Towards A Progressive Political Economy In The Aftermath Of Neoliberalism’s “Creative Destruction”

CJ Polychroniou

Abstract
The article argues that, after 45 years of ‘neoliberal destruction’, the time is ripe for moving forward with the adoption of a new set of progressive economic policies (beyond those usually associated with classical Keynesianism) that will reshape advanced societies and the global economy on the whole by bringing back the social state, doing away with the predatory and parasitic practices of financial capital, and charting a course of sustainable development through a regulatory regime for the protection of the environment while promoting full employment, workers’ participation in the production process, and non-market values across a wide range of human services, including health and education.

Policy recommendations
• Capitalism is an inherently unstable socioeconomic system with a natural tendency toward crises, and thus must be regulated; especially the financial sector, which constitutes the most dynamic and potentially destructive aspect of capital accumulation.
• Banks, as critical entities of the financial sector of the economy, are in essence social institutions and their main role or function should be to accept deposits by the public and issue loans. When banks and other financial institutions fail, they should be nationalized without any hesitation and all attempts to socialize losses should be immediately seen for what they are: unethical and undemocratic undertakings brought about by tight-knit linkages between governments and private interests. In periods of crisis, the recapitalization of banks with public funds must be accompanied by the state’s participation in banks’ equity capital.
• Markets are socially designed institutions, and as such, the idea of the “free market” represents one of the most pervasive and dangerous myths of contemporary capitalism. From antiquity to the present, trade was based on contracts and agreement between government authorities and was spread through the direct intervention of the state. Human societies without markets cannot thrive. However, markets often function inefficiently (they create oligopolies, give rise to undesirable incentives and cause externalities), and they cannot produce public goods in sufficiently large quantities to satisfy societal needs. Therefore, state intervention into markets is both a social need and a necessary moral obligation.
• The economic sphere does not represent an opposite pole from the social sphere. The aim of the economy is to improve the human condition, a principle that mandates that the process of wealth creation in any given society should not be purely for private gain but, first and foremost, for the support and enhancement of economic infrastructure and social institutions for further economic and social development; with the ultimate goal being the attainment of a decent standard of living for all citizens. Free education and health care should be accessible to everyone, along with the right to a job. Indeed, full employment (See Pollin, 2012) must become a key pillar of a progressive economic policy in the 21st century.
• Workplaces with a human-centered design must replace the current authoritarian trends embodied in most capitalist enterprises, and participatory economics (social ownership, self-managing workers, etc.,) should be highly encouraged and supported.
• The improvement of the quality of the environment (with key priorities being the protection and preservation of ecosystems in oceans and seas and the protection of forests and natural wealth, in combination with policies seeking to address the phenomenon of climate change) ought to be a strategic aim of a progressive economic policy, realizing that the urgency of environmental issues concerns, in the final analysis, the very survival of our own species. Read more

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Hurricanes Make The Need To Dismantle Colonial Economics In The Caribbean Increasingly Urgent

Sint-Maarten, 6 september 2017
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Hurricanes have always been a part of life in the Caribbean. The destruction they cause and inhabitants’ subsequent recovery have been observed throughout human history. What is alarming now, however, is the apparent increased frequency and intensity of hurricanes due to climate change.

For the Caribbean territories, the climate change challenges are even more severe than they are for most other places around the globe because they have an impact on the entire coastal and terrestrial ecosystems. The already poor state of the Caribbean marine environment restricts the ability of habitats such as seagrass meadows and coral reefs to recover from the effects of severe storms. Poor water quality and over-fishing, for example, promotes the overgrowth of algae, preventing recovery. With repeated hurricanes occurring over time periods that are insufficient for recovery to occur, this will only get worse.

Moreover, climate change can be expected to have negative effects on the tourism and hospitality industry. According to the Caribbean Planning for Adaptation to Global Climate Change Project, virtually all the Caribbean territories are highly vulnerable to climate changes and can expect to experience a “linear increases in the number of storms and hurricanes … loss of land from rising sea level … increased susceptibility of coastal infrastructure … negative impacts in the tourism sector.”

