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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
Opinion | To Restore Civil Society, Start With the Library - The New York Times
"Is the public library obsolete?

A lot of powerful forces in society seem to think so. In recent years, declines in the circulation of bound books in some parts of the country have led prominent critics to argue that libraries are no longer serving their historical function. Countless elected officials insist that in the 21st century — when so many books are digitized, so much public culture exists online and so often people interact virtually — libraries no longer need the support they once commanded.

Libraries are already starved for resources. In some cities, even affluent ones like Atlanta, entire branches are being shut down. In San Jose, Calif., just down the road from Facebook, Google and Apple, the public library budget is so tight that users with overdue fees above $20 aren’t allowed to borrow books or use computers.

But the problem that libraries face today isn’t irrelevance. Indeed, in New York and many other cities, library circulation, program attendance and average hours spent visiting are up. The real problem that libraries face is that so many people are using them, and for such a wide variety of purposes, that library systems and their employees are overwhelmed. According to a 2016 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, about half of all Americans ages 16 and over used a public library in the past year, and two-thirds say that closing their local branch would have a “major impact on their community.”

Libraries are being disparaged and neglected at precisely the moment when they are most valued and necessary. Why the disconnect? In part it’s because the founding principle of the public library — that all people deserve free, open access to our shared culture and heritage — is out of sync with the market logic that dominates our world. But it’s also because so few influential people understand the expansive role that libraries play in modern communities.

Libraries are an example of what I call “social infrastructure”: the physical spaces and organizations that shape the way people interact. Libraries don’t just provide free access to books and other cultural materials, they also offer things like companionship for older adults, de facto child care for busy parents, language instruction for immigrants and welcoming public spaces for the poor, the homeless and young people.

I recently spent a year doing ethnographic research in libraries in New York City. Again and again, I was reminded how essential libraries are, not only for a neighborhood’s vitality but also for helping to address all manner of personal problems.

For older people, especially widows, widowers and those who live alone, libraries are places for culture and company, through book clubs, movie nights, sewing circles and classes in art, current events and computing. For many, the library is the main place they interact with people from other generations.

For children and teenagers, libraries help instill an ethic of responsibility, to themselves and to their neighbors, by teaching them what it means to borrow and take care of something public, and to return it so others can have it too. For new parents, grandparents and caretakers who feel overwhelmed when watching an infant or a toddler by themselves, libraries are a godsend.

In many neighborhoods, particularly those where young people aren’t hyper-scheduled in formal after-school programs, libraries are highly popular among adolescents and teenagers who want to spend time with other people their age. One reason is that they’re open, accessible and free. Another is that the library staff members welcome them; in many branches, they even assign areas for teenagers to be with one another.

To appreciate why this matters, compare the social space of the library with the social space of commercial establishments like Starbucks or McDonald’s. These are valuable parts of the social infrastructure, but not everyone can afford to frequent them, and not all paying customers are welcome to stay for long.

Older and poor people will often avoid Starbucks altogether, because the fare is too expensive and they feel that they don’t belong. The elderly library patrons I got to know in New York told me that they feel even less welcome in the trendy new coffee shops, bars and restaurants that are so common in the city’s gentrifying neighborhoods. Poor and homeless library patrons don’t even consider entering these places. They know from experience that simply standing outside a high-end eatery can prompt managers to call the police. But you rarely see a police officer in a library.

This is not to say that libraries are always peaceful and serene. During the time I spent doing research, I witnessed a handful of heated disputes, physical altercations and other uncomfortable situations, sometimes involving people who appeared to be mentally ill or under the influence of drugs. But such problems are inevitable in a public institution that’s dedicated to open access, especially when drug clinics, homeless shelters and food banks routinely turn away — and often refer to the library! — those who most need help. What’s remarkable is how rarely these disruptions happen, how civilly they are managed and how quickly a library regains its rhythm afterward.

The openness and diversity that flourish in neighborhood libraries were once a hallmark of urban culture. But that has changed. Though American cities are growing more ethnically, racially and culturally diverse, they too often remain divided and unequal, with some neighborhoods cutting themselves off from difference — sometimes intentionally, sometimes just by dint of rising costs — particularly when it comes to race and social class.

Libraries are the kinds of places where people with different backgrounds, passions and interests can take part in a living democratic culture. They are the kinds of places where the public, private and philanthropic sectors can work together to reach for something higher than the bottom line.

This summer, Forbes magazine published an article arguing that libraries no longer served a purpose and did not deserve public support. The author, an economist, suggested that Amazon replace libraries with its own retail outlets, and claimed that most Americans would prefer a free-market option. The public response — from librarians especially, but also public officials and ordinary citizens — was so overwhelmingly negative that Forbes deleted the article from its website.

We should take heed. Today, as cities and suburbs continue to reinvent themselves, and as cynics claim that government has nothing good to contribute to that process, it’s important that institutions like libraries get the recognition they deserve. It’s worth noting that “liber,” the Latin root of the word “library,” means both “book” and “free.” Libraries stand for and exemplify something that needs defending: the public institutions that — even in an age of atomization, polarization and inequality — serve as the bedrock of civil society.

If we have any chance of rebuilding a better society, social infrastructure like the library is precisely what we need."

