robertogreco + davidgraeber   40

On Bullsh*t Jobs | David Graeber | RSA Replay - YouTube
"In 2013 David Graeber, professor of anthropology at LSE, wrote an excoriating essay on modern work for Strike! magazine. “On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs” was read over a million times and the essay translated in seventeen different languages within weeks. Graeber visits the RSA to expand on this phenomenon, and will explore how the proliferation of meaningless jobs - more associated with the 20th-century Soviet Union than latter-day capitalism - has impacted modern society. In doing so, he looks at how we value work, and how, rather than being productive, work has become an end in itself; the way such work maintains the current broken system of finance capital; and, finally, how we can get out of it."
davidgraeber  bullshitjobs  employment  jobs  work  2018  economics  neoliberalism  capitalism  latecapitalism  sovietunion  bureaucracy  productivity  finance  policy  politics  unschooling  deschooling  labor  society  purpose  schooliness  debt  poverty  inequality  rules  anticapitalism  morality  wealth  power  control  technology  progress  consumerism  suffering  morals  psychology  specialization  complexity  systemsthinking  digitization  automation  middlemanagement  academia  highered  highereducation  management  administration  adminstrativebloat  minutia  universalbasicincome  ubi  supplysideeconomics  creativity  elitism  thecultofwork  anarchism  anarchy  zero-basedaccounting  leisure  taylorism  ethics  happiness  production  care  maintenance  marxism  caregiving  serviceindustry  gender  value  values  gdp  socialvalue  education  teaching  freedom  play  feminism  mentalhealth  measurement  fulfillment  supervision  autonomy  humans  humnnature  misery  canon  agency  identity  self-image  self-worth  depression  stress  anxiety  solidarity  camaraderie  respect  community 
january 2019 by robertogreco
Camilla Power: Did Gender Egalitarianism Make us Human? or, if Graeber and Wengrow won’t talk about sex … 15 March 2018 on Vimeo
"Camilla Power: Did gender egalitarianism make us human? or, if David Graeber and David Wengrow won't talk about sex and gender, it's not surprising they have almost nothing to say about equality or what drives change. Talk given on the picket line in the lobby of the Anthropology Building, 14 Taviton Street, London WC1H 0BW on 13 March 2018, organised by Anthrostrike: students supporting UCU lecturers' dispute.

Responding to Graeber and Wengrow's recent article 'How to change the course of human history (at least, the part that's already happened)' (Eurozine, 2018) and their earlier piece in JRAI 'Farewell to the "childhood of man": ritual, seasonality, and the origins of inequality' (2015), Camilla Power assesses their confusing claims about human 'origins' (or is that rather: some examples of upper palaeolithic archaeology in Europe and some old suppositions about where we come from), and highlights the question of equality as the crucial preliminary for a serious examination of the spread of social inequality. Power shows how, for evolutionary anthropology in this century, the recognition of female strategies and perspectives has become central to the understanding of how humans became what they are. A balance of power between the sexes was critical to the origin of symbolic culture and gender as our species emerged in Africa.

Camilla recommends for further reading:

'Introduction' to Human Origins: Contributions from Social Anthropology, edited by Camilla Power, Morna Finnegan and Hilary Callan, Berghahn, New York/Oxford, 2016
http://berghahnbooks.com/title/PowerHuman

'Egalitarianism and Machiavellian Intelligence in Human Evolution' by David Erdal and Andrew Whiten, in Modelling the Early Human Mind, edited by Paul Mellars and Kathleen Gibson, McDonald Institute, Cambridge, 1996, 139–150
http://researchgate.net/publication/273292486_Egalitarianism_and_Machiavellian_Intelligence_in_Human_Evolution

'Egalitarianism, Evolution of' by Cathryn Townsend in The International Encyclopaedia of Anthropology, edited by Hilary Callan Wiley Blackwell, Oxford, 2018
http://researchgate.net/publication/323126751_%27Egalitarianism_Evolution_of%27_2018_In_H_Callan_ed_%27The_International_Encyclopaedia_of_Anthropology%27_Wiley_Blackwell "
camillapower  egalitarianism  davidgraeber  davidwengrow  inequality  hunter-gatherers  equality  gender  humans  sex  archaeology  power  anthropology  mornafinnegan  hilarycallan  paulmellars  communism  mutualaid  evolution  kathleengibson  cathryntownsend  autonomy  independence  women  feminism  hierarchy  horizontality 
june 2018 by robertogreco
I Asked People If Their Jobs Were Pointless. Oh My God, the Replies | Inc.com
"Inspired by David Graeber's new book, Bullshit Jobs: A Theory, I asked a lot of people if their jobs were pointless.

If they answered "No, my job has a point, thank you very much," I had a follow-up:

Well, have you ever had a pointless job?

Because Graeber says as many as 40 percent of workers will answer that question with a resounding yes.

The answers I heard? Basically a bunch of resounding yesses. Here are 10 of them, plus a bonus."
bullshitjobs  work  labor  capitalism  2018  davidgraeber 
may 2018 by robertogreco
Article: Notes On An Anarchist Pedagogy – AnarchistStudies.Blog
"But, at this particularly dark moment in our nation’s history, I feel the need to act inside the classroom in a manner that more readily and visibly embodies the important and insightful critiques and guideposts of critical pedagogy,[2] perhaps in a manner, inspired by Graeber and Haworth, that rejects and abandons (education) policy, and more demonstratively and communally embraces the liberatory and transformative power of education itself, free from the bondage of neoliberalism.

Early on in Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology, Graeber offers us: “against policy (a tiny manifesto)”. Graeber tells us:

The notion of “policy” presumes a state or governing apparatus which imposes its will on others. “Policy” is the negation of politics; policy is by definition something concocted by some form of elite, which presumes it knows better than others how their affairs are to be conducted. By participating in policy debates the very best one can achieve is to limit the damage, since the very premise is inimical to the idea of people managing their own affairs.

(2004: 9)

And, as the people I have identified in these notes thus far all document, policy (education reform) is little more than a “governing apparatus which imposes its will” on teachers, students, administrators, and entire communities with high stakes testing, the deskilling of teachers, the cuts to and diversion of funding for public education, and the imposition of the corporate model to direct and control all “outcomes”. And, following Graeber’s pushback to “policy”, I want to enact, to whatever degree possible, “an anarchist pedagogy” to acknowledge, confront and overcome the very dominating and authoritarian dynamics at work in the classroom today from kindergarten right on through to graduate school.

I want to evoke and provoke the issue of anarchy as a counterforce and impulse to the “governing apparatus which imposes its will on others”. I want to engage education as the practice of freedom methodologically, and not just ideologically (of course, I would agree that a genuine embracing of education as the practice of freedom ideologically would axiomatically mean to embrace it methodologically as well – as I believe Paulo Freire and bell hooks demonstrate, and many others also successfully participate in such engaged pedagogy).

But for my musings here, I want to consider enacting freedom directly and in totality throughout the classroom. This is the case, in part, because I want to challenge myself, and to some degree many of my colleagues, to once again consider and reconsider how we “are” in the classroom, living and embodying education as the practice of freedom, and, in part, to accept the need to acknowledge, confront and address the reality that we “operate”, however critically, within the very “governing apparatus which imposes its will”. As a result, I am, for the sake of these notes, forcing myself to fully embrace freedom, and, to whatever degree possible, attempting to reimagine and recomport myself toward promoting education as the practice of freedom.

As good a “critical” pedagogue as I believe I am and have been, for me these notes are a call to identify my beliefs, habits and pedagogy, not unlike Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy were for him. These notes are a consideration of how I embrace and enact those beliefs, habits and pedagogy, and represent a challenge to improve upon my pedagogy. I have decided that rethinking my own pedagogy in light of an anarchist pedagogy might prove the most challenging, informative and constructive mediation on pedagogy I could contemplate and enact at this moment."



"As many of us directly involved in the “field of education” (working as teachers and administrators from kindergarten through twelfth-grade, or those working in schools of education and on various education initiatives and in policy think-tanks) have witnessed (and sometimes promote and/or confront), there is much emphasis on a “best practice” approach and on “evidence-based” support for said practices. As a result, so much of education research and teaching is “data-driven”, even when the data is suspect (or just wrong). And, still more harmful, there exists a prejudice against “theory” and against a theoretical approach to teaching within a social/political/cultural context that emphasizes other aspects and dimensions of teaching and learning (such as the history and legacy of racism, sexism, class elitism, homophobia and biases against those with abilities and disabilities that render them “problematic” or outside the mainstream of education concern). All of this leads to an obsession with “information”, to the detriment of teaching and learning (see Scapp 2016b: Chapters 5 and 6). We also wind up with no vision or mission – education becomes little more than a “jobs preparatory program” and a competition in the market place. This is what leads us to the litany of reform programs (from the Bush administration’s “No Child Left Behind” to Obama’s “Race to the Top”, never mind the practically innumerable local initiatives attempting to “fix” education). The results are proving disastrous for all.

At the same time, even though someone may employ a theoretical stance and perspective, this doesn’t guarantee a successful classroom dynamic. We need to remember that how we are (a concern of these notes from the very start) is just as important as what we are presenting, and even why. We need to establish trustworthiness and a sense that students have the freedom to explore, challenge, work together, and even be wrong. Of course, I recognize that the classroom dynamics will look different in elementary school than in a graduate seminar, but for the sake of this meditation on pedagogy, I would like to posit that while acknowledging the differences that exist at different levels of instruction, the essential character of “education as the practice of freedom” ought to be manifest at every level, and at every turn. The hard and important work of good teaching is helping to create and establish that freedom."



"There is a long tradition of attempting to create such an “other space”. Feminist pedagogy has argued for and provided such other spaces, at times at grave personal and professional cost (denial of tenure, promotion, as well as ridicule). So too have disciplines and perspectives as diverse as Ethnic Studies and Queer Studies, and Environmental Studies and Performance Studies offered challenges to the constrictive traditional learning environment (space) and also offered new possibilities of reconfiguring those spaces (in and outside the classroom). In his essay “Spaces of Learning: The Anarchist Free Skool”, Jeffery Shantz rightly notes that:

Social theorist Michel Foucault used the occasion of his 1967 lecture, “Of Other Spaces”, to introduce a term that would remain generally overlooked with his expansive body of work, the notion of “heterotopia”, by which he meant a countersite or alternative space, something of an actually existing utopia. In contrast to the nowhere lands of utopias, heterotopias are located in the here-and-now of present-day reality, though they challenge and subvert that reality. The heterotopias are spaces of difference. Among the examples Foucault noted were sacred and forbidden spaces which are sites of personal transition.

(in Haworth 2012: 124)

It is precisely this effort to help create another kind of space, a “heterotopia”, that leads me to disrupt the distribution of the syllabus as the first gesture of the semester, and to solicit and elicit contributions and participation from the class toward this end.

Part of the reason that complying with the “syllabus-edict” is problematic is that it fully initiates and substantiates “the banking system” of teaching that Paulo Freire so astutely identified and named, and so thoughtfully and thoroughly criticized (as oppressive). Participating in the automatic act of handing out the syllabus (hardcopy or electronic) constitutes the very first “deposit” within the banking system, and renders students passive from the very start: “This is what you will need to know!”. So, the very modest and simple gesture of not distributing the syllabus initiates instead the very first activity for the entire class, specifically, a discussion of what the class will be.

Of course, such a stance, such a gesture, doesn’t mean that I would not have thought through the course beforehand. Certainly, I envision a course that would be meaningful and connected to their program of study. But, what I do not do is “decide” everything in advance, and leave no room for input, suggestions and contributions to the syllabus that we create, to enhance the course we create. This offers students a (new?) way of interacting in the class, with each other and the teacher, a way of engaging in social and educative interactions that are mutual and dialogic from the very start. As Shantz claims:

Anarchist pedagogy aims toward developing and encouraging new forms of socialization, social interaction, and the sharing of ideas in ways that might initiate and sustain nonauthoritarian practices and ways of relating.

(in Haworth 2012: 126)

I am claiming that the simple and modest gesture of extending a welcome to participate goes a long way “toward developing and encouraging new forms” of teaching and learning, new forms of mutual and dialogic interaction that are both respectful of the subject matter and of the students, and, if successful, does create the very “heterotopia” Foucault and Shantz describe.

