Copy of a letter to administrative staff at Lancaster University on redundancies, sent 8 Dec 2011‏

•December 9, 2011 • 2 Comments

Dear all,

Please find below a letter that went out on 8th December 2011 from VC Paul Wellings to all administrative staff at Lancaster University.

It informs admin staff that they will face restructuring, redeployment and redundancies between now and spring, as part of the ongoing Business Process Review.

Please make a special note of points 6 and 7, which concern the of centralisation departmental administration and informs staff that “some reduction in numbers of administrative roles is anticipated”.

Given the source of this information, its “business-speak” rhetoric, and the inevitable aim of “damage limitation”, we must remain skeptical about any “assurances” given in this email.

What is clear is that, as part of this review, there is a push from accountants and external “consultants” to fundamentally change the way department administration operates, and to make many of the valuable and necessary staff who work so hard in our departments redundant. What the impact of such changes will be remains an open question. But, we can predict with some confidence that such changes would mean departments and courses operating less effectively, an increased administrative burden on remaining admin staff and on teaching staff, a worsened “student experience”, and less job security for remaining administrative staff.

Our only response to this can be to join together all staff and students, and staff and student unions, to tell the University accountants and so-called “managers” that we will not allow these destructive changes to go ahead.

Our warning here should be the Library, where we walked in one day to find most of the experienced, knowledgeable and trained librarian staff gone, replaced by cheap postgraduate labour and Tesco-style self-service checkouts. Let us not let the same happen in the operational centres of our departments.

To this end please:
- Disseminate this document by all means
- Find out more information and circulate this, too
- Come together to talk, plan and struggle against this
- Build pressure in departments, faculties, unions and all other arenas
- Write letters, emails, articles
- Keep in touch with Lancaster University Against Cuts (email: lancs-uni-against-cuts@lists.riseup.net)

Thanks
Letter to admin 8 Dec 2011

Actually not a bad piece…

•August 18, 2011 • Leave a Comment

http://www.adbusters.org/blogs/blackspot-blog/rioting-revolutionary.html

 

The New Moralism and the Formation of a “New” Liberalism

•August 17, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Here’s a response I wrote to the latest UfSO article (available here). If you get bored, skip straight to points 2 and 3.

Well, it’s great to see UfSO has started to churn out articles more actively. But, this article is a bit watery. For a start, how does the Stuart Hall quotation relate to any of rest of the article?

But, there’s no point pedantically trolling your efforts. So, just a few points that I hope will be constructive.

1) I’m not at all sure about your “class” analysis. The artistocracy, i.e. the Royal Family, &c, certainly still exists and continues to own profitable land and other assets. But, they are not an important and active class in contemporary British society – and certainly not the dominant class. They are a mere residual feature of a class structure that has been surpassed. Really, the only function they continue to serve is a “spectacular” or mythic one, as a locus for rallying nationalist sentiment.

The bourgeoisie is certainly the dominant class, and we can pick out key sectors – e.g. finance – as particularly hegemonic. Indeed, finance currently has a very strong and direct relation to the political elites who are, in fact, the deputies of the bourgeoisie.

This class has elaborated a mass of “organic intellectuals”: salaried ‘professionals’ – public and private sector workers who organise and direct a range of bureaucratic, administrative, managerial, legal, and cultural functions. These intellectual workers are internally stratified, from those who are deeply invested in capitalism, occupying positions of prestige and fully able to take their cut of surplus value, to those whose labour is thoroughly exploited and whose jobs are increasingly precarious, e.g. the strata of low-paid office workers, teachers, nurses, etc., and even those pursuing certain prestigious professions such as journalism and academia (where we’re seeing an increasing and deliberate use of ‘redundancies’ and ‘casualisation’ as a means of lowering wages). This middle-class is thus becoming increasingly divided between a narrow, well-paid elite and the “squeezed middle” who, I would argue, currently dominate left-wing protest. For, left-wing protest between 2009-2011 has chiefly organised around the public sector. And students are chiefly the children of this “middle-class” of professionals, and the future employees who will take on these professional roles. With austerity – and even before austerity – I think we can honestly say that the increasing concentration of wealth is leading to an increasingly proletarianisation of these workers: i.e. a more naked exploitation; increased workloads; increased precarity; and attacks on benefits, e.g. pensions, and the means by which this social group previously progressed itself (and its offspring), e.g. education, savings, home-ownership (mortgages).

