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Inequality - how wealth becomes power (1/2) | (Poverty Richness Documentary) DW Documentary - YouTube
"Germany is one of the world’s richest countries, but inequality is on the rise. The wealthy are pulling ahead, while the poor are falling behind.

For the middle classes, work is no longer a means of advancement. Instead, they are struggling to maintain their position and status. Young people today have less disposable income than previous generations. This documentary explores the question of inequality in Germany, providing both background analysis and statistics. The filmmakers interview leading researchers and experts on the topic. And they accompany Christoph Gröner, one of Germany’s biggest real estate developers, as he goes about his work. "If you have great wealth, you can’t fritter it away through consumption. If you throw money out the window, it comes back in through the front door,” Gröner says. The real estate developer builds multi-family residential units in cities across Germany, sells condominium apartments, and is involved in planning projects that span entire districts. "Entrepreneurs are more powerful than politicians, because we’re more independent,” Gröner concludes. Leading researchers and experts on the topic of inequality also weigh in, including Nobel-prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, economist Thomas Piketty, and Brooke Harrington, who carried out extensive field research among investors from the ranks of the international financial elite. Branko Milanović, a former lead economist at the World Bank, says that globalization is playing a role in rising inequality. The losers of globalization are the lower-middle class of affluent countries like Germany. "These people are earning the same today as 20 years ago," Milanović notes. "Just like a century ago, humankind is standing at a crossroads. Will affluent countries allow rising equality to tear apart the fabric of society? Or will they resist this trend?”"

[Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYP_wMJsgyg

"Christoph Gröner is one of the richest people in Germany. The son of two teachers, he has worked his way to the top. He believes that many children in Germany grow up without a fair chance and wants to step in. But can this really ease inequality?

Christoph Gröner does everything he can to drum up donations and convince the wealthy auction guests to raise their bids. The more the luxury watch for sale fetches, the more money there will be to pay for a new football field, or some extra tutoring, at a children's home. Christoph Gröner is one of the richest people in Germany - his company is now worth one billion euros, he tells us. For seven months, he let our cameras follow him - into board meetings, onto construction sites, through his daily life, and in his charity work. He knows that someone like him is an absolute exception in Germany. His parents were both teachers, and he still worked his way to the top. He believes that many children in Germany grow up without a fair chance. "What we see here is total failure across the board,” he says. "It starts with parents who just don’t get it and can’t do anything right. And then there’s an education policy that has opened the gates wide to the chaos we are experiencing today." Chistoph Gröner wants to step in where state institutions have failed. But can that really ease inequality?

In Germany, getting ahead depends more on where you come from than in most other industrialized countries, and social mobility is normally quite restricted. Those on top stay on top. The same goes for those at the bottom. A new study shows that Germany’s rich and poor both increasingly stay amongst themselves, without ever intermingling with other social strata. Even the middle class is buckling under the mounting pressure of an unsecure future. "Land of Inequality" searches for answers as to why. We talk to families, an underpaid nurse, as well as leading researchers and analysts such as economic Nobel Prize laureate Joseph Stiglitz, sociologist Jutta Allmendinger or the economist Raj Chetty, who conducted a Stanford investigation into how the middle class is now arming itself to improve their children’s outlooks."]
documentary  germany  capitalism  economics  society  poverty  inequality  christophgröner  thomaspiketty  brookehrrington  josephstiglitz  neoliberalism  latecapitalism  brankomilanović  worldbank  power  influence  policy  politics  education  class  globalization  affluence  schools  schooling  juttaallmendinger  rajchetty  middleclass  parenting  children  access  funding  charity  charitableindustrialcomplex  philanthropy  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  status  work  labor  welfare  2018  geography  cities  urban  urbanism  berlin  immigration  migration  race  racism  essen  socialsegregation  segregation  success  democracy  housing  speculation  paulpiff  achievement  oligarchy  dynasticwealth  ownership  capitalhoarding  injustice  inheritance  charlottebartels  history  myth  prosperity  wageslavery  polarization  insecurity  precarity  socialcontract  revolution  sociology  finance  financialcapitalism  wealthmanagement  assets  financialization  local  markets  privateschools  publicschools  privatization 
january 2019 by robertogreco
Claire Bishop on PALACE IN PLUNDERLAND - Artforum International
"The construction of yet another enormous venue for culture feels like the harbinger of a horrible new world in which all public services are drained of resources but every High Net Worth Individual can evade taxes by pouring a fraction of their profits into a cultural project that enhances their social status. The über-wealthy once gave a percentage of their riches to the church; today they give them to flexible and adaptable visual art/performance spaces."



"A Schema for a School is one thing; the more radical proposition would be a cultural institution that includes within its architecture crucial services like a public school, day care, or a branch of the New York Public Library."
charitableindustrialcomplex  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  philanthropy  charity  publicgood  inequality  wealth  2018  via:shannon_mattern  clairebishop  arts  architecture  taxevasion  democracy  oligarchy  capitalism  influence  power  museums  control 
september 2018 by robertogreco
Opinion | Beware Rich People Who Say They Want to Change the World - The New York Times
"“Change the world” has long been the cry of the oppressed. But in recent years world-changing has been co-opted by the rich and the powerful.

