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robertogreco : incrementalism   4

Get Real | Tarence Ray
"What liberals like Paul Krugman still don’t understand about rural America"



"This question of why the rural working class often votes against its interests has been bugging liberals for a few decades now, and you can’t really blame them. Democrats still held a lot of sway in rural America for the first half of the twentieth century, but then things started to change. Neoliberal economics tore rural regions apart. Both jobs and people left in short order. Now these regions swing predominantly conservative, and liberals are left scratching their heads.

Today, rural America is largely viewed as politically and culturally “a world apart,” when in reality the picture is bleaker: conservatives simply maintain a stronger grasp on power in rural areas than liberals do. Liberals think that the majority of people in rural areas see this as a desirable state of affairs. Many of us don’t. It’s just that our voices have been erased by the overwhelming might of power and industry.

Krugman would do better to skip the psychoanalysis and examine the way power is actually constituted in rural America: to look at why and how ideology is formed, who does the forming, and what material interests are served by it. But he knows his audience, and he knows that they don’t really want to know the answers to those questions because that would mean they would have to actually believe in and fight for something. And they’re not going to do that. They’d rather be at brunch.

*****

As good Marxists, let’s state up front that the primary function of rural areas within the larger national economy is as a supply source of raw materials: food, oil, natural gas, coal, timber, and other resources. To keep these goods flowing out of rural areas —and profit flowing into capitalists’ pockets—freethinking dissent within the extractive regions must be squashed at all costs. Compare this with urban areas, where a greater productive capacity and larger middle classes can absorb and dilute a great deal of dissent. In rural areas, those impulses have to be stamped out before they can really take off; nothing less than the unchallenged flow of profit and resources is at stake. Conservatives understand this, and it’s why one of their foremost political strategies in rural areas is that of social control.

If you live in a rural community, extractive or not, you are likely confronted every day with an onslaught of images, dogmas, and various cultural reinforcements regarding your role within the national social structure. Perhaps the primary location for this “indoctrination” is the local school system. In many rural communities, it is well understood that while state power may be concentrated in the county courthouse, social power—the power to shape the ideological contours of the community, and therefore how it votes, prays, works, and obeys—is concentrated in the local school board."



"The only thing capable of breaking the conservative stranglehold on rural communities—and of breaking the power of their foot soldiers in the local school boards, chambers of commerce, and churches—is a nationwide political movement based in the actual interests of the working class: the service industry employees and care workers, the teachers and tenants. That’s because the right wing has their own institutions, programs, and forms of ideological preservation in rural areas. They have invested heavily in them for the last thirty years, and they will not stop until rural America is a useless ecological graveyard. Conservatives see their beliefs gradually losing support, and they have entered death cult mode. They want to squeeze as much profit and as many resources out of rural areas as possible, until we, too, have gone to the graveyard.

The result is a rapidly deteriorating economic landscape that stumps writers like Krugman. When he writes about the economic forces contributing to rural America’s decline “that nobody knows how to reverse,” the “nobody” he’s referring to is himself. Krugman’s liberalism, with its focus on slow incrementalism and social tinkering, has become incompatible with rural economies that are beholden to the whims of increasingly embattled industry. In the days when America’s economy was booming after World War II, when regulations meant to safeguard the financial interests of ordinary people didn’t necessarily threaten the immense wealth that was being produced throughout society, it was feasible that pro-business ideas could coexist with liberal doctrines like human rights and social welfare policies. But in the era of post-industrial capitalism, as wages decline, jobs are relocated, and the social safety net shrinks, it’s become impossible to square that contradiction.

So the best Krugman can offer is a kind of liberal realism: progressive values are simply incompatible with the minds of backwards yokels living out in the provinces, and we need to get real about that. This allows Krugman to erase all forms of rural radicalism: he doesn’t see us as powerless, silenced by the authoritarian regime of conservative social control, because he doesn’t see power at all.

