coromandal


tyranny of managerialism and the privatization of results

Image result for for profit universities contemporary photography

You will: write proposals, be judged, anticipate and deflect criticism.

You will not: do research, follow your curiosity, solve problems.

You will spend your time writing proposals rather than doing research. Worse, because your proposals are judged by your competitors, you cannot follow your curiosity, but must spend your effort and talents on anticipating and deflecting criticism rather than on solving the important scientific problems. . . . It is proverbial that original ideas are the kiss of death for a proposal, because they have not yet been proved to work.

Jonathan Katz, astrophysicist

The privatization of research results:

You will: jealously guard – as you would personal property – your findings, make findings difficult to access.

You will not: share in convivial competition.

Industrial Revolution British economics was distributed between high finance and local crackpot inventors and researchers, and was highly successful. After 1945, the US and Germany fought over who would replace Britain as world power, and starting with the atom bomb in the 1950s, built our current, stagnant, technological, government funded economy.

In the natural sciences, to the tyranny of managerialism we can add the privatization of research results. As the British economist David Harvie has reminded us, “open source” research is not new. Scholarly research has always been open source, in the sense that scholars share materials and results. There is competition, certainly, but it is “convivial.” This is no longer true of scientists working in the corporate sector, where findings are jealously guarded, but the spread of the corporate ethos within the academy and research institutes themselves has caused even publicly funded scholars to treat their findings as personal property. Academic publishers ensure that findings that are published are increasingly difficult to access, further enclosing the intellectual commons. As a result, convivial, open-source competition turns into something much more like classic market competition.

[…]

Giovanni Arrighi has noted that after the South Sea Bubble, British capitalism largely abandoned the corporate form. By the time of the Industrial Revolution, Britain had instead come to rely on a combination of high finance and small family firms—a pattern that held throughout the next century, the period of maximum scientific and technological innovation. (Britain at that time was also notorious for being just as generous to its oddballs and eccentrics as contemporary America is intolerant. A common expedient was to allow them to become rural vicars, who, predictably, became one of the main sources for amateur scientific discoveries.)

Contemporary, bureaucratic corporate capitalism was a creation not of Britain, but of the United States and Germany, the two rival powers that spent the first half of the twentieth century fighting two bloody wars over who would replace Britain as a dominant world power—wars that culminated, appropriately enough, in government-sponsored scientific programs to see who would be the first to discover the atom bomb. It is significant, then, that our current technological stagnation seems to have begun after 1945, when the United States replaced Britain as organizer of the world economy.

Of Flying Machines and the Declining Rate of Profit, David Graeber, The Baffler

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it’s your fault

Oprah says it’s not the system, it’s you.

She tells us the market will solve grave political, social and environmental problems, as long as we adjust ourselves to its demands.

She sees your anxiety and tells you it is not the fault of all of these very real external social problems; rather it is your fault, you just haven’t worked hard enough to comply with the rules.

For someone doing well, emphasizing how you improve yourself through your own efforts is empowering; the successful cling to this ideology because it has worked very well for them.

But, for someone with anxiety and thoughts of alienation, Oprah’s ideology is pretty dispiriting. It reinforces a punitive view that becomes pervasive and pushes people deeper into helplessness and passivity.

What we get is a passive, atomized, isolated populace unwilling to think and to articulate what ails them and how to make it better; a culture that is punitive – a very real Stockholm-syndrome culture of self censure and self defeat; and finally institutions that, although fatally flawed, remain unchallenged and increase in corruption and power.

The irony is that the message seems so affirming and yet is so destructive, and the tragedy is the lives that it takes.

From New Prophets of Capital:

Oprah is one of a new group of elite storytellers who present practical solutions to society’s problems that can be found within the logic of existing profit-driven structures of production and consumption. They promote market-based solutions to the problems of corporate power, technology, gender divides, environmental degradation, alienation and inequality.

[…]

Oprah recognizes the pervasiveness of anxiety and alienation in our society. But instead of examining the economic or political basis of these feelings, she advises us to turn our gaze inward and reconfigure ourselves to become more adaptable to the vagaries and stresses of the neoliberal moment.

[…]

The way Oprah tells us to get through it all and realize our dreams is always to adapt ourselves to the changing world, not to change the world we live in. We demand little or nothing from the system, from the collective apparatus of powerful people and institutions. We only make demands of ourselves.

