robertogreco + austerity   45

'Global Trumpism': Bailouts, Brexit and battling climate change | CBC Radio
[Also here:
https://www.cbc.ca/radio/ideas/global-trumpism-how-rogue-code-writers-became-the-authors-of-our-politics-1.5321199
https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-23-ideas/clip/15741291-global-trumpism-bailouts-brexit-and-battling-climate-change ]

“How did the middle class end up in perpetual debt? Why is there ‘no money’ for infrastructure or social programs, but there is for waging war? And what does all this have to do with Donald Trump, or Brexit, or climate change?

If you’re mystified about any of the above, then author and Brown University professor Mark Blyth can clarify things for you. He says it’s helpful to use a computer metaphor to describe the economy.

In his lecture at McMaster University as part of their Socrates Project, Blyth compared capitalist economies to laptops: different makes, but similar in appearance. He argues these computers run just fine for a while — say, about 30 years . But all the while, there are bugs in the software that eventually causes the system to crash. Then you rebuild the hardware, fix the software, and reboot.

System breakdown
That’s what happened in the 1970s and 1980s, when labour costs and inflation became a problem. The ‘system rebuild’ included less powerful unions, more global trade, and central bankers who were put in charge of setting interest rates.

But this new system generated bugs of its own, among them, a runaway culture of lending, and a lack of wage growth among the middle classes, who did a lot more borrowing than they could afford.

Mark Blyth says this borrowing wasn’t just driven by rampant consumerism.

“How do you get by when … everybody tells you there’s no inflation, yet the cost of everything that matters is actually going up? Education, health care, all that sort of stuff,” Blyth said in his lecture.

“And the only way you can fill in the gap is to borrow more money.”

Cue the 2008 financial crisis
However this time, Blyth says there was no rebuild. Instead, the United States Federal Reserve led a bailout of the big banks, domestically and internationally. The rich got much richer, the middle class got perpetual low interest rates to keep carrying their debts, and the poor had their social programs cut in the name of austerity.

Blyth contends this dynamic is what lit the fuse of global populism: the rise of leaders who appeal to public outrage, alienation, and lack of trust toward career politicians and traditional political parties.

“Your debts are too high…you can’t pay them off, but you can roll them over. They’re not going to be eaten away by inflation, and the people who brought you here have zero credibility,” said Blyth.

[video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGuaoARJYU0 ]

Blyth compares populist leaders to ‘rogue code-writers’, hacking into the software of a system that was never properly rebuilt after the crisis of 2008. This is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if it strengthens democracies.

“[Populism] is now part of the furniture … It’s already changed, so just get used to it. And let’s remember historically that 100 years ago, the people who were the populists then, the people that everyone was afraid of, became the established parties in many cases,” Blyth told IDEAS host Nahlah Ayed.

“So every now and again you have to have a little revolution, and that’s what’s happening now.”

Populism is springing up on the right and the left, said Blyth. The difficult choices that need to be made about climate change could come from a left-wing populist movement, not unlike the so-called ‘Green New Deal’ proposed by younger American Democrats like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Looking at how things may unfold in the not-too-distant future, Blyth speculates “right populism wins round one.”

“But ultimately, left populism wins round two, because left populism is the only one that takes climate change seriously,” he concludes.”
2019  markblyth  economics  inequality  brexit  donaldtrump  trumpism  fragility  greatrecession  2007  2008  policy  democracy  personaldebt  debt  taxes  wealth  income  climatechange  bailouts  finance  recessions  recession  oligarchy  popularism  berniesanders  banking  global  financialcrisis  inflation  productivity  consumerism  stockmarket  ipos  wages  middleclass  capitalism  us  uk  canada  caymanislands  delaware  arizona  isleofman  austerity  nahlahayed  latecapitalism  federalreserve  priorities  centralbanks  monetarypolicy  politics  alangreenspan  economists  loans  creditcards  spending 
4 weeks ago by robertogreco
Renata Ávila: "The Internet of creation disappeared. Now we have the Internet of surveillance and control” | CCCB LAB
““At the start of the 21st century, one of the questions that excited me most about access to the Internet was the possibility of producing infinite copies of books and sharing knowledge. That idea of an Internet that was going to be a tool for integration and access to knowledge has shattered into smithereens. It was a booby trap. We are working as the unpaid slaves of the new digital world. I feel that it’s like when the Spanish colonisers reached Latin America. We believed the story of ‘a new world’. And we were in a box, controlled by the most powerful country in the world. We should have regulated a long time before. And we should have said: ‘I will share my photo, but how are you benefitting and how am I?’ Because what we are doing today is work for free; with our time, creativity and energy we are paying these empires. We are giving them everything”.”



“We move into the field of ethics and ask Renata Ávila about three concepts that have modified their meaning in the last decade, precisely due to the acceleration with which we have adopted technology. They are trust, privacy and transparency and how these influence the new generations. We cannot divorce these three questions from the concepts of austerity, precarity and the institutional corruption crisis”, she argues. “Letting strangers into your home to spend the night, is that an excess of trust or the need to seek resources?”.”



“After all that has been discussed, some might think that this Guatemalan activist is so realistic that she leaves no room for optimism. But Renata Ávila does not like being negative and she is convinced that the human race is capable of finding resources to emerge from any “mess”, even at the most critical moments. “We have a perfect cocktail” – she says with a half-smile of worry. “A democratic crisis caused by some terrible leaders in power, with a climate-change and technological crisis. This can only lead to a collective reflection and make us reconsider on what planet we want to live in the future”.”
renataávila  2019  internet  history  surveillance  latinamerica  knowledge  labor  work  colonization  regulation  creativity  capitalism  web  online  activism  democracy  crisis  power  politics  technology  reflection  climatechange  transparency  privacy  corruption  precarity  austerity  trust  influence 
5 weeks ago by robertogreco
What’s Happening In Sweden? – Bella Caledonia
"When it comes to making absurd exaggerations about this country to suit their beliefs, they are latecomers. If Sweden occupies an outsized position in the dystopian geography of the nativist right, this is derivative, a sacrilegious inversion of the role it has held for generations in the belief system of their progressive opponents.

It seemed harmless enough, a few years back, when no one talked about ‘fake news’ – but actually, what’s the difference between taking a small local experiment and blowing it up into a story about a whole country switching to a six-hour day, and taking a few local incidents involving immigrants and blowing these up into a story about a whole country where law and order is breaking down? The content is different, sure, and the consequences darker, but the basic pattern is the same."
sweden  dougladhine  myths  socialism  democracy  history  socialsafetynet  2019  bureaucracy  immigration  nationalism  whitesupremacy  arms  weapons  andrewbrown  dominichinde  scandinavia  nordiccountries  welfarestate  chile  pinochet  austerity  schools  schooling  education  privatization  markets  capitalism  labor  work  misinterpretation  england  uk  military  neutrality  foreignpolicy  coldwar  wwii  ww2  exceptionalism  modernity  socialdemocrats 
5 weeks ago by robertogreco
Why is life expectancy faltering? | Society | The Guardian
"For the first time in 100 years, Britons are dying earlier. The UK now has the worst health trends in western Europe – and doctors and experts believe that the impact of austerity is a major factor"
us  uk  austerity  economics  health  2019  lifeexpectancy  government  society 
june 2019 by robertogreco
No Dare Call It Austerity
"Trump’s 2020 budget proposal reflects another significant increase in military spending along with corresponding cuts in spending by Federal agencies tasked with the responsibility for providing critical services and income support policies for working class and poor people. Trump’s call for budget cuts by Federal agencies is mirrored by the statutorily imposed austerity policies in most states and many municipalities. Those cuts represent the continuing imposition of neoliberal policies in the U.S. even though the “A” word for austerity is almost never used to describe those policies.

Yet, austerity has been a central component of state policy at every level of government in the U.S. and in Europe for the last four decades. In Europe, as the consequences of neoliberal policies imposed on workers began to be felt and understood, the result was intense opposition. However, in the U.S. the unevenness of how austerity policies were being applied, in particular the elimination or reduction in social services that were perceived to be primarily directed at racialized workers, political opposition was slow to materialize.

Today, however, relatively privileged workers who were silent as the neoliberal “Washington consensus” was imposed on the laboring classes in the global South — through draconian structural adjustment policies that result in severe cutbacks in state expenditures for education, healthcare, state employment and other vital needs — have now come to understand that the neoliberal program of labor discipline and intensified extraction of value from workers, did not spare them.

The deregulation of capital, privatization of state functions — from road construction to prisons, the dramatic reduction in state spending that results in cuts in state supported social services and goods like housing and access to reproductive services for the poor — represent the politics of austerity and the role of the neoliberal state.

This materialist analysis is vitally important for understanding the dialectical relationship between the general plight of workers in the U.S. and the bipartisan collaboration to raid the Federal budget and to reduce social spending in order to increase spending on the military. This perspective is also important for understanding the imposition of those policies as a violation of the fundamental human rights of workers, the poor and the oppressed.

For the neoliberal state, the concept of human rights does not exist.