Then there is the working class proper, which is non-professional labour: in construction, manufacturing, transport, cleaning, etc. In the longview, large sections of this class have been made unemployed by the demolition and privatisation of (unionised) industry in this country by Thatcher and neoliberalism. Globalisation was a means for driving down labour costs on a massive scale. Others have been made redundant more recently by the recession, e.g. construction workers. The young have been particularly badly hit in a situation where society refuses to either educate or employ them. I would also argue an ‘underclass of the dispossessed’ exists, partly the result of structural unemployment, which is used to keep wages low. Whilst this group may be a structural part of the proletariat, it exerts a real and ideological presence, given that unemployment and other social and economic disadvantages have become hereditary for certain social groups.

2) The important thing is that I really object to your cyclical notion of “the reappearance of reactionary conservativism [which] has produced a corresponding avant-garde of middle class intellectuals,” similar to those of the (19th century, btw) Chartist and utopian-socialist movements. Firstly, because the situation is completely different, including the function of nationalistic and moralistic conservatism. But, mostly I object to this because what the riots demonstrated was the class tensions within the leftist movement, dominated as it is currently by (middle-class) public sector workers and students. Far from proving the existence of a middle-class avant-garde, the riots proved the complete irrelevance of the left to certain exploited sectors of society. It also exposed the class prejudices of these middle-class leftists who, being (albeit precariously) invested in this capitalist society (via employment and education), acted on the whole with revulsion to the riots, claiming for itself wholly false and ridiculous political sophistication. We have only to think of the way in which so many ‘leftists’ distanced themselves from the ‘directionless, apolitical thuggery’ of the riots to see a schism between the left and the most exploited sectors of society which is rooted in class distinctions. This ‘political sophistication’ is in fact revealled as a real apoliticism and lack of seriousness on behalf of the unionist/student left.

3) Finally, I object to your fetishisic notion of progression and reaction. Particularly of note is the attempt to understand Cameron’s conservative ideology, which you distinguish sharply from the New Labour project (which you describe as a failed and contradictory push for meritocracy). I’m not quite sure what to make of this latest wave of Tory moralism, but I would note that it’s more widespread than you seem to think (certainly Eddy boy has had a go at it, too). Apart from being a damage limitation excercise, a means of papering over the social antagonisms caused by the cuts, I think it may also have much to do with forming a new ‘ethical’ liberalism in the face of the collapse of what David Harvey recently called ‘feral capitalism’. In short, this moralism goes hand-in-hand with Gideon’s recent call for banking legislation that will apparently *overcome* the contradictions of capitalism by reducing financial risk. Measures include legislating higher bank reserves, separating speculative investment banking from other banking activities and tittering about excessive bonuses. The new “ethical liberalism” is what we’re beginning to see pushed across the board (Cons, Libs, Labs and internationally), combining a nice dose of populism into the usual neoliberal mix. That, and not “reaction”, is what I would hypothesise this bullshit is all about.

Best wishes Dr G. Riddle, and all at UfSO!
Wit

After the riots: thoughts and critique

•August 15, 2011 • Leave a Comment

At the moment I’m in the USA for the summer, undertaking research, and I welcomed the chance to escape a quiet summer in a university town that goes to sleep when the students are away. But, last week I wished I was back in Britain. When I heard the news that the riots were spreading, I was so excited I couldn’t sit down, I couldn’t work, I couldn’t read or write anything except the unfolding news and the various responses.

As yet, I’ve written nothing at length on the riot for this blog. And it seems a little belated to enter the debate now. But, below are some links to good pieces, some quotes, some thoughts, and some copy and pasted discussions I had with various people.

