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Utopia

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 05/12/2019 - 6:00am in

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Can the notion of ‘utopia’ be explained in 500 words? This was the challenge that Mark Steven set for me in relation to his exciting new book entitled, Understanding Marx, Understanding Modernismto be published with Bloomsbury in 2020. The book will carry more than thirty chapters with similar entries conceptualising Marx, addressing Marx in Modernism, and providing a glossary of key terms from alienation, to primitive accumulation, to value and the general formula of capital. Here is my contribution on utopia.

Utopia is not originally a modernist idea, but it is a modern one. Though the vision of an ideal society or perfect state of humanity has existed since the earliest times, the genre of utopia, which bridges literature and political theory, came into being in the early modern period with the work of Thomas More (1516). More’s Utopia was the fictional tale of a European traveller claiming to have visited a near-perfect society located on an exotic island. Despite presenting itself as a real travel report, already with More, utopia became identified with the idea of a society that is possible to imagine, but impossible to realise, an association it has never shaken.

Marx and Engels were suspicious of utopia for this reason, even if their ideas about communism can in some ways be seen as an attempt to realise utopia in practice. In the Communist Manifesto, they denounced the attempts of early nineteenth-century utopian socialists Saint-Simon, Cabet, Fourier, and Owen to establish new societies based on a blueprint. For Marx and Engels, communism was not an ‘ideal to which reality will have to adjust itself’ but the ‘real movement which abolishes the present state of things’. Nevertheless, their relationship to utopia remains ambiguous. Though Engels explicitly distinguished ‘scientific’ from ‘utopian’ socialism, he still praised the utopian socialists as revolutionaries. Meanwhile, throughout his work Marx adumbrates a vision of communism that many have seen as utopian in the negative sense of unrealisable: a participatory democracy, beyond wages, money, and exploitation, in which human freedom and equality can be fully realised.

A profound connection between utopia and Marxian materialism can be seen in the way in which the utopian imagination is intimately connected to the historical horizon. In More’s era, utopias were spatial fantasies imagined on undiscovered islands, but by the time capitalism had reached every corner of the globe, utopia was beginning to be projected into the future. The process of modernisation—profound socio-political change and the advance of science and technology—held out the hope that utopia might become a reality. The impact of fascist and communist attempts to realise political utopias in the twentieth century brought utopia into disrepute. Yet the deep human need to imagine a different world remains.

If utopia was not originally modernist, modernism was perhaps by definition utopian. Expressionists, constructivists and other modernists saw art as a way to criticise an inadequate status quo and create a better society. Today, speculative fictions in print and on screen continue to thematise social and political questions. Dystopias dominate in a context in which, as Frederic Jameson has noted in New Left Review, it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism. But utopia is far from dead. In the face of twenty-first century challenges such as climate change and ongoing social injustice, only big ideas will do.

The post Utopia appeared first on Progress in Political Economy (PPE).

Henri Lefebvre and the time-spaces of rebellion

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 03/12/2019 - 6:00am in

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Recent rebellions from Chile to Lebanon have reignited discussion about
assembly politics. In the wake of the Global Financial Crisis and the Arab
Spring, numerous movements appeared including the Aganaktismenoi in Greece, the
15M in Spain and Occupy. In my article, “An
Opening Toward the Possible: Assembly Politics and Henri Lefebvre’s Theory of
the Event
” published in Global Society, I develop a framework to
understand the advent of assembly politics.

In popular accounts, assembly movements are often framed as a
reaction to the conditions of the present (i.e. as a reaction to neoliberalism)
or as inaugurating a new form of politics breaking with the established order. These
accounts identify important aspects of the movements whilst often overlooking
particularities, tensions and complexities. Literature on time and temporality
in International Politics provides tools to develop more sophisticated accounts.
Scholars have critiqued closed temporal framings of events, highlighting how they
are incorporated into temporal narratives that give them sense and elicit
particular types of action.

Whilst scholars have developed a strong critique of closed temporal
framings, they are often hesitant to develop alternative narratives. Some
scholars prefer to take the event as a rupture in temporal narratives that can
be lived and experienced in a multiplicity of different ways. Such accounts are
not particularly useful for engaging critically with assembly politics. It is
precisely the heterogeneity of participants and experiences that is often
framed as what is ‘new’ about these movements. For example, this heterogeneity
has been taken as symptomatic of the conditions of ‘liquid
modernity
’ or the necessary form of political action in the context of Empire.

To develop an alternative account cognisant of the particularities,
tensions and complexities of assembly politics, in the article, I build on
recent work on ‘timing’,
rhythm
and the relationship between space
and time
. I engage with Henri Lefebvre’s theory of the event to expand on
this work. Lefebvre’s theory was developed in his studies of May 1968 and the
Paris Commune. It is elaborated in most detail in the untranslated La
Proclamation de la Commune: 26 mars 1871
(1965). These studies have received little
attention in engagements with Lefebvre’s work in International Politics that tend
 to focus on ‘micropolitics
and the everyday.

Lefebvre’s theory of the event is particularly well-suited to
understanding contemporary movements as it was elaborated to study similar
forms of horizontal politics. Lefebvre seeks to understand the event as a
complex ‘totality’ situated in space and time. He engages with both what he
terms the negativity of the event, the complex economic, political and social
factors that make it possible, and the positivity of the event, the creative
practices that bring new forms of political engagement and rhythms of daily
life into being.

