robertogreco + precarity   74

Chile protests against President Pinera and deep inequality.
“But symbols get scrambled when they’re reused. If a spectacle resurfaces, its meaning rarely remains exactly the same. That’s happened with the Joker, and it’s happening with other old reference points too. Take the loud pot-beating protests that have been taking place all over Chile, called cacerolazos. People leaning out of windows or marching on the streets, loudly expressing their dissatisfaction with the status quo and their support for the protests. (If you don’t know what that sounds like, here’s a video a relative sent me from Oct. 19, taken in the middle-class neighborhood of Ñuñoa.) If you were around and right-wing in 1971, the cacerolazos ringing out all across the country the past week—in rich neighborhoods and poor ones, in cities big and small—might remind you of the March of the Empty Pots, which many forget was actually undertaken by conservative Chilean women to register their opposition to Allende’s socialist government. Those protests were largely and functionally right-wing, but—like the cacerolazos against the government today, which have a very different politics—they also managed to transcend class differences.

Today, the cacerolazo seems to be transcending categories again. Because they seem to be coming from every sector, it’s not clear that Chile’s current situation is reducible to the usual right–left axes. On Friday night, the largest protest in the country’s history gathered, with approximately 1.2 million in Santiago and protests in solidarity all over the country. The sheer size also doesn’t lend itself easily to factionalist descriptions. That’s what sets this moment apart—and makes it seem just very faintly possible that a country that’s been rehashing the same triumphalist and traumatic stories about itself for decades might be able to pivot for a new chapter. While over 120 allegations of human rights violations are being investigated, including possible homicides by law enforcement and allegations of torture and sexual abuse—as well as hundreds of people injured by birdshot—the massive gatherings have not yet resulted in the kind of brutal military crackdown that happened in 1973.

I started here by referring, as for years one had to, to the country’s two protagonists: Pinochet and Allende. They were symbols of two very different Chiles. But when I said that these sights in Chile the past week would be traumatic if you were alive in 1973, I meant it. Many Chileans weren’t alive then. This contingent—young, buckling under increasing costs of living and enormous debt—seems tired of relitigating the past. They’re objecting, at least in part, to the long shadow Pinochet and Allende have cast: to the way Pinochet has been used endlessly as an excuse by the left while they preserved many or most aspects of his economic model; to the way Allende has remained a boogeyman for the right, used to scare children with stories of financial ruin and leftist terrorism. It even makes a certain horribly Freudian kind of sense that breaking the country out of these unproductive narrative recursions would require a strange and terribly dangerous semi-reenactment. With tanks on the streets. Lines in the stores. Fires. Fights.

I don’t want to downplay the intensity of what’s happened the past week. The chaos has many Chileans exhausted and on edge. What began with a student protest over a subway fare hike has exploded into nationwide marches against much more: an unsustainably high cost of living, poverty-level retirements, bad and expensive health care, poor education, and crushing debt, to name a few. President Sebastián Piñera called a state of emergency in the early hours of Oct. 19, deploying the military. Much of the country is now under curfew. As of this writing, 18 people have died. There is footage of soldiers beating civilians; one video captures Carabineros (militarized police) bludgeoning people as they walk by. A TV network aired live footage of soldiers shooting as they drove through a neighborhood in Recoleta. On Tuesday morning, an Argentine TV news team was broadcasting when a soldier lifted his rifle and shot at them with a rubber bullet. By Tuesday night, there was footage of soldiers shooting into a building in Las Condes. Chile’s infrastructure has been heavily damaged in the protests too: After Oct. 18, most of the subway system was severely damaged and temporarily shut down. Dozens of stations were burned. While some lines are partly operational, full function won’t be restored for months. Buses and police precincts and stores were set on fire. Hundreds of small and medium-size businesses throughout the country have had to close due to looting or other damage. Things are loud and frightening and wild.”



“On Friday, the Congress was evacuated due to protests outside, a peaceful (if loud) protest that by evening surpassed a million people in Plaza Baquedano alone. Though truckers have denied going on strike for fear of creating food shortages, they joined taxi drivers to bring the highways outside Santiago to gridlock, protesting against high road tolls. Efforts to create enough change are ongoing too: Evelyn Matthei, who served as Piñera’s former minister of labor during his first term, ran for president, and is currently mayor of Santiago’s Providencia district, said in an interview on Friday that the kind of profound change the country needed would require replacing “at least” eight of Piñera’s 24 ministers with people from the middle class with more diverse backgrounds that included (for example) public education experience. In the lower chamber of Congress, the House passed a proposed reduction in the work-week to 40 hours, and the opposition proposed a plebiscite for a new Constitution. To the extent that the demands are legible, the protests seem to be calling, first, for an end to the state of emergency and the military presence, and, more broadly, for a Constituent Assembly—for a new Constitution and a new social contract that sees people more as citizens than as a captive market for corporations seeking government concessions. Many are calling for the resignation of Interior Minister Chadwick, who spearheaded the initial escalation against the fare-dodgers. Others call for Piñera’s ouster. After the extraordinary, nation-wide outpouring Friday evening—Santiago’s protests were made up of almost 7 percent of the country’s population—Piñera tweeted, “The massive, joyous and peaceful protest today, where Chileans ask for a Chile with greater justice and solidarity, opens big roads to future and hope. We all have heard the message. We all have changed. With unity and help from God, we will travel this road to a better Chile for everyone.” Many of the chants had directly insulted him. On Saturday, he announced that he’d asked all his ministers to resign and said he would lift the state of emergency on Sunday if circumstances permitted. The curfew in Santiago is over. No one knows what will happen next.

***

I’ve noticed fewer Joker references over the last few days. And it feels like the potency of certain old spectacles—men in uniform confronting civilians, long grocery store lines—might be diminishing too. After a week of this state of emergency, things are not better in Chile. Things do not get easier when the “happy face” gets replaced by honest feeling. Tourism has plummeted, there are still fires, and people are anxious and angry and tired. But circumstances are not as bad as they could be. It could all go south at any time, but for now—for now—there is not desabastecimiento. The lines are not bread lines. (Yet.) Disturbing though the images of military attacking civilians are, things have not escalated to the familiar point of no return. I don’t know if that’s progress for a country both saturated by and sick of witnessed and inherited traumas. But it is something.

“Do you think Joker inspired any of this?” I asked my cousin Bernardita. “Of course,” she said, “or actually, the reverse: the social discontent inspired this interpretation of the Joker. Without a doubt.”

Whatever use the protesters have made of the Joker, there are obvious limits to his explanatory power. The protesters’ interpretation of the nihilistic clown has also taken some extratextual—and unifying—turns, such as the refusal of some politicians (and even a general) to adopt the rhetoric of war. The Joker snapped and turned on society. Chile is angry, and parts of it did snap. But by and large, the public still cares and has not devolved into nihilism. On Oct. 21, NO ESTAMOS EN GUERRA—WE ARE NOT AT WAR—was projected on the side of the Telefónica building near Plaza Italia, where huge crowds had gathered to reject the military’s enforcement of the curfew and test this version of Chile to see if it has changed. And if it can.”
lililoofbourow  chile  2019  protests  history  salvadorallende  pinochet  inequality  precarity  change  corruption  government  governance  democracy  neoliberlalism  chicagoboys  policy  politics  protest  sebastiánpiñera  michelebachelet  ricardolagos  dictatorship  symbols  symbolism  thejoker  batman  military  mobility  wellbeing  qualityoflife  labor  work  debt  violence  coup  trauma  injustice  justice  reform  constitution  eduardofrei  revolution  resistance  neoliberalism  capitalism  miltonfriedman  victorjara 
24 days ago by robertogreco
If Piñera wants to wage war in Chile he should fight the real enemy: inequality | Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser | Opinion | The Guardian
“If Piñera wants to wage war in Chile he should fight the real enemy: inequality

The president declared ‘Chile is at war’ but the crisis is, at heart, a message to the Chilean elite: profound changes are needed to rebuild the social contract

As with the yellow vest movement in France, it was impossible to foresee that an increase in the price of the Santiago metro would trigger demonstrations throughout Chile. When you think about it, however, it is unsurprising. Inequality in Chile is scandalous and most middle-class Chileans live in precarity. Now Chile is roiled by mass protests and looting; the government has declared a state of emergency and imposed curfews in many cities across the country.

The scale of the looting shows that the country has a structural problem with a clear name: inequality. The per capita income of the bottom quintile of Chileans is less than $140 a month. Half the population earns about $550. Tax evasion has cost the treasury approximately $1.5bn. Two-thirds of Chileans believe that it is unfair that those who can pay more have access to better health and education. They’re right.

The images of discontent and anger around the country are shocking to watch. Yet the current Chilean administration and much of the political class simply do not seem to understand the magnitude of the problem or what is at stake. On Friday night, as the situation spiraled out of control, the president, Sebastián Piñera, dined in Vitacura, the richest neighborhood in Santiago. A few days earlier, the minister of economy suggested that since the price of the Santiago metro is cheaper in the morning, people should get up early to save money. Attitudes like these only reinforce the existing malaise.

How have Chilean authorities responded so far? On the one hand, they have kept an inexplicable silence and their actions have been late and incompetent. On the other hand, the government has begun advancing an increasingly authoritarian message implying that the conflict must be solved with repression.

“Chile is at war,” Piñera declared on Sunday night. He argued that the country is facing a powerful and violent foe and that the government should respond in kind. Those who lived through the Pinochet dictatorship heard those words with dismay. While it is true that the looting is serious and security is needed, it is alarming that the government does not have the slightest interest in understanding the social discontent in Chilean society.

The Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz famously argued that “war is the continuation of politics by other means”. When the president of Chile asserts that the country is at war and implies that the armed forces must solve the problem, he has effectively abdicated his job: to govern. (Luckily, Gen Javier Iturriaga, who is in charge of the emergency situation, later declared that he is not at war with anyone.) Piñera and his advisers do not seem to understand that the problem facing the country is not a military one but a political one. This crisis is, at heart, an urgent message to the Chilean elite: profound changes are needed to rebuild the social contract.

The longer it takes the government to understand this, the harder it will be to get out of this catastrophe. Real political reforms will take time, but there are symbolic measures that the government could take as a first step, like firing the cabinet ministers who have shown themselves to be most out of touch with their own people.

It is also worth remembering that increasing economic inequality is not a Chilean phenomenon but a global phenomenon. Hopefully other governments see the lesson here: rampant economic inequality is dangerous to social stability.

If the Chilean government chooses a repressive path, it will not only generate more violence, but also give greater voice to radical and autocratic rightwing forces. Democracy itself is at stake. If Piñera wants to wage war, he should wage war on the real enemy: inequality. This war can be won only through politics and not by other means.”
chile  2019  sebastiánpiñera  protests  economics  protest  neoliberalism  inequality  capitalism  politics  policy  cristóbalrovirakaltwasser  autocracy  democracy  carlvonclausewitz  javieriturriaga  violence  precarity  elitism 
27 days ago by robertogreco
The ‘risk to democracy’ in Chile isn’t from protesters. It’s from Piñera and the 1% | Oscar Guardiola-Rivera | Opinion | The Guardian
“The ‘risk to democracy’ in Chile isn’t from protesters. It’s from Piñera and the 1%

Protest criminalised, direct action equated with terrorism: it’s starting to feel like the bad old days of Pinochet

“We’re at war against a powerful enemy,” declared President Sebastián Piñera live on Sunday night TV from the Chilean army headquarters. “Democracy not only has the right but the duty to defend itself using all instruments … and the rule of law to fight those who would destroy it.” You may be forgiven for thinking Chilean democracy is besieged by some terrifying force: a foreign army, or even an invader from outer space. Nothing could be further from the truth. Piñera’s statement is doublethink: a lie travelling the world while truth is still putting on its boots.

But who is the enemy Piñera has gone to war with? One of his government’s own making – namely, the poorer people of Chile. This is the country that is the ground-zero for the neoliberal economic model now in crisis all over the world. From Canada and the United States to Chile and Argentina, the fire this time in the Americas and elsewhere is being fanned by the few. They’ve benefited the most from an economic model that consists of squeezing the many. And now, having nothing else to lose but their bullshit jobs and half-lives, the dispossessed are rising up like an army.

The Chilean people have been robbed of everything. Health, education, water, transport, all basic services have been privatised. Hope has been privatised. What else is there to do? Protest peacefully? Done that.

I witnessed a dance-in a few years back in Santiago. Dressed up like zombies in a 1980s Michael Jackson video, the student movement demanded free public education. They’ve been doing so since 2006. The protests intensified in 2011, during the first Piñera administration: 70% of the population supported their demands, widely seen as part of a general desire to transform the economic and political model established by the military dictatorship that governed the country from 1973 to 1990, after the violent coup against democratic socialist Salvador Allende.

Consider Chile’s privatised education system. It emerged during the Pinochet years in the 1980s, resulting in the 1990 education constitutional framework, signed by the general himself. After the first wave of student mobilisations, Pinochet’s framework was replaced by the 2009 General Education Law, which introduced no significant changes.

Like the rest of Chile’s neoliberal model, it was set in constitutional stone so that its reform or repeal would be nearly impossible. Such provisions became part of a constitutional framework designed by Pinochet’s intellectual collaborators like Jaime Guzmán, who was responsible for drafting most of the constitution that still governs Chile.

Guzmán was inspired by Francoist falangism and Third Reich constitutionalism, revised for a late 20th-century landscape. According to this ethos, respect for the constitution and the rule of law only goes as far “as the situation permits”, as the junta members put it on 11 September 1973, the day of the coup. This qualification has been accepted by all post-dictatorship rulers of Chile, if not in principle at least in practice.

In the dictatorship, meaningful protest and direct action were forbidden. Engaging in such acts meant risking summary execution, torture or disappearance. In the democracy, nominal rights to protest exist but remain severely limited. Social protest is frequently criminalised and direct action often equated with terrorism.

Judging from the videos and testimonies circulated this week by concerned citizens and protesters, engaging in such acts still risks violent reprisals from the authorities.

The Pinochet regime offers us a lesson: a neoliberal model can only be established by a campaign of scapegoating and lies, underpinned by the promise to “take back control”, “restore order and the constitution” and deliver “the will of the people”, plus a modicum of force. It can only be maintained if such force is normalised, shielding the model from the protests of the left-behind, which are inevitable when the dispossessed realise the game was rigged from the very outset. These were the tactics of Chile’s military junta. Clearly, its actions have echoes in the present.

This time, the spark that blew the powder keg came on 13 October, when the transport ministry announced the Santiago underground fare would rise by 30 pesos. Thereafter, school students began organising fare-dodging acts of protest all over the city. Thirty pesos might not sound much. And if you squint, Chile’s economy isn’t doing that badly: it has a GDP of $15,902 (£14,155) per capita, one of the highest in Latin America.

But for the many, Chile’s workers and precariat, the average salary is low: only £350 per month. Commuters coming from the peripheries to work in the capital may have to spend between £50 to £70 a month on transport alone. Try to feed a family with what’s left in a country without universal healthcare or free education. It is the same across the continent – in Quito, Buenos Aires, Bogotá, Rio. No wonder the hemisphere is exploding.

After the adults started joining students in fare-dodging protests, economics minister Juan Fontaine, very much of the free-market Chicago school, advised them to get up earlier to avoid the more expensive fares. His colleague, transport minister Gloria Hutt, later implied fare-dodgers were criminals. As protests raged across the city, a video of Piñera partying at an upscale restaurant during his grandson’s birthday went viral. People took to the streets.

Piñera then did what they all do – the Trumps, the Bolsonaros, the Johnsons of this world. He stamped his authority in the name of democracy, law, and the will of the people. In the country of Pinochet, Piñera resorted to the behaviour of a dictator.

The state is now behaving like security for the country’s privatised industries. The crackdown is not about protecting the people. It’s not about 30 pesos. It’s about 30 years of an economic model elevated to the level of constitutional principle for the benefit of those who got richer during the Pinochet years, and continue to get even richer during Piñera’s – while the many suffer. They’re not taking it any more.”
oscarguardiola-rivera  2019  chile  sebastiánpiñera  protest  protests  democracy  inequality  plutocracy  oligarchy  capitalism  neoliberalism  dictatorship  pinochet  precarity  economics  politics  policy  violence  society  jaimeguzmán  constitution 
27 days ago by robertogreco
Chileans Have Launched a General Strike Against Austerity
"Chile is the original home of neoliberalism, first begun after the overthrow of President Salvador Allende in 1973. If you listen closely to mass protests on the streets today, you can hear Allende's last words: “The people must defend themselves.”"
chile  2019  history  neoliberalism  economics  chicagoboys  miltonfriedman  salvadorallende  felipelagos-rojas  franciscagómez-baeza  capitalism  inequality  privatization  precarity  sebastiánpiñera  imf  society  government  governance  dispossession  debt  credit  pinochet 
27 days ago by robertogreco
From Chile to Lebanon, Protests Flare Over Wallet Issues - The New York Times
"Pocketbook items have become the catalysts for popular fury across the globe in recent weeks."

"In Chile, the spark was an increase in subway fares. In Lebanon, it was a tax on WhatsApp calls. The government of Saudi Arabia moved against hookah pipes. In India, it was about onions.

Small pocketbook items became the focus of popular fury across the globe in recent weeks, as frustrated citizens filled the streets for unexpected protests that tapped into a wellspring of bubbling frustration at a class of political elites seen as irredeemably corrupt or hopelessly unjust or both. They followed mass demonstrations in Bolivia, Spain, Iraq and Russia and before that the Czech Republic, Algeria, Sudan and Kazakhstan in what has been a steady drumbeat of unrest over the past few months.

At first glance, many of the demonstrations were linked by little more than tactics. Weeks of unremitting civil disobedience in Hong Kong set the template for a confrontational approach driven by vastly different economic or political demands.

Yet in many of the restive countries, experts discern a pattern: a louder-than-usual howl against elites in countries where democracy is a source of disappointment, corruption is seen as brazen, and a tiny political class lives large while the younger generation struggles to get by.

“It’s young people who have had enough,” said Ali H. Soufan, chief executive of The Soufan Group, a security intelligence consultancy. “This new generation are not buying into what they see as the corrupt order of the political and economic elite in their own countries. They want a change.”

Few were as surprised as the leaders of those countries.

On Thursday, the President Sebastián Piñera of Chile boasted that his country was an oasis of stability in Latin America. “We are ready to do everything to not fall into populism, into demagoguery,” he said in an interview published in The Financial Times.

The next day, protesters attacked factories, torched subway stations and looted supermarkets in Chile’s worst upheaval in decades, eventually forcing Mr. Piñera to deploy troops to the streets. By Wednesday, at least 15 people were dead, and a clearly rattled Mr. Piñera had spoken of “war against a powerful and implacable enemy.”

In Lebanon, Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri survived recent embarrassing revelations about a $16 million gift to a bikini model whom he met at a luxury resort in the Seychelles in 2013, a move that, for some critics, epitomized Lebanon’s ruling class. Then last week he announced the tax on WhatsApp calls, setting off a revolt.

Decades of discontent over inequality, stagnation and corruption erupted into the open, drawing as much as a quarter of the country into euphoric antigovernment demonstrations driven by chants of “Revolution!”

With one of the highest levels of public debt and intractably low employment, Lebanon seems incapable of providing basic public services like electricity, clean drinking water or reliable internet service. Austerity measures have hollowed out the middle class, while the richest 0.1 percent of the population — which includes many politicians — earns a tenth of the country’s national income, much of it, critics say, from plundering the country’s resources.

On Monday Mr. Hariri scrapped the planned tax, announcing a hasty reform package to rescue the country’s sclerotic economy and pledging to recover public trust.

Although the recent scattering of mass protests appears dramatic, scholars say it is a continuation of a rising trend. For decades, societies across the world have become far likelier to pursue sweeping political change by taking to the streets.

The rate of protest has accelerated sharply of late, as various factors have converged: a slowing global economy, dizzying gaps between rich and poor and a youth bulge that in many countries has produced a restive new generation fizzing with frustrated ambition. In addition, the expansion of democracy has stalled globally, leaving citizens with unresponsive governments frustrated and activists sure that street action is the only way to force change.

But as protest movements grow, their success rates are plunging. Only 20 years ago, 70 percent of protests demanding systemic political change achieved it — a figure that had been growing steadily since the 1950s, according to a study by Erica Chenoweth, a Harvard University political scientist.

In the mid-2000s, that trend reversed. Success rates now stand at 30 percent, the study said, a decline that Professor Chenoweth called staggering.

These two trends are closely linked. As protests become more frequent but likelier to flounder, they stretch on and on, becoming more contentious, more visible — and more apt to return to the streets when their demands go unmet. The result may be a world where popular uprisings lose their prominence, becoming simply part of the landscape.

“Something has really shifted,” Professor Chenoweth said in an interview.

“You could say these protests mirror what’s going on in the United States,” said Vali Nasr, a Middle East scholar who recently stepped down as dean of Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington. In countries where elections are decisive, like the United States and Britain, skepticism about the old political order has produced populist, nationalist and anti-immigrant results at the polls.

“In other countries, where people don’t have a voice, you have massive protests erupting,” he said.

The disparate outbreaks of unrest have not gone unnoticed at the United Nations. Secretary General António Guterres raised them at a meeting of the International Monetary Fund this past weekend, his spokesman, Stéphane Dujarric, said on Tuesday. Critics have accused the I.M.F. of exacerbating economic hardships in countries like Ecuador through austerity measures imposed to reduce debts.

“We are seeing demonstrations in different places, but there are some commonalities,” Mr. Dujarric said, citing “people feeling they are under extreme financial pressure, the issue of inequality, and a lot of other structural issues.”

Some experts say the rash of global protests is too diverse to neatly categorize or ascribe to a single theme. Michael Ignatieff, president of Central European University, was in Barcelona last week as more than 500,000 people thronged the streets after a court sentenced former separatist leaders to prison.

While the Barcelona protests bore some resemblance to mass demonstrations in other cities, Mr. Ignatieff said it would be a mistake to lump them together. “People are not being swept away by the madness of the crowds,” he said. “This is politics, with specific causes and specific issues. If you don’t acknowledge that, you make popular politics look like a series of crazy fashions, like the same trousers or headgear.”

Still, within some regions, the protests are often similar to each other.

In the Middle East, the tumult has drawn inevitable comparisons with the upheavals of the Arab Spring of 2011. But experts say these recent protests are driven by a new generation that cares less about the old sectarian or ideological divides.

Instead of calling for the head of a dictator as many Arabs did in 2011, the Lebanese have indicted an entire political class.

“They are stealing and pretending that they aren’t. Who’s responsible, if not them?” Dany Yacoub, 22, said on Monday, the fourth day she had spent protesting in central Beirut. She studied to be a music teacher, but said she cannot find a job because it takes political connections to get hired in a school. “We don’t believe them anymore,” she said.

Many Arabs have been wary of popular protest since the Arab Spring uprisings, heeding doom-tinged warnings from authoritarian leaders that any upheaval could tip their societies into the same violent chaos as Libya, Syria or Yemen.

But the recent wave of protests in Lebanon, Egypt and Iraq — as well as revolts that toppled longstanding dictators in Algeria and Sudan this year — suggest that wall of fear is starting to crumble.

“Syria has been the boogeyman for a very long time,” said Maha Yahya, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut. “But Algeria and Sudan showed that chaos does not have to be the answer.”

Even in Saudi Arabia, where the threat of government repression makes public protests practically unthinkable, an unusual rebellion erupted on social media over a 100 percent tax on bills at restaurants with water pipes, or hookahs. The Arabic hashtag “tax on hookah restaurants” trended in the kingdom. Some Twitter commentators said the tax contradicted the ruling family’s desire to change Saudi Arabia’s ultraconservative image.

If protests are quicker to stir and more widespread than in earlier decades, they are also more fragile. The painstaking mobilization that once was a feature of grass-roots movements was slow but durable. Protests that organize on social media can rise faster, but collapse just as quickly.

Authoritarian governments have also learned to co-opt social media, using it to disseminate propaganda, rally sympathizers or simply spread confusion, Professor Chenoweth said.

And even where there is a spasm of protest, it takes a lot more for it to snowball into a full opposition movement. The soaring price of onions in India caused farmers to block highways and mount short-lived protests. But frustration has yet to sharpen into mass demonstrations because there is nobody to channel it: India’s opposition is in disarray; divisions of caste and religion dominate politics; and the government of the Hindu nationalist prime minister, Narendra Modi, constantly raises the threat of neighboring Pakistan to distract the public."
protest  protests  2019  chile  saudiarabia  lebanon  india  algeria  sudan  kazakhstan  czechrepublic  bolivia  spain  españa  iraq  russia  demonstrations  corruption  policy  economics  neoliberalism  inequality  poverty  stagnation  elitism  governance  government  revolution  qualityoflife  youth  ericchenoweth  valinasr  barcelona  santiago  middleeast  authoritarianism  precarity 
28 days ago by robertogreco
Chile: arenas movedizas en los cimientos del alumno ejemplar
"La violencia evidencia el agrietamiento del modelo de crecimiento económico más exitoso de la región.

Las estimaciones de crecimiento de la economía de Chile para 2019 realizadas el Ministerio de Hacienda de aquel país prevén un aumento del 2,6 por ciento del Producto Interno Bruto. El dato, sin ser fulgurante (la economía mundial crecería algo más del 3% en el mismo período), contrasta con el crecimiento anémico de la economía brasileña, la contracción argentina, con crisis de deuda, o la crisis presupuestaria que motivó a Ecuador a recurrir al Fondo Monetario Internacional, desatando una rebelión en las calles. La pobreza sigue descendiendo, y la medición que, según su propia canasta, alcanzaba a casi el 40% de la población al regreso de la democracia, hoy es menor al 8%. El salario mínimo es uno de los más altos de Sudamérica y el salario real se mantiene en alza.

Si los números parecieran dar la razón al presidente Piñera en aquello de que "Chile es una isla de estabilidad en una región convulsionada", ¿qué pasó entonces en Chile? ¿cómo es que estos números correlacionan con las protestas masivas y las imágenes de violencia urbana que llegan desde Santiago?

Como dirigente político, Piñera recuerda a Zelig, aquel personaje de Woody Allen capaz de mimetizarse completamente con su entorno. No fue extraño que, rodeado de gobernantes progresistas en toda la región, con Obama al frente de los Estados Unidos, su primera presidencia casi pudiera asimilarse a un quinto gobierno de la Concertación. Quizá, el que hubiera sido si la Democracia Cristiana no se hubiera debilitado tanto en la correlación de fuerzas interna de la coalición de centroizquierda que hegemonizó la primera etapa democrática. Entonces, no parecía extraño verlo pasear sonriente durante los festejos del bicentenario argentino, entre retratos del Salvador Allende y Ernesto Guevara, al lado de Lula, Cristina Fernández y Rafael Correa. Para su segundo gobierno, las cosas habían cambiado.

Del Chile exitoso, que había crecido, en promedio, al 5% anual desde 1990, aparecía otro que pasaba dificultades. El segundo gobierno de Michelle Bachelet pasaba sin pena ni gloria, con la foto de un crecimiento magro y una gestión deslucida, y una agenda de reformas que había descendido en ambición al chocar con los límites de la clase dirigente, política y empresaria, chilena, incluyendo a parte de su propio espacio. Reformas que, aún tímidas, despertaron en el empresariado nacional una reacción feroz en los niveles de inversión, cuyo carácter eminentemente político resalta aún más en la comparación con las empresas multinacionales, acostumbradas a pagar muchos más impuestos que los que exige el Estado chileno. En un contexto de baja de los precios de las materias primas, la combinación resultó irreversible.

Para Zelig, rodeado ahora de gobiernos de derecha y enfrentado a una centro izquierda debilitada y plagada de disconformes en ambos flancos, la promesa era el regreso a "tiempos mejores", que no serían otra cosa que la reversión del "populismo" de la administración anterior, que habría quitado al país de la senda del crecimiento. El regreso de Piñera trajo una contrarreforma tributaria, regresiva, que benefició sobre todo al sector empresario más concentrado, con la esperanza de un boom inversor. En lo discursivo, de las sonrisas intercambiadas con Lula Da Silva, pasó a intentar apadrinar a Jair Bolsonaro, desde el día de su llegada al gobierno.

El modelo chileno contiene tensiones evidentes. La excesiva mercantilización heredada de la dictadura, y solo revertida muy parcialmente por la democracia, de sectores esenciales como la salud, la educación y el sistema previsional dio como resultado un sistema enormemente estratificado, donde la correlación entre clases sociales y calidad de las prestaciones es enormemente elevada, acentuando, en vez de mitigar, las diferencias sociales. El vigoroso crecimiento económico y las urgencias post dictadura ocultaron estas carencias que afloraron nuevamente cuando las carencias cedieron. Las demandas de la población ya no se vinculan con salir de la pobreza, sino con la calidad de vida, el progreso y las expectativas a la altura de los discursos sobre un Chile que prevé, en pocos años más, alcanzar el ingreso por habitante de los países desarrollados más rezagados, como Portugal o Hungría, pero que carece de un Estado Benefactor como el de cualquiera de esos países.

