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Tony Ward

Tony Ward

Wednesday, 01 May 2013 22:01

The Social Construction of Work


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The model of "economic man" - homo-economicus - promoted by modern economists and legitimated by behaviourists, has helped to shape conceptions of work and consumption which present us with a bleak picture of task enjoyment.  Work is here stripped of its joy and its dignity. It becomes, in the economist's own terms a disutility.  This is an important distinction to make, because it blankets work with the kind of meaning which may be at variance with the meaning people assign to it themselves in their daily lives, and the ones which give meaning back to their own lives, in a meanigful task creatively well done. This is because the actual way which people value work is excluded from the normative economic-behaviour equation, since it may involve reinforcers which are intrinsic and which therefore cannot be measured.

One of the more important internal contradictions of economic theory is the claim by economists that their theories are independent of particular cultural practices, that they are instead, universal and invariant. Value neutrality implies the exclusion of any moral responsibility or importance. The claim that behaviourism or abstract economic theories are morally-neutral, that they are simply mechanisms which can be used for either good or evil purposes ignores the reality of its own effect in the lives of real people.

Such claims ignore the profoundly colonising aspects of Western economic theory which have turned countless pre-industrialised and economically self-sufficient peoples into unemployed welfare recipients by inculcating a "need" for industrialised commodities. They take no account, for instance, of the experiences of indigenous peoples in remote regions of the globe like Sarawak in Malaysia which are characterised by vast areas of deforested desolation, strip-logged of their native hardwood rain forests, but populated by occasional shabby villages occupied by dishevelled children clustered around colour TVs, watching American soap operas.  Such examples speak to the continuing colonisation and destruction of whole cultures with alien and potentially catastrophic notions of "work". 

After an initial investigation of how our normative conceptions of "work" have come about, this study compares different conceptions, unpacks the difference between intriunsic and extrinsic rewards for "work" and sets the moral question of what constitutes work against a background of Buddhist Economics which values human dignity, personal growth and spiritual awareness.


To download PDF click here





A brief critical analysis of the conceptual framework of Colonialism - its different faces, its history and its relationship to indigenous peoples, to modern life, to free market and globalisation ideologies, and to issues pertaining to Tourism. 


To download PDF click here  

Wednesday, 01 May 2013 21:59

The Social Construction of Knowledge

Garfield copy
Since the 14th Century, what has been considered as "legitimate" knowledge has been largely shaped by the needs of the capitalist economy. Conceptions of what properly constitutes knowledge have been saturated with positivist rationality - that is, scientific views of reality. But science itself is a socially constructed conceptual category which falsely maintains a position of ideological neutrality. This ideological neutrality is an illusion which masks sciences own internal contradictions in the service of capitalist production. Science serves the ends of alienation. A critical conception of science would start from quite different (humanist) premises. Allied to the positivistic role of science is its use of a technical rationality which fails to address or account for the morally reprehensible uses to which science itself has been put.


To download PDF click here


Wednesday, 01 May 2013 21:57

The Social Construction of Rationality

 hold on professor.small

Frantz Fanon once suggested, that the most odious form of colonisation, and that which has brought with it the greatest pain for the colonised is the colonisation of the mind - so that they have come to disbelieve and reject the most sacred precepts of their own traditional cultures and therefore their identities. This colonisation is deep, fundamental and is linked to the linguistic structures (and the structures of rationality and logic that support them). Since the Enlightenment, it has been a tradition in Western philosophical circles to promote the existence of a unitary form of rationality. That is, that there is one unquestioning form of rationality that is tied (in our case) to the precepts of logical positivism, and that any other form of discourse that lies outside these boundaries is, by definition, illogical, primitive and non-progressive. Critical Theory challenges this notion and demonstrates that our notions of rationality - like all other conceptual categories - is not essential, but is rather socially constructed. Furthermore, it demonstrates that normative conceptions of the rational are developed and shaped by the social relations of Capitalism and its colonial and imperialistic imperative. In this paper, I challenge received notions of the rational, and demonstrate how these current conceptions work to reinforce and reproduce existing power relations in society. Further, following Giroux and Habermas , I propose alternative models of rationality that exhibit transformative potential.


To download the PDF The Social Construction of Rationality click here


Wednesday, 01 May 2013 21:54

Self Delusion and the Radical Left



During the late 1960s and the early 1970s, the Civil Rights Movement and the Anti-War movement, (the latter largely driven by white middle-class college students), were able to bring about a major transformation in the Western public mind. In the Anti-War movement, youth movements in the USA, Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada were instrumental in forging a broad coalition of antiwar activists. Organisations like the Weathermen, and Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) were in the forefront of this movement and have rightly been acknowledged for their part in bringing the Vietnam War to a close. Successful as that movement was, it failed at an important level – in failing to operate internally with the same democratic principles that it publicly espoused. By and large the movement was headed up by men, and women were relegated to the background and to supportive roles – in the process spawning (no pun intended) the Womens’ Movement, or the Womens’ Liberation Movement as it was then called. Aided by the invention of the birth-control pill that gave women control over their child-bearing, as well as by Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act – that forbade job discrimination on the basis of race, colour, religion, sex, (almost an afterthought!) or national origin, women began to organise for equal rights and opportunities. The National Organisation of Women (NOW) was formed in 1996 by a group of 28 women at the Third Annual Conference of the Commission on the Status of Women in Washington DC. Within 6 months it had 300 members. By 2000 it had half-a-million.