In this context, the severity of hurricanes Irma and Maria, which caused catastrophic destruction, should be a wake-up call, even though the devastation was not equally distributed across the Caribbean, and it will be far more challenging for some countries than others to recover from their tragic situations.

Caribbean policy makers need a fundamental shift in how marine environments are protected to enable long-term sustainability for the food and income they provide. Many locations in the Caribbean — for example, Puerto Rico — have ineffective marine protection rules and so destructive practices continue unchecked, meaning that when a disaster does occur, the environment is unable to recover. Besides, previous hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons across the globe have shown the severe negative effects storms can have on the marine environment. Hurricane Irma — one of the strongest on record to hit the region — recently scoured the islands leaving catastrophic damage in its wake, even in Cuba, “a country that prides itself on disaster preparedness.”

And just as the Caribbean began to piece together the devastating and potentially long-term impacts of Irma, Hurricane Maria has now left another path of destruction. Puerto Rico, the British dependency of the Turks and Caicos, and many other Caribbean islands have suffered what have been described as “apocalyptic conditions.” More than 30 cruise ports were damaged by these two hurricanes.

Some of the most severely affected areas of the recent hurricanes in the Caribbean — Florida, Turks and Caicos, Cuba, the British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico — all house extensive seagrass meadows. These shallow water marine habitats support valuable lobster fisheries, as well as shrimp, conch and finfish fisheries. Seagrass also stabilizes sediments and protects the white sand beaches that attract so many tourists to the region. The devastation of coastal environments, particularly seagrass meadows, can also result in long-term losses of the benefits that humans receive from them, such as fisheries support or coastal protection. Damage to these ecosystem services consequently impacts human well-being, because people can no longer rely on them for their livelihood and food supply. Read more

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Reshaping Remembrance ~ Bantu: From Abantu To Ubuntu

To speak about ‘the other’ is not a matter of course. Just as ‘us’ usually carries a positive meaning, the affective value of ‘them’ is usually less optimistic. We experience this sharply when outsiders write or speak about us in a manner that hurts. Afrikaansspeakers are sensitive to the use of terms such as ‘Afrikaners’, ‘blankes’ (whites), ‘kleurlinge’ (coloureds) and ‘Boere’ (farmers). A racist video, made at the Reitz residence of the University of the Free State, recently caused quite a stir. The stereotyping in the media of white Afrikaans-speakers as racists was a painful experience to many who felt ‘ons is nie almal so nie’ (we are not all the same). Terms referring to people, especially terminology of social categories, are political instruments and not merely objective labels in the same class as the taxonomies of fishes or stars. The notion of ‘Bantu’ is a good example of the way in which a label for a social category follows social practice, in contrast to the assumption underlying the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis (that practice follows language). Over time, a term such as this one accretes various meanings, some of which may be linked to strongly divergent emotions. The term ‘Bantu’ contains, similar to ‘Afrikaner’, positive and negative meanings in Afrikaans and in other languages in South Africa, depending on the historical moment, the social positionality and experience of the users.

‘Bantu’ as a term went through a number of important shifts in meaning. It originated as a linguistic term that denoted the kinship links between a large number of indigenous languages and this meaning was retained in the field of African languages. The term was subsequently also used to refer to the people that spoke these languages, e.g. in anthropology. The notion became naturalised in the everyday languages of South Africans and attained official status in government policy and legislation. In the second half of the 20th century the notion became entangled with the apartheid policy as it referred to black people and their inferior political position. It is this connotation that gave the term a strong negative emotional content among the opponents of apartheid. As the apartheid policy was increasingly debunked, the negative connotation grew and made the term itself unacceptable. Especially the freedom struggle and the global rejection of apartheid had an effect on the use of the term in South Africa. From the 1980s onwards the use of the term decreased and was ultimately replaced by ‘black’. Today, the term is seldom used outside its reference to African languages, although one can still hear it among conservative whites and coloureds.