I also ask students about the ways we might be able to evaluate their work and the course itself, evaluate the success of the teaching and learning, and my ability to help facilitate successful teaching and learning. The results vary, but students always come up with interesting and innovative ways to evaluate and … [more]
pedagogy  anarchism  anarchy  deschooling  decolonization  unschooling  learning  teaching  bellhooks  ronscapp  paulofreire  freedom  liberation  neoliberalism  capitalism  lucynicholas  postmodernism  michaelapple  angeladavis  henrygiroux  roberthaworth  descartes  stanleyaronowitz  stephenball  pierrebourdieu  randallamster  abrahamdeleon  luisfernandez  anthonynocella  education  dericshannon  richarkahn  deleuze&guattari  gillesdeleuze  michelfoucault  foucault  davidgraeber  jürgenhabermas  justinmuller  alanantliff  kennethsaltman  davidgabbard  petermclaren  alexmolnar  irashor  joelspring  gayatrichakravortyspivak  colonialism  highereducation  highered  cademia  politics  2018  resistance  corporatization  betsydevos  policy  authority  authoritarianism  howweteach  government  governance  colonization  homeschool  power  control  coercion  félixguattari  conformity  uniformity  standardization  standards  syllabus  heterotopia  lcproject  openstudioproject  tcsnmy  sfsh  cv  utopia  collaboration  evaluation  feminism  inclusion  inclusivity  participation  participatory  mutu 
may 2018 by robertogreco
[Essay] | Punching the Clock, by David Graeber | Harper's Magazine
"In 1901, the German psychologist Karl Groos discovered that infants express extraordinary happiness when they first discover their ability to cause predictable effects in the world. For example, they might scribble with a pencil by randomly moving their arms and hands. When they realize that they can achieve the same result by retracing the same pattern, they respond with expressions of utter joy. Groos called this “the pleasure at being the cause,” and suggested that it was the basis for play.

Before Groos, most Western political philosophers, economists, and social scientists assumed that humans seek power out of either a desire for conquest and domination or a practical need to guarantee physical gratification and reproductive success. Groos’s insight had powerful implications for our understanding of the formation of the self, and of human motivation more generally. Children come to see that they exist as distinct individuals who are separate from the world around them by observing that they can cause something to happen, and happen again. Crucially, the realization brings a delight, the pleasure at being the cause, that is the very foundation of our being.

Experiments have shown that if a child is allowed to experience this delight but then is suddenly denied it, he will become enraged, refuse to engage, or even withdraw from the world entirely. The psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Francis Broucek suspected that such traumatic experiences can cause many mental health issues later in life.

Groos’s research led him to devise a theory of play as make-believe: Adults invent games and diversions for the same reason that an infant delights in his ability to move a pencil. We wish to exercise our powers as an end in themselves. This, Groos suggested, is what freedom is—the ability to make things up for the sake of being able to do so.

The make-believe aspect of the work is precisely what performers of bullshit jobs find the most infuriating. Just about anyone in a supervised wage-labor job finds it maddening to pretend to be busy. Working is meant to serve a purpose—if make-believe play is an expression of human freedom, then make-believe work imposed by others represents a total lack of freedom. It’s unsurprising, then, that the first historical occurrence of the notion that some people ought to be working at all times, or that work should be made up to fill their time even in the absence of things that need
doing, concerns workers who are
not free: prisoners and slaves."



"The idea that workers have a moral obligation to allow their working time to be dictated has become so normalized that members of the public feel indignant if they see, say, transit workers lounging on the job. Thus busywork was invented: to ameliorate the supposed problem of workers not having enough to do to fill an eight-hour day. Take the experience of a woman named Wendy, who sent me a long history of pointless jobs she had worked:

“As a receptionist for a small trade magazine, I was often given tasks to perform while waiting for the phone to ring. Once, one of the ad- sales people dumped thousands of paper clips on my desk and asked me to sort them by color. She then used them interchangeably.

“Another example: my grandmother lived independently in an apartment in New York City into her early nineties, but she did need some help. We hired a very nice woman to live with her, help her do shopping and laundry, and keep an eye out in case she fell or needed help. So, if all went well, there was nothing for this woman to do. This drove my grandmother crazy. ‘She’s just sitting there!’ she would complain. Ultimately, the woman quit.”

This sense of obligation is common across the world. Ramadan, for example, is a young Egyptian engineer working for a public enterprise in Cairo.

The company needed a team of engineers to come in every morning and check whether the air conditioners were working, then hang around in case something broke. Of course, management couldn’t admit that; instead, the firm invented forms, drills, and box-­ticking rituals calculated to keep the team busy for eight hours a day. “I discovered immediately that I hadn’t been hired as an engineer at all but really as some kind of technical bureaucrat,” Ramadan explained. “All we do here is paperwork, filling out checklists and forms.” Fortunately, Ramadan gradually figured out which ones nobody would notice if he ignored and used the time to indulge a growing interest in film and literature. Still, the process left him feeling hollow. “Going every workday to a job that I considered pointless was psychologically exhausting and left me depressed.”

The end result, however exasperating, doesn’t seem all that bad, especially since Ramadan had figured out how to game the system. Why couldn’t he see it, then, as stealing back time that he’d sold to the corporation? Why did the pretense and lack of purpose grind him down?

A bullshit job—where one is treated as if one were usefully employed and forced to play along with the pretense—is inherently demoralizing because it is a game of make-­believe not of one’s own making. Of course the soul cries out. It is an assault on the very foundations of self. A human being unable to have a meaningful impact on the world ceases to exist."
davidgraeber  2018  work  bullshitjobs  capitalism  karlgroos  purpose  well-being  life  living  labor  play  pleasure  delight  employment  depression  slave  wageslavery  wages  freedom  humans  psychology  obligation  morality  care  caring  despair  consumerism 
may 2018 by robertogreco
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
David Graeber • Dead zones of the imagination: on violence, bureaucracy, and interpretive labor
"We are not used to thinking of nursing homes or banks or even HMOs as violent institutions—except perhaps in the most abstract and metaphorical sense. But the violence I’m referring to here is not epistemic. It’s quite concrete. All of these are institutions involved in the allocation of resources within a system of property rights regulated and guaranteed by governments in a system that ultimately rests on the threat of force. “Force,” in turn, is just a euphemistic way to refer to violence.

All of this is obvious enough. What’s of ethnographic interest, perhaps, is how rarely citizens in industrial democracies actually think about this fact, or how instinctively we try to discount its importance. This is what makes it possible, for example, for graduate students to be able to spend days in the stacks of university libraries poring over theoretical tracts about the declining importance of coercion as a factor in modern life, without ever reflecting on that fact that, had they insisted on their right to enter the stacks without showing a properly stamped and validated ID, armed men would indeed be summoned to physically remove them, using whatever force might be required. It’s almost as if the more we allow aspects of our everyday existence to fall under the purview of bureaucratic regulations, the more everyone concerned colludes to downplay the fact (perfectly obvious to those actually running the system) that all of it ultimately depends on the threat of physical harm."
sociology  violence  davidgraeber  2006  bureaucracy  force  coercion  threat  capitalism  property  ownership  latecapitalism  propertyrights  via:ayjay 
april 2017 by robertogreco
'Capitalism will always create bullshit jobs' | Owen Jones meets Rutger Bregman - YouTube
"Rutger Bregman is the author of Utopia for Realists and he advocates for more radical solutions to address inequality in society. His ideas include the introduction of a universal basic income, a 15 hour working week and, one which will be hugely popular on YouTube, open borders.

When I went to meet him, he told me politicians have failed to come up with new, radical ideas, instead sticking to an outdated, technocratic form of politics. He argues this has allowed politicians like Geert Wilders and Donald Trump to slowly shift extreme ideas into the mainstream."
rutgerbregman  bullshitjobs  consumerism  utopia  work  labor  davidgraeber  universalbasicincome  2017  inequality  purpose  emotionallabor  society  socialism  leisurearts  artleisure  boredom  stress  workweek  productivity  policy  politics  poverty  health  medicine  openborders  crime  owenjones  socialjustice  progressivism  sustainability  left  us  germany  migration  immigration  capitalism  netherlands  populism  isolationism  violence  pragmatism  realism  privatization  monopolies  ideology  borders  ubi 
march 2017 by robertogreco
Savage capitalism is back – and it will not tame itself | David Graeber | Comment is free | The Guardian
"In other words, what happened in western Europe and North America between roughly 1917 and 1975 – when capitalism did indeed create high growth and lower inequality – was something of a historical anomaly. There is a growing realisation among economic historians that this was indeed the case. There are many theories as to why. Adair Turner, former chairman of the Financial Services Authority, suggests it was the particular nature of mid-century industrial technology that allowed both high growth rates and a mass trade union movement. Piketty himself points to the destruction of capital during the world wars, and the high rates of taxation and regulation that war mobilisation allowed. Others have different explanations.

No doubt many factors were involved, but almost everyone seems to be ignoring the most obvious. The period when capitalism seemed capable of providing broad and spreading prosperity was also, precisely, the period when capitalists felt they were not the only game in town: when they faced a global rival in the Soviet bloc, revolutionary anti-capitalist movements from Uruguay to China, and at least the possibility of workers' uprisings at home. In other words, rather than high rates of growth allowing greater wealth for capitalists to spread around, the fact that capitalists felt the need to buy off at least some portion of the working classes placed more money in ordinary people's hands, creating increasing consumer demand that was itself largely responsible for the remarkable rates of economic growth that marked capitalism's "golden age".

Since the 1970s, as any significant political threat has receded, things have gone back to their normal state: that is, to savage inequalities, with a miserly 1% presiding over a social order marked by increasing social, economic and even technological stagnation. It was precisely the fact that people such as my Russian friend believed capitalism would inevitably civilise itself that guaranteed it no longer had to do so.

Piketty, in contrast, begins his book by denouncing "the lazy rhetoric of anti-capitalism". He has nothing against capitalism itself – or even, for that matter, inequality. He just wishes to provide a check on capitalism's tendency to create a useless class of parasitical rentiers. As a result, he argues that the left should focus on electing governments dedicated to creating international mechanisms to tax and regulate concentrated wealth. Some of his suggestions – an 80% income tax! – may seem radical, but we are still talking about a man who, having demonstrated capitalism is a gigantic vacuum cleaner sucking wealth into the hands of a tiny elite, insists that we do not simply unplug the machine, but try to build a slightly smaller vacuum cleaner sucking in the opposite direction.

What's more, he doesn't seem to understand that it doesn't matter how many books he sells, or summits he holds with financial luminaries or members of the policy elite, the sheer fact that in 2014 a left-leaning French intellectual can safely declare that he does not want to overthrow the capitalist system but only to save it from itself is the reason such reforms will never happen. The 1% are not about to expropriate themselves, even if asked nicely. And they have spent the past 30 years creating a lock on media and politics to ensure no one will do so through electoral means.

Since no one in their right mind would wish to revive anything like the Soviet Union, we are not going to see anything like the mid-century social democracy created to combat it either. If we want an alternative to stagnation, impoverishment and ecological devastation, we're just going to have to figure out a way to unplug the machine and start again."
capitalism  civilization  communism  crisis  davidgraeber  2015  economics  thomaspiketty  greed  imbalance  inequality  competition  growth  poverty  policy 
september 2015 by robertogreco
The Internet of Things You Don’t Really Need - The Atlantic
"We already chose to forego a future of unconnected software. All of your devices talk constantly to servers, and your data lives in the Cloud because there’s increasingly no other choice. Eventually, we won’t have unconnected things, either. We’ve made that choice too, we just don’t know it yet. For the moment, you can still buy toasters and refrigerators and thermostats that don’t talk to the Internet, but try to find a new television that doesn’t do so. All new TVs are smart TVs, asking you to agree to murky terms and conditions in the process of connecting to Netflix or Hulu. Soon enough, everything will be like Nest. If the last decade was one of making software require connectivity, the next will be one of making everything else require it. Why? For Silicon Valley, the answer is clear: to turn every industry into the computer industry. To make things talk to the computers in giant, secured, air-conditioned warehouses owned by (or hoping to be owned by) a handful of big technology companies.