In L’Irruption de Nanterre au Sommet (1968) Lefebvre employs
the concept mondialité
(worldiness or worldwide situation) to grasp the totality of the event. The
concept draws attention to both the complex worldwide processes of spatial
restructuring shaping the conditions of possibility of the event and
interconnected attempts to reimagine everyday life on a global scale. In particular,
Lefebvre highlights connections between the rebellion in France and global battles
for decolonisation.

Following Lefebvre, the rebellions intervene on the conditions of
the present inaugurating novel forms of engagement through the constitution of
spatial frames and rhythms. These give the event a particular ‘style’. In the
article, I draw on Doreen Massey’s notion of ‘time-spaces’ developed in For Space (2005) to conceptualise the
emerging spatial frames and rhythms of assembly politics. The time-spaces of
the event emerge from a particular series of circumstances before reverberating
beyond their original context, reappearing in unexpected forms elsewhere.

In the context of recent movements, traces of the time-spaces of earlier
events have reappeared in subsequent rebellions. Nevertheless, these are always
mediated by a particular series of circumstances and conditions. In recent
protests in Chile, for example, mobilisations have been shaped by extreme
police brutality and the shadow of the Pinochet dictatorship. Ana Tijoux’s
videoclip for the song #Cacerolazo reflects the emerging style in this context.

Importantly, the purpose of Lefebvre’s theory is not simply to provide
a more complex, nuanced understanding of emerging forms of horizontal politics.
Rather, it seeks to critically reflect on how horizontal politics becomes
possible and provide tools to build on the spaces opened up.  In the article, I employ Lefebvre’s theory to
critically reflect on some of the limitations of the time-spaces constituted by
the 15M movement in Spain. I illustrate how placing the emerging time-spaces against
the complex totality from which they emerge sheds light on some of the tensions
and exclusions already identified by feminist scholars such as Marisa Ruiz Trejo and Nancy Wence Partida. Such
critical interrogation does not mean to deny the possibilities opened by the
movements but rather provide tools to expand on them in the future.

The post Henri Lefebvre and the time-spaces of rebellion appeared first on Progress in Political Economy (PPE).

Democrats Aren’t Doing Impeachment Right

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 02/12/2019 - 4:02am in

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Democrats aren’t doing impeachment right.

Impeachment is a political process. It requires a broad base of support to succeed; there’s no way to get to 67 votes in the Senate without overwhelming support from voters of both parties.

The only way you get to the high threshold of popular support necessary to impeach in the House and convict in the Senate is by impeaching based on counts that are clearly proven and undeniable, and that a lot of Americans, not just members of the impeaching party, care about.

The impeachment of Donald Trump should have been based on issues that nobody could deny and that everybody, regardless of which party they belonged to, could see was a major problem.

Most Republicans do not care about Ukraine. Neither do many Democrats! Besides, the issue of intent is far from proven. It’s not a unifying issue for Americans.

I would have gone after him for his bad temperament. Everyone agrees a president should be calm and deliberate. Andrew Johnson was impeached partly because of his nasty disposition, and came one vote from conviction in the Senate. No one would argue that Trump’s personality is presidential.

Child separation would have been powerful. Not even Republicans approve of stealing kids and then losing them.

Emoluments would have worked too. Lining your pockets as president is frowned upon by everyone.

I would have started this process in 2017 so as not to have this current rush job prior to an election campaign. I would have used the courts to compel recalcitrant administration officials to testify; starting in 2017 would have allowed that process to occur.

This impeachment is too little too late. Democrats will regret it.

Trump Gets Away with Stuff Because He Does

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 01/12/2019 - 2:59am in

Image result for trump no apology

            “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters, okay?” Donald Trump said at an Iowa campaign rally in January of 2016. That remark gets quoted, mostly by liberals bemoaning the unquestioning loyalty of the president’s stupid supporters, a lot.

            But there’s another, more interesting, facet of that meme: Trump, it’s clear, can get away with just about anything—impeachment included. He will be impeached without turning a single voter against him.

            Nothing has ever been less deniable than the president’s imperviousness to, well, everything. Trump’s haters hate it, his fans love it, everyone accepts it. A month ago Trump’s lawyers for real argued in open court that, if their client actually were to go on a shooting spree in midtown Manhattan, he couldn’t be charged with a crime until he was no longer president.

            Without enumerating President Trump’s rhetorical offenses and deviations from cultural and political norms, how does he get away with so much? Why doesn’t he lose his base of his electoral support or any of his senatorial allies?

            It’s because of framing and branding. Trump isn’t held accountable because he has never been held accountable. He has never been held accountable because he has never allowed himself to be held accountable.

            Hitler believed that, in a confrontation, the combatant with the strongest inner will had an innate advantage over his opponent. Audacity, tenacity and the ability to keep your nerve under pressure were essential character traits, especially for an individual up against stronger adversaries. Trump never read “Mein Kampf” but he follows the Führer’s prescription for success. He never apologizes. He never admits fault or defeat. He lies his failures into fake successes, reframing history into a narrative that he prefers. It’s all attitude: because I am me, I can do no wrong.

            I’m not a billionaire real estate grifter turned billionaire presidential con man.

            But I get this.

            When I began my career as an editorial cartoonist, I staked out ideological territory far to the left of my older, established colleagues, most of whom were ordinary Democrats. In the alternative weeklies, other cartoonists were as far left as me. But they weren’t syndicated. I went after mainstream daily newspapers. My first two syndication clients were the Philadelphia Daily News and the Los Angeles Times.

            My status as an ideological outlier reduced the number of newspapers willing to publish my work. But the editors who did take a chance on me knew what they were getting and so were able to defend me against ideological attacks. Once they saw that braver papers were publishing my cartoons, moderate publications picked them up too.