“Change the world. Improve lives. Invent something new,” McKinsey & Company’s recruiting materials say. “Sit back, relax, and change the world,” tweets the World Economic Forum, host of the Davos conference. “Let’s raise the capital that builds the things that change the world,” a Morgan Stanley ad says. Walmart, recruiting a software engineer, seeks an “eagerness to change the world.” Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook says, “The best thing to do now, if you want to change the world, is to start a company.”

At first, you think: Rich people making a difference — so generous! Until you consider that America might not be in the fix it’s in had we not fallen for the kind of change these winners have been selling: fake change.

Fake change isn’t evil; it’s milquetoast. It is change the powerful can tolerate. It’s the shoes or socks or tote bag you bought which promised to change the world. It’s that one awesome charter school — not equally funded public schools for all. It is Lean In Circles to empower women — not universal preschool. It is impact investing — not the closing of the carried-interest loophole.

Of course, world-changing initiatives funded by the winners of market capitalism do heal the sick, enrich the poor and save lives. But even as they give back, American elites generally seek to maintain the system that causes many of the problems they try to fix — and their helpfulness is part of how they pull it off. Thus their do-gooding is an accomplice to greater, if more invisible, harm.

What their “change” leaves undisturbed is our winners-take-all economy, which siphons the gains from progress upward. The average pretax income of America’s top 1 percent has more than tripled since 1980, and that of the top 0.001 percent has risen more than sevenfold, even as the average income of the bottom half of Americans stagnated around $16,000, adjusted for inflation, according to a paper by the economists Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman.

American elites are monopolizing progress, and monopolies can be broken. Aggressive policies to protect workers, redistribute income, and make education and health affordable would bring real change. But such measures could also prove expensive for the winners. Which gives them a strong interest in convincing the public that they can help out within the system that so benefits the winners.

After all, if the Harvard Business School professor Michael E. Porter and his co-author Mark R. Kramer are right that “businesses acting as business, not as charitable donors, are the most powerful force for addressing the pressing issues we face,” we shouldn’t rein in business, should we?

This is how the winners benefit from their own kindness: It lets them redefine change, and defang it.

Consider David Rubenstein, a co-founder of the Carlyle Group, a private equity firm. He’s a billionaire who practices what he calls “patriotic philanthropy.” For example, when a 2011 earthquake damaged the Washington Monument and Congress funded only half of the $15 million repair, Mr. Rubenstein paid the rest. “The government doesn’t have the resources it used to have,” he explained, adding that “private citizens now need to pitch in.”

That pitching-in seems generous — until you learn that he is one of the reasons the government is strapped. He and his colleagues have long used their influence to protect the carried-interest loophole, which is enormously beneficial to people in the private equity field. Closing the loophole could give the government $180 billion over 10 years, enough to fix that monument thousands of times over.

Mr. Rubenstein’s image could be of a man fleecing America. Do-gooding gives him a useful makeover as a patriot who interviews former presidents onstage and lectures on the 13th Amendment.

Walmart has long been accused of underpaying workers. Americans for Tax Fairness, an advocacy group, famously accused the company of costing taxpayers billions of dollars a year because it “pays its employees so little that many of them rely on food stamps, health care and other taxpayer-funded programs.” Walmart denies this criticism, citing the jobs it creates and the taxes it pays.

When a column critical of Walmart ran in this newspaper some years ago, David Tovar, a Walmart spokesman, published a red-penned edit of the piece on a company blog. Beside a paragraph about how cutthroat business practices had earned the heirs of the Walton family at least $150 billion in wealth, Mr. Tovar wrote: “Possible addition: Largest corporate foundation in America. Gives more than $1 billion in cash and in kind donations each year.”

Mr. Tovar wasn’t denying the $150 billion in wealth, or that more of it could have been paid as wages. Rather, he seemed to suggest that charity made up for these facts.

A few years ago, some entrepreneurs in Oakland, Calif., founded a company called Even. Its initial plan was to help stabilize the highly volatile incomes of working-class Americans — with an app. For a few dollars a week, it would squirrel away your money when you were flush and give you a boost when you were short. “If you want to feel like you have a safety net for the first time in your life, Even is the answer,” the company proclaimed.

The rub against such an idea isn’t just that it’s a drop in the bucket. It’s also that it dilutes our idea of change. It casts an app and a safety net as the same.

Fake change, and what it allows to fester, paved the road for President Trump. He tapped into a feeling that the American system was rigged and that establishment elites were in it for themselves. Then, darkly, he deflected that anger onto the most vulnerable Americans. And having benefited from the hollowness of fake change, he became it — a rich man who styles himself as the ablest protector of the underdogs, who pretends that his interests have nothing to do with the changes he seeks.

President Trump is what we get when we trust the rich to fix what they are complicit in breaking.

In 2016, Mr. Trump and many of the world-changing elite leaders I am writing about were, for the most part, on opposite sides. Yet those elites and the president have one thing in common: a belief that the world should be changed by them, for the rest of us, not by us. They doubt the American creed of self-government.