El contrato social del Chile de la recuperación democrática suponía una sociedad civil amansada y una dirigencia política endogámica y estable, percibida como eficiente y honesta, encargada de aportar crecimiento y bienestar. El modelo nunca fue del todo cierto, y las tradiciones de acción directa de la izquierda chilena mantuvieron una presencia relativamente marginal pero notoria, con escenas de enfrentamientos épicos los días de conmemoración del golpe militar del 73.

Durante el primer gobierno de Michelle Bachelet, el esquema comenzó a colapsar. El primer gran conflicto de transporte, con la caótica puesta en marcha del Transantiago (un sistema parecido al Metrobús), dio paso a otros movimientos sociales, contra las Administradoras de Fondos Previsionales privadas, y las magras jubilaciones que percibe la mayoría de los chilenos y, el más significativo, la "rebelión de los pingüinos", el movimiento de estudiantes por la gratuidad educativa, contra el enorme peso de la deuda estudiantil, percibida como una verdadera hipoteca sobre la vida post universitaria.

La red de transporte subterráneo de Santiago es un logro del Estado chileno. Con 140 kilómetros de extensión y 136 estaciones, y una expansión exponencial en las últimas décadas, conecta toda la ciudad de forma rápida y eficiente. Las tarifas, sin embargo, son elevadas. Con un salario mínimo de alrededor de cuatrocientos veinte dólares, el costo del pasaje se ubicaba alrededor de un dólar y, con el aumento de la tarifa técnica, la medida buscaba un aumento de poco más del quince por ciento, en un país donde la inflación interanual se ubica por debajo del 2,5%.

Las protestas sorprendieron a los funcionarios gubernamentales, que reaccionaron con desdén y soberbia. El ministro de transporte sugirió que, para evitar el aumento, las personas salieran a sus trabajos a las siete de la mañana, cuando el costo del pasaje es menor, el Ministro del Interior limitó el problema a una cuestión de seguridad, mientras el presidente calificó a los manifestantes que eludían el pago del boleto como "hordas de delincuentes". La aproximación, entonces, fue puramente policial. Sólo el pésimo manejo político de una crisis que fue escalando a diario durante más de una semana explica las escenas luctuosas del viernes, cuando ardieron edificios y estaciones en Santiago, ante la inexplicable ausencia de los Carabineros, omnipresentes antes para golpear y detener a estudiantes secundarios que se colaban masivamente entre molinetes.

El tardío reconocimiento de la gravedad de la situación y la legitimidad de los reclamos por parte del presidente, con su marcha atrás y llamado al diálogo, contrastaron con medidas que devolvieron la memoria de los tiempos más oscuros de la historia del país. La declaración del Estado de Emergencia, la primera vez que sucede por una causa no natural desde el retorno de la Democracia, y el Toque de Queda en la Región Metropolitana, trajeron a la memoria a un Chile que vivió, en forma ininterrumpida, noches de calles vacías y despliegues militares entre el golpe de 1973 y enero de 1987.

Si los pasos en falso del gobierno de Piñera explican la dimensión coyuntural de la crisis, sus fundamentos más profundos amenazan la solidez del alumno aventajado de la región. Las últimas elecciones mostraron un agrietamiento del sistema político, con expresiones electorales potentes a la izquierda y a la derecha de los representantes tradicionales. Las candidaturas de Beatriz Sánchez, por el Frente Amplio, y el pinochetista José Antonio Kast evidenciaron el cuestionamiento de los consensos post dictatoriales. En las instituciones, escándalos de corrupción inéditos en las cúpulas militares y de carabineros mancharon la confianza de la ciudadanía, y los casos de evasión y perdones impositivos para los más ricos afectaron la confianza en la igualdad ante la ley. Una realidad que la reforma impositiva de Piñera podría agravar, acentuando una desigualdad alta, que venía cayendo en forma lenta pero sostenida.

El "milagro económico chileno", que permitió que el PBI per cápita pase de ser 35% menor al de Argentina a 25% mayor en 25 años, consistió en abrir mercados mientras el Estado mejoraba la infraestructura para favorecer la actividad económica y las exportaciones. Sin embargo, la canasta exportadora de Chile no cambió demasiado en los últimos cincuenta años. La economía sigue bailando al ritmo del precio del cobre y su amplia dotación de recursos naturales.

La buena administración de esos recursos permitió a Chile crecer por encima de una región a la que percibe que dejó atrás, un discurso repetido hasta el hartazgo por su dirigencia. Si se tomaran en serio el espejo en el que dicen mirarse, Chile sigue siendo un país pobre y desigual, y su modelo de crecimiento empieza a mostrar signos de fatiga, justo en el momento en que sus ciudadanos demandan desarrollo."
chile  2019  politics  protest  protests  economics  inequality  organizing  activism  history  neoliberalism  policy  martínschapiro  precarity 
28 days ago by robertogreco
A letter from Santiago – The Statesman
"When Chile erupted into civil unrest after the government increased rates for public transportation, Stony Brook associate history professor Eric Zolov — who is teaching at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile on a Fulbright Scholarship — found himself in the middle of political turmoil.

He sent an email to family, friends and Stony Brook faculty on Sunday morning, detailing his experiences and letting them know he was safe.

We’re living in a different country from that of last Thursday. No one saw this coming. The media, colleagues and friends — everyone is trying to come to terms with what happened, what it means and where the country goes from here.

In effect, there has been a slow accumulation of rising costs for public goods from transportation, water, electricity, food and housing, coupled with stagnant wages and a conservative government that has turned a blind eye for many years. When I first arrived with my family, we were struck by the number of shiny malls in Santiago as well as the beauty of its subway system. But we were also keenly aware of how expensive things like food and clothing were — even more expensive than prices in New York.

There are three aspects of the protesters that have stunned commentators here. First, the level of violence — whole subway stations burned, some 20 buses fire-bombed, the continued looting. Second, the absence of any clear political agenda or political organization leading the protests despite certain obvious levels of coordination; these protests erupted country-wide. And third, there is widespread support by the middle classes expressed as a general critique of the system even in our middle-class neighborhood. The sounds of banging on pots — a preeminent symbol of protest that dates back to the 1970s — can be heard all around us.

Having the military in the streets is also a shock, given what Chile suffered in the 1970s to 80s. After the military coup d’etat in 1973, the military was in charge for more than a decade; fierce repression led to torture, disappearances and exile. The civilian protestors are solidly in charge today and it is a different military than 40 years ago, but having the military on the streets is nonetheless a painful reminder of the past.

This is clearly at the forefront of everyone’s thinking and, in part, I believe has helped temper the military’s response thus far. On the first night, Saturday, Oct. 19, there were scenes of the military firing in the air and then retreating; however, in Valparaiso, the repression was fierce. Last night, Sunday, Oct. 20, was a different story, as protesters openly defied the second night of curfew.

Our children are a bit nervous, wanting to know if they’re safe and what it all means. Tonight we returned from some friends’ house after curfew; it was impossible to get an Uber or a taxi and we told them they’re living in historic times. Meanwhile, there are long lines for gas and school is canceled for Monday and possibly Tuesday. The vaunted metro system (really, a gem of the “new Chile”) was directly targeted by protesters and will likely be out of commission — at least the majority of the lines — for some time.

Of course, the Latin Americanist in me is fascinated by everything happening around us, but at the same time, it is all quite disconcerting. The big question now is in regards to what kind of political solution will come about. The current government is not very inclined to propose something broad and ambitious, and national elections are not slated still for some time.

Congress rescinded the recent increase in metro fares, but that will clearly not be enough to mollify protesters or impact public sentiment, which has shifted dramatically against the government overnight. Meanwhile, the image of a modern, democratic and prosperous Chile has been shattered for at least a decade. It is a different country than it was last week and will take some time to recover, although no one knows quite what this means for the country going forward."
ericzolov  chile  2019  sebastiánpiñera  protest  protests  policy  inequality  democracy  precarity 
28 days ago by robertogreco
‘Parasite’ and South Korea’s Income Gap: Call It Dirt Spoon Cinema - The New York Times
"Bong Joon Ho’s latest film joins a growing list of movies criticizing South Korean inequality — a problem so pervasive it has given birth to its own slang."

...

"While such inequality afflicts the United States and many other countries, South Korea’s income distribution is remarkably lopsided. In 2015, the top 10 percent of South Koreans held 66 percent of the nation’s wealth, while the poorer half of the population held only 2 percent, according to figures cited by Kyung Hyun Kim, a professor of East Asian studies at the University of California, Irvine, and an author of several books on Korean cinema. In addition, large numbers of South Korea’s elite inherited their wealth.

That inequity, combined with scandals involving corruption among the privileged, have bred so much bitterness and frustration among Koreans that new slang phrases have emerged in recent years, like “gold spoons” and “dirt spoons.”

“People who are born with a gold spoon are the ones who have made it,” the professor said. “The have-nots are dirt spoons. They will always be given a dirt spoon, and it will always be a struggle.”

The lack of social mobility for dirt spoons is at the heart of “Parasite,” directed by Bong Joon Ho. The Kims are each smart and talented in their own ways. Yet they are so poor — they crouch next to a toilet just to steal a neighbor’s Wi-Fi — that there is no clear path for them to succeed.

Though economically disadvantaged Americans face a similar plight, in South Korea, job prospects can be tied to family background, as when employers ask about applicants’ parents, a practice that could favor the privileged, Kim, the professor, said. Furthermore, investigations have uncovered nepotistic practices, like private schools’ preference for installing family members in teaching positions.

So why not fake it till you make it? In “Parasite,” the Kims’ son, Ki-woo, fluent in English, uses a referral from a privileged friend and counterfeit college credentials to trick the Parks into giving him a job as a language tutor for their teenage daughter. Ki-woo’s sister, Ki-jung, pretends to be an art therapist and gets hired to work with the Parks’ disturbed little boy. Dad and Mom soon join the subterfuge by posing as a professional driver and a housemaid for the Parks, who are as gullible as they are neurotic about cleanliness."
bongjoon-ho  parasite  film  inequality  koreas  southkorea  2019  class  nepotism  elitism  capitalism  education  society  socialmobility  precarity 
28 days ago by robertogreco
Opinion | Chile Learns the Price of Economic Inequality - The New York Times
“Chile is often praised as a capitalist oasis, a prospering and stable nation on a continent where both prosperity and stability have been in short supply. But that prosperity has accumulated mostly in the hands of a lucky few. As a result, Chile has one of the highest levels of economic inequality in the developed world.

Now that inequality is threatening the country’s stability. Santiago, the capital and largest city, has been convulsed by protests that were sparked by an increase in subway fares but that have become an expression of broader grievances: against the poor quality of public health care and education; against low wages and the rising cost of living; against the meager pensions that Chileans receive in old age.

Sebastián Piñera, the billionaire elected president in 2017, initially responded with belligerence, declaring the Chilean government “at war” with the protesters, some of whom have burned buildings and subway stations and engaged in looting — behavior that is undoubtedly criminal and reprehensible.

But most of the protesters are engaged in the peaceful exercise of their democratic rights. And on Tuesday, a chastened Mr. Piñera acknowledge his administration and its predecessors had failed to address their legitimate grievances.

“I ask for forgiveness for this shortsightedness,” Mr. Piñera said. He proposed a slate of reforms, including an increase in the top income tax rate, an increase in retirement benefits, and a guaranteed minimum monthly income.

The protesters’ rage is born of the frustrations of everyday life.

Chileans live in a society of extraordinary economic disparities. The distribution of income before taxes is highly unequal throughout the developed world; by that measure, Chile sits roughly in the middle of the 36 developed democracies that constitute the membership of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. What makes Chile an outlier among those 36 nations is that the government does less than nearly any other developed nation to reduce economic inequality through taxes and transfers. As a result, Chile has the highest level of post-tax income inequality among O.E.C.D. members.

Santiago’s prosperity is undeniable. Viewed from the top of the tallest building in South America, which stands in the middle of a financial district called “Sanhattan,” neighborhoods with luxury apartments, private hospitals and private schools stretch as far as the eye can see.

But Santiago’s poverty also is striking: crumbling public hospitals, overcrowded schools, shantytowns that sit on the outskirts of the metropolis.

And farther from Santiago are cities untouched by the recent boom.

“The people who govern the country seem to be living in a different world from the rest of us,” Enrique Araya, a 49-year-old lawyer, told a Times reporter on Friday as he and his family banged pots outside of a Santiago subway station — a traditional form of protest.

Chile is not suffering from a lack of resources but instead from an unsustainably narrow conception of its obligations to its citizens. The military dictatorship that ruled the country from 1973 to 1990 rewrote the nation’s laws and economic policies and reshaped its institutions to encourage free-market competition and to minimize the role of government. Its legacy endures. Even after increases in recent years, the Chilean government still spends a smaller share of total economic output than every other nation in the O.E.C.D.

The obvious path for Chile is for the government to spend more money improving the quality of life for a vast majority of Chileans, who are exposed to the vicissitudes of a market economy while being denied a sufficient share of the benefits. It is an extreme version of the challenge facing many developed nations, including the United States.

Some Chilean plutocrats appear to be awakening to the reality that Chile cannot sustain broad support for its economic system without a stronger safety net. Andrónico Luksic Craig, chairman of Quiñenco, a financial and industrial conglomerate, wrote on Saturday on Twitter that he was ready to pay higher taxes.

“There is no magic,” he wrote — no alternative to simply spreading the wealth more evenly.

Now that Mr. Piñera has acknowledged the need for change, he faces the challenge of showing that he can chart a new course.”
2019  chile  protests  sebastiánpiñera  history  dictatorship  chicagoboys  capitalism  inequality  policy  neoliberalism  santiago  protest  prosperity  precarity 
28 days ago by robertogreco
The Chile Protests in Photos - The New York Times
It started with unhappiness over a simple subway fare increase. Four days later, with the death toll at 15, Chileans have made clear that they’re angry about a lot more than that.
2019  chile  protests  inequality  photography  sebastiánpiñera  protest  precarity 
28 days ago by robertogreco
Renata Ávila: "The Internet of creation disappeared. Now we have the Internet of surveillance and control” | CCCB LAB
““At the start of the 21st century, one of the questions that excited me most about access to the Internet was the possibility of producing infinite copies of books and sharing knowledge. That idea of an Internet that was going to be a tool for integration and access to knowledge has shattered into smithereens. It was a booby trap. We are working as the unpaid slaves of the new digital world. I feel that it’s like when the Spanish colonisers reached Latin America. We believed the story of ‘a new world’. And we were in a box, controlled by the most powerful country in the world. We should have regulated a long time before. And we should have said: ‘I will share my photo, but how are you benefitting and how am I?’ Because what we are doing today is work for free; with our time, creativity and energy we are paying these empires. We are giving them everything”.”



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



“After all that has been discussed, some might think that this Guatemalan activist is so realistic that she leaves no room for optimism. But Renata Ávila does not like being negative and she is convinced that the human race is capable of finding resources to emerge from any “mess”, even at the most critical moments. “We have a perfect cocktail” – she says with a half-smile of worry. “A democratic crisis caused by some terrible leaders in power, with a climate-change and technological crisis. This can only lead to a collective reflection and make us reconsider on what planet we want to live in the future”.”
renataávila  2019  internet  history  surveillance  latinamerica  knowledge  labor  work  colonization  regulation  creativity  capitalism  web  online  activism  democracy  crisis  power  politics  technology  reflection  climatechange  transparency  privacy  corruption  precarity  austerity  trust  influence 
5 weeks ago by robertogreco
The most influential college you’ve never heard of, why it folded, and why it matters | Scalawag
"But Black Mountain College was not, strictly speaking, an art school. And it certainly didn’t start that way. In 1933, classics professor John Andrew Rice tossed the snowball that kicked off a decades-long avalanche, foregoing more pointed Latin and Greek coursework at Rollins College to lead his students on Socratic journeys about topics from religion to “What is Art” and bad-mouthing academic hierarchy. The Rollins College president, a self-proclaimed “experimenter in education,” was nonetheless displeased. For this curricular skullduggery, and for Rice’s generally winking attitude toward authority, he had Rice fired.

Popular as Rice was, his exit caused a scandal. When the dust settled, eight professors had left Rollins, and a number of students with them. After some uncertainty, Rice and his colleagues decided to put their rebellious philosophies to test. Thanks to a local professor, property was located in western North Carolina, a grand colonnaded hall atop an Appalachian hill in the shadows of the Blue Ridge; funders were secured to support the endeavor; teachers were recruited. From a pedagogic schism, Black Mountain College was born.

The goal was from the outset to approach education in an unregimented way. There were no required courses, no extensive examinations, no formal grading. The school was not even accredited, “graduating” only sixty students throughout its lifetime. Yet its alums were accepted by graduate schools and as transfers, from Harvard to Princeton to the Pasadena Playhouse College of the Theatre, despite their lack of certificates.

To ensure an open curriculum, the founders decided to avoid top-down control, instead granting ownership of the school to the whole faculty evenly, including new hires. Meanwhile, the school decided to make no decisions without student input—student officers could be present at faculty meetings and would sit on the governing Board of Fellows (constituted otherwise of a subgroup of the professoriate). Discussions of school policy were typically open affairs attended by all. Collectivism was applauded; democracy reigned.

This opened space for BMC’s idea that learning and living should interlace. As Louis Adamic, who spent three months at the school as a curious visitor, described the method in a breathless 1936 article for Harper’s: “At BMC there is no head-cramming. There education is experience that involves in action the whole person.”

To that end, Rice and his cofounders made art a core piece of the Black Mountain experience, in an effort to get each student to “put the same faith in doing that he has been taught to have in absorbing,” as an early school catalogue put it. Serendipitously (for Black Mountain, anyway), the year of the college’s founding, the Nazis closed down the radical Bauhaus art school in Germany. Josef and Anni Albers, looking to escape the rising tide of fascism, agreed to come on at BMC to teach art, despite the fact, as Josef wrote, that he did not “speak one word English.” In subsequent years, many Germans would follow.

The Albers’ arrival was a coup for the school. It immediately provided a strong artistic spine and influenced the pedagogy greatly: Josef was a champion of a humanistic approach to education, of art as a way to engage the world completely. So while art was central, everyone was not to become an artist, per se; instead, art looked more like the core of a liberal arts education today. BMC alum Will Hamlin described the result to historian Martin Duberman: “I think we had this in common with the painters and weavers and musicians, that we were trying to make some kind of order out of things, I mean really trying, not just pretending to be… I think we were—with a few exceptions—really working at creating our own universes of meaning.”

The decision to avoid any sort of administrative board cut both ways. The educational model was open as the sky. But the school was constantly scrambling for money, seemingly always on the verge of closing—although it still maintained a pay-what-you-can system (sometimes counterbalanced by accepting wealthier students for that reason alone).

The “precariousness, though deplored and decried at the time, may well have contributed to the community élan,” as Duberman writes. “The severity of the struggle for economic survival helped to knit the community together.” The upshot was a focus on collectively tending to the college: a work program was instituted early on, and students and professors alike worked a farm that provided food for sustenance and sometimes sale, constructed new school buildings, washed dishes, and maintained the grounds. This was cause for grumbling in some corners—it was work, after all—and romantic reverie in others. Rice, the school’s cheeky founder, perhaps summed up the ambivalent attitude best in his autobiography. “Untoiling poets may sing of the dignity of toil;” he wrote, “others know there is degradation in obligatory sweat.”

Nevertheless, there was definite communal buy-in among the Black Mountaineers. When psychologist John Wallen joined the faculty in 1945, he broadened the question of collective responsibility by reaching out to the largely bemused and distrustful surrounding community. (There was a bit of a cultural gap between the school and its environs. A maintenance man on BMC’s first campus described the student body to me as many contemporary locals would: “nothing to do but moonshine and sex.”)

In many ways, the experiment was successful. Students volunteered in town, worked in the Southern Negro Youth Conference, registered voters, gathered signatures for petitions. But it was also short-lived, as Wallen left BMC contentiously not two years into his appointment, taking his ideals with him.

Still, while insulated at times from its surroundings, the school tackled the social issues of its day. It offered a home to German Jews, artists and intellectuals during another era when immigration vexed the United States. In 1944, ten years before Brown v. Board of Education, Alma Stone, a Black musician from Georgia, attended BMC’s summer institute in the Jim Crow South. The following summer black artists began to teach, and Black students enrolled full-time, some back from the war on the GI Bill. When the students went into town, they abided by segregation laws; but when outsiders came to Black Mountain for concerts, theater productions, and the like, everybody sat where they pleased.

Democracy proved hard. Immediately upon BMC’s founding, a more powerful group of faculty emerged at its helm: John Rice, Josef Albers, engineer Theodore Dreier, a few compatriots. Soon, some of their colleagues began to resent the group’s authority as at odds with the school’s mission; when Rice had a very public affair with a student in the late ’30s, it provided a catalyst to put him on leave for a time. He never returned.

Sans affair (although that continued to happen every so often), this process repeated itself throughout the school’s history: groups of professors were forced out or resigned, sometimes taking significant portions of the student body with them. Eventually even Albers fell victim to such a dispute after a younger crop of professors decided that he and his ilk had become too stuffy.

The infighting shaped life at the school and gives a sense of the easy-come-easy-go nature of the work. Professors were appointed initially to two-year terms, and later to one-year terms; there was no tenure. Faculty could be asked to leave for the vaguest of reasons—complaints about classroom technique became shorthand for any number of nebulous collegial gripes. Yet because they were part of steering the college, because of their great freedom in implementing their visions of education, professors came. And they stayed.

Josef and Anni Albers, despite the consistently meager pay, taught at the school for 16 years. Co-founder Theodore Dreier, too. Poet Mary Catherine Richards stayed seven years and continued to be involved with the school after she left. The poet Charles Olson stayed six years, until the school closed. (Some students stayed about as long.) The pay was bad, yes. But to be architects of education, rather than grunts on its front line, was for many worth the shortfall.

Albers’s exit in 1949 began the last, most incandescent period of BMC’s history, under the rectorship of Olson, a six-foot-seven-inch whirlwind of a man. After a (comparatively) more staid period in the late ‘40s, the school under Olson lived up to its ideals of radical experimentation. Any semblance of traditional course structure was scrapped, seminars ran until the wee hours of morning, the lines blurred fully between students and faculty. The literary arts took central importance, and the “Black Mountain School” of poets emerged, buoyed by Robert Creeley’s publication of the Black Mountain Review, a journal whose contributors also included Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg.

The Olson years were BMC magnified: yet more cash-starved, yet more experimental, yet more soul-searching. Yet more famous alumni—painter Dorothea Rockburne emerged from this period as well—yet more piercing thought. But the lack of structure had its costs; dwindling enrollment meant emptier coffers, and finally, in 1956-7, the school’s closure. Professors and students spun off to more traditional universities, to new experiments in communal living, to Abstract Expressionist New York and the San Francisco of the Beats.

Black Mountain College’s troubles stemmed from staunch opposition to centralized hierarchical governance. The UNC system’s current issues lend credence to those fears. Early last year, after the NC Board of Governors reviewed 240 academic institutes and centers across the UNC system, they decided to close down three—the Center on Poverty, Work, and Opportunity, at UNC Chapel Hill; East Carolina University’s NC Center for Biodiversity; and … [more]
northcarolina  2016  sammyfeldblum  hierarchy  education  highered  highereducation  bmc  blackmountaincollege  josefalbers  johnandrewrice  charlesolson  democracy  art  arts  curriculum  openness  experience  experientialeducation  learning  howwelearn  howweteach  pedagogy  governance  politics  precarity  rollinscollege  authority  opencurriculum  living  lcproject  openstudioproject  louisadamic  martinduberman  precariousness  community  collectivism  responsibility  theodoredreier  marycatherinerichards  robertcreeley  history  horizontality 
9 weeks ago by robertogreco
Student Debt Is Transforming the American Family | The New Yorker
"A great deal has changed since Kimberly’s parents attended college. From the late nineteen-eighties to the present, college tuition has increased at a rate four times that of inflation, and eight times that of household income. It has been estimated that forty-five million people in the United States hold educational debt totalling roughly $1.5 trillion—more than what Americans owe on their credit cards or auto loans. Some fear that the student-debt “bubble” will be the next to burst. Wide-scale student-debt forgiveness no longer seems radical. Meanwhile, skeptics question the very purpose of college and its degree system. Maybe what pundits dismiss as the impulsive rage of young college students is actually an expression of powerlessness, as they anticipate a future defined by indebtedness.

Middle-class families might not seem like the most sympathetic characters when we’re discussing the college-finance conundrum. Poor students, working-class students, and students of color face more pronounced disadvantages, from the difficulty of navigating financial-aid applications and loan packages to the lack of a safety net. But part of Zaloom’s fascination with middle-class families is the larger cultural assumption that they ought to be able to afford higher education. A study conducted in the late nineteen-eighties by Elizabeth Warren, Teresa Sullivan, and Jay Westbrook illuminated the precarity of middle-class life. They found that the Americans filing for bankruptcy rarely lacked education or spent recklessly. Rather, they were often college-educated couples who were unable to recover from random crises along the way, like emergency medical bills.

These days, paying for college poses another potential for crisis. The families in “Indebted” are thoughtful and restrained, like the generically respectable characters conjured during a Presidential debate. Zaloom follows them as they contemplate savings plans, apply for financial aid, and then strategize about how to cover the difference. Parents and children alike talk about how educational debt hangs over their futures, impinging on both daily choices and long-term ambitions. In the eighties, more than half of American twentysomethings were financially independent. In the past decade, nearly seventy per cent of young adults in their twenties have received money from their parents. The risk is collective, and the consequences are shared across generations. At times, “Indebted” reads like an ethnography of a dwindling way of life, an elegy for families who still abide by the fantasy that thrift and hard work will be enough to secure the American Dream."
caitlinzaloom  2019  capitalism  money  highered  highereducation  colleges  universities  economics  finance  middleclass  precarity  us  education  moraltraps  morality  obligation  debt  studentdebt  latecapitalism  parenting 
10 weeks ago by robertogreco
When Your Kid's College Education Could Wreck You Financially, Should You Pay? | Here & Now
"The cost of college has soared. But for many middle-class families, paying for a kid's education has become both a financial and a moral issue.

"We are in a situation where we've forced parents to choose between the values of financial prudence and the values of parenthood, says Caitlin Zaloom, author of "Indebted: How Families Make College Work at Any Cost," and New York University professor of social and cultural analysis.

Zaloom (@caitlinzaloom) talks with Here & Now's Peter O'Dowd about how families should balance their own finances with the desire to open doors for their children."
caitlinzaloom  2019  highered  highereducation  colleges  universities  economics  finance  middleclass  precarity  us  education  moraltraps  morality  obligation  debt  studentdebt  capitalism  latecapitalism  parenting 
10 weeks ago by robertogreco
Opinion | How Paying for College Is Changing Middle-Class Life - The New York Times
“Everyone knows that higher education is expensive. The average annual price tag for attending a private, four-year American college is now around $50,000. To pay that, most students receive some combination of financial aid and loans, but schools expect parents to reach into their bank accounts, too.

Paying for college, however, is taking a toll on American families in ways that are more profound and less appreciated than even the financial cost conveys. It has fundamentally changed the experience of being middle class in this country.

Although middle-class families have long labored to help their children get educated, only recently has the struggle to pay for it — which can threaten the solvency of the family and cast children in the role of risky “investments” — transformed the character of family life. It is altering relationships between parents and children and forcing them to adjust their responsibilities to each other.

As an anthropologist and professor at New York University, one of the world’s most expensive institutions of higher education, I’d long suspected that the cost of college — which has tripled at public colleges and universities in the past three decades — was affecting my students and their parents in more than just budgetary terms. But I wasn’t sure. Americans typically avoid discussions of personal finance, and parents frequently decline to discuss family finances with their children — until, too often, they have no choice.

So I embarked on a research project to better understand middle-class families who are taking on debt to pay for higher education. Over the past seven years, my research team and I conducted 160 in-depth interviews across the country, first with college students and then with their parents. I considered families to be middle class if the parents made too much money or had too much wealth for their children to qualify for major federal higher education grants, and if they earned too little or possessed insufficient wealth to pay full fare at most colleges.

As is customary with this kind of research, I offered the interviewees anonymity so that they would be more likely to participate and to be open and honest. Even still, gaining access was an arduous process.

Perhaps the central theme that emerged from this research was that for middle-class parents, the requirement to help pay for college is seen not merely as a budgetary challenge, but also as a moral obligation. The financial sacrifices required are both compelled and expected. They are what responsible parents should do for their children.

Indeed, shouldering the weight of paying for college is sometimes seen by parents as part of their children’s moral education. By draining their savings to pay for college, parents affirm their commitment to education as a value, proving — to themselves and to others — that higher education is integral to the kind of family they are.

The feeling of obligation is hardly illusory. Decades ago, when organized labor was strong and manufacturing jobs were plentiful, a four-year college degree was not needed to achieve or maintain a middle-class life. But now college is virtually essential, not only because the degree serves as a job credential, but also because the experience gives young adults the knowledge and social skills they need to participate in middle-class communities.

The result for middle-class families is a perpetual conflict between moral duty and financial reality. Again and again, the families I interviewed spoke of how hard it was to follow the steps that the federal government, financial industry players and financial experts advise, such as starting to save for college when the children are young. Indeed, I found that when experts instruct parents to economize, they force families into three common moral traps.

