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Cooperative Economy in the Great Depression | Jonathan Rowe
"Entrepreneurs of cooperation
Before Social Security and the WPA, the Unemployed Exchange Association rebuilt a collapsed economy"

"The mood at kitchen tables in California in the early 1930s was as bleak as it was elsewhere in the United States. Factories were closed. More than a quarter of the breadwinners in the state were out of work. There were no federal or state relief programs, nothing but some local charity—in Los Angeles County, a family of four got about 50 cents a day, and only one in 10 got even that.

Not long before, America had been a farming nation. When times were tough, there was still the land. But the country was becoming increasingly urban. People were dependent on this thing called “the economy” and the financial casino to which it was yoked. When the casino crashed, there was no fallback, just destitution. Except for one thing: The real economy was still there — paralyzed but still there. Farmers still were producing, more than they could sell. Fruit rotted on trees, vegetables in the fields. In January 1933, dairymen poured more than 12,000 gallons of milk into the Los Angeles City sewers every day.

The factories were there too. Machinery was idle. Old trucks were in side lots, needing only a little repair. All that capacity on the one hand, legions of idle men and women on the other. It was the financial casino that had failed, not the workers and machines. On street corners and around bare kitchen tables, people started to put two and two together. More precisely, they thought about new ways of putting twoand two together.

Building a reciprocal economy

In the spring of 1932, in Compton, California, an unemployed World War I veteran walked out to the farms that still ringed Los Angeles. He offered his labor in return for a sack of vegetables, and that evening he returned with more than his family needed. The next day a neighbor went out with him to the fields. Within two months 500 families were members of the Unemployed Cooperative Relief Organization (UCRO).

That group became one of 45 units in an organization that served the needs of some 150,000 people.

It operated a large warehouse, a distribution center, a gas and service station, a refrigeration facility, a sewing shop, a shoe shop, even medical services, all on cooperative principles. Members were expected to work two days a week, and benefits were allocated according to need. A member with a wife and two kids got four times as much food as someone living alone. The organization was run democratically, and social support was as important as material support. Members helped one another resist evictions; sometimes they moved a family back in after a landlord had put them out. Unemployed utility workers turned on gas and electricity for families that had been cut off.

Conventional histories present the Depression as a story of the corporate market, foiled by its own internal flaws, versus the federal government, either savvy mechanic or misguided klutz, depending on your view.The government ascended, in the form of the New Deal; and so was born the polarity of our politics—and the range of our economic possibilities—ever since.

Yet there was another story too. It embodied the trusty American virtues of initiative, responsibility, and self-help, but in a way that was grounded in community and genuine economy. This other story played out all over the U.S., for a brief but suggestive moment in the early 1930s.

The UCRO was just one organization in one city. Groups like it ultimately involved more than 1.3 million people, in more than 30 states. It happened spontaneously, without experts or blueprints. Most of the participants were blue collar workers whose formal schooling had stopped at high school. Some groups evolved a kind of money to create more flexibility in exchange. An example was the Unemployed Exchange Association, or UXA, based in Oakland, California. (The UXA story was told in an excellent article in the weekly East Bay Express in1983, on which the following paragraphs are based.) UXA began in a Hooverville (an encampment of the poor during the Depression, so-called after the president) called “Pipe City,” near the East Bay waterfront. Hundreds of homeless people were living there in sections of large sewer pipe that were never laid because the city ran out of money. Among them was Carl Rhodehamel, a musician and engineer.

Rhodehamel and others started going door to door in Oakland, offering to do home repairs in exchange for unwanted items. They repaired these and circulated them among themselves. Soon they established a commissary and sent scouts around the city and intothe surrounding farms to see what they could scavenge or exchange labor for. Within six months they had 1,500 members, and a thriving sub-economy that included a foundry and machine shop, woodshop, garage,soap factory, print shop, wood lot, ranches, and lumber mills. They rebuilt 18 trucks from scrap. At UXA’s peak it distributed 40 tons of food a week.

It all worked on a time-credit system. Each hour worked earned a hundred points; there was no hierarchyof skills, and all work paid the same. Members could use credits to buy food and other items at the commissary, medical and dental services, haircuts, an dmore. A council of some 45 coordinators met regularly to solve problems and discuss opportunities.

One coordinator might report that a saw needed a new motor. Another knew of a motor but the owner wanted a piano in return. A third member knew of a piano that was available. And on and on. It was an amalgam of enterprise and cooperation—the flexibility and hustle of the market, but without the encoded greed of the corporation or the stifling bureaucracy of the state. The economics texts don’t really have a name for it. The members called it a “reciprocal economy.”

The dream fades

It would seem that a movement that provided livelihood for more than 300,000 people in California alone would merit discussion in the history books. Amidst the floundering of the early 1930s, this was something that actually worked. Yet in most accounts the self-help co-ops get barely a line.

The one exception is Upton Sinclair’s campaign for governor in 1934. Sinclair was a kind of Ralph Nader of his day. He based his campaign on a plan he called End Poverty in California, or EPIC, which was based in turn on the self-help cooperatives, UXA in particular. It would have taken the state’s idle farmland and factories and turned them into worker co-ops.

The idea of a genuine economy shorn of Wall Street contrivance touched a chord. Some 2,000 EPIC clubs sprang up. Sinclair won the Democratic primary, but California’s moneyed establishment mustered $10 million dollars to pummel him. EPIC died with his campaign, and the idea has been associated with quixotic politics ever since.

To say UXA and the other cooperative economies faced challenges is to put it mildly. They were going against the grain of an entire culture. Anti-communist “Red Squads” harassed them, while radicals complained they were too practical and not sufficiently committed to systemic change.

But the main thing that killed the co-ops was the Works Progress Administration and its cash jobs. Those WPA jobs were desperately needed. But someof them were make-work, while the co-op work was genuinely productive.

The co-ops pleaded with FDR’s Administration to include them in the WPA. Local governments were helping with gasoline and oil. But the New Dealers weren’t interested, and the co-ops melted away. For years they were period pieces, like soup lines and Okies.

Or so it seemed.

Today, the signs of financial and ecological collapse are mounting. We are strung out on foreign debt and foreign oil, and riding real estate inflation that won’t last forever. Add the impendingc ollapse of the natural life support system, and the ’30s could seem benign by comparison.

In this setting, the economics of self-help are increasingly relevant. The possibility of creating such an economy, though, might seem remote. In the 1930s, there still were farms on the outskirts of cities—family operations that could make barter deals on the spot. Factories were nearby too. Products were simple and made to last, and so could be scavenged and repaired.

All that has changed. The factories are in China, the farms are owned by corporations, and you can’t walk to them from Los Angeles anymore. Products are made to break; the local repair shop is a distant memory. Hyper-sophisticated technology has put local mechanics out of business, let alone backyard tinkerers.

An idea resurfaces

Yet there are trends on the other side as well. Energy technology is moving back to the local level, by way of solar, wind, biodiesel and the rest. The popularity of organics has given a boost to smaller farms. There’s also the quiet revival of urban agriculture. Community gardens are booming—some 6,000 of them in 38 U.S. cities. In Boston, the Food Project produces over 120,000 pounds of vegetables on just 21 acres.Then consider the unused land in U.S. cities: some 70,000 vacant parcels in Chicago, 31,000 in Philadelphia.

Large swaths of Detroit look like Dresden after the firebombing. A UXA could do a lot with that. I’m not getting gauzy here. Anyone who has been part of a co-op — I once served on the board of one — knows it is not a walk in the park. But it is not hard to see the stirrings of a new form of cooperative economics on the American scene today. You can’t explain Linux, the computer operating system developed community-style on the web, by the tenets of the economics texts. Nor can you so explain Craig’s List, the online bulletin board that people use at no or minimal cost.

The cooperative model seems to defy what economists call “economic law”—that people work only for personal gain and in response to schemes of personal incentive and reward. Yet the Depression co-ops did happen. When the next crash … [more]
cooperation  coopeatives  greatdepression  socialism  history  california  us  1930s  economics  solidarity  jonathanrowe  losangeles  compton  farming  agriculture  labor  work  ucro  oakland  carlrhodehamel  uxa  community  mutualaid  detroit  coops  local  fdr  wpa  communism  uptonsinclair  poverty 
5 weeks ago by robertogreco
Gnamma #5 - Some Lessons from Learning Gardens
"The Learning Gardens [ ] Slack, which has been, emergently, the "home" of the initiative, is shutting down in two months. This is a decision by me, Éd, and Morgane to encourage decentralization and distributed ownership of the idea. You could see whiffs of this coming in my earlier newsletter [ ].

The goal returns to the kernel of the initiative in the first place: encouraging people to make spaces to take on [learning] initiatives they believe in. A Slack may re-emerge, things may decentralize, circle around tools like and Twitter and Discord, one-off forums, group texts, email newsletters, IRL groups and meeting spaces. Or perhaps the whole thing will fizzle for a while until some future moment. We, the janitors, generally tried to keep our moderation and assertiveness minimal, but this represents a strong-armed push to catalyze something new.

