The war on democracy

How corporations and spy agencies use «security» to defend profiteering and crush activism

 

Protesters march through downtown Washington DC during the Stop Watching Us Rally. Photograph: Allison Shelley/Getty Images

A stunning new report compiles extensive evidence showing how some of the world’s largest corporations have partnered with private intelligence firms and government intelligence agencies to spy on activist and nonprofit groups. Environmental activism is a prominent though not exclusive focus of these activities. Συνέχεια

How neo-liberal forces systematically compromise our ability to understand neo-liberalism

Nice discussion of Philip Mirowski’s Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste here. The first half of the book theorizes neo-liberalism from a Foucaultian perspective and the second half excoriates the economics profession, e.g.

According to Mirowski, there was a moment after the 2008 crash when the economics profession could have performed some rigorous self-criticism and made an honest assessment of what had gone wrong. But the proposed technocratic fixes — addressing the “efficient markets hypothesis” in finance, adding so-called bounded rationality to microeconomic models to make them “behavioral,” and adding various bells and whistles to macroeconomic models — were particularly ineffective in reforming or even clarifying what is going on in financial markets. And the various “explanations” of the crisis that were brought up for debate in mainstream publications and through a network of economic policy “experts” ended up not serving any notion of scientific inquiry but instead were means of deflecting, confusing, and delaying any progress toward uncovering truth or consensus. Συνέχεια

Universities becoming ‘profit-making institutions’

Mon, Nov 25, 2013, 20:56

Irish universities are turning into profit-making institutions rather than serving their proper purpose as a public good. The change could destroy the higher education sector, university staff have warned.

A ‘Defend the University’ campaign was launched today by two unions who represent lecturers, the Irish Federation of University Teachers and Siptu. They say they have the initial support of at least 700 lecturers and academics across all seven Irish universities with more moving to support the call. Συνέχεια

The 1% are the very best destroyers of wealth the world has ever seen

Our common treasury in the last 30 years has been captured by industrial psychopaths. That’s why we’re nearly bankrupt

The Guardian, Monday 7 November 2011 20.30 GMT

Daniel Pudles 082011

Illustration by Daniel Pudles

If wealth was the inevitable result of hard work and enterprise, every woman in Africa would be a millionaire. The claims that the ultra-rich 1% make for themselves – that they are possessed of unique intelligence or creativity or drive – are examples of the self-attribution fallacy. This means crediting yourself with outcomes for which you weren’t responsible. Many of those who are rich today got there because they were able to capture certain jobs. This capture owes less to talent and intelligence than to a combination of the ruthless exploitation of others and accidents of birth, as such jobs are taken disproportionately by people born in certain places and into certain classes. Συνέχεια

Αγκάμπεν – βιοπολιτική: η συνέντευξη στην ΕΤ3 (πλήρες κείμενο)

Το 2011, ο Ιταλός πολιτικός φιλόσοφος Τζόρτζιο Αγκάμπεν παραχώρησε συνέντευξη στο τρίτο κανάλι της Ελληνικής Τηλεόρασης (και ειδικότερα στην εκπομπή “Τόποι ζωής, τόποι ιδεών” του Γιώργου Κεραμιδιώτη). Στην εκπομπή, η οποία προβλήθηκε από την ΕΤ3 (και μπορεί κανείς να την παρακολουθήσει εδώ) χρησιμοποιήθηκαν ορισμένα μόνο αποσπάσματα από τη συνέντευξη, περίπου το μισό από το συνολικό υλικό. Το κείμενο που ακολουθεί περιλαμβάνει το σύνολο των ερωτήσεων και των απαντήσεων, στα ελληνικά. Επιμέλεια/ μετάφραση: Άκη Γαβριηλίδη.

 

Καθηγητή Αγκάμπεν, κάνουμε ένα ντοκιμαντέρ πάνω στη βιοπολιτική και απευθυνόμαστε σε σας ως έναν από τους βασικούς φιλοσόφους που έχουν ενδιαφερθεί γι’ αυτή την έννοια. Η οποία προέρχεται από τον Φουκώ, αλλά εσείς την πραγματευθήκατε διαφορετικά, εισάγοντας τις έννοιες της κατάστασης εξαίρεσης και του στρατοπέδου. Τι είναι αυτό που σας έκανε να ενδιαφερθείτε για τη βιοπολιτική, και τι διαφορετικό εισάγετε σε σχέση με τον Φουκώ, ή με άλλους που αναφέρθηκαν σε αυτήν; Συνέχεια

Noam Chomsky: Modern universities designed to ‘deprive you of your freedom’

The World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) released an interview with Noam Chomsky recently in which the noted linguist discussed, among other things, how high student tuition indoctrinates students into corporate culture.

“There’s no economic basis for high tuitions,” Chomsky said. “One of the very negative aspects of this sharp tuition rise is that it entraps students. It deprives them of their freedom.”

