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Archive for the ‘economics’ Category

Is it Love? by Brian Kuan Wood

In art, economics, economy, information, politics, society, sociology on May 18, 2014 at 07:59

From: Is it Love? by Brian Kuan Wood, e-flux, http://www.e-flux.com

Now it becomes easy to see how love translates to economic terms as a union based in mutual debt. When the debt is paid off or called in, the union dissolves. And now that pretty much everyone is in debt, love abounds! Professionals are moving back in with their parents, people are returning home to their countries to depend on their extended families, contracts are increasingly backed by personal relationships, and even the values of goods and currencies are backed less by bonds and legal tender and more by the trust and intimacy that gives them their character. Shared associations and affinities expressed over communication lines produce pockets of enormous value in an otherwise lonely ocean of random data streams. Musicians record reams of songs without ever thinking about wanting a record contract from major labels that are still struggling to understand how to make money off computer files.

Love is the most recently introduced member in the family of inflation and bloat. It is a burst of fresh air fed straight into the bubble. It gives the Ponzi scheme at least another decade before people start to think about cashing out. Remember when you would run out of time and replace that with energy? Push a little harder and move a little faster and you can trick time, because darling you’re a superhero. But when you run out of time and energy alike, you run into a problem. You need help. You need support. You need love and a bit of tenderness. Now, with the help of others, you can feed the machine again.

Without time and energy of your own, love is the conduit through which you extract the time and energy of others. You then start to take the shape of that loving conduit. But you have also become a professional lover—or a diabolically good flirt. You are a kind of Marilyn Monroe or Don Juan in the labor of other Marilyns and Dons. This arrangement actually makes for a beautifully collective endeavor so long as you can stay beautiful, tender, and kind to your lovers, and so long as they stay that way to you. This tenderness is a force of resynchronization. Maybe it is a new kind of force altogether. Maybe it is love time. Let’s inhale and exhale together.

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Reposted with permission from: e-flux

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Scandinavian Style by Sophie Pinkham

In art, books, culture, economics, literature, politics, review, writers on January 20, 2014 at 17:33

From: Scandinavian Style by Sophie Pinkham, N + 1 Magazine, http://nplusonemag.com

Karl Ove Knausgaard’s 3,500-page, six-volume magnum opus, My Struggle, is made from the material of the author’s daily life. The book has been described as an autobiographical novel, sometimes with “novel” in scare quotes, to indicate its excessive truthfulness. Like the author, the narrator is called Karl Ove Knausgaard, and, like the author, he is a Norwegian writer who lives in Stockholm with his second wife, the poet Linda Bostrom. As Knausgaard has explained in many interviews, his intention in writing My Struggle was to be absolutely honest, no matter how much shame this might cause. Many of his relatives have been furious, and some have cut off all contact with him. His wife relapsed into manic depression after she read the first manuscript. Knausgaard’s decision to tell the whole painful, humiliating truth has been the subject of heated debate in Norway, where My Struggle has sold about one copy for every ten residents. (To date, only the first two volumes have been released in English; the third will appear next summer.)

For American readers, Knausgaard’s writing is striking in its freedom from telling details, well-wrought similes, conspicuous fine-tuning. His sentences don’t look like they’ve been reworked for months, and they haven’t: he wrote My Struggle fast, with minimal revision. He uses well-worn phrases that we tend to identify as clichés, and that elicit, in many readers, a desire to whip out the red pencil. In an otherwise positive review of My Struggle in the New Yorker, James Wood criticized the uneven quality of the prose and the use of clichés. But these are essential parts of the method. Knausgaard rejects chiseled sentences in favor of a cumulative effect, and the flatness, the openness, the sprawl provide the space necessary for his discursive treatment of everyday life, allowing the reader to exist inside the narrator’s mind, to see as he sees.

