Table of Contents below the fold (some articles online). Continue reading
Douglas Rushkoff has written a new book–Life Inc— about the rise of corporatism begun in the Renaissance. Here’s a blurb:
Taking on some of the biggest assumptions of our age, this is a book filled with dangerous ideas and rather unspeakable heresies(?!):
- Money is not a part of nature, to be studied by a science like economics, but an invention with a specific purpose.
- Centralized currency is just one kind of money – one not intended to promote transactions but to promote the accumulation of capital by the wealthy.
- Banking is our society’s biggest industry, and debt is our biggest product.
- Corporations were never intended to promote commerce, but to prevent it.
- The development of chartered corporations and centralized currency caused the plague; the economic devastation ended Europe’s most prosperous centuries, and led to the deaths of half of its population.
- The more money we make, the more debt we have actually created.
- Most importantly, Rushkoff shows how this moment of financial crisis is actually an opportunity to reinstate commerce and communities based in creating value for one another, rather than continuing to extract it for the benefit of institutions that no longer exist.
Well, ok. Not all that original (I think Marx clearly saw this , for one example), but Rushkoff has a nice way of popularizing and distilling ideas for the general reader and it just may be decent summer reading. Here’s Rushkoff talking about his new book:
Here is a rather cynical, but amusing (if not simultaneously depressing and horrifying) take on academic (capitalist) life (unless of course it’s merely intended as some sort of satire, then it’s even more amusing to me):
I recently defended my dissertation in English at a land-grant institution in the Midwest. Our department’s national reputation plunges every year as the new hires get weirder and their expertise more esoteric. Ph.D. degrees from our department, unless you’re female or a minority, don’t provide much value in the marketplace. Even if you do fit into one of those desirable categories, you’re probably screwed and headed to a $40,000-a-year job — much less if you get one of those stunningly low-paid, visiting-professor gigs.Most professors in my department express nothing but contempt for both graduate students and undergraduates. In a recent faculty meeting, professors lamented that the number of graduate students in the department had dipped below acceptable levels. Faculty members faced the prospect of canceled graduate seminars and the horrific likelihood of having to teach two (count ’em!) undergraduate courses a semester. Tsk, tsk. Literary scholarship as we know it might cease to exist, plunging the world into postapocalyptic chaos. Meanwhile the casualty rate of the department’s graduate students on the tenure-track job market approaches that of the British at the Somme. Continue reading
But I don’t want to smack him around. At least I don’t think so. Really. Regardless, this is an interesting story, perhaps as a lesson on how not to pick a fight, but it raises some interesting questions. So, while shopping for shoes on Hamra Street in Beirut (Hamra is a rather cosmopolitan district in Beirut), Christopher Hitchens managed to get his ass kicked by members of the Syrian Socialist National Party last month. Why? For defacing a SSNP sign. The logo of the SSNP looks eerily like a swastika. Michael Totten (who was with Hitchens) describes it:
The Syrian Social Nationalist Party flags had been taken down, but a commemorative marker was still there. It was made of metal and plastic and had the semi-permanence of an official “No Parking” sign. SSNP member Khaled Alwan shot two Israeli soldiers with a pistol in 1982 after they settled their bill at the now-defunct Wimpy café on that corner, and the sign marked the spot…Christopher wanted to pull down their marker, but couldn’t. He stuck to his principles, though, and before I could stop him he scribbled “No, no, F*** the SSNP” in the bottom-right corner with a black felt-tipped pen. I blinked several times. Was he really insulting the Syrian Social Nationalist Party while they might be watching? Neither Christopher nor Jonathan seemed to sense what was coming, but my own danger signals went haywire.
An angry young man shot across Hamra Street as though he’d been fired out of a cannon. “Hey!” he yelled as he pointed with one hand and speed-dialed for backup on his phone with the other. Continue reading
Given this poll, it’s not surprising to hear about this:
BATON ROUGE — A national organization of scientists has informed Gov. Bobby Jindal it will not hold its annual convention in Louisiana as long as the recently adopted Science Education Act remains on the books.
The Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology told Jindal in a recent letter that its executive committee chose Salt Lake City for its 2011 convention over New Orleans “in large part” because of the legislation. Satterlie’s letter is posted on the group’s Web site under the headline: “No Thanks, New Orleans.” Continue reading
Via Eurozine. An interesting article, “The society of the query and the Googlization of our lives,” suggests we suffer from information overload and paints a rather dismal picture:
Ordinary people have hijacked strategic resources and are clogging up once carefully policed media channels. Before the Internet, the mandarin classes rested on the idea that they could separate “idle talk” from “knowledge”. With the rise of Internet search engines it is no longer possible to distinguish between patrician insights and plebeian gossip. The distinction between high and low, and their co-mingling on occasions of carnival, belong to a bygone era and should no longer concern us. Nowadays an altogether new phenomenon is causing alarm: search engines rank according to popularity, not truth. Continue reading
In the introduction to Unmaking the University: The Forty Year Assault on the Middle Class Christopher Newfield asks:
…why would the university and its graduates, the supposed leaders of the knowledge society, have less cultural and economic latitude–to say nothing of influence–than they had had in the “industrial” society prior to 1980? My answer, which I lay out in the following pages, centers on the sucess of the Right in the culture wars. The Right’s culture warriors did not openly attack the economic position of the middle class, but they did attack the university, but they did attack the university. In doing so they created the conditions for repeated budget cuts to the core middle class institution. More fundamentally, they discredited the cultural conditions of mass-middle-class development, downsized the influence of its leading institution, the university, and reduced the social and political impacts of knowledge workers overall (11).
It’s always the RIght’s fault. Such is life under the guise of “fast capitalism” and let’s not forget the economic doctrine of “neo-liberalism” which views the market as the best way to determine production and meet our needs. Ahem.
More musings on the economic state of things–this time from the perspective of Virilio. In a sort of (maybe) interesting article –with the inexplicable title “City of Transformation: Virilio in Obama’s America”– Arthur and Marilouise Kroker ask if “we are beyond Speed and Politics:”
Economists are quoted as saying the financial crisis effects “everyone on earth.” Is this Virilio’s “global accident?” Quite certainly it is panic finance: that moment when the credit mechanisms necessary for capitalist liquidity slam shut, a time made to measure for Virilio’s brilliant theory of bunker archeology, with each bank its own toxic bunker of junk assets, each banker a born again socialist. For example, always vigilant automatic circuit breakers working in the darkness of night recently prevented a global plunge of the futures market. Allan Greenspan throws up his hands, exclaiming “I’m in shocked disbelief.” Continue reading
This morning I was clicking around in the quasi-harmless trade journal The Chronicle of Higher Education and I came across an opinion piece entitled, “America’s Most Overrated Product: the Bachelor’s Degree.” The author, Marty Nemko concludes “College is a wise choice for far fewer people than are currently encouraged to consider it.” But that’s getting ahead of ourselves, here’s the beginning:
Among my saddest moments as a career counselor is when I hear a story like this: “I wasn’t a good student in high school, but I wanted to prove that I can get a college diploma. I’d be the first one in my family to do it. But it’s been five years and $80,000, and I still have 45 credits to go.”
I have a hard time telling such people the killer statistic: Among high-school students who graduated in the bottom 40 percent of their classes, and whose first institutions were four-year colleges, two-thirds had not earned diplomas eight and a half years later. That figure is from a study cited by Clifford Adelman, a former research analyst at the U.S. Department of Education and now a senior research associate at the Institute for Higher Education Policy. Yet four-year colleges admit and take money from hundreds of thousands of such students each year!
Even worse, most of those college dropouts leave the campus having learned little of value, and with a mountain of debt and devastated self-esteem from their unsuccessful struggles. Continue reading