[See also: "Your Public Library Is Where It’s At"
https://www.subtraction.com/2018/09/11/your-public-library-is-where-its-at/

"I’ve seen for myself real life examples of virtually all of these use cases. It really opened my eyes to how vital a civic institution the libraries in my community are. But I take mild exception to the emphasis that Klinenberg places on a library’s ability to “address all manner of personal problems.” That phrasing gives the impression that a library is a place you go principally to solve some kind of challenge.

While that’s often true, it’s also true that a library is a building that’s uniquely open to any purpose you bring to it. Your business there could be educational, professional, personal or even undecided, and you don’t need to declare it to anyone—you can literally loiter in your local public library with no fear of consequences.

Even more radically, your time at the library comes with absolutely no expectation that you buy anything. Or even that you transact at all. And there’s certainly no implication that your data or your rights are being surrendered in return for the services you partake in.

This rare openness and neutrality imbues libraries with a distinct sense of community, of us, of everyone having come together to fund and build and participate in this collective sharing of knowledge and space. All of that seems exceedingly rare in this increasingly commercial, exposed world of ours. In a way it’s quite amazing that the concept continues to persist at all.

And when we look at it this way, as a startlingly, almost defiantly civilized institution, it seems even more urgent that we make sure it not only continues to survive, but that it should also thrive, too. If not for us, then for future generations who will no doubt one day wonder why we gave up so much of our personal rights and communal pleasures in exchange for digital likes and upturned thumbs. For years I took the existence of libraries for granted and operated under the assumption that they were there for others. Now I realize that they’re there for everybody."
ericklinenberg  libraries  culture  publiclibraries  2018  community  education  self-directed  self-directedlearning  books  publicspaces  ethnography  nyc  neighborhoods  thirdspaces  openness  diversity  us  democracy  inequality  cities  atomization  polarization  khoivinh 
january 2019 by robertogreco
In Praise of Impractical Movements | Dissent Magazine
"Bernie Sanders’s insurgent presidential campaign has opened up a debate about how social change happens in our society. The official version of how progress is won—currently voiced by mainstream pundits and members of a spooked Democratic Party establishment—goes something like this: politics is a tricky business, gains coming through the work of pragmatic insiders who know how to maneuver within the system. In order to get things done, you have to play the game, be realistic, and accept the established limits of debate in Washington, D.C.

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

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

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

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

Here, then, are three moments when the world broke open—and two when it still might."
socialchange  politics  policy  society  revolution  civilrightsmovement  us  bosnia  serbia  otpor  gaymarriage  markengler  paulengler  2016  environment  immigration  economics  humanity  evanwolfson  marcsolomon  egypt  resistance  protest  nonviolence  martinlutherkingjr  history  incrementalism  francesfoxpiven  berniesanders  grassroots  polarization  disruption  statusquo  laborrights  defiance  mlk 
june 2016 by robertogreco
I Can Tolerate Anything Except The Outgroup | Slate Star Codex
[via: http://www.theamericanconservative.com/jacobs/the-outgroup-and-its-errors/ ]

"One day I realized that entirely by accident I was fulfilling all the Jewish stereotypes.

I’m nerdy, over-educated, good with words, good with money, weird sense of humor, don’t get outside much, I like deli sandwiches. And I’m a psychiatrist, which is about the most stereotypically Jewish profession short of maybe stand-up comedian or rabbi.

I’m not very religious. And I don’t go to synagogue. But that’s stereotypically Jewish too!

I bring this up because it would be a mistake to think “Well, a Jewish person is by definition someone who is born of a Jewish mother. Or I guess it sort of also means someone who follows the Mosaic Law and goes to synagogue. But I don’t care about Scott’s mother, and I know he doesn’t go to synagogue, so I can’t gain any useful information from knowing Scott is Jewish.”

The defining factors of Judaism – Torah-reading, synagogue-following, mother-having – are the tip of a giant iceberg. Jews sometimes identify as a “tribe”, and even if you don’t attend synagogue, you’re still a member of that tribe and people can still (in a statistical way) infer things about you by knowing your Jewish identity – like how likely they are to be psychiatrists.

The last section raised a question – if people rarely select their friends and associates and customers explicitly for politics, how do we end up with such intense political segregation?

Well, in the same way “going to synagogue” is merely the iceberg-tip of a Jewish tribe with many distinguishing characteristics, so “voting Republican” or “identifying as conservative” or “believing in creationism” is the iceberg-tip of a conservative tribe with many distinguishing characteristics.

A disproportionate number of my friends are Jewish, because I meet them at psychiatry conferences or something – we self-segregate not based on explicit religion but on implicit tribal characteristics. So in the same way, political tribes self-segregate to an impressive extent – a 1/10^45 extent, I will never tire of hammering in – based on their implicit tribal characteristics.

The people who are actually into this sort of thing sketch out a bunch of speculative tribes and subtribes, but to make it easier, let me stick with two and a half.

The Red Tribe is most classically typified by conservative political beliefs, strong evangelical religious beliefs, creationism, opposing gay marriage, owning guns, eating steak, drinking Coca-Cola, driving SUVs, watching lots of TV, enjoying American football, getting conspicuously upset about terrorists and commies, marrying early, divorcing early, shouting “USA IS NUMBER ONE!!!”, and listening to country music.