We never see Knausgaard engaging in any kind of income-generating activity, apart from writing novels and producing the occasional reader’s report for a publishing house. He doesn’t teach creative writing classes, or literature classes. He never talks to an agent, though he occasionally does interviews or goes to writers’ conferences. He doesn’t write book reviews for magazines or newspapers. He is not enrolled in a PhD program or a funded MFA program—welfare for American intellectuals. His wife, Linda, is a poet who never seems to engage in any income-generating activity at all. And yet they have an apartment in the center of Stockholm, and Knausgaard has an office—a room of his own. The Knausgaards are always eating crab and salmon, drinking good wine and cognac. They vacation in Spain, and never seem to worry about the financial welfare of their aging parents. Most shocking of all, they have an extravagant number of children—three—in the course of just four years. They never wonder who’ll pay for their children to go to college, probably because in Sweden and Norway, university is free. When Linda gives birth, Knausgaard ponders the existential aspects of this process, rather than worrying about the hospital bill. In Stockholm, as in New York, life is full of banality; but it’s a different banality, without credit card debt or massive student loans.

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Reposted with permission from: N + 1 Magazine

Women Scholars and the Dynamics of Economic Recession

In economics, economy, education, gender, sociology, universities on December 4, 2013 at 20:38

From: Hard Times: Women Scholars and the Dynamics of Economic Recession by Linda Zionkowski, Berfrois, http://www.berfrois.com

Hypatia, Alfred Seifert, 1901

Hypatia, Alfred Seifert, 1901

While straitened budgets and shrinking resources present difficulties for all of us within the university system, some of the most vulnerable people affected are graduate students. Occupying a liminal space as apprentices within the profession, students enrolled in master’s and doctoral programs often find themselves facing a situation in which opportunities for professional development have become occasions for exploitation. No department, of course, would claim the abuse of graduate students as part of its mission statement; rather, we want students enrolled in our programs to flourish as scholars and teachers and bring credit upon our institutions after they graduate and find employment. But in a climate of financial austerity, our good intentions might actually work to the detriment of our students by promoting a set of established practices—or a culture—that works against their best interests. As women increasingly accept administrative positions, becoming deans, chairs, and directors of graduate studies, we find that the situation of graduate students emerges as an important (and recurrent) concern in our working lives. The remarks and suggestions that I’m offering here are meant to call attention to the complicated dynamic of decreasing resources and increasing expectations and propose ways in which we can help our students create a manageable balance between the two.

One of the foundational assumptions of graduate programs is that they develop students’ pedagogical skills, enabling fledgling academics to become confident and proficient teachers in their disciplines. A review of graduate students’ syllabi, grading practices, and teaching evaluations more often than not shows their dedication to their classes and suggests that they prepare seriously for the career they are seeking. But three developments within our profession — the declining number of lines for tenure-track faculty, stipend stagnation, and outstanding record of accomplishments expected of job-seekers — contribute to the overuse of graduate student labor and to the debt load that causes our students to be complicit in their overuse.

Competition to retain tenure-track faculty lines has grown more intense as university budgets have shrunk, resulting in difficulties with staffing courses; the problem is particularly acute in disciplines where effective instruction requires smaller class sizes. Since a substantial number of writing-intensive general education courses (Freshman and Junior Composition, Introduction to Literature, etc.) are often housed in English departments, the opportunity for overload classes easily presents itself to graduate students, some of whom will give time and energy to teaching that could have been spent on progress toward their degree. Graduate students, of course, are entirely justified in accepting overload assignments, even to their own detriment: tuition waivers often do not cover university fees (which at my institution can run in excess of $3,000 annually), and graduate stipends frequently fall below or remain slightly above the Federal Poverty Guidelines for individuals (estimated at $11,170 in 2012). Moreover, graduate students are compelled to bear the cost of their own professional development: hiring committees look for evidence of sustained academic activity, including presentations at conferences, attendance at workshops, and publications based upon archival research, all of which cost far more than can be managed by graduate stipends and travel awards. For our students, the result is the burden of loan debt, or the absolute necessity for overload teaching, or — most often — a combination of both.

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Reposted with permission from: Berfrois

China’s Facelift by Hamid Elyassi

In Asia, economics, economy, politics, society on September 30, 2013 at 21:30

From: China’s Facelift: Economic Development and Political Transition by Hamid Elyassi , The Montreal Review, http://www.themontrealreview.com

In March this year, the moulting of the political structure of the People’s Republic of China was completed at the annual plenary session of the National People’s Congress and the old faces at the top politely offered their seats to their younger colleagues. The facelift, taking place after the set interval of ten years, certainly helped dispel the received notion that leaders of communist regimes, having survived an often perilous road to power, tend to cling to it until death. What it did not do was to counter the uneasy feeling that the intended rejuvenation was only skin deep.