A successful society is a progress machine, turning innovations and fortuitous developments into shared advancement. America’s machine is broken. Innovations fly at us, but progress eludes us. A thousand world-changing initiatives won’t change that. Instead, we must reform the basic systems that allow people to live decently — the systems that decide what kind of school children attend, whether politicians listen to donors or citizens, whether or not people can tend to their ailments, whether they are paid enough, and with sufficient reliability, to make plans and raise kids.

There are a significant number of winners who recognize their role in propping up a bad system. They might be convinced that solving problems for all, at the root, will mean higher taxes, smaller profits and fewer homes. Changing the world asks more than giving back. It also takes giving something up."
2018  charitableindustrialcomplex  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  anandgiridharadas  philanthropy  charity  hierarchy  inequality  change  democracy  donaldtrump  oligarchy  elitism  us  michaelporter  markkramer  thomasbikkety  emmanuelsaenz  gabrielzucman  markzuckerberg  morganstanley  economics  capitalism  latecapitalism  davidrubenstein  walmart  facebook  power  control 
august 2018 by robertogreco
Joamette Kills on Twitter: "Fidel Castro is dead and I am full of emotions."
"Fidel Castro is dead and I am full of emotions.

Disclaimer before I even talk: if you're not Cuban, I don't give a fuck what you think about what I'm about to say.

I found out he was dead when I woke up this morning. I have no comparison for everything I felt at that moment. It was too much.

Fidel is a man who lived 90 miles away from me, who everyone in my family wished was dead, vocally, for as long as I can remember.

Fidel was a man who unwittingly lead to my existence: my parents met as teens in the Miami exile community.

It's a strange feeling when a man you've never known played a pivotal role in your conception - then he dies. Mirrors my actual father.

This moment is also strange for me as a bi-racial Cuban. There are very few Afro-Cubans in Miami. There's a reason.

Cuba became a much Blacker nation after several waves of exiles left. Most exiles were white and white-ish Cubans. They could afford to go.

The first wave of exiles where the wealthiest. Many already had property in Miami they could move into.

That was slightly before the revolution was won. A little after, people began to deport their children en masse to avoid indoctrination.

My family arrived in the last of the great waves of Cuban immigration to the US, broke into Peru's embassy, claimed asylum.

My skinny little mother, 12 years old in 1980, crushed in a tiny boat sent over from Florida, made her way with abuela and 2 brothers to US.

Ultimately, America's promise of capitalist mobility did not pay off for us. Do not scoff at free healthcare and education. Don't scoff -

- at my family's suffering under US capitalism.

The US education system failed my Black immigrant mother. The healthcare system has failed her sick body and ailing mind.

No, Cuba is not a utopia. Yes, it is a dictatorship, with or without Fidel. Yes, the US kills dissidents, too, abroad moreso than at home.

No, it's not justified to limit the freedom of speech and association of your people. No, it's not justified to claim absolute power.

Yet my stomach rolls over looking at the photos from Miami right now. Light-skinned Cubans mourning the privilege that was ripped from them.

Light-skinned Cubans celebrating in the streets because the man that stole their mansions to create housing for the poor is DEAD.

I can oppose so much of what Castro did without feeling glee over his death nor solidarity with the white Cuban elite who ALSO voted Trump.

Being a Cuban right now is way more complicated if you would have been just as poor before Castro as you would have been after.

The popular opinion right now in Cuba is torn. Younger folks don't really a give a shit that he's dead. Folks in their 50s mourning the -

- person that fed them, housed them, when elite ran away and took all their money with them.

My greatest wish for Cuba is greater personal liberties, civil rights, mainly freedom of speech and the press.

I want democracy in Cuba. What I fear now is corporate oligarchy gaining a foothold on the island. No matter what you think about all -

- this, one thing is 100% fucking true: capitalism is a poison."
joamettekills  fidelcastro  cuba  2016  history  race  racism  capitalism  dictatorships  nuance  housing  inequality  oligarchy  healthcare  education  afro-cubans 
november 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
The end of post-neoliberalism | openDemocracy
"The time when dictatorships and neoliberal governments in Latin America were replaced by several progressive governments which benefited the poor without seriously affecting the income of the rich is coming to an end. Governments are back on the Right track. This signals a new time when unity of the popular sectors is once again the only way forward.

Latin America was the only continent where neoliberal options were adopted in several countries. After a series of US supported military dictatorships carrying the neoliberal project, reactions were swift. They culminated in the rejection, in 2005, of the Free Trade Agreement with the United States and Canada, which came as a result of a joint effort by social movements, leftist political parties, non-governmental organizations and Christian churches.

The new governments of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Ecuador, Paraguay and Bolivia put into effect policies which reestablished the role of the state in redistributing wealth, reorganizing public services, particularly access to healthcare and education and investment in public works. A more suitable share of the revenue from the exploitation of natural resources (oil, gas, minerals, agricultural produce) was negotiated between multinational corporations and the state, and the decade-long favourable international market situation allowed a significant increase in national income for these countries.

