a family plot among all the kids (or even all the sons), within a few generations you wind up with tiny useless postage stamps that nobody can live on. That’s especially true after a few generations of post-scarcity population growth, e.g. TNG-era Earth.

France traditionally dealt with this through primogeniture: the oldest son inherits the entire estate intact. Younger sons get a stipend if the the family’s very wealthy.

More usually, younger sons get bupkus.

Under primogeniture, younger sons typically went into the military, priesthood, or (later once colonialism got underway) maritime trade. Those were the only institutions that had space for them. The core economic, political, & social power structure- land ownership- didn’t.

Some young sons added a martlet (modified swift or martin) to their family crest. It had feathers instead of feet because they believed these birds never land. It represented how the crest’s owner would spend their life wandering to satisfy a shitty land inheritance system. [image]

The fact that Picard’s extremely French family still has an estate at all in 2367 heavily implies they’ve been using primogeniture.

Jean-Luc Picard leaving home to join Starfleet fits the younger-son-in-a-primogeniture-family to a T. He left home to join an exploratory/military/semi-priesthood-y force complete with livery and never being able to start a family, much to his regret.

Which makes his older, estate-inheriting brother Robert’s constant bitching about “whaaa you worked hard and left us” EVEN MORE HORRIFYING THAN IT LOOKS. [GIF]

This also drags up all kinds of systemic questions about how post-scarcity Star Trek Earth *works.*

Private land ownership appears to be alive & well.

Per @joeinformatico: why do the Picards own a lil slice of France, but Sisko’s dad only has a 2-story building in New Orleans?

This implies ongoing wealth inequality- of a potentially very serious degree- in Federation-era Earth.

Nobody ever mentions Robert Picard having a day job. He just twiddles around FEELING the vines (not the most responsible use of time for an estate owner) and day drinks.

He makes his wife do the cooking & won’t let her get a replicator.

Perhaps most appalling, his vineyard’s still using furrow irrigation. That’s when you run water down a ditch between rows. Super simple, but super wasteful. Lots of water soaks down past roots or evaporates.

[annotated image from show]

Hahaha and they pass off this caustic, day-drinking, controlling train wreck of a man as a “guardian of tradition”

agrarian values my ass, he’s just a jerk. it happens
Anyway, irrigation-wise, 3 things to consider:

1) grapes tend to prefer dry regions (not much water available period)

2) Earth’s population is 8 billion-ish by 2367

3) more efficient irrigation methods like microjet are already the norm in many/most wine regions in 2019.

Who the hell ARE the Picards!? They can command so much fresh water*, they’re just squirting it around. Look at how many gotdang weeds are between their grape rows. That’s what happens when you furrow irrigate, and they don’t even care.

Conclusion: the Picards are water barons

*Even in Star Trek, you CANNOT just make more fresh water through desalination. That process leaves behind a concentrated brine. It sinks & kills the shit out of whatever’s living on the ocean floor. Theoretically you could transport the brine away … to kill someplace else.

So if one wants to just wave plentiful fresh water away w “desalination,” that means there are giant toxic dumps of brine somewhere. It’s not very punk rock. Not very Federation. tl;dr water is a limited resource & the Picards are using it to mud wrestle out their issues 🤔

The picture painted here is one where hereditary wealth is still the rule, & the consequences are pretty grim for most people involved. Land & water are subject to the wealthy’s whims. Women in landed families have limited power. We don’t even know how the villagers are doing.

Systemic questions abound. Who owns the Iowa corn estates? (assuming they’re still grow corn by TNG … but given replicators need a feedstock, that’s prob still corn.)

Where do corn farms get their operating funds? It may be post-money, but it’s not post-resource allocation.

Given that 1) everyone seems to have basic needs met but 2) private land ownership is still alive & well, this implies the Star Trek economy is “fully automated luxury gay space communism” in the streets,

“UBI gone horribly wrong neofeudal patronage nightmare” in the sheets

This is all a very silly exercise. But it’s good practice for looking critically at how a society portrays itself vs what’s really going on, especially re: agriculture.

It’s also a really good thought experiment for how “fundamental needs are met” =/= justice or sustainability.

Really not entertaining any comments about how … [more]
sarahtaber  startrek  agriculture  land  water  future  economics  inheritance  farming  agrarianism  monoculture  iowa  picard  desalination  waterrights  technology  ubi  universalbasicincome  chinampas  forests  forestry  agroforestry  wetlands  dams  damming  rivers  government  blm  bureauoflandmanagement  subsidies  indigenous  amazon  grazing  livestock  bison  megafauna  europe  northamerica  us  scifi  sciencefiction  science  food  fooddeserts  klamathriver  klamath  california  colonialism  salmon  nature  naturalresources  wild  culture  stewardship  futurism  restoration  rewilding  publicland  ownership  libertarianism  earth  health  diabetes  diet  orchards  ecology  landmanagement  indigeneity  tenochtitlan  terraforming  cornfields  gardens  gardening  fire  money  inequality  capitalism  preservation  bias  amazonrainforest  klamathrivervalley  timber  justice  sustainability 
12 weeks ago by robertogreco
Ed-Tech Agitprop
"Is technology changing faster than it's ever changed before? It might feel like it is. Futurists might tell you it is. But many historians would disagree. Robert Gordon, for example, has argued that economic growth began in the late 19th century and took off in the early 20th century with the invention of "electricity, the internal combustion engine, the telephone, chemicals and plastics, and the diffusion to every urban household of clear running water and waste removal." Rapid technological change -- faster than ever before. But he argues that the growth from new technologies slowed by the 1970s. New technologies -- even new digital technologies -- he contends, are incremental changes rather than whole-scale alterations to society we saw a century ago. Many new digital technologies, Gordon argues, are consumer technologies, and these will not -- despite all the stories we hear -- necessarily restructure our world. Perhaps we're compelled to buy a new iPhone every year, but that doesn't mean that technology is changing faster than it's ever changed before. That just means we're trapped by Apple's planned obsolescence.

As historian Jill Lepore writes, "Futurists foretell inevitable outcomes by conjuring up inevitable pasts. People who are in the business of selling predictions need to present the past as predictable -- the ground truth, the test case. Machines are more predictable than people, and in histories written by futurists the machines just keep coming; depicting their march as unstoppable certifies the futurists' predictions. But machines don't just keep coming. They are funded, invented, built, sold, bought, and used by people who could just as easily not fund, invent, build, sell, buy, and use them. Machines don't drive history; people do. History is not a smart car."


We should want a future of human dignity and thriving and justice and security and care -- for everyone. Education is a core part of that. But dignity, thriving, justice, and care are rarely the focus of how we frame "the future of learning" or "the future of work." Robots will never care for us. Unbridled techno-solution will never offer justice. Lifelong learning isn't thriving when it is a symptom of economic precarity, of instability, of a disinvestment in the public good.

When the futures we hear predicted on stages like this turn so casually towards the dystopian, towards an embrace of the machine, towards an embrace of efficiency and inequality and fear -- and certainly that's the trajectory I feel that we are on with the narratives underpinning so much of ed-tech agitprop -- then we have failed. This is a massive failure of our politics, for sure, but it is also a massive failure of imagination. Do better."
2019  audreywatters  edtech  agitprop  dystopia  technology  storytelling  propaganda  pressreleases  capitalism  neoliberalism  benjamindoxtdator  economics  education  learning  highered  highereducation  johnseelybrown  davos  worldeconomicforum  power  money  motivation  purpose  howwelearn  relationships  howweteach  schools  schooling  disruption  robots  productivity  futurism  robertgordon  change  history  jilllepore  security  justice  society  socialjustice  technosolutionism  californianideology  work  labor  future  machines  modernism 
12 weeks ago by robertogreco
Spaces of the Learning Self - e-flux Architecture - e-flux
"In the 2015 UNESCO-sponsored policy paper entitled “The Futures of Learning,” notions such as “active learner,” “metacognitive development” and “participatory learning” are abound. The most important, however, seems to be the “personalization” and “customization” of learning, or even “learner-designed learning.” As if copy-pasted from Van der Ryn’s 1969 tract, the advice reads as follows: “With personalized learning, individuals approach problems in their own way, grasp ideas at their own pace, and respond differently to multiple forms of feedback.” Neuroscience research is cited to the effect that instead of preparing “lessons” (so old school), the task of a instructor should be “designing project-based forms of learning.” This proposition rests on the assumption that learners improve better on “core subject matter” and benefit from emphasis on “depth over breadth” when learning in a personalized environment. “Instructional design” is presumed to become the central agency of such infinitely customized collaborative pedagogy. The key instructional designer, however, is going to be the learner herself, equipped with networked hand-held devices: “Future learning processes will inevitably take place in environments in which learners select their own modes of learning and bring personal technologies into education,” thereby dissolving not only any difference between formal and informal learning, but also between inner and outer, psychic and physical spatialities of learning.

This exit from the old systems and architectures of both education and class and enter into mobile learning capsules, however they may be defined, has been a political project and designer’s dream since at least the 1960s. Yet considering Didier Eribon’s self-critical account of class flight into self-organized learning, Ruth Lakofski’s appreciation of the bag lady’s mode of spatializing her “exploring soul,” or Sim Van der Ryn’s proposals for an education revolution based on radical individualism, the vista of “pedagogy 2.0” and lifelong personalization (read: commodification) as is promoted today is truly disheartening. That said, the self still waits to be designed. Improved enclosures for enhanced learning experiences will be proposed, with no end in sight. The paradox of programmed autodidactism and the responsibilization of the neoliberal subject to watchfully manage their own lifelong learning curriculum will stimulate the knowledge industry of instructional design schemes. It might thus be convenient to recall what Ivan Illich, author of the influential 1971 Deschooling Society, self-critically wrote in retrospect when he called for “the reversal of those trends that make of education a pressing need rather than a gift of gratuitous leisure.” Drug-like addiction to education, Illich bemoaned, would make “the world into a universal classroom, a global schoolhouse.” Something surely to be avoided, at all cost."
tomholert  ivanillich  deschooling  unschooling  deschoolingsociety  leisure  education  economics  individualism  californianideology  teachingmachines  edtech  technology  automation  autodidacts  responsibility  neoliberalism  personalization  commodification  pedagogy  howweteach  howwelearn  learning  teaching  simvanderryn  ruthlakofski  didiereribon  self-directed  self-directedlearning  openstudioproject  lcproject  informallearning  formal  networkedlearning  collaboration  collectivism  instructionaldesign  projectbasedlearning  neuroscience  lifelonglearning  michelfoucault  pierrebourdieu  annieernaux  raymondwilliams  chantaljaquet  self-invention  ruthlakosfski  mobile  mobility  cybernetics  1968  1969  anthonyvidler  mikekelley  environment  howardsingerman  autonomy  chrisabel  jerrybrown  california  robertsommer  antfarm  archigram  psychology  participatory  michaelwebb  architecture  design  society  networks  esaleninstitute  unesco  philosophy  educationalphilosophy 
12 weeks ago by robertogreco
Revolution and American Indians: “Marxism is as Alien to My Culture as Capitalism”
"The only possible opening for a statement of this kind is that I detest writing. The process itself epitomizes the European concept of "legitimate" thinking; what is written has an importance that is denied the spoken. My culture, the Lakota culture, has an oral tradition, so I ordinarily reject writing. It is one of the white world's ways of destroying the cultures of non-European peoples, the imposing of an abstraction over the spoken relationship of a people.

So what you read here is not what I've written. It's what I've said and someone else has written down. I will allow this because it seems that the only way to communicate with the white world is through the dead, dry leaves of a book. I don't really care whether my words reach whites or not. They have already demonstrated through their history that they cannot hear, cannot see; they can only read (of course, there are exceptions, but the exceptions only prove the rule). I'm more concerned with American Indian people, students and others, who have begun to be absorbed into the white world through universities and other institutions. But even then it's a marginal sort of concern. It's very possible to grow into a red face with a white mind; and if that's a person's individual choice, so be it, but I have no use for them. This is part of the process of cultural genocide being waged by Europeans against American Indian peoples' today. My concern is with those American Indians who choose to resist this genocide, but who may be confused as to how to proceed.

(You notice I use the term American Indian rather than Native American or Native indigenous people or Amerindian when referring to my people. There has been some controversy about such terms, and frankly, at this point, I find it absurd. Primarily it seems that American Indian is being rejected as European in origin--which is true. But all the above terms are European in origin; the only non-European way is to speak of Lakota--or, more precisely, of Oglala, Brule, etc.--and of the Dineh, the Miccousukee, and all the rest of the several hundred correct tribal names.

(There is also some confusion about the word Indian, a mistaken belief that it refers somehow to the country, India. When Columbus washed up on the beach in the Caribbean, he was not looking for a country called India. Europeans were calling that country Hindustan in 1492. Look it up on the old maps. Columbus called the tribal people he met "Indio," from the Italian in dio, meaning "in God.")

It takes a strong effort on the part of each American Indian not to become Europeanized. The strength for this effort can only come from the traditional ways, the traditional values that our elders retain. It must come from the hoop, the four directions, the relations: it cannot come from the pages of a book or a thousand books. No European can ever teach a Lakota to be Lakota, a Hopi to be Hopi. A master's degree in "Indian Studies" or in "education" or in anything else cannot make a person into a human being or provide knowledge into traditional ways. It can only make you into a mental European, an outsider.

I should be clear about something here, because there seems to be some confusion about it. When I speak of Europeans or mental Europeans, I'm not allowing for false distinctions. I'm not saying that on the one hand there are the by-products of a few thousand years of genocidal, reactionary, European intellectual development which is bad; and on the other hand there is some new revolutionary intellectual development which is good. I'm referring here to the so-called theories of Marxism and anarchism and "leftism" in general. I don't believe these theories can be separated from the rest of the of the European intellectual tradition. It's really just the same old song.

The process began much earlier. Newton, for example, "revolutionized" physics and the so-called natural sciences by reducing the physical universe to a linear mathematical equation. Descartes did the same thing with culture. John Locke did it with politics, and Adam Smith did it with economics. Each one of these "thinkers" took a piece of the spirituality of human existence and converted it into code, an abstraction. They picked up where Christianity ended: they "secularized" Christian religion, as the "scholars" like to say--and in doing so they made Europe more able and ready to act as an expansionist culture. Each of these intellectual revolutions served to abstract the European mentality even further, to remove the wonderful complexity and spirituality from the universe and replace it with a logical sequence: one, two, three. Answer!

This is what has come to be termed "efficiency" in the European mind. Whatever is mechanical is perfect; whatever seems to work at the moment--that is, proves the mechanical model to be the right one--is considered correct, even when it is clearly untrue. This is why "truth" changes so fast in the European mind; the answers which result from such a process are only stopgaps, only temporary, and must be continuously discarded in favor of new stopgaps which support the mechanical models and keep them (the models) alive.

Hegel and Marx were heirs to the thinking of Newton, Descartes, Locke and Smith. Hegel finished the process of secularizing theology--and that is put in his own terms--he secularized the religious thinking through which Europe understood the universe. Then Marx put Hegel's philosophy in terms of "materialism," which is to say that Marx despiritualized Hegel's work altogether. Again, this is in Marx' own terms. And this is now seen as the future revolutionary potential of Europe. Europeans may see this as revolutionary, but American Indians see it simply as still more of that same old European conflict between being and gaining. The intellectual roots of a new Marxist form of European imperialism lie in Marx'--and his followers'--links to the tradition of Newton, Hegel and the others.

Being is a spiritual proposition. Gaining is a material act. Traditionally, American Indians have always attempted to be the best people they could. Part of that spiritual process was and is to give away wealth, to discard wealth in order not to gain. Material gain is an indicator of false status among traditional people, while it is "proof that the system works" to Europeans. Clearly, there are two completely opposing views at issue here, and Marxism is very far over to the other side from the American Indian view. But let's look at a major implication of this; it is not merely an intellectual debate.

The European materialist tradition of despiritualizing the universe is very similar to the mental process which goes into dehumanizing another person. And who seems most expert at dehumanizing other people? And why? Soldiers who have seen a lot of combat learn to do this to the enemy before going back into combat. Murderers do it before going out to commit murder. Nazi SS guards did it to concentration camp inmates. Cops do it. Corporation leaders do it to the workers they send into uranium mines and steel mills. Politicians do it to everyone in sight. And what the process has in common for each group doing the dehumanizing is that it makes it all right to kill and otherwise destroy other people. One of the Christian commandments says, "Thou shalt not kill," at least not humans, so the trick is to mentally convert the victims into nonhumans. Then you can proclaim violation of your own commandment as a virtue.

In terms of the despiritualization of the universe, the mental process works so that it becomes virtuous to destroy the planet. Terms like progress and development are used as cover words here, the way victory and freedom are used to justify butchery in the dehumanization process. For example, a real-estate speculator may refer to "developing" a parcel of ground by opening a gravel quarry; development here means total, permanent destruction, with the earth itself removed. But European logic has gained a few tons of gravel with which more land can be "developed" through the construction of road beds. Ultimately, the whole universe is open--in the European view--to this sort of insanity.

Most important here, perhaps, is the fact that Europeans feel no sense of loss in all this. After all, their philosophers have despiritualized reality, so there is no satisfaction (for them) to be gained in simply observing the wonder of a mountain or a lake or a people in being. No, satisfaction is measured in terms of gaining material. So the mountain becomes gravel, and the lake becomes coolant for a factory, and the people are rounded up for processing through the indoctrination mills Europeans like to call schools.

But each new piece of that "progress" ups the ante out in the real world. Take fuel for the industrial machine as an example. Little more than two centuries ago, nearly everyone used wood--a replenishable, natural item--as fuel for the very human needs of cooking and staying warm. Along came the Industrial Revolution and coal became the dominant fuel, as production became the social imperative for Europe. Pollution began to become a problem in the cities, and the earth was ripped open to provide coal whereas wood had always simply been gathered or harvested at no great expense to the environment. Later, oil became the major fuel, as the technology of production was perfected through a series of scientific "revolutions." Pollution increased dramatically, and nobody yet knows what the environmental costs of pumping all that oil out of the ground will really be in the long run. Now there's an "energy crisis," and uranium is becoming the dominant fuel.

Capitalists, at least, can be relied upon to develop uranium as fuel only at the rate which they can show a good profit. That's their ethic, and maybe they will buy some time. Marxists, on the other hand, can be relied upon to develop uranium fuel as rapidly as possible simply because it's the most "efficient" production fuel available. That's their ethic, and I fail to see where it's … [more]
russellmeans  1980  writing  oraltradition  lakota  thinking  abstraction  indigeneity  genocide  resistance  marxism  culture  outsiders  education  unschooling  deschooling  leftism  anarchism  johnlocke  adamsmith  descartes  physics  politics  economics  christianity  religion  efficiency  spirituality  complexity  hegel  karlmarx  materialism  isaacnewton  dehumanization  despiritualization  progress  development  victory  freedom  loss  indoctrination  schools  schooling  scientism  rationalism  capitalism  redistribution  truth  revolution  society  industrialization  sovietunion  china  vietnam  order  indigenous  alternative  values  traditions  theory  practice  praxis  westernism  europe  posthumanism  morethanhuman  rationality  belief  ideology  nature  survival  extermination  whiteness  whitesupremacy  community  caucasians  deathculture  isms  revolt  leaders  idols  leadership  activism  words  language  canon  environment  sustainability 
12 weeks ago by robertogreco
The progressive case against Obama | Salon.com
"So why oppose Obama? Simply, it is the shape of the society Obama is crafting that I oppose, and I intend to hold him responsible, such as I can, for his actions in creating it. Many Democrats are disappointed in Obama. Some feel he's a good president with a bad Congress. Some feel he's a good man, trying to do the right thing, but not bold enough. Others think it's just the system, that anyone would do what he did. I will get to each of these sentiments, and pragmatic questions around the election, but I think it's important to be grounded in policy outcomes. Not, what did Obama try to do, in his heart of hearts? But what kind of America has he actually delivered? And the chart below answers the question. This chart reflects the progressive case against Obama.

The above is a chart of corporate profits against the main store of savings for most Americans who have savings -- home equity. Notice that after the crisis, after the Obama inflection point, corporate profits recovered dramatically and surpassed previous highs, whereas home equity levels have remained static. That $5-7 trillion of lost savings did not come back, whereas financial assets and corporate profits did. Also notice that this is unprecedented in postwar history. Home equity levels and corporate profits have simply never diverged in this way; what was good for GM had always, until recently, been good, if not for America, for the balance sheet of homeowners. Obama's policies severed this link, completely.

This split represents more than money. It represents a new kind of politics, one where Obama, and yes, he did this, officially enshrined rights for the elite in our constitutional order and removed rights from everyone else (see "The Housing Crash and the End of American Citizenship" in the Fordham Urban Law Journal for a more complete discussion of the problem). The bailouts and the associated Federal Reserve actions were not primarily shifts of funds to bankers; they were a guarantee that property rights for a certain class of creditors were immune from challenge or market forces. The foreclosure crisis, with its rampant criminality, predatory lending, and document forgeries, represents the flip side. Property rights for debtors simply increasingly exist solely at the pleasure of the powerful. The lack of prosecution of Wall Street executives, the ability of banks to borrow at 0 percent from the Federal Reserve while most of us face credit card rates of 15-30 percent, and the bailouts are all part of the re-creation of the American system of law around Obama's oligarchy.

The policy continuity with Bush is a stark contrast to what Obama offered as a candidate. Look at the broken promises from the 2008 Democratic platform: a higher minimum wage, a ban on the replacement of striking workers, seven days of paid sick leave, a more diverse media ownership structure, renegotiation of NAFTA, letting bankruptcy judges write down mortgage debt, a ban on illegal wiretaps, an end to national security letters, stopping the war on whistle-blowers, passing the Employee Free Choice Act, restoring habeas corpus, and labor protections in the FAA bill. Each of these pledges would have tilted bargaining leverage to debtors, to labor, or to political dissidents. So Obama promised them to distinguish himself from Bush, and then went back on his word because these promises didn't fit with the larger policy arc of shifting American society toward his vision. For sure, Obama believes he is doing the right thing, that his policies are what's best for society. He is a conservative technocrat, running a policy architecture to ensure that conservative technocrats like him run the complex machinery of the state and reap private rewards from doing so. Radical political and economic inequality is the result. None of these policy shifts, with the exception of TARP, is that important in and of themselves, but together they add up to declining living standards.

While life has never been fair, the chart above shows that, since World War II, this level of official legal, political and economic inequity for the broad mass of the public is new (though obviously for subgroups, like African-Americans, it was not new). It is as if America's traditional racial segregationist tendencies have been reorganized, and the tools and tactics of that system have been repurposed for a multicultural elite colonizing a multicultural population. The data bears this out: Under Bush, economic inequality was bad, as 65 cents of every dollar of income growth went to the top 1 percent. Under Obama, however, that number is 93 cents out of every dollar. That's right, under Barack Obama there is more economic inequality than under George W. Bush. And if you look at the chart above, most of this shift happened in 2009-2010, when Democrats controlled Congress. This was not, in other words, the doing of the mean Republican Congress. And it's not strictly a result of the financial crisis; after all, corporate profits did crash, like housing values did, but they also recovered, while housing values have not.