First, when their children are young, the parents face an impossible trade-off between spending on their present family needs and wants and saving for college. Few parents choose saving over spending on child development. Less than 5 percent of Americans have college savings accounts, and those who do are far wealthier than average.

For those with middle-class jobs, saving enough for college would mean compromising on the sort of activities — music education, travel, sports teams, tutoring — that enrich their children’s lives, keep them in step with their peers, deliver critical lessons in self-discipline and teach social skills. The paradox is that enrolling children in the programs that prepare them for college and middle-class life means draining the bank accounts that would otherwise fund higher education.

The second moral trap occurs when children begin applying for college. As nearly every family told me, the parents and the children place enormous value on finding the “right” college. This is far more than finding an affordable place to study; it is about finding the environment that best promises to help build a social network, generate life and career opportunities and allow young adults to discover who they are. With so much at stake, parents and children prioritize the “right” school — and then find ways to meet the cost, no matter what it takes.

An inescapable conclusion from my research is that the high cost of college is forcing middle-class families to engage in what I call “social speculation.” This is the third moral trap: Parents must wager money today that their children’s education will secure them a place in the middle class tomorrow.

Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that this bet will pay off — for the parents or the children. And too often, I found, it doesn’t. Some parents’ saving plans were waylaid by crises — health emergencies, job losses, family breakups — that were common enough but impossible to foresee. Likewise, many children failed to land well-paying jobs out of college, forcing them to bear the weight of paying off debt during the most vulnerable decade of their adult lives.

Paying the high cost of college also means jeopardizing the long-term financial security of the parents. The more parents spend on their children’s education, the less they have in their retirement accounts. Here we find another paradox: Parents make huge investments in education so that their children can maintain or achieve middle-class status, but in the process, they increase the risk of falling out of the middle class themselves.

One popular tip financial advisers give parents is to spend on college the way they’re supposed to act in an airplane that loses cabin pressure: first secure their own oxygen masks (by saving for retirement) and only then assist their children (by spending for college). In reality, though, parents act just as they would on the airplane. They take care of their children first.

It’s no wonder, then, that family finances are so shaky throughout the country. The median American household has only about $12,000 in savings.

It’s also no wonder that as so many of my interviews ended, parents joked about their financial predicament by saying they might win the lottery. They have come to see outlandish luck as their best chance of dealing with their predicament. And in the absence of real changes to the current system of paying for college, what other hope do they have?

Such speculative, wishful thinking may seem irrational. But until we reform how a college education is financed, that is how countless middle-class families are holding on to the American dream.”
caitlinzaloom  2019  highered  highereducation  colleges  universities  economics  finance  middleclass  precarity  us  education  moraltraps  morality  obligation  debt  studentdebt  capitalism  latecapitalism  parenting 
10 weeks ago by robertogreco
What Is the Cost of College Doing to Families? - The Atlantic
“Joe Pinsker: In the past few decades, what’s changed in how families pay for college?

Caitlin Zaloom: College used to be a lot cheaper for families, because there was more funding from the government. If you think about the biggest educational systems, like the University of California system or the City University of New York system, these universities were free or practically free for decades. That was in part because of a belief that higher education was essential for the national project of upward mobility, and for having an educated citizenry.

So middle-class families didn’t always have to pay for college with debt. The shift began in the 1980s, in terms of a changing political philosophy. President Ronald Reagan’s budget director, David Stockman, said in 1981, “If people want to go to college bad enough, then there is opportunity and responsibility on their part to finance their way through the best way they can.” When those who argued that college is a private benefit framed it like that, it became logical to say that education should be paid for by the people that it benefits. And so in the 1990s, the vast expansion of loans for higher education began.

Pinsker: Many of the parents and children you interviewed about their college-related debt feared that they were being financially burdensome to their family members. Given the shift you just described, do you think that this represents people internalizing system-level problems as personal ones?

Zaloom: The families that I spoke with really feared the possibility that they would be a weight on each other. And that is very much a fear of failing under the terms of the current college financing system—people understand themselves as failing, but we give them unreasonable terms.

The fear is a really visceral feeling for parents. What they want is for their children to be able to go off into the world and become adults without the weight of their history—that of the parents—bringing them down. Across all of my interviews, it was so important to parents to enable their kids to move into open futures, not limited by the parents’ economic background. The idea of limiting the horizon of their children is almost inconceivable to the parents that I spoke with.

Parents understand something profound about living in a powerfully unequal society. They recognize that having a kid who can take their shots—who can really make the most of themselves—is essential to the possibility of reaching this far-off tier where people are living lives of stability and wealth. And if young adults are unable to take that shot, they face the possibility that they will be in either that constrained, eroding middle class that their parents belong to—or, worse, that they will fall, and fall far.

Pinsker: The middle-class parents in your book generally didn’t talk with their kids about the financial strain of paying for college. You note that this isn’t confined just to the subject of paying for college, but is the case with other financial matters too. Why do you think parents so often avoid conversations about money with their kids?

Zaloom: I think that one reason middle-class parents stay silent about their finances is that they feel vulnerable, in terms of their social standing. When families face financial difficulties, that makes them feel like they may fall out of the middle class and like they won’t be able to do what people like them are supposed to do—for instance, to be able to send their kid to a college that’s a good fit or to be able to retire securely. So that silence about money is a kind of last resort for shoring up a faltering middle-class identity.

Pinsker: What is the single change that you think would be most effective in making paying for college less fraught for families?

Zaloom: I think that it is essential to make public universities tuition-free or low-cost. That would do wonders for helping families understand that education is for them, and for opening up the imaginations of young people who don’t otherwise see college as a possibility. That is important in and of itself, but it’s also important because free tuition would take the pressure off families to reorganize their lives around trying to achieve this unmanageable financial goal, which is what we ask them to do now. And then ultimately, it would also benefit young adults, because they would be graduating without the kind of debt that would inhibit them from trying to figure out what kind of contribution they want to make to the world and what kind of job they want to have.

Pinsker: What would you say to people who would read what you just said and argue in response that money can’t just be given out to everyone like that?

Zaloom: Most of the economic arguments against free tuition are based on the notion that education is a private good—that a college education is like a house, in that it’s something you are buying and then hold the responsibility to pay back. I don’t dispute the calculations of those who support that argument. And I do understand that funding free or low college tuition would also benefit a lot of wealthier families. But, for the reasons I mentioned earlier, I see higher education as being a fundamental public good that we have somehow defined as a private one.

Even considering that economic objection on its own terms, I would argue that higher education is now necessary for a stable life and a good job, in the way that K–12 education and a high-school degree was necessary 40 years ago. We now have a system that requires K–16 education for financial stability, so it’s important to fund that—we wouldn’t ask people to pay for 5th grade, so we shouldn’t also ask people to be paying for sophomore year.”
caitlinzaloom  joepinsker  colleges  universities  highered  highereducation  studentdebt  middleclass  finance  education  economics  publicgood  precarity  inequality  2019  obligation  us  moraltraps  morality  debt  capitalism  latecapitalism  parenting 
10 weeks ago by robertogreco
who cheats and why
“Every time I’ve gone away over the last three years, coming back to the news felt like jumping into a freezing body of water filled with stinging jellyfish. There’s the added stress of continually finding new articles (some of which are linked below) that demand inclusion/reference/consideration in the burnout book. (See also: this piece on how education debt is transforming the middle class [https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/09/09/student-debt-is-transforming-the-american-family ]). And then there’s all the new ideas/phenomena that transform when placed within my newly developed framework of burnout.

Take, for example, this excellent piece from the NYT [https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/07/us/college-cheating-papers.html ] on the continued expansion of “essay farms” which allow people from around the world to “bid” to get paid for writing essays for American college students. The interviews with the people writing these essays (in this case, mostly Kenyan) is what makes this piece exceptional — and highlights a very 21st century phenomenon, in which educated English speakers, unable to find work in their own countries, are paid relatively small amounts of money so that Americans (and some Chinese) can receive the credentials that will allow them to find full-time work. For example:
Roynorris Ndiritu, 28, who asked that only part of his name be used because he feared retribution from others in the industry in Kenya, graduated with a degree in civil engineering and still calls that his “passion.” But after years of applying unsuccessfully for jobs, he said, he began writing for others full time. He has earned enough to buy a car and a piece of land, he said, but it has left him jaded about the promises he heard when he was young about the opportunities that would come from studying hard in college.

Or:
Now Ms. Mbugua finds herself at a crossroads, unsure of what to do next. She graduated from her university in 2018 and has sent her résumé to dozens of employers. Lately she has been selling kitchen utensils.

Ms. Mbugua said she never felt right about the writing she did in the names of American students and others.

“I’ve always had somehow a guilty conscience,” she said.

“People say the education system in the U.S., U.K. and other countries is on a top notch,” she said. “I wouldn’t say those students are better than us,” she said, later adding, “We have studied. We have done the assignments.”

The piece is an incisive (and accurate!) take on the American educational system and its place in the global hierarchy. It’s explicit about how America’s general reluctance to crack down on these services has allowed them to flourish (in a way they no longer do in the UK or Australia) — and thorough in its exploration of how the supply of essays is generated. But it leaves the demand for those essays largely unexplored, a hazy vision of the unmotivated, unprepared, overprivileged college student willing to pay $30 a page for an essay three hours before it’s due.

Just to be clear, this isn’t a critique — no piece can do everything, I mean that. And significant regulation of these sites would temporarily solve a problem, as it seems to (at least temporarily) have done in Australia. But if the American demand remains, it’ll just find a different outlet. And that demand is far less rooted in entitlement than in fear. Which isn’t to say that this isn’t cheating: it is. But “catching” students with software like TurnItIn isn’t actually a deterrent when students are acting out of abject anxiety.

When I was in the classroom, the students who plagiarized were never the worst students in the class. To be sure, there were a handful of students who are exactly the douchey, rich, entitled asshole you’re picturing as the customers of these services. But most teachers will tell you that the students plagiarizing weren’t the laziest, or the most entitled. They were often the solid B students, desperate, truly desperate, for As. They’d do extra credit, they never skipped class. For some assignments, they were in my office, asking questions, talking over drafts, incredibly anxious about thesis statements, at a loss about how to craft the rest of the essay. And then something would happen with an assignment — not even necessarily a big one! — where they’d get super overwhelmed, panic, and copy something from the internet.

These students don’t cheat because they’re lazy; they cheat because they’re incredibly anxious, terrified of failure, and haven’t been taught to come up with original arguments (or trust themselves when they do). They’re the students who got into a desired college through sheer determination. They’re not dumb or stupid or anything close to it. But they’ve become convinced that any sort of failure (on an assignment, in a class) is tantamount to total life failure, and accumulate anxiety about each assignment accordingly.

If you’ve never experienced anxiety, then it’s difficult to explain how counterintuitively it works: instead of helping you plan out the steps to succeed at a given task, it makes the task seem so insurmountable that you avoid it entirely, which creates more anxiety, which makes it seem even more insurmountable. Hence: googling “pay for essay” three hours before the assignment is due.

Many of these students are natural people pleasers: it’s part of how they got as far as they did. Which is why the idea of emailing or coming in to talk to their teacher about their failure to start the essay ahead of time is anathema. And a lot of teachers — myself included, in my early days of teaching — tell students things like “no extensions, no question” or “I’ll only entertain extensions if requested a day in advance.” And simply not turning something in, or turning it in late for a docked grade — also anathema for the striving, anxious student. So they do some ethical self-bargaining, and spend the money intended for food and “expenses” on an essay.

(Another version of this phenomenon, and one that the piece addresses briefly = international students, frustrated or insecure in their English, desperate to perform at the level they did back home, terrified of bad grades sent to their parents, unable or reticent to articulate their concern to their professors, especially if they had a very different paradigm of education back home).

There are ways for teachers to help combat these tendencies — protracting the essay writing process, requiring students to turn in outlines ahead of time — but they’re often limited to small classes or classes explicitly focused on writing. And for already overworked teachers, they’re also incredibly time-consuming. The problem isn’t that professors aren’t attentive enough; it’s that the entire American educational system primes high school (and then college) students to conflate A’s with actual thinking, and the ability to exclusively get those A’s with personal value.

Whether the student is fifteen and terrified about what their sophomore grades will suggest on their transcript, or nineteen and desperate to maintain their GPA for their scholarship or for grad school, that attitude only grows more and more destructive. The result — a degree without the ability to think — only further evacuates that degree of actual value.

In the NYT piece, several of the Kenyan essay writers described general dismay that they’d put so much time and money and energy into getting college degrees — a promised ticket to prosperity! — only to find themselves forced to cheat for other students. They were disillusioned, and rightly so, with the value of a college degree. We’re getting there in America, too: a college degree may still up your wages for the rest of your life, but it doesn’t guarantee middle class stability, or intellectual edification. More and more, American education simply reproduces the de facto millennial condition: heavily indebted, almost comically insecure, and paralyzed by anxiety.”
education  highereducation  highered  cheating  essayfarms  anxiety  us  2019  middleclass  insecurity  colleges  universities  economics  kenya  grading  grades  highschool  pressure  howweteach  howwelearn  plagiarism  hierarchy  inequality  precarity  annehelenpetersen 
10 weeks ago by robertogreco
oftwominds-Charles Hugh Smith: Misplaced Pride: Most of the "Middle Class" Is Actually Working Class
"If we look at these charts, it looks like only the top 10%, or perhaps the top 20% at best, might qualify as "middle class" by the metrics described below.

The conventional definition of working class is based on income and education:the working class household earns between $30,000 and $69,000 annually, and the highest education credential in the household is a two-year community college degree or trade certification.

The definition of the middle class is also based on on income and education, but adds financial security as a metric: the middle class household earns $80,000 or more, holds 4-year college diplomas or graduate degrees, owns a home, has a 401K retirement account and so on.

(My own definition is much more rigorous, as I reckon "middle class" today should have the same basic assets as the "middle class" held 40 years ago: What Does It Take To Be Middle Class? (December 5, 2013.)

But in some key ways, income and education are misleading metrics: the key attributes that actually define the working class are:

1. Stagnant incomes: incomes that over time barely keep up with real-world inflation or even lose purchasing power.

2. Income insecurity: wages, benefits and pensions are not as guaranteed as advertised.

3. Not enough ownership of financial capital to be meaningful. Financial capital excludes household items, vehicles, etc. Financial capital includes stocks, bonds, certificates of deposit, ownership of a profitable business, equity in real estate, precious metals, bitcoin, etc.

By meaningful I mean enough to:

-- augment Social Security benefits in a way that greatly improves the household's lifestyle and retirement options

-- equity that is significant enough to fund college educations so one's children do not have to become debt-serfs to attend college

-- enough capital to fund (or help with) a down payment for a house, i.e. inheritable wealth that transforms the children's lives while the parents are still alive

-- income from capital, i.e. income isn't dependent on a government agency or government transfer.

How many U.S. households qualify to be middle class if that means:

-- the household income has outpaced real-world inflation over the past 20 years

-- the household's financial capital/assets have grown to become meaningful (as defined above) in the past 20 years

-- the household doesn't depend on government transfers for much of its income / spending

-- the household income and wealth are not dependent on financial bubbles, corporate guarantees, local government pensions on the verge of insolvency, etc.

While tens of millions of households qualify as "middle class" based on college diplomas and income, far fewer qualify when wealth and financial security are the key metrics. Plenty of households earn well in excess of $100,000 annually, but their financial status is as precarious and threadbare as any working class household.

They don't own enough assets or capital to move the needle, and what they do own is generally dependent on financial bubbles or speculative gambles.

Feeling like we belong to the "middle class" because we have a college diploma and make a good income offers up a false sense of pride and progress.If we're realistic about the financial wealth and security of "middle class" households, most qualify as working class: stagnant incomes, precarious financial circumstances, very little meaningful wealth and even less meaningful wealth that isn't dependent on the bubble du jour or promises that might not be kept.

If we look at these charts, it looks like only the top 10%, or perhaps the top 20% at best, might qualify as "middle class" by the metrics described above.

What sort of society do we have if the bottom 20% of households are poor, the next 60% are working class/precariat and only the top 20% (at best) have any of the core attributes of "middle class" financial security and wealth?

[charts]

If we take off our rose-colored glasses, we have a much more stratified economy and society than we might like to believe: there's the top 1%, the next 4% "upper middle class," the next 10% "middle class," the next 65% working class, and the bottom 20% poor, those largely dependent on government transfers.

The "middle" has eroded away, leaving the top 15% who are doing very well in the status quo and the bottom 85% who are struggling to maintain a meaningful sense of prosperity and progress.

Personally, I'm proud to be working class in terms of my skillsets and values. Labels mean nothing. What counts is having skills, drive, agency, curiosity, frugality, integrity, self-discipline and kindness. Those forms of wealth cannot be taken from you when the bubble du jour pops and all the phantom "wealth" vanishes like mist in Death Valley."
charleshighsmith  middleclass  inequality  us  workingclass  education  class  2019  wealth  precarity 
june 2019 by robertogreco
The Pedagogy of Design in the Age of Computation: Panel Discussion - YouTube
“I wish y’all could teach designers without using any Adobe products.” —@tchoi8 (9:11)

“Michael Rock, would say that ideally the things that you are learning in a school setting should stick with you […] throughout your entire career. […] I think critical thinking, historical references, […] space, time, community — that’s much more valuable.” —@mind_seu (12:48)

In response to “Can you teach curiosity?” @mind_seu: “…this sinking feeling that the more that I learn, the less that I know. On the one hand, it’s exciting & it makes you more curious to go into this worm holes, but on the other side it brings you into this state of insecurity”

In response to the same @tchoi8: “… curiosities can be stolen away from an individual when there’s a discouragement or peer pressure in a toxic way. I think people, including myself, lose curiosity when I feel I can’t do it or I feel less equipped than a student next to me. In technical courses, it’s very easy to create a dynamic in which the start student, who probably has done the technical exercises before, end up getting most attention or most respect from the class. We [at @sfpc] try to revert that [discouragement] by creating homeworks that are equally challenging for advanced and beginner students and that opens up dialogues between students. For example, [goes on to explain an assignment that involves transfer of knowledge (at 22:22)]”

In response to “Can you teach autonomy?” @mind_seu: “Whether you can teach someone autonomy or not, again is maybe not the right question. Why do we want to solve problems by ourselves? I think it’s trying to work with people around you who know more than you do and vice versa, so you can work together to create whatever project you’re trying to implement. But going into a tutorial hole online to do something on your own? I don’t know if we actually need to do that. These tools… we’re trying to build collectives and communities, I think, and maybe that’s more meaningful than trying to do something on your own, even if it’s possible.” [YES]

[See also:

Mindy Seu
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZM9mRYpnD7E

Taeyoon Choi
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AfThnEo5xgE

Atif Akin
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c-URUDBItB8

Rik Lomas
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2uk_XYIkyZM ]
towatch  mindseu  design  computation  2019  atifakin  riklomas  coding  publishing  digital  history  education  adobe  designeducation  howweteach  art  creativity  programming  decolonization  tools  longview  longgame  ellenullman  accessibility  access  inclusivity  inclusion  craft  curiosity  imagination  learning  howwelearn  insecurity  exposure  humility  competition  unschooling  deschooling  comparison  schools  schooliness  resistance  ethics  collaboration  cooperation  community  conversation  capitalism  studentdebt  transparency  institutions  lcproject  openstudioproject  emancipation  solidarity  humanrights  empowerment  activism  precarity  curriculum  instruction 
may 2019 by robertogreco
This Is How You Kill a Profession - The Chronicle of Higher Education
"Like any addict, I have to be vigilant whenever higher ed calls again. I know what it means to be a member of that cult, to believe in the face of all evidence, to persevere, to serve. I know what it means to take a 50-percent pay cut and move across the country to be allowed back inside the academy as a postdoc after six years in the secular professions. To be grateful to give up a career, to give up economic comfort, in order to once again be a member.

Part of me still wants it. That kind of faith is in my bones, and reason can only bleach it away somewhat. The imprint is still there, faint, hauntingly imprecise, all the more venerable for its openness to dreams. I worked as a college administrator for seven years after that postdoc, because I couldn’t bear to be away from my beloved community even after it had set me aside. Because I couldn’t walk away.

All cults, all abusers, work the same way, taking us away from friends and family, demanding more effort and more sacrifice and more devotion, only to find that we remain the same tantalizing distance from the next promised level. And the sacrifice normalizes itself into more sacrifice, the devotion becomes its own reward, the burn of the hunger as good as the meal. "
herbchildress  academia  labor  work  cults  highereducation  highered  teaching  colleges  universities  health  inequality  tenure  competition  faith  abuse  adjuncts  service  class  precarity  capitalism  hungergames 
april 2019 by robertogreco
An Honest Living – Steve Salaita
"There are lots of stories from Virginia Tech, the University of Illinois, and the American University of Beirut [AUB], but they all end with the same lesson: for all its self-congratulation, the academy’s loftiest mission is a fierce compulsion to eliminate any impediment to donations."



"Platitudes about faculty governance and student leadership notwithstanding, universities inhibit democracy in ways that would please any thin-skinned despot."



"But forward progress as material comfort is cultivated through the ubiquitous lie that upward mobility equals righteousness. Honest living is a nice story we tell ourselves to rationalize privation, but in the real world money procures all the honesty we need."



"You hear ex-professors say it all the time and I’ll add to the chorus: despite nagging precariousness, there’s something profoundly liberating about leaving academe, whereupon you are no longer obliged to give a shit about fashionable thinkers, network at the planet’s most boring parties, or quantify self-worth for scurrilous committees (and whereupon you are free to ignore the latest same-old controversy), for even when you know at the time that the place is toxic, only after you exit (spiritually, not physically) and write an essay or read a novel or complete some other task without considering its relevance to the fascist gods of assessment, or its irrelevance to a gang of cynical senior colleagues, do you realize exactly how insidious and pervasive is the industry’s culture of social control."
academia  highered  highereducation  2019  stevensalaita  purpose  meaning  corporatization  precariousness  precarity  assessment  socialcontrol  hierarchy  mobility  upwardmobility  society  dishonesty  honesty  democracy  hypocrisy  education  cv  privation  toxicity  committees  elitism  learning  howwelearn  compromise  canon 
march 2019 by robertogreco
Sick Woman Theory – Mask Magazine
"The most anti-capitalist protest is to care for another and to care for yourself. To take on the historically feminized and therefore invisible practice of nursing, nurturing, caring. To take seriously each other’s vulnerability and fragility and precarity, and to support it, honor it, empower it. To protect each other, to enact and practice community. A radical kinship, an interdependent sociality, a politics of care."
via:anne  disability  feminism  gender  health  anticapitalism  precarity  fragility  care  caring  kinship  radicalism  nursing  nurturing  vulnerability  sociality  social  politics 
january 2019 by robertogreco
Inequality - how wealth becomes power (1/2) | (Poverty Richness Documentary) DW Documentary - YouTube
"Germany is one of the world’s richest countries, but inequality is on the rise. The wealthy are pulling ahead, while the poor are falling behind.

For the middle classes, work is no longer a means of advancement. Instead, they are struggling to maintain their position and status. Young people today have less disposable income than previous generations. This documentary explores the question of inequality in Germany, providing both background analysis and statistics. The filmmakers interview leading researchers and experts on the topic. And they accompany Christoph Gröner, one of Germany’s biggest real estate developers, as he goes about his work. "If you have great wealth, you can’t fritter it away through consumption. If you throw money out the window, it comes back in through the front door,” Gröner says. The real estate developer builds multi-family residential units in cities across Germany, sells condominium apartments, and is involved in planning projects that span entire districts. "Entrepreneurs are more powerful than politicians, because we’re more independent,” Gröner concludes. Leading researchers and experts on the topic of inequality also weigh in, including Nobel-prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, economist Thomas Piketty, and Brooke Harrington, who carried out extensive field research among investors from the ranks of the international financial elite. Branko Milanović, a former lead economist at the World Bank, says that globalization is playing a role in rising inequality. The losers of globalization are the lower-middle class of affluent countries like Germany. "These people are earning the same today as 20 years ago," Milanović notes. "Just like a century ago, humankind is standing at a crossroads. Will affluent countries allow rising equality to tear apart the fabric of society? Or will they resist this trend?”"

[Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYP_wMJsgyg

"Christoph Gröner is one of the richest people in Germany. The son of two teachers, he has worked his way to the top. He believes that many children in Germany grow up without a fair chance and wants to step in. But can this really ease inequality?

Christoph Gröner does everything he can to drum up donations and convince the wealthy auction guests to raise their bids. The more the luxury watch for sale fetches, the more money there will be to pay for a new football field, or some extra tutoring, at a children's home. Christoph Gröner is one of the richest people in Germany - his company is now worth one billion euros, he tells us. For seven months, he let our cameras follow him - into board meetings, onto construction sites, through his daily life, and in his charity work. He knows that someone like him is an absolute exception in Germany. His parents were both teachers, and he still worked his way to the top. He believes that many children in Germany grow up without a fair chance. "What we see here is total failure across the board,” he says. "It starts with parents who just don’t get it and can’t do anything right. And then there’s an education policy that has opened the gates wide to the chaos we are experiencing today." Chistoph Gröner wants to step in where state institutions have failed. But can that really ease inequality?

In Germany, getting ahead depends more on where you come from than in most other industrialized countries, and social mobility is normally quite restricted. Those on top stay on top. The same goes for those at the bottom. A new study shows that Germany’s rich and poor both increasingly stay amongst themselves, without ever intermingling with other social strata. Even the middle class is buckling under the mounting pressure of an unsecure future. "Land of Inequality" searches for answers as to why. We talk to families, an underpaid nurse, as well as leading researchers and analysts such as economic Nobel Prize laureate Joseph Stiglitz, sociologist Jutta Allmendinger or the economist Raj Chetty, who conducted a Stanford investigation into how the middle class is now arming itself to improve their children’s outlooks."]
documentary  germany  capitalism  economics  society  poverty  inequality  christophgröner  thomaspiketty  brookehrrington  josephstiglitz  neoliberalism  latecapitalism  brankomilanović  worldbank  power  influence  policy  politics  education  class  globalization  affluence  schools  schooling  juttaallmendinger  rajchetty  middleclass  parenting  children  access  funding  charity  charitableindustrialcomplex  philanthropy  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  status  work  labor  welfare  2018  geography  cities  urban  urbanism  berlin  immigration  migration  race  racism  essen  socialsegregation  segregation  success  democracy  housing  speculation  paulpiff  achievement  oligarchy  dynasticwealth  ownership  capitalhoarding  injustice  inheritance  charlottebartels  history  myth  prosperity  wageslavery  polarization  insecurity  precarity  socialcontract  revolution  sociology  finance  financialcapitalism  wealthmanagement  assets  financialization  local  markets  privateschools  publicschools  privatization 
january 2019 by robertogreco
How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation
[some follow-up notes here:
https://annehelen.substack.com/p/how-millennials-grew-up-and-burned
https://annehelen.substack.com/p/its-that-simple ]

[See also:

“Here’s What “Millennial Burnout” Is Like For 16 Different People: “My grandmother was a teacher and her mother was a slave. I was born burned out.””
https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/annehelenpetersen/millennial-burnout-perspectives

“This Is What Black Burnout Feels Like: If the American dream isn’t possible for upwardly mobile white people anymore, then what am I even striving for?”
https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/tianaclarkpoet/millennial-burnout-black-women-self-care-anxiety-depression

“Millennials Don’t Have a Monopoly on Burnout: This is a societal scourge, not a generational one. So how can we solve it?”
https://newrepublic.com/article/152872/millennials-dont-monopoly-burnout ]

"We didn’t try to break the system, since that’s not how we’d been raised. We tried to win it.

I never thought the system was equitable. I knew it was winnable for only a small few. I just believed I could continue to optimize myself to become one of them. And it’s taken me years to understand the true ramifications of that mindset. I’d worked hard in college, but as an old millennial, the expectations for labor were tempered. We liked to say we worked hard, played hard — and there were clear boundaries around each of those activities. Grad school, then, is where I learned to work like a millennial, which is to say, all the time. My new watchword was “Everything that’s good is bad, everything that’s bad is good”: Things that should’ve felt good (leisure, not working) felt bad because I felt guilty for not working; things that should’ve felt “bad” (working all the time) felt good because I was doing what I thought I should and needed to be doing in order to succeed."



"The social media feed — and Instagram in particular — is thus evidence of the fruits of hard, rewarding labor and the labor itself. The photos and videos that induce the most jealousy are those that suggest a perfect equilibrium (work hard, play hard!) has been reached. But of course, for most of us, it hasn’t. Posting on social media, after all, is a means of narrativizing our own lives: What we’re telling ourselves our lives are like. And when we don’t feel the satisfaction that we’ve been told we should receive from a good job that’s “fulfilling,” balanced with a personal life that’s equally so, the best way to convince yourself you’re feeling it is to illustrate it for others.

