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Jacobin Radio - The Dig: Astra Taylor on Democracy - Blubrry Podcasting
"Jacobin editor Alyssa Battistoni interviews Astra Taylor on her new film What is Democracy?, in which Astra asks ordinary people and political philosophers alike just that. The answers are often extraordinary and far more incisive than the mindless pablum emanating from Washington and its official interpreters. The film opens in New York on Wednesday January 16 at the IFC Center before traveling to theaters and campuses. Special guests on hand during opening week for live Q&As with Astra include Silvia Federici, Cornel West, and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor. For details, go to ifccenter.com/films/what-is-democracy. Those of us who don't live in New York can find other dates through the distributor at zeitgeistfilms.com. And if you want to bring this film to your school or town, and you really should, contact Zeitgeist Films!"

[See also:
https://www.jacobinmag.com/2019/02/astra-taylor-what-is-democracy-interview
https://www.thenation.com/article/astra-taylor-what-is-democracy-new-film-interview/
https://zeitgeistfilms.com/film/whatisdemocracy
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OHxRj9JWQMs

also available here:
https://www.thecut.com/2019/01/astra-taylor-what-is-democracy-women-interview.html
https://player.fm/series/jacobin-radio-1354006/the-dig-astra-taylor-on-democracy
https://podtail.com/en/podcast/jacobin-radio/the-dig-astra-taylor-on-democracy/ ]
astrataylor  alyssabattistoni  2019  democracy  us  inequality  statusquo  elitism  policy  politics  economics  keeanga-yamahttataylor  cornelwest  silviafederici  philosophy  labor  justice  capitalism  socialism  society  slavery 
4 days ago by robertogreco
Cooperative Economy in the Great Depression | Jonathan Rowe
"Entrepreneurs of cooperation
Before Social Security and the WPA, the Unemployed Exchange Association rebuilt a collapsed economy"



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

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

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

Building a reciprocal economy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The dream fades

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or so it seemed.

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

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

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

An idea resurfaces

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

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

The cooperative model seems to defy what economists call “economic law”—that people work only for personal gain and in response to schemes of personal incentive and reward. Yet the Depression co-ops did happen. When the next crash … [more]
cooperation  coopeatives  greatdepression  socialism  history  california  us  1930s  economics  solidarity  jonathanrowe  losangeles  compton  farming  agriculture  labor  work  ucro  oakland  carlrhodehamel  uxa  community  mutualaid  detroit  coops  local  fdr  wpa  communism  uptonsinclair  poverty 
10 days ago by robertogreco
Liberation Under Siege | Liberación Bajo Asedio on Vimeo
"Following the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, which successfully fended off imperial aggression by the United States, the United States imposed an economic trade blockade as punishment, which has continued to be in place for the past 60 years. The US has undertaken repeated attempts to plunder the Cuban people through genocidal measures, which has been met with the staunch resilience of the Cuban people, who continue to have faith and confidence in the socialist principles of the Revolution, despite the blockade materially impacting their everyday lives.

“Liberation Under Siege” examines the material conditions cultivated by the destructive blockade through the experiences and stories of everyday Cubans, and reclaim the imperialist narrative pushed by the United States through billions of dollars.

Filmed, Directed, and Edited by:

Priya Prabhakar
Reva Kreeger
Sabrina Meléndez"
cuba  2019  excess  us  foreignpolicy  interviews  education  healthcare  medicine  socialism  food  highereducation  highered  politics  blockade  embargo  poverty  equality  economics  race  gender  sexuality  priyaprabhakar  revakreeger  sabrinameléndez  video  small  slow  consumerism  materialism  capitalism  less  environment  values  success  health  imperialism  media  propaganda  resourcefulness  trade 
17 days ago by robertogreco
Finding the Future in Radical Rural America | Boston Review
"It's time to rewrite the narrative of “Trump Country.” Rural places weren't always red, and many are turning increasingly blue."



"Rural spaces are often thought of as places absent of things, from people of color to modern amenities to radical politics. The truth, as usual, is more complicated."



"In West Virginia, what is old is new again: the revival of a labor movement, the fight against extractive capitalism, and the continuation of women’s grassroots leadership."



"Appalachia should not be seen as a liability to the left, a place that time and progress forgot. The past itself is not a negative asset."



"To create solidarity in the present, to make change for the future, West Virginians needed to remember their radical past."



"West Virginia’s workers, whether coal miners or teachers, have never benefitted from the state’s natural wealth due to greedy corporations and the politicians they buy."



"It matters that workers are rising up, and it matters that women are leading. It matters that the fight against extractive capitalism is fiercer than ever."



"The 2016 election still looms over us. But if all you know—or care to know—about Appalachia are election results, then you miss the potential for change. It might feel natural to assume, for example, that the region is doomed to elect conservative leadership. It might seem smart to point at the “D” beside Joe Manchin’s name and think, “It’s better than nothing.” There might be some fleeting concession to political diversity, but in a way that makes it the exception rather than the rule—a spot of blue in Trump Country.

If you believe this, then you might find these examples thin: worthy of individual commendation, but not indicative of the potential for radical change. But where you might look for change, I look for continuity, and it is there that I find the future of the left.

It matters that workers are rising up, and it matters that women are leading. It matters that the fight against extractive capitalism is fiercer than ever. And for all of these actions, it matters that the reasoning is not simply, “this is what is right,” but also, “this is what we do.” That reclamation of identity is powerful. Here, the greatest possible rebuke to the forces that gave us Trump will not be people outside of the region writing sneering columns, and it likely will not start with electoral politics. It will come from ordinary people who turn to their neighbors, relatives, and friends and ask, through their actions, “Which side are you on?”

“Listen to today’s socialists,” political scientist Corey Robin writes,

and you’ll hear less the language of poverty than of power. Mr. Sanders invokes the 1 percent. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez speaks to and for the ‘working class’—not ‘working people’ or ‘working families,’ homey phrases meant to soften and soothe. The 1 percent and the working class are not economic descriptors. They’re political accusations. They split society in two, declaring one side the illegitimate ruler of the other; one side the taker of the other’s freedom, power and promise.

This is a language the left knows well in Appalachia and many other rural communities. “The socialist argument against capitalism,” Robin says, “isn’t that it makes us poor. It’s that it makes us unfree.” Indeed, the state motto of West Virginia is montani semper liberi: mountaineers are always free. It was adopted in 1863 to mark West Virginia’s secession from Virginia, a victory that meant these new citizens would not fight a rich man’s war.

There are moments when that freedom feels, to me, unearned. How can one look at our economic conditions and who we have helped elect and claim freedom? But then I imagine the power of people who face their suffering head on and still say, “I am free.” There is no need to visit the future to see the truth in that. There is freedom in fighting old battles because it means that the other side has not won."
rural  westvirginia  politics  policy  us  economics  future  history  democrats  republicans  progressive  race  class  racism  classism  elizabethcatte  aaronbady  nuance  radicalism  socialism  unions  organizing  environment  labor  work  capitalism  inequality  appalachia  coalmining  coal  mining  coreyrobin  grassroots  alexandriaocasio-cortez  workingclass  classwars  poverty  identity  power  change  changemaking  josemanchin  2019 
6 weeks ago by robertogreco
You Don’t Want Hygge. You Want Social Democracy.
"It’s the holidays, and you long to be cozy.

You want to curl up in a plush armchair next to a crackling fire. You want the softest of blankets and wooliest of sweaters. You want to devour grandma’s pecan fudge, get tipsy on eggnog with your cousins, and watch Miracle on 34th Street — mom’s favorite — for the thirty-fourth time. Or maybe neither Christmas nor family gatherings are your thing, but you like the idea of sipping hot toddies and playing board games with a few close friends while outside the snow falls and the lights twinkle.

But you can’t have it, because you couldn’t spring for a plane ticket. Or relatives are in town, but times are tight, and it seemed irresponsible to pass up the Christmas overtime pay. Maybe everything circumstantially fell into place, but you can’t relax. You’re eyeing your inbox, anxious about the work that’s not getting done. You’re last-minute shopping, pinching pennies, thinking Scrooge had some fair points. Or you’re hiding in your childhood bedroom, binge-watching television and scrolling social media, because a rare break from the pressures of daily life feels more like an occasion to zone out than to celebrate and be merry.

Either way, you feel terrible, because you know that someone somewhere is literally roasting chestnuts on an open fire, and you’re missing out.

The Danes have a word for the thing you desperately want but can’t seem to manifest: hygge.

The word isn’t easy to translate. It comes from a Norwegian word that means “wellbeing,” but the contemporary Danish definition is more expansive than that.

In The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living, author Meik Wiking writes, “Hygge is about an atmosphere and an experience, rather than about things. It’s about being with the people we love. A feeling of home. A feeling that we are safe, that we are shielded from the world and allowed to let our guard down.”

You can have hygge any time, but Danes strongly associate it with Christmas, the most hyggelig time of the year. When asked what things they associate most with hygge, Danes answered, in order of importance: hot drinks, candles, fireplaces, Christmas, board games, music, holiday, sweets and cake, cooking, and books. Seven out of ten Danes say hygge is best experienced at home, and they even have a word for it — hjemmehygge, or home hygge.

But Wiking stresses that while hygge has strong aesthetic properties, it’s more than the sum of its parts. You don’t just see it, you feel it.

“Hygge is an indication that you trust the ones you are with and where you are,” he writes, “that you have expanded your comfort zone to include other people and you feel you can be completely yourself around other people.” The opposite of hygge is alienation.

It’s no coincidence that this concept is both native to and universally understood in the same country that consistently dominates the World Happiness Report and other annual surveys of general contentment. On rare occasions when Denmark is surpassed by another country, that country is always a Scandinavian neighbor.

What makes people in these countries happier than the rest of us is actually really simple. Danes and their neighbors have greater access to the building blocks of happiness: time, company, and security.

Scandinavians don’t have these things just because they value them more, or for cultural reasons that are congenital, irreplicable, and beyond our reach. People all over the world value time, company, and security. What Scandinavians do have is a political-economic arrangement that better facilitates the regular expression of those values. That arrangement is social democracy.

The Politics of Hygge

Denmark is not a socialist country, though like its neighbor Sweden, it did come close to collectivizing industry in the 1970s. That effort was driven by “unions, popular movements, and left parties,” write Andreas Møller Mulvad and Rune Møller Stahl in Jacobin. “It was these mass forces — not benevolent elites, carefully weighing the alternatives before deciding on an enlightened mix of capitalism and socialism — who were the architects and impetus behind the Nordic model. They are the ones responsible for making the Nordic countries among the happiest and most democratic in the world.”

A strong capitalist offensive stopped this Scandinavian coalition from realizing the transition to socialism, and the legacy of their efforts is a delicate compromise. The private sector persists, but taxes are both progressive and high across the board. The country spends 55 percent of its total GDP publicly, making it the third-highest government spender per capita in the world. Meanwhile, the power of employers is partially checked by strong unions, to which two-thirds of Danes belong.

This redistributive arrangement significantly reduces the class stratification that comes from capitalism. As a result, Denmark has one of the highest degrees of economic equality in the world.

All of that public spending goes to funding a strong welfare state. Everybody pays in, and everybody reaps the rewards. This egalitarian, humane, and solidaristic model allows the values associated with hygge to flourish. It also gives people more opportunities to act on them.

In Denmark, health care is free at the point of service. Same goes for education, all the way through college and even grad school. Twenty percent of the Danish housing stock is social housing, regulated and financially supported by the state but owned in common by tenants, and organized in the “tradition of tenants’ participation and self-governance.” Denmark offers year-long paid parental leave, and guarantees universal child care for all children beginning the moment that leave ends, when the child is one year old.

Similarly, due in large part to the past and and present strength of unions, Denmark has worker-friendly labor laws and standards which make for a more harmonious work-life balance. Danes get five weeks’ paid vacation, plus an additional nine public holidays. Unlike the United States, Denmark has a national paid sick-leave policy. Denmark also has generous unemployment benefits and a wage subsidy program for people who want to work but, for reasons outside their control, need more flexible arrangements.

The normal work week in Denmark is set at thirty-seven hours, and people tend to stick to it. Only 2 percent of Danes report working very long hours. In a survey of OECD countries Denmark ranked fourth for people spending the most time devoted to leisure and personal care. (The US ranked thirtieth.)

All of this has a profound effect on individuals’ ability to experience pleasure, trust, comfort, intimacy, peace of mind — and of course, the composite of these things, hygge.

For one thing, there are only so many hours in a day. And there are some activities that make us happy, and some that make us unhappy.

The Princeton Affect and Time Survey found that the activities that make us happiest include playing with children, listening to music, being outdoors, going to parties, exercising, hanging out with friends, and spending time with pets. (These are also the activities that Danes associate with hygge.) The ones that make us least happy include paid work, domestic work, home maintenance and repairs, running errands, personal medical care, and taking care of financial responsibilities.

Everyone has to do activities in the unhappy category in order to keep their affairs in order. But it makes sense that if you take some of those responsibilities off people’s plate and design the economy to give them more time to do activities in the happy category, they will be more content and lead more enriching lives.

Many working-class Americans don’t have much time for activities in the happy category, because they work multiple jobs or long hours and also have to keep a household in order without much assistance. Many more are afraid that if they take time away from their stressful responsibilities, they will overlook something important and fall behind, and there will be no social safety net to catch them — a pervasive anxiety that creeps up the class hierarchy. This breeds alienation, not intimacy.

Additionally, working people in highly capitalist countries, where economic life is characterized by cutthroat competition and the punishment for losing the competition is destitution, tend to develop hostile relationships to one another, which is not very hyggelig.

The social-democratic model is predicated instead on solidarity: my neighbor and I both pay taxes so that we can both have a high standard of living. We care for each other on the promise that we will each be cared for. By working together instead of against each other, we both get what we need. Universal social programs like those that make up the Scandinavian welfare states are thus engines of solidarity, impressing upon people that their neighbor is not an opponent or an obstacle, but a partner in building and maintaining society.

By pitting people against each other, neoliberal capitalism promotes suspicion and animosity. This frequently maps onto social divisions and manifests as racism, sexism, xenophobia, and so on. But it also just makes people guarded and antisocial in general. People who live in social democracies are far from invulnerable to prejudice or misanthropy, but the social compact remains more likely to promote kindness, trust, and goodwill among people than neoliberal capitalism — and indeed the Danes are some of the most trusting people in the world, of friends and strangers alike.

One of these political-economic arrangements strengthens people’s connection to the fundamentals of happiness, and of hygge — time, company, and security — while the other severs it. The abundance or scarcity of these fundamentals forms the material basis of collective social life.

The Ambiance Agenda

Hygge is not just a cultural … [more]
hygge  meaganday  2018  denmark  socialdemocracy  socialism  socialsafetynet  politics  policy  happiness  comfort  us  coreyrobin  scandinavia  solidarity  wellbeing  responsibility  uncertainty  anxiety  neoliberalism  capitalism  risk  civics  qualityoflife  pleasure  multispecies  family  trust  intimacy  peaceofmind  leisure  work  labor  health  healthcare  unions  time  slow  fragility  taxes  inequality  company  security 
11 weeks ago by robertogreco
A Way Out – Popula
"I’m telling you this story because I imagine there are others, like me, who want to see a better, kinder world, but they’re not sure how to go about achieving it. When I was 24 I thought it was through proper, respectable channels: NGOs and civil political gamesmanship and gradual pressure for reform. I now know that those proper and respectable channels are an illusion, anesthetizing you to the fact that the world is a vicious brawl for resources, with capitalists leading every major offensive.

And I’m telling you this now, of all times, because I’ve witnessed the future. It’s in Appalachia. It’s in a place called Martin County, Kentucky, where there is no running water, and what little water they do have is poison. It’s in a place called Letcher County, Kentucky, where—instead of rebuilding the public water infrastructure—they’re building another federal prison and calling it economic diversification. It’s in a place called McDowell County, West Virginia, with the highest per capita overdose rate in the nation. In each of these places there are pockets of resistance, begging for help and relief, but no one hears them. In fact, politicians actively ignore them, because the old kind of politics is dead. Look around and you’ll see catastrophe on the horizon of every major issue of our times. The nonprofit sector has failed to manage the contradictions of capitalism in Appalachia, and they will eventually fail you, too.

It is for this reason that we have to acknowledge that what we do in the nonprofit sphere is not actually progressive politics. It’s business.

To escape the logic of this system you have to give up the part of yourself that says you can change the world. You cannot change the world. Mass consumption, mass media, and individualism have rendered the world primitive again, a social vacuum in which there is, paradoxically, no individual. And because there is no individual there is no accountability, no rights, and certainly no social contract. The dream of liberal democracy is dead. All that exists is the global oppressors and the globally oppressed.

I submit that the only thing that offers you a way out of this contradictory mess is the analytic framework of Marxism, combined with the social application of class struggle.

This is a difficult statement to make. It sounds so lame and self-serious. It sounds out of touch. How can you sit there and tell me the working class isn’t interested in wonky economic policies, you might ask, and then shove a 150-year-old book in my face? But Marxism gives you the tools to pry the system apart and see how it works. There’s no wonky economic theory here, nothing like the Stream Protection Rule or stomach ulcers. The words are big but the message is simple, something you already knew: you are worthy, you are not surplus, you must overthrow the capitalist class to reach liberation, and you must band together with your fellow workers to do it. You do not have to sacrifice your intellect, integrity, or potential to the liberal cause of social tinkering. Take my word for it: that road will only lead you to self-doubt and self-abuse.

There is an entire stratum of society dedicated to the cause of social tinkering; it finds its most concrete forms in philanthropy, the liberal media, and the Democratic Party, and over the past two years it has reached a fever pitch of outrage that is at once powerless and powerful. This segment of society is comprised of the upper and middle classes, and as a result the discourse that it produces—and forces onto the rest of us—can only reflect the values of those classes. This is why every few months we are treated to a cataclysmic meltdown about the abolition of norms and procedure, and it’s why they invariably tell us there’s nothing we can do about it except vote them out.

But it’s also why this same segment of society keeps telling us that the left doesn’t have a vision for the future, despite the fact that it does. This vision is actually quite robust and imaginative; for example, there are plenty of working people who are disillusioned with political and electoral systems, and who are fed up with having to work to stay alive, but no one is telling them that human beings shouldn’t have to live like this.

The union traditionally served the purpose of activating these people’s imaginations and class-consciousness, but this is beyond the pale for the liberal theory of change, because there’s no corresponding system of merits or rewards or social-media-savior posturing attached to it. There’s no grant for organizing your workplace, no pat on the head or body of individuals who will thank you for all the great work you’ve done. So as a result, the liberal discourse tells us that history is frozen, and that we’re all just a little bit shell-shocked and uncertain about what to do about it. In fact, they maintain, we are helpless to history—at least until the next election. But this cannot be further from the truth.

Human beings can seize history, and we know this because it’s been done before. In fact, it’s the only thing that’s ever worked. It will take years to build up a movement that is strong enough to do this, and this will require sacrifice and hard work, but it can be done. In Appalachia that will look like organizing the people at the margins of society on the premise that, if they really want it, they can shut the system down, because they create the profit for those at the top. In my community, those people are the nurses, the teachers, and the service industry workers. You could rebut this and say that our country is simply too reactionary and backwards for this to actually work, and you may be correct. But have we even tried? We know that voting is becoming less and less effective as more and more people are purged from electoral rolls. So what other recourse do we have? For starters, we have our labor power—the fact that a fundamental aspect of this system is our collective fate.

If we are going to survive the coming years it is necessary that we demolish the liberal theory of change. This theory tells you that the individual can change everything, while simultaneously insisting that the individual is powerless to change anything, unless it’s in a voting booth. It insists that you, the individual, can be whatever or whoever you want to be, and by doing so, you can somehow compromise or bargain or reason with the forces of capital. I’m here to tell you that you can’t. Those forces only want you dead. You are surplus to them. You are disposable. Sooner or later they will come for you. Don’t let the Hal Rogers of the world lead them to you."
nonprofits  capitalism  2018  tarenceray  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  charitableindustrialcomplex  class  classstruggle  economics  struggle  activism  unions  labor  work  organizing  oppression  neoliberalism  consumption  consumerism  individualism  us  democracy  democrats  theshirkyprinciple  society  socialtinkering  philanthropy  charity  media  politics  policy  socialism  bullshitjobs 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Jonestown’s Victims Have a Lesson to Teach Us, So I Listened – Mother Jones
"In uncovering the blackness of Peoples Temple, I began to better understand my community and the need to belong."



"Trying to unpack the meaning of Jonestown and its leader, Jim Jones, has become a genre in its own right. Peoples Temple was a church and socialist political movement that began in Indianapolis in the 1950s before migrating to California and opening congregations in Redwood Valley, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. In 1977, the church established what it called an “agricultural project” in a remote outpost in Guyana, where its leader and hundreds of his followers set about establishing a socialist utopian Promised Land. Instead, on November 18, 1978, 918 people died at the behest of Jones, who called the action “revolutionary suicide.” There are memoirs by survivors, like Deborah Layton’s Seductive Poison. There are documentaries, including Stanley Nelson’s Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple. There are more recent historical looks at Jones and how he built the church, like Jeff Guinn’s The Road to Jonestown.

The vast majority of these popular accounts center predominately on Jones, who was white, and the perspectives of white survivors. Each anniversary of the massacre, though, brings a more sober look at how race functioned within the church, like Sikivu Hutchinson’s 2015 novel White Nights, Black Paradise. More than 90 percent of Peoples Temple members were African American. Jones even modeled the cadences and substance of his preaching on those of a black spiritual leader named Father Divine, a sort of T.D. Jakes of the early 20th century. Of the roughly 1,000 Peoples Temple members who moved to Guyana before its tragic end there, 70 percent were black and almost half were black women. A number of those were black women over the age of 61; the burgeoning community relied in part on the $36,000 per month in Social Security benefits that these women brought in.

I can see why the church and its drive to build a colorblind utopia appealed specifically to black people in this San Francisco community. The Fillmore was once called “the Harlem of the West,” a black neighborhood dominated by jazz bars, mom-and-pop shops, and Victorian duplexes in varying degrees of upkeep and decay. Like most black communities, it was a place of government-sanctioned racial segregation, one of only two neighborhoods open to black people, where black doctors didn’t live that far from the poorest of the poor. By the 1970s, black families in San Francisco were struggling with drug addiction and neglect; the neighborhood was still reeling from a two-decade-long redevelopment program that demolished hundreds of homes and displaced tens of thousands of residents. It was mostly the poor who were left to live in a smattering of public housing complexes that took up most of the neighborhood.

What’s more, the church became the place where radical and progressive dignitaries, the people many of these neighbors looked up to, came to show their worth: Angela Davis visited and once gave a radio dispatch talking about the “conspiracy” against the church. Dennis Banks, who had been part of the more than year-long occupation of Alcatraz with the American Indian Movement, also reportedly showed up. Willie Brown, who would become San Francisco’s first black mayor but was then a California state assemblyman, was a strong supporter. Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett, the influential publisher of the city’s black newspaper, became the publisher of the church’s newsletter and was also the personal physician of the church’s reverend.

Even still, in America, Jonestown is largely seen as a white catastrophe; in Guyana, it’s viewed as a distinctly American one, a late-20th-century experiment in colonialism. In both tellings, and in the many books and films, black people are seen en masse, without individual stories of their own that might tell us something about how private entities learn to prey on black people when civic institutions fail them, and how joy can sometimes be found within that.

So I went looking for names."



"I came away from all of this with a deeper appreciation for just how average Peoples Temple members seemed. I went into it thinking that I’d find people who were misunderstood, maybe, but also brainwashed. Their inclination to be part of something was ultimately misguided, but nonetheless, it was human. But now, crucially, through Moore and McGehee, I also deeply understand how possible it is to build a life from tragedy, and how necessary it is to sift through what’s most painful, year after year after year, to better understand how it’s shaped you.

The irony isn’t lost on Moore. After rejecting the church when her sisters were alive, she’s spent the decades after their deaths more enmeshed in the Temple’s existence than really anyone. Her involvement goes beyond the study of the Temple and its meaning. Once, when I tried to arrange a time to talk with her, I hear from McGehee that she’ll be busy helping a former Temple member move in Indianapolis, even though the couple lives in a remote part of Washington state. “[My husband] and I occasionally ask ourselves, ‘What would we be doing if Jonestown had not happened in 1978?’,” she told me. “And the fact is we’ve been part of Peoples Temple much longer than my sisters ever were part of the movement.”

I became fascinated with Jonestown not because I was repelled by the idea of people mindlessly following along on some wild journey to build a utopian community, but because, on some level, I got how they did. I know how it feels to want to be a part of something that is separate but still part of the community in which you’re raised. I wasn’t born until nearly a decade after Jonestown, but the Fillmore I grew up in was one besieged by stories of loss. It was the Dot Com boom of the late 1990s, and all around me were stories of black families who were leaving the city because their rents were too high, their property taxes had skyrocketed, or the violence and neglect of the preceding decades left them aching for a fresh start elsewhere.

It’s extremely lonely and vulnerable to be born and raised and black in San Francisco these days. My mom is aging, and I’m a thirtysomething living 3,000 miles away and feeling increasingly anxious about the amounts of care I’ll have to provide to her on my own. For this, and so many other reasons, in this time of tribalism and instability, with inequality on the rise and people feeling moved to find a political savior, Jonestown is still worth revisiting. So too are the people still surviving it."
sanfrancisco  history  jimjones  jonestown  peoplestemple  2018  jamilahking  cults  race  progressive  progressivism  socialism 
november 2018 by robertogreco
The Making of a Democratic Economy | Ted Howard | RSA Replay - YouTube
"While not often reported on in the press, there is a growing movement – a Community Wealth Building movement – that is taking hold, from the ground up, in towns and cities in the United States and in the United Kingdom, in particular.

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

A few accounts miraculously navigate this poisoned discursive terrain adroitly. @BlackSocialists comes immediately to mind. They do Twitter "wrong" and it's wonderful to see.

That sort of patient, clear, drama- and hyperbole-free presentation is something to learn from. Stick to the principles, stick to the material analysis, dodge around the feints and discursive traps of the opposition.

These are skills we have to put real effort into learning, but then, they don't call it a fight or a struggle because it comes automatically, right? These rhetorical skills are part of our basic training.

Going for the sick own, the oh-snap fireworks, is about your own personal brand, your lil ego, & that, folks, is commodification in action. Socialism isn't about you-as-atomized-individual. It's about us, building understanding, seeing above the spectacle, gaining power together."
davidadams  twitter  socialism  activism  education  ego  personalbranding  solidarity  collectivism  bsa  blacksocialistsofamerica  socialmedia  individualism  howto  organizing  resistance  struggle  sarcasm  callouts  training  opposition 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Black Socialists of America on Twitter: "Let’s dissect the term and/or concept of “white privilege” and how it has been mistakenly used over the last few years by Liberals, Conservatives, and confused Leftists drawn into misinformation and propagand
"Let’s dissect the term and/or concept of “white privilege” and how it has been mistakenly used over the last few years by Liberals, Conservatives, and confused Leftists drawn into misinformation and propaganda (once and for all).

You might want to bookmark this thread.

We want to begin by recommending that “white” Americans new to the idea of Socialism read both volumes of Theodore W. Allen’s “The Invention of the White Race” before even THINKING about cracking into “Das Kapital” or any of the Socialist “classics”:

http://blacksocialists.us/resource-guide

More Black Socialists of America Retweeted Black Socialists of America
In order to engage with this discussion, it is imperative that you first understand WHY we refer to “race” as a “social construct,” and understand how it differs from “ethnicity.”

Peep the thread below as an intro to “race vs. ethnicity” when/if you can.

["Black American vs. “black” American... Ethnicity vs. race... Let's beak it down." https://twitter.com/BlackSocialists/status/970805482867871744 ]

You’ve heard the cliché, “there’s only one race: the human race,” and it is TRUE, but society does not reflect this reality yet, for those supporting white supremacy (an IDEA) want a place in the racial/socioeconomic hierarchy instead of destroying the hierarchy altogether.

When the first Africans arrived in VA in 1619, there were no “white” people there with them, but “British” people.

According to colonial records, there wouldn’t be “white” people there for another 60 years.

The hands of imperialism extended from ETHNO-STATES; not RACIAL groups.

[two images]

Other Europeans coming to America?

Poorer Europeans coming to America?

Potential for poor and working class solidarity?

“Oh no,” the ruling-class Europeans thought.

💡

“Let’s construct a racial hierarchy; the psychological ‘wage’ we give whites will divide the proletariat.”

[three charts]

One could compare British rule in Ireland with a similar form of “white” oppression of Indigenous and Black Americans, but Irish immigrants fleeing persecution learned to SPREAD racial oppression in their adoptive country as a part of “white” American assimilation.

Unfortunate.

[four images]

“White privilege” has enforced the myth of racial superiority; this has been central to maintaining RULING-CLASS domination over poor and working class people of ALL colors throughout AMERICAN history.

“White privilege” ultimately hurts poor and working class “white” Americans.

Now that we have this established, let’s comment on “white privilege” (the term) as it was originally COINED and used by Theodore W. Allen in the 1960s, and as it is popularly (and mistakenly) misused today in 2018.

[image]

“White privilege” was originally referred to as “white skin privilege,” and it was a term coined by Theodore W. Allen under a class-based analysis.

What happens when you remove the class-based analysis?

You get Capitalist control of the narrative, and more division as a result.

What Liberal and Conservative media have done is create a dynamic where poor and working class white Americans don’t feel as though they have any room to move in solidarity with poor and working class Black Americans, and vice versa; common “SJW” RHETORIC deepens these rifts.

When egoists throw out terms like “check your privilege,” they seem more concerned with placing white Americans in a lose-lose situation instead of highlighting a ceding of power to the ruling class based upon manufactured social structures, and creating a pathway for solidarity.

Explanations for white supremacy that only rely on “biology” or attribute it to benefits gained by all “white” Americans are fundamentally incomplete, for they analyze “race” within a vacuum; there is always a socioeconomic component that must be addressed in this conversation.

W.E.B. DuBois said in “Black Reconstruction”:

(1) "Race was supplemented by a carefully planned and slowly evolved method, which drove such a wedge between the white and black workers..."

(2) “There prob­a­bly are not today in the world two groups of work­ers with practically identical interests who hate and fear each other so deeply and persistently and who are kept so far apart that neither sees anything of common interest.”

Phrases like “check your privilege” are commonly used today, but NOT to speak to the reality that poor and working class white Americans are ceding power to Capitalist exploiters who couldn’t care less about them (or us).

We must address the ILLUSION of “race” FIRST.

We agree with Allen; the “white race” must be understood, not simply as a social construct (as opposed to a genetic phenomenon), but as a “ruling class social control formation.”

“RACE” and “WHITE PRIVILEGE” are “RULING CLASS SOCIAL CONTROL FORMATIONS” (divide and conquer).

Noel Ignatiev, author of “How the Irish Became White,” has a great quote that we’ll end this thread with:

(1) “The ending of white supremacy is not solely a demand of the Negro people, separate from the class demands of the entire working class.”

(2) “It cannot be left to the Negro people to fight it alone, while the white workers 'sympathize with their fight,' 'support it,' 'reject racist slanders' etc. but actually fight for their 'own' demands."

(3) “The ideology of white chauvinism is bourgeois poison aimed primarily at the white workers, utilized as a weapon by the ruling class to subjugate black and white workers."

(4) "It has its material base in the practice of white supremacy, which is a crime not merely against non-whites but against the entire proletariat. Therefore, its elimination certainly qualifies as one of the class demands of the entire working class."

(5) "In fact, considering the role that this vile practice has historically played in holding back the struggle of the American working class, the fight against white supremacy becomes the central immediate task of the entire working class."

When we say we’re fighting against “white supremacy,” we’re talking about fighting against an IDEA and STRUCTURE; an idea and structure that has left poor and working class Blacks and whites in conflict for centuries instead of rising up against their Capitalist oppressors.

Black Americans and “white” (European) Americans are not monoliths; we are prepared to move through all divisions to bring all poor and working class peoples within America to a multiethnic plane of direct action that sheds the Capitalist system from human existence.

Solidarity!"
whiteprivilege  2018  blacksocialistsofamerica  class  solidarity  race  racism  capitalism  hierarchy  ethnicity  history  ireland  oppression  poverty  rulingclass  classwar  theodoreallen  colonialism  slavery  imperialism  webdubois  whitesupremacy  labor  work  economics  racialhierarchy  noelignatiev  irish  socialism  division  liberalism  media  checkyourprivilege  power  society  bsa 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Marxism 101: How Capitalism is Killing Itself with Dr. Richard Wolff - YouTube
"Despite a concerted effort by the U.S. Empire to snuff out the ideology, a 2016 poll found young Americans have a much more favorable view of socialism than capitalism.

Though he died 133 years ago, the analysis put forward by one of the world’s most influential thinkers, Karl Marx, remains extremely relevant today. The Empire’s recent rigged presidential election has been disrupted by the support of an avowed socialist, Bernie Sanders, by millions of voters.

To find out why Marx’s popularity has stood the test of time, Abby Martin interviews renowned Marxist economist Richard Wolff, Professor Emeritus of Economics at UMass - Amherst, and visiting professor at the New School in New York.

Prof. Wolff gives an introduction suited for both beginners and seasoned Marxists, with comprehensive explanations of key tenets of Marxism including dialectical and historical materialism, surplus value, crises of overproduction, capitalism's internal contradictions, and more."
richardwolff  karlmarx  academia  academics  capitalism  accounting  us  inequality  communism  socialism  marxism  berniesanders  labor  idealism  materialism  radicalism  philosophy  dialecticalmaterialism  humans  systems  change  friedrichengels  slavery  automation  credit  finance  studentdebt  poverty  unions  organization  systemschange  china  russia  ussr  growth  2016  power  democracy  collectives  collectivism  meansofproduction  society  climatechange  environment  sustainability  rosaluxemburg  militaryindustrialcomplex  pollution  ethics  morality  immorality  ows  occupywallstreet  politics  corruption 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Offering a more progressive definition of freedom
"Pete Buttigieg is the mayor of South Bend, Indiana. He is a progressive Democrat, Rhodes scholar, served a tour of duty in Afghanistan during his time as mayor, and is openly gay. In a recent interview with Rolling Stone [https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/pete_buttigieg-36-year-old-mayor-south-bend-indiana-2020-713662/ ], Buttigieg talked about the need for progressives to recast concepts that conservatives have traditionally “owned” — like freedom, family, and patriotism — in more progressive terms.
You’ll hear me talk all the time about freedom. Because I think there is a failure on our side if we allow conservatives to monopolize the idea of freedom — especially now that they’ve produced an authoritarian president. But what actually gives people freedom in their lives? The most profound freedoms of my everyday existence have been safeguarded by progressive policies, mostly. The freedom to marry who I choose, for one, but also the freedom that comes with paved roads and stop lights. Freedom from some obscure regulation is so much more abstract. But that’s the freedom that conservatism has now come down to.

