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inkwell.vue.407 : Sasha Lilley, "Capital and Its Discontents: Conversations with Radical Thinkers in a Time of Tumult"
permalink #26 of 131: David Wilson (dlwilson) Thu 12 May 11 12:11
    
I've got an anecdote to piggyback onto Gary's post.  A few years ago I
was standing in line to pay a parking ticket.  Some guy was chatting
up the woman clerk and hitting on her.  I went up and complained that
there is a long line and they were taking up everyone's time with their
private interaction.  Both the clerk and the guy were offended.  We
got into a raised voices conversation and the guy leveled what he
thought was an insult at me: "You, you, ... Liberal!" 

My point is that in the past 2 or 3 decades the public has moved much
more into an "individualist" stance without much concern for the
welfare of the whole.  My civic education since grade school has been
that "we are all in this together" so I have a hard time with political
policies and positions that seem to deliberately disregard this.  In
fact this position is now ridiculed like my encounter above.

Here then is my question Sasha.  At what point does ideology reinforce
behavior and how does behavior create ideology?
  
inkwell.vue.407 : Sasha Lilley, "Capital and Its Discontents: Conversations with Radical Thinkers in a Time of Tumult"
permalink #27 of 131: Gary Greenberg (gberg) Thu 12 May 11 13:14
    
And if Sasha can answer that question, well, I'll have a new hero.
  
inkwell.vue.407 : Sasha Lilley, "Capital and Its Discontents: Conversations with Radical Thinkers in a Time of Tumult"
permalink #28 of 131: Sasha Lilley (sashalilley) Thu 12 May 11 13:45
    
Ted, I wish it was more the case that the US was being squeezed by
other economic models, but I'm not sure if that's the case. 

One of the main themes of my book is that what we've been seeing since
the 1970s is the restructuring of capitalism to restore flagging
profit rates -- what is often referred to as neoliberalism.  It was
based on attacks on workers in the Global North -- such as when
Margaret Thatcher took on the miners union or when Reagan went on the
offensive in this country -- and on the populations of the Global South
through institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the
World Bank, who were forced to restructure their economies to open them
up to foreign capital, privatize their state industries, and dismantle
social services.  It involved the relocation of manufacturing to East
Asia and the maquiladoras on the US-Mexico border, or within the US
from traditionally unionized areas, like the Midwest, to non-union
regions like the US South, as well as an increased role for finance in
the economy.  The imperial center of this system has been the US, but
countries all over have been compelled or elected to follow suit,
including Mexico and Canada.  While Canada's welfare state before the
advent of neoliberalism was more developed than that of the United
States, it has been rolled back by neoliberal politicians over a number
of years (and the Conservative Party just won a majority there).

Unfortunately, while there are some exceptions -- insurgent social and
labor movements in Mexico and Bolivia, the Chavez regime in Venezuela
-- neoliberalism has very successfully taken hold in Latin America. 
That may be changing.  But even countries like Brazil -- where a
radical former metal worker, Lula, came to power to head the Workers
Party, to be succeeded by a former leftwing guerrilla (Dilma Rousseff)
-- are still following neoliberal policies.  (Interestingly, though,
the countries of Latin America have been doing relatively well during
this economic crisis, because many of their economies are oriented to
the Chinese economy, rather than the US economy.)

With this economic crisis, what we're seeing is not the end of the
neoliberal era, but its intensification.  The kinds of cuts to public
welfare spending and attacks on workers that characterized that order
is being ratcheted up, with the economic crisis being used to justify
such austerity.  Although most of the US public -- and especially poor
people and public sector workers -- were not responsible for the chaos
of this system, and hence were not bailed out when the banking system
almost collapsed, they are now being asked to pay for that bailout. 

I certainly hope that folks who were first radicalized in the Sixties
will get active in opposing this austerity, since it will and is having
a harsh impact (and let's not forget that it comes on the heels of
three decades of neoliberalism, where wages in the US have been held
down to 1970s levels, while the productivity of US workers continues to
rise).  My book is actually addressed to multiple generations, so I'm
hoping that those of the generations of the Old Left, New Left, and
younger activists will read it and benefit from it -- and then take
action.  
  
inkwell.vue.407 : Sasha Lilley, "Capital and Its Discontents: Conversations with Radical Thinkers in a Time of Tumult"
permalink #29 of 131: Mark McDonough (mcdee) Thu 12 May 11 14:23
    
My academic training is in American History, especially 1865 to
present.