We are the perfect, depoliticized, complacent neoliberal subjects.

extract from New Prophets of Capital by Nicole Aschoff, published by Verso Books.

 



social order window dressing
August 15, 2015, 4:12 pm
Filed under: brave new world, chronotopes | Tags: , , , ,

Capitalist modernity: instrumentalism, power, profit, material survival, management, manipulation, self interested calculation, private morality. Culture is for material production, decoration for the new material consumer social order, distraction during non work hours.

The pre capitalist modern world: fostering human sharing and solidarity, communal shaping of a common life. Culture is an extension of the aims of human solidarity and shared life.

Terry Eagleton’s description:

Capitalist modernity, so it appeared, had landed us with an economic system which was almost purely instrumental.  It was a way of life dedicated to power, profit, and the business of material survival, rather than to fostering the values of human sharing and solidarity.  The political realm was more a question of management and manipulation than of the communal shaping of a common life.  Reason itself had been debased to mere self-interested calculation.  As for morality, this too, had become an increasingly private affair, more relevant to the bedroom than the boardroom.  Cultural life had grown more important in one sense, burgeoning into a whole industry or branch of material production.  In another sense, however, it had dwindled to the window-dressing of a social order which had exceedingly little time for anything it could not price or measure.  Culture was now largely a matter of how to keep people harmlessly distracted when they were not working.

Terry Eagleton, The Meaning of Life



the international sleep exchange
July 3, 2015, 1:40 pm
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: , , ,

An MBA walks into a room – the start of a bad joke – and proclaims this institution – or company, NGO, whatever – no longer works and I am going to fix it, and then proceeds to radically alter the root structure of the thing – which has existed and served people well in the black for generations – even to the point of destruction, and pockets the profits. This has happened over and over, again and again during the neoliberal age: education, health, food and agriculture, transport, government services, housing. So what next, after all of the conventional businesses and institutions have been gutted? Here’s a dark vision of the next step in which the MBA ups the ante and air, water, flesh, our minds become the new targets.

Sex, sunshine, sleep, singing. The best things in life are currently free. We’d better make the most of them, because in a frackable future they’ll all be metered and chargeable. Libido International or whoever would be alerted to any sexual activity via, I don’t know, some sort of monitored hormonal “thinkernet” and would shut it down after 60 seconds unless you authorised a debit or had a prepaid sex account.

Maybe people will be fitted with retinal paywalls to allow in sunshine, which will be owned by a solar consortium based somewhere tax-efficient and warm. Sleep would be traded on the international sleep exchange – imagine the premium new parents would pay for an hour of ultra-deep oblivion. And all human singing would be automatically Shazammed to a central licensing bureau for billing, the days of “out of copyright” having long gone. Everything out of copyright will be automatically the copyright of Singinc, who own “trad” and “anon” now, too. And your vocal cords.

In the future it will probably be best to stay celibate, in the dark, awake for as long as possible and quiet. So let’s live a little now, before we’re all fracked.

Fracketeering: how capitalism is power-hosing the last drops of value out of us all: Once you’ve mined the earth and milked the service industries, what is there left to frack? Us, that’s what – with everything from admin charges and estate agent fees to blockbuster premiums and ‘cakeage’, by Ian Martin, The Guardian



Incredulity, not docility

An inquiring mind, one that challenges authority, and has a mentoring relationship with teachers

vs

A soft compliant mind.

The Common Core debate is important not simply because of the standards’ immediate effects on pupils, but because it offers us an opportunity to ask the biggest questions about our education system: What should be the guiding ethos of public education in a democratic society? What are we preparing students for, other than participation in economic life? And how should schooling be structured to reflect democratic values?

The short answers: Incredulity, not docility, is the trait to inculcate, along with a citizenry disposed to questioning received wisdom and orthodoxy and a less hierarchical teacher-student relationship. In each instance, the Common Core is an impediment.

Participation is a necessary component of freedom

vs

Memorization of facts will make us dutiful.

From a democracy standpoint, there’s much to question here. First, the virtual omission of civic education, an area already treated as an afterthought in many public schools. The civic education we do have tends to be sanitized, fact-heavy regurgitation that casts democratic participation more as a duty than as a vehicle for emancipation.

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all kinds of richness
October 11, 2013, 12:24 pm
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: , , , , , ,

In our work lives, the status quo is snobbery and the desired goal is love, explains Alain de Botton below. Snobbery is being judged based on superficials while all the richness of our inner lives roil hidden beneath the judgment: a vision from Dante’s hell. In essence, bosses reduce workers to one or two capabilities that meet their business needs, while workers yearn to use their genius and suffer through their days.

To break this unhappy  – and untenable – blockage, one must see the real potential of a person’s inner life. This is accomplished by imagination, which breaks the bonds of the snob judgment and allows the real inner richness and creativity to be revealed and to play a part.

It’s a good lesson to know if you want to be happy in your workplace, or to make a pleasant workplace for the people who work for you.

Alain de Botton on the chasm between our rich interior selves and our jobs:

We live in a world surrounded by snobs.  What is a snob?–A snob is someone who takes a small part of you and uses that to judge the whole of you.  And the dominant snobbery nowadays is job snobbery.

This is a deeply frightening vision.  Partly it’s frightening because most of us are unable to bring our true richness of character and personality in line with our business card.  The business card does not fully reflect who we are. We are being judged, we feel, in a humiliating way.  We feel there is so much in us that has not got an expression in capitalism.  You know, capitalism is a machine that recognizes outward financial, external achievement.  And most of us carry all kinds of richness which we are unable to translate into that language.  There are very few of us whose full complexity of character has been brought out, as it were, on their business card.  Most of us, what is special about us requires – it requires love.  And by love, I mean imagination.  It requires someone to say, even though that person looks a bit, it could be anything boring, uninteresting, unimportant, dull, actually that’s because I’m only looking at them in the first 30 seconds.  They need more time.

So we need charity and we need complexity.  And the cruelty of the modern world, the cruelty of New York City, for example, so this is a city where people give you 30 seconds and not much longer, if you’re not careful.  And that’s very challenging, it cuts people up inside.  It literally drives you crazy.

What are you worth?  Getting past status anxiety, Alain de Botton



the escape from reality
August 17, 2013, 10:34 am
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: , , ,

no 2 flamingoHere is the economist John K. Galbraith making two more excellent points about the popularity and insanity of speculation.  He describes two reasons why after a bubble bursts — as it did in a spectacular fashion that echoed around the world in 2008 — the real reasons for the crash are completely ignored.

The first reason is that we have very little trouble casting blame on one or two people, but have considerable difficulty blaming an entire community – like the financial community or the economists.  We simply can’t bring ourselves to believe that so many people could be so wrong, and also that people with so much money could be so foolish.

The second reason is that we have come to believe in the invisible hand, laissez faire  of the market as an orthodox Truth. The cause of crashes are never identified as the speculative behavior that precedes them in spite of the evident opportunity to head off very real and painful social and personal damage. Here is Galbraith:

in the aftermath of speculation, the reality will be all but ignored.

There are two reasons for this.  In the first place, many people and institutions have been involved, and whereas it is acceptable to attribute error, gullibility, and excess to a single individual or even to a particular corporation, it is not deemed fitting to attribute them to a whole community, and certainly not to the whole financial community.  Widespread naivete, even stupidity, is manifest; mention of this, however, runs drastically counter to the earlier-noted presumption that intelligence is intimately associated with money.  The financial community must be assumed to be intellectually above such extravagance of error.

The second reason that the speculative mood and mania are exempted from blame is theological.  In accepted free- enterprise attitudes and doctrine, the market is a neutral and accurate reflection of external influences; it is not supposed to be subject to an inherent and internal dynamic of error.  This is the classical faith.  So there is a need to find some cause for the crash, however farfetched, that is external to the market itself.  Or some abuse of the market that has inhibited its normal performance.

Again this is no matter of idle theory, there are very practical consequences, and these, as we shall see, are especially evident and important in our own time.  That the months and years before the 1987 stock-market crash were characterized by intense speculation no on would seriously deny.  But in the aftermath of that crash, little or no importance was attributed to this speculation.  Instead, the deficit in the federal budget became the decisive factor.  The escape from reality continued with studies by the New York Stock Exchange, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and a special presidential commission, all of which passed over or minimized the speculation as a conditioning cause. Markets in our culture are a totem; to them can be ascribed no inherent aberrant tendency or fault.

John Kenneth Galbraith