Or think about the idea of family, in the context of everyday life. It’s one thing to talk about family values as a theme, or a wedge — but what’s it actually like to have a family? Your family does better if you get a fair wage, if there’s good public education, if there’s good health care when you need it. These things intuitively make sense, but we’re out of practice talking about them.

I also think we need to talk about a different kind of patriotism: a fidelity to American greatness in its truest sense. You think about this as a local official, of course, but a truly great country is made of great communities. What makes a country great isn’t chauvinism. It’s the kinds of lives you enable people to lead. I think about wastewater management as freedom. If a resident of our city doesn’t have to give it a second thought, she’s freer.


Clean drinking water is freedom. Good public education is freedom. Universal healthcare is freedom. Fair wages are freedom. Policing by consent is freedom. Gun control is freedom. Fighting climate change is freedom. A non-punitive criminal justice system is freedom. Affirmative action is freedom. Decriminalizing poverty is freedom. Easy & secure voting is freedom. This is an idea of freedom I can get behind."
petebuttigieg  freedom  democracy  2018  jasonkottke  everyday  life  living  progressive  progress  progressivism  education  water  healthcare  universalhealthcare  health  climatechange  politics  policy  poverty  inequality  decriminalization  voting  affirmitiveaction  guncontrol  liberation  work  labor  salaries  wages  economics  socialism  policing  police  lawenforcement  consent  patriotism  wealth  family 
september 2018 by robertogreco
Statement to the Court, Upon Being Convicted of Violating the Sedition Act
"Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
eugenedebs  eugenevdebs  rhetoric  socialism  truth  1918  kinship  multispecies  canon  solidarity  class  prisons  freedom  liberation  marxism  equality  inequality 
september 2018 by robertogreco
Opinion | The New Socialists - The New York Times
"Socialism means different things to different people. For some, it conjures the Soviet Union and the gulag; for others, Scandinavia and guaranteed income. But neither is the true vision of socialism. What the socialist seeks is freedom.

Under capitalism, we’re forced to enter the market just to live. The libertarian sees the market as synonymous with freedom. But socialists hear “the market” and think of the anxious parent, desperate not to offend the insurance representative on the phone, lest he decree that the policy she paid for doesn’t cover her child’s appendectomy. Under capitalism, we’re forced to submit to the boss. Terrified of getting on his bad side, we bow and scrape, flatter and flirt, or worse — just to get that raise or make sure we don’t get fired.

The socialist argument against capitalism isn’t that it makes us poor. It’s that it makes us unfree. When my well-being depends upon your whim, when the basic needs of life compel submission to the market and subjugation at work, we live not in freedom but in domination. Socialists want to end that domination: to establish freedom from rule by the boss, from the need to smile for the sake of a sale, from the obligation to sell for the sake of survival.

Listen to today’s socialists, and you’ll hear less the language of poverty than of power. Mr. Sanders invokes the 1 percent. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez speaks to and for the “working class” — not “working people” or “working families,” homey phrases meant to soften and soothe. The 1 percent and the working class are not economic descriptors. They’re political accusations. They split society in two, declaring one side the illegitimate ruler of the other; one side the taker of the other’s freedom, power and promise.

Walk the streets of Bushwick with a canvasser for Julia Salazar, the socialist candidate running to represent North Brooklyn in the New York State Senate. What you’ll hear is that unlike her opponent, Ms. Salazar doesn’t take money from real estate developers. It’s not just that she wants to declare her independence from rich donors. It’s that in her district of cash-strapped renters, landlords are the enemy.

Compare that position to the pitch that Shomik Dutta, a Democratic Party fund-raiser, gave to the Obama campaign in 2008: “The Clinton network is going to take all the establishment” donors. What the campaign needed was someone who understands “the less established donors, the real-estate-developer folks.” If that was “yes, we can,” the socialist answer is “no, we won’t.”

One of the reasons candidates like Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and Ms. Salazar speak the language of class so fluently is that it’s central to their identities. Al Gore, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton struggled to cobble together a credible self out of the many selves they’d presented over the years, trying to find a personal story to fit the political moment. Today’s young candidates of the left tell a story of personal struggle that meshes with their political vision. Mr. Obama did that — but where his story reinforced a myth of national identity and inclusion, the socialists’ story is one of capitalism and exclusion: how, as millennials struggling with low wages and high rents and looming debt, they and their generation are denied the promise of freedom.

The stories of these candidates are socialist for another reason: They break with the nation-state. The geographic references of Ms. Ocasio-Cortez — or Ms. Tlaib, who is running to represent Michigan’s 13th District in Congress — are local rather than national, invoking the memory and outposts of American and European colonialism rather than the promise of the American dream.

Ms. Tlaib speaks of her Palestinian heritage and the cause of Palestine by way of the African-American struggle for civil rights in Detroit, while Ms. Ocasio-Cortez draws circuits of debt linking Puerto Rico, where her mother was born, and the Bronx, where she lives. Mr. Obama’s story also had its Hawaiian (as well as Indonesian and Kenyan) chapters. But where his ended on a note of incorporation, the cosmopolitan wanderer coming home to America, Ms. Tlaib and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez aren’t interested in that resolution. That refusal is also part of the socialist heritage.

Arguably the biggest boundary today’s socialists are willing to cross is the two-party system. In their campaigns, the message is clear: It’s not enough to criticize Donald Trump or the Republicans; the Democrats are also complicit in the rot of American life. And here the socialism of our moment meets up with the deepest currents of the American past.

Like the great transformative presidents, today’s socialist candidates reach beyond the parties to target a malignant social form: for Abraham Lincoln, it was the slavocracy; for Franklin Roosevelt, it was the economic royalists. The great realigners understood that any transformation of society requires a confrontation not just with the opposition but also with the political economy that underpins both parties. That’s why realigners so often opt for a language that neither party speaks. For Lincoln in the 1850s, confronting the Whigs and the Democrats, that language was free labor. For leftists in the 2010s, confronting the Republicans and the Democrats, it’s socialism.

To critics in the mainstream and further to the left, that language can seem slippery. With their talk of Medicare for All or increasing the minimum wage, these socialist candidates sound like New Deal or Great Society liberals. There’s not much discussion, yet, of classic socialist tenets like worker control or collective ownership of the means of production.

And of course, there’s overlap between what liberals and socialists call for. But even if liberals come to support single-payer health care, free college, more unions and higher wages, the divide between the two will remain. For liberals, these are policies to alleviate economic misery. For socialists, these are measures of emancipation, liberating men and women from the tyranny of the market and autocracy at work. Back in the 1930s, it was said that liberalism was freedom plus groceries. The socialist, by contrast, believes that making things free makes people free."
coreyrobin  socialism  liberation  capitalism  latecapitalism  freedom  2018  canon  dsa  wageslavery  billgates  markzuckerberg  liberalism  neoliberalism  taxes  society  anxiety  socialjustice  democrats  us  politics  economics  markets  berniesanders  sovietunion  nordiccountries  scandinavia  domination  alexandriaocasio-cortez  rashidatlaib  kevinphillips 
august 2018 by robertogreco
Harvest of Empire – Harvest of Empire
[Available on YouTube, for now: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UyncOYTZfHE ]

[See also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harvest_of_Empire:_A_History_of_Latinos_in_America ]

"The Untold Story of Latinos in America

“We are all Americans of the New World, and our most dangerous enemies 
are not each other, but the great wall of ignorance between us.”
Juan González, Harvest of Empire

At a time of heated and divisive debate over immigration, Onyx Films is proud to present Harvest of Empire, a feature-length documentary that reveals the direct connection between the long history of U.S. intervention in Latin America and the immigration crisis we face today.

Based on the groundbreaking book by award-winning journalist and Democracy Now! Co-host Juan González, Harvest of Empire takes an unflinching look at the role that U.S. economic and military interests played in triggering an unprecedented wave of migration that is transforming our nation’s cultural and economic landscape.

From the wars for territorial expansion that gave the U.S. control of Puerto Rico, Cuba and more than half of Mexico, to the covert operations that imposed oppressive military regimes in the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador, Harvest of Empire unveils a moving human story that is largely unknown to the great majority of citizens in the U.S.

As Juan González says at the beginning of the film “They never teach us in school that the huge Latino presence here is a direct result of our own government’s actions in Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America over many decades — actions that forced millions from that region to leave their homeland and journey north.”

Harvest of Empire provides a rare and powerful glimpse into the enormous sacrifices and rarely-noted triumphs of our nation’s growing Latino community. The film features present day immigrant stories, rarely seen archival material, as well as interviews with such respected figures as Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Rigoberta Menchú, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Junot Díaz, Mexican historian Dr. Lorenzo Meyer, journalists María Hinojosa and Geraldo Rivera, Grammy award-winning singer Luis Enrique, and poet Martín Espada."
film  documentary  us  history  immigration  latinamerica  puertorico  mexico  guatemala  honduras  juangonzález  cuba  nicaragua  elsalvador  rigobertamenchú  jessejackson  anthonyromero  junotdíaz  lorenzomeyer  maríahinojosa  geraldorivera  2011  martínespada  luisenrique  dominicanrepublic  latinos  imperialism  politics  policy  foreignpolicy  braceros  wwii  ww2  civilrights  race  racism  migration  communism  redscare  centralamerica  caribbean  colonialism  socialism  capitalism  fidelcastro  rafaeltrujillo  spanish-americanwar  inequality  exploitation  sugar  cotton  revolution  resistance  fulgenciobatista  dictatorships  oppression  deportation  texas  california  newmexico  arizona  mexican-americanwar  nevada  colorado  florida  nyc  óscarromero  harrytruman  democracy  jacoboárbenz  unitedfruitcompany  eisenhower  cia  intervention  maya  ethniccleansing  land  ownership  civilwar  iran-contraaffair  ronaldreagan  sandinistas  contras  war  bayofpigs  refugees  marielboatlift  1980  jimmycarter  language  spanish  español  miami  joaquínbalaguer  hectortruji 
july 2018 by robertogreco
Democracy at Work
"Democracy at Work is a non-profit 501(c)3 that advocates for worker cooperatives and democratic workplaces as a key path to a stronger, democratic economic system. Based on the book Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism by Richard D. Wolff, we envision a future where workers at every level of their offices, stores, and factories have equal voices in the direction of their enterprise and its impact within their community and society at large."
economics  justice  richardwolff  capitalism  democracy  woorkercooperatives  labor  horizontality  politics  socialism  work  society  banks  banking  creditunions  finance 
july 2018 by robertogreco
Navigating the Storm
"“Navigating the Storm” is dedicated to providing a revolutionary analysis on the current crisis of the capitalist world-system and to facilitating ongoing strategic discussion between revolutionary anti-imperialists forces (i.e. revolutionary nationalists, communists, anarchists, etc.) towards the building of a collective orientation and program to guide our action over the course of the next four years and beyond.

This blog is facilitated by Kali Akuno and will be updated regularly with new installments of the “Navigating the Storm” series, articles and information on the development and resolution of the current crisis, and commentary and analysis by various organizations, individuals, and subscribers to the blog."

[See also:
https://twitter.com/KaliAkuno
https://cooperationjackson.org/cop-delegation-bios/2015/9/16/kali-akuno
https://cooperationjackson.org/ ]
kaliakuno  capitalism  socialism  anarchism  communism  crisis  policy  politics  revolution 
june 2018 by robertogreco
Resource Guide
"These are the official writings, videos, and more that BSA recommends all Socialists explore, regardless of skin color.

Please remember to read, watch, or listen to the content shared below with a healthy dose of skepticism, and to use your critical thinking skills. Just because one figure is correct on most issues does not mean that they are correct on all issues, and just because another figure is incorrect on most issues does not mean that they are incorrect on all issues.

The truth lies between and beyond all of the words our greatest revolutionaries and theorists have spoken, therefore we mustn’t fetishize the leaders of the past, or be apologists for the errors in their ways; we must learn from the mistakes in their methods in an effort to develop realistic approaches that stay true to the socialistic principles we all claim to embody.

Note: All of the titles are links to the readings themselves!"
socialism  bsa  blacksocialism  resources  references  webdubois  krlmarx  douglassturm  haldraper  antonpnnekoek  jmescone  erichfromm  mikhailbakunin  friedrichengels  alberteinstein  rosaluxemburg  bellhooks  abramlincolnharrishr  theodoreallen  cedricrobinson  noamchomsky  edwardherman  vladimirlenin  levtrotsky  maozedong  kaliakuno  ajamunangwya  claudiasanchezbajo  brunoroelants  jessicagordonnembhard  ajowanzingaifateyo  fredhampton  richardwolff  abbymartin  peterjoseph  capitalism  cornelwest  chrishedges  berniesanders  leninism  amyleather  stevemcqueen  paulrobeson  politics  economics  policy  lenin  blacksocialistsofamerica 
june 2018 by robertogreco
Thread by @ecomentario: "p.31 ecoed.wikispaces.com/file/view/C.+A… ecoed.wikispaces.com/file/view/C.+A… p.49 ecoed.wikispaces.com/file/view/C.+A… ecoed.wikispaces.co […]"
[on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ecomentario/status/1007269183317512192 ]

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

[“Rethinking Freire: Globalization and the Environmental Crisis" edited by C.A.Bowers and Frédérique Apffel-Marglin
https://ecoed.wikispaces.com/file/view/C.+A.+Bowers,+Frdrique+Apffel-Marglin,+Frederique+Apffel-Marglin,+Chet+A.+Bowers+Re-Thinking+Freire+Globalization+and+the+Environmental+Crisis+Sociocultural,+Political,+and+Historical+Studies+in+Educatio+2004.pdf ]
isabelrodíguez  paulofreire  ivanillich  wendellberry  subcomandantemarcos  gandhi  2018  gustavoesteva  madhuprakash  danastuchul  deschooling  colonialism  future  environment  sustainability  cabowers  frédériqueapffel-marglin  education  campesinos  bolivia  perú  pedagogyoftheoppressed  globalization  marinaarratia  power  authority  hierarchy  horizontality  socialjustice  justice  economics  society  community  cooperation  collaboration  politics  progress  growth  rural  urban  altruism  oppression  participation  marginality  marginalization  karlmarx  socialism  autonomy  local  slow  small  capitalism  consumerism  life  living  well-being  consumption  production  productivity  gustavoterán  indigeneity  work  labor  knowledge  experience  culture  joannamacy  spirituality  buddhism  entanglement  interdependence  interbeing  interexistence  philosophy  being  individualism  chiefseattle  lutherstandingbear  johngrim  ethics  morethanhuman  multispecies  humans  human  posthumnism  transhumanism  competition  marxism  liberation  simplicity  poverty  civilization  greed  p 
june 2018 by robertogreco
Barbara Ehrenreich's Radical Critique of Wellness Culture | The New Republic
"Ehrenreich contemplates with some satisfaction not just the approach of her own death but also the passing of her generation. As the boomers have aged, denial of death, she argues, has moved to the center of American culture, and a vast industrial ecosystem has bloomed to capitalize on it. Across twelve chapters, Ehrenreich surveys the health care system, the culture of old age, the world of “mindfulness,” and the interior workings of the body itself, and finds a fixation on controlling the body, encouraged by cynical and self-interested professionals in the name of “wellness.” Without opposing reasonable, routine maintenance, Ehrenreich observes that the care of the self has become a coercive and exploitative obligation: a string of endless medical tests, drugs, wellness practices, and exercise fads that threaten to become the point of life rather than its sustenance. Someone, obviously, is profiting from all this.

While innumerable think pieces have impugned millennials’ culture of “self-care”—and argued that the generation born in the 1980s and ’90s is fragile, consumerist, and distracted—Ehrenreich redirects such criticisms toward an older crowd. Her book sets out to refute the idea that it’s possible to control the course and shape of one’s own biological or emotional life, and dissects the desire to do so. “Agency is not concentrated in humans or their gods or favorite animals,” she writes. “It is dispersed throughout the universe, right down to the smallest imaginable scale.” We are not, that is, in charge of ourselves."



"While workout culture requires the strict ordering of the body, mindfulness culture has emerged to subject the brain to similarly stringent routines. Mindfulness gurus often begin from the assumption that our mental capacities have been warped and attenuated by the distractions of our age. We need re-centering. Mindfulness teaches that it is possible through discipline and practice to gain a sense of tranquility and focus. Such spiritual discipline, often taking the form of a faux-Buddhist meditation program, can of course be managed through an app on your phone, or, with increasing frequency, might be offered by your employer. Google, for example, keeps on staff a “chief motivator,” who specializes in “fitness for the mind,” while Adobe’s “Project Breathe” program allocates 15 minutes per day for employees to “recharge their batteries.” This fantastical hybrid of exertion and mysticism promises that with enough effort , you too can bend your mind back into shape.

“Whichever prevails in the mind-body duality, the hope, the goal—the cherished assumption,” Ehrenreich summarizes, “is that by working together, the mind and the body can act as a perfectly self-regulating machine.” In this vision, the self is a clockwork mechanism, ideally adapted by natural selection to its circumstances and needing upkeep only in the form of juice cleanses, meditation, CrossFit, and so on. Monitor your data forever and hope to live forever. Like workout culture, wellness is a form of conspicuous consumption. It is only the wealthy who have the resources to maintain the illusion of an integral and bounded self, capable of responsible self-care and thus worthy of social status. The same logic says that those who smoke (read: poor), or don’t eat right (poor again), or don’t exercise enough (also poor) have personally failed and somehow deserve their health problems and low life expectancy."



"Ehrenreich’s political agenda goes largely unstated in Natural Causes, but is nonetheless central to her argument. Since at least the mid-1970s, she has been engaged in a frustrated dialogue with her peers about how they choose to live. In her view, the New Left failed to grasp that its own professional-class origins, status anxieties, and cultural pretensions were the reason that it had not bridged the gap with the working class in the 1960s and 1970s. It was this gap that presented the New Right with its own political opportunity, leading to the ascent of Ronald Reagan and fueling decades of spiraling inequality, resurgent racism, and the backlash against feminism.

The inability of her contemporaries to see themselves with enough distance—either historical distance or from the vantage of elsewhere in the class system—is the subject of some of her best books: Fear of Falling, a study of middle-class insecurity, and Nickel and Dimed, her best-selling undercover report on the difficulties of low-wage employment. At some level, it’s what all her work has been about. In the final pages of Natural Causes, Ehrenreich stages a version of this lifelong dialogue with her peers. She tries to convince them, in the last act, to finally concede that the world does not revolve around them. They can, she proposes, depart without Sturm und Drang.
Two years ago, I sat in a shady backyard around a table of friends, all over sixty, when the conversation turned to the age-appropriate subject of death. Most of those present averred that they were not afraid of death, only of any suffering that might be involved in dying. I did my best to assure them that this could be minimized or eliminated by insisting on a nonmedical death, without the torment of heroic interventions to prolong life by a few hours or days.


It’s a final, existential version of the same argument she’s made forever: for members of her generation and class to see themselves with a touch more perspective.

Despite Ehrenreich’s efforts, this radical message hasn’t resonated among them as widely as she hoped. She has, meanwhile, worked on building institutions that may foster a different outlook in the years to come. In 2012, she founded the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, an impressive, foundation-backed venture to support journalists reporting on inequality. Ever alert to the threat of social inequality and the responsibility of middle-class radicals, she served until just last year as honorary co-chair of Democratic Socialists of America—that renewed organ of radicalism for the millennial precariat. She is not giving up. “It’s one thing,” she writes, “to die into a dead world and, metaphorically speaking, leave one’s bones to bleach on a desert lit only by a dying star. It is another thing to die into the actual world, which seethes with life, with agency other than our own, and at the very least, with endless possibility.”

It takes a special kind of courage to maintain such humility and optimism across a whole lifetime of losing an argument and documenting the consequences. Barbara Ehrenreich doesn’t meditate. She doesn’t believe in the integral self, coherent consciousness, or the mastery of spirit over matter. She thinks everything is dissolving and reforming, all the time. But she’s not in flux—quite the opposite. She’s never changed her mind, lost her way, or, as far as I can tell, even gotten worn out. There’s the tacit lesson of Natural Causes, conveyed by the author’s biography as much as the book’s content: To sustain political commitment and to manifest social solidarity—fundamentally humble and collective ways of being in the world—is the best self-care."
barbaraehrenreich  mindfulness  wellness  culture  health  boomers  babyboomers  2018  gabrielwinant  politics  self-care  death  generations  perspective  socialism  inequality  dsa  radicalism  millennials  medicine  balance  body  bodies  lifeexpectancy  exercise  self-improvement  westernmedicine  feminism 
may 2018 by robertogreco
mordeaux🌹 on Twitter: "Who can forget the rallying cry of the Paris Commune: “To the barricades comrades! And once there we will remember to be realistic about our demands!”"
"Who can forget the rallying cry of the Paris Commune: “To the barricades comrades! And once there we will remember to be realistic about our demands!”

And of course the closing line of the Communist Manifesto: “Workers of the world unite with the progressive elements of the bourgeoisie, you have nothing to lose but your chains and a world to incrementally gain over time so long as it does not disrupt the market”

As the preamble to the IWW constitution says: “The working class and the employing class have nothing in common, except for a genuine desire to make capitalism more humane.”

As Lenin said in 1917: “A fair and reasonable amount of power to the Soviets!”

In the words of Rosa Luxemburg: “Concessions or barbarism!”

The great Fred Hampton: “You can kill a revolutionary, and you probably should unless you want bad news coverage for your movement.”

James Connolly: “The Irish people will only be free, when they can affordably rent everything from the plough to the stars.”

Most importantly Eugene V. Debs: “I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I will be careful talking openly about prison abolition.”

Thomas Sankara: “We must dare to somewhat improve the future!”

A great one from Fidel Castro: “I find capitalism repugnant. It is filthy, it is gross, it is alienating... because it causes war, hypocrisy and competition. But hey, what are ya gonna do? They have drones now 🤷‍♀️”

In the words of Ho Chi Minh: “The Vietnamese people deeply love independence, freedom and peace. But in the face of United States aggression they have strategically gained a few non-reformist reforms and that’s really all they can hope for.”

Mao: “All reactionaries are paper tigers. In appearance, the reactionaries are terrifying, but in reality, they are made of paper so we have to be very gentle with them and not upset them too much.”

A poignant point from Hugo Chavez: “We must reduce all the emissions that are destroying the planet. However, that requires a change in lifestyle, a change in the economic model: We must go from capitalism to a free market solution that will encourage new efficient technology”

A personal favorite from Assata Shakur: “Everybody in the world, everybody in history, has always gotten their freedom by appealing to the moral sense of the people who were oppressing them.”

Patrice Lumumba: “The only thing which we wanted for our country is the right to a worthy life, to dignity without pretence, to independence without restrictions. This was never the desire of the Belgian colonialists and their Western allies and it’s important to hear both sides”

Angela Davis: “As a black woman, my politics and political affiliation are bound up with and flow from participation in my people's struggle for liberation, and with the fight of oppressed people all over the world against Bernie bros”

Big Bill Haywood: “If one man has a dollar he didn't work for, some other man worked and received a fair market rate for his time.”

Karl Marx: “The executive of the modern state is nothing but a committee for fairly balancing the interests of labor against the realities of the market”"
humor  socialism  communism  capitalism  centrism  politics  democrats  mikemordowanec  vi:justincharles  karlmarx  markets  labor  work  rosaluxemburg  eugenedebs  fredhampton  thomassankara  lenin  iww  hochiminh  hugochavez  assatashakur  patricelumumba  angeladavis  billhaywood  fidelcastro  maozedong  vladimirlenin 
may 2018 by robertogreco
Resource Guide
"These are the official writings, videos, and more that BSA recommends all Socialists explore, regardless of skin color.

Please remember to read, watch, or listen to the content shared below with a healthy dose of skepticism, and to use your critical thinking skills. Just because one figure is correct on most issues does not mean that they are correct on all issues, and just because another figure is incorrect on most issues does not mean that they are incorrect on all issues.

The truth lies between and beyond all of the words our greatest revolutionaries and theorists have spoken, therefore we mustn’t fetishize the leaders of the past, or be apologists for the errors in their ways; we must learn from the mistakes in their methods in an effort to develop realistic approaches that stay true to the socialistic principles we all claim to embody."
books  education  politics  marxism  socialism  lists  readinglists  skepticism  bsa  blacksocialism  resources  references  webdubois  krlmarx  douglassturm  haldraper  antonpnnekoek  jmescone  erichfromm  mikhailbakunin  friedrichengels  alberteinstein  rosaluxemburg  bellhooks  abramlincolnharrishr  theodoreallen  cedricrobinson  noamchomsky  edwardherman  vladimirlenin  levtrotsky  maozedong  kaliakuno  ajamunangwya  claudiasanchezbajo  brunoroelants  jessicagordonnembhard  ajowanzingaifateyo  fredhampton  richardwolff  abbymartin  peterjoseph  capitalism  cornelwest  chrishedges  berniesanders  leninism  amyleather  stevemcqueen  paulrobeson  economics  policy  lenin  blacksocialistsofamerica 
may 2018 by robertogreco
Rebecca Solnit on a Childhood of Reading and Wandering | Literary Hub
"In the most egalitarian of European—and New Mexican—traditions, forests were public commons in which common people could roam, graze flocks, hunt and gather, and this is another way that forests when they are public land and public libraries are alike: as spaces in which everyone is welcome, as places in which we can wander and collect, get lost and find what we’re looking for.

The United States’s public libraries sometimes seem to me the last refuges of a democratic vision of equality, places in which everyone is welcome, which serve the goal of an informed public, offering services far beyond the already heady gift of free books you can take home, everything from voter registration to computer access. I’ve joked for a long time that if you walked up to people in the street and asked them whether we could own our greatest treasures collectively and trust people to walk away with them and bring them back, a lot of people would say that’s impossibly idealistic and some would say it’s socialist, but libraries have been making books free for all for a very long time. They are temples of books, fountains of narrative pleasure, and toolboxes of crucial information. My own writing has depended on public libraries and then university libraries and archives and does to this day. I last used a public library the day before yesterday."



"So let’s begin by recognizing that all this was—and in many moral ways still is—Coast Miwok land, before the Spanish came, before Spanish claims became Mexican claims, before this was considered to be part of Mexico, before it was part of the United States."



"Browsing, woolgathering, meandering, wandering, drifting, that state when exploring, when looking to find what it might be possible to find rather than seeking one particular goal, is the means of locomotion. I often think that hunter-gatherers must move a lot like this, seeking game or plant foods, flexible about what might show up on any given day. I was lucky that children were weeds, not hothouse flowers, in those days, left to our own devices, and my own devices led in two directions: north to the hills and the horses, south to the library."



"These linked paths and roads form a circuit of about six miles that I began hiking ten years ago to walk off my angst during a difficult year. I kept coming back to this route for respite from my work and for my work too, because thinking is generally thought of as doing nothing in a production-oriented culture, and doing nothing is hard to do. It’s best done by disguising it as doing something, and the something closest to doing nothing is walking. Walking itself is the intentional act closest to the unwilled rhythms of the body, to breathing and the beating of the heart. It strikes a delicate balance between working and idling, being and doing. It is a bodily labor that produces nothing but thoughts, experiences, arrivals. After all those years of walking to work out other things, it made sense to come back to work close to home, in Thoreau’s sense, and to think about walking.

Walking, ideally, is a state in which the mind, the body, and the world are aligned, as though they were three characters finally in conversation together, three notes suddenly making a chord. Walking allows us to be in our bodies and in the world without being made busy by them. It leaves us free to think without being wholly lost in our thoughts."



"Moving on foot seems to make it easier to move in time; the mind wanders from plans to recollections to observations."



"Leave the door open for the unknown, the door into the dark. That’s where the most important things come from, where you yourself came from, and where you will go…"



"Like many others who turned into writers, I disappeared into books when I was very young, disappeared into them like someone running into the woods. What surprised and still surprises me is that there was another side to the forest of stories and the solitude, that I came out that other side and met people there. Writers are solitaries by vocation and necessity. I sometimes think the test is not so much talent, which is not as rare as people think, but purpose or vocation, which manifests in part as the ability to endure a lot of solitude and keep working. Before writers are writers they are readers, living in books, through books, in the lives of others that are also the heads of others, in that act that is so intimate and yet so alone."



"Libraries are sanctuaries from the world and command centers onto it: here in quiet rooms are the lives of Crazy Horse and Aung San Suu Kyi, the Hundred Years War and the Opium Wars and the Dirty War, the ideas of Simone Weil and Lao Tsu, information on building your sailboat or dissolving your marriage, fictional worlds and books to equip the reader to reenter the real world. They are, ideally, places where nothing happens and where everything that has happened is stored up to be remembered and relived, the place where the world is folded up into boxes of paper. Every book is a door that opens into another world, which might be the magic that all those children’s books were alluding to, and a library is a Milky Way of worlds. All readers are Wu Daozi; all imaginative, engrossing books are landscapes into which readers vanish."
rebeccasolnit  2017  children  unschooling  deschooling  parenting  education  libraries  wandering  howwelearn  freedom  autonomy  forests  childhood  novato  california  learning  canon  publicgood  us  egalitarianism  democracy  socialism  thoreau  walking  cv  unknowing  uncertainty  woods  writing  howwewrite  books  literature  stories  storytelling  listening  reading  sanctuary  vanishing  nature  plants  wildlife  multispecies  morethanhuman  society 
april 2018 by robertogreco
Admit Everybody | Current Affairs
"There are two conclusions here, one of which I agree with and one of which I find objectionable. The conclusion I agree with is that the SAT may be the “least bad” of three options for competitive admissions, when compared with using grades or Mushy Holistic Factors, and that therefore eliminating the SAT alone won’t in and of itself produce greater equality and could backfire. (I even have a certain soft spot for the SAT because it enabled me, a person who didn’t know any of the weird upper-class “holistic” signals that impress colleges, to go to a good college.) But the conclusion I disagree with is that this somehow makes a “progressive case for the SAT,” or that we should “defend the SAT.” This is the same logic that causes people like Nicholas Kristof to argue that because sweatshops are supposedly better than farm labor, there is a progressive case for sweatshops and we should defend them. This is one of the differences between liberalism and leftism: liberalism argues for the least bad of several bad options, while leftism insists on having a better set of options.

It’s the talk about “powerful ways” to “distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack” that troubles me. My concern is about what happens to the rest of the pack! As my acquaintance Patrick Conner put it, the difference between meritocracy and socialism is “I don’t want everyone to have a fair shot at the 15% of non-shitty lives, I want everyone to have a decent life.” Instead of arguing for the least-unfair version of the brutally competitive war of all-against-all that is the contemporary college admissions system, the progressive case should be that we ought to have an actual fair admissions system.

In other words: just admit everybody. The whole “competitive” nature of undergraduate admissions is absurd to begin with, and the very fact that students are sorted according to “merit” is socially corrosive. Let’s face it: college isn’t like brain surgery or social work. People’s lives aren’t in your hands. Instead of finding the “top ten best people” we should be selecting “anyone who has proved they are capable of doing the expected work.” Competitive admissions are as irrational as grading curves. With a grading curve, only X percent of the class will get As on their papers, even if every single person in the class wrote an excellent paper, which forces you to start making silly and arbitrary distinctions in a contrived effort to pit the students against each other. The better way to grade is by developing a standard independently and giving students a qualification if they meet the standard. Here’s the admissions parallel: everyone who shows themselves capable of doing the work required of a Harvard undergrad is marked “qualified” for Harvard and allowed to apply. There are a limited number of places, of course, but those places will be filled by selecting a random group of students from among all of those marked “qualified.” You might still get a very low percentage of applicants admitted because space is limited, but it won’t be because those applicants have been deemed worthier, it will be because the lottery happened to favor them.

My vision of universities is as a place where anybody can come and learn, so long as they can do the work. Now, you could argue that at elite schools, the work is so hard that only a few people would be qualified to do it. That’s false, though. I have been a TF at Harvard, so I am acquainted with the level of rigor in the undergraduate curriculum, and it’s obvious that vastly more students than the 4.8% they actually admit are capable of passing the courses. In fact, possibly the majority of the applicants could do fine. We know that college admissions are a crapshoot. But let’s just make them an actual crapshoot, so that nobody would be deluded into thinking that merit was involved, beyond the merit of basic literacy and numeracy.

We might have a different system at the graduate level, where higher levels of specialized skill are required. But I think the same principle should be followed: set a clear standard for the minimum a student needs to be able to do. Make that standard public, so that everybody knows that if they can do X they will have the same shot at being admitted to a program as anybody else. Then choose at random from among those who have met the basic standard.

Alright, so you can probably come up with half a dozen criticisms of this system, the way you can criticize the idea of a randomly-selected congress or a jury trial. Colleges will raise the “basic standard” to unrealistic levels and thus recreate a highly-competitive admissions system, and Harvard will start pretending that you need to be able to do calculus in order to muddle your way to a Bachelor of Arts there. (You don’t.) As long as you still have underlying social and economic inequalities, you can’t actually have an equal system, because everything will reflect those inequalities until we get rid of them. Rich parents will always find ways to make sure their children get more than other children. This is part of Freddie’s point, and he is right: instead of fixing the admissions system you have to fix the economic system, because you can’t isolate the one from the other. It’s an important point, but it doesn’t amount to a defense of the “meritocracy” illusion or the concept of “distinguishing from the rest of the pack.” And the left’s education experts should be devising practical alternatives to meritocracy rather than slightly-less-awful versions of it.