It seemed, in the 1970s, that the Womens’ Liberation issue was well on the way to being solved. NOW promoted the Equal Rights Amendment Act, enshrining the equality of women into law, but by 1973 the drive for legislation stalled against counter-movements and with the ratification by only 35 of the necessary 38 States. Nevertheless significant changes had, it seemed, been initiated as it became increasingly mainstream for men to accept gender sensitivity and equality. The Left, it seemed, had finally acknowledged its earlier misogyny and had moved to embrace women as equal participants in the struggle for universal emancipation. So it seemed. In what follows I suggest that the Left (at least in 1990 and perhaps down to the present) still suffered from a patriarchal myopia – a disjoint between its theory and practice, a confusion between its “do-gooding” and its “feel-gooding” that hampers its effective influence in the process of revolutionary social change.

In an earlier essay I described two experiences that I had in Managua, Nicaragua and Havana, Cuba in 1990. Those experiences were part of my research into critical education theory and practice undertaken in my PhD programme. I wanted to understand and contrast the education systems operating under capitalism with those in a Socialist country – one with a mature brand of socialism like Cuba’s and one with a new and revolutionary socialist like that initiated by the Sandinista revolution. This story parallels that earlier one - this time looking at the broader trendsand problems associated with cultural support and solidarity.


To download the PDF click here


 walking our talk front

Those who know that they are profound strive for clarity. Those who would like to seem profound strive for obscurity.

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844-1900)
This PDF compares the role of teachers as both academics and intellectuals, suggesting that as academics who purport to be engaging with issues of  emancipation, equality and empowerment, we are rather agents for cultural imperialism and also its major beneficiaries. It suggests that the current academic fashions of postmodernism and poststructuralism are profoundly conservative and have been captured by the Right who have perverted their emancipatory origins. It locates these origins in the turbulent 1960s, and shows, how the structural changes to the American economy in the 1980s and 1990s decimated the radical imperative and initiated a conceptual shift to the Right which we as academics are supporting in our refusal to speak truth to power. It suggests that we are afraid to speak the truth because we might be understood, and so we couch our theories in opaque rhetoric and highly private languages, rather than in the language of the oppressed whom we purport to support and liberate.


To download PDF click here  


This is an article written by Pauline Lipman which unpacks the role that Education policy plays in the process of gentrification of inner-city black neighbourhoods in Chicago. To download the PDF click here 

Wednesday, 01 May 2013 21:47

Do You Have a Sign?


do you have a sign

3CDC's signs are popping up everywhere in Over-the-Rhine. (Photos: John Blake) 

This essay is contributed by my guest and dear friend Tom Dutton, the Director of the Centre for Community Engagement in Over-the-Rhine, a beleaguered black inner city ghetto in Cincinnati that has been the site of a concerted effort of displacement and gentrification by a coalition of banks, developers and the Cincinnati City Council (through its agency the Cincinnati City Centre Development Corporation (3CDC). Tom makes the powerful point that what is going on in places like Over-the-Rhine is very similar to the process that was employed by the colonial world powers in the 18th Century:

"We stole countries; that's how you build an empire. We stole countries with the cunning use of flags. Just sail around the world and stick a flag in 'em.
'I claim India for Britain.'
'You can't claim us, we live here. 500 million of us.'
'Do you have a flag?'"

Now, if you just shift scales a bit to see the internal colonial machinations of powerful corporations operating within a nation, it's not hard to extrapolate to see 3CDC playing the role of Great Britain in Over-the-Rhine

3CDC: "We claim Over-the-Rhine for middle- and upper-class people."

People of Over-the-Rhine: "You can't claim us, we live here. We've been building community for years, decades really. You can't just come into this community, claim it for yourself and run everybody out!"

3CDC: "Do you have a sign?"

As Tom notes, there are 3CDC signs going up all over Over-the-Rhine in a blatant attempt to colonise and dispossess the residents and inhabitants. And poor as they are, they find it difficult to counter the powerful voices of the invaders.

 The article was first published in Truthout on 15th January 2012, but can also be downloaded if you click here

Monday, 29 April 2013 11:33

Occupy Wall Street


eat the rich.small

The Occupy Wall Street Movement has been both ignored and vilified by the mainstream media. The Wall Street banker-pundits themselves pretend not to understand the protests, to see them as the acts of an ignorant and misguided social fringe. Yet seen in the context of the global youth protest they take on a deep and significant meaning - a disenchantment with the political system, an anger at the social and economic abuse by the powerful and a desire for change - real change that does not depend on the presence of an image-perfect charismatic leader, but from a grass roots movement that may yet portend the re-emergence of a new brand of decentralised Socialism.

To Download the PDF click here


Monday, 29 April 2013 11:07

Critical Theory Overview

freire front

I discovered this Powerpoint presentation recently. It's created by Jessica Cameron and Chris Davis - students (I think!) at Iowa State University School of Sociology. It's a terrific historical analysis of Critical Theory from its beginnings in pre-WW2 Germany to the present, offering concise biogrtaphies of the main proponents. Its only defect, in my opinion, lies in its concluding criticisms, where it suggests that Critical Theory is ahistorical. On the contrary, Critical Theory prides itself an a critical analysis of history, which is seen as the source of present social, political, economic and cultural injustice. Having said this, the Powerpoint is very well put together. To download the Powerpoint click here

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