This is the shape of the system Obama has designed. It is intentional, it is the modern American order, and it has a certain equilibrium, the kind we identify in Middle Eastern resource extraction based economies. We are even seeing, as I showed in an earlier post, a transition of the American economic order toward a petro-state. By some accounts, America will be the largest producer of hydrocarbons in the world, bigger than Saudi Arabia. This is just not an America that any of us should want to live in. It is a country whose economic basis is oligarchy, whose political system is authoritarianism, and whose political culture is murderous toward the rest of the world and suicidal in our aggressive lack of attention to climate change.

Many will claim that Obama was stymied by a Republican Congress. But the primary policy framework Obama put in place - the bailouts, took place during the transition and the immediate months after the election, when Obama had enormous leverage over the Bush administration and then a dominant Democratic Party in Congress. In fact, during the transition itself, Bush's Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson offered a deal to Barney Frank, to force banks to write down mortgages and stem foreclosures if Barney would speed up the release of TARP money. Paulson demanded, as a condition of the deal, that Obama sign off on it. Barney said fine, but to his surprise, the incoming president vetoed the deal. Yup, you heard that right -- the Bush administration was willing to write down mortgages in response to Democratic pressure, but it was Obama who said no, we want a foreclosure crisis. And with Neil Barofsky's book "Bailout," we see why. Tim Geithner said, in private meetings, that the foreclosure mitigation programs were not meant to mitigate foreclosures, but to spread out pain for the banks, the famous "foam the runway" comment. This central lie is key to the entire Obama economic strategy. It is not that Obama was stymied by Congress, or was up against a system, or faced a massive crisis, which led to the shape of the economy we see today. Rather, Obama had a handshake deal to help the middle class offered to him by Paulson, and Obama said no. He was not constrained by anything but his own policy instincts. And the reflation of corporate profits and financial assets and death of the middle class were the predictable results.

The rest of Obama's policy framework looks very different when you wake up from the dream state pushed by cable news. Obama's history of personal use of illegal narcotics, combined with his escalation of the war on medical marijuana (despite declining support for the drug war in the Democratic caucus), shows both a personal hypocrisy and destructive cynicism that we should decry in anyone, let alone an important policymaker who helps keep a half a million people in jail for participating in a legitimate economy outlawed by the drug warrior industry. But it makes sense once you realize that his policy architecture coheres with a Romney-like philosophy that there is one set of rules for the little people, and another for the important people. It's why the administration quietly pushed Chinese investment in American infrastructure, seeks to privatize public education, removed labor protections from the FAA authorization bill, and inserted a provision into the stimulus bill ensuring AIG bonuses would be paid, and then lied about it to avoid blame. Wall Street speculator who rigged markets are simply smart and savvy businessmen, as Obama called Lloyd Blankfein and Jamie Dimon, whereas the millions who fell prey to their predatory lending schemes are irresponsible borrowers. And it's why Obama is explicitly targeting entitlements, insurance programs for which Americans paid. Obama wants to preserve these programs for the "most vulnerable," but that's still a taking. Did not every American pay into Social Security and Medicare? They did, but as with the foreclosure crisis, property rights (which are essential legal rights) of the rest of us are irrelevant. While Romney is explicit about 47 percent of the country being worthless, Obama just acts as if they are charity cases. In neither case does either candidate treat the mass of the public as fellow citizens."
2012  mattstoller  barackobama  policiy  inequality  economics  elitism  larrysummers  mittromney  flagunisheth  governance  democrats  corporatism  wealth  financialcrisis  finance  greatrecession  equity  inequity  rights  housingbubble  housingcrash  bailouts  oligarchy  georgewbush  nafta  labor  work  us  politics  barneyfrank  hankpaulson  middleclass  hypocrisy  socialsecurity  medicare  propertyrights 
november 2019 by robertogreco
Against Economics | by David Graeber | The New York Review of Books
“There is a growing feeling, among those who have the responsibility of managing large economies, that the discipline of economics is no longer fit for purpose. It is beginning to look like a science designed to solve problems that no longer exist.

A good example is the obsession with inflation. Economists still teach their students that the primary economic role of government—many would insist, its only really proper economic role—is to guarantee price stability. We must be constantly vigilant over the dangers of inflation. For governments to simply print money is therefore inherently sinful. If, however, inflation is kept at bay through the coordinated action of government and central bankers, the market should find its “natural rate of unemployment,” and investors, taking advantage of clear price signals, should be able to ensure healthy growth. These assumptions came with the monetarism of the 1980s, the idea that government should restrict itself to managing the money supply, and by the 1990s had come to be accepted as such elementary common sense that pretty much all political debate had to set out from a ritual acknowledgment of the perils of government spending. This continues to be the case, despite the fact that, since the 2008 recession, central banks have been printing money frantically in an attempt to create inflation and compel the rich to do something useful with their money, and have been largely unsuccessful in both endeavors.

We now live in a different economic universe than we did before the crash. Falling unemployment no longer drives up wages. Printing money does not cause inflation. Yet the language of public debate, and the wisdom conveyed in economic textbooks, remain almost entirely unchanged.

One expects a certain institutional lag. Mainstream economists nowadays might not be particularly good at predicting financial crashes, facilitating general prosperity, or coming up with models for preventing climate change, but when it comes to establishing themselves in positions of intellectual authority, unaffected by such failings, their success is unparalleled. One would have to look at the history of religions to find anything like it. To this day, economics continues to be taught not as a story of arguments—not, like any other social science, as a welter of often warring theoretical perspectives—but rather as something more like physics, the gradual realization of universal, unimpeachable mathematical truths. “Heterodox” theories of economics do, of course, exist (institutionalist, Marxist, feminist, “Austrian,” post-Keynesian…), but their exponents have been almost completely locked out of what are considered “serious” departments, and even outright rebellions by economics students (from the post-autistic economics movement in France to post-crash economics in Britain) have largely failed to force them into the core curriculum.

As a result, heterodox economists continue to be treated as just a step or two away from crackpots, despite the fact that they often have a much better record of predicting real-world economic events. What’s more, the basic psychological assumptions on which mainstream (neoclassical) economics is based—though they have long since been disproved by actual psychologists—have colonized the rest of the academy, and have had a profound impact on popular understandings of the world.”



“Economic theory as it exists increasingly resembles a shed full of broken tools. This is not to say there are no useful insights here, but fundamentally the existing discipline is designed to solve another century’s problems. The problem of how to determine the optimal distribution of work and resources to create high levels of economic growth is simply not the same problem we are now facing: i.e., how to deal with increasing technological productivity, decreasing real demand for labor, and the effective management of care work, without also destroying the Earth. This demands a different science. The “microfoundations” of current economics are precisely what is standing in the way of this. Any new, viable science will either have to draw on the accumulated knowledge of feminism, behavioral economics, psychology, and even anthropology to come up with theories based on how people actually behave, or once again embrace the notion of emergent levels of complexity—or, most likely, both.

Intellectually, this won’t be easy. Politically, it will be even more difficult. Breaking through neoclassical economics’ lock on major institutions, and its near-theological hold over the media—not to mention all the subtle ways it has come to define our conceptions of human motivations and the horizons of human possibility—is a daunting prospect. Presumably, some kind of shock would be required. What might it take? Another 2008-style collapse? Some radical political shift in a major world government? A global youth rebellion? However it will come about, books like this—and quite possibly this book—will play a crucial part.”
davidgraeber  2019  robertskidelsky  economics  economists  criticism  finances  policy  psychology  socialsciences  feminism  science  growth  productivity  change  theory  praxis  microfoundations  anthropology  behavior  humanism  complexity  simplicity  modeling  understanding  marxism  mainstream  politics  wisdom  knowledge  failure  government  governance  monetarypolicy  inflation 
november 2019 by robertogreco
Inhumanism Rising - Benjamin H Bratton - YouTube
[See also:
https://trust.support/watch/inhumanism-rising

“Benjamin H. Bratton considers the role ideologies play in technical systems that operate at scales beyond human perception. Deep time, deep learning, deep ecology and deep states force a redrawing of political divisions. What previously may have been called left and right comes to reflect various positions on what it means to be, and want to be, human. Bratton is a design theorist as much as he is a philosopher. In his work remodelling our operating system, he shows how humans might be the medium, rather than the message, in planetary-scale ways of knowing.

Benjamin H. Bratton's work spans Philosophy, Art, Design and Computer Science. He is Professor of Visual Arts and Director of the Center for Design and Geopolitics at the University of California, San Diego. He is Program Director of the Strelka Institute of Media, Architecture and Design in Moscow. He is also a Professor of Digital Design at The European Graduate School and Visiting Faculty at SCI_Arc (The Southern California Institute of Architecture)

In The Stack: On Software and Sovereignty (MIT Press, 2016. 503 pages) Bratton outlines a new theory for the age of global computation and algorithmic governance. He proposes that different genres of planetary-scale computation – smart grids, cloud platforms, mobile apps, smart cities, the Internet of Things, automation – can be seen not as so many species evolving on their own, but as forming a coherent whole: an accidental megastructure that is both a computational infrastructure and a new governing architecture. The book plots an expansive interdisciplinary design brief for The Stack-to-Come.

His current research project, Theory and Design in the Age of Machine Intelligence, is on the unexpected and uncomfortable design challenges posed by A.I in various guises: from machine vision to synthetic cognition and sensation, and the macroeconomics of robotics to everyday geoengineering.”]
benjaminbratton  libertarianism  technology  botcoin  blockchain  peterthiel  society  technodeterminism  organization  anarchism  anarchy  jamesbridle  2019  power  powerlessness  control  inhumanism  ecology  capitalism  fascism  interdependence  surveillance  economics  data  computation  ai  artificialintelligence  californianideology  ideology  philosophy  occult  deeplearning  deepecology  magic  deepstate  politics  agency  theory  conspiracytheories  jordanpeterson  johnmichaelgreer  anxiety  software  automation  science  psychology  meaning  meaningfulness  apophenia  posthumanism  robotics  privilege  revelation  cities  canon  tools  beatrizcolomina  markwigley  markfisher  design  transhumanism  multispecies  cybotgs  syntheticbiology  intelligence  biology  matter  machines  industry  morethanhuman  literacy  metaphysics  carlschmitt  chantalmouffe  human-centereddesign  human-centered  experience  systems  access  intuition  abstraction  expedience  ideals  users  systemsthinking  aesthetics  accessibility  singularity  primitivism  communism  duty  sovietunion  ussr  luxury  ianhacking 
november 2019 by robertogreco
Reconstruction’s Failure Has Lessons for Today - The Atlantic
"Civility Is Overrated

The gravest danger to American democracy isn’t an excess of vitriol—it’s the false promise of civility.

Joe Biden has fond memories of negotiating with James Eastland, the senator from Mississippi who once declared, “I am of the opinion that we should have segregation in all the States of the United States by law. What the people of this country must realize is that the white race is a superior race, and the Negro race is an inferior race.”


Recalling in June his debates with segregationists like Eastland, Biden lamented, “At least there was some civility,” compared with today. “We got things done. We didn’t agree on much of anything. We got things done. We got it finished. But today, you look at the other side and you’re the enemy. Not the opposition; the enemy. We don’t talk to each other anymore.”

Biden later apologized for his wistfulness. But yearning for an ostensibly more genteel era of American politics wasn’t a gaffe. Such nostalgia is central to Biden’s appeal as an antidote to the vitriol that has marked the presidency of Donald Trump.

Nor is Biden alone in selling the idea that rancor threatens the American republic. This September, Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, who owes his seat to Senate Republicans depriving a Democratic president of his authority to fill a vacancy on the high court, published a book that argued, “In a very real way, self-governance turns on our treating each other as equals—as persons, with the courtesy and respect each person deserves—even when we vigorously disagree.”

Trump himself, a man whose rallies regularly descend into ritual denunciations of his enemies, declared in October 2018, as Americans were preparing to vote in the midterm elections, that “everyone will benefit if we can end the politics of personal destruction.” The president helpfully explained exactly what he meant: “Constant unfair coverage, deep hostility, and negative attacks … only serve to drive people apart and to undermine healthy debate.” Civility, in other words, is treating Trump how Trump wants to be treated, while he treats you however he pleases. It was a more honest description of how the concept of civility is applied today than either Biden or Gorsuch offered.

There are two definitions of civility. The first is not being an asshole. The second is “I can do what I want and you can shut up.” The latter definition currently dominates American political discourse.

The country is indeed divided today, and there is nothing wrong with wishing that Americans could all get along. But while nonviolence is essential to democracy, civility is optional, and today’s preoccupation with politesse both exaggerates the country’s divisions and papers over the fundamental issues that are causing the divisions in the first place. The idea that we’re currently experiencing something like the nadir of American civility ignores the turmoil that has traditionally characterized the nation’s politics, and the comparatively low level of political violence today despite the animosity of the moment.

Americans should not fear tension. They should fear its absence.
Paeans to a more civil past also ignore the price of that civility. It’s not an unfortunate coincidence that the men Joe Biden worked with so amicably were segregationists. The civility he longs for was the result of excluding historically marginalized groups from the polity, which allowed men like James Eastland to wield tremendous power in Congress without regard for the rights or dignity of their disenfranchised constituents.

The true cause of American political discord is the lingering resistance of those who have traditionally held power to sharing it with those who until recently have only experienced its serrated edge. And the resistance does linger. Just this fall, a current Democratic senator from Delaware, Chris Coons, told a panel at the University of Notre Dame Law School that he hoped “a more diverse Senate that includes women’s voices, and voices of people of color, and voices of people who were not professionals but, you know, who grew up working-class” would not produce “irreconcilable discord.”

In his “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” Martin Luther King Jr. famously lamented the “white moderate” who “prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.” He also acknowledged the importance of tension to achieving justice. “I have earnestly opposed violent tension,” King wrote, “but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth.” Americans should not fear that form of tension. They should fear its absence."
2019  adamsewer  civility  violence  tension  politics  debate  governance  government  power  inequality  race  racism  democrats  gop  republicans  joebiden  donaldtrump  jameseastland  martinlutherkingjr  neilgorsuch  chriscoons  michaelwallace  richardhofstadter  tuckercarlson  foxnews  us  reconstruction  segregation  civilwar  partisanship  williamhowardtaft  abrahamlincoln  webdubois  davidleveringlewis  fdr  franklindroosevelt  nancyweissmalkiel  emmetttill  selma  jamesjacksonkilpatrick  votingrightsact  disenfranchisement  williamfbuckley  polarization  discord  antoinebanks  trumpism  culture  economics  ideology  acrimony  lillianamason  disagreement  manishasinha  jimcrow  johnburgess  rutherfordbhayes  gildedage  fugitiveslaveact 
november 2019 by robertogreco
You can't have your cake and eat it - Wikipedia
"You can't have your cake and eat it (too) is a popular English idiomatic proverb or figure of speech.[1] The proverb literally means "you cannot simultaneously retain your cake and eat it". Once the cake is eaten, it is gone. It can be used to say that one cannot have two incompatible things, or that one should not try to have more than is reasonable. The proverb's meaning is similar to the phrases "you can't have it both ways" and "you can't have the best of both worlds".

For those unfamiliar with it, the proverb may sound confusing due to the ambiguity of the word 'have', which can mean 'keep' or 'to have in one's possession', but which can also be used as a synonym for 'eat' (e.g. 'to have breakfast'). Some people feel the common form of the proverb is incorrect or illogical and instead prefer: "You can't eat your cake and [then still] have it (too)". Indeed, this used to be the most common form of the expression until the 1930's-40's, when it was overtaken by the have-eat variant.[2] Another version, albeit uncommon, uses 'keep' instead of 'have'.[3]

Having to choose whether to have or eat your cake illustrates the concept of trade-offs or opportunity cost."
english  language  idioms  cake  opportunitycost  economics  proverbs 
november 2019 by robertogreco
The National Cake: to Bake or to Share?: A Handbook on Challenges in Managing Public Resources and the Road Ahead for a Sustainable, Emerging and Democratic Cameroon United in Diversity, by Akwalefo Bernadette Djeudo - Google Books
"In this book the reader is told that the unjust gap between the rich and the poor leading to social injustice in Cameroon and the world results from elite globalization and the reliance on the concept of sharing the National cake. The idea of baking the cake collectively and sharing it in an equitable manner so that everyone has a fair share is not known by the political and administrative culture. Consequently, Cameroonians spend more time talking about their share of the national cake instead of how to make the cake. The underlying principle of governance in Cameroon is best captured in the clause national cake. Call it public resources. Should the cake owned by everybody be baked or shared? Many politicians and administrators get lost amidst the intricacies of power and the grandeur that comes with it and feel that the national cake is only to be shared. They forget that they had made promises prior to their appointments and regard the civil service as an end rather than a means to an end. Money to them is the defining value and the primary mediator of relationships among persons and institutions. Ideals of equity are out the window and at the national and local levels, governments and citizens alike have become economic beggars and a consumer-nation has been created. Beggars dont create jobs; they take from those who have. Nothing paralyses a nation like citizens who lack a sense of mission for their country. In my opinion, Cameroonians should spend less time on politicking and more on constructive endeavors. They should be challenged, activated, motivated and transformed into nation buildings or bakers of the national cake that will be equitably shared. They should be builders of a sustainable, emerging and democratic Cameroon united in diversity. An emerging and sustainable nation refers to a nation that is embarked on a holistic development that can continue indefinitely into the future by properly addressing human, political, social, cultural, economic, ecological and spiritual dimensions of development. This author envisions a better quality of life for all Cameroonians through the development of a just, moral, creative, spiritual, economically vibrant, caring, diverse yet cohesive society characterized by appropriate productivity, participatory and democratic processes, and living in harmony within the limits of the carrying capacity of nature and the integrity of creation. In Part one of this book therefore, this author describes the problems affecting the process of baking and sharing the national cake in Cameroon as reflected in neopatrimonialistic and clientelistic ties. In Part two, the author carries out an assessment of the material, capital and human resources of the country, including technical personnel, and investigate the possibilities of augmenting these resources if found to be deficient in relation to the nation's requirements. This part also indicate the factors which are tending to retard economic and sustainable development, and determine the conditions which, in view of the current social and political situation, should be established for the successful execution of President Biyas major ambitions and accomplishment programme. The discussion framework in this part follows the seven dimensions of development: spiritual, human, social, cultura, political, economic and ecological. In Part three of the book, a complementary Plan to the Cameroon Vision 2035 that will lead to the most effective and balanced utilisation of the country's resources in making the national cake is formulated and the nature of the machinery which will be necessary for securing the successful implementation and financing of the plan is determined."
bookscameroon  akwalefobernadettedjeudo  sharing  socialjustice  inequality  globalization  cake  politics  policy  socialism  finance  economics  2013  citizenship  mutualaid 
november 2019 by robertogreco
It’s Bong Joon Ho’s Dystopia. We Just Live in It. - The New York Times
Monsters walk among us. Corruption is normal. Trust, outside a narrow circle of friends or kin, is unthinkable. Whether we know it or not, it’s Bong’s world we’re living in.
parasite  bongjoon-ho  film  inequality  corruption  economics  2019  trust  family  kin  life 
november 2019 by robertogreco
This wave of global protest is being led by the children of the financial crash | Jack Shenker | Opinion | The Guardian
““I’m 22 years old, and this is my last letter,” the young man begins. Most of his face is masked with black fabric; only his eyes, tired and steely, are visible below a messy fringe. “I’m worried that I will die and won’t see you any more,” he continues, his hands trembling. “But I can’t not take to the streets.”

The nameless demonstrator – one of many in Hong Kong who have been writing to their loved ones before heading out to confront rising police violence in the city – was filmed by the New York Times last week in an anonymous stairwell. But he could be almost anywhere, and not only because the walls behind him are white and characterless, left blank to protect his identity.

From east Asia to Latin America, northern Europe to the Middle East, there are young people gathering in stairwells, back alleys and basements whose faces display a similar blend of exhilaration and exhaustion. “The disaster of ‘chaos in Hong Kong’ has already hit the western world,” the former Chinese diplomat Wang Zhen declared in an official Communist party paper, following reports that protesters in Catalonia were being inspired by their counterparts in Hong Kong. “We can expect that other countries and cities may be struck by this deluge.”

Wang is right about the deluge. In the same week that those seeking independence from Spain occupied Barcelona airport and brought motorways to a standstill, Extinction Rebellion activists seized major bridges and squares across London, prompting nearly 2,000 arrests. Both mobilisations adopted tactics from Hong Kong, including fluid targets – inspired by Bruce Lee’s famous “be water“ mantra – and a repertoire of hand signals to outwit security forces.

Meanwhile Lebanon has been convulsed by its largest demonstrations in two decades, dozens have been killed during anti-government marches in Iraq, and in Egypt a blanket ban on dissent by President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi’s brutal dictatorship failed to prevent sporadic anti-regime protests breaking out across the country late last month. In the Americas, where Wang once served as a Chinese government envoy, Ecuador, Chile and Haiti are all experiencing citizen uprisings that are virtually unprecedented in recent history, ushering vast numbers of people into the streets – as well as soldiers tasked with containing them.

Each of these upheavals has its own spark – a hike in transport fares in Santiago, or a proposed tax on users of messaging apps like WhatsApp in Beirut – and each involves different patterns of governance and resistance. The class composition of the indigenous demonstrators in Ecuador can’t be compared with most of those marching against the imprisonment of separatist leaders in Catalonia; nor is the state’s prohibition of protest in London on a par with the repression in Hong Kong, where officers shot live ammunition into a teenager’s chest.

And yet it’s clear that we are witnessing the biggest surge in global protest activity since the early 2010s, when a “movement of the squares” saw mass rallies in capital cities across the Arab world, followed by Occupy demonstrations in the global north. Historically speaking, the past decade has seen more protests than at any time since the 1960s. Despite their disparate grievances, some common threads do bind today’s rebellions together. Tracing them may help clarify the nature of our present political volatility.

One obvious link is also the most superficial: the role played by social media, which has been widely noted in the press. While it’s true that digital technologies have enabled more agile and horizontal forms of organising, the ubiquity of these tools in 2019 tells us almost nothing about what is driving people to take to the streets in the first place. Indeed, in many states, social media is now an instrument of state repression as much as it is a tool of revolt.

The most significant connection is generational. The majority of those protesting now are the children of the financial crisis – a generation that has come of age during the strange and febrile years after the collapse of a broken economic and political orthodoxy, and before its replacement has emerged.

One direct impact of the crash has been a rapid diminishment of opportunity for millions of young people in rich countries – who now regard precarious work and rising inequality as the norm. At the same time, the aftermath of the crash has cracked the entrenched structures that had evolved to detach citizens from active participation in politics – be that through authoritarian systems or via an institutional consensus on the inevitability of market logic and technocratic management. Amid widespread economic and social failure, it has become harder than ever for elites to justify power, even on their own terms.

All this has produced a generation charged with hopelessness and hope. Afflicted by what the anthropologist David Graeber calls “despair fatigue”, protesters are putting their bodies on the line because it feels as if they have no other choice – and because those who rule over them have rarely seemed more vulnerable. Most have spent their lives under the maxim “there is no alternative” – and now circumstances have forced them to widen their political imaginations in search of something new. As one poster proclaims in Chile: “It’s not about 30 pesos, it’s about 30 years.”

Facing them down are states determined to put citizens back in their box and reseal the borders of political participation. The problem for governments is that there is no longer an established centre ground to snap back to, and their opponents know it – which is why so many of those involved in the current mobilisations will not settle for token concessions from the authorities.