But at what cost? What improvements to our lives do we not get because we focused on “smart” things? Writing in The Baffler last year, David Graeber asked where the flying cars, force fields, teleportation pods, space colonies, and all the other dreams of the recent past’s future have gone. His answer: Technological development was re-focused so that it wouldn’t threaten existing seats of power and authority. The Internet of Things exists to build a market around new data about your toasting and grilling and refrigeration habits, while duping you into thinking smart devices are making your lives better than you could have made them otherwise, with materials other than computers. Innovation and disruption are foils meant to distract you from the fact that the present is remarkably similar to the past, with you working even harder for it.

But it sure feels like it makes things easier, doesn’t it? The automated bike locks and thermostats all doing your bidding so you can finally be free to get things done. But what will you do, exactly, once you can monitor your propane tank level from the comfort of the toilet or the garage or the liquor store? Check your Gmail, probably, or type into a Google Doc on your smartphone, maybe. Or perhaps, if you’re really lucky, tap some ideas into Evernote for your Internet of Things startup’s crowdfunding campaign. “It’s gonna be huge,” you’ll tell your cookout guests as you saw into a freshly grilled steak in the cool comfort of your Nest-controlled dining room. “This is the future.”"
2015  ianbogost  iot  internetofthings  design  davidgraeber  labor  siliconvalley  technology  power  authority  innovation  disruption  work  future  past  present  marketing  propaganda  google  cloud  cloudcomputing  computers  code  googledocs  ubicomp  ubiquitouscomputing  everyware  adamgreenfield  amazon  dropbox  kickstarter 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Poverty is a tax on cognition - Boing Boing
[video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6_scuce5TA ]

"In an outstanding lecture at the London School of Economics, Macarthur "genius award" recipient Sendhil Mullainathan explains his research on the psychology of scarcity, a subject that he's also written an excellent book about.

Mullainathan begins by establishing the idea that your cognition is limited -- you can only think about a limited number of things at one time, and when the number of things you have to pay attention to goes beyond a certain threshold, you start making errors. Then he explains how poor people have a lot more things they have to pay attention to. In the UK, we make fun of politicians for being so out of touch that they don't know the price of a pint of milk -- but poor people have to keep track of the price of everything they require. There's no room for error. Spend too much on the milk and you can't afford the bread.

That's just one of the many taxes on the cognitive load of poor people. David Graeber's Utopia of Rules details another: figuring out what rich people are thinking. Poor people who piss off rich people face reprisals far beyond those that rich people can expect from each other or from poor people.

This isn't unique to cash-poverty. Mullainathan asks his audience to recall what life is like when they're "time poor" -- on a deadline or otherwise overburdened. This scarcity can focus your attention, yes: we've all had miraculous work-sprints to meet a deadline. But it does so at the expense of thoughtful attention to longer-term (but equally important) priorities: that's why we stress-eat, skip the gym when our workload is spiking, and miss our kids' sports' games when the pressure is on at work.

The experimental literature shows startling parallels between the two conditions: time scarcity and cash scarcity. This leads to a series of policy proscriptions that are brilliant (for example, when we create means-tested benefits that require poor people to go through difficult bureaucratic processes, we're taxing their scarcest and most precious resource). He also recounts how this parallel is useful in creating an empathic link between rich and powerful people like hedge fund managers and the poorest people alive.

Why does poverty persist? Why do successful people get things done at the last minute? A single psychology--the psychology of scarcity--connects these seemingly unconnected questions. The research in our book shows how scarcity creates its own mindset. Understanding this mindset sheds light on our personal problems as well as the broader social problem of poverty and what we can do about it."
corydoctorow  equality  poverty  sendhilmullainathan  cognition  attention  davidgraeber  economics  decisionmaking  time  money  debttraps  scarcity  allnighters  timescarcity  moneyscarcity  tunneling 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Continuous Monuments and Imaginable Alternatives - Amateur Cities
"In 1969, Superstudio, a radical Italian design group, made a proposal for what they called the ‘Continuous Monument’. It was a homogenous block of architecture that would encircle the earth depicting the global and total dimension of design and architecture of that time. We currently live in the time of a similar monument that harvests and feeds off ‘data’ – the golden ambrosia of the 2010s."



"In an ideal situation the model of a mesh network has the potential to become a platform for broadly horizontal networked politics as defined by its inherent structure. It could bring a new type of commons in the face of the death of network neutrality, government and corporate surveillance and exploitation as embodied by the current network structure.

Too often we are confronted with visions and stories of the future that say: ‘In the future everyone will live this way or that way. In the future everyone will have these things. In the future everyone will want that thing.’ This can often lead to acceptance of the idea that the future has been predetermined by powers greater than us. We need to imagine instead, what futures might bring. There are dozens of other small, niggling but significant alternatives that can challenge the theoretical basis for how the future might open up to a plethora of possible imaginable alternatives. Take for instance; domestic solar power, crypto currencies, end-to-end encryption or personal manufacturing. They are but a few that have the potential to either become incredibly empowering or to be sucked into our current continuous monument.

It is often said by military strategists, business leaders and alike that knowledge is the most powerful weapon. But imagination is also a significant one.

The political theorist David Graeber writes about how, since the protests of the late 1960s, the same entities pursuing the project of legibility have pursued a ‘. . . relentless campaign against the human imagination.’ It has resulted in ‘. . . the imposition of an apparatus of hopelessness, designed to squelch any sense of an alternative future.’

Activating imagination in everyday practice is hard. Financial imperatives and competition do not give space and time to explore alternatives and freely play with ideas without consequences. But there is a great reward in giving time to exploration. Inspiration can be found in things like mesh networks, but there are other examples. Jugaad culture – the repurposing of technology predominantly occurring in India is an excellent example. It provides an alternative by giving a particular design a different lifespan and shows how, in William Gibson’s words – ‘the street find its own uses.’ The speculative design cannon proposes objects and systems that are not intended for our world. They aim to stimulate our imagination about the hidden effects and repercussions of our design culture.

The purpose of such design and of introducing imagination is to widen the scope of possibilities. It could prevent the carte blanche master plan of the Smart City to become the inevitable endpoint of the current technological narrative. Furthermore it could perhaps lead to the development of real, functioning designs, such as mesh networks that will work better for people.

Knowledge of the systems, structures and technologies at play in our own continuous monument is vital for technologists, designers, urbanists, architects and everyone involved. It is impossible to be a wholesome practitioner and to remain ignorant of the wider context in which one situates one’s work. But what is equally as important is the activation of imagination; imagining beyond the given context to what could be, not just what, as is often presented, inevitably will be."
tobiasrevell  superstudio  architecture  government  resistance  cities  data  jamescscott  seeinglikeastate  davidgraeber  infrastructure  internet  privacy  surveillance  technology  design  systemsthinking  smartcities  legibility  illegibility  imagination  meshnetworks  2015 
may 2015 by robertogreco
Zeynep Tufecki, David Graeber and the End of Work – Flavorwire
"We can do better than this, though. We have to. The great myth of the “free market” capitalism in which we exist today is that it’s the best of all possible worlds, that it might not be perfect but it’s the best we can do. This is a line that’s often wheeled out by right-wing demagogues with interests to promote — none other than George W. Bush pronounced “democratic capitalism” to be “the best system ever devised” in an address to the nation in September 2008. This is demonstrably untrue — for a start, pretty much every other First World country, and plenty of non-First World ones, manage to gives their citizens universal healthcare — but even if it was true, “best to date” doesn’t mean “best possible.”

The paucity of depictions of a post-work society in pop culture seems to reflect a defeatist mentality, the idea that such a world can never and will never exist. The prevalence of dystopian fiction clearly reflects a growing pessimism about the future, a sort of impotent cynicism that holds that this is the way things will always be, and there’s nothing we can do about it. And, of course, the fact that none of us have ever lived in anything but this capitalist system makes it feel somehow wrong to imagine a world where work isn’t venerated as a virtuous thing in and of itself. People tend to recoil instinctively from ideas like guaranteed minimum income, despite the distinct possibility that it’s exactly what is needed to rectify some of the structural problems of the economy as it exists today — even the idea’s proponents scurry to make it clear that it’s not a disincentive to work.

But why shouldn’t it be? Or, more importantly, why don’t we address the most significant disincentive to work: that the majority of it is a giant waste of everyone’s time on this planet? Work has value if its product is valuable. Someone digging a hole to install, say, a storm drain, is valuable labor; someone digging a hole so someone else can fill it in is a waste of both people’s time, even if it provides them both with a job.

If we’re to devote our imagination to anything, it shouldn’t be ways to outpace the machines, or what might happen when they take over completely. It should be how our economy might work in a world where consumption isn’t a sort of economic ouroboros, where all the hole digging that is required gets done and everyone else finds something better to do with their time. If economists think about such a world today, it’s with trepidation. For the rest of us, though, imagining a world where bullshit jobs are a thing of the past… that’s a challenge we should relish."
tomhaking  2015  zeyneptufekci  labor  work  davidgraeber  universalbasicincome  post-worksociety  society  economics  estherkaplan  ubi 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Anthropology is so important, all children should learn it - The Ecologist
"Anthropology, the study of humankind, should be the first of all the sciences our children encounter, writes Marc Brightman, with its singular capacity to inspire the imagination, broaden the mind and open the heart. Moves to downgrade it in the education system by those who know the price of everything, and the value of nothing, must be fought off.

Anthropology has been in the news because its A-level, only introduced in 2010, is under threat.

This discipline has never been more important at a time of troubling intolerance in society, but it does far more than merely help understand ethnic diversity.

Anthropology includes biological, linguistic and medical fields as well as social and cultural ones, and is as much about human ecology as it is about the 'ecology of mind', to recall the title of Gregory Bateson's classic work. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steps_to_an_Ecology_of_Mind ]

I can remember when I was choosing what to study at University. I loved languages, literature, history and art, and I yearned to travel. But I had never heard of anthropology.

It was only later, as a student of English literature, that I read Lévi-Strauss's Tristes Tropiques and was spellbound by the story he told of his experience of the degradation of the environment by colonialism, and of the mental worlds of the Bororo and Nambikwara people, which were so close to having been obliterated.

Many of my students tell me similar stories of how they discovered anthropology by accident, and when I tell them about the anthropology A-level they say they wish they could have taken it at their school.

Anthropology is a key to ecology as well as culture

Lévi-Strauss's melancholy tone, expressed in the title of his book, comes from witnessing the erosion of both cultural and biological diversity. Rooted in older disciplines closer to the natural sciences, such as geography and biology, as well as in humanities and social sciences, anthropology is about human ecology, different ways of being in the physical world, and about sustainability - not just culture and identity.

It is good that the press has recently covered the well justified protests against the axing of the anthropology A-level before it has even been given a chance to take root (most schools still do not have the capacity to offer it). But the reports emphasise only the value of anthropology for understanding cultural difference.

Yes, it is true that anthropology can help us to understand and relate to different cultures, different ways of being in the world. It can certainly offer ways to educate people to become more tolerant of diversity. But anthropology is much more than this.

In the face of a global ecological crisis which most of the press fails to take seriously, the discipline also has much to offer. Anthropologists are well known for documenting traditional livelihoods, which are often sustainable adaptations to environments which would be difficult to live in without rich bodies of traditional knowledge and practice to draw upon.

As The Ecologist frequently reports, many indigenous peoples have a wealth of traditional knowledge, which is embedded in complex sets of practices that are compatible with, and indeed founded upon, long term ecological relations.

Anthropologists have been at the forefront of efforts to understand these practices and to bring them to the attention of the wider world. We show how people manipulate their environments to make them more productive, rather than depleting the resources that they find - examples of anthropogenic forest islands or dark earths are cases in point.

The myth of 'wilderness'

Land that is not intensively farmed is often all too easily labelled as 'wilderness', and incorporated into the economist's category of 'natural capital', inviting the naïve conclusion that by subjecting it to the laws of supply and demand it will find its true value.

But the value of land, as my work on REDD+ has shown, alongside many other anthropological studies, cannot be simply reduced to exchange value on the market, and attempts to do so can be severely harmful to people and to the environment.

My colleague at UCL, Jerome Lewis, has shown how the sharing economy of Mbendjele hunter gatherers in Congo-Brazzaville, and their intimate relationship with the forest, are invisible to neighbouring farmers, logging companies and conservation organisations, often leading to dispossession and abuse, as others have shown in this magazine.