The Blue Tribe is most classically typified by liberal political beliefs, vague agnosticism, supporting gay rights, thinking guns are barbaric, eating arugula, drinking fancy bottled water, driving Priuses, reading lots of books, being highly educated, mocking American football, feeling vaguely like they should like soccer but never really being able to get into it, getting conspicuously upset about sexists and bigots, marrying later, constantly pointing out how much more civilized European countries are than America, and listening to “everything except country”.

(There is a partly-formed attempt to spin off a Grey Tribe typified by libertarian political beliefs, Dawkins-style atheism, vague annoyance that the question of gay rights even comes up, eating paleo, drinking Soylent, calling in rides on Uber, reading lots of blogs, calling American football “sportsball”, getting conspicuously upset about the War on Drugs and the NSA, and listening to filk – but for our current purposes this is a distraction and they can safely be considered part of the Blue Tribe most of the time)

I think these “tribes” will turn out to be even stronger categories than politics. Harvard might skew 80-20 in terms of Democrats vs. Republicans, 90-10 in terms of liberals vs. conservatives, but maybe 99-1 in terms of Blues vs. Reds.

It’s the many, many differences between these tribes that explain the strength of the filter bubble – which have I mentioned segregates people at a strength of 1/10^45? Even in something as seemingly politically uncharged as going to California Pizza Kitchen or Sushi House for dinner, I’m restricting myself to the set of people who like cute artisanal pizzas or sophisticated foreign foods, which are classically Blue Tribe characteristics.

Are these tribes based on geography? Are they based on race, ethnic origin, religion, IQ, what TV channels you watched as a kid? I don’t know.

Some of it is certainly genetic – estimates of the genetic contribution to political association range from 0.4 to 0.6. Heritability of one’s attitudes toward gay rights range from 0.3 to 0.5, which hilariously is a little more heritable than homosexuality itself.

(for an interesting attempt to break these down into more rigorous concepts like “traditionalism”, “authoritarianism”, and “in-group favoritism” and find the genetic loading for each see here. For an attempt to trace the specific genes involved, which mostly turn out to be NMDA receptors, see here)

But I don’t think it’s just genetics. There’s something else going on too. The word “class” seems like the closest analogue, but only if you use it in the sophisticated Paul Fussell Guide Through the American Status System way instead of the boring “another word for how much money you make” way.

For now we can just accept them as a brute fact – as multiple coexisting societies that might as well be made of dark matter for all of the interaction they have with one another – and move on."



"Every election cycle like clockwork, conservatives accuse liberals of not being sufficiently pro-America. And every election cycle like clockwork, liberals give extremely unconvincing denials of this.

“It’s not that we’re, like, against America per se. It’s just that…well, did you know Europe has much better health care than we do? And much lower crime rates? I mean, come on, how did they get so awesome? And we’re just sitting here, can’t even get the gay marriage thing sorted out, seriously, what’s wrong with a country that can’t…sorry, what were we talking about? Oh yeah, America. They’re okay. Cesar Chavez was really neat. So were some other people outside the mainstream who became famous precisely by criticizing majority society. That’s sort of like America being great, in that I think the parts of it that point out how bad the rest of it are often make excellent points. Vote for me!”

(sorry, I make fun of you because I love you)

There was a big brouhaha a couple of years ago when, as it first became apparent Obama had a good shot at the Presidency, Michelle Obama said that “for the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country.”

Republicans pounced on the comment, asking why she hadn’t felt proud before, and she backtracked saying of course she was proud all the time and she loves America with the burning fury of a million suns and she was just saying that the Obama campaign was particularly inspiring.

As unconvincing denials go, this one was pretty far up there. But no one really held it against her. Probably most Obama voters felt vaguely the same way. I was an Obama voter, and I have proud memories of spending my Fourth of Julys as a kid debunking people’s heartfelt emotions of patriotism. Aaron Sorkin:
[What makes America the greatest country in the world?] It’s not the greatest country in the world! We’re seventh in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science, 49th in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, third in median household income, No. 4 in labor force, and No. 4 in exports. So when you ask what makes us the greatest country in the world, I don’t know what the f*** you’re talking about.

(Another good retort is “We’re number one? Sure – number one in incarceration rates, drone strikes, and making new parents go back to work!”)

All of this is true, of course. But it’s weird that it’s such a classic interest of members of the Blue Tribe, and members of the Red Tribe never seem to bring it up.

(“We’re number one? Sure – number one in levels of sexual degeneracy! Well, I guess probably number two, after the Netherlands, but they’re really small and shouldn’t count.”)

My hunch – both the Red Tribe and the Blue Tribe, for whatever reason, identify “America” with the Red Tribe. Ask people for typically “American” things, and you end up with a very Red list of characteristics – guns, religion, barbecues, American football, NASCAR, cowboys, SUVs, unrestrained capitalism.

That means the Red Tribe feels intensely patriotic about “their” country, and the Blue Tribe feels like they’re living in fortified enclaves deep in hostile territory.

Here is a popular piece published on a major media site called America: A Big, Fat, Stupid Nation. Another: America: A Bunch Of Spoiled, Whiny Brats. Americans are ignorant, scientifically illiterate religious fanatics whose “patriotism” is actually just narcissism. You Will Be Shocked At How Ignorant Americans Are, and we should Blame The Childish, Ignorant American People.