For many millennials, a social media presence — on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter — has also become an integral part of obtaining and maintaining a job. The “purest” example is the social media influencer, whose entire income source is performing and mediating the self online. But social media is also the means through which many “knowledge workers” — that is, workers who handle, process, or make meaning of information — market and brand themselves. Journalists use Twitter to learn about other stories, but they also use it to develop a personal brand and following that can be leveraged; people use LinkedIn not just for résumés and networking, but to post articles that attest to their personality (their brand!) as a manager or entrepreneur. Millennials aren’t the only ones who do this, but we’re the ones who perfected and thus set the standards for those who do.

“Branding” is a fitting word for this work, as it underlines what the millennial self becomes: a product. And as in childhood, the work of optimizing that brand blurs whatever boundaries remained between work and play. There is no “off the clock” when at all hours you could be documenting your on-brand experiences or tweeting your on-brand observations. The rise of smartphones makes these behaviors frictionless and thus more pervasive, more standardized. In the early days of Facebook, you had to take pictures with your digital camera, upload them to your computer, and post them in albums. Now, your phone is a sophisticated camera, always ready to document every component of your life — in easily manipulated photos, in short video bursts, in constant updates to Instagram Stories — and to facilitate the labor of performing the self for public consumption.

But the phone is also, and just as essentially, a tether to the “real” workplace. Email and Slack make it so that employees are always accessible, always able to labor, even after they’ve left the physical workplace and the traditional 9-to-5 boundaries of paid labor. Attempts to discourage working “off the clock” misfire, as millennials read them not as permission to stop working, but a means to further distinguish themselves by being available anyway.

“We are encouraged to strategize and scheme to find places, times, and roles where we can be effectively put to work,” Harris, the Kids These Days author, writes. “Efficiency is our existential purpose, and we are a generation of finely honed tools, crafted from embryos to be lean, mean production machines.”

But as sociologist Arne L. Kalleberg points out, that efficiency was supposed to give us more job security, more pay, perhaps even more leisure. In short, better jobs.

Yet the more work we do, the more efficient we’ve proven ourselves to be, the worse our jobs become: lower pay, worse benefits, less job security. Our efficiency hasn’t bucked wage stagnation; our steadfastness hasn’t made us more valuable. If anything, our commitment to work, no matter how exploitative, has simply encouraged and facilitated our exploitation. We put up with companies treating us poorly because we don’t see another option. We don’t quit. We internalize that we’re not striving hard enough. And we get a second gig."



"That’s one of the most ineffable and frustrating expressions of burnout: It takes things that should be enjoyable and flattens them into a list of tasks, intermingled with other obligations that should either be easily or dutifully completed. The end result is that everything, from wedding celebrations to registering to vote, becomes tinged with resentment and anxiety and avoidance. Maybe my inability to get the knives sharpened is less about being lazy and more about being too good, for too long, at being a millennial.

That’s one of the most ineffable and frustrating expressions of burnout: It takes things that should be enjoyable and flattens them into a list of tasks, intermingled with other obligations that should either be easily or dutifully completed. The end result is that everything, from wedding celebrations to registering to vote, becomes tinged with resentment and anxiety and avoidance. Maybe my inability to get the knives sharpened is less about being lazy and more about being too good, for too long, at being a millennial."



"In his writing about burnout, the psychoanalyst Cohen describes a client who came to him with extreme burnout: He was the quintessential millennial child, optimized for perfect performance, which paid off when he got his job as a high-powered finance banker. He’d done everything right, and was continuing to do everything right in his job. One morning, he woke up, turned off his alarm, rolled over, and refused to go to work. He never went to work again. He was “intrigued to find the termination of his employment didn’t bother him.”

In the movie version of this story, this man moves to an island to rediscover the good life, or figures out he loves woodworking and opens a shop. But that’s the sort of fantasy solution that makes millennial burnout so pervasive. You don’t fix burnout by going on vacation. You don’t fix it through “life hacks,” like inbox zero, or by using a meditation app for five minutes in the morning, or doing Sunday meal prep for the entire family, or starting a bullet journal. You don’t fix it by reading a book on how to “unfu*k yourself.” You don’t fix it with vacation, or an adult coloring book, or “anxiety baking,” or the Pomodoro Technique, or overnight fucking oats.

The problem with holistic, all-consuming burnout is that there’s no solution to it. You can’t optimize it to make it end faster. You can’t see it coming like a cold and start taking the burnout-prevention version of Airborne. The best way to treat it is to first acknowledge it for what it is — not a passing ailment, but a chronic disease — and to understand its roots and its parameters. That’s why people I talked to felt such relief reading the “mental load” cartoon, and why reading Harris’s book felt so cathartic for me: They don’t excuse why we behave and feel the way we do. They just describe those feelings and behaviors — and the larger systems of capitalism and patriarchy that contribute to them — accurately.

To describe millennial burnout accurately is to acknowledge the multiplicity of our lived reality — that we’re not just high school graduates, or parents, or knowledge workers, but all of the above — while recognizing our status quo. We’re deeply in debt, working more hours and more jobs for less pay and less security, struggling to achieve the same standards of living as our parents, operating in psychological and physical precariousness, all while being told that if we just work harder, meritocracy will prevail, and we’ll begin thriving. The carrot dangling in front of us is the dream that the to-do list will end, or at least become far more manageable.

But individual action isn’t enough. Personal choices alone won’t keep the planet from dying, or get Facebook to quit violating our privacy. To do that, you need paradigm-shifting change. Which helps explain why so many millennials increasingly identify with democratic socialism and are embracing unions: We are beginning to understand what ails us, and it’s not something an oxygen facial or a treadmill desk can fix.

Until or in lieu of a … [more]
capitalism  neoliberalism  millennials  burnout  chores  work  parenting  2019  annehelenpetersen  cv  society  us  performance  meritocracy  inequality  competition  labor  leisure  perfectionism  success  schooliness  helicopterparenting  children  academia  economics  genx  genz  generations  generationx  socialmedia  instagram  balance  life  living  gigeconomy  passion  self-care  self-optimization  exhaustion  anxiety  decisionmaking  congnitiveload  insecurity  precarity  poverty  steadiness  laziness  procrastination  helicopterparents  work-lifebalance  canon  malcolmharris  joshcohen  hustling  hustle  overwork  arnekalleberg  efficiency  productivity  workplace  email  adulting  personalbranding  linkedin  facebook  consumption  homelessness  context  behavior 
january 2019 by robertogreco
Bay Area Disrupted: Fred Turner on Vimeo
"Interview with Fred Turner in his office at Stanford University.

http://bayareadisrupted.com/

https://fredturner.stanford.edu

Graphics: Magda Tu
Editing: Michael Krömer
Concept: Andreas Bick"
fredturner  counterculture  california  opensource  bayarea  google  softare  web  internet  history  sanfrancisco  anarchism  siliconvalley  creativity  freedom  individualism  libertarianism  2014  social  sociability  governance  myth  government  infrastructure  research  online  burningman  culture  style  ideology  philosophy  apolitical  individuality  apple  facebook  startups  precarity  informal  bureaucracy  prejudice  1960s  1970s  bias  racism  classism  exclusion  inclusivity  inclusion  communes  hippies  charism  cultofpersonality  whiteness  youth  ageism  inequality  poverty  technology  sharingeconomy  gigeconomy  capitalism  economics  neoliberalism  henryford  ford  empowerment  virtue  us  labor  ork  disruption  responsibility  citizenship  purpose  extraction  egalitarianism  society  edtech  military  1940s  1950s  collaboration  sharedconsciousness  lsd  music  computers  computing  utopia  tools  techculture  location  stanford  sociology  manufacturing  values  socialchange  communalism  technosolutionism  business  entrepreneurship  open  liberalism  commons  peerproduction  product 
december 2018 by robertogreco
Opinion | Everything Is for Sale Now. Even Us. - The New York Times
"Almost everyone I know now has some kind of hustle, whether job, hobby, or side or vanity project. Share my blog post, buy my book, click on my link, follow me on Instagram, visit my Etsy shop, donate to my Kickstarter, crowdfund my heart surgery. It’s as though we are all working in Walmart on an endless Black Friday of the soul.

Being sold to can be socially awkward, for sure, but when it comes to corrosive self-doubt, being the seller is a thousand times worse. The constant curation of a salable self demanded by the new economy can be a special hellspring of anxiety.

Like many modern workers, I find that only a small percentage of my job is now actually doing my job. The rest is performing a million acts of unpaid micro-labor that can easily add up to a full-time job in itself. Tweeting and sharing and schmoozing and blogging. Liking and commenting on others’ tweets and shares and schmoozes and blogs. Ambivalently “maintaining a presence on social media,” attempting to sell a semi-fictional, much more appealing version of myself in the vain hope that this might somehow help me sell some actual stuff at some unspecified future time.

The trick of doing this well, of course, is to act as if you aren’t doing it at all — as if this is simply how you like to unwind in the evening, by sharing your views on pasta sauce with your 567,000 followers. Seeing the slick charm of successful online “influencers” spurs me to download e-courses on how to “crack Instagram” or “develop my personal brand story.” But as soon as I hand over my credit card details, I am flooded with vague self-disgust. I instantly abandon the courses and revert to my usual business model — badgering and guilting my friends across a range of online platforms, employing the personal brand story of “pleeeeeeeeeeaassssee.”

As my friend Helena (Buy her young adult novel! Available on Amazon!) puts it, buying, promoting or sharing your friend’s “thing” is now a tax payable for modern friendship. But this expectation becomes its own monster. I find myself auditing my friends’ loyalty based on their efforts. Who bought it? Who shared it on Facebook? Was it a share from the heart, or a “duty share” — with that telltale, torturous phrasing that squeaks past the minimum social requirement but deftly dissociates the sharer from the product: “My friend wrote a book — I haven’t read it, but maybe you should.”

In this cutthroat human marketplace, we are worth only as much as the sum of our metrics, so checking those metrics can become obsessive. What’s my Amazon ranking? How many likes? How many retweets? How many followers? (The word “followers” is in itself a clear indicator of something psychologically unhealthy going on — the standard term for the people we now spend the bulk of our time with sounds less like a functioning human relationship than the P.R. materials of the Branch Davidians.)

Of course a fair chunk of this mass selling frenzy is motivated by money. With a collapsing middle class, as well as close to zero job security and none of the benefits associated with it, self-marketing has become, for many, a necessity in order to eat.

But what’s more peculiar is just how imperfectly all this correlates with financial need or even greed. The sad truth is that many of us would probably make more money stacking shelves or working at the drive-through than selling our “thing.” The real prize is deeper, more existential. What this is really about, for many of us, is a roaring black hole of psychological need.

After a couple of decades of constant advice to “follow our passions” and “live our dreams,” for a certain type of relatively privileged modern freelancer, nothing less than total self-actualization at work now seems enough. But this leaves us with an angsty mismatch between personal expectation and economic reality. So we shackle our self-worth to the success of these projects — the book or blog post or range of crocheted stuffed penguins becomes a proxy for our very soul. In the new economy you can be your own boss and your own ugly bug brooch.

Kudos to whichever neoliberal masterminds came up with this system. They sell this infinitely seductive torture to us as “flexible working” or “being the C.E.O. of You!” and we jump at it, salivating, because on its best days, the freelance life really can be all of that.

But as long as we are happy to be paid for our labor in psychological rather than financial rewards, those at the top are delighted to comply. While we grub and scrabble and claw at one another chasing these tiny pellets of self-esteem, the bug-brooch barons still pocket the actual cash.

This is the future, and research suggests that it’s a rat race that is already taking a severe toll on our psyches. A 2017 study suggests that this trend toward increasingly market-driven human interaction is making us paranoid, jittery, self-critical and judgmental.

Analyzing data from the Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale from 1989 to 2016, the study’s authors found a surprisingly large increase over this period in three distinct types of perfectionism: “Self-orientated,” whereby we hold ourselves to increasingly unrealistic standards and judge ourselves harshly when we fail to meet them; “socially prescribed,” in which we are convinced that other people judge us harshly; and “other-orientated,” in which we get our revenge by judging them just as harshly. These elements of perfectionism positively correlate with mental health problems, including anxiety, depression and even suicide, which are also on the rise.

The authors describe this new-normal mind-set as a “sense of self overwhelmed by pathological worry and a fear of negative social evaluation.” Hmm. Maybe I should make that my personal brand story."
hustle  anxiety  capitalism  precarity  money  passion  2018  socialmedia  gigeconomy  microlabor  labor  work  perfectionism  happiness  ruthwhippman  sales  depression  mentalhealth  alwayson  personalbranding 
november 2018 by robertogreco
The Making of a Democratic Economy | Ted Howard | RSA Replay - YouTube
"While not often reported on in the press, there is a growing movement – a Community Wealth Building movement – that is taking hold, from the ground up, in towns and cities in the United States and in the United Kingdom, in particular.

Ted Howard, co-founder and president of the Democracy Collaborative, voted one of ‘25 visionaries who are changing your world’, visits the RSA to share the story of the growth of this movement, and the principles underlying it. Join us to explore innovative models of a new economy being built in cities from Cleveland, Ohio to Preston, Lancashire, and to discuss how we might dramatically expand the vision and reality of a democratic economy."
economics  tedhoward  inequality  democracy  extraction  extractiveeconomy  us  uk  2018  capitalism  privatization  finance  wealth  power  elitism  trickledowneconomics  labor  work  universalbasicincome  ubi  austerity  democraticeconomy  precarity  poverty  change  sustainability  empowerment  socialism  socialchange  regulations  socialsafetynet  collectivism  banking  employment  commongood  unemployment  grassroots  organization  greatdepression  greatrecession  alaska  california  socialsecurity  government  governance  nhs  communities  communitywealthbuilding  community  mutualaid  laborovercapital  local  absenteeownership  localownership  consumerism  activism  participation  participatory  investment  cleveland  systemicchange  policy  credit  communityfinance  development  cooperatives  creditunions  employeeownership  richmond  virginia  nyc  rochester  broadband  publicutilities  nebraska  energy  utilities  hospitals  universities  theprestonmodel  preston  lancashire 
november 2018 by robertogreco
To survive our high-speed society, cultivate 'temporal bandwidth' | Alan Jacobs | Opinion | The Guardian
"It is hard to imagine a time more completely presentist than our own, more tethered to the immediate; and is hard to imagine a person more exemplary of our presentism than the current president of the United States.

Donald Trump is a creature of the instant, responsive only and wholly to immediate stimulus – which is why Twitter is his exclusive medium of written communication, and why when he speaks he cannot stick to a script. In this respect he differs little from anyone who spends a lot of time on social media; the social media ecosystem is designed to generate constant, instantaneous responses to the provocations of Now.

We cannot, from within that ecosystem, restore old behavioral norms or develop new and better ones. No, to find a healthier alternative, we must cultivate what the great American novelist Thomas Pynchon calls “temporal bandwidth” – an awareness of our experience as extending into the past and the future.

In Pynchon’s 1973 novel Gravity’s Rainbow, an engineer named Kurt Mondaugen explains that temporal bandwidth is “the width of your present, your now … The more you dwell in the past and future, the thicker your bandwidth, the more solid your persona. But the narrower your sense of Now, the more tenuous you are.”

If we want to extend our bandwidth, we begin with the past, because exploring the past requires only willingness. Recently, I was teaching the Epistles of the Roman poet Horace to a group of undergraduates. Though Horace comes from a world alien in so many ways to ours – and though he would surely fail any possible test of political correctness of the left or right – we found ourselves resonating powerfully with his quest for “a tranquil mind”. Indeed, Horace recommends just what I am arguing for now: “Interrogate the writings of the wise,” he counsels his friend Lollius Maximus:

“Asking them to tell you how you can

Get through your life in a peaceable tranquil way.

Will it be greed, that always feels poverty-stricken,

That harasses and torments you all your days?

Will it be hope and fear about trivial things,

In anxious alternation in your mind?

Where is it virtue comes from, is it from books?

Or is it a gift from Nature that can’t be learned?

What is the way to become a friend to yourself?

What brings tranquility? What makes you care less?”"



"Another benefit of reflecting on the past is awareness of the ways that actions in one moment reverberate into the future. You see that some decisions that seemed trivial when they were made proved immensely important, while others which seemed world-transforming quickly sank into insignificance. The “tenuous” self, sensitive only to the needs of This Instant, always believes – often incorrectly – that the present is infinitely consequential. That frame of mind is dangerously susceptible to alarmist notions, like the idea that “2016 is the Flight 93 election: charge the cockpit or you die” – a claim that many Trump supporters accepted as gospel, without even inquiring what “die” might mean in that context.

Only a severe constriction of temporal bandwidth could make such a claim seem even possible. I did not vote for Hillary Clinton and cannot envision circumstances in which I would have done so, but the idea that her election would mean death (even metaphorical death) for conservatives and Christians is absurd. It would, rather, have meant the continuation of the centrist policies of her predecessor. The idea that the United States in 2016 was faced with a choice between Trump and Death, an idea driven by ignorance of even the recent past, also had the effect of disabling care for the future.

What will Trump’s policies do to international trade? What will they do to immigrant families, including those in this country legally? What will they do to the increasingly toxic state of race relations? What will they do to the health of the planet? The Trump-or-Death binary dismissed all those questions as irrelevant, and we are living with the consequences.

But these questions are essential, if we are to extend our temporal bandwidth into the future as well as the past. (And the refusal of them shows how indifference to the past makes it impossible to consider the future.) I am a Christian, and I have been dismayed at how easily many of my fellow Christians have cast aside their long-held convictions, merely to exchange their rich birthright for a cold serving of Trumpian triumphalism. As David French recently wrote in National Review, in an open letter to his fellow evangelicals: “Soon enough, the ‘need’ to defend Trump will pass. He’ll be gone from the American scene. Then, you’ll stand in the wreckage of your own reputation and ask yourself, ‘Was it worth it?’ The answer will be as clear then as it should be clear now. It’s not, and it never was.”

The bitter irony here is that so many American Christians, who often claim to have “an eternal perspective”, turned out, in 2016, to have no perspective beyond that of the immediate moment. They have left their own future, and that of the country they claim to love, uncared for and unreflected on. Someday, along will come some politician they despise whose personal morality will be even more contemptible than Trump’s, and they will be reduced to silence – or, if they insist on speaking out anyway, will merely testify to their own rank hypocrisy. “Was it worth it?”

Forty years ago, the German philosopher Hans Jonas, in a book that would prove a vital inspiration for the Green movement in his country, asked a potent question: “What force shall represent the future in the present?” In other words, what laws and norms will embody our care for those who come after us, including those already here and those yet to be born? But this is a question that we cannot ask if our thoughts are imprisoned by the stimulation of what rolls across our Twitter and Facebook feeds.

Pynchon’s Mondaugen comments on the personal tenuousness of those who live only in the moment: “It may get to where you’re having trouble remembering what you were doing five minutes ago.” And of course, no person so afflicted can recall, much less be accountable for, what he said yesterday, which is why those who work for Donald Trump have had to learn that yesterday’s truth is today’s lie, and today’s lie will be tomorrow’s truth.

But, again, Trump didn’t create this situation: he found in social media and soundbite TV news an environment ready-made for the instincts he already possessed, an environment in which tenuousness is less a condition to lament than the primary instrument of ultimate celebrity and ultimate power. Trump may be 71 years old, but he is the future of our collective temperament – unless we develop some temporal bandwidth. It’s best that we start now."
alanjacobs  time  attention  politics  religion  2018  donaldtrump  thomaspynchon  temporalbandwidth  horace  futue  past  vulnerability  precarity  immediacy  socialmedia  twitter  inequality  greed  longnow  hansjonas  entanglement  facebook 
june 2018 by robertogreco
Stowe Boyd — However problematically the notion of...
"However problematically the notion of “responsibility” has been reappropriated for neoliberal purposes, the concept remains a crucial feature of the critique of accelerating inequality. In the neoliberal morality, each of us is only responsible for ourselves, and not for others, and that responsibility is first and foremost a responsibility to become economically self-sufficient under conditions when self-sufficiency is structurally undermined. Those who cannot afford to pay for health care constitute but one version of a population deemed disposable. And all those who see the increasing gap between rich and poor, who understand themselves to have lost several forms of security and promise, they also understand themselves as abandoned by a government and a political economy that clearly augments wealth for the very few at the expense of the general population. So when people amass on the street, one implication seems clear: they are still here and still there; they persist; they assemble, and so manifest the understanding that their situation is shared, or the beginning of such an understanding. And even when they are not speaking or do not present a set of negotiable demands, the call for justice is being enacted: the bodies assembled “say” “we are not disposable,” whether or not they are using words at the moment; what they say, as it were, is “we are still here, persisting, demanding greater justice, a release from precarity, a possibility of a livable life."
Judith Butler, Notes Toward a Peformative Theory of Assembly (p. 25)

"The Human Spring is coming, I predict 2023. The time when we, the people, actually understand our situation is shared.

Because of the nature of things in the post-everything, postnormal era, we will have to rely on fluidarity – cooperative action around a small set of core issues – rather than the historical solidarity – collective action around a comprehensive platform – but if it is the right 4 or five things, that will be enough."
judithbutler  stoweboyd  neoliberalism  economics  democracy  inequality  justice  socialjustice  precarity  healthcare  health  change  evolution  solidarity  collectivism  care  caring  morality  persistence  assembly 
april 2018 by robertogreco
Una mutación social acecha a la humanidad
"las transformaciones del trabajo y de la subjetividad provocadas por la globalización y la financiarización de la economía: la desterritorialización, la precarización del empleo, el declive de la burguesía y el proletariado y su paulatina reemplazo por el “cognitariado” y la clase ejecutiva financiera, el sometimiento de los trabajadores por dispositivos de automatización y control, cuyos efectos incluyen la dificultad para crear formas de solidaridad y de relación cuerpo a cuerpo."



"Me interesa en particular la separación entre el ingeniero y el poeta, entre el conocimiento científico y la imaginación artística, que es una consecuencia de la reducción de la formación, la educación y el sistema escolar y universitario a meras herramientas para la acumulación financiera. El declive de la enseñanza humanística, la introducción de criterios puramente económicos en el pensamiento científico y en la innovación tecnológica son los efectos más evidentes y peligrosos de la sumisión del conocimiento al provecho económico. En este contexto, la figura del economista domina abusivamente el panorama cognitivo. ¿Qué es la economía? ¿Una ciencia? No me parece. La ciencia se define ante todo por su objeto, por la capacidad de formular leyes universales que nos permiten prever los acontecimientos futuros. La economía no tiene un objeto independiente de su actuación, y por ende me parece una técnica, no una ciencia. El problema es que esta técnica pretende reglar las otras formas de conocimiento según un principio que no pertenece a la ciencia, sino al interés de una minoría. La reducción de la dinámica social al provecho económico devino el dogma central del pensamiento contemporáneo: no se puede decir, pensar ni investigar nada si no sirve a la acumulación de capital."
work  labor  economics  solidarity  2018  francoberardi  precarity  capitalism  humanism  disciplines  finance  universities  colleges  education  highered  highereducation  science  humanities 
february 2018 by robertogreco
Equitable Schools for a Sustainable World - Long View on Education
"“The classroom, with all its limitations, remains a location of possibility. In that field of possibility we have the opportunity to labor for freedom, to demand of ourselves and our comrades, an openness of mind and heart that allows us to face reality even as we collectively imagine ways to move beyond boundaries, to transgress. This is education as the practice of freedom.” bell hooks

Instead of writing a review of Different Schools for a Different World by Scott McLeod and Dean Shareski, I want to try reading it differently, from back to front. I’ll start with the last topic, equity, and then proceed to talk about: innovation, boredom, learning, economics, and information literacy. But first, I want to touch on the book’s epigraph: Seth Godin tells us to “Make schools different.”

Different is an interesting word. It’s certainly a different word from what people have used to call for educational transformation in the past. If we were to draw up teams about educational change, I’m confident that McLeod, Shareski, and I would all be against the authoritarian ‘no excuses’ strand of reform that fears student agency. We’re also for meaningful engagement over glittery entertainment.

Yet, we also part ways very quickly in how we frame our arguments. They argue that we should “adapt learning and teaching environments to the demands of the 21st Century.” Our “changing, increasingly connected world” speeds ahead, but “most of our classrooms fail to change in response to it.” I start from a different position, one that questions how the demands of the 21st Century fit with the project of equity."



"What makes McLeod and Shareski’s take different from the long history of arguments about schools? Here’s their answer:

“In some respects, the concerns in this book are no different from the concerns of the authors of A Nation at Risk… We agree schools need to change, but that change should have to do with a school’s relevance, not just with its achievement scores.”

I think that relevance is exactly the right word, but we must ask relevant to what?

Their answer is the “demands of the 21st Century” that come from “shifting from an industrial mode to a global model and innovation model.” In Godin’s book, he presents the data center as a source of individual opportunity. While that can be true, the number of well-paying jobs at Google and Youtube stars will always be limited. Freedom of expression and civic participation can’t flourish in an age of economic precarity.

So what are the alternatives?

Jennifer M. Silva writes a counter-narrative to the worship of self-sufficiency and competition, and exposes “the hidden injuries of risk”, which often lead to isolation, a hardening of the self, and tragedy. One of her interview subjects died because she lacked affordable health-care.

What Silva finds is that “working-class young adults… feel a sense of powerlessness and mystification towards the institutions that order their lives. Over and over again, they learn that choice is simply an illusion.” Writing in a global context, (2014), Alcinda Honwana gives a name – waithood – to this experience of youth who are “no longer children in need of care, but … are still unable to become independent adults.” Honwana explicitly rejects the idea that waithood represents a “failed transition on the part of the youth themselves,” and she carefully documents the agency of the youth she interviewed in South Africa, Tunisia, Senegal, and Mozambique.
“Young people I interviewed showed strong awareness of the broader socio-economic and political environments that affect their lives. They are acutely conscious of their marginal structural position and they despise and rebel against the abuse and corruption that they observe as the elites in power get richer and they become poorer … They are critical of unsound economic policies that focus on growth but do not enlarge the productive base by creating more jobs.”

There’s no sustainable future in Western countries measuring educational success by the extent to which they out-compete the globalized Other. In her conclusion, Silva presents Wally, who is like her other working-class interview subjects in every respect except his political activism, as a token of hope. Instead of privatizing his problems, he is able to translate them into political issues. The alternative lies not in making schools different, but making the world ‘different’, sustainable, and just."
benjamindoxtdator  2017  equality  equity  socialjustice  schools  sustainability  education  children  economics  globalization  competition  bellhooks  scottmcleod  deanshareski  litercy  infoliteracy  sethgodin  capitalism  digitalredlining  digitaldivide  chrisgilliard  marianamazzucato  ha-joonchang  innovation  labor  work  rosslevine  yonarubinstein  jordanweissman  aliciarobb  carljames  race  class  boredom  richardelmore  mikeschmoker  robertpianta  johngoodlad  engagement  passivity  criticism  learning  howwelearn  technology  johndewey  democracy  efficiency  davidsnedden  neoliberalism  richardflorida  tonyagner  erikbrynjolfsson  andremcafee  carlbenediktfrey  michaelosborne  davidautor  inequality  surveillance  surveillancecapitalism  shoshanazuboff  jonathanalbright  henrygiroux  jennifersilva  alcindahonwana  change  precarity 
october 2017 by robertogreco
Nicky Case: Seeing Whole Systems - The Long Now
"Nicky Case is an independent game developer who creates interactive games and simulations including Parable of the Polygons (02014), Coming Out Simulator (02014), We Become What We Behold (02016), To Build A Better Ballot (02016), and LOOPY (02017).



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

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

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



How to finesse complexity

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

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

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

[image]

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

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

To do that, “Make chaos your friend.”

--Stewart Brand"
systems  systemsthinking  nickycase  2017  illustration  visualization  longnow  maps  mapping  stewartbrand  games  gaming  gamedesign  capitalism  socialism  monopoly  economics  technology  culture  precarity  chaos  networks  evolution  socialtrust  voting  design  complexity  abstraction  communication  jargon  unknown  loopiness  alinear  feedbackloops  interconnectedness  dataviz  predictions  interconnected  nonlinear  linearity  interconnectivity 
august 2017 by robertogreco
how to do nothing – Jenny Odell – Medium
[video: https://vimeo.com/232544904 ]

"What I would do there is nothing. I’d just sit there. And although I felt a bit guilty about how incongruous it seemed — beautiful garden versus terrifying world — it really did feel necessary, like a survival tactic. I found this necessity of doing nothing so perfectly articulated in a passage from Gilles Deleuze in Negotiations:
…we’re riddled with pointless talk, insane quantities of words and images. Stupidity’s never blind or mute. So it’s not a problem of getting people to express themselves but of providing little gaps of solitude and silence in which they might eventually find something to say. Repressive forces don’t stop people expressing themselves but rather force them to express themselves; what a relief to have nothing to say, the right to say nothing, because only then is there a chance of framing the rare, and ever rarer, thing that might be worth saying. (emphasis mine)

He wrote that in 1985, but the sentiment is something I think we can all identify with right now, almost to a degree that’s painful. The function of nothing here, of saying nothing, is that it’s a precursor to something, to having something to say. “Nothing” is neither a luxury nor a waste of time, but rather a necessary part of meaningful thought and speech."