With this change forthcoming, I'm asking myself, what have we learned over 2.5 years of Learning Gardens as a public concept?

If someone came to me today saying, "I want to start a group of people to study X together!" some of my first questions would be: Is X well-defined enough to rally a group behind it? If X is vague, is the group well-defined enough to organize? Do you have the bandwidth to deal with not only organizing "content" for the group, but also managing a social landscape or making the conditions such that it can self-manage?

Let me clarify: X here doesn't need to be a "topic." It can also be a "mode of organizing." The medium can be the message, here, and a lot of the value in Learning Gardens has been in bearing witness to a variety of organizational schemes. (But I do recommend either a well-defined topic, well-defined group of people, or well-defined structure!)

This comes as NO surprise to anyone who has run groups or shared spaces: good management takes a lot of energy. It takes either a lot of active management & conversation, or a lot of lead time to build a substrate of mutual trust such that self-management works. To keep people aligned in logistics, to keep momentum, to upkeep a value set that people connect with, to generate ideas of where to go next. If your group is one organized around discrete "events" (in-person meet-ups, skype-in conversations, workshops, publications, etc), it's important to remember that the bulk of the work happens around these things, too: in the preparation and post-facto follow-up. You, organizing, should prepare for this and think of it as a way to invite others to participate (rather than feeling like you need to take on the "extra-curricular" work by yourself).

Redundancy in information-sharing is necessary. I've learned this lesson repeatedly, given a general desire to be a bit terse in what I put up online. Oversharing is necessary to get the point across, to get people to see it twice, to get them to come back.

Online, even in a semi-closed gardens of the sort that Slack groups emerged to be, the line between "being there" and "not" is thin. We have a term for riding this line: "lurking." Lurking in its internet-native form can be quite positive. (If you "lurk" in real life spaces, you're creepy.) It allows for exploratory observations of new interests, for following along without the commitment of joining the room, for feeling a connection even when formal participation might be difficult or contentious.

Learning Gardens is about learning, however, and one thing I strongly believe is that you do not learn passively. I don't want LG to be a loose social space: there is enough of that already. I want LG to be about communities formed through action. Latent in my thoughts around the decision to retire the Slack is the desire to see people turn a lurking tendency into an organizing (or participating) one. Trust is necessary for the vulnerability and confidence that breeds effective learning experiences, and trust is easiest to build when you know who else is in the room.

Thanks to everyone who has made the Slack interesting and dynamic over these years. I am looking forward to what is next! Please drop me a line if you are in the Bay Area."
lukaswinklerprins  2019  learning  unschooling  deschooling  learninggardens  gardens  education  self-directed  self-directedlearning  mutualaid  trust  community  howwelearn  redundancy  momentum  slack  social  action  sharing  éduordurcades  morganesantos 
8 weeks ago by robertogreco
Deprived, but not depraved: Prosocial behavior is an adaptive response to lower socioeconomic status. - PubMed - NCBI
"Individuals of lower socioeconomic status (SES) display increased attentiveness to others and greater prosocial behavior compared to individuals of higher SES. We situate these effects within Pepper & Nettle's contextually appropriate response framework of SES. We argue that increased prosocial behavior is a contextually adaptive response for lower-SES individuals that serves to increase control over their more threatening social environments."
generosity  2017  poverty  wealth  behavior  social  research  ses  socioeconomicststatus  society  mutualaid  unschooling  deschooling  economics  psychology  care  caring  helpfulness 
january 2019 by robertogreco
The Making of a Democratic Economy | Ted Howard | RSA Replay - YouTube
"While not often reported on in the press, there is a growing movement – a Community Wealth Building movement – that is taking hold, from the ground up, in towns and cities in the United States and in the United Kingdom, in particular.

Ted Howard, co-founder and president of the Democracy Collaborative, voted one of ‘25 visionaries who are changing your world’, visits the RSA to share the story of the growth of this movement, and the principles underlying it. Join us to explore innovative models of a new economy being built in cities from Cleveland, Ohio to Preston, Lancashire, and to discuss how we might dramatically expand the vision and reality of a democratic economy."
economics  tedhoward  inequality  democracy  extraction  extractiveeconomy  us  uk  2018  capitalism  privatization  finance  wealth  power  elitism  trickledowneconomics  labor  work  universalbasicincome  ubi  austerity  democraticeconomy  precarity  poverty  change  sustainability  empowerment  socialism  socialchange  regulations  socialsafetynet  collectivism  banking  employment  commongood  unemployment  grassroots  organization  greatdepression  greatrecession  alaska  california  socialsecurity  government  governance  nhs  communities  communitywealthbuilding  community  mutualaid  laborovercapital  local  absenteeownership  localownership  consumerism  activism  participation  participatory  investment  cleveland  systemicchange  policy  credit  communityfinance  development  cooperatives  creditunions  employeeownership  richmond  virginia  nyc  rochester  broadband  publicutilities  nebraska  energy  utilities  hospitals  universities  theprestonmodel  preston  lancashire 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Thread by @ecomentario: "p.31…… p.49… […]"
[on Twitter: ]

[many of the captures come from: "From A Pedagogy for Liberation to Liberation from Pedagogy" by Gustavo Esteva, Madhu S. Prakash, and Dana L. Stuchul, which is no longer available online as a standalone PDF (thus the UTexas broken link), but is inside the following document, also linked to in the thread.]

[“Rethinking Freire: Globalization and the Environmental Crisis" edited by C.A.Bowers and Frédérique Apffel-Marglin,+Frdrique+Apffel-Marglin,+Frederique+Apffel-Marglin,+Chet+A.+Bowers+Re-Thinking+Freire+Globalization+and+the+Environmental+Crisis+Sociocultural,+Political,+and+Historical+Studies+in+Educatio+2004.pdf ]
isabelrodíguez  paulofreire  ivanillich  wendellberry  subcomandantemarcos  gandhi  2018  gustavoesteva  madhuprakash  danastuchul  deschooling  colonialism  future  environment  sustainability  cabowers  frédériqueapffel-marglin  education  campesinos  bolivia  perú  pedagogyoftheoppressed  globalization  marinaarratia  power  authority  hierarchy  horizontality  socialjustice  justice  economics  society  community  cooperation  collaboration  politics  progress  growth  rural  urban  altruism  oppression  participation  marginality  marginalization  karlmarx  socialism  autonomy  local  slow  small  capitalism  consumerism  life  living  well-being  consumption  production  productivity  gustavoterán  indigeneity  work  labor  knowledge  experience  culture  joannamacy  spirituality  buddhism  entanglement  interdependence  interbeing  interexistence  philosophy  being  individualism  chiefseattle  lutherstandingbear  johngrim  ethics  morethanhuman  multispecies  humans  human  posthumnism  transhumanism  competition  marxism  liberation  simplicity  poverty  civilization  greed  p 
june 2018 by robertogreco
Camilla Power: Did Gender Egalitarianism Make us Human? or, if Graeber and Wengrow won’t talk about sex … 15 March 2018 on Vimeo
"Camilla Power: Did gender egalitarianism make us human? or, if David Graeber and David Wengrow won't talk about sex and gender, it's not surprising they have almost nothing to say about equality or what drives change. Talk given on the picket line in the lobby of the Anthropology Building, 14 Taviton Street, London WC1H 0BW on 13 March 2018, organised by Anthrostrike: students supporting UCU lecturers' dispute.

Responding to Graeber and Wengrow's recent article 'How to change the course of human history (at least, the part that's already happened)' (Eurozine, 2018) and their earlier piece in JRAI 'Farewell to the "childhood of man": ritual, seasonality, and the origins of inequality' (2015), Camilla Power assesses their confusing claims about human 'origins' (or is that rather: some examples of upper palaeolithic archaeology in Europe and some old suppositions about where we come from), and highlights the question of equality as the crucial preliminary for a serious examination of the spread of social inequality. Power shows how, for evolutionary anthropology in this century, the recognition of female strategies and perspectives has become central to the understanding of how humans became what they are. A balance of power between the sexes was critical to the origin of symbolic culture and gender as our species emerged in Africa.

Camilla recommends for further reading:

'Introduction' to Human Origins: Contributions from Social Anthropology, edited by Camilla Power, Morna Finnegan and Hilary Callan, Berghahn, New York/Oxford, 2016

'Egalitarianism and Machiavellian Intelligence in Human Evolution' by David Erdal and Andrew Whiten, in Modelling the Early Human Mind, edited by Paul Mellars and Kathleen Gibson, McDonald Institute, Cambridge, 1996, 139–150

'Egalitarianism, Evolution of' by Cathryn Townsend in The International Encyclopaedia of Anthropology, edited by Hilary Callan Wiley Blackwell, Oxford, 2018 "
camillapower  egalitarianism  davidgraeber  davidwengrow  inequality  hunter-gatherers  equality  gender  humans  sex  archaeology  power  anthropology  mornafinnegan  hilarycallan  paulmellars  communism  mutualaid  evolution  kathleengibson  cathryntownsend  autonomy  independence  women  feminism  hierarchy  horizontality 
june 2018 by robertogreco
Article: Notes On An Anarchist Pedagogy – AnarchistStudies.Blog
"But, at this particularly dark moment in our nation’s history, I feel the need to act inside the classroom in a manner that more readily and visibly embodies the important and insightful critiques and guideposts of critical pedagogy,[2] perhaps in a manner, inspired by Graeber and Haworth, that rejects and abandons (education) policy, and more demonstratively and communally embraces the liberatory and transformative power of education itself, free from the bondage of neoliberalism.