“We need a whole new system, from scratch,” declared one demonstrator in Lebanon. The crackdown on Catalan separatists by the Spanish government has brought back dark memories of the state’s dirty war in the Basque country in the 1980s and the Franco era that preceded it; troops are marching through city centres in Chile for the first time since Pinochet.

In China, Xi Jinping has claimed that any attempt to divide the nation will result in “bodies smashed and bones ground to powder”. In many places, grassroots victory – and radical political transformation – feels to many like the only possible resolution, lending clashes an “all or nothing” antagonism and urgency that is hard to roll back.

What has intensified this urgency is the backdrop of looming ecological catastrophe. Even where protests are not explicitly about environmental concerns, the prospect of planetary catastrophe in our lifetimes raises the stakes for all political action. “The kids who are walking out of school have a hugely radical understanding of the way that politics works, and they recognise that our democratic processes and structures as they stand are designed to uphold the status quo,” Jake Woodier, one of the organisers behind the UK climate strike movement, told me this year. “They know that they will be worse off than their parents, know that they’ll never own a home, and know that on current trends they could live to see the end of humanity. So for them, for us, politics is not a game, it’s reality, and that’s reflected in the way we organise – relentlessly, radically, as if our lives depend on it.”

The Cambridge political scientist Helen Thompson once argued: “The post-2008 world is, in some fundamental sense, a world waiting for its reckoning.” That reckoning is beginning to unfold globally. They may come from different backgrounds and fight for different causes, but the kids being handcuffed, building barricades, and fighting their way through teargas in 2019 all entered adulthood after the end of the end of history. They know that we are living through one of what the American historian Robert Darnton has called “moments of suspended disbelief”: those rare, fragile conjunctures in which anything seems conceivable, and – far from being immutable – the old rules are ready to be rewritten. As long as it feels like their lives depend on winning, the deluge will continue.”
protest  protests  yout  greatrecession  crisis  economics  2008  2019  catastrophe  chile  china  catalonia  barcelona  hongkong  latinamerica  asia  spain  españa  lebanon  egypt  ecuador  haiti  london  extinctionrebellion  climatechange  policy  inequality  youth  activism  ows  occupywallstreet  repression  future  pinochet  franco  separatists  statusquo  elitism  uk  us  robertdarnton  jackshenker  government  governance  military  globalwarming  capitalism  socialism  democracy  technocracy  disenfranchisement  politics  democrats 
november 2019 by robertogreco
The Meaning of Chile’s Explosion
"The ongoing popular upheaval in Chile is the product of thirty years of neoliberal oligarchy and half-hearted democratization. To uproot the existing power structure, the country needs a new constitution."
chile  2019  neoliberalism  capitalism  history  pinochet  constitution  change  camilavergara  democracy  power  inequality  ppotest  protests  economics  society 
october 2019 by robertogreco
If Piñera wants to wage war in Chile he should fight the real enemy: inequality | Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser | Opinion | The Guardian
“If Piñera wants to wage war in Chile he should fight the real enemy: inequality

The president declared ‘Chile is at war’ but the crisis is, at heart, a message to the Chilean elite: profound changes are needed to rebuild the social contract

As with the yellow vest movement in France, it was impossible to foresee that an increase in the price of the Santiago metro would trigger demonstrations throughout Chile. When you think about it, however, it is unsurprising. Inequality in Chile is scandalous and most middle-class Chileans live in precarity. Now Chile is roiled by mass protests and looting; the government has declared a state of emergency and imposed curfews in many cities across the country.

The scale of the looting shows that the country has a structural problem with a clear name: inequality. The per capita income of the bottom quintile of Chileans is less than $140 a month. Half the population earns about $550. Tax evasion has cost the treasury approximately $1.5bn. Two-thirds of Chileans believe that it is unfair that those who can pay more have access to better health and education. They’re right.

The images of discontent and anger around the country are shocking to watch. Yet the current Chilean administration and much of the political class simply do not seem to understand the magnitude of the problem or what is at stake. On Friday night, as the situation spiraled out of control, the president, Sebastián Piñera, dined in Vitacura, the richest neighborhood in Santiago. A few days earlier, the minister of economy suggested that since the price of the Santiago metro is cheaper in the morning, people should get up early to save money. Attitudes like these only reinforce the existing malaise.

How have Chilean authorities responded so far? On the one hand, they have kept an inexplicable silence and their actions have been late and incompetent. On the other hand, the government has begun advancing an increasingly authoritarian message implying that the conflict must be solved with repression.

“Chile is at war,” Piñera declared on Sunday night. He argued that the country is facing a powerful and violent foe and that the government should respond in kind. Those who lived through the Pinochet dictatorship heard those words with dismay. While it is true that the looting is serious and security is needed, it is alarming that the government does not have the slightest interest in understanding the social discontent in Chilean society.

The Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz famously argued that “war is the continuation of politics by other means”. When the president of Chile asserts that the country is at war and implies that the armed forces must solve the problem, he has effectively abdicated his job: to govern. (Luckily, Gen Javier Iturriaga, who is in charge of the emergency situation, later declared that he is not at war with anyone.) Piñera and his advisers do not seem to understand that the problem facing the country is not a military one but a political one. This crisis is, at heart, an urgent message to the Chilean elite: profound changes are needed to rebuild the social contract.

The longer it takes the government to understand this, the harder it will be to get out of this catastrophe. Real political reforms will take time, but there are symbolic measures that the government could take as a first step, like firing the cabinet ministers who have shown themselves to be most out of touch with their own people.

It is also worth remembering that increasing economic inequality is not a Chilean phenomenon but a global phenomenon. Hopefully other governments see the lesson here: rampant economic inequality is dangerous to social stability.

If the Chilean government chooses a repressive path, it will not only generate more violence, but also give greater voice to radical and autocratic rightwing forces. Democracy itself is at stake. If Piñera wants to wage war, he should wage war on the real enemy: inequality. This war can be won only through politics and not by other means.”
chile  2019  sebastiánpiñera  protests  economics  protest  neoliberalism  inequality  capitalism  politics  policy  cristóbalrovirakaltwasser  autocracy  democracy  carlvonclausewitz  javieriturriaga  violence  precarity  elitism 
october 2019 by robertogreco
The ‘risk to democracy’ in Chile isn’t from protesters. It’s from Piñera and the 1% | Oscar Guardiola-Rivera | Opinion | The Guardian
“The ‘risk to democracy’ in Chile isn’t from protesters. It’s from Piñera and the 1%

Protest criminalised, direct action equated with terrorism: it’s starting to feel like the bad old days of Pinochet

“We’re at war against a powerful enemy,” declared President Sebastián Piñera live on Sunday night TV from the Chilean army headquarters. “Democracy not only has the right but the duty to defend itself using all instruments … and the rule of law to fight those who would destroy it.” You may be forgiven for thinking Chilean democracy is besieged by some terrifying force: a foreign army, or even an invader from outer space. Nothing could be further from the truth. Piñera’s statement is doublethink: a lie travelling the world while truth is still putting on its boots.

But who is the enemy Piñera has gone to war with? One of his government’s own making – namely, the poorer people of Chile. This is the country that is the ground-zero for the neoliberal economic model now in crisis all over the world. From Canada and the United States to Chile and Argentina, the fire this time in the Americas and elsewhere is being fanned by the few. They’ve benefited the most from an economic model that consists of squeezing the many. And now, having nothing else to lose but their bullshit jobs and half-lives, the dispossessed are rising up like an army.

The Chilean people have been robbed of everything. Health, education, water, transport, all basic services have been privatised. Hope has been privatised. What else is there to do? Protest peacefully? Done that.

I witnessed a dance-in a few years back in Santiago. Dressed up like zombies in a 1980s Michael Jackson video, the student movement demanded free public education. They’ve been doing so since 2006. The protests intensified in 2011, during the first Piñera administration: 70% of the population supported their demands, widely seen as part of a general desire to transform the economic and political model established by the military dictatorship that governed the country from 1973 to 1990, after the violent coup against democratic socialist Salvador Allende.

Consider Chile’s privatised education system. It emerged during the Pinochet years in the 1980s, resulting in the 1990 education constitutional framework, signed by the general himself. After the first wave of student mobilisations, Pinochet’s framework was replaced by the 2009 General Education Law, which introduced no significant changes.

Like the rest of Chile’s neoliberal model, it was set in constitutional stone so that its reform or repeal would be nearly impossible. Such provisions became part of a constitutional framework designed by Pinochet’s intellectual collaborators like Jaime Guzmán, who was responsible for drafting most of the constitution that still governs Chile.

Guzmán was inspired by Francoist falangism and Third Reich constitutionalism, revised for a late 20th-century landscape. According to this ethos, respect for the constitution and the rule of law only goes as far “as the situation permits”, as the junta members put it on 11 September 1973, the day of the coup. This qualification has been accepted by all post-dictatorship rulers of Chile, if not in principle at least in practice.

In the dictatorship, meaningful protest and direct action were forbidden. Engaging in such acts meant risking summary execution, torture or disappearance. In the democracy, nominal rights to protest exist but remain severely limited. Social protest is frequently criminalised and direct action often equated with terrorism.

Judging from the videos and testimonies circulated this week by concerned citizens and protesters, engaging in such acts still risks violent reprisals from the authorities.

The Pinochet regime offers us a lesson: a neoliberal model can only be established by a campaign of scapegoating and lies, underpinned by the promise to “take back control”, “restore order and the constitution” and deliver “the will of the people”, plus a modicum of force. It can only be maintained if such force is normalised, shielding the model from the protests of the left-behind, which are inevitable when the dispossessed realise the game was rigged from the very outset. These were the tactics of Chile’s military junta. Clearly, its actions have echoes in the present.

This time, the spark that blew the powder keg came on 13 October, when the transport ministry announced the Santiago underground fare would rise by 30 pesos. Thereafter, school students began organising fare-dodging acts of protest all over the city. Thirty pesos might not sound much. And if you squint, Chile’s economy isn’t doing that badly: it has a GDP of $15,902 (£14,155) per capita, one of the highest in Latin America.

But for the many, Chile’s workers and precariat, the average salary is low: only £350 per month. Commuters coming from the peripheries to work in the capital may have to spend between £50 to £70 a month on transport alone. Try to feed a family with what’s left in a country without universal healthcare or free education. It is the same across the continent – in Quito, Buenos Aires, Bogotá, Rio. No wonder the hemisphere is exploding.

After the adults started joining students in fare-dodging protests, economics minister Juan Fontaine, very much of the free-market Chicago school, advised them to get up earlier to avoid the more expensive fares. His colleague, transport minister Gloria Hutt, later implied fare-dodgers were criminals. As protests raged across the city, a video of Piñera partying at an upscale restaurant during his grandson’s birthday went viral. People took to the streets.

Piñera then did what they all do – the Trumps, the Bolsonaros, the Johnsons of this world. He stamped his authority in the name of democracy, law, and the will of the people. In the country of Pinochet, Piñera resorted to the behaviour of a dictator.

The state is now behaving like security for the country’s privatised industries. The crackdown is not about protecting the people. It’s not about 30 pesos. It’s about 30 years of an economic model elevated to the level of constitutional principle for the benefit of those who got richer during the Pinochet years, and continue to get even richer during Piñera’s – while the many suffer. They’re not taking it any more.”
oscarguardiola-rivera  2019  chile  sebastiánpiñera  protest  protests  democracy  inequality  plutocracy  oligarchy  capitalism  neoliberalism  dictatorship  pinochet  precarity  economics  politics  policy  violence  society  jaimeguzmán  constitution 
october 2019 by robertogreco
Chileans Have Launched a General Strike Against Austerity
"Chile is the original home of neoliberalism, first begun after the overthrow of President Salvador Allende in 1973. If you listen closely to mass protests on the streets today, you can hear Allende's last words: “The people must defend themselves.”"
chile  2019  history  neoliberalism  economics  chicagoboys  miltonfriedman  salvadorallende  felipelagos-rojas  franciscagómez-baeza  capitalism  inequality  privatization  precarity  sebastiánpiñera  imf  society  government  governance  dispossession  debt  credit  pinochet 
october 2019 by robertogreco
From Chile to Lebanon, Protests Flare Over Wallet Issues - The New York Times
"Pocketbook items have become the catalysts for popular fury across the globe in recent weeks."

"In Chile, the spark was an increase in subway fares. In Lebanon, it was a tax on WhatsApp calls. The government of Saudi Arabia moved against hookah pipes. In India, it was about onions.

Small pocketbook items became the focus of popular fury across the globe in recent weeks, as frustrated citizens filled the streets for unexpected protests that tapped into a wellspring of bubbling frustration at a class of political elites seen as irredeemably corrupt or hopelessly unjust or both. They followed mass demonstrations in Bolivia, Spain, Iraq and Russia and before that the Czech Republic, Algeria, Sudan and Kazakhstan in what has been a steady drumbeat of unrest over the past few months.

At first glance, many of the demonstrations were linked by little more than tactics. Weeks of unremitting civil disobedience in Hong Kong set the template for a confrontational approach driven by vastly different economic or political demands.

Yet in many of the restive countries, experts discern a pattern: a louder-than-usual howl against elites in countries where democracy is a source of disappointment, corruption is seen as brazen, and a tiny political class lives large while the younger generation struggles to get by.

“It’s young people who have had enough,” said Ali H. Soufan, chief executive of The Soufan Group, a security intelligence consultancy. “This new generation are not buying into what they see as the corrupt order of the political and economic elite in their own countries. They want a change.”

Few were as surprised as the leaders of those countries.

On Thursday, the President Sebastián Piñera of Chile boasted that his country was an oasis of stability in Latin America. “We are ready to do everything to not fall into populism, into demagoguery,” he said in an interview published in The Financial Times.

The next day, protesters attacked factories, torched subway stations and looted supermarkets in Chile’s worst upheaval in decades, eventually forcing Mr. Piñera to deploy troops to the streets. By Wednesday, at least 15 people were dead, and a clearly rattled Mr. Piñera had spoken of “war against a powerful and implacable enemy.”

In Lebanon, Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri survived recent embarrassing revelations about a $16 million gift to a bikini model whom he met at a luxury resort in the Seychelles in 2013, a move that, for some critics, epitomized Lebanon’s ruling class. Then last week he announced the tax on WhatsApp calls, setting off a revolt.

Decades of discontent over inequality, stagnation and corruption erupted into the open, drawing as much as a quarter of the country into euphoric antigovernment demonstrations driven by chants of “Revolution!”

With one of the highest levels of public debt and intractably low employment, Lebanon seems incapable of providing basic public services like electricity, clean drinking water or reliable internet service. Austerity measures have hollowed out the middle class, while the richest 0.1 percent of the population — which includes many politicians — earns a tenth of the country’s national income, much of it, critics say, from plundering the country’s resources.

On Monday Mr. Hariri scrapped the planned tax, announcing a hasty reform package to rescue the country’s sclerotic economy and pledging to recover public trust.

Although the recent scattering of mass protests appears dramatic, scholars say it is a continuation of a rising trend. For decades, societies across the world have become far likelier to pursue sweeping political change by taking to the streets.

The rate of protest has accelerated sharply of late, as various factors have converged: a slowing global economy, dizzying gaps between rich and poor and a youth bulge that in many countries has produced a restive new generation fizzing with frustrated ambition. In addition, the expansion of democracy has stalled globally, leaving citizens with unresponsive governments frustrated and activists sure that street action is the only way to force change.

But as protest movements grow, their success rates are plunging. Only 20 years ago, 70 percent of protests demanding systemic political change achieved it — a figure that had been growing steadily since the 1950s, according to a study by Erica Chenoweth, a Harvard University political scientist.

In the mid-2000s, that trend reversed. Success rates now stand at 30 percent, the study said, a decline that Professor Chenoweth called staggering.

These two trends are closely linked. As protests become more frequent but likelier to flounder, they stretch on and on, becoming more contentious, more visible — and more apt to return to the streets when their demands go unmet. The result may be a world where popular uprisings lose their prominence, becoming simply part of the landscape.

“Something has really shifted,” Professor Chenoweth said in an interview.

“You could say these protests mirror what’s going on in the United States,” said Vali Nasr, a Middle East scholar who recently stepped down as dean of Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington. In countries where elections are decisive, like the United States and Britain, skepticism about the old political order has produced populist, nationalist and anti-immigrant results at the polls.

“In other countries, where people don’t have a voice, you have massive protests erupting,” he said.

The disparate outbreaks of unrest have not gone unnoticed at the United Nations. Secretary General António Guterres raised them at a meeting of the International Monetary Fund this past weekend, his spokesman, Stéphane Dujarric, said on Tuesday. Critics have accused the I.M.F. of exacerbating economic hardships in countries like Ecuador through austerity measures imposed to reduce debts.

“We are seeing demonstrations in different places, but there are some commonalities,” Mr. Dujarric said, citing “people feeling they are under extreme financial pressure, the issue of inequality, and a lot of other structural issues.”

Some experts say the rash of global protests is too diverse to neatly categorize or ascribe to a single theme. Michael Ignatieff, president of Central European University, was in Barcelona last week as more than 500,000 people thronged the streets after a court sentenced former separatist leaders to prison.

While the Barcelona protests bore some resemblance to mass demonstrations in other cities, Mr. Ignatieff said it would be a mistake to lump them together. “People are not being swept away by the madness of the crowds,” he said. “This is politics, with specific causes and specific issues. If you don’t acknowledge that, you make popular politics look like a series of crazy fashions, like the same trousers or headgear.”

Still, within some regions, the protests are often similar to each other.

In the Middle East, the tumult has drawn inevitable comparisons with the upheavals of the Arab Spring of 2011. But experts say these recent protests are driven by a new generation that cares less about the old sectarian or ideological divides.

Instead of calling for the head of a dictator as many Arabs did in 2011, the Lebanese have indicted an entire political class.

“They are stealing and pretending that they aren’t. Who’s responsible, if not them?” Dany Yacoub, 22, said on Monday, the fourth day she had spent protesting in central Beirut. She studied to be a music teacher, but said she cannot find a job because it takes political connections to get hired in a school. “We don’t believe them anymore,” she said.

Many Arabs have been wary of popular protest since the Arab Spring uprisings, heeding doom-tinged warnings from authoritarian leaders that any upheaval could tip their societies into the same violent chaos as Libya, Syria or Yemen.

But the recent wave of protests in Lebanon, Egypt and Iraq — as well as revolts that toppled longstanding dictators in Algeria and Sudan this year — suggest that wall of fear is starting to crumble.

“Syria has been the boogeyman for a very long time,” said Maha Yahya, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut. “But Algeria and Sudan showed that chaos does not have to be the answer.”

Even in Saudi Arabia, where the threat of government repression makes public protests practically unthinkable, an unusual rebellion erupted on social media over a 100 percent tax on bills at restaurants with water pipes, or hookahs. The Arabic hashtag “tax on hookah restaurants” trended in the kingdom. Some Twitter commentators said the tax contradicted the ruling family’s desire to change Saudi Arabia’s ultraconservative image.

If protests are quicker to stir and more widespread than in earlier decades, they are also more fragile. The painstaking mobilization that once was a feature of grass-roots movements was slow but durable. Protests that organize on social media can rise faster, but collapse just as quickly.

Authoritarian governments have also learned to co-opt social media, using it to disseminate propaganda, rally sympathizers or simply spread confusion, Professor Chenoweth said.

And even where there is a spasm of protest, it takes a lot more for it to snowball into a full opposition movement. The soaring price of onions in India caused farmers to block highways and mount short-lived protests. But frustration has yet to sharpen into mass demonstrations because there is nobody to channel it: India’s opposition is in disarray; divisions of caste and religion dominate politics; and the government of the Hindu nationalist prime minister, Narendra Modi, constantly raises the threat of neighboring Pakistan to distract the public."
protest  protests  2019  chile  saudiarabia  lebanon  india  algeria  sudan  kazakhstan  czechrepublic  bolivia  spain  españa  iraq  russia  demonstrations  corruption  policy  economics  neoliberalism  inequality  poverty  stagnation  elitism  governance  government  revolution  qualityoflife  youth  ericchenoweth  valinasr  barcelona  santiago  middleeast  authoritarianism  precarity 
october 2019 by robertogreco
Chile: arenas movedizas en los cimientos del alumno ejemplar
"La violencia evidencia el agrietamiento del modelo de crecimiento económico más exitoso de la región.

Las estimaciones de crecimiento de la economía de Chile para 2019 realizadas el Ministerio de Hacienda de aquel país prevén un aumento del 2,6 por ciento del Producto Interno Bruto. El dato, sin ser fulgurante (la economía mundial crecería algo más del 3% en el mismo período), contrasta con el crecimiento anémico de la economía brasileña, la contracción argentina, con crisis de deuda, o la crisis presupuestaria que motivó a Ecuador a recurrir al Fondo Monetario Internacional, desatando una rebelión en las calles. La pobreza sigue descendiendo, y la medición que, según su propia canasta, alcanzaba a casi el 40% de la población al regreso de la democracia, hoy es menor al 8%. El salario mínimo es uno de los más altos de Sudamérica y el salario real se mantiene en alza.

Si los números parecieran dar la razón al presidente Piñera en aquello de que "Chile es una isla de estabilidad en una región convulsionada", ¿qué pasó entonces en Chile? ¿cómo es que estos números correlacionan con las protestas masivas y las imágenes de violencia urbana que llegan desde Santiago?

Como dirigente político, Piñera recuerda a Zelig, aquel personaje de Woody Allen capaz de mimetizarse completamente con su entorno. No fue extraño que, rodeado de gobernantes progresistas en toda la región, con Obama al frente de los Estados Unidos, su primera presidencia casi pudiera asimilarse a un quinto gobierno de la Concertación. Quizá, el que hubiera sido si la Democracia Cristiana no se hubiera debilitado tanto en la correlación de fuerzas interna de la coalición de centroizquierda que hegemonizó la primera etapa democrática. Entonces, no parecía extraño verlo pasear sonriente durante los festejos del bicentenario argentino, entre retratos del Salvador Allende y Ernesto Guevara, al lado de Lula, Cristina Fernández y Rafael Correa. Para su segundo gobierno, las cosas habían cambiado.

Del Chile exitoso, que había crecido, en promedio, al 5% anual desde 1990, aparecía otro que pasaba dificultades. El segundo gobierno de Michelle Bachelet pasaba sin pena ni gloria, con la foto de un crecimiento magro y una gestión deslucida, y una agenda de reformas que había descendido en ambición al chocar con los límites de la clase dirigente, política y empresaria, chilena, incluyendo a parte de su propio espacio. Reformas que, aún tímidas, despertaron en el empresariado nacional una reacción feroz en los niveles de inversión, cuyo carácter eminentemente político resalta aún más en la comparación con las empresas multinacionales, acostumbradas a pagar muchos más impuestos que los que exige el Estado chileno. En un contexto de baja de los precios de las materias primas, la combinación resultó irreversible.

Para Zelig, rodeado ahora de gobiernos de derecha y enfrentado a una centro izquierda debilitada y plagada de disconformes en ambos flancos, la promesa era el regreso a "tiempos mejores", que no serían otra cosa que la reversión del "populismo" de la administración anterior, que habría quitado al país de la senda del crecimiento. El regreso de Piñera trajo una contrarreforma tributaria, regresiva, que benefició sobre todo al sector empresario más concentrado, con la esperanza de un boom inversor. En lo discursivo, de las sonrisas intercambiadas con Lula Da Silva, pasó a intentar apadrinar a Jair Bolsonaro, desde el día de su llegada al gobierno.