"In The Bureau of Suspended Objects, a project I did while in residence at Recology SF (otherwise known as the dump), I spent three months photographing, cataloguing and researching the origins of 200 objects. I presented them as browsable archive in which people could scan the objects’ tags and learn about the manufacturing, material, and corporate histories of the objects.

One woman at the Recology opening was very confused and said, “Wait… so did you actually make anything? Or did you just put things on shelves?” (Yes, I just put things on shelves.)"



"That’s an intellectual reason for making nothing, but I think that in my cases, it’s something simpler than that. Yes, the BYTE images speak in interesting and inadvertent ways about some of the more sinister aspects of technology, but I also just really love them.

This love of one’s subject is something I’m provisionally calling the observational eros. The observational eros is an emotional fascination with one’s subject that is so strong it overpowers the desire to make anything new. It’s pretty well summed up in the introduction of Steinbeck’s Cannery Row, where he describes the patience and care involved in close observation of one’s specimens:
When you collect marine animals there are certain flat worms so delicate that they are almost impossible to capture whole, for they break and tatter under the touch. You must let them ooze and crawl of their own will onto a knife blade and then lift them gently into your bottle of sea water. And perhaps that might be the way to write this book — to open the page and let the stories crawl in by themselves.

The subject of observation is so precious and fragile that it risks breaking under even the weight of observation. As an artist, I fear the breaking and tattering of my specimens under my touch, and so with everything I’ve ever “made,” without even thinking about it, I’ve tried to keep a very light touch.

It may not surprise you to know, then, that my favorite movies tend to be documentaries, and that one of my favorite public art pieces was done by the documentary filmmaker, Eleanor Coppola. In 1973, she carried out a public art project called Windows, which materially speaking consisted only of a map with a list of locations in San Francisco.

The map reads, “Eleanor Coppola has designated a number of windows in all parts of San Francisco as visual landmarks. Her purpose in this project is to bring to the attention of the whole community, art that exists in its own context, where it is found, without being altered or removed to a gallery situation.” I like to consider this piece in contrast with how we normally experience public art, which is some giant steel thing that looks like it landed in a corporate plaza from outer space.

Coppola instead casts a subtle frame over the whole of the city itself as a work of art, a light but meaningful touch that recognizes art that exists where it already is."



"What amazed me about birdwatching was the way it changed the granularity of my perception, which was pretty “low res” to begin with. At first, I just noticed birdsong more. Of course it had been there all along, but now that I was paying attention to it, I realized that it was almost everywhere, all day, all the time. In particular I can’t imagine how I went most of my life so far without noticing scrub jays, which are incredibly loud and sound like this:

[video]

And then, one by one, I started learning other songs and being able to associate each of them with a bird, so that now when I walk into the the rose garden, I inadvertently acknowledge them in my head as though they were people: hi raven, robin, song sparrow, chickadee, goldfinch, towhee, hawk, nuthatch, and so on. The diversification (in my attention) of what was previously “bird sounds” into discrete sounds that carry meaning is something I can only compare to the moment that I realized that my mom spoke three languages, not two.

My mom has only ever spoken English to me, and for a very long time, I assumed that whenever my mom was speaking to another Filipino person, that she was speaking Tagalog. I didn’t really have a good reason for thinking this other than that I knew she did speak Tagalog and it sort of all sounded like Tagalog to me. But my mom was actually only sometimes speaking Tagalog, and other times speaking Ilonggo, which is a completely different language that is specific to where she’s from in the Philippines.

The languages are not the same, i.e. one is not simply a dialect of the other; in fact, the Philippines is full of language groups that, according to my mom, have so little in common that speakers would not be able to understand each other, and Tagalog is only one.

This type of embarrassing discovery, in which something you thought was one thing is actually two things, and each of those two things is actually ten things, seems not only naturally cumulative but also a simple function of the duration and quality of one’s attention. With effort, we can become attuned to things, able to pick up and then hopefully differentiate finer and finer frequencies each time.

What these moments of stopping to listen have in common with those labyrinthine spaces is that they all initially enact some kind of removal from the sphere of familiarity. Even if brief or momentary, they are retreats, and like longer retreats, they affect the way we see everyday life when we do come back to it."



"Even the labyrinths I mentioned, by their very shape, collect our attention into these small circular spaces. When Rebecca Solnit, in her book Wanderlust, wrote about walking in the labyrinth inside the Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, she said, “The circuit was so absorbing I lost sight of the people nearby and hardly heard the sound of the traffic and the bells for six o’clock.”

In the case of Deep Listening, although in theory it can be practiced anywhere at any time, it’s telling that there have also been Deep Listening retreats. And Turrell’s Sky Pesher not only removes the context from around the sky, but removes you from your surroundings (and in some ways, from the context of your life — given its underground, tomblike quality)."



"My dad said that leaving the confined context of a job made him understand himself not in relation to that world, but just to the world, and forever after that, things that happened at work only seemed like one small part of something much larger. It reminds me of how John Muir described himself not as a naturalist but as a “poetico-trampo-geologist-botanist and ornithologist-naturalist etc. etc.”, or of how Pauline Oliveros described herself in 1974: “Pauline Oliveros is a two legged human being, female, lesbian, musician, and composer among other things which contribute to her identity. She is herself and lives with her partner, along with assorted poultry, dogs, cats, rabbits and tropical hermit crabs.” Incidentally, this has encouraged me to maybe change my bio to: “Jenny Odell is an artist, professor, thinker, walker, sleeper, eater, and amateur birdnoticer.”

3. the precarity of nothing

There’s an obvious critique of all of this, and that’s that it comes from a place of privilege. I can go to the rose garden, or stare into trees all day, because I have a teaching job that only requires me to be somewhere two days a week, not to mention a whole set of other privileges. Part of the reason my dad could take that time off was that on some level, he had enough reason to think he could get another job. It’s possible to understand the practice of doing nothing solely as a self-indulgent luxury, the equivalent of taking a mental health day if you’re lucky enough to work at a place that has those.

But here I come back to Deleuze’s “right to say nothing,” and although we can definitely say that this right is variously accessible or even inaccessible for some, I believe that it is indeed a right. For example, the push for an 8-hour workday in 1886 called for “8 hours of work, 8 hours of rest, and 8 hours of what we will.” I’m struck by the quality of things that associated with the category “What we Will”: rest, thought, flowers, sunshine.

These are bodily, human things, and this bodily-ness is something I will come back to. When Samuel Gompers, who led the labor group that organized this particular iteration of the 8-hour movement, was asked, “What does labor want?” he responded, “It wants the earth and the fullness thereof.” And to me it seems significant that it’s not 8 hours of, say, “leisure” or “… [more]
jennyodell  idleness  nothing  art  eyeo2017  photoshop  specimens  care  richardprince  gillesdeleuze  recology  internetarchive  sanfrancisco  eleanorcoppola  2017  1973  maps  mapping  scottpolach  jamesturrell  architecture  design  structure  labyrinths  oakland  juliamorgan  chapelofthechimes  paulineoliveros  ucsd  1970s  deeplisening  listening  birds  birdwatching  birding  noticing  classideas  observation  perception  time  gracecathedral  deeplistening  johncage  gordonhempton  silence  maintenance  conviviality  technology  bodies  landscape  ordinary  everyday  cyclicality  cycles  1969  mierleladermanukeles  sensitivity  senses  multispecies  canon  productivity  presence  connectivity  conversation  audrelorde  gabriellemoss  fomo  nomo  nosmo  davidabram  becominganimal  animals  nature  ravens  corvids  crows  bluejays  pets  human-animalrelations  human-animalelationships  herons  dissent  rowe  caliressler  jodythompson  francoberardi  fiverr  popos  publicspace  blackmirror  anthonyantonellis  facebook  socialmedia  email  wpa  history  bayarea  crowdcontrol  mikedavis  cityofquartz  er 
july 2017 by robertogreco
Steady Jobs, With Pay and Hours That Are Anything But - The New York Times
"Mirella Casares has what used to be considered the keystone of economic security: a job. But even a reliable paycheck no longer delivers a reliable income.

Like Ms. Casares, who works at a Victoria’s Secret store in Ocala, Fla., more and more employees across a growing range of industries find the number of hours they work is swinging giddily from week to week — bringing chaos not only to family scheduling, but also to family finances.

And a new wave of research shows that the main culprit is not the so-called gig economy, but shifting pay within the same job.

This volatility helps unravel a persistent puzzle: why a below-average jobless rate — 4.4 percent in April — is still producing an above-average level of economic anxiety. Turbulence has replaced the traditional American narrative of steady financial progress over a lifetime.

Continue reading the main story
“Since the 1970s, steady work that pays a predictable and living wage has become increasingly difficult to find,” said Jonathan Morduch, a director of the U.S. Financial Diaries project, an in-depth study of 235 low- and moderate-income households. “This shift has left many more families vulnerable to income volatility.”

Ever-changing schedules at Victoria’s Secret, for example, make it difficult for Ms. Casares, 27, to find care for her 2-year-old and 6-year-old and to cover the bills. “The lowest hours I’ve gotten is 15 and the highest I’ve gotten is 39,” said Ms. Casares, who started in October, earning $10 an hour. The schedule is usually posted a month in advance, she said, but there are frequently last-minute changes.

Stability is worth a lot to workers. On average, employees are willing to give up a fifth of their weekly wage to avoid a schedule set by an employer on a week’s notice, according to a field experiment where workers were offered a range of alternative hours at different pay levels.

“That is totally the story,” said Mr. Morduch, who watched household incomes in his study rise and fall. “And that instability and insecurity are increasingly a part of middle-class life, too.”

In the course of a year, for example, the monthly income of a California family with one child that Mr. Morduch’s team tracked jumped to $5,279 from as low as $1,175. (Strict ethics protocols prohibit the release of participants’ names.) The husband supplemented his steady $400-a-week salaried construction job with extra remodeling work that could add from $323 to $1,588 a month to his total. His wife picked up from zero to $1,824 a month from babysitting, and from selling jewelry, clothing and flowers.

Monthly expenses can pendulum as much as income, but the two do not necessarily move in tandem. An analysis of 250,000 bank accounts by the JPMorgan Chase Institute, a nonprofit research arm of the bank, found that roughly 80 percent of households had an insufficient cash buffer to manage the mismatch between income and expenses in a given month.

Few people can comfortably ride out the inevitable financial bronco ride. “Only households that earn $105,000 or more a year are secure against the volatility they are exposed to,” said Diana Farrell, the institute’s president and chief executive. “It’s not just about the unemployed or the poor.”

Middle-income households, for example, saw their monthly expenses deviate by nearly $1,300, the equivalent of a month’s rent or mortgage payment. And one uh-oh expense — usually in the form of a medical, tax or car repair bill — can wreck a family’s balance sheet for a year or more.

Even a single month’s volatility can have a cascading effect. One month, a family copes by using the money earmarked for, say, the utility bill to cover the cost of replacing a busted water heater. The next month, it’s the telephone company that goes unpaid as the family struggles to make up the missed utility bill plus late fees and interest — and so on. Emergencies are not the only source of expense spikes. So are bridal showers, Christmas gifts and outgrown winter coats.

May turned out to be an expensive month for Tomika Waggoner, 44, a nursing home aide in Newport, Ky. Her daughter was graduating from high school, and she needed a few hundred dollars to pay for her cap and gown, commencement fees, a prom ticket and a dress."
jobs  flexibility  gigeconomy  precarity  economics  work  2017  income  inequality  unpredictability  stability 
june 2017 by robertogreco
Is the Gig Economy Working? - The New Yorker
"Many liberals have embraced the sharing economy. But can they survive it?"



"In a competitive market, though, advantaged people still end up leveraging their advantages: that is why Happy Host exists. Today, every major Airbnb city (among them London, Paris, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and New Orleans) has multiple Happy Host equivalents to help meet rising market expectations. A two-year-old New York competitor, MetroButler, has twenty-two contractors and two cleaners, and last year bought the clientele of another competitor, Proprly. MetroButler’s co-founder Brandon McKenzie had been using Airbnb to pay down law-school debts when he realized that short-term rentals could support an entire service industry. “We’re sort of in the business of pickaxes during the Gold Rush,” he said."



"Normally, every efficiency has a winner and a loser. A service like Uber benefits the rider, who’s saving on the taxi fare she might otherwise pay, but makes drivers’ earnings less stable. Airbnb has made travel more affordable for people who wince at the bill of a decent hotel, yet it also means that tourism spending doesn’t make its way directly to the usual armies of full-time employees: housekeepers, bellhops, cooks.

To advocates such as Lehane, that labor-market swap is good. Instead of scrubbing bathrooms at the Hilton, you can earn directly, how and when you want. Such thinking, though, presumes that gigging people and the old working and service classes are the same, and this does not appear to be the case. A few years ago, Juliet B. Schor, a sociology professor at Boston College, interviewed forty-three mostly young people who were earning money from Airbnb, Turo (like Airbnb for car rentals), and TaskRabbit. She found that they were disproportionately white-collar and highly educated, like Seth F. A second, expanded study showed that those who relied on gigging to make a living were less satisfied than those who had other jobs and benefits and gigged for pocket money: another sign that the system was not helping those who most needed the work.

Instead of simply driving wealth down, it seemed, the gigging model was helping divert traditional service-worker earnings into more privileged pockets—causing what Schor calls a “crowding out” of people dependent on such work. That distillation-coil effect, drawing wealth slowly upward, is largely invisible. On the ground, the atmosphere grows so steamy with transaction that it often seems to rain much needed cash."



"Calls for structural change have grown loud lately, in part because the problem goes far beyond gigging apps. The precariat is everywhere. Companies such as Nissan have begun manning factories with temps; even the U.S. Postal Service has turned to them. Academic jobs are increasingly filled with relatively cheap, short-term teaching appointments. Historically, there is usually an uptick in 1099 work during tough economic times, and then W-2s resurge as jobs are added in recovery. But W-2 jobs did not resurge as usual during our recovery from the last recession; instead, the growth has happened in the 1099 column. That shift raises problems because the United States’ benefits structure has traditionally been attached to the corporation rather than to the state: the expectation was that every employed person would have a W-2 job.

“We should design the labor-market regulations around a more flexible model,” Jacob Hacker told me. He favors some form of worker participation, and, like Mulcahy, advocates creating a single category of employment. “I think if you work for someone else, you’re an employee,” he said. “Employees get certain protections. Benefits must be separate from work.”

In a much cited article in Democracy, from 2015, Nick Hanauer, a venture capitalist, and David Rolf, a union president, proposed that workplace benefits be prorated (someone who works a twenty-hour week gets half of the full-time benefits) and portable (insurance or unused vacation days would carry from one job to the next, because employers would pay into a worker’s lifelong benefits account). Other people regard the gig economy as a case for universal basic income: a plan to give every citizen a modest flat annuity from the government, as a replacement for all current welfare and unemployment programs. Alternatively, there’s the proposal made by the economists Seth D. Harris and Alan B. Krueger: the creation of an “independent worker” status that awards some of the structural benefits of W-2 employment (including collective bargaining, discrimination protection, tax withholding, insurance pools) but not others (overtime and the minimum wage).

I put these possibilities to Tom Perez. He told me that he didn’t like the idea of eliminating work categories, or of adding a new one, as Harris and Krueger suggest: you’d lose many of the hard-won benefits included with W-2 employment, he said, either in the compromise to a single category or because current W-2 companies would find ways to slide into the new classification. He wanted to move slowly, to take time. “The heart and soul of the twentieth-century social compact that emerged after the Great Depression was forty years in the making,” he said. “How do we build the twenty-first-century social compact?”"



"One afternoon, I accompanied a Hello Alfred tasker named Phillip Pineno as he went to service apartments in Kips Bay. A placid guy with tiny silver hoops in his ears and a hipster’s dusky beard, Pineno does tasking four days a week and, like Bobby Allan, works in his remaining time as an actor. In the lobby of a building facing Bellevue South Park, he gathered packages and ascended to a client’s apartment—one of eleven he’d visit that day. A bag of Trader Joe’s Veggie & Flaxseed Tortilla Chips went in a cupboard. A box of cereal was tucked into position on the counter. Pineno used to be a caterer, doing events at Lincoln Center and the Museum of Natural History. The work was fine, he said, but unpredictable, different from Hello Alfred. “You get to feel more like a human,” he told me. He could take time every week to work toward his dream without gambling his future on it. He had found some sense of workplace comfort—of being valued and known.

For many gig workers, as for Seth F., that dream remains elusive. When Seth F. had finished hanging art work in my living room, I led him to the dining room. He took a small electric drill and some screws out of his backpack, and started driving them into the plaster. We were hanging a small print of a Sol LeWitt drawing, squares in squares in squares. He extracted a laser level, and projected it across the wall. “This is my favorite tool,” he told me, with a moving tenderness. He rarely met other taskers, he said; there were no colleagues in his life with whom he could share experiences and struggles. The flexibility was great, if you had something to be flexible for.

“The gig economy is such a lonely economy,” he told me. He left his drill behind after he finished the work, but I was out when he returned the next day to get it. I never saw him again."
gigeconomy  economics  nathanheller  2017  work  labor  precarity  taskrabbit  uber  lyft  postmates  sustainability  airbnb  inequality  servicework  loneliness 
may 2017 by robertogreco
the three hot trends in Silicon Valley horseshit – Freddie deBoer – Medium
"For a long time I told the same basic joke about Silicon Valley, just updating as some new walled garden network replicated long-existing technology in a format better able to attract VC cash and, presumably, get them ad dollars.

2002, Friendster: At last, a way to connect with friends on the internet!
2003, Photobucket: At last, a way to post pictures on the internet!
2003, Myspace: At last, a way to connect with friends on the internet!
2004, Flickr: At last, a way to post pictures on the internet!
2004, Facebook: At last, a way to connect with friends on the internet!
2005, YouTube: At last, a way to post video on the internet!
2006, Twitter: At last, a way to post text on the internet!
2010, Instagram: At last, a way to post pictures on the internet!
2013, Vine: At last, a way to post video on the internet!
2013, YikYak: At last, a way to post text on the internet!

You get the idea. An industry that never stops lauding itself for its creativity and innovation has built its own success mythology by endlessly repackaging the same banal functions that have existed for about as long as the Web.

It seems, though, that SnapChat will be the last big new player in “social” for awhile, at least until the kids get their dander up for something new. What’s the new hotness in an industry that exemplifies 21st American capitalism, in that it’s a cannibalistic hustle where only the most shameless hucksters survive? As someone who rides the New York subway every day and is forced to look at its ads, let me take you on a journey.

[1] Give Away the Razors, Make Your Money on DRM-Infected Blades

Juicero deserved all of the attention it got and more — it was so pure, so impossibly telling about the pre-apocalyptic American wasteland. It was also just one of a whole constellation of companies that now operate under an ingenious model: take some banal product that has been sold forever at low margins, attach the disposable part to a proprietary system that pretends to improve it but really just locks pepole into a particular vendor, add a touch screen manufactured by Chinese tweens, call it “Smart,” and sell it to schlubby dads too indebted to buy a midlife crisis car and too unattractive to have an affair. As the Juicero saga shows us, you don’t even really have to honor the whole “make the initial purchase cheap” stage. Just ensure that you market your boondoggle to the kind of person who stood in line to buy an $800 “smartwatch” that poorly duplicates a tenth of the functions already present in the phone in their pocket. (You know, those dead inside.) Then get them “locked into your ecosystem,” which means “get their credit card number and automatically charge them every month for your version of a product that can be purchased at the supermarket for a third of the price.” Profit, baby, profit.

Are you the kind of person who is so worn down by the numbing drudgery of late capitalism that you can’t summon the energy to drag a 2 ounce toothbrush across your gums for 90 seconds a day? Well, the electric toothbrush has been a thing for a long time. And that means that it’s not good enough. After years of deadening your limbic system through psychotropic medication, video games, and increasingly-extreme internet pornography, you need something new. Enter Quip, the company disrupting the toothbrush. Quip wants you to know that its product is inexpensive, despite the fact that it will charge you $40/year for for its “refill plan” and I just bought 5 perfectly functional regular toothbrushes for $1 in the most expensive city in the country. Of course, you’re also buying the convenience of automation — who wants to run down stairs to the bodega for a toothbrush when you can hand over your banking info to a toothbrush company? Bonus points to Quip for emphasizing simplicity while hawking a product that employs an engineering team to innovate the concept of a brush.

[2] I’ve got one word for you, Benjamin, just one word: rents.

It’s one thing to take a product that is already cheap and just fine and replace it with a vastly more expensive version that locks people into exploitative proprietary systems for years in exchange for giving them a 15 second hit of dopamine derived from Going Digital. I mean, Quip and Juicero and whatever Silicon Valley dildo company is selling dongs with DRM-equipped replaceable heads are actually fundamentally selling you a product. It’s a horribly, uselessly expensive product that could only be embraced by chumps, but it’s a tangible thing. The real next level is just inserting yourself into someone else’s transaction and collecting a % while offering nothing. (When this is a job, we call it “consulting.”) Why charge a lot for the blades when you can charge a lot for literally nothing?

RentBerry is useful here because the word “rent” is literally in the name. Here’s the value proposition that RentBerry offers. For landlords who are already raking in record profits, RentBerry provides a chance at making even more, as potential tenants must set upon each other in a dystopian nightmare auction system that compels them to ask, how much am I willing to pay to avoid sleeping in the park, really? For tenants, RentBerry offers… well, the opportunity to pay more in a pre-existing housing crisis, the chance to make the process of finding an apartment an even more horrific exercise in stress and disappointment, a reason to hate faceless strangers with even more intensity, and more reason to view city life as a ceaseless Nietzschean struggle from which they will never escape. What RentBerry gets in return is, eventually, a % of your already hideously overpriced rent, for the duration of the lease. I bet you can’t wait to know a portion of your rent check is going not just to the landlord you hate but also to a company that did nothing beyond giving him the ability to take more of your money! Of course, if you live in New York, your “landlord” might very well be a hedge fund that also funded RentBerry! Sweet, right?

RentBerry will tell you that tenants might get a deal thanks to the auction system. Of course, it’s landlords who chose to use RentBerry, not tenants, and if landlords thought they were losing money on the deal they’d never use it, meaning the service’s very reason for being necessarily entails grabbing more and more tenant money. Details!

Why is everything so expensive? Because Silicon Valley and Wall Street are taking huge percentages out of transactions they once didn’t. That’s why. The Juiceros make inexpensive and functional products far more expensive and often less functional; the RentBerrys cut out the middleman by just becoming middlemen. Dare to dream.

[3] We Love Doers So Much We Want to Give Them a Hellish Existence of Endless Precarity

This is the type of company that has become inescapable in NYC subway advertising. Not coincidentally the time I spend contemplating stepping in front of the train to enjoy the sweet oblivion of death is also up dramatically. There’s legit dozens of these companies out there.

The basic idea here is that 40 years of stagnant wages, the decline of unions, the death of middle class blue collar jobs, the demise of pensions, and a general slide of the American working world into a PTSD-inducing horror show of limitless vulnerability has been too easy on workers. I’m sorry, Doers, or whatever the fuck. The true beauty of these ads is that they are all predicated on mythologizing the very workers who their service is intended to immisserate. Sorry about your medical debt; here’s a photo of a model who we paid in “exposure” over ad copy written by an intern who we paid in college credit that cost $3,000 a credit hour. Enjoy.

The purpose of these companies is to take whatever tiny sense of social responsibility businesses might still feel to give people stable jobs and destroy it, replacing whatever remains of the permanent, salaried, benefit-enjoying workforce with an army of desperate freelancers who will never go to bed feeling secure in their financial future for their entire lives. These companies are for people who think temp agencies are too coddling and well remunerative. The only service they sell is making it easier to kill minimally stable, well-compensated jobs. That’s it. They have no other function. They valorize Doers while killing workers. They siphon money from the desperate throngs back to the employers who will use them up and throw them aside like a discarded Juicero bag and, of course, to themselves and their shareholders. That’s it. That’s all they are. That’s all they do. They are the final logic of late capitalism, the engine of human creativity applied to the essential work of making life worse for regular people.

Our society is a hellish wasteland and I am dying inside.
freddiedeboer  siliconvalley  business  internet  society  technology  capitalism  middlemen  technosolutionism  precarity  finance  2017  juicero  subscriptions  drm  rent  rentseeking  latecapitalism  inequality  realestate  housing  socialresponsibility  stability  instability  economics 
may 2017 by robertogreco
The United States of Work | New Republic
"how the discipline of work has itself become a form of tyranny, documenting the expansive power that firms now wield over their employees in everything from how they dress to what they tweet"



"both books make a powerful claim: that our lives today are ruled, above all, by work. We can try to convince ourselves that we are free, but as long as we must submit to the increasing authority of our employers and the labor market, we are not. We therefore fancy that we want to work, that work grounds our character, that markets encompass the possible. We are unable to imagine what a full life could be, much less to live one. Even more radically, both books highlight the dramatic and alarming changes that work has undergone over the past century—insisting that, in often unseen ways, the changing nature of work threatens the fundamental ideals of democracy: equality and freedom.

Anderson’s most provocative argument is that large companies, the institutions that employ most workers, amount to a de facto form of government, exerting massive and intrusive power in our daily lives. Unlike the state, these private governments are able to wield power with little oversight, because the executives and boards of directors that rule them are accountable to no one but themselves."



"they use the language of individual liberty to claim that corporations require freedom to treat workers as they like."



"These conditions render long-term employment more palatable than a precarious existence of freelance gigs, which further gives companies license to oppress their employees."



"Indeed, it is only after dismissal for such reasons that many workers learn of the sweeping breadth of at-will employment, the contractual norm that allows American employers to fire workers without warning and without cause, except for reasons explicitly deemed illegal."



"
A weak job market, paired with the increasing precarity of work, means that more and more workers are forced to make their living by stringing together freelance assignments or winning fixed-term contracts, subjecting those workers to even more rules and restrictions. On top of their actual jobs, contractors and temp workers must do the additional work of appearing affable and employable not just on the job, but during their ongoing efforts to secure their next gig. Constantly pitching, writing up applications, and personal branding on social media requires a level of self-censorship, lest a controversial tweet or compromising Facebook photo sink their job prospects."



"from Marx and Hegel to Freud and Lincoln, whose 1859 speech he also quotes. Livingston centers on these thinkers because they all found the connection between work and virtue troubling. Hegel believed that work causes individuals to defer their desires, nurturing a “slave morality.” Marx proposed that “real freedom came after work.” And Freud understood the Protestant work ethic as “the symptom of repression, perhaps even regression.”"



"In today’s economy, the demand for such labor is rising rapidly: “Nine of the twelve fastest-growing fields,” The New York Times reported earlier this year, “are different ways of saying ‘nurse.’” These jobs also happen to be low-paying, emotionally and physically grueling, dirty, hazardous, and shouldered largely by women and immigrants. Regardless of whether employment is virtuous or not, our immediate goal should perhaps be to distribute the burdens of caregiving, since such work is essential to the functioning of society and benefits us all.

A truly work-free world is one that would entail a revolution from our present social organizations. We could no longer conceive of welfare as a last resort—as the “safety net” metaphor implies—but would be forced to treat it as an unremarkable and universal fact of life. This alone would require us to support a massive redistribution of wealth, and to reclaim our political institutions from the big-money interests that are allergic to such changes."



"If we do not have a deliberate politics rooted in universal social justice, then full employment, a basic income, and automation will not liberate us from the degradations of work.

Both Livingston and Anderson reveal how much of our own power we’ve already ceded in making waged work the conduit for our ideals of liberty and morality. The scale and coordination of the institutions we’re up against in the fight for our emancipation is, as Anderson demonstrates, staggering."
work  politics  2017  miyatokumitsu  government  governance  labor  corporatism  liberty  freedom  la  precarity  economics  karlmarx  hegel  abrahamlincoln  digmundfreud  care  caregiving  emotionallabor  caretaking  maintenance  elizabethanderson  jameslivingston 
april 2017 by robertogreco
Maybe we're not afraid: on Edtech's inability to imagine the future - Long View on Education
"As people who argue for ‘de-growth’ know, we will end up in serious trouble if we mindlessly argue for creation and production as we imagine the future of paid labor and the unpaid work of reproduction.8There are serious environmental and equity issues at stake. While we have seen a huge push for equity through the movements to include girls in the STEM subjects (which is crucial work that we need to continue), Debbie Chachra points out a shortcoming to the one-sided emphasis behind getting “everyone access to the traditionally male domain of making”.
“I want to see us recognize the work of the educators, those that analyze and characterize and critique, everyone who fixes things, all the other people who do valuable work with and for others—above all, the caregivers—whose work isn’t about something you can put in a box and sell.”

Chachra’s concern comes to life in The World Economic Forum’s ‘Future of Jobs‘ report, which has almost nothing to say about care work, and as Helen Hester argues in her talk at the LSE, the “relative absence of care still registers as quite conspicuous in a study seeking to address something as encompassing as the ‘Future of Jobs’.”9

We should reject the whole ‘human capital’ metaphor and with it the racist and sexist legacy that defines technology along with productive value in the narrowest terms. In her conceptual critique of Becker’s human capital theory, Antonia Kupfer asks, “how could ‘productivity’ be measured in the increasing service sector such as care of elderly, counselling or management? In fact, productivity is highly culturally conceptualised and impacted.” Elevating all ‘creating’ above everything else, as Shirky does, damages our ability to think through our future.10
Maybe We’re Not Afraid: Technology in the Classroom

In his study of computer use in schools, Larry Cuban (2001) “found no evidence of teacher resistance” contrary to the popular mythology.11 Counter to Edtech’s idea that teachers fear technology, I propose a somewhat radical thesis: Perhaps it’s Edtech, not teachers, that lags far behind in its narrow discussion of technology. Rather than leading the way forward, Edtech is stuck in the past and irrelevant, especially to those of us who care about the intersection of technology and power.