To talk about the end of a cycle conveys the idea of some sort of historical determinism that suggests the inevitability of the alternation of power between the Left and the Right - an inadequate concept if the goal is to replace an oligarchy’s hegemony by popular democratic regimes. On the assumption that the new governments were post-neoliberal but not post-capitalist, a number of factors allow us to suggest, however, that we are witnessing an exhaustion of the post-neoliberal experiences.

Obviously, it would be delusory to think that “instant” socialism is at all possible in a capitalist world during a systemic and therefore particularly aggressive crisis. The question of a necessary transition arises."
2016  latinamerica  progressivism  neoliberalism  brazil  brasil  argentina  uruguay  nicaragua  venezuela  ecuador  paraguay  bolivia  oligarchy  government  policy  development  economics  françoishoutart 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Entrepreneurs don’t have a special gene for risk—they come from families with money - Quartz
"We’re in an era of the cult of the entrepreneur. We analyze the Tory Burches and Evan Spiegels of the world looking for a magic formula or set of personality traits that lead to success. Entrepreneurship is on the rise, and more students coming out of business schools are choosing startup life over Wall Street.

But what often gets lost in these conversations is that the most common shared trait among entrepreneurs is access to financial capital—family money, an inheritance, or a pedigree and connections that allow for access to financial stability. While it seems that entrepreneurs tend to have an admirable penchant for risk, it’s usually that access to money which allows them to take risks.

And this is a key advantage: When basic needs are met, it’s easier to be creative; when you know you have a safety net, you are more willing to take risks. “Many other researchers have replicated the finding that entrepreneurship is more about cash than dash,” University of Warwick professor Andrew Oswald tells Quartz. “Genes probably matter, as in most things in life, but not much.”

University of California, Berkeley economists Ross Levine and Rona Rubenstein analyzed the shared traits of entrepreneurs in a 2013 paper, and found that most were white, male, and highly educated. “If one does not have money in the form of a family with money, the chances of becoming an entrepreneur drop quite a bit,” Levine tells Quartz.

New research out this week from the National Bureau of Economic Research (paywall) looked at risk-taking in the stock market and found that environmental factors (not genetic) most influenced behavior, pointing to the fact that risk tolerance is conditioned over time (dispelling the myth of an elusive “entrepreneurship gene“).

Resilience is undoubtably a necessary trait for success; many notable entrepreneurs experienced success only after leading failed ventures. But the barrier to entry is very high.

For creative professions, starting a new venture is the ultimate privilege. Many startup founders do not take a salary for some time. The average cost to launch a startup is around $30,000, according to the Kauffman Foundation. Data from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor show that more than 80% of funding for new businesses comes from personal savings and friends and family.

“Following your dreams is dangerous,” a 31-year-old woman who runs in social entrepreneurship circles in New York, and asked not to be named, told Quartz. “This whole bulk of the population is being seduced into thinking that they can just go out and pursue their dream anytime, but it’s not true.”
1
So while yes, there’s certainly a lot of hard work that goes into building something, there’s also a lot of privilege involved—a factor that is often underestimated."
entrepreneurship  economics  business  inequality  wealth  2015  startups  aimeegroth  oligarchy  plutocracy  establishment  risk  risktaking  capital  capitalism  finance  privilege  conservatism 
july 2015 by robertogreco
BBC - Blogs - Adam Curtis - HAPPIDROME - Part One
"In the battle for Kobane on the Syrian border everyone talks about the enemy - IS - and the frightening ideas that drive them. No-one talks about the Kurdish defenders and what inspires them.

But the moment you look into what the Kurds are fighting for - what you discover is absolutely fascinating. They have a vision of creating a completely new kind of society that is based on the ideas of a forgotten American revolutionary thinker.

He wanted to create a future world in which there would be no hierarchies, no systems that exercise power and control individuals. And the Kurds in Kobane are trying to build a model of that world.

It means that the battle we are watching night after night is not just between good and evil. It is also a struggle of an optimistic vision of the future against a dark conservative idea drawn from the past.

It is a struggle that may also have great relevance to us in the west. Because the revolutionary ideas that have inspired the Kurds also shine a powerful light on the system of power in Britain today. They argue that we in the west are controlled by a new kind of hierarchical power that we don’t fully see or understand.

There are two men at the heart of this story.

One is the American revolutionary thinker. He is called Murray Bookchin. Here is a picture of Bookchin looking revolutionary.

The other man is called Abdullah Ocalan. He is the leader of the Kurdish revolutionary group in Turkey - the PKK

Here he is in 1999 after he had been captured by Turkish security forces and was on his way to a jail on a tiny island in the Sea of Marmara where he would be the only prisoner.

In his solitude he would start to read the theories of Murray Bookchin and decide they were the template for a future world.

Both men began as hardline marxists.

Murray Bookchin was born in New York in 1921. In the 1930s he joined the American Communist Party. But after the second world war he began to question the whole theory that underpinned revolutionary marxism.

What changed everything for him was the experience of working in a factory. Bookchin had gone to work for General Motors - and he realized as he watched his fellow workers that Marx, Lenin and all the other theorists were wrong about the working class.