We should always be clear on what the goal is: a world in which we don’t all have to fight each other all the time, where we can work together in solidarity rather than having to wage war against our friends for the privilege of having a good job. There is no reason why everyone shouldn’t have equal access to the highest-quality education, and in a properly organized society it would be perfectly simple to provide it. We don’t need “best” and “worst” universities, ranked from top to bottom, we just need “universities,” places where people go to explore human knowledge and acquire the skills that enable them to do things that need doing. Progressive education means an end to the illusion of meritocratic competition, an end to the SAT, and the realization of a vision of equal education for all."
sat  standardizedtesting  testing  nathanrobinson  2018  freddiedeboer  bias  elitism  inequality  meritocracy  liberalism  leftism  progressive  patrickconner  socialism  competition  selectivity  colleges  universities  highered  highereducation  admissions  education  ranking  society  merit  fairness  egalitarianism 
april 2018 by robertogreco
Movement Pedagogy: Beyond the Class/Identity Impasse - Viewpoint Magazine
"Ellsworth had studied critical pedagogy carefully and incorporated it into her course, which she called Curriculum and Instruction 607: Media and Anti-racist Pedagogies. She describes the diverse group of students it drew, including “Asian American, Chicano/a, Jewish, Puerto Rican, and Anglo European men and women from the United States, and Asian, African, Icelandic, and Canadian international students.” This diverse context seemed ideal for engaging in critical pedagogy. And yet, problems arose as soon as the class began.

When invited to speak about injustices they had experienced and witnessed on campus, students struggled to communicate clearly about racism. They had a hard time speaking and listening to one another about the main subject of the course. Rather than dialogue providing grounds for solidarity, “the defiant speech of students and professor…constituted fundamental challenges to and rejections of the voices of some classmates and often the professor.” Ellsworth began to question the limitations of an approach to dialogue that assumes “all members have equal opportunity to speak, all members respect other members’ rights to speak and feel safe to speak, and all ideas are tolerated and subjected to rational critical assessment against fundamental judgments and moral principles.” These assumptions were not bearing out in her classroom due to the vastly different histories, experiences, and perspectives of those in the room.

There was difficulty, pain, and deadlock in communicating about the social structure of the university, a deadlock that fell along classed, racial, gendered and national lines. Like a broken window, fissures between the experiences and perspectives of Ellsworth and her students formed cracks, which then caused more cracks, until no one could see each other clearly.

Contrary to critical pedagogy’s promise of liberation through dialogue, Ellsworth’s classroom was filled with uncomfortable silences, confusions, and stalemates caused by the fragmentation. The students and professor could not achieve their stated goal of understanding institutional racism and stopping its business-as-usual at the university. She recalls that
[t]hings were not being said for a number of reasons. These included fear of being misunderstood and/or disclosing too much and becoming too vulnerable; memories of bad experiences in other contexts of speaking out; resentment that other oppressions (sexism, heterosexism, fat oppression, classism, anti-Semitism) were being marginalized in the name of addressing racism – and guilt for feeling such resentment; confusion about levels of trust and commitment about those who were allies to one another’s group struggles; resentment by some students of color for feeling that they were expected to disclose more and once again take the burden of doing pedagogic work of educating White students/professor about the consequences of White middle class privilege; resentment by White students for feeling that they had to prove they were not the enemy.

The class seemed to be reproducing the very oppressive conditions it sought to challenge. As they reflected on these obstacles, Ellsworth and her students decided to alter the terms of their engagement. They replaced the universalism of critical pedagogy, in which students were imagined to all enter dialogue from similar locations, with a situated pedagogy that foregrounded the challenge of working collectively from their vastly different positions. This shift completely altered the tactics in the course. Rather than performing the teacher role as an emancipatory expert presumed able to create a universal critical consciousness through dialogue, Ellsworth became a counselor, helping to organize field trips, potlucks, and collaborations between students and movement groups around campus. These activities helped to build relations of trust and mutual support without presuming that all students entered the classroom from the same position. Rather than holding class together in a traditional way, Ellsworth met with students one on one, discussing particular experiences, histories, and feelings with them, talking through these new activities.

As trust began to form out of the morass of division, students created affinity groups based on shared experiences and analyses. The groups met outside of class to prepare for in-class meetings, which “provided some participants with safer home bases from which they gained support…and a language for entering the larger classroom interactions each week.” The affinity groups were a paradigm shift. The class went from a collection of atomized individuals to a network of shared and unshared experiences working in unison. Ellsworth writes that, “once we acknowledged the existence, necessity, and value of these affinity groups we began to see our task as…building a coalition among multiple, shifting, intersecting, and sometimes contradictory groups carrying unequal weights of legitimacy within the culture of the classroom. Halfway through the semester, students renamed the class Coalition 607.” Ellsworth describes this move from fragmentation to coalition as coming together based on what the group did not share, rather than what they did share. Ultimately the class generated proposals for direct action to confront structural inequalities at the university.

Why doesn’t this feel empowering?

In 1989, Ellsworth published her now-famous article reflecting on the Coalition 607 experience. Provocatively entitled, “Why Doesn’t This Feel Empowering? Working through the Repressive Myths of Critical Pedagogy,” she used her experiences in this course to critique what she saw as a universalist model of voice, dialogue and liberation embedded within the assumptions of critical pedagogy. At the heart of this problem was a failure to recognize the fact that students do not all enter into dialogue on equal terrain. Instead, the social context of the classroom – like any other – is shaped by the very unequal histories and structures that critical pedagogy seeks to address. Thus, the idea that Ellsworth and her students might set aside their differences in order to tackle institutional racism on campus proved naive, and even harmful. Instead, it was through a pedagogical shift to coalition that they were ultimately able to build collective action. These actions were rooted not in claims of universality, but in a commitment to building solidarity across structural divisions.

Ellsworth’s story offers useful lessons for contemporary movement debates – debates that are often framed around an apparent dichotomy of class universalism versus identity politics. The question, “why doesn’t this feel empowering?” gestures toward the subtle (and not-so-subtle) processes of exclusion that occur within many movement spaces, where the seemingly neutral terms of debate obscure the specific perspectives that guide our agendas, strategies, and discussions. As Peter Frase notes, “appeals to class as the universal identity too often mask an attempt to universalize a particular identity, and exclude others.” Yet, Ellsworth and her students did not simply retreat into separate corners when these divisions flared; instead, they rethought the terms of their engagement in order to develop strategies for working together across difference. It was by thinking pedagogically about organizing that Ellsworth and her students arrived at a strategy of coalition."



"Ellsworth’s coalition – what we call thinking pedagogically about organizing – is an example of how to get to the imagined relation that dissolves the alleged impasse between class struggle and identity politics: thinking pedagogically creates an ideology of coalition rather than an ideology of impasse.

We can apply this insight from classrooms to activist spaces by examining a recent proposal adopted by the Democratic Socialists of America. At the national convention in August 2017, DSA members debated a controversial resolution calling for a rigorous program of organizer trainings. “Resolution #28: National Training Strategy” proposed to train “some 300 DSA members every month for 15 months” with the goal of ultimately producing “a core of 200 highly experienced trainers and 5,000 well trained leaders and organizers to carry forward DSA’s work in 2018 and beyond.” The proposal asked delegates to devote a significant amount of DSA’s national funds ($190,000) toward creating this nationwide activist training program, which includes modules on Socialist Organizing and Social Movements and Political Education.

The resolution emerged from a plank of the Praxis slate of candidates for the National Political Committee. On their website, the slate described this “National Training Strategy” in detail, emphasizing the importance of teaching and learning a “wide array of organizing skills and tactics so members develop the skills to pursue their own politics” (emphasis in original). Noting that “Poor and working people – particularly people of color – are often treated as external objects of organizing,” this educational strategy explicitly sought to use positionality as a strength. They elaborate: “If DSA is serious about building the power of working people of whatever race, gender, citizen status or region, we must re-build the spine of the Left to be both strong and flexible.” Aware that DSA members would be coming from a variety of positions, the slate made education a central plank of their platform. Members pursuing “their own politics” based on their precise structural location would create a flexible and strong spine for left politics. They write: “It’s not just the analysis, but also the methods of organizing that we pursue which create the trust, the self-knowledge, and the solidarity to make durable change in our world.”

While we can’t know for sure how the training strategy will work out, we highlight the resolution as an … [more]
criticalpedagogy  pedagogy  2017  davidbacker  katecairns  solidarity  collectiveaction  canon  affinitygroups  affinities  salarmohandesi  combaheerivercollective  coalition607  via:irl  elizabethellsworth  currymalott  isaacgottesman  henrygiroux  paulofreire  stanleyaronowitz  petermclaren  irashor  joekincheloe  trust  commitment  resentment  vulnerability  conversation  guilt  privilege  universalism  universality  dialogue  peterfrase  empowerment  repression  organizing  organization  identity  coalition  exclusion  inclusion  inclusivity  identitypolitics  azizchoudry  socialmovements  change  changemaking  praxis  dsa  socialism  education  learning  howwelearn  politics  activism  class  race  stuarthall  articulation  ernestolaclau  plato  johnclarke  fragmentation  generalities 
december 2017 by robertogreco
Jackson Lears · What We Don’t Talk about When We Talk about Russian Hacking: #Russiagate · LRB 4 January 2018
" the blend of neoliberal domestic policy and interventionist foreign policy that constitutes consensus in Washington. Neoliberals celebrate market utility as the sole criterion of worth; interventionists exalt military adventure abroad as a means of fighting evil in order to secure global progress. Both agendas have proved calamitous for most Americans. Many registered their disaffection in 2016. Sanders is a social democrat and Trump a demagogic mountebank, but their campaigns underscored a widespread repudiation of the Washington consensus. For about a week after the election, pundits discussed the possibility of a more capacious Democratic strategy. It appeared that the party might learn something from Clinton’s defeat. Then everything changed.

A story that had circulated during the campaign without much effect resurfaced: it involved the charge that Russian operatives had hacked into the servers of the Democratic National Committee, revealing embarrassing emails that damaged Clinton’s chances. With stunning speed, a new centrist-liberal orthodoxy came into being, enveloping the major media and the bipartisan Washington establishment. This secular religion has attracted hordes of converts in the first year of the Trump presidency. In its capacity to exclude dissent, it is like no other formation of mass opinion in my adult life, though it recalls a few dim childhood memories of anti-communist hysteria during the early 1950s.

The centrepiece of the faith, based on the hacking charge, is the belief that Vladimir Putin orchestrated an attack on American democracy by ordering his minions to interfere in the election on behalf of Trump. The story became gospel with breathtaking suddenness and completeness. Doubters are perceived as heretics and as apologists for Trump and Putin, the evil twins and co-conspirators behind this attack on American democracy. Responsibility for the absence of debate lies in large part with the major media outlets. Their uncritical embrace and endless repetition of the Russian hack story have made it seem a fait accompli in the public mind. It is hard to estimate popular belief in this new orthodoxy, but it does not seem to be merely a creed of Washington insiders. If you question the received narrative in casual conversations, you run the risk of provoking blank stares or overt hostility – even from old friends. This has all been baffling and troubling to me; there have been moments when pop-culture fantasies (body snatchers, Kool-Aid) have come to mind."



"Once again, the established press is legitimating pronouncements made by the Church Fathers of the national security state."



"The most immediate consequence is that, by finding foreign demons who can be blamed for Trump’s ascendancy, the Democratic leadership have shifted the blame for their defeat away from their own policies without questioning any of their core assumptions. Amid the general recoil from Trump, they can even style themselves dissenters – ‘#the resistance’ was the label Clintonites appropriated within a few days of the election. Mainstream Democrats have begun to use the word ‘progressive’ to apply to a platform that amounts to little more than preserving Obamacare, gesturing towards greater income equality and protecting minorities. This agenda is timid. It has nothing to say about challenging the influence of concentrated capital on policy, reducing the inflated defence budget or withdrawing from overextended foreign commitments; yet without those initiatives, even the mildest egalitarian policies face insuperable obstacles. More genuine insurgencies are in the making, which confront corporate power and connect domestic with foreign policy, but they face an uphill battle against the entrenched money and power of the Democratic leadership – the likes of Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, the Clintons and the DNC. Russiagate offers Democratic elites a way to promote party unity against Trump-Putin, while the DNC purges Sanders’s supporters.

For the DNC, the great value of the Russian hack story is that it focuses attention away from what was actually in their emails. The documents revealed a deeply corrupt organisation, whose pose of impartiality was a sham. Even the reliably pro-Clinton Washington Post has admitted that ‘many of the most damaging emails suggest the committee was actively trying to undermine Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign.’ Further evidence of collusion between the Clinton machine and the DNC surfaced recently in a memoir by Donna Brazile, who became interim chair of the DNC after Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned in the wake of the email revelations."



"The Steele dossier inhabits a shadowy realm where ideology and intelligence, disinformation and revelation overlap. It is the antechamber to the wider system of epistemological nihilism created by various rival factions in the intelligence community: the ‘tree of smoke’ that, for the novelist Denis Johnson, symbolised CIA operations in Vietnam. I inhaled that smoke myself in 1969-70, when I was a cryptographer with a Top Secret clearance on a US navy ship that carried missiles armed with nuclear warheads – the existence of which the navy denied. I was stripped of my clearance and later honourably discharged when I refused to join the Sealed Authenticator System, which would have authorised the launch of those allegedly non-existent nuclear weapons. The tree of smoke has only grown more complex and elusive since then. Yet the Democratic Party has now embarked on a full-scale rehabilitation of the intelligence community – or at least the part of it that supports the notion of Russian hacking. (We can be sure there is disagreement behind the scenes.) And it is not only the Democratic establishment that is embracing the deep state. Some of the party’s base, believing Trump and Putin to be joined at the hip, has taken to ranting about ‘treason’ like a reconstituted John Birch Society."



"The Democratic Party has now developed a new outlook on the world, a more ambitious partnership between liberal humanitarian interventionists and neoconservative militarists than existed under the cautious Obama. This may be the most disastrous consequence for the Democratic Party of the new anti-Russian orthodoxy: the loss of the opportunity to formulate a more humane and coherent foreign policy. The obsession with Putin has erased any possibility of complexity from the Democratic world picture, creating a void quickly filled by the monochrome fantasies of Hillary Clinton and her exceptionalist allies. For people like Max Boot and Robert Kagan, war is a desirable state of affairs, especially when viewed from the comfort of their keyboards, and the rest of the world – apart from a few bad guys – is filled with populations who want to build societies just like ours: pluralistic, democratic and open for business. This view is difficult to challenge when it cloaks itself in humanitarian sentiment. There is horrific suffering in the world; the US has abundant resources to help relieve it; the moral imperative is clear. There are endless forms of international engagement that do not involve military intervention. But it is the path taken by US policy often enough that one may suspect humanitarian rhetoric is nothing more than window-dressing for a more mundane geopolitics – one that defines the national interest as global and virtually limitless.

Having come of age during the Vietnam War, a calamitous consequence of that inflated definition of national interest, I have always been attracted to the realist critique of globalism. Realism is a label forever besmirched by association with Henry Kissinger, who used it as a rationale for intervening covertly and overtly in other nations’ affairs. Yet there is a more humane realist tradition, the tradition of George Kennan and William Fulbright, which emphasises the limits of military might, counselling that great power requires great restraint. This tradition challenges the doctrine of regime change under the guise of democracy promotion, which – despite its abysmal failures in Iraq and Libya – retains a baffling legitimacy in official Washington. Russiagate has extended its shelf life."



"It is not the Democratic Party that is leading the search for alternatives to the wreckage created by Republican policies: a tax plan that will soak the poor and middle class to benefit the rich; a heedless pursuit of fossil fuels that is already resulting in the contamination of the water supply of the Dakota people; and continued support for police policies of militarisation and mass incarceration. It is local populations that are threatened by oil spills and police beatings, and that is where humane populism survives. A multitude of insurgent groups have begun to use the outrage against Trump as a lever to move the party in egalitarian directions: Justice Democrats, Black Lives Matter, Democratic Socialists of America, as well as a host of local and regional organisations. They recognise that there are far more urgent – and genuine – reasons to oppose Trump than vague allegations of collusion with Russia. They are posing an overdue challenge to the long con of neoliberalism, and the technocratic arrogance that led to Clinton’s defeat in Rust Belt states. Recognising that the current leadership will not bring about significant change, they are seeking funding from outside the DNC. This is the real resistance, as opposed to ‘#theresistance’."



"Francis Shen of the University of Minnesota and Douglas Kriner of Boston University analysed election results in three key states – Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan – and found that ‘even controlling in a statistical model for many other alternative explanations, we find that there is a significant and meaningful relationship between a community’s rate of military sacrifice and its support for Trump.’ Clinton’s record of uncritical commitment to military intervention allowed Trump to … [more]
jacksonlears  2017  politics  us  hillaryclinton  democrats  neoliberalism  donaldtrump  elections  2016  russia  vladimirputin  dishonesty  blame  truth  georgekennan  henrykissinger  williamfulbright  fbi  cia  history  vietnamwar  maxboot  robertkagan  war  militarism  policy  foreignpolicy  humanitarianism  military  humanism  russiagate  jingoism  francisshen  douglaskriner  intervention  disenfranchisement  berniesanders  socialism  grassroots  dsa  blacklivesmatter  resistance  alternative  leadership  issues  healthcareforall  universalhealthcare  singlepayerhealthcare  reform  change  progressive  progressiveness  populism 
december 2017 by robertogreco
Michelle Alexander's Keynote Speech from the 2017 International Drug Policy Reform Conference - YouTube
[20:15] "We're all primed to value and prefer those ho seem like us though the preferences hues have themselves re remarkably greater. No doubt due to centuries of brainwashing that have led them to actually believe often unconsciously, that they are in fact superior. Marc Mauer in his book "Race to Incarcerate" cites data that the most punitive nations in the world are the most diverse. The nations with the most compassionate or most lenient criminal justice policies are the most homogeneous. We like to say that diversity is our strength, but it may actually be our Achilles heel. Researchers have reached similar conclusions in the public welfare context. The democarcies that have the most generous social welfare programs, universal health care, cheap or free college, generous maternity leave, are generally homogeneous. Socialist countries like Sweden and Norway are overwhelmingly white. But when those nations feel threatened by immigration, by so-called foreigners, public support for social welfare beings to erode, often quite sharply. It seems that it's an aspect of human nature to be tempted to be more punitive and less generous to those we view as others. And so in a nation like the United States, where we're just a fe generations away from slavery and Jim Crow. Where inequality is skyrocketing due to global capitalism, and where demographic changes due to immigration are creating a nation where no racial group is the majority, the central question we must face is whether We, the People, are capable of overcoming our basic instinct to respond more harshly more punitively with less care and concern with people we view as different. Can we evolve? Can we evolve morally and spiritually? Can we learn to care for each other across lines of race, class, gender, and sexuality? Clearly these questions are pressing in the age of Trump.

[via: "Michelle Alexander asks the most fundamental question: Can we learn to care for each other across lines of difference?"
https://twitter.com/justicedems/status/934478995038572544 ]

[See also: "Michelle Alexander: I Am 'Endorsing The Political Revolution' (Extended Interview) | All In | MSNBC"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFHNzlx24QM ]
michellealexander  2017  drugs  waroondrugs  race  racism  bias  diversity  homogeneity  heterogeneity  policy  welfare  socialsafetnet  healthcare  education  maternityleave  socialism  sweden  norway  humans  criminaljustice  socialelfare  compassion  incarceration  donaldtrump  immigration  xenophobia  othering  democracy  jimcrow  thenewjimcrow  us  politics  humannature  demographics  inequality  class  classism  sexuality  gender  sexism  marcmauer  berniesanders  hillaryclinton  revolution  change  billclinton 
november 2017 by robertogreco
Kolakowski on conservatism
"A Conservative Believes:

1. That in human life there never have been and never will be improvements that are not paid for with deteriorations and evils; thus, in considering each project of reform and amelioration, its price has to be assessed. Put another way, innumerable evils are compatible (i.e. we can suffer them comprehensively and simultaneously); but many goods limit or cancel each other, and therefore we will never enjoy them fully at the same time. A society in which there is no equality and no liberty of any kind is perfectly possible, yet a social order combining total equality and freedom is not. The same applies to the compatibility of planning and the principle of autonomy, to security and technical progress. Put yet another way, there is no happy ending in human history.

2. That we do not know the extent to which various traditional forms of social life--families, rituals, nations, religious communities--are indispensable if life in a society is to be tolerable or even possible. There are no grounds for believing that when we destroy these forms, or brand them as irrational, we increase the chance of happiness, peace, security, or freedom. We have no certain knowledge of what might occur if, for example, the monogamous family was abrogated, or if the time-honored custom of burying the dead were to give way to the rational recycling of corpses for industrial purposes. But we would do well to expect the worst.

3. That the idee fixe of the Enlightenment--that envy, vanity, greed, and aggression are all caused by the deficiencies of social institutions and that they will be swept away once these institutions are reformed-- is not only utterly incredible and contrary to all experience, but is highly dangerous. How on earth did all these institutions arise if they were so contrary to the true nature of man? To hope that we can institutionalize brotherhood, love, and altruism is already to have a reliable blueprint for despotism.

A Liberal Believes:

1. That the ancient idea that the purpose of the State is security still remains valid. It remains valid even if the notion of "security" is expanded to include not only the protection of persons and property by means of the law, but also various provisions of insurance: that people should not starve if they are jobless; that the poor should not be condemned to die through lack of medical help; that children should have free access to education--all these are also part of security. Yet security should never be confused with liberty. The State does not guarantee freedom by action and by regulating various areas of life, but by doing nothing. In fact security can be expanded only at the expense of liberty. In any event, to make people happy is not the function of the State.

2. That human communities are threatened not only by stagnation but also by degradation when they are so organized that there is no longer room for individual initiative and inventiveness. The collective suicide of mankind is conceivable, but a permanent human ant-heap is not, for the simple reason that we are not ants.

3. That it is highly improbable that a society in which all forms of competitiveness have been done away with would continue to have the necessary stimuli for creativity and progress. More equaliity is not an end in itself, but only a means. In other words, there is no point to the struggle for more equality if it results only in the leveling down off those who are better off, and not in the raising up of the underprivileged. Perfect equality is a self-defeating ideal.

A Socialist Believes:

1. That societies in which the pursuit of profit is the sole regulator of the productive system are threatened with as grievous--perhaps more grievous--catastrophes as are societies in which the profit motive has been entirely eliminated from the production-regulating forces. There are good reasons why freedom of economic activity should be limited for the sake of security, and why money should not automatically produce more money. But the limitation of freedom should be called precisely that, and should not be called a higher form of freedom.

2. That it is absurd and hypocritical to conclude that, simply because a perfect, conflictless society is impossible, every existing form of inequality is inevitable and all ways of profit-making justified. The kind of conservative anthropological pessimism which led to the astonishing belief that a progressive income tax was an inhuman abomination is just as suspect as the kind of historical optimism on which the Gulag Archipelago was based.

3. That the tendency to subject the economy to important social controls should be encouraged, even though the price to be paid is an increase in bureaucracy. Such controls, however, must be exercised within representative democracy. Thus it is essential to plan institutions that counteract the menace to freedom which is produced by the growth of these very controls.

So far as I can see, this set of regulative ideas is not self-contradictory. And therefore it is possible to be a conservative-liberal-socialist. This is equivalent to saying that those three particular designations are no longer mutually exclusive options."

[via: http://blog.ayjay.org/against-consequentialism/ ]
politics  via:ayjay  conservatism  liberalism  security  socialism  society  philosophy  enlightenment  envy  vanity  greed  aggression  brotherhood  love  altruism  despotism  happiness  peace  freedom  humans  economics  bureaucracy  democracy  pessimism  conflict  leszekkolakowski 
november 2017 by robertogreco
A Manifesto – Evergreen Review
"We devise and concoct ways to make each other beg for the most meager of resources. Death, which should simply be something that comes to us, is instead an instrument of dominion and torture. We have perfected instruments of death-making. We extend such deathery even to our social systems, creating ways to ensure that the poorest and most vulnerable among us will die because the rest of us don’t believe they deserve the methods and technologies by which we keep ourselves alive."



"And yet, even in our imagination, we cannot conceive of a world where abundance is enough. We can literally create anything we want and live without want, but we still want more.

In this imagined new world, we are still at war with others, crisscrossing space to divide it up into sectors and grids, cutting up even empty air into parcels the way we do patches of land. We make the vast and incomprehensible universe malleable by exerting our history of dispossession onto it. Our thirst for possession is as boundless as the universe we inhabit. Even our imagination is limited by avarice. This is why, dear aliens, I feel no real pain or sadness at the thought of what you might do to us. The sorrows and suffering we have inflicted upon each other, the degradations, the humiliations, the pain, the contrasts in resources and the creation of need—nothing in the universe can match what we have already done."



"Like the utopias they bring forth, manifestos are birthed in the possibility of failure. They succeed not in the audacity of hope but in the audacity of despair. What is the present and the future we need to keep imagining? What is a utopia? What is the nature of our utopias? Do we still dare to have any?"



"No one is outside ideology. Yet, too many Americans believe they are, and prefer to focus on how they feel: a particularly American problem is the preponderance of affect in politics. But when it comes to politics—to anything that calls itself justice—we should only pay attention to two questions: what do people need, and how do we get them what they need without having to beg? Yet our political programs are neither initiated nor sustained by the will to redistribute our ridiculously ample resources. Rather, we obsess over whether the people who receive them are worthy of our care. We ask questions we never ask the well-off: Are you deserving? Do you have the proper moral character? If we give you this money, how do we know you won’t spend it on cigarettes? If you buy food, will it be junk food or apples? But wait, how can we be sure you won’t blow it all on lobster?"



"If you want our help, then make us weep for you.

In that, the left has failed miserably. The left can barely articulate what it stands for without weeping for forgiveness for its own existence. This manifesto is an attempt to instantiate the left. How do we learn to be the left fearlessly, without either shame or arrogance?"



"No doubt, dear aliens, you will have found in your exploration of our debris or our archives (who knows in what state you encounter us) rants from leftists about “identity” or “identitarianism.” It has been difficult to convince this kind of activist that a true left finds a way to think about getting people what they need without erasing the material realities of their lives, but without capitulating to the essentializing of gender, race, ethnicity, and sexuality. Yet, even now, in most left organizations, it is women who do the emailing and the cleaning up, while the menfolk spout on about the revolution."



"A true left abjures philanthropy, which only enables the concentration of wealth by providing the super wealthy with fantastic tax breaks. A true left fights for a society where housing is not a matter of investment linked to the survival of an economy but simply a right. It fights for a world where prisons don’t exist to extract life from those whose failings, real or imagined, we cannot confront and whom we would rather shut away forever."



"
Such focus on Trump’s xenophobia ignores the fact that the millions of undocumented in this country became such under Bill Clinton. Two pieces of immigration legislation, in 1994 and 1996, made many simple misdemeanours into felonies only for non-citizens, and created the three- and ten-year bars on re-entry, which pushed undocumented people, now afraid of not being allowed to return if they should leave the country, into the shadows. Arguably, Trump has fine-tuned such mechanisms, but the tools for expulsion and removal were left there by Democratic administrations and are simply being sharpened and honed by this one."



"Resistance, like the heart, is a muscle, and needs to be constantly exercised. Instead, it’s become a buzzword. It’s made people think that somehow they’re soldiers now, fighting on every front. Ongoing work gets rebranded as “resistance” as if magically, due to the presence of Voldemort, everything changed overnight. The press plays up a collective sense of impending doom, making it seem like our lives are now unfolding like a scene from The Deathly Hallows."



"To liberals and lefties, this August 2016 exchange was evidence of Trump’s madness and his dangerously childish naivete. But in fact Trump’s response revealed the idiocy of nuclear weaponry and exposed the irrationality at the heart of American foreign policy: that somehow there is nothing wrong about possessing nuclear weapons."



"Neoliberalism is in fact capitalism made familiar, which is why I describe it as the endless privatisation of everyday life. It survives on vectors of intimacy, transforming capitalism into an emotional matter rather than an economic one, even though its incursions and devastations are deadly and long-lasting precisely because of the way it serves to insinuate itself into the machinations of the daily world."



"This is not to wax nostalgic about “neighborhoods” or to imply that everyone needs to be an “ethical gentrifier,” but to point out that the economic structure in relation to something as basic as housing is entirely set up to benefit the banking and finance industry. Meanwhile, Chicago resolutely and proudly refers to itself as a city of neighborhoods. The question is: who gets to belong, who gets phased out?"



"how neoliberalism operates upon various vectors of intimacy, and how that intimacy cuts across lines of class, race, and gender with varying effects."



"Over and over, Chicago and other cities fetishise their “neighborhood feel,” creating “community” out of displacement, demanding that the displaced then return only to satisfy the cravings the new residents refuse to acknowledge or to perform the jobs beneath the newcomers’ pay grade. Home ownership is what Americans, gay and straight, are expected to do as married people and the intimacy of married life brutally occludes the covert and hidden intimacies of transactions that keep underground economies flourishing.

Neoliberalism seduces us with its intimacy. Intimacy with our workplace, our occupation, the idea of having to “love” what you do: our work becomes our lover. Neoliberalism feeds off our sense of constant economic precariousness by convincing us that we must never demand more from the state or corporations, that what we label “sharing” economies are somehow community-based endeavors. And so people everywhere distribute their labor almost for free, in workplaces that are described as “mobile” and to which they “commute” as free agents. But these are in fact far more onerous than regular workplaces, and are mostly unregulated enterprises, and offer neither benefits nor protections (the field of “left publishing", including this publication, consists almost entirely of such labor).

But what they do is put us in touch with our own labor as something we control, birth, operate. We work with the illusion of control, but we are compelled, all the while, to cede it. We believe that having no control over the circumstances of our lives yields an intimacy that we cannot get elsewhere.

Neoliberalism survives as well as it does because its machinations allow people to express dissent even as they in fact only echo support for its worst effects. During Occupy, it was incredible to watch so many take to the streets, finally critical of how capitalism had wreaked its havoc. But as I wound my way through the massive crowds and their signs, it also became evident that the palpable anger was not so much at the system but that the system had failed them. Signs everywhere said, in effect, “I did the right thing for years, and I was still screwed over.” Everywhere, there was an anger at the ruling classes, certainly, but I couldn’t help but recall yet again those words about America’s “temporarily embarrassed millionaires.” The subsequent bailouts only confirmed a widespread sense that if we just fix the system, we can make it all better, when the system itself is the problem, and “fixing” it only serves to concentrate resources and power in the hands of fewer and fewer people."



"Capitalism flows unimpeded."



" Western analysts take their own social freedoms for granted—average Americans have, for many decades, left their parental homes in their late teens—but when it comes to other and what they fondly imagine as “more traditional” cultures, would prefer it if everyone just stayed transfixed in quaint old ways, please.

Neoliberalism fills the immediate needs of people in ways that other systems cannot—because, yes, that’s how capitalism functions, by dismantling our existing structures, and creating a need for new ones that provide the illusion of stability but in fact cause more harm. Consider schooling, at least in the US. We first eviscerated public education by defunding it, except in the wealthiest districts, and then created a demand for (exploitative, ruinous, substandard) … [more]
yasminnair  2017  society  manifestos  left  love  compassion  justice  socialjustice  utopia  ideology  charity  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  philanthropy  charitableindustrialcomplex  government  excess  abundance  hunger  healthcare  gender  race  racism  sexism  homophobia  neoliberalism  capitalism  feminism  systems  sytemsthinking  socialism  communism  migration  immigration  donaldtrump  barackobama  hillaryclinton  resistance  future  climatechange  neighborhoods  gentrification  chicago  privatization  class  classism  poverty  sexuality  intersectionality  compromise  change  organization  economics  power  control 
october 2017 by robertogreco
Nicky Case: Seeing Whole Systems - The Long Now
"Nicky Case is an independent game developer who creates interactive games and simulations including Parable of the Polygons (02014), Coming Out Simulator (02014), We Become What We Behold (02016), To Build A Better Ballot (02016), and LOOPY (02017).



Nicky Case’s presentations are as ingenious, compelling, and graphically rich as the visualizing tools and games Nicky creates for understanding complex dynamic systems.

Case writes: “We need to see the non-linear feedback loops between culture, economics, and technology. Not only that, but we need to see how collective behavior emerges from individual minds and motives. We need new tools, theories, and visualizations to help people talk across disciplines.”

Nicky Case is the creator of Parable of the Polygons (02014), Coming Out Simulator (02014), We Become What We Behold (02016), To Build A Better Ballot (02016), and LOOPY (02017).



How to finesse complexity

HE BEGAN, “Hi, I’m Nicky Case, and I explain complex systems in a visual, tangible, and playful way.” He did exactly that with 207 brilliant slides and clear terminology. What system engineers call “negative feedback,” for example, Case calls “balancing loops.” They maintain a value. Likewise “positive feedback” he calls “reinforcing loops.” They increase a value

Using examples and stories such as the viciousness of the board game Monopoly and the miracle of self-organizing starlings, Case laid out the visual basics of finessing complex systems. A reinforcing loop is like a ball on the top of a hill, ready to accelerate downhill when set in motion. A balancing loop is like a ball in a valley, always returning to the bottom of the valley when perturbed.

Now consider how to deal with a situation where you have an “attractor” (a deep valley) that attracts a system toward failure:

[image]

The situation is precarious for the ball because it is near a hilltop that is a reinforcing loop. If the ball is nudged over the top, it will plummet to the bottom of the balancing-loop valley and be stuck there. It would take enormous effort raise the ball out of such an attractor—which might be financial collapse or civil war. Case’s solution is not to try to move the ball, MOVE THE HILLS—identify the balancing and reinforcing loops in the system and weaken or strengthen them as needed to reconfigure the whole system so that the desired condition becomes the dominant attractor.

Now add two more characteristics of the real world—dense networks and chaos (randomness). They make possible the phenomena of emergence (a whole that is different than the sum of its parts) and evolution. Evolution is made of selection (managed by reinforcing and balancing loops) plus variation (unleashed by dense networks and chaos). You cannot control evolution and should not try--that way lies totalitarianism. Our ever popular over-emphasis on selection can lead to paralyzed systems—top-down autocratic governments and frozen businesses. Case urges attention to variation, harnessing networks and chaos from the bottom up via connecting various people from various fields, experimenting with lots of solutions, and welcoming a certain amount of randomness and play. “Design for evolution,” Case says, “and the system will surprise you with solutions you never thought of.”

To do that, “Make chaos your friend.”