The Guardian, Gary Younge:
“Despite historian David Starkey‘s best efforts, the epicentre of Britain’s moral panic moved from culture to class. The primary challenge of integration, it transpires, is convincing a sizeable section of British youth, of all races, that they can be integrated into a society that won’t educate or employ them.”

My response to The Guardian report that one young man had been sentenced to 6 months in jail for stealing £3.50 of water: “Well, the young British people who, having been shafted every day of their lives, enjoyed a brief revenge are now being treated despicably by the courts as the bourgeoisie’s political and judicial deputies crack down extra viciously to shore up their fraying, swaying, disintegrating hegemony.” When I checked back, this had caused a massive angry debate amongst my friends, involving over 40 posts and proving how divisive the issue is amongst (roughly) “middle-class” young people.

Similarly, this great piece posted by UFSO created a storm: http://wp.me/p1dbfG-9D . Being subscribed to UFSO I got in there nice an early and posted my response, which elicited a few responses of its own:

August 10, 2011 9:54 pm

This is really very good. Thanks for writing this. Everyone who reads it: disseminate by all means necessary!

The Left needs to defend the riots; not to valourise the burning of grannies’ cars, but to make clear that we reject the whole bourgeois construction of events, that we stand in solidarity with the oppressed and that, when it comes to it, we will, without hesitation, join the “rioters” to overthrow the legitimised exploitation, state-sanctioned violence and sham “democracy” that oppress us all.

  • polly permalink
    August 10, 2011 11:59 pm

    Agreed. I’m concerned how cowed the Left is currently by the backlash which is patently more frightening than the actual events. The easy shift to people openly talking about state sanctioned killing and persecution of these ‘rats’ ‘scum’ and ‘animals’ is truly frightening. We must battle it forcefull and immediately.

  • Chris permalink
    August 11, 2011 8:17 am

    Good luck with that. Really, good luck. Good luck. The best of British to you.

  • August 11, 2011 10:52 am

    Wit, “join the rioters” by this do you mean attempt to control and manipulate them, I don’t think joining something that does not understand itself is as simple as you put it. If you join them then in a sense you become them, and with that goes any aimed political angle. Coilition of the disgruntled. I think for the established “Left” – Why a capital letter? To oust this pseudo-democracy, sustained and legitimate argument is required in ever more inventive ways, or more short-term do what Iceland is doing http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PadzhH5VAns&feature=channel_video_title .Old fashioned pull your finger out.

    I agree with alot of points in this piece and like the ending and is quite a relate-able utopian image, I don’t know how relevant that is in terms of change and progress and as a full on utopia doesn’t hit the heights for me. Would be lovely though

    • Smithereens permalink
      August 11, 2011 12:07 pm

      I am a socialist. Not a member of any party, but an ideological socialist. I come from a working class background that most would describe as poor.

      And Mr. Wit, you have not a clue what you are on about.

      These riots are not the howl of the oppressed – they are the zenith of consumerism. They are the psychopathic crowd-think of late capitalism. These people were not rioting for food or injustice. They were rioting for Adidas, Sony and Kappa.

      There’s is a nihilistic mission, with only two goals: destruction and acquisition.

      The Left cannot join with these rioters, any more than we can join with the EDL.

    • August 11, 2011 2:10 pm

      I just want to say Smithereens – that was beautifully put. Absolutely beautiful.

    • August 11, 2011 8:04 pm

      @Smithreens – correct!

    • concerned citizen permalink
      August 12, 2011 9:55 pm

      Smithereens, it is at best foolish to equate “the rioters” with the EDL, and at worst idiotic. The EDL consist of grown, organised men hell bent on realising the political goal of race war in the UK. Need I tell you they have many thousands of devoted followers; proven links with terrorist organisations; http://www.edlnews.co.uk/edl-news/edl-sought-funding-from-terrorist-group a sympathetic ally in the mass media; http://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/45030/guardian-writer-greenslades-stupid-jewish-edl-stereotype and perhaps most importantly, FUNDING from similar groups across the world, and a membership of consisting of organised NF and BNP members with a history of hatred and violence.

