coromandal


yams and pigs

Even on the farm, even in so-called primitive contexts, people need to escape the bonds of family and blood and initiate relations with other people.  And this is just as true when it comes to trade and commerce as with other forms of social human interaction, says Mark Anspach in an interview excerpted below.

Some Americans – New Yorkers for instance – resist the idea of the big box retailer, and Walmart and other stores find not enough love to convince the five boroughs to let them in.  Residents don’t want the fine balance of trade, which includes mom and pops and boutiques and large retailers, being wildly disrupted by a mega retailer.  And they have the money and power to keep them out.

Other Americans are proud of big box retailers like Walmart; they like the car convenient ritual, the low prices and the enormous choice.  They identify big boxes with being American.  Often these Americans don’t have the power and money to influence how their markets function anyway.

Big is anonymous and the bulk of the money and policy that swirls around big boxes in America sets the primal impulse to trade on it’s end.  The base human economic transaction between a buyer and a seller is changed completely because the seller isn’t really in the room, nor really in the town or city, and maybe not even in the state.  Same with the goods, they are mostly in transit in the hold of an airplane or ship somewhere in the middle of a large ocean.  Same with the crafts person who makes the goods, who sits in a fluorescent lit room, one in a long row, somewhere thousands of miles across oceans and sand.

Anspach explains how economists see human trade quite differently than anthropologists.  The economic view is narrow and instrumentalist.  Buyer, seller, pig, yam.  I have pig, you have yam, we print money, we buy each others pigs and yams.

The anthropologist has a much richer view and sees trade as a critical tool for tying together members of a community and avoiding privatism and forming essential bonds with neighbors.  In this view, trade is less about getting the best deal on a farm animal, than establishing a lifelong bond by offering, in trust, your product to your neighbor as a form of gift.

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discipline, control, contribution

Gilles Deleuze’s Postscript on the Societies of Control, 1990

Here is a fascinating documentary on the shift from Foucault’s disciplinary society to Deleuze’s control society.  Disciplinary society is made up of bounded institutions through which we all pass in our lives:  family, school, hospital, prison, factory.  The control society, dominated by the corporation, is like an all encompassing gas which pits us against each other, in a shifting, never certain obligation to aims of the new global market.

What follows control? Watch the film.

From the documentary:

The factory constituted individuals as a single body to the double advantage of the boss who surveyed each element within the mass, and the unions who mobilized a mass resistance; but the corporation constantly presents the brashest rivalry as a healthy form of emulation, an excellent motivational force that opposes individuals against one another and runs through each dividing each within.

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endless postponement
February 21, 2010, 1:05 am
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: , , , , ,

I have been thinking recently about how strongly people seem to bristle when they believe someone is lecturing them.  Some people, especially in today’s super charged political culture, have a strong aversion to people who give speeches that try to define how we have lived, are living, should live.  That’s not for me! they scream, leave me alone!  This crowd – mob may be more accurate – doesn’t want the stricture of sets of rules constraining their perceived freedoms.  In a way, I agree.  I’ve come to believe that too many rules often mean there’s a moralist lurking and it will serve you well to move on.

But it always depends on the content of what is being pitched.  That’s a maxim that’s ridiculously easy to illustrate: don’t drink that tenth litre of coke.  You don’t even need to say, it’s not good for you, or, you’ll die.

The following quotation describes two visions of society, one by Deleuze which he calls control; and the other by Foucault called disciplinary.   I see the disciplinary society as classically modern and the control society as postmodern.  The disciplinary society holds broad belief structures true:  management, labour, disputes are clearly defined constructs that relate to each other in clearly predictable ways.  In this society, the world is finite and definable and, presumably, you can sleep at night.

The control society, on the other hand is constantly shifting and operates, according to Deleuze, in orbits instead of linearly: I’m up, now you’re up, but now I’m certified, she’s credentialed, you’re laid off, he’s middle management, you’re middling, I’m studying for exams, that position is terminated, we’ve been merged and taken over, we’re team players, at each other’s throats, sink or swim.  When the only constant is change, your head spins, incredulously, looking for a place to get off, and stand, and assess and maybe live.

The mob I described in my first paragraph are screaming for more control culture.  They are being offered stasis, predictability, specifically the guarantees of personal and social freedoms as defined at the advent of the modern, egalitarian state.  But they’ll have none of it and, presumably, will go on spinning in their disorienting orbits, perpetually postponing the opportunity to take hold of a chance at sanity and meaning.