To me, it looks like we're re-assembling the key ingredients of the
Gilded Age:

- get rid of unions
- get rid of antitrust enforcement
- attack all health, safety, and environmental regulations
- keep cutting taxes on the rich
- do whatever you can to make sure that big money corrupts the
political system (e.g. Citizens United)

Yes, there are some differences - the rhetoric and rationales have
changed - but for the most part it's the same old wine in new bottles.
  
inkwell.vue.407 : Sasha Lilley, "Capital and Its Discontents: Conversations with Radical Thinkers in a Time of Tumult"
permalink #30 of 131: Sasha Lilley (sashalilley) Thu 12 May 11 14:39
    
Thanks so much, David.  And thanks for the prompting: interested
people can listen to Against the Grain, the program that I co-host with
C.S. Soong, on KPFA Radio (94.1 FM or kpfa.org) Monday through
Wednesday, noon to one.  You can also sign up for podcasts at our
website againstthegrain.org.  We're currently in a fund drive, but
regular programming resumes at the end of the month. 

Yesterday, Kentucky Senator/ Tea Party hero Rand Paul said:  "With
regard to the idea of whether you have a right to health care, you have
realize what that implies... It’s not an abstraction. I’m a physician.
That means you have a right to come to my house and conscript me... It
means you believe in slavery.  It means that you’re going to enslave
not only me, but the janitor at my hospital, the person who cleans my
office, the assistants who work in my office, the nurses."  Now that's
just ridiculous and a lot of it seems to be to be the kind of song and
dance that goes on to muddy the issues and distract people.
Nonetheless, the majority of Americans support single payer healthcare.
And a majority of people believe in collective bargaining rights for
workers.  As Chomsky points out, we should be aware that there is a gap
between the discourse of the US political system, as well as the
mainstream media, and the attitudes of Americans as a whole, who tend
to be more leftward leaning.  The question, returning to the issue
Angie flagged, is how to get people to move beyond deep cynicism and
try to change things.
  
inkwell.vue.407 : Sasha Lilley, "Capital and Its Discontents: Conversations with Radical Thinkers in a Time of Tumult"
permalink #31 of 131: Sasha Lilley (sashalilley) Thu 12 May 11 16:28
    
Okay, trying to catch up with all the terrific comments posted...

Gary, I think you've just touched on a very complex question, but an
important one for radicals.  In the interview in my book that I did
with Noam Chomsky, who identifies as an anarcho-syndicalist, I asked
him about his defense of those gains that are embodied in the state --
and were fought for by social movements -- such as Social Security and
progressive taxation. 

This was his response: "You have to ask what the alternatives are.
Many anarchists just consider the state as the fundamental form of
oppression. I think that’s a mistake. I mean of the various kinds of
oppressive institutions that exist, the state is among the least of
them.  The state at least to the extent that society is democratic with
various degrees and types—but to the extent that it’s democratic you
have some influence on what happens in the state. You have no influence
on what happens in a corporation. They’re really tyrannies and as long
as society is largely dominated by private tyrannies, which is the
worst form of oppression, people just need some form of self-defense.
And the state provides some form of self-defense. And to say, let’s
dismantle Social Security, means concretely let’s decide that that
disabled widow across town will starve to death. I don’t agree with
that."

Incidentally, as anarchists like to point out, the international
postal system is an example of non-coercive social organization on a
large scale, which we might draw some lessons from: all countries agree
to deliver each other's mail, which they are not obligated to do,
except that it works for the good of all (and is therefore an example
of mutual aid).  
  
inkwell.vue.407 : Sasha Lilley, "Capital and Its Discontents: Conversations with Radical Thinkers in a Time of Tumult"
permalink #32 of 131: Sasha Lilley (sashalilley) Thu 12 May 11 16:39
    
I think these questions of ideology and behavior are very hard to
untangle from each other, (dlwilson), as things can take on a momentum
of their own.  The system of free market capitalism, or neoliberalism,
which emerged 30 years ago, was characterized not simply by its attacks
on workers rights, clean air, clean water, etc, in search of profits. 
It has also been characterized by the ways that it has incorporated
"ordinary Americans" into the circuits of finance, a point made in in
my book by Leo Panitch, Sam Gindin, and Greg Albo.  What that means is
that over the last three decades, working class people, white collar
workers, and even poor people have been integrated more deeply into the
system through credit cards, mortgages (and remortgaging), pensions,
even the stock market.  Which has been very profitable for the
financial industry.  It undoubtedly shapes your behavior when you're
being screwed over, yet you also have a stake in the system and don't
want to see if come crashing down around you.