The Marxist theory said that once working men and women came together in factories the scales would fall from their eyes - and they would see clearly how they were being oppressed. They would also see how they could bond together to become a powerful force that would overthrow the capitalists.

Bookchin saw that the very opposite was happening. This was because the factory was organised as a hierarchy - a system of organisation and control that the workers lived with and experienced every second of the day. As they did so, that hierarchical system became firmly embedded in their minds - and made them more passive and more accepting of their oppression.

But Bookchin didn’t do what most disillusioned American Marxists in the 1950s did - either run away to academia, or become a cynical neo-conservative. Instead he remained an optimist and decided to completely rework revolutionary theory.

Here is Bookchin in 1983 talking about how his thinking became transformed - and how his factory experiences led him towards anarchism. It’s part of a fantastic film called Anarchism in America - as well as Bookchin it’s got a great bit with Jello Biafra, and it’s really worth watching if you can get hold of it.

[video]



Watching these sections of the film does make you think that what is being described is spookily close to the system we live in today. And that maybe we have misunderstood what really has emerged to run society since the 1980s.

The accepted version is that the neo-liberal right and the free market triumphed. But maybe the truth is that what we have today is far closer to a system managed by a technocratic elite who have no real interest in politics - but rather in creating a system of rewards that both keeps us passive and happy - and also makes that elite a lot of money.

That in the mid 1980s the new networks of computers which allowed everyone to borrow money came together with lifestyle consumerism to create a system of social management very close to Skinner’s vision.

Just like in the mental hospital we are all given fake money in the form of credit - that we can then use to get rewards, which keep us happy and passive. Those same technologies that feed us the fake money can also be used to monitor us in extraordinary detail. And that information is then used used to nudge us gently towards the right rewards and the right behaviours - and in extremis we can be cut off from the rewards.

The only problem with that system is that the pigeons may be getting restless. That not only has the system not worked properly since the financial crash of 2008, but that the growing inequalities it creates are also becoming a bit too obvious. The elite is overdoing it and - passive or not - the masses are starting to notice.

Which makes the alternative - the vision put forward by Lewis Mumford in the film, and which inspired Murray Bookchin - and the Kurds, seem more interesting as an alternative.

Here is Mumford from the film. He starts by criticising the managed utopia - how it turns people into sleepwalkers. He has a great quote:

“You reward them. You make people do exactly what you want with some form of sugar-coated drug or candy which will make them think they are actually enjoying every moment of it.

This is the most dangerous of all systems of compulsion. That’s why I regard Skinner’s utopia as another name for Hell. And it would be a worse hell because we wouldn’t realise we were there.

We would imagine we were still in Heaven.”

Mumford then goes on to describe eloquently the alternative, a system of direct democracy where we would all awake and become genuinely empowered - able to take part properly in deciding our destiny.

It is a powerful and optimistic vision of a new kind of progressive politics. But it has one very serious problem.

It means we would have to spend a lot of time going to meetings."
anarchism  2014  kurds  iraq  kobane  isis  murraybookchin  abdullahocalan  labor  marxism  hierarchy  hierarchies  horizontality  anarchy  oppression  revolution  optimism  jellobiafra  capital  capitalism  wagelabor  work  power  control  bfskinner  economics  domination  exploitation  gender  socialism  liberation  lewismumford  utopia  politics  oligarchy  neoliberalism  elitism  conditioning  compulsion  autonomy  behaviorism  hermankahn  hudsoninstitute  technocrats  1983  technocracy 
november 2014 by robertogreco
New Left Review - Wolfgang Streeck: How Will Capitalism End?
"In summary, capitalism, as a social order held together by a promise of boundless collective progress, is in critical condition. Growth is giving way to secular stagnation; what economic progress remains is less and less shared; and confidence in the capitalist money economy is leveraged on a rising mountain of promises that are ever less likely to be kept. Since the 1970s, the capitalist centre has undergone three successive crises, of inflation, public finances and private debt. Today, in an uneasy phase of transition, its survival depends on central banks providing it with unlimited synthetic liquidity. Step by step, capitalism’s shotgun marriage with democracy since 1945 is breaking up. On the three frontiers of commodification—labour, nature and money—regulatory institutions restraining the advance of capitalism for its own good have collapsed, and after the final victory of capitalism over its enemies no political agency capable of rebuilding them is in sight. The capitalist system is at present stricken with at least five worsening disorders for which no cure is at hand: declining growth, oligarchy, starvation of the public sphere, corruption and international anarchy. What is to be expected, on the basis of capitalism’s recent historical record, is a long and painful period of cumulative decay: of intensifying frictions, of fragility and uncertainty, and of a steady succession of ‘normal accidents’—not necessarily but quite possibly on the scale of the global breakdown of the 1930s."
capitalism  disaster  economics  failure  finance  decline  labor  government  democracy  plutocracy  oligarchy  inequality  comingrevolution  wolfgangstreeck  corruption  politics  latecapitalism  commodification  growth 
august 2014 by robertogreco
Now That’s Rich - NYTimes.com
"First, modern inequality isn’t about graduates. It’s about oligarchs. Apologists for soaring inequality almost always try to disguise the gigantic incomes of the truly rich by hiding them in a crowd of the merely affluent. Instead of talking about the 1 percent or the 0.1 percent, they talk about the rising incomes of college graduates, or maybe the top 5 percent. The goal of this misdirection is to soften the picture, to make it seem as if we’re talking about ordinary white-collar professionals who get ahead through education and hard work.