El modelo chileno contiene tensiones evidentes. La excesiva mercantilización heredada de la dictadura, y solo revertida muy parcialmente por la democracia, de sectores esenciales como la salud, la educación y el sistema previsional dio como resultado un sistema enormemente estratificado, donde la correlación entre clases sociales y calidad de las prestaciones es enormemente elevada, acentuando, en vez de mitigar, las diferencias sociales. El vigoroso crecimiento económico y las urgencias post dictadura ocultaron estas carencias que afloraron nuevamente cuando las carencias cedieron. Las demandas de la población ya no se vinculan con salir de la pobreza, sino con la calidad de vida, el progreso y las expectativas a la altura de los discursos sobre un Chile que prevé, en pocos años más, alcanzar el ingreso por habitante de los países desarrollados más rezagados, como Portugal o Hungría, pero que carece de un Estado Benefactor como el de cualquiera de esos países.

El contrato social del Chile de la recuperación democrática suponía una sociedad civil amansada y una dirigencia política endogámica y estable, percibida como eficiente y honesta, encargada de aportar crecimiento y bienestar. El modelo nunca fue del todo cierto, y las tradiciones de acción directa de la izquierda chilena mantuvieron una presencia relativamente marginal pero notoria, con escenas de enfrentamientos épicos los días de conmemoración del golpe militar del 73.

Durante el primer gobierno de Michelle Bachelet, el esquema comenzó a colapsar. El primer gran conflicto de transporte, con la caótica puesta en marcha del Transantiago (un sistema parecido al Metrobús), dio paso a otros movimientos sociales, contra las Administradoras de Fondos Previsionales privadas, y las magras jubilaciones que percibe la mayoría de los chilenos y, el más significativo, la "rebelión de los pingüinos", el movimiento de estudiantes por la gratuidad educativa, contra el enorme peso de la deuda estudiantil, percibida como una verdadera hipoteca sobre la vida post universitaria.

La red de transporte subterráneo de Santiago es un logro del Estado chileno. Con 140 kilómetros de extensión y 136 estaciones, y una expansión exponencial en las últimas décadas, conecta toda la ciudad de forma rápida y eficiente. Las tarifas, sin embargo, son elevadas. Con un salario mínimo de alrededor de cuatrocientos veinte dólares, el costo del pasaje se ubicaba alrededor de un dólar y, con el aumento de la tarifa técnica, la medida buscaba un aumento de poco más del quince por ciento, en un país donde la inflación interanual se ubica por debajo del 2,5%.

Las protestas sorprendieron a los funcionarios gubernamentales, que reaccionaron con desdén y soberbia. El ministro de transporte sugirió que, para evitar el aumento, las personas salieran a sus trabajos a las siete de la mañana, cuando el costo del pasaje es menor, el Ministro del Interior limitó el problema a una cuestión de seguridad, mientras el presidente calificó a los manifestantes que eludían el pago del boleto como "hordas de delincuentes". La aproximación, entonces, fue puramente policial. Sólo el pésimo manejo político de una crisis que fue escalando a diario durante más de una semana explica las escenas luctuosas del viernes, cuando ardieron edificios y estaciones en Santiago, ante la inexplicable ausencia de los Carabineros, omnipresentes antes para golpear y detener a estudiantes secundarios que se colaban masivamente entre molinetes.

El tardío reconocimiento de la gravedad de la situación y la legitimidad de los reclamos por parte del presidente, con su marcha atrás y llamado al diálogo, contrastaron con medidas que devolvieron la memoria de los tiempos más oscuros de la historia del país. La declaración del Estado de Emergencia, la primera vez que sucede por una causa no natural desde el retorno de la Democracia, y el Toque de Queda en la Región Metropolitana, trajeron a la memoria a un Chile que vivió, en forma ininterrumpida, noches de calles vacías y despliegues militares entre el golpe de 1973 y enero de 1987.

Si los pasos en falso del gobierno de Piñera explican la dimensión coyuntural de la crisis, sus fundamentos más profundos amenazan la solidez del alumno aventajado de la región. Las últimas elecciones mostraron un agrietamiento del sistema político, con expresiones electorales potentes a la izquierda y a la derecha de los representantes tradicionales. Las candidaturas de Beatriz Sánchez, por el Frente Amplio, y el pinochetista José Antonio Kast evidenciaron el cuestionamiento de los consensos post dictatoriales. En las instituciones, escándalos de corrupción inéditos en las cúpulas militares y de carabineros mancharon la confianza de la ciudadanía, y los casos de evasión y perdones impositivos para los más ricos afectaron la confianza en la igualdad ante la ley. Una realidad que la reforma impositiva de Piñera podría agravar, acentuando una desigualdad alta, que venía cayendo en forma lenta pero sostenida.

El "milagro económico chileno", que permitió que el PBI per cápita pase de ser 35% menor al de Argentina a 25% mayor en 25 años, consistió en abrir mercados mientras el Estado mejoraba la infraestructura para favorecer la actividad económica y las exportaciones. Sin embargo, la canasta exportadora de Chile no cambió demasiado en los últimos cincuenta años. La economía sigue bailando al ritmo del precio del cobre y su amplia dotación de recursos naturales.

La buena administración de esos recursos permitió a Chile crecer por encima de una región a la que percibe que dejó atrás, un discurso repetido hasta el hartazgo por su dirigencia. Si se tomaran en serio el espejo en el que dicen mirarse, Chile sigue siendo un país pobre y desigual, y su modelo de crecimiento empieza a mostrar signos de fatiga, justo en el momento en que sus ciudadanos demandan desarrollo."
chile  2019  politics  protest  protests  economics  inequality  organizing  activism  history  neoliberalism  policy  martínschapiro  precarity 
october 2019 by robertogreco
'Global Trumpism': Bailouts, Brexit and battling climate change | CBC Radio
[Also here:
https://www.cbc.ca/radio/ideas/global-trumpism-how-rogue-code-writers-became-the-authors-of-our-politics-1.5321199
https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-23-ideas/clip/15741291-global-trumpism-bailouts-brexit-and-battling-climate-change ]

“How did the middle class end up in perpetual debt? Why is there ‘no money’ for infrastructure or social programs, but there is for waging war? And what does all this have to do with Donald Trump, or Brexit, or climate change?

If you’re mystified about any of the above, then author and Brown University professor Mark Blyth can clarify things for you. He says it’s helpful to use a computer metaphor to describe the economy.

In his lecture at McMaster University as part of their Socrates Project, Blyth compared capitalist economies to laptops: different makes, but similar in appearance. He argues these computers run just fine for a while — say, about 30 years . But all the while, there are bugs in the software that eventually causes the system to crash. Then you rebuild the hardware, fix the software, and reboot.

System breakdown
That’s what happened in the 1970s and 1980s, when labour costs and inflation became a problem. The ‘system rebuild’ included less powerful unions, more global trade, and central bankers who were put in charge of setting interest rates.

But this new system generated bugs of its own, among them, a runaway culture of lending, and a lack of wage growth among the middle classes, who did a lot more borrowing than they could afford.

Mark Blyth says this borrowing wasn’t just driven by rampant consumerism.

“How do you get by when … everybody tells you there’s no inflation, yet the cost of everything that matters is actually going up? Education, health care, all that sort of stuff,” Blyth said in his lecture.

“And the only way you can fill in the gap is to borrow more money.”

Cue the 2008 financial crisis
However this time, Blyth says there was no rebuild. Instead, the United States Federal Reserve led a bailout of the big banks, domestically and internationally. The rich got much richer, the middle class got perpetual low interest rates to keep carrying their debts, and the poor had their social programs cut in the name of austerity.

Blyth contends this dynamic is what lit the fuse of global populism: the rise of leaders who appeal to public outrage, alienation, and lack of trust toward career politicians and traditional political parties.

“Your debts are too high…you can’t pay them off, but you can roll them over. They’re not going to be eaten away by inflation, and the people who brought you here have zero credibility,” said Blyth.

[video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGuaoARJYU0 ]

Blyth compares populist leaders to ‘rogue code-writers’, hacking into the software of a system that was never properly rebuilt after the crisis of 2008. This is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if it strengthens democracies.

“[Populism] is now part of the furniture … It’s already changed, so just get used to it. And let’s remember historically that 100 years ago, the people who were the populists then, the people that everyone was afraid of, became the established parties in many cases,” Blyth told IDEAS host Nahlah Ayed.

“So every now and again you have to have a little revolution, and that’s what’s happening now.”

Populism is springing up on the right and the left, said Blyth. The difficult choices that need to be made about climate change could come from a left-wing populist movement, not unlike the so-called ‘Green New Deal’ proposed by younger American Democrats like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Looking at how things may unfold in the not-too-distant future, Blyth speculates “right populism wins round one.”

“But ultimately, left populism wins round two, because left populism is the only one that takes climate change seriously,” he concludes.”
2019  markblyth  economics  inequality  brexit  donaldtrump  trumpism  fragility  greatrecession  2007  2008  policy  democracy  personaldebt  debt  taxes  wealth  income  climatechange  bailouts  finance  recessions  recession  oligarchy  popularism  berniesanders  banking  global  financialcrisis  inflation  productivity  consumerism  stockmarket  ipos  wages  middleclass  capitalism  us  uk  canada  caymanislands  delaware  arizona  isleofman  austerity  nahlahayed  latecapitalism  federalreserve  priorities  centralbanks  monetarypolicy  politics  alangreenspan  economists  loans  creditcards  spending 
october 2019 by robertogreco
These 3 Policy Failures Are Killing the American Dream
"In sum: The “middle-class crunch” is a choice. The American Dream isn’t dying of natural causes. We know what must be done to revive it. The problem is simply that a lot of powerful people would rather pull the plug than pay for the cure."
policy  inequality  economics  taxes  history  us  ericlevitz  2019  middleclass  wages  work  wealth  wealthinequality  income  housing  healthcare  highered  highereducation  socialwelfare  socialsafetynet 
october 2019 by robertogreco
Empire, Militarization, and Popular Revolt in Africa - YouTube
“In what ways does militarization/militarism in the African context enable, extend and depend upon economic, military/’security’ relations with imperialist actors, most importantly the US and Israel?

What are the new/old justifications and mechanisms of imperialist intervention, war, and policing across the continent (e.g. AFRICOM, drone strikes, outsourcing of regional interventions, joint military trainings and ‘cooperation’ etc.)? How do they criminalize dissent and shape the contexts in which popular mobilization take place? What are the socio-economic, (geo)political structures and dynamics, historical legacies and past forms of mobilization that inform current revolts in Algeria and Sudan? What do they share in common and how do they differ from one another and past mobilizations? What kinds of connections can be made with current anti-colonial/anti-capitalist/anti-imperialist struggles currently underway in Puerto Rico and Haiti, as well as with struggles against racial capitalism and the police/carceral state in the US? What is the role of the US and its allies (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE) as counter-revolutionary actors? How can we build on past and existing forms of internationalism and contribute to reviving an anti-imperialist left in order to better support popular struggles across the African continent and beyond?”

[https://peoplesforum.org/event/empire-militarization-and-popular-revolt-in-africa/

“Empire, Militarization, and Popular Revolt in Africa
August 31 @ 2:00 pm - 5:15 pm

This event explores the themes of imperialism, militarization, police/carceral state, and resistance across the African continent with the aim of making broader regional and transnational connections with struggles elsewhere in order to build cross-regional solidarity.

2:00-3:30pm
‘Imperialist Interventions and Militarization across Africa and beyond’
Yasmina Price
Samar Al-Bulushi
Corinna Mullin
Kambale Musavuli
Khury Petersen-Smith

–BREAK—

3:45-5:15pm
“African Revolts”
Nisrin Elamin
Brahim Rouabah
Suzanne Adely”

Each panel will consist of short presentations to ensure time for meaningful discussion and the opportunity to share/ learn from our diverse experiences working on these themes in different contexts. Some of the questions that will be addressed include:

In what ways does militarization/militarism in the African context enable, extend and depend upon economic, military/’security’ relations with imperialist actors, most importantly the US and Israel? What are the new/old justifications and mechanisms of imperialist intervention, war, and policing across the continent (e.g. AFRICOM, drone strikes, outsourcing of regional interventions, joint military trainings and ‘cooperation’ etc.)? How do they criminalize dissent and shape the contexts in which popular mobilization take place? What are the socio-economic, (geo)political structures and dynamics, historical legacies and past forms of mobilization that inform current revolts in Algeria and Sudan? What do they share in common and how do they differ from one another and past mobilizations? What kinds of connections can be made with current anti-colonial/anti-capitalist/anti-imperialist struggles currently underway in Puerto Rico and Haiti, as well as with struggles against racial capitalism and the police/carceral state in the US? What is the role of the US and its allies (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE) as counter-revolutionary actors? How can we build on past and existing forms of internationalism and contribute to reviving an anti-imperialist left in order to better support popular struggles across the African continent and beyond?

Participant BIOS

Suzanne Adely is a long time Arab-American community organizer, with a background in global labor and human rights advocacy. She is a member of the Bureau of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, National Lawyers Guild board member and co-chair of the NLG international committee and MENA subcommittee. She currently works for the Food Chain Workers Alliance, a bi-national alliance of worker based organizations in the food economy. She is a member of Al-Awda-NY, US Palestine Community Network and a newly launched Arab Workers Resource Center.

Samar Al-Bulushi is an assistant professor in the department of anthropology at University of California, Irvine. Her research is broadly concerned with militarism, policing, and the ‘War on Terror’ in East Africa. Previously, she worked with various human rights organizations and co-produced AfrobeatRadio and Global Movements, Urban Struggles on Pacifica’s WBAI in New York City.

Nisrin Elamin is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Columbia University Society of Fellows and a lecturer in the Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies Department. Her work explores the relationship between land, belonging, migration and geopolitics in post-secession Sudan. Her current project examines the ways landless and landholding communities are negotiating and contesting changes in land ownership prompted by a recent wave of Gulf Arab corporate investments in Sudanese land. She is affiliated with Girifna, a movement fighting for democracy and a transition to full civilian rule in Sudan.

Corinna Mullin is an adjunct professor at John Jay College and the New School. Her research examines the historical legacies of colonialism and contemporary imperialist interventions in shaping Global South security states in a way that facilitates labor exploitation, natural resource extraction and other forms of Global South value drain, with a focus on Tunisia.

Kambale Musavuli, a native of the Democratic Republic of Congo and one of the leading political and cultural Congolese voices, is a human rights advocate, Student Coordinator and National Spokesperson for the Friends of the Congo.

Khury Petersen-Smith is an activist and geographer who interrogates US empire. He is the Middle East Research Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and a founding member of Black For Palestine.

Yasmina Price is a Black anti-imperialist Marxist committed to the liberation of colonised peoples and the abolishment of police, prisons and all oppressive structures. She has organized locally and led trainings within a socialist group, also participating in panels organized by Verso Books and the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung focusing on global mechanisms of injustice. She is currently a PhD student in Black Cinema at Yale.

Brahim Rouabah is an Algerian activist and academic. He is the co-founder of the UK based Algerian Solidarity Campaign. He is currently working on his PhD in Political Science at the CUNY Grad Center. His research focuses on issues related to knowledge production, colonialism and the origins of capitalist property relations.

Co-sponsor by The Polis Project and Warscapes.
The Polis Project is a hybrid research and journalism organization producing knowledge about some of the most important issues affecting us, and amplifying diverse perspectives from those indigenous to the conflicts and crises affecting our world today. We aim to democratize scholarship, produce in-depth, critical journalism and knowledge for and by communities in resistance. We look to make sense of the world with its infinite injustices, inequality and violence, with the courage to reveal how existing systems, ideas, ideologies and laws have failed us. We unpack complexity by understanding that knowledge is power, and like all power, it shouldn’t be owned by a few people or corporations. And we pursue this by adapting our storytelling, analysis and research to the newest, most innovative ways of spreading work to engaged audiences everywhere.

Warscapes is an independent online magazine that provides a lens into current conflicts across the world. Established in 2011, Warscapes publishes fiction, non-fiction, poetry, interviews, book and film reviews, photo-essays and retrospectives of war literature from the past fifty years, and hosts public conversations, art shows, and film screenings in the United States, Europe and across Africa. Warscapes is motivated by a need to move past a void within mainstream culture in the depiction of people and places experiencing staggering violence, and the literature they produce. Apart from showcasing great writing from war-torn areas, the magazine is a tool for understanding complex political crises in various regions and serves as an alternative to compromised representations of those issues.]
africa  kenya  uganda  niger  tunisia  somalia  ghana  us  occupation  imperialism  africom  activism  migration  blacklivesmatter  israel  colonization  2019  solidarity  saudiarabia  unitedarabemirates  refugees  dehumanization  race  racism  policy  internationalism  capitalism  donaldtrump  military  militarization  islamophobia  egypt  history  mali  humanitarianism  funding  violence  sudan  algeria  libya  criminalization  specificity  drones  economics  china  burkinafaso  militarism  people’sforum  leftism  socialism  yasminaprice  samaral-bulushi  corinnamullin  kambalemusavuli  khurypetersen-smith  nisrinelamin  brahimrouabah  suzanneadely  class  liberalism  neoliberalism  cynicism  optimism  anticapitalism  antiimperialism  tuareg 
october 2019 by robertogreco
Opinion | Barack Obama’s Biggest Mistake - The New York Times
"It rhymes with ‘schneo-liberalism.’ It was an economic disaster and a political dead end."

...

"In 2009, Barack Obama was the most powerful newly elected American president in a generation. Democrats controlled the House and, for about five months in the second half of the year, they enjoyed a filibuster-proof, 60-vote majority in the Senate. For the first six months of his presidency, Obama had an approval rating in the 60s.

Democrats also had a once-in-a-lifetime political opportunity presented by a careening global crisis. Across the country, people were losing jobs and homes in numbers not seen since World War II. Just as in the 1930s, the Republican Party’s economic policies were widely thought to have caused the crisis, and Obama and his fellow Democrats were swept into office on a throw-the-bums-out wave.

If he’d been in the mood to press the case, Obama might have found widespread public appetite for the sort of aggressive, interventionist restructuring of the American economy that Franklin D. Roosevelt conjured with the New Deal. One of the inspiring new president’s advisers even hinted that was the plan.

“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste,” Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s chief of staff, said days after the 2008 election.

And then Obama took office. And rather than try for a Rooseveltian home run, he bunted: Instead of pushing for an aggressive stimulus to rapidly expand employment and long-term structural reforms in how the economy worked, Obama and his team responded to the recession with a set of smaller emergency measures designed to fix the immediate collapse of financial markets. They succeeded: The recession didn’t turn into a depression, markets were stabilized, and the United States began a period of long, slow growth.

But they could have done so much more. By the time Obama took office, job losses had accelerated so quickly that his advisers calculated the country would need $1.7 trillion in additional spending to get back to full employment. A handful of advisers favored a very large government stimulus of $1.2 trillion; some outside economists — Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz, James Galbraith — also favored going to a trillion.

But Obama’s closest advisers declined to push Congress for anything more than $800 billion, which they projected would reduce unemployment to below 8 percent by the 2010 midterms. They were wrong; the stimulus did reduce job losses, but it was far too small to hit the stated goal — unemployment was 9.8 percent in November 2010.

Obama’s advisers also rejected ideas for large infrastructure projects. They offered a plan to prevent just 1.5 million foreclosures — when, ultimately, 10 million Americans lost their homes. And they declined to push for new leadership on Wall Street, let alone much punishment for the recklessness that led to the crisis.

“He chose an economic recovery plan that benefited educated, well-off people much more than the middle class,” writes Reed Hundt, a Democrat who is a former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, in his recent history of Obama’s first two years, “A Crisis Wasted.”

A lot of this might be excusable; it was an emergency, and Obama and his team did what they could. But Obama’s longer record on the economy is also coming under fire from the left. The Obama people — many of whom came to the White House from Wall Street and left it for Silicon Valley — seemed entirely too comfortable with the ongoing corporatization of America.

In the Obama years, the government let corporations get bigger and economic power grow more concentrated. Obama’s regulators declined to push antimonopoly measures against Google and Facebook, against airlines and against big food and agriculture companies.

It is true that Obama succeeded in passing a groundbreaking universal health care law. It’s also true that over the course of his presidency, inequality grew, and Obama did little to stop it. While much of the rest of the country struggled to get by, the wealthy got wealthier and multimillionaires and billionaires achieved greater political and cultural power.

What’s the point of returning to this history now, a decade later? Think of it as a cautionary tale — a story that ought to rank at the top of mind for a Democratic electorate that is now choosing between Obama’s vice president and progressives like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, who had pushed Obama, during the recovery, to adopt policies with more egalitarian economic effects.

From this distance, the history favors Warren’s approach. As Hundt notes, not only did Obama’s policy ideas produce lackluster economic results (at least in that they failed to hit their stated goals), they failed politically, too. The sluggish recovery in Obama’s first years led to a huge loss for Democrats in the 2010 midterms. Obama was re-elected, but during his time in office, Democrats saw declining national support — and in 2016, of course, they lost the White House to Donald Trump, an outcome that Warren has tied directly to Obama’s early economic decisions.

Why had Obama chosen this elitist path? Another new book, “Goliath: The 100-Year War Between Monopoly Power and Democracy,” by the antimonopoly scholar Matt Stoller, provides a deeply researched answer. It boils down to this: Obama, like Bill Clinton before him, was the product of a Democratic Party that had forgotten its history and legacy. For much of the 20th century, Democrats’ fundamental politics involved fighting against concentrations of economic power in favor of the rights and liberties of ordinary people. “The fight has always been about whether monopolists run our world, or about whether we the people do,” Stoller writes.

But in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, as Stoller explains, Democrats altered their economic vision. They abandoned New Deal and Great Society liberalism in favor of a new dogma that came to be known as neoliberalism — a view of society in which markets and financial instruments, rather than government policy and direct intervention, are seen as the best way to achieve social ends.

Obama’s biggest ideas were neoliberal: The Affordable Care Act, his greatest domestic policy achievement, improved access to health care by altering private health-insurance markets. Obama aimed to address the climate crisis by setting up a market for carbon, and his plan for improving education focused on technocratic, standards-based reform. Even Obama’s historical icons were neoliberal — the neoliberals’ patron saint being Alexander Hamilton, the elitist, banker-friendly founding father who would be transformed, in Obama’s neoliberal Camelot, into a beloved immigrant striver with very good flow.

It is tricky to criticize Obama from the left in the Trump era. There’s still widespread nostalgia and good feeling for Obama as a political figure — and, considering the disaster of the current administration, it feels almost churlish to re-examine his years in office. There are also a range of good defenses for Obama’s policies. “I have no doubt that when historians look back on the Obama years, he will and should be given credit for preventing a second Great Depression,” Christina Romer, one of the advisers who had pushed for much greater stimulus, told me.

Obama’s policies were also perfectly in line with prevailing orthodoxy — it’s likely that Hillary Clinton would have pursued similar measures if she’d won the 2008 primary. It is also worth noting that, ahem, parts of the punditocracy shared his market-fetishizing philosophy: I wrote skeptically of antitrust prosecution against Google in 2009, 2010, and 2015.