            Despite being an unabashed, unrepentant leftist, I became the most reprinted cartoonist in The New York Times. Secretly, many of the “Democratic” cartoonists were as left as me. They were jealous: how had I gotten away with wearing my politics on my sleeve in such bland outlets as The Des Moines Register and The Atlanta Constitution?

            First, I was willing to take some heat. I accepted that I would get fewer clients and thus less income. I insisted on drawing the work I wanted to do, never watering down my politics. If everyone rejected me, that was fine. Better not to appear in print than to do wimpy work. And in the long run, I was better off. There have been rough patches. But progressives have taken over the Democratic Party. I’m one of the few pundits the left can trust for a simple reason: unlike Bill Maher and Arianna Huffington, I have always been one of them, regardless of prevailing winds.

            Second, I developed an unusual drawing style. When I started out most editorial cartoonists mimicked two icons of the 1960s and 1970s, Pat Oliphant and Jeff MacNelly. The “OliNelly” house style of American political cartooning was busy, reliant on caricature and crosshatching. Daily newspaper staffers drew single-panel cartoons structured around metaphors, labels and hoary symbols like Uncle Sam, the Democratic donkey and Republican elephant.

            I did everything the opposite. I drew multiple panels, wrote straightforward scripts inspired by comic strips. My drawing style stripped down to a brutally simple abstract look in which most characters looked almost identical. No metaphors—you didn’t need to learn how to read a Ted Rall cartoon. They weren’t as pretty as MacNelly’s. The chairman of the Pulitzer committee, whose death I shall toast, denied me the prize because I didn’t “draw like a normal editorial cartoonist.” But you knew my stuff wasn’t by anyone else. Branding.

            I created space for myself ideologically and stylistically. So I got away with—still get away with—more than many of my peers.

            Finally, I learned to never apologize.

            Most of the time when a cartoonist apologizes for causing offense, they don’t mean it. Their editors, themselves feeling the heat from an avalanche of letters-to-the-editor and social media opprobrium, force them to say they’re sorry. This I will not do. It’s too undignified.

            Sometimes cartoonists really do screw up. In one particular cartoon I took aim at the president and instead wound up wounding a group of disadvantaged people. So I acted like a human being: I apologized.

            What a mistake! Papers that had stuck with me through previous controversies abandoned me, canceling my work. The group I’d apologized to proclaimed itself satisfied and appealed to the quislings to reconsider, in vain. I learned my lesson. Never apologize, especially when you’re wrong. Americans forgive evil, never weakness.

            With his far longer reach, influence and experience than yours truly, Donald Trump has figured out how to carve out room for himself to run off at the mouth, offend protected groups and defy cherished traditions. No one can make him stop. No one but him. And no one can make him say he’s sorry.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

It May Be Profit Season for US Companies, but Workers Are Left in the Red

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 30/11/2019 - 12:00am in

Today is Black Friday, the start of the holiday shopping season. Retail workers will leave their Thanksgivings early—if they enjoy one at all—to start long shifts for too little pay in order to support the consumer binging that is America’s holiday season. The deals for shoppers may be sweet, and the profits for companies will be exponentially sweeter; but the cost for workers will be steep, a symptom of a sector and economy that are stacked against workers, and especially against women workers. 

The boon of Black Friday and the month of holiday shopping it launches contribute to the retail sector’s role as a pillar of the US economy. In recent decades, however, retail jobs have become increasingly precarious. One in ten US workers have jobs in the retail sector, and over 60 percent of US workers will have a frontline retail job early in their careers. Retail employers chronically pay poorly, and they fail to offer employee benefits and predictable or reliable schedules. The median hourly wage of retail workers is just $11, and one in three jobs in the retail sector are part time. When adjusted for inflation, the average hourly pay for retail workers has fallen by $2 since the early 1970s. 

Meanwhile, the cost of fundamental needs—including goods, housing, transportation, health care, and education—have markedly increased, meaning that all of these trends put a secure and stable life further and further out of reach for retail workers. 

The majority of retail workers you’ll see today and throughout the holiday season will be women, who are disproportionately represented in the lowest-paying retail jobs and in low-wage work more generally. Women are 60 percent of workers in the low-wage workforce, and nearly 70 percent of these workers make less than $10 an hour, with Black and Latinx workers overrepresented in those jobs. As the Center for Popular Democracy illustrated, in general merchandise stores, such as Target and Walmart, women make up more than 80 percent of cashier workers, the lowest-paid position in the sector. In recent years, retail work has become even more precarious for women, who have lost jobs in the retail sector while men have gained them. 

The rush of holiday consumerism that starts today will help to fuel sky-high corporate profits, few of which will trickle down to workers (or toward business investments like innovation that help consumers). But it hasn’t always been like this. There was a time when retail workers were more economically secure and more likely to be able to purchase the goods they were selling for their own families. 

During the mid 1900s, a stronger labor movement meant that many retail employers provided a better workplace experience, including reliable schedules and benefits like vacation days. During this time, 35 percent of all workers were in unions. Today, fewer than 7 percent of all workers and 4.5 percent of retail workers are organized; as a result, workers are far less likely to have jobs with solid pay, schedules, and benefits. 

