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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
An Interview with James C. Scott - Gastronomica
"Tracey Campbell:

Given that few societies, if any, are now fully independent of the kind of market forces that you have been discussing today, how should ethnographers consider corporations as actors when they’re doing their research? To elaborate a little further, a lot of people studying peasant agriculturists bemoan the presence of a market or corporations who extract value from the peasants, but there doesn’t seem to be any robust methodology for dealing with the corporations on the other side of those transactions so that there’s a corporate perspective on the transaction. It seems to be a sort of “here there be dragons” area of ethnographic research.

JS:

I suppose that would be remedied by the kind of ethnography in which people who either undercover, or with permission, go and do ethnographies of corporations as they’re dealing with them, right? So I would recommend a hero student of mine who’s named Tim Pachirat. He had an idea which was not politically correct for a political scientist; he was interested in what it did to people to kill sentient beings every day all day for a living. And so what he did, although he’s originally of Thai-American background and was going to work in Thailand, he learned Spanish and got himself a job in a slaughterhouse working for a year and a half, including working on the kill floor of the slaughterhouse, and ended up writing an ethnography of vision in the slaughterhouse in a book that I promise you, you cannot put down, it is so gripping. Everybody said that this was a career-ending move as a dissertation, but he wanted to do it and the book is an astounding account of the way in which the clean and dirty sections of a slaughterhouse are kept separate from one another and workers treated differently, and the way the line works. You could only write this ethnography, I think, by actually doing this work. And if he asked permission they never would have given it to him, so he just did it. So, he avoided all of the protocols for the people you’re interviewing, etc., he just ignored it all and did it. To begin with nothing much happened; he spent three months hanging livers in a cold room with another Hispanic worker. I mean, three months just taking a liver that came on a chain and putting it in a box and passing it on. And so he didn’t think that there was a lot of ethnography coming out of the room where he was packing livers, but he gradually worked his way into other parts of the plant. But I wish more people would go into the belly of the beast, either of corporations or supermarkets or institutions. At the end of his book he suggests making slaughterhouses out of glass and allowing schoolchildren to see how their meat’s prepared. I always believed that social science was a progressive profession because it was the powerful who had the most to hide about how the world actually worked and if you could show how the world actually worked it would always have a de-masking and a subversive effect on the powerful. I don’t think that’s quite true, but it seems to me it’s not bad as a point of departure anyway.

HW:

Moving on to the state now, you associate developing technologies of rule historically with ever more exploitative forms of hierarchy, and of course revolutionary states come in for focused critique in your work, as you distinguish between struggles over and through the apparatus of the state and you point out that these struggles have generally been disastrous for peasants and the working poor. But in a globalized world where decisive forms—and here I’m thinking about things like vertically integrated food supply chains—operate at ever greater distances and seem ever less controllable to ordinary people, is there not some role for the state; is resistance possible without engaging the state, without using the state in one way or another?

JS:

It’s hard to see any institutional structure that stands in the way of the homogenization and simplification of these supply chains in international capitalism, unless it is the nation state, right? Unless it is a kind of authoritative state structure. So, “yes.” [laughs] Now, qualifications that will leave little of the “yes” standing. First of all, most states aren’t even remotely democracies and most of the people who run these states by and large do the bidding of their corporate masters and take bribes and are servants of international capitalism, right? So we can’t rely on those states, can we? And then you take contemporary Western democracies, let me use my own country which I know best as an example, yes, you have an electoral system, yes you reelected the first black man president, yes there are some changes. On the other hand, the concentration of wealth has grown steeper and steeper and steeper, it allows lobbyists and people who provide campaign finance to basically control a campaign and its message, these people tend at the sort of high echelons of the corporate world to control most of the media and its messaging—right? These people are also able to sit on the congressional committees and write the loopholes in the legislation. Even when there is reform, they’re able to so influence the wording of the legislation that the loopholes are built in, they don’t have to be found, they’re actually legislated. And so then you get a state that in a neoliberal world is less and less able to be an honest mediator, a representative of popular aspirations, to discipline corporations. I want to leave a little bit of the yes standing, because as the result of the financial crisis there were slightly more stringent rules on bank capitalization, on regulation, on some consumer protection, but I think by and large there is not much in that way. Now, Scandinavian social democracy is a better picture, but North Atlantic, Anglo-American neoliberalism is not providing the kind of state that I think can provide this kind of discipline and regulation. I’m pessimistic."
jamescscott  via:shannon_mattern  epistemology  agriculture  academia  geography  2015  harrywest  celiaplender  interviews  agrarianstudies  southeastasia  anarchism  toread  resistance  vietnam  burma  thailand  timpachirat  ethnography  hierarchy  thestate  goverment  governance  capitalism  socialdemocracy  homogenization 
october 2015 by robertogreco
A Practical Utopian’s Guide to the Coming Collapse | David Graeber | The Baffler
[Now here: http://www.thebaffler.com/salvos/a-practical-utopians-guide-to-the-coming-collapse ]

"What is a revolution? We used to think we knew. Revolutions were seizures of power by popular forces aiming to transform the very nature of the political, social, and economic system in the country in which the revolution took place, usually according to some visionary dream of a just society. Nowadays, we live in an age when, if rebel armies do come sweeping into a city, or mass uprisings overthrow a dictator, it’s unlikely to have any such implications; when profound social transformation does occur—as with, say, the rise of feminism—it’s likely to take an entirely different form. It’s not that revolutionary dreams aren’t out there. But contemporary revolutionaries rarely think they can bring them into being by some modern-day equivalent of storming the Bastille."



"Revolutions are thus planetary phenomena. But there is more. What they really do is transform basic assumptions about what politics is ultimately about. In the wake of a revolution, ideas that had been considered veritably lunatic fringe quickly become the accepted currency of debate. Before the French Revolution, the ideas that change is good, that government policy is the proper way to manage it, and that governments derive their authority from an entity called “the people” were considered the sorts of things one might hear from crackpots and demagogues, or at best a handful of freethinking intellectuals who spend their time debating in cafés. A generation later, even the stuffiest magistrates, priests, and headmasters had to at least pay lip service to these ideas. Before long, we had reached the situation we are in today: that it’s necessary to lay out the terms for anyone to even notice they are there. They’ve become common sense, the very grounds of political discussion.

Until 1968, most world revolutions really just introduced practical refinements: an expanded franchise, universal primary education, the welfare state. The world revolution of 1968, in contrast—whether it took the form it did in China, of a revolt by students and young cadres supporting Mao’s call for a Cultural Revolution; or in Berkeley and New York, where it marked an alliance of students, dropouts, and cultural rebels; or even in Paris, where it was an alliance of students and workers—was a rebellion against bureaucracy, conformity, or anything that fettered the human imagination, a project for the revolutionizing of not just political or economic life, but every aspect of human existence. As a result, in most cases, the rebels didn’t even try to take over the apparatus of state; they saw that apparatus as itself the problem."



"In retrospect, though, I think that later historians will conclude that the legacy of the sixties revolution was deeper than we now imagine, and that the triumph of capitalist markets and their various planetary administrators and enforcers—which seemed so epochal and permanent in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991—was, in fact, far shallower."



"In fact, most of the economic innovations of the last thirty years make more sense politically than economically. Eliminating guaranteed life employment for precarious contracts doesn’t really create a more effective workforce, but it is extraordinarily effective in destroying unions and otherwise depoliticizing labor. The same can be said of endlessly increasing working hours. No one has much time for political activity if they’re working sixty-hour weeks.