Let's not forget, though, that rather than people using this credit to
live high off the hog -- as the media implied when the housing market
burst -- people were borrowing money often to stay afloat.  I've made
this point earlier, but we need to remember that wages have been
stagnant in the US since the 1970s and falling for those at the bottom
end of the spectrum (such as people who have only a high school
education).  So borrowing for many folks was an individual response to
a collective/ societal problem.  And I think that's a lot of what has
been very detrimental over these past years: people, rather than acting
collectively, are trying to cope or get ahead as individuals. 

Simultaneously, the neoliberal ideology, that the best outcomes for
everyone come from individuals acting in their self-interest, has been
very actively promoted since the 1970s.  But keep in mind that it was
in reaction to the successes of the collectivist, radical politics of
the 1960s and 70s (which among other things was a period characterized
by great worker militancy and wildcat strikes). 

If I can quote again from my book, this time from the radical
geographer David Harvey, elites have no problem acting collectively --
for their own ends: "There was a concerted program that worked at a
number of levels. To me, the beginning point was a memo that Lewis
Powell, who became a Supreme Court justice shortly afterwards, sent to
the American Chamber of Commerce in 1971. What he said, in effect, was
that the anti-business climate in this country has gone too far, we
need a collective effort to try to turn it around. After that we see
the formation of a whole set of think tanks, the massing of money by
various organizations to try to influence public policy and to do it
through the media, do it through think tanks... They were very
concerned to try to roll back that legislation which had emerged during
the 1960s and early 1970s that set up things like the Environmental
Protection Agency, OSHA, consumer protection, and all of those sorts of
things. And of course they gained considerable influence in the press
through the Wall Street Journal and business pages and business schools
and the like, and through their think tanks they started to influence
public opinion."
  
inkwell.vue.407 : Sasha Lilley, "Capital and Its Discontents: Conversations with Radical Thinkers in a Time of Tumult"
permalink #33 of 131: Gary Greenberg (gberg) Thu 12 May 11 16:45
    
The Postal Service is a great example of the necessity of government.
It is hard to imagine any corporation that would be able and willing to
deliver any piece of mail anywhere in the entire U.S. within a day or
two or three for forty-four cents. 

But of course congresspeople are famous for carping that the postal
service, which I guess is somehow only semi-public, doesn't run at a
profit. 

Here's an excellent article on the subject by Garret Keizer. It's
called Why Dogs Go After Mail Carriers
http://www.harpers.org/archive/2010/09/0083081
  
inkwell.vue.407 : Sasha Lilley, "Capital and Its Discontents: Conversations with Radical Thinkers in a Time of Tumult"
permalink #34 of 131: . (wickett) Thu 12 May 11 17:14
    

An aside:  I like to write letters.  Each time I do so, I give thanks for
being able to do so and pop them in the Post Office.  I wonder how long I
will enjoy the privilege.

Lewis Powell's writing presuaged the second gilded age, indeed.  Scary
stuff.
  
inkwell.vue.407 : Sasha Lilley, "Capital and Its Discontents: Conversations with Radical Thinkers in a Time of Tumult"
permalink #35 of 131: Gary Greenberg (gberg) Thu 12 May 11 17:26
    
>people were borrowing money often to stay afloat.  

Yes, but the definition of "afloat" sure has changed. A development
that might be accounted for by commodity fetishism, but may also be
accounted for by just how many wonderful things there are to buy, and
by the way that for all of us, the basic necessities of a decent life
have really proliferated. Think about how ralph and Alice Kramden
lived--no cable, no tv, no cellphones, no pcs, no internet, no Netflix,
and on and on. Not saying this was a better life, but the barely
acceptab le American life has certainly gotten more expensive in
absolute terms since then.
  
inkwell.vue.407 : Sasha Lilley, "Capital and Its Discontents: Conversations with Radical Thinkers in a Time of Tumult"
permalink #36 of 131: . (wickett) Thu 12 May 11 18:19
    

It is indeed insanely expensive to establish oneself with the modest 
essentials of living this American life.