The routine endorsement of the new leadership by the People’s Congress was the second phase of the rejuvenation procedure. The rather ritualistic exercise had begun in November last year when the Communist Party of China (CPC) held its less frequent National Congress to announce new party leaders. The Party, which at one time used to pawn its impressive revolutionary credentials to lend legitimacy to an oppressive, totalitarian state, has for some time been clutching at the success of the Chinese economy to justify its endurance and avoid the inescapable question of its relevance in a country well-versed in the ways of capitalism. Of course, the way the Congress was managed gave no indication of a once bright star on the wane. Indeed, in a perfectly choreographed exercise in form, the new Party leaders presented to the Party Congress in November were later transplanted to the top of the state apparatus. The operation took place before the delegates to the National People’s Congress who played the rather convincing part of parliamentarians empowered to give, and presumably withhold, their votes of confidence in people set to run China for the coming ten years.

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Reposted with permission from: The Montreal Review

None of the world’s top industries… by David Roberts

In business, ecology, economics, politics on July 7, 2013 at 17:36

From: None of the world’s top industries would be profitable if they paid for the natural capital they use by David Roberts, Grist, http://grist.org

The notion of “externalities” has become familiar in environmental circles. It refers to costs imposed by businesses that are not paid for by those businesses. For instance, industrial processes can put pollutants in the air that increase public health costs, but the public, not the polluting businesses, picks up the tab. In this way, businesses privatize profits and publicize costs.

While the notion is incredibly useful, especially in folding ecological concerns into economics, I’ve always had my reservations about it. Environmentalists these days love speaking in the language of economics — it makes them sound Serious — but I worry that wrapping this notion in a bloodless technical term tends to have a narcotizing effect. It brings to mind incrementalism: boost a few taxes here, tighten a regulation there, and the industrial juggernaut can keep right on chugging. However, if we take the idea seriously, not just as an accounting phenomenon but as a deep description of current human practices, its implications are positively revolutionary.

To see what I mean, check out a recent report [PDF] done by environmental consultancy Trucost on behalf of The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) program sponsored by United Nations Environmental Program. TEEB asked Trucost to tally up the total “unpriced natural capital” consumed by the world’s top industrial sectors. (“Natural capital” refers to ecological materials and services like, say, clean water or a stable atmosphere; “unpriced” means that businesses don’t pay to consume them.)

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Reposted with permission from: Grist

Emancipation of the Sign by Franco Berardi Bifo

In art, economics, languages, philosophy, poetry on June 6, 2013 at 20:38

From:  Emancipation of the Sign: Poetry and Finance During the Twentieth Century by Franco Berardi Bifo, e-flux, http://www.e-flux.com/

Money and language have something in common: they are nothing and yet they move everything. They are nothing but symbols, conventions, flatus vocis, but they have the power to persuade human beings to act, to work, and to transform physical things:

Money makes things happen. It is the source of action in the world and perhaps the only power we invest in. Perhaps in every other respect, in every other value, bankruptcy has been declared, giving money the power of some sacred deity, demanding to be recognized. Economics no longer persuades money to behave. Numbers cannot make the beast lie down and be quiet or sit up and do tricks. Thus, as we suspected all along, economics falsely imitates science. At best, economics is a neurosis of money, a symptom contrived to hold the beast in abeyance … Thus economics shares the language of psychopathology, inflation, depression, lows and heights, slumps and peaks, investments and losses, and economy remains caught in manipulations of acting stimulated or depressed, drawing attention to itself, egotistically unaware of its own soul. Economists, brokers, accountants, financiers, all assisted by lawyers, are the priests of the cult of money, reciting their prayers to make the power of money work without imagination.1

Financial capitalism is based on the autonomization of the dynamics of money, but more deeply, on the autonomization of value production from the physical interaction of things.

The passage from the industrial abstraction of work to the digital abstraction of world implies an immaterialization of the labor process.