In my own work, in collaboration with Brazilian scholars, I have shown how ownership plays a fundamental role in structuring social relations among native Amazonian peoples.

When states and extractive industrial actors make claims to land on the basis that it is not used - that it is terra nullius - they often do so in profound ignorance of both indigenous practices and indigenous property regimes. Anthropologists are often well placed to mediate in such cases.

Is the real problem that it's seen as 'subversive'?

The noises made by the Education Secretary about academic 'rigour' ring false as an excuse for axing anthropology, a discipline which at its best combines scientific precision with the critical awareness of the humanities.

Anthropologists also provide robust, evidence based critiques of the assumptions of policy makers and technocrats who offer tempting 'win-win' solutions to problems of sustainable development. Far too many well-meaning development projects do not take detailed account of situations on the ground, and fail in their objectives, with unintended and sometimes destructive consequences, both for the environment and for native inhabitants.

Perhaps for this reason anthropology is perceived as too subversive - it does indeed foster critical thinking that can be uncomfortable for those in power, especially in the hands of incisive and influential critics of the establishment such as David Graeber.

Successive governments have made claims to basing their policies on scientific knowledge. But the fact is that they usually only do so when it suits them, and scientific arguments are taken piecemeal to justify preconceived policy objectives.

The idea of natural capital has been enthusiastically taken up by policymakers from economists such as Partha Dasgupta, because it can be used to bolster a bold new rhetoric about launching a 'green economy', while in reality making few fundamental changes to business as usual.

The natural capital paradigm is not necessarily something to be rejected wholesale, but it must be recognised for what it is: a universalising discourse which has very particular historical origins in Western capitalism.

'Nature' is not an object, and is not separate from culture, for many peoples of the world. Indeed many of the 'natural' landscapes that conservation organisations try to preserve are the product of efforts over the centuries of indigenous peoples - the very peoples who are all too often evicted to make way for hunting lodges, plantations or 'carbon sinks' that only benefit the wealthy.

We should all study anthropology - beginning at primary school!

There is an increasing consensus among those involved in addressing the global ecological crisis that the natural sciences and economics cannot succeed without input from the arts, humanities and social sciences, as a recent conference at UCL resoundingly showed.

Anthropologists routinely deal with local and global phenomena, working at the interface of the arts and the sciences. We have something very important to contribute, and sometimes we are given this opportunity.

The director of the UCL Institute for Global Prosperity is an anthropologist (Henrietta Moore); an anthropologist, Steven Rayner, has served on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Royal Society's Working Group on Climate Geoengineering; and an anthropologist, Manuela Carneiro da Cunha, serves on the Intergovernmental Panel for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.

So anthropological knowledge is in demand, and not merely in the field of cultural identity. To limit the argument about the value of the anthropology A-level to identity politics does a disservice to the discipline.

Anthropology provides students at any level with the critical awareness need for key issues of our times, which are not just religion and ethnicity, but also global sustainability, biocultural diversity and environmental governance. It also gives an excellent preparation for the study of other, more established disciplines such as history, English literature or geography.

More anthropologists are needed in public life, and then the discipline will really influence society and the environment - and very much for the better.

Far from axing the anthropology A-level, the government should support its expansion into the school system at all levels. When I arranged for Nixiwaka Yawanawá of Survival to speak to my son's primary school in Oxford, he gave a basic anthropology lesson to a packed assembly of children aged from four years old upwards, and created a real sensation.

Parents and teachers, as well as children themselves, came to me for weeks afterwards to comment on what a powerful and inspiring experience it had been.

Opening children's eyes, from the earliest ages, to the wonders of cultural diversity, and the different ways of living sustainably in the world, ought surely to be a core aim of our education system."
anthropology  education  gregorybateson  claudelevi-strauss  2015  marcbrightman  children  learning  curriculum  via:anne  k12  tcsnmy  lcproject  openstudioproject  howwelearn  culture  religion  ethnicity  sustainability  diversity  environment  identity  henriettamoore  anthropologists  davidgraeber  parthadasgupta  jeromelewis  wildreness  ecology  anthropocene  howweteach  global  cv 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Why Are Liberals Resigned to Low Wages? | The Nation [“Focusing on unsolvable problems excuses them from dealing with tough political problems.”]
"Liberals need to own the wage problem. Wages remain lower than they were before the Great Recession, following a generation of virtually no growth. Identifying why this is, and understanding the way out, will be essential as the economy gains steam yet still leaves many people behind. And this, in turn, will require overthrowing the reigning attitude that liberals have brought to our economic crisis. Let’s call it liberal nihilism.

Liberal nihilists try to explain why the economy isn’t serving workers, but they do so in ways that render us powerless to fix the problem. There’s a version where workers simply don’t have the education or skills necessary to handle new high-tech jobs. There’s another, similar story in which robots and globalization are taking all the jobs, leaving workers behind in the process.

These stories blame an impersonal market and individual failures for the stagnation of wages, but they don’t fully explain the thirty-five-year decline. For example, we don’t see the gains that would be expected if robots were really replacing workers. (Indeed, low pay for workers is a likely reason many businesses don’t even bother trying to upgrade their equipment.) The economy isn’t even working anymore for highly skilled workers, with many well-educated people seeing stagnant pay or being forced to take low-skill jobs.

But while these explanations are incorrect, that isn’t what makes them nihilistic. The nihilism rests in the fact that these stories are palliatives meant to relieve the anxiety of facing a massive political problem. They describe the collapse in wage growth not as a site of collective political struggle but instead as a story where no one—especially policy-makers—is responsible.

To address the issue of stagnant wages, we’ll have to leave that attitude behind, because the three major institutions that will determine wage growth are political ones.

The Federal Reserve is the first culprit. Contrary to popular belief, the Fed has been overly cautious during the Great Recession, refusing to announce bolder targets or set long-term interest rates directly. This caution will come to a head this year, when the Fed’s chair, Janet Yellen, will have to decide when to begin raising interest rates. If she acts too soon, she will slow down the economy, meaning labor will never regain the bargaining power it needs.

But wage growth is also a matter of how our productive enterprises are organized. Over the past thirty-five years, a “shareholder revolution” has re-engineered our companies in order to channel wealth toward the top, especially corporate executives and shareholders, rather than toward innovation, investments and workers’ wages. As the economist J.W. Mason recently noted, companies used to borrow to invest before the 1980s; now they borrow to give money to stockholders. Meanwhile, innovations in corporate structures, including contingent contracts and franchise models, have shifted the risk down, toward precarious workers, even as profits rise. As a result, the basic productive building blocks of our economy are now inequality-generating machines.

The third driver of wage stagnation is government policy. As anthropologist David Graeber puts it, “Whenever someone starts talking about the ‘free market,’ it’s a good idea to look around for the man with the gun.” Despite the endless talk of a “free market,” our economy is shaped by myriad government policies—and no matter where we look, we see government policies working against everyday workers. Whether it’s letting the real value of the minimum wage decline, making it harder to unionize, or creating bankruptcy laws and intellectual-property regimes that primarily benefit capital and the 1 percent, the way the government structures markets is responsible for weakening labor and causing wages to stay stuck.

This is not how Democratic politicians and liberal thinkers usually talk about the economy. There is a comfort—perhaps even a glee—in waving away these difficult political problems and replacing them with a story in which no one is at fault, save the workers themselves. But if liberals want to ensure a broadly shared prosperity, let alone present a compelling narrative about how their policies will work for voters, they’ll need to recover these stories."
mikekonczal  economics  wages  income  employment  salaries  2015  government  corporations  federalreserve  markets  davidgraeber 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Melville House | "We no longer like to think about bureaucracy, yet...
"We no longer like to think about bureaucracy, yet it informs every aspect of our existence. It’s as if, as a planetary civilization, we have decided to clap our hands over our ears and start humming whenever the topic comes up. Insofar as we are even willing to discuss it, it’s still in the terms popular in the sixties and early seventies. The social movements of the sixties were, on the whole, left-wing in inspiration, but they were also rebellions against bureaucracy, or, to put it more accurately, rebellions against the bureaucratic mindset, against the soul-destroying conformity of the postwar welfare states. In the face of the gray functionaries of both state-capitalist and state-socialist regimes, sixties rebels stood for individual expression and spontaneous conviviality, and against (“rules and regulations, who needs them?”) every form of social control.

With the collapse of the old welfare states, all this has come to seem decidedly quaint. As the language of antibureaucratic individualism has been adopted, with increasing ferocity, by the Right, which insists on “market solutions” to every social problem, the mainstream Left has increasingly reduced itself to fighting a kind of pathetic rearguard action, trying to salvage remnants of the old welfare state: it has acquiesced with—often even spearheaded—attempts to make government efforts more “efficient” through the partial privatization of services and the incorporation of ever-more “market principles,” “market incentives,” and market-based “accountability processes” into the structure of the bureaucracy itself.

The result is a political catastrophe. There’s really no other way to put it. What is presented as the “moderate” Left solution to any social problems—and radical left solutions are, almost everywhere now, ruled out tout court—has invariably come to be some nightmare fusion of the worst elements of bureaucracy and the worst elements of capitalism. It’s as if someone had consciously tried to create the least appealing possible political position. It is a testimony to the genuine lingering power of leftist ideals that anyone would even consider voting for a party that promoted this sort of thing—because surely, if they do, it’s not because they actually think these are good policies, but because these are the only policies anyone who identifies themselves as left-of-center is allowed to set forth.

Is there any wonder, then, that every time there is a social crisis, it is the Right, rather than the Left, which becomes the venue for the expression of popular anger?

The Right, at least, has a critique of bureaucracy. It’s not a very good one. But at least it exists. The Left has none. As a result, when those who identify with the Left do have anything negative to say about bureaucracy, they are usually forced toadopt a watered-down version of the right-wing critique.”
davidgraeber  2015  bureaucracy  left  right  politics  capitalism  freemarket  policy  government  conviviality  rules  regulations  redtape  complexity  accountability  marketsolutions  individualism  liberalism 
january 2015 by robertogreco
BULLSHIT JOBS | 'SEARCH TERMS'
"The answer clearly isn’t economic: it’s moral and political. The ruling class has figured out that a happy and productive population with free time on their hands is a mortal danger (think of what started to happen when this even began to be approximated in the ‘60s). And, on the other hand, the feeling that work is a moral value in itself, and that anyone not willing to submit themselves to some kind of intense work discipline for most of their waking hours deserves nothing, is extraordinarily convenient for them. Once, when contemplating the apparently endless growth of administrative responsibilities in British academic departments, I came up with one possible vision of hell. Hell is a collection of individuals who are spending the bulk of their time working on a task they don’t like and are not especially good at. Say they were hired because they were excellent cabinet-makers, and then discover they are expected to spend a great deal of their time frying fish. Neither does the task really need to be done – at least, there’s only a very limited number of fish that need to be fried. Yet somehow, they all become so obsessed with resentment at the thought that some of their co-workers might be spending more time making cabinets, and not doing their fair share of the fish-frying responsibilities, that before long there’s endless piles of useless badly cooked fish piling up all over the workshop and it’s all that anyone really does. I think this is actually a pretty accurate description of the moral dynamics of our own economy.

Now, I realise any such argument is going to run into immediate objections: “who are you to say what jobs are really ‘necessary’? What’s necessary anyway? You’re an anthropology professor, what’s the ‘need’ for that?” (And indeed a lot of tabloid readers would take the existence of my job as the very definition of wasteful social expenditure.) And on one level, this is obviously true. There can be no objective measure of social value. I would not presume to tell someone who is convinced they are making a meaningful contribution to the world that, really, they are not. But what about those people who are themselves convinced their jobs are meaningless? Not long ago I got back in touch with a school friend who I hadn’t seen since I was 12. I was amazed to discover that in the interim, he had become first a poet, then the front man in an indie rock band. I’d heard some of his songs on the radio having no idea the singer was someone I actually knew. He was obviously brilliant, innovative, and his work had unquestionably brightened and improved the lives of people all over the world. Yet, after a couple of unsuccessful albums, he’d lost his contract, and plagued with debts and a newborn daughter, ended up, as he put it, “taking the default choice of so many directionless folk: law school.” Now he’s a corporate lawyer working in a prominent New York firm. He was the first to admit that his job was utterly meaningless, contributed nothing to the world, and, in his own estimation, should not really exist.