Needless to say, every single one of these articles was written by an American and read almost entirely by Americans. Those Americans very likely enjoyed the articles very much and did not feel the least bit insulted.

And look at the sources. HuffPo, Salon, Slate. Might those have anything in common?

On both sides, “American” can be either a normal demonym, or a code word for a member of the Red Tribe."



"This essay is bad and I should feel bad.

I should feel bad because I made exactly the mistake I am trying to warn everyone else about, and it wasn’t until I was almost done that I noticed.

How virtuous, how noble I … [more]
politics  psychology  society  tolerance  scottalexander  partisanship  bias  favoritism  filterbubbles  segregation  darkmatter  tribes  subtribes  polarization  patriotism 
april 2016 by robertogreco
The Outgroup and Its Errors | The American Conservative
"One of the most troubling features of our current political and social climate is how powerfully it is shaped by sheer animus.

A couple of years ago, Scott Alexander wrote a post titled “I Can Tolerate Anything Except the Outgroup.” I strongly recommend that you read the whole thing, but essentially Alexander sets out to answer a question: How is it that, say, straight white men can be gracious and kind to, say, lesbian black women while being unremittingly bitter towards other straight white men? What has happened here to the old distinction between ingroups and outgroups? His answer is that “outgroups may be the people who look exactly like you, and scary foreigner types can become the in-group on a moment’s notice when it seems convenient.”

Then Alexander gives a powerful example. He mentions being chastised by readers who thought he was “uncomplicatedly happy” when he expressed relief that Osama bin Laden was dead.
Of the “intelligent, reasoned, and thoughtful” people I knew, the overwhelming emotion was conspicuous disgust that other people could be happy about his death. I hastily backtracked and said I wasn’t happy per se, just surprised and relieved that all of this was finally behind us. […]

Then a few years later, Margaret Thatcher died. And on my Facebook wall – made of these same “intelligent, reasoned, and thoughtful” people – the most common response was to quote some portion of the song “Ding Dong, The Witch Is Dead”. Another popular response was to link the videos of British people spontaneously throwing parties in the street, with comments like “I wish I was there so I could join in.” From this exact same group of people, not a single expression of disgust or a “c’mon, guys, we’re all human beings here.”


Even when he pointed this out, none of his readers saw a problem with their joy in Thatcher’s death. And that’s when Alexander realized that “if you’re part of the Blue Tribe, then your outgroup isn’t al-Qaeda, or Muslims, or blacks, or gays, or transpeople, or Jews, or atheists – it’s the Red Tribe.”

Since Alexander wrote that post, an article has appeared based on research that confirms his hypothesis. “Fear and Loathing across Party Lines: New Evidence on Group Polarization,” by Shanto Iyengar and Sean J. Westwood, indicates that Americans today do not simply feel animus towards those who disagree with with politically, but are prepared to act on it. Their research discovers a good deal of racial prejudice, which is to be expected and which is likely to grow worse in the coming years, but people seem to think that they shouldn’t be racists or at least shouldn’t show it. However, people of one Tribe evidently believe, quite openly, that members of the other Tribe deserve whatever nastiness comes to them — and are willing to help dish out the nastiness themselves. “Despite lingering negative attitudes toward African Americans, social norms appear to suppress racial discrimination, but there is no such reluctance to discriminate based on partisan affiliation.”

That is, many Americans are happy to treat other people unfairly if those other people belong to the alien Tribe. And — this is perhaps the most telling finding of all — their desire to punish the outgroup is significantly stronger than their desire to support the ingroup. Through a series of games, Iyengar and Westwood discovered that “Outgroup animosity is more consequential than favoritism for the ingroup.”

One of my consistent themes over the years — see, for instance, here and here — has been the importance of acting politically with the awareness that people who agree with you won’t always be in charge. That is, I believe that it is reasonable and wise, in a democratic social order, to make a commitment to proceduralism: to agree with my political adversaries to abide by the same rules. That belief is on its way to being comprehensively rejected by the American people, in favor of a different model: Error has no rights.

What is being forgotten in this rush to punish the outgroup is a wise word put forth long ago by Orestes Brownson: “Error has no rights, but the man who errs has equal rights with him who errs not.”"
alanjacobs  othering  politics  society  scottalexander  outgroup  us  2016  filterbubbles  bias  animosity  favoritism  democracy  procedure  proceduralism  error  orestesbrownson  polarization  shantoiyengar  seanwestwood  disagreement  discrimination  partisanship 
april 2016 by robertogreco
From Trump to Merkel: how the world is divided between fear and openness | Ulrich Speck | Opinion | The Guardian
"Two major concepts define the political struggle in the west today. One can be termed “globalism”, which is currently most prominently represented by the German chancellor, Angela Merkel. The other is “territorialism”, a view that the very likely Republican candidate for the US elections in November, Donald Trump, represents.

At the core of the debate is the meaning of borders: should they be porous or tightly controlled? Are they mainly an obstacle to the free and productive flow of ideas, people, goods and information and should therefore be largely dismantled? Or are massive borders welcome and indispensable as a protection against all kinds of real or perceived threats such as competition and terrorism?

