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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
OCCULTURE: 52. John Michael Greer in “The Polymath” // Druidry, Storytelling & the History of the Occult
"The best beard in occultism, John Michael Greer, is in the house. We’re talking “The Occult Book”, a collection of 100 of the most important stories and anecdotes from the history of the occult in western society. We also touch on the subject of storytelling as well as some other recent material from John, including his book “The Coelbren Alphabet: The Forgotten Oracle of the Welsh Bards” and his translation of a neat little number called “Academy of the Sword”."



"What you contemplate [too much] you imitate." [Uses the example of atheists contemplating religious fundamentalists and how the atheists begin acting like them.] "People always become what they hate. That’s why it's not good idea to wallow in hate."
2017  johnmichaelgreer  druidry  craft  druids  polymaths  autodidacts  learning  occulture  occult  ryanpeverly  celts  druidrevival  history  spirituality  thedivine  nature  belief  dogma  animism  practice  life  living  myths  mythology  stories  storytelling  wisdom  writing  howwewrite  editing  writersblock  criticism  writer'sblock  self-criticism  creativity  schools  schooling  television  tv  coelbrenalphabet  1980s  ronaldreagan  sustainability  environment  us  politics  lies  margaretthatcher  oraltradition  books  reading  howweread  howwelearn  unschooling  deschooling  facetime  social  socializing  cardgames  humans  human  humanism  work  labor  boredom  economics  society  suffering  misery  trapped  progress  socialmedia  computing  smarthphones  bullshitjobs  shinto  talismans  amulets  sex  christianity  religion  atheism  scientism  mainstream  counterculture  magic  materialism  enlightenment  delusion  judgement  contemplation  imitation  fundamentalism  hate  knowledge 
february 2018 by robertogreco
Gallup: Zoning Is Reducing American Productivity And Making The Poor Poorer
"Gallup has released a report called, No Recovery: An Analysis of Long-Term U.S. Productivity Decline that explains that even with modest job and productivity growth post-recession, the productivity of the country is down overall. A big part of the reason for this stagnation and decline is because of the disproportionate growth in costs and decline in value in education, health care, and housing. The Gallup report tells the story that many of us have been repeating for years: we need more housing options. But local governments in fast growing cities have resisted housing production with zoning regulations.

What’s happening with housing that’s affecting productivity? The Gallup report argues makes the case that Americans are paying more for less, spending an average of 28 percent on housing costs compared to 19 percent over thirty years ago. Part of this is the size of units is getting smaller, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Many people are choosing to live in smaller spaces with higher per square foot costs. The Urban Land Institute produced a report on micro housing, A Macro View on Micro Housing, that found many people chose smaller space because while the square foot cost of housing for smaller units is higher, over all rent is less.

But the Gallup report lays the real blame squarely on local elected officials and the influence of incumbent homeowners that constrain supply with aggressive zoning.
The core problem with the housing market is that it is not allowed to function as a market at all. In a healthy market, an increase in demand for a product leads to a greater supply and prices stay the same. In housing markets, demand increases as new households are formed, which results from natural population growth and immigration. The problem is that new supply is massively restricted, leading to inflation (Page 98).

Americans are facing, especially in cities, is housing scarcity that is pushing up prices and consuming their incomes. The money lost to higher prices is money not saved, not invested in new ventures, or education, or meeting other needs. People want to live and work and cities because that’s where the opportunity is; but the report found that zoning is making it harder for new people to live in cities. Here’s a devastating indictment of zoning (emphasis mine):
Local zoning boards and planning agencies have almost complete discretion over what gets built where, and they are under intense political pressure from homeowners’ associations and other groups to block development in high-priced, low-density areas for cultural and economic reasons. Culturally, homeowners clamor to preserve what they regard as the “character” of their communities, by which they mean things like traffic, the race and social status of their neighbors, and environmental amenities like green space and scenic views. Additionally, homeowners have strong economic interests in restricting the supply of housing in their neighborhood for two reasons: having more people, especially people with young children, requires a higher tax rate on property, and even more fundamentally, greater housing supply in their neighborhood lowers the value of their unit relative to the prevailing scarcity. Thus, even as housing prices increased, U.S. population density actually fell from 2000 to 2010 for metropolitan area residents as newer housing units were pushed further out into the distant suburbs (Page 99).