Early on in Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology, Graeber offers us: “against policy (a tiny manifesto)”. Graeber tells us:

The notion of “policy” presumes a state or governing apparatus which imposes its will on others. “Policy” is the negation of politics; policy is by definition something concocted by some form of elite, which presumes it knows better than others how their affairs are to be conducted. By participating in policy debates the very best one can achieve is to limit the damage, since the very premise is inimical to the idea of people managing their own affairs.

(2004: 9)

And, as the people I have identified in these notes thus far all document, policy (education reform) is little more than a “governing apparatus which imposes its will” on teachers, students, administrators, and entire communities with high stakes testing, the deskilling of teachers, the cuts to and diversion of funding for public education, and the imposition of the corporate model to direct and control all “outcomes”. And, following Graeber’s pushback to “policy”, I want to enact, to whatever degree possible, “an anarchist pedagogy” to acknowledge, confront and overcome the very dominating and authoritarian dynamics at work in the classroom today from kindergarten right on through to graduate school.

I want to evoke and provoke the issue of anarchy as a counterforce and impulse to the “governing apparatus which imposes its will on others”. I want to engage education as the practice of freedom methodologically, and not just ideologically (of course, I would agree that a genuine embracing of education as the practice of freedom ideologically would axiomatically mean to embrace it methodologically as well – as I believe Paulo Freire and bell hooks demonstrate, and many others also successfully participate in such engaged pedagogy).

But for my musings here, I want to consider enacting freedom directly and in totality throughout the classroom. This is the case, in part, because I want to challenge myself, and to some degree many of my colleagues, to once again consider and reconsider how we “are” in the classroom, living and embodying education as the practice of freedom, and, in part, to accept the need to acknowledge, confront and address the reality that we “operate”, however critically, within the very “governing apparatus which imposes its will”. As a result, I am, for the sake of these notes, forcing myself to fully embrace freedom, and, to whatever degree possible, attempting to reimagine and recomport myself toward promoting education as the practice of freedom.

As good a “critical” pedagogue as I believe I am and have been, for me these notes are a call to identify my beliefs, habits and pedagogy, not unlike Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy were for him. These notes are a consideration of how I embrace and enact those beliefs, habits and pedagogy, and represent a challenge to improve upon my pedagogy. I have decided that rethinking my own pedagogy in light of an anarchist pedagogy might prove the most challenging, informative and constructive mediation on pedagogy I could contemplate and enact at this moment."

"As many of us directly involved in the “field of education” (working as teachers and administrators from kindergarten through twelfth-grade, or those working in schools of education and on various education initiatives and in policy think-tanks) have witnessed (and sometimes promote and/or confront), there is much emphasis on a “best practice” approach and on “evidence-based” support for said practices. As a result, so much of education research and teaching is “data-driven”, even when the data is suspect (or just wrong). And, still more harmful, there exists a prejudice against “theory” and against a theoretical approach to teaching within a social/political/cultural context that emphasizes other aspects and dimensions of teaching and learning (such as the history and legacy of racism, sexism, class elitism, homophobia and biases against those with abilities and disabilities that render them “problematic” or outside the mainstream of education concern). All of this leads to an obsession with “information”, to the detriment of teaching and learning (see Scapp 2016b: Chapters 5 and 6). We also wind up with no vision or mission – education becomes little more than a “jobs preparatory program” and a competition in the market place. This is what leads us to the litany of reform programs (from the Bush administration’s “No Child Left Behind” to Obama’s “Race to the Top”, never mind the practically innumerable local initiatives attempting to “fix” education). The results are proving disastrous for all.

At the same time, even though someone may employ a theoretical stance and perspective, this doesn’t guarantee a successful classroom dynamic. We need to remember that how we are (a concern of these notes from the very start) is just as important as what we are presenting, and even why. We need to establish trustworthiness and a sense that students have the freedom to explore, challenge, work together, and even be wrong. Of course, I recognize that the classroom dynamics will look different in elementary school than in a graduate seminar, but for the sake of this meditation on pedagogy, I would like to posit that while acknowledging the differences that exist at different levels of instruction, the essential character of “education as the practice of freedom” ought to be manifest at every level, and at every turn. The hard and important work of good teaching is helping to create and establish that freedom."

"There is a long tradition of attempting to create such an “other space”. Feminist pedagogy has argued for and provided such other spaces, at times at grave personal and professional cost (denial of tenure, promotion, as well as ridicule). So too have disciplines and perspectives as diverse as Ethnic Studies and Queer Studies, and Environmental Studies and Performance Studies offered challenges to the constrictive traditional learning environment (space) and also offered new possibilities of reconfiguring those spaces (in and outside the classroom). In his essay “Spaces of Learning: The Anarchist Free Skool”, Jeffery Shantz rightly notes that:

Social theorist Michel Foucault used the occasion of his 1967 lecture, “Of Other Spaces”, to introduce a term that would remain generally overlooked with his expansive body of work, the notion of “heterotopia”, by which he meant a countersite or alternative space, something of an actually existing utopia. In contrast to the nowhere lands of utopias, heterotopias are located in the here-and-now of present-day reality, though they challenge and subvert that reality. The heterotopias are spaces of difference. Among the examples Foucault noted were sacred and forbidden spaces which are sites of personal transition.

(in Haworth 2012: 124)

It is precisely this effort to help create another kind of space, a “heterotopia”, that leads me to disrupt the distribution of the syllabus as the first gesture of the semester, and to solicit and elicit contributions and participation from the class toward this end.

Part of the reason that complying with the “syllabus-edict” is problematic is that it fully initiates and substantiates “the banking system” of teaching that Paulo Freire so astutely identified and named, and so thoughtfully and thoroughly criticized (as oppressive). Participating in the automatic act of handing out the syllabus (hardcopy or electronic) constitutes the very first “deposit” within the banking system, and renders students passive from the very start: “This is what you will need to know!”. So, the very modest and simple gesture of not distributing the syllabus initiates instead the very first activity for the entire class, specifically, a discussion of what the class will be.

Of course, such a stance, such a gesture, doesn’t mean that I would not have thought through the course beforehand. Certainly, I envision a course that would be meaningful and connected to their program of study. But, what I do not do is “decide” everything in advance, and leave no room for input, suggestions and contributions to the syllabus that we create, to enhance the course we create. This offers students a (new?) way of interacting in the class, with each other and the teacher, a way of engaging in social and educative interactions that are mutual and dialogic from the very start. As Shantz claims:

Anarchist pedagogy aims toward developing and encouraging new forms of socialization, social interaction, and the sharing of ideas in ways that might initiate and sustain nonauthoritarian practices and ways of relating.

(in Haworth 2012: 126)

I am claiming that the simple and modest gesture of extending a welcome to participate goes a long way “toward developing and encouraging new forms” of teaching and learning, new forms of mutual and dialogic interaction that are both respectful of the subject matter and of the students, and, if successful, does create the very “heterotopia” Foucault and Shantz describe.

I also ask students about the ways we might be able to evaluate their work and the course itself, evaluate the success of the teaching and learning, and my ability to help facilitate successful teaching and learning. The results vary, but students always come up with interesting and innovative ways to evaluate and … [more]
pedagogy  anarchism  anarchy  deschooling  decolonization  unschooling  learning  teaching  bellhooks  ronscapp  paulofreire  freedom  liberation  neoliberalism  capitalism  lucynicholas  postmodernism  michaelapple  angeladavis  henrygiroux  roberthaworth  descartes  stanleyaronowitz  stephenball  pierrebourdieu  randallamster  abrahamdeleon  luisfernandez  anthonynocella  education  dericshannon  richarkahn  deleuze&guattari  gillesdeleuze  michelfoucault  foucault  davidgraeber  jürgenhabermas  justinmuller  alanantliff  kennethsaltman  davidgabbard  petermclaren  alexmolnar  irashor  joelspring  gayatrichakravortyspivak  colonialism  highereducation  highered  cademia  politics  2018  resistance  corporatization  betsydevos  policy  authority  authoritarianism  howweteach  government  governance  colonization  homeschool  power  control  coercion  félixguattari  conformity  uniformity  standardization  standards  syllabus  heterotopia  lcproject  openstudioproject  tcsnmy  sfsh  cv  utopia  collaboration  evaluation  feminism  inclusion  inclusivity  participation  participatory  mutu 
may 2018 by robertogreco
The Art of Resistance | Commonweal Magazine
"Writing in the aftermath of the fall of communism, John Berger, the world’s preeminent Marxist (patience, dear readers) writer on art, faced the apparently decisive and irreversible victory of capitalism. Rather than concede defeat and join in the triumphal chorus heralding the end of history, Berger drew an unlikely lesson from the ostensible cessation of the old hostilities. In the conclusion of Keeping a Rendezvous (1991), he studied a photograph of people assembled in recently liberated Prague and discerned in their faces both elation and a dread that an even more primordial conflict was in the offing. The class struggle, he now suggested, partakes of a broader and deeper contest over ways of being in the world. “The soul and the operator have come out of hiding together.”