      The diverse group who rioted across England consisted of thieves, thugs, arsonists, murderers and PROTESTERS, so to compare “them” with a highly organised and ideologically driven racist group is folly. Apart from EDL members who took part in the rioting, how many looters share a material ideological link with Anders Breivik? I dont stand shoulder to shoulder with looters, but I do recognise the need for their political education. Criminals though they may be, the majority are the exploited class after all. I’d expect any so called working class socialist to understand that basic reality in 2011.

  • August 12, 2011 12:27 am

    You have got to be joking! These rioters have no political stance, nor do they have any reason for their rioting apart from their own amusement and greed. They want a new pair of trainers or a plasma TV, so they’ll go and take it. This has nothing to do with the a political standing. Grow up, Wit!

    • August 12, 2011 11:27 pm

      Wow, I was reading the newst UFSO article and suddenly saw 170+ comments on this story! Amazing!

      Well, now, my comment was quite elliptical and maybe those who replied didn’t quite understand it. And, moreover, maybe they just didn’t quite understand the riots themselves.

      “The riots aren’t political; they’re mindless nihilism; they’re the ‘the zenith of consumerism’. There were not even any demands!”

      How can anything that happens in a specific social, political and economic conjuncture not be political? There is a contradiction here, and it is in the “apolitical” construction of events by the centre and right; i.e. the refusal by some commentators to understand their own reactions in political terms.

      How can any activity be mindless, unthinking, when all living people think? Can you stop a person from thinking? Perhaps if you shoot them in the face, as the Police shot Mark Duggan. But, excepting that, there is another contradiction here. The fact is not that these rioters were unthinking, but that their thoughts and opinions are subaltern. That they are not heard, that they are not articulated, that for many they do not count, can only be understood in political terms.

      As for demands, looting equals immediate demands: “I want that and that and that.” But, it is also a tactic that expresses a symbolic demand: the demand for political recognition and agency; the demand to express a collective anger that cannot find any other means of articulation. From where these demands spring, and whether or not they can be channelled in more productive and long-term ways is, again, an historical and political question.

      Another point of perplexity: “What do you mean, join the rioters??”

      This is, as midiadventuremachine points out, not simple. The first step is to begin to identify and engage with the social groups who chiefly composed the riots – i.e. the dispossessed of the inner-cities: black, asian and minority communities; the unemployed; the socially and economically alienated youth. The next step is to attempt to organise these social groups, to support the building leadership in these communities, to help them to articulate their demands, and to incorporate them into the wider movement against destructive and exploitative capitalism.

      That is to say, to try to aid the development of the political agency of these social groups so that they may begin to gain political direction and articulate their demands, so that they may begin to become self-determining and equal allies of other exploited social groups, e.g. the lower and middle-class public sector workers and students who have so far dominated leftist protest in 2009-2011.

      What I am not suggesting is that we run out to join in the burning and looting of the local corner shop (still in our slippers, as usual); too late, anyway, if you weren’t there then you missed your chance this time.

      I hope that makes more sense. And don’t tell me to grow up, you paternalistic shit.

Asher permalink
August 14, 2011 6:45 am

@Wit

Um, no, the vast majority of things that the vast majority of people has very little intentional thought behind it. This applies across all times and all spaces.

August 11, 2011 9:00 am

Whilst I agree that this is not the solution to any of the issues at hand; poverty, exclusion, disenfranchisement, gentrification etc etc – the idea that this is just a predominately white middle class thing is wrong. I was in Hackney and there was all sorts of people there. Working class, black, asian, women, men, young, old etc. Perhaps this reflects the greater degree of diversity in the borough (as opposed to Clapham, which is where your photo is from).
The riot clean up, as far as I experienced it, wasn’t expressly political or naive. It was just about getting the streets back to normal so we can all start addressing the reasons why this riot started. The fact that Hackney council had already done most of it made left the act itself fairly defunct, but to see lots of people out in one place, gathered through social networks, and discussing what just happened in our borough was a heartening thing.

Also – @Wit. These rioters were looting for high end capitalist products. That’s not something I want to stand in solidarity with. Fighting the state and the inequalities of the system is fine, but looting for the goods that oppress you is not.