Many of the top Edtech bloggers and tweeters, as ranked by onalytica.com, focus on products and branding, rather than pedagogy and power. In their praise, onlyanalytica.com writes that, “We discovered a very engaged community, with much discussion between individuals and brands, joining together in conversations looking to improve their quality of service.” It’s true, there’s an excellent relationship between individuals and brands like Apple and Google, which could be the exact reason that teachers find Edtech to be irrelevant.

Aside from the few who have consciously adopted a critical approach, most notably Audrey Watters, Neil Selwyn and the Digital Pedagogy group, the official Edtech journals and popular blogs almost never discuss the intersection of technology and power. Recently, both The British Journal of Educational Technology and Learning, Media, and Technology have featured editorials that acknowledge the shortcomings of Edtech and call for a new approaches.

So, what issues should Edtech be talking about instead of scared teachers and content creators? I would start with this short list:

– digital redlining
– the extent to which our ‘open’ society is really black boxed
– online harassment, especially as this relates to race and gender
– privacy in a world of Big Data
– digital labor
– media and propaganda
– profits and corporate agendas
– the supply chains that lie underneath ‘knowledge work’
– the increasing precarity of workers
– climate justice
– the ways that technology embodies ideologies, again, especially as this relates to race, class, and gender
– critical pedagogy

If we are really going to move education forward, then our philosophy of educational technology needs to keep pace with what people outside of the elite circles that worship the human capital ideology have been talking about for the last few decades. If we continue to praise creating and making, while undervaluing caring and repairing, we certainly won’t prepare kids for either the jobs or civic life of tomorrow."
edtech  benjamindoxtdator  2017  technology  education  pedagogy  debchachra  clayshirky  audeywatters  larrycuban  neilsilwyn  digitalpedagogy  production  consumption  care  caring  caretakers  makers  labor  capitalism  work  propaganda  climatejustice  power  precarity  economics  ideology  technosolutionism 
april 2017 by robertogreco
Resisting Spectacle and Confronting Neoliberalism — notes for educators - Long View on Education
"I want you to pick up your favourite book about education right now and turn to the chapter about fighting racism, sexism, and oppression. Find the passages about raising critical consciousness, close reading, and resisting spectacle.

They should be there. Because those are the parts of our self-education as teachers that will help us do more than train kids for the marketplace and ‘future proof’ them.

If, like me, you are feeling numb and afraid after Trump’s victory, your favourite books should inspire your voice and courage and help you keep going in the classroom. I hope they do.

But if after looking through your favourite books, blogs, TED talks, and Twitter streams about education you realize that your hands have in fact been empty this whole time, then today’s the day to reflect.

In an essay about the importance of teachers, Henry Giroux argues that in our dark times, “the brain has migrated to the dark pit of the spectacle” and “the only discourse that matters is about business.” Unfortunately this is true not only of Trump and political discourse, but also true of the dominant neoliberal discourse about education. That pit of spectacle makes it difficult to find any real solace.

Giroux draws on Guy Debord’s concept of the spectacle which he defines in his 1967 essay: “The spectacle is not a collection of images; it is a social relation between people that is mediated by image.” (4) Teachers have a role in pulling students out of the dark pit of spectacle by teaching them to look beyond the stream of images we are assaulted with every day to the ideology they embody. Obviously, Trump’s spectacle embodies the most virulent strains of racism and sexism.

Crucially for Debord, spectacle “is the opposite of dialog” and it demands “passive acceptance” in “manner of appearing without allowing any reply.” (18 & 12) In the most literal sense, this is true of Trump’s debate style.

It’s too easy to feel like we are in dialog when in fact we simply speaking in a pastiche of voices that repeat and reinforce the dominant neoliberal ideology.

The neoliberal agenda for education has so narrowly focused on preparing students to compete against each other in the global economy that we are at risk of missing the chance to build new relations of solidarity.
In education, the mainstream challenge to standardized testing has taken the form of the spectacle: ceaseless technological disruption embodied in creative entrepreneurs who compete in the ‘free’ market.

Trump and the neoliberal agenda in education are not the same thing. But as a walking spectacle, he embodies the highly individualist entrepreneurial ideology that dominates the so-called skills agenda to ‘reinvent’ education.

Neoliberalism sells us precarity and self-reliance as a kind of freedom — the freedom to constantly re-invent ourselves and flexibly manage our affect and self-presentation, which is densely mediated by our visual culture and social media. It’s the Tony Robbins self-help ideology that says you should work on yourself rather than create movements of resistance that confront social problems. And what’s Robbins if not pure spectacle? In what could could easily be part of a Robbins performance, Thomas Friedman proclaims, “The greatest economic competition going forward is going to be between you and your own imagination.”

If the neoliberal agenda to ‘future proof’ our kids even remotely seemed like a good idea before, preparing our kids so they can flexibly adapt to a Trump Presidency and the ensuing economic devastation should make you stop hard and fast. And that’s not even to mention the problems of racism, sexism, and climate injustice — which neoliberalism stokes and ignores.

Books that may have made us comfortable before because they demanded little more than educating kids for the economy obviously fail us now. That was, in fact, the least disruptive solution all along.

We need to teach students how to resist spectacle and confront neoliberal ideology, and that starts with what we read as educators."
benjamindoxtdator  neoliberalism  education  freedom  precarity  self-reliance  ideology  henrygiroux  guydebord  spectacle  self-eduction  sexism  racism  oppression  capitalism  criticism  teaching  learning  howweteach  howwelearn  schools  self-presentation  tonyrobbins  thomasfriedman  injustice  socialjustice  resistance 
february 2017 by robertogreco
The Sharing Economy? (15 minute shortened version) by Upstream
[full version: https://soundcloud.com/upstreampodcast/the-sharing-economy ]

"In this shortened version of this episode, we look at how companies like Airbnb and Uber have influenced an entire generation and entirely shifted the economic landscape of major cities like San Francisco. Through candid conversations with journalists and industry insiders, we explore the darker side of these giant companies and investigate how this phenomenon arose and what implications are in store.

Featured guests:

Doug Henwood (Author, radio host, columnist for Harper's and the Nation Magazine)

Keally McBride (Professor of Politics and the Chair of International Studies at the University of San Francisco)

David Korman (Lyft driver, former TaskRabbit, Couchsurfing host)"
sharingeconomy  gigeconomy  precarity  precariousness  economics  2016  lyft  uber  airbnb  taskrabbit  politics  labor  work  sharing  keallymcbride  markets  capitalism  davidkorman  doughenwood 
february 2017 by robertogreco
Ed-Tech in a Time of Trump
"The thing is, I’d still be giving the much the same talk, just with a different title. “A Time of Trump” could be “A Time of Neoliberalism” or “A Time of Libertarianism” or “A Time of Algorithmic Discrimination” or “A Time of Economic Precarity.” All of this is – from President Trump to the so-called “new economy” – has been fueled to some extent by digital technologies; and that fuel, despite what I think many who work in and around education technology have long believed – have long hoped – is not necessarily (heck, even remotely) progressive."



"As Donna Haraway argues in her famous “Cyborg Manifesto,” “Feminist cyborg stories have the task of recoding communication and intelligence to subvert command and control.” I want those of us working in and with education technologies to ask if that is the task we’ve actually undertaken. Are our technologies or our stories about technologies feminist? If so, when? If so, how? Do our technologies or our stories work in the interest of justice and equity? Or, rather, have we adopted technologies for teaching and learning that are much more aligned with that military mission of command and control? The mission of the military. The mission of the church. The mission of the university.

I do think that some might hear Haraway’s framing – a call to “recode communication and intelligence” – and insist that that’s exactly what education technologies do and they do so in a progressive reshaping of traditional education institutions and practices. Education technologies facilitate communication, expanding learning networks beyond the classroom. And they boost intelligence – namely, how knowledge is created and shared.
Perhaps they do.

But do our ed-tech practices ever actually recode or subvert command and control? Do (or how do) our digital communication practices differ from those designed by the military? And most importantly, I’d say, does (or how does) our notion of intelligence?"



"This is a punch card, a paper-based method of proto-programming, one of the earliest ways in which machines could be automated. It’s a relic, a piece of “old tech,” if you will, but it’s also a political symbol. Think draft cards. Think the slogan “Do not fold, spindle or mutilate.” Think Mario Savio on the steps of Sproul Hall at UC Berkeley in 1964, insisting angrily that students not be viewed as raw materials in the university machine."



"We need to identify and we need to confront the ideas and the practices that are the lingering legacies of Nazism and fascism. We need to identify and we need to confront them in our technologies. Yes, in our education technologies. Remember: our technologies are ideas; they are practices. Now is the time for an ed-tech antifa, and I cannot believe I have to say that out loud to you.

And so you hear a lot of folks in recent months say “read Hannah Arendt.” And I don’t disagree. Read Arendt. Read The Origins of Totalitarianism. Read her reporting from the Nuremberg Trials.
But also read James Baldwin. Also realize that this politics and practice of surveillance and genocide isn’t just something we can pin on Nazi Germany. It’s actually deeply embedded in the American experience. It is part of this country as a technology."



"Who are the “undesirables” of ed-tech software and education institutions? Those students who are identified as “cheats,” perhaps. When we turn the cameras on, for example with proctoring software, those students whose faces and gestures are viewed – visually, biometrically, algorithmically – as “suspicious.” Those students who are identified as “out of place.” Not in the right major. Not in the right class. Not in the right school. Not in the right country. Those students who are identified – through surveillance and through algorithms – as “at risk.” At risk of failure. At risk of dropping out. At risk of not repaying their student loans. At risk of becoming “radicalized.” At risk of radicalizing others. What about those educators at risk of radicalizing others. Let’s be honest with ourselves, ed-tech in a time of Trump will undermine educators as well as students; it will undermine academic freedom. It’s already happening. Trump’s tweets this morning about Berkeley.

What do schools do with the capabilities of ed-tech as surveillance technology now in the time of a Trump? The proctoring software and learning analytics software and “student success” platforms all market themselves to schools claiming that they can truly “see” what students are up to, that they can predict what students will become. (“How will this student affect our averages?”) These technologies claim they can identify a “problem” student, and the implication, I think, is that then someone at the institution “fixes” her or him. Helps the student graduate. Convinces the student to leave.

But these technologies do not see students. And sadly, we do not see students. This is cultural. This is institutional. We do not see who is struggling. And let’s ask why we think, as the New York Times argued today, we need big data to make sure students graduate. Universities have not developed or maintained practices of compassion. Practices are technologies; technologies are practices. We’ve chosen computers instead of care. (When I say “we” here I mean institutions not individuals within institutions. But I mean some individuals too.) Education has chosen “command, control, intelligence.” Education gathers data about students. It quantifies students. It has adopted a racialized and gendered surveillance system – one that committed to disciplining minds and bodies – through our education technologies, through our education practices.

All along the way, or perhaps somewhere along the way, we have confused surveillance for care.

And that’s my takeaway for folks here today: when you work for a company or an institution that collects or trades data, you’re making it easy to surveil people and the stakes are high. They’re always high for the most vulnerable. By collecting so much data, you’re making it easy to discipline people. You’re making it easy to control people. You’re putting people at risk. You’re putting students at risk.

You can delete the data. You can limit its collection. You can restrict who sees it. You can inform students. You can encourage students to resist. Students have always resisted school surveillance.

But I hope that you also think about the culture of school. What sort of institutions will we have in a time of Trump? Ones that value open inquiry and academic freedom? I swear to you this: more data will not protect you. Not in this world of “alternate facts,” to be sure. Our relationships to one another, however, just might. We must rebuild institutions that value humans’ minds and lives and integrity and safety. And that means, in its current incarnation at least, in this current climate, ed-tech has very very little to offer us."
education  technology  audreywatters  edtech  2017  donaldtrump  neoliberalism  libertarianism  algorithms  neweconomy  economics  precarity  inequality  discrimination  donnaharaway  control  command  ppwer  mariosavio  nazism  fascism  antifa  jamesbaldwin  racism  hannaharendt  totalitarianism  politics 
february 2017 by robertogreco
Mark Fisher’s K-punk blogs were required reading for a generation | Simon Reynolds | Opinion | The Guardian
"Last week the writer Mark Fisher took his own life. His on/off struggle with depression was something he wrote about with courageous candour in articles and in his landmark book Capitalist Realism: is There No Alternative? Fisher argued that the pandemic of mental anguish that afflicts our time cannot be properly understood, or healed, if viewed as a private problem suffered by damaged individuals. Rather, it was the symptom of a heartless and hopeless politics: precarious employment and flexible work patterns, the erosion of class solidarity and its institutions such as unions, and the relentless message from mainstream political parties and media alike that “there is no alternative” to managerial capitalism. That this is as good as it gets – so deal with it.

Finally the depression that Fisher, 48, had dissected acutely and fought against doggedly got the better of him. He left behind a wife and young son, a close-knit network of friends, allies, colleagues and students, and an ever-widening readership, all of whom were waiting always to hear what he had to say next.

Waiting for what Fisher had to say is a sensation I recall only too vividly. I remember the electric anticipation of those early-to-mid 2000s mornings when the first thing I would do after making some tea was check whether K-punk had posted. K-punk, Fisher’s online alter-ego, was the hub of a blog circuit in which I took part, and which for a glorious moment brought back the intellectual fervour of the postpunk music press.

“It wasn’t only about music and music wasn’t only about music,” Fisher once said of weekly papers such as the NME. “It was a medium that made demands on you.” More than any other blog of that time, K-punk reanimated the polymath, autodidact spirit of the golden-age rock press, where music held a privileged status – but film, TV, fiction and politics were in the mix too."
markfisher  2017  depression  capitalism  hopelessness  politics  policy  precarity  economics  labor  work  solidarity  society  k-punk 
january 2017 by robertogreco
POLITICAL THEORY - Karl Marx - YouTube
"Karl Marx remains deeply important today not as the man who told us what to replace capitalism with, but as someone who brilliantly pointed out certain of its problems. The School of Life, a pro-Capitalist institution, takes a look.



FURTHER READING

“Most people agree that we need to improve our economic system somehow. It threatens our planet through excessive consumption, distracts us with irrelevant advertising, leaves people hungry and without healthcare, and fuels unnecessary wars. Yet we’re also often keen to dismiss the ideas of its most famous and ambitious critic, Karl Marx. This isn’t very surprising. In practice, his political and economic ideas have been used to design disastrously planned economies and nasty dictatorships. Frankly, the remedies Marx proposed for the ills of the world now sound a bit demented. He thought we should abolish private property. People should not be allowed to own things. At certain moments one can sympathise. But it’s like wanting to ban gossip or forbid watching television. It’s going to war with human behaviour. And Marx believed the world would be put to rights by a dictatorship of the proletariat; which does not mean anything much today. Openly Marxist parties received a total of only 1,685 votes in the 2010 UK general election, out of the nearly 40 million ballots cast…”"
karlmarx  marxism  capitalism  2014  work  labor  specialization  purpose  alienation  disconnection  hierarchy  efficiency  communism  belonging  insecurity  economics  primitiveaccumulation  accumulation  profit  theft  exploitation  instability  precarity  crises  abundance  scarcity  shortage  productivity  leisure  unemployment  freedom  employment  inequality  wealth  wealthdistribution  marriage  relationships  commodityfetishism  feminism  oppression  ideology  values  valuejudgements  worth  consumerism  materialism  anxiety  competition  complacency  conformity  communistmanifesto  inheritance  privateproperty  banking  communication  transportation  eduction  publiceducation  frederickengels  generalists  specialists  daskapital 
january 2017 by robertogreco
more than 95 theses — Fusion’s Patrick Hogan counted 47 institutions and...
"
Fusion’s Patrick Hogan counted 47 institutions and industries that millennials have been accused of destroying so far, including credit, car culture, the American Dream, relationships, and golf. Of course, in each of these cases, there is a real story to be told: Yes, young people are buying less on credit; yes, car sales are down; and, not surprisingly, 48 percent of economically squeezed under-30s don’t buy into the uplift of the American Dream, according to one poll. But the language of these articles tells another story on top of those, one that isn’t backed up by any evidence at all: that millennials are ‘killing’ those things, choosing to eliminate them from our shared life. That’s a deeply frustrating story to keep reading, when headlines of 'Millennials are killing the X industry’ could just as easily read 'Millennials are locked out of the X industry.’ There’s nothing like being told precarity is actually your cool lifestyle choice.

—The Myth of the Millennial as Cultural Rebel, by Laura Marsh [https://newrepublic.com/article/136415/myth-millennial-cultural-rebel ]

This is right, and right in an important way. Now, by way of full disclosure: I think pretty much all generational characterizations are bullshit. But the blame-the-millennials narrative is one of the most pernicious.

However: I want to say something about that last sentence I quote. I know dozens and dozens of young people who could have boring 9-5 jobs in their home towns, or in other places lacking evident cultural amenities, but who have decided instead to live in New York or Austin or Chicago or L.A. in order to pursue certain intellectual and artistic aspirations which they believe they can only seriously pursue in such environments. To seek the way of life they want, they piece together temporary and poorly-paying work in the gig economy, they live in sketchy or downright dangerous neighborhoods, and they typically do without health insurance.

You can argue that the decision to live this way is a reasonable one, given these young people’s temnperaments and hopes. You can argue that in a well-ordered society people wouldn’t have to make choices like that. But you can’t say that these particular people haven’t made choices. They could have social and financial stability, or at least a lot more of it than they currently have, because in the places they come from they’re among the best and brightest; they’re desirable commodities. But they’ve chosen the risks of precarity because there are certain goods they believe they can only get access to by doing so.

The question I want to ask is: Do they really have to make that trade-off? Is it really impossible to pursue their aspirations in towns and cities other than the handful that seem, to them, to burn always with a gem-like flame?"

[See also: https://www.wnyc.org/story/truth-millennials-narrative/ ]
patrickhogan  alanjacobs  2016  millennials  generations  precarity  choices  cities  urban  stability  economics  socialsafetynet  lauramarsh  smalltowns  place  preference  risktaking 
september 2016 by robertogreco
Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems | Books | The Guardian
"We internalise and reproduce its creeds. The rich persuade themselves that they acquired their wealth through merit, ignoring the advantages – such as education, inheritance and class – that may have helped to secure it. The poor begin to blame themselves for their failures, even when they can do little to change their circumstances.

Never mind structural unemployment: if you don’t have a job it’s because you are unenterprising. Never mind the impossible costs of housing: if your credit card is maxed out, you’re feckless and improvident. Never mind that your children no longer have a school playing field: if they get fat, it’s your fault. In a world governed by competition, those who fall behind become defined and self-defined as losers.

Among the results, as Paul Verhaeghe documents in his book What About Me? are epidemics of self-harm, eating disorders, depression, loneliness, performance anxiety and social phobia. Perhaps it’s unsurprising that Britain, in which neoliberal ideology has been most rigorously applied, is the loneliness capital of Europe. We are all neoliberals now."



"It may seem strange that a doctrine promising choice and freedom should have been promoted with the slogan “there is no alternative”. But, as Hayek remarked on a visit to Pinochet’s Chile – one of the first nations in which the programme was comprehensively applied – “my personal preference leans toward a liberal dictatorship rather than toward a democratic government devoid of liberalism”. The freedom that neoliberalism offers, which sounds so beguiling when expressed in general terms, turns out to mean freedom for the pike, not for the minnows.

Freedom from trade unions and collective bargaining means the freedom to suppress wages. Freedom from regulation means the freedom to poison rivers, endanger workers, charge iniquitous rates of interest and design exotic financial instruments. Freedom from tax means freedom from the distribution of wealth that lifts people out of poverty."



"Like communism, neoliberalism is the God that failed. But the zombie doctrine staggers on, and one of the reasons is its anonymity. Or rather, a cluster of anonymities.

The invisible doctrine of the invisible hand is promoted by invisible backers. Slowly, very slowly, we have begun to discover the names of a few of them. We find that the Institute of Economic Affairs, which has argued forcefully in the media against the further regulation of the tobacco industry, has been secretly funded by British American Tobacco since 1963. We discover that Charles and David Koch, two of the richest men in the world, founded the institute that set up the Tea Party movement. We find that Charles Koch, in establishing one of his thinktanks, noted that “in order to avoid undesirable criticism, how the organisation is controlled and directed should not be widely advertised”.

The words used by neoliberalism often conceal more than they elucidate. “The market” sounds like a natural system that might bear upon us equally, like gravity or atmospheric pressure. But it is fraught with power relations. What “the market wants” tends to mean what corporations and their bosses want. “Investment”, as Sayer notes, means two quite different things. One is the funding of productive and socially useful activities, the other is the purchase of existing assets to milk them for rent, interest, dividends and capital gains. Using the same word for different activities “camouflages the sources of wealth”, leading us to confuse wealth extraction with wealth creation.

A century ago, the nouveau riche were disparaged by those who had inherited their money. Entrepreneurs sought social acceptance by passing themselves off as rentiers. Today, the relationship has been reversed: the rentiers and inheritors style themselves entre preneurs. They claim to have earned their unearned income.

These anonymities and confusions mesh with the namelessness and placelessness of modern capitalism: the franchise model which ensures that workers do not know for whom they toil; the companies registered through a network of offshore secrecy regimes so complex that even the police cannot discover the beneficial owners; the tax arrangements that bamboozle governments; the financial products no one understands.

The anonymity of neoliberalism is fiercely guarded. Those who are influenced by Hayek, Mises and Friedman tend to reject the term, maintaining – with some justice – that it is used today only pejoratively. But they offer us no substitute. Some describe themselves as classical liberals or libertarians, but these descriptions are both misleading and curiously self-effacing, as they suggest that there is nothing novel about The Road to Serfdom, Bureaucracy or Friedman’s classic work, Capitalism and Freedom."
georgemonbiot  economics  neoliberalism  politics  history  capitalism  unions  2016  policy  ludwigvonmises  friedrichhayek  miltonfriedman  chile  us  margaretthatcher  ronaldreagan  naomiklein  privatization  well-being  democracy  oligarchy  noueaurich  entrepreneurship  communism  society  kochbrothers  freedom  precarity 
august 2016 by robertogreco
John Lanchester · Brexit Blues · LRB 28 July 2016
"I once asked Danny Dorling why, when I was at school, geography was about the shapes of rivers, but now all the best-known geographers seem to be Marxists. He said it’s because when you look at a map and see that the people on one side of some line are rich and healthy and long-lived and the people on the other side are poor and sick and die young, you start to wonder why, and that turns you towards deep-causal explanations, which then lead in the direction of Marxism. Travelling around England, I’ve often had cause to remember that remark. We’re used to political analysis based on class, not least because Britain’s political system is arranged around two political parties whose fundamental orientations are around class. What strikes you if you travel to different parts of the country, though, is that the primary reality of modern Britain is not so much class as geography. Geography is destiny. And for much of the country, not a happy destiny.

To be born in many places in Britain is to suffer an irreversible lifelong defeat – a truncation of opportunity, of education, of access to power, of life expectancy. The people who grow up in these places come from a cultural background which equipped them for reasonably well-paid manual labour, un- and semi- and skilled. Children left school as soon as they could and went to work in the same industries that had employed their parents. The academically able kids used to go to grammar school and be educated into the middle class. All that has now gone, the jobs and the grammar schools, and the vista instead is a landscape where there is often work – there are pockets of unemployment, but in general there’s no shortage of jobs and the labour force participation rate is the highest it has ever been, a full 15 points higher than in the US – but it’s unsatisfying, insecure and low-paid. This new work doesn’t do what the old work did: it doesn’t offer a sense of identity or community or self-worth. The word ‘precarious’ has as its underlying sense ‘depending on the favour of another person’. Somebody can take away the things you have whenever they feel like it. The precariat, as the new class is called, might not know the etymology, but it doesn’t need to: the reality is all too familiar."



"As for the economics of the post-Brexit world, the immediate chaos was both predictable and predicted. The longer-term picture is much harder to discern. It’s not all bad news: the weakened pound is a good thing, and the likely crash in London property was long overdue. It might even make property in the capital affordable for the young again, which would be a strong overall positive for our national life. The uncertainties around the immediate future are quite likely to make demand slow down so much that it triggers another recession. The primary victims of that will be the working-class voters who voted Leave; the recessionary shrinking of the tax take will target them too. The faltering economy will cause immigration to slow, which will further damage the economy.

Once the particularities of our post-Brexit arrangement have been established, we’ll know a lot more about where we are. A great deal of economic uncertainty will attach not so much to the issue of trade – since the advantages of the freest trade possible are clear to all parties – as to the status of the City of London. Nobody outside the City loves the City, but the tax revenues raised by London’s global role in financial services are very important to the UK. At the moment, the City is the beneficiary of ‘passporting’, which allows it to deal freely in services across the EU. That passporting is likely, highly likely, to be the subject of an attack by the combined powers of Frankfurt and Paris (and English-speaking, low-business tax, well-educated Dublin too). Other anti-London regulatory moves can be expected. That could prove expensive for the UK.

A reduction in the dominance of finance might be a net positive; we would have a smaller GDP, probably, but the country wouldn’t be bent out of shape – or not to the same degree – by the supremacy of the City. There’s a lot to unpick here, though. For one thing, the anti-London moves might well have been coming anyway: one finance-world Brexiter of my acquaintance was in favour of Leave precisely because a narrow win for Remain (which is what he was expecting) would in his view have encouraged the regulatory bodies to gang up and crack down on London. There are likely to be all sorts of unintended consequences to exploit, and the City is full of people whose entire working lives revolve around exploiting unintended consequences. The biggest source of finance in the world is Eurodollars, the confusing name for dollars held on deposit outside the US. That entire market was an unintended consequence of US banking regulation in the 1960s and 1970s. The Eurobond (a bond denominated in a currency not native to the country where it is issued) was a huge new market created in the City in 1963, long before the Euro was even a glint in Frankfurt’s eye. The City is creative, opportunistic, experienced and amoral; if any entity has the right ‘skill-set’ to benefit from the post-Brexit world, it is the City of London.

In addition, nervous governments, desperate for revenue, are likely to bend even further backwards to give the City the policies it wants. An early sign of policy direction was George Osborne’s announcement that he wanted to cut corporation tax to 15 per cent to show that post-Brexit Britain is ‘open for business’. Osborne has gone; the policy probably hasn’t. The business press has been full of speculation that the government will backtrack on its plans to crack down on non-domiciled tax status for ultra-wealthy foreigners. The need for revenues makes it important not to drive non-doms out of the country, one City lawyer told the FT. ‘We need a friendly regime.’ There will be plenty more where that came from.

None of this is what working-class voters had in mind when they opted for Leave. If it’s combined with the policy every business interest in the UK wants – the Norwegian option, in which we contribute to the EU and accept free movement of labour, i.e. immigration, as part of the price – it will be a profound betrayal of much of the Leave vote. If we do anything else, we will be inflicting severe economic damage on ourselves, and following a policy which most of the electorate (48 per cent Remain, plus economically liberal Leavers) think is wrong. So the likeliest outcome, I’d have thought, is a betrayal of the white working class. They should be used to it by now."
brexit  johnlancaster  2016  politics  uk  inequality  globalization  london  immigration  finance  class  middleclass  workingclass  england  wealth  geography  marxism  destiny  upwadmobility  society  elitism  policy  precarity  precariat 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Genius and the Sharing Economy — Medium
"At this point, I became probably overly obsessed with the fact that Jeremy and Rap Genius were featured front and center in that Times article about the declining interested in the Humanities, and then with the use of that Times piece as a “hiring” strategy of sorts. Whatever their deal was, it seemed clear that The Times gave Genius the credibility to claim that [1] the humanities needing saving and [2] that increased traffic and content on their site was the way to do it. I’m not sure what Genius gave The Times in return, but I’ll just add here that the Genius guy giving the talk said the New York Times wasn’t going to be around in 5 years anyway.

In a room full of bright-eyed future businesspeople, I felt like a alien interloper and began to fashion my own tinfoil hat theories even though I suppose this sort of deal is how the marriage of journalism and commerce always works. More selfishly, I began to suspect that the job ad I had read was not actually a real job ad. (I know, kind of rich given my last post here [https://medium.com/@exhaust_fumes/the-inside-can-didate-f8d0c2312be8 ]).

I suppose anything I say from here on out could easily be dismissed as elitist or turf warring, or maybe just naive and overly-sensitive; it’s quite possibly true that my reaction to the Stern talk was rooted in my own vested interest in universities keeping Humanities programs funded. I generally have a very weak stomach for any kind of pro-capitalist language in academic and educational contexts, and in the winter of 2013, I was emotionally drained from trying to finish a book and find another job, and spiritually-speaking, I was running on fumes."