For globalists such as Merkel, interconnectedness is a good thing because it is what drives progress towards more prosperity and freedom everywhere. For territorialists such as Trump, interconnectedness is mainly a threat. What is good and healthy is attributed to the natives and what is dangerous comes from outside: unfair Chinese competition, dangerous Mexican immigrants and Middle Eastern terrorists.

Globalists want to manage the cross-border streams and minimise the disruptive character of borders to maximise the gains from connected markets and societies. Of course those streams have to be managed and this is why governance cannot any more be limited to the national territory. Governments need to co-operate and set up regional and global institutions; they need to set rules and make sure that these rules are upheld. Globalists argue among themselves about how to police the wider spaces but not about the principle.

Territorialists, by contrast, don’t believe in international and transnational institutions – they believe in national strength and power. Donald Trump wants to invest in the US military so that it’s “so big and strong and so great” that “nobody’s going to mess with us”. The world outside the borders is anarchical and dangerous and the way to deal with threats is to fight them by using force. “Bomb the shit out of Isis,” Trump said. Allies are not an asset, they are a burden because they are free riders, cheating on America’s taxpayers: “We can no longer defend all of these countries,” he said, citing Japan, South Korea and Germany.

The man who may be the next US president also proposed closing off parts of the internet so terrorists could not use to recruit. The territorialist’s answer to the abuse of freedom and openness is to use force abroad and to disrupt the flow of people or information. Trump wants to build “the greatest wall that you’ve ever seen” on the US-Mexican border, to keep illegal immigrants out.

Territorialists believe they can prosper economically even while interrupting, diminishing and shutting cross-border flows. Jobs must be brought back, free trade agreement renegotiated because they are unfair to Americans. US companies such as Ford must be punished for investing abroad. Apple should build its “damned computers” in the US and not in China. Countries such as China, Japan, Mexico, Vietnam and India are “ripping us off” and need to be punished.

Trump is, rhetorically, the most aggressive politician of this sort, but he’s far from alone. US commentators have blamed the Republican party for capitulating to populists for years, allowing Trump to harvest what others have planted. And Europe has its own share of territorialists, who share many of Trump’s views. Marine Le Pen in France, leader of the Front National, stands a good chance of winning the first round of next year’s French presidential elections. Then there’s Viktor Orban, prime minister of Hungary, who rose to international prominence by making the case for “illiberal democracy” and for his determination to respond to the refugee crisis solely by building massive fences. Territorialism is a form of populism: simple, inconsistent answers to complex challenges, based on the politics of fear. Territorialists divide the world into friends and foes; they attribute everything positive to the natives and everything negative to those beyond the borders.

But the biggest problem with territorialism is not polarisation, it is that the concept is deeply flawed. Territorialists suggest that people can have their cake and eat it: disrupt globalisation and stay rich, minimise investment in international affairs and alliances and remain safe and free. They take the huge gains in prosperity, security and freedom of the last decades for granted. They fail to understand that those gains depend on massive investments of nation states in international order, and that globalisation is based on open societies and increasingly easy cross-border flows of goods, people and information. In other words, if territorialism wins, globalisation is under threat.

Merkel thinks we are indeed at a crossroads; the refugee crisis is part of a larger challenge that she describes as “our rendezvous with globalisation”. For her, the key challenge is how to keep globalisation afloat in spite of increasing geopolitical conflicts and tensions. Merkel is one of the few western leaders who has lived in a country that was unfree, poor and isolated from the west by a wall and fences secured by mines. She was 35 years old when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. She knows what it means to be shut off from global flows, locked in a country by an insurmountable border. For Merkel, globalisation equals progress. Open spaces and increased interaction across borders are a good thing, as they unleash opportunity and secure freedom and prosperity at home. Globalisation is challenging, but on balance the gains are much bigger than the risks. Also, in a world of large economic regions such as the US and China, the space in which German politics operates cannot be limited to the German territory any more.

Open borders in Europe are “deeply in our interest”, she argues; no other country gains from those achievements “more than us” and needs them more “because of our geographical location”. But responsibilty goes beyond the shared European space: “In an open world we also have to take on more responsibility for what happens outside our European borders.” Open borders in Europe are under threat. The refugee crisis, driven by the war in Syria, is testing the Schengen system that was set up in 1995. It is unclear whether the system is going to survive this stress test and what a revival of borders means for the EU.

Governments are torn between the desire to protect the joint space created by European integration and the pressure from territorialist forces whose narrative often dominates the debate. If they want to retain the achievements of globalisation, centrist forces need to start pushing back. They need to start making a much stronger case for open borders and open societies."
globalism  territorialism  donaldtrump  angelamerkel  2016  politics  borders  interconnectedness  interdependency  ulrichspeck  globalization  provincialism  policy  us  europe  polarization  interconnected  interconnectivity 
march 2016 by robertogreco
This is how the American system of government will die - Vox
"The United States' system of government is a nightmare. The Constitution requires levels of consensus between branches of government that are not realistic in a modern country with ideologically polarized parties. The result is near-total policy stasis and gridlock that in some cases, like the debt ceiling crisis of 2011, risks stopping measures from taking effect that are necessary to prevent total calamity. As the saying goes, things that can't last forever don't, and it's reasonable to predict, as Matthew Yglesias does, that America's untenable system of government will fall apart, probably in our lifetimes.