There’s a lot of questions one could ask here, starting with, what does it say about our society that it seems to generate an extremely limited demand for talented poet-musicians, but an apparently infinite demand for specialists in corporate law? (Answer: if 1% of the population controls most of the disposable wealth, what we call “the market” reflects what they think is useful or important, not anybody else.) But even more, it shows that most people in these jobs are ultimately aware of it. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever met a corporate lawyer who didn’t think their job was bullshit. The same goes for almost all the new industries outlined above. There is a whole class of salaried professionals that, should you meet them at parties and admit that you do something that might be considered interesting (an anthropologist, for example), will want to avoid even discussing their line of work entirely. Give them a few drinks, and they will launch into tirades about how pointless and stupid their job really is. This is a profound psychological violence here. How can one even begin to speak of dignity in labour when one secretly feels one’s job should not exist? How can it not create a sense of deep rage and resentment. Yet it is the peculiar genius of our society that its rulers have figured out a way, as in the case of the fish-fryers, to ensure that rage is directed precisely against those who actually do get to do meaningful work. For instance: in our society, there seems a general rule that, the more obviously one’s work benefits other people, the less one is likely to be paid for it. Again, an objective measure is hard to find, but one easy way to get a sense is to ask: what would happen were this entire class of people to simply disappear? Say what you like about nurses, garbage collectors, or mechanics, it’s obvious that were they to vanish in a puff of smoke, the results would be immediate and catastrophic. A world without teachers or dock-workers would soon be in trouble, and even one without science fiction writers or ska musicians would clearly be a lesser place. It’s not entirely clear how humanity would suffer were all private equity CEOs, lobbyists, PR researchers, actuaries, telemarketers, bailiffs or legal consultants to similarly vanish. (Many suspect it might markedly improve.) Yet apart from a handful of well-touted exceptions (doctors), the rule holds surprisingly well."
bullshitjobs  via:ayjay  davidgraeber  economics  2015  idleness  productivity  labor  work  morality  discipline  socialvalue  capitalism  control  power  dignity  wageslavery 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Final Boss Form: An Incomplete List of Interesting Books about Economics
"Here are the three most important books in forming my own worldview on economics.

• Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber. Before there was money, there was debt. This makes this book a great place to start. One of my favorite books of the last decade.

• The Death and Life of Great American Cities, The Economy of Cities, Cities and the Wealth of Nations, and The Nature of Economies by Jane Jacobs. Jane Jacobs was not a traditional economist but her work in understanding how cities operate made me see economies not as a product of nations but as the result of the activity within cities and regions. ‘Death and Life’ and ‘The Economy of Cities’ are so important to me that I gift them to people like missionaries hand out bibles. Here’s a nice writeup of two of her books.

• Civilization and Capitalism (Vol. 1-3) by Fernand Braudel.The single most important book in getting me to understand the connection between capitalism, markets, and everyday life. It also introduced me to the Annales School which is full of interesting ideas. Note: this one is loooooooooong and it took me years to read all three volumes (ok tbh, I’ve read two and half volumes.)

If I were to start reading from scratch, I would start with one or more of these books as an intro. They’re clever and fun and great texts for getting your bearings.

• Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science by Charles Wheelan. A good introduction to general concepts in economics through fantastic storytelling. Check out socoftw's outline of the book here.

• The Little Book of Economics: How the Economy Works in The Real World by Greg Ip. Nice primer. Some bits are a little too FREE MARKET RULEZ! for me but it was also a really good book for me to read. I recommend it because I was able to leap tall-ish articles in a single read after this book.

• The Undercover Economist by Tim Harford. This is the book that explains why your cup of Starbucks costs what it does (among other things.)

These books are a good place to begin thinking critically about conventional economic theory.

• Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner. A clever look at conventional wisdom in economics. Also just a fun read. Also available as an excellent blog, podcast, and twitter feed.

• Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. A summary of three decades of Kahneman’s work in understanding individual behavior in markets. Questions a lot of the “rational behavior” assumptions of neoclassical economics.

• How to Lie with Statistics by Darrell Huff. Statistics are stories told to people as “facts.” Considering how many economic decisions are made based on statistics, it’s important background to know. This book is a classic. (Speaking of facts: I got introduced to this book in high school by none other than George Gallup Jr.)

• The Surprising Design of Market Economies by Alex Marshall. The government builds our markets through property law, taxation, and infrastructure and yet our political conversations purposefully ignore this. This would be lolworthy if not for, you know, people making really bad policy decisions that affect the rest of us.

Okay, now that I’m into this, I want to dive a bit deeper.

• An Engine, Not a Camera by Donald Mackenzie. Finance theory doesn’t exist separate from the economy. By creating a theory of markets, you alter the fate of those markets over and over again.

• Development as Freedom by Amartya Sen. Economic development shouldn’t be seen merely an increase in basic income but as an increase in personal freedom, political freedom, opportunity (including credit), and social security. (Excerpt here.)

• The Work of Nations by Robert Reich. How do you value labor over wealth and reconfigure a workforce for a globalized economy? (I’d also follow his tumblr)

• Capitalism: Its Origins and Evolution as a System of Governance by Bruce R. Scott. A comprehensive look at capitalism and market economies. (Note: this book is sitting on my shelf but I haven’t read it yet.)

These are the books that reflect my current interest in heterodox economics and economic dynamics.

• Capital and Affects: The Politics of the Language Economy by Christian Marazzi. This book was a good introduction to “postfordism” which is a funny word for what comes after an age of industrial, mass market production.

• The Science of Passionate Interests: An Introduction to Gabriel Tarde’s Economic Anthropology by Bruno Latour & Vincent Antonin Lépinay. How do you measure economics not solely in terms of money but as an intensification of passionate interests?

• The Atlas of Economic Complexity by Ricardo Hausmann, CA Hidalgo, et al. Can you predict economic growth based on a measure of “productive” knowledge? Read an overview of the Atlas here. Peep all of the visualizations here and here. (Beware: charts are a highly evolved form of statistics.)

• Complex Economics: Individual and Collective Rationality by Alan Kirman. We make lots of assumptions in our current economic models: rationality, independence, and impersonal interactions. These aren’t based in any mathematical or market truths — they’re just formalisms. So what happens if the purpose of economics wasn’t efficiency but coordination? (Note: this is another book that is sitting on my shelf but I haven’t read it yet.)

Reading Important Old Theorists Is Important Because Everybody Interprets Their Words For Their Own Ends.

• The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith. I suggest reading the whole thing but also understand if you can’t — it’s a long ass book written for an audience from 200 years ago. In that case, the Wikipedia article is a decent summary as long as you follow the links.

• Capital, Vol 1-3 by Karl Marx. I’ve only read Volume 1. Friedrich Engels’ synopsis is a great overview of the basics. The WP article is also a good primer.

• Capitalism and Freedom by Milton Friedman. I would suggest reading the Wikipedia article about him.

• The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money by John Maynard Keynes. Oh, so this is where macroeconomic theory comes from.

Oh yeah, these books are good too.

• Principles of Economics by Greg Mankiw. This is a good 101 read but it’s also an overpriced textbook so look for a used earlier edition that only costs $20 or so. Also browse Greg Mankiw’s blog here.

• The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World by Niall Ferguson. You can also watch the PBS series based on the book here"
books  booklists  economics  2014  kenyattacheese  capitalism  davidgraeber  janejacobs  fernandbraudel  annalesschool  charleswheelan  gregip  timharford  stevenlevitt  stphendubner  danielkahneman  darrellhuff  statistics  alexmarshall  donaldmackenzie  amartyasen  robertreich  brucescott  christianmarazzi  gabrieltarde  brunolatour  vincentantoninlépinay  ricardohausmann  cahidalgo  alankirman  adamsmith  karlmarx  miltonfriedman  johnmaynardkeynes  gregmankiw  niallferguson 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Productivity is Taking Over Our Lives | New Republic
"The paradox of the autodidactic productivity industry of GTD, Lifehacker and the endless reviews of obscure mind-mapping or task-management apps is that it is all too easy to spend one’s time researching how to acquire the perfect set of productivity tools and strategies without ever actually settling down to do something. In this way, the obsessive dream of productivity becomes a perfectly effective defense against its own realization. 

As Samuel Johnson once wrote: “Some are always in a state of preparation, occupied in previous measures, forming plans, accumulating materials and providing for the main affair. These are certainly under the secret power of idleness. Nothing is to be expected from the workman whose tools are for ever to be sought.”

Nor is there any downward cut-off point for “our current obsession with busyness”, as one researcher, Andrew Smart, describes it in his intriguing book Autopilot: the Art and Science of Doing Nothing. Smart observes, appalled, a genre of literary aids for inculcating the discipline of “time management” in children. (Time is not amenable to management: it just keeps passing, whatever you do.) Not allowing children to zone out and do nothing, Smart argues, is probably harming their development. But buckling children into the straitjacket of time management from an early age might seem a sensible way to ensure an agreeably docile new generation of workers."



"This ordinary usage encodes an ordinary wisdom: that mere quantity of activity—as implied by the get-more-done mania of the productivity cult—has nothing to do with its value. Economics does not know how to value Rainer Maria Rilke over a prolific poetaster in receipt of an official laureateship. (One can be confident that, while mooching around European castles and writing nothing for years on end, Rilke would never have worn a T-shirt that announced: “I’m doing work”.) And his life sounds like more fun than one recent Lifehacker article, which eagerly explained how to organise your baseball cap collection by hanging the headwear on shower-curtain hooks arrayed along a rail."
gtd  gttingthingsdone  productivity  control  leisure  artleisure  leisurearts  idleness  stevenpoole  2013  time  management  efficiency  davidgraeber  andrewsmart  rainermariarilke 
october 2014 by robertogreco
The Devil’s Bargain — Medium
"The question Graeber wants to put to us is this: To what extent are our imaginations shaped — constrained, limited — by our having had to live with the technological choices made by the military-industrial complex — by industries and universities working in close collaboration with the government, in a spirit of subservience to its needs?

Or, to put it another way: How were we taught not even to dream of flying cars and jetpacks? — or, or for that matter, an end to world hunger, something that C. P. Snow, in his famous lecture on “the two cultures” of the sciences and humanities, saw as clearly within our grasp more than half-a-century ago? To see “sophisticated simulations” of the things we used to hope we’d really achieve as good enough?"



"As I noted earlier, this seems to cover a very different subject than his meditation on flying cars and the absence thereof — but it’s really about the same thing, which is: the impact of economic structures on imagination. For Graeber it could scarcely be accidental that a world devoted to utility-maximizing, acquisitive market-based behavior would create a theory that animals, indeed the very genes of creatures, invariably behave in a utility-miximizing, acquisitive way in the Great Market of Life."



"For those whose ideas have been shaped so thoroughly by the logic of capitalism, people like Prince Kropotkin who see mutual aid as a factor in evolution, or who would go still further and see play as simply intrinsic to being alive — Graeber doesn’t cite J. Huizinga’s Homo Ludens here, but he should — are just nuts. They’re not seeing the world as it obviously really is.

But, Graeber suggests, maybe what’s obvious from within the logic of late capitalism isn’t so obvious from another point of view; and maybe what’s nuts according to the logic of late capitalism is, again from another point of view, not necessarily nuts. Maybe there is more in heaven and earth, Professor Dawkins, than is dreamt of in your evolutionary biology.

In a famous passage from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek — the much-anthologized chapter called “Seeing” — Annie Dillard cites the naturalist Stewart Edward White on how to learn to see deer: “As soon as you can forget the naturally obvious and construct an artificial obvious, then you too will see deer.” That is, you have to learn to pick out certain now-and-for-you-insignificant elements in your visual field and reassign them to the realm of the significant. And this is true, not just for the visual but also for the mental field. But it is also and equally true that our constructions of the artificial obvious are not invariably reliable: sometimes they are wrong, and if we then forget that they are our constructions, and think of them as the natural obvious, as the way things just are … we’re screwed.