But we know that rural radicalism exists, and we know that the rural working class can exert a great deal of leverage on entrenched power structures. The statewide teacher strikes in predominantly rural West Virginia serve as the best recent example. Our power is growing. It may take some time and experimentation, but conservatives will not reign unchallenged in rural America for eternity. We’ve never stopped fighting back."
rural  us  paulkrugman  politics  economics  2019  power  taranceray  liberals  neoliberalism  capitalism  democrats  republicans  ideology  incrementalism  elitism  society  socialwelfare  welfare  radicalism  humanrights  work  labor  workingclass  class  teachers  tenants  coal  westvirginia  newmexico  oil  gas 
march 2019 by robertogreco
Most of the time, innovators don’t move fast and break things | Aeon Essays
"The global view shifts the focus from Manchester, Lowell, Detroit and Silicon Valley. It involves accepting that innovation and technological change are more than just making things. Ironically, this allows us to begin to glimpse a more familiar world where activities such as maintenance, repair, use and re-use, recycling, obsolescence and disappearance dominate. A much more global picture, one that includes people whose lives and contributions the Great White Innovator narrative marginalised, comes into view. The Lizzie Otts of the world can take their proper place as participants and contributors."



"Efficiency, therefore, is not some timeless universal value but something grounded deeply in particular historical circumstances. At various times, efficiency was a way of quantifying machine performance – think: steam engines – and an accounting principle coupled to the new applied sciences of mechanics and thermodynamics. It was also about conservation and stability. By the early 20th century – the apogee of Taylorism – experts argued that increases in efficiency would realise the full potential of individuals and industries. Dynamism and conservatism worked together in the pursuit of ever-greater efficiency.

But a broad look at the history of technology plainly shows that other values often take precedence over efficiency, even in the modern era. It would, for example, offer several advantages in efficiency if, instead of every apartment or home having its own kitchen, multiple families shared a communal kitchen, and indeed in some parts of the world they do. But in the prevalent ideology of domesticity, every family or even single person must have their own kitchen, and so it is.

Nor, despite what Silicon Valley-based techno-libertarians might argue, does technological change automatically translate to increased efficiency. Sometimes, efficiency – like the lone eccentric innovator – is not wanted. In the 1960s, for instance, the US military encouraged metal-working firms, via its contracting process, to adopt expensive numerically controlled machine tools. The lavish funding the Department of Defense devoted to promoting the technology didn’t automatically yield clear economic advantages. However, the new machines – ones that smaller firms were hard-pressed to adopt – increased centralisation of the metalworking industry and, arguably, diminished economic competition. Meanwhile, on the shop floor, the new manufacturing innovations gave supervisors greater oversight over production. At one large manufacturing company, numerical control was referred to as a ‘management system’, not a new tool for cutting metal. Imperatives besides efficiency drove technological change.

The history of technological change is full of examples of roads not taken. There are many examples of seemingly illogical choices made by firms and individuals. This shouldn’t surprise us – technological change has always been a deep and multilayered process, one that unfolds in fits and starts and unevenly in time and space. It’s not like the ‘just so stories’ of pop history and Silicon Valley public relations departments."



"Perhaps most simply, what you will almost never hear from the tech industry pundits is that innovation is not always good. Crack cocaine and the AK-47 were innovative products. ISIS and Los Zetas are innovative organisations. Historians have long shown that innovation doesn’t even always create jobs. It sometimes destroys them. Automation and innovation, from the 1920s through the 1950s, displaced tens of thousands of workers. Recall the conflict between Spencer Tracy (a proponent of automation) and Katharine Hepburn (an anxious reference librarian) in the film Desk Set (1957).

And what of broader societal benefits that innovation brings? In Technological Medicine (2009), Stanley Joel Reiser makes a compelling case that, in the world of healthcare, innovation can bring gains and losses – and the winners are not always the patients. The innovation of the artificial respirator, for example, has saved countless lives. It has also brought in new ethical, legal and policy debates over, literally, the meaning of life and death. And there are real questions about the ethics of resource expenditure in medical innovation. Can spending large amounts pursuing innovative treatments or cures for exotic, rare diseases be ethical when the same monies could without question save millions of lives afflicted with simple health challenges?