As I have called to attention before, a monumental rip-off is about to take place once again. Both the Democrats and Republicans are united in their commitment to continue to feed the U.S. war machine with dollars extracted — to the turn of 750 billion dollars — from the working class and transferred to the pockets of the military/industrial complex.

The only point of debate is now whether or not the Pentagon will get the full 750 billion or around 733 billion. But whether it is 750 billion or 733 billion, the one sector that is not part of this debate is the public. The attention of the public has been adroitly diverted by the absurd reality show that is Russiagate. But this week, even though the budget debate has been disappeared by corporate media, Congress is set to begin debate on aspects of the budget and specifically on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

Raising the alarm on this issue is especially critical at this moment. As tensions escalate in the Persian Gulf, the corporate media is once again abdicating its public responsibility to bring unbiased, objective information to the public and instead is helping to generate support for war with Iran.

The Democrats, who have led the way with anti-Iran policies over the last few decades, will be under enormous pressure not to appear to be against enhancing military preparedness and are likely to find a way to give Trump and the Pentagon everything they want.

Support for Human Rights and Support for Empire is an Irreconcilable Contradiction

The assumption of post-war capitalist order was that the state would be an instrument to blunt the more contradictory aspects of capitalism. It would regulate the private sector, provide social welfare support to the most marginal elements of working class, and create conditions for full employment. This was the Keynesian logic and approach that informed liberal state policies beginning in the 1930s.

The idea of reforming human rights fits neatly into that paradigm.

A seen, a state’s legitimacy was based on the extent to which it recognized, protected and fulfilled the human rights of all its citizens and residents. Those rights included not only the right to information, assembly, speech and to participation in the national political life of the nation but also the right to food, water, healthcare, education, employment, substantial social security throughout life, and not just as a senior citizen.

The counterrevolutionary program of the late 60s and 70s, especially the turn to neoliberalism which began in the 70s, would reject this paradigm and redefine the role of the state. The obligation of the state to recognize, protect and fulfill human rights was eliminated from the role of the state under neoliberalism.

Today the consequences of four decades of neoliberalism in the global South and now in the cosmopolitan North have created a crisis of legitimacy that has made state policies more dependent on force and militarism than in any other time, including the civil war and the turmoil of the 1930s.

The ideological glue provided by the ability of capitalism to deliver the goods to enough of the population which guaranteed loyalty and support has been severely weakened by four decades of stagnant wages, increasing debt, a shrinking middle-class, obscene economic inequality and never-ending wars that have been disproportionately shouldered by the working class.

Today, contrary to the claims of capitalism to guarantee the human right to a living wage ensuring “an existence worthy of human dignity,” the average worker is making, adjusted for inflation, less than in 1973, i.e., some 46 years-ago. 140 million are either poor or have low-income; 80% living paycheck to paycheck; 34 million are still without health insurance; 40 million live in “official poverty;” and more in unofficial poverty as measured by alternative supplemental poverty (SPM). And more than half of those over 55 years-old have no retirement funds other than Social Security.

In a report, Philp Alston, the UN’s special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, points out that: the US is one of the world’s wealthiest countries. It spends more on national defense than China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, the United Kingdom, India, France and Japan combined.

However, that choice is public expenditures must be seen in comparison to the other factors he lays out:
+ US infant mortality rates in 2013 were the highest in the developed world.

+ Americans can expect to live shorter and sicker lives, compared to people living in any other rich democracy, and the “health gap” between the US and its peer countries continues to grow.

+ US inequality levels are far higher than those in most European countries

+ In terms of access to water and sanitation the US ranks 36th in the world.

+ The youth poverty rate in the United States is the highest across the OECD with one quarter of youth living in poverty compared to less than 14% across the OECD.


For African Americans in particular, neoliberalism has meant, jobs lost, hollowed out communities as industries relocated first to the South and then to Mexico and China, the disappearance of affordable housing, schools and hospital closings, infant and maternal mortality at global South levels, and mass incarceration as the unskilled, low-wage Black labor has become economically redundant.

This is the backdrop and context for the budget “debate” and Trump’s call to cut spendings to Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Education, Labor, Health and Human Services, the Environmental Protection Agency, and even the State Department.

The U.S. could find 6 trillion dollars for war since 2003 and 16 trillion to bail out the banks after the financial sector crashed the economy, but it can’t find money to secure the human rights of the people.

This is the one-sided class war that we find ourselves in; a war with real deaths and slower, systematic structural violence. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans can be depended on to secure our rights or protect the world from the U.S. atrocities. That responsibility falls on the people who reside at the center of the Empire to not only struggle for ourselves but to put a brake on the Empire’s ability to spread death and destruction across the planet."
austerity  2019  us  policy  ajamubaraka  military  militaryindustrialcomplex  class  government  poverty  inequality  race  racism  neoliberalism  war  health  humanrights  imperialism  privatization 
june 2019 by robertogreco
David Graeber on a Fair Future Economy - YouTube
"David Graeber is an anthropologist, a leading figure in the Occupy movement, and one of our most original and influential public thinkers.

He comes to the RSA to address our current age of ‘total bureaucratization’, in which public and private power has gradually fused into a single entity, rife with rules and regulations, whose ultimate purpose is the extraction of wealth in the form of profits.

David will consider what it would take, in terms of intellectual clarity, political will and imaginative power – to conceive and build a flourishing and fair future economy, which would maximise the scope for individual and collective creativity, and would be sustainable and just."
democracy  liberalism  directdemocracy  borders  us  finance  globalization  bureaucracy  2015  ows  occupywallstreet  governance  government  economics  politics  policy  unschooling  unlearning  schooliness  technology  paperwork  future  utopianism  capitalism  constitution  rules  regulation  wealth  power  communism  authority  authoritarianism  creativity  neoliberalism  austerity  justice  socialjustice  society  ideology  inequality  revolution  global  international  history  law  legal  debt  freedom  money  monetarypolicy  worldbank  imf  markets  banks  banking  certification  credentials  lobbying  collusion  corruption  privatization  credentialization  deschooling  canon  firstamendment 
january 2019 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
Being rich wrecks your soul. We used to know that. - The Washington Post
"The point is not necessarily that wealth is intrinsically and everywhere evil, but that it is dangerous — that it should be eyed with caution and suspicion, and definitely not pursued as an end in itself; that great riches pose great risks to their owners; and that societies are right to stigmatize the storing up of untold wealth. That’s why Aristotle, for instance, argued that wealth should be sought only for the sake of living virtuously — to manage a household, say, or to participate in the life of the polis. Here wealth is useful but not inherently good; indeed, Aristotle specifically warned that the accumulation of wealth for its own sake corrupts virtue instead of enabling it. For Hindus, working hard to earn money is a duty (dharma), but only when done through honest means and used for good ends. The function of money is not to satiate greed but to support oneself and one’s family. The Koran, too, warns against hoarding money and enjoins Muslims to disperse it to the needy.

Some contemporary voices join this ancient chorus, perhaps none more enthusiastically than Pope Francis. He’s proclaimed that unless wealth is used for the good of society, and above all for the good of the poor, it is an instrument “of corruption and death.” And Francis lives what he teaches: Despite access to some of the sweetest real estate imaginable — the palatial papal apartments are the sort of thing that President Trump’s gold-plated extravagance is a parody of — the pope bunks in a small suite in what is effectively the Vatican’s hostel. In his official state visit to Washington, he pulled up to the White House in a Fiat so sensible that a denizen of Northwest D.C. would be almost embarrassed to drive it. When Francis entered the Jesuit order 59 years ago, he took a vow of poverty, and he’s kept it.

According to many philosophies and faiths, then, wealth should serve only as a steppingstone to some further good and is always fraught with moral danger. We all used to recognize this; it was a commonplace. And this intuition, shared by various cultures across history, stands on firm empirical ground.

Over the past few years, a pile of studies from the behavioral sciences has appeared, and they all say, more or less, “Being rich is really bad for you.” Wealth, it turns out, leads to behavioral and psychological maladies. The rich act and think in misdirected ways.

When it comes to a broad range of vices, the rich outperform everybody else. They are much more likely than the rest of humanity to shoplift and cheat , for example, and they are more apt to be adulterers and to drink a great deal . They are even more likely to take candy that is meant for children. So whatever you think about the moral nastiness of the rich, take that, multiply it by the number of Mercedes and Lexuses that cut you off, and you’re still short of the mark. In fact, those Mercedes and Lexuses are more likely to cut you off than Hondas or Fords: Studies have shown that people who drive expensive cars are more prone to run stop signs and cut off other motorists .

The rich are the worst tax evaders, and, as The Washington Post has detailed, they are hiding vast sums from public scrutiny in secret overseas bank accounts.