This is Graeber’s point. And you don’t have to agree with him about the playfulness of worms to see its importance. Our social and economic structures prompt us, every day and in a hundred different ways, to see certain elements of our mental field as significant while ever-so-gently discouraging us from noticing others at all. And when it comes to the constructions of our mental worlds, as opposed to our visual fields, we might be missing something more lastingly important than a guy in a gorilla suit.

All of these reflections started with my reading of a 1945 article about the entanglements of the arts with universities, at a time when universities were in danger of becoming what they have since largely become: “social and technical service stations.” Let’s try now to get back to those concerns."



"My point is: I don’t like seeing journalism being drawn so consistently into the same self-justifying, self-celebrating circles that the American university itself was drawn into during and following World War II. As R. P. Blackmur rightly feared, the intimacy between universities and government did not end when the war ended; it only intensified, and the fact that those universities became our chief patrons of the arts, especially literary writing, at the very moment that they crawled permanently into bed with government and industry, cannot be without repercussions for artists.

The best guide to the rise of creative programs in particular is Mark McGurl’s The Program Era, and it’s fascinating how McGurl repeatedly walks right up to the edge of a clearly articulated critique of this system without ever crossing it. In the penultimate sentence of his book he writes, “Is there not more excellent fiction being produced now than anyone has time to read?” Then he starts a new paragraph before giving us the book’s last sentence: “What kind of traitor to the mission of mass higher education would you have to be to think otherwise?” Oh clever man!

Yes, there is a great deal of skillfully written post-World-War-II fiction available to us, indeed more than we could ever read. But how much of it embodies the kind of imaginative otherness that, as David Graeber reminds us, our social/cultural/economic contexts militate against? How much of it, shaped as it is in institutions that owe their continued existence to their affiliation with the military-industrial complex, envisions ways of life radically other than the ones we now experience? How much of it offers more than increasingly sophisticated simulations of worlds we already know, can predict, feel comfortable in? How much, in shirt, is conducive to genuine hope?

I guess what I’m asking for is pretty simple: for writers of all kinds, journalists as well as fiction writers, and artists and academics, to strive to extricate themselves from an “artificial obvious” that has been constructed for us by the dominant institutions of our culture. Simple; also probably impossible. But it’s worth trying. Few things are more worth trying.

And I am also asking universities to realize and to reconsider their implication in those dominant institutions. I don’t demand that schools sever their ties with those institutions, since that would be financially suicidal, and economic times for higher education are hard enough as it is. But there need to be more pockets of resistance: more institutions with self-consciously distinctive missions, and within institutions more departments or even just informal discussion groups who seek to imagine the so-far unimaginable.

Finally, I am asking all this of myself. I’m fifty-five years old. I’ve probably got twenty or so years to think and write at the highest level I’m capable of, and in those years I want to surprise myself. I don’t want merely to recycle and redeploy the ideas I have inherited. I know that this is easier for me, a white American man with a secure job, than it is for many others. But then, that’s all the more reason for me to do it.

Fifty years ago, Jacques Derrida gave a lecture that would become very famous, and created a stir even as he presented it. When the talk ended, the first questioner was Jean Hyppolite, and he asked Derrida what his talk was “tending toward.” Derrida replied, “I was wondering myself if I know where I am going. So I would answer you by saying, first, that I am trying, precisely, to put myself at a point so that I do not know any longer where I am going.”"
2014  alanjacobs  education  culture  highereducation  highered  davidgraeber  whauden  rpblackmur  louisalthusser  adamkirsch  militaryindustrialcomplex  power  funding  academia  creativity  play  economics  imagination  richarddawkins  canon  corporatization  corporatism  mutualaid  peterkropotkin  homoludens  johanhuizinga  seeing  stewartendward  anniedillard  californiasundaymagazine  technology  siliconvalley  capitalism  latecapitalism  journalism  writing  jacquesderrida  jeanhyppolite  markmcgurl  context  resistance  utopia  pocketsofresistance  courage  possibility  transcontextualism  paradigmshifts  althusser  transcontextualization 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Why America's favorite anarchist thinks most American workers are slaves | Making Sen$e | PBS NewsHour
"Q: So you like this idea?

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

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



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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: Wage slaves?

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

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

Do People Like to Work? Look at Prisons"

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

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

Q: Well, it’s very expensive.

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

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

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

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

Q: What Is Society Missing Without a Basic Income?

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

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

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

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

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

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

[See also: http://maymay.net/blog/2014/04/20/david-graeber-on-death-by-bureaucracy-if-we-had-a-basic-income-we-wouldnt-need-to-decide-who-needs-food-and-who-doesnt/ ]
davidgraeber  2014  economics  universalbasicincome  productivity  wageslavery  labor  work  bullshitjobs  bureaucracy  switzerland  us  policy  government  creativity  art  music  anarchism  anarchy  socialism  libertarianism  libertarians  friedrichhayek  socialwelfare  namibia  democracy  markets  deirdremccloskey  donmccloskey  communitarianism  incomeinequality  inequality  motivation  ubi 
september 2014 by robertogreco
Congratulations, class of 2014: You’re totally screwed - Salon.com
"“No major new works of social theory have emerged in the United States in the last thirty years,” wrote the anthropologist David Graeber in an important 2012 essay about this age of diminishing innovation. “We have been reduced to the equivalent of medieval scholastics, writing endless annotations of French theory from the seventies. . . .” I emailed Graeber and asked him to elaborate. Here’s what he said:

“If you look at the lives and personalities of almost any of the Great Thinkers currently lionized in the American academy, certainly anyone like Deleuze, or Foucault, Wittgenstein, Freud, Einstein, or even Max Weber, none of them would have lasted ten minutes in our current system. These were some seriously odd people. They probably would never have finished grad school, and if they somehow did discipline themselves to appear sufficiently “professional,” “collegial,” conformist and compliant to make it through adjunct hell or pre-tenure, it would be at the expense of leaving them incapable of producing any of the works for which they have become famous.”"

[Update: Alan Jacobs expands on that second paragraph: http://text-patterns.thenewatlantis.com/2014/05/on-academic-helicopters.html ]
economics  highereducation  davidgraeber  adjuncts  2014  highered  thomasfrank  colleges  universities  labor  alanjacobs 
may 2014 by robertogreco
Are you paid to look busy?
"You had an article recently, the name of which I can’t say on television, so let’s call it “BS Jobs.” What was the point?

So, all my life, there’s people, you meet them at parties, you run into them, you ask them what they do, and they kind of look sheepish and don’t want to admit it, you know? They say, well, it’s not really very interesting. It’s like, well, I’m a human resource consultant; I work at a computer firm where I fill out forms of a certain kind to make it faster for somebody else to do this, or I’m a middle man among seven layers of middlemen in this sort of outsourcing… They’re always embarrassed; they don’t look like they do anything. All those people out there who have these jobs that you don’t think they’re really doing anything, they must be suffering, they must know that their jobs are essentially made up. Imagine going to work every day knowing you’re not really doing anything. What must that do to someone’s soul?

How could you have dignity in labor if you secretly believe your job shouldn’t exist? But, of course, you’re not going to tell your boss that. So I thought, you know, there must be enormous moral and spiritual damage done to our society. And then I thought, well, maybe that explains some other things, like why is it there’s this deep, popular resentment against people who have real jobs? They can get people so angry at auto-workers, just because they make 30 bucks an hour, which is like nowhere near what corporate lawyers make, but nobody seems to resent them. They get angry at the auto-workers; they get angry at teachers. They don’t get angry at school administrators, who actually make more money. Most of the problems people blame on teachers, and I think on some level, that’s resentment: all these people with meaningless jobs are saying, but, you guys get to teach kids, you get to make cars; that’s real work. We don’t get to do real work; you want benefits, too? That’s not reasonable.

You mean that the resentment is born of envy?

It’s envy of people who get to have meaningful jobs that actually produce something. I think that’s a major political force in America, and other places as well. It seems to operate to the benefit of the people running the society. I don’t think they set it up as a conspiracy, but they let it happen, because if you think about it, that’s exactly what’s not supposed to happen in a capitalist system. You know, we all made fun of the Soviet Union because they would just make up these meaningless jobs because well, we have full employment. So they just make up jobs, moving things from one side to another. Or there’d be three different people to buy a piece of bread — you have to get a ticket from one, you have to go over here.

But we’re doing the same thing, except instead of making up meaningless proletarian jobs, we’re making up meaningless office jobs, and these guys are basically paid to act busy all day. A lot of them may really work one or two hours, and the rest of the time they’re downloading stuff from the Internet, or playing around on Facebook or something. But, their job is to sit in an office, and basically valorize the idea that everybody should look busy all the time, that work is valuable in itself.

We used to think work was valuable because it produces something. Now we think that work is just valuable itself. If you’re not busy all the time doing something, anything — doesn’t really matter what it is — you’re a bad person, and that’s exactly the sort of logic that basic income would get rid of.

What percentage of jobs do you think of these days, very ballpark estimate, as “BS jobs”?

I’d say 20 percent. But it’s hard for me to say. The last thing I want to do is come in and say, you, your job is BS, while you, you’re okay. The whole idea is that people should decide for themselves what’s valuable. But if you talk about jobs where the people who actually are working at them secretly feel that they really don’t produce anything, or don’t do anything, I’d say about 20 percent has been my experience. But, of course, you know, we’d have to do extensive research to see if that’s really true.

After you wrote the article, what kind of response did you get?

Oh, that was what was remarkable. I mean if ever there was a hypothesis that was confirmed by the response… I wrote this in a very obscure British lefty magazine called Strike Magazine, going out on the Internet, and within three or four weeks, I think it had been translated into 14 different languages, including Catalan, Estonian, Korean. It was circulated around the world, and I got all these messages from people saying, oh, people in the financial services industry have been passing this back and forth — I got this five times in the last week sent to me from different friends — and then people would start writing these blogs, these confessionals. There was one I saw in Australia, where people were writing things like, it’s true, I’m a corporate lawyer, I contribute nothing to society, I’m miserable all the time, I just do this for my children, otherwise I’d get out. Over and over again, people saying yes, it’s true, my job does nothing."
culture  jobs  work  2014  society  davidgraeber  inefficiency  productivity  bullshitjobs  careers  capitalism  universalbasicincome  economics  labor  employment  socialsafetynet  class  ubi 
may 2014 by robertogreco
Two ways to work for nothing – GEOFF SHULLENBERGER
"In an interview about The People’s Platform, Astra Taylor notes that of late “more and more of us are encouraged to think of ourselves as artists no matter what our line of work. It’s a way of framing some of the unappealing things about our current economic condition — the lack of stability or of a social safety net—as something desirable and empowering. The ethos of the artist — someone who is willing to work with no guarantee of reward, who will sacrifice and self-exploit around the clock — is demanded of people across the board.” This tendency manifests itself in many realms: Taylor gives the example of Apple Store employees being told they should be grateful just to have the experience of working for Apple, but the rhetoric used to draw freelancers into digital sweatshops matches what she describes even more perfectly. Then we have the phenomenon I have been examining lately on this blog: the replacement of skilled workers with volunteers.

Alongside the imperative to embrace your exploitation as an artist embraces her vocation, though, proliferates the contrasting logic of what David Graeber called ”bullshit jobs” in a memorable article from last year. In a recent interview on the subject, Graeber explains that he is mainly referring to “meaningless office jobs [where workers] are basically paid to act busy all day. A lot of them may really work one or two hours, and the rest of the time they’re downloading stuff from the Internet, or playing around on Facebook or something. But, their job is to sit in an office, and basically valorize the idea that everybody should look busy all the time, that work is valuable in itself.” As Graeber notes, the expansion of this area of employment seems to be an economic paradox: “According to economic theory, at least, the last thing a profit-seeking firm is going to do is shell out money to workers they don’t really need to employ. Still, somehow, it happens.” Graeber’s solution: “The answer clearly isn’t economic: it’s moral and political. The ruling class has figured out that a happy and productive population with free time on their hands is a mortal danger… And, on the other hand, the feeling that work is a moral value in itself, and that anyone not willing to submit themselves to some kind of intense work discipline for most of their waking hours deserves nothing, is extraordinarily convenient for them.”