--Stewart Brand"
systems  systemsthinking  nickycase  2017  illustration  visualization  longnow  maps  mapping  stewartbrand  games  gaming  gamedesign  capitalism  socialism  monopoly  economics  technology  culture  precarity  chaos  networks  evolution  socialtrust  voting  design  complexity  abstraction  communication  jargon  unknown  loopiness  alinear  feedbackloops  interconnectedness  dataviz  predictions  interconnected  nonlinear  linearity  interconnectivity 
august 2017 by robertogreco
The endless arguments on social media, during which we all go back and forth with each other like…
"Take for example Jill Filipovic, who remains nothing more than a well-made caricature of every white liberal with a saviour complex. She smugly accused today’s socialist left of being “more 1930s than 60s”. “Remember who was excluded from political participation in the 30s?,” she asked. You could almost taste this patronising, flippant derision that is so common of those who turn out to be nothing more than gentrifying legacy hires with platforms they’ll never deserve. The response Filipovic received in light of this grotesquely ahistorical accusation was swift. Everyone from Corey Robin to local US organisers began chiming in with a blow to her argument more devastating than the last. And among the white socialists were Black, and PoC leftists, of many political affiliations, some of whom began to discuss their frustration with being denied the right to their own historical existence. And of the lucky few that Filipovic decided to respond to a majority of them were white. This is the shtick the rest of us have grown accustomed to. How else are you going to accuse socialists of being white men if you’re made to acknowledge the existence of Black and PoC socialists? Especially those of us who are not a part of the Bernie Sanders coalition, but to their left.

We don’t exist, but for the illustrations of us they use to peddle neoliberal policies, and centrist organising tactics that are about as spineless and cartoonish as their very ideology. Those of us who identify as leftists, who occupy numerous spaces on the margins of society, are made to feel as though we are both imaginated and irrelevant. They’ve chosen to deliberately, and maliciously misrepresent our radicalism for their own benefit. The white, socialist men are hijacking our PoC voices, they say, and yet you will never catch them engaging with us. We are only good enough to exist as garments — worn on occasion when they want to make it known that they are here to save us from this so-called white ideology.

It isn’t just Filipovic, but others, so many others, who choose to communicate and argue almost entirely with white men for the sake of further isolating us. They understand that our identities threaten the very heart of their assertion. So which is it? Are we invented or are we inconsequential? And what about those who came before us, from across the globe, whose battles have made so many aspects of our lives possible — Paul Robeson, Hussain Muruwwah, Frantz Fanon; Grace P. Campbell, Claudia Jones, Louise Thompson; Benita Galeana, Elvia Carrillo Puerto, Elena Torres. And so many others.

How long can you possibly keep this charade going? Soon enough no platform on this earth will be enough to drown out all of our voices."
roqayahchamseddine  2017  politics  poc  jillfilipovic  invisibility  erasure  paulrobeson  hussainmuruwwah  frantzfanon  gracecampbell  claudiajones  louisethompson  benitagaleana  elviacarrillopuerto  elenatorres  misrepresentation  radicalism  socialism  diversity  berniesanders  coreyrobin 
august 2017 by robertogreco
Why capitalism can’t survive without socialism - Vox
"Sean Illing

This raises a thorny question: The kinds of skills this technological economy rewards are not skills that a majority of the population possesses. Perhaps a significant number of people simply can’t thrive in this space, no matter how much training or education we provide.

Eric Weinstein

I think that's an interesting question, and it depends a lot on your view of education. Buckminster Fuller (a prominent American author and architect who died in 1983) said something to the effect of, "We're all born geniuses, but something in the process of living de-geniuses us." I think with several years more hindsight, we can see that the thing that de-geniuses us is actually our education.

The problem is that we have an educational system that's based on taking our natural penchant for exploration and fashioning it into a willingness to take on mind-numbing routine. This is because our educational system was designed to produce employable products suitable for jobs, but it is jobs that are precisely going to give way to an economy increasingly based on one-off opportunities.

Sean Illing

That’s a problem with a definable but immensely complicated solution.

Eric Weinstein

Part of the question is, how do we disable an educational system that is uniformizing people across the socioeconomic spectrum in order to remind ourselves that the hotel maid who makes up our bed may in fact be an amateur painter? The accountant who does our taxes may well have a screenplay that he works on after the midnight hour? I think what is less clear to many of our bureaucrats in Washington is just how much talent and creativity exists through all walks of life.

What we don't know yet is how to pay people for those behaviors, because many of those screenplays and books and inventions will not be able to command a sufficiently high market price, but this is where the issue of some kind of hybridization of hypercapitalism and hypersocialism must enter the discussion.

“We will see the beginning stirrings of revolution as the cost for this continuing insensitivity”
Sean Illing

Let's talk about that. What does a hybrid of capitalism and socialism look like?

Eric Weinstein

I don't think we know what it looks like. I believe capitalism will need to be much more unfettered. Certain fields will need to undergo a process of radical deregulation in order to give the minority of minds that are capable of our greatest feats of creation the leeway to experiment and to play, as they deliver us the wonders on which our future economy will be based.

By the same token, we have to understand that our population is not a collection of workers to be input to the machine of capitalism, but rather a nation of souls whose dignity, well-being, and health must be considered on independent, humanitarian terms. Now, that does not mean we can afford to indulge in national welfare of a kind that would rob our most vulnerable of a dignity that has previously been supplied by the workplace.

People will have to be engaged in socially positive activities, but not all of those socially positive activities may be able to command a sufficient share of the market to consume at an appropriate level, and so I think we're going to have to augment the hypercapitalism which will provide the growth of the hypersocialism based on both dignity and need.

Sean Illing

I agree with most of that, but I’m not sure we’re prepared to adapt to these new circumstances quickly enough to matter. What you’re describing is a near-revolutionary shift in politics and culture, and that’s not something we can do on command.

Eric Weinstein

I believe that once our top creative class is unshackled from those impediments which are socially negative, they will be able to choose whether capitalism proceeds by evolution or revolution, and I am hopeful that the enlightened self-interest of the billionaire class will cause them to take the enlightened path toward finding a rethinking of work that honors the vast majority of fellow citizens and humans on which their country depends.

Sean Illing

Are you confident that the billionaire class is so enlightened? Because I'm not. All of these changes were perceptible years ago, and yet the billionaire class failed to take any of this seriously enough. The impulse to innovate and profit subsumes all other concerns as far as I can tell."



"Sean Illing

I suppose that’s my point. If the people with the power to change things are sufficiently cocooned that they fail to realize the emergency while there’s still time to act, where does that leave us?

Eric Weinstein

Well, the claim there is that there will be no warning shots across the bow. I guarantee you that when the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators left the confines of Zuccotti Park and came to visit the Upper East Side homes of Manhattan, it had an immediate focusing on the mind of those who could deploy a great deal of capital. Thankfully, those protesters were smart enough to realize that a peaceful demonstration is the best way to advertise the potential for instability to those who have yet to do the computation.

“We have a system-wide problem with embedded growth hypotheses that is turning us all into scoundrels and liars”
Sean Illing

But if you're one of those Occupy Wall Street protesters who fired off that peaceful warning shot across the bow six years ago, and you reflect on what’s happened since, do have any reason to think the message was received? Do you not look around and say, “Nothing much has changed”? The casino economy on Wall Street is still humming along. What lesson is to be drawn in that case?

Eric Weinstein

Well, that's putting too much blame on the bankers. I mean, the problem is that the Occupy Wall Street protesters and the bankers share a common delusion. Both of them believe the bankers are more powerful in the story than they actually are. The real problem, which our society has yet to face up to, is that sometime around 1970, we ended several periods of legitimate exponential growth in science, technology, and economics. Since that time, we have struggled with the fact that almost all of our institutions that thrived during the post-World War II period of growth have embedded growth hypotheses into their very foundation.

Sean Illing

What does that mean, exactly?

Eric Weinstein

That means that all of those institutions, whether they're law firms or universities or the military, have to reckon with steady state [meaning an economy with mild fluctuations in growth and productivity] by admitting that growth cannot be sustained, by running a Ponzi scheme, or by attempting to cannibalize others to achieve a kind of fake growth to keep those particular institutions running. This is the big story that nobody reports. We have a system-wide problem with embedded growth hypotheses that is turning us all into scoundrels and liars."



"Sean Illing

So our entire economy is essentially a house of cards, built on outdated assumptions and pushed along with gimmicks like quantitative easing. It seems we’ve gotten quite good at avoiding facing up to the contradictions of our civilization.

Eric Weinstein

Well, this is the problem. I sometimes call this the Wile E. Coyote effect because as long as Wile E. Coyote doesn't look down, he's suspended in air, even if he has just run off a cliff. But the great danger is understanding that everything is flipped. During the 2008 crisis, many commentators said the markets have suddenly gone crazy, and it was exactly the reverse. The so-called great moderation that was pushed by Alan Greenspan, Timothy Geithner, and others was in fact a kind of madness, and the 2008 crisis represented a rare break in the insanity, where the market suddenly woke up to see what was actually going on. So the acute danger is not madness but sanity.

The problem is that prolonged madness simply compounds the disaster to come when sanity finally sets in."
2017  capitalism  socialism  business  dystopia  history  seanilling  ericweinstein  economics  politics  policy  productivity  technology  inequality  revolution  dignity  creativeclass  creativity  repetition  ows  occupywallstreet  banks  banking  finance  ponzischemes  alangreenspan  timothygeitner  civilization  systems  systemsthinking  growth  society  science  automation 
august 2017 by robertogreco
Delete Your Account Podcast: An American Colony
"On this episode, Kumars is joined by guest co-host Samantha Jacobs, a Chicago-based comedy writer and member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL). Become a Patreon subscriber to hear our premium After Hours episode with Sam, in which we run the gamut from her PSL work to socialist memes, rap, and standup comedy. In the intro, we talk about the People's Congress of Resistance, a project of PSL and other organizations that Sam has been organizing around, as well as the health care debacle.

For the interview, Kumars and Sam talk to Sofía Gallisá Muriente, a Puerto Rican activist and artist who works mainly with video, photography, text and installation. Sofia's work has been displayed at the San Juan Poligraphic Triennial, Teorética, the Walker Art Center and the Museum of Latin American Art of Buenos Aires. She’s currently one of the co-directors of Beta-Local, a non-profit supporting art and critical thought in Puerto Rico. After learning about how Sofia became involved in politics, we learn the history of Puerto Rico's transition from a US colony to a "free associated state", a gimmick designed to relieve scrutiny of Puerto Rico's lack of sovereignty while still facilitating exploitation by US companies. Sofia explains how the current crises gripping Puerto Rico, caused or exacerbated by the US government, are rooted in the legacy of colonialism and enshrined in Puerto Rico's own constitution. Puerto Rico owes over $70 billion to foreign investors, money it is constitutionally required to pay back before it can spend a penny on social services. We also learn about the often overlooked $50 billion needed to fund Puerto Rico's pension system, as well as steep Medicaid cuts and loss of tax breaks affecting the island. We discuss the recent referendum on statehood vs. independence vs. status quo, boycotted by over 80% of the country. Sofia explains that no side of the debate has a plan for how to deal with the current crises, making the statehood vs. independence question less relevant. The only thing that is certain is that prevailing institutions will never save Puerto Rico, and alternative, grassroots structures must be built to weather the storm.

You can follow Sam on Twitter at @comradeSammy. You can check out Sofia's work at her website [http://hatoreina.com/ ]."
puertorico  history  2017  via:javierarbona  sofíagallisámuriente  kumarssalehi  samanthajacobs  us  politics  resistance  activism  sanjuan  betalocal  colonialism  exploitation  socialism  statehood  independence 
july 2017 by robertogreco
Unspeakable Realities Block Universal Health Coverage In America
[See also: "The Fight for Health Care Has Always Been About Civil Rights: In dismantling Obamacare and slashing Medicaid, Republicans would strike a blow against signature victories for racial equality in America."https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/06/the-fight-for-health-care-is-really-all-about-civil-rights/531855/ ]

"Election 2016 has prompted a wave of head-scratching on the left. Counties Trump won by staggering margins will be among the hardest hit by the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Millions of white voters who supported Donald Trump stand to lose their access to health coverage because of their vote.

Individual profiles of Trump voters feed this baffling narrative. A Washington Post story described the experience of Clyde Graham, a long-unemployed coal worker who depends on the ACA for access to health care. He voted for Trump knowing it might cost him his health insurance out of his hope of capturing the great white unicorn – a new job in the mines. His stance is not unusual.

Why are economically struggling blue collar voters rejecting a party that offers to expand public safety net programs? The reality is that the bulk of needy white voters are not interested in the public safety net. They want to restore their access to an older safety net, one much more generous, dignified, and stable than the public system – the one most well-employed voters still enjoy.

When it seems like people are voting against their interests, I have probably failed to understand their interests. We cannot begin to understand Election 2016 until we acknowledge the power and reach of socialism for white people.

Americans with good jobs live in a socialist welfare state more generous, cushioned and expensive to the public than any in Europe. Like a European system, we pool our resources to share the burden of catastrophic expenses, but unlike European models, our approach doesn’t cover everyone.

Like most of my neighbors I have a good job in the private sector. Ask my neighbors about the cost of the welfare programs they enjoy and you will be greeted by baffled stares. All that we have is “earned” and we perceive no need for government support. Nevertheless, taxpayers fund our retirement saving, health insurance, primary, secondary, and advanced education, daycare, commuter costs, and even our mortgages at a staggering public cost. Socialism for white people is all-enveloping, benevolent, invisible, and insulated by the nasty, deceptive notion that we have earned our benefits by our own hand.

My family’s generous health insurance costs about $20,000 a year, of which we pay only $4,000 in premiums. The rest is subsidized by taxpayers. You read that right. Like virtually everyone else on my block who isn’t old enough for Medicare or employed by the government, my family is covered by private health insurance subsidized by taxpayers at a stupendous public cost. Well over 90% of white households earning over the white median income (about $75,000) carried health insurance even before the Affordable Care Act. White socialism is nice if you can get it.

Companies can deduct the cost of their employees’ health insurance while employees are not required to report that benefit as income. That results in roughly a $400 billion annual transfer of funds from state and federal treasuries to insurers to provide coverage for the Americans least in need of assistance. This is one of the defining features of white socialism, the most generous benefits go to those who are best suited to provide for themselves. Those benefits are not limited to health care.

When I buy a house for my family, or a vacation home, the interest I pay on the mortgage is deductible up to a million dollars of debt. That costs the treasury $70 billion a year, about what we spend to fund the food stamp program. My private retirement savings are also tax deductible, diverting another $75 billion from government revenues. Other tax preferences carve out special treatment for child care expenses, college savings, commuter costs (your suburban tax credit), local taxes, and other exemptions.

By funding government programs with tax credits and deductions rather than spending, we have created an enormous social safety net that grows ever more generous as household incomes rise. It is important to note, though, that you need not be wealthy to participate. All you need to gain access to socialism for white people is a good corporate or government job. That fact helps explain how this welfare system took shape sixty years ago, why it was originally (and still overwhelmingly) white, and why white Rust Belt voters showed far more enthusiasm for Donald Trump than for Bernie Sanders. White voters are not interested in democratic socialism. They want to restore their access to a more generous and dignified program of white socialism.

In the years after World War II, the western democracies that had not already done so adopted universal social safety net programs. These included health care, retirement and other benefits. President Truman introduced his plan for universal health coverage in 1945. It would have worked much like Social Security, imposing a tax to fund a universal insurance pool. His plan went nowhere.

Instead, nine years later Congress laid the foundations of the social welfare system we enjoy today. They rejected Truman’s idea of universal private coverage in favor of a program controlled by employers while publicly funded through tax breaks. This plan gave corporations new leverage in negotiating with unions, handing the companies a publicly-financed benefit they could distribute at their discretion.

No one stated their intention to create a social welfare program for white people, specifically white men, but they didn’t need to. By handing control to employers at a time when virtually every good paying job was reserved for white men the program silently accomplished that goal.

White socialism played a vital political role, as blue collar factory workers and executives all pooled their resources for mutual support and protection, binding them together culturally and politically. Higher income workers certainly benefited more, but almost all the benefits of this system from health care to pensions originally accrued to white families through their male breadwinners. Blue collar or white collar, their fates were largely united by their racial identity and employment status.

Until the decades after the Civil Rights Acts, very few women or minorities gained direct access to this system. Unsurprisingly, this was the era in which white attitudes about the social safety net and the Democratic Party began to pivot. Thanks to this silent racial legacy, socialism for white people retains its disproportionately white character, though that has weakened. Racial boundaries are now less explicit and more permeable, but still today white families are twice as likely as African-Americans to have access to private health insurance. Two thirds of white children are covered by private health insurance, while barely over one third of black children enjoy this benefit.

White socialism has had a stark impact on the rest of the social safety net, creating a two-tiered system. Visit a county hospital to witness an example. American socialism for “everyone else” is marked by crowded conditions, neglected facilities, professionalism compromised by political patronage, and long waits for care. Fall outside the comfortable bubble of white socialism, and one faces a world of frightening indifference.

When Democrats respond to job losses with an offer to expand the public safety net, blue collar voters cringe and rebel. They are not remotely interested in sharing the public social safety net experienced by minority groups and the poorest white families. Meanwhile well-employed and affluent voters, ensconced in their system of white socialism, leverage all the power at their disposal to block any dilution of their expensive public welfare benefits. Something has to break.

We may one day recognize that we are all “in it together” and find ways to build a more stable, sensible welfare system. That will not happen unless we acknowledge the painful and sometimes embarrassing legacy that brought us to this place. Absent that reckoning, unspoken realities will continue to warp our political calculations, frustrating our best hopes and stunting our potential."
socialism  us  race  health  healthcare  housing  2017  chrisladd  policy  politics  socialwelfare  welfare  europe  racism  civilrightsact  labor  work  jobs 
july 2017 by robertogreco
'Capitalism will always create bullshit jobs' | Owen Jones meets Rutger Bregman - YouTube
"Rutger Bregman is the author of Utopia for Realists and he advocates for more radical solutions to address inequality in society. His ideas include the introduction of a universal basic income, a 15 hour working week and, one which will be hugely popular on YouTube, open borders.

When I went to meet him, he told me politicians have failed to come up with new, radical ideas, instead sticking to an outdated, technocratic form of politics. He argues this has allowed politicians like Geert Wilders and Donald Trump to slowly shift extreme ideas into the mainstream."
rutgerbregman  bullshitjobs  consumerism  utopia  work  labor  davidgraeber  universalbasicincome  2017  inequality  purpose  emotionallabor  society  socialism  leisurearts  artleisure  boredom  stress  workweek  productivity  policy  politics  poverty  health  medicine  openborders  crime  owenjones  socialjustice  progressivism  sustainability  left  us  germany  migration  immigration  capitalism  netherlands  populism  isolationism  violence  pragmatism  realism  privatization  monopolies  ideology  borders  ubi 
march 2017 by robertogreco
Ejike 🇳🇬 on Twitter: "To truly understand Cuba and in fact the rest of Latin America you need to study the Monroe doctrine in 1823"
[Thread]

"Viva Fidel. Your revolutionary courage & your commitment to fighting for the self-determination of the Cuban people will never be forgotten

[URL bookmarked] To truly understand Cuba and in fact the rest of Latin America you need to study the Monroe doctrine in 1823

It's important to note that the US in the early 19th century wasn't strong enough to stop Europe from colonizing Latin America... not yet

That ended in the late 1800s. Look up the Cuban War of Independence where the Cuban people had been whooping the Spanish colonial government

As Cuba was on the verge of liberating itself from Spanish control America intervened in what is shamefully dubbed the Spanish-American war

In 1898 the US intervened in order to "liberate" Cuba frm its humanitarian crisis which was a cover to prevent Cuba frm becoming independent

From 1898 Cuba practically served as an agricultural-colonial plantation for the United States up until Fidel Castro in 1959

In other words, the "Spanish-American war" was really a fight for who got to control Cuba & its resources. America consolidating its empire

I'm not sorry for giving a quick history lesson bc you cannot understand Fidel Castro if you don't understand America as an empire

Fidel Castro with his brilliant use of guerrilla tactics beat the Cuban army over and over again with only a few hundred soldiers

After Fidel Castro overthrew the undemocratic Batista government in 1959, the US in fearing is declining control went berserk!!!

People who talk about Cuba's problems conveniently leave out 58 years of economic blockade, invasion, assassination by the US

Never mind the 630 some assassination attempts made on Fidel Castro the sanctions & absolute terrorism on the Cuban people is reprehensible

The US embargo is literally anything to destroy Cuba's economy. And guess who started this war on Cuba… Your Democratic president JFK

For 9 administrations in a row the US has done everything in its power to destroy Cuba & every time they have failed thanks to Fidel Castro

I don't think there is a country that has been invaded and exposed to more terror by the US in the Western Hemisphere

The literacy rate of Cuba is at 99.8% which is higher than both the US and the UK thanks to Fidel Castro

The infant mortality rate is lower in Cuba than it is in the United States thanks to Fidel Castro

Cuba after being a country in 3rd world conditions now enjoys one of the highest life expectancy's in the world thanks to Fidel Castro

When Nelson Mandela was released one of the first places he went was Havana bc Cuba played one of the biggest roles in ending apartheid

Thanks to Fidel Castro Cuba has the highest ratio of doctors to patients anywhere else in the world in fact Cuba's biggest export is doctors

Thanks to Fidel Castro education in Cuba from kindergarten all the way up to the PhD level is FREE no exceptions

Thanks to Fidel Castro healthcare in Cuba is not a privilege determined by economic status but a human right given to ALL free of charge

Thanks to Fidel Castro, even with the vicious sanctions by the US, Cuba has managed to almost totally eliminate homelessness

To people who want to be critical of Fidel Castro I ask you what would've become of Cuba if the US did not issue its devastating sanctions

The economic strangulation that the US has been engaged in towards Cuba are so SEVERE that they can be considered an act of aggression

The angry Cubans in Florida that you here chastise Fidel Castro are all mysteriously neoliberal capitalists. That should raise red flags

Yes that little socialist island of Cuba has made mistakes but I would've made mistakes too if the US tried to assassinate me over 600 times

Y'all should RT all of these tweets to let everybody know that the US propaganda machine is wrong about Cuba and wrong about Fidel Castro

That Cubans can even provide basic services to its ppl despite being terrorized by the biggest bully in the world 90 miles away...

I love how everybody who is critiquing Fidel Castro sounds just like FOXNews right now. That's great

I REST MY CASE!!!Ejike 🇳🇬 added, RT: "Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump Fidel Castro is dead!" https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/802499192237080576

Trump and Fox News is celebrating the death of Fidel Castro and that still doesn't make people take pause

Every leader who defies US power is deemed a mass murderer and a threat to humanity

Every deficiency in Cuba can seriously be traced back to the economic warfare, subversion, assassination and invasion attempts by the US

Assata Shakur, a courageous revolutionary black woman, was granted political asylum from the US by which country... Cuba

I find it fascinating that the US wants Cuba to know the US is a friend when it still hasn't lifted the embargo RT: "Obama's statement on Castro [image] https://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2016/nov/26/fidel-castro-death-cuban-leader-live-updates " https://twitter.com/ggreenwald/status/802533786739216384

The US embargo has cost Cuba $753.69 billion. Don't forget to mention that when you're talking about the lack of pristine services in Cuba

#FidelCastro overthrew a dictatorship and then was besieged by the strongest military power in the history of the world. Start there

Look at some the absurd ways the United States tried to assassinate #FidelCastro http://www.vox.com/2016/11/26/13752514/us-fidel-castro-assassination "
fidelcastro  us  cuba  history  2016  monroedoctrine  imperialism  communism  socialism  nelsonmandela  apartheid  latinamerica  healthcare  education  literacy  homelessness  economics  subversion  assassination  invasion  spanish-americanwar  blockade  assatashakur  donaldtrump  barackobama  jfk  johnfkennedy 
november 2016 by robertogreco
Everybody Hates Cornel West | Jacobin
"We live in an era in which Clinton — who proudly supported mass incarceration and the obliteration of welfare — declares that a social-democratic program of financial reform and single-payer health insurance “won’t end racism.” A recent WikiLeaks publication of internal Clinton campaign emails reveals another line they were testing out against Sanders: “Wall Street is not gunning down young African Americans or denying immigrants a path to citizenship.”

It’s a sentiment that would’ve bewildered civil rights veterans like A. Philip Randolph, Martin Luther King Jr, John P. Davis, Bayard Rustin, and Lester Granger, all of whom were committed to social-democratic politics as a crucial means of putting racism on a path towards ultimate extinction. The tragedy of West isn’t that he’s “full of bitterness,” as his liberal detractors claim. It’s that the politics of West’s “black prophetic tradition,” try as he might to wield them for socialist ends, will today find their strongest, clearest articulation in the same old quest of “interpreting the drums” for a mostly white ruling class.

Earlier in the primary season, during an interview on the Real News Network, West directly called out the black elite — whom he calls “the lumpenbourgeoisie” — for abandoning “the black prophetic tradition” for “individual upward mobility” and the “formation of the black professional class.” As he put it, “Black folk for the most part became just extensions of a milquetoast neoliberal Democratic Party. But Adolph Reed and a host of others told this story many years ago. It’s becoming much more crystallized. We have to be willing to tell the truth no matter how unpopular it is.”

West didn’t hesitate to proclaim that his biggest left-wing critic had been right all along. But the fact that he felt betrayed by this “lumpenbourgeoisie” in the first place only shows the limits of this political vision and the power of Reed’s original critique. After all, why would a “lumpenbourgeoisie” act different than any bourgeoisie? A vision of a harmonious insular black “community” without any internal class tensions might sound appealing to some in 2016 — particularly to the Democratic Party — but it’s a delusion no serious leftist can afford to entertain.

But as tragic as West’s crusade can appear, the sincerity of his commitment to a more just and egalitarian world — and the righteousness of his passion — cannot be called into question. Those who, like Michael Eric Dyson, claim that West’s political commitments now derive from nothing more than hurt feelings over unreturned phone calls to Barack are either not paying attention or shamelessly projecting their own guilty consciences onto West.

As soon as Sanders laid down his arms and endorsed Clinton, West was already on the trail for Green Party candidate Jill Stein, telling Bill Maher that “the Clinton train — Wall Street, security, surveillance, militarism — that’s not going in the same direction I’m going . . . she’s a neoliberal.” And while many criticisms of the Green Party’s electoral myopia are warranted, it’s impossible not to respect West’s drawing a line in the sand against the Democrats — a party he sees as irredeemable. If his break with Obama made him “sad and bitter,” one can only wonder what his elite critics think of him now.

The truth is that Cornel West is being punished for choosing a genuine commitment to a more egalitarian society over the faux radicalism (and career opportunities) of the DNC and MSNBC black intelligentsia. On an appearance on late-night television a couple years ago, David Letterman pitched him a softball question on the overall improvement in “race relations.” Instead, West chastised Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder for their inaction on police violence: “It’s a question of what kind of persons do you have, not just black faces.” After Letterman pointed out how at least things had improved for the LGBT population, West countered: “The system is still structured in such a way that one percent of the population owns 43 percent of the wealth, you end up with an embrace of gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, especially upper–middle class and above, but the gay poor, the lesbian poor, they’re still catching hell . . . It’s not just black. It’s white. It’s brown. It’s the structure of a system . . . it’s worse [than ever].”"



"Because for the first time in years, it seemed like something really was happening. And the man on stage was the perfect one to give voice to that excitement, to that first hint of a lifelong passion and commitment. I remember looking around the auditorium: the young, this new generation who would soon file out in Occupy and, a few years later, join the Sanders campaign, were hanging on his every word as they listened to West define what it meant to be radical, what it meant to be on the Left. “That means we cut radically against the grain of the last forty years, especially in the American empire, where we have been told lies. Unfettered markets generating self-sufficiency, prosperity, and justice is a lie!. . . Wall Street oligarchs and the corporate elites are sucking so much of the blood of American democracy in such a way that more and more people are just useless, superfluous. And they don’t care! They think that they can get away with it because there’s been no resistance of large scale! And they think in the end, the chickens don’t come home to roost, that you don’t reap what you sow . . . we simply say at Left Forum,” and here he backed away from the mic, lowered his voice and smiled, “We stand for the truth.” People were on their feet, exploding in applause.While West’s reputation has suffered greatly among liberals, it has never been better among socialists. And while still marginal, after the Sanders challenge to the entire liberal class, ours is a corner with some confidence now. West is a longtime member of the Democratic Socialists of America and his reputation for generosity among younger members is unparalleled. He seemingly has time for everyone. Especially those who offer him nothing in career opportunities or elite respectability."
cornelwest  politics  race  2016  hillaryclinton  berniesanders  connorkilpatrick  democrats  michaelericdyson  joanwalsh  jonathancapehart  jillstein  adolphreed  blacklivesmatter  us  socialjustice  inequality  socialdemocracy  economics  barackobama  bobavakian  elitism  elites  aphiliprandolph  martinlutherkingjr  johnpdavis  bayardrustin  lestergranger  socialism  lumpenbourgeoisie  democraticparty  bourgeoisie  egalitarianism  radicalism  racism  racerelations  radicalization  occupywallstreet  ows  capitalism  statusquo  mlk 
november 2016 by robertogreco
Bat, Bean, Beam: The school as utopia
"What might a radically more just society look like? How would its decisions be made, and by whom? What would its economy look like, whom would it trade with and how? Even radicals may not always have ready, concrete answers to these questions. Contrary to Jameson’s famous quip, it’s not the end of capitalism that is especially hard to imagine – science-fiction writers do it all the time – but rather the connections from the present to any of our available futures.

It is customary to attribute the current dearth of utopian thinking to the historical defeat of the great anti-capitalist ideology, particularly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, coupled with the runaway financialisation of the most advanced capitalist economies. I’m rather more inclined to credit the second part of the equation than the first: for even if socialism – or whatever you want to call it – could still be imagined outside the form of the nation state (as it most certainly can), what is fast disappearing inside it are opportunities for alternative, concrete forms of self-determination and emancipation. There can be no factory councils without factories. There can be no workers’ rights not just without unions, but without a common, unifying notion of what labour is. Reduced to a life-long state of precarity that mimics grotesquely the dynamics of the most profitable trades, or of professions such as the lawyer or the physician – everyone is a contractor, everyone is their own boss – many if not most workers have been successfully alienated from their class, therefore from the ability to organise and articulate a common experience.

Which is what makes the few remaining spaces in which the utopian imagination can be exercised all the more precious.

Over the past two weeks I reprinted as many translations of texts from a historical past in which schools were viewed as the incubators of a new, more equal society, or alternatively as the first in a series of institutions designed to imprison, subdue and mould the citizen-subject to be to the needs of an oppressive one. I can think of my own education as falling a little under column A, and a little under column B. At any rate, there is always a real-world tension between those two pictures. Do our schools teach creativity or conformity? Do they produce obedient workers or autonomous citizens? When they strive for equality, in whose image is their model student created? And what or whom does that image leave out?

This tension notwithstanding, public education in most countries is a playground for practical utopias. Almost universally, the principal, stated goal of compulsory, state-funded education is to remedy the accident of birth, that is to say strive to ensure the same outcomes between children of different backgrounds. I say “stated” for a reason: in practice, this goal can be compromised upon and co-opted in a variety of ways. But that rhetorically even the political right should agree that the task of state education is to make up for economic disadvantage is something to hold on to. And to build on.

You could even say – hell, I’m just about to say it – that a state school is a little proto-socialist society, in which everyone receives according to their need and gives according to their ability. Furthermore, this society insists on pursuing recreation and the liberal arts, often in the face of pressures to narrow its teachings to what will be ‘most useful in life’. This latter demand, which intensifies as students get older, ultimately reveals the other objective of the school system, which is to serve the needs of the economy. In this double articulation we glimpse again the tension exemplified by the writings of De Amicis and Papini. At one end, there is the school that creates a society of equals; at the other, the school that trains children to take orders and habituates them to the hierarchies of the adult world.

Regular followers of this blog will know that one of my preoccupations over the years has been to advocate for inclusive education, meaning an education that expands to accommodate all children, with their full range of learning abilities. This was not always part of the mission of state education, whose history the world over was long marked by the total removal and exclusion of disabled children. Segregation is still very common in Aotearoa, in residential schools but more often through special schools and units. However, significant progress has been made over the last two decades, thanks to the self-advocacy of disabled people and their supporters, and as part of a global movement, to include all children in the ‘regular’ classroom: a progress sadly countervailed by the reluctance of the neoliberal state to properly recognise these rights and provide for full participation.

The situation therefore is one in which, even in the proto-socialist societies I’ve described, children with disabilities are second-class citizens, subject to diminished access to the buildings and the curriculum, and to borderline-obsessive rituals of verification and assessment that their peers are spared. A cruel inversion of the competitive principle of school choice forces these children and their families to move from public school to public school, hoping to find one that will ‘choose’ them.

The struggle against this oppression continues. But – and this is the main point I want to make today – the vision for a truly inclusive school system has a secondary but crucial value, which is to expand our utopian imaginary. An inclusive school is not just a regular school, only with children with disabilities in it. An inclusive school is a school in which the notions of citizenship, democracy and participation are radically expanded. It is a school in which the built environment, the curriculum, the teaching and the social relations challenge the limits of what children can achieve, therefore of what society can be.

It is often said that having children with disabilities can politicise you. For our part, I can say being able to work with and support the inclusive local school that our children attend has been a lesson in utopia-building. It has been our concrete playground, a place where to realise forms of participation and belonging that we didn’t know existed.

The problem, of course, is not just how to protect our little island, or how to replicate its experience elsewhere, but also how to prepare ourselves and our children for what comes after: that is to say, the transition to a society that has stopped aspiring to the most elementary principles of equality, security, participation and inclusion. Yet in this respect, too, the utopian school comes to our aid: for it sharpens the demand, and arms us with the knowledge that an alternative is both necessary and possible. "
giovannitiso  schools  utopia  education  inclusivity  2016  socialism  citizenship  civics  democracy  participation  curriculum  teaching  howweteach  future  society  children  equality  security  inclusion  segregation  self-advocacy  disability  disabilities 
august 2016 by robertogreco
The American Dream Is Alive in Finland - The Atlantic
"If the U.S. presidential campaign has made one thing clear, it’s this: The United States is not Finland. Nor is it Norway. This might seem self-evident. But America’s Americanness has had to be reaffirmed ever since Bernie Sanders suggested that Americans could learn something from Nordic countries about reducing income inequality, providing people with universal health care, and guaranteeing them paid family and medical leave.