For two centuries, Berger explained, the soul’s longings had been perverted or marginalized in both capitalist and socialist societies, identified with or subordinated to the imperatives of material progress. Yet humanity “has great difficulty in living strictly within the confines of a materialist practice or philosophy. It dreams, like a dog in its basket, of hares in the open.” Heir, for many, to the hope once contained in religion, Marxism had been the secular abode for the soul; but with the dialectic of “historical materialism” now discredited by history, “the spiritual,” Berger observed, aimed “to reclaim its lost terrain,” surging through fundamentalist and nationalist movements. At the same time, the poor were being “written off as trash” by the soul’s implacable adversary, “the operator,” the forces of pecuniary and technological utility united under the aegis of capital. For Berger, art remained not only a potent weapon against injustice but also an enclave for the qualities of the soul. In a powerful letter to the miners who unsuccessfully resisted Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s attempt to close down mines in 1984, Berger wrote:
I can’t tell you what art does and how it does it, but I know that art has often judged the judges, pleaded revenge to the innocent and shown to the future what the past has suffered, so that it has never been forgotten. I know too that the powerful fear art, whatever its form, when it does this, and that amongst the people such art sometimes runs like a rumor or a legend because it makes sense of what life’s brutalities cannot, a sense that unites us, for it is inseparable from a justice at last. Art, when it functions like this, becomes a meeting-place of the invisible, the irreducible, the enduring, guts and honor.

Characterized by the lack of a credible alternative to the glittering imperium of capital, the ensuing twenty-five years have been the Age of the Operator: neoliberal economics, a hustling ethos, the divinization of markets and technology, the hegemony of a consumer society given over to spectacle and fueled by debt. As Berger writes in his latest book, Portraits (Verso, $44.95, 544 pp.), “the future has been downsized,” restricted to the mercenary parameters of finance capital and digital technocracy. Neoliberal capitalism fulfills the “strange prophecy” depicted in the hellish right-hand panel of Hieronymus Bosch’s Millennium Triptych: “no glimpse of an elsewhere or an otherwise.” The poor—and increasingly anyone outside the gilded circle of “the 1 percent”—are indeed “written off as trash,” detritus of the quest for efficiency, human refuse piling up not only in Calcutta, Mumbai, or Mexico City, but also in Palo Alto and San Francisco, where the technocrats of Silicon Valley dispossess workers from their homes to build mansions scaled to their colossal self-regard.

The Operator remains in the saddle, riding humankind; but with anger and dissent on the rise—Syriza in Greece, Podemos in Spain, Bernie Sanders and Black Lives Matter here at home—the Soul may be gathering strength to embark on another, more enduring reclamation of terrain, and, if it does, John Berger will deserve our attention as one of its greatest contemporary prophets. Renowned and even beloved as both novelist and art critic, Berger has also become an unlikely moral and metaphysical sage. “You can’t talk about aesthetics without talking about the principle of hope and the existence of evil,” he declared in The Sense of Sight (1985). Not that his revolutionary spirit has withered; that flame is lower but remains incandescent. But Portraits, a miscellany from his career as a writer, records the evolution of this “principle of hope”—a reference, no doubt, to Ernst Bloch, the closest thing to a theologian ever produced by the Marxist tradition. Like the other two panels of Bosch’s triptych—The Garden of Eden and The Garden of Earthly Delights—Portraits offers “a torchlight in the dark,” a glimpse of an elsewhere or an otherwise, a way of seeing the visible world that Berger might agree to call sacramental.

BERGER WAS BORN in 1926 in London, the son of a middle-class Hungarian immigrant from Trieste and an English working-class suffragette. As a youth growing up in Oxford, he drew and painted for relief from his “monstrous and brutal” education at a local private school. He also read anarchist literature and ardently embraced the radical left; yet unlike most anarchists, Berger felt no visceral hostility to religion. As he told the Guardian in 2011, since his teenage years two convictions have “coexisted” within him: “a kind of materialism,” as he put it, along with “a sense of the sacred, the religious if you like.” This coexistence has never felt anomalous to him, even when “most other people thought it was.” Indeed, the philosopher of whom Berger has been most fond is not Marx but Baruch Spinoza, whose monist ontology sought to overcome the Cartesian dualism of matter and spirit.

Conscripted at the age of eighteen, Berger spent World War II stationed in Belfast. After the war he enrolled in the Chelsea School of Art and exhibited in London galleries. While working as a teacher, he began writing reviews for the New Statesman, Britain’s flagship left periodical. In the early years of the Cold War, Berger embraced Marxism (despite his aversion to Joseph Stalin). He even maintained that, until the Soviet Union gained nuclear parity with the United States, left writers and artists should support Moscow. In the late 1940s, Berger made a deliberate decision to set aside his painting and embark on a career as a writer.

Although the New Statesman published his essays for more than a decade (some of which he collected in 1960 as Permanent Red), Berger was its most beleaguered contributor. Adamantly pro-Soviet, he wrote for a magazine that opposed Stalinism. (In his controversial 1958 novel A Painter of Our Time, Berger hinted his support for the Soviet suppression of the Hungarian Revolution.) Where the New Statesman reflected the broad sympathy toward literary and artistic modernism characteristic of liberal and social-democratic intellectuals, Berger championed realism and called for art that would “help or encourage men to know and claim their social rights.” His profoundly ambivalent view of abstract expressionism challenged its celebration by most Western intellectuals as a token of “free expression.” Although he marveled at Jackson Pollock’s formal skills, Berger argued that the drip paintings registered a collapse of “faith” in the visible world that heralded “the disintegration of our culture.” Berger asked strikingly traditionalist questions for an enfant terrible of Marxist criticism. “How far can talent exempt an artist,” he asked, who “does not think beyond or question the decadence of the cultural situation to which he belongs?”

With judgments and questions like these, Berger found himself “fighting for every sentence,” not only against his editors and skeptical readers but also against curators, gallery owners, and art critics. (One less-than-enthusiastic review of Henry Moore earned him the everlasting enmity of Sir Herbert Read, then Britain’s most respected critic.) Berger railed helplessly as the London cultural establishment—like that of New York—transformed modernism into an aesthetic for corporate suites and an emblem of Western individualism.

Weary of his travails among the London intelligentsia, Berger left England in 1962 and lived an itinerant but productive life on the continent for the next fifteen years. He published studies of Picasso and cubism as well as several other volumes of essays on painting, sculpture, photography, and politics; chronicled, in collaboration with the photographer Jean Mohr, the life of a country doctor in A Fortunate Man (1967); wrote several screenplays, including Jonah Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000 (1976), a wise and sympathetic story about disappointed radicals; and authored three novels, including G. (1972), a political and erotic bildungsroman that won him the Booker Prize. Berger promptly caused an uproar when he donated half of his prize money to the British Black Panthers (the Booker fortune having been amassed, he pointed out, through the exploitation of Caribbean slaves) and used the other half to fund a project on the condition of migrant workers that became A Seventh Man (1975). Whatever one thinks of his politics, there can be no denying that Berger is a writer who acts on his convictions.

But Berger’s most enduring achievement from this period was his landmark BBC television series Ways of Seeing (1972), notable if only because it disseminated a radical perspective to a mass audience. Published in book form in the same year, Ways of Seeing was a response to another television milestone, Civilisation (1969), hosted by Sir Kenneth Clark, doyen of the British art establishment. Loftily indifferent to social and political context, Clark’s parade-of-masterpieces approach to the history of Western art epitomized the patrician didacticism that Berger loathed. Focusing … [more]
johnberger  resistance  eugenemccarraher  2017  communism  capitalism  marxism  spirituality  anarchism  religion  materialism  sacredness  neoliberalism  mutualaid  craftsmanship  materiality  pleasure  convivilaity  soul  revolution  waysofseeing  art  artists  peasants  biography 
january 2017 by robertogreco
Download PDFs & Order Booklets of To Change Everything / CrimethInc. Ex-Workers' Collective
"The open secret is that we do all have complete self-determination: not because it’s given to us, but because
not even the most totalitarian dictatorship could take it away. Yet as soon as we begin to act for ourselves, we come into conflict with the very institutions that are supposed to secure our freedom.

Managers and tax collectors love to talk about personal responsibility. But if we took complete responsibility for all our actions, would we be following their instructions in the first place?