My argument about the use of the term ‘Bantu’ is that the notion was created in a specific social context and that it evoked strong resistance due to its negative associations. As the resistance changed the context, the use of the term had to adapt and this process eventually led to the demise of the term, especially since people experienced it as oppressive and undemocratic. The term ‘Bantu’ is in this sense one of a lineage of terms that became unacceptable, starting with ‘Kaffir’, followed by ‘native’, then ‘Bantu’. More recently, ‘black’ and ‘African’ became the politically correct terms. The social and political use of the term ‘Bantu’ in South Africa is permanently tied to the divide-and-rule politics of both the British imperial and the Afrikaner regimes. The notion was therefore rejected, together with white supremacy. Concepts usually exist in sets and their meanings imply boundaries with contrasting ideas. The terms ‘blanke’ and ‘Afrikaner’ with their racial connotations developed as opposites to ‘Bantu’ and ‘non-white’ but also in relation to these terms. These terms may disappear in future if Afrikaans-speakers reject the racial element as negative baggage. The problem with any labelling of a social category is that it is an attempt to generalise by using a term that assumes a social classification. A term denoting a group or social category easily leads to negative stereotyping and essentialism. This means that one characteristic is taken to determine the identity of every member of the social category. In this essay I briefly look at the origin and development of the term ‘Bantu’ in order to explain its changing meanings with reference to the various contexts in which it existed. Ultimately, the question is: why did these shifts occur and what do they tell us? Read more

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Hannah Arendt’s Theory of Totalitarianism – Part One

Hannah Arendt

Hannah Arendt

Hannah Arendt wrote The Origins of Totalitarianism in 1949, by which time the world had been confronted with evidence of the Nazi apparatus of terror and destruction. The revelations of the atrocities were met with a high degree of incredulous probing despite a considerable body of evidence and a vast caché of recorded images. The individual capacity for comprehension was overwhelmed, and the nature and extent of these programmes added to the surreal nature of the revelations. In the case of the dedicated death camps of the so-called Aktion Reinhard, comparatively sparse documentation and very low survival rates obscured their significance in the immediate post-war years. The remaining death camps, Majdanek and Auschwitz, were both captured virtually intact. They were thus widely reported, whereas public knowledge of Auschwitz was already widespread in Germany and the Allied countries during the war.[i] In the case of Auschwitz, the evidence was lodged in still largely intact and meticulous archives. Nonetheless it had the effect of throwing into relief the machinery of destruction rather than its anonymous victims, for the extermination system had not only eliminated human biological life but had also systematically expunged cumulative life histories and any trace of prior existence whatsoever, ending with the destruction of almost all traces of the dedicated extermination camps themselves, just prior to the Soviet invasion.

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Where Global Contradictions Are Sharpest ~ Research Stories From The Kalahari ~ Contents

The ‘Bushmen’ or ‘San’ of the Kalahari could well be called an iconographic people. Partly as a result of this, over the years abundant social research has been carried out among the San. Keyan Tomaselli and his research team from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa form part of that tradition; however, in this book Tomaselli is also able to reflect critically, and not without a touch of irony, on the way the San have been represented over the years. Hardly ever has there been a researcher who so uncompromisingly and aptly illustrates the many ethical contradictions in doing fieldwork among the San, and at the same time manages to reconstruct and represent the actual fieldwork experience and the San people so vividly that you almost taste the dust of the Kalahari and smell the raucous world that is depicted.