But here’s what Gallup doesn’t say: progressive political rhetoric and policies blaming developers and building owners for higher prices provides the political cover to enact these kinds of measures that actually hurt poor people. And this is truly the scandal of the last three decades, that incumbent single-family homeowners have used the suffering of poor people to argue for policies that benefit their own financial interests while making life worse for people with the fewest dollars to spend on housing in the city, the very people that they claim to be worried about.

Gallup says it isn’t done but will be producing more detailed ideas on solutions. The housing solution will have to require that local politicians and officials stop implementing policies that appear redistributive at the expense of developers and landlords, but that only make things worse for people seeking housing (see Seattle Mayor Murray's Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning scheme). Ironically the fees and taxes wrung out of the production of much needed housing will only raise its price, funneling the money raised into a manifestly inefficient system of housing production. As Margaret Thatcher famously pointed out, all these apparently socialist policies using taxes, fees, and zoning do is make the “poor poorer” while ensuring current homeowners see themselves get richer and richer.

[video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pdR7WW3XR9c ]"
housing  zoning  2016  inequality  urban  urbanism  urbanplanning  planning  cities  economics  progressives  margaretthatcher 
december 2016 by robertogreco
Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems | Books | The Guardian
"We internalise and reproduce its creeds. The rich persuade themselves that they acquired their wealth through merit, ignoring the advantages – such as education, inheritance and class – that may have helped to secure it. The poor begin to blame themselves for their failures, even when they can do little to change their circumstances.

Never mind structural unemployment: if you don’t have a job it’s because you are unenterprising. Never mind the impossible costs of housing: if your credit card is maxed out, you’re feckless and improvident. Never mind that your children no longer have a school playing field: if they get fat, it’s your fault. In a world governed by competition, those who fall behind become defined and self-defined as losers.

Among the results, as Paul Verhaeghe documents in his book What About Me? are epidemics of self-harm, eating disorders, depression, loneliness, performance anxiety and social phobia. Perhaps it’s unsurprising that Britain, in which neoliberal ideology has been most rigorously applied, is the loneliness capital of Europe. We are all neoliberals now."



"It may seem strange that a doctrine promising choice and freedom should have been promoted with the slogan “there is no alternative”. But, as Hayek remarked on a visit to Pinochet’s Chile – one of the first nations in which the programme was comprehensively applied – “my personal preference leans toward a liberal dictatorship rather than toward a democratic government devoid of liberalism”. The freedom that neoliberalism offers, which sounds so beguiling when expressed in general terms, turns out to mean freedom for the pike, not for the minnows.

Freedom from trade unions and collective bargaining means the freedom to suppress wages. Freedom from regulation means the freedom to poison rivers, endanger workers, charge iniquitous rates of interest and design exotic financial instruments. Freedom from tax means freedom from the distribution of wealth that lifts people out of poverty."



"Like communism, neoliberalism is the God that failed. But the zombie doctrine staggers on, and one of the reasons is its anonymity. Or rather, a cluster of anonymities.

The invisible doctrine of the invisible hand is promoted by invisible backers. Slowly, very slowly, we have begun to discover the names of a few of them. We find that the Institute of Economic Affairs, which has argued forcefully in the media against the further regulation of the tobacco industry, has been secretly funded by British American Tobacco since 1963. We discover that Charles and David Koch, two of the richest men in the world, founded the institute that set up the Tea Party movement. We find that Charles Koch, in establishing one of his thinktanks, noted that “in order to avoid undesirable criticism, how the organisation is controlled and directed should not be widely advertised”.