Compare this to BuzzFeed’s and Coursera’s translation strategies: they really need the translation to be done, but they have invented elaborate schemes to avoid paying translators. The value and necessity of the work of translation to their companies could not be clearer, yet in this area a logic of ruthless efficiency applies, but not when it comes to the kind of jobs Graeber is describing: much of that work does not seem to be fundamentally needed by anyone, yet paradoxically organizations are willing to pay workers for it. As long as it is something that you would do even if it were unpaid, it is increasingly becoming something you have to do for free or for very little. On the other hand, you can be paid to do the kind of jobs that no one would do if managers did not invent them.

For Graeber, bullshit jobs carry with them a moral imperative: “If you’re not busy all the time doing something, anything — doesn’t really matter what it is — you’re a bad person.” But the flipside of that logic seems to be: if you actually like doing x activity, if it is valuable, meaningful, and carries intrinsic rewards for you, it is wrong for you to expect to be paid (well) for it; you should give it freely, even (especially) if by doing so you are allowing others to profit. In other words, we’ll make a living from you doing what you love (for free), but we’ll keep you in check by making sure you have to make a living doing what you hate."
bullshitjobs  geoffshullenberger  astrataylor  labor  work  economics  art  2014  davidgraeber  busyness  inefficiency  waste  politics  morality  productivity  happiness  translation  taskrabbit  buzzfeed  coursera  employment  coercion  discipline  society  capitalism  universalbasicincome  socialsafetynet  class  ubi 
may 2014 by robertogreco
18. Webstock 2014 Talk Notes and References - postarchitectural
[Direct link to video: https://vimeo.com/91957759 ]
[See also: http://www.webstock.org.nz/talks/the-future-happens-so-much/ ]

"I was honored to be invited to Webstock 2014 to speak, and decided to use it as an opportunity to talk about startups and growth in general.

I prepared for this talk by collecting links, notes, and references in a flat text file, like I did for Eyeo and Visualized. These references are vaguely sorted into the structure of the talk. Roughly, I tried to talk about the future happening all around us, the startup ecosystem and the pressures for growth that got us there, and the dangerous sides of it both at an individual and a corporate level. I ended by talking about ways for us as a community to intervene in these systems of growth.

The framework of finding places to intervene comes from Leverage Points by Donella Meadows, and I was trying to apply the idea of 'monstrous thoughts' from Just Asking by David Foster Wallace. And though what I was trying to get across is much better said and felt through books like Seeing like a State, Debt, or Arctic Dreams, here's what was in my head."
shahwang  2014  webstock  donellameadows  jamescscott  seeinglikeastate  davidgraeber  debt  economics  barrylopez  trevorpaglen  google  technology  prism  robotics  robots  surveillance  systemsthinking  growth  finance  venturecapital  maciejceglowski  millsbaker  mandybrown  danhon  advertising  meritocracy  democracy  snapchat  capitalism  infrastructure  internet  web  future  irrationalexuberance  github  geopffmanaugh  corproratism  shareholders  oligopoly  oligarchy  fredscharmen  kenmcleod  ianbanks  eleanorsaitta  quinnorton  adamgreenfield  marshallbrain  politics  edwardsnowden  davidsimon  georgepacker  nicolefenton  power  responsibility  davidfosterwallace  christinaxu  money  adamcurtis  dmytrikleiner  charlieloyd  wealth  risk  sarahkendxior  markjacobson  anildash  rebeccasolnit  russellbrand  louisck  caseygollan  alexpayne  judsontrue  jamesdarling  jenlowe  wilsonminer  kierkegaard  readinglist  startups  kiev  systems  control  data  resistance  obligation  care  cynicism  snark  change  changetheory  neoliberalism  intervention  leveragepoints  engagement  nonprofit  changemaki 
april 2014 by robertogreco
What’s the Point If We Can’t Have Fun? | David Graeber | The Baffler
"Generally speaking, an analysis of animal behavior is not considered scientific unless the animal is assumed, at least tacitly, to be operating according to the same means/end calculations that one would apply to economic transactions. Under this assumption, an expenditure of energy must be directed toward some goal, whether it be obtaining food, securing territory, achieving dominance, or maximizing reproductive success—unless one can absolutely prove that it isn’t, and absolute proof in such matters is, as one might imagine, very hard to come by.

I must emphasize here that it doesn’t really matter what sort of theory of animal motivation a scientist might entertain: what she believes an animal to be thinking, whether she thinks an animal can be said to be “thinking” anything at all. I’m not saying that ethologists actually believe that animals are simply rational calculating machines. I’m simply saying that ethologists have boxed themselves into a world where to be scientific means to offer an explanation of behavior in rational terms—which in turn means describing an animal as if it were a calculating economic actor trying to maximize some sort of self-interest—whatever their theory of animal psychology, or motivation, might be.

That’s why the existence of animal play is considered something of an intellectual scandal. It’s understudied, and those who do study it are seen as mildly eccentric. As with many vaguely threatening, speculative notions, difficult-to-satisfy criteria are introduced for proving animal play exists, and even when it is acknowledged, the research more often than not cannibalizes its own insights by trying to demonstrate that play must have some long-term survival or reproductive function.":



"Years ago, when I taught at Yale, I would sometimes assign a reading containing a famous Taoist story. I offered an automatic “A” to any student who could tell me why the last line made sense. (None ever succeeded.)
Zhuangzi and Huizi were strolling on a bridge over the River Hao, when the former observed, “See how the minnows dart between the rocks! Such is the happiness of fishes.”

“You not being a fish,” said Huizi, “how can you possibly know what makes fish happy?”

“And you not being I,” said Zhuangzi, “how can you know that I don’t know what makes fish happy?”

“If I, not being you, cannot know what you know,” replied Huizi, “does it not follow from that very fact that you, not being a fish, cannot know what makes fish happy?”

“Let us go back,” said Zhuangzi, “to your original question. You asked me how I knew what makes fish happy. The very fact you asked shows that you knew I knew—as I did know, from my own feelings on this bridge.”

The anecdote is usually taken as a confrontation between two irreconcilable approaches to the world: the logician versus the mystic. But if that’s true, then why did Zhuangzi, who wrote it down, show himself to be defeated by his logician friend?

After thinking about the story for years, it struck me that this was the entire point. By all accounts, Zhuangzi and Huizi were the best of friends. They liked to spend hours arguing like this. Surely, that was what Zhuangzi was really getting at. We can each understand what the other is feeling because, arguing about the fish, we are doing exactly what the fish are doing: having fun, doing something we do well for the sheer pleasure of doing it. Engaging in a form of play. The very fact that you felt compelled to try to beat me in an argument, and were so happy to be able to do so, shows that the premise you were arguing must be false. Since if even philosophers are motivated primarily by such pleasures, by the exercise of their highest powers simply for the sake of doing so, then surely this is a principle that exists on every level of nature—which is why I could spontaneously identify it, too, in fish.

Zhuangzi was right. So was June Thunderstorm. Our minds are just a part of nature. We can understand the happiness of fishes—or ants, or inchworms—because what drives us to think and argue about such matters is, ultimately, exactly the same thing.

Now wasn’t that fun?"

[See also: http://www.shaviro.com/Blog/?p=1194 via @bobbyjgeorge ]
davidgraeber  fun  play  evolution  culture  psychology  economics  socialscience  2014  history  philosophy  living  life  freedom  homoludens  animals  behavior  multispecies 
february 2014 by robertogreco
Occupy Wall Street's debt buying strikes at the heart of capitalism | Alex Andreou | Comment is free | theguardian.com
"Capitalism requires a layer of cheap, flexible labour to operate optimally. It is not a coincidence that the most successful global economy, by any traditional capitalist measure, is an authoritarian quasi-communist state. Many, myself included, have been arguing that our current predicament is not crisis-consequent austerity, but a permanent adjustment. David Cameron on Monday confirmed as much. The great lie, peddled by Thatcher and Reagan, was the idea that we could all be middle class, white-collar professionals within a neoliberal economy. It was simply not true.

David Graeber, one of the original members of Occupy Wall Street writes: "[A]lmost immediately we noticed a pattern. The overwhelming majority of Occupiers were, in one way or another, refugees of the American debt system … The rise of OWS allowed us to start seeing the system for what it is: an enormous engine of debt extraction. Debt is how the rich extract wealth from the rest of us, at home and abroad." Western capitalism is running out of serfs, slaves, colonies, immigrants, child labour and women as chattels. A new underclass must be created. Debt is the weapon of choice. Medical bills underlie more than 60% of bankruptcies in the US. The level of student debt has reached an eye-watering $1.2tn.

This is why the debate on the back-door privatisation of medical and education services in this country matters so much. The extraction of profit from these two key areas changes the social contract in a fundamental way. The idea is no longer that the state will educate you and keep you healthy, so that you may continue to contribute with both your work and your taxes. It has mutated instead into "you will borrow money from the state's private partners in order to become educated and stay healthy, so that you may continue to contribute to their bottom line". All of the 99%, in a very real way, work in part for an assortment of financial institutions, largely invisible and certainly unaccountable.

Iceland's – strangely unreported – decision to write down mortgage debt for its citizens, undermines that notion. A rejection of traditional systems of credit and money as a response to austerity, such as in the barter markets of Volos in Greece and Turin in Italy undermines that notion. The Rolling Jubilee project undermines that notion in a significant way, by asking the sizzling question: "If a corporation is prepared to accept five cents on the dollar in exchange for our debts, if that is our debt's open market value, how much do we really owe?"

And if your instinct is to point out that $15m is so small a drop in the ocean as to be insignificant, my response would be: not to the 2,693 people who received that letter. The sparkle of a lit fuse is, by its nature, humble."
occupywallstreet  ows  rollingjubilee  iceland  strikedebt  2013  alexandreou  davidgraeber  control  economics  finance  labor  work  davidcameron 
november 2013 by robertogreco
On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs | Strike! Magazine
"So what are these new jobs, precisely? A recent report comparing employment in the US between 1910 and 2000 gives us a clear picture (and I note, one pretty much exactly echoed in the UK). Over the course of the last century, the number of workers employed as domestic servants, in industry, and in the farm sector has collapsed dramatically. At the same time, “professional, managerial, clerical, sales, and service workers” tripled, growing “from one-quarter to three-quarters of total employment.” In other words, productive jobs have, just as predicted, been largely automated away (even if you count industrial workers globally, including the toiling masses in India and China, such workers are still not nearly so large a percentage of the world population as they used to be).

But rather than allowing a massive reduction of working hours to free the world’s population to pursue their own projects, pleasures, visions, and ideas, we have seen the ballooning not even so much of the “service” sector as of the administrative sector, up to and including the creation of whole new industries like financial services or telemarketing, or the unprecedented expansion of sectors like corporate law, academic and health administration, human resources, and public relations. And these numbers do not even reflect on all those people whose job is to provide administrative, technical, or security support for these industries, or for that matter the whole host of ancillary industries (dog-washers, all-night pizza deliverymen) that only exist because everyone else is spending so much of their time working in all the other ones.

These are what I propose to call “bullshit jobs.”"



"There is a whole class of salaried professionals that, should you meet them at parties and admit that you do something that might be considered interesting (an anthropologist, for example), will want to avoid even discussing their line of work entirely. Give them a few drinks, and they will launch into tirades about how pointless and stupid their job really is.

This is a profound psychological violence here. How can one even begin to speak of dignity in labour when one secretly feels one’s job should not exist? How can it not create a sense of deep rage and resentment. Yet it is the peculiar genius of our society that its rulers have figured out a way, as in the case of the fish-fryers, to ensure that rage is directed precisely against those who actually do get to do meaningful work. For instance: in our society, there seems a general rule that, the more obviously one’s work benefits other people, the less one is likely to be paid for it. Again, an objective measure is hard to find, but one easy way to get a sense is to ask: what would happen were this entire class of people to simply disappear? Say what you like about nurses, garbage collectors, or mechanics, it’s obvious that were they to vanish in a puff of smoke, the results would be immediate and catastrophic. A world without teachers or dock-workers would soon be in trouble, and even one without science fiction writers or ska musicians would clearly be a lesser place. It’s not entirely clear how humanity would suffer were all private equity CEOs, lobbyists, PR researchers, actuaries, telemarketers, bailiffs or legal consultants to similarly vanish. (Many suspect it might markedly improve.) Yet apart from a handful of well-touted exceptions (doctors), the rule holds surprisingly well.