While secure work has been eroded for retail workers, the people who employ them are doing better and better. Since 1978, CEO pay has grown 940 percent while typical worker compensation has only seen a mere 12 percent bump—though in some industries, it has declined. Last year the 30 highest-paid retail CEOs each made more than $15 million, and many made a lot more than that. While workers of color scrape by, runaway CEO pay lines the pockets of overwhelmingly white men

These trends are not inevitable. They are the result of bad choices made by those in power. One of those choices is the proliferation of stock buybacks, which occur when a company buys back its own shares from the open market and artificially increases share prices. This is a wonky concept that most of us think has little to do with average workers, but many companies are spending billions of dollars on buybacks instead of putting that money toward raising wages for the workers without whom their business would fail. With the money they spent on buybacks in recent years, Starbucks could have increased compensation for its nearly 300,000 workers by $24,729, and Walmart—the country’s largest retailer and the largest private employer of women, Black, and Latinx workers—could have increased the hourly wages of its more than 1 million hourly workers by more than $5 with the $10 billion it spent on buybacks. But they didn’t. 

As millions enjoy the deals of Black Friday, retail workers and their families will pay the price this holiday season and throughout the entire year. It is long past time that employers and our society more broadly put workers—the backbone of US companies and our economy—first. This shift would help ensure that workers aren’t left behind when the rest of us have the chance to save a few bucks.

The post It May Be Profit Season for US Companies, but Workers Are Left in the Red appeared first on Roosevelt Institute.

Managerialism reminds us that security is at the heart of neoliberalism

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 28/11/2019 - 6:00am in

If our contemporary managerial obsession
with all things numerical and quantitative has its roots in military planning
in the 1950s rather than in neoliberal economic policy in the 1980s, then
surely we need to pay more attention to the idea of security in political
economy.

For all of the rich and important insights
that the editors behind this blog
series bring to the table, the question of security is virtually absent.
Instead, the central conclusions that they draw focus primarily on the need to
rethink neoliberal theory and the implications of this analysis for the growing
influence of the managerial class. These are both hugely important insights,
and promise to transform current debates in political economy in significant
ways.

Yet they only skirt around the other
compelling implication of their findings: attempts to define and govern our
security have been at the very core of the proliferation of practices that so
many scholars have defined as central aspects of neoliberalism.

In this short intervention, I want to
explore why we might want to bring the concept of security into this important
conversation about the history and contemporary character of neoliberalism.

Neoliberalism is an addictive concept, as
the editors of this blog series make clear: as scholars, once we start to use
the concept, it is very hard not to see it everywhere, even if it conceals as
much as it reveals about contemporary governance practices.

A case in point: I went to the UK as a
Leverhulme Visiting Professor at SPERI to pursue a project exploring the idea
of “post-neoliberalism.” I arrived in Sheffield highly skeptical of the
relevance of the concept of neoliberalism, based not only on my archival research into
the very messy early days of the Thatcher and Reagan governments, but also on
my fundamental exhaustion with it as an idea.

Yet, after four months of living in the
UK—as both a professor during a REF year and as a mother of two children in
Year 1—I began seeing neoliberalism everywhere, particularly in the elementary
school. Back in Canada, my children were in senior kindergarten, learning
through play. In the UK, they were in a group of children who had already spent
a year and a half in exhausting reading, writing and handwriting drills, as
their wonderful teachers tried to respond to a series of perverse external
targets and metrics designed to ensure the school’s (and the children’s)
competitiveness. Two days before we headed back to Canada, we received an
“amber warning” letter (with the words in orange, no less) indicating that our
children’s attendance level had dropped to 95.2% (because they spent two days
home with nasty colds), which was below the school’s target of 97%.

As sad as I was to leave the UK and its
dynamic intellectual community after our four months there, I also felt
relieved to be escaping a life in which a kind of self-governing,
performance-driven neoliberal subjectivity had taken over everyday life to such
an extraordinary extent.

Of course, the question that Dutta, Knafo,
Lovering, Lane and Wyn-Jones would ask is whether this obsession with
competition, quantification and performance evaluation is in fact an example of
neoliberalism on steroids, or the product of a very different kind of
systems-planning, with its roots in military planning in the 1950s, rather than
in neoliberal economic policy in the 1980s.

This is a brilliant question to be
asking—and their asking it here and in Knafo’s fantastic recent article
in RIPE has definitely caused me to
reassess the way that I think about neoliberalism. And yet, at the end of the
day, I’m not sure that this project goes quite far enough—in challenging the
imperialism of the concept of neoliberalism, in forcing us to reconceptualize
it in very significant ways, and in breaking down the boundaries between
security and economy.

After all, why should we have to choose
between neoliberalism and managerialist military planning as the key forces
behind the will to govern performance? Isn’t neoliberalism at least in part a
logic of governing that helps to define and manage both “the economy” and “the
military” through a particular preoccupation with the problem of security? 

In my own recent
research
, I have found it enormously useful to draw on some of the insights
of critical security studies to help make sense of the many complex ways that
states have used claims of exceptionalism and emergency to respond to economic
crises.

At the risk of being labeled a
“Foucauldian” (I am a fan, but not a true believer), it’s worth remembering how
he links neoliberalism and liberalism to the problem of security. In both Security, Territory, Population and The Birth of Biopolitics, Foucault
traces the rise of a new logic of governance, beginning in the eighteenth
century, which is preoccupied with the health—and security—of a population.
This is a form of governance that uses the emerging science of statistics to
track and guide the well-being of people, things and money.

He points to the emergence of a new form of power that has the population as its target, political economy as its major form of knowledge, and apparatuses of security as its essential technical instrument.