"The opportunity to go to Brooklyn is indeed a good thing; I live in Queens, but I know how good it is across the bridge where many of my friends live. Really, I shouldn’t be so glib: it’s cool to be part of something devoted to teaching and a bonus to have your travel expenses paid. I think it is also, as I was saying at the beginning of this long-ass post, a great example of the fucking sharing economy and what’s wrong with it. Be grateful to people who use a small fraction of their VC money to fly you somewhere — but also think about the value of what you give them in return.

I’m using swears there in the hopes that I sound like a Genius when I say things I’m not totally sure about; I’m a bit out of my comfort zone talking about how a start-up makes and uses money. I’m really good with my own financial affairs and budget, but my academic expertise is in 16th and 17th century drama and history so I worry I don’t really know what I’m talking about. But perhaps you are somebody who knows a lot more about these things and perhaps you know where to look to answer some of the questions I’ve tried to raise here.

I have no doubt that Genius has content and a viable business model without content from educators. But I still want to know more about the role and real worth of our labor in an economy that asks the precariously employed to share while its founders and investors make money. Humanities scholars can see all the tensions of our professional choices in this economy: the fact that we do our work for pleasure, that others find pleasure in our work, and that the work we love is only lucrative for some."
vimalapasupathi  genius.com  annotation  hypothes.is  labor  sharingeconomy  work  2016  technology  humanities  scholarship  gigeconomy  mahbodmoghadam  precarity  unemployment  rapgenius  business  adjuncts  hiring  2015  jeremydean  stanfordlitlab  evankindley  disclosure  tamarlewin  nytimes 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Six Implications of Brexit, Through the Eyes of a Foreign Resident – Zainab Usman
"1. An Anti-Establishment Vote by the Marginalised

The Brexit vote is a political backlash against the ‘establishment’, a catch all phrase for politicians, the media, economic institutions, or those with power. The way I see it, and as many analysts and economists have pointed out, this backlash is a political response to the progressive decline in material wellbeing of the middle class, from Thatcher’s reforms in the 1980s and exacerbated by the 2008 financial crisis, a phenomenon neither seriously acknowledged nor addressed. There are so many grievances by working class and blue collar workers, displaced by steady loss of competitiveness and deindustrialisation of British manufacturing and the aftermath of the financial crisis. Since 2010, the austerity policies of massive cuts in social welfare and gross underinvestment in public services have pushed many in the working class to economic precarity while the financial institutions in the thick of it all were bailed out by the government with tax-payer funds, and rewarded their top executives with hefty bonuses. The average worker saw a 8% decline in real wages between 2008 and 2013, according to the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR). Not to exaggerate, but there is a rise in food banks, an indication of rising food poverty in the world’s fifth largest economy.

Amidst all this, what I’ve always found astonishing is the dearth of critical commentary to articulate the grievances of this disadvantaged demographic in the public sphere especially in the British media. It is generally pro-establishment, including the so-called left-leaning press. Watching and following political commentaries, I’m often astonished at the sameness of views of most commentators, while critical voices are often savaged by the press, and thereby marginalised. Look no further at how both UK Independence Party (UKIP)’s Nigel Farage and Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn on the far-right and far-left respectively, both propelled to power by vibrant grassroots movements are usually savaged daily in the press, and portrayed as loony, sloppy, and unsophisticated. In the run up to the referendum, there were few insights into the lives of everyday people who would be making this momentous decision, with the exception of this short documentary by The Guardian, released a day before the vote.

The referendum thus presented an opportunity for these marginalised, maligned and angry voices to speak, and this was their decision. For many, it was a vote against a ‘technocracy’ in Brussels, in Westminster, which formulated economic policies that they felt rightly or wrongly did not favour them but did an already advantaged ‘elite’. With the Brexit vote, I hope more politicians, journalists, and the commentariat will now be more open to actually listening to what the people are saying and are feeling, without being derisory

2. Britain: Beset by Class, Economic and Regional Disparities

Brexit and the lively debates which preceded it have unearthed and reinforced deep divisions in the U.K. The deeply ingrained and institutionalised class divisions across all spheres of British life in business, politics, the media, academia and the arts, never cease to amaze me. Even top chefs and top actors are Oxbridge educated or Eton alumni, as these reports by the Social Mobility and Child Welfare Commission in 2014, and by the Sutton Trust in 2016 revealed. Of course private education is inherently not bad, but it is the limited scope for social mobility and the hegemony of ideas that this represents that I find discomforting.

Numerous reports have been published since 2008 about rising economic inequalities, graduate unemployment, housing crisis, a strain on public services etc., leaving many behind, and reinforcing the privilege of elite Oxbridge, Public School (i.e. private school) and personal networks who sit atop all spheres. I’m neither ideological nor a huge fan of the Left, but it is the limited scope for social mobility across all strata in British public life, especially in the media and the arts, that I worry about. Most of the big newspapers (the Times, Daily Mail, Telegraph, Mirror, the Financial Times etc) are right of centre or very right wing (but not quite far right).

No wonder, there was a surge of support for the far-right and far-left movements during the general elections in 2015, and afterwards in Nigel Farage’s UKIP, Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party (SNP) and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, most of which were actually grassroots movements. Regionally, areas with higher unemployment, closed industries, preferred to Leave, including surprise surprise, the highly diverse Birmingham. While more prosperous and cosmopolitan areas such as London and Manchester preferred to Remain in the EU. Scotland, which is under the political control of the left-wing SNP overwhelmingly voted to Remain as illustrated below.

3. ‘Project Hate’s’ Victory Will Embolden Other Far-Right Movements



4. Scapegoating Foreigners and Minorities



5. Implications for Africa and the Commonwealth



6. Whither the International Liberal Order?"
brexit  2016  politics  policy  marginalization  economics  media  establisment  elitism  technocracy  class  geography  classism  zainabusman  inequality  poverty  precarity  derision  unemployment  housing  privilege  grassroots  stability  donaldtrump  nativism  racism  immigration  scapegoating  africa  commonwealth  neoliberalism  xenophobia  jocox  markets 
june 2016 by robertogreco
interfluidity » Attributions of causality
"Drum is certainly right to characterize the explicitly racist appeals of these movements as loathsome. But it isn’t enough to say “that’s where we are”. His interlocutors are right to point to economic anxiety and other disruptive changes rather than leave it there. We have to share the same world with every other human. Drum and I have to share the same country with Trump voters. We try to understand the world in order to better live in it. Explanations or assertions that don’t contribute to that are not worth very much.

How we attribute causality is a social choice, and it is a choice much less constrained than people who clothe themselves in the authority of “social science” or “the data” often pretend. Quantitative methods like instrumental variable analysis at their best indicate that some element is a factor in causing a measured phenomenon. For anything complex, they are rarely strong enough to even suggest either the necessity or the sufficiency of a factor. Social outcomes like susceptibility to racist appeals are affected by lots of things, and are probably overdetermined, so that one could generate equally strong results implicating a wide variety of different factors depending upon what is excluded from or included in ones model.

In political life, there are nearly always multiple reasonable models to choose from. Our choice of models is itself a moral and political act. For example, conservatives prefer cultural explanations for communities with high rates of young single motherhood, while liberals prefer economic explanations. These explanations are not mutually exclusive, both can be simultaneously true, but cultural explanations serve mostly to justify the social stratification that correlates with single motherhood, while economic explanations invite remedies. It might be true, and demonstrable in the usual statistical ways, that a certain neurological state “causes” the verbally expressed sensation of hunger. It might also be true and demonstrable that a prolonged absence of food causes the same expressed sensation. Both of these models may be true, but one of them suggests a more useful remedy than the other. And a more moral remedy. Prescribing a drug to blunt the hunger may yield a different long-term outcome than feeding food, in ways that are morally salient.

It may or may not be accurate to attribute the political behavior of large groups of people to racism, but it is not very useful. Those people got to be that way somehow. Presumably they, or eventually their progeny, can be un-got from being that way somehow. It is, I think, a political and moral error to content oneself with explanations that suggest no remedy at all, or that suggest prima facie problematic responses like ridiculing, ignoring, disenfranchising, or going to war with large groups of fellow citizens, unless no other explanations are colorable. It turns out that there are lots of explanations consistent with increased susceptibility to racist appeals that also suggest remedies less vague and more constructive than, say, “fighting racism” or censoring the right-wing press. With respect to Britain’s trauma, for example, Dan Davies points to Great Britain’s geographically concentrated prosperity, and the effect that has had on the distribution of native versus immigrant young people. I can’t evaluate the merits of that explanation, but it might at least be useful. It does suggest means by which the British polity might alter its arrangements to reintegrate its divided public.

I don’t mean to pick on Kevin Drum, whom I’ve read for more than a decade, and whom I really like a great deal. But it seems to me that the alleged “good guys” — the liberal, cosmopolitan class of which I myself am a part — have fallen into habits of ridiculing, demonizing, writing off, or, in its best moments, merely patronizing huge swathes of the polities to which we belong. They may do the same to us, but we are not toddlers, that is no excuse. In the United States, in Europe, we are allowing ourselves to disintegrate and arguing about who is to blame. Let’s all be better than that."
steverandywaldman  2016  via:tealtan  kevindrum  chrisarnade  uk  brexit  economics  disparity  inequality  labor  work  unemployment  disenfranchisement  racism  elitism  ageism  dehumanization  demonization  donaldtrump  class  classism  precarity 
june 2016 by robertogreco
McDonald's: you can sneer, but it's the glue that holds communities together | Business | The Guardian
[Tweeted previously:
"“Unlike community centers, it is also free of bureaucracy.” When our public institutions no longer serve the public."
https://twitter.com/rogre/status/742821334476951554

and noting
"Same with other chains (like Starbucks, KFC) in my neighborhood. Places for youth to assemble too, when programs come with too many strings."
https://twitter.com/rogre/status/742821897553874944

"When many lower-income Americans are feeling isolated by the deadening uniformity of things, by the emptiness of many jobs, by the media, they still yearn for physical social networks. They are not doing this by going to government-run community service centers. They are not always doing this by utilizing the endless array of well-intentioned not-for-profit outreach programs. They are doing this on their own, organically across the country, in McDonald’s.

Walk into any McDonald’s in the morning and you will find a group of mostly retired people clustering in a corner, drinking coffee, eating and talking. They are drawn to the McDonald’s because it has inexpensive good coffee, clean bathrooms, space to sprawl. Unlike community centers, it is also free of bureaucracy."



"In almost every franchise, there are tables with people like Betty escaping from the streets for a short bit. They prefer McDonald’s to shelters and to non-profits, because McDonald’s are safer, provide more freedom, and most importantly, the chance to be social, restoring a small amount of normalcy.

In the Bronx, many of my friends who live on the streets are regulars. Steve, who has been homeless for 20 years, uses the internet to check up on sports, find discarded papers to do the crossword puzzle, and generally escape for a while. He and his wife Takeesha will turn a McDonald’s meal into an evening out. Beauty, who has been homeless for five years, uses the internet to check up on her family back in Oklahoma when she can find a computer to borrow.

Most importantly though, McDonald’s provide many with the chance to make real and valuable connections. When faced with the greatest challenges, with a personal loss, wealthier Americans turn to expensive therapists, others without the resources or the availability, turn to each other.

In Sulfur Springs, Texas, in the late morning, Lew Mannon, 76, and Gerald Pinkham, 78, were sitting alone at a table, the last of the morning regulars to leave. She was needling him about politics. (“I like to tease the men who come, get them all riled up, tell them they just don’t want a female as president.”) Both are retired, Gerald from working for an airfreight company, and Lew after 28 years as a bank teller.

When I asked Lew about her life, she started to tear up, stopped for a second, and composed herself. “Life is hard. Very hard. Seven years ago I lost my husband to leukemia. Then three years ago I lost one of my sons. Health complications from diabetes. When my son died, I had nobody to help me, emotionally, except this community here. Gerald lost his wife three years ago, and we have helped support each other through that.”

She stopped again, unable to speak from tears. After a moment of silence: “I look composed on the outside. Many of us do. But I struggle a lot on the inside. This community here gives me the support to get by.”"

[Update: Kenyatta Cheese blogged this with the following notes:
http://finalbossform.com/post/145925082985/mcdonalds-you-can-sneer-but-its-the-glue-that

I’ve learned through @triciawang that spaces like these are known as third places in sociology. Third places are neutral, accessible spaces where people can meet with old friends and be exposed to possible new ones.

Tricia spent a decade living in, mapping, and understanding third places in Beijing, Wuhan, Brooklyn, Bangalore, and Oaxaca. (She’s badass that way.)

She taught me that Starbucks and Pizza Hut serve a similar role among young folks in China, especially for people who don’t necessarily feel comfortable sleeping in the third places that are internet cafes.

Small note on how this connects to @everybodyatonce: tv networks and creators sometimes ask us if they should create a dedicated app or website for their fandoms to which we almost always say no.

Much like the government-run community center, a dedicated app creates an unnecessary barrier to entry for new fans and requires you to program the space in the same way that you need to program and organize physical space. By meeting fans in neutral spaces (tumblr, twitter, IG, LJ, even reddit), you build bigger community by supporting the culture that already exists. ]
2016  chrisarnade  community  cities  mcdonalds  poverty  society  inequality  elitism  us  bureaucracy  elderly  aging  economics  civics  lowerclass  precarity  classism  thirdspaces  kenyattacheese  triciawang  beijing  starbucks  china  brooklyn  wuhan  bangalore  oaxaca  pizzahut  kfc  everybodyatonce  fandom  socialmedia 
june 2016 by robertogreco
Trump as a scam — Medium
"There are three consistent features to all of conservative talk radio: Anger, Trump, and ads targeting the financially desperate.

The ads are a constant. Ads protecting against coming financial crisis (Surprise! It is Gold.) or ads that start, “Having trouble with the IRS?”

The obvious lessons being 1) Lots of conservative talk radio listeners are in financial distress. 2) They are willing to turn to scams.

Turning to scams kind of generally follows being in financial distress. But why? Well, desperation, duh. Right, but again, why?

What desperation really is about is limited options. Think about the ultimate scam: Lotto tickets.

Lotto tickets are often called stupidity taxes by economists, implying that the buyers must be dumb.

But Lotto tickets are the only form of leverage poor folks can get. The only way, no matter how long the odds, to turn $1 into a million.

As I wrote before, Lotto buyers aren’t any dumber than anyone else.

[screenshot of text]

You just have to look at people’s financial decisions within the framework of their options.

To stretch a little bit. You can reframe Trump that way (as I often have): He is a scam, selling himself as the only option to the angry.

Which is exactly Trump’s history. Selling false and expensive illusions of wealth to those who are desperate. (Trump University!)

With recent revelations it is pretty clear that Trump, no matter what the result of the election, will financially benefit.

He initially ran with the goal of increasing his brand name. For money. (He saw Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee do exactly that)

When he started to win he realized,

A) It was profitable to run (skimming from campaign)

B) It would be very profitable to be president

He sees in the presidency amazing opportunities for graft and business connections. For him, for his friends and family.

Trump is in it for the money. (He looks at the Clintons. Not with disgust, but admiration for the wealth obtained.)

Trump fits perfectly on conservative talk radio because he is no different from the ads hawking financial scams.

Trump is nothing more than another person charging usurious rates to angry people with few options. Selling long odds at a huge cost.

And many Trump voters are angry (often rightfully), often desperate, people. And like Lotto buyers, they ain’t stupid, they just don’t have many options.

PS: As pointed out, almost all politicians are in it for the money. The difference with Trump is who he is selling himself to: Mostly the poor. Like most folks who try to make money off the poor, he is doing it by charging a lot of interest."
donaldtrump  politics  poverty  money  2016  election  chrisarnade  scams  scamartists  lottery  anger  talkradio  precarity  fear  economics  intelligence 
june 2016 by robertogreco
Upper Middle Class, Lower Class And The Great Squeeze In The Middle | David Stockman's Contra Corner
"What does it take to be upper middle class? According to one analyst, the answer is: at least $100,000 a year for a family of three. The Growing Size and Incomes of the Upper Middle Class (Urban Institute).

The paper claims the upper middle class has grown from 12.9% of the population in 1979 to 29.4% in 2014–in essence, the shrinkage of the “middle class” is not just from households dropping down the ladder but millions of households climbing up to the upper middle class.

Not Just the 1%: The Upper Middle Class Is Larger and Richer Than Ever (WSJ.com)

While the evidence broadly supports this secular shift–the concentration of income and wealth in the top 20% increases while the wealth and income of the bottom 80% stagnates–I think the claim that 30% of all U.S. households are upper middle class grossly overstates the reality, which is it’s become increasingly costly to even qualify as middle class, never mind upper middle class.

I’ve explored these topics in depth over the past few years:

How Many Slots Are Open in the Upper Middle Class? Not As Many As You Might Think (March 30, 2015) http://www.oftwominds.com/blogmar15/few-slots3-15.html

What Does It Take To Be Middle Class? (December 5, 2013) http://www.oftwominds.com/blogdec13/middle-class12-13.html

If we measure financial characteristics of middle class status rather than income, we find $100,000 is borderline middle class, not upper middle class.The above essay lists the baseline of 10 minimum metrics of middle class status. In high-cost regions, $100,000 barely qualifies a household as middle class; to be upper middle class, households must earn closer to $200,000.

A household income of $190,000 is in the top 5% nationally. According to the Social Security Administration data for 2013 (the latest data available), individuals who earn $125,000 or more are in the top 5% of all earners. Two such workers would earn $250,000 together. The 2.8 million households with incomes of $250,000 or more are in the top 2.5%.

I think it is reasonable to define the 12% of households earning between $125,000 (top 15%) and $350,000 (the cut-off for the top 1%) as upper middle class. This is around 14.5 million households, out of a total of 121 million households.

This is a far cry from 30% of all households qualifying as upper middle class.What we’re seeing is the inflation of “middle class” to “upper middle class,” just as a B grade is now an A, and jobs that don’t require a university degree now nominally require a bachelors degree or higher.

The increasingly desperate effort to reach the upper middle class is evidenced by a slew of books and articles on what it takes to succeed in an increasingly winners-take-all economy, and on the anxieties of those trying to “make it”: note that most of the articles are published in magazines/media outlets that appeal to the very upper middle class that’s anxious about maintaining their tenuous hold on prosperity:

How to Save Like the Rich and the Upper Middle Class (Hint: It’s Not With Your House) (WSJ.com)

The Hidden Cost for Stay-At-Home American Parents (Bloomberg)

The War on Stupid People: American society increasingly mistakes intelligence for human worth (The Atlantic)

The Limits of “Grit” (New Yorker)

The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How. (via Ron G.)

The Geography of Genius: A Search for the World’s Most Creative Places from Ancient Athens to Silicon Valley (via Ron G.)

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (book)

I’ve laid out my own bootstrap blueprint in Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy (hint: don’t cling to credentials and privilege as your strategy–acquire skills and entrepreneurial income streams).

What’s left unsaid in all these articles is much of the upper middle class is prospering due to privileged positions that are increasingly at risk of disruption–a topic I discussed in If You Want More Jobs and More Job Stability, Disrupt More, Not Less (June 21, 2016) and How Many Law Schools Need to Close? Plenty (June 20, 2016).

And just a reminder: of the supposed 30% of households who are upper middle class, only the top 10% have significant wealth-building assets: that tells us in no uncertain terms that two-thirds of the supposedly upper middle class 30% are only middle class."
charleshughsmith  middleclass  uppermiddleclass  society  income  incomeinequality  wealth  wealthinequality  disparity  inequality  economics  policy  politics  grit  precarity  2016  statistics 
june 2016 by robertogreco
Databite No. 62: Sha Hwang - YouTube
"Sha Hwang (@shashashasha) on building for the government in a time of precarity: Sha will discuss the ongoing work and discussions inside Nava as a way to open a conversation around the design of the government’s digital services for the public. He will use the architectural theorist Keller Easterling’s term “disposition” – the propensity of forms to produce actions – to understand what we encounter when we build with and for the government. These dispositions, both of the tech industry and the government, create a set of material constraints that shape issues around healthcare, taxation, and identity. This talk will discuss both the possibilities and implications of designing for the government, and the necessity of dialogue between research and practice. Nava is a public benefit corporation working to improve digital services at public-facing government agencies. It was formed out of the efforts to fix HealthCare.gov in late 2013, where Nava worked with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to streamline and redesign systems. Together they cut the time people take to submit an application in half and built an identity management backend system that has saved tens of millions of dollars in operating costs."
shahwang  nava  towatch  precarity  kellereasterling  2016  healthcare  government  taxation  identity  digitalservices  medicare  medicaid  healthcare.gov 
april 2016 by robertogreco
Robert Reich: The sharing economy will be our demise - Salon.com
"More independent contractors means less security for our workforce. The former secretary of labor sounds the alarm"
robertreich  sharingeconomy  uber  2015  socialsafetynet  precarity  labor  work  economics  society  inequality  insecurity 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Why Affluent Parents Put So Much Pressure on Their Kids - The Atlantic
"With financial success ought to come some measure of relief—a chance to take in a deep breath, exhale, and survey the world from the top.

But, as Hanna Rosin’s recent Atlantic cover story on the high rate of suicide among high-school students in Palo Alto, California, captures, that’s not how things work. To the contrary, kids living in one of the wealthiest zip codes in the country are stressed and miserable. As Rosin writes:
On the surface, the rich kids seem to be thriving. They have cars, nice clothes, good grades, easy access to health care, and, on paper, excellent prospects. But many of them are not navigating adolescence successfully.

The rich middle- and high-school kids [Arizona State professor Suniya] Luthar and her collaborators have studied show higher rates of alcohol and drug abuse on average than poor kids, and much higher rates than the national norm.* They report clinically significant depression or anxiety or delinquent behaviors at a rate two to three times the national average. Starting in seventh grade, the rich cohort includes just as many kids who display troubling levels of delinquency as the poor cohort, although the rule-breaking takes different forms. The poor kids, for example, fight and carry weapons more frequently, which Luthar explains as possibly self-protective. The rich kids, meanwhile, report higher levels of lying, cheating, and theft.

Why is this? As Rosin reports, a major factor is “pressure”—from parents, teachers, themselves, whoever—to excel not just in school but in a host of other activities as well. All of that pressure and the resulting hyper-activity seem to leave kids feeling very tired, very inadequate, and very alone. No wonder they are miserable.

But that does little to answer the question of why there is so much pressure in the first place. It turns out that there is a pretty straightforward—and ultimately very troubling—answer: It’s because the competition for a place among the country’s well-off is so vicious. To secure one of those spots, kids must gain admission to a relatively small number of elite colleges and universities, which “essentially did not grow but rather became increasingly selective” since the 1970s. (By contrast, in Canada, where higher education “lacks a steep prestige hierarchy,” the admissions competition is less dire.)

In part, this is because of what sort of people make up America's elite today: not the owners of family businesses but professionals with impressive educations. Family businesses are heritable; education, by contrast, is not. No matter how successful parents are, their kids have to earn their own way in (albeit, of course, with the incredible advantages that come from having highly educated, well-off parents). As sociologist Hilary Levey Friedman put it in an interview with Jessica Grose at Slate, “If you’re a doctor, lawyer, or MBA—you can’t pass those on to your kids.”

All of this results in what the economists Garey and Valerie Ramey of the University of California, San Diego, brilliantly termed “the rug rat race.” As they wrote in a 2010 paper, “The increased scarcity of college slots appears to have heightened rivalry among parents, which takes the form of more hours spent on college preparatory activities.” In their findings, the rug rat race takes place primarily among the most educated parents, because there simply aren’t enough spots at elite schools for less-educated parents to even really have a shot, especially as the competition accelerates. It’s for this reason that the most educated parents spend the most hours parenting, even though they are giving up the most in wages by doing so.

This intense competition does more than serve as a giant sieve for college admissions; it is also a intensive training process for the actual skills that it takes to succeed at the upper echelons of the American economy. As one soccer parent told Friedman during her research on parenting in such a competitive culture, “I think it’s important for [my son] to understand that [being competitive] is not going to just apply here, it’s going to apply for the rest of his life. It’s going to apply when he keeps growing up and he’s playing sports, when he’s competing for school admissions, for a job, for the next whatever.” Friedman concludes, “Such an attitude prepares children for winner-take-all settings like the school system and lucrative labor markets.”

This leaves affluent parents with little choice. Even for those who fear the consequences of the pressure on their kids, they may figure it’s worth getting through a few tough years for a lifetime of economic security. One thing that bolsters this rationale: the steep dropoff in incomes and wealth from the very, very rich to America’s struggling middle class. There is a lot to be gained by being among the very elite. If that's something you have a reasonable shot at, there’s a good argument for taking it.

The conversation about the intense pressure on kids is normally focused on parenting culture, on what parents are doing wrong. But this all needs to be considered in the broader context of the American economy. The pressure on kids may come from parents, but it’s the result of systemic forces so much bigger and so much more powerful than anything any household has control over.

In a sense, what wealthy parents are doing is working. There is very little social mobility in America, up or down, and most of those born into the richest and best-educated households will someday run their own high-earning, highly educated households.

Then again, it’s not working at all. There is very little social mobility in America, up or down, and most of those born into the poorest and least-educated households will someday run their own low-earning, poorly educated households. How is it that a country so prosperous shines its munificence on so few? And, for those who do find success, why does getting there leave them feeling so hopeless?"
education  affluence  precarity  economics  inequality  society  socialmobility  us  incomeinequality  fear  parenting  schools  learning  competition  fragility  hannahrosin  pressure  anxiety  stress  selectivity  colleges  universities  rebeccarosen  gareyramey  valerieramey  admissions  scarcity  jessicagross  suniyaluthar  paloalto  siliconvalley 
november 2015 by robertogreco
Sjón & Hari Kunzru — Work in Progress — Medium
[video: https://vimeo.com/72354976 ]
[Björk introduction: http://www.fsgworkinprogress.com/2013/08/bjork-introduces-sjon/
more: http://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2013/05/16/sjon-bjork-and-the-furry-trout/ ]

"Sjón: It writes me. I’m better sticking to being visual when I write. No, but for me, to go in that direction, I actually do think most literature is visual arts."



"Sjón: I think we were typical second-wave punks. I mean, obviously, the generation that started the punk movement in England, the first punk bands—The Clash and The Sex Pistols and the Buzzcocks and all these bands—these were all kids that were quite a bit older than we were. They were born around 1953, ’55, so they were all about the anger, and they were all about … I think Johnny Rotten said it came from the liver.

We came to it as teenagers, and it’s interesting that while you can clearly see similarities between punk and Dada, this absolute nihilism, and you can say that the punks were actually fulfilling one of Tristan Tzara’s battle cries where he said, “Musicians, break your instruments on the stage.”

Just as Surrealism followed Dada, something happened when you had seen all this raw anger leading to nothing but raw anger, maybe good old Surrealism became the good and right remedy to all that anger. Like Björk said, it really felt like it fit together, and we were really looking for the revolutionary, the rebellious aspect of Surrealism.

Hari: The idea that it’s sort of dreaming and an escape from reality can be rebellious and revolutionary?

Sjón: As a good Surrealist would say, an escape into reality through dreaming. Ah!

Hari: I was thinking about Jonas Palmason in From the Mouth of the Whale. He goes to Copenhagen, and it’s this huge city filled with more things and people than he’s ever seen before. He imagines that he’s in an ancient version of the city, and I was trying to square that kind of dreaming with this revolutionary dreaming. Are they the same thing? Are they different things? Is the visionary Sjón also an escapist dreamer?

Sjón: One of the first things I learned from Surrealism is that it’s not fantasy, that Surrealism makes a very clear distinction between fantasy and the marvelous. You’re always looking for the marvelous in reality, and that’s where poetry happens. It happens when you hit upon these incredible moments in your reality. In Reykjavik, we had a city of rather small size to go walking around, but this idea of walking around, getting into the spirit, surreal spirit, and awaiting the poetic to manifest in a marvelous way in your reality—that’s very much what I’m looking for."



"Sjón: No. [Pause.] I’m really interested in how people become obsessed with ideas and how they become obsessed with certain cosmologies, and how the obsessed mind starts finding proofs of its truths. How it looks for the manifestation of these truths all around it in reality. This happens all the time—that things start to manifest if you’ve got them on your brain. They start manifesting all around you.

Hari: That’s there in all your fiction, this sense that a certain kind of attention is repaid by this. You start seeing the visionary aspect of the world.

Hari: You’re fond of mythic explanations for things that maybe other people wouldn’t use that for. I saw an interview where you started riffing on the idea that maybe 9-11 was something to do with the power of the great god Pan.

Sjón: I am actually absolutely sure that the great god Pan slipped through some sort of a gateway into our world, on that day.

We’ve been living in panic ever since. Actually, when we were in Athens for Björk’s performance of our song at the Olympics in 2004, I had direct experience of one of the gods there: One day, I was in a group that went down to the peninsula south of Athens, and there is a great Poseidon temple sitting there on a rock. As we came closer to the temple, we saw better and better what a sad state it was in. Obviously, this used to be the place of great sacrifices, 500 bulls sacrificed and burned in one day and all that, and the crowds coming to bow in front of the image of Poseidon.