But many Americans are well-educated and work hard. For example, schoolteachers. Yet they don’t get the big bucks. Last year, those 25 hedge fund managers made more than twice as much as all the kindergarten teachers in America combined. And, no, it wasn’t always thus: The vast gulf that now exists between the upper-middle-class and the truly rich didn’t emerge until the Reagan years.

Second, ignore the rhetoric about “job creators” and all that. Conservatives want you to believe that the big rewards in modern America go to innovators and entrepreneurs, people who build businesses and push technology forward. But that’s not what those hedge fund managers do for a living; they’re in the business of financial speculation, which John Maynard Keynes characterized as “anticipating what average opinion expects the average opinion to be.” Or since they make much of their income from fees, they’re actually in the business of convincing other people that they can anticipate average opinion about average opinion.

Once upon a time, you might have been able to argue with a straight face that all this wheeling and dealing was productive, that the financial elite was actually providing services to society commensurate with its rewards. But, at this point, the evidence suggests that hedge funds are a bad deal for everyone except their managers; they don’t deliver high enough returns to justify those huge fees, and they’re a major source of economic instability.

More broadly, we’re still living in the shadow of a crisis brought on by a runaway financial industry. Total catastrophe was avoided by bailing out banks at taxpayer expense, but we’re still nowhere close to making up for job losses in the millions and economic losses in the trillions. Given that history, do you really want to claim that America’s top earners — who are mainly either financial managers or executives at big corporations — are economic heroes?

Finally, a close look at the rich list supports the thesis made famous by Thomas Piketty in his book “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” — namely, that we’re on our way toward a society dominated by wealth, much of it inherited, rather than work.

At first sight, this may not be obvious. The members of the rich list are, after all, self-made men. But, by and large, they did their self-making a long time ago. As Bloomberg View’s Matt Levine points out, these days a lot of top money managers’ income comes not from investing other people’s money but from returns on their own accumulated wealth — that is, the reason they make so much is the fact that they’re already very rich.

And this is, if you think about, an inevitable development. Over time, extreme inequality in income leads to extreme inequality of wealth; indeed, the wealth share of America’s top 0.1 percent is back at Gilded Age levels. This, in turn, means that high incomes increasingly come from investment income, not salaries. And it’s only a matter of time before inheritance becomes the biggest source of great wealth.

But why does all of this matter? Basically, it’s about taxes.

America has a long tradition of imposing high taxes on big incomes and large fortunes, designed to limit the concentration of economic power as well as raising revenue. These days, however, suggestions that we revive that tradition face angry claims that taxing the rich is destructive and immoral — destructive because it discourages job creators from doing their thing, immoral because people have a right to keep what they earn.

But such claims rest crucially on myths about who the rich really are and how they make their money. Next time you hear someone declaiming about how cruel it is to persecute the rich, think about the hedge fund guys, and ask yourself if it would really be a terrible thing if they paid more in taxes."
paulkrugman  income  inequality  wealth  oligarchy  2014  economics  instability  politics  policy  taxes  finance  productivity  jobs  labor  thomaspiketty  society  class 
may 2014 by robertogreco
18. Webstock 2014 Talk Notes and References - postarchitectural
[Direct link to video: https://vimeo.com/91957759 ]
[See also: http://www.webstock.org.nz/talks/the-future-happens-so-much/ ]

"I was honored to be invited to Webstock 2014 to speak, and decided to use it as an opportunity to talk about startups and growth in general.

I prepared for this talk by collecting links, notes, and references in a flat text file, like I did for Eyeo and Visualized. These references are vaguely sorted into the structure of the talk. Roughly, I tried to talk about the future happening all around us, the startup ecosystem and the pressures for growth that got us there, and the dangerous sides of it both at an individual and a corporate level. I ended by talking about ways for us as a community to intervene in these systems of growth.