They also give proportionally less to charity — not surprising, since they exhibit significantly less compassion and empathy toward suffering people. Studies also find that members of the upper class are worse than ordinary folks at “reading” people’ s emotions and are far more likely to be disengaged from the people with whom they are interacting — instead absorbed in doodling, checking their phones or what have you. Some studies go even further, suggesting that rich people, especially stockbrokers and their ilk (such as venture capitalists, whom we once called “robber barons”), are more competitive, impulsive and reckless than medically diagnosed psychopaths. And by the way, those vices do not make them better entrepreneurs; they just have Mommy and Daddy’s bank accounts (in New York or the Cayman Islands) to fall back on when they fail."



"Some will say that we have not entirely forgotten it and that we do complain about wealth today, at least occasionally. Think, they’ll say, about Occupy Wall Street; the blowback after Mitt Romney’s comment about the “47 percent”; how George W. Bush painted John Kerry as out of touch. But think again: By and large, those complaints were not about wealth per se but about corrupt wealth — about wealth “gone wrong” and about unfairness. The idea that there is no way for the vast accumulation of money to “go right” is hardly anywhere to be seen.

Getting here wasn’t straightforward. Wealth has arguably been seen as less threatening to one’s moral health since the Reformation, after which material success was sometimes taken as evidence of divine election. But extreme wealth remained morally suspect, with the rich bearing particular scrutiny and stigmatization during periods like the Gilded Age. This stigma persisted until relatively recently; only in the 1970s did political shifts cause executive salaries skyrocket, and the current effectively unprecedented inequality in income (and wealth) begin to appear, without any significant public complaint or lament.

The story of how a stigma fades is always murky, but contributing factors are not hard to identify. For one, think tanks have become increasingly partisan over the past several decades, particularly on the right: Certain conservative institutions, enjoying the backing of billionaires such as the Koch brothers, have thrown a ton of money at pseudo-academics and “thought leaders” to normalize and legitimate obscene piles of lucre. They produced arguments that suggest that high salaries naturally flowed from extreme talent and merit, thus baptizing wealth as simply some excellent people’s wholly legitimate rewards. These arguments were happily regurgitated by conservative media figures and politicians, eventually seeping into the broader public and replacing the folk wisdom of yore. But it is hard to argue that a company’s top earners are literally hundreds of times more talented than the lowest-paid employees.

As stratospheric salaries became increasingly common, and as the stigma of wildly disproportionate pay faded, the moral hazards of wealth were largely forgotten. But it’s time to put the apologists for plutocracy back on the defensive, where they belong — not least for their own sake. After all, the Buddha, Aristotle, Jesus, the Koran, Jimmy Stewart, Pope Francis and now even science all agree: If you are wealthy and are reading this, give away your money as fast as you can."
charlesmathewes  evansandsmark  2017  wealth  inequality  behavior  psychology  buddha  aristotle  jesus  koran  jimmystewart  popefrancis  ethics  generosity  vices  fscottfitzgerald  ernesthemingway  tonystark  confucius  austerity  tacitus  opulence  christ  virtue  caution  suspicion  polis  poverty  donaldtrump  jesuits  morality  humanism  cheating  taxevasion  charity  empathy  compassion  disengagement  competition  competitiveness  psychopaths  capitalism  luxury  politics  simplicity  well-being  suicide  ows  occupywallstreet  geogewbush  johnkerry  mittromney  gildedage  kochbrothers 
august 2017 by robertogreco
Episode 4: The Solidarity Economy by Upstream
"In this episode we explore a phenomenon that has existed throughout centuries both within and alongside Capitalism. Wherever relationships have been based on reciprocity, sustainability, and democratic governance you'll find the Solidarity Economy. We learn of it's origin and about how it is strengthened by countermovements and during times of crisis. We follow its presence throughout the history of a particular marginalized community in the U.S., celebrating the courage of African American cooperative thought and practice. We then paint a picture of a modern solidarity response to economic austerity. And finally, we dream about it's potential in the face of ecological peril and plan for what it will take to grow the Solidarity Economy to serve as a movement of movements.

Featuring:

Michael Ventura - Co-author with James Hillman of We've Had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy – And the World's Getting Worse, columnist of Letters at 3AM with the Austin Chronicle

Caroline Woolard - Artist & organizer whose work explores intersections between art and the solidarity economy

Michael Lewis - Soildarity economy researcher; Co-author of The Resilience Imperative

Pat Conaty - Research associate Cooperatives UK, Co-author of The Resilience Imperative

Jessica Gordon Nembard - Professor of Community Justice and Social Economic Development, author of Collective Courage: A history of African-American Cooperative Economic Thought & Practice

Biba Schoenmaker - Co-Founder of Broodfonds Makers

Stuart Field - Founder of Breadfunds UK

Jos Veldhuizen - Member of Broodfunds, Amsterdam"
solidarity  economics  michaelventura  carolinewoolard  michaellewis  jessicagordonnembard  bibaschoenmaker  stuartfield  josveldhuizen  reciprocity  sustainability  cooperative  capitalism  governance  deregulation  regulation  democracy  cooperation  austerity  socialjustice  markets  redistribution  race  racism  coops  plunder  inequality  exploitation 
february 2017 by robertogreco
The Oppressive Gospel of ‘Minimalism’ - The New York Times
[See also: http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2016/03/marie-kondo-and-the-privilege-of-clutter/475266/ ]

"“Minimalism” was eventually canonized as an art-historical movement, but the name came to mean something different as it was adopted into consumer culture and turned into a class signifier. What was once a way artists shocked viewers became over the decades a style as delimited and consumable as any Martha Stewart tablescape. The word was defanged, no longer a critical insult and no longer a viable strategy within art — though it never quite gave up its veneer of provocation. Even austerity can be made decadent: To wealthy practitioners, minimalism is now little more than a slightly intriguing perversion, like drinking at breakfast. “One of the real problems with design-world minimalism is that it’s just become a signifier of the global elite,” Raskin says. “The richer you are, the less you have.”

The minimalists’ aesthetic of raw materials and aggressive simplicity leaked into fashion, design and architecture, where it became a luxury product, helped along at times by the artists themselves. Judd’s SoHo loft building is now an icon of sanitized minimalism, open to tourists. His Chinati Foundation, a permanent installation of concrete and metal boxes in and around a decommissioned military base in Marfa, Tex., is a site of hipster pilgrimage. It even appears in Ben Lerner’s “10:04,” a novel redolent of late-capitalist anxiety. The protagonist visits the town on an artist’s residency, where he wanders the desert landscape, parties with young people and accidentally ingests ketamine — but it’s Judd’s installation that provides an epiphany. The sculptures, he writes, “combined to collapse my sense of inside and outside.” Judd’s work “had itself come to contain the world.”

Today’s minimalism, by contrast, is visually oppressive; it comes with an inherent pressure to conform to its precepts. Whiteness, in a literal sense, is good. Mess, heterogeneity, is bad — the opposite impulse of artistic minimalism. It is anxiety-inducing in a manner indistinguishable from other forms of consumerism, not revolutionary at all. Do I own the right things? Have I jettisoned enough of the wrong ones? In a recent interview with Apartamento magazine set against interior shots of his all-white home in Rockaway, Queens, the tastemaker and director of MoMA PS1 Klaus Biesenbach explained, “I don’t aim to own things.”

Minimalism is now conflated with self-optimization, the trend that also resulted in fitness trackers and Soylent (truly a minimalist food — it looks like nothing, but inspires thoughts of everything else). Often driven by technol­ogy, this optimization is expensive and exclusively branded by and for the elite. In Silicon Valley, the minimalism fetish can perhaps be traced back to Steve Jobs’s famously austere 1980s apartment (he sat on the floor) and the attendant simplicity of Apple products. Pare down, and you, too, could run a $700 billion company. A thriving Reddit forum on minimalism debates the worth of Muji products and which hobbies count as minimalist-appropriate, in a communal attempt to live the most effective, if perhaps not the most joyful, life.

These minimalist-arrivistes present it as a logical end to lifestyle, culture and even morality: If we attain only the right things, the perfect things, and forsake all else, then we will be free from the tyranny of our desires. But time often proves aesthetic permanence, as well as moral high ground, to be illusory. And already, the pendulum is swinging back.

Writing in The Atlantic in March, Arielle Bernstein described minimalism’s ban on clutter as a “privilege” that runs counter to the value ascribed to an abundance of objects by those who have suffered from a lack of them — less-empowered people like refugees or immigrants. The movement, such as it is, is led in large part by a group of men who gleefully ditch their possessions as if to disavow the advantages by which they obtained them. But it takes a lot to be minimalist: social capital, a safety net and access to the internet. The technology we call minimalist might fit in our pockets, but it depends on a vast infrastructure of grim, air-conditioned server farms and even grimmer Chinese factories. As Lerner’s protagonist observes in “10:04,” even a dull convenience like a can of instant coffee grounds reaches him thanks to a fragile and tremendously wasteful network of global connections, a logistics chain that defies all logic, one undergirded by exploited laborers and vast environmental degradation.