It does often seem that, whenever there is a choice between one option that makes capitalism seem the only possible economic system, and another that would actually make capitalism a more viable economic system, neoliberalism means always choosing the former. The combined result is a relentless campaign against the human imagination. Or, to be more precise: imagination, desire, individual creativity, all those things that were to be liberated in the last great world revolution, were to be contained strictly in the domain of consumerism, or perhaps in the virtual realities of the Internet. In all other realms they were to be strictly banished. We are talking about the murdering of dreams, the imposition of an apparatus of hopelessness, designed to squelch any sense of an alternative future. Yet as a result of putting virtually all their efforts in one political basket, we are left in the bizarre situation of watching the capitalist system crumbling before our very eyes, at just the moment everyone had finally concluded no other system would be possible.

Work It Out, Slow It Down

Normally, when you challenge the conventional wisdom—that the current economic and political system is the only possible one—the first reaction you are likely to get is a demand for a detailed architectural blueprint of how an alternative system would work, down to the nature of its financial instruments, energy supplies, and policies of sewer maintenance. Next, you are likely to be asked for a detailed program of how this system will be brought into existence. Historically, this is ridiculous. When has social change ever happened according to someone’s blueprint? It’s not as if a small circle of visionaries in Renaissance Florence conceived of something they called “capitalism,” figured out the details of how the stock exchange and factories would someday work, and then put in place a program to bring their visions into reality. In fact, the idea is so absurd we might well ask ourselves how it ever occurred to us to imagine this is how change happens to begin.

This is not to say there’s anything wrong with utopian visions. Or even blueprints. They just need to be kept in their place. The theorist Michael Albert has worked out a detailed plan for how a modern economy could run without money on a democratic, participatory basis. I think this is an important achievement—not because I think that exact model could ever be instituted, in exactly the form in which he describes it, but because it makes it impossible to say that such a thing is inconceivable. Still, such models can be only thought experiments. We cannot really conceive of the problems that will arise when we start trying to build a free society. What now seem likely to be the thorniest problems might not be problems at all; others that never even occurred to us might prove devilishly difficult. There are innumerable X-factors.

The most obvious is technology. This is the reason it’s so absurd to imagine activists in Renaissance Italy coming up with a model for a stock exchange and factories—what happened was based on all sorts of technologies that they couldn’t have anticipated, but which in part only emerged because society began to move in the direction that it did. This might explain, for instance, why so many of the more compelling visions of an anarchist society have been produced by science fiction writers (Ursula K. Le Guin, Starhawk, Kim Stanley Robinson). In fiction, you are at least admitting the technological aspect is guesswork.

Myself, I am less interested in deciding what sort of economic system we should have in a free society than in creating the means by which people can make such decisions for themselves. What might a revolution in common sense actually look like? I don’t know, but I can think of any number of pieces of conventional wisdom that surely need challenging if we are to create any sort of viable free society. I’ve already explored one—the nature of money and debt—in some detail in a recent book. I even suggested a debt jubilee, a general cancellation, in part just to bring home that money is really just a human product, a set of promises, that by its nature can always be renegotiated."
debt  economics  politics  revolution  work  labor  davidgraeber  power  society  revolutions  2013  grassroots  punk  global  conformity  bureaucracy  feminism  1789  frenchrevolution  1848  1968  communism  independence  freedom  1917  thestate  commonsense  fringe  ideas  memes  socialmovements  war  collateraldamage  civilrights  gayrights  neoliberalism  freemarkets  libertarianism  debtcancellation  fear  insecurity  consumerism  occupy  occupywallstreet  ows  sustainability  growth  well-being  utopianism  productivity  environment  humanism  ideology  class  classstruggle  abbiehoffman  slow  supervision  control  management  taylorism  virtue  artleisure  discipline  leisurearts  globalization 
may 2013 by robertogreco
THE STATE
"THE STATE is a print journal and sociohistorical forum. It investigates the space between print and audio-visual experiences and their transition to mediated online forms; transgressive cultural criticism and the sensuous architecture of this “printernet.”"
transmedia  criticism  culture  art  architecture  papernet  printernet  audiovisual  newmedia  thestate  post-digital 
june 2012 by robertogreco

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