Even more perverse, there seems to be a broad sense that this is the way things should be. This is one of the secret strengths of right-wing populism. You can see it when tabloids whip up resentment against tube workers for paralysing London during contract disputes: the very fact that tube workers can paralyse London shows that their work is actually necessary, but this seems to be precisely what annoys people. It’s even clearer in the US, where Republicans have had remarkable success mobilizing resentment against school teachers, or auto workers (and not, significantly, against the school administrators or auto industry managers who actually cause the problems) for their supposedly bloated wages and benefits. It’s as if they are being told “but you get to teach children! Or make cars! You get to have real jobs! And on top of that you have the nerve to also expect middle-class pensions and health care?”

If someone had designed a work regime perfectly suited to maintaining the power of finance capital, it’s hard to see how they could have done a better job. Real, productive workers are relentlessly squeezed and exploited. The remainder are divided between a terrorised stratum of the, universally reviled, unemployed and a larger stratum who are basically paid to do nothing, in positions designed to make them identify with the perspectives and sensibilities of the ruling class (managers, administrators, etc) – and particularly its financial avatars – but, at the same time, foster a simmering resentment against anyone whose work has clear and undeniable social value. Clearly, the system was never consciously designed. It emerged from almost a century of trial and error. But it is the only explanation for why, despite our technological capacities, we are not all working 3-4 hour days."

[Also here with an altered title: http://www.smh.com.au/national/public-service/the-modern-phenomenon-of-nonsense-jobs-20130831-2sy3j.html ]
economics  employment  jobs  politics  davidgraeber  capitalism  work  meaning  purpose  waste  power  resentment  vocations  bullshitjobs  2013  administrativebloat 
september 2013 by robertogreco
A Practical Utopian’s Guide to the Coming Collapse | David Graeber | The Baffler
[Now here: http://www.thebaffler.com/salvos/a-practical-utopians-guide-to-the-coming-collapse ]

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



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

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



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



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

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

Work It Out, Slow It Down

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

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

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

Myself, I am less interested in deciding what sort of economic system we should have in a free society than in creating the means by which people can make such decisions for themselves. What might a revolution in common sense actually look like? I don’t know, but I can think of any number of pieces of conventional wisdom that surely need challenging if we are to create any sort of viable free society. I’ve already explored one—the nature of money and debt—in some detail in a recent book. I even suggested a debt jubilee, a general cancellation, in part just to bring home that money is really just a human product, a set of promises, that by its nature can always be renegotiated."
debt  economics  politics  revolution  work  labor  davidgraeber  power  society  revolutions  2013  grassroots  punk  global  conformity  bureaucracy  feminism  1789  frenchrevolution  1848  1968  communism  independence  freedom  1917  thestate  commonsense  fringe  ideas  memes  socialmovements  war  collateraldamage  civilrights  gayrights  neoliberalism  freemarkets  libertarianism  debtcancellation  fear  insecurity  consumerism  occupy  occupywallstreet  ows  sustainability  growth  well-being  utopianism  productivity  environment  humanism  ideology  class  classstruggle  abbiehoffman  slow  supervision  control  management  taylorism  virtue  artleisure  discipline  leisurearts  globalization 
may 2013 by robertogreco
Venture Ethnography 1: a bi(bli)ography « Justin Pickard
"Project Cascadia is the test-case for a cluster of ideas I’ve been playing with for the best part of five years. A chance to break out my signature obsessions …

Hauntings, world expos, gonzo journalism, science fiction, systems, geopolitics, utopianism, virtuality, globalisation, the sublime, resilience, collapsonomics, aesthetics, architecture, environmentalism, infrastructure, design, futures studies, sovereignty, atemporality, risk, the nation-state, the uncanny, Americana, technoscience, cyberpunk, multispecies ethnography, fiction, capitalism, the human senses, counterfactual history, media and cyborgs (and media cyborgs)

… and nail them to the mast of a weird and interstitial sort of boat; a soupy, hybrid writing practice that would combine the best of ethnography, journalism and science fiction.

In lieu of a biography, then, I’m offering a bibliography. Five years of my brain, in books, articles, essays, and blog posts…"
urbanism  jgballard  richardbarbrook  marcaugé  warrenellis  jenniferegan  bradleygarrett  donnaharaway  naomiklein  brunolatour  ursulaleguin  ianmacdonald  suketumehta  chinamieville  jimrossignol  michaeltaussig  huntersthompson  adamgreenfield  brucesterling  thomaspynchon  bldgblog  geoffmanaugh  cityofsound  danhill  davidgraeber  matthewgandy  williamgibson  corydoctorow  douglascoupland  michaelchabon  jamaiscascio  laurenbeukes  journalism  mediacyborgs  cyborgs  geopolitics  aesthetics  utopianism  risk  atemporality  sovereignty  sciencefiction  cyberpunk  technoscience  ethnography  capitalism  globalization  collapsonomics  resilience  writing  projectcascadia  bibliographies  2011  justinpickard  bibliography  from delicious
november 2012 by robertogreco
Super Position – The New Inquiry
"Almost never do superheroes make, create, or build anything. The villains, in contrast, are endlessly creative. They are full of plans and projects and ideas. Clearly, we are supposed to first, without consciously realizing it, identify with the villains. After all, they’re having all the fun. Then of course we feel guilty for it, re-identify with the hero, and have even more fun watching the superego clubbing the errant Id back into submission."

"Costumed superheroes ultimately battle criminals in the name of the law—even if they themselves often operate outside a strictly legal framework. But in the modern state, the very status of law is a problem. This is because of a basic logical paradox: no system can generate itself.

Any power capable of creating a system of law cannot itself be bound by them. So law has to come from somewhere else…

We’ve gone…from a situation where the power to create a legal order derives from God, to one where it derives from armed revolution, to…"
systemsthinking  systems  occupywallstreet  ows  dictatorship  dictators  legal  law  tradition  fascism  comicbooks  comics  spiderman  superman  darkknight  christophernolan  batman  walterbenjamin  conservationoftradition  conservatism  states  violence  superheroes  2012  davidgraeber 
october 2012 by robertogreco
How Do You Run Away from Home?
"For some people, psychological home has clearly moved online. I recall an op-ed somewhere several years ago, comparing cellphones to pacifiers. Appropriate, if they represent a connection to psychological ‘home.’ Putting your phone away is like suddenly being teleported away from home to a strange new place.

For others, the three R’s still dominate the idea of home. Online life is not satisfying for these people. I think this segment will shrink, just as the number of people who are attached to paper books is shrinking.

For a speculative third category, we have the sitcom-ish idea of interchangeable people in roles. I am not sure this category is real yet. I see some evidence for it in my own life, but it is not compelling.

But for a fourth category of people, the need for a psychological home itself is reduced. A utilitarian home is enough. The getting away drive has irreversibly altered psychology."
psychogeography  2012  davidgraeber  gettingaway  thirdculture  runningaway  interchangability  offline  internet  web  digital  online  belonging  culture  anarchism  existentialism  libertarianism  francisfukuyama  robertsapolsky  psychology  history  place  homes  home  rootedness  identity  individualism  venkateshrao  from delicious
april 2012 by robertogreco
Concerning the Violent Peace-Police: An Open Letter to Chris Hedges – The New Inquiry
"Over the course of the next 40 years, Gandhi and his movement were regularly denounced in the media, just as non-violent anarchists are also always denounced in the media (and I might remark here that while not an anarchist himself, Gandhi was strongly influenced by anarchists like Kropotkin and Tolstoy), as a mere front for more violent, terroristic elements, with whom he was said to be secretly collaborating. He was regularly challenged to prove his non-violent credentials by assisting the authorities in suppressing such elements. Here Gandhi remained resolute. It is always morally superior, he insisted, to oppose injustice through non-violent means than through violent means. However, to oppose injustice through violent means is still morally superior to not doing anything to oppose injustice at all.

And Gandhi was talking about people who were blowing up trains, or assassinating government officials. Not damaging windows or spray-painting rude things about the police."

[Also here: http://www.nplusonemag.com/concerning-the-violent-peace-police ]
police  resistance  revolt  revolution  gandhi  nonviolence  activism  protest  violence  history  occupywallstreet  chrishedges  ows  markrothko  davidgraeber  anarchist  2012  blackbloc  peterkropotkin  from delicious
february 2012 by robertogreco
David Graeber, On Bureaucratic Technologies & the Future as Dream-Time [at SVA]
"The twentieth century produced a very clear sense of what the future was to be, but we now seem unable to imagine any sort of redemptive future. Anthropologist and writer David Graeber asks, "How did this happen?" One reason is the replacement of what might be called poetic technologies with bureaucratic ones. Another is the terminal perturbations of capitalism, which is increasingly unable to envision any future at all. Presented by the MFA Art Criticism and Writing Department."
occupywallstreet  ows  anarchism  davidgraeber  alvintoffler  timothyleary  futurism  situationist  capitalism  collapse  economics  anthropology  robots  robotfactories  future  labor  efficiency  sva  self-governance  paperwork  decentralization  scifi  sciencefiction  humanrights  corruption  politics  policy  organization  2012  startrek  automation  technology  from delicious
february 2012 by robertogreco
Rebecca Solnit on Hope on Vimeo
"Despair is a black leather jacket in which everyone looks good, while hope is a frilly pink dress few dare to wear. Rebecca Solnit thinks this virtue needs to be redefined.

Here she takes to our pulpit to deliver a sermon that looks at the remarkable social changes of the past half century, the stories the mainstream media neglects and the big surprises that keep on landing.

She explores why disaster makes us behave better and why it's braver to hope than to hide behind despair's confidence and cynicism's safety.

History is not an army. It's more like a crab scuttling sideways. And we need to be brave enough to hope change is possible in order to have a chance of making it happen."
mainstreammedia  davidgraeber  venezuela  indigeneity  indigenousrights  indigenous  us  mexico  ecuador  anti-globalization  latinamerica  bolivia  evamorales  lula  cynicism  uncertainty  struggle  paulofreire  barackobama  georgewbush  humanrights  insurgency  hosnimubarak  egypt  yemen  china  saudiarabia  bahrain  change  protest  tunisia  optimism  future  environment  contrarians  peterkro  peterkropotkin  worldbank  imf  globaljustice  history  freemarkets  freetrade  media  globalization  publicdiscourse  neoliberalism  easttimor  syria  control  power  children  brasil  argentina  postcapitalism  passion  learning  education  giftgiving  gifteconomy  gifts  politics  policy  generosity  kindness  sustainability  life  labor  work  schooloflife  social  society  capitalism  economics  hope  2011  anti-authoritarians  antiauthority  anarchy  anarchism  rebeccasolnit  brazil  shrequest1  luladasilva  from delicious
february 2012 by robertogreco
A Conversation With Anarchist David Graeber - YouTube
"Anarchists believe in direct action…Anarchism is about acting as if you are already free…Anarchism is democracy without the government…Anarchism is direct democracy…Anarchism is a commitment to the idea that it would be possible to have a society based on principles of self-organization, voluntary association, and mutual idea."
2006  davidgraeber  authority  hierarchy  academia  globalization  politics  subversion  marxism  teaching  cv  charlierose  interviews  via:chrisberthelsen  subordination  philosophy  freedom  activism  coercion  democracy  optimism  humanism  protest  voluntaryassociation  mutualaid  self-organization  deschooling  unschooling  power  worldbank  imf  process  consensus  history  war  20thcentury  policy  economics  capitalism  concensus 
december 2011 by robertogreco
#OccupyEducated Primer Reading List: The Essentials
"If you are curious about why Occupy Wall Street has turned into Occupy Everywhere, if you want a basic understanding of the problems in the system that make this stand necessary, we believe these are the books to start with, in no particular order.* The links go to a description and video to start your Occupy education."

"1. Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein
2. Debt: The First 5000 Years, David Graeber
3. The End of Growth, Richard Heinberg
4. In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan
5. Griftopia, Matt Taibbi
6. Democracy Matters, Cornell West"
cornelwest  naomiklein  shockdoctrine  michaelpollan  matttaibbi  griftopia  indefenseoffood  richardheinberg  davidgraeber  books  booklists  ows  occupywallstreet  2011 
december 2011 by robertogreco

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