More harm has been done throughout history by obedience than by malice. The arsenals of all the world’s militaries are the physical manifestation of our willingness to defer to others. If you want to be sure you never contribute to war, genocide, or oppression, the first step is to stop following orders.

That goes for your values, too. Countless rulers and rulebooks demand your unquestioning submission. But even if you want to cede responsibility for your decisions to some god or dogma, how do you decide which one it will be? Like it or not, you are the one who has to choose between them. Usually, people simply make this choice according to what is most familiar or convenient.

We are inescapably responsible for our beliefs and decisions. Answering to ourselves rather than to commanders or commandments, we might still come into conflict with each other, but at least we would do so on our own terms, not needlessly heaping up tragedy in service of others’ agendas.

The workers who perform the labor have power; the bosses who tell them what to do have authority. The tenants who maintain the building have power; the landlord whose name is on the deed has authority. A river has power; a permit to build a dam grants authority.

There’s nothing oppressive about power per se. Many kinds of power can be liberating: the power to care for those you love, to defend yourself and resolve disputes, to perform acupuncture and steer a sailboat and swing on a trapeze. There are ways to develop your capabilities that increase others’ freedom as well. Every person who acts to achieve her full potential offers a gift to all.

Authority over others, on the other hand, usurps their power. And what you take from them, others will take from you. Authority is always derived from above:

The soldier obeys the general, who answers to the president,
who derives his authority from the Constitution—

The priest answers to the bishop, the bishop to the pope, the
pope to scripture, which derives its authority from God—

The employee answers to the owner, who serves the customer,
whose authority is derived from the dollar—

The police officer executes the warrant signed by the magistrate,
who derives authority from the law—

Manhood, whiteness, property—at the tops of all these pyramids, we don’t even find despots, just social constructs: ghosts hypnotizing humanity.

In this society, power and authority are so interlinked that we can barely distinguish them: we can only obtain power in return for obedience. And yet without freedom, power is worthless.

In contrast to authority, trust centers power in the hands of those who confer it, not those who receive it. A person who has earned trust doesn’t need authority. If someone doesn’t deserve trust, he certainly shouldn’t be invested with authority! And yet whom do we trust less than politicians and CEOs?

Without imposed power imbalances, people have an incentive to work out conflicts to their mutual satisfaction—to earn each other’s trust. Hierarchy removes this incentive, enabling those who hold authority to suppress conflicts.

At its best, friendship is a bond between equals who support and challenge each other while respecting each other’s autonomy. That’s a pretty good standard by which to evaluate all our relationships. Without the constraints that are imposed upon us today—citizenship and illegality, property and debt, corporate and military chains of command—we could reconstruct our relations on the basis of free association and mutual aid."
power  authority  anarchism  anarchy  society  mutualaid  hierarchy  imbalance  horizontality  crimethinc  humanism  manhood  whiteness  obedience  freedom  authoritarianism  relationships  trust  domination  self-determination  individualism  collectivism  community  revolt  revolution  liberty  liberation  borders  leaders  leadership  profit  property  ownership 
august 2016 by robertogreco
Christian Parenti on Climate Change, Militarism, Neoliberalism and the State
"When the left turns its back on the social democratic features of government, stops making demands of the state, and fails to reshape government by using the government for progressive ends, it risks playing into the hands of the right. The central message of the American right is that government is bad and must be limited. This message is used to justify austerity. However, in most cases, neoliberal austerity does not actually involve a reduction of government. Typically, restructuring in the name of austerity is really just a transformation of government, not a reduction of it.

Over the last 35 years, the state has been profoundly transformed, but it has not been reduced. The size of the government in the economy has not gone down. The state has become less redistributive, more punitive. Instead of a robust program of government-subsidized and public housing, we have the prison system. Instead of well-funded public hospitals, we have profiteering private hospitals funded by enormous amounts of public money. Instead of large numbers of well-paid public workers, we have large budgets for private firms that now subcontract tasks formerly conducted by the government.

We need to defend the progressive work of government, which, for me, means immediately defending public education. To be clear, I do not mean merely vote or ask nicely, I mean movements should attack government and government officials, target them with protests, make their lives impossible until they comply. This was done very well with the FCC. And my hat goes off to the activists who saved the internet for us. The left should be thinking about the ways in which it can leverage government.

The utility of government was very apparent in Vermont during the aftermath of Hurricane Irene. The rains from that storm destroyed or damaged over a hundred bridges, many miles of road and rail, and swept away houses. Thirteen towns were totally stranded. There was a lot of incredible mutual aid; people just started clearing debris and helping each other out. But within all this, town government was a crucial connective tissue.

Due to the tradition of New England town meeting, people are quite involved with their local government. Anarchists should love town meetings. It is no coincidence that Murray Bookchin spent much of his life in Vermont. Town meetings are a form of participatory budgeting without the lefty rigmarole.

More importantly, the state government managed to get a huge amount of support from the federal government. The state in turn pushed this down to the town level. Without that federal aid, Vermont would still be in ruins. Vermont is not a big enough political entity to shake down General Electric, a huge employer in Vermont. The Vermont government can't pressure GE to pay for the rebuilding of local infrastructure, but the federal government can.

Vermont would still be a disaster if it didn't get a transfer of funds and materials from the federal government. Similarly in New York City, the public sector does not get enough praise for the many things it did well after super storm Sandy. Huge parts of the subway system were flooded, yet it was all up and running within the month.

As an aside, one of the dirty little secrets about the Vermont economy is that it's heavily tied-up with the military industrial complex. People think Vermont is all about farming and boutique food processing. Vermont has a pretty diverse economy, but agriculture plays a much smaller role than you might think, about 2 percent of employment. Meanwhile, the state's industrial sector, along with the government, is one of the top employers, at about 13 percent of all employment. Most of this work is in what's called precision manufacturing, making stuff like: high performance nozzles, switches, calibrators, and stuff like the lenses used in satellites, or handcrafting the blades that go in GE jet engines. But I digress … As we enter the crisis of climate change, it's important to be aware of the actually existing legal and institutional mechanisms with which we can contain and control capital."
christianparenti  climatechange  militarism  neoliberalism  2015  goverment  politics  policy  progressivism  progressives  economics  austerity  priorities  military  surveillance  inequality  wealth  anarchism  mutualaid  activism  epa  environment  infrastructure  vermont  townmeetings 
may 2015 by robertogreco
Fr. Greg Boyle — The Calling of Delight: Gangs, Service, and Kinship | On Being
"A Jesuit priest famous for his gang intervention programs in Los Angeles, Fr. Greg Boyle makes winsome connections between service and delight, and compassion and awe. He heads Homeboy Industries, which employs former gang members in a constellation of businesses. This is not work of helping, he says, but of finding kinship. The point of Christian service, as he lives it, is about “our common calling to delight in one another.”"

[On SoundCloud:
unedited ]
gregboyle  losangeles  homeboyindustry  interviews  2015  thewhy  compassion  service  religion  humanism  christianity  jesuits  kinship  kristatippett  scars  wounds  delight  burnout  salvation  mentoring  courage  mutualsupport  mutualaid  love  kindness  being  life  living  onbeing 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Why a radical geography must be anarchist | Simon Springer -
"Radical geographers have been preoccupied with Marxism for four decades, largely ignoring an earlier anarchist tradition that thrived a century before radical geography was claimed as Marxist in the 1970s. When anarchism is considered, it is misused as a synonym for violence or derided as a utopian project. Yet it is incorrect to assume anarchism as a project, which instead reflects Marxian thought. Anarchism is more appropriately considered a protean process that perpetually unfolds through the insurrectionary geographies of the everyday and the prefigurative politics of direct action, mutual aid, and voluntary association. Unlike Marxism’s stages of history and revolutionary imperative, which imply an end state, anarchism appreciates the dynamism of the social world. In staking a renewed anarchist claim for radical geography, I attend to the divisions between Marxism and anarchism as two alternative socialisms, where in the former positions equality alongside an ongoing flirtation with authoritarianism, while the latter maximizes egalitarianism and individual liberty by considering them as mutually reinforcing. Radical geographers would do well to reengage anarchism as there is a vitality to this philosophy that is missing from Marxian analyses that continue to rehash ideas— such as vanguardism and a proletarian dictatorship—that are long past their expiration date."
anarchism  marxism  socialism  anarchy  revolution  radicalism  2014  simonspringer  dynamism  pocketsofutopia  mutualaid  collectivism  decentralization  utopia  vanguardism  equality  authoritarianism  egalitarianism  liberty  individualusm  directaction  voluntaryassociation  radicalgeography 
november 2014 by robertogreco
The Devil’s Bargain — Medium
"The question Graeber wants to put to us is this: To what extent are our imaginations shaped — constrained, limited — by our having had to live with the technological choices made by the military-industrial complex — by industries and universities working in close collaboration with the government, in a spirit of subservience to its needs?