But Yglesias is vague as to how that will happen. While he's careful to say that past democratic collapses — such as the Honduran constitutional crisis of 2009 — aren't necessarily models for what will happen here, he does seem to presume some kind of crisis. At some point, an impasse between the executive and legislature will create a state of exception, a point at which disaster cannot be averted through normal legal channels.

But it's hard for me to imagine a crisis whose resolution would involve an all-out coup or dissolution of democratic institutions. What's much likelier is a continuation of the executive's gradual consolidation of power until the presidency is something like an elective dictatorship. It won't happen in a big bang, and no individual step in the process will feel like a massive leap into tyranny. But compared to today, the president's powers will be almost unrecognizable."

[See also “American democracy is doomed” (Matthew Yglesias):
http://www.vox.com/2015/3/2/8120063/american-democracy-doomed ]
2015  us  government  dylanmatthews  matthewyglesias  politics  democracy  constitution  thegreatreset  juanlinz  checkandbalances  parliamentarydemocracy  presidentialgovernment  polarization  gridlock 
march 2015 by robertogreco
American democracy is doomed - Vox
"To understand the looming crisis in American politics, it's useful to think about Germany, Japan, Italy, and Austria. These are countries that were defeated by American military forces during the Second World War and given constitutions written by local leaders operating in close collaboration with occupation authorities. It's striking that even though the US Constitution is treated as a sacred text in America's political culture, we did not push any of these countries to adopt our basic framework of government.

This wasn't an oversight.

In a 1990 essay, the late Yale political scientist Juan Linz observed that "aside from the United States, only Chile has managed a century and a half of relatively undisturbed constitutional continuity under presidential government — but Chilean democracy broke down in the 1970s."

The exact reasons for why are disputed among scholars — in part because you can't just randomly assign different governments to people. One issue here is that American-style systems are much more common in the Western Hemisphere and parliamentary ones are more common elsewhere. Latin-American countries have experienced many episodes of democratic breakdown, so distinguishing Latin-American cultural attributes from institutional characteristics is difficult.

Still, Linz offered several reasons why presidential systems are so prone to crisis. One particularly important one is the nature of the checks and balances system. Since both the president and the Congress are directly elected by the people, they can both claim to speak for the people. When they have a serious disagreement, according to Linz, "there is no democratic principle on the basis of which it can be resolved." The constitution offers no help in these cases, he wrote: "the mechanisms the constitution might provide are likely to prove too complicated and aridly legalistic to be of much force in the eyes of the electorate."

In a parliamentary system, deadlocks get resolved. A prime minister who lacks the backing of a parliamentary majority is replaced by a new one who has it. If no such majority can be found, a new election is held and the new parliament picks a leader. It can get a little messy for a period of weeks, but there's simply no possibility of a years-long spell in which the legislative and executive branches glare at each other unproductively.

But within a presidential system, gridlock leads to a constitutional trainwreck with no resolution. The United States's recent government shutdowns and executive action on immigration are small examples of the kind of dynamic that's led to coups and putsches abroad."



"The idea that America's constitutional system might be fundamentally flawed cuts deeply against the grain of our political culture. But the reality is that despite its durability, it has rarely functioned well by the standards of a modern democracy. The party system of the Gilded Age operated through systematic corruption. The less polarized era that followed was built on the systematic disenfranchisement of African-Americans. The newer system of more ideological politics has solved those problems and seems in many ways more attractive. But over the past 25 years, it's set America on a course of paralysis and crisis — government shutdowns, impeachment, debt ceiling crises, and constitutional hardball. Voters, understandably, are increasingly dissatisfied with the results and confidence in American institutions has been generally low and falling. But rather than leading to change, the dissatisfaction has tended to yield wild electoral swings that exacerbate the sense of permanent crisis.

As dysfunctional as American government may seem today, we've actually been lucky. No other presidential system has gone as long as ours without a major breakdown of the constitutional order. But the factors underlying that stability — first non-ideological parties and then non-disciplined ones — are gone. And it's worth considering the possibility that with them, so too has gone the American exception to the rule of presidential breakdown. If we seem to be unsustainably lurching from crisis to crisis, it's because we are unsustainably lurching from crisis to crisis. The breakdown may not be next year or even in the next five years, but over the next 20 or 30 years, will we really be able to resolve every one of these high-stakes showdowns without making any major mistakes? Do you really trust Congress that much?

The best we can hope for is that when the crisis does come, Americans will have the wisdom to do for ourselves what we did in the past for Germany and Japan and put a better system in place."

[See also: “This is how the American system of government will die” (Dylan Matthews )
http://www.vox.com/2015/3/3/8120965/american-government-problems ]
2015  us  government  politics  constitution  thegreatreset  democracy  juanlinz  checkandbalances  parliamentarydemocracy  presidentialgovernment  polarization  gridlock  dylanmatthews  matthewyglesias 
march 2015 by robertogreco
The Dads of Tech - The Baffler
"The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house,” Audre Lorde famously said, but let Clay Shirky mansplain. It “always struck me as a strange observation—even the metaphor isn’t true,” the tech consultant and bestselling author said at the New Yorker Festival last autumn in a debate with the novelist Jonathan Franzen. “Get ahold of the master’s hammer,” and you can dismantle anything. Just consider all the people “flipping on the ‘I’m gay’ light on Facebook” to signal their support for marriage equality—there, Shirky declared, is a prime example of the master’s tools put to good use.