Jean Baudrillard proposed a general semiology of simulation based on the premise of the end of referentiality, in the economic as well as the linguistic field. In Le miroir de la production (1973), Baudrillard writes: “In this sense need, use value and the referent ‘do not exist.’ They are only concepts produced and projected into a generic dimension by the development of the very system of exchange value.”2′

But the analogy between economy and language should not mislead us: although money and language have something in common, their destinies do not coincide, as language exceeds economic exchange. Poetry is the language of non-exchangeability, the return of infinite hermeneutics, and the return of the sensuous body of language.

I’m talking of poetry here as an excess of language, as a hidden resource which enables us to shift from one paradigm to another.

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Reposted with permission from: e-flux

A Renaissance in Economics by Simon Mee

In academia, economics, North America, social sciences, universities on June 6, 2013 at 20:23

From: A Renaissance in Economics by Simon Mee, Adbusters, https://www.adbusters.org

For, in its current form, the economics curriculum at Oxford and other Anglo-Saxon universities is far too detached from reality. Demand curves, utility maximization equations and abstract mathematical models serve only to distort the worldview of undergraduate students.

Why does this matter? It is simple. Oxford in particular has a firm grip on the British establishment. These bright young things will soon be entering the top echelons of corporate, finance and government circles. And as soon as they step into those offices, the same tired way of thinking about economics will perpetuate.

Oxford University has a proud history. Look at the origins of Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE), for instance, a course that schooled generations of leading politicians. The course traces its origins back to 1920, a time when economics was studied closely alongside its two brothers, politics and philosophy. Now, however, PPE students study the subject in complete isolation. There is little, if any, overlap with its erstwhile siblings.

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Reposted with permission from: Adbusters

Africa Shining by Anjan Sundaram

In Africa, Asia, ecology, economics, ethics, politics on May 11, 2013 at 19:35

From: Africa Shining: Can India compete with China in an emerging Africa? by Anjan Sundaram, The Caravan, http://www.caravanmagazine.in

… Fifteen years ago, Africa, and particularly its troubled centre, was seen almost exclusively as an exotic high-risk investment destination for the brave and adventurous, for those with privileged connections to Africa’s dictatorships and large pools of capital to risk. Most investors had all but forsaken central Africa after Rwanda’s 1994 genocide killed more than 800,000 people in three months.

But the economic interest in Africa has lately become intense. It is now routinely described as the continent of the future: by some measures it is soon to be the world’s fastest growing region, with a large and rapidly expanding consumer base—its middle class is now estimated to be larger than India’s—and an abundance of rich mineral deposits.

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Reposted with permission from: The Caravan

The Gospel of Wealth by Jim Chaffee

In economics, education, government, North America, politics, society on March 21, 2013 at 12:49

From: The Gospel of Wealth: towards a new generation of American consumership by Jim Chaffee, nthposition online magazine, http://www.nthposition.com

Economics and Finance for the American Way of Life is a textbook for a mandatory full year Texas public school course at the end of middle school. It was deemed necessary at this level because this is the age when students take their place among the ranks of their adult peers as consumers, with credit cards and cell phones and online shopping and as soon to be de facto owners of automobiles. Furthermore, fully thirty percent of the students in Texas will not advance beyond this level of education.

As this implies, The Economy is the center of the text. Each nation, state, county, city and family has an Economy which must be appeased and cajoled. The duty of every citizen is to cultivate his or her Personal Economy from an early age as this will become the Family Economy, an amalgamation of husband’s and wife’s Economies upon marriage. They hint that there is not only a Global Economy, but in fact a Universal Economy which must be appeased by financial experts who are trained to intercede with the individual’s Personal Economy through the higher Economies. (Makes you wonder what would happen if another country got an ATM on the moon first.) Some university departments such as the Stanford department which consulted on this text specialize in training analysts adroit in intercession on behalf of institutions larger than the individual, such as banks and corporations, while such intercession at the national level is mostly left to economists. In general, the role of the financial engineer (or analyst), which includes MBAs, is to intercede with different Economies on behalf of the people, including through institutions, while the duty of the economist is to interpret the will of The Economy at varying levels.