Or, to put it another way: How were we taught not even to dream of flying cars and jetpacks? — or, or for that matter, an end to world hunger, something that C. P. Snow, in his famous lecture on “the two cultures” of the sciences and humanities, saw as clearly within our grasp more than half-a-century ago? To see “sophisticated simulations” of the things we used to hope we’d really achieve as good enough?"

"As I noted earlier, this seems to cover a very different subject than his meditation on flying cars and the absence thereof — but it’s really about the same thing, which is: the impact of economic structures on imagination. For Graeber it could scarcely be accidental that a world devoted to utility-maximizing, acquisitive market-based behavior would create a theory that animals, indeed the very genes of creatures, invariably behave in a utility-miximizing, acquisitive way in the Great Market of Life."

"For those whose ideas have been shaped so thoroughly by the logic of capitalism, people like Prince Kropotkin who see mutual aid as a factor in evolution, or who would go still further and see play as simply intrinsic to being alive — Graeber doesn’t cite J. Huizinga’s Homo Ludens here, but he should — are just nuts. They’re not seeing the world as it obviously really is.

But, Graeber suggests, maybe what’s obvious from within the logic of late capitalism isn’t so obvious from another point of view; and maybe what’s nuts according to the logic of late capitalism is, again from another point of view, not necessarily nuts. Maybe there is more in heaven and earth, Professor Dawkins, than is dreamt of in your evolutionary biology.

In a famous passage from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek — the much-anthologized chapter called “Seeing” — Annie Dillard cites the naturalist Stewart Edward White on how to learn to see deer: “As soon as you can forget the naturally obvious and construct an artificial obvious, then you too will see deer.” That is, you have to learn to pick out certain now-and-for-you-insignificant elements in your visual field and reassign them to the realm of the significant. And this is true, not just for the visual but also for the mental field. But it is also and equally true that our constructions of the artificial obvious are not invariably reliable: sometimes they are wrong, and if we then forget that they are our constructions, and think of them as the natural obvious, as the way things just are … we’re screwed.

This is Graeber’s point. And you don’t have to agree with him about the playfulness of worms to see its importance. Our social and economic structures prompt us, every day and in a hundred different ways, to see certain elements of our mental field as significant while ever-so-gently discouraging us from noticing others at all. And when it comes to the constructions of our mental worlds, as opposed to our visual fields, we might be missing something more lastingly important than a guy in a gorilla suit.

All of these reflections started with my reading of a 1945 article about the entanglements of the arts with universities, at a time when universities were in danger of becoming what they have since largely become: “social and technical service stations.” Let’s try now to get back to those concerns."

"My point is: I don’t like seeing journalism being drawn so consistently into the same self-justifying, self-celebrating circles that the American university itself was drawn into during and following World War II. As R. P. Blackmur rightly feared, the intimacy between universities and government did not end when the war ended; it only intensified, and the fact that those universities became our chief patrons of the arts, especially literary writing, at the very moment that they crawled permanently into bed with government and industry, cannot be without repercussions for artists.

The best guide to the rise of creative programs in particular is Mark McGurl’s The Program Era, and it’s fascinating how McGurl repeatedly walks right up to the edge of a clearly articulated critique of this system without ever crossing it. In the penultimate sentence of his book he writes, “Is there not more excellent fiction being produced now than anyone has time to read?” Then he starts a new paragraph before giving us the book’s last sentence: “What kind of traitor to the mission of mass higher education would you have to be to think otherwise?” Oh clever man!

Yes, there is a great deal of skillfully written post-World-War-II fiction available to us, indeed more than we could ever read. But how much of it embodies the kind of imaginative otherness that, as David Graeber reminds us, our social/cultural/economic contexts militate against? How much of it, shaped as it is in institutions that owe their continued existence to their affiliation with the military-industrial complex, envisions ways of life radically other than the ones we now experience? How much of it offers more than increasingly sophisticated simulations of worlds we already know, can predict, feel comfortable in? How much, in shirt, is conducive to genuine hope?

I guess what I’m asking for is pretty simple: for writers of all kinds, journalists as well as fiction writers, and artists and academics, to strive to extricate themselves from an “artificial obvious” that has been constructed for us by the dominant institutions of our culture. Simple; also probably impossible. But it’s worth trying. Few things are more worth trying.

And I am also asking universities to realize and to reconsider their implication in those dominant institutions. I don’t demand that schools sever their ties with those institutions, since that would be financially suicidal, and economic times for higher education are hard enough as it is. But there need to be more pockets of resistance: more institutions with self-consciously distinctive missions, and within institutions more departments or even just informal discussion groups who seek to imagine the so-far unimaginable.

Finally, I am asking all this of myself. I’m fifty-five years old. I’ve probably got twenty or so years to think and write at the highest level I’m capable of, and in those years I want to surprise myself. I don’t want merely to recycle and redeploy the ideas I have inherited. I know that this is easier for me, a white American man with a secure job, than it is for many others. But then, that’s all the more reason for me to do it.

Fifty years ago, Jacques Derrida gave a lecture that would become very famous, and created a stir even as he presented it. When the talk ended, the first questioner was Jean Hyppolite, and he asked Derrida what his talk was “tending toward.” Derrida replied, “I was wondering myself if I know where I am going. So I would answer you by saying, first, that I am trying, precisely, to put myself at a point so that I do not know any longer where I am going.”"
2014  alanjacobs  education  culture  highereducation  highered  davidgraeber  whauden  rpblackmur  louisalthusser  adamkirsch  militaryindustrialcomplex  power  funding  academia  creativity  play  economics  imagination  richarddawkins  canon  corporatization  corporatism  mutualaid  peterkropotkin  homoludens  johanhuizinga  seeing  stewartendward  anniedillard  californiasundaymagazine  technology  siliconvalley  capitalism  latecapitalism  journalism  writing  jacquesderrida  jeanhyppolite  markmcgurl  context  resistance  utopia  pocketsofresistance  courage  possibility  transcontextualism  paradigmshifts  althusser 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Communal work - Wikipedia
"Communal work is when a gathering takes place to accomplish a task or to hold a competition. A number of cultures have such gatherings, often for the purpose of holding a competition, as in a spelling bee, or for providing manual labour, as in a barn raising.

Especially in the past, the tasks were often major jobs, such as clearing a field of timber or raising a barn, that would be difficult to carry out alone. It was often both a social and utilitarian event. Jobs like corn husking or sewing, could be done as a group to allow socializing during an otherwise tedious chore. Such gatherings often included refreshments and entertainment provided by the group. Different words have been used to describe such gatherings."

[talkoot references here: ]
communalwork  community  interdependence  mutualaid  collectivism  barnraising  bees  bee  gadugi  talkoot  meitheal  dugnad  mink'a  minka  naffir  gotong-royong  bayanihan  imece  harambee  crowdsourcing  gatherings  events  allhands 
may 2014 by robertogreco
Design tutorials: the basics | SB129
Within design education, there’s little shared wisdom about how to conduct a tutorial. The tutorial is the bread and butter of design learning; the main pedagogic object of interaction. But we, the design community, rarely share the nuts and bolts of how to navigate and steer a student through a successful project; how to encourage, provoke, inspire and lead a designer into new and fascinating territories.

In this post, I’d like to outline a few basics. It’s me, stating the obvious, in what I consider good pedagogic practice; how best to support, guide and get the most out of students and their work.

I believe the things I’ve learnt over the last ten or so years are applicable to other disciplines and within the professional context of design. Whether as a Creative Director or a Design Manager, the following points are a good place to start when it comes to directing creativity;

Listening is Key

At the heart of a good tutor is their ability to listen. Understanding ideas, position and intent allows for more connected, meaningful feedback. Asking questions to clarify is key to aiding your understanding. Sometimes students take a long time to get to the salient point, they can skirt around the topic due to a lack of confidence, confusion or perception of expectation, so be patient, let them ‘talk out’, only respond when you understand what’s in front of you. Wait until nerves die down to get to the heart of the matter, then you’ll be in the best position to advise.

Ownership and embodiment

It’s all to common for design tutors to try to design vicariously – to direct a student in a way that they would do the project. This, in my opinion, is a flawed approach. It has a history in the master/apprentice model of education; watch, copy, admire, repeat (where learning is a happy side effect). However, it rarely allows the student to feel ownership over the content and learning experience.

Within Art and Design, intellectual ownership is a tricky subject to navigate. The messy and complex network of ideas become distributed across a number of different references, conversations and people, the genesis of an idea is difficult to locate. Tutors that have a ‘that was my idea’ attitude rarely survive or remain happy and motivated. Intellectual generosity is an essential quality of a good educator. Having the humility to understand and value that the adoption of ideas ‘as their own’ is an important part of learning – it allows for the embodiment of the ideas into the identity of the designer.

Mutual exploration

However, in the age of the Internet, the tutor as gateway to all knowledge is long gone. The ability (or illusion) of a Professor having read ‘everything’ in their discipline is a distant memory. When knowledge is acquired and disseminated in such a radically different manner, it calls for educational revolution. Sadly, the rise of the MOOC isn’t the revolution I was hoping for.