The words used by neoliberalism often conceal more than they elucidate. “The market” sounds like a natural system that might bear upon us equally, like gravity or atmospheric pressure. But it is fraught with power relations. What “the market wants” tends to mean what corporations and their bosses want. “Investment”, as Sayer notes, means two quite different things. One is the funding of productive and socially useful activities, the other is the purchase of existing assets to milk them for rent, interest, dividends and capital gains. Using the same word for different activities “camouflages the sources of wealth”, leading us to confuse wealth extraction with wealth creation.

A century ago, the nouveau riche were disparaged by those who had inherited their money. Entrepreneurs sought social acceptance by passing themselves off as rentiers. Today, the relationship has been reversed: the rentiers and inheritors style themselves entre preneurs. They claim to have earned their unearned income.

These anonymities and confusions mesh with the namelessness and placelessness of modern capitalism: the franchise model which ensures that workers do not know for whom they toil; the companies registered through a network of offshore secrecy regimes so complex that even the police cannot discover the beneficial owners; the tax arrangements that bamboozle governments; the financial products no one understands.

The anonymity of neoliberalism is fiercely guarded. Those who are influenced by Hayek, Mises and Friedman tend to reject the term, maintaining – with some justice – that it is used today only pejoratively. But they offer us no substitute. Some describe themselves as classical liberals or libertarians, but these descriptions are both misleading and curiously self-effacing, as they suggest that there is nothing novel about The Road to Serfdom, Bureaucracy or Friedman’s classic work, Capitalism and Freedom."
georgemonbiot  economics  neoliberalism  politics  history  capitalism  unions  2016  policy  ludwigvonmises  friedrichhayek  miltonfriedman  chile  us  margaretthatcher  ronaldreagan  naomiklein  privatization  well-being  democracy  oligarchy  noueaurich  entrepreneurship  communism  society  kochbrothers  freedom  precarity 
august 2016 by robertogreco
James Meek · Robin Hood in a Time of Austerity · LRB 18 February 2016
"How like the Middle Ages, if it were so. Behind the twisted rhetoric of a hardworking majority oppressed by a welfare-mad government, a modern version of the medieval world has been constructed, one where the real poor are taxed more heavily than the rich; where most of those who are not rich are burdened by an onerous roster of fees and monopolies levied by remote, unaccountable private landlords; and where many of us live out our lives shackled to an endless chain of private debt.

Since the Thatcher revolution in 1979, British governments have boasted of how they’ve lowered taxes. And they have, except for one section of society: the poorest 20 per cent. In 1977, the least well-off fifth of households paid 37 per cent of their gross income in direct taxes (like income tax) and indirect taxes (like VAT), against 38 per cent for the richest fifth. In 2014, the tax take from the poorest group had gone up to 37.8 per cent, while the taxes paid by the richest had gone down to less than 35 per cent.

Not only does this understate the extent of tax cuts for the top 1 per cent; it shows only part of the burden borne by the least well off. Piketty writes that ‘modern redistribution does not consist in transferring income from the rich to the poor, at least not in so explicit a way. It consists rather in financing public services and replacement incomes that are more or less equal for everyone, especially in the areas of health, education and pensions.’ This is a very cautious definition of the modern social state. Health, education and social security make up the lion’s share of public spending, but they’re intimately linked to a wider set of networks that includes energy, water and transport and, some would argue, should include housing. What these networks have in common is that society has decided they’re essential, and therefore should be universal – that is, we think everyone should have access to them, all the time. The significance of this is that, on the one hand, society takes on itself the obligation to give its poorest members access to these networks, which they wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford; and, on the other, payment to use these networks, if it isn’t funded out of general taxation, becomes in itself a tax, particularly when that network is a monopoly. In Britain, many of these universal networks, such as electricity and water, have been privatised, often twice – once to put them on the stock market, once to put them into the hands of overseas owners. Bills for these services have increased faster than inflation, and take little account of people’s ability to pay. It is the poorest, then, who as well as paying the heaviest combination of indirect and direct taxation bear the brunt of such hybrid public-private taxes as the water tax and the electricity tax.