Political economic knowledge, combined with
the new power of statistical measurement, provided a way of governing at a
distance: tracing the flows of supply and demand, the circulation of diseases,
the rise and fall of mortality, and the possibilities and risks of conflict. Of
course, this logic shifts once more in interesting ways as liberalism is reborn
as neoliberalism, and the logic of governing becomes more interventionist as
key figures seek to construct market-like mechanisms in all kinds of unexpected
places. But the central logic remains that of managing the population’s
security (at least as it is defined by some) through the rationality of
political economy.

What might this brief foray into French
philosophy tells us about the rise of the kind of managerialism that this
forum’s editors have so effectively linked to military planning—not to mention
about my children’s introduction to the British education system?

If nothing else, it reminds us that
security and political economy are far more deeply linked to each other than is
suggested by our conventional categories of “military” and “economy.”[1]
Even if we trace the influence of a particular kind of governing through
quantification to a set of military planners and think tanks, these practices
of planning are themselves always already implicated in a particular form of
knowledge that seeks to manage the security of a population through political
economic rationality.[2]

That does not mean that there is some kind
of coherent economic logic that permeates all of these various security
practices—instead, it should make us more aware of the messiness and
incoherence of all attempts to govern through numbers. The problems of
sovereignty, economy and security have always been linked in complex and often
inconsistent ways.

What might these insights into the
centrality of security bring to the rich and original work that the editors of
this blog series on the central and unacknowledged role of managerialism and
its links with military planning? How might they help us reconceptualize
neoliberalism in ways that overcome some of the limits of contemporary
political economic scholarship?

Rather than providing any definitive
answers at this stage, I want to suggest that these insights might enable us to
ask different questions. When we see security, population, and economy as
linked, we are able to recognize the mobility of certain governance
rationalities and practices. Rather than assuming that a new variation in
neoliberal practice can be traced back to certain economic thinkers,
policymakers or politicians, we can instead look beyond conventional economic
categories and actors to trace a wider network of governance practices.

In my last
book
on governing international development, for example, I sought to
understand shifting strategies of governance in the 1990s which were connected
to a preoccupation with managing risk, measuring results, fostering new standards
and mitigating the possibility of failure—all strategies that have clear
affinities with the forms of managerialism that the editors of this blog
discuss. Although I didn’t dig deeply enough into the possible role of military
thinking in this analysis (I realize in retrospect!), it became very clear to
me that it is impossible to study contemporary changes in development theory
and practice without realizing that security in all of its many meanings is a
central preoccupation (and there is a large literature on the securitization of
development that makes this clear). Yet we rarely see these linkages when we
study the Global North’s political economy.

Why should we assume that this kind of
complex multi-layered set of techniques for governing a population is only
applicable in the Global South? Clearly, it is not. Which means that we
shouldn’t be too surprised to find security, economy and sovereignty linked up
in new and seemingly irrational forms today (think Brexit and neoliberalism,
Trump’s capitalist nationalism, or Thatcher’s strong state and free economy).

Perhaps the kinds of metrics that my children
and British colleagues were being trained to meet were the product of a strong
state seeking manage an unruly population (6 year-olds and academics being both
especially unruly subjects) using the techniques developed to fight wars and
maintain an empire. Perhaps they were about fostering forms of neoliberal
self-governance and enterprise in a globalizing economy. Perhaps they were
both—and in ways that cannot ever be fully separated but that we urgently need
to spend more time trying to understand.

[1]   I owe many of these insights into the limits
of these conventional categories to conversations with Liam Stanley during my
time at SPERI.

[2]   Louise Amoore beautifully illustrates these dynamics in her book, The Politics of Possibility, which includes a discussion of how the British government hired the accounting firm, Price Waterhouse, during the Second World War to develop metrics for the rationing system that would be necessary for the war effort. Amoore, The Politics of Possibility: Risk and Security Beyond Probability. Durham: Duke University Press, 2013, Chapter 1.

The post Managerialism reminds us that security is at the heart of neoliberalism appeared first on Progress in Political Economy (PPE).

If There’s a Warrant for Your Arrest, the Government Should Have to Tell You

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 26/11/2019 - 10:27am in

Image result for outstanding warrants

            There ought to be a law.

            I read about Eric Barrier, half of the classic rap duo Eric B. and Rakim, and how he recently wound up in jail. The story is interesting not because it’s unusual but because it’s typical.

            Without getting into the weeds of his original 2002 offense because that would distract from my point here, Barrier’s lawyer told him to skip his sentencing hearing because his presence wasn’t required.

            Wrong. Unbeknownst to Barrier, New Jersey authorities had issued a warrant for his arrest. “More than 17 years passed before he first learned of the warrant, from law enforcement authorities in Vermont when he came into the United States from Canada last month,” according to The New York Times. In October Barrier presented himself to court officials, who promptly arrested him. He was freed on bail November 12. Weeks in prison! I’m 99% sure he would have addressed the issue if he’d known about it.

            This is a common problem. Every day, courts across the United States issue thousands of arrest warrants for crimes ranging from serious felonies to offenses as minor as failing to pay a parking ticket, jaywalking or not renewing a dog license. Millions of Americans have outstanding warrants. In 2016, there were 1.5 million warrants for New Yorkers—one out of six residents of the city.

            The vast majority have no idea they’re wanted.

            “Most jurisdictions around the nation are doing nothing with warrants like this. Nothing,” said Professor David Kennedy of John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Criminals and innocent citizens alike conduct their daily routines oblivious of the sword of Damocles hanging over their heads until they get pulled over for a traffic stop or otherwise come into contact with a police officer. The computer spits out their name, handcuffs get slapped on and off they go, sucked into the system.