There’s an arrogance to today’s minimalism that presumes it provides an answer rather than, as originally intended, a question: What other perspectives are possible when you look at the world in a different way? The fetishized austerity and performative asceticism of minimalism is a kind of ongoing cultural sickness. We misinterpret material renunciation, austere aesthetics and blank, emptied spaces as symbols of capitalist absolution, when these trends really just provide us with further ways to serve our impulse to consume more, not less."
minimalism  2016  mariekondo  asceticism  possessions  culture  society  consumption  ariellebernstein  kylechayka  siliconvalley  affluence  inequality  privilege  austerity  greatrecession  donaldjudd  davidraskin  aesthetics  technology  abundance  tidying 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Brexit: why it may be the leftist, progressive vote. — Medium
"Ignoring the highly suspect post-vote media hysteria I thought I’d look at all the reasons why I thought, as a leftist, a vote to leave the EU was a positive step towards a more progressive world, and Europe.

Democracy.
The EU is not democratic, at least not the sense where people can actually direct it. It’s what Marx might call a bourgeoisie democracy, that works very well for the powers that be. This is set to become even more of a problem as the EU continues to move towards its own sovereignty. The 2007 Lisbon treaty also made it impossible for any member state to petition a law once it was put into force.

Austerity.
Austerity is official hard-line EU policy, that is it forcing on many of its states through various measures, punishing the most in need. Most leftists are anti-austerity. Yet a vote to Remain is a vote for the largest, most stubborn austerity campaign on the planet, that you can do nothing to change.

Visas.
You can get visas to live and work in other countries. You do not need the EU to do this. I’ve worked and lived on four different continents. I had to get a visa. The idea you will no longer be able to live and work in European countries is without any basis, especially if you hold a UK passport.

Neoliberalism.
Leftists and progressives are usually anti neoliberalism. EU is the neoliberal Prometheus. It is the neoliberal Hulksmash.

TTIP and CETA.
TTIP is a corporate assault on democracy, the environment, and the common people, yet EU bureaucrats are pushing TTIP in what has been called “open defiance of public opposition”. The leave vote mean UK has escaped any TTIP EU-US deal, but doesn’t mean UK won’t try to do its own. However, the Brexit may well have killed the EU deal dead too, something millions of signatures on online petitions was not doing. As in the words of one high ranking EU official working on the TTIP deal, “I do not answer to the people”.

Privatisation.
It may surprise UK citizens to know, but the EU is putting extreme pressure on European countries to follow the disastrous British system of privatising its rail networks, in place of the fantastic nationalised ones they already have in place.

Immigration.
Unlikely to change too much.

The Euro Currency.
It’s introduction overnight wiped out entire countries of small business owners, and is currently a failed currency, being propped up in big Southern European countries like Italy, Spain, Greece, Portugal by the North half of Europe. There is no end in sight for its demise either, as no one in Europe has any idea how to fix the fiscal dilemma in places like Spain and Italy. Rise of far-right extremist parties also closely tied to the forced acceptance of the single currency.

The Labour Party.
The Brexit vote seems to have cleared the decks of the horrible bunch of Blairites that were driving the party away from actual voters off the cliff to oblivion. Paving the way for a new party that could potentially be better, more in touch with real people, and with a direction, if all goes well.

Poor Towns That ‘Benefited’ from EU Cash Still Voted Out.
Poor towns whose very welcome signs let all people living there know that the EU were giving them money, still voted to leave. A commendable example, and tells you all you need to know about what they thought EU was actually doing for their lives.

Political Correctness and Bigotry.
Post-vote fallout has confirmed what many like me already suspected of many fellow ‘liberals’, the they are indeed some of the most bigoted, and intolerant of our society. The veneer of P.C has been shown to be a sham, as scores of proudly PC bros couldn’t wait to denigrate the old and the poor as dumb, stupid, scum, sub-humans and unworthy of a vote. PC culture has been thrown out with the bathwater, as ageism, sexism, elitism, classism, and racism has been on full display by card carrying liberals. Never again can these people pretend to be on the moral side of the debate.

Italy.
Only Zimbabwe and Haiti had lower GDP growth in Italy from 2000–2010. The country has been taken toits knees while in the EU, all stemming from the introduction of the Euro. Italy, a proudly European country, in ways that a Brit can never understand, where the EU anthem, Ode To Joy, is taught and memorised across schools, has somehow become the most Eurosceptic country in Europe.

The Environment.
I sweated over this one, and I’m still 50/50. But the Common Agricultural Policy has undoubtedly been disastrous for the environment, favouring intensive industrial farming over small farm owners and pushing up prices artificially for consumers. The climate change and renewable energy directives cost the UK upwards of £5 billion a year, but need to be kept on. The EU has done nothing to save the Polish forest, or fracking in the UK. And I believe independent initiatives and local government bodies and organisations do the most incredible work for the British environment. (also see: TTIP)

V.A.T
The EU does not allow the government to have no VAT on certain items or even lower the standard rate of VAT to below 15%. A leave vote opens the possibility of a socially progressive moves such as removing VAT from certain things (like energy bills) which would be a huge help low income families.

Internationalism.
The possibility is now there that UK may be able to allow more people from other parts of the world that are not EU be part of the country. It also makes international trade, something Britain has usually led the world in, which the EU actively makes difficult, much easier.

Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Switzerland.
As non EU members in Europe, these countries have some of the best most progressive living standards in the world. Iceland was the only country who put the bankers in prison, rather than bail them out. Norway will ban the sale of all fossil fuel-based cars in the next decade."
brexit  giggsboson  democracy  uk  austerity  pc  immigration  ttip  ceta  privatization  euro  labourparty  politicalcorrectness  bigotry  progressivism  environment  norway  italy  switzerland  iceland  liechtenstein  economics  ageism  sexism  elitism  classism  racism 
june 2016 by robertogreco
Brexit Stage Right: What Now? - @robfahey
"Fifth and finally, this isn’t just about the UK. Brexit has come about as a consequence not so much of the European Union or its policies, but as an expression of a general anger and dissatisfaction that has also reared its head across much of the developed world. It’s not unreasonable to compare the UK’s Leave campaign with Donald Trump in the USA, Le Pen in France or Wilders in Holland. Voting for Brexit was characterised by nationalist sentiment and a strong desire to “take back” Britain’s sovereignty from the ill-defined others who have appropriated it. It thrived in communities that have seen widening inequality and economic malaise even as they watched political leaders turn up on TV night after night to talk about economic recovery; communities that may have been delivered a mortal blow by the 2008 recession and the austerity policies which followed, but which had already been suffering from neglect and economic abuse for decades before that, as successive governments tore up more and more pages of the post-war social contract in favour of the shiny new religion of markets and efficiency. There was a time when those communities turned to left-wing movements for their salvation, to unions and to the Labour party; with much of the power of the unions broken and the Labour party pursuing aspirational middle class voters, opportunities have been opened for new and far less savoury political movements to take root. At their core is a deep dissatisfaction and anger not just with individual political actors but with the very institutions of democracy and representative government; a deep conviction that it is not merely that specific parties or policies that have caused people’s quality of life to decline, but that the whole system is stacked against them. Thus, anything that’s seen as part of the system – be it politicians, the media, or even academics and independent experts – is suspect. It is not an attitude that calls for political change, for a new party in power or a new prime minister; it is an attitude that calls for the tearing down of everything, and offers nothing with which to replace it. It is frightening precisely because, in its absolute conviction that the institutions of democracy themselves are a vast conspiracy against the common man, it ends up being insatiable; even if today’s Brexit leaders become Britain’s leaders, in doing so they will become part of “the system” and face the anger of the same people who now cheer them on. The cycle will continue until someone turns up with the capacity to tame the monster that has been conjured up by economic hardship, inequality and unthinking nationalism. Unfortunately, the lessons of the past tell us that such a person is unlikely to be benevolent.

None of this is unique to Britain, and none of it can be fixed by anything less than a fundamental rethink of how we have chosen to structure our society and our economies. Even as market capitalism and globalisation have done wonders at lifting the world’s poorest people out of poverty – an achievement for which capitalism does not get remotely enough credit – it has begun to run out of rope in the developed world. In nations from Japan to Western Europe to North America, inequality is growing and standards of living are slipping. Labour market reforms have turned whole generations into disposable people; I can’t blame British people for laughing off the notion that the EU has protected them in the workplace, when companies like Sports Direct have based their business model off exploiting every loophole, legal and otherwise, no matter how desperately cruel and inhumane, that might allow them to wring more money, more profitability out of their vulnerable, poorly paid staff. “If you leave the EU, you’ll lose your workers rights!” is no argument at all to someone whose zero-hours contract leaves them in desperate financial instability, or whose exploitation by an avaricious, unscrupulous employer has been rubber-stamped by the government itself in the form of a Workfare deal.

