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.
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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.
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To download PDF click here
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.
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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.
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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
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 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.
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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