“I think Bernie Sanders is a good candidate for president … of Sweden,” Marco Rubio scoffed. “We don’t want to be Sweden. We want to be the United States of America.”

“We are not Denmark,” Hillary Clinton clarified. “We are the United States of America. … [W]hen I think about capitalism, I think about all the small businesses that were started because we have the opportunity and the freedom in our country for people to do that and to make a good living for themselves and their families.”

Opportunity. Freedom. Independence. These words are bound up with American identity and the American Dream. The problem is that they’re often repeated like an incantation, with little reflection on the extent to which they still ring true in America, and are still exceptionally American.

Anu Partanen’s new book, The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life, argues that the freedom and opportunity Americans cherish are currently thriving more in Nordic countries than in the United States. (The Nordic countries comprise Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, and Finland.) But she also pushes back—albeit gently—against the trendy notion that Nordic countries are paradises.

Partanen is an unusual messenger. After all, her personal story is a testament to the Land of Opportunity’s enduring magnetism and vibrancy; she recently became a U.S. citizen, after moving from her native Finland to the United States in part because she felt she was more likely to find work as a journalist in New York City than her American husband was as a writer in Helsinki. But her time in America has also convinced her that Finland and its neighbors are doing a better job of promoting a 21st-century version of the American Dream than her adoptive country.

Partanen’s principal question is the following: What’s the best way for a modern society to advance freedom and opportunity? She explains that Nordic governments do so by providing social services that the U.S. government doesn’t—things like free college education and heavily subsidized child care. Within that big question, Partanen poses more pointed questions about contemporary life in the United States: Is “freedom” remaining in a job you hate because you don’t want to lose the health insurance that comes with it? Is “independence” putting your career on hold, and relying on your partner’s income, so you can take care of a young child when your employer doesn’t offer paid parental leave or day care is too expensive? Is “opportunity” depending on the resources of your parents, or a bundle of loans, to get a university degree? Is realizing the American Dream supposed to be so stressful?

“What Finland and its neighbors do is actually walk the walk of opportunity that America now only talks,” Partanen writes. “It’s a fact: A citizen of Finland, Norway, or Denmark is today much more likely to rise above his or her parents’ socioeconomic status than is a citizen of the United States.” The United States is not Finland. And, in one sense, that’s bad news for America. Numerous studies have shown that there is far greater upward social mobility in Nordic countries than in the United States, partly because of the high level of income inequality in the U.S.

In another sense, though, it’s perfectly fine to not be Finland. As Nathan Heller observed in The New Yorker, the modern Nordic welfare state is meant to “minimize the causes of inequality” and be “more climbing web than safety net.” Yet the system, especially in Sweden, is currently being tested by increased immigration and rising income inequality. And it’s ultimately predicated on a different—and not necessarily superior—definition of freedom than that which prevails in America. “In Sweden,” Heller argued, “control comes through protection against risk. Americans think the opposite: control means taking personal responsibility for risk and, in some cases, social status.”

Last week, I spoke with Partanen about what she feels Nordic countries have gotten right, where they’ve gone wrong, and why, if Finland is really so great, she’s now living in America. An edited and condensed transcript of our conversation follows.

Uri Friedman: You make an argument in the book that if you think about the American Dream in a certain way—if you define it in terms of opportunity, independence, and freedom—it is actually flourishing in the Nordic region more than in the United States. Why?

Anu Partanen: For a long time now, we’ve all, both in the United States and in Europe, thought that the United States is the land of freedom. For a long time, it was certainly true: American democracy was leading the way, the American middle class was the wealthiest. America was really the place where you could make your own life and you could decide who you wanted to be and pursue the dream.

When I moved to the United States in 2008, that was the idea I had. [But] when I came here, I was actually surprised [to learn that] people were very anxious. They were in many ways very dependent on their circumstances, the opposite of being a self-made woman or man. And a lot of this is related to family: if, [when] you were a child, your parents could provide opportunities, if they could offer you a life in a good neighborhood, offer you a life in a good school.

…"
culture  economics  europe  finland  us  policy  norway  denmark  sweden  iceland  freedom  independence  opportunity  denamrk  anupartanen  urifriedman  democracy  socialism  inequality  middleclass  income  incomeinequality  immigration  taxes  daycare  healthcare  health  qualityoflife  government  society  nathanheller  politics 
july 2016 by robertogreco
7 Things Nordic Countries Are Totally Doing Right, According To 'The Nordic Theory Of Everything' | Bustle
"1. Balancing Federal Budgets …

2. Curbing Income Inequality …

3. Bringing Equity To Education …

4. Closing The Gender Gap …

5. Supporting Families …

6. Aiming For True Work-Life Balance …

7. Insuring Everyone …"
nordiccountries  scandinavia  policy  socialism  equality  us  inequality  education  gender  women  families  paternityleave  work-lifebalance  well-being  health  healthcare  universalhealthcare  finland  sweden  norway  iceland  denmark  2016  government  qualityoflife  anupartanen  middleclass 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Why Young Americans Are Giving Up on Capitalism | Foreign Policy
"Imagine that you’re twenty years old. You were born in 1996. You were five years old on 9/11. For as long as you can remember, the United States has been at war.

When you are twelve, in 2008, the global economy collapses. After years of bluster and bravado from President George W. Bush — who encouraged consumerism as a response to terror — it seems your country was weaker than you thought. In America, the bottom falls out fast.In America, the bottom falls out fast. The adults who take care of you struggle to take care of themselves. Perhaps your parent loses a job. Perhaps your family loses its home.

In 2009, politicians claim the recession is over, but your hardship is not. Wages are stagnant or falling. The costs of health care, child care, and tuition continue to rise exponentially. Full-time jobs turn into contract positions while benefits are slashed. Middle-class jobs are replaced with low-paying service work. The expectations of American life your parents had when you were born — that a “long boom” will bring about unparalleled prosperity — crumble away.

Baby boomers tell you there is a way out: a college education has always been the key to a good job. But that doesn’t seem to happen anymore. The college graduates you know are drowning in student debt, working for minimum wage, or toiling in unpaid internships. Prestigious jobs are increasingly clustered in cities where rent has tripled or quadrupled in a decade’s time. You cannot afford to move, and you cannot afford to stay. Outside these cities, newly abandoned malls join long abandoned factories. You inhabit a landscape of ruin. There is nothing left for you.

Every now and then, people revolt. When you are fifteen, Occupy Wall Street captivates the nation’s attention, drawing attention to corporate greed and lost opportunity. Within a year, the movement fades, and its members do things like set up “boutique activist consultancies.” When you are seventeen, the Fight for 15 workers movement manages to make higher minimum wage a mainstream proposition, but the solutions politicians pose are incremental. No one seems to grasp the urgency of the crisis. Even President Barack Obama, a liberal Democrat — the type of politician who’s supposed to understand poverty — declares that the economy has recovered."



"Does this mean that the youth of America are getting ready to hand over private property to the state and round up the kulaks? No. As many of those who reported on the Harvard survey noted, the terms “socialism” and “capitalism” were never defined. After meeting with survey takers, John Della Volpe, the director of the Harvard poll, told the Washington Post that respondents did not reject capitalism inherently as a concept. “The way in which capitalism is practiced today, in the minds of young people — that’s what they’re rejecting,” he said.

Capitalism, in other words, holds less appeal in an era when the invisible hand feels like a death grip. Americans under 20 have had little to no adult experience in a pre-Great Recession economy. Things older generations took for granted — promotions, wages that grow over time, a 40-hour work week, unions, benefits, pensions, mutual loyalty between employers and employees — are increasingly rare.

As a consequence, these basic tenets of American work life, won by labor movements in the early half of the twentieth century, are now deemed “radical.” In this context, Bernie Sanders, whose policies echo those of New Deal Democrats, can be deemed a “socialist” leading a “revolution”. His platform seems revolutionary only because American work life has become so corrupt, and the pursuit of basic stability so insurmountable, that modest ambitions — a salary that covers your bills, the ability to own a home or go to college without enormous debt — are now fantasies or luxuries.

Policies like a $15 per hour minimum wage — brought to mainstream attention not by Sanders, but by striking fast food workers years before — are not radical, but a pragmatic corrective to decades of wage depreciation. The minimum wage, which peaked in 1968, would have reached $21.72 in 2012 had it kept pace with productivity growth. Expectations of American life are formed on the premise that self-sufficiency is possible, but nearly half of Americans do not have $400 to their name. The gap between the rhetoric of “economic recovery” and “low unemployment” and the reality of how most Americans live is what makes Sanders seem unconventional: he describes widespread economic hardship many leaders rationalize or deny. Voters are not only rejecting the status quo, but how the status quo is depicted by media and politicians — the illusion that the economy is strong, and that suffering is the exception, not the rule.

We live in an era where heated rhetorical battles are fought over terms that have lost clear meaning. In an attempt to placate an angry populace, all three major candidates — Sanders, Donald Trump, and Hillary Clinton — have at various times positioned themselves as “anti-establishment”: a dubious description of two career politicians and a billionaire tycoon. “Neoliberal” has gone from a term that describes an advocate of specific economic and political policies to an insult hurled indiscriminately on social media. Thanks to Trump, the word “fascist” has reentered the American political vocabulary, with some playing down Trump’s brutal and unlawful policies on the grounds that they do not precisely emulate foreign fascist leaders of the past. Meanwhile, Trump castigates Clinton for not using the term “radical Islam.” This sparring over labels illustrates the depths of our ideological confusion.

It is in this rhetorical morass that the debate over whether young Americans support “socialism” or “capitalism” takes place. Omitted from most coverage of the Harvard poll was the fact that youth were asked not only about socialism and capitalism but four other categories. “Which of the following, if any, do you support?” the questionnaire inquired, giving the options of socialism, capitalism, progressivism, patriotism, feminism, and social justice activism. None of the terms were defined. Respondents could choose more than one. “Socialism,” at 33 percent, actually received the lowest support. “Patriotism” received the highest support, at 57 percent, while the three remaining categories were each supported by roughly half the respondents.

What do these category-based questions really tell us, then, about the allegiance of youth to ideologies? Nothing. The real answers are found in questions about policies. When asked whether they support the idea that “Basic necessities, such as food and shelter, are a right that the government should provide to those unable to afford them,” 47 percent of all respondents said “yes.” Does this indicate support for socialism? Not necessarily. It indicates that respondents grew up in an America where a large number of their countrymen have struggled to afford food and shelter — and they want the suffering to stop.

You do not need a survey to ascertain the plight of American youth. You can look at their bank accounts, at the jobs they have, at the jobs their parents have lost, at the debt they hold, at the opportunities they covet but are denied. You do not need jargon or ideology to form a case against the status quo. The clearest indictment of the status quo is the status quo itself."
age  capitalism  economics  us  socialsafetynet  socialism  2016  occupywallstreet  ows  democracy  labor  work  minimumwage  education  highered  highereducation  debt  neoliberalism  progressivism  patriotism  donaldtrump  hillaryclinton  barackobama  opportunity  hope  despair  frustration  ideology  berniesanders  employment  unemployment  youth  politics  policy  statistics 
june 2016 by robertogreco
welcome to the future – Fredrik deBoer
"For several decades, neoliberal politicians worked tirelessly to remove any checks to our systems of financial speculation, causing the inflation of massive bubbles, driven by elite greed. They simultaneously shredded the social safety nets that would allow the lower classes to better endure the consequences of the inevitable collapse of those bubbles. The bubbles did collapse. The lower classes were devastated with unemployment, instability, and economic hopelessness. Those same elites responded by insisting that the only path forward was deeper austerity, even more vicious cuts to our already-tattered redistributive systems. Anger, naturally, grew. Nativist, nationalist demagogues responded by seizing on this anger, telling ignored and marginalized people that their problems were the fault of even-more-marginalized minorities, migrants, and refugees. Their political adversaries, rather than appealing to those angry people by offering them an economic platform that works for them and by arguing that their best interests are also the best interests of those minorities, migrants, and refugees, have doubled down on austerity politics and have dismissed those voters as deluded racists who are not fit to be appealed to. In general, liberals have entrenched deeper and deeper into geographical and social bubbles that permit them to ignore vast swaths of increasingly-embittered voters. They thus ensure that those many among the angry people who are not in fact incorrigible racists but who could be convinced to join forces for a political movement of shared prosperity never do so. The worst people appeal to the desperate, while their political opponents dismiss that desperation, and the outcome is predictable.

This is the future of the West: a contest between elitist greed and populist proto-fascism. On one side, the limitless self-interest of a financial and social elite that has created not only an economic system that siphons more and more money into their own pockets but also a bizarre, jury-rigged ideology of cultural liberalism divorced from any foundations in economic egalitarianism which argues that anyone who opposes the neoliberal order is not worthy even of trying to convince. On the other side, an increasingly-unhinged movement of racist grievance-mongering and fear-stoking populist demagoguery, which utilizes the age-old tactic of pitting different groups of poor people against each other to powerful effect, helped immensely by the corruption and callousness of the pro-austerity class. These sides share nothing except for an absolute commitment to preventing the kind of robustly redistributive platform of economic and social justice that could unite the needs of all suffering people into a formidable political bloc that is devoted to opposing austerity, inequality, racism, sexism, nativism, nationalism, and the rest of humanity’s political ills.

The choice humanity had was between socialism and barbarism. Decades of neoliberalism have ensured that we’ve chosen the latter. The choice ahead is less substantive and more aesthetic: which would you prefer crushing down on your neck, the combat boot of a fascist or the business shoe of a plutocrat?"
freddiedeboer  politics  neoliberalism  history  2016  policy  us  humanity  socialism  barbarism  bubbles  economics  greed  elitism  socialsafetynet  inequality  class  classism  marginalization  austertity  brexit  fascism  corruption  finance  capitalism  self-interest  eglitarianism  socialjustice  racism  sexism  nativism  nationalism  plutocracy  desperation 
june 2016 by robertogreco
I live in Denmark. Bernie Sanders’s Nordic dream is worth fighting for, even if he loses. - Vox
"There is no question that America — heck, the world — would be a better place if it more resembled the Scandinavia that Sanders evokes. Even I, a British transplant to Denmark and sometime-Scandiskeptic, can see that America is badly in need of a little Scandi-therapy. But Scandinavia doesn't offer a quick fix for what ails the United States — and in recent years even Scandinavia itself has been backing away from some of the qualities that Sanders praises it for.

Scandinavia is more equal than the States

In terms of economics, the gap between richest and poorest, measured by the Gini coefficient, is far smaller here than in the States; in terms of gender equality it has a greater proportion of women in the labor force and more women in positions of power, and there is absolutely no question that women should have the right to decide over the inhabitants of their own wombs. Sweden was recently ranked the best country in the world in which to live as a woman.

And Scandinavia is more equal in terms of opportunity. It is far easier for a working-class Scandinavian kid to achieve a university education and attain professional qualifications than it is for a child from a similar background in the USA. Social mobility is far, far better here than in the States. As I only slightly grudgingly conclude in my book The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia, these are the true lands of opportunity.

As Sanders rightly points out, America badly needs a dose of wealth redistribution. Rapidly spiraling poverty, unemployment, and homelessness with record repossessions, while billionaires pay 17 percent income tax? That doesn't tend to happen up here "beyond the wall."

Scandinavia's multi-party system works better than America's two-party system

America's political system would also benefit from a little Scandi-style transparency and multi-party consensus. Both help temper the extremes of political dogma that have afflicted the US political landscape. "But doesn't that lead to political stalemate?" I hear you ask. Like Washington, you mean? No, it's not that bad.

But really it all comes back to equality, the bedrock of the so-called Nordic miracle and Sanders's campaign mantra. The awkward truth about capitalism is that without proper equality of opportunity, the market cannot distribute wealth fairly or democratically, nor can it provide a safety net for the vulnerable. That's the role of government, and I'm afraid it requires everyone to pay their taxes.

But prosperous, Scandinavian-style societies don't happen overnight

Though Scandinavia has much to teach the world, sadly there is no quick fix to be found here. As with any region, Scandinavia has attained its current state of almost near perfection as a result of decades, perhaps centuries, of evolution, conflict, and change. The region is a product of its history, climate, and topography — not to mention of living so close to Germany and Russia.

You don't impose tax rates like these overnight; they creep up on you like bindweed without people really noticing until, whoops, you have five weeks of holiday a year and free health care, and young people are paid to go to university — but you are also paying more than half your income to the state.

You don't pick up democratic systems like this at the checkout. These levels of political and corporate transparency, devolution, equality, and accountability are formed following decades of debate and negotiation. Decent public transport takes long-term cross-party will; consensus politics require multiparty systems free of interference from large-scale corporate interest; effective labor relations are only possible if trade unions remain strong and are integrated into the decision-making process.

Even as Sanders praises Scandinavia, Scandinavia is becoming more and more like America

The great irony in all this is that while Sanders advocates Scandinavia as the default reset for America, the region itself is busy changing and reforming itself in the face of regional crises and global challenges — often making itself more American in the process.

In my book, I explain why these societies are so successful and happy — but I also spend some time explaining why Denmark, Sweden, and Norway (plus Finland and Iceland, for the full Nordic spread) are not the utopias the global media has made them out to be this past decade or so.

I live in Denmark of my own free will and find a great deal to admire about the Danes and the society they have built, but I felt there was a need for a counterbalance to the Scandimania that has characterized much of the reporting on Denmark and Scandinavia.

In many ways, Scandinavia has had enough of being Scandinavian. It has certainly had enough of socialism. As the Danish prime minister said in a recent speech at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, "I would like to make one thing clear. Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy. Denmark is a market economy."

In many ways, Scandinavia has had enough of being Scandinavian. It has certainly had enough of socialism.

These days, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway are all mixed economies with relatively low corporation taxes, for instance. Many former state-run services are now privatized, and a large proportion of the population has private health care. Denmark regularly ranks high in global "ease of doing business" surveys, and Sweden in particular is currently experiencing impressive economic growth. Goldman Sachs recently bought a large stake in the Danish state energy company. Economies don't get much more mixed than that.

Some argue that high taxes are a disincentive to risk-taking and innovation and that generous welfare benefits engender a sense of complacency and entitlement, and I am sure there is some truth to this. There have been high-profile cases of able-bodied Danes playing the unemployment benefit system for years, and I once overheard a Danish parent complaining that her son's first choice of university did not have the surfing degree he wanted to take. Still, the region has given birth to a notable number of innovative global brands: Skype, Spotify, Novo Nordisk, Carlsberg, Ikea, and Lego to name just a few.

And Nordic governments are cutting back on their welfare states

Meanwhile, all of the Nordic governments have curbed the expansion of their welfare states over the past years to varying degrees, and many inhabitants of the region have opted out of their struggling state health and education systems. Politically, these countries began to move to the right 10 years ago, to the extent that far-right parties are now among the most popular with voters.

Neither do any of these countries have the "free" health care or "free" university tuition that Sanders wishes for. Bernie, let me tell you, we who live here pay for those free services with tax rates that would make your hair turn white. In Denmark I pay around 56 percent income tax, along with 25 percent retail tax, the highest energy taxes in the world, a veritable smorgasbord of property taxes, huge tariffs on alcohol and cars, and even a tax on air. (Soft ice cream is taxed based on its volume after the air is mixed in.)

And all of these countries have problems: Norway's oil income, upon which so much of its prosperity relies, has fallen off a cliff; like the teenager who advertised a house party on Facebook, the Swedes are now somewhat dismayed that tens of thousands of refugees and economic migrants have turned up on their front lawn; and with its own modest oil revenues dwindling, Denmark is facing up to the fact that the growth of its much-vaunted welfare state is no longer economically sustainable.

Believe me, get a Dane talking about the country's school system or to ask a Swede about immigration, and you will unleash a torrent of moans, gripes, and complaints that would make a New York cabbie blush. But — and it's a big "but" — all of these countries remain highly affluent, well-educated, free, democratic, "happy," and relatively equal. So that's why I'm rooting for Bernie and his vision for a more Scandinavian America."
denmark  socialism  scandinavia  2016  politics  policy  society  inequality  equality  welfare  sweden  norway  economics  taxes  berniesanders  transparency  accountability 
may 2016 by robertogreco
Can Socialists Lose an Election and Still Get Their Revolution? - Who We Were - Zócalo Public Square
"Upton Sinclair Failed in His 1934 Bid to Govern California, but His Radical Campaign Left a Lasting Mark on Politics"



"So is there any lesson from Sinclair and his aftermath? Sinclair himself published an account in 1935, I, Candidate for Governor: And How I Got Licked, that entertainingly repeated his themes, and portrayed the campaign as a success, despite its defeat.

So yes, a losing socialist can change politics. But another lesson is that the general electorate tends to reject perceived radicalism, even when such candidates attract a cadre of loyal enthusiasts. And even if elected, such candidates would have to face the complex checks and balances of the American political system that make it easier to block great plans than to enact them."
california  us  politics  history  uptonsinclair  socialism  berniesanders  2016  1934  elections  change  changemaking  influence 
march 2016 by robertogreco
This speech could reignite Bernie Sanders: Here’s the argument he needs to make about capitalism - Salon.com
"Bernie uses every public opportunity to show how unjust the economic system is toward the most vulnerable. And he is right.

What he fails to do is help the rest of the American public understanding that some of their biggest heartaches are also tied to capitalism–not because it doesn’t give them enough economic returns or the ability to consume more, but because it promotes values that are destructive to human relationships and families , popularizes an ethos of “looking out for number one” and popularizes materialism and self-destructive self-blaming.

I learned about this as principle investigator of an NIMH-sponsored research project on stress at work and stress in family life. What my team heard from thousands of middle income working class people was that there was a huge spiritual crisis in American society generated by the experience most middle income non-professional people have in the world of work.

It’s hard for professionals and the upper middle class to believe this, but most people spend most of their awake hours each work day doing work that feels meaningless and unfulfilling. They quickly learn that their sole value in the marketplace is the degree to which they can contribute directly or indirectly to the old “bottom line” of money and power of those who own and manage the corporations, businesses and other institutions where they find employment. Moreover, they learn that those who are most successful are those who have learned best how to maximize their own advantage without regard to the well being of others in the work world outside their particular work unit, or the well being of those buying their goods or services.

What we learned was that most working-class people (not all, just most) come away from their work with a complex set of seemingly contradictory feelings. On the one hand, they hate the values of selfishness and materialism they see surrounding them at work and brought home by everyone they know. On the other hand, they believe that everyone is so completely enmeshed in those values that selfishness just is “the real world” and that they themselves have no choice but to seek to maximize their own advantage wherever they can. They find relief from this when they go to church, synagogue or mosque, identify with those spiritual or religious values, but are so depressed by their daily work-world experience that they feel those alternative values have no chance of working in the “real world.”

Moreover, from their earliest experiences in school they have been immersed in the capitalist indoctrination into the fantasy that they live in a meritocracy, and that “anyone can make it if they deserve to.” As a result, they blame themselves for the lack of fulfillment in their lives. And they blame themselves for not being better at “looking out for number one” and maximizing their own self-interest.

The result is a society increasingly filled with people who see each other through the framework of capitalist values: other people are valuable primarily to the extent that they can satisfy our own needs and desires, rather than seeing them as intrinsically valuable just for who they are regardless of what they can deliver for us.

No wonder, then, that so many people feel lonely and scared. They see themselves as surrounded by people who have internalized the “look out for number one” ethos of the capitalist marketplace. Many notice these same attitudes in friends, even in one’s spouse. Some report that their children have picked up these same values and look at their parent with a “what have you done for me lately” attitude. So increasing numbers of people feel afraid not only because there is no effective societal mechanism to protect them should they be out of money or in need of too-expensive-to-afford health care and pharmaceuticals, but also because they fear that no one will really be there for them when they are most vulnerable and in need of caring from others, Of course these dynamics play out differently depending on one’s own circumstances, but they are prevalent enough to make many people feel bad about themselves and worried about the enduring quality of their most important relationships.

Bernie Sanders could help tens of millions of Americans reduce their self-blaming were he to help people see that his campaign against capitalism is not just about its unjust allocation of economic well-being, but also and most importantly about how to strengthen loving relationships, friendships and family life by repudiating the values of the marketplace, rejecting the meritocratic fantasies that lead to self-blame, and embracing a New Bottom Line. If his democratic socialism also included the insistence that work provide people with the opportunity to satisfy the deep human need to see their lives contributing to the best interests of the planet and the best interests of the human race, rather than solely to the interests of maximizing the income of the wealthiest, he would be embracing what I once called a “Politics of Meaning” and now call a spiritual politics defined by a New Bottom Line.

Instead of judging institutions, corporations, government policies, our economic system, our legal system and our educational system as efficient, rational and productive to the extent that they maximize money and power (the Old Bottom Line), the New Bottom Line would also include in this assessment how much these institutions and social practices enhance our human capacities for love and generosity, kindness and ethical behavior, environmental responsibility sustainability, our ability to transcend narrow utilitarian ways of seeing other human beings and the earth, so that we can see others as embodiments of the sacred and respond to the magnificence of this planet and the universe with awe, wonder and radical amazement rather than just seeing them as “resources” to be used for our own needs."
capitalism  berniesanders  2016  economics  well-being  health  meritocracy  individualism  socialism  materialism  consumerism  selfishness  fulfillment  self-blaming  middleclass  workingclass  relationships  mentalhealth  success  healthcare  politics  policy  business  efficiency 
march 2016 by robertogreco
An American Utopia: Fredric Jameson in Conversation with Stanley Aronowitz - YouTube
"Eminent literary and political theorist Fredric Jameson, of Duke University, gives a new address, followed by a conversation with noted cultural critic Stanely Aronowitz, of the Graduate Center. Jameson, author of Postmodernism: The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism and The Political Unconscious, will consider the practicality of the Utopian tradition and its broader implications for cultural production and political institutions. Co-sponsored by the Writers' Institute and the Ph.D. Program in Comparative Literature."

[via: "@timmaughan saw a semi-serious proposal talk from Frederic Jameson a few years ago about just that; the army as social utopia."
https://twitter.com/sevensixfive/status/687321982157860864

"@timmaughan this looks to be a version of it here, in fact: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MNVKoX40ZAo …"
https://twitter.com/sevensixfive/status/687323080088285184 ]
fredricjameson  utopia  change  constitution  2014  us  military  education  capitalism  history  culture  society  politics  policy  ecology  williamjames  war  collectivism  crisis  dictators  dictatorship  publicworks  manufacturing  labor  work  unions  postmodernism  revolution  occupywallstreet  ows  systemschange  modernity  cynicism  will  antoniogramsci  revolutionaries  radicals  socialism  imagination  desire  stanelyaronowitz  army  armycorpsofengineers  deleuze&guattari  theory  politicaltheory  gillesdeleuze  anti-intellectualism  radicalism  utopianism  félixguattari  collectivereality  individuals  latecapitalism  collectivity  rousseau  otherness  thestate  population  plurality  multiplicity  anarchism  anarchy  tribes  clans  culturewars  class  inequality  solidarity  economics  karlmarx  marxism  deleuze 
january 2016 by robertogreco
Why We Fight Uber | Jacobin
"The fight against the sharing economy, and Uber in particular, can be disorienting. Opposition is often painted as technophobia. The good guys in this story are Uber and progress; on the other side are opponents afraid of flexibility and smartphones, kicking and screaming against a future already here.

In many ways, this is like the fight of the Luddites (machine smashers) two hundred years ago at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. While the Luddites were fighting the way technology was used to further exploit rather than liberate workers, they were and are misrepresented as simply being afraid of and opposing technology.

Just as power looms and other machines inaugurated a technological revolution that ultimately produced more work for the many and greater wealth for the few, so too are modern technologies enriching Silicon Valley’s billionaires at the expense of drivers, delivery folk, and all manner of service workers.

The sharing economy that consumers experience as a friendly convenience is, for workers, a low-wage, precarious trap. It would sound all too familiar to the skilled cloth-makers who wanted machines to give them more leisure and continued control over their work, but instead found themselves subsidizing the profits of the machine owners in England’s “satanic mills.”

Today, few technologies have as much potential for easy cooperative management as those of the currently mislabeled sharing economy. These tools are not to blame. In fact, Internet-based technologies are an opportunity for worker management. As Mike Konczal wrote in the Nation a year ago:
Given that the workers already own all the capital in the form of their cars, why aren’t they collecting all the profits? Worker cooperatives are difficult to start when there’s massive capital needed up front, or when it’s necessary to coordinate a lot of different types of workers . . . If any set of companies deserves to have its rentiers euthanized, it’s those of the “sharing economy,” in which management relies heavily on the individual ownership of capital, providing only coordination and branding.

Silicon Valley’s version of sharing means that while we carry the risks of illness, breakdown, and everything else that comes with own our tools — the cars that we drive for Uber or the computers we use for online Taskrabbit chores — they get to say how the gains from our services are distributed.

The Luddites surely would be impressed that technology owners can now get rich simply by connecting people with each other. If looms and frames were the symbol for Luddites of their degradation, today’s drivers, couriers, and taskrabbits can only point to ephemeral platforms and apps. While the Luddites attacked their bosses by destroying their looms and faced violent reprisals sanctioned by law, the privately run digital networks of today are virtually impossible to physically disrupt while having the full force of the law behind them.

Instead of producing greater socialization that spreads wealth and decision-making, the sharing economy funnels money and control toward the top. Yet today’s world still has space for some pretty old-school demands the Luddites would recognize. They wanted to work less and have a say over how they worked (with technology!). We too could be using the fruits of technology to get ever-shorter workweeks, cooperate more, and manage aspects of the economy together.

Faced wth the charge of technophobia, we must remember that the fight against Uber is a fight for a technology that could be used to distribute work more equally and foster genuine cooperation. That fight, I hope, won’t be misremembered in some dystopian twenty-third century capitalism. Though I’m sure the Luddites would have had the same hopes of us."
uber  socialism  wealth  2015  michaelrozworski  siliconvalley  technosolutionism  technology  sharingeconomy  taskrabbit  capitalism  technophobia  luddism  luddites 
december 2015 by robertogreco
How the Myth of the Meritocracy Ruins Students
"The inequitable outcome of the meritocracy is hiding in plain sight in every facet of society - in schools, workplaces, prisons and neighborhoods. We don't like inequality and we're alarmed by how fast the underclass is growing, but we believe that it's a fact of life because, let's face it, some people are just better than others. Most of us, liberals included, are to varying degrees beholden to the Myth of the Meritocracy.

Liberals are all for trying to level the playing field. We support basic civil rights measures that prohibit blatant discrimination and affirmative action programs that groom the cream of the crop for middle-class membership. But for all the leveling that has supposedly occurred since Martin Luther King Jr.'s time, things are still very lopsided. King's dream of economic equality was sidelined, because most Americans believe that once the shackles of overt discrimination are removed, the next logical step is for everyone to compete for as big a share of the spoils as possible.

We raise our kids to aspire to the "American Dream," which is understood to extend the promise of upward mobility only to the winners of the rat race. Theoretically, every individual has the opportunity to win the competition and live the dream. But so long as there are winners and losers (with outcomes largely predetermined at birth), the "American Dream" is a Trump-like zero-sum game, and our misplaced allegiance to it has led to nightmarish levels of inequality and social breakdown. As the late George Carlin said, "It's called the American dream because you have to be asleep to believe it."

Meritocracy is taken for granted as part of the natural order but, in reality, it's a political choice. The alternative to meritocracy is the organized, formal redistribution of wealth on the basis of need, not achievement, but this notion is not (yet) given air time because it upsets the Myth of the Meritocracy. What if some loser gets something he doesn't deserve? What if I have taken away something I deserve to keep?

There's a "me" and there's a "them," and they're in competition and conflict. We'd rather they be homeless, imprisoned, deported or fired than take what we believe is rightfully ours. There is, it seems, a little bit of The Donald in all of us.

We've been conditioned to prefer a society in which everyone has at least some chance of climbing to the top to one in which everyone's basic needs are met. And so it is. And so our society unravels because we'd rather fight each other and fetishize individual success than share.

This reflex to compete rather than cooperate stems from the modern delusion that humans are separate from one another and from nature. When we pause to reflect, we can readily sense and observe that all beings are interconnected and our fates intertwined. But we don't pause to reflect, because we're too busy reacting defensively to perceived threats to our well-being, threats that are amplified 24-7 by the media.

The biggest actual threat to our well-being is the hyper-individualist ethic that frightens us into participating in the war of all against all, the endgame of which is social collapse and, at the rate we're plundering a natural world we feel disconnected from, human extinction.

Dr. King said:
We must see that whatever diminishes the poor diminishes everybody else. And the salvation of the poor will mean the salvation of the whole nation. For we're all tied together in an inescapable network of mutuality. We are tied in a single garment of destiny.

Our culture conditions us to believe the opposite - that each of us can and must strive to rise above the fray. Schools do their part, training children to put a premium on personal excellence or be condemned to a lifetime of drudgery, poverty and, most horrifying of all, low status.

We can abolish homework and testing. We can turn classrooms into innovative hands-on laboratories of learning. We can tell our kids that their lives will be just as happy with a degree from a community college as from Princeton. We can run programs for at-risk youth and, with enough progressive elected officials in office, we can even wrangle some extra money for public schools.

And we should do all of those things. But so long as we focus on each individual child's success rather than the collective well-being of all children and families, we will not be able to extricate our children from the corrosive zero-sum game of "race to the top or get left behind" they are forced to play. So long as we remain trapped in the meritocratic arena, we ensure a mean and uncertain future for our children, a future in which most will be consigned to the underclass and even those closer to the top will unhappily strive to surpass thy neighbor.

Politics and culture keep the Myth of the Meritocracy alive. Market fundamentalism ensures high levels of economic inequality that have people worried enough to want to elbow their fellow citizens (and non-citizens) out of the race. Culturally, we're conditioned from such an early age to enter the race to the top and to believe that those at the top belong there, that we never consider what it would look like to cooperate instead of compete.

It doesn't have to be this way. The United States is blessed with more than enough to go around, enough food, enough medicine, enough housing, enough money to create space for every child to graduate from a university or vocational college and earn a decent living doing something they enjoy. We just need to get better at sharing and cooperating.

