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Part Two of Surveillance Capitalism at the Limits to Economic Growth – social controls through digital infrastructures have bio-physical limits

Part Two of Surveillance Capitalism at the Limits to Economic Growth – social controls through digital infrastructures have bio-physical limits

Part Two

For Shoshana Zuboff, to be human involves using one’s will to shape one’s own future. In this respect she draws on the philosopher Hannah Arendt. Arendt analysed the totalitarianism of Nazi Germany and saw the frustration of the will of each person to shape their future as crucial to her analysis of totalitarianism. For Arendt the will is “the organ for the future.” In Chapter Eleven Zuboff uses the writing of her book – or her commitment to write it – as an example of what it means “to have a claim to the future tense”. 

“Just as the past always presents itself to the mind in the guise of certainty, the future’s main characteristic is its basic uncertainty, no matter how high a degree of probability prediction may attain.”….with freedom of will we undertake action that is entirely contingent on our determination to see our project through. These are acts that we could have left undone but for our commitment. “A will that is not free”, Arendt concludes, “is a contradiction in terms.”

Zuboff adds: “The freedom of will is the existential bone structure that carries the moral flesh of every promise and my insistence on its integrity is not an indulgence in nostalgia or a random privileging of the pre digital human story as somehow more truly human. This is the only kind of freedom that we can guarantee ourselves, no matter what the weight of entropy or inertia….These bones are the necessary condition for the possibility of civilisation as a ‘moral milieu’ that favours the dignity of the individual and respects the distinctively human capacities for dialogue and problem solving. Any person, idea or practice that breaks these bones and tears this flesh robs us of a self authored and we-authored future” (p331)

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Work in a World Without Growth

WORK IN A WORLD WITHOUT GROWTH

A fixation with growth in economics has seen GDP increase in proportion to environmental damage. As planetary limits draw ever closer and are even being surpassed, such a model cannot be sustained. Riccardo Mastini explains how a job guarantee could open up the way to a sustainable economic model.

Since the dawn of capitalism, market economies have placed a high emphasis on labour productivity. Continuous improvements in technology geared towards productivity increases lead to more output being produced for a given amount of labour. But crucially these advances also mean that fewer people are needed to produce the same amount of goods and services each year. As long as the economy expands fast enough to offset increases in labour productivity there is no problem. But if the economy does not grow, people lose their jobs.

Economic growth has been necessary within this system just to prevent mass unemployment. Communities and the politicians that represent them celebrate the construction of a new factory not so much for the increase in supply of some needed product, but because of the jobs it creates. In advanced economies, the shortage of employment has become more pressing than the shortage of products. Basically, we produce goods and services mostly to keep people employed rather than to cater for their needs.

But what if economic growth were to slow down and, eventually, come to a halt in the near future? More than half a century of ‘growth propaganda’ supporting the dogma that pursuing never-ending growth is plausible and desirable may make this new prospect shocking for some. However, there is now overwhelming evidence that  decoupling GDP growth from increases in natural resource and energy use is impossible. And our plundering of Earth’s bounty has already reached unsustainable levels with the overshot of several planetary boundaries.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

To be or not to be the change

To be or not to be the change

Coming up on Small Farm Future – some posts on the hows and whys of social transformation towards more sustainable societies, which have been prefigured in recent posts like this one on ‘self-systemic’ agriculture and my previous one on utopias – perhaps particularly in relation to the ensuing discussion about individualism and collectivism. Here, I’ll look at the question of transformation via personal consumption choices in societies of mass consumption, which I touched on a while back. That discussion prompted Peter Kalmas, climate scientist and author of Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution to get in touch and kindly send me his book.

Maybe first I should set out a brief position statement. As I see it, the world is beset with enormous inequities, creating a lot of human misery, and looming environmental crises, creating yet more human (and non-human) misery. The dominant paradigm for tackling these problems involves lifting people out of poverty through growing the capitalist global economy, and mitigating the environmental problems caused by this economic growth through technical innovation. I don’t think this will work on either count – it won’t lift many people out of poverty and it won’t succeed in mitigating environmental problems. If we continue down this path, it seems to me likely that there will be major breakdowns in human social systems and in the Earth’s biophysical systems. In fact, there already are. These may proliferate in all sorts of surprising and dystopian ways, but I don’t see much point in speculating about how such ‘collapse’ scenarios may unfold. I do see a point in speculating about alternative scenarios that may create better outcomes, and in particular about how such scenarios may emerge from present social processes, because that may give some kind of a handle on how to increase the probability of those better outcomes occurring. So that, generally speaking, is what I want to focus my writing around.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The movement to replace neoliberalism is on the ascendency – where should it go next?

Ten years after the crash, the movement to replace neoliberalism is in the ascendency. Well organised campaigns cover everything from the promotion of pluralism in economic curricula to the application of new economic principles in local communities. Academics and campaigners, who prior to the crash were lone voices in the wind, have been joined by a growing chorus of economists and commentators acknowledging that neoliberalism is not working. Importantly, these now include those in mainstream institutions that have become synonymous with the status quo, such as the IMF and OECD. Meanwhile, bottom up movements, surfing a heady mix of social media and dissatisfaction with orthodox economic ideas, are beginning to score political victories across the world.

This is because neoliberalism – the broad set of political-economic ideas and policies which have dominated public life over the last 40 years – has failed, in both theory and in practice. It is in the wake of the global financial crisis that these failures have plumbed new depths. Financial instability looms over economies shackled by insufficient investment. Living standards stagnate and work becomes ever more insecure, shattering the implicit bargain of the entire endeavour. The human costs of this experiment have been enormous, with psychological and non-communicable ill-health becoming the hallmark of a system that cares for little but profit. Inequality, itself linked to ill-health, has grown to levels unseen since the nineteenth century, leading to large power imbalances throughout society. Socio-economic mobility has been further stalled by the erosion of the public realm, from universities to the legal system. Most pressingly, neoliberalism continues to rely on a growth model that is destroying the biophysical preconditions upon which it relies, increasing the chance of collapse in the climate and other natural systems.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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