Chomsky explained that “if you’re going to come out of college with $50,000 of debt, you’re stuck. You couldn’t do the things you wanted to do, like maybe you wanted to become a public interest lawyer, helping poor people. You can’t do it — you have to go to a corporate law firm, pay off your debt. Then you get trapped in that.” Συνέχεια

Προσεχώς «εμπόρευμα» η ανώτατη εκπαίδευση

Προσεχώς «εμπόρευμα» η ανώτατη εκπαίδευση, socialpolicy.grΤου Χρήστου Κάτσικα

 

Οι μεγάλες και συστηματικές παρεμβάσεις που επιχειρούνται την περίοδο αυτή στα Πανεπιστήμια με τον εξοστρακισμό εκατοντάδων διοικητικών υπαλλήλων αφενός αποτελούν συνέχεια και εμβάθυνση των αλλαγών στην ανώτατη εκπαίδευση που έγιναν τα τελευταία χρόνια και αφετέρου επιταχύνουν την προσαρμογή των Πανεπιστημίων στην υπηρεσία στρατηγικών επιλογών, με στόχο τη μετάλλαξη του ακαδημαϊκού και δημόσιου χαρακτήρα των ιδρυμάτων. Συνέχεια

How neoliberalism controls the minds….

This political investment of the body is bound up, in accordance with complex reciprocal relations, with its economic use; it is largely as a force of production that the body is invested with relations of power and domination; but, on the other hand, its constitution as labour power is possible only if it is caught up in a system of subjection (in which need is also a political instrument meticulously prepared, calculated and used); the body becomes a useful force only if it is both a productive body and a subjected body. This subjection is not only obtained by the instruments of violence or ideology; it can also be direct, physical, pitting force against force, bearing on material elements, and yet without involving violence; it may be calculated, organized, technically thought out; it may be subtle, make use neither of weapons nor of terror and yet remain ofa physical order. That is to say, there may be a ‘knowledge’ of the body that is not exactly the science of its functioning, and a mastery of its forces that is more than the ability to conquer them: this knowledge and this mastery constitute what might be called the political technology of the body. Of course, this technology is diffuse, rarely formulated in continuous, systematic discourse; it is often made up of bits and pieces; it implements a disparate set of tools or methods. Συνέχεια

In what sense did Marx propose to “smash the state”?

Posted on 29 November 2013

It is well known that one of the formative political experiences of Marx’s life was his effort to mount a public defence of the Paris Commune of 1871. The Commune was the most dramatic and, to Marx, the most inspiring anti-capitalist revolt of his time. As the Franco-Prussian War wound down, the workers of Paris rose up and deposed the French State’s authority, replacing its rule with a new form of popular self-organization that, in Marx’s memorable phrase, did not reproduce or reorganize the state, but “smashed” it.

But what did Marx mean by “smashing the state”? And what was the nature of this Commune that he held up as a model for anti-capitalist revolution?

Should we think of the Commune, as some do today, as a “workers’ state”? Or should we think of it as, on the contrary, a form of participatory-democratic, specifically anti-statist, community-based working-class self-organization?

Defender of the Commune, Paris 1871

Defender of the Commune, Paris 1871

Here, Marx and Engels actually make it hard to say quite which interpretation they would endorse, because sometimes they use language encouraging the statist interpretation of the Commune, and sometimes they deny outright that it was a state, “in the proper sense of the word.”

A typical statist reading can be found in a comment by Engels, in 1891, that the Commune “shattered” the “former state power,” and “replaced” it with “a new and truly democratic one” (628; page #s refer to Tucker, ed., Marx-Engels Reader, 2nd ed.). But this suggestion, that the Commune created a “new and truly democratic” state, seems to contradict something Engels said in 1875, when he asserted bluntly that the Commune “was no longer a state in the proper sense of the word.” Indeed, so insistent was he that the Commune was not a state in the proper sense, that he proposed, speaking on behalf of Marx and himself, that socialists should “replace [the word] state everywhere by Gemeinwesen [community], a good old German word which can very well convey the meaning of the French word, commune” (Letter to Bebel, 1875).

For his part, Marx also seemed ambivalent. On the one hand, he seemed to be alluding to the state when he called the Commune “a working-class government” (634). On the other hand, he regarded the most important lesson of the Commune to be the insight that “the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery and wield it for its own purposes” (629). This insight, that we can’t just “take power” by putting the workers’ movement at the helm of the administrative, coercive and legislative apparatuses of the capitalist state, was in fact the only correction to the argument of the Communist Manifesto that he ever explicitly proposed. The Manifesto had failed to insist that a working-class revolution would have to smash the state, rather than taking it over, Marx concluded.