That, in the end, is our choice: Redistribute wealth equitably and invest in schools that honor and inspire students or force our children to run the gauntlet, knowing that only a fraction of them will succeed and the rest eliminated like Celebrity Apprentice contestants. Either Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream will be realized, or Trump's will."
meritocracy  society  ericaetelson  competition  capitalism  2015  inequality  wealthredistribution  wealth  politics  culture  us  learning  children  poverty  privilege  georgecarlin  mutuality  martinlutherkingjr  individualism  japan  collectivism  socialism  communism  americandream  socialsafetynet  economics  injustice  unfairness  race  racism  classism  class  libertarianism  success  virtue  work  labor  motivation  education  schools  racetonowhere  mlk 
november 2015 by robertogreco
Bill Moyers Journal . Watch & Listen | PBS
"GRACE LEE BOGGS: Well, I had no idea what I was gonna do after I got my degree in philosophy in 1940. But what I did know was at that time, if you were a Chinese-American, even department stores wouldn't hire you. They'd come right out and say, "We don't hire Orientals." And so the idea of my getting a job teaching in a university and so forth was really ridiculous. And I went to Chicago and I got a job in the philosophy library there for $10 a week, And so I found a little old Jewish woman right near the university who took pity on me and said I could stay in her basement rent-free. The only obstacle was that I had to face down a barricade of rats in order to get into her basement. And at that time, in the black communities, they were beginning to protest and struggle against rat-infested housing. So I joined one of the tenants' organizations and thereby came in touch with the black community for the first time in my life.

BILL MOYERS: One of her first heroes in that community was A. Philip Randolph, the charismatic labor leader who had won a long struggle to organize black railroad porters. In the 1930s. on the eve of World War II, Randolph was furious that blacks were being turned away from good paying jobs in the booming defense plants.

When he took his argument to F.D.R., the president was sympathetic but reluctant to act. Proclaiming that quote 'power is the active principle of only the organized masses,' Randolph called for a huge march on Washington to shame the president. It worked. F.D.R. backed down and signed an order banning discrimination in the defense industry. All over America blacks moved from the countryside into the cities to take up jobs — the first time in 400 years — says Grace Lee Boggs, that black men could bring home a regular paycheck.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: And when I saw what a movement could do, I said, "Boy, that's what I wanna do with my life."

GRACE LEE BOGGS: It was just amazing. I mean, how you have to take advantage of a crisis in the system and in the government and also press to meet the needs of the people who are struggling for dignity. I mean, that's very tricky.

BILL MOYERS: It does take moral force to make political decisions possible.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Yeah. and I think that too much of our emphasis on struggle has simply been in terms of confrontation and not enough recognition of how much spiritual and moral force is involved in the people who are struggling.

BILL MOYERS: Well, that's true. But power never gives up anything voluntarily. People have to ask for it. They have to demand it. They have-to--

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Well, you know as Douglas said, "Power yields nothing without a struggle." But how one struggles I think is now a very challenging question.

BILL MOYERS: She would learn a lot more about struggle from the man she married in 1952 — Jimmy Boggs, a radical activist, organizer, and writer. They couldn't have been outwardly more different — he was a black man, an auto worker and she was a Chinese-American, college educated philosopher — but they were kindred spirits, and their marriage lasted four decades until his death.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: I think that I owe a great deal of my rootedness to Jimmy because he learned to write and become a writer because in his illiterate community nobody could read and write. He picked cotton, and then went to work in Detroit. He saw himself as having been part of one epoch, the agriculture epoch, and now the industrial epoch, and now the post-industrial epoch. I think that's a very important part of what we need in this country, is that sense that we have lived through so many stages, and that we are entering into a new stage where we could create something completely different. Jimmy had that feeling. "



"BILL MOYERS: And you think that this question of work was at the heart of what happened-- or it was part of what happened in Detroit that summer?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: I don't think it's that they were conscious of it, but I thought-- what I saw happen was that young people who recognized that working in the factory was what had allowed their parents to buy a house, to raise a family, to get married, to send their kids to school, that was eroding. They felt that-- no one cares anymore.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: And what we tried to do is explain that a rebellion is righteous, because it's the protest by a people against injustice, because of unrighteous situation, but it's not enough. You have to go beyond rebellion. And it was amazing, a turning point in my life, because until that time, I had not made a distinction between a rebellion and revolution. And it forced us to begin thinking, what does a revolution mean? How does it relate to evolution?"



"BILL MOYERS: The conundrum for me is this; The war in Vietnam continued another seven years after Martin Luther King's great speech at Riverside here in New York City on April 4th, 1967. His moral argument did not take hold with the powers-that-be.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: I don't expect moral arguments to take hold with the powers-that-be. They are in their positions of power. They are part of the system. They are part of the problem.

BILL MOYERS: Then do moral arguments have any force if they--

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Of course they do.

BILL MOYERS: If they can be so heedlessly ignored?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: I think because we depend too much on the government to do it. I think we're not looking sufficiently at what is happening at the grassroots in the country. We have not emphasized sufficiently the cultural revolution that we have to make among ourselves in order to force the government to do differently. Things do not start with governments--

BILL MOYERS: But wars do.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: There's big changes--

BILL MOYERS: Wars do. Wars do.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Wars do. But positive changes leaps forward in the evolution of human kind, do not start with governments. I think that's what the Civil Rights Movement taught us.

BILL MOYERS: But Martin Luther King was ignored then on the war. In fact, the last few years of his life, as he was moving beyond the protest in the South, and the end of official segregation, he was largely ignored if not ridiculed for his position on economic equality. Upon doing something about poverty. And, in fact, many civil rights leaders, as you remember, Grace, condemned him for mixing foreign policy with civil rights. They said; That's not what we should be about.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: But see, what I hear in what you're saying is a separation of the anti-war speech of the peace trajectory, from the other things that Martin said. He was talking about a radical revolution of values. And that radical revolution of values has not been pursued in the last forty years. The consumerism, and materialism, has gotten worse. The militarism has continued, while people are going around, you know just using their credit cards. All that's been taking place. And so, would he have continued to challenge those? I think he would. But on the whole, our society has not been challenging those, except in small pockets.

BILL MOYERS: He said that the three triplets of society in America were; Racism, consumerism or materialism and militarism. And you're saying those haven't changed.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: I'm saying that not only have those not changed, but people have isolated the struggles against each of these from the other. They have not seen that they're part of one whole of a radical revolution of values that we all must undergo. "



"BILL MOYERS: Yes, but where is the sign of the movement today?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: I believe that we are at the point now, in the United States, where a movement is beginning to emerge. I think that the calamity, the quagmire of the Iraq war, the outsourcing of jobs, the drop-out of young people from the education system, the monstrous growth of the prison-industrial complex, the planetary emergency, which we are engulfed at the present moment, is demanding that instead of just complaining about these things, instead of just protesting about these things, we begin to look for, and hope for, another way of living. And I think that's where the movement -- I see a movement beginning to emerge, 'cause I see hope beginning to trump despair.

BILL MOYERS: Where do you see the signs of it?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: I see the signs in the various small groups that are emerging all over the place to try and regain our humanity in very practical ways. For example in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Will Allen, who is a former basketball player has purchased two and a half acres of land, with five greenhouses on it, and he is beginning to grow food, healthy food for his community. And communities are growing up around that idea. I mean, that's a huge change in the way that we think of the city. I mean, the things we have to restore are so elemental. Not just food, and not just healthy food, but a different way of relating to time and history and to the earth.

BILL MOYERS: And a garden does that for you?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Yes. A garden does all sorts of things. It helps young people to relate to the Earth in a different way. It helps them to relate to their elders in a different way. It helps them to think of time in a different way.

BILL MOYERS: How so?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Well, if we just press a button, and you think that's the key to reality, you're in a hell of a mess of a human being."



"BILL MOYERS: You know, a lot of young people out there would agree with your analysis. With your diagnosis. And then they will say; What can I do that's practical? How do I make the difference that Grace Lee Boggs is taking about. What would you be doing?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: I would say do something local. Do something real, however, small. And don't diss the political things, but understand their limitations.

BILL MOYERS: Don't 'diss' them?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Disrespect them.

BILL MOYERS: Disrespect them?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Understand their … [more]
via:jackcheng  2007  graceleeboggs  activism  gardens  gardening  civilrightsmovement  us  prisonindustrialcomplex  education  climatechange  protest  change  revolution  democracy  struggle  rebellion  racism  socialism  occupation  riots  righteousness  injustice  justice  martinlutherkingjr  jimmyboggs  aphiliprandolph  detroit  evolution  changemaking  consumerism  materialism  militarism  vietnamwar  morality  power  grassroots  war  economics  poverty  government  systemsthinking  values  christianity  philosophy  karlmarx  marxism  humanevolution  society  labor  local  politics  discussion  leadership  mlk 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Ursula K. Le Guin on the Future of the Left
"“The Left,” a meaningful term ever since the French Revolution, took on wider significance with the rise of socialism, anarchism, and communism. The Russian revolution installed a government entirely leftist in conception; leftist and rightist movements tore Spain apart; democratic parties in Europe and North America arrayed themselves between the two poles; liberal cartoonists portrayed the opposition as a fat plutocrat with a cigar, while reactionaries in the United States demonized “commie leftists” from the 1930s through the Cold War. The left/right opposition, though often an oversimplification, for two centuries was broadly useful as a description and a reminder of dynamic balance.

In the twenty-first century we go on using the terms, but what is left of the Left? The failure of state communism, the quiet entrenchment of a degree of socialism in democratic governments, and the relentless rightward movement of politics driven by corporate capitalism have made much progressive thinking seem antiquated, or redundant, or illusory. The Left is marginalized in its thought, fragmented in its goals, unconfident of its ability to unite. In America particularly, the drift to the right has been so strong that mere liberalism is now the terrorist bogey that anarchism or socialism used to be, and reactionaries are called “moderates.”

So, in a country that has all but shut its left eye and is trying to use only its right hand, where does an ambidextrous, binocular Old Rad like Murray Bookchin fit?

I think he’ll find his readers. A lot of people are seeking consistent, constructive thinking on which to base action—a frustrating search. Theoretical approaches that seem promising turn out, like the Libertarian Party, to be Ayn Rand in drag; immediate and effective solutions to a problem turn out, like the Occupy movement, to lack structure and stamina for the long run. Young people, people this society blatantly short-changes and betrays, are looking for intelligent, realistic, long-term thinking: not another ranting ideology, but a practical working hypothesis, a methodology of how to regain control of where we’re going. Achieving that control will require a revolution as powerful, as deeply affecting society as a whole, as the force it wants to harness.

Murray Bookchin was an expert in nonviolent revolution. He thought about radical social changes, planned and unplanned, and how best to prepare for them, all his life. A new collection of his essays, “The Next Revolution: Popular Assemblies and the Promise of Direct Democracy,” released last month by Verso Books, carries his thinking on past his own life into the threatening future we face

Impatient, idealistic readers may find him uncomfortably tough-minded. He’s unwilling to leap over reality to dreams of happy endings, unsympathetic to mere transgression pretending to be political action: “A ‘politics’ of disorder or ‘creative chaos,’ or a naïve practice of ‘taking over the streets’ (usually little more than a street festival), regresses participants to the behavior of a juvenile herd.” That applies more to the Summer of Love, certainly, than to the Occupy movement, yet it is a permanently cogent warning.
All we have, we have taken from the earth; and, taking with ever-increasing speed and greed, we now return little but what is sterile or poisoned.

But Bookchin is no grim puritan. I first read him as an anarchist, probably the most eloquent and thoughtful one of his generation, and in moving away from anarchism he hasn’t lost his sense of the joy of freedom. He doesn’t want to see that joy, that freedom, come crashing down, yet again, among the ruins of its own euphoric irresponsibility.

What all political and social thinking has finally been forced to face is, of course, the irreversible degradation of the environment by unrestrained industrial capitalism: the enormous fact of which science has been trying for fifty years to convince us, while technology provided us ever greater distractions from it. Every benefit industrialism and capitalism have brought us, every wonderful advance in knowledge and health and communication and comfort, casts the same fatal shadow. All we have, we have taken from the earth; and, taking with ever-increasing speed and greed, we now return little but what is sterile or poisoned.

Yet we can’t stop the process. A capitalist economy, by definition, lives by growth; as Bookchin observes: “For capitalism to desist from its mindless expansion would be for it to commit social suicide.” We have, essentially, chosen cancer as the model of our social system.

Capitalism’s grow-or-die imperative stands radically at odds with ecology’s imperative of interdependence and limit. The two imperatives can no longer coexist with each other; nor can any society founded on the myth that they can be reconciled hope to survive. Either we will establish an ecological society or society will go under for everyone, irrespective of his or her status.

Murray Bookchin spent a lifetime opposing the rapacious ethos of grow-or-die capitalism. The nine essays in "The Next Revolution” represent the culmination of that labor: the theoretical underpinning for an egalitarian and directly democratic ecological society, with a practical approach for how to build it. He critiques the failures of past movements for social change, resurrects the promise of direct democracy and, in the last essay in the book, sketches his hope of how we might turn the environmental crisis into a moment of true choice—a chance to transcend the paralyzing hierarchies of gender, race, class, nation, a chance to find a radical cure for the radical evil of our social system.

Reading it, I was moved and grateful, as I have so often been in reading Murray Bookchin. He was a true son of the Enlightenment in his respect for clear thought and moral responsibility and in his honest, uncompromising search for a realistic hope."
ursulaleguin  democracy  murraybookchin  via:anne  climatechange  anarchism  optimism  capitalism  progress  economics  ecology  growth  directdemocracy  egalitarianism  morality  ethics  hope  left  socialism  communism  transcontextualism 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Critical Design Critical Futures - Critical design and the critical social sciences: or why we need to engagem multiple, speculative critical design futures in a post-political and post-utopian era
"We, anxious citizens of the affluent global North have some rather conflicted attitudes to futuring. In the broad realm of culture, "futures" have never been more popular. In the realm of politics, it is widely believed that those who engage in utopian speculations, are "out to lunch or out to kill[1].""



"Thoughtful reflections on widening inequality, class struggle, climate crisis, human-animal-machine relations, trans-humanism, the future of sexuality, surveillance and militarism can all be found in all manner of places. Consider Ronald Moore's Battlestar Galactica, the sci-fi novels of Ursula LeGuin, the Mars trilogy of Kim Stanley Robinson, films such as District 9, Gattica, Elysium or Snowpiercer, the graphic novels of Alan Moore or Hayao Miyazaki's stunning retro-futurist animations. All these currents – and many others – have used futures as a narrative backdrop to open up debate about worlds we might wish to inhabit or avoid.

In the "real world" of contemporary politics, no such breadth of discussion can be tolerated.

"Futures" once played a very significant role in Western political discourse. Western political theory: from Plato onwards can reasonably be read as an argument about optimal forms of institutional configuring.

For much of the twentieth century, different capitalisms confronted different vision of communism, socialism, anarchism, feminism, black liberation, fascism. Rich discussions equally took place as to the possible merits of blended systems: from the mixed economy and the welfare state to "market socialism", mutualism to populism, associationalism to corporatism. Since the end of the Cold War, it would be hardly controversial to observe that the range of debate about political futures that can occur in liberal democracies has dramatically narrowed.

Of course, it would be quite wrong to believe that utopianism has gone away in the contemporary United States. Pax Americana, The Rapture, or a vision of the good life spent pursuing private utopias centered around the consumption-travel-hedonism nexus celebrated by "reality TV" is all alive and well."



"Design is important for thinking about futures simply because it is one of the few remaining spaces in the academy that is completely untroubled by its devotion to futures. Prototyping, prefiguring, speculative thinking, doing things differently, failing… and then starting all over again are all core component of design education. This is perhaps why Jan Michl observed that a kind of dream of functional perfectionism [4] has haunted all matter of design practice and design manifestos in the twentieth century."



""Utopian thought is the only way of speculating concretely about a projective connection between architecture and politics. To design utopias is to enter the laboratory of politics and space, to conduct experiments in their reciprocity. This laboratory – unlike the city itself – is a place in which variables can be selectively and freely controlled. At the point of application of the concrete, utopia ceases to exist". [8]

Moreover, if we think of the utopian imaginary as disposition, as opposed to the blueprint, we might well get a little further in our speculations. Sorkin makes a plausible case for the centrality of a utopian, ecological and political architecture of the future as a kind of materialized political ecology. His intervention can also remind us that hostility to design utopianism or any discussion of embarking on "big moves" in urban planning, public housing, alternative energy provision and the like, can itself function as a kind of "anti-politics". It can merely re-enforce the status quo, ensuring that nothing of substance is ever discussed in the political arena."



"Whilst Wright never actually uses the word design to describe what he is up to in his writings, his demand for concrete programmatic thinking resonates with John Dryzek's call for a critical political science concerned with producing and evaluating discursive institutional designs.

Further points of convergence between design and the critical social sciences open up when we recognize that design is not reducible to the activities of professional designers. As thinkers from Herbert Simon, to Colin Ward have argued, if we see design as a much more generalizable human capacity to act in the world, prefigure and then materialize, the reach and potential of future orientated forms of social design for material politics can be read in much more interesting and expansive ways.

The writings of Colin Ward and Delores Hayden can be fruitfully engaged with here for the manner in which both of these critical figures have drawn productive links between design histories of vernacular architectures and the social histories of self built housing, infrastructure and leisure facilities. Both demonstrate that there is nothing particularly new about the current interest in making, hacking or sharing. There are many "hidden histories" of working men and women embarking on forms of self-management, building co-operative enterprises and networks of mutual aid. In doing so they have turned themselves into designers of their own workplaces, communities and lives [12]. Such experiments in what we might call "worker centred design" continue to resonate. Attempts by trade unionists to define new modes of ownership with socially useful production (as represented by the Lucas plan), and the recent spate of factory takeovers in Argentina, all indicate that workers can be designers[13].

All manner of interesting potential convergences between critical design, futurism and social critique can additionally be found in the many experimental forms that contemporary urban-ecological activism has given rise to. Consider experiments in urban food growing, forms of tactical or pop-up urbanism, guerrilla gardening and open streets, attempts to experiment in solidarity economies, experiments with urban retrofitting or distributed energy systems or experiments with part finished public housing (that can be customized by their residents). All these currents have the potential to draw design activism and design-oriented social movements into direct engagement with critical theory, political economy and the critical social sciences."
damianwhite  2015  design  speculativedesign  speculativefiction  designfiction  futures  future  futurism  socialsciences  colinward  deloreshayden  herbertsimon  criticaldesign  designcriticism  kimstanleyrobinson  ursulaleguin  hayaomiyazaki  achigram  ronherron  utopia  utopianism  capitalism  communism  socialism  anarchism  feminism  sociology  politics  policy  maxweber  emiledurkheim  patrickgeddes  designfuturism  anthonydunne  fionaraby  dunne&raby  tonyfry  erikolinwright 
may 2015 by robertogreco
A Christian Nation? Since When? - NYTimes.com
""AMERICA may be a nation of believers, but when it comes to this country’s identity as a “Christian nation,” our beliefs are all over the map.

Just a few weeks ago, Public Policy Polling reported that 57 percent of Republicans favored officially making the United States a Christian nation. But in 2007, a survey by the First Amendment Center showed that 55 percent of Americans believed it already was one.

The confusion is understandable. For all our talk about separation of church and state, religious language has been written into our political culture in countless ways. It is inscribed in our pledge of patriotism, marked on our money, carved into the walls of our courts and our Capitol. Perhaps because it is everywhere, we assume it has been from the beginning.

But the founding fathers didn’t create the ceremonies and slogans that come to mind when we consider whether this is a Christian nation. Our grandfathers did.

Back in the 1930s, business leaders found themselves on the defensive. Their public prestige had plummeted with the Great Crash; their private businesses were under attack by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal from above and labor from below. To regain the upper hand, corporate leaders fought back on all fronts. They waged a figurative war in statehouses and, occasionally, a literal one in the streets; their campaigns extended from courts of law to the court of public opinion. But nothing worked particularly well until they began an inspired public relations offensive that cast capitalism as the handmaiden of Christianity.

The two had been described as soul mates before, but in this campaign they were wedded in pointed opposition to the “creeping socialism” of the New Deal. The federal government had never really factored into Americans’ thinking about the relationship between faith and free enterprise, mostly because it had never loomed that large over business interests. But now it cast a long and ominous shadow.

Accordingly, throughout the 1930s and ’40s, corporate leaders marketed a new ideology that combined elements of Christianity with an anti-federal libertarianism. Powerful business lobbies like the United States Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers led the way, promoting this ideology’s appeal in conferences and P.R. campaigns. Generous funding came from prominent businessmen, from household names like Harvey Firestone, Conrad Hilton, E. F. Hutton, Fred Maytag and Henry R. Luce to lesser-known leaders at U.S. Steel, General Motors and DuPont.

In a shrewd decision, these executives made clergymen their spokesmen. As Sun Oil’s J. Howard Pew noted, polls proved that ministers could mold public opinion more than any other profession. And so these businessmen worked to recruit clergy through private meetings and public appeals. Many answered the call, but three deserve special attention.

The Rev. James W. Fifield — known as “the 13th Apostle of Big Business” and “Saint Paul of the Prosperous” — emerged as an early evangelist for the cause. Preaching to pews of millionaires at the elite First Congregational Church in Los Angeles, Mr. Fifield said reading the Bible was “like eating fish — we take the bones out to enjoy the meat. All parts are not of equal value.” He dismissed New Testament warnings about the corrupting nature of wealth. Instead, he paired Christianity and capitalism against the New Deal’s “pagan statism.”

Through his national organization, Spiritual Mobilization, founded in 1935, Mr. Fifield promoted “freedom under God.” By the late 1940s, his group was spreading the gospel of faith and free enterprise in a mass-circulated monthly magazine and a weekly radio program that eventually aired on more than 800 stations nationwide. It even encouraged ministers to preach sermons on its themes in competitions for cash prizes. Liberals howled at the group’s conflation of God and greed; in 1948, the radical journalist Carey McWilliams denounced it in a withering exposé. But Mr. Fifield exploited such criticism to raise more funds and redouble his efforts.

Meanwhile, the Rev. Abraham Vereide advanced the Christian libertarian cause with a national network of prayer groups. After ministering to industrialists facing huge labor strikes in Seattle and San Francisco in the mid-1930s, Mr. Vereide began building prayer breakfast groups in cities across America to bring business and political elites together in common cause. “The big men and the real leaders in New York and Chicago,” he wrote his wife, “look up to me in an embarrassing way.” In Manhattan alone, James Cash Penney, I.B.M.’s Thomas Watson, Norman Vincent Peale and Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia all sought audiences with him.

In 1942, Mr. Vereide’s influence spread to Washington. He persuaded the House and Senate to start weekly prayer meetings “in order that we might be a God-directed and God-controlled nation.” Mr. Vereide opened headquarters in Washington — “God’s Embassy,” he called it — and became a powerful force in its previously secular institutions. Among other activities, he held “dedication ceremonies” for several justices of the Supreme Court. “No country or civilization can last,” Justice Tom C. Clark announced at his 1949 consecration, “unless it is founded on Christian values.”

The most important clergyman for Christian libertarianism, though, was the Rev. Billy Graham. In his initial ministry, in the early 1950s, Mr. Graham supported corporate interests so zealously that a London paper called him “the Big Business evangelist.” The Garden of Eden, he informed revival attendees, was a paradise with “no union dues, no labor leaders, no snakes, no disease.” In the same spirit, he denounced all “government restrictions” in economic affairs, which he invariably attacked as “socialism.”

In 1952, Mr. Graham went to Washington and made Congress his congregation. He recruited representatives to serve as ushers at packed revival meetings and staged the first formal religious service held on the Capitol steps. That year, at his urging, Congress established an annual National Day of Prayer. “If I would run for president of the United States today on a platform of calling people back to God, back to Christ, back to the Bible,” he predicted, “I’d be elected.”

Dwight D. Eisenhower fulfilled that prediction. With Mr. Graham offering Scripture for Ike’s speeches, the Republican nominee campaigned in what he called a “great crusade for freedom.” His military record made the general a formidable candidate, but on the trail he emphasized spiritual issues over worldly concerns. As the journalist John Temple Graves observed: “America isn’t just a land of the free in Eisenhower’s conception. It is a land of freedom under God.” Elected in a landslide, Eisenhower told Mr. Graham that he had a mandate for a “spiritual renewal.”

Although Eisenhower relied on Christian libertarian groups in the campaign, he parted ways with their agenda once elected. The movement’s corporate sponsors had seen religious rhetoric as a way to dismantle the New Deal state. But the newly elected president thought that a fool’s errand. “Should any political party attempt to abolish Social Security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs,” he noted privately, “you would not hear of that party again in our political history.” Unlike those who held public spirituality as a means to an end, Eisenhower embraced it as an end unto itself.

Uncoupling the language of “freedom under God” from its Christian libertarian roots, Eisenhower erected a bigger revival tent, welcoming Jews and Catholics alongside Protestants, and Democrats as well as Republicans. Rallying the country, he advanced a revolutionary array of new religious ceremonies and slogans.

The first week of February 1953 set the dizzying pace: On Sunday morning, he was baptized; that night, he broadcast an Oval Office address for the American Legion’s “Back to God” campaign; on Thursday, he appeared with Mr. Vereide at the inaugural National Prayer Breakfast; on Friday, he instituted the first opening prayers at a cabinet meeting.

The rest of Washington consecrated itself, too. The Pentagon, State Department and other executive agencies quickly instituted prayer services of their own. In 1954, Congress added “under God” to the previously secular Pledge of Allegiance. It placed a similar slogan, “In God We Trust,” on postage that year and voted the following year to add it to paper money; in 1956, it became the nation’s official motto.

During these years, Americans were told, time and time again, not just that the country should be a Christian nation, but that it always had been one. They soon came to think of the United States as “one nation under God.” They’ve believed it ever since.""
us  history  christianity  myths  2015  capitalism  propaganda  evangelism  libertarianism  1930s  1940s  1950s  socialism  government  politics  business  ealth  abrahamvereide  jamesfifield  jhowardpew  billygraham  corporatism  economics  labor  unions  newdeal 
march 2015 by robertogreco
George Orwell: Why Socialists Don't Believe In Fun
"The inability of mankind to imagine happiness except in the form of relief, either from effort or pain, presents Socialists with a serious problem. Dickens can describe a poverty-stricken family tucking into a roast goose, and can make them appear happy; on the other hand, the inhabitants of perfect universes seem to have no spontaneous gaiety and are usually somewhat repulsive into the bargain. But clearly we are not aiming at the kind of world Dickens described, nor, probably, at any world he was capable of imagining. The Socialist objective is not a society where everything comes right in the end, because kind old gentlemen give away turkeys. What are we aiming at, if not a society in which ‘charity’ would be unnecessary? We want a world where Scrooge, with his dividends, and Tiny Tim, with his tuberculous leg, would both be unthinkable. But does that mean we are aiming at some painless, effortless Utopia? At the risk of saying something which the editors of Tribune may not endorse, I suggest that the real objective of Socialism is not happiness. Happiness hitherto has been a by-product, and for all we know it may always remain so. The real objective of Socialism is human brotherhood. This is widely felt to be the case, though it is not usually said, or not said loudly enough. Men use up their lives in heart-breaking political struggles, or get themselves killed in civil wars, or tortured in the secret prisons of the Gestapo, not in order to establish some central-heated, air-conditioned, strip-lighted Paradise, but because they want a world in which human beings love one another instead of swindling and murdering one another. And they want that world as a first step. Where they go from there is not so certain, and the attempt to foresee it in detail merely confuses the issue."

[Also available here: http://www.k-1.com/Orwell/site/work/essays/fun.html ]

[See also commentary: https://radicalscholarship.wordpress.com/2013/12/25/the-socialist-objective-i-can-see-the-dawn-of-the-better-day-for-humanity/ ]
georgeorwell  socialism  happiness  charity  fun  1943  humanism  charlesdickens  society  plthomas  paulthomas 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Michael Winter, Ursula Franklin - Home | The Next Chapter with Shelagh Rogers | CBC Radio
"The news anchor Tom Brokaw coined the term "the greatest generation" to describe the Americans who grew up during the Depression and sustained the ravages of the Second World War. Shelagh thought of that description after she read a book of speeches by the acclaimed scientist, pacifist, and feminist Ursula Franklin.

Ursula Franklin isn't an American but she is a member of that great generation of people shaped personally by the War - very personally in her case.  

She was born in Germany and spent the war in a forced labour camp. Her parents were both in concentration camps.. Miraculously, all three survived and came to Canada. 

Ursula Franklin has spent her life in this country devoted, as she says, to "being useful". She's put her intelligence, discernment, and humanity to many uses. She's a physicist who has made important discoveries and advancements in science, a Quaker who has advocated tirelessly in the service of peace, and a ground breaking feminist.
 
Ursula Franklin Speaks is a collection of speeches and interviews from 1986 to 2012. She collaborated on it with her friend and University of Toronto colleague Sarah Jane Freeman. 

We hope you enjoy this extended version of Shelagh's conversation with Dr. Ursula Franklin."
ursulafranklin  2015  interviews  feminism  quakers  shelaghrogers  canada  collectivism  citizenship  humanism  pacifism  clarity  patriarchy  capitalism  privatization  socialism  scrupling  scruples  hope  hopelessness  optimism  change  civics  activism  discourse  problemsolving  townmeetings  commongood  conversation 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Ursula K. Le Guin on the Future of the Left | Motherboard
"When you’re given the opportunity to publish Ursula K. Le Guin, you leap at it—even if you’re ​ostensibly a fiction magazine and what lands on your desk is one of Le Guin’s political essays.

It’s all connected, anyways. The recent ​National Book Award-winner and science fiction icon has a long and storied interest in political thought; many of her earlier novels, such as The Dispossesed and The Word for the World is Forest, are effectively allegories about environmentalism, anarchism, and Taoism. At 86 years old, she’s still a radical thinker, and the essay below—an impassioned endorsement of the writer and political theorist Murray Bookchin, excerpted from the preface of ​a recent collection of his essays—is testament.

“The Left,” a meaningful term ever since the French Revolution, took on wider significance with the rise of socialism, anarchism, and communism. The Russian revolution installed a government entirely leftist in conception; leftist and rightist movements tore Spain apart; democratic parties in Europe and North America arrayed themselves between the two poles; liberal cartoonists portrayed the opposition as a fat plutocrat with a cigar, while reactionaries in the United States demonized “commie leftists” from the 1930s through the Cold War. The left/right opposition, though often an oversimplification, for two centuries was broadly useful as a description and a reminder of dynamic balance.

In the twenty-first century we go on using the terms, but what is left of the Left? The failure of state communism, the quiet entrenchment of a degree of socialism in democratic governments, and the relentless rightward movement of politics driven by corporate capitalism have made much progressive thinking seem antiquated, or redundant, or illusory. The Left is marginalized in its thought, fragmented in its goals, unconfident of its ability to unite. In America particularly, the drift to the right has been so strong that mere liberalism is now the terrorist bogey that anarchism or socialism used to be, and reactionaries are called “moderates.”

So, in a country that has all but shut its left eye and is trying to use only its right hand, where does an ambidextrous, binocular Old Rad like Murray Bookchin fit?

I think he’ll find his readers. A lot of people are seeking consistent, constructive thinking on which to base action—a frustrating search. Theoretical approaches that seem promising turn out, like the Libertarian Party, to be Ayn Rand in drag; immediate and effective solutions to a problem turn out, like the Occupy movement, to lack structure and stamina for the long run. Young people, people this society blatantly short-changes and betrays, are looking for intelligent, realistic, long-term thinking: not another ranting ideology, but a practical working hypothesis, a methodology of how to regain control of where we’re going. Achieving that control will require a revolution as powerful, as deeply affecting society as a whole, as the force it wants to harness.

Murray Bookchin was an expert in nonviolent revolution. He thought about radical social changes, planned and unplanned, and how best to prepare for them, all his life. A new collection of his essays, “The Next Revolution: Popular Assemblies and the Promise of Direct Democracy,” released last month by Verso Books, carries his thinking on past his own life into the threatening future we face.

Impatient, idealistic readers may find him uncomfortably tough-minded. He’s unwilling to leap over reality to dreams of happy endings, unsympathetic to mere transgression pretending to be political action: “A ‘politics’ of disorder or ‘creative chaos,’ or a naïve practice of ‘taking over the streets’ (usually little more than a street festival), regresses participants to the behavior of a juvenile herd.” That applies more to the Summer of Love, certainly, than to the Occupy movement, yet it is a permanently cogent warning.

But Bookchin is no grim puritan. I first read him as an anarchist, probably the most eloquent and thoughtful one of his generation, and in moving away from anarchism he hasn’t lost his sense of the joy of freedom. He doesn’t want to see that joy, that freedom, come crashing down, yet again, among the ruins of its own euphoric irresponsibility.

What all political and social thinking has finally been forced to face is, of course, the irreversible degradation of the environment by unrestrained industrial capitalism: the enormous fact of which science has been trying for fifty years to convince us, while technology provided us ever greater distractions from it. Every benefit industrialism and capitalism have brought us, every wonderful advance in knowledge and health and communication and comfort, casts the same fatal shadow. All we have, we have taken from the earth; and, taking with ever-increasing speed and greed, we now return little but what is sterile or poisoned.

Yet we can’t stop the process. A capitalist economy, by definition, lives by growth; as Bookchin observes: “For capitalism to desist from its mindless expansion would be for it to commit social suicide.” We have, essentially, chosen cancer as the model of our social system.

Capitalism’s grow-or-die imperative stands radically at odds with ecology’s imperative of interdependence and limit. The two imperatives can no longer coexist with each other; nor can any society founded on the myth that they can be reconciled hope to survive. Either we will establish an ecological society or society will go under for everyone, irrespective of his or her status.

Murray Bookchin spent a lifetime opposing the rapacious ethos of grow-or-die capitalism. The nine essays in "The Next Revolution” represent the culmination of that labor: the theoretical underpinning for an egalitarian and directly democratic ecological society, with a practical approach for how to build it. He critiques the failures of past movements for social change, resurrects the promise of direct democracy and, in the last essay in the book, sketches his hope of how we might turn the environmental crisis into a moment of true choice—a chance to transcend the paralyzing hierarchies of gender, race, class, nation, a chance to find a radical cure for the radical evil of our social system.