The Brexit vote wasn’t just a rejection of the EU; it was a rejection of the whole system, of the whole establishment, of the whole set of institutions and practices that make up the developed world. It was, in ways, a rejection of modernity – a demand to turn back the clock. Turning back the clock isn’t in anyone’s power to deliver. If we want to break this dangerous cycle of economic inequality, social cleavage and political extremism before it rolls out of control, though, it’s beholden upon our countries and institutions to start paying attention to inequality, to public services, to quality of life and to the huge swathe of the electorate for whom every mention of the phrase “economic recovery” in the past two decades has just been salt in the wound."
robfahey  2016  via:tealtan  brexit  elitism  government  policy  economics  europe  us  unions  labor  work  inequality  establishment  austerity  politics  eu  france  holland  netherlands  recession  2008  democracy  power  change  wealthinequality  incomeinequality  globalization  poverty  capitalism  japan  exploitation  organization  classism 
june 2016 by robertogreco
Thank a Simple Excel Error For Austerity Economics
"You know the much-ballyhooed theory that high national debt always correlates to crappy economic growth? The one that's trotted out on a regular basis by politicians arguing for austerity budgets and sequestration? Well, according to new findings, the study that austerity proponents cite more than any other is based on an Excel error. A big one.

The glitchy data comes from a hallmark study on debt, Growth in a Time of Debt, from 2010. Since it was published, it's become a favorite of people like Paul Ryan, who mentioned it frequently during the Romney campaign. But a new meta-analysis of the study's original Excel spreadsheet, by three UMASS economists, uncovered several errors, including the selective omission of data, an undiscussed weighting system, and an error in the Excel spreadsheet that excluded five countries. As the Rortybomb blog explains (and to clarify an earlier version of this post), correcting for the omission, weighting, and Excel mistake shows that countries with a debt-to-GDP ratio over 90 percent have an average growth rate of 2.2 percent, not -.1 percent as the original paper concluded. This suggests that while debt and growth are related, the correlation is weaker than previously assumed. "We will redouble our efforts to avoid such errors in the future," responded the scientists in a Wall Street Journal post today.

Of course, it's not like politicians were basing their ideas on the paper alone—in reality, these kinds of studies are used to post-rationalize prior beliefs about the economy. More importantly, Paul Krugman points out that there are plenty of instances where countries boomed during high debt periods, as well as plenty of examples of countries slogging through depressions with tons of debt. In other words, it's a more complex issue than simple causation.

You can't really blame Excel for the error—the data should've been reviewed back when the paper was published. Still, there are plenty of other examples of mistakes like this leading to major inaccuracies. The moral of the story? Double check your sources before making decisions that affect the global economy."
via:vruba  economics  excel  data  austerity  policy  politics 
october 2015 by robertogreco
Austerity in Greece caused more than 500 male suicides, say researchers | World news | The Guardian
"Study finds clear link between spending cuts and rise in number of men who killed themselves between 2009 and 2010"

See also Sarah Kendzior on “The men who set themselves on fire” (2013): http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/10/men-who-set-themselves-fire-20131075515834438.html ]
economics  2015  greece  2009  2010  austerity  policy  suicide 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Iceland put bankers in jail rather than bailing them out — and it worked - Vox
"Yesterday, Iceland's prime minister, Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson, announced a plan that will essentially close the books on his country's approach to handling the financial crisis — an approach that deviated greatly from the preferences of global financial elites and succeeded quite well. Instead of embracing the orthodoxy of bank bailouts, austerity, and low inflation, Iceland did just the opposite. And even though its economy was hammered by the banking crisis perhaps harder than any other in the world, its labor didn't deteriorate all that much, and it had a great recovery.

How great? Well, compare the evolution of Iceland's unemployment rate with what happened in Ireland, the star pupil of the Very Serious People:

[chart]

Or compare it with the United States:

[chart]

How did Iceland pull it off?

Let the banks go bust

For starters, rather than scrambling to mobilize public resources to make sure banks didn't default on their various obligations, Iceland let the banks go bust. Executives of the country's most important bank were prosecuted as criminals.

Reject austerity

[chart]

Iceland was nonetheless hit by a very serious recession that caused its debt-to-GDP ratio to soar. But even after several years of steady increases, the government didn't panic. It prioritized recovery. And when recovery was underway and the ratio began to fall, the government let it fall gently.

Devalue and accept inflation

[chart]

There's no free lunch in life, and no country recovers from a severe recession without some bad things happening. But while most developed countries have gone through years of grindingly high unemployment paired with super-low inflation, Iceland did the reverse. It let the value of its currency tumble, which naturally brought about higher prices.

But as a result, the country's export industries rapidly gained ground in international markets. Unemployment rose, but maxed out at a modest 7.6 percent before falling steadily to a very low level. In the US and Europe, the priority has been on low inflation to protect the asset values of the wealthy. Iceland prioritized jobs, and it worked.

Impose temporary capital controls

In the context of bank defaults and a plunging currency, the government felt it was necessary to impose an additional measure — capital controls, regulations restricting Icelandic citizens' ability to take their money out of the country. This is a serious violation of free market orthodoxy. More importantly, it can be a major hassle to ordinary people's lives and an impediment to starting new businesses. In some countries, like Argentina, capital controls become a breeding ground of corruption and mischief.

That leads some to believe that no matter how well heterodox policies work economically, they're ultimately doomed to political failure.

Iceland shows that's not the case. Getting policy right is difficult, but it can be done. And the upside to doing the right thing — devaluing the currency massively, then imposing capital controls to contain the fallout, then ending the capital controls once the economy recovers — can be enormous. Iceland has had a rough time over the past seven or eight years, but so have a lot of other countries. Things are looking up there now because the country's leaders had the wisdom to reject elements of the self-satisfied conventional wisdom that have proven so harmful elsewhere."
iceland  banking  greatrecession  austerity  finance  2015  economics  matthewyglesias  unemployment  employment  labor  policy  politics  regulation  capitalcontols  currency  devaluation  inflation 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Christian Parenti on Climate Change, Militarism, Neoliberalism and the State
"When the left turns its back on the social democratic features of government, stops making demands of the state, and fails to reshape government by using the government for progressive ends, it risks playing into the hands of the right. The central message of the American right is that government is bad and must be limited. This message is used to justify austerity. However, in most cases, neoliberal austerity does not actually involve a reduction of government. Typically, restructuring in the name of austerity is really just a transformation of government, not a reduction of it.

Over the last 35 years, the state has been profoundly transformed, but it has not been reduced. The size of the government in the economy has not gone down. The state has become less redistributive, more punitive. Instead of a robust program of government-subsidized and public housing, we have the prison system. Instead of well-funded public hospitals, we have profiteering private hospitals funded by enormous amounts of public money. Instead of large numbers of well-paid public workers, we have large budgets for private firms that now subcontract tasks formerly conducted by the government.

We need to defend the progressive work of government, which, for me, means immediately defending public education. To be clear, I do not mean merely vote or ask nicely, I mean movements should attack government and government officials, target them with protests, make their lives impossible until they comply. This was done very well with the FCC. And my hat goes off to the activists who saved the internet for us. The left should be thinking about the ways in which it can leverage government.

The utility of government was very apparent in Vermont during the aftermath of Hurricane Irene. The rains from that storm destroyed or damaged over a hundred bridges, many miles of road and rail, and swept away houses. Thirteen towns were totally stranded. There was a lot of incredible mutual aid; people just started clearing debris and helping each other out. But within all this, town government was a crucial connective tissue.

Due to the tradition of New England town meeting, people are quite involved with their local government. Anarchists should love town meetings. It is no coincidence that Murray Bookchin spent much of his life in Vermont. Town meetings are a form of participatory budgeting without the lefty rigmarole.

More importantly, the state government managed to get a huge amount of support from the federal government. The state in turn pushed this down to the town level. Without that federal aid, Vermont would still be in ruins. Vermont is not a big enough political entity to shake down General Electric, a huge employer in Vermont. The Vermont government can't pressure GE to pay for the rebuilding of local infrastructure, but the federal government can.

Vermont would still be a disaster if it didn't get a transfer of funds and materials from the federal government. Similarly in New York City, the public sector does not get enough praise for the many things it did well after super storm Sandy. Huge parts of the subway system were flooded, yet it was all up and running within the month.

