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DAVID GRAEBER / The Revolt of the Caring Classes / 2018 - YouTube
"The financialisation of major economies since the '80s has radically changed the terms for social movements everywhere. How does one organise workplaces, for example, in societies where up to 40% of the workforce believe their jobs should not exist? David Graeber makes the case that, slowly but surely, a new form of class politics is emerging, based around recognising the centrality of meaningful 'caring labour' in creating social value. He identifies a slowly emerging rebellion of the caring classes which potentially represents just as much of a threat to financial capitalism as earlier forms of proletarian struggle did to industrial capitalism.

David Graeber is Professor of Anthropology, London School of Economics and previously Assistant Professor and Associate Professor of Anthropology at Yale and Reader in Social Anthropology at Goldsmiths, University of London. His books include The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy (2015) Debt: The First 5000 Years (2011) and Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology (2004). His activism includes protests against the 3rd Summit of the Americas in Quebec City in 2001, and the 2002 World Economic Forum in New York City. Graeber was a leading figure in the Occupy Wall Street movement, and is sometimes credited with having coined the slogan, 'We are the 99 percent'.

This lecture was given at the Collège de France on the 22nd March 2018."
davidgraeber  care  caring  teaching  nursing  economics  capitalism  labor  work  employment  compensation  resentment  bullshitjobs  finance  politics  policy  us  uk  workingclass  intellectuals  intellectualism  society  manufacturing  management  jobs  liberalism  values  benefits  nobility  truth  beauty  charity  nonprofit  highered  highereducation  activism  humanrights  os  occupywallstreet  opportunity  revolution  revolt  hollywood  military  misery  productivity  creation  creativity  maintenance  gender  production  reproduction  socialsciences  proletariat  wagelabor  wage  salaries  religion  belief  discipline  maintstreamleft  hospitals  freedom  play  teachers  parenting  mothers  education  learning  unions  consumption  anarchism  spontaneity  universalbasicincome  nonprofits  ubi 
may 2018 by robertogreco
Competition Is Ruining Childhood. The Kids Should Fight Back. - The New York Times
"Like the crack of a starting pistol, November begins the official college application season. But for students, this race started long ago.

Many of today’s kids have lived their entire lives, from sunup until midnight, in a fierce tournament with their peers. (I was one of them. A decade after graduation, I still can’t think of a period when I’ve worked harder than in high school.) From kindergarten to 12th grade, schools brag about how “competitive” they are. That means it’s not enough for students to do their best. Whether in the classroom, on the athletic field or at home on the computer, they must always be better. Youth has become a debilitating endurance test.

The thing is, we don’t even really know what we are racing for, much less how to tone down the competition. And most people don’t seem to be benefiting from this frantic contest, either as students or as adult workers. Americans are improving themselves, but the rewards keep flowing uphill to the 1 percent.

Everyone tells students that the harder they work to develop their job skills — their “human capital” — the better off they will be. It’s not true. In fact, the result is the opposite: more and better educated workers, earning less.

An analysis in September of Census Bureau data by the Economic Policy Institute, a think tank, found that between 2000 and 2016 — years when many millennials first entered the job market — there was “little to no gain” in median annual earnings. This isn’t some limited fallout from the 2008 financial crisis; it’s a different type of phenomenon and part of a longer trend of wage stagnation that reaches back to the 1970s.

Educational achievement, on the other hand, follows a different trend. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, over the same period (2000 to 2016), the percentage of young people with a high school diploma or its equivalent passed 90 percent for the first time. In the same period, the portion of graduates seeking and obtaining both two- and four-year degrees increased consistently, and the percentage of people ages 25 to 29 with postgraduate degrees jumped to 9 percent from 5.

And this cohort of young Americans hasn’t only put in the classroom work — to say nothing of extracurricular activities and internships. This cohort of young Americans has also taken on incomprehensible amounts of debt in order to do it.

Despite what we’ve heard, money isn’t a reward America hands out for hard work. Not only is more education not leading to higher wages, there isn’t even a positive correlation between the two. If anything, the flood of human capital puts employers in a position to offer workers a shrinking slice of the pie and get more in return. Kids are getting conned. I got conned, too.

If enough students manage to master cutting-edge job skills, it will be great for the “economy,” but as workers they will find themselves rewarded with lower wages. The dynamic may seem counterintuitive but not totally unexpected. In the ’70s, the economist Gary Becker theorized that employers would shift the costs of developing human capital onto workers, from paid on-the-job training to unpaid schooling. He figured that, though they need skilled labor, corporations would be disinclined to pay for training since other companies could then lure away “their” human capital.

As training left the factory and the office for the classroom, it also meant that work could be shifted to children, who are mostly not eligible for wage labor but can, it turns out, do a whole lot of school. If firms want workers who can speak Mandarin or code Python, why should they pay trainees to learn when they can scare kids into training themselves? Within this system, all an individual kid can do is try to put a sufficient number of their peers between themselves and poverty.

There are some winners, but the real champions are the corporate owners: They get their pick from all the qualified applicants, and the oversupply of human capital keeps labor costs down. Competition between workers means lower wages for them and higher profits for their bosses: The more teenagers who learn to code, the cheaper one is.

The struggle for success has heavy financial and psychological costs for the participants. Constant competition has affected how young Americans see themselves in relation to the world. That’s why the United States has measured huge increases in youth anxiety and depression, as well as a sharp decline in social trust. If kids are told to find comfort in the idea that they are sacrificing their mental health now for security in adulthood, they are being tricked once more.

At the end of their journey into adulthood they aren’t reimbursed for their efforts. And in this winner-take-all economy, most of them just lose. They can’t increase the size of Harvard’s freshman class just by working harder; all they can do is drive one another to anxiety, depression, paranoia and exhaustion. That, and save money for their future bosses.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The kids don’t have to keep getting conned.

This system may work for a small number of bosses and shareholders, but it’s not in the interest of education in a broad, exploratory sense — and it’s clearly not in the interests of young people themselves. But even though older adults are ostensibly worried about the kids, policymakers will never scale back academic competition, and most educators and parents are understandably loath to tell children, “Don’t work so hard.”

If change is going to come, it should come from students, in the classroom.

As individuals, students have no choice but to compete. But together, there’s no telling what kind of power they could exercise. They face an age-old collective action problem, but they are smart. Schools can’t run without students, and the economy can’t run without schools; their work matters, and they can withdraw it.

Unions aren’t just good for wage workers. Students can use collective bargaining, too. The idea of organizing student labor when even auto factory workers are having trouble holding onto their unions may sound outlandish, but young people have been at the forefront of conflicts over police brutality, immigrant rights and sexual violence. In terms of politics, they are as tightly clustered as just about any demographic in America. They are an important social force in this country, one we need right now.

It’s in students’ shared interest to seek later start times for the school day to combat the epidemic of insufficient sleep among high schoolers. It’s in their shared interest to improve their mental health by reducing competition. They could start by demanding an end to class rank or a cap on the number of Advanced Placement courses each student can take per year. It’s in their shared interest to make life easier and lower the stakes of childhood in general. Only young people, united, can improve their working conditions and end the academic arms race."
mlcolmharris  2017  children  competition  schools  schooling  homework  education  unions  organization  childhood  admissions  humancapital  achievement  economics  garybecker  sfsh  work  labor  wagelabor  corporatism  depression  paranoia  exhaustion  exploration  violence  us  policy  capitalism 
november 2017 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

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