Reading it, I was moved and grateful, as I have so often been in reading Murray Bookchin. He was a true son of the Enlightenment in his respect for clear thought and moral responsibility and in his honest, uncompromising search for a realistic hope."
ursulaleguin  via:audreywatters  2015  murraybookchin  capitalism  environment  climatechange  growth  anarchy  anarchism  change  society  realism  inequality  hierarchy  horizontality  socialchange  revolution  directdemocracy  popularassemblies  canon  labor  work  egalitarianism  left  liberalism  socialism 
february 2015 by robertogreco
The American Way over the Nordic Model? Are we crazy? - LA Times
"In my long nomadic life, I've been to both poles and most countries in between. I still remember when to be an American was to be envied. The country where I grew up after World War II seemed to be respected and admired around the world.

Today, as one of 1.6 million Americans living in Europe, I instead face hard questions about our nation. Wherever I travel, Europeans, Asians and Africans ask expatriates like me to explain everything odd or troubling about the conduct of the United States. Polite people, normally reluctant to risk offending a guest, ask pointedly about America's trigger-happiness, cutthroat free-marketeering, and "exceptionality."

Their questions share a single underlying theme: Have Americans gone over the edge? Are you crazy?

At the absolute top of the list: "Why would anyone oppose national healthcare?" Many countries have had some form of national healthcare since the 1930s, Germany since 1880. Some versions, as in France and Britain, have devolved into two-tier public and private systems. Yet even the privileged would not begrudge their fellow citizens government-funded comprehensive healthcare. That so many Americans do strikes Europeans as baffling, if not brutal.

In the Scandinavian countries, long considered to be the most socially progressive in the world, a national (physical and mental) health program is a big part — but only a part — of a more general social welfare system. In Norway, where I live, all citizens also have access to free education from age 6 through specialty training or university; low cost, subsidized preschool; unemployment benefits, job-placement and paid retraining; paid parental leave; old age pensions, and more. These benefits are not a "safety net" — that is, charitable payments grudgingly bestowed upon the needy. They are universal: equally available as a human right, promoting social harmony.

In the Scandinavian countries, long considered to be the most socially progressive in the world, a national (physical and mental) health program is a big part — but only a part — of a more general social welfare system. In Norway, where I live, all citizens also have access to free education from age 6 through specialty training or university; low cost, subsidized preschool; unemployment benefits, job-placement and paid retraining; paid parental leave; old age pensions, and more. These benefits are not a "safety net" — that is, charitable payments grudgingly bestowed upon the needy. They are universal: equally available as a human right, promoting social harmony.

This is the Nordic Model: a balance of regulated capitalism, universal social welfare, political democracy and the highest levels of gender and economic equality on the planet. It's their system, begun in Sweden in the 1930s and developed across Scandinavia in the postwar period. Yes, they pay for it through high taxation. (Though compared with the U.S. tax code, Norway's progressive income tax is remarkably streamlined.) And despite the efforts of an occasional conservative government to muck it up, they maintain it. Why?

They like it. International rankings cite Norway as the best place to grow old, to be a woman and to raise a child. The title of "best" or "happiest" place to live on Earth comes down to a neighborly contest among Norway and the neighboring Nordic social democracies, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland.

All the Nordic countries broadly agree that only when people's basic needs are met — when they cease to worry about jobs, education, healthcare, transportation, etc. — can they truly be free to do as they like. While the U.S. settles for the fantasy that every kid has an equal shot at the American dream, Nordic social welfare systems lay the foundations for a more authentic equality and individualism.

These ideas are not novel. They are implied in the preamble to our own Constitution. You know, the part about "We the People" forming "a more perfect Union" to "promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity."

Knowing this, a Norwegian is appalled at what America is doing to its posterity today. That top chief executives are paid 300 to 400 times as much as an average employee. Or that Govs. Sam Brownback of Kansas and Chris Christie of New Jersey, having run up their state's debts by cutting taxes for the rich, now plan to cover the loss with money snatched from public pension funds. That two-thirds of American college students finish in the red, some owing $100,000 or more. That in the U.S., still the world's richest country, 1 in 3 children lives in poverty. Or that the multitrillion-dollar wars of Presidents George W. Bush and Obama were fought on a credit card, to be paid off by the kids.

Implications of America's uncivilized inhumanity lurk in the questions foreign observers ask me: Why can't you shut down that concentration camp in Cuba? Why can't you stop interfering with women's healthcare? What is it about science and climate change you can't understand?

And the most pressing question of all: Why do you send your military all over the world to stir up trouble for all of us?

Europeans often connect America's reckless conduct abroad to its refusal to put its own house in order. They've watched the United States unravel its flimsy safety net, fail to replace decaying infrastructure, weaken organized labor, bring its national legislature to a standstill and create the greatest degree of economic inequality in almost a century. As they see it, with ever less personal security and next to no social welfare system, Americans are bound to be anxious and fearful. They understand as well why so many Americans have lost trust in a national government that for three decades has done so little for them (save Obama's endlessly embattled modest healthcare effort).

In Norway's capital, where a statue of a contemplative President Franklin D. Roosevelt overlooks the harbor, many America-watchers think he may have been the last U.S. president who understood and could explain to the citizenry what government might do for all of them.

It's hard to pin down why America is as it is today, and — believe me — even harder to explain it to others. Some Europeans who interrogate me say that the U.S. is "crazy" — or "paranoid," "self-absorbed," or simply "behind the times." Others, more charitably, imply that Americans are merely "misguided" or "asleep" and may still recover sanity. But wherever I travel, the questions follow, each suggesting that the United States, if not exactly crazy, is decidedly a danger to itself and others."
2015  annejones  us  healthcare  healthinsurance  socialsafetynet  scandinavia  norway  germany  uk  europe  inequality  equality  americandream  progressivism  socialism  capitalism  politics  policy  parentalleave  pensions  universality  nordiccountries  sweden  denmark  finland  iceland  individualism  equity  education  obamacare  affordablecareact  fdr 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Interview with Sjón | The White Review
"Q: THE WHITE REVIEW — Where are you from? And how did you come to write?

A: SJÓN — I was born in Reykjavík in 1962. From the beginning I read everything, from children’s books to newspapers – whatever printed material came into the house. At the age of 8 I discovered Icelandic folk stories, which is when I truly started waking up to literature. A year later, I discovered poetry. In school we were given a big collection of poetry, which was to last us throughout our school years, and I started reading this book for pleasure at home. I was reading detective novels, Icelandic folk stories, and Icelandic romantic poetry from very early on. Early reading teaches you the different possibilities of text.

When I came into my teenage years I became a huge David Bowie fan. To be a David Bowie fan in Iceland you more or less had to teach yourself English – to translate the lyrics, to be able to read the interviews in NME. My infatuation with Bowie prepared me for my discovery of modernist poetry, first in translation. At the age of 15 I found a book of Icelandic modernists from the end of the Second World War. That’s when modernism came to Iceland – and they were very much influenced by the surrealists. Somehow, I was bitten by the bug. It simply fascinated me that you were allowed to use the Icelandic language in this way, to create these incredible images and metaphors, and to present such ideas with the Icelandic language. I felt like I should be a part of it. So I started writing poetry and in a few months time I had written enough poetry for a book. I published my first book of poetry the summer I turned 16.

Q: THE WHITE REVIEW — You speak of an early interest in the various kinds of text, and your own writing is not easily assimilated into any single textual mode. As a writer, lyricist and poet, you move in and out of these different formats. What do you classify yourself as first and foremost, if anything? How might this resistance to categorisation link in to your interest in surrealism?

A: SJÓN — I’m a novelist who occasionally writes poetry. I write librettos, lyrics and children’s books but these are all collaborations that I do in between working on novels and poetry. One of the wonders of the novel is how easily it absorbs diverse texts. Everything that is written, whether it is non-fiction, old archives, newspaper articles, lullabies – somehow it can always find its place in the novel, and for that reason the novel became more important to me than the poem.

The novel is encyclopaedic: all of the different manners of expressing oneself in words can find their place there. In the Eighties my friends and I formed a group of surrealist poets called Medusa. Surrealism brings so much with it and one of the first things I realised when I became excited by surrealism was its link with folk stories. Surrealism is always non-academic, always looking for the source of human activity, looking into the back alleys and the darkest clearing in the forest for excitement. Somehow it was always very natural for me to bring all these different things together in what I was doing.

Q: THE WHITE REVIEW — Your novels are hybrids – a crossbreed of narrative fiction, historical fact, myth, music…

A: SJÓN — I like my novels to be made up of different parts, realities, states of consciousness. I now see my work as realist because everything I write is grounded in at least the experience of the character, here, in earthly life. The strange things that happen in the books are what happens in people’s minds, what they experience as truth. That of course creates a hybrid, when your standard is something normalised and accepted as the only way to experience reality.

Q: THE WHITE REVIEW — Music is a great part of this assortment – you’ve mentioned Bowie as an influence, and you have collaborated with musicians such as Björk. Do you think that words can achieve the condition of music, which has a much greater immediacy and is far less freighted with multiple meanings?

A: SJÓN — I think it’s very important to be open to influence from diverse artistic forms and forms of expression. I have been very much influenced by music and one of the routes I took to literature was through the music of David Bowie. I have worked with musicians in all fields – contemporary composers, pop artists – and I’ve worked with very diverse styles of music. But there is a huge difference between words being sung, spoken or read. The emotion that the singing voice brings to the world when sung out loud is something you cannot recreate on paper. I don’t think you should even try.

Q: THE WHITE REVIEW — You have spoken of realising that ‘you could take the classical string quartet as a model for the composition of THE BLUE FOX’. How did you achieve this?

A: SJÓN — I think the fact that I can take the form of the string quartet and use it as the basis of a novel is another proof of how dynamic the novel is. I’m sure that a composer writing a string quartet can learn something from a movie or the structure of film. It was music that gave me the idea of constantly breaking up the narrative. THE BLUE FOX would be a completely different novel if it were chronological. In it, there are constant cliff-hangers and repeated refrains – I’m playing with the element of two melodies that come together but never fully, only in the end finding a solution. It was very interesting that the first people who commented on the book were composers. They said it was very clear to them that I was always playing with volume of information versus text, which is the same thing they do – volume of tones versus time. You can take a melody and stretch it over five minutes, or compress it down to three seconds. They were very much aware of how I was playing with text versus information.

Q: THE WHITE REVIEW — Does your involvement in the world of music, and the musicality of your novels, betray some sort of frustration with the limits of the written word?

A: SJÓN — No. I am in the position where I can move between those different ways of writing. For me, it is a celebration of the many possibilities given to an author. I play no instruments, my only involvement with music is in collaborations with people who know how to do it. It is a privilege to be working with these musicians and to be allowed to bring my words to their work. To hear the words sung is a wonderful present from these people."



"This view actually went against everything that I had been taught in school. The Reformation is presented in Icelandic history books as something very benevolent and it was convenient to ignore that in the first decade after the Reformation life was very difficult for the common man and for scholars. The Methodist church became very dogmatic, and everything that had to do with the old Nordic religion, with old wisdom or old medicine, was banished as sorcery. He is the only historical voice that we have speaking against this. It was an opportunity to put a seed inside somebody’s skull, and take a walk through those times with his eyes."



"The reason that I felt it right to enter this world, this state of complaint against a world going to pieces, is because he lived through the period when the Catholic Church, the only socially responsible institution, was all of a sudden taken away. In Iceland, it is a fact that the Catholic Church was the only welfare structure in the country – we had no king, no dukes, we had no one to take over the social responsibilities when the Catholic Church vanished overnight. All the monasteries were closed down, all the orphanages, the old people’s shelters – everything, overnight. And the duty that the rich had – to keep the livestock alive on behalf of the religious priests who fed the poor – that vanished too.

Jón Guðmundsson is unique in that he is the only one who wrote about this. He bore witness to a world in which man had been relieved of his duty to show charity to his fellow men. This is very much what the last decade has felt like, at least in Iceland, if not many parts of the West. With the deregulation of the economic system, social responsibility was thrown out of the window and all of a sudden the rich became richer and they had no duties any more. This is something that happened with the fall of the Eastern Bloc – the message that we were told then was that capitalism had won and communism was the dark art. The Left lost its voice, at least in Iceland. The centre Left – the social democrats – they decided to start playing along with the capitalists, which is what you would call New Labour here. The real Left was all of a sudden presented as the losers of history, even though these people had been in opposition to the totalitarian regimes in the East for decades. All of a sudden everything that began with the word ‘social’ was a dirty word. The social contract that was established in most of the West after the Second World War, was dealt the final blow."



"In times where grand narratives are needed we look to the grand narratives of our culture. In our case it is the great myths, and sometimes it is to give name to something like the panic after September 11. Myth always puts man down to size, and man realises he is just this tiny figure moving from one meal to another on his way to the grave.

Q: THE WHITE REVIEW — Oral tradition is very much a part of myth. Is this something that can still exist today?

A: SJÓN — You have a whole continent, Africa, which has so many languages that have still not found a written form. There are places that have an unbroken tradition, stretching thousands of years back, of telling the same stories over and over again. Mostly here in the West we have lost the ability to protect our culture orally, and maybe we are in danger. What will happen when all the books have flared up and all the Kindles lost their battery power?

Q: THE WHITE REVIEW — Literary translation and the rise of world … [more]
sjón  2012  interviews  iceland  poems  poetry  novels  literature  writing  music  björk  reality  collaboration  surrealism  existence  humans  storytelling  davidbowie  mogenrukov  dogme95  life  living  perspective  curiosity  translation  africa  diversity  myths  myth  mythology  charity  catholicism  history  capitalism  economics  society  collectivism  interdependence  individualism  insignificance  folklore  nature  reformation  religion  magic  mysticism  enlightenment  catholicchurch  9/11  oraltradition  ebooks  books  words  coldwar  socialism  communism  jónguðmundsson  sorcery  songs  posthumanism 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Why a radical geography must be anarchist | Simon Springer - Academia.edu
"Radical geographers have been preoccupied with Marxism for four decades, largely ignoring an earlier anarchist tradition that thrived a century before radical geography was claimed as Marxist in the 1970s. When anarchism is considered, it is misused as a synonym for violence or derided as a utopian project. Yet it is incorrect to assume anarchism as a project, which instead reflects Marxian thought. Anarchism is more appropriately considered a protean process that perpetually unfolds through the insurrectionary geographies of the everyday and the prefigurative politics of direct action, mutual aid, and voluntary association. Unlike Marxism’s stages of history and revolutionary imperative, which imply an end state, anarchism appreciates the dynamism of the social world. In staking a renewed anarchist claim for radical geography, I attend to the divisions between Marxism and anarchism as two alternative socialisms, where in the former positions equality alongside an ongoing flirtation with authoritarianism, while the latter maximizes egalitarianism and individual liberty by considering them as mutually reinforcing. Radical geographers would do well to reengage anarchism as there is a vitality to this philosophy that is missing from Marxian analyses that continue to rehash ideas— such as vanguardism and a proletarian dictatorship—that are long past their expiration date."
anarchism  marxism  socialism  anarchy  revolution  radicalism  2014  simonspringer  dynamism  pocketsofutopia  mutualaid  collectivism  decentralization  utopia  vanguardism  equality  authoritarianism  egalitarianism  liberty  individualusm  directaction  voluntaryassociation  radicalgeography 
november 2014 by robertogreco
Making Poverty History | Jacobin
"How does the UN explain this rise in inequality? What the data suggests, the UN reports, is that “inequality has increased mainly because the wealthiest individuals have become wealthier, both in developed and developing countries.” The top 1% has siphoned off the social wealth for its private gain, and the bottom 99% — which produced the social wealth – has to live off its crumbs. What’s clear is that capitalism is incapable of ending poverty or substantially reducing inequality.

Word comes from China and India that they have dramatically reduced poverty. Take the case of India. Based on official data on poverty, things appear better now than before. But the data is based on a reassessment of the indicators.

The government created a new measure – one is poor if one consumes less than twenty-four pounds of grain per month. The UN World Food Program asked quite simply if it was reasonable to assume that the person who had twenty-five pounds of grain per month was not poor.

Let us remain at the level of calorie consumption. In 2009, almost three quarters of the Indian population consumed less than 2,100 calories per day. This percentage is up from 64 percent in 2005 and 58 per cent in 1984. So caloric intake in India has declined for very many more people during its relatively high growth rates."



"What we do instead is insane: we build homes that are heated. Inside the heated homes, we have a freezer that draws power against the heated home to keep food frozen. Then in the freezer, because we do not want to allow it to become impacted by ice, we have a small heating coil to maintain the temperature. In other words, we have mass marketed a commodity – the freezer – that uses an obscene amount of energy and makes little sense for at least four months of the year.

A world that makes a freezer in the Global North an essential household item, but not a smokeless stove in the Global South, is a society that has subordinated itself to the laws of capital. “The ruling ideas of a time are the ideas of the ruling class,” wrote Marx and Engels. They were right.

The powerful not only control the social wealth, they also control the public policy discussion – and what counts as intellectually correct. Good ideas are never sufficient. They are not believed or enacted simply because they are right. They become the ideas of our time only when they are wielded by those who come to believe in their own power, who use this power to struggle through institutions and advance their ideas.

Everyone knows about wealth inequality. Everyone knows about poverty. Boredom greets conversations about these kinds of things. Someone must be doing something to take care of it. That’s true. There are a host of people’s movements across the world who are trying to battle the existence of the greatest purveyor of social brutality – poverty. But with little success.

The Arab Spring was a vast anti-poverty protest – a revolution for “Bread, Freedom, and Social Justice” (aish, hurriya, adala igtimaiyya) as the slogan went. It resonated across Tahrir Square. Bread or ‘aish, in the Arabic of Egypt, refers to life. The call for bread is a call for life."



"What produces poverty? Not the lack of property titles, or the lack of high growth rates or the lack of twenty-first century infrastructure. What produces poverty is a system of social production for private gain — in other words, capitalism. Capital superbly organizes all the hitherto slumbering forces of production into one effectively organized social process. The gentle time of the pre-capitalist era is thrust aside as capital condenses labor power into each second. Waste is forbidden, and rest is sin.

Capitalism – terrifying in its long-term social effects – is imperiled by its own contradictions. Crises emerge, and then get sorted out before the next crisis comes. But these crises do not bring capitalism to its knees, do not inaugurate a new order.

The protagonist for the transformation, even in the twenty-first century, remains the working class. Whether employed or not, this is the class that has no capital and must forage in the dark alleyways for livelihood. Sentiments of impossibility have turned us away from the possible history of the future.

This has to be shrugged off. It is more realistic to believe that a socialist alternative, rather than charity or World Bank policies, will make poverty history."
poverty  inequality  politics  2014  capitalism  socialism  karlmarx  friedrichengels  marxism  vijayprashad  measurement  statistics  un  worldbank  infrastructure  hernandodesoto  olivierdeschutter  arabspring  society 
november 2014 by robertogreco
danah boyd | apophenia » What is Fairness?
"Increasingly, tech folks are participating in the instantiation of fairness in our society. Not only do they produce the algorithms that score people and unevenly distribute scarce resources, but the fetishization of “personalization” and the increasingly common practice of “curation” are, in effect, arbiters of fairness.

The most important thing that we all need to recognize is that how fairness is instantiated significantly affects the very architecture of our society. I regularly come back to a quote by Alistair Croll:
Our social safety net is woven on uncertainty. We have welfare, insurance, and other institutions precisely because we can’t tell what’s going to happen — so we amortize that risk across shared resources. The better we are at predicting the future, the less we’ll be willing to share our fates with others. And the more those predictions look like facts, the more justice looks like thoughtcrime.

The market-driven logic of fairness is fundamentally about individuals at the expense of the social fabric. Not surprisingly, the tech industry — very neoliberal in cultural ideology — embraces market-driven fairness as the most desirable form of fairness because it is the model that is most about individual empowerment. But, of course, this form of empowerment is at the expense of others. And, significantly, at the expense of those who have been historically marginalized and ostracized.

We are collectively architecting the technological infrastructure of this world. Are we OK with what we’re doing and how it will affect the society around us?"
algorithms  culture  economics  us  finance  police  policing  lawenforcement  technology  equality  equity  2014  danahboyd  alistaircroll  justice  socialjustice  crime  civilrights  socialsafetynet  welfare  markets  banks  banking  capitalism  socialism  communism  scarcity  abundance  uncertainty  risk  predictions  profiling  race  business  redlining  privilege 
november 2014 by robertogreco
Don't Just Sit There, Do Something | Tricycle
“Ever since Western converts began adopting Buddhist traditions, their community has sought a balance between the quest for personal peace and tranquility and the sense of social engagement that has sometimes expressed itself, most recently on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, with the well-worn activists’ phrase No justice, no peace.

That seemingly irreconcilable conflict made itself felt when several generations of Buddhists came together for the 2014 National Gathering of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship (or “BPF”). That noteworthy group, now 36 years old, congregated during Labor Day weekend at the East Bay Meditation Center, housed in a low-slung, two-story building in Oakland, California’s economically revitalized heart. At the gathering, the fellowship’s newest, post-Occupy incarnation seemed to carry a message for its more solitary, meditation-oriented elders: Don’t just sit there, do something.

The relatively small size of the event, as well as its modest setting, stood in sharp contrast to that of well-attended, corporate-funded mindfulness conferences such as Wisdom 2.0. In a private conversation the first evening of the gathering, I told Thai Buddhist activist Sulak Sivaraksa (addressed “Ajahn [teacher] Sulak”) of my own written criticism of that conference, and of the “engaged Buddhist” teachers who privately thanked me for “saying what needed to be said” but refused to support that position publicly.

“If they can’t say publicly what they feel privately,” said Ajahn Sulak, “we call that ‘being a hypocrite.’ I’ve experienced that myself, many times. Teachers or abbots tell me ‘I agree with you, but I can’t say so publicly.’ That means they have economic interests that prevent them from speaking up. Even Thich Nhat Hanh, who is a friend and whom I consider a teacher, is reluctant to speak as freely as he did before he ran such a large institution.” A good spiritual friend (kalyana mitta), Ajahn Sulak continued, speaks the truth: “That’s why I admire the American Quakers. They tell the truth, no matter what the consequences.”

Western Buddhists have at times been reluctant to speak truth to power. Some Buddhist organizations and entrepreneurs have, instead, unabashedly cozied up to it, hoping some prestige would rub off on them. That practice was perhaps best exemplified by an admiring (some might say “fawning”) interview of Paul Kagame, Rwanda’s “Darling Tyrant,” at the 2014 Wisdom 2.0 conference. Kagame's practice of mindfulness was apparently so inspiring that it allowed his audience to ignore his administration’s involvement in, according to the Spanish government, “crimes of genocide, human rights abuses, and terrorism,” as well as his government’s suspected involvement in the murders of Rwandan dissidents and threats to the journalists who reported them.

Corporate-sponsored “mindfulness” seems to be a growth industry. The Quaker “Religious Society of Friends,” in contrast and as a result of its practices, has “never become large . . . or powerful,” Ajahn Sulak told me. “But they tell the truth. All Buddhists should learn from the Quakers.”

The following morning’s meditation was followed by a plenary session on the “Future of Engaged Buddhism,” with perspectives from “five veteran BPFers”: Zenju Earthlyn Manuel, Susan Moon, Mushim Patricia Ikeda, Martha Boesing, and Donald Rothberg. For the morning breakout session I chose Rothberg’s workshop on “Keeping Cool in the Fire: Becoming More Skillful with Inner and Outer Conflicts.” Drawing extensively on the work of Norwegian conflict resolution expert Johan Galtung, Rothberg may have been unaware how quickly he was to be drawn into a conflict of his own.

The primary goal of Rothberg’s presentation, which included graphic representations and other practical tools, was to offer guidance on how to bring two sides of a conflict into agreement—preferably in a “win/win” scenario. The presentation was engaging and extremely useful. But it quickly drew objections from some of the young activists in the crowd, for reasons I could easily understand.

“This doesn’t apply when there’s a severe imbalance of power between two forces,” said one. My heart was with them—especially since, as Rothberg himself had said, Western dharma practitioners “tend to be conflict-avoidant.”

The conference’s keynote speakers, Ajahn Sulak and American Buddhist writer Joanna Macy, had touched on the same point during their opening addresses the night before. “Western Buddhists . . . are very suspicious of attachment,” said Macy. “They feel they need to be detached . . . so don’t get upset about racism, or injustice, or the poison in the rivers, because that . . . means you’re too attached.”

This causes some difficulty for me,” she continued, “because I’m attached.”

She added: “I think one of the problems with Westernized Buddhists is premature equanimity. When the Buddha said ‘don’t be attached,’ he meant don’t be attached to the ego.”

During our private interview, Ajahn Sulak emphasized many of the same points. “Anger arises,” he said. “That’s okay. But you must learn to translate that anger into change.”

“Some people want to be ‘goody-goody Buddhists,’” Ajahn Sulak continued, “saying nice things all the time and never challenging power. We believe in nonviolence, but that means we cannot ignore the long-term harm caused by structural violence.”

Or, as BPF’s literature says: “The system stinks.”

While the urge to avoid confrontation is strong in some sections of the Western Buddhist community, many of the leaders it reveres have been unafraid to speak bluntly. They’ve even been unafraid to use terms that border on the politically forbidden. The Dalai Lama, for example, has said he is “not only a socialist but also a bit leftist, a communist. In terms of social economy theory, I am a Marxist. I think I am farther to the left than the Chinese leaders. They are capitalists.”

Ajahn Sulak’s teacher, Buddhadasa, said, “If we hold fast to Buddhism we shall have a socialist disposition in our flesh and blood … [an] ideal of pure socialism which must be acted out, not just talked about for political purposes or for selfish, devious gain.” Ajahn Sulak told a group of Japanese Buddhists that “unless we stand united against consumerism and capitalism, we will not be able to create Dhammic Socialism.”

The Peace Fellowship’s Gathering ended with a refuge ceremony. Experienced dharma practitioners will understand that, by this action, everyone who participated became a Buddhist (or renewed their Buddhist vows). It could also be said that the people in attendance took refuge collectively, as a sangha, as a beloved community.

But there was more to come. A smaller group gathered that evening at a park in downtown Oakland. Their purpose was to demonstrate against the Urban Shield conference, which was about to take place. Urban Shield is, in effect, a trade conference for our cities’ increasingly militarized police forces—and for the vendors who profit off their purchase of heavy weaponry, drones, and other tools for the imposition of violence and the removal of personal privacy and autonomy. It was a good choice for protest, sitting as it does at the intersection of violence and capitalism.

A group of demonstrators planned to block the entrance to the Marriott Hotel, where many attendees were staying, while the rest were there to show their support. The Buddhists gathered before the watchful and slightly skeptical eyes of the park’s denizens: urban families, skateboard-wielding teens, and a homeless person or two. Protesters raised their signs: “Make Peace, Disarm Police”; “Marriott, Evict Urban Shield”; “Urban Shield = Urban Warfare.”

After a few minutes of planning and debate the group—a mix of laypeople and monastics—began its several-block-long walk to the Marriott. Accompanied by the monks’ drumming and chanting, the group passed curious pedestrians and drivers honking horns in passing automobiles, the Wells Fargo Bank glittering in the sun’s final late-evening rays. A giant flag waved atop the Oakland Tribune building, but no reporters emerged to cover the demonstration.

Once at the hotel, a dozen protesters unfurled a sign that read “Evict Urban Shield.” Then they blocked the front entrance and sat in lotus position as supporters cheered them on from the sidewalk.

I found myself moved by these young faces, some of which I now knew by name, as they sat before the hotel doors, their faces serene and their meditation posture largely impeccable. That’s Katie, in the white t-shirt. She’s one of the organizers. And that’s Dawn, her colleague. I think I saw that man, the one next to Dawn, in one of the breakout sessions…

I found myself kneeling before them, ostensibly to take their pictures.

They chose not to get arrested that evening, and the demonstration began breaking up as night fell. I walked away through the now-darkened streets of downtown Oakland. I felt a sense of parting, of separation from a community, as I walked back to my car. Outside the Oakland City Center office complex I passed a bicycle, still locked to a pole but stripped of its wheels and gears.

Driving home, I found myself lost in some back streets, passed bars filled with partiers (that’s right, it was a holiday weekend), and made my way back to a borrowed apartment. Once there I thumbed through the pictures I had taken on my phone.

Don’t just sit there, do something. At the close of this gathering, these demonstrators had resolved that generations-old conflict. There, outside the Marriott Hotel, they had done both."
2014  buddhism  richareskow  religion  individualism  socialjustice  activism  mindfulness  sulaksivaraska  thichnhathanh  quakers  truth  truthtopower  corporatism  equanimity  confrontation  socialism  marxism  politics  urbanshield  detachment  attachment 
november 2014 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
Empires Revolution of the Present - marclafia
"The film and online project brings together international philosophers, scientists and artists to give description and analysis to the contemporary moment as defined by computational tools and networks.

It states that networks are not new and have been forever with us in the evolution of our cities, trade, communications and sciences, in our relations as businesses and nation states, in the circulation of money, food, arms and our shared ecology.

Yet something has deeply changed in our experience of time, work, community, the global. Empires looks deeply to unravel how we speak to the realities of the individual and the notion of the public and public 'good' in this new world at the confluence of money, cities, computation, politics and science."

[Film website: http://www.revolutionofthepresent.org/ ]

[Trailer: https://vimeo.com/34852940 ]
[First cut (2:45:05): https://vimeo.com/32734201 ]

[YouTube (1:21:47): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HaTw5epW_QI ]

"Join the conversation at http://www.revolutionofthepresent.org

Summary: The hope was that network technology would bring us together, create a "global village," make our political desires more coherent. But what's happened is that our desires have become distributed, exploded into images and over screens our eyes relentlessly drop to view.

REVOLUTION OF THE PRESENT examines the strange effects — on cities, economies, people — of what we might call accelerated capitalism. Set against a visually striking array of sounds and images, 15 international thinkers speak to the complexity and oddity of this contemporary moment as they discuss what is and what can be.

Documentary Synopsis:
Humanity seems to be stuck in the perpetual now that is our networked world. More countries are witnessing people taking to the streets in search of answers. Revolution of the Present, the film, features interviews with thought leaders designed to give meaning to our present and precarious condition. This historic journey allows us to us re-think our presumptions and narratives about the individual and society, the local and global, our politics and technology. This documentary analyzes why the opportunity to augment the scope of human action has become so atomized and diminished. Revolution of the Present is an invitation to join the conversation and help contribute to our collective understanding.

As Saskia Sassen, the renowned sociologist, states at the outset of the film, 'we live in a time of unsettlement, so much so that we are even questioning the notion of the global, which is healthy.' One could say that our film raises more questions than it answers, but this is our goal. Asking the right questions and going back to beginnings may be the very thing we need to do to understand the present, and to move forward from it with a healthy skepticism.

Revolution of the Present is structured as an engaging dinner conversation, there is no narrator telling you what to think, it is not a film of fear of the end time or accusation, it is an invitation to sit at the table and join an in depth conversation about our diverse and plural world."

[See also: http://hilariousbookbinder.blogspot.com/2014/09/rethinking-internet-networks-capitalism.html ]

[Previously:
https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/b:ec1d3463d74b
https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/b:9f60604ec3b3 ]
marclafia  networks  philosophy  politics  science  money  cities  scale  economics  capitalism  2014  kazysvarnelis  communication  communications  business  work  labor  psychology  greglindsay  saskiasassen  urban  urbanism  freedom  freewill  howardbloom  juanenríquez  michaelhardt  anthonypagden  danielisenberg  johnhenryclippinger  joséfernández  johannaschiller  douglasrushkoff  manueldelanda  floriancrammer  issaclubb  nataliejeremijenko  wendychun  geertlovink  nishantshah  internet  online  web  danielcoffeen  michaelchichi  jamesdelbourgo  sashasakhar  pedromartínez  miguelfernándezpauldocherty  alexandergalloway  craigfeldman  irenarogovsky  matthewrogers  globalization  networkedculture  networkculture  history  change  nationstates  citystates  sovreignty  empire  power  control  antonionegri  geopolitics  systems  systemsthinking  changemaking  meaningmaking  revolution  paradigmshifts  johnlocke  bourgeoisie  consumption  middleclass  class  democracy  modernity  modernism  government  governence  karlmarx  centralization  socialism  planning  urbanplanning  grass 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Why America's favorite anarchist thinks most American workers are slaves | Making Sen$e | PBS NewsHour
"Q: So you like this idea?

A: I think it’s great. It’s an acknowledgement that nobody else has the right to tell you what you can best contribute to the world, and it’s based on a certain faith — that people want to contribute something to the world, most people do. I’m sure there are a few people who would be parasites, but most people actually want to do something; they want to feel that they have contributed something to the society around them.

The problem is that we have this gigantic apparatus that presumes to tell people who’s worthy, who’s not, what people should be doing, what they shouldn’t. They’re all about assessing value, but in fact, the whole system fell apart in 2008 because nobody really knows how to do it. We don’t really know how to assess the value of people’s work, of people’s contributions, of people themselves, and philosophically, that makes sense; there is no easy way to do it. So the best thing to do is just to say, alright, everyone go out and you decide for yourselves."



"Q: So would you get rid of government programs?

A: It depends on which. The amounts of money that they’re now talking about giving people aren’t enough to take care of things like health care and housing. But I think if you guarantee those sorts of basic needs, you could get rid of almost all the programs on top of that. In huge bureaucracies, there are so many conditionalities attached to everything they give out, there’s jobs on jobs on jobs of people who just assess people and decide whether you are being good enough to your kids to deserve this benefit, or decide whether you’re trying hard enough to get a job to get that benefit. This is a complete waste. Those people [making the decisions] don’t really contribute anything to society; we could get rid of them.

Q: So you’d get rid of, say, the food stamp bureaucracy?

A: If we had a basic income, we wouldn’t need to decide who needs food and who doesn’t."



"Q: Are you surprised that there’s right wing support for this?

A: Not at all. Because I think there are some people who can understand that the rates of inequality that we have mean that the arguments [for the market] don’t really work. There’s a tradition that these people are drawing on, which recognizes that the kind of market they really want to see is not the kind of market we see today.

Adam Smith was very honest. He said, well obviously this only works if people control their own tools, if people are self-employed. He was completely rejecting the idea of corporate capitalism.

Q: Smith rejected corporate capitalism because it became crony capitalism.

A: Well, he rejected the corporate form entirely; he was against corporations. At the time, corporations were seen as, essentially, inimical to the market. They still are. Those arguments are no less true than they ever were. If we want to have markets, we have to give everybody an equal chance to get into them, or else they don’t work as a means of social liberation; they operate as a means of enslavement.