As an aside, one of the dirty little secrets about the Vermont economy is that it's heavily tied-up with the military industrial complex. People think Vermont is all about farming and boutique food processing. Vermont has a pretty diverse economy, but agriculture plays a much smaller role than you might think, about 2 percent of employment. Meanwhile, the state's industrial sector, along with the government, is one of the top employers, at about 13 percent of all employment. Most of this work is in what's called precision manufacturing, making stuff like: high performance nozzles, switches, calibrators, and stuff like the lenses used in satellites, or handcrafting the blades that go in GE jet engines. But I digress … As we enter the crisis of climate change, it's important to be aware of the actually existing legal and institutional mechanisms with which we can contain and control capital."
christianparenti  climatechange  militarism  neoliberalism  2015  goverment  politics  policy  progressivism  progressives  economics  austerity  priorities  military  surveillance  inequality  wealth  anarchism  mutualaid  activism  epa  environment  infrastructure  vermont  townmeetings 
may 2015 by robertogreco
Re:publica Keynote: The System is Broken – That’s the Good News | ... My heart’s in Accra
"…Ivan Krastev, chairman of the Center for Liberal Strategies, in Sofia, Bulgaria. He worries that even if protests like the Indignados or Occupy succeed in ousting a government, much of what protesters are asking for is not possible. “Voters can change governments, yet it is nearly impossible for them to change economic policies.” When Indignados grows into Podemos, Krastev predicts that it’s going to be very hard for them to truly reverse policies on austerity – global financial markets are unlikely to let them do so, punish them by making it impossibly expensive to borrow

Krastev offers the example of how Italy finally got rid of Silvio Berlusconi – wasn’t through popular protest, but through the bond market – the bond market priced italian debt at 6.5%, and Berlusconi resigned, leaving Mario Monti to put austerity measures in place. You may have been glad to see Berlusconi go, but don’t mistake this as a popular revolt that kicked him out – it was a revolt by global lenders, and basically set the tone for what the market would allow an Italian leader to do. As Krastev puts it, “Politics has been reduced to the art of adjusting to the imperatives of the market” – we’ve got an interesting test of whether this theory is right with Syriza, a left-wing party rooted in anti-austerity protests now in power, and facing possible default and exit from the Eurozone this month. What Krastev is saying is really chilling – we can oust bad people through protest and elect the right people and put them in power, we can protest to pressure our leaders to do the right things, and they may not be powerful enough to give us the changes we really want."



"These three approaches – building new institutions, becoming engaged critics of the institutions we’ve got, and looking for ways to build a post-institutional world – all have their flaws. We need the new decentralized systems we build to work as well as the institutions we are replacing, and when Mt. Gox disappears with our money, we’re reminded what a hard task this is. Monitorial citizenship can lead to more responsible institutions, but not to structural change. When we build new companies, codebases and movements, we’ve got to be sure these new institutions we’re creating stay closer to our values than those we mistrust now, and that they’re worthy of the trust of generations to come.

What these approaches have in common is this: instead of letting mistrust of the institutions we have leave us sidelined and ineffective, these approaches make us powerful. Because this is the middle path between the ballot box and the brick – it’s taking the dangerous and corrosive mistrust we now face and using it to build the institutions we deserve. This is the challenge of our generation, to build a better world than the one we inherited, one that’s fairer, more just, one that’s worthy of our trust."
ethanzuckerman  ivankrastev  quinnnorton  zeyneptufekci  democracy  politics  institutions  euope  us  protest  occupywallstreet  ows  voting  decentralization  internet  citizenship  civics  monotorialcitizenship  globalization  finance  capitalism  austerity  markets  indignados  government  power  control 
may 2015 by robertogreco
Intervention – “Future Shock” by Andy Merrifield | AntipodeFoundation.org
"In accepted wisdom, we tend to think of amateurs as people who dabble, who don’t do things for a living, but who do something as a hobby, at weekends, in their spare time. We see amateurs as less accomplished than professionals. But professionalism, said Said, can constitute a form of compliant behavior, of making yourself marketable and presentable to the powers that be. None of which denies the need for competence, for being conscientious about what you do, and for having the right skills to do it. Not anyone can do heart surgery or pilot a plane, teach high school or cure animals. It involves training and learning. So it’s not the skills question that concerned Said; it’s more the professional practice, how you employ those skills, to whom you sell them, how you apply your knowledge, in whose interests you’re acting. Pros aren’t usually controversial; they’re on the payroll, they’re there to provide a service. Professionalism means having an expertise to hide behind, an often narrow expertise, an esoteric language that sets you apart, that gains entry into a professional bodies, one strictly off-limits to rank amateurs.

Amateurs, by contrast, aren’t moved by profit or pay; they usually care more about ideas and values not tied down to any profession; their vision is often more expansive, more eclectic, not hampered by the conservatism of narrow expertise, preoccupied with defending one’s intellectual turf. To be an amateur is to express the ancient French word: love of, a person who engages on an unpaid basis, a non-specialist, a layperson. Nothing pejorative intended. Amateurs sometimes care for ideas that question professional authority because they express concerns professions don’t consider, don’t see, don’t care about. Thus an amateur might likely be somebody who rocks the boat, who stirs up trouble, because he or she isn’t on anybody’s payroll—never will be on the payroll because of the critical things they say. In this sense, an intellectual ought to be an amateur, Said insisted, a thinking and concerned member of a society who raises questions at the very heart of even the most professionalized activity. Still, the issue for amateurs today is how to deal with the flagrant professionalism in our midst—in urban studies, in urban life, everywhere?"
maateurs  experts  2015  andymerrifield  austerity  shrinkage  plannedshrinkage  economics  authority 
march 2015 by robertogreco
BBC News - How did WW2 change the way people dressed?
"Despite air raids and austerity, style was not in short supply in World War Two. An exhibition at the Imperial War Museum looks at how conflict abroad meant fashion at home had to change."

"The Make-do and Mend credo - given official support by the Board of Trade in 1942 - tried to make people think differently about where they got clothes from.

With coupons limiting what could be bought in the shops, old garments at the back of wardrobes were adapted and given new life.

This woman's matching jacket and skirt may originally have started life as a man's pin stripe suit."
clothing  history  wwii  worldwartwo  2015  austerity  glvo  war  makedo  mending  uniformproject  uk 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Hip-Hop and Education: Rappers Speak Out on Inequality - The Root
"Take Kanye West’s declaration in “Power”: “The system’s broken. The school is closed. The prison’s open.” Just last year, West’s hometown of Chicago closed nearly 50 urban, public, neighborhood schools in a neoliberal effort toward consolidation and efficiency. All the while, the national rate of imprisonment is rising, and the private prison industry is experiencing record growth, incarcerating unthinkable numbers of young black men. A Loyola University study shows that the majority of inmates in Cook County Jail are low-income African-American men and boys.

Meanwhile, fellow Chicagoan Lupe Fiasco says in “Words I Never Said”: “Your child’s future was the first to go with budget cuts. If you think that hurts, then wait, here comes the uppercut. The school was garbage in the first place that’s on the up and up.” Lupe’s rhyme struck a chord with Chicago parents and students who in 2012 saw only 21 percent of eighth graders reach reading proficiency.

They’re just two of the many rap artists making socially aware educational commentary on topics that range from school lunches to testing and overcrowding."
kanyewest  lupefiasco  education  inequality  schools  funding  2014  austerity  publicschools  us  schooling 
august 2014 by robertogreco
Italy’s Economic Design in Times of Crisis - NYTimes.com
"“Italian Design Beyond the Crisis,” the fifth exhibition in a series, addresses the same theme — “What is Italian Design?” — as its predecessors, but takes a different perspective. Curated by Beppe Finessi, this installment challenges the polished Dolce Vita stereotype of Italian design forged during the late 1950s and early 1960s by exploring design’s role in providing practical solutions during times of austerity, and in articulating the underlying social and political tensions through products, architecture, fashion and graphics.

The “necessity as the mother of invention” theme is apt at a time when Italy is still struggling to emerge from the economic crisis that began with the credit crunch. And the exhibition’s defining qualities — frugality, resilience, empathy, sustainability and activism, all of which were central to Mr. Munari’s work — are increasingly important issues for designers worldwide.

Mr. Finessi has chosen to focus on three crises in modern Italian history. The first began in 1935, when the League of Nations imposed trade sanctions on Italy in protest against its war with Ethiopia. The show illustrates how designers experimented with the “home-grown” alternatives to materials and technologies that could no longer be imported: For instance, the designers Gio Ponti and Franco Albini developed products using Securit, a new form of safety glass made with sand from Veneto and Tuscany. It also explores their adoption of inexpensive materials, such as cane, wicker and papier-mâché. Even the design of Stile, an influential art and design magazine founded and edited by Mr. Ponti, was suitably frugal, albeit elegantly so. Mr. Munari adopted a similar approach, not only in designing products like his visor and a beautiful collection of objects made from bamboo exhibited at Museo del Novecento, but as one of Italy’s most influential writers on design."
design  italy  2014  economics  austerity  materiasl  brunomunari  resourcefulness  beppefinessi  gioponti 
may 2014 by robertogreco
Pure Capitalism = Pure Fantasy? | Interview Richard Wolff - YouTube
[See also: http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/17256-pure-capitalism-is-pure-fantasy ]

"Abby Martin talks to Richard Wolff, Professor Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, and author of 'Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism', about the recent school closures in Chicago, and how it reflects a systemic problem within the current capitalist model."
richardwolff  economics  2013  abbymartin  austerity  capitalism  policy  government  inequality  taxes  socialsecurity  democracy  employment  greatrecession  work  wealth  schoolclosures  chicago  politics  corruption  corporatism  horizontality  hierarchy  cooperation  grassroots 
february 2014 by robertogreco
The men who set themselves on fire - Opinion - Al Jazeera English
"Unemployment is not only the loss of a job. It is the loss of dignity. It is the loss of the present and, over time, the ability to imagine a future. It is hopelessness and shame, an open struggle everyone witnesses but pretends not to see. It is a social and political crisis we tell a man to solve, and blame him when he cannot.