But that’s exactly why I found Stoller’s book so insightful. The long history of Democratic populism is unknown to most liberals today. Only now, in the age of Sanders and Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, are we beginning to relearn the lessons of the past. For at least three decades, neoliberalism has brought the left economic half-measures and political despair. It’s time to demand more."
farhadmanjoo  2008  2009  politics  barackobama  democrats  greatrecession  neoliberalism  economics  missedopportunities  toldyaso  obamacare  unemployment  finance  inequality  banking  elitism  billclinton  policy  2015  antitrust  google  hillaryclinton  2016  donaldtrump  markets  capitalism  liberalism  berniesanders  elizabethwarren  alexandriaocasio-cortez  mattstoller  monopolies  alexanderhamilton  healthcare  newdeal  power  corporations  corporatization  reedhundt  middleclass  crisis  josephstiglitz  jamesgalbraith  paulkrugman  2010  2019 
september 2019 by robertogreco
Wendell Berry’s Lifelong Dissent  | The Nation
“At a time when political conflict runs deep and erects high walls, the Kentucky essayist, novelist, and poet Wendell Berry maintains an arresting mix of admirers. Barack Obama awarded him the National Humanities Medal in 2011. The following year, the socialist-feminist writer and editor Sarah Leonard published a friendly interview with him in Dissent. Yet he also gets respectful attention in the pages of The American Conservative and First Things, a right-leaning, traditionalist Christian journal.

More recently, The New Yorker ran an introduction to Berry’s thought distilled from a series of conversations, stretching over several years, with the critic Amanda Petrusich. In these conversations, Berry patiently explains why he doesn’t call himself a socialist or a conservative and recounts the mostly unchanged creed underlying his nearly six decades of writing and activism. Over the years, he has called himself an agrarian, a pacifist, and a Christian—albeit of an eccentric kind. He has written against all forms of violence and destruction—of land, communities, and human beings—and argued that the modern American way of life is a skein of violence. He is an anti-capitalist moralist and a writer of praise for what he admires: the quiet, mostly uncelebrated labor and affection that keep the world whole and might still redeem it. He is also an acerbic critic of what he dislikes, particularly modern individualism, and his emphasis on family and marriage and his ambivalence toward abortion mark him as an outsider to the left.

Berry’s writing is hard to imagine separated from his life as a farmer in a determinedly traditional style, who works the land where his family has lived for many generations using draft horses and hand labor instead of tractors and mechanical harvesters. But the life, like the ideas, crisscrosses worlds without belonging neatly to any of them. Born in 1934 in Henry County, Kentucky, Berry was but the son of a prominent local lawyer and farmer. He spent much of his childhood in the company of people from an older generation who worked the soil: his grandfather, a landowner, and the laborers who worked the family land. His early adulthood was relatively cosmopolitan. After graduating from the University of Kentucky with literary ambitions, he went to Stanford to study under the novelist Wallace Stegner at a time when Ken Kesey, Robert Stone, and Larry McMurtry were also students there. Berry went to Italy and France on a Guggenheim fellowship, then lived in New York, teaching at NYU’s Bronx campus. As he entered his 30s, he returned to Kentucky, setting up a farm in 1965 at Lane’s Landing on the Kentucky River. Although he was a member of the University of Kentucky’s faculty for nearly 20 years over two stints, ending in 1993, his identity has been indelibly that of a writer-farmer dug into his place, someone who has become nationally famous for being local, and developed the image of a timeless sage while joining, sometimes fiercely, in fights against the Vietnam War and the coal industry’s domination of his region.

Now the essays and polemics in which Berry has made his arguments clearest over the last five decades are gathered in two volumes from the Library of America, totaling 1,700 tightly set pages. Seeing his arc in one place highlights both his complexity and his consistency: The voice and preoccupations really do not change, even as the world around him does. But he is also the product of a specific historical moment, the triple disenchantment of liberal white Americans in the 1960s over the country’s racism, militarism, and ecological devastation. In the 50 years since, Berry has sifted and resifted his memory and attachment to the land, looking for resources to support an alternative America—”to affirm,” as he wrote in 1981, “my own life as a thing decent in possibility.” He has concluded that this self-affirmation is not possible in isolation or even on the scale of one’s lifetime, and he has therefore made his writing a vehicle for a reckoning with history and an ethics of social and ecological interdependence.”



“Throughout his work, Berry likes to iron out paradoxes in favor of building a unified vision, but he is himself a bundle of paradoxes, some more generative than others. A defender of community and tradition, he has been an idiosyncratic outsider his whole life, a sharp critic of both the mainstream of power and wealth and the self-styled traditionalists of the religious and cultural right. A stylist with an air of timelessness, he is in essential ways a product of the late 1960s and early ’70s, with their blend of political radicalism and ecological holism. An advocate of the commonplace against aesthetic and academic conceits, he has led his life as a richly memorialized and deeply literary adventure. Like Thoreau, Berry invites dismissive misreading as a sentimentalist, an egotist, or a scold. Like Thoreau, he is interested in the integrity of language, the quality of experience—what are the ways that one can know a place, encounter a terrain?—and above all, the question of how much scrutiny an American life can take.

”All of Berry’s essays serve as documents of the bewildering destruction in which our everyday lives involve us and as a testament to those qualities in people and traditions that resist the destruction. As the economic order becomes more harrying and abstract, a politics of place is emerging in response, much of it a genuine effort to understand the ecological and historical legacies of regions in the ways that Berry has recommended. This politics is present from Durham, North Carolina, where you can study the legacy of tobacco and slavery on the Piedmont soils and stand where locals took down a Confederate statue in a guerrilla action in 2017, to New York City, where activists have built up community land trusts for affordable housing and scientists have reconstructed the deep environmental history of the country’s most densely developed region. But few of the activists and scholars involved in this politics would think of themselves as turning away from the international or the global. They are more likely to see climate change, migration, and technology as stitching together the local and global in ways that must be part of the rebuilding and enriching of community.

The global hypercapitalism that Berry denounces has involved life—human and otherwise—in a world-historical gamble concerning the effects of indefinite growth, innovation, and competition. Most of us are not the gamblers; we are the stakes. He reminds us that this gamble repeats an old pattern of mistakes and crimes: hubris and conquest, the idea that the world is here for human convenience, and the willingness of the powerful to take as much as they can. For most of his life, Berry has written as a kind of elegist, detailing the tragic path that we have taken and recalling other paths now mostly fading. In various ways, young agrarians, socialists, and other radicals now sound his themes, denouncing extractive capitalism and calling for new and renewed ways of honoring work—our own and what the writer Alyssa Battistoni calls the “work of nature.” They also insist on the need to engage political power to shape a future, not just with local work but on national and global scales. They dare to demand what he has tended to relinquish. If these strands of resistance and reconstruction persist, even prevail, Wendell Berry’s lifelong dissent—stubborn, sometimes maddening, not quite like anything else of its era—will deserve a place in our memory.”
wendellberry  2019  jedediahbritton-purdy  dissent  climate  climatechange  agriculture  farming  kentucky  amandapetrusich  activism  writing  christianity  violence  land  communities  community  anticapitalism  individualism  left  humanism  morality  life  living  howwelive  environment  environmentalism  interconnectedness  us  ecology  economics  labor  ronaldreagan  inequality  growth  globalization  finance  financialization  politics  storytelling  mining  stripmining  pacifism  collectivism  collectiveaction  organizing  resistance  mobility  culture  popefrancis  wholeness  morethanhuman  multispecies  amish  localism  skepticism  radicalism  radicals  jedediahpurdy  innovation  competition  hypercapitalism 
september 2019 by robertogreco
Allende in Chile Today
"Nearly five decades after the coup that overthrew leftist president Salvador Allende, the Chilean left is starting to rebuild power. But it still wrestles with the legacy of the bloody defeat of Allende’s democratic revolution."
salvadorallende  chile  2019  naomititelman  politics  economics  history  pinochet  coup 
september 2019 by robertogreco
Student Debt Is Transforming the American Family | The New Yorker
"A great deal has changed since Kimberly’s parents attended college. From the late nineteen-eighties to the present, college tuition has increased at a rate four times that of inflation, and eight times that of household income. It has been estimated that forty-five million people in the United States hold educational debt totalling roughly $1.5 trillion—more than what Americans owe on their credit cards or auto loans. Some fear that the student-debt “bubble” will be the next to burst. Wide-scale student-debt forgiveness no longer seems radical. Meanwhile, skeptics question the very purpose of college and its degree system. Maybe what pundits dismiss as the impulsive rage of young college students is actually an expression of powerlessness, as they anticipate a future defined by indebtedness.

Middle-class families might not seem like the most sympathetic characters when we’re discussing the college-finance conundrum. Poor students, working-class students, and students of color face more pronounced disadvantages, from the difficulty of navigating financial-aid applications and loan packages to the lack of a safety net. But part of Zaloom’s fascination with middle-class families is the larger cultural assumption that they ought to be able to afford higher education. A study conducted in the late nineteen-eighties by Elizabeth Warren, Teresa Sullivan, and Jay Westbrook illuminated the precarity of middle-class life. They found that the Americans filing for bankruptcy rarely lacked education or spent recklessly. Rather, they were often college-educated couples who were unable to recover from random crises along the way, like emergency medical bills.

These days, paying for college poses another potential for crisis. The families in “Indebted” are thoughtful and restrained, like the generically respectable characters conjured during a Presidential debate. Zaloom follows them as they contemplate savings plans, apply for financial aid, and then strategize about how to cover the difference. Parents and children alike talk about how educational debt hangs over their futures, impinging on both daily choices and long-term ambitions. In the eighties, more than half of American twentysomethings were financially independent. In the past decade, nearly seventy per cent of young adults in their twenties have received money from their parents. The risk is collective, and the consequences are shared across generations. At times, “Indebted” reads like an ethnography of a dwindling way of life, an elegy for families who still abide by the fantasy that thrift and hard work will be enough to secure the American Dream."
caitlinzaloom  2019  capitalism  money  highered  highereducation  colleges  universities  economics  finance  middleclass  precarity  us  education  moraltraps  morality  obligation  debt  studentdebt  latecapitalism  parenting 
september 2019 by robertogreco
When Your Kid's College Education Could Wreck You Financially, Should You Pay? | Here & Now
"The cost of college has soared. But for many middle-class families, paying for a kid's education has become both a financial and a moral issue.

"We are in a situation where we've forced parents to choose between the values of financial prudence and the values of parenthood, says Caitlin Zaloom, author of "Indebted: How Families Make College Work at Any Cost," and New York University professor of social and cultural analysis.

Zaloom (@caitlinzaloom) talks with Here & Now's Peter O'Dowd about how families should balance their own finances with the desire to open doors for their children."
caitlinzaloom  2019  highered  highereducation  colleges  universities  economics  finance  middleclass  precarity  us  education  moraltraps  morality  obligation  debt  studentdebt  capitalism  latecapitalism  parenting 
september 2019 by robertogreco
Opinion | How Paying for College Is Changing Middle-Class Life - The New York Times
“Everyone knows that higher education is expensive. The average annual price tag for attending a private, four-year American college is now around $50,000. To pay that, most students receive some combination of financial aid and loans, but schools expect parents to reach into their bank accounts, too.

Paying for college, however, is taking a toll on American families in ways that are more profound and less appreciated than even the financial cost conveys. It has fundamentally changed the experience of being middle class in this country.

Although middle-class families have long labored to help their children get educated, only recently has the struggle to pay for it — which can threaten the solvency of the family and cast children in the role of risky “investments” — transformed the character of family life. It is altering relationships between parents and children and forcing them to adjust their responsibilities to each other.

As an anthropologist and professor at New York University, one of the world’s most expensive institutions of higher education, I’d long suspected that the cost of college — which has tripled at public colleges and universities in the past three decades — was affecting my students and their parents in more than just budgetary terms. But I wasn’t sure. Americans typically avoid discussions of personal finance, and parents frequently decline to discuss family finances with their children — until, too often, they have no choice.

So I embarked on a research project to better understand middle-class families who are taking on debt to pay for higher education. Over the past seven years, my research team and I conducted 160 in-depth interviews across the country, first with college students and then with their parents. I considered families to be middle class if the parents made too much money or had too much wealth for their children to qualify for major federal higher education grants, and if they earned too little or possessed insufficient wealth to pay full fare at most colleges.

As is customary with this kind of research, I offered the interviewees anonymity so that they would be more likely to participate and to be open and honest. Even still, gaining access was an arduous process.

Perhaps the central theme that emerged from this research was that for middle-class parents, the requirement to help pay for college is seen not merely as a budgetary challenge, but also as a moral obligation. The financial sacrifices required are both compelled and expected. They are what responsible parents should do for their children.

Indeed, shouldering the weight of paying for college is sometimes seen by parents as part of their children’s moral education. By draining their savings to pay for college, parents affirm their commitment to education as a value, proving — to themselves and to others — that higher education is integral to the kind of family they are.

The feeling of obligation is hardly illusory. Decades ago, when organized labor was strong and manufacturing jobs were plentiful, a four-year college degree was not needed to achieve or maintain a middle-class life. But now college is virtually essential, not only because the degree serves as a job credential, but also because the experience gives young adults the knowledge and social skills they need to participate in middle-class communities.

The result for middle-class families is a perpetual conflict between moral duty and financial reality. Again and again, the families I interviewed spoke of how hard it was to follow the steps that the federal government, financial industry players and financial experts advise, such as starting to save for college when the children are young. Indeed, I found that when experts instruct parents to economize, they force families into three common moral traps.

First, when their children are young, the parents face an impossible trade-off between spending on their present family needs and wants and saving for college. Few parents choose saving over spending on child development. Less than 5 percent of Americans have college savings accounts, and those who do are far wealthier than average.

For those with middle-class jobs, saving enough for college would mean compromising on the sort of activities — music education, travel, sports teams, tutoring — that enrich their children’s lives, keep them in step with their peers, deliver critical lessons in self-discipline and teach social skills. The paradox is that enrolling children in the programs that prepare them for college and middle-class life means draining the bank accounts that would otherwise fund higher education.

The second moral trap occurs when children begin applying for college. As nearly every family told me, the parents and the children place enormous value on finding the “right” college. This is far more than finding an affordable place to study; it is about finding the environment that best promises to help build a social network, generate life and career opportunities and allow young adults to discover who they are. With so much at stake, parents and children prioritize the “right” school — and then find ways to meet the cost, no matter what it takes.

An inescapable conclusion from my research is that the high cost of college is forcing middle-class families to engage in what I call “social speculation.” This is the third moral trap: Parents must wager money today that their children’s education will secure them a place in the middle class tomorrow.

Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that this bet will pay off — for the parents or the children. And too often, I found, it doesn’t. Some parents’ saving plans were waylaid by crises — health emergencies, job losses, family breakups — that were common enough but impossible to foresee. Likewise, many children failed to land well-paying jobs out of college, forcing them to bear the weight of paying off debt during the most vulnerable decade of their adult lives.

Paying the high cost of college also means jeopardizing the long-term financial security of the parents. The more parents spend on their children’s education, the less they have in their retirement accounts. Here we find another paradox: Parents make huge investments in education so that their children can maintain or achieve middle-class status, but in the process, they increase the risk of falling out of the middle class themselves.

One popular tip financial advisers give parents is to spend on college the way they’re supposed to act in an airplane that loses cabin pressure: first secure their own oxygen masks (by saving for retirement) and only then assist their children (by spending for college). In reality, though, parents act just as they would on the airplane. They take care of their children first.

It’s no wonder, then, that family finances are so shaky throughout the country. The median American household has only about $12,000 in savings.

It’s also no wonder that as so many of my interviews ended, parents joked about their financial predicament by saying they might win the lottery. They have come to see outlandish luck as their best chance of dealing with their predicament. And in the absence of real changes to the current system of paying for college, what other hope do they have?

Such speculative, wishful thinking may seem irrational. But until we reform how a college education is financed, that is how countless middle-class families are holding on to the American dream.”
caitlinzaloom  2019  highered  highereducation  colleges  universities  economics  finance  middleclass  precarity  us  education  moraltraps  morality  obligation  debt  studentdebt  capitalism  latecapitalism  parenting 
september 2019 by robertogreco
What Is the Cost of College Doing to Families? - The Atlantic
“Joe Pinsker: In the past few decades, what’s changed in how families pay for college?

Caitlin Zaloom: College used to be a lot cheaper for families, because there was more funding from the government. If you think about the biggest educational systems, like the University of California system or the City University of New York system, these universities were free or practically free for decades. That was in part because of a belief that higher education was essential for the national project of upward mobility, and for having an educated citizenry.

So middle-class families didn’t always have to pay for college with debt. The shift began in the 1980s, in terms of a changing political philosophy. President Ronald Reagan’s budget director, David Stockman, said in 1981, “If people want to go to college bad enough, then there is opportunity and responsibility on their part to finance their way through the best way they can.” When those who argued that college is a private benefit framed it like that, it became logical to say that education should be paid for by the people that it benefits. And so in the 1990s, the vast expansion of loans for higher education began.

Pinsker: Many of the parents and children you interviewed about their college-related debt feared that they were being financially burdensome to their family members. Given the shift you just described, do you think that this represents people internalizing system-level problems as personal ones?

Zaloom: The families that I spoke with really feared the possibility that they would be a weight on each other. And that is very much a fear of failing under the terms of the current college financing system—people understand themselves as failing, but we give them unreasonable terms.

The fear is a really visceral feeling for parents. What they want is for their children to be able to go off into the world and become adults without the weight of their history—that of the parents—bringing them down. Across all of my interviews, it was so important to parents to enable their kids to move into open futures, not limited by the parents’ economic background. The idea of limiting the horizon of their children is almost inconceivable to the parents that I spoke with.

Parents understand something profound about living in a powerfully unequal society. They recognize that having a kid who can take their shots—who can really make the most of themselves—is essential to the possibility of reaching this far-off tier where people are living lives of stability and wealth. And if young adults are unable to take that shot, they face the possibility that they will be in either that constrained, eroding middle class that their parents belong to—or, worse, that they will fall, and fall far.

Pinsker: The middle-class parents in your book generally didn’t talk with their kids about the financial strain of paying for college. You note that this isn’t confined just to the subject of paying for college, but is the case with other financial matters too. Why do you think parents so often avoid conversations about money with their kids?

Zaloom: I think that one reason middle-class parents stay silent about their finances is that they feel vulnerable, in terms of their social standing. When families face financial difficulties, that makes them feel like they may fall out of the middle class and like they won’t be able to do what people like them are supposed to do—for instance, to be able to send their kid to a college that’s a good fit or to be able to retire securely. So that silence about money is a kind of last resort for shoring up a faltering middle-class identity.

Pinsker: What is the single change that you think would be most effective in making paying for college less fraught for families?

Zaloom: I think that it is essential to make public universities tuition-free or low-cost. That would do wonders for helping families understand that education is for them, and for opening up the imaginations of young people who don’t otherwise see college as a possibility. That is important in and of itself, but it’s also important because free tuition would take the pressure off families to reorganize their lives around trying to achieve this unmanageable financial goal, which is what we ask them to do now. And then ultimately, it would also benefit young adults, because they would be graduating without the kind of debt that would inhibit them from trying to figure out what kind of contribution they want to make to the world and what kind of job they want to have.

Pinsker: What would you say to people who would read what you just said and argue in response that money can’t just be given out to everyone like that?

Zaloom: Most of the economic arguments against free tuition are based on the notion that education is a private good—that a college education is like a house, in that it’s something you are buying and then hold the responsibility to pay back. I don’t dispute the calculations of those who support that argument. And I do understand that funding free or low college tuition would also benefit a lot of wealthier families. But, for the reasons I mentioned earlier, I see higher education as being a fundamental public good that we have somehow defined as a private one.

Even considering that economic objection on its own terms, I would argue that higher education is now necessary for a stable life and a good job, in the way that K–12 education and a high-school degree was necessary 40 years ago. We now have a system that requires K–16 education for financial stability, so it’s important to fund that—we wouldn’t ask people to pay for 5th grade, so we shouldn’t also ask people to be paying for sophomore year.”
caitlinzaloom  joepinsker  colleges  universities  highered  highereducation  studentdebt  middleclass  finance  education  economics  publicgood  precarity  inequality  2019  obligation  us  moraltraps  morality  debt  capitalism  latecapitalism  parenting 
september 2019 by robertogreco
The Scourge of Worker Wellness Programs | The New Republic
“In addition to being invasive and ineffective, worker wellness programs are often discriminatory, particularly toward disabled people. In a series of lawsuits from 2014 to 2016, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charged companies with unfairly punishing employees for not participating in these programs or screenings, thereby violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, which says that employers cannot require medical examinations unless they are “job-related.”

The EEOC has largely failed to convince courts of its argument. Meanwhile, the agency’s own guidelines governing wellness programs have drawn court challenges from the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), among other advocacy groups. The AARP scored a major victory when, in 2017, a court ruled that the EEOC guidelines let employers penalize workers to much for non-participation in wellness programs. As of January, the ACA’s allowance of tying up to 30 percent of premiums to participation has been vacated. Now, says Dara Smith, senior attorney at the AARP Foundation, many are confused about what regulations still apply, with some thinking that “there’s just no law.” She added, “We’re in the Wild West,” in terms of regulations of worker wellness programs.

The AARP continues to challenge wellness programs in court. In July, AARP lawyers filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of Yale employees, who faced fines of more than $1,000 for not disclosing private medical information as part of a wellness program.

But a workplace-by-workplace lawsuit approach, slow and susceptible to setbacks and reversals, won’t stem the rising tide of wellness programs. So what will?

One blunt approach would be to eliminate employer-sponsored insurance entirely. Wellness programs are the logical conclusion of a system that, instead of treating health care as a basic human right, funnels issues of health and well-being into a narrow, unforgiving econometric rubric. Health care in this country would be simpler and more humane if employers were simply removed from the equation.

Indeed, the argument against a single-payer system, which stresses the importance of “choice” in health care, ignores a distressing reality: When it comes to health care, employees are at the mercy of their employers, which are usually making decisions based on cost, not what is best for employee health. Workers also sometimes remain in workplaces that are actively harming their health, whether through stress or long hours, just to maintain access to sub-par health insurance coverage. A national effort to remove those pressures is a vital step.

But even with a Medicare-for-All system, employers will still wield a massive—and often negative—influence over their employees’ health, through low pay, long hours, few breaks, and little time off. These trends have become endemic to the American workplace, where the 40-hour work week is all but defunct in most workplaces. Many workers can’t live on one job alone, while employers seem to routinely expect workers to be available at all times—whether it’s the Amazon fulfillment center that runs employees to the ground, or offices that expect a constant presence on phone and email.

To address the sort of everyday issues that can lead to bad health, workers might look to the West Virginia teacher strikes for motivation. Nicole McCormick is a teacher in Mercer County, West Virginia, and the president of her local union. She says that once her colleagues saw that their health activities were being tracked, they were strongly motivated to join together and, eventually, strike, saying, “We’re not trained dogs that you can click a dog clicker at and give us a treat and we’ll roll over and do what you want.” When it comes to health and safety, unions speak often of focusing on the hazard, not the worker: eliminate the hazard (say, by providing ergonomic office equipment) and the potential harm (repetitive stress injury) goes away. Through organizing, workers can force their employers to make changes at work that will help them stay healthy.