The framework of finding places to intervene comes from Leverage Points by Donella Meadows, and I was trying to apply the idea of 'monstrous thoughts' from Just Asking by David Foster Wallace. And though what I was trying to get across is much better said and felt through books like Seeing like a State, Debt, or Arctic Dreams, here's what was in my head."
shahwang  2014  webstock  donellameadows  jamescscott  seeinglikeastate  davidgraeber  debt  economics  barrylopez  trevorpaglen  google  technology  prism  robotics  robots  surveillance  systemsthinking  growth  finance  venturecapital  maciejceglowski  millsbaker  mandybrown  danhon  advertising  meritocracy  democracy  snapchat  capitalism  infrastructure  internet  web  future  irrationalexuberance  github  geopffmanaugh  corproratism  shareholders  oligopoly  oligarchy  fredscharmen  kenmcleod  ianbanks  eleanorsaitta  quinnorton  adamgreenfield  marshallbrain  politics  edwardsnowden  davidsimon  georgepacker  nicolefenton  power  responsibility  davidfosterwallace  christinaxu  money  adamcurtis  dmytrikleiner  charlieloyd  wealth  risk  sarahkendxior  markjacobson  anildash  rebeccasolnit  russellbrand  louisck  caseygollan  alexpayne  judsontrue  jamesdarling  jenlowe  wilsonminer  kierkegaard  readinglist  startups  kiev  systems  control  data  resistance  obligation  care  cynicism  snark  change  changetheory  neoliberalism  intervention  leveragepoints  engagement  nonprofit  changemaki 
april 2014 by robertogreco
America the voiceless: Voters can’t compete with big campaign cash | Al Jazeera America
"It’s not just your imagination: The influence of money in politics has indeed drowned out the voices of American voters, a new analysis shows, with runaway corporate lobbying and a lack of campaign finance reform to blame for giving much more political weight to the wealthy."
government  policy  influence  us  money  corporatism  2014  corruption  democracy  oligarchy  campaignfinance  lobbying  campaignfinancereform  congress  elections 
april 2014 by robertogreco
Videogames and the Spirit of Capitalism | Molleindustria
"We are only learning to speak of immeasurable qualities through videogames. It’s a slow and collective process of hacking accounting machines into expressive machines. Computer games need to learn from their non-digital counterparts to be loose interfaces between people. A new game aesthetic has to be explored: one that revels in problem-making over problem-solving, that celebrates paradoxes and ruptures, that doesn’t eschew broken and dysfunctional systems because the broken and dysfunctional systems governing our lives need to be unpacked and not idealized.

Strategies are to be discovered: poetic wrenches have to be thrown in the works; gears and valves have to grow hair, start pulsing and breathing; algorithms must learn to tell stories and scream in pain."

[direct link to video: https://vimeo.com/86738382 ]
videogames  gaming  paolopedercini  molleindustria  games  art  design  capitalism  economics  efficiency  control  rationalization  marxism  bureaucracy  consumption  commerce  standardization  socialnetworks  quantification  sybernetics  gamification  goals  society  taylorism  relationships  pokemon  facebook  farmville  zynga  management  power  labor  addiction  addictiveness  badges  behavior  measurement  commodification  rogercaillois  play  idleness  ludism  leisure  leisurearts  artleisure  maxweber  resistance  consciousness  storytelling  notgames  taleoftales  agency  proteus  richardhofmeier  cartlife  simulation  2014  douglaswilson  spaceteam  henrysmith  cooperativegames  collaborativegames  tamatipico  tuboflex  everydaythesamedream  unmanned  systemsthinking  human  humans  oligarchy  negativeexternalities  gamedesign  poetry  johannsebastianjoust  edg  srg  shrequest1  simulations  pokémon 
february 2014 by robertogreco
Half an Hour: The Robot Teachers
"There is an ongoing and incessant campaign afoot to privatize education. In the United States, education is almost the last bastion of public expenditure. In Canada, both health care and education face the forces of privatization and commercialization.

The results are wholly predictable. In all cases, the result will be a system that favours a small moneyed elite and leaves the rest of the population struggling to obtain whatever health and education they can obtain with their meagre holdings. As more wealth accumulates in the hands of the corporations and the wealthy, the worse health and education outcomes become for the less well-off in society.

(Indeed, from my perspective, one of the greatest scams perpetrated by the wealthy about the education system is that it has a liberal bias. …)"

But here's where the challenge arises for the education and university system: it was designed to support income inequality and designed to favour the wealthy."
via:tealtan  economics  policy  politics  schooling  oligarchy  wealth  wealthy  sorting  tonybates  liberalbias  criticalthinking  higherorderskills  texas  california  corporations  corporatism  bias  corruption  influence  wealthdistribution  poverty  inequity  disparity  capitalism  adaptivelearningsystems  mitx  udemy  coursera  learninganalytics  programmedlearning  universalhealthcare  healthcare  deschooling  publiceducation  onlinelearning  canon  cv  technology  scriptedlearning  robotteachers  democracy  highereducation  highered  moocs  pedagogy  hierarchies  hierarchy  inequality  schools  education  privatization  privilege  us  canad  2012  stephendownes  mooc 
september 2012 by robertogreco
Jim Sleeper: What the Yale President's Resignation Means for Higher Education
"Those of us who've criticized Yale's Singapore venture know that many wonderful young Singaporeans want a fuller liberal education, but we also see the advance of a slick model of self-censorship in an authoritarian corporate milieu in that country and, increasingly, in public life in the U.S. While self-censorship in Singapore is ubiquitous and routine owing to fear of the state, here it's embraced almost enthusiastically by some undergraduates who think it will bring them closer to power and commercial advantage.

This old misunderstanding of where power really comes from and how it flows has carried Yale undergraduates from secret, Skull & Bones bonding of yore into countless foreign-policy and domestic blunders. Yet some students embrace that kind of self-censorship with refreshed ignorance every year because they want "access" without thinking about what they're gaining "access" to or recognizing that they're only cultivating profiles in timidity. …"
timidity  india  china  singapore  commercialization  commercialism  bravery  humanities  richarlevin  jimsleeper  2012  power  economics  politics  us  self-censorship  highereducation  highered  education  corporatism  oligarchy  yale 
september 2012 by robertogreco
n+1: Lions in Winter, Part Two
"The result is a bad dialectic between the casual readers, who like to check out books, & the fussy, over-educated “elite” readers, who want obscure volumes."