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Reposted with permission from: nthposition

From Western Marxism to Western Buddhism by Slavoj Žižek

In Asia, economics, Europe, government, politics, religion, society on February 24, 2013 at 00:39

From: From Western Marxism to Western Buddhism by Slavoj Žižek, Cabinet, http://cabinetmagazine.org

The ultimate postmodern irony of today is the strange exchange between Europe and Asia: at the very moment when “European” technology and capitalism are triumphing worldwide at the level of the “economic infrastructure, the Judeo-Christian legacy is threatened at the level of “ideological superstructure” in the European space itself by New Age “Asiatic” thought, which, in its different guises ranging from “Western Buddhism” to different “Taos,” is establishing itself as the hegemonic ideology of global capitalism. Therein resides the highest speculative identity of opposites in today’s global civilization: although “Western Buddhism” presents itself as the remedy against the stressful tension of capitalist dynamics, allowing us to uncouple and retain inner peace and Gelassenheit, it actually functions as its perfect ideological supplement. One should mention here the well-known concept of “future shock” that describes how people are no longer psychologically able to cope with the dazzling rhythm of technological development and the social changes that accompany it. Things simply move too fast, and before one can accustom oneself to an invention, it has already been supplanted by a new one, so that one more and more lacks the most elementary “cognitive mapping.” The recourse to Taoism or Buddhism offers a way out of this predicament that definitely works better than the desperate escape into old traditions. Instead of trying to cope with the accelerating rhythm of techno-logical progress and social changes, one should rather renounce the very endeavor to retain control over what goes on, rejecting it as the expression of the modern logic of domination. One should, instead, “let oneself go,” drift along, while retaining an inner distance and indifference toward the mad dance of accelerated process, a distance based on the insight that all this social and technological upheaval is ultimately just a non-substantial proliferation of semblances that do not really concern the innermost kernel of our being. One is almost tempted to resuscitate the old infamous Marxist cliché of religion as the “opium of the people,” as the imaginary supplement to terrestrial misery. The “Western Buddhist” meditative stance is arguably the most efficient way for us to fully participate in capitalist dynamics while retaining the appearance of mental sanity. If Max Weber were alive today, he would definitely write a second, supplementary, volume to his Protestant Ethic, entitled The Taoist Ethic and the Spirit of Global Capitalism.

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Reposted with permission from: Cabinet

Property Rights in Space by Rand Simberg

In economics, ethics, politics, research, science, science fiction, space, technology, transportation on January 5, 2013 at 05:42

From: Property Rights in Space by Rand Simberg, The New Atlantis, http://www.thenewatlantis.com

Space contains valuable resources. These provide a compelling reason for entrepreneurs, investors, and governments to pursue space exploration and settlement. Asteroids are known to be rich in valuable elements like neodymium, scandium, yttrium, iridium, platinum, and palladium, most of which are rare on Earth. Because of the high price that these minerals command, harvesting them from space could possibly justify even very costly mining expeditions. This is the hope of Planetary Resources, a company recently formed and funded by Google executives Larry Page and Eric Schmidt with the intent of mining asteroids. Similarly, Microsoft billionaire Naveen Jain has founded the company Moon Express, with plans to use robots to start mining the Moon — as early as next year, it claims. Meanwhile, Texas-based Shackleton Energy Company plans to mine ice in Shackleton Crater at the lunar south pole to provide propellant for planetary missions, and is raising funds for the venture now.

The basic technology for space travel necessary for off-planet development has of course existed for several decades; the United States did, after all, put a man on the Moon in 1969. And recent advances in spacefaring technology, like the SpaceX Falcon Heavy launcher, promise to reduce the cost of transporting people and goods to and from outer space. This new rocket will deliver about fifty metric tons of payload to low-Earth orbit at a price of $120 million, allowing material to be shipped to space for about a thousand dollars per pound — far less than the tens of thousands of dollars per pound that technologies like NASA’s retired space shuttle cost to ferry cargo. And if SpaceX or some other company can achieve the goal of partial or full reusability, the price of launching goods into orbit will likely drop much further, especially if market forces bring more competitors into the field.