“Shirky invented the Internet and Franzen wants to shut it down,” panel moderator Henry Finder mused with an air of sophisticated hyperbole. Finder said he was merely paraphrasing a festival attendee he’d overheard outside—and joked that for once in his New Yorker editing career, he didn’t need fact-checkers to determine whether the story was true. He then announced with a wink that it was “maybe a little true.” Heh.

Shirky studied fine art in school, worked as a lighting designer for theater and dance companies; he was a partner at investment firm The Accelerator Group before turning to tech punditry. Now he teaches at NYU and publishes gung-ho cyberliberation tracts such as Here Comes Everybody and Cognitive Surplus while plying a consulting sideline for a diverse corps of well-paying clients such as Nokia, the BBC, and the U.S. Navy—as well as high-profile speaking gigs like the New Yorker forum, which was convened under the stupifyingly dualistic heading “Is Technology Good for Culture?”

And that’s tech punditry for you: simplification with an undercurrent of sexism. There are plenty of woman academics and researchers who study technology and social change, but we are a long way from the forefront of stage-managed gobbledygook. Instead of getting regaled with nods and winks for “inventing the Internet,” women in the tech world typically have to overcome the bigoted suspicions of an intensively male geek culture—when, that is, they don’t face outright harassment in the course of pursuing industry careers."



"No wonder, then, that investors ignore coders from marginalized communities who aspire to meet real needs. With an Internet so simple even your Dad can understand it as our guiding model, the myriad challenges that attend the digital transformation, from rampant sexism, racism, and homophobia to the decline of journalism, are impossible to apprehend, let alone address. How else could a white dude who didn’t know that a “bustle” is a butt-enhancing device from the late nineteenth century raise $6.5 million to start a women’s content site under that name? Or look at investors racing to fund the latest fad: “explainer” journalism, a format that epitomizes our current predicament. Explainer journalism is an Internet simple enough for Dad to understand made manifest. Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight, the New York Times’ The Upshot, and Ezra Klein’s Vox (which boasts a “Leadership Team” of seventeen men and three women) all champion a numbers-driven model that does not allow for qualification or uncertainty. No doubt, quantification can aid insight, but statistics shouldn’t be synonymous with a naive, didactic faith that numbers don’t lie or that everything worth knowing can be rendered in a series of quickly clickable virtual notecards. Plenty of news reports cry out for further explanation, because the world is complex and journalists often get things wrong, but like Internet punditry before it, these explainer outlets don’t explain, they simplify."



"Most of all, the dominance of the Dad’s-eye-view of the world shores up the Internet’s underlying economic operating system. This also means a de facto free pass for corporate surveillance, along with an increasing concentration of wealth and power in the coffers of a handful of advertising-dependent, privacy-violating info-monopolies and the men who run them (namely Google and Facebook, though Amazon and Apple are also addicted to sucking up our personal data). Study after study shows that women are more sensitive to the subject of privacy than men, from a Pew poll that found that young girls are more prone than boys are to disabling location tracking on their devices to another that showed that while women are equally enthusiastic about technology in general, they’re also more concerned about the implications of wearable technologies. A more complicated Internet would incorporate these legitimate apprehensions instead of demanding “openness” and “transparency” from everyone. (It would also, we dare to hope, recognize that the vacuous sloganeering on behalf of openness only makes us more easily surveilled by government and big business.) But, of course, imposing privacy protections would involve regulation and impede profit—two bête noires of tech dudes who are quite sure that Internet freedom is synonymous with the free market.

The master’s house might have a new shape—it may be sprawling and diffuse, and occupy what is euphemistically referred to as the “cloud”—but it also has become corporatized and commercialized, redolent of hierarchies of yore, and it needs to be dismantled. Unfortunately, in the digital age, like the predigital one, men don’t want to take it apart."
astrataylor  joannemcneil  2014  sexism  technology  culture  siliconvalley  dads  nodads  patriarchy  paternalism  gender  emotionallabor  hisotry  computing  programming  complexity  simplification  nuance  diversity  journalism  clayshirky  polarization  exclusion  marcandreessen  ellenchisa  julieannhorvath  github  careers  audrelorde  punditry  canon  inequality 
november 2014 by robertogreco
Political Polarization & Media Habits | Pew Research Center's Journalism Project
"Overall, the study finds that consistent conservatives:

• Are tightly clustered around a single news source, far more than any other group in the survey, with 47% citing Fox News as their main source for news about government and politics.
• Express greater distrust than trust of 24 of the 36 news sources measured in the survey. At the same time, fully 88% of consistent conservatives trust Fox News.
• Are, when on Facebook, more likely than those in other ideological groups to hear political opinions that are in line with their own views.
• Are more likely to have friends who share their own political views. Two-thirds (66%) say most of their close friends share their views on government and politics.

By contrast, those with consistently liberal views:

• Are less unified in their media loyalty; they rely on a greater range of news outlets, including some – like NPR and the New York Times– that others use far less.
• Express more trust than distrust of 28 of the 36 news outlets in the survey. NPR, PBS and the BBC are the most trusted news sources for consistent liberals.
• Are more likely than those in other ideological groups to block or “defriend” someone on a social network – as well as to end a personal friendship – because of politics.
• Are more likely to follow issue-based groups, rather than political parties or candidates, in their Facebook feeds.