Other universal networks, such as health and education, haven’t been privatised, but have been through another process that makes them ripe for the introduction of flat fees for usage in future. This process really got going under Labour, and it is a sign of the liberal left’s failure to recognise what it has done that there isn’t a name for it. One word to describe it might be ‘autonomisation’ – the process by which state-run bodies continue to be funded by the state but are run autonomously on a non-profit basis. So state secondary schools become academies, NHS hospitals become NHS foundation trusts, and council estates are transferred to housing associations. The British state is in a condition of rolling abdication, leaving behind a partly privatised, partly autonomised set of universal networks, increasingly run by absentee landlords in the form of global companies and overseas corporate investors, that is disproportionately funded by the poorest payers of taxes, fees and duties, many of whom are also deep in debt.

There is a cynical view which says that as long as the majority of the population feel they’re doing all right, a democratically elected government is safe to squeeze the poor and pamper the rich. But cynicism is a risky thing to rely on when a government is simultaneously cutting spending and shedding control of the universal networks on which its entire population relies. As Hobsbawm writes in Bandits, ‘concentration of power in the modern territorial state is what eventually eliminated rural banditry, endemic or epidemic. At the end of the 20th century it looks as though this situation might be coming to an end, and the consequences of this regression of state power cannot yet be foreseen.’ We’re a long way from the return of the literal outlaw to Nottinghamshire. But we need to remember the insight given our ancestors when they saw through the illusion of the Robin Hood myth, when they saw that the strongbox of silver coins wasn’t just money stolen from each of them individually, but power robbed from them collectively, and that they needed to wield that power collectively as much as they needed their money back. For sure, freedom to choose is a grand thing, and the market will try to help you exercise it. With a bit of money in the bank, a middle-class family might choose to send their child to private school, provided by the market; but that same family can’t choose to build and maintain a universal education network by itself, and the market won’t provide it. With money, you can choose to buy a car, and the market will provide it; but you can’t choose, all by yourself, to build and maintain a universal road network, and the market won’t provide it. To make and keep universal networks requires the authority of the state, an authority that has been absent; and it’s hard to see where that authority might come from if the people don’t find a way to assert their kingship."
2016  jamesmeek  capitalism  politics  policy  welfare  poor  class  rich  wealthdistribution  inequality  taxes  taxation  health  education  thomaspiketty  neoliberalism  autonomization  housing  uk  finance  davidcameron  margaretthatcher  ronaldreagan  stephenharper  us  canada  australia  marcorubio  georgeosborne  power  money  economics  labor  erichobsbawm  government  markets  universalnetworks  infrastructure  via:anabjain 
april 2016 by robertogreco
[Essay] | The Neoliberal Arts, by William Deresiewicz | Harper's Magazine
"I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.

leadership
service
integrity
creativity

Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.

A spatial structure, the sentence also suggests a temporal sequence. Thinking clearly, it wants us to recognize, leads to thinking independently. Thinking independently leads to living confidently. Living confidently leads to living courageously. Living courageously leads to living hopefully. And the entire chain begins with a college that recognizes it has an obligation to its students, an obligation to develop their abilities to think and live.

Finally, the sentence is attributed to an individual. It expresses her convictions and ideals. It announces that she is prepared to hold herself accountable for certain responsibilities.

The second text is not a sentence. It is four words floating in space, unconnected to one another or to any other concept. Four words — four slogans, really — whose meaning and function are left undefined, open to whatever interpretation the reader cares to project on them.