"More than anything, this rhetoric reveals the fundamentally anti-democratic worldview that has taken hold at the library. It is of a piece with what the new Masters of the Universe have accomplished in the public schools, where hedge funders have provided the lion’s share of the backing for privatization, & in the so-called reforms to our financial system, where technocrats meet behind closed doors to decide what will be best for the rest of us."

"Communicate & market—this is what “managed democracy” looks like."

"An internal culture of collegial debate, protected by an understanding that senior librarians had a form of tenure which gave them security to express themselves candidly, has been replaced at the library by what… is a culture of secrecy & fear."

[Part 1: http://nplusonemag.com/lions-in-winter ]
finance  technocrats  schoolreform  privatization  publicschools  elites  power  philanthropy  oligarchy  manageddemocracy  collegiality  debate  inclusion  decisionmaking  management  organizations  fear  secrecy  change  democracy  newyorkpubliclibrary  culture  research  2012  books  library  libraries  nyc  nypl  inclusivity  inlcusivity 
july 2012 by robertogreco
Why Elites Fail | The Nation
"While smartness is necessary for competent elites, it is far from sufficient: wisdom, judgment, empathy and ethical rigor are all as important, even if those traits are far less valued. Indeed, extreme intelligence without these qualities can be extremely destructive. But empathy does not impress the same way smartness does. Smartness dazzles and mesmerizes. More important, it intimidates. When a group of powerful people get together to make a group decision, conflict and argumentation ensue, and more often than not the decision that emerges is that which is articulated most forcefully by those parties perceived to be the “smartest.”

It is under these conditions that destructive intelligence flourishes."
judgement  wisdom  ethics  smartness  gamingthesystem  class  power  destructiveintelligence  intelligence  psychopathy  empathy  2012  oligarchy  education  us  inequality  elites  policy  society  politics  meritocracy 
june 2012 by robertogreco
When Democracy Weakens - NYTimes.com
"As the throngs celebrated in Cairo, I couldn’t help wondering about what is happening to democracy here in the US. I think it’s on the ropes. We’re in serious danger of becoming a democracy in name only.

While millions of ordinary Americans are struggling with unemployment & declining standards of living, the levers of real power have been all but completely commandeered by the financial & corporate elite. It doesn’t really matter what ordinary people want. The wealthy call the tune, & the politicians dance.

So what we get in this democracy of ours are astounding & increasingly obscene tax breaks & other windfall benefits for wealthiest, while bought-&-paid-for politicians hack away at essential public services & social safety net, saying we can’t afford them. One state after another is reporting that it cannot pay its bills. Public employees across the country are walking the plank by the tens of thousands…Medicaid…is under savage assault from nearly all quarters."
bobherbert  policy  us  politics  wealth  disparity  egypt  democracy  oligarchy  standardofliving  poverty  class  2011  revolution  budget  budgetcuts  government  corruption  power  elite  money  wealthdistribution 
february 2011 by robertogreco
College Is Only Good for Helping Rich People Get Richer - Education - GOOD
"truth is that students hardly work in college, & that they learn almost nothing while they’re there. College is a place where already advantaged youths spend 4 years enjoying themselves, & upon completion, receive considerable rewards for having done almost nothing…Arum & Roksa find that almost half of students have no improvement in critical thinking, complex reasoning, & writing…after 2 years in college…colleges are increasingly places for the rich. It’s too simplistic, but this is pretty much the story. Colleges admit already advantaged Americans. They don’t ask them to do much or learn much. At the end of four years, we give them a certificate. That certificate entitles them to higher earnings. Schools help obscure the aristocratic quality to American life. They do so by converting birthrights (which we all think are unfair) into credentials (which have the appearance of merit)."

[via: http://stevemiranda.wordpress.com/2010/12/06/the-importance-of-following-directions/ ]
college  good  highered  education  learning  lcproject  schooliness  unschooling  deschooling  oligarchy  wealth  advantage  credentials  criticism  criticalthinking  aristocracy 
december 2010 by robertogreco
CIPER Chile » Blog Archive » Los vínculos de Piñera con las empresas de los edificios dañados: Los hombres del Presidente
"A Carlos Alberto Délano, José Cox y el intendente de Santiago, Fernando Echeverría, los unen, entre otras cosas, el terremoto y Sebastián Piñera. Los tres tienen participación en empresas cuyos edificios han resultado seriamente dañados y todos han hecho negocios inmobiliarios con Sebastián Piñera. El Mandatario también tiene participación accionaria en una de las empresas que hoy enfrenta problemas por un edificio en calle Amunategui. Estos son algunos de los cabos de la red que liga a los empresarios “terremoteados” con el actual Presidente."
chile  sebastiánpiñera  oligarchy  corruption  politics  influence  safety  santiago  earthquakes 
march 2010 by robertogreco

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