            When it’s a rapist or a murderer, that’s great. But does a system that only snags rapists and murderers who don’t make full stops and drive over the speed limit make sense?

            It’s not so great to arrest and process people who committed minor offenses, many of whom would have happily paid their old tickets if the state didn’t keep them ignorant about their legal peril.

            Many friends I talked to about this subject told me that they or someone they knew had been arrested on a warrant they’d never heard of. It’s hardly surprising. About 7 million Americans are driving around with their licenses suspended because municipalities believe they owe money for unpaid parking tickets or moving violations. Many of them have no idea they are a single traffic stop away from a seriously bad day.

            I got a speeding ticket and paid the fine, on time. But the municipality didn’t credit me. I had my canceled check so I assumed I was in the clear. Later, when I was pulled over for something different, the officer informed me that my license had been pulled over the “unpaid” ticket—the DMV never notified me of the suspension, and no, I hadn’t moved—so the cop arrested me and took me to the station for an hour or two. Setting things straight ultimately cost me thousands of dollars in attorney fees.

            Warrants and license suspensions can be life-changing events. What if you get nabbed on your way to pick up your child from school and they take away your phone while you’re being booked? Given how disruptive warrants are, not just to civilians but also to law enforcement officers who should be chasing actual criminals, there ought to be a federal law mandating that states and local municipalities send notices via the mail to the last or most likely address for people wanted for arrest or whose driving privileges have been suspended. Notices should be mailed repeatedly, at least annually, to give people a chance to make things right.

            Police departments and other government agencies have massive comprehensive universal databases, some with facial recognition and DNA, that make it possible for them to find almost anyone in the United States if they really want to.

            So why don’t issuers of arrest warrants tap into these resources? The cynic in me has an answer: governments make millions of dollars by dunning scofflaws with additional fines, fees and bail. That’s a revenue stream that would vanish if most people knew they owed cash and where to send it in to settle their debt.

            If Congress acts, life will get a little easier. More importantly, it will restore a bit of the faith Americans have lost in our government and public officials.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

Review of 2019 Wheelwright Lecture with Susanne Soederberg

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 26/11/2019 - 8:38am in

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Last month, Professor Susanne Soederberg from the Department of Global Development Studies at Queen’s University in Canada spoke about the political economy of rental housing at the 2019 12th Annual Wheelwright Lecture, delivering a powerful message of social struggle and political mismanagement about housing. A tale of three cities (Berlin, Vienna and Dublin), the lecture entitled ‘Governing Spaces of Surplus and Survival in Urban Capitalism’ traced the dystopian lives and counter-struggles of the urban working class.

Housing is not just a commodity for profiteering investors, but the real environment in which the labour sector lives and reproduces itself. The conditions of housing translate to the broader circumstances of the reproduction of everyday life, especially the lower-income working class. Rental housing is a reality for most people and has been a heightened one since the 1980’s, Professor Soederberg argued, using the examples of Berlin, Dublin and Vienna.

The analysis was gripping. Housing policies were traditionally aimed at stability and affordability before the rise of neoliberal governments in the late twentieth-century. Housing is now viewed as a profitable thing based on exchange value, rather than as defining it as a political issue of use value, or even as a human right. As the incomes of Western economies stagnate, most have turned to rental housing as the prospect of home ownership becomes increasingly remote. The effects of rental housing are never fully considered, no matter how serious they are. Housing renters experience (but do not recognise) soft forms of oppression constantly, but to opt out of these oppressive arrangements (an option which is not possible is even less feasible. To be displaced is not simply to be a person without a specific commodity, a home is a staple of human life. Humans do the majority of their eating, sleeping,and social reproduction within housing. There is also a sentimental value that we all attach to these places. Professor Soederberg referred to it as ‘the barracks of labour’. This elicits the old line from the Australian comedy film The Castle that “It’s not a house, it’s a home”. To be displaced is to be deprived of this. Of course, displacement is more than just being homeless or sleeping on the street. Professor Soederberg defined those who sleep in non-permanent accommodation for a sustained period (i.e., couch surfers, hotel residents) as displaced, experiencing a specific form of ‘invisible displacement’. People who are also trapped in cycles of over-indebtedness are displaced. Professor Soederberg made an interesting point throughout all this: these problems and the failure to deal with them are not the exception, but the new normal.

The three cities exemplify Professor Soederberg’s arguments. Dublin had a fast-growing economy for a long period in the late twentieth-century and an adequate standard of living. Ireland in this time was referred to as the ‘Celtic Tiger’. From 1995 to 2007, homelessness and unemployment in the city grew and living conditions for this ‘surplus population’ were generally low. This all occurred in a setting of increased government privatisation of public housing and spending cuts on social housing (specifically, by 72%). From 2008 to 2017, the social housing waiting list grew to over 50,000 people in Dublin alone. Similarly, in Vienna, housing fell from a period of stability to crisis when the government cancelled its social housing program, which made up 25% of the city’s housing in favour of Limited Profit Housing Associations. Furthermore, a high migrant population of up to 44% in Vienna has made finding job security difficult and incomes are low, adding to the struggle of affordable rent. Finally, in Berlin, the increasing cost of rent and precarious employment has resulted in rising displacement. Berlin also seen a high intake of refugees in 2015 of up to 55,000, albeit reduced to 16,000 in the following year.