Four words, three of which — “leadership,” “service,” and “creativity” — are the loudest buzzwords in contemporary higher education. (“Integrity” is presumably intended as a synonym for the more familiar “character,” which for colleges at this point means nothing more than not cheating.) The text is not the statement of an individual; it is the emanation of a bureaucracy. In this case, a literally anonymous bureaucracy: no one could tell me when this version of the institution’s mission statement was formulated, or by whom. No one could even tell me who had decided to hang those banners all over campus. The sentence from the founder has also long been mounted on the college walls. The other words had just appeared, as if enunciated by the zeitgeist.

But the most important thing to note about the second text is what it doesn’t talk about: thinking or learning. In what it both does and doesn’t say, it therefore constitutes an apt reflection of the current state of higher education. College is seldom about thinking or learning anymore. Everyone is running around trying to figure out what it is about. So far, they have come up with buzzwords, mainly those three.

This is education in the age of neoliberalism. Call it Reaganism or Thatcherism, economism or market fundamentalism, neoliberalism is an ideology that reduces all values to money values. The worth of a thing is the price of the thing. The worth of a person is the wealth of the person. Neoliberalism tells you that you are valuable exclusively in terms of your activity in the marketplace — in Wordsworth’s phrase, your getting and spending.

The purpose of education in a neoliberal age is to produce producers. I published a book last year that said that, by and large, elite American universities no longer provide their students with a real education, one that addresses them as complete human beings rather than as future specialists — that enables them, as I put it, to build a self or (following Keats) to become a soul. Of all the responses the book aroused, the most dismaying was this: that so many individuals associated with those institutions said not, “Of course we provide our students with a real education,” but rather, “What is this ‘real education’ nonsense, anyway?”"



"So what’s so bad about leadership, service, and creativity? What’s bad about them is that, as they’re understood on campus and beyond, they are all encased in neoliberal assumptions. Neoliberalism, which dovetails perfectly with meritocracy, has generated a caste system: “winners and losers,” “makers and takers,” “the best and the brightest,” the whole gospel of Ayn Rand and her Übermenschen. That’s what “leadership” is finally about. There are leaders, and then there is everyone else: the led, presumably — the followers, the little people. Leaders get things done; leaders take command. When colleges promise to make their students leaders, they’re telling them they’re going to be in charge.

“Service” is what the winners engage in when they find themselves in a benevolent mood. Call it Clintonism, by analogy with Reaganism. Bill Clinton not only ratified the neoliberal consensus as president, he has extended its logic as a former president. Reaganism means the affluent have all the money, as well as all the power. Clintonism means they use their money and power, or a bit of it, to help the less fortunate — because the less fortunate (i.e., the losers) can’t help themselves. Hence the Clinton Foundation, hence every philanthropic or altruistic endeavor on the part of highly privileged, highly credentialed, highly resourced elites, including all those nonprofits or socially conscious for-profits that college students start or dream of starting.

“Creativity,” meanwhile, is basically a business concept, aligned with the other clichés that have come to us from the management schools by way of Silicon Valley: “disruption,” “innovation,” “transformation.” “Creativity” is not about becoming an artist. No one wants you to become an artist. It’s about devising “innovative” products, services, and techniques — “solutions,” which imply that you already know the problem. “Creativity” means design thinking, in the terms articulated by the writer Amy Whitaker, not art thinking: getting from A to a predetermined B, not engaging in an open-ended exploratory process in the course of which you discover the B.

Leadership, service, and creativity do not seek fundamental change (remember, fundamental change is out in neoliberalism); they seek technological or technocratic change within a static social framework, within a market framework. Which is really too bad, because the biggest challenges we face — climate change, resource depletion, the disappearance of work in the face of automation — will require nothing less than fundamental change, a new organization of society. If there was ever a time that we needed young people to imagine a different world, that time is now.

We have always been, in the United States, what Lionel Trilling called a business civilization. But we have also always had a range of counterbalancing institutions, countercultural institutions, to advance a different set of values: the churches, the arts, the democratic tradition itself. When the pendulum has swung too far in one direction (and it’s always the same direction), new institutions or movements have emerged, or old ones have renewed their mission. Education in general, and higher education in particular, has always been one of those institutions. But now the market has become so powerful that it’s swallowing the very things that are supposed to keep it in check. Artists are becoming “creatives.” Journalism has become “the media.” Government is bought and paid for. The prosperity gospel has arisen as one of the most prominent movements in American Christianity. And colleges and universities are acting like businesses, and in the service of businesses.