What the union effort also shows is that health care is a holistic issue. Even if we were to eliminate the scourge of degrading and ineffective workplace wellness programs, we would still need to address, either through collective effort or government reform, all the ways in which employers affect our health. When it comes to health care, we are not just talking about insurance coverage—we are also, by definition, agitating for a living wage; a reasonable balance between work and life; a more humane world.”
wellness  wellnessindustrialcomplex  management  2019  labor  economics  teaching  control  surveillance  health  healthcare  employment  insurance  lenasolow 
september 2019 by robertogreco
who cheats and why
“Every time I’ve gone away over the last three years, coming back to the news felt like jumping into a freezing body of water filled with stinging jellyfish. There’s the added stress of continually finding new articles (some of which are linked below) that demand inclusion/reference/consideration in the burnout book. (See also: this piece on how education debt is transforming the middle class [https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/09/09/student-debt-is-transforming-the-american-family ]). And then there’s all the new ideas/phenomena that transform when placed within my newly developed framework of burnout.

Take, for example, this excellent piece from the NYT [https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/07/us/college-cheating-papers.html ] on the continued expansion of “essay farms” which allow people from around the world to “bid” to get paid for writing essays for American college students. The interviews with the people writing these essays (in this case, mostly Kenyan) is what makes this piece exceptional — and highlights a very 21st century phenomenon, in which educated English speakers, unable to find work in their own countries, are paid relatively small amounts of money so that Americans (and some Chinese) can receive the credentials that will allow them to find full-time work. For example:
Roynorris Ndiritu, 28, who asked that only part of his name be used because he feared retribution from others in the industry in Kenya, graduated with a degree in civil engineering and still calls that his “passion.” But after years of applying unsuccessfully for jobs, he said, he began writing for others full time. He has earned enough to buy a car and a piece of land, he said, but it has left him jaded about the promises he heard when he was young about the opportunities that would come from studying hard in college.

Or:
Now Ms. Mbugua finds herself at a crossroads, unsure of what to do next. She graduated from her university in 2018 and has sent her résumé to dozens of employers. Lately she has been selling kitchen utensils.

Ms. Mbugua said she never felt right about the writing she did in the names of American students and others.

“I’ve always had somehow a guilty conscience,” she said.

“People say the education system in the U.S., U.K. and other countries is on a top notch,” she said. “I wouldn’t say those students are better than us,” she said, later adding, “We have studied. We have done the assignments.”

The piece is an incisive (and accurate!) take on the American educational system and its place in the global hierarchy. It’s explicit about how America’s general reluctance to crack down on these services has allowed them to flourish (in a way they no longer do in the UK or Australia) — and thorough in its exploration of how the supply of essays is generated. But it leaves the demand for those essays largely unexplored, a hazy vision of the unmotivated, unprepared, overprivileged college student willing to pay $30 a page for an essay three hours before it’s due.

Just to be clear, this isn’t a critique — no piece can do everything, I mean that. And significant regulation of these sites would temporarily solve a problem, as it seems to (at least temporarily) have done in Australia. But if the American demand remains, it’ll just find a different outlet. And that demand is far less rooted in entitlement than in fear. Which isn’t to say that this isn’t cheating: it is. But “catching” students with software like TurnItIn isn’t actually a deterrent when students are acting out of abject anxiety.

When I was in the classroom, the students who plagiarized were never the worst students in the class. To be sure, there were a handful of students who are exactly the douchey, rich, entitled asshole you’re picturing as the customers of these services. But most teachers will tell you that the students plagiarizing weren’t the laziest, or the most entitled. They were often the solid B students, desperate, truly desperate, for As. They’d do extra credit, they never skipped class. For some assignments, they were in my office, asking questions, talking over drafts, incredibly anxious about thesis statements, at a loss about how to craft the rest of the essay. And then something would happen with an assignment — not even necessarily a big one! — where they’d get super overwhelmed, panic, and copy something from the internet.

These students don’t cheat because they’re lazy; they cheat because they’re incredibly anxious, terrified of failure, and haven’t been taught to come up with original arguments (or trust themselves when they do). They’re the students who got into a desired college through sheer determination. They’re not dumb or stupid or anything close to it. But they’ve become convinced that any sort of failure (on an assignment, in a class) is tantamount to total life failure, and accumulate anxiety about each assignment accordingly.

If you’ve never experienced anxiety, then it’s difficult to explain how counterintuitively it works: instead of helping you plan out the steps to succeed at a given task, it makes the task seem so insurmountable that you avoid it entirely, which creates more anxiety, which makes it seem even more insurmountable. Hence: googling “pay for essay” three hours before the assignment is due.

Many of these students are natural people pleasers: it’s part of how they got as far as they did. Which is why the idea of emailing or coming in to talk to their teacher about their failure to start the essay ahead of time is anathema. And a lot of teachers — myself included, in my early days of teaching — tell students things like “no extensions, no question” or “I’ll only entertain extensions if requested a day in advance.” And simply not turning something in, or turning it in late for a docked grade — also anathema for the striving, anxious student. So they do some ethical self-bargaining, and spend the money intended for food and “expenses” on an essay.

(Another version of this phenomenon, and one that the piece addresses briefly = international students, frustrated or insecure in their English, desperate to perform at the level they did back home, terrified of bad grades sent to their parents, unable or reticent to articulate their concern to their professors, especially if they had a very different paradigm of education back home).

There are ways for teachers to help combat these tendencies — protracting the essay writing process, requiring students to turn in outlines ahead of time — but they’re often limited to small classes or classes explicitly focused on writing. And for already overworked teachers, they’re also incredibly time-consuming. The problem isn’t that professors aren’t attentive enough; it’s that the entire American educational system primes high school (and then college) students to conflate A’s with actual thinking, and the ability to exclusively get those A’s with personal value.

Whether the student is fifteen and terrified about what their sophomore grades will suggest on their transcript, or nineteen and desperate to maintain their GPA for their scholarship or for grad school, that attitude only grows more and more destructive. The result — a degree without the ability to think — only further evacuates that degree of actual value.

In the NYT piece, several of the Kenyan essay writers described general dismay that they’d put so much time and money and energy into getting college degrees — a promised ticket to prosperity! — only to find themselves forced to cheat for other students. They were disillusioned, and rightly so, with the value of a college degree. We’re getting there in America, too: a college degree may still up your wages for the rest of your life, but it doesn’t guarantee middle class stability, or intellectual edification. More and more, American education simply reproduces the de facto millennial condition: heavily indebted, almost comically insecure, and paralyzed by anxiety.”
education  highereducation  highered  cheating  essayfarms  anxiety  us  2019  middleclass  insecurity  colleges  universities  economics  kenya  grading  grades  highschool  pressure  howweteach  howwelearn  plagiarism  hierarchy  inequality  precarity  annehelenpetersen 
september 2019 by robertogreco
The Financialization of Life | naked capitalism
“I will present to you some ideas that I have dealt with in my new book, Profiting without Producing, which has just come out, which discuss finance and the rise of finance. I can’t tell you very much about Baltimore because I don’t know about it, but I will tell you quite a few things about what I call the financialization of capitalism, which impacts on Baltimore and on many other places.

So, getting on with it, and very quickly because time is short, I think it’s fair to say and all of us would agree that finance has an extraordinary presence in contemporary mature economies. It’s very clear in the case of the U.S., but equally clear in the case of the United Kingdom, where I live, Japan, about which I know quite a bit, Germany, and so on. There’s no question at all about it. Finance is a sector of the economy in mature countries which has grown enormously in terms of size relative to the rest of the economy, in terms of penetration into everyday lives of ordinary people, but also small and medium businesses and just about everybody. And in terms of policy influence, finance clearly influences economic policy on a national level in country after country. The interests of finance are paramount in forming economic policy. So that is clear. Finance has become extraordinarily powerful. And that, in a sense, is the first immediate way in which we can understand financialization. Something has happened there, and modern mature capitalism appears to have financialized.

Now, what is this financialization? The best I can do right now is to give you the gist of this argument of mine in my book. And I will come clean immediately and tell you that I think financialization is basically a profound historical transformation of modern capitalism. This is the way I understand it. It’s a profound historical transformation that really began in the 1970s, and it’s now been running for about four decades.

How to understand, then, the profound historical transformation, how to go about it, what concepts do we need? I think we need first of all to look at some economic processes, some economic change that is taking place, fundamental economic change, and then we need to look at some changes in politics and institutions and combine the two in order to grasp the historical change.

So let me start with economic changes, the economic foundations of this transformation. I think there are three key root changes here.

The first, funnily enough, doesn’t relate to finance itself, but it relates to industry and commerce. In other words, it relates to nonfinancial economic activity. One must start there to understand the historical transformation. So what has happened to big business in particular? Well, what’s happened to big business is very interesting. Two things have happened to it. First, big business has become increasingly capable of financing investment out of retained earnings. It retains its profits, and on a net basis it finances investment pretty much out of that. Of course, it still uses banks, but it doesn’t rely on banks on a net basis to finance investment. That gives it independence, a certain degree of independence from banks.

In addition to that, big business has made so much in retained profits–currently U.S. big business is sitting on piles of cash. It has made so much in retained profits that it can use those funds to play financial games, to engage in financial transactions and financial activities on its own account. So big business has financialized. The key element that we’ve got to understand first is the financialization of big business. Large enterprises have acquired some of the character of financial institutions, have become bank-like, and they engage in these transactions, and they change the structure of their own organization as they do that. So that’s the first thing.

Second economic change, and very, very important, too, relates to banks. If big businesses is doing that, banks must do something else to make profit. Banks are profit-making institutions. So if big business becomes increasingly independent of banks, banks must do something else. What have banks done? It’s very clear what they’ve done. They lend less to businesses for investment and so on, and they play more games in the financial markets. They become transactors in financial assets, and they make profits increasingly not from lending but from fees, commissions, and trading. They become traders in financial assets.

At the same time, banks have also turn households. Households have become a very profitable activity of banks, a new activity. This is a new phenomenon in the development of capitalism. So that much about banks.

The third change has to do with households, workers, ordinary people. And what we see there in the last three to four decades is that ordinary people have been qdrawn into the former financial system like never before. Households have become financialized. Finance has become a fundamental part of household life–like I say, like never before.

Why is that? Partly because wages have been stagnant. And therefore–I mean, nowhere more stagnant than in this country. I mean, real wages have been absolutely flat in this country for decades. So partly because of that, people have turned to debt. But also people have got assets, financial assets.

So the financialization of everyday life, of households, is a bit of a complex story. What is actually happening there, I think, is not simply that you borrow in order to consume. That also happens. It’s a more complex story than that. What is actually happening is people need access to health, education, housing, and a variety of other needs. Every country has systems of provision for these things. Each country differs from the next country, but pretty much there are similarities. These modes of provision have historically, traditionally, incorporated public provision, some methods of public provision, for everything–for housing, for health, for education, and so on. What we’ve witnessed the last three to four decades is a retreat of public provision. Public provision has retreated. Private provision has taken its place. As this is happened, finance has emerged as the facilitator of that. So we turn to private provision to solve our housing needs, our health needs, our education needs, and finance makes profits out of that, basically, without having any skills in doing these things. So this to me is the financialization of households, the third major trend.

So non-financials have financialized, banks have changed, and households have been drawn into the financial system. These changes together have basically transformed the economy, transformed the foundations of the economy. This is a new type of capitalism.

At the same time, we’ve had changes in institutions and in ideology. These you would have heard about and you would be familiar with. The changes in institutions are very clear. We’ve had wave after wave of deregulation. Labor market has become more deregulated, and financial markets have become more deregulated.

And in addition to deregulation what we’ve had is the rise of the ideology of neoliberalism. Deregulation goes hand in hand with neoliberalism, the idea that the market is good, the state is bad. In this country, this is a very powerfully held idea, more powerfully here than anywhere else. Actually, it’s extraordinary how powerful this perception is and how a lot of social issues are understood in this way.

The point I want to make you is that neoliberalism is very, very powerful and sustains financialization, but neoliberalism is not really about asserting the merits of the market over the state. Actually, it’s more complex than that and it’s more crafty than that, because neoliberals are not the enemies of the state. Neoliberals want to take over the state. The actual content of neoliberal ideology is to take over the state and to use the state to protect the market, to make the market bigger, to effect market-favoring, market-conducive changes. So this has also been going on the last three to four decades. And that to me is the core of financialization.

So what have we got after four decades of this? These changes, seen very clearly in the United States, have created, firstly, a deeply unequal country, a deeply unequal society. Financialization is fundamentally about inequality. We see this inequality in terms of income, where the top 10 percent and the top 1 percent draw an extraordinary proportion of income annually. But we see it in terms of the functional distribution, the distribution of income between capital and labor, where labor has lost–and lost dramatically–during the last three to four decades in this country and in just about every other mature capitalist country that has financialized.

So this is a deeply unequal system. It generates inequality. Finance has acted as a key lever in increasing it inequality. Finance is a vital mechanism in increasing inequality. You can see it in terms of the profits it creates. Financial profit has become a huge part of total profit through these activities that I’ve just discussed by markets, households, and so on–a huge part of total profit. And the rich in this country and elsewhere typically become rich through financial methods; the way in which you acquire great wealth and you cream off the surplus is basically through financial methods, through access to financial assets, privileged ways of trading financial assets, and privileged position in of the financial system that allows you to extract vast returns, which appear as salaries and wages, in other words, remuneration for labor. Come on. What kind of remuneration for labor is this allows someone to draw tens of millions of dollars annually? For what kind of labor? This isn’t labor. This is a kind of rent, this is a kind of surplus accruing because of power and position in the financial system or access to finance. And that is typical of financialization in this country and elsewhere… [more]
finance  financialization  neoliberalism  liberalism  economics  labor  inequality  governance  power  2014  costaslapavitzas  capital  markets  policy  wages  us  banking  banks 
september 2019 by robertogreco
Meritocracy Is Killing High-School Sports - The Atlantic
"Obsessive competition in high-school athletics is inseparable from the gargantuan role that sports plays in college admissions.

“Athletic recruiting is the biggest form of affirmative action in American higher education,” says Philip Smith, a former dean of admissions at Williams College, has said. (About 30 percent of Williams students are recruited athletes.) In the 1990s, Division I and Division II colleges annually distributed less than $300 million in student-athlete scholarships. Today that figure is more than $3 billion.

You might think most of that scholarship money is going to help kids from poor families who couldn’t otherwise afford college. That’s not the case. In 2010, just 28 percent of Division I basketball players were first-generation college students, meaning they likely came from low-income families. Five years later, that figure has fallen by nine percentage points. Today, fewer than one in seven students receiving athletic scholarships across all Division I sports come from families in which neither parent went to college. Farrey calls this the slow-motion “gentrification” of college sports.

This process starts in youth and high-school sports. Both historically served as a pipeline to flagship universities for low-income kids. But when they’re shut out from pricey travel leagues and the expensive coaching that early specialists receive, lower-income kids are denied not only the physical benefits of playing sports, but also the jackpot that is college recruitment and Division I and II scholarships.

Institutions that were meant to be opportunity-equalizers for the rich, poor, and everybody in between—community youth sports leagues, public high schools, the American college system—are being stealthily hijacked to serve the primary goal of so many high-income parents, which is to replicate their advantages in their children’s generation."
meritocracy  athletics  colleges  admissions  sports  scholarships  inequality  highered  highereducation  universities  games  failure  education  competition  economics  anxiety  parenting 
september 2019 by robertogreco
Uber Undone | Noah Kulwin
"Silicon Valley began this decade as the bleeding edge of the American economy, where new technologies were said to be building a better future for the whole planet. By its end, the American tech industry will be largely viewed as the labor-destroying, profit-hungry behemoth that it truly is. While Facebook’s inadvertent election-rigging and Google’s near-monopoly on digital advertising might draw more attention as the culprits behind that pendulum swing, it is Uber’s Randian capitalism that most transparently lays bare Silicon Valley villainy. And even from outside the C-suite, from which he was ejected in 2017, Kalanick remains its smug, unapologetic face."
siliconvalley  californianideology  grifters  us  finance  economics  venturecapital  2019  mikeisaac  noahkulwin  technology  technosolutionism  google  facebook  society  traviskalanick  uber  lyft  gigeconomy  labor  inequality  urbanplanning  urban  urbanism  capitalism  neoliberalism 
september 2019 by robertogreco
America Without Family, God, or Patriotism - The Atlantic
“The nuclear family, God, and national pride are a holy trinity of the American identity. What would happen if a generation gave up on all three?”



“One interpretation of this poll is that it’s mostly about the erosion of traditional Western faith. People under 30 in the U.S. account for more than one-third of this nation’s worshippers in only three major religions: Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism. This reflects both the increase in non-European immigration since the 1970s and the decline of larger Christian denominations in the latter half of the 20th century. It also reflects the sheer increase in atheism: Millennials are nearly three times more likely than Boomers to say they don’t believe in God—6 percent versus 16 percent. If you think that Judeo-Christian values are an irreplaceable keystone in the moral arc of Western society, these facts will disturb you; if you don’t, they won’t.

A second interpretation of this poll is that it’s mostly about politics. Youthful disinterest in patriotism, babies, and God might be a mere proxy for young people’s distaste for traditional conservatism. For decades, the Republican Party sat high on the three-legged stool of Reaganism, which called for “traditional” family values (combining religiosity with the primacy of the nuclear family), military might (with all its conspicuous patriotism), and limited government.

Millennials and Gen Zers have turned hard against all these values; arguably, their intermittently monogamous, free-spending Republican president has, too. Young voters are far to the left of not only today’s older Americans, but also past generations of younger Americans. Based on their votes since 2012, they have the lowest support for the GOP of any group in at least half a century. So it’s possible that Millennials are simply throwing babies out with the Republican bathwater.

But it looks like something bigger is going on. Millennials and Gen Z are not only unlikely to call themselves Protestants and patriots, but also less likely to call themselves Democrats or Republicans. They seem most comfortable with unaffiliation, even anti-affiliation. They are less likely than preceding generations to identify as “environmentalists,” less likely to be loyal to specific brands, and less likely to trust authorities, or companies, or institutions. Less than one-third of them say they have “a lot of confidence” in unions, or Silicon Valley, or the federal government, or the news, or the justice system. And don’t even get them started on the banks.

This blanket distrust of institutions of authority—especially those dominated by the upper class—is reasonable, even rational, considering the economic fortunes of these groups were pinched in the Great Recession and further squeezed in the Not-So-Great Recovery. Pundits may dismiss their anxiety and rage as the by-products of college-campus coddling, but it flows from a realistic appraisal of their economic impotency. Young people today commit crimes at historically low rates and have attended college at historically high rates. They have done everything right, sprinting at full speed while staying between the white lines, and their reward for historic conscientiousness is this: less ownership, more debt, and an age of existential catastrophe. The typical Millennial awakens many mornings to discover that some new pillar of the world order, or the literal world, has crumbled overnight. And while she is afforded little power to do anything about it, society has outfitted her with a digital megaphone to amplify her mordant frustrations. Why in the name of family, God, or country would such a person lust for ancient affiliations? As the kids say, #BurnItAllDown.

But this new American skepticism doesn’t only affect the relatively young, and it isn’t confined to the overeducated yet underemployed, either.”



“he older working-class men in the paper desperately want meaning in their lives, but they lack the social structures that have historically been the surest vehicles for meaning-making. They want to be fathers without nuclear families. They want spirituality without organized religion. They want psychic empowerment from work in an economy that has reduced their economic power. They want freedom from pain and misery at a time when the pharmaceutical solutions to those maladies are addictive and deadly. They want the same pride and esteem and belonging that people have always wanted.

The ends of Millennials and Gen Z are similarly traditional. The WSJ/NBC poll found that, for all their institutional skepticism, this group was more likely than Gen Xers to value “community involvement” and more likely than all older groups to prize “tolerance for others.” This is not the picture of a generation that has fallen into hopelessness, but rather a group that is focused on building solidarity with other victims of economic and social injustice. Younger generations have been the force behind equality movements such as Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, #AbolishICE, and Medicare for All, not only because they’re liberal, and not only because they have the technological savvy to organize online, but also because their experience in this economy makes them exquisitely sensitive to institutional abuses of power, and doubly eager to correct it. What Americans young and old are abandoning is not so much the promise of family, faith, and national pride as the trust that America’s existing institutions can be relied on to provide for them.

The authors of the paper on working-class men note that, even as their subjects have suffered a shock, and even as they’re nostalgic for the lives of their fathers and grandfathers—the stable wages, the dependable pensions—there is a thin silver lining in the freedom to move beyond failed traditions. Those old manufacturing jobs were routine drudgery, those old churches failed their congregants, and traditional marriages subjugated the female half of the arrangement. “These men are showing signs of moving beyond such strictures,” the authors write. “Many will likely falter. Yet they are laying claim to a measure of autonomy and generativity in these spheres that were less often available in prior generations. We must consider both the unmaking and remaking aspects of their stories.”

And there is the brutal truth: Many will likely falter. They already are. Rising anxiety, suicide, and deaths of despair speak to a profound national disorder. But eventually, this stage of history may be recalled as a purgatory, a holding station between two eras: one of ostensibly strong, and quietly vulnerable, traditions that ultimately failed us, and something else, between the unmaking and the remaking.”
derekthompson  us  culture  society  economics  generations  change  religion  patriotism  families  2019  suicide  middleage  purpose  meaning  community  anxiety  malaise  collapse  vulnerability  traditions  marriage  parenting  millennials  geny  genx  generationy  generationx  generationz  gender  work  labor  unemployment  hope  hopelessness  activism  skepticism  power  elitism  democrats  republicans  politics  education  highered  highereducation  ronaldreagan  reaganism  belief  diversity  voting  unions  siliconvalley  socialjustice  justice  impotency  underemployment  spirituality  capitalism  neoliberalism  genz 
september 2019 by robertogreco
The OA Is Really Canceled—Despite the Hard Work of Fans—And Brit Marling Has a Message | E! News
[original text here:
https://twitter.com/britmarling/status/1165013288532332544
https://www.instagram.com/p/B1hKgS9pUZG/ ]

“To the fans of The OA—

We’re humbled, to be honest floored, by the outpouring of support for The OA. We’ve seen beautiful artwork in eulogy from Japan, France, Brazil. We’ve read moving threads and essays. And we’ve watched dozens and dozens of videos of people all over the world performing the movements with what can only be called perfect feeling. One young person from a wheelchair, another young woman standing astride two horses, a mother in her backyard with her two children at her side and an infant strapped to her back. (link in bio to a site with many of these videos someone has thoughtfully compiled)

Your words and images move us deeply. Not because the show must continue, but because for some people its unexpected cancelation begs larger questions about the role of storytelling and its fate inside late capitalism’s push toward consolidation and economies of scale.

The work you’ve made and shared has also just been very heartening inside our increasingly complex and often bleak time. The more news I take in of the world, the more I often feel terrifyingly certain that we are on the brink of moral and ecological collapse. Sometimes I feel paralyzed by the forces we are up against—greed, fear, vanity. And I can’t help but long for someone to rescue us from ourselves—a politician, an outlaw, a tech baron, an angel. Someone who might take our hand, as if taking the hand of an errant toddler, and gently guide us away from the lunatic precipice that the “logic” of profit unguided by the compass of feeling has brought us to.