 

I only saw the last comments today, but I think my argument before got to the heart of it. The middle-class left, which has something to lose – which is invested in the system, e.g. through education – cannot stomach the actions of the most exploited and disenfranchised members of society, i.e. those who really do have nothing to lose but their chains. And certainly awful things happened, e.g. the killing of those three men guarding their businesses, etc. But, here’s the important thing: what has been obvious to all those leftists with a brain is that the social groups that chiefly composed the rioters have not developed a sufficient strata of “intellectuals” (in the Gramscian sense) capable of giving political coherence and direction. The uprising (not movement, but uprising) was not able to police itself, because it lacked this sense of coherence.

By contrast, when a student threw a fire exinguisher off the Millbank roof, people started shouting as one: “Don’t throw shit, stop throwing shit”, &c. And it stopped. Students have indeed developed a strata of “organic” intellectuals – from the conservative SU warders to the most radical organisers; from the people with megaphones in the marches, to those like Aaron Porter who, admittedly occupy/occupied a liminal zone (and yet retain an organic link, moving and being moved by students).

Therefore the necessity, as I said in my first post, of “joining with the rioters” – i.e. of joining with these disenfranchised social groups, helping them to develop their own organisations, institutions, political agency and leadership.

Therefore, for example, the response from Kit, that “These rioters were looting for high end capitalist products. That’s not something I want to stand in solidarity with” is not only unhelpful but is expressive of a middle-class romantic sentimentalism, which in the end only wishes to stand alone looking at itself in the mirror.

More later, this post is getting long, and I’m tired.

Wit

A Conversation on “Technology” and “Technologism”

•July 20, 2011 • Leave a Comment

When “to be absolutely modern” has become a special law decreed by a tyrant, what the honest slave fears more than anything is that he might be suspected of being behind the times

– Debord, Panegyric.

Various events have caused me to take an interest in forming a working definition of “technology”. Not least of these is the fact that certain mystifying definitions of “technology” has become central to liberal ideology in the present conjuncture, and that this ideology has great traction with youth and with the student movement.

Certain figures and bodies have been instrumental in reproducing this ideology within the student movement – e.g. Aaron Peters, Laurie Penny – and forcing it upon the student movement – e.g. The New Statesman, The Independent and The Guardian. My position is basically this: this line has been damaging to the movement’s ability to understand itself and its problems, and has helped bolster and even fetishise negative tendencies and real weaknesses. I’m think here particularly of atomization, disorganisation, destructive individualism, &c.

I started to address this problem in a previous post:

Technologism is rampant: it’s been used to “explain” the student movement in the UK; protests in Iran and Egypt and – well, everywhere else; it’s used to explain how we will defeat climate change and how the financial crash came about. At the risk of simplification, let us propose a counter hypothesis: Technologism is the internalization of a myth used to sell cameras and printers and other pieces of useless gadgetry:

“It’s getting better”: An advert for Canon cameras: http://vimeo.com/3924823

Plainly “technology” is becoming a nodal point at which “culture”, “commerce” and (political) agency become intermixed. What we know as “technology” – i.e. heavily advertised commodities –  thus functions as “affirmative culture” in a far more direct way than Marcuse imagined.

This ‘counter-hypothesis’ was, however, inadequate and simplistic, aligning ‘technology’ only with commodities – gadgets, artifacts. Therefore, please find below a more extended note, followed by some discussion with a friend whose pseudonym on this site is usually Prof. Turnasol.

——————————–

Technology: A few incomplete notes toward a definition

 

‘Technologists’ claim that ‘technology’ is the result of innovation in the fields of science, business, industry and, depending on the breadth of their definition, perhaps arts and humanities; they further claim that this innovation drives and necessitates social, cultural and economic change, or is a major factor in necessitating this change.

But, for Marx and Marxists, however, ‘technology’ is a function of capitalist political economy. Technology cannot be understood or defined independently of this function, which can be summarised simply as follows: technology chiefly functions as one mechanism by which to increase the ratio of productivity to production costs, and therefore, to increase profits (or surplus value).