When you are unemployed, your past is dismissed as unworthy. Your future is denied. Self-immolation is making yourself, in the moment, matter.

The most famous recent case of an unemployed man setting himself on fire was Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian street vendor whose actions are said to have spurred the Arab Spring revolutions. When Bouazizi killed himself in December 2010, the youth unemployment rate was 30 percent in Tunisia and 25 percent in Egypt, where uprisings quickly followed.

In Spain, three years later, youth unemployment is 57 percent. In Greece, it is 64 percent. The youth unemployment rate is 23.5 percent for the combined European Union and 16 percent for the United States, a statistic which does not take into account the millions whose jobs do not pay enough to take them out of poverty. The youth unemployment rates of Western nations now mirror or surpass those of the Arab world before the uprisings."

When Bouazizi self-immolated, the case was initially covered as an act of economic desperation. Only after it triggered a mass outcry was it acknowledged as a political statement, a final stand against decades of corruption and autocracy. It is pointless to ask whether the self-immolation of an unemployed man is an economic or political act: the two are inseparable.

The knowledge of their inseparability is in part what inspires these men to act. One can call it austerity or one can call it apathy, but the end result is that states are letting their citizens die - slowly and silently in poverty, or publicly in flame.

As journalist Kevin Drum observes, in every previous recession, government spending rose. In this recession, they cut benefits, food stamps, jobs. They cut and blame us when we bleed.

In authoritarian states ruled by tyrants, in democracies allegedly ruled by law, we find the same result: hard-working people let down by the systems which are supposed to support them. When the most you can ask from your society is that it will spare you, you have no society of which to speak.



Self-immolation has long been an act of protest against corrupt and tyrannical rule: Tibetans against the Chinese, Czechoslovakians against the Soviets. The difference between these acts of protest and the unemployed men on fire is that today we are not sure who is in charge.

The US government, after all, cannot even govern itself. State attempts at improving social welfare are trumped not by public will or political disagreement but by what appears to be a preplanned, funded attempt by fringe conservatives to shut the government down.

In every country with massive unemployment - which is, increasingly, every country - citizens see the loss of a functioning social contract, and the apathy with which that loss is received.

We do not know the identity of the man on fire. We do not know what prompted him to kill himself in open view in the nation's capital. We know he was a man who died. That should be enough. In every act of agony, that should be enough."
work  employment  despair  desperation  unemployment  austerity  2013  sarahkendzior  via:jenlowe  economics  society  greatrecession  self-immolation  socialcontract 
december 2013 by robertogreco
Three trends that will create demand for an Unconditional Basic Income | Simulacrum
"The digitization of our economy will bring with it a new generation of radical economic ideologies, of which Bitcoin is arguably the first.  For those with assets, technological savvy, and a sense of adventure, the state is the enemy and a cryptographic currency is the solution.  But for those more focused on the decline of the middle classes, the collapse of the entry-level jobs market, and the rise of free culture, the state is an ally, and the solution might look something like an unconditional basic income. Before I explain why this concept is going to be creeping into the political debate across the developed world, let me spell out how a system like this would look:

• Every single adult member receives a weekly payment from the state, which is enough to live comfortably on. The only condition is citizenship and/or residency.

• You get the basic income whether or not you’re employed, any wages you earn are additional.

• The welfare bureaucracy is largely dismantled. No means testing, no signing on, no bullying young people into stacking shelves for free, no separate state pension.

• Employment law is liberalised, as workers no longer need to fear dismissal.

• People work for jobs that are available in order to increase their disposable income.

• Large swathes of the economy are replaced by volunteerism, a continuation of the current trend.

• The system would be harder to cheat when there’s only a single category of claimant, with no extraordinary allowances.

This may sound off-the-charts radical, but here’s why you’re going to be hearing a lot more about it:

1 – The Middle Classes Are In Freefall…

2 – Demand For Human Labour Is In Long Term Decline…

3 – Cultural Production Is Detaching From The Market… "
economics  employment  income  universalbasicincome  leisurearts  work  money  2013  luismyth  bitcoin  culture  culturalproduction  austerity  artleisure  ubi 
august 2013 by robertogreco
The neoliberal assault on academia - Opinion - Al Jazeera English
"Something as apparently innocuous as an accreditation agency demanding that syllabi be written in a particular format, or majors justified in a particular way, can wind up empowering university management to intimately regulate teaching. A meaningless buzzword in the mouth of a dean, such as "new majority student", might in practice help legitimate the hiring of less qualified faculty. After all, if "teacher ownership of content" is old fashioned, why do you need to hire a professor who can create his or her own course?

The bottom line of the neoliberal assault on the universities is the increasing power of management and the undermining of faculty self-governance. The real story behind MOOCs may be the ways in which they assist management restructuring efforts of core university practices, under the smiley-faced banner of "open access" and assisted in some cases by their "superstar", camera-ready professors.

Meanwhile, all those adjunct faculty are far more subject to managerial control and regulation than are tenured professors. Aside from their low cost, that is one of the principal reasons why they are so attractive to university managers. "

[See also: “When Adjunct Faculty Are the Tenure-track's Untouchables”
http://utotherescue.blogspot.com/2013/05/when-adjunct-faculty-are-tenure-tracks.html
and “When Tenure-Track Faculty Take On the Problem of Adjunctification”
http://www.socialsciencespace.com/2013/07/when-tenure-track-faculty-take-on-the-problem-of-adjunctification/ ]
tarakbarkawi  2013  academia  neoliberalism  power  management  adjuncts  adjunctification  economics  policy  us  uk  administration  control  hierarchy  labor  highered  highereducation  class  austerity  crisis 
august 2013 by robertogreco
Has capitalism failed the world? - Head to Head - Al Jazeera English
"Former financial regulator Lord Adair Turner discusses the role of banks, the politics behind austerity, and capitalism."
banks  banking  finance  economics  capitalism  2013  politics  austerity  risk 
july 2013 by robertogreco
Living Without Economic Growth | Adbusters Culturejammer Headquarters
"As economies all around the world faced crisis and austerity in 2012, might 2013 be the year we learn to live without economic growth? Here, Charles Eisenstein remarks on the need to detach our notion of progress from material acquisition, and shares his observations from his travels around austerity stricken Europe."

[Direct link to video: https://vimeo.com/54199462 ]
materialism  sustainability  capitalism  consumerculture  change  gamechanging  well-being  life  slow  leisure  work  collapsonomics  economics  austerity  2013  2012  charleseinstein  growth  from delicious
december 2012 by robertogreco
The Trumping of Politics « . . . . . . . Supervalent Thought
"under the pressure to justify austerity amidst vast global wealth, democracy has begun to be redefined as the equal exposure of all persons to the virulent excisions of the market. Democracy is no longer imaginatively a counter-force to market forces. A bad employee, throw her out. A clumsy employee who is otherwise a good employee, throw him out. Like a felon, they have lost the right to democracy. This is a world where “right to work” means no right to unionize. This is a world where seeking protections from employer exploitation is recast as being privileged and self-interested. The worker is cast as greedy while the capitalist is cast as generous. In this view, equal vulnerability to swift, efficient, structural judgment is seen to constitute fairness. No matter that austerity is the punishment of the many for the appetites of the few. In this view, exposure to market swings and disturbances equals democracy. We are at the end of Enlightenment liberalism, which is an end that…"
democracy  liberalism  austerity  unions  wealth  righttowork  donaldtrump  barackobama  mittromney  clinteastwood  romney  policy  politics  republicans  2012  us  from delicious
september 2012 by robertogreco
Berlusconi's exit – what does it mean for Italy? | World news | The Guardian
"Austerity might also strengthen the most well-known building block of Italian society: the family. Many foreigners are rather sneering when they observe extended families living in the same block of flats, if not the same flat. It creates childish, immature grownups, they say. It's not usually true at all, and what those criticisms fail to realise is not only the fact that living together is very often an economic, rather than an emotional, choice…; they also ignore the fact that the strength of the family is the reason that Italy's social fabric is so much better knitted than Britain's. And there are useful economic consequences: almost every successful business is built upon the family…If austerity means relatives have to huddle once again under the same roof, it might be claustrophobic, but at least it might mean that Italy, once again, resists the disintegration of the family unit."
italy  2011  europe  eurozone  austerity  austeritymeasures  families  society  bureaucracy  competition  economics  berlusconi  carlolevi  normandouglas  blackmarket  blackeconomy  romanoprodi  rootlessness  mobility  arrangiarsi  slow  slowfood  braindrain  meritocracy  tobiasjones  from delicious
november 2011 by robertogreco
Can you remember the last time you felt a national... | Underpaid Genius
[Don't fully agree with all that Boyd writes here, not Friedman for that matter, but this is good.]

"We have a culture where individualism has become so pathological that we cannot heap up our collective experience as victims and craft it into solidarity. As Steinbeck said, ‘Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat, but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires’, which is why so many poor people in America vote for the GOP: they identify with the rich, even though the rich are screwing them over.