Managing housing is of even more importance than most already think. Housing is not just a comfort, but a necessity to survive. People need it to function; they can’t achieve much if they are depleted and exhausted. In this sense, housing is more of an economic issue than previously envisaged, It can affect the productivity of the labour that an economy needs to actually produce and reproduce. Governing urban living spaces efficiently can have a massive effect on the whole of society, even if these effects go unnoticed. Governing so that rental housing becomes cheap and accessible (or even better so that it is no longer the dominant form of housing) would tackle displacement and prevent the human deprivations that are symbolised by displacement.

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Lecturer in Political Economy, University of Sydney

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 25/11/2019 - 10:41am in
  • Opportunity to join a leading social sciences school
  • Located at our Camperdown /Darlington campus
  • Continuing Academic Level B position and remuneration package $125,848 – $149,441 p.a which includes leave loading and up to 17% superannuation

About the opportunity  

The School of Social and Political Sciences (SSPS) is seeking to appoint a Lecturer (Level B) in the Department of Political Economy. This lectureship will further consolidate SSPS as a key centre for research and teaching in political economy. The successful appointee will teach at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, pursue an independent research agenda while contributing to strategic research priorities, and play a role in initiating new strategic research and teaching initiatives within the school, faculty and University.

Staff in the Department of Political Economy conduct research on globalisation, development, the environment, energy, labour, gender, race, history of economic thought, neoliberalism, public policy, human rights, markets and finance. They work in a variety of traditions (including post-Keynesian, Marxian, feminist, and institutionalist perspectives) across a number of discipline areas (including economic history, the history of economic thought, economic sociology, geography, international political economy, development studies and labour studies). 

About you 

The University values courage and creativity; openness and engagement; inclusion and diversity; and respect and integrity. As such, we see the importance of recruiting talent aligned to these values and are looking for a Lecturer in Political Economy who possesses: 

  • A PhD in political economy or a cognate field;
  • An ambitious research agenda with a track record of significant publications;
  • Teaching experience at the undergraduate, and, ideally, the postgraduate level;
  • The ability to teach into core undergraduate units in the political economy curriculum;
  • Strong communication, collegial and team-based skills.

About us 

The School of Social and Political Sciences (SSPS) is composed of the departments of Anthropology, Government and International Relations, Peace and Conflict Studies, Political Economy, and Sociology and Social Policy. It offers innovative degrees at undergraduate and postgraduate levels that attract the very best students from Australia and overseas. SSPS is the focus for the strategic development of the social sciences at Sydney with a view to becoming Australia’s leading centre for research and teaching in the area. The mission of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences is to conduct research and teaching across the breadth of the humanities and social sciences that makes a difference in the lives of its students, staff and the broader Community, in Australia and globally. Since our inception 160 years ago, the University of Sydney has led to improve the world around us. We believe in education for all and that effective leadership makes lives better. These same values are reflected in our approach to diversity and inclusion, and underpin our long-term strategy for growth. We’re Australias first university and have an outstanding global reputation for academic and research excellence. Across our campuses, we employ over 7600 academic and non-academic staff who support over 60,000 students. We are undergoing significant transformative change which brings opportunity for innovation, progressive thinking, breaking with convention, challenging the status quo, and improving the world around us.

Intending applicants are welcome to seek further information about the position from the Chair of Department, Professor Martijn Konings at martijn.konings@sydney.edu.au 

For recruitment-related enquiries, or if you require reasonable adjustment or support filling out this application, please contact Nicole Feain / Paulina Rojas on 02 8627 8615 or at recruitment.ablc@sydney.edu.au

Job Reference No. 2581/1119C 

Routine pre-employment probity checks will be carried out for this position. 

Closing date: 11:30pm, Monday 6 January 2020 

The University of Sydney is committed to diversity and social inclusion. Applications from people of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds; equity target groups including women, people with disabilities, people who identify as LGBTIQ; and people of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent, are encouraged. 

The University reserves the right not to proceed with any appointment.

How to apply

https://sydney.nga.net.au/cp/index.cfm?event=jobs.jati&returnToEvent=jobs.home&jobID=DC06E95C-CD44-4877-983D-AB0D00F5A9D3&audienceTypeCode=EXT&UseAudienceTypeLanguage=1

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The political economy of equity for Artists

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 23/11/2019 - 3:55am in

On 13 November, Creative United, an offshoot of Arts Council England, hosted an ‘unconference’ at Somerset House in London to announce a new report on The Future of the Art Market written by Lucy Rose Sollitt.

What, you might ask, does the future of the art market have to do with political economy? In fact, this is the topic I tried to cover in one of the three fire-starter five-minute talks at the unconference. In short, in the age of Citizens United and money in politics, the equity structures being explored in the art market could alter conversations around everything from the student debt crisis to the broad economic disenfranchisement that some attribute to causing Brexit or the rise of Mr. Trump.

At first blush, the art market is very boring. And elitist. And esoteric. It is a less exciting version of the excellent circa 1980s American game show The Price Is Right, where contestants try to guess the right price for an outdoor grill or a brand new car without going over. In the case of the art market, bidders with paddles, or their phone-bidding designees out of central casting, have to go over. They have to be the person in the room willing to spend the very most if they are to walk home with the priceless work of art and what auction theorists call the “winner’s curse”—knowing you won but almost surely overpaid.

So the art market becomes a price tag—sometimes a gut-wrenching one as when a now discredited Leonardo da Vinci (Salvator Mundi) sold in 2017 for $450.3 million or when a Jeff Koons balloon dog sold in 2013 for $58.4 million—which the art economist Don Thompson noted was almost exactly equivalent to spending on Ebola eradication and research across all U.S. government agencies. Artists struggle economically, making on average $20,000 to $30,000 per year.