Thank you, Sasha, for _Re:Imagining Change.  Sounds like just what I've been
looking for.
  
inkwell.vue.407 : Sasha Lilley, "Capital and Its Discontents: Conversations with Radical Thinkers in a Time of Tumult"
permalink #37 of 131: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Thu 12 May 11 18:24
    
Yup, it's very expensive just to be poor in the U.S.
  
inkwell.vue.407 : Sasha Lilley, "Capital and Its Discontents: Conversations with Radical Thinkers in a Time of Tumult"
permalink #38 of 131: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Thu 12 May 11 18:40
    
From the Edge: http://www.edge.org/documents/archive/edge342.html

A conversation with Hugo Mercier on The Argumentative Theory; right up
the WELL's alley, but pertinent to this discussion:

The theory fits in very well with the idea of deliberative democracy.
In deliberative democracy, the idea is that people should argue with
one another more often, and that instead of simply using voting as a
way of aggregating opinion, people should instead be deliberating with
one another, they should be discussing their ideas, they should be
sharing their points of views and criticizing each other's point of
view.
  
inkwell.vue.407 : Sasha Lilley, "Capital and Its Discontents: Conversations with Radical Thinkers in a Time of Tumult"
permalink #39 of 131: . (wickett) Thu 12 May 11 19:10
    

The lack of face-to-face community is vital to deliberative democracy.  When
people can isolate themselves only with people who agree with them or have a
bazillion friends with some one thing in common then opportunities for
thrashing out ideas, differences, proposals about how to develop and 
sustain a working democracy fade and vanish.

People may see more of talking heads in the media than they do of their own
friends and family and may speak of them as if familiar.  In this 
delusion, no relationship exists, and, therefore, no argument or 
discussion.  No wonder many don't have the mental muscles to cope with 
complexity, nuance, ambiguity, experiment, compromise.
  
inkwell.vue.407 : Sasha Lilley, "Capital and Its Discontents: Conversations with Radical Thinkers in a Time of Tumult"
permalink #40 of 131: David Gans (tnf) Thu 12 May 11 19:11
    

I heard aninterview on KPFA - possibly on Against the Grain - in which the
subject stated that the supply of workers is now far greater than the number
of jobs, and therefore we have a tremendous downward pressure on wages.  This
seems to be the rock-hard truth at the bottom of all this misery, and I don't
see how it can be fixed without either a hell of a lot of death.
  
inkwell.vue.407 : Sasha Lilley, "Capital and Its Discontents: Conversations with Radical Thinkers in a Time of Tumult"
permalink #41 of 131: David Gans (tnf) Thu 12 May 11 19:12
    
<wickett> slipped.
  
inkwell.vue.407 : Sasha Lilley, "Capital and Its Discontents: Conversations with Radical Thinkers in a Time of Tumult"
permalink #42 of 131: David Gans (tnf) Thu 12 May 11 19:17
    

I am reading Peter Coyote's book "Sleeping Where I Fall."  He describes the
mission of the San Francisco Mime Troup in the mid-'60s as arising from "the
Troupe's expectation that America should live up to her promises and play by
her stated rules - and we intended to provoke her until she did."  At least
in those days it seemed like there might be some hope of succeeding.
  
inkwell.vue.407 : Sasha Lilley, "Capital and Its Discontents: Conversations with Radical Thinkers in a Time of Tumult"
permalink #43 of 131: Lena M. Diethelm (lendie) Thu 12 May 11 19:21
    

re: downward pressure on wages - The annual salary my husband made in 1992
is the same nearly 20 yrs later as what he would be offered NOW.
  
inkwell.vue.407 : Sasha Lilley, "Capital and Its Discontents: Conversations with Radical Thinkers in a Time of Tumult"
permalink #44 of 131: David Wilson (dlwilson) Thu 12 May 11 20:04
    
Low-skilled workers are becoming redundant.  Many low-skilled Blacks
get involved in illegal drugs out of desperation.  Then they are
convicted and incarcerated.  Once out of jail, there is little to no
chance of reintegrating or moving out of poverty.  Thus, a perfect
system of social control.
  
inkwell.vue.407 : Sasha Lilley, "Capital and Its Discontents: Conversations with Radical Thinkers in a Time of Tumult"
permalink #45 of 131: Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Thu 12 May 11 21:36
    
#43: me too. I'm earning rates that are the same or less as I earned
from 1988-1991.
  
inkwell.vue.407 : Sasha Lilley, "Capital and Its Discontents: Conversations with Radical Thinkers in a Time of Tumult"
permalink #46 of 131: Angie (coiro) Thu 12 May 11 22:42
    
Let's do talk about labor and workers, then. Upstream you mentioned
Wisconsin (which I, too, took heart from), Sasha.