Note on the Author
Keyan G. Tomaselli is Professor in Culture, Communication and Media Studies, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban. He is a Fellow of the University and serves on the advisory board of !Kwa ttu – The San Cultural and Educational Centre. He is Old World book review editor of Visual Anthropology, and has published on visual anthropology in this and other publications such as Appropriating images: The semiotics of visual representation (Intervention Press, 1999). Other journals in which Tomaselli has published include: Visual Studies, Cultural Studies, Journal of Film and Video, Research in African Literatures, etc. He is published in translation in Italian, Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese and Arabic, amongst others. Tomaselli is editor-in-chief of Critical Arts: A Journal of South-North Cultural and Media Studies.

Contents
Acknowledgements, Acronyms, A Note on Pronunciation
Starting Off – Different people, different communities – Specifically, what are we doing?
Chapter 1. Negotiating Research with First Peoples
Chapter 2. Reverse Cultural Studies: Field Methods, Power Relations and 4X4s … 
Chapter 3. ‘Dit is die Here se Asem’: The Wind, its Messages, and Issues of Autoethnographic Methodology in the Kalahari
Chapter 4. ‘Op die Grond’: Writing in the San/d, Surviving Crime 
Chapter 5. Psychospiritual Ecoscience: The Ju/’hoansi and Cultural Tourism
Chapter 6. Textualising the San ‘Past’: Dancing With Development
Chapter 7. Stories to Tell, Stories to Sell: Hidden transcripts, negotiating texts
References

© Keyan G. Tomaselli, 2005
Cover photograph: Frederik J Lange (Jnr). Taken between Witdraai and Welkom, Northern Cape, June 2005.
Coverdesign: Ingrid Bouws, Amsterdam
Editing: Saskia Stehouwer

Published by Rozenberg Publishers, Amsterdam, 2005, ISBN 90 5170 481 X

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How Do We Prepare The Next Generation Of Citizens?

7304_kuhn

www.tc.columbia.edu

“College and career readiness” is the objective American educators are focused on these days, and it’s one both students and their parents will approve. Both want assurance that the cost and rigors of getting into and through college will pay off as a sure ticket to life success. A recent Harvard poll showed achieving this personal success to be the number one concern of today’s youth, and parents are likely glad to know. The broader purposes once associated with higher education have taken a back seat as college increasingly becomes a strict means to an end.

An initiative introduced recently at a premier suburban public high school in the US Northeast seems well aligned with this focus. Taking advantage of now widely available technology, beginning in 9th grade students are required to begin a “digital portfolio project” to “track their accomplishments throughout their high school careers and choose how the world perceives them.” Student reactions are reported to be positive. One spoke of it as an opportunity to set new goals for herself and a good reflection of what she achieves over the next four years. Another said it will be a good tool, especially for college applications. Instituting this future-oriented focus early on will perhaps be useful in helping teens to construct an identity and succeed in communicating it to others who can acknowledge and validate it, rather than postpone this task to the extended adolescence now frequent among twenty-somethings.

Yet absent from this focus is another dimension of preparing for adulthood, one that extends beyond individual success, to collective prosperity. It’s one long regarded as a central aim of education in a democracy – preparation for citizenship. A US election year reminds Americans of its significance. The American president elected this year will likely still be in office when today’s high schoolers begin their adult lives. Is establishing a personal identity and life trajectory enough to prepare them sufficiently for responsible citizenship under this president in their increasingly troubled nation and world?

A cursory look at the current political climate could be seen as reassuring in this regard. Although a segment of the citizenry lament the emphasis of image over ideas, modern media provide us a never before known opportunity to get to know the candidates, up close and personal. Candidates are well aware of their need for a skilled team to project a carefully shaped and managed image – their life story, the experience they bring to the job, and, most important, what kind of person they truly are. Above all, this image must portray them as personable and likeable, appealing to many.

Possibly, then, beginning as a young teen to shape one’s image and even to communicate it effectively in modern digital form is not far off the mark. Many of the teens afforded this opportunity aspire to leadership roles, and they are getting a head start in projecting who they are. They are learning the art and craft of branding and promoting a self.