What is to be done? Those very same WASP aristocrats — enough of them, at least, including several presidents of Harvard and Yale — when facing the failure of their own class in the form of the Great Depression, succeeded in superseding themselves and creating a new system, the meritocracy we live with now. But I’m not sure we possess the moral resources to do the same. The WASPs had been taught that leadership meant putting the collective good ahead of your own. But meritocracy means looking out for number one, and neoliberalism doesn’t believe in the collective. As Margaret Thatcher famously said about society, “There’s no such thing. There are individual men and women, and there are families.” As for elite university presidents, they are little more these days than lackeys of the plutocracy, with all the moral stature of the butler in a country house.

Neoliberalism disarms us in another sense as well. For all its rhetoric of freedom and individual initiative, the culture of the market is exceptionally good at inculcating a sense of helplessness. So much of the language around college today, and so much of the negative response to my suggestion that students ought to worry less about pursuing wealth and more about constructing a sense of purpose for themselves, presumes that young people are the passive objects of economic forces. That they have no agency, no options. That they have to do what the market tells them. A Princeton student literally made this argument to me: If the market is incentivizing me to go to Wall Street, he said, then who am I to argue?

I have also had the pleasure, over the past year, of hearing from a lot of people who are pushing back against the dictates of neoliberal education: starting high schools, starting colleges, creating alternatives to high school and college, making documentaries, launching nonprofits, parenting in different ways, conducting their lives in different ways. I welcome these efforts, but none of them address the fundamental problem, which is that we no longer believe in public solutions. We only … [more]
williamderesiewicz  education  highereducation  neoliberalism  capitalism  learning  purpose  stevenpinker  2015  individualism  economics  leadership  missionstatements  courage  confidence  hope  criticalthinking  independence  autonomy  liberalarts  wealth  inequality  citizenship  civics  society  highered  publicpurpose  business  ronaldreagan  billclinton  margaretthatcher  government  media  lioneltrilling  socialgood  creativity  innovation  amywhitaker  service  servicelearning  change  fundamentalchange  systemsthinking  us  civilization  transformation  money  power  aynrand  meritocracy  plutocracy  college  colleges  universities  schools  markets  wallstreet  helplessness  elitism  berniesanders  communitycolleges  aristocracy  reaganism  clintonism  politics  entrepreneurship  volunteerism  rickscott  corporatization  modernity  joshuarothman  greatbooks  1960s  stem  steam  commercialization  davidbrooks 
october 2015 by robertogreco
BBC - BBC World Service Programmes - Business Daily, Adam Smith - Secret Socialist?
"He's often called the founder of modern economics. Some see him as the godfather of the free market. Others have viewed his work from a more socially concerned, even socialist standpoint. Business Daily takes a look at Adam Smith, the man and his legacy. Born in 1723 in Kirkcaldy in Scotland, he's been influencing economic thinking ever since the publishing of his seminal work, The Wealth of Nations. The eminent historian and economist, Tristam Hunt, guides us through Smith's life and how his ideas still have a fundamental bearing on economic and political strategies today. From Edinburgh to Vienna to Chicago to London, Hunt talks to some of the world's leading academics about Adam Smith's life and work, including Professor Iain McClean, professor of politics at Oxford university, Dr Craig Smith of St Andrew's University, Anthony Giddens from the London School of Economics and the activist and author Naomi Klein."
naomiklein  adamsmith  economics  history  capitalism  socialism  greed  policy  uk  philosophy  freemarkets  pinochet  chile  margaretthatcher  gordonbrown  friedrichvonhayek  johnmaynardkeynes 
january 2010 by robertogreco

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