Those with down-the-line conservative and liberal views do share some common ground; they are much more likely than others to closely follow government and political news. This carries over to their discussions of politics and government. Nearly four-in-ten consistent conservatives (39%) and 30% of consistent liberals tend to drive political discussions – that is, they talk about politics often, say others tend to turn to them for information rather than the reverse, and describe themselves as leaders rather than listeners in these kinds of conversations. Among those with mixed ideological views, just 12% play a similar role.

It is important to note, though, that those at either end of the ideological spectrum are not isolated from dissenting views about politics. Nearly half (47%) of across-the-board conservatives – and 59% of across-the-board liberals – say they at least sometimes disagree with one of their closest political discussion partners.

For those closer to the middle of the ideological spectrum, learning about politics, or discussing it with friends and family, is a less of a focus. When they do follow politics, their main news sources include CNN, local TV and Fox News, along with Yahoo News and Google News, which aggregate stories from a wide assortment of outlets; these U.S. adults see more of a mix of views in social media and are less likely to be aware of their friends’political leanings."
politics  pewresearch  media  polarization  2014  news  government  conservatives  liberals 
october 2014 by robertogreco
naffidy: Andrea Zittel -----"These things I know for sure"
"1. It is a human trait to organize things into categories. Inventing categories creates an illusion that there is an overriding rationale in the way that the word works.

2. Surfaces that are "easy to clean" also show dirt more. In reality a surface that camouflages dirt is much more practical than one that is easy to clean.

3. Maintenance takes time and energy that can sometimes impede other forms or progress such as learning about new things.

4. All materials ultimately deteriorate and show signs of wear. It is therefore important to create designs that will look better after years of distress.

5. A perfect filling system can sometimes decrease efficiency. For instance, when letters and bills are filed away too quickly, it is easy to forget to respond to them.

6. Many "progressive" designs actually hark back towards a lost idea of nature or a more "original form."

7. Ambiguity in visual design ultimately leads to a greater variety of functions than designs that are functionally fixed.

8. No matter how many options there are, it is human nature to always narrow things down to two polar, yet inextricably linked choices.

9. The creation of rules is more creative than the destruction of them. Creation demands a higher level of reasoning and draws connections between cause and effect. The best rules are never stable or permanent, but evolve, naturally according to content or need.

10. What makes us feel liberated is not total freedom, but rather living in a set of limitations that we have created and prescribed for ourselves.

11. Things that we think are liberating can ultimately become restrictive, and things that we initially think are controlling can sometimes give us a sense of comfort and security.

12. Ideas seem to gestate best in a void--- when that void is filled, it is more difficult to access them. In our consumption-driven society, almost all voids are filled, blocking moments of greater clarity and creativity. Things that block voids are called "avoids."

13. Sometimes if you can't change a situation, you just have to change the way you think about the situation.

14. People are most happy when they are moving towards something not quite yet attained (I also wonder if this extends as well to the sensation of physical motion in space. I believe that I am happier when I am in a plane or car because I am moving towards an identifiable and attainable goal.)

15. What you own, owns you.

16. Personal truths are often perceived as universal truths. For instance it is easy to imagine that a system or design works well for oneself will work for everyone else."

[Also (only 1-14) printed here: http://books.google.com/books/about/Andrea_Zittel.html?id=-uZiQgAACAAJ ]
andreazittel  criticalspace  progressive  human  humans  sorting  dichotomy  dichotomies  categorization  patternfinding  patterns  generalizations  generalization  surfaces  maintenance  time  art  learning  filingsystems  design  rules  constraints  personaltruths  universaltruths  truths  happiness  movement  progress  attainability  goals  perspective  comfort  security  clarity  creativity  freedom  creation  choice  polarization  ambiguity  function 
july 2012 by robertogreco
The Two Cultures - Wikipedia
"The Two Cultures is the title of an influential 1959 Rede Lecture by British scientist and novelist C. P. Snow.[1][2] Its thesis was that "the intellectual life of the whole of western society" was split into the titular two cultures — namely the sciences and the humanities — and that this was a major hindrance to solving the world's problems."
via:charlieloyd  polarization  twocultures  multi  multidisciplinary  crosspollination  crossdisciplinary  departmentalization  departments  thoughtsegregation  interdisciplinary  interdisciplinarity  1959  theory  engineers  science  humanities  thetwocultures  cpsnow 
may 2012 by robertogreco
Op-Ed Columnist - Riders on the Storm - NYTimes.com
"This study suggests that Internet users are a bunch of ideological Jack Kerouacs. They’re not burrowing down into comforting nests. They’re cruising far and wide looking for adventure, information, combat and arousal. This does not mean they are not polarized. Looking at a site says nothing about how you process it or the character of attention you bring to it. It could be people spend a lot of time at their home sites and then go off on forays looking for things to hate. But it probably does mean they are not insecure and they are not sheltered.
davidbrooks  serendipity  web  online  internet  politics  polarization  segregation  integration  commons  ideology  exposure  fragmentation  socialmedia  connectivity  offline  homophily  2010  networks  blogs  blogging 
may 2010 by robertogreco

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