Another view is that this accomplishment falls short and that we can and must do a good deal more if we wish to prepare our youth as citizens, ready to act in a democratic society that depends on their contribution. More than a few observers today find the level of discourse of the presidential candidates unsatisfying. There is a range, of course, from Trump at one extreme (“Look who I am”) to Sanders (“Here’s what we must do”) at the other. Yet, most of us, given the choice, would prefer all candidates, as a matter of course, to debate ideas rather than merely project images and for citizens to cast their votes based on these ideas.

If so, it is our responsibility to prepare our youth to become citizens who will have the vision and will to transform this preference into a reality. If we want people to think and talk about ideas, and solutions, we need from early on to afford them extended practice in doing so. There is of course a significant segment of the adult population who want their youth to consider only those ideas these adults themselves subscribe to. Yet, in work my colleagues and I have undertaken using modern technology to engage middle- and high-school students in electronic dialogs with peers on controversial social issues, we have found them keen to contemplate such issues at length with multiple partners, culminating in their writing individual “Letters to the Editor” position statements on them. Abortion is a topic they most frequently want to address, among numerous others such as foreign aid and criminal justice. Their initial ideas are often naïve and narrow, but that changes as they confront and respond to others’ ideas and examine evidence that bears on them. Some, for example, propose that instead of testing new drugs on animals, it would be better to use human prisoners since they are guilty and animals are innocent. With deliberation such ideas in time self-correct. Students also gain awareness of issues worth talking about. When we asked young teens in a New York City low-income school what the most important issues were that the new president will have to address, all but a very few mentioned just two, homelessness and stealing.

Although there are signs of change, peer discourse has never found much of a place in the American middle- or high-school curriculum. If students talk at all, it is in response to a teacher’s question, hoping to get the “right” answer. The social studies curriculum would seem the natural place for students to debate issues of current concern to the society they live in, but doing so is largely crowded out by an established curriculum designed to insure students know the history of their country, state, and city and the structure of these respective governments. We know not much of this information sticks. A recent video on Facebook showed American college students clueless when asked who won the civil war (yet all were successful in naming Brad Pitt’s present and former spouse).

Only belatedly, likely at the end of a term with time running out, do curriculum standards propose students be asked to consider the future – how what existed in the past or exists at present might change. New York State curriculum standards for social studies, for example, at the end of its comprehensive guidelines for American history, conclude with a brief section titled, “The US begins a new century.”   The new century, the standards suggest, offers an opportunity for “federal and state governments to reevaluate their roles,” and it is recommended that students contemplate these. The particulars listed under this heading are wide-ranging – “fiscal and monetary policies: 
taxation, regulation, 
deregulation” and “social programs: health, welfare, education.” The topic of reevaluating government’s role is a quite different topic than the descriptive historical topics that precede them in this and similar curriculum guides. “Teaching the future,” rather than only the past, calls for a different kind of intellectual engagement. It demands envisioning and weighing possibilities – what could be, rather than only what is or was.

Little in students’ school experience prepares them to shift gears to engage in this kind of thought, individually or with peers. If we believe it important that 21st century citizens be able and disposed to think in such ways, we must provide the opportunities that will prepare them, whether or not such thinking fits today’s culture.

ArgueDeanna Kuhn is professor of psychology and education at Teachers College Columbia University. She holds a Ph.D. from University of California, Berkeley, in developmental psychology. She has been editor of the journal Cognitive Development, editor of the journal Human Development, and co-editor of the last two editions of the Cognition, Perception and Language volume of the Handbook of Child Psychology. She has published widely in psychology and education, in journals ranging from Psychological Review to Harvard Educational Review. She is an author of 4 major books — The development of scientific thinking skills, The skills of argument, Education for thinking, and, most recently, Argue with me: Argument as a path to developing students’ thinking and writing (Routledge, 2016). Her research is devoted to identifying and determining how best to nurture the intellectual skills that will prepare young people for lifelong learning, work, and citizenship.

Personal website: http://www.educationforthinking.org/

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