The abolishment of levels and the flattening of hierarchies are at the heart of how I believe education needs to change. Breaking the often fictitious boundaries between teaching and research to allow for the mutual exploration of ideas is a fundamentally different model of education. Sadly, due to financial scalability, this remains relevant only to an elite. But as a tutor, see your conversations with students as a space to explore ideas, be the learner as much as the teacher. Reframe higher education away from the hierarchies of expertise towards mutual exploration of the distant boundaries of your discipline.

Expanding possibility space

It’s important to remember that a tutorial should be expanding the cone of possibility for the student. They should leave, not with answers, but with an expanded notion, a greater ambition of what they were trying to achieve. It’s important to be ambitious and set tough challenges for your students, otherwise boredom or (heavens forbid) laziness can take over. Most student’s I’ve met love being thrown difficult challenges, most rise to the occasion, all learn a great deal. In order to move towards the goal of a self determined learner, the student should control the decisions of the design process. If you’re telling them what to design, not opening up possibilities and highlighting potential problems, you’re probably missing something.

Understand motivation, vulnerability and ‘learning style’

Every student we teach, learn in a different way, have different hopes and desires, react to feedback in a different way. Navigating and ‘differentiating’ these differences is really difficult. Some tutors take a distanced intellectual approach, where the content in front of them is a puzzle that needs to be solved, this is the classic personae of the academic, distanced, emotionally arid, intellectually rigorous. But this doesn’t alway mean a good learning experience. Other tutors operate on a more psychological level; the try to understand the emotional context of the situation and adapt their advise accordingly. Whatever happens, understand you have a individual in front of you, they have lives outside of the studio, they are going through all manner of personal shit that will effect their attention and engagement. They come from different cultures, different educational backgrounds, so their response to your advice is going to shift like the wind, be adaptive, read body language and don’t go in like a bulldozer (I have definitely done this in the past!).

In terms of learning style, without this becoming a paper on pedagogy, understand that your advice need to be tailored to different students. Some (a lot) need to learn through a physical engagement with their material, others needs to have an intellectual structure in place in order to progress. Throughout a project, course or programme, try to understand this and direct your advice accordingly.

Agreed direction

Tutorials shouldn’t just be general ‘chats’ about the project or world, they should give direction, tasks and a course of action. I have a rule: Don’t end the tutorial until you’ve both agreed a direction. This can be pretty tough to manage in terms of time, as I get more experienced, I get better at reaching an agreement within my tutorial time allocation, but I still often can overrun by hours. The important thing to work towards is the idea that you both understand the project, and you both understand how it could move. End the tutorial when this been reached.

Read and respond

It’s really important, in design, to respond to what is in front of you. To actual STUFF. It’s far too easy to let students talk without showing evidence of their work. This is a dangerous game. Words can deceive, hide and misrepresent action. Dig into sketchbooks, ask to see work they’ve done. If they haven’t done anything, ask them to go away and do something to represent their ideas and thoughts. Production is key to having a productive tutorial. Only through responding to actual material evidence of action can a project move forward. At its worst, students can develop the skill to talk about stuff, making it exciting in your mind, but fail to produce the project in the end. But this isn’t the main reason for this section, it’s more about the ideas of design residing in the material production, not just the explication. You can tell me what you believe something does or means, but it’s only when it’s in front of me that I can fully grasp this.

The art of misinterpretation

Another reason why it’s important to dig into sketchbooks and look at work, is that looking at something and trying to work out what it means – the space of interpretation – is an important space of learning. By interpreting and indeed misinterpreting work, you and your student can find out things about the project. If the student intended one thing and you understand something else by it, you’ve at least learnt that it was poorly (visually and materially) communicated. But the exciting stuff happens when misinterpretation acts as a bridge between your internal mental processes (with all references etc) and your students. Your reading of a drawing acts as a way to generate a new idea or direction. This is when there is genuine creative collaboration.


One of the roles of a tutor is to point students towards relevant and inspiring resources. In the age of the internet, when student’s roam the halls of tumblr and are constantly fed inspiration by their favourite design blogs, the use, meaning and impact of tutor driven references has changed. Be focussed with reading, ensure students know why they are looking at a particular reference and make sure that you contextualise the work within the ideas that they have."
mattward  2013  teaching  pedagogy  cv  howweteach  howwelearn  design  art  tutotials  canon  listening  ownership  understanding  interpretation  misinterpretation  embodiment  making  exploration  apprenticeships  hierarchy  hierarchies  possibilityspace  motivation  vulnerability  feedback  constructivecriticism  context  empathy  conversation  audiencesofone  differentiation  contextualization  process  documentation  reflection  reggioemilia  emergentcurriculum  evidence  assessment  critique  communication  collaboration  mentoring  mentorship  mentors  response  action  direction  mutualaid 
april 2014 by robertogreco
Public space, civilization and the self (long) | Speedbird
[Read the whole thing, the pullquotes here are not enough, even though there are many of them.]

"Civilization means providing for everyone’s basic biological needs, among which are shade and some degree of shelter from the elements; clean potable water; and a safe place to use the toilet, and otherwise conduct the rudiments of bodily hygiene. These provisions need to be widely distributed and available throughout the community, situated in a way that allows them to be utilized without undue surveillance (and certainly without shame), and this can only happen under the conditions of relatively uncontrolled access that public space affords."

"Civilization also means being forced to reckon with the consequences of our collective failure to provide such facilities."

"Civilization means acknowledging imperatives beyond the merely commercial. Even putting questions of homelessness to the side, I want to live in a city wise enough to offer its citizens and visitors some respite from the overwhelming pressure toward commercial transaction that otherwise characterizes our shared spaces."

"Civilization means a place to sit down. I myself happen to think that sitting and watching the city go by is one of the great urban pleasures, ever and always its own perfect justification, and that if we’ve seriously gotten to the point that we need to articulate arguments in defense of this act we’re in a good deal more trouble than even I had ever suspected. But as it happens, there are good functional reasons why cities might want to provide pedestrians with abundant free seating easily accessible from the public way."

"Civilization means acknowledging imperatives beyond the frankly functional. You can tell a lot about a society’s conception of itself by looking at the standards it insists on (or, alternately, tolerates) in its public accommodations, beyond the rather low bar of simply being fit for purpose. And there’s something profoundly ennobling about the commitment of collective resources to amenities meant for everyone to use and enjoy — neither to overawe, nor to instill a narrow sectarian pride, but to remind everyone using the space that they are a valued member of a meaningful whole."

"Civilization means accommodating the needs of profoundly different groups."

"civilization means supporting the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition for the redress of grievances."

"Civilization means that each citizen has the right to grow and to become who they are, and it also means that the city is designed and structured in a way that helps them do so."

[My favorite part]

"Sometimes in life, we’re attracted to some endeavor not because we have any particular talent for it, but precisely because it represents a weakness. And so it is with me and the city.

I am a fairly shy person. I grew up physically ungifted: weak, clumsy, unbeautiful, inelegant. I’m saddled with the kind of voice (and manner of speaking) that just seems to set some people’s teeth on edge, the moment I open my mouth. I don’t do well in crowds. I haven’t, historically, had the courage to acknowledge the essential personhood of the others around me, preferring a succession of armored or dismissive poses to the complexity and challenge of engaging them as fully human individuals. It was just more comfortable that way. Of course my entire life is one episode after another of me throwing myself into circumstances in which I wasn’t comfortable, which you can read if so inclined as a desperate attempt to make myself whole by main force, but the fact remains: I preferred life inside my armor. And the seeming wisdom of this was reinscribed by the things I experienced when I first ventured into the American cities of the 1970s, one of which I describe in the video linked here.

But I wanted more. I wanted to venture beyond the safety and sterility of my containment. I wanted to stop dismissing people out of hand. I wanted to feel comfortable anywhere — and for the people I met, reading that comfort, to feel comfortable around me. I wanted to stop sacrificing friends, lovers and opportunities to the fulminating assholeism that goes hand-in-hand with a certain kind of insecurity. And the only thing that seemed to get me even the tiniest bit closer to any of that was being out in the city, on the sidewalks, in the parks, or anywhere else I could test my ability to coexist with others undefended, unarmored and vulnerable. These were relatively safe spaces in which I could practice the art of not constructing everyone else around me as a potential threat to my self-esteem — as something that had to be preëmptively taken down a notch or two — and just letting them be what and who they were.

So all of that stuff in Sennett, about the encounter with implacable urban diversity as an indispensable part of coming to maturity? You better believe I read that very personally. If I am anything but entirely broken as I write this, it’s because the effort it took to manage the experience of urban complexity and difference annealed me. Far too late in life, but thankfully while there was still plenty time for me to enjoy it, my city taught me to be a human being.