Of course, my desire to lie in wait for a hero is nothing new. Nor is the anesthetizing comfort that brings. These concepts were birthed and encouraged by centuries of narrative precedent. We’ve been conditioned to wait.

Almost every story we’ve ever watched, read, been told, held sacred is framed in a single structural form: the hero’s journey. The hero’s journey is one man with one goal who goes up against increasing obstacles to win his objective and return to his people with the wisdom needed for all to move forward, to “progress.” This story has played out from Homer’s Odyssey in 8th century BC to every reiteration of the Star Wars franchise. It sallies forth lately with anti-heroes like the beloved Tony Soprano (who, even while doing what we all know to be wrong, is still a hero and the perfect one for late capitalism).

I have loved many of these stories and their heroes. I dressed up as She-Ra “princess of power,” He-Man’s bustier-clad, sword-wielding twin sister for more Halloweens then I care to admit. I have played roles in films where I have been the hero holding the gun and it certainly felt better than playing the female victim at the other end of the barrel. So it’s no surprise that as we face what seem to be increasingly insurmountable obstacles, we scan the horizon for the hero who will come for us. According to the stories we tell it will most likely be a hot man. And he will most likely be wearing brightly colored spandex and exceedingly rich.

But the more I think on this, the more it seems bat-shit crazy. No one is coming to the rescue. We have to save each other. Every day, in small and great ways.

So perhaps, at this late hour inside the dire circumstances of climate change and an ever-widening gap between the Haves and Have-Nots, we are hundreds of years overdue new mythologies that reflect this. Stories with modes of power outside violence and domination. Stories with goals for human agency outside conquest and colonization. Stories that illustrate the power of collective protagonism, or do away with protagonism entirely to illustrate how real, lasting change often occurs—ordinary people, often outsiders, often marginalized—anonymously organizing, working together, achieving small feats one day at a time that eventually form movement.

Steve, BBA, Buck, Jesse, French, Homer, Hap and OA are no longer authoring the story. Neither are Zal or I. You all are. You are standing on street corners in the hot sun in protest. You are meeting new people in strange recesses online and sharing stories about loss and renewal that you never thought you’d tell anyone. You are learning choreography and moving in ways you haven’t dared moved before. All of it is uncomfortable. All of it is agitation. All of it is worth something.

Many of you have expressed your gratitude for this story and for Zal and I and everyone who worked on The OA. But it is all of us who are grateful to you. You’ve broken the mold of storytelling. You’re building something far more beautiful than we did because it’s in real time in real life with real people. It’s rhizomatic—constantly redefining the collective aim as it grows. It’s elliptical—it has no beginning and no real end. And it certainly has no single hero. The show doesn’t need to continue for this feeling to.

The other day Zal and I pulled over to offer a bottle of water and food to a young woman who has been protesting the cancelation of the show on a street corning in Hollywood. As we were leaving she said “you know, what I’m really protesting is late capitalism.” And then she said something that I haven’t been able to forget since: “Algorithms aren’t as smart as we are. They cannot account for love.”

Her words. Not mine. And the story keeps going inside them.”

[See also: https://ew.com/tv/2019/08/24/brit-marling-the-oa-cancelation-fan-hunger-strike/ ]
theoa  britmarling  heroes  latecapitalism  capitalism  storytelling  herosjourney  collectivism  protest  love  solidarity  mutualaid  mythology  protagonism  protagonists  collaboration  humanagenct  conquest  colonization  violence  domination  movements  activism  organizing  wisdom  progress  greed  vanity  climatechange  2019  economics  consolidation  economiesofscale  small  decentralization  hierarchy  form  homer  theodyssey  tonysoprano  thesopranos  power  inequality  fear 
august 2019 by robertogreco
The Answer To Burn Out At Work Isn’t "Self-Care"—It’s Unionizing | Common Dreams Views
"Being in a union means that you and your coworkers work together to fix the problems at your workplace, and then negotiate for solutions with management."
work  labor  organizing  economics  capitalism  self-care  kaylablado  2019  problemsolving  burnout  nonprofit  nonprofits 
august 2019 by robertogreco
The New Spiritual Consumerism - The New York Times
"How did you spend your summer vacation? I spent mine in a dissociative fugue of materialist excess, lying prone on my couch and watching all four seasons of “Queer Eye,” the Netflix makeover show reboot. Once an hour, I briefly regained consciousness to feverishly click the “next episode” button so that I wouldn’t have to wait five seconds for it to play automatically. Even when I closed my laptop, the theme song played on endless loop as Jonathan Van Ness vogued through my subconscious. The show is a triumph of consumer spectacle, and now it has consumed me, too.

Every episode is the same. Five queer experts in various aesthetic practices conspire to make over some helpless individual. Tan France (fashion) teaches him to tuck the front of his shirt into his pants; Bobby Berk (design) paints his walls black and plants a fiddle-leaf fig; Antoni Porowski (food) shows him how to cut an avocado; Jonathan Van Ness (grooming) shouts personal affirmations while shaping his beard; and Karamo Brown (“culture”) stages some kind of trust-building exercise that doubles as an amateur therapy session. Then, they retreat to a chic loft, pass around celebratory cocktails and watch a video of their subject attempting to maintain his new and superior lifestyle. The makeover squad cries, and if you are human, you cry too.

Because “Queer Eye” is not just a makeover. As its gurus lead the men (and occasionally, women) in dabbing on eye cream, selecting West Elm furniture, preparing squid-ink risotto and acquiring gym memberships, they are building the metaphorical framework for an internal transformation. Their salves penetrate the skin barrier to soothe loneliness, anxiety, depression, grief, low self-esteem, absentee parenting and hoarding tendencies. The makeover is styled as an almost spiritual conversion. It’s the meaning of life as divined through upgraded consumer choices.

Just a few years ago, American culture was embracing its surface delights with a nihilistic zeal. Its reality queens were the Kardashians, a family that became rich and famous through branding its own wealth and fame. “Generation Wealth,” Lauren Greenfield’s 2018 documentary on American excess, captured portraits of people who crave luxury, beauty and cash as ends in and of themselves. Donald Trump, the king of 1980s extravagance, was elected president.

But lately American materialism is debuting a new look. Shopping, decorating, grooming and sculpting are now jumping with meaning. And a purchase need not have any explicit social byproduct — the materials eco-friendly, or the proceeds donated to charity — to be weighted with significance. Pampering itself has taken on a spiritual urgency.

Practitioners of this new style often locate its intellectual underpinnings in the work of Audre Lorde. But when Lorde wrote, in her 1988 essay “A Burst of Light,” that “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare,” she was speaking in the context of managing her liver cancer — and doing it as a black lesbian whose health and well-being were not prioritized in America.

Now the ethos of “self-care” has infiltrated every consumer category. The logic of GOOP, Gwyneth Paltrow’s luxury brand that sells skin serums infused with the branding of intuition, karma and healing, is being reproduced on an enormous scale.

Women’s shoes, bras, razors, tampons and exclusive private clubs are stamped with the language of empowerment. SoulCycle and Equinox conceive of exercise as not just a lifestyle but a closely held identity, which backfired when some members were aggrieved by the news that the chairman of the brands’ parent company is a financial supporter of President Trump. Therapy memes imagine mental health professionals prescribing consumerist fixes, which are then repurposed by beauty brands. Even Kim Kardashian West is pivoting to the soul: Her latest project is launching a celebrity church with her husband, Kanye West.

[embedded tweet by Benefit Cosmetics US (@BenefitBeauty):

"Therapist: and what do we do when we feel sad?

Me: go to @Sephora

Therapist:

Me:

Therapist: I’ll drive"]

And through the cleaning guru Marie Kondo, who also became a Netflix personality this year, even tidying objects can be considered a spiritual calling. Her work suggests that objects don’t just make us feel good — objects feel things, too. She writes of old books that must be woken up with a brush of the fingertips and socks that sigh with relief at being properly folded.

“Queer Eye” has further elevated material comforts into an almost political stance. When the reboot of the original — which ran on Bravo from 2003 to 2007, as “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” — debuted last year, Netflix announced that it intended to “make America fabulous again” by sending its crew deep into the red states to “turn them pink.” By preaching self-care to the men of Middle America — it has so far plucked its makeover subjects from Georgia, Missouri and Kansas — the show would heal the nation itself through the power of stuff.

Is “Queer Eye” a political show? In a sense, yes. Van Ness, the show’s profoundly magnetic grooming expert, rocks a signature look of a Jesus beard, mermaid hair, painted nails and high-heeled booties. His fashion and grooming choices have an obvious political valence; he recently came out as non-binary. When he makes over some straight dude, it is as if he is imbuing the process with his own transgressive identity, even if he’s grooming the guy into a standard-issue cool dad.

Anyway, it’s wonderful to watch. In contrast, the original “Queer Eye” no longer goes down so easy. The show’s exclusive focus on providing men with physical upgrades now plays as cynical. The Fab Five ridicule their marks as much as they help them. More than a decade before same-sex marriage would be legalized across the United States, these five out gay men were quite obviously punching up.

But in the new version, the power dynamic has flipped. The difference between the Fab Five and their charges is no longer chiefly one of sexual orientation or gender identity. (This “Queer Eye” also provides makeovers to gay men and to women.) The clear but unspoken distinction is a class one.

Marie Kondo in “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.”CreditDenise Crew/Netflix
The “Queer Eye” cast may come from humble beginnings, but they now reside in coastal cultural centers and hold fulfilling and lucrative jobs. Their makeover subjects are lower- and middle-class people who are, though it is rarely put this way, struggling financially. This “Queer Eye” handles them gently. As Van Ness puts it in one episode: “We’re nonjudgmental queens.”

It’s a little bit curious that as our political discourse is concerned with economic inequality — and the soaring costs of health care, education and homes — the cultural conversation is fixated on the healing powers of luxury items. What does it mean, that materialism is now so meaningful? “Generation Wealth” posits that extreme spending is a symptom of a civilization in decline. Americans may not have what they need, but at least they can get what they want, even if it’s on credit.

The writer and performer Amanda-Faye Jimenez recently posted a meme to Instagram of a child swinging blithely on the playground as a fire rages in the forest behind him. The forest is tagged: “My personal life and career.” The child: “The skincare routine.”

[embeded IG post]

Material comforts are comforting: cooking a nice and interesting meal; living in a tidy and beautiful space; soothing tired eyes with a cool mask. And money helps you get money: The subjects of “Queer Eye” are typically made over in a standard professional style, as if they are being retrofitted for the work force. Surreptitiously, “Queer Eye” provides vacation time, too: Its subjects somehow receive a week off from work to focus on themselves.

The trouble is that when “Queer Eye” offers these comforts, the show implies that its subjects have previously lacked them because of some personal failure. They have been insufficiently confident, skilled, self-aware, dedicated or emotionally vulnerable. The spiritual conversion of the show occurs when the subject pledges a personal commitment to maintaining a new lifestyle going forward. But what these people need is not a new perspective. They need money, and they need time, which is money.

“Queer Eye” offers a kind of simulation of wealth redistribution. But every time the Fab Five retreats from the scene, I imagine the freshly-painted homes slowly falling into disrepair, the beards growing shaggy again, the refrigerators emptying.

In the fourth season, which dropped last month, the team makes over a single dad from Kansas City who is known as “the cat suit guy” because he wears feline print onesies to local sporting events. By the end, he gets a new corporate casual wardrobe, and a pop-up support network for his depression — he struggled to discuss it with anyone until the cast of “Queer Eye” broke through his shell.

As they prepare to leave, he tells them that he really needs them to stay in touch. “You’ve got to check on me,” he says. Absolutely, one of them says: “On Instagram.”"
consumerism  consumption  amandahess  capitalism  wellness  2019  class  queereye  classism  inequality  materialism  netflix  television  tv  latecapitalism  makeovers  audrelorde  self-care  gwynethpaltrow  goop  soulcycle  equinox  fitness  kimkardashian  mariekondo  therapy  mentalhealth  politics  economics  instagram  isolation  loneliness  comfort  wellness-industrialcomplex 
august 2019 by robertogreco
Zimmerman, A.: Alabama in Africa: Booker T. Washington, the German Empire, and the Globalization of the New South (Paperback and Ebook) | Princeton University Press
“In 1901, the Tuskegee Institute, founded by Booker T. Washington, sent an expedition to the German colony of Togo in West Africa, with the purpose of transforming the region into a cotton economy similar to that of the post-Reconstruction American South. Alabama in Africa explores the politics of labor, sexuality, and race behind this endeavor, and the economic, political, and intellectual links connecting Germany, Africa, and the southern United States. The cross-fertilization of histories and practices led to the emergence of a global South, reproduced social inequities on both sides of the Atlantic, and pushed the American South and the German Empire to the forefront of modern colonialism.

Zimmerman shows how the people of Togo, rather than serving as a blank slate for American and German ideologies, helped shape their region’s place in the global South. He looks at the forms of resistance pioneered by African American freedpeople, Polish migrant laborers, African cotton cultivators, and other groups exploited by, but never passive victims of, the growing colonial political economy. Zimmerman reconstructs the social science of the global South formulated by such thinkers as Max Weber and W.E.B. Du Bois, and reveals how their theories continue to define contemporary race, class, and culture.

Tracking the intertwined histories of Europe, Africa, and the Americas at the turn of the century, Alabama in Africa shows how the politics and economics of the segregated American South significantly reshaped other areas of the world.

Andrew Zimmerman is professor of history at George Washington University and the author of Anthropology and Antihumanism in Imperial Germany.”

[via: https://twitter.com/zunguzungu/status/1163504107690217473

in reference to:
“In order to understand the brutality of merican capitalism, you have to start on the plantation.” (Matthew Desmond)
https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/14/magazine/slavery-capitalism.html
germany  imperialism  history  us  cotton  globalization  globalsouth  books  toread  andrewzimmerman  bookertwashington  alabama  africa  togo  cooton  agriculture  labor  exploitation  climate  poltics  economics  segregation  americansouth 
august 2019 by robertogreco
Say No to the “Cashless Future” — and to Cashless Stores | American Civil Liberties Union
"It is great to see this pushback against the supposed cashless future because this is a trend that should very much be nipped in the bud. There are several reasons why cashless stores, and a cashless society more broadly, are a bad idea. Such stores are:

Bad for privacy. When you pay cash, there is no middleman; you pay, you receive goods or services — end of story. When a middleman becomes part of the transaction, that middleman often gets to learn about the transaction — and under our weak privacy laws, has a lot of leeway to use that information as it sees fit. (Cash transactions of more than $10,000 must be reported to the government, however.) More on privacy and payment systems in a follow-up post.

Bad for low-income communities. Participation in a cashless society presumes a level of financial stability and enmeshment in bureaucratic financial systems that many people simply do not possess. Opening a bank account requires an ID, which many poor and elderly people lack, as well as other documents such as a utility bill or other proof of address, which the homeless lack, and which generally create bureaucratic barriers to participating in electronic payment networks. Banks also charge fees that can be significant for people living on the economic margins. According to government data from 2017, about one in 15 U.S. households (6.5%) were “unbanked” (had no checking or savings account), while almost one in five (18.7%) were “underbanked” (had a bank account but resorted to using money orders, check cashing, or payday loans). Finally, because merchants usually pass along the cost of credit card fees to all their customers through their prices, the current credit card system effectively serves to transfer money from poor households to high-income households, according to a study by the Federal Reserve.

Bad for people of color. The burden of lack of access to banking services such as credit cards does not fall equally. While 84% of white people in 2017 were what the Federal Reserve calls “fully banked,” only 52% of Black and 63% of Hispanic people were.
Bad for the undocumented. Facing a lack of official identity documents, not to mention all the other obstacles mentioned above, undocumented immigrants can have an even harder time accessing banking services.

Bad for many merchants. Merchants pay roughly 2-3% of every transaction to the credit card companies, which can be a significant “tax,” especially on low-margin businesses. With the credit card sector dominated by an oligopoly of 2-3 companies, there is not enough competition to keep these “swipe fees” low. Big companies have the leverage to negotiate lower fees, but small merchants are out of luck, and the amount that they pay to the credit card companies is often greater than their profit. If cashless stores are allowed to become widespread, that will harm the many merchants who either discourage or flat-out refuse to accept credit cards due to these fees.

Less resilient. The nationwide outage of electronic cash registers at Target stores several weeks ago left customers unable to make purchases — except those who had cash. That’s a reminder that electronic payments systems can mean centralized points of failure — not just technical failures like Target’s, but also security failures. A cashless society would also leave people more susceptible to economic failure on an individual basis: if a hacker, bureaucratic error, or natural disaster shuts a consumer out of their account, the lack of a cash option would leave them few alternatives.

The issue goes beyond restaurants and retail stores; other services that are built around electronic payments should also offer cash options (or cash-like anonymous stored value cards). Those include ride-share services like Uber and Lyft, bike and scooter share systems, and transit systems. In San Francisco, for example, the city’s bike-share program is providing an option to pay with cash. In DC, where I live, the Metro requires a smart card to use — but riders have the option to either register their card so that they can cancel it if it’s lost or stolen, or buy it with cash and not register it to keep it more private."

...

"What to do

So what should you do if you walk into a store and are told: “your cash is no good here”?

Register your objection. Say to the staff, “I know this isn’t your policy personally, but I think it’s a bad one, and I hope you’ll pass that along to your management. Not accepting cash is bad for privacy, bad for poor people, and bad for the undocumented.”

Refuse to provide a credit card. If you haven’t been given very clear advance notice that cash is not accepted, tell them you don’t have a credit card with you and see what they propose. There’s no law that a person has to possess a credit card or furnish one on demand. This may tie up their line, require the calling of a manger, create abandoned food that has already been prepared, and generally create inefficiencies that, if repeated among enough customers, will start to erode the advantages of going cashless for merchants.

Walk out. If you can do without, leave the establishment without buying anything after registering your objection to a staff person so they are aware they’ve lost your business over it.

Understand why some stores charge fees for credit card use. If you visit a store or restaurant that charges a higher price for credit card purchases, understand that this is a socially beneficial policy and be supportive. Merchants are explicitly permitted to pass swipe fees (also known as “interchange fees”) along to customers, which among other things is fairer to low-income customers who don’t have credit cards and shouldn’t have to absorb the costs of those cards. If you are a business, consider passing along those fees to increase fairness as well as customer awareness of how the current system works.

Contact your elected representatives. We have already seen some cities and states ban cashless stores. Your state or city can do so as well.

The bottom line is that the technocratic “dream” of a cashless society is a vision in which we discard what is left of the anonymity that has characterized urban life since the dawn of modernity, and our freedom from the power of centralized companies like banks. Doing without cash may be convenient at times, but if we lose cash as an option we’re going to regret it later."
money  privacy  technology  privilege  cashless  currency  2019  aclu  inequality  resilience  bias  business  economics  policy  siliconvalley  creditcards  cash  technocracy  technosolutionism 
august 2019 by robertogreco
CENHS @ Rice! » 133 – María Puig de la Bellacasa
“Dominic and Cymene indulge a little post-Pruitt glee on this week’s podcast and speculate about the possibility of six foot tall low carbon lava lamps in the future. Then (16:46) we are thrilled to be joined by star STS scholar and emergent anthropologist María Puig de la Bellacasa to talk about her celebrated new book, Matters of Care: Speculative Ethics in More Than Human Worlds (U Minnesota Press, 2017). We start with the importance of care in feminist philosophy and how this work, alongside her own activist background, inspired this project. She asks us to consider how we can make knowledge that takes seriously a politics of care without giving ourselves over to the neoliberal commodification of care. And she asks how a commitment to speculative ethics can lead us to imagine and enact worlds different than the one we inhabit now. Later on, María tells us about what led her to quit philosophy and why appropriation might not actually be such a bad thing. Then we turn to her work with permaculturalists and soil scientists, what it was like to study with Starhawk, changing paradigms of soil ontology and ecology, what are alterbiopolitics, speculative ethics in a time of political crisis, and so much more.”

[See also:

“Matters of Care by María Puig de la Bellacasa, reviewed by Farhan Samanani”
https://societyandspace.org/2019/01/08/matters-of-care-by-maria-puig-de-la-bellacasa/

“Reframing Care – Reading María Puig de la Bellacasa ‘Matters of Care Speculative Ethics in More Than Human Worlds’”
https://ethicsofcare.org/reframing-care-reading-maria-puig-de-la-bellacasa-matters-of-care-speculative-ethics-in-more-than-human-worlds/ ]
maríapuigdelabellacasa  care  maintenance  2018  morethanhuman  humanism  posthumanism  multispecies  anthropology  ecology  alterbiopolitics  permaculture  caring  ethics  politics  soil  philosophy  brunolatour  work  labor  activism  neoliberalism  feminism  donnaharaway  academia  knowledge  knowledgeproduction  thoughtfulness  environment  climatechange  individualism  concern  speculation  speculativeethics  speculativefiction  identitypolitics  everyday  pocketsofutopia  thinking  mattersofconcern  highered  highereducation  intervention  speculative  speculativethinking  greenconsumerism  consumerism  capitalism  greenwashing  moralizing  economics  society  matter  mattering  karenbarad  appropriation  hope  optimism  ucsc  historyofconsciousness 
august 2019 by robertogreco
Chilean Economist Manfred Max-Neef on Barefoot Economics, Poverty and Why The U.S. is Becoming an “Underdeveloping Nation” | Democracy Now!
"We speak with the acclaimed Chilean economist, Manfred Max-Neef. He won the Right Livelihood Award in 1983, two years after the publication of his book Outside Looking In: Experiences in Barefoot Economics. “Economists study and analyze poverty in their nice offices, have all the statistics, make all the models, and are convinced that they know everything that you can know about poverty. But they don’t understand poverty,” Max-Neef says. [includes rush transcript]"

...

"We have reached a point in our evolution in which we know a lot. We know a hell of a lot. But we understand very little. Never in human history has there been such an accumulation of knowledge like in the last 100 years. Look how we are. What was that knowledge for? What did we do with it? And the point is that knowledge alone is not enough, that we lack understanding.

And the difference between knowledge and understanding, I can give it as an example. Let us assume that you have studied everything that you can study, from a theological, sociological, anthropological, biological and even biochemical point of view, of a human phenomenon called love. So the result is that you will know everything that you can know about love. But sooner or later, you will realize that you will never understand love unless you fall in love. What does that mean? That you can only attempt to understand that of which you become a part. If we fall in love, as the Latin song says, we are much more than two. When you belong, you understand. When you’re separated, you can accumulate knowledge. And that is — that’s been the function of science. Now, science is divided into parts, but understanding is holistic.

And that happens with poverty. I understood poverty because I was there. I lived with them. I ate with them. I slept with them, you know, etc. And then you begin to learn that in that environment there are different values, different principles from — compared to those from where you are coming, and that you can learn an enormous amount of fantastic things among poverty. What I have learned from the poor is much more than I learned in the universities. But very few people have that experience, you see? They look at it from the outside, instead of living it from the inside.

And you learn extraordinary things. The first thing you learn, that people who want to work in order to overcome poverty and don’t know, is that in poverty there is an enormous creativity. You cannot be an idiot if you want to survive. Every minute, you have to be thinking, what next? What do I know? What trick can I do here? What’s this and that, that, that, that? And so, your creativity is constant. In addition, I mean, that it’s combined, you know, with networks of cooperation, mutual aid, you know, and all sort of extraordinary things which you’ll no longer find in our dominant society, which is individualistic, greedy, egoistical, etc. It’s just the opposite of what you find there. And it’s sometimes so shocking that you may find people much happier in poverty than what you would find, you know, in your own environment, which also means, you know, that poverty is not just a question of money. It’s a much more complex thing."