Even the claim by technologists that technological innovation necessitates social and economic change is troubled by this fact. Technologists tell us that new technologies necessitate change because old technologies become obsolete. The question remains: in what sense do they become obsolete? They become obsolete because (as even technologists will admit) they become less ‘efficient’, i.e. less profitable. The drive to increase profits underpins and determines ‘technological change’, not innovation itself.

 I would suggest that technology has several key functions:

 1)     The creation of new commodities – e.g. the DVD as opposed to VHS, or the touchscreen mobile phone.

2)     Opening new markets – e.g. in Asia, or online.

3)     The destruction of unprofitable ‘constant capital’ – e.g. the British mining industry.

4)     Reducing the cost of labour – e.g. self-service checkouts, internet banking, automation of manufacturing or farming.

It may also be that there are some minor improvements in the quality of the commodity, e.g. standardisation is useful in producing effective and reliable armaments (woo!). But, the chief function is always to generate increased profit, since this is the only crucial, structuring drive in capitalist political economy.

The internet, as we can see, takes on all of these four functions: it creates new gadgets, new advertising space; it opens up a new space for profit; it allows restructuring of capital more profitably (i.e. displacement geographically; restructuring of staff labour; liquidation of less profitable businesses, e.g. physical newspapers, or staffed public libraries, or bank branches).

What the internet is definitely not is a ‘technological and/or social revolution’. All attempts to define it as such represent in fact the organic development of an ideology (and a corresponding caste of technicians and intellectuals) wedded to the class interests of contemporary capitalism and its ‘technological’ developments (i.e. its drive for profits). It is of course no coincidence that many of those spouting this nonsense are themselves invested in reproducing this myth; indeed, it is a fact bound up in that very role, since spouting such nonsense can become a lucrative career. (By the way, if you disagree with this, you are probably part of the problem.)

Let us take a different tack. It is often claimed that technological innovation creates jobs. In fact, it merely restructures labour, often displacing it geographically (e.g. from rural to urban; from north to south; from west to east).Technology, as I have said, is a tool in the war on labour – an attempt to drive down labour costs. It is not the provider but the destroyer. The British miners were not disenfranchised because of technological change; nor because of a concern with generating cleaner fuel. They were disenfranchised because the mining industry in Britain, where labour had become very organised, had become unprofitable. This does not mean it had become unproductive or unsustainable; only that it could not generate the surplus value that could be generated by shifting to nuclear energy, and importing coal from China.

Likewise, many apparent technological advantages merely socialise (i.e. shift to the consumer) the labour costs of activities: e.g. self-checkouts in supermarkets and libraries, or internet shopping. Indeed, with internet shopping, not only can companies cut the costs of labour, but also the costs of running stores and associated infrastructure. But, not only that, they can now also make profit via packaging and shipping charges. A new Amazon warehouse creates a hundred jobs in one town; meanwhile, the city centres become ghost towns. That’s technological advancement.

The saddest thing about technologism in recent months has been its adoption by the anticuts protest movements, particularly following the ‘Arab Spring’. The facts of this are as follows: the students are young and often ‘middle class’ (whatever that means, these days), and therefore particularly targeted by the propaganda of the mobile phone, internet and computer companies. At the same time, this movement has certain organisational weaknesses, e.g. it is quite disparate and disorganised. Finally, all news of this movement comes from a media industry fully invested in reproducing the internet-as-social-revolution propaganda, since it is trying to develop means of using this technology to generate profit (as well as trying to give a centrist slant to any analysis). Whilst it is true that a mobile phone can be a handy thing for an activist, the technologistic ideology that has sprung from this is utterly spurious and damaging to the movement and its understanding of itself and the challenges it faces.

 Thoughts?

———————————————–

Prof. Turnasol:

VERY interesting!