But a sufficient dose of austerity — once the street lights are turned off, school class size grows to 50+ because of layoffs, and cities and town cannot afford to rebuild streets after floods and fires — that might start to mobilize people."
stoweboyd  us  society  socialism  greatrecession  austerity  thomasfriedman  2011  economics  policy  politics  individualism  from delicious
september 2011 by robertogreco
Federico Quilodran: Thousands In Chile Take To Streets, Demand Change | The New Significance
"What began 3 months ago as a series of isolated classroom boycotts by high school & university students demanding education improvements has grown into a mass movement calling for all manner of changes in Chile’s top-down form of government.

Protesters now want increases in education & health care spending, pension & labor code reform, even a new Constitution that would give voters the chance to participate in referendums—a form of direct democracy previously unthinkable in a country only 2 decades removed from a 1973-90 military dictatorship.

Polls taken before the strike said a majority of Chileans side w/ the protesters, though it’s unclear if the violence will affect popular sentiment.

Chile’s much-praised economic model of fiscal austerity & private-sector solutions has failed to deliver enough upward mobility to a new generation whose members see how their country compares to rest of the world, said Bernardo Navarrete, political analyst at the University of Santiago."
chile  2011  education  protest  economics  politics  policy  healthcare  austerity  referendums  democracy  labor  from delicious
august 2011 by robertogreco
A Tax Day Celebration: Taxes Pay For Necessary Government Services And Make Capitalism Workable. | The New Republic
"The Nordic countries are far more homogenous than the U.S. and it’s an open question whether a society as diverse and unequal as ours would support such a high tax burden. (This is one of the points Douthat makes in his column.) But even if we do absolutely nothing but let current law stand--in other words, if we let the Bush tax cuts expire, allow the alternative minimum tax to remain in place, allow scheduled reductions in physician fees to take effect, and limit the control of health care costs only to the official projections for the Affordable Care Act--it seems likely that our tax burden would still not exceed what the Nordic countries face today, at least not for another 50 years.*"
taxes  us  policy  medicine  healthcare  scandinavia  comparison  2011  education  spending  austerity  austeritymeasures  busherataxcuts  government  nordiccountries  society  via:cburell  from delicious
april 2011 by robertogreco
Throw Out the Money Changers | Truthout
"Cor­pora­tions let 50,000 peo­ple die last year be­cause they could not pay them for pro­p­er med­ical care. They have kil­led hundreds of thousands of Ir­aqis, Afghanis, Pales­tinians, Pakis­tanis, & gleeful­ly watched as stock price of weapons contra­ctors quad­rupled. They have tur­ned canc­er into an epi­demic in the coal fields of West Vir­ginia where famil­ies breat­he pol­luted air, drink poisoned water & watch the Ap­palac­hian Moun­tains blas­ted into a de­solate was­teland while coal com­pan­ies can make bi­ll­ions. & after loot­ing the US Treasu­ry these cor­pora­tions de­mand, in name of auster­ity, that we ab­olish food pro­grams for childr­en, heat­ing as­sis­tance & med­ical care for our el­der­ly, & good pub­lic educa­tion. They de­mand that we tolerate a per­manent underclass that will leave 1 in 6 work­ers w/out jobs, condemns 10s of mill­ions of Americans to pover­ty & tos­ses our men­tal­ly ill onto heat­ing grates…"
chrishedges  2011  corporations  corporatism  money  politics  policy  greed  wokers  labor  poverty  inequality  disparity  us  austerity  banking  finance  environment  markets  marketfundamentalism  civildisobedience  from delicious
april 2011 by robertogreco
In the lap of luxury, Paris squirms - International Herald Tribune
"Some French intellectuals want to go much further, calling for the death of the entire luxury industry as a sort of national ritual of purification. "Since the ancient Greeks, luxury goods have always been stamped with the seal of immorality," said Gilles Lipovetsky, a sociologist who has written several books about consumerism. "They represent waste, the superficial, the inequality of wealth. They have no need to exist." ... President Nicolas Sarkozy, formerly known as "President Bling-Bling" ... and the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair hosted a conference of political leaders and Nobel Prize-winning economists to find ways to instill moral values into the global economy. The old financial order had been "perverted" by "amoral" and uncontrolled capitalism, Sarkozy said, deploring the fact that, "the signs of wealth count more than wealth itself." He praised the "return of the state" as a regulator of capitalist excess."
wealth  society  france  austerity  simplicity  slow  excess  capitalism  materialism  values  morality  politics  nicolassarkozy  crisis  consumption  luxury  credit  markets  modesty 
january 2009 by robertogreco
Small is beautiful in this age of austerity - News, Art - The Independent
"But now a leading director is urging galleries to rethink the way in which major shows are staged by offering up a single work of art rather than the usual rooms crammed full of gilt-framed Monets, Turners and Caravaggios.
art  small  simplicity  austerity  galleries  museums  exhibitions  via:regine  recession 
january 2009 by robertogreco
Sweet Juniper! - Don't let them die
"I do see this economic climate as an opportunity for change. It is a chance for us all to step back and think about where the things we buy are made, and all of what that means. It is a chance to accept that much of what we consider wealth isn't even real. If we're going to spend $700 billion to bail out those greedy firms who successfully used chicanery for years to manufacture an economy built of lies, shouldn't we also spend $25 billion to save one of the few remaining industries that actually design, engineer, and manufacture something real and necessary in this country?"
bigthree  autoindustry  gm  chrysler  ford  bailout  detroit  making  finance  us  economics  industry  2008  crisis  austerity  comments 
november 2008 by robertogreco
I Can Haz Mortgage? - Core77
"Pop!Tech, the Biggie to TED's Tupac, brings the year's most brilliant, engaging, and PowerPoint-savvy thinkers/doers to the East Coast every October. This year's standout was economic heavyweight Juan Enriquez.
economics  crisis  2008  subprime  housingbubble  markets  finance  juanenriquez  austerity  politics 
october 2008 by robertogreco
My Thoughts On "Startup Depression"
"I particularly like Jason's "10 specific things you can do" section. In that section he urges entrepreneurs to get focused, get better, get leaner, and ultimately to get profitable. That's spot on."
recession  web2.0  greatdepression  funding  bailout  entrepreneurship  markets  business  money  economics  leadership  austerity  management  administration  survival  focus 
october 2008 by robertogreco
Thomas Jefferson - Wikiquote
"I had rather be shut up in a very modest cottage with my books, my family and a few old friends, dining on simple bacon, and letting the world roll on as it liked, than to occupy the most splendid post, which any human power can give."
via:preoccupations  jefferson  thomasjefferson  simplicity  freedom  books  family  food  austerity  society 
october 2008 by robertogreco
TED | TEDBlog: The Bailout and the A-word
"A solution requires the country to begin to spend what it earns, reduce its mountainous debt, and address massive liabilities, restructure Social Security, pension deficits, military, and Medicare. No wonder politicians would rather spend more of your money now rather than address these problems. Because we have been spending 5 to 7 percent more each year than we earn, a forced restructuring, triggered by a currency collapse, would have the same effect on wages and purchasing power that the housing collapse had on housing prices. So let's learn from our Latin and Asian friends and act before it is too late."
debt  bailout  economics  latinamerica  brasil  argentina  austerity  crisis  banking  government  policy  politics  juanenriquez  brazil 
october 2008 by robertogreco
The Post-Materialist | Magazine Poetry - The Moment Blog - NYTimes.com
"How will the current financial crisis impact what we do? It’s a question people in the design, fashion and style worlds are asking themselves right now. Someone who might be able to throw some light on the subject is Juan Ignacio Moralejo, an Argentinian who introduced a new style magazine in the aftermath of a financial crisis in his homeland that saw all bank deposits frozen, the president resigning, the nation defaulting on its debts, the currency plummeting and prices and inflation skyrocketing." ... “Having said that, most of my friends and I have an austere ideology, maybe a recurrent longing for nature and a simple lifestyle. Not exactly hippie-ism, but being aware of the advantages of limitations. It’s well known that you get a bit more creative when you have to struggle more.”
momus  crisis  argentina  us  austerity  simplicity  style  magazines  economics 
october 2008 by robertogreco
The Post-Materialist | Austerity and Style - The Moment Blog - NYTimes.com [see also: http://imomus.livejournal.com/401409.html]
"Japan — the advanced nation with the longest recession in recent memory, where property prices have been sinking gently since the early 1990s, and where austerity evokes local traditions of restrained, elegant beauty...A range of Japanese lifestyle magazines — Ku:nel, Sotokoto, Lingkaran, Kurashi No Techo and Tennen Seikatsu — is currently painting a much more positive and relaxed picture of austerity, drawing on Japan’s traditions of egalitarianism and thrift, as well as the post-recessionary popularity of its Slow Life and Slow Food trends. These magazines promote the idea that there’s virtue and utility — but also beauty, pleasure and natural sensuality — in life after affluence."
momus  simplicity  japan  austerity  postconsumerism  postmaterialism  slow  sustainability  environment  green  style  life  slowlife  slowfood  magazines  trends  economics  thrift  frugality 
september 2008 by robertogreco

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