Were the others I encountered still, occasionally, obnoxious, self-absorbed, entitled or manifestly interested in making my life more difficult? Of course they were. I’ve already said: this is New York. But by and large, I found truth in the rather anodyne notion that people mostly just want to get along. And so a virtuous cycle kicked in: the degree to which I dropped my character armor was that to which the city began to open itself before me.I do not deny that there is a strong element of privilege in this, and of course it didn’t hurt that New York has become very much safer over the time period I’m describing. But to this day, part of the great pleasure I take from the public places of my city is in noting how very small the voice of panic and flight has become in me when I spend time in them. It’s still there, and it will almost certainly never go away entirely. It’s generally overmastered, though, by the joy I take in simply being with my people, the people of my New York.

We need desperately to become whole, some of us, and public space can do this."

"In practice

Assuming you find any or all of the above convincing, what can you do to act on it?

• Learn about the legal status of public space in your municipality, particularly as regards the full measure of rights you enjoy there. Share that knowledge with others.

• Read everything you can get your hands on. I recommend this book as a useful overview of a few threads of contemporary praxis, but there are thousands of others. (Not all of these will be directly and entirely relevant, but they’re all worth reading.)

• Tease out the commonalities between contemporary forms of public-space activism, whether that activism takes place under the banner of “tactical urbanism,” as part of a longer-standing and more explicitly oppositional tradition, or entirely spontaneously. Work toward building bonds, alliances or coalitions between the individuals and communities involved.

• Engage in that activism yourself, in whatever way feels most natural and appropriate to you. In New York alone, there are literally hundreds of organizations dedicated to these and related issues, from 596 Acres and the Green Guerrillas to the Center for Urban Pedagogy and Transportation Alternatives. Honestly, if you can’t find a group or space convenient to your neighborhood and aligned with your inclinations, you’re probably not looking hard enough. (If community gardens are your particular thing, this is a great resource.)

• Wherever possible, design networked or digital maps, tools, environments and interfaces to surface and highlight available public spaces, and the connections between them and the communities they serve.

• Recover older traditions having to do with the shared use of spatial resources, of which there are far too many to list here. (Some of my favorites: the semi-annual day of neighborhood self-care the Norwegians call the Dugnad, and the shelters called bothies in the Scottish and Irish traditions.) And reflect for a moment on what’s implied by that “far too many to list here”: there happen to be so many distinctive local traditions along these lines because those provisions were recognized as inalienable right throughout most of recorded history, just about everywhere in the West. It’s everything represented by Kanyon and its equivalents that’s anomalous.

• Take in a talk. In New York, the Institute for Public Knowledge regularly hosts high-quality lectures and discussions on everything from public toilets to the design of mobility for democracy. If talking over a meal is more your speed, the Design Trust for Public Space throws regular potluck picnics in public spaces throughout the five boroughs.

• Finally: be a public person. If we make the road by walking, we make the city by citying. You know I believe that civilization depends on it. Be generous, be safe, have fun, and let me know what you discover."
adamgreenfield  urban  urbanism  civilization  cities  2013  self  cv  others  empathy  coexistence  urbanrights  canon  assembly  richardsennett  conviviality  mutualaid 
september 2013 by robertogreco
No priests, no temples – Briarpatch Magazine
"Spiritual practices are often concerned with transcendence, but I like to make a distinction between vertical transcendence and horizontal transcendence. Vertical transcendence is when we’re working so that I can connect with something bigger than myself, which can be self-serving and self-focused. Horizontal transcendence, however, involves a recognition that my devotion to your freedom creates the conditions for my own freedom. It’s about a relational, cultural awakening, rather than a personal awakening."
via:selinjessa  horizontality  horizontalidad  verticality  flatness  transcendence  interdependence  2011  yoga  michaelstone  spirituality  anarchism  anarchy  conviviality  mutualaid 
march 2013 by robertogreco
a brief history of participation
"These activities were not always congenial to the program of government reform towards democratization. Many of them used participatory methods instead to net poor peoples into networks of debt and reliance on hierarchical authorities.

The reasons for the failures of participatory technology are actually quite specific.

Participation was appropriated during the 1970s as a means of cheap development without commitment of resources from above. The theme of participatory ownership of the city, pioneered in discussions about urban planning in the West, remained strong in the context of the developing world, and even grew in a context of spiraling urbanization. In India, the Philippines, and much of Africa and Latin America, postwar economies pushed peasants off of the land into cities, where the poor availability of housing required the poor to squat on land and build their own homes out of cheap building materials. At first, the governments of these towns collaborated with the World Bank to take out loans to provide expensive, high-rise public housing units. But increasingly, the World Bank drew upon the advice of western advocates of squatter settlements, who saw in western squats the potential benefits of self-governance without interference from the state. In the hands of the World Bank, this theory of self-directed, self-built, self-governed housing projects became a justification for defunding public housing. From 1972 forward, World Bank reports commended squatters for their ingenuity and resourcefulness and recommended giving squatters titles to their properties, which would allow them to raise credit and participate in the economy as consumers and borrowers.

Participatory mechanisms installed by the Indian government to deal with water tanks after nationalization depend on principles of accountability at the local level that were invented under colonial rule. They install the duty of the locality to take care of people without necessarily providing the means with which to do so.

We need developers who can learn from the history of futility, and historians who have the courage to constructively encourage a more informed kind of development. "
peertopeer  web2.0  joguldi  2013  conviviality  participation  participatory  government  centralization  centralizedgovernment  self-rule  history  1960s  democracy  democratization  reform  networks  mutualaid  peterkropotkin  politics  activism  banks  banking  patrickgeddes  urban  urbanism  urbanplanning  planning  self-governance  worldbank  dudleyseers  gandhi  robertchambers  neelamukherjee  india  thailand  philippines  gis  geography  latinamerica  1970s  squatters  economics  development  africa  cities  resources  mapmaking  cartography  maps  mapping  googlemaps  openstreetmap  osm  ushahidi  crowdsourcing  infrastructure 
march 2013 by robertogreco
Power to the People | Jacobin
"The idea of mutual aid was at the foundation of Occupy as much as the much-debated horizontalism and the opposition to the banks."

"Rebecca Solnit wrote so eloquently of the communities that arise in disaster, and Occupy was a response to a disaster itself, a slow-moving financial hurricane that destroyed homes as surely as the storm. So it shouldn’t be surprising that after Sandy moved through, the first people to jump into action were the same ones who had made things run in the park. The movement may have suffered from the lack of focus after the encampments were taken, but Sandy provided that focus and immediate needs to be provided for."

"what seemed entirely lost is the long tradition of service provision as political organizing…

political organizing and mutual aid go hand in hand, or they should… the early labor movement wasn’t just about organizing on the job but organizing in your neighborhood."
communities  community  disasters  rebeccasolnit  resilience  society  politics  politicalorganizing  action  horizontalism  mutualaid  2012  hurricanesandy  occupywallstreet  ows 
november 2012 by robertogreco
A Conversation With Anarchist David Graeber - YouTube
"Anarchists believe in direct action…Anarchism is about acting as if you are already free…Anarchism is democracy without the government…Anarchism is direct democracy…Anarchism is a commitment to the idea that it would be possible to have a society based on principles of self-organization, voluntary association, and mutual idea."
2006  davidgraeber  authority  hierarchy  academia  globalization  politics  subversion  marxism  teaching  cv  charlierose  interviews  via:chrisberthelsen  subordination  philosophy  freedom  activism  coercion  democracy  optimism  humanism  protest  voluntaryassociation  mutualaid  self-organization  deschooling  unschooling  power  worldbank  imf  process  consensus  history  war  20thcentury  policy  economics  capitalism  concensus 
december 2011 by robertogreco
Podcast: Empathy, mutual aid and the anarchist prince
"Peter Kropotkin was one of the greatest thinkers of the nineteenth century, who managed to multi-task as a Russian prince, renowned geographer and revolutionary anarchist. In this interview with Phonic FM, a wonderful community radio station based in Exeter, I discuss how Kropotkin’s ideas about ‘mutual aid’ relate to my own work on empathy, and why Kropotkin is a prophet for the art of living in the twenty-first century. The interview lasts around 50 minutes."
peterkropotkin  empathy  anarchism  romankrznaric  outrospection  mutualaid  history  2011  podcasts  tolisten  philosophy  science  politics  peacebuilding  ethics  interviews  lcproject  unschooling  deschooling  society  policy  law  cognitiveempathy  affectiveempathy  perspective  understanding  radicalsocialchange  socialchange  conversation  learning  crosspollination  crossdisciplinary  strangers  conversationmeals  interdisciplinary  facilitating  connectivism  connections  generalists  cooperation  cooperativegroups 
april 2011 by robertogreco
BOMB Magazine: Rebecca Solnit by Astra Taylor
"Extensive archival research allows Solnit to paint a colorful portrait of mutual aid at the turn of the 20th century, while contemporary first-person investigative reporting lends a sense of urgency and, also, possibility. As Solnit points out, untold disasters lurk just over the horizon. What remains unknown is whether self-interest or a sense of community will guide our next response."
interview  sociology  rebeccasolnit  astrataylor  disasters  community  society  resilience  mutualaid 
december 2010 by robertogreco

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