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Reposted with permission from: The New Atlantis

What the frack? by Imre Szeman

In ecology, economics, ethics, government, news, North America, politics, sociology on January 3, 2013 at 16:42

From: What the frack? by Imre Szeman, Radical Philosophy, http://www.radicalphilosophy.com

Shale gas can be found in pockets all over the world, including Argentina, Australia, Canada, China, Mexico and South Africa. The extraction of natural gas from shale has generated headlines in almost every one of these countries as a result of the process used to gain access to it: hydrological fracturing, which is more commonly referred to as ‘fracking’. A process developed in late 1940s but only used widely in the last decade, fracking involves the injection of a mix of water, sand and chemicals into the bore created to access the gas with enough force and pressure to split the shale rock, and so make the gas recoverable. The success of fracking as a means by which to access natural gas deposits that were formerly thought to be inaccessible is connected with the concurrent development of horizontal (as opposed to conventional, vertical) drilling, a process now carried out in the field with relative ease. Horizontal drilling aided by fracking opened up the natural gas fields of the Barnett Shale in northern Texas a decade ago. Since then, oil and gas companies, small and large, have raced to gain access to the gas trapped in the Bowland Basin in the UK and the Marcellus Shale in the north-eastern USA, as well as many other places around the globe. Besides the profits promised by control over all these new gas deposits, industry and government have been quick to champion the other benefits produced by shale gas and fracking.

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Reposted with permission from: Radical Philosophy

Welcome to the “Spiritual Kingdom of Animals” by Slavoj Žižek

In Asia, documentary, economics, ethics, film, North America, philosophy, society on January 1, 2013 at 19:31

From: Welcome to the “Spiritual Kingdom of Animals” by Slavoj Žižek, ODBOR, http://www.odbor.org

In other words, self-interested egotism is not the brutal fact of our societies but its ideology – the ideology philosophically articulated in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit towards the end of the chapter on Reason, under the name of “das geistige Tierreich” – the “spiritual kingdom of animals,” Hegel’s name for the modern civil society in which human animals are caught in self-interested interaction. As Hegel put it, the achievement of modernity was to allow “the principle of subjectivity to attain fulfillment in the self-sufficient extreme of personal particularity.”[3] This reign of this principle makes possible civil society as the domain of in which autonomous human individuals associate with each other through the institutions of free-market economy in order to satisfy their private needs: all communal ends are subordinated to private interests of individuals, they are consciously posited and calculated with the goal of maximizing the satisfaction of these interests. What matters for Hegel here is the opposition of private and common perceived by those on whom Hegel relies (Mandeville, Smith) as well as by Marx: individuals perceive the common domain as something that should serve their private interests (like a liberal who thing of state as a protector of private freedom and safety), while individuals, in pursuing their narrow goals, effectively serve the communal interest. The properly dialectical tension emerges here when we become aware that, the more individuals act egotistically, the more they contribute to the common wealth. The paradox is that when individuals want to sacrifice their narrow private interests and directly work for the common good, the one which suffers is the common good itself – Hegel loves to tell historical anecdotes about a good king or prince whose very dedication to the common good brought his country to ruins. The properly philosophical novelty of Hegel was to further determine this “contradiction” along the lines of the tension between the “animal” and the “spiritual”: the universal spiritual substance, the “work of all and everyone,” emerges as the result of the “mechanical” interaction of individuals. What this means is that the very “animality” of the self-interested “human animal” (the individual participating in the complex network of civil society) is the result of the long historical process of the transformation of medieval hierarchic society into modern bourgeois society. It is thus the very fulfillment of the principle of subjectivity – the radical opposite of animality – which brings about the reversal of subjectivity into animality.

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Reposted according to “friendly” copyright notice from: ODBOR

Austin At Large by John Davidson

In architecture, community, economics, ethnicity, government, North America, performing arts, politics, space on December 21, 2012 at 17:55

From: Austin At Large by John Davidson, n + 1, http://nplusonemag.com

Austin is the fastest-growing city in the United States. More than 150,000 people moved there in the last decade and the city now has almost 800,000 residents. The greater metro area added almost half a million people in the past ten years and now has a population of about 1.7 million. This rapid growth has made Austin one of the few cities in the country where the housing market is strong and stable. The total dollar amount of single-family homes sold in Austin in October was more than $543 million, and with the population expected to keep growing and spreading into other parts of the city, the future looks good for realtors and developers in Austin.

For everyone else, the future looks expensive. Central Texas is struggling with an overloaded infrastructure and crippling congestion, which will keep getting worse unless Austin and Travis County can figure out how to build light rail, buy more buses and establish more routes, carve out more bike and pedestrian paths, and build larger highways—all of which comes with a price tag in the tens of billions. That money would have to come from ever-increasing property taxes and fees paid by current residents, and of course those living in growing neighborhoods will be hit hardest.