I thought as we got closer, “Oh, look at you, great Poseidon. Look at the sad state you’re in.” This is how the Icelandic poet’s mind works. That’s how we think when we’re traveling.

We came to the temple and started walking around and looking at these sad ruins, but then I walked to the edge of the cliff. Who was there, who hadn’t moved and left his temple, but Poseidon? The whole ocean stretched out from the cliffs. Poseidon was still there, even though man had stopped sacrificing to Poseidon, Poseidon was still there. Then, Poseidon, of course, feeling a little bit annoyed that people were forgetting him, he moved just a little finger, his little finger a tiny bit, and we had the tsunami in Indonesia.

The myths are really about man confronting the fact that nature is always bigger and stronger.

Hari: It seems that in Iceland, there’s this particular kind of negotiation with nature that has to go on, because it’s a very unstable place, geologically if in no other way. I always think of the island of Surtsey coming out of the sea in the 1960s, and suddenly, you’ve got a new southernmost tip of Iceland that’s been generated by an undersea volcano. Is this sense that things are capable of shifting and that even the ground under your feet could potentially change, do you think this has any link to Iceland’s notorious belief in hidden folk and that sense that the landscape is actually populated with forces that are beyond our immediate understanding?

Sjón: Yes, I think we experience nature as a living thing, and a part of it is to go to the extremes of actually believing that nature has a character, or if not character, that it can manifest itself in different forms. We have folk stories about the hidden people, Huldufólk, who live in rocks and fields and cliffs, and they look exactly like us except they’ve only got one nostril. Apart from having only one nostril, they always lead a much richer and better life than those of us who have to survive above ground. They’re having musical parties all the time. They dress in silk, and whenever an Icelander gives a person from that nation a helping hand, he is rewarded with a cloth of silver or a goblet of gold. We know that the earth is rich, and we know that it’s more powerful than here, so I think when you live in a place that is obviously alive, you tend to populate it with different creatures.

For example, Katla, is this great volcano that possibly will explode fairly soon, and Katla is a woman’s name. It’s the name of a giantess. It’s more than likely that it will wipe out all the habitat that is sitting there on the beach. Man’s existence is—

Hari: Precarious."



"Sjón: I’m interested in the language of faith, and I’m interested in the literature of faith. In Iceland, like in so many Lutheran countries, the translation of the New Testament into the local language was a big moment. The church defined charity and love and all these terms.

I’ve always been interested in religious texts, not only because of the language but because I see religions as cosmologies, and I’m interested in cosmologies, and I’m interested in obsessed people and where to look for obsessed people. The best place is in religion. I think I’ve really taken advantage of the language of religion just in the same way that I’ve taken advantage of the language of myths and the world of myths.

For me, these are all attempts at explaining the same thing, which is to try to answer the question, “Is it possible that in the beginning there was nothing, and now we’re here sitting on these two nice chairs here in this Scandinavia House?”

We know that our cosmology will become obsolete, and it’s really amazing that the biggest given fact of our time is that cosmology, which is the hard science, is so unstable. I love it.

Hari: You take a real aesthetic pleasure in cosmologies, don’t you? What’s the joy of a big system, a big complicated system with lots of moving, whizzing, parts?

Sjón: My joy is the joy of the Trickster. It’s the joy of Loki. It’s the joy of the Coyote, because I know it’s an unstable system, and it will be overthrown, no matter how majestic it is. With the right little tricks, you will have an apocalypse. You will have the twilight of the gods. The gods will fight the last battle, and there will be a new world that rises up from it, and the Trickster can start thinking of new dirty tricks to topple that system."



"Audience Question: You were talking about how you enjoy cosmology and I wondered how you reconcile that with science and with your own art.

Sjón: Well of course it’s the scientists who are destroying each others’ cosmologies all the time. It’s very interesting that most people today live with a cosmology that absolutely ignores the theory of relativity, for example. Most people live as if the theory of relativity never happened because nobody understands it really.

It’s amazing how unaffected we are by these wonderful amazing things. We just continue. That’s one of the ways of overturning cosmologies: just keep brushing your teeth no matter how they say the universe was made."
sjón  iceland  harikunzru  2013  interviews  literature  poetry  davidbowie  surrealism  writing  escapism  punk  reality  björk  fantasy  fiction  nature  myth  mythology  trickster  greekmyths  obsessions  ideas  cosmologies  perspective  science  learning  unlearning  relearning  collaboration  translation  howwewrite  language  icelandic  loki  faith  belief  anthropology  hunting  geology  animals  folklore  folktales  precarity  life  living  myths 
december 2014 by robertogreco
In the Sharing Economy, Workers Find Both Freedom and Uncertainty - NYTimes.com
"Piecemeal labor is hardly a new phenomenon. But as expedited by technology and packaged as apps, it has taken on a shinier veneer under new rubrics: the sharing economy, the peer economy, the collaborative economy, the gig economy.

Gigs hold out the prospect of self-management and variety, with workers taking on diverse assignments of their choice and carving out their own schedules. Rather than toiling at the behest of some faceless corporation, they work for their peers.

“Providers in the peer economy really value the independence and flexibility; for lots of people, it has been transformational,” says Shelby Clark, the founder of RelayRides, a car-sharing marketplace, “You meet great, interesting people. You have great stories.”

Certainly, it’s a good deal for consumers. Peer marketplaces democratize luxury services by making amateur chauffeurs, chefs and personal assistants available to perform occasional work once largely dominated by full-time professionals. Venture capital firms seem convinced.

Uber has raised more than $1.5 billion from investors; Lyft has raised $333 million; and TaskRabbit, $38 million. Part of the attraction for investors is that the companies can avoid huge employee payrolls by effectively functioning as labor brokers.

If these marketplaces are gaining traction with workers, labor economists say, it is because many people who can’t find stable employment feel compelled to take on ad hoc tasks. In July, 9.7 million Americans were unemployed, and an additional 7.5 million were working part-time jobs because they could not find full-time work, according to estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

There are no definitive statistics on how many people work in the gig economy. But according to a report from MBO Partners, a company that provides consulting services to independent contractors, about 17.7 million Americans last year worked more than half time as independent contributors, among them project workers.

With piecemeal gigs easier to obtain than long-term employment, a new class of laborer, dependent on precarious work and wages, is emerging. In place of the “proletariat,” Guy Standing, a labor economist, calls them the “precariat.”"



"Technology has made online marketplaces possible, creating new opportunities to monetize labor and goods. But some economists say the short-term gig services may erode work compensation in the long term. Mr. Baker, of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, argues that online labor marketplaces are able to drive down costs for consumers by having it both ways: behaving as de facto employers without shouldering the actual cost burdens or liabilities of employing workers.

“In a weak labor market, there’s not much of a floor on what employers, or quasi employers, can get away with,” Mr. Baker contends. “It could be a big downward pressure on wages. It’s a bad story.”

Labor activists say gig enterprises may also end up disempowering workers, degrading their access to fair employment conditions.

“These are not jobs, jobs that have any future, jobs that have the possibility of upgrading; this is contingent, arbitrary work,” says Stanley Aronowitz, director of the Center for the Study of Culture, Technology and Work at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. “It might as well be called wage slavery in which all the cards are held, mediated by technology, by the employer, whether it is the intermediary company or the customer.”"



"Peer-economy experts and executives recognize that many gig workers are laboring largely without a safety net. Mr. Clark, the industry veteran who founded RelayRides, reels off a list of lacunas: health insurance, retirement saving plans, tax withholding and even the kind of camaraderie and mentoring that can be available in full-time office jobs.

“Looking at this as a new paradigm of employment, which I think it is, the question is, What are you giving up?” Mr. Clark says. “At the end of the day, there’s a metalayer of support services that is missing.”

He predicts that new businesses will soon arise to cater to the needs of project workers: “There are opportunities to focus on providers, finding ways to make it easier, more stable and less scary to earn in the peer economy.”

TaskRabbit has started offering its contractors access to discounted health insurance and accounting services. Lyft has formed a partnership with Freelancers Union, making its drivers eligible for the advocacy group’s health plan and other benefit programs.

That may not be enough. Dr. Standing, the labor economist, says workers need formal protections to address the power asymmetries inherent in contingent work. International rules, he says, could endow gig workers with basic entitlements — like the right to organize and the right to due process should companies seek to remove them from their platforms.

“There should be codes of good practice at an international level that all companies should be required to sign,” he said."
labor  economics  uber  taskrabbit  lyft  sidecar  2014  work  uncertainty  freelancing  fiverr  postmates  favor  instacart  delivery  transportation  precariat  unions  precarity  stanleyaronowitz  socialsafetynet  sharingeconomy 
august 2014 by robertogreco
World Processor | The Baffler
[via: http://tinyletter.com/audreywatters/letters/hack-education-weekly-newsletter-no-70 ]

"As Processed World veteran Dennis Hayes explained it to me, “We were really examining social history. We were asking questions that went unasked. We were asking, ‘What’s the value of a job that creates no value? Or that simply creates more work?’”"



"As Daniel Brook recounts in his book The Trap: Selling Out to Stay Afloat in Winner-Take-All America, Carlsson and friends liked to “dress up as investment bankers and bow in unison at the stock ticker in front of the Charles Schwab building.” Marina Lazzara, one of the magazine’s poetry editors, recalled this period fondly. “I miss those days,” she told me. “We were really out in the streets.”"



"This was but one among the magazine’s darkly comic dispatches from the absurdist trenches of the overmanaged workplace. Others gestured at something more haunting, such as the anonymous San Franciscan who wrote in issue 7, “I’m unemployed now and should be typing my resume. Typing a resume becomes more and more like typing a suicide note, and yet choosing not to work is a kamikaze mission.” It was to this group—torn between the exigencies of white-collardom and the seeming impossibility of living as one chooses—that Processed World ultimately spoke."



"Many of us know we work bullshit jobs; others would be only too happy to have one, to escape the suffocating anxieties of living on the margins. Those employed in socially useful jobs—teachers, nurses, social workers—must contend with low pay or, if they agitate for something more, being vilified."



"Along the way, the sense of community and common cause epitomized by Processed World has been sublimated into the incessant branding and self-promotion from which none of us appears immune. We are all living precariously, and so we tread water by competing for the occasional life preserver thrown out by the attention economy. Do your job well and maybe the Washington Post, the Daily Beast,or the latest buzzy new-media property will hire you as its token leftist columnist. Hit the jackpot, and you’ll become the next Chris Hayes.

Who can blame them? It’s now so expensive to live in a coastal metropolis that one hopes to sell out at least a little bit."
jacobsliverman  culture  society  economics  siliconvalley  2014  1981  processedworld  bullshitjobs  labor  via:audreywatters  chrishayes  marinalazzara  chriscarlsson  caitlinmanning  technology  efficiency  productivity  jobs  unemployment  employment  busyness  capitalism  sellingout  sellouts  attention  attentioneconomy  markets  precarity 
july 2014 by robertogreco
Who Really Owns The Internet? - The Awl
"Can we solve the issues that you talk about without radically reorganizing the economy?

No. (Laughs) Which I think is why I’ve been so active. I’ve been thinking about this in connection with all these writers who are coming up who found each other through Occupy, and why all of us were willing to participate in that uprising despite all the problems and the occasional ridiculousness of it.

But the economy can be revolutionized or the economy can be reformed, and I don’t discount the latter option. That level of social change happens in unpredictable ways. It’s actually harder to think of a revolutionary event that has had a positive outcome, whereas there have been lots of reforms and lots of things that people have done on the edges that have had powerful consequences. Would I like to see an economic revolution? Definitely. But I think there are a lot of ways to insert a kind of friction into the system that can be beneficial.

This book is about economics, and the amazing, probably very American ability to not talk about economics—particularly with technology, which is supposed to be this magical realm, so pure and disruptive and unpredictable that it transcends economic conditions and constraints. The basic idea is that that’s not the case.

To a lot of people this is self-evident, but I was surprised at how outside the mainstream conversation that insight was. When money is brought up, there’s this incredible romanticism, like the Yochai Benkler quote about being motivated by things other than money. But we’re talking about platforms that go to Goldman Sachs to handle their IPOs. Money is here. Wake up!"



"When I defend institutions in this book, I knew I might provoke my more radical friends. The position that everything is corrupt—journalism is corrupt, educational institutions are corrupt, publishers are corrupt—sounds great. And on some level it’s true. They’ve disappointed us. But we need more and better—more robust, more accountable—institutions. So I tried to move out of the position of just criticizing those arrangements and enumerating all their flaws and all the ways they’ve failed us. What happens when we’ve burned all these institutions to the ground and it’s just us and Google?"



"Do you have advice for what people—people like me—who write or produce other work for the Internet can do about this situation?

I’m encouraged by all these little magazines that have started in the last few years. Building institutions, even if they’re small, is a very powerful thing, so that we’re less isolated. When you’re isolated, you’re forced into the logic of building our own brand. If you build something together, you’re more able to focus on endeavors that don’t immediately feed into that. That’s what an institution can buy you—the space to focus on other things.

What would help creators more than anything else in this country are things that would help other workers: Real public health care, real social provisions. Artists are people like everybody else; we need the same things as our barista.

I quote John Lennon: "You think you’re so clever and classless and free. One thing we need is an end to artist exceptionalism. When we can see our connection to other precarious people in the economy, that’s when interesting things could happen. When we justify our position with our own specialness…"
2014  astrataylor  internet  economics  occupywallstreet  ows  ip  intellectualproperty  universalbasicincome  marxism  miyatokumitsu  precarity  davidburrgerrard  interviews  small  institutions  scale  art  artists  markets  capitalism  automation  utopia  andrewblum  vancepackard  plannedobsolescence  libertarianism  edwardsnowden  freedom  socialmedia  libraries  advertising  benkunkel  publicbroadcasting  quotas  propaganda  technology  web  online  jessemyerson  utopianism  labor  work  artlabor  strickdebt  ubi 
april 2014 by robertogreco
The Death of American Universities | Jacobin
"The idea is to divide society into two groups. One group is sometimes called the “plutonomy” (a term used by Citibank when they were advising their investors on where to invest their funds), the top sector of wealth, globally but concentrated mostly in places like the United States. The other group, the rest of the population, is a “precariat,” living a precarious existence.

This idea is sometimes made quite overt. So when Alan Greenspan was testifying before Congress in 1997 on the marvels of the economy he was running, he said straight out that one of the bases for its economic success was imposing what he called “greater worker insecurity.” If workers are more insecure, that’s very “healthy” for the society, because if workers are insecure they won’t ask for wages, they won’t go on strike, they won’t call for benefits; they’ll serve the masters gladly and passively. And that’s optimal for corporations’ economic health.

At the time, everyone regarded Greenspan’s comment as very reasonable, judging by the lack of reaction and the great acclaim he enjoyed. Well, transfer that to the universities: how do you ensure “greater worker insecurity”? Crucially, by not guaranteeing employment, by keeping people hanging on a limb than can be sawed off at any time, so that they’d better shut up, take tiny salaries, and do their work; and if they get the gift of being allowed to serve under miserable conditions for another year, they should welcome it and not ask for any more.

That’s the way you keep societies efficient and healthy from the point of view of the corporations. And as universities move towards a corporate business model, precarity is exactly what is being imposed. And we’ll see more and more of it.

That’s one aspect, but there are other aspects which are also quite familiar from private industry, namely a large increase in layers of administration and bureaucracy. If you have to control people, you have to have an administrative force that does it. So in US industry even more than elsewhere, there’s layer after layer of management — a kind of economic waste, but useful for control and domination."



So the university imposes costs on students and on faculty who are not only untenured but are maintained on a path that guarantees that they will have no security. All of this is perfectly natural within corporate business models. It’s harmful to education, but education is not their goal.

In fact, if you look back farther, it goes even deeper than that. If you go back to the early 1970s when a lot of this began, there was a lot of concern pretty much across the political spectrum over the activism of the 1960s; it’s commonly called “the time of troubles.” It was a “time of troubles” because the country was getting civilized, and that’s dangerous. People were becoming politically engaged and were trying to gain rights for groups that are called “special interests,” like women, working people, farmers, the young, the old, and so on. That led to a serious backlash, which was pretty overt.



And another technique of indoctrination is to cut back faculty-student contact: large classes, temporary teachers who are overburdened, who can barely survive on an adjunct salary. And since you don’t have any job security, you can’t build up a career, you can’t move on and get more. These are all techniques of discipline, indoctrination, and control.



"Even young children are creative, inquisitive, they want to know things, they want to understand things, and unless that’s beaten out of your head it stays with you the rest of your life. If you have opportunities to pursue those commitments and concerns, it’s one of the most satisfying things in life.

That’s true if you’re a research physicist, it’s true if you’re a carpenter; you’re trying to create something of value and deal with a difficult problem and solve it. I think that’s what makes work the kind of thing you want to do; you do it even if you don’t have to do it. In a reasonably functioning university, you find people working all the time because they love it; that’s what they want to do; they’re given the opportunity, they have the resources, they’re encouraged to be free and independent and creative-what’s better? That’s what they love to do. And that, again, can be done at any level.

It’s worth thinking about some of the imaginative and creative educational programs that are being developed at different levels. So, for example, somebody just described to me the other day a program they’re using in high schools, a science program where the students are asked an interesting question: “How can a mosquito fly in the rain?”

That’s a hard question when you think about it. If something hit a human being with the force of a raindrop hitting a mosquito it would absolutely flatten them immediately. So how come the mosquito isn’t crushed instantly? And how can the mosquito keep flying? If you pursue that question — and it’s a pretty hard question — you get into questions of mathematics, physics, and biology, questions that are challenging enough that you want to find an answer to them.

That’s what education should be like at every level, all the way down to kindergarten, literally. There are kindergarten programs in which, say, each child is given a collection of little items: pebbles, shells, seeds, and things like that. Then the class is given the task of finding out which ones are the seeds. It begins with what they call a “scientific conference”: the kids talk to each other and they try to figure out which ones are seeds. And of course, there’s some teacher guidance, but the idea is to have the children think it through.

After a while, they try various experiments and they figure out which ones are the seeds. At that point, each child is given a magnifying glass and, with the teacher’s help, cracks a seed and looks inside and finds the embryo that makes the seed grow. These children learn something-really, not only something about seeds and what makes things grow; but also about how to discover. They’re learning the joy of discovery and creation, and that’s what carries you on independently, outside the classroom, outside the course.

The same goes for all education up through graduate school. In a reasonable graduate seminar, you don’t expect students to copy it down and repeat whatever you say; you expect them to tell you when you’re wrong or to come up with new ideas, to challenge, to pursue some direction that hadn’t been thought of before. That’s what real education is at every level, and that’s what ought to be encouraged. That ought to be the purpose of education. It’s not to pour information into somebody’s head which will then leak out but to enable them to become creative, independent people who can find excitement in discovery and creation and creativity at whatever level or in whatever domain their interests carry them."
2014  1960s  1970s  highered  highereducation  economics  policy  studentdebt  tenure  precarity  pracariat  plutonomy  administrativebloat  control  neoliberalism  indoctrination  power  adjuncts  learing  howwelearn  tcsnmy  lcproject  democracy  openstudioproject  curiosity  inquiry  enlightenment  history  education  howweteach  pedagogy  teaching  learning  flexibility  faculty 
march 2014 by robertogreco
On Quitting – The New Inquiry
"A symptom: long periods of “silence” on my blog. Long absences marked by infrequent, cryptic declarations. It is not that I don’t want to write. But reading Freud has taught me that symptoms speak. And I have a career ahead of me."



"I begin to wonder about the relationship between geo-history, the saturation of space with affect, and psychic health."



"I’m wrestling with my own disorganization. My own “persistent undoing” given the occasion of the social. I am “undone” when I leave the house, walk down the street, encounter an absenting normality. I have learned not to trust myself. Perhaps it’s all the chemicals that are working and not working in my head."



"I am leaving the United States, resigning from my job, and moving back to Kenya. As I have been trying to narrate this move to those who have known about it—over the past year—I have wondered about the partiality of the stories I was telling. They were not untrue; they were simply not what I really wanted to say, not what I permitted myself to say. In the most benign version, I have said that I cannot build a life here. Some might reasonably say that I could build a career here, as I have been doing, and build a life elsewhere, perhaps negotiate some kind of contract that would permit me to live here for one semester and work in Kenya for the rest of the year. Even assuming some institution was this generous with a junior faculty member, I am not sure that one can so easily separate moments of living from moments of working for extended stretches of time. I’m not sure that’s a sustainable model."



"I’m not sure this is “the life” I want to imagine. I worry about any life that can so readily be “imagined.” Where is the space for fantasy, for play, for the unexpected, for the surprising?"



"At a required end-of-year meeting with my then department chair, I confessed that I was exhausted. I was tired of the banal and uncomprehending racism of white students who spoke of blacks as “they” and “them” and complained about “their broken English” and “bad dialect”; I was tired of a system that served black students badly, promising an education that it failed to deliver, condemning them to repeat classes, to drop out, to believe they were stupid; I was tired of colleagues who marveled when I produced an intelligible sentence; I was tired of attending conference panels where blackness was dismissed as “simple,” “reactive,” “irrelevant,” “done”; I was tired of being invited to be “post-black” as the token African, so not “tainted” by the afterlife of slavery; I was tired of performing a psychic labor that left me too exhausted to do anything except go home, crawl into bed, try to recover, and prepare for the next series of assaults.

Blyden, of course, got it wrong. Fanon got it right.

Leaving the U.S. will not remove me from toxicity and exhaustion. At best, it will allow limited detoxification, perhaps provide me with some energy. Perhaps it will provide a space within which scabbing can begin, and, eventually, scars that will remain tender for way too long."
academia  keguromacharia  2013  essays  writing  mentalhealth  precarity  lucidity  lifeofthemind  education  quitting  deracination  webdubois  toxicity  exhaustion  bipolardisorder  linearity  non-linear  non-linearity  blogging  multiplicity  discipline  labor  humanities  stem  race  guilt  shame  gender  ethnicity  idabwells  edwardwilmotblyden  racism  highered  highereducation  psychology  frantzfanon  linear  nonlinear  alinear 
may 2013 by robertogreco
The Snake in the Garden - NYTimes.com
"it’s uncanny how often we let ourselves out of the Garden by worrying about something that, if it did happen, would quicken us into a response much more practical than worry. All the real challenges of my, or any, life…[examples]…came out of the blue; they’re just what I had never thought to worry about…And every time some kind of calamity has come into my life, I and everyone around me have responded with activity, unexpected strength, even an all but unnatural calm.

It’s only when we’re living in the future, the realm of “what if,” that we brilliantly incapacitate ourselves. And it’s mostly when someone abruptly cries, “Watch out!” that we lose control of the car we’re driving. Yet all the Stoic arguments are hard to absorb in that part of ourselves that matters…

We worry only about exactly those things we can never do anything about. And then that very fact becomes something else we worry about."
writing  mind  precarity  uncertainty  statusanxiety  cv  worry  anxiety  stoicism  stoics  2012  picoiyer  from delicious
november 2012 by robertogreco
Liquid Modernity and Social Media – The New Inquiry
"Consumer capitalism prescribes choice over stability, so we are inundated with options but without any enduring frames of reference to make our choices lastingly meaningful, definitive. Options just beget a consciousness of more options. Choosing consigns us to making more and more choices, until the inevitable decision fatigue & ego depletion sets in…the only choice we aren’t offered is the choice not to choose. We’re cut off from all other sources of meaning that might support a different conception of how to be."

"Indeed, the production of consumers itself devours an intolerably large fraction of the total costs of production"

"Now liberation would be an escape from the implications of limitless choice: that we can’t enjoy anything without it being shadowed by the possibility we are missing out on something better. Becoming oneself is just another way of second-guessing oneself."

"Our algorithmic elder brother encourages us all to surveil & report on one another to make his…"
socialnetworks  socialnetworking  performativeidentity  precarity  security  belonging  community  facebook  subjectivity  neoliberalism  labor  immateriallabor  marxism  decisionfatigue  zygmuntbauman  fomo  being  egodepletion  choosing  consumers  consumption  theself  marketing  surveillance  socialmedia  capitalism  society  freedom  liberation  identity  paradoxofchoice  consumerism  choice  choices  2012  robhorning 
september 2012 by robertogreco
An Entirely Other Day: Bugged
"“I got mine” are just about the ugliest words in the English language. They’re also, increasingly, a mantra for the same people who shout “We, the people” out of the other side of their mouths.

I love this country, more than I can properly express in words. It’s my home. It’s my future. Its history and achievements are awe-inspiring. Its idea, its founding purpose, is the most important the world has ever known. We are bound together by the notion that we are all created equal, committed to one another as a single body politic, held by the strength of our lives and our fortunes and our sacred honor. We put a man on the moon and an SUV on Mars and we made sure that tens of millions of our fellow citizens can know that a goddamned insect — or an accident or a disease or any of a billion other random, faultless happenstances — isn’t going to send them to the poor house."
healthinsurance  precarity  economics  politics  gregknauss  universalcoverage  socialsafetynet  medicine  health  2012  policy  healthcare  obamacare  ppaca  us 
september 2012 by robertogreco
Can Antioch College Return From the Dead Again? - NYTimes.com
"…the college’s first president, Horace Mann, the Massachusetts-born education reformer, instilled a spirit of moral resolve that has lingered ever since. At the 1859 commencement, just weeks before he died, Mann exhorted that year’s Antioch graduates: “I beseech you to treasure up in your hearts these my parting words. Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity…

Yet Antioch College has been on shaky financial ground for its entire existence. Four times — in 1863, 1881, 1919 and 2008 — it has had to close. Next month, it will reopen again…

…in the summer of 2008 they joined six or so Antioch professors in founding a sort of Antioch College in exile called the Nonstop Liberal Arts Institute.

The core of what we need to deliver, I’d argue, is intimacy: quality teaching from quality teachers you get to form a deep relationship with."
antiochcollege  horacemann  2011  precarity  democraticschools  education  highereducation  liberalarts  nonstopliberalartsinstitute  nonstopliberalarts  highered  learning  relationships  humanism  humanity  purpose  activism  ohio  2008  from delicious
september 2011 by robertogreco
Meandering around something idea-shaped but not quite touching it | Dangerous Precedent
"It’s not a battlesuit, because this isn’t a battle. Much as 1 might want to be Bourne or Batman or dude from Mission: Impossible...none of us are. The layers of modern life aren’t grand missions to vanquish evil or preparation for the time that we’ll be called to action, activated by the Global Frequency. Instead our cities are made of & our lives build up, layers & layers of soft actions. We’re already massively networked. We can already read city’s data, it’s just that it’s encoded in patina, in fashion, accents, flirting. Why is this important to remember? Because if we want to predict the future by inventing it, we’d (i.e. us 30-something white male post-digital types) might want to remember everyone else–people who don’t have a theme tune running in their head when they run out of the tube station. As Alex Deschamps-Sonsino wrote, it’s about"…things about this, that makes me feel like I’m not included in the city experience in the same way as my more testosterone-driven peers"
culture  architecture  future  politics  cities  community  environment  life  urbanism  autonomy  precarity  criticism  mobility  modernity  practice  networkculture  networkedurbanism  mattjones  benhammersley 
october 2009 by robertogreco
The City From Below | The City From Below - March 27th-29th, 2009 Baltimore
"The city has emerged in recent years as an indispensable concept for many of the struggles for social justice we are all engaged in [...] In cities everywhere, new social movements are coming into being, hidden histories and herstories are being uncovered, and unanticipated futures are being imagined and built - but so much of this knowledge remains, so to speak, at street-level. We need a space to gather and share our stories, our ideas and analysis, a space to come together and rethink the city from below."
psychogeography  cities  urban  politics  urbanism  grassroots  design  education  culture  architecture  art  activism  development  planning  landscape  baltimore  precarity  conferences  space  via:migurski 
february 2009 by robertogreco
How The University Works- "The triumph of corporate university. PhDs in crisis. The tuition gold rush...
"Contingent faculty militance. The collapsing tenure system...A nightmarish world of underpaid, overworked undergraduates. Ad the steady conversion of professoriate to the 'tenured bosses' of students & contingent faculty."
academia  universities  colleges  via:grahamje  employment  academics  economics  politics  capitalism  education  precarity  us  culture  edubusiness 
march 2008 by robertogreco
Eurozine - What makes a biopolitical space? - Toni Negri, Constantin Petcou, Doina Petrescu, Anne Querrien A discussion with Toni Negri
"Negri's interlocutors are involved in exploring "soft" forms of activism, urban projects that create collectivities on micro, neighbourhood levels. Negri is critical of "soft" forms, however, preferring rupture and revolution over accumulation and gradua
activism  cities  collective  democracy  management  participatory  politics  precarity  sociology  space  urbanism  urban  change  toninegri  neighborhoods  revolution  reform  local 
january 2008 by robertogreco
France’s precarious graduates, by Mona Chollet
"Anne and Marine Rambach are precarious intellectuals and claim that this underclass has middle-class origins or has had access to the symbolic capital of the upper classes, but lives on the income and in the same conditions as the poor."
science  criticism  culture  democracy  demographics  economics  education  employment  france  sociology  precarity  europe  jobs  labor  society  academia  class 
june 2007 by robertogreco

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