Let's delve into your interview with labor studies professor Ursula
Huws, and draw too from your catalog of other interviews: what are the
challenges and opportunities this crisis of capitalism present for
labor?

Huws' reflections on how fragmented we've become as a society is of
particular relevance here. That, combined with an eroding belief in the
value of the commons, and with an educational system that leaves
students ignorant of labor history, makes heavy slogging for union
organizers. 

Ursula Huws, for those who'd like to check out her work and thoughts:

<http://ursulahuws.wordpress.com/author/ursulahuws/>

I particularly appreciated her chapter in your book, Sasha.
  
inkwell.vue.407 : Sasha Lilley, "Capital and Its Discontents: Conversations with Radical Thinkers in a Time of Tumult"
permalink #47 of 131: Sasha Lilley (sashalilley) Thu 12 May 11 23:23
    
I'm not entirely sure what happened to a post I wrote earlier, but in
it I agreed entirely with Mark's point about the attempt right now to
turn the clock back to the 19th century and erase all the things that
were won since then by the labor movement, environmentalists, radicals,
and others.  I think he nailed it.

Lena and Sharon, what you've observed in your own lives is borne out
by the national numbers. Income grew on average in the US between 1948
and 1982 by 1.7%, but by a measly 0.2% a year from 1982 to 2008.  For
America's richest people -- those who had an average income of $9.1
million -- incomes over the past twenty years grew at 20 times the rate
of the bottom 90%. And as David indicates, African Americans have been
particularly badly hit.  In 2009, the average household income for
African Americans fell to 60% that of white households, from a meagre
peak of 65% in 2000.  (Statistics courtesy of the wonderful economic
journalist Doug Henwood, who is interviewed in my book.)

Gary, aside from the many goods that have become necessities of sorts,
like computers and cellphones, so much personal spending (and
borrowing) has gone to health care, the price of which continues to
soar.  And while the US has one of the most expensive health care
systems in the developed world, Americans score very poorly in by
various health measurements, so it doesn't appear to be working very
well either.
  
inkwell.vue.407 : Sasha Lilley, "Capital and Its Discontents: Conversations with Radical Thinkers in a Time of Tumult"
permalink #48 of 131: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Fri 13 May 11 04:03
    
So, the system works for the top 5% and suppresses the rest of us....

As to workers/work, this might be simplistic, but it's what I think,
so please correct me if I'm wrong....for the past 30 years we have
watched our corporations ship manufacturing and jobs off-shore...is it
any wonder that these corporations now bet against us, just as Wall
Street did with their derivitive markets? Corporations survive by
returning a profit to their shareholders....that profit must now be
derived in foreign markets, oftentimes causing the companies to effect
policies and strategies that work against our economy here at home....

Throw in China's control of our money market and you pretty much have
our current scenario....I know it's more complicated than that, given
the global economy, but in economic darwinian terms only the strong
survive....It should come as no surprise that we are now a 'house
divided' with corporate and National strategies at odds with one
another. 

Other than war, what DO we produce in the U.S. Well, unemployment
obviously, but really what are we producing here?

Not too many win/win scenarios in this model.
  
inkwell.vue.407 : Sasha Lilley, "Capital and Its Discontents: Conversations with Radical Thinkers in a Time of Tumult"
permalink #49 of 131: Mark McDonough (mcdee) Fri 13 May 11 05:20
    
<47> The software here helpfully warns you (and mostly it is helpful)
if someone has made a post while you were writing yours - this makes it
easy to think you've posted (because you hit "Post"), while really in
another tab or window it's asking you if you want to edit your post in
response to the one that slipped in.  So basically, you have to watch
for the "success" message, especially if you're in a fast-moving
conversation like this one.

Anyway, glad you agree about the Gilded Age - the parallels are really
striking to me.
  
inkwell.vue.407 : Sasha Lilley, "Capital and Its Discontents: Conversations with Radical Thinkers in a Time of Tumult"
permalink #50 of 131: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Fri 13 May 11 08:28
    
the parallels are scarily striking! Not what we need to be happening
at the moment. Just not helpful really.
  

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