1. Question: who are the ‘technologists’?

2. Note: the marxist account you present is strictly limited to capitalist societies, as profit and surplus value are categories that have sense only in capitalism. (The invention of the wheel or the plough contributed to tremendous augmentation of output. But ‘profit’?) Even in capitalist society, innovation is not always corelated to profit, at least not as directly as you put it (think: internet-Pentagon)

3. Objection: you tend to identify technology with artefacts (just like the ‘technologists’). Technology is about ensembling artefacts; and people and artefacts: you can have the most advanced robots ever; if you do not arrange them the right way, they want make you a car; the most advanced comuter made is less usefull than a turd, if it is away from a plug, which is connected to the national grid etc etc). The implications are immense: (a) even in capitalist societies, main motor of innovation is not profit, but the shopfloor struggle -and informal re-arrangements- by the workers/users of the artefacts. (b) the outmost technological outcome is not some impressive artefact; but the organisation -the setting- of society itself! (Mumford’s ‘mega-machine’)

Wit:

Thanks Prof.

Thoughtful comments as always… hmm

Well, firstly I definitely agree with your second point, as my working hypothesis here is that “‘technology’ is a function of capitalist political economy” (para 1). But, at many points I didn’t make it clear enough that a) my observations are meant to apply specifically to the function of technology in capitalist society; b) that these functions would be different in a different type of society (e.g. in either a pre-capitalist or a communist society).

Your objection I also agree with, and it points to inconsistencies in my argument that really need to be worked out if it is to make proper sense. Because, what I was trying to do by theorizing technology as a ‘function of capitalist political economy’ was to talk about it as a means of reproducing capitalist relations of production. Therefore, I think I was wrong to say: “The drive to increase profits underpins and determines ‘technological change’, not innovation itself.” Profit is the motive from the capitalist point of view. But, I think really you are right: the drive is class struggle, the struggle of the shop floor, the struggle to maintain/destroy the existing relations of productions. The confusion here permeates my whole argument. But, then, the drive for profit is always the fight of the shop floor. So, I think there’s only confusion, not contradiction. For example, despite this confusion, I wrote:

“It is often claimed that technological innovation creates jobs. In fact, it merely restructures labour, often displacing it geographically (e.g. from rural to urban; from north to south; from west to east).Technology, as I have said, is a tool in the war on labour – an attempt to drive down labour costs.”

Certainly I don’t think I identify technology with artefacts – I think the whole thrust of my argument is against this. Maybe there are some moments where I slipped back into this way of thinking, or appeared to do so.

Following on from this, one thing I was never satisfied with was my second function – “Opening new markets – e.g. in Asia, or online.” The two examples I’ve given are really completely different. The internet/the virtual should probably be seen not as a new market, but as a sort of Omega-commodity – one that not only can be bought and sold, but which opens up a whole new space for the creation of new commodities, e.g. internet advertising, web-hosting, shares in websites like Google. Opening up such new spaces initially opens up the possibility for making huge profits (e.g. Google, Facebook), as companies are able enter an area without competition and eventually to monopolise certain areas. But, eventually this rate of profit will decrease and internet sector jobs that have been established will be lost. Even conceived as ‘Omega-commodity’ or whatever, you can still see that this is about reproducing capitalist relations of production; indeed, such new, profitable spaces are needed if these relations are to be maintained.

The opening up of global trade (for which “Asia” is inadequate stand in), is something quite different, I think. We can see how this “progress” is actually part of the class war, the struggle over the cost of labour. But, what is clear to me is that I don’t really have the economic vocabulary or necessary concepts to make such fine distinctions and do justice to either of these things. On this note, I haven’t come across Mumford. Is he any good?