Rather than getting bogged down in verbal technicalities about the meaning of the word “state,” let’s look at what Marx thought the Commune was doing, and try to see, substantively and concretely, what he meant when he said that it smashed rather than taking over the state. Συνέχεια

Postscript on identity, intersectionality

Over the last week the whole internet’s been aflutter with righteous rage and condemnation, all stemming from the publication of a couple articles critiquing identity politics and intersectionality on the Left. “Exiting the vampire castle,” a piece addressing the former of these topics, appeared on The North Star five days ago. Its author, Mark Fisher, known for his widely-acclaimed monograph Capitalist Realism from 2009, sought to isolate and describe a rather corrosive tendency within contemporary leftist discourse. He christened this tendency “the Vampire’s Castle”:

 

The Vampires’ Castle specialises in propagating guilt. It is driven by a priest’s desire to excommunicate and condemn, an academic-pedant’s desire to be the first to be seen to spot a mistake, and a hipster’s desire to be one of the in-crowd. The danger in attacking the Vampires’ Castle is that it can look as if — and it will do everything it can to reinforce this thought — that one is also attacking the struggles against racism, sexism, heterosexism. But, far from being the only legitimate expression of such struggles, the Vampires’ Castle is best understood as a bourgeois-liberal perversion and appropriation of the energy of these movements. The Vampires’ Castle was born the moment when the struggle not to be defined by identitarian categories became the quest to have “identities” recognised by a bourgeois big Other. Συνέχεια

I Am a Woman and a Human: A Marxist-Feminist Critique of Intersectionality Theory

In the United States, during the late 20th and early 21st centuries, a specific set of politics among the left reigns king.  Today, you could go into any university, on any number of liberal-to-left blogs or news websites, and the words “identity” and “intersectionality” will jump out you as the hegemonic theory.  But, like all theories, this corresponds to the activity of the working class in response to the current composition of capital.  Theory is not some cloud that floats above the class, raining down thoughts and ideas, but, as Raya Dunayevskaya writes,”the actions of the proletariat create the possibility for the intellectual to work out theory” (Marxism and Freedom, 91).  Therefore, in order to understand the dominant theories of our age, we must understand the real movement of the class.  In this piece, I will look at the history of identity politics and intersectionality theory in effort to construct a Marxist critique of intersectionality theory, and a offer positive Marxist conception of feminism.

The Context for “Identity” and “Intersectionality Theory.” Συνέχεια

Reclaim the ‘state debate’

 

Reclaim the ‘state debate’

 

Looking at the text The state debate by Simon Clarke, Aufheben analyse the role of the state in capitalist society against the background of the economic crisis.

 

Introduction

 

After the shock of the recent crisis, and facing its long-term consequences, many of us who have been involved in recent campaigns and struggles feel the need for a renewed debate about the state, its nature and its relation to capital and the class struggle.

 

With so far no major challenge from the working class in Britain, the crisis and the response to it have taken objectified forms: economy versus the state, both playing undisputed protagonist roles – both ‘subjects’. The appearance of a state intervening in, and against, the freedom of the economy was one with its underlying substance: the ruling class acting in its self-interest and to the detriment of the working class. In fact, the consequences of the government’s decision to rescue major failing banks will result in massive attacks on the proletariat during the coming decade. Συνέχεια

All in it Together: How Government Is Handing Ownership of our Schools and Hospitals to Banks

 

PFImeme

There is a scandal unfolding quietly in this country which poses an existential threat to our most critical public services.  It is called the Private Finance Initiative.  Today, we look at the dangerous circle of self-interest which means our government is making the tax payer pay the bill for private service providers and banks to take over our schools, hospitals and other core public services.

What is PFI?

PFI stands for Private Finance Initiative.  The schemes were initially designed by Tory Chancellor Norman Lamont in 1992 and were rapidly expanded under New Labour.  They are touted as a form of Public Private Partnership.  The government uses private finance, rather than borrowing in the usual way, to raise funds for projects.  Since 1992, our hospitals and schools have been built this way.  PFI loans are at least twice the rate of interest of ordinary government loans, and repaid over 25-30 years. Συνέχεια

Gates Foundation pours millions into Common Core in 2013

common coreThe Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation spent more than $20 million this year in grants to institutions and organizations to support the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, continuing the hefty support it has provided since the initiative began more than five years ago, according to its  Web site.

 

The foundation has spent well over $170 million to support the creation and implementation of Common Core State Standards, and has been praised by supporters for its philanthropy and questioned by critics who worry about wealthy private citizens using their personal fortunes to impact public policy.

 

Millions of Gates dollars were awarded this year for various Core-related activities, including to increase public support for the Common Core;  a $3.2 million grant to the New Venture Fund is intended “to support successful implementation of the Common Core State Standards by building public awareness and understanding.” (The fund’s Web site says it is a nonprofit organization “offering domestic and international grant-making services, executing donor-developed projects, and providing full fiscal sponsorship including grant and contract management for innovative public-interest projects.”) Συνέχεια