It’s unrealistic to imagine that the international obsession with innovation will change any time soon. Even histories of nation-states are linked to narratives, rightly or wrongly, of political and technological innovation and progress. To be sure, technology and innovation have been central drivers of the US’s economic prosperity, national security and social advancement. The very centrality of innovation, which one could argue has taken on the position of a national mantra, makes a better understanding of how it actually works, and its limitations, vital. Then we can see that continuity and incrementalism are a much more realistic representation of technological change.

At the same time, when we step out of the shadow of innovation, we get new insights about the nature of technological change. By taking this broader perspective, we start to see the complexity of that change in new ways. It’s then we notice the persistent layering of older technologies. We appreciate the essential role of users and maintainers as well as traditional innovators such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and, yes, Bill and Lizzie Ott. We start to see the intangibles – the standards and ideologies that help to create and order technology systems, making them work at least most of the time. We start to see that technological change does not demand that we move fast and break things. Understanding the role that standards, ideologies, institutions – the non-thing aspects of technology – play, makes it possible to see how technological change actually happens, and who makes it happen. It makes it possible to understand the true topography of technology and the world today."

[via: https://tinyletter.com/audreywatters/letters/hewn-no-204 ]
history  technology  innovation  invention  maintenance  wpatrickmccray  2016  economics  continuity  incrementalism  change  changemaking  via:audreywatters  ethics  stanleyjoelreiser  siliconvalley  hacking  nurture  nurturing  care  caring  making  makers  standards  ideology  efficiency  domesticity  taylorism  technosolutionism 
march 2017 by robertogreco
A Philosophy of Voting and Revolutions | tressiemc
"There is a meme floating around. I won’t share an image of it. Somewhere along the way, I pieced together too many followers to casually link to people’s memes and social media content. I don’t want it to seem like I’m refuting any single person so much as an idea floating out there in the ether.

The meme cites James Baldwin and/or W.E.B. DuBois on why the negro should not vote.

I respect both philosophers a great deal. I teach DuBois as the start of modern sociology. I think my respect is well-documentated.

However, there is another political philosophy about the African American vote that I find interesting. I will call it the Bash Mister’s Head Open And Think About Heaven Later philosophy.

______________

If you don’t recognize the reference there is an excellent chance that you are not a black American of a certain age. It is from The Color Purple:

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

I have tried for a long time to articulate how I understand black southern working class women’s philosophy in the U.S.

Many smart people are doing this work formally. You should read Anita Allen, Paula Giddings, Tina Botts, and Brittney Cooper to get started.

I am thinking about philosophy more like a sociologist might: philosophy of knowledge and the political economy of knowledge production. And, I am thinking about philosophy more like a black southern Gen-Xer raised in Black Panther Party politics but also in the NAACP respectability machine might think about it. That is, it is complicated.

That’s the gist of my argument about Hillary Clinton’s campaign in “False Choice: The Faux Feminism of Hillary Rodham Clinton” A recent book review called the feminists in that volume, including me, as peripheral to mainstream feminism. I was like, you ain’t never lied but also thank you.

Being on the periphery is exactly what black women like me have always been. Our philosophy reflects that.

_______________

Bash Mister’s Head Open And Think About Heaven Later philosophy reflects the peripheral knowledge production that black women have done as they fight in their house: with Mister, with Mister’s oppressors, and with political machinations that ignore both.

In that space where our fight has been systematically and deliberately erased, it is useful to think about DuBois and Baldwin’s arguments against voting as a powerful statements of resistance. And they are. But they are not absolutely statements about how black working class (who have been historically situated in the U.S. south physically or ideologically) women have to fight in a political regime.

Miss Sophia offers a way to understood black suffragists like Ida B. Wells. Wells, who knew as much about state sanctioned white rage and violence as anyone, still organized for black women’s franchise.

Later, black women socialists wrote the philosophy of revolution but also, some of them quietly, organizing the vote.

These philosophers of action and rhetoric seemed capable of both incrementalism and revolution, something we’re told are incompatible. The result was revolution of a sort. It was revolutionary for blacks to force one of the mightiest nations in history to prosecute whites for hanging blacks, for example. And, it was also incremental in that state violence clearly continues to target black people. But to say the revolution is incomplete isn’t the same as saying revolutions don’t happen. They simply may not happen the way we dream of them.