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Reposted with permission from: n + 1

Climate Change, Forest Privatization, and Apocalyptic Prophesies in the Mayan Zone of Quintana Roo, Mexico by José E. Martínez-Reyes

In anthropology, biology, community, culture, ecology, economics, human rights, politics, sociology, South America on December 16, 2012 at 16:54

From: Climate Change, Forest Privatization, and Apocalyptic Prophesies in the Mayan Zone of Quintana Roo by José E. Martínez-Reyes

The Maya of central Quintana Roo and their environment have undergone enormous transformations in recent years. Pressures not only from tourism development, but also from land tenure changes and land speculation are beginning to create increased tensions within Mayan communities between people that want to continue the current system of communal land tenure (“ejido”) and those that feel pressure to sell their ejido rights to potentially offer land for development or for a recent biodiversity conservation scheme that is happening in the communities around the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.

On top of the conservation restrictions to comply with REDD+, the Maya are facing increased periods of drought associated with climate change. These changes are putting enormous pressure on their resources, the forest, forest wildlife, their traditional agriculture, and make them more dependent on government subsidies. It also has the effect of promoting migration to try and find one of the relatively few jobs that the tourism industry provides. Facing this array of difficulties, local leaders, including the Mayan dignitaries associated with the Church of the Talking Cross, continue to question what prospects look like for their future generations.  As a people that have endured profound struggles, including invasion and war, they continue to respond with an apocalyptic sentiment (that has nothing to do with the 2012 nonsense that the media perpetuates).

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Reposted with permission from: Cultural Survival

Democracy – Édgar Morales interviews Martha Nussbaum

In art, books, culture, economics, history, human rights, humanities, interview, philosophy, politics, social sciences on December 12, 2012 at 18:56

From: Democracy: A Noble But Sluggish Horse We Need the Sting of Critical Reasoning… Édgar Morales interviews Martha Nussbaum, Literal Magazine, http://www.literalmagazine.com

Édgar Morales: Some of the topics you take on in your recent book, Not For Profit, were also addressed a decade ago at Cultivating Humanity. What has changed since then concerning your views on liberal education?

Martha Nussbaum: My views about the relationship between liberal education and democracy have not changed at all. I still believe that a healthy democracy needs an education that focuses on (1) Socratic self-examination and critical thinking; (2) the capacity to think as a citizen of the whole world, not just some local region or group, in a way informed by adequate historical, economic, and religious knowledge; and (3) trained imaginative capacities, so that people can put themselves in the position of others whose ways of life are very different from their own. Four things are new about the current book. First, it focuses on primary and secondary education, as well as university education. Second, it focuses on the arts as well as the humanities. Third, it is international, taking its detailed case studies from India and the U.S., but alluding more briefly to problems faced by other nations. Fourth, it is written in response to a different problem. Cultivating Humanity was an attempt to answer conservative American critics of new “multicultural” approaches in education; the opponents agreed wholeheartedly with me that the humanities were central; they disagreed only about how they should be taught. The new book is addressed to opponents who would rather bypass the humanities entirely, in favor of profit-making skills.

EM: At the beginning of your book, you state that “We are in the midst of a crisis of massive proportions and grave global significance”, a silent crisis, deeper than the international economic crisis. Why talking about a crisis? What were the first symptoms?

MN: I didn’t say it was deeper than the international economic crisis. I said that the economic crisis was recognized as a crisis, and this one has not been so recognized. The crisis is the drastic decline in support for the humanities, the arts, and even the social sciences as ingredients in both school and university education. The symptoms of this decline are subtle here in the U. S., where we still have an entrenched system of liberal education in top universities, supported by a longstanding tradition of private philanthropy, that sends signals to schools; however, even here the state universities, in particular, are cutting in subjects that appear not to contribute directly to the state’s economic growth. In most other nations of the world, liberal education was never favored at the university level, so it is even easier to cut departments and programs that are not perceived to be economically productive, and correspondingly easy for schools to focus on marketable skills.

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Reposted with permission from: Literal Magazine

The Asian Super Grid by John A. Mathews

In Asia, economics, government, politics, technology on November 25