...

"The Peace Corps, yeah, OK. I was many times in that. I even taught Peace Corps groups, you know, in California and so on and on. Then I found them, you know, in the field when I was there. Lovely young people, you know? I mean, very well-intentioned, you know. And the situations like this.

Well, there you have a woman making a poncho. No, but with another machine, instead of making two ponchos in one week, I mean, she could make 20 ponchos.

So, now, “We will bring you a much better thing.”

“Oh, OK, well…”

They bring it in, you know, and come back a few months later, you know, to see a huge production of this woman. And how our young find?

“Oh, how do you like the machine?”

“Oh, very nice.”

“And how many ponchos are you making?”

“Well, two ponchos a week.”

“What do you mean? You could make much more.”

“Well, but I don’t need to make more.”

“But why do you make just two? Well, what is the machine then for?”

“Well, I make two, but now I have much more time to be with my friends and with my kids.”

In our environment, you know, you have to do more and more and more and more. No, there, instead of making more, they have more time to enjoy themselves, to have a nice relationship with friends, with family, etc. You see? Lovely values which we have lost.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think needs to change? You’re saying it’s obvious, but what do you think needs to happen that they’re avoiding?

MANFRED MAX-NEEF: Well, to begin with, a completely new concept of economics. This economy is crazy and poisonous. I am an economist, and I have been fighting against the economy that is taught the way it is being taught and being practiced. I have been fighting it for almost 40 years of my life, because it’s an absurd economy that has nothing to do with real life. It’s all fabrications, no? If the model doesn’t work, it’s not because the model is wrong, but because reality plays foul tricks. And reality is there to be domesticated, you know, and become the model. That is the attitude. And that’s systematic, in addition.

What is the economy that is being taught in the universities today everywhere? Neoclassical economics. Neoliberalism is an offspring of neoclassical economics. And neoclassical economics is 19th century. So we are supposed to solve problems of the 21st century that have no precedent with theories of the 19th century. We no longer have a physics of the 19th century, nor a biology, nor an engineering — nor nothing. The only thing in which we stopped in the 19th century is in the concept of economics. I mean, and that is elementarily absurd. And the main journals and everything, you know — I mean, no, no, that’s the way it must be."

...

"AMY GOODMAN: And if you’re teaching young economists, the principles you would teach them, what they’d be?

MANFRED MAX-NEEF: The principles, you know, of an economics which should be are based in five postulates and one fundamental value principle.

One, the economy is to serve the people and not the people to serve the economy.

Two, development is about people and not about objects.

Three, growth is not the same as development, and development does not necessarily require growth.

Four, no economy is possible in the absence of ecosystem services.

Five, the economy is a subsystem of a larger finite system, the biosphere, hence permanent growth is impossible.

And the fundamental value to sustain a new economy should be that no economic interest, under no circumstance, can be above the reverence of life.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain that further.

MANFRED MAX-NEEF: Nothing can be more important than life. And I say life, not human beings, because, for me, the center is the miracle of life in all its manifestations. But if there is an economic interest, I mean, you forget about life, not only of other living beings, but even of human beings. If you go through that list, one after the other, what we have today is exactly the opposite.

AMY GOODMAN: Go back to three: growth and development. Explain that further.

MANFRED MAX-NEEF: Growth is a quantitative accumulation. Development is the liberation of creative possibilities. Every living system in nature grows up to a certain point and stops growing. You are not growing anymore, nor he nor me. But we continue developing ourselves. Otherwise we wouldn’t be dialoguing here now. So development has no limits. Growth has limits. And that is a very big thing, you know, that economists and politicians don’t understand. They are obsessed with the fetish of economic growth.

And I am working, several decades. Many studies have been done. I’m the author of a famous hypothesis, the threshold hypothesis, which says that in every society there is a period in which economic growth, conventionally understood or no, brings about an improvement of the quality of life. But only up to a point, the threshold point, beyond which, if there is more growth, quality of life begins to decline. And that is the situation in which we are now.

I mean, your country is the most dramatic example that you can find. I have gone as far as saying — and this is a chapter of a book of mine that is published next month in England, the title of which is Economics Unmasked. There is a chapter called “The United States, an Underdeveloping Nation,” which is a new category. We have developed, underdeveloped and developing. Now you have underdeveloping. And your country is an example, in which the one percent of the Americans, you know, are doing better and better and better, and the 99 percent is going down, in all sorts of manifestations. People living in their cars now and sleeping in their cars, you know, parked in front of the house that used to be their house — thousands of people. Millions of people, you know, have lost everything. But the speculators that brought about the whole mess, oh, they are fantastically well off. No problem. No problem."
manfredmax-neef  economics  chile  2010  interviews  poverty  capitalism  development  barefooteconomics  knowledge  understanding  creativity  ingenuity  society  individualism  greed  cooperation  mutualaid  survival  time  work  perspective  peacecorps  colonialism  neoliberalism  ecosystems  humanism  growth  gdp  underdevelopment  accumulation 
august 2019 by robertogreco
Capitalism and the Urban Struggle | Boston Review
“One of the things that interests me is the simultaneity of what goes on in the urban network. Occupy Wall Street was about Wall Street, but Occupy movements sprung up in a hundred odd cities in the United States, and you can find Occupy movements in Europe and around the world. So the urban network is actually a very powerful set of political possibilities. Part of my argument is that we should be thinking about how to use the urban network and how to use the political power that lies with closing cities down or intervening in cities as part of what political struggle is all about.”



“DJ: Mainstream liberals who talk about urbanism focus a lot on environmentalism and culture. Cities promise greener forms of living, since they offer greater density and more efficient energy use. And these liberals obsess over green architecture, high-speed rail, and so on, as well as about cities as centers of “creative culture.” Would you say they’re guilty of a certain fetishism over green living and culture?

DH: Very much so. As I try to point out in the book, the culture industries are very much caught up in the search for monopoly rent. It’s interesting that they’re called “industries” these days, which means that there’s a commodification of culture and an attempt to commodify the cultural commons and even commodify history, which is an astonishing process.

A lot of the green stuff is about planting trees and making things look greener. But I’ve yet to see a really radical reconfiguration of urbanization that would really confront the questions of global warming. So the liberal view does that, but what it doesn’t pay attention to is the tremendous social inequalities that exist. In New York, the social inequalities are dramatic, and we have huge concentrations of what we call precarious and insecure, employed people in these cities. In a way it’s an urban proletariat that is engaging in the production and the reproduction of urban life, and I don’t see the liberals taking any notice of that as being a problem. I mean, the levels of social inequality in New York City are far, far greater now than they were 30 years ago, and I would not be at all surprised to see an urban insurrection going on over those levels of inequality.”



“DJ: There you argue that Murray Bookchin had a more reasonable answer to the problem of how to organize for large-scale reform, given the limits of horizontal, anti-hierarchical political structures.

DH: One of the things I criticize the left for is what I call “fetishism of organizational form,” and it’s not only anarchists. The communist parties of yore used to have a democratic centralist model from which they would never depart, and it had certain strengths and it had certain weaknesses. Now there are certain elements within the anarchist movement that now believe totally in this horizontality idea and will not contemplate anything that is hierarchical. So I say, “Well, look, you’re disempowering yourself by sticking to that as the only organizational form which is viable.”

Again, there are certain anarchists who think that it’s reasonable to negotiate with the state or to try to reform the state and certain anarchists who say they want nothing whatsoever with anything that looks like state power. I have problems with that. My concern would be to say, “Let’s try to think of an organizational form that can confront the nature of the problems that we face,” which include, by the way, the one that you talked about earlier about the global nature of the struggle. You cannot imagine that we could simply have socialism in New York City and nowhere else. We’ve got to start thinking about all of the international relations and international divisions of labor and the like. So I’m more concerned with finding a practical form of organization, which can confront the nature of the problems we face, and I find that these rather dogmatic assertions by the communists, on one hand, and some of the anarchists, on the other, that “This is the only form of organization which is acceptable” get in the way of a fluid discussion over what would be a good form of organization for political mobilization right now.

DJ: Do you think that we’ve come to any sort of promising conclusions about organizational form, or is this a debate that needs to take place over the course of many years?

DH: Oh, I think it’s a debate that’s unfolding, but it can unfold very rapidly. I mean, there are places in the world where people seem to have found ways to pin together both the horizontal and the hierarchical. I mention the case of El Alto in Bolivia, where that seems to have happened. There are other cases; I’ve been very impressed by the example of the Chilean student movement, which is very democratic and horizontal but at the same time accepts that there is a need for decisive leadership. As more and more models of that sort come to our attention, I think that more and more people will start to converge on a practical organizational form. At least that’s my hope. And I think what I was trying to do in the book was to contribute to that process by both critiquing fetishism and then talking about examples where it seems some mixture of organizational forms has been very successful.

DJ: Now that we’re in Spring, people in the Occupy movement are wondering, “Where do we go from here?” Can there be an Occupy movement without occupation—without actually occupying public spaces? It seems as though occupying public spaces is a very powerful form of protest that has succeeded in Egypt and elsewhere. So why not just continuing occupying?

DH: Well, I think there are intermediate forms of it. One example that I was talking about with some people the other day is the Madres de Plaza de Mayo in Argentina who, instead of occupying all the time, turned up once a week to a particular space to demonstrate over the question of what had happened to their disappeared children and grandchildren. Of course, they suffered a great deal of police harassment and in some cases violence, but they just kept coming there every week. We could do something like that: we could go to Zuccotti Park once a week and say, “Look, we are still here!” It could be a visible thing. Some weeks, there’d be 500 people there; maybe occasionally there’d be 5,000 people there. But if it became a tradition, that once a week we all went there to reassert the significance of our political movement, then this would be a very good step.

I think that one of the problems we have in New York City is that we have a vast amount of public space in which the public is not allowed to do what it wants. We have to liberate public spaces for these sorts of common political actions, and this is one of the arenas of struggle.

DJ: In terms of changing our politics, are there any steps that you think are promising? For example, some critics, such as Lawrence Lessig, point to money in politics as a central problem. There are others who talk about how we need more participatory democracy in place. Is there a political step that you think will make progress?

DH: There’s a political step that I think that we should take and be very clear about. This is what was so impressive about the Chilean student movement. They recognized very clearly that the situation they’re in was defined by what happened under Pinochet. Now Pinochet is dead, but they’re still living with the legacy of Pinochet. What they are struggling with is what you might call “Pinochetism.” In this country Reagan is long gone, but Reaganism has been doubled down on by the Republican Party in particular, but also accepted by large chunks of the Democratic Party. So we’ve got to go after Reaganism. In Britain, Thatcher is long gone, but we’ve got Thatcherism. In Egypt, Mubarak is gone, but Mubarakism is still there. So we’ve got to go after the systems of power and the systems of appropriation of wealth that have become pretty universalized right now, and we’ve got to see this as a real serious point of confrontation. As Warren Buffett says when asked if there’s class struggle, “Sure, there’s class struggle. It’s my class, the rich, who have been waging it, and we’ve been winning.” Our task, I think, is to turn it around and say, “His class shall not win.” And in order to do that, we’ve got to get rid of the whole neoliberal way of organizing contemporary capitalism.“
davidharvey  2012  capitalism  urban  urbanism  economics  democracy  cities  davidjohnson  henrilefebvre  righttothecity  anticapitalism  neoliberalism  politics  policy  liberalism  class  classstruggle  pinochet  warrenbuffett  chile  inequality  thatcherism  margaretthatcher  activism  murraybookchin  argentina  bolivia  ows  occupywallstreet  culture  society  green  greenliving  progress 
july 2019 by robertogreco
Eco-Apartheid Is Real | The Nation
“Eco-apartheid, which I define as a regime of greening affluence for the few at the expense of the many, is the path of business as usual.

And yet there was something frustratingly superficial about all this coverage, even when it focused on inequality.

In the era of the Green New Deal, journalists and activists still struggle to convey just how profoundly the climate emergency, our political economy, and social inequalities are connected. As a result, they’re still missing how much egalitarian green investment—like a Green New Deal for Housing—could address social, economic, and environmental crises at the same time. And while this policy idea is specific to the US context, an intersectional analysis here could enrich global debates about what effective and equitable green investment could look like around the world.”



“Yes, installing more efficient and comfortable systems in the United States will take money, both for retrofits and new construction. But targeted investments in racialized, working-class communities to decarbonize and increase resiliency is the core idea of the Green New Deal. The climate crisis and the cost-of-living crises are converging in American homes. And so are potential solutions.

A Green New Deal for Housing would retrofit public, subsidized, and low-income homes. It could use the power of public purchase and procurement to get low-carbon appliances into the homes that need them. Public investment and regulation would also lower the costs of the most efficient appliance technologies for everyone.

All this would create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the building trades. It could revitalize appliance manufacture in the United States. And the focus on efficient appliances and energy systems would spare us the individualized green moralizing that doesn’t make a difference anyway.

The key is to fuse the demands—and the social movements—for climate and housing progress. And while climate activists have gotten the attention lately, the housing movement’s growing confidence and power are just as impressive. Both the real estate and fossil fuel industries are finally under siege from powerful insurgencies.

Progressive movements and think tanks have been issuing detailed reports calling for national rent control and massive federal investment in new public housing construction, with groups like People’s Action calling for a Homes Guarantee. The Democratic presidential candidates are following suit.

The housing movement just won huge legislative battles in Oregon and New York State. And in New York, days after the tenants’ victory, the state’s climate justice movement won passage of an ambitious bill that would cut emissions to net zero by 2050—while ensuring that over a third of clean-energy spending benefits low-income and racialized communities.

Through no-carbon public housing construction and the kinds of building upgrades described above, a Green New Deal for Housing would be a perfect vehicle for such targeted investments. (All told, US homes are currently responsible for nearly one-sixth of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.)

And such a framework could unite climate, housing, and racial justice movements—and architects and designers. The New York Times reports that long-range cost concerns already have made affordable housing a leader in extremely low-energy building construction methods. In Norwich, England, the town’s housing authority built 100 lovely, award-winning three-story units of social housing to an extremely efficient passive house standard; green affordable housing can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes to fit their communities.

New and rehabilitated public housing complexes would also make ideal resiliency centers, providing physical and social infrastructure. Every public housing complex could double as a community cooling center during heat waves. And with solar rooftops, microgrids, and batteries, they could be refuges during storms when the power goes off.

All told, a Green New Deal for Housing would drive down carbon emissions, increase resiliency, and attack economic and racial inequalities. Contra the complaints of centrists, an ambitious and intersectional climate policy isn’t a gratuitous and expensive add-on. The massive green investment would, in fact, be the logical result of connecting the dots between all our environmental, economic, and social crises—and between the growing movements that are fighting for transformative change.”
eco-apartheid  apartheid  environment  climatechange  2019  politics  economics  intersectionality  housing  policy  climate  publichousing  race  greennewdeal  danielaldanacohen  climateurbanism 
july 2019 by robertogreco
Cybergothic Acid Communism Now • Commune
"To the barricades, through the looking glass.

Once upon a time, way back in 2010, having just read his brilliant book Capitalist Realism, I went to see Mark Fisher speak. I walked in late and he was in the midst of denouncing the one-day strike as a pantomime, a meaningless echo of uprising. (He was right, as he was about so many things.) He moved through the financial crisis, to the soulless thing that neoliberalism had made of the university, to a demand to repoliticize mental health. I sat enthralled, too nervous to go say hello afterward. I wish I had.

Fisher died in 2017, leaving anyone who had read him bereft. I find myself, while reading and rereading, wondering what he would have thought of The Favourite or the new Robyn album; longing for his caustic words on the meltdown of the Theresa May government; wishing he had been here to tear “hopepunk” to shreds; wondering too what he would have made of AOC.

The new k-punk collection, all 824 pages of it, is out now from Repeater Books, gathering a decade and a half of Fisher’s writings on pop culture, politics, and theory. It contains everything from blog comment policies to the unfinished introduction to what would have been his next book. Even a quick skim will remind you that Fisher was a much more audacious, nuanced, and flat-out weird writer and thinker than almost anyone the left can claim these days.

Trying to do justice to a now-gone writer who regularly blew your mind is an impossible task, and yet someone who so regularly took aim at sacred cows — starting a piece with “Orwell is wrong about everything, but especially 1984” — should not become one himself. It’s hard to imagine him having any patience with such treatment, anyway. The combination of humility and raw confidence with which he wrote would prevent, I hope, any enjoyment of sainthood.

The only way to treat him right is to read him with the same eye for ruthless critique that he always brought. The same vitality that makes it impossible to imagine him gone courses through this book, whether he’s writing about the calcification of Glastonbury, the bloodless corpse of New Labour, or the privatization of stress. His long posts often come to abrupt ends; there is no wind-down, everything is full-tilt and then crashes to a halt, winded and satisfied with itself (but never smug, no, Fisher always had the bone-deep understanding that smugness is counterrevolutionary).

Fisher is closest in style to Ellen Willis. Like her, he is a brilliant pop-culture critic as well as political observer and actor whose politics were mostly knife-sharp, but capable like all of us of an odd conservative turn. His insistence on popular media as a terrain of struggle is too rare within a new left struggling for direction; Fisher more than anyone understood that the material conditions that drained the vitality from pop music and art and even TV were the same ones that had sucked the life out of the working class. Instead of the innovation that neoliberalism promised us, we’ve just gotten recycled versions of things we’ve seen a million times before, and all of it under the pretense of anti-elitism, of “giving the people what they want.”

Fisher had no patience for this kind of faux-populist tailing. He had a faith in the creativity of the working class that demanded better for and from it. Change — revolution — would not come from pandering but from the masses understanding their own power in all senses. “[T]here’s nothing ‘elitist’ about assuming intelligence on the part of an audience,” he insisted, returning over and over to a defense of a kind of leftist paternalism. (Paternalism, he knew, was the wrong word, but he didn’t quite land on a better one). “It is about having a wager that there is maybe a desire for the strange in people,” he wrote. “People don’t already know what they want and . . . the things which they really end up most valuing may be things which surprise them.”

Whatever we might call such a position, it’s one Fisher performed well. His love for a song or a film that sparks a feeling is contagious. Within a few pages of beginning the music section in the collection I was pulling up bands I’d forgotten or never known to soundtrack my reading. His hatreds — for Alan Moore, say — are not based in some High Culture snobbery but in a frustration with the mistaking of grimness, perhaps, or some other half-evoked emotion, for depth.

In goth, Fisher saw a subculture that could “teach us that egalitarianism is not hostile to, but relies upon, a will-to-greatness, an unconditional demand for the excellent.” The weirdness of Siouxsie Sioux and other such “painted birds” became, in Fisher’s hands, a feminist desire for bursting the confines of biological reproduction, to speed the destruction of a banal, boring world. It was no accident, he pointed out, that Marx himself was drawn to gothic metaphors for capital: “the living flesh it converts into dead labour is ours, and the zombies it makes are us.”

Derrida’s “hauntology” threads through his work, a curious recapturing of a concept developed as part of an extended critique of Marx. In Fisher’s hands it bears the idea of a lost future, of a mourning for a thing that could have been. It’s fitting in a way for his readers now to be haunted by the things he’ll never write. His blog posts still have an immediacy to them, a tang that we’ve largely lost with the rise of the clickbait-fueled “thinkpiece.” Far be it from me of all people to argue that unpaid blogging led to better writing — this is the opposite of what Fisher himself said, insisting that having some security would allow us to produce better — but the shittiness of most of the hot-take era’s writing feels stark when reading a k-punk post on the page. It makes me long for a world where writing could be a form of play. Instead, the lazy bourgeois art that Fisher so despised has only spread; it deserves the tactical nuke he wanted to send down on Glastonbury.

Capitalist Realism exists as a tight little bomb of a book that no one really has any excuse not to read. But in case anyone hasn’t, the concept threads through the k-punk collection; the idea that we live under the shadow of “there is no alternative,” unable to imagine a better way to organize society, let alone to struggle for one. Such “realism,” Fisher explained, was deeply unreal, particularly as we all live in the shadow of climate catastrophe; the tsk-tsking of the centrist ruling class is death drive posing as maturity, and the power of capitalist realism an expression of class decomposition, the fading of class consciousness. Peering through this gloom, Fisher nonetheless glimpsed some endings. After 2008, he wrote, “Neoliberalism is finished as a project, even if it lurches on, thrashing around like a decorticated terminator.”

We might now be able to imagine the death of capitalism, yet one problem of capitalist realism remains: our inability to imagine what comes next. Instead, the left too often gropes for the past, a trend Fisher despised. He insisted that “we must have the courage not to be nostalgic for this lost Fordist world of boring factory work and a labour movement dominated by male industrial workers.” Even communist nostalgia was impossible: “our desire is for the future.” Following Stuart Hall, he pointed out that the left and the labor movement had been too slow to grasp workers’ desire for something better than forty years of forty-hour weeks on the assembly line. The Thatcherites and their ilk had seized the moment to paint their reorganization of the economy as liberation while too many leftists sung (and still sing) paeans to the factory floor. The urgent need now is for a working-class politics that doesn’t love work.

This is where, I suppose, the Vampire’s Castle comes in. Like everything Fisher wrote, his oft-cited “Exiting the Vampire’s Castle” goes hard, but unlike most of what he wrote, the slippage it makes between the nastiness of Twitter pile-ons and the problems of liberal identity politics does his criticism of either issue no favors. Everyone, as Fisher himself pointed out, “has chauvinistic potentials of one kind or another,” yet in the Vampire’s Castle — his name for the social media war of position often conducted via hyperbolic outrage and exhausting, disingenuous engagement — he assumes that only “identitarians” turn social media into traps constructed from the mutual fear of attack, an assumption immediately disproved with a few clicks on rose-emoji Twitter these days. There is just as much of a hipster’s desire to be part of the in-crowd among today’s new socialists, even if they throw the word “class” around more often.

But even when Fisher is infuriating, he is never dull, which is what makes attempts to claim him for normie social democracy so utterly repellent — said reactionary turn in socialist “thought” these days is above all else boring. Though Fisher wrote of the “the luxury of feeling bored” and its potential for sparking new ideas, he insisted upon respect for the intellectual capacities of the working class, insisted that “anti-intellectualism is a ruling-class reflex.” Yet those who see in the Vampire’s Castle a club to whack so-called “identitarians,” or simply anyone to their left, often wind up claiming precisely the opposite: that working-class people are too stupid to be challenged or to challenge our ideas of race, gender, and the fundamental orderings of the world.

We can find a more generous solution for the slash-and-burn tendencies of the would-be left in Fisher’s writings on mental health — particularly on depression, his own and everyone else’s — and his insistence that the left make political demands around it. The “realism” of depression, which “presents itself as necessary and interminable,” with its “glacial surfaces [that] extend… [more]
markfisher  2019  sarahjaffe  communism  marxism  neoliberalism  counterculture  labor  work  organizing  unions  mentalhealth  socialism  socialdemocracy  democracy  identitarians  socialmedia  politics  policy  culture  society  k-punk  liberation  economics  uk  us  fordism  class  realism  future  imagination  glastonbury  writing  howwewrite  subculture  alanmoore  music  criticism 
july 2019 by robertogreco