Philosophical rhetoric is important but black women philosophers have argued and lived the truth that it is not the only thing that is important.

______

Here’s where I am: I try to vote the interests of poor black women and girls. I do that because, as a winner in this crap knowledge economy, the election outcome won’t much affect my life no matter who wins or loses. But poor black women and girls don’t have a lobby. So, I supported Bernie Sanders because, despite his (non)rhetoric on race, I truly believed that an anti-poverty policy would represent poor black women and girls’ political interests. Truly. I still believe that.

I don’t care if Bernie didn’t ever learn the words to Lift E’ry Voice and Sing. I thought that with a Democratic party machine behind him to hopefully elect locals and state officers plus a federal agency to legitimize an anti-poverty and jobs program, maybe we could get some long overdue economic and political investment in poor black women and girls. Now I will vote for Hillary for the same reason, even as I know that being oppressed in the U.S. still makes us all complicit in the U.S.’ global oppression of other poor people, brown people and women.

However I am crystal clear on this: my not voting or voting Trump doesn’t change global geo-politics. By definition, a “vote” can never do those things as voting is defined by nation-states and the military power to enforce their boundaries and, ergo, legitimize voting as a state project. That’s why I can’t ONLY vote but vote and donate; vote and organize; vote and philosophize a resistance. Petty feels good, god knows it does. But so do applied philosophies like Planned Parenthoods.

I want to bash mista’s head in with Planned Parenthoods for poor black women and girls now while I think about heaven (and revolution) later."
tressiemcmillancottom  2016  voting  elections  alicewalker  thecolorpurple  berniesanders  hillaryclinton  rhetoric  politics  democrats  anitaallen  paulagiddings  tinabotts  birttneycooper  webdubois  jamesbaldwin  sociology  philosophy  knowledgeproduction  knowledge  feminism  oppression  idabwells  revolution  incrementalism  change  changemaking  democracy 
july 2016 by robertogreco
In Praise of Impractical Movements | Dissent Magazine
"Bernie Sanders’s insurgent presidential campaign has opened up a debate about how social change happens in our society. The official version of how progress is won—currently voiced by mainstream pundits and members of a spooked Democratic Party establishment—goes something like this: politics is a tricky business, gains coming through the work of pragmatic insiders who know how to maneuver within the system. In order to get things done, you have to play the game, be realistic, and accept the established limits of debate in Washington, D.C.

A recent article in the Atlantic summed up this perspective with the tagline, “At this polarized moment, it’s incremental change or nothing.” This view, however, leaves out a critical driver of social transformation. It fails to account for what might be the most important engine of progress: grassroots movements by citizens demanding change.

Social change is seldom either as incremental or predictable as many insiders suggest. Every once in a while, an outburst of resistance seems to break open a world of possibility, creating unforeseen opportunities for transformation. Indeed, according to that leading theorist of disruptive power, Frances Fox Piven, the “great moments of equalizing reform in American political history”—securing labor rights, expanding the vote, or creating a social safety net—have been directly related to surges of widespread defiance.

Unlike elected officials who preoccupy themselves with policies considered practical and attainable within the political climate of the moment, social movements change the political weather. They turn issues and demands considered both unrealistic and politically inconvenient into matters that can no longer be ignored; they succeed, that is, by championing the impractical.

Such movements, of course, face immense barriers, but that shouldn’t stop us from acknowledging their importance and highlighting the key role played by moments of mass defiance in shaping our world. Outbreaks of hope and determined impracticality provide an important rebuttal to the politics of accommodation, to the idea that the minor tweaking of the status quo is the best we can expect in our lifetimes.

Here, then, are three moments when the world broke open—and two when it still might."
socialchange  politics  policy  society  revolution  civilrightsmovement  us  bosnia  serbia  otpor  gaymarriage  markengler  paulengler  2016  environment  immigration  economics  humanity  evanwolfson  marcsolomon  egypt  resistance  protest  nonviolence  martinlutherkingjr  history  incrementalism  francesfoxpiven  berniesanders  grassroots  polarization  disruption  statusquo  laborrights  defiance  mlk 
june 2016 by robertogreco

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