Q: Enslavement in the sense that the people with enough power, who can get the market to work on their behalf…

A: Right — bribing politicians to set up the system so that they accumulate more, and other people end up spending all their time working for them. The difference between selling yourself into slavery and renting yourself into slavery in the ancient world was basically none at all, you know. If Aristotle were here, he’d think most people in a country like England or America were slaves.

Q: Wage slaves?

A: Yes, but they didn’t make a distinction back then. Throughout most of recorded history, the only people who actually did wage labor were slaves. It was a way of renting your slave to someone else; they got half the money, and the rest of the money went to the master. Even in the South, a lot of slaves actually worked in jobs and they just had to pay the profits to the guy who owned them. It’s only now that we think of wage labor and slavery as opposite to one another. For a lot of history, they were considered kind of variations of the same thing.

Abraham Lincoln famously said the reason why we have a democratic society in America is we don’t have a permanent class of wage laborers. He thought that wage labor was something you pass through in your 20s and 30s when you’re accumulating enough money to set up on your own; so the idea was everyone will eventually be self-employed.

Do People Like to Work? Look at Prisons"

Q: So is this idea of a guaranteed basic income utopian?

A: Well, it remains to be seen. If it’s Utopian, it’s because we can’t get the politicians to do it, not because it won’t work. It seems like people have done the numbers, and there’s no economic reason why it couldn’t work.

Q: Well, it’s very expensive.

A: It’s expensive, but so is the system we have now. And there’s a major savings that you’ll have firing all those people who are assessing who is worthy of what.

Philosophically, I think that it’s really important to bear in mind two things. One is it’ll show people that you don’t have to force people to work, to want to contribute. It’s not that people resist work. People resist meaningless work; people resist stupid work; and people resist humiliating work.

But I always talk about prisons, where people are fed, clothed, they’ve got shelter; they could just sit around all day. But actually, they use work as a way of rewarding them. You know, if you don’t behave yourself, we won’t let you work in the prison laundry. I mean, people want to work. Nobody just wants to sit around, it’s boring.

So the first misconception we have is this idea that people are just lazy, and if they’re given a certain amount of minimal income, they just won’t do anything. Probably there’s a few people like that, but for the vast majority, it will free them to do the kind of work that they think is meaningful. The question is, are most people smart enough to know what they have to contribute to the world? I think most of them are.

Q: What Is Society Missing Without a Basic Income?

A: The other point we need to stress is that we can’t tell in advance who really can contribute what. We’re always surprised when we leave people to their own devices. I think one reason why we don’t have any of the major scientific breakthroughs that we used to have for much of the 19th and 20th centuries is because we have this system where everybody has to prove they already know what they’re going to create in this incredibly bureaucratized system.

Q: Because people need to be able to prove that they’ll get a return on the investment?

A: Exactly. So they have to get the grant, and prove that this would lead to this, but in fact, almost all the major breakthroughs are unexpected. It used to be we’d get bright people and just let them do whatever they want, and then suddenly, we’ve got the light bulb. Nowadays we don’t get breakthroughs like that because everybody’s got to spend all their time filling out paperwork. It’s that kind of paperwork that we’d be effectively getting rid of, the equivalent of that.

Another example I always give is the John Lennon argument. Why are there no amazing new bands in England anymore? Ever since the ’60s, it used to be every five, 10 years, we’d see an incredible band. I asked a lot of friends of mine, well, what happened? And they all said, well they got rid of the dole. All those guys were on the dole. Actually in Cockney rhyming slang, the word for dole is rock and roll — as in, “oh yeah, he’s on the rock and roll.” All rock bands started on public relief. If you give money to working class kids, a significant number of them will form bands, and a few of those bands will be amazing, and it will benefit the country a thousand times more than all of those kids would have done had they been lifting boxes or whatever they’re making them do now as welfare conditionality.

Q: And in the United States, the entire abstract expressionist movement, whatever you think of it — Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock — was all on the WPA [Works Progress Administration], on the dole.

A: Absolutely, look at social theory. I remember thinking, why is it that Germany in the ’20s, you have Weber, Simmel, all these amazing thinkers? In France, you have this endless outpouring of brilliant people in the ’50s, Sartre… What was it about those societies that they produced so many brilliant thinkers? One person told me, well, there’s a lot of money — they just had these huge block grants given to anybody. And you know, again, 10 out of 11 of them will be people we’ve completely forgotten, but there’s always that one that’s going to turn out to be, you know Jacques Derrida, and the world changes because of some major social thinker who might otherwise have been a postman, or something like that."

[See also: http://maymay.net/blog/2014/04/20/david-graeber-on-death-by-bureaucracy-if-we-had-a-basic-income-we-wouldnt-need-to-decide-who-needs-food-and-who-doesnt/ ]
davidgraeber  2014  economics  universalbasicincome  productivity  wageslavery  labor  work  bullshitjobs  bureaucracy  switzerland  us  policy  government  creativity  art  music  anarchism  anarchy  socialism  libertarianism  libertarians  friedrichhayek  socialwelfare  namibia  democracy  markets  deirdremccloskey  donmccloskey  communitarianism  incomeinequality  inequality  motivation  ubi 
september 2014 by robertogreco
Millennials’ politics are shaped by our dysfunctional system | Al Jazeera America
"In a 2011 poll centered around Occupy Wall Street, the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that adults under 30 had a much more negative view of capitalism than other demographics. Under-30s had an overall negative impression of capitalism (46–47), matching liberal democrats and self-identified supporters of OWS. Even the Reason poll found 43 percent of respondents favoring socialism to capitalism. This would be less remarkable if the U.S. had a socialist party or an anti-capitalist culture, but it doesn’t. The closest experience of such things millennials have enjoyed is an unfunded hodgepodge sequence of park occupations. Capitalist ideology has close to zero competition in American politics, but it can just barely muster a majority among young people in a poll run by the free-market fan club.

It’s no surprise that millennials aren’t content with the way things are going. The rest of America feels the same way. Earlier this month, the Huffington Post announced the results of another public opinion survey with my favorite headline of the year: "American Dissatisfaction With Everything Is Reaching Historic Levels." The poll found nearly three-quarters of respondents “unsatisfied,” mostly related to a lackluster economy and an unresponsive political system. Things are so bad that the very legitimacy of American democracy is in dispute: 73 percent believe the government operates without the consent of the people and two-thirds believe they have no say. With 95 percent of the income gains since the recession ended accruing to the top 1 percent of earners, it isn’t cynicism for most people to feel unrepresented by our political and economic system, it’s common sense.

If you consider the circumstances of their political development, millennials would have to be a generation of credulous fools to trust the government at all. From 9/11 on, they saw firsthand the devastation wrought by the Bush administration’s dishonesty. The biggest protests the world has ever seen couldn’t stop an ill-advised war on Iraq, and half-assed regulation-by-crony set the economy up for a heavy fall. The Obama ’08 campaign squeezed out enough hope to win, but nearly six years later the promised change hasn’t followed. After repeatedly insisting that the National Security Agency wasn’t spying on everyone, the government has been forced — by another untrusting millennial, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden — to concede that the NSA actually has been spying on everyone. Politicians who “evolve” (i.e., flip) on gay marriage have pushed the issue forward, but they also look morally unmoored, as if they can’t figure out how to treat people decently without a pollster’s help.

Every day there’s another story about government corruption or inefficiency. Whether it’s fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) bragging about the U.S. military trucks they’ve seized in Iraq, or revelations about profiteering off government contracts or the shocking story that our own contractors spend at least some of their time threatening to murder State Department investigators, news about what happens with government resources is usually bad news. No wonder the Reason study finds that a plurality of millennials don’t trust either party on most of the major issues and two-thirds think the government is wasteful and inefficient. But even though millennials are wary of the bureaucracy, a strong majority of young Americans still believe in government entitlements: 54 percent believe the state should guarantee a college education, rising to 69 percent for health insurance, and a whopping 74 percent believe everyone deserves enough to eat and a place to sleep.

From food trucks to marijuana, the Reason report shows millennials are in favor of people doing their thing without state interference, but these are not the future capitalists the surveying foundations were hoping for. American millennials can’t possibly trust the government, but we still believe in a social safety net that takes care of everyone. This combination of libertarian and socialist values unnerves the major parties and unimaginative commentators, but it’s a logical response to the last 15 years. We’ve seen what happens when people don’t have anything to fall back on but the market, as well as what happens when the government feels entitled to know everything about everyone, and we don’t want either.

Caught between the market and the state, millennials might look “totally incoherent” when you ask them to pick one. But life isn’t a poll, and civic participation isn’t a multiple-choice test. These libertarian socialists don’t make sense to party partisans or the elderly, but there are more of them every day. If they reject the choice between door No. 1 and door No. 2, they’ll need to create some more options."
millenials  socialism  capitalism  us  polls  malcolmharris  2014  politics  policy  future  disaffection  libertarianism  government 
august 2014 by robertogreco
Species and Class | Exploring the animal-human relationship from socialist and anarchist perspectives
"Species and Class aims to be a group blog focused on exploring the animal-human relationship from socialist and social anarchist perspectives. We need writers, editors, graphic designers, webmasters, social media managers, and fundraisers."
via:anne  animals  animalhumanrelationships  socialism  anarchism 
july 2014 by robertogreco
New Statesman | Jon Cruddas's speech on radical hope: full text
"Now, I’ll begin with a story. One that dominates the philosopher Jonathan Lear’s brilliant book, Radical Hope: Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devastation. It is about the Crow Indians. A story about what happens when the economy of a society is destroyed and a people’s way of life comes to an end. It was told by their great chief Plenty Coups, shortly before he died. He said, ‘When the buffalo went away the hearts of my people fell to the ground, and they could not be lifted up again. After this nothing happened’.

What did he mean? That the culture that gave their life meaning and purpose died. The whole fabric of their beliefs and standards was destroyed and this loss was irreparable. What would come next? The Crow people actually survived despite this loss because their leadership re-imagined a future; it created a ‘radical hope’. It was radical because it was a future without guarantees but most important it was without despair.

In a period of rapid social and economic change it raises key questions about how we draw on a community’s memory and traditions to define the future. The book throws up many challenges for all today’s political parties.

For example, the Labour Party is the product of industrial society.

A party built on mass production over one hundred years ago:
a large stable workforce,
large productive units,
mass consumption,
and a class society.

Yet we are now in the middle of a de-industrial revolution fragmenting the communities it once sustained. A post-industrial economy is taking shape around our advanced manufacturing and the new information and communications technologies. The shift to a services economy is flattening out old, hierarchical command and control structures.
Digital technology is unseating whole industries and workforces, and production is becoming more networked and disorganised. Our class system is being reconstructed.
The disruption of technological change is greater than at any times since the industrial revolution. The institutions and solidarities workers created to defend themselves against the power of capital have disappeared or become outdated and ineffective. As such, social democracy has lost its social anchorage in the coalitions built up around the skilled working class. Once great ruling parties can appear hollowed out; in danger of shrinking into a professionalized political class.

Often in government they were not very social, nor very democratic. Top down and state driven. Compensating for the system not reforming it. A politics about structures and not about individuals. This model of social democracy built in the industrial era has come to the end of its useful life. These forces also challenge the Tories and their traditional Conservative values."



“Despite this failure of the old order, we are also living in a time of tremendous opportunity.”

“We became institutional conservatives defending the outdated.”

“We will not build the new economy with the old politics of command and control.”

“We have to tackle concentrations of power, and make sure people have the skills and the abilities to take advantage of the internet.”



"Just as in the age of steam and the age of the railways, our new digital age is radically changing society. But while rail transformed society it also created opportunities for the robber barons to monopolise and control it for their own good. We have to tackle concentrations of power, and make sure people have the skills and the abilities to take advantage of the internet. In the vanguards of the new economy there is a new productive force which is the ‘life of the mind’. There are new kinds of raw materials - the intangible assets of information, sounds, words, images, ideas – and they are produced in creative, emotional and intellectuallabour. New models of production are using consumers and their relationships in the co-inventing of new ideas, products and cultural meaning."



“To develop these opportunities throughout the population we need an education system that cultivates the full range of individual capabilities. Our present model of education rewards conformity in pursuit of a narrow, logical and mathematical form of intelligence. It fails far too many children and it reproduces the power of the already privileged. It is wasteful of our most important economic resource which is human ingenuity. We need to give craft and vocational work the same value and status as academic work, and prioritise digital inclusion to help adults who lack digital skills make the most of the internet.”

“It fails far too many children and it reproduces the power of the already privileged.”

“It is a mutual recognition that we are all dependent upon other people throughout our lives.”    

“We need one another to succeed individually.”

“People are losing confidence in the ability of our public institutions to serve the collective interest.”

[via @justinpickard https://twitter.com/justinpickard/status/484349852797911040 ]
joncruddas  hope  radicalhope  change  systemschange  capitalism  socialism  economics  politics  hierarchy  horizontality  hierarchies  jonathanlear  crowindians  history  democracy  organizations  conservatism  neoliberalism  2014  inequality  creativity  innovation  education  unschooling  unlearning  deschooling  collectivism  interdependence  individuality  internet  technology  industrialization 
july 2014 by robertogreco
Tuttle SVC: The Supply of Good Jobs Does Not Automatically Expand to Match the Number of Educated Citizens
"Matt Bruenig nails it:
Education boosters bizarrely think that providing everyone a high-quality education will somehow magically result in them all having good-paying jobs. But, as Finland shows, this turns out not to be true. Apparently, it’s not possible for everyone to simultaneously hold jobs as well-paid upper-class professionals because at least some people have to actually do real work. A modern economy requires a whole army of lesser-skilled jobs that just don’t pay that well and the necessity of those jobs doesn’t go away simply because people are well-educated.

The reason Finland’s ultimate distribution of income is so equal is not because its great education system has made everyone receive high paychecks (an impossible task), but because Finland has put in place distributive policies that make sure its national income is shared broadly. In 2010, Finland’s tax level was 42.5 percent of its GDP, which was nearly double the tax level of the U.S. By strategically spreading that tax money around through a host of cash transfer and benefit programs, Finland’s high market poverty rate of 32.2 percent fell to just 7.3 percent. Its child poverty rate, which Finland focuses extra attention on, fell down to 3.9 percent. Overall economic inequality took a similar dive.

This is so obvious that it is hard to figure out how so many apparently smart people can't grasp it. The only explanation that I can come up with is that for a lot of prominent commentators, wonks and politicians, low paying jobs and the people who hold them are simply an abstraction."

[Direct link to the Bruenig article: http://www.salon.com/2014/05/12/americas_dangerous_education_myth_no_it_isnt_the_best_anti_poverty_program/ ]
economics  finland  poverty  education  socialism  2014  tomhoffman  policy  taxes  politics  work  labor 
may 2014 by robertogreco
Richard Wolff presents Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism at the Baltimore Radical Bookfair - YouTube
"Called the leading social economist in the nation by Cornel West, Richard D. Wolff, professor of economics at the New School, host of WBAI's "Economic Update," and prominent critic of capitalism lays out his vision for a world without bosses, in which workers run their own workplaces democratically."

[More on Mondragon:
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/jun/24/alternative-capitalism-mondragon
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mondragon_Corporation ]
richardwolff  democracy  economics  capitalism  hierarchy  hierarchies  horizontality  labor  2012  unions  organizaedlabor  socialism  communism  inequality  history  unemployment  newdeal  fdr  socialsafetynet  society  government  taxes  taxation  egalitarianism  mondragon  spain  españa  greatdepression  greatrecession  recessions 
april 2014 by robertogreco
#LaSalida? Venezuela at a Crossroads | The Nation
"Even Chavismo is not immune to the deep-seated hatred for the poor barrio residents that such terms represent, and to a certain degree the feeling is mutual. Against the caricatured view that insists that radical popular organizations like colectivos are either blindly devoted or cheaply bought off, these are in reality among the most independent sectors of the revolution, those most critical of government missteps and hesitations, those most familiar with the repressive force of the state and those who demand above all that the social transformation under way move faster.

These forever victims of the state have nevertheless bet on its potential usefulness in the present, or at the very least have insisted that the alternative—handing the state machinery back over to traditional elites and voluntarily returning to a life on the defensive—is really no alternative at all. This is not a decision undertaken desperately or nostalgically, however, but instead with the most powerful optimism of the will, not premised on the good faith of individual leaders—although there are some who deserve this—but instead because to bet on the Bolivarian government is to bet on the people, to wager on the creative capacities of the poor that always exceeds that state.

Many loose threads remain, but few can be easily disentangled from this broad back-and-forth of revolution and reaction that spans decades. If the experience of April 2002 has taught us anything, however, it is to avoid facile explanations fueled by mediatic imagery. Every passing day reinforces this lesson—yesterday’s hyperbole is today’s discredited exaggeration, and while regrettable, the deaths that have occurred on both sides fall far short of what one would expect from reading Twitter. Despite opposition claims of impunity, an official from the Sebin, the government intelligence agency, has been arrested for firing his weapon and the agency head has been sacked. Leaked conversations have suggested coup plots, and even López’s wife admitted on CNN that the Venezuelan government had acted to protect her husband’s life in the face of credible threats.

The media question itself will be urgently debated in the coming days as the conflict between the government and CNN comes to a head. Here too the role of the private media in actively spearheading the 2002 coup looms large in the effort to strike a balance between press freedom and media responsibility (a tension that is not avoided by acting like it doesn’t exist). But these loose threads do not negate the urgency of the phrase that the revolutionary grassroots reserve for those who once governed them, and who today try to do so again, regardless of the death toll: no volverán, they shall not return.

Venezuela is indeed at a crossroads, having—in the words of the militant-intellectual Roland Denis—“llegado al llegadero, arrived at the inevitable.” It is the point at which the Bolivarian process itself—socialism in a capitalist society, thriving direct democracy in a liberal democratic shell—cannot survive without pressing decisively toward one side or the other: more socialist, more democratic, in short, more radical. This is not a crossroads simply between two possible forms of government from above: the Maduro government or its hypothetical right-wing alternative. It is instead a question of either pressing forward the task of building a revolutionary society, or handing the future back to those who can think of nothing but the past, and who will seek to fold the historical dialectic back onto itself, beaten and bloody if necessary.

The only salida is the first, the exit personified in the more than 40,000 communal councils blanketing Venezuela, in the workers’ councils, popular organizations, Afro and indigenous movements, women’s and gender-diverse movements. It is these movements that have struggled to make Venezuela, in the words of Greg Grandin, “the most democratic country in the Western Hemisphere.” And it is these movements that—shoulders to the wheel of history—are the only guarantors of progress."
2014  venezuela  socialism  radicalism  democracy  progress  rolanddenis  capitalism  chavismo  poverty  hugochávez  antonioledezma  nicolásmaduro  class  colectivos  government  politics  revolution  media 
february 2014 by robertogreco
Socialism: Converting Hysterical Misery into Ordinary Unhappiness | Jacobin
"There is a deeper, more substantive, case to be made for a left approach to the economy. In the neoliberal utopia, all of us are forced to spend an inordinate amount of time keeping track of each and every facet of our economic lives. That, in fact, is the openly declared goal: once we are made more cognizant of our money, where it comes from and where it goes, neoliberals believe we’ll be more responsible in spending and investing it. Of course, rich people have accountants, lawyers, personal assistants, and others to do this for them, so the argument doesn’t apply to them, but that’s another story for another day.

The dream is that we’d all have our gazillion individual accounts — one for retirement, one for sickness, one for unemployment, one for the kids, and so on, each connected to our employment, so that we understand that everything good in life depends upon our boss (and not the government) — and every day we’d check in to see how they’re doing, what needs attending to, what can be better invested elsewhere. It’s as if, in the neoliberal dream, we’re all retirees in Boca, with nothing better to do than to check in with our broker, except of course that we’re not. Indeed, if Republicans (and some Democrats) had their way, we’d never retire at all.

In real (or at least our preferred) life, we do have other, better things to do. We have books to read, children to raise, friends to meet, loved ones to care for, amusements to enjoy, drinks to drink, walks to take, webs to surf, couches to lie on, games to play, movies to see, protests to make, movements to build, marches to march, and more. Most days, we don’t have time to do any of that. We’re working way too many hours for too little pay, and in the remaining few hours (minutes) we have, after the kids are asleep, the dishes are washed, and the laundry is done, we have to haggle with insurance companies about doctor’s bills, deal with school officials needing forms signed, and more."



"That’s what the neoliberal view reduces us to: men and women so confronted by the hassle of everyday life that we’re either forced to master it, like the wunderkinder of the blogosphere, or become its slaves. We’re either athletes of the market or the support staff who tend to the race.

That’s not what the Left wants. We want to give people the chance to do something else with their lives, something besides merely tending to it, without having to take a 30-year detour on Wall Street to get there. The way to do that is not to immerse people even more in the ways and means of the market, but to give them time and space to get out of it. That’s what a good welfare state, real social democracy, does: rather than being consumed by life, it allows you to make your life. Freely. One less bell to answer, not one more."
obamacara  healthcare  capitalism  socialism  cognitiveload  neoliberalism  freedom  inefficiency  healthinsurance  coreyrobin  2013  economics  mittromney  polic  retirement  self-sufficency  markets  privatization 
december 2013 by robertogreco
David Simon: 'There are now two Americas. My country is a horror show' | World news | The Observer
[video of the full talk here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DNttT7hDKsk ]

"The idea that the market will solve such things as environmental concerns, as our racial divides, as our class distinctions, our problems with educating and incorporating one generation of workers into the economy after the other when that economy is changing; the idea that the market is going to heed all of the human concerns and still maximise profit is juvenile. It's a juvenile notion and it's still being argued in my country passionately and we're going down the tubes. And it terrifies me because I'm astonished at how comfortable we are in absolving ourselves of what is basically a moral choice. Are we all in this together or are we all not?"



"And that's what The Wire was about basically, it was about people who were worth less and who were no longer necessary, as maybe 10 or 15% of my country is no longer necessary to the operation of the economy. It was about them trying to solve, for lack of a better term, an existential crisis. In their irrelevance, their economic irrelevance, they were nonetheless still on the ground occupying this place called Baltimore and they were going to have to endure somehow.

That's the great horror show. What are we going to do with all these people that we've managed to marginalise? It was kind of interesting when it was only race, when you could do this on the basis of people's racial fears and it was just the black and brown people in American cities who had the higher rates of unemployment and the higher rates of addiction and were marginalised and had the shitty school systems and the lack of opportunity.

And kind of interesting in this last recession to see the economy shrug and start to throw white middle-class people into the same boat, so that they became vulnerable to the drug war, say from methamphetamine, or they became unable to qualify for college loans. And all of a sudden a certain faith in the economic engine and the economic authority of Wall Street and market logic started to fall away from people. And they realised it's not just about race, it's about something even more terrifying. It's about class. Are you at the top of the wave or are you at the bottom?

So how does it get better? In 1932, it got better because they dealt the cards again and there was a communal logic that said nobody's going to get left behind. We're going to figure this out. We're going to get the banks open. From the depths of that depression a social compact was made between worker, between labour and capital that actually allowed people to have some hope.

We're either going to do that in some practical way when things get bad enough or we're going to keep going the way we're going, at which point there's going to be enough people standing on the outside of this mess that somebody's going to pick up a brick, because you know when people get to the end there's always the brick. I hope we go for the first option but I'm losing faith."



"The last job of capitalism – having won all the battles against labour, having acquired the ultimate authority, almost the ultimate moral authority over what's a good idea or what's not, or what's valued and what's not – the last journey for capital in my country has been to buy the electoral process, the one venue for reform that remained to Americans.

Right now capital has effectively purchased the government, and you witnessed it again with the healthcare debacle in terms of the $450m that was heaved into Congress, the most broken part of my government, in order that the popular will never actually emerged in any of that legislative process."
davidsimon  2013  us  capitalism  politics  economics  warondrugs  lawenforcement  socialism  karlmarx  marxism  healthcare  addiction  prisonindustrialcomplex  race  neworleans  baltimore  labor  class  greatdepression  greatrecession  marginalization  work  corruption  systems  process  systemsthinking  bureaucracy  incarceration  elections  campaignfunding  nola 
december 2013 by robertogreco
Get Happy!! | The Nation
"For Margaret Thatcher as for today’s happiness industry, there is no such thing as society."



"Whether such discontent is more intense or pervasive now than it was fifty or 150 years ago is an unanswerable question. “There have been periods happier and others more desperate than ours,” the conservative cultural critic Ernest van den Haag observed in 1956. “But we don’t know which.” Samuel Beckett put the matter more sweepingly and poetically: “The tears of the world are a constant quantity,” he wrote, and “the same is true of the laugh.” But while it is impossible to chart the ebb and flow of emotions historically, to identify some epochs as happier or sadder than others, it is possible to explore the ways that dominant notions of happiness reflect the changing needs and desires of the culturally powerful at various historical moments. One can write the history of ideas about happiness, if not of happiness itself.

And that is another reason the current spate of happiness manuals is so depressing: their ideas of happiness embody the conventional wisdom of our time, which can best be characterized as scientism—a concept not to be confused with science, as Steven Pinker did in a recent New Republic polemic that attempted to bridge the seeming divide between the humanities and the sciences. The vast majority of practicing scientists (except for a few propagandists like Pinker) probably do not embrace scientism, but it is the idiom journalists use to popularize scientific findings for a nonscientific audience. It is not, to be sure, an outlook based on the scientific method—the patient weighing of experimental results, the reframing of questions in response to contrary evidence, the willingness to live with epistemological uncertainty. Quite the contrary: scientism is a revival of the nineteenth-century positivist faith that a reified “science” has discovered (or is about to discover) all the important truths about human life. Precise measurement and rigorous calculation, in this view, are the basis for finally settling enduring metaphysical and moral controversies—explaining consciousness and choice, replacing ambiguity with certainty. The most problematic applications of scientism have usually arisen in the behavioral sciences, where the varieties and perversities of experience have often been reduced to quantitative data that are alleged to reveal an enduring “human nature.”

The scientism on display in the happiness manuals offers a strikingly vacuous worldview, one devoid of history, culture or political economy. Its chief method is self-reported survey research; its twin conceptual pillars are pop evolutionary psychology, based on just-so stories about what human life was like on the African savannah 100,000 years ago, and pop neuroscience, based on sweeping, unsubstantiated claims about brain function gleaned from fragments of contemporary research. The worldview of the happiness manuals, like that in other self-help literature, epitomizes “the triumph of the therapeutic” described some decades ago by the sociologist Philip Rieff: the creation of a world where all overarching structures of meaning have collapsed, and there is “nothing at stake beyond a manipulatable sense of well-being.” With good reason, Rieff attributed the triumph of the therapeutic to the shrinking authority of Christianity in the West. But because he did not see the connections between therapeutic and capitalist worldviews, he could not foresee their convergence in late twentieth-century neoliberalism. For Margaret Thatcher as for the happiness industry, “There is no such thing as society.” There are only individuals, regulating their inner and outer lives in order to sustain and increase personal satisfaction."



"In the Skidelskys’ vision of the good society, noncoercive paternalism would be balanced by localism. The state would bear responsibility for promoting basic goods, would ensure that the fruits of productivity are shared more evenly, and would reduce the pressure to consume—perhaps through a progressive expenditure tax like the one proposed by the economist Robert Frank. This would restrain what he calls the “runaway spending at the top,” which belies the myth that the 1 percent is the “investing class” and has “spawned a luxury fever,” Frank writes, that “has us all in its grip.” To that same end—the dampening of consumption—the Skidelskys propose eliminating advertising as a deductible business expense. They are also refreshingly resistant to free-market globaloney. The good life, they make clear, is not (and cannot be) dependent on globalization: “Developed countries will have to rely more on domestic sources of production to satisfy their needs; developing market economies will need to abandon export-growth models that rely on ever-increasing consumption demand in developed countries.” Scaling back consumption means scaling down international trade. This is not an ascetic agenda—the charge so often leveled against critics of consumer culture, as if consumption is the only imaginable form of leisure. On the contrary: How Much Is Enough? is an effort to imagine possibilities for a satisfying life beyond market discipline.

The Skidelskys want to revive a more capacious sense of leisure, and they conclude their book by underscoring the material basis for it: a “long-term decrease in the demand for labor resulting from continuous improvements in labor productivity.” This has already happened, but the fruits of increased productivity have gone to CEOs and shareholders. Were those gains to be redirected to the workers themselves, the results would be startling: reductions in working hours, early retirements, experiments in work sharing, the thirty-five-hour week and the like. Who knows? People might even be happier.

This vision is timely, a crucial contribution to contemporary political debate. But what gives it arresting force is the commitment behind it. The Skidelskys deploy a tone of moral seriousness that few on the left seem willing to risk today—at least with respect to imagining the good life. Moral seriousness is always a tricky business; no one likes a scold. But after all the Skidelskys’ apt examples and patient arguments, they have established the authority to make this claim: “At the core of our system is a moral decay that is tolerated only because the cleansing of its Augean stables is too traumatic to contemplate.” How Much Is Enough? gets it right. Reading its bracing criticism and humane proposals, I felt a sense, however fleeting, of real happiness."
happiness  culture  stevenpinker  science  scientism  evolutionarypsychology  psychology  self-help  jacksonlears  neuroscience  via:annegalloway  chance  gameoflife  miltonbradley  christianity  individualism  history  capitalism  consumerism  materialism  society  well-being  leisure  labor  localism  socialdemocracy  neoliberalism  shimonedelman  oliverburkeman  robertskidelsky  edwardskidelsky  sonjalyubomirsky  christopherpeterson  jilllepore  cliffordgeetz  money  self-betterment  johnmaynardkeynes  socialism  policy  government  morality  adamsmith  marxism  karlmarx  pleasure  relationships  humans  humanism 
november 2013 by robertogreco
Cockblocked by Redistribution: A Pick-up Artist in Denmark | Dissent Magazine
"Roosh comes to the conclusion that women who aren’t as dependent on men for financial support are not susceptible to the narcissistic salesmanship that constitutes phase one: “attraction.” That’s why Roosh fails to advance to the second level—”trust”—without being creepy. Thus “seduction” is almost always out of the question.

We can agree with pick-up artists that men and women exhibit some behavioral differences. But the PUA framework places their sources in evolution instead of the sexual and social division of labor. In her essay “A Marxist Theory of Women’s Nature,” philosopher Nancy Holmstrom argues that women’s lives are less free than men’s under capitalism “both because they are dependent on men and because they have children dependent on them.” Therefore, “traditional sexual values constrain women more than they do men,” and women “are less able to act to realize their own desires” and must be “more passive and oriented to other people’s wishes than men.”

But in societies with a less marked sexual division of labor, those sexualized generalizations dissipate. Marginalized women who need male spouses to flourish might, indeed, find pick-up artists alluring. But women in countries that have gender-equalizing policies supported by an anti-individualist culture may not.

***

By his last night in Copenhagen, Roosh’s game is not on point. His face is shining “a molten red” at the injustice of it all. He can’t stop himself from calling his buddy’s friend a “stupid, ugly, fat, cock-blocking bitch.” He ends the night by lying his way into bed with an apprehensive eighteen-year-old virgin. The determined pick-up artist can switch from “proactive” to predatory at the drop of a fedora. Since the Community deploys the strategies of hypercompetitive “meritocratic” societies in which self-promotion is indispensable to survival, Roosh felt he was responsible for making his night a success. If the inexperienced teenager had been more reluctant, it seems doubtful he would have relented.

As Roosh himself admits in Don’t Bang Denmark, Nordic social democracy doesn’t support his kind. His guidebook concludes with a resigned “bottom line” acknowledgment that his time in Denmark “liberalized me when it came to a government taking care of its citizens….Denmark sucks balls for women, but it kills the United States when it comes to having a higher standard of living.” Still, he won’t be going back anytime soon.

“Unfortunately, we have to accept that they go hand-in-hand, that we can’t fulfill basic human rights for all without viewing everyone as equal,” Roosh writes. “That’s fine for most people, but I’ve spent way too much time happily surviving in the jungle to pack my bags and move into the zoo.”"
culture  denmark  feminism  gender  socialism  redistribution  power  democracy  equality  socialdemocracy  meritocracy  capitalism  predation  marginalization  narcisism  marxism  individualism  collectivism 
october 2013 by robertogreco
Chris Hedges: As a Socialist, I Have No Voice in the Mainstream - Pt 6 of 7
"I think we’re in this kind of strange period when the language we use to describe our economic and political system no longer matches the reality. I mean, laissez-faire capitalism—we don’t live in a system of laissez-faire capitalism when the federal government bails out these institutions to the tunes of trillions of dollars and then keeps pumping out free money from the Fed and handing it to—that’s not laissez-faire capitalism. And yet I’m sure that if you went to Wharton or Harvard Business School, they would still be teaching this fictional system. And we haven’t yet moved into a period where the vocabulary we use to describe our reality matches that reality. And that’s always a revolutionary period, because there’s a disconnect between the way we speak about ourselves and the way we actually function. And that’s where we are. And so we in many ways are searching for the words to describe what’s happening to us and then to articulate another vision of where we want to go. And we haven’t gotten there yet."

[via: http://scudmissile.tumblr.com/post/56796659481/i-think-were-in-this-kind-of-strange-period-when ]

[The rest in the series at The Real News website with transcripts:
part 1 http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=10441
part 2 http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=10449
part 3 http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=10456
part 4 http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=10461
part 5 http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=10468
part 7 http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=10486

And on Youtube:
part 1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p1JF94vovww
part 2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XR0oGJ2yrmc
part 3 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vWcyetC3CI
part 4 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GCjMdOo7KkY
part 5 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ff-G0DPkBv8
part 6 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OX6n861Gu6Q
part 7 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hNm_GAIXOWw ]
change  revolution  chrishedges  socialism  economics  language  capitalism  corporatism  environment  sustainability  2013  ows  occupywallstreet  politics  bailouts  corporatesocialism  businessschools  corruption  society  reality  transition  disconnect  nationalization  coldwar  neoliberalism  activism  socialunrest  socialactivism  movements  barackobama  trends  pauljay  elites  elitism  liberalelite  justice  gender  multiculturalism  identitypolitics  workingclass  nafta  outsourcing  stagnation  labor  wallstreet  finance  power  us  history  poverty  journalism  radicalism  radicalization  class  nytimes  socialjustice  goldmansachs  moralimperative  ralphnader  alternative  christiananarchism  anarchism  anarchy  richardnixon 
july 2013 by robertogreco