Enter new equity models. These models ask a simple but fundamental question which is: What would the art market look like from an artist’s point of view? One answer is: very frustrating. The canonical story is of the American artist Robert Rauschenberg who sold an artwork Thaw to the American collectors Robert and Ethel Scull in 1959 for $900. The work sold through the famous art dealer Leo Castelli. By custom, the dealer kept half and the artist received the other $450. In 1973, when the Sculls were acrimoniously divorcing, Thaw sold at auction for $85,000. None of the increase in value went to the artist. Rauschenberg famously turned up at the auction, probably a few drinks in, and playfully shoved Scull.

The story is of course not so simple. Scull looks like a villain here, but he was also the silent backer of another gallery of the time, Green Gallery. It was Scull who paid artist Dan Flavin’s lightbulb bills well before he was famous but when the lighting company sent letters to Flavin’s gallery threatening to cut the artist off. And Rauschenberg’s story doesn’t really start in 1959. Even by 1953, Rauschenberg and his fellow traveler Jasper Johns were already showing up to cold-water flats to make art. And Rauschenberg’s first show with Castelli—which sounds so fancy now—actually only saw one artwork sell, and only because Castelli bought it himself. (That artwork Bed (1955) would be donated by Castelli to the Museum of Modern Art in 1989—after MoMA had failed to collect Rauschenberg’s work early enough, and at a time Castelli could give away an $11 million work, while of course also cementing his artist’s place in the canon.)

Rauschenberg’s story is used to explain the Artist Resale Right, an amount of money that goes back to the artist when an artwork is resold. The United States does not have a resale right. The United Kingdom has had one since 2006. During that time, DACS, the UK-rights-management body, has distributed £80 million across thousands of artists. In 2018, DACS distributed £18 million to over 58,000 artists, as compared to the £12 million given in 2018 by the Arts Council England’s Grants for the Arts (‘project grants’) visual arts category.

The key part of this story is equity. Equity is a way of managing the uncertainty of markets by granting ownership rights to the upside that might be created. Equity is a deeply risky financial instrument but also an optimistic one. If things go well, you get to participate in that future.

Equity is a profound tool in an age of staggering wealth and income disparity and at a time of deep structural critique of Neoliberalism. The democratic primary to the 2020 U.S. Presidential election has seen Senators Warren and Sanders promise to forgive student debt. Forgiving the estimated $1.5 trillion in student debt would change a whole generation of lives, exactly up to the students who go to university next year, at the universities still structured on tuition. The infrastructure is not built for a radical shift from debt to free any more than a human body is built to go from habitual intoxication to cold turkey. The system does not need to be flushed clean. It needs to be rebuilt. The cost structure of universities and the means of creating sustainable support need to be designed and reassembled—really in the manner of an art project itself. Some universities are starting to experiment with income-sharing agreements where students pay for college by promising a future share in their income.

Here is where equity comes in. Equity is a way of recognizing value that cannot priced in and using property rights to contain the value, while we figure out what it is worth. Equity is a way of dealing with things like education that are not a form of consumption but a form of investment. Equity serves art in a similar way because creative work is also a form of investment. The term “value creation” has been sucked dry of meaning but it is actually the engine of the economy.

So what the art market has to offer political economy is a testing ground for whether what Will Davies calls “the disenchantment of politics by economics” can be settled by the reimagination of economics from consumption to investment. If the art market can start to model fractional equity systems, the larger society can take them on board too. For instance, if Rauschenberg sold an artwork for $100, he could instead sell it for $90, take $40 and retain 10% equity. That 10% share would mean that he would have been paid by Mr. Scull. It also means that he has a property right during that stretch of years from 1959 to 1973 that he could turn around and resell.

If we look at inequality, most of it comes from equity. Wealth is mostly generated by ownership of equity not by pay of salary or other consumption or rent-based means. The wealthiest people in the world—Gates, Bezos, and so on—are wealthy because they owned things. They owned upside in the risks they took. (We could have a sidebar policy conversation about how their companies should pay tax and I agree with Anand Giridharadas here that philanthropy is not a reliable replacement for government.)

But what we can isolate is the odd nexus of the following:

Being an artist is a proxy for being a citizen, because the nature of being an artist is to think independently and thinking independently is the greatest lever of power in any democracy, possibly the only lever of power that really matters.

Being an equity holder is also a form of being a citizen because one owns one’s own place in the republic. One shows up and is counted. One has a share in the collective enterprise.

In the next ten years, blockchain technology and other means will give us wildly kaleidoscopic tools for redesigning financial instruments as civic tools. We can create new community currencies that distribute equity from scratch to level playing fields. We can use equity tools to create reparations—for slavery in the United States and for theft of indigenous property anywhere. We can use shared equity tools to represent the idea that value creation is rarely a solo enterprise. We can model the government as an investor in the body politic. More people can become equity holders—in all senses—in the art project that is democracy.

These tools are speculative but possibly the only avenue of antivenom and progress to the Citizens-United world order of money in politics and robot dystopian futures of universal basic income, sort of. Equity is not a handout. It is an invitation of belonging writ in financial form.

So perhaps the art market will continue to be a paddle-raise at the upper end, but will quietly see artists come together to build these equity systems, to pool them together into cooperative investment trusts, and to quietly expand out a notion of citizen-belonging that uses tools of ownership, however imperfectly, to reclaim principles of democracy.

(In the meantime there is PLINKO.)

Amy Whitaker is Assistant Professor of Visual Arts Administration at NYU and currently a visiting researcher at PERC.

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