Finally, who are the technologists? I give a little definition in my opening: they are the people who create and push the ideological understanding of technology as the motor of social change – of progress. But, when we speak of ideology we should always make clear the relation of a certain logic or understanding to a social group/class (especially because ideology is so often treated very abstractly these days, as though it were just a way of describing a set of ideas or beliefs). The technologists, I reckon, are the organic intellectuals of the class whose interests are bound up with ‘technology’ as a tool of domination, in the various ways we’ve discussed (here I must note I am not at all arguing the line given by the Frankfurt School; actually these notes could form the beginning of a critique of their ideas about technology and science as domination). At least, “technologism” is organically bound up with these interests. One place I see a lot of technologism (and statism) is amongst the environmentalist liberals – the people who can see the world’s a bit screwed up, but can’t allow themselves to put the blame for this on capitalist relations of production. But, you can see it across the parliamentary spectrum, e.g. even Cameron was harping on about the democratic possibilities of technology a year ago. You can also see it in the media a lot, partly because I think it’s a sort of propaganda for the economic interests of media companies (e.g. newspapers). But, also you see technologism amongst the student left. So, in the end, it’s important to see that it’s not the analysis itself (i.e. “technologism itself”) that is tied to a social group/ a social group’s interests. Rather, it is the way that technologism is made to function in an ideologically specific way that ties it to a social group. Each of these three examples is using ‘technologism’ in a different way; all are ideological, but the relation between ‘ideas’ and social group (i.e. the ideology) is very different. Does that make sense? I’m a bit sleepy. I’m defining ideology here, not as a set of ideas, beliefs or cultural practices, but as the relation between these ideas, beliefs, practices and a social group/class. I think that this way of defining it is a little bit new, a little bit Althusser, and a lot Gramsci.

Anyway, thanks for your thoughts.
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Wit

Biofuel… good idea???

•July 19, 2011 • Leave a Comment

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/jul/19/biofuel-demand-us-fuel-prices

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/sep/05/wheat-price-fears-over-biofuels?INTCMP=ILCNETTXT3487

http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/datablog/2010/sep/24/food-crisis-rice-wheat-maize-prices

News today, 16th

•June 16, 2011 • 2 Comments

The other day I woke up to hear that the Archbishop of Canterbury had criticised the ConDem Govt, along with a load of other anti-govt/anti-austerity news stories. Today I see again a wave of resistance to the trajectory of contemporary capitalism. Here are some links – I might do this for a few days:

Greece:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-13783224

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-13782544

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jun/15/europe-warned-greece-financial-crisis

Strikes in UK (June 30th &c):

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-13772326

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-13782310

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-13775278

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-13778385

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/jun/15/pcs-civil-servants-vote-strike-spending-cuts

Tory Party Donor in dispute over withholding money earmarked for poor:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/jun/16/ashcroft-bank-belize-privy-council-row

NHS “reforms”:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-13786924

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/jun/15/miliband-cameron-benefits-for-seriously-ill

“Miliband puts Cameron under pressure over benefit cuts for seriously ill. Labour leader urges prime minister to meet charities to discuss cuts that will hit cancer patients.”

Welfare cuts:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/jun/15/what-like-to-be-carer

“Kim and I have a very special relationship: whenever I need help she’s there. If Kim decided to retire, God forbid, I don’t know what I would do. I couldn’t do without her.”

• Since this interview took place, recent funding cuts, and a reassessment of Andrew’s needs, mean that Kim no longer cares for him.”

Cuts to the arts:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/culture-cuts-blog/2011/jun/15/arts-funding-public-sector-cuts

http://www.lost-arts.org/ :

Money lost to the arts between 30.03.2011 and 16.06.2011: £20,399,820.00

Unemployment:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2011/jun/15/unemployment-economists-reaction

Nida Ali, economic adviser to the Ernst & Young Item Club

The fall in International Labour Organisation (ILO) unemployment is mainly the lagged data catching up with the stronger claimant count figures seen earlier this year, and is nothing to be too excited about.

However, more notable is the steep rise in the claimant count in May; the third successive monthly increase. This is a more accurate reflection of the scale of weakness in the UK labour market and, as the pace of the public sector spending cuts accelerates, this trend is expected to continue over the coming year.

The story on wages is little changed. Headline regular pay growth slipped further in April, providing no evidence of any second-round effects of high inflation on pay settlements. This will come as a source of relief to the Bank of England and means that MPC members will be in no hurry to raise interest rates. However, wage growth of merely 2% in April represents a 3.2% drop in consumers’ real earnings providing further evidence of the big squeeze on household incomes.

Selling off Northern Rock for pittance:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-13783724

That’s enough for now – I’m tired!

 
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