Here is the description of Deleuze’s control society and Foucault’s disciplinary society —

Deleuze quite clearly sees this control society as a threat as bad as, perhaps worse than, the disciplinary society Foucault described. In the disciplinary society, factories produced a body of workers that could be controlled en masse by management, as well as an avenue of mass resistance via unions. But in the control society, we’re not talking about factories producing goods, we’re talking about businesses producing services; in this society, individuals relate to each other, compete against each other, and their wages fluctuate continually, ‘bringing them into a state of constant metastability punctuated by ludicrous challenges, competitions, and seminars’ (p.179). This metastability is brought into education as well: ‘school is being replaced by continuing education and exams by continuous assessment. It’s the surest way of turning education into a business’ (p.179). So you have a sort of ‘endless postponement’ (cf. Body-without-Organs in A Thousand Plateaus) rather than a defined avenue of development; you travel in continuously changing ‘orbits,’ you ‘undulate,’ you find yourself switching jobs and careers and positionalities (p.180). The factory is gone, as are unions and lifetime employment; the best way to get a raise, as a friend once told me, is to switch jobs.”

Clay Spinuzzi, Reading Roundup: Deleuze on Control Societies



banking education

This excerpt from Paulo Freire‘s Pedagogy of the Oppressed is a discussion of techniques of education while also being a broad critique of how conservative societies are run.

He says that institutionalizing a false separation between those who ‘know’ and those who ‘don’t know’ debases and enslaves whole classes of people in our society.

He defines knowledge as a continuously restless and symbiotic and necessary inquiry between student and teacher and teacher and student.

He reveals for what they are an educational elite who prescribe and enforce a mythology of ignorance on a supposed uneducated under class, thereby maintaining their own place at the top.

He offers the hope of a system of education in which teacher and student are reconciled.

I have taught at the university level for over 10 years.  My best students were always capable of the symbiotic relationship with me that Freire describes.  However there is always, in every class, strong evidences of the passive student who has been pushed down and made to memorize and regurgitate and obey.

This book was published in the late 1960s – 50 years ago! – and is amazingly topical.  That a simple classroom could hide beneath it’s innocent exterior such scandal.  Can you imagine how different our lives would be if we publicly identified the corruption of banking education and upended it?  A flowering of creativity, an outpouring of new knowledge, new institutions with new agendas, new and interesting kinds of conflict, stuff we’ve never seen before.  What about you?  What differences can you see?

Here is Freire’s excerpt —

Education thus becomes an act of depositing, in which the students are the depositories and the teacher is the depositor. Instead of communicating, the teacher issues communiques and makes deposits which the students patiently receive, memorize, and repeat. This is the “banking’ concept of education, in which the scope of action allowed to the students extends only as far as receiving, filing, and storing the deposits. They do, it is true, have the opportunity to become collectors or cataloguers of the things they store. But in the last analysis, it is the people themselves who are filed away through the lack of creativity, transformation, and knowledge in this (at best) misguided system. For apart from inquiry, apart from the praxis, individuals cannot be truly human. Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other.

In the banking concept of education, knowledge is a gift bestowed by those who consider themselves knowledgeable upon those whom they consider to know nothing. Projecting an absolute ignorance onto others, a characteristic of the ideology of oppression, negates education and knowledge as processes of inquiry. The teacher presents himself to his students as their necessary opposite; by considering their ignorance absolute, he justifies his own existence. The students, alienated like the slave in the Hegelian dialectic, accept their ignorance as justifying the teachers existence — but unlike the slave, they never discover that they educate the teacher.

The raison d’etre of libertarian education, on the other hand, lies in its drive towards reconciliation. Education must begin with the solution of the teacher-student contradiction, by reconciling the poles of the contradiction so that both are simultaneously teachers and students.

/../

The capability of banking education to minimize or annul the students’ creative power and to stimulate their credulity serves the interests of the oppressors, who care neither to have the world revealed nor to see it transformed.

-Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed



the family is all we need
December 30, 2009, 12:15 am
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: , , , ,

Here’s an excerpt from Barbara Ehrenreich‘s Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy.  She says the prehistoric hominid related inwardly to themselves and their kin while the later, evolved human related outwardly to others.  And that, under the direction of the evangelical in America, we have taken on the aspect of the prehuman once again.  Shame.  I guess life isn’t for the living after all.  I might just throw out this bone for some extra chewing:  the Bible rarely if ever talks about family; it is outspoken on the other, often called your neighbor.

Here is the excerpt:

The family is all we need, America’s ostensibly Christian evangelicists tell us — a fit container for all our social loyalties and yearnings.  But if anything represents a kind of evolutionary regression, it is this.  Insofar as we compress our sociality into the limits of the family, we do not so much resemble our Paleolithic human ancestors as we do those far earlier prehuman primates who had not yet discovered the danced ritual as a ‘biotechnology’ for the formation of larger groups.  Humans had the wit and generosity to reach out to unrelated others; hominids huddled with their kin.

Dancing in the Street: A History of Collective Joy, Barbara Ehrenreich, Metropolitan Books, New York



the preferences of others


This is about a change of course, paradigmatic, in which people move from being directed by inner assuredness to being manipulated by external influence and whim.  Ironically, because one would assume that an outward look would be motivated by selflessness, both are firmly rooted in self love.  The ratios are revealing:  that production is self-reliance and consumption is skittish, and getting worse.

Half a century ago, Yale University Press published the first edition of ”The Lonely Crowd,” by David Riesman with Nathan Glazer and Reuel Denney. The book’s subject was nothing less than a sea change in American character: as America was moving from a society governed by the imperative of production to a society governed by the imperative of consumption, the character of its upper middle classes was shifting from ”inner-directed” people who as children formed goals that would guide them in later life to ”other-directed” people, ”sensitized to the expectations and preferences of others.” In Riesman’s metaphor, the shift was from life guided by an internal gyroscope to life guided by radar. The new American no longer cared much about adult authority but rather was hyperalert to peer groups and gripped by mass media. Father might know best, but if he did, it was increasingly because a television program said so.

The book went on to become, according to a 1997 study by Herbert J. Gans, the best-selling book by a sociologist in American history, with 1.4 million copies sold, largely in paperback editions. For years, the book made ”inner-direction” and ”other-direction” household terms, canapes for cocktail party chat. It was read by student radicals in the making, who overinterpreted its embrace of the search for autonomy as a roundhouse assault on conformity, when in fact Riesman was at pains to point out that any society ”ensures some degree of conformity from the individuals who make it up,” the question being how it secures that unavoidable conformity. In the 1960’s, ”The Lonely Crowd” was read as a harbinger of alienation leading to affluent revolt. Its title phrase even cropped up in a Bob Dylan song of 1967, ”I Shall Be Released.” By the time of his introduction to the 1969 edition, Riesman was regretting that ” ‘The Lonely Crowd’ contributed to the snobbish deprecation of business careers.”

~BOOKEND / By TODD GITLIN, How Our Crowd Got Lonely



daggers
April 19, 2008, 9:04 pm
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: , , , , , , ,

This is about a fearful place.  Fear makes us protect ourselves, aggress, fight.  It ultimately drives from each other.  In truly fearful places, there is no real intimacy except in the bedroom.

Intimacy is fearless – not timid.  True intimacy is living fearlessly in a fearless place.

Intimacy in principle means not to be timid or “timide”(in French).  But of course In is non. Inconscience, Incontinent. So the meaning of in is non. So its non-timide. And that’s what is intimate. The interesting thing is that we change intimacy to a very small space, a very safe space where you can be intimate, we think. But what we mean with intimate is not “timide”, is open to everything, is borderless, is every protection away, in principle. And it’s not just a small space where you can….

And then of course in history it’s got a very sexual connotation. For me ideal for society would be if we did not use the word intimacy. A society that is not timid. Timid is not a quality. When someone says someone is shy “Oh he or she is so shy”- you have fear, that’s why you are shy. Intimacy is not a quality. Intimacy is a quality but it shouldn’t be called intimacy. It’s just that you are open. In this fearful society where everyone is putting daggers in each others’ back, usurping each other – the neo-capitalist society is like this – in this society intimacy is reduced to the bed, or to the most private space where you dare to be without protection.

So intimacy is the space where you are without the fear that forces you to protect yourself.

-Jan Ritsema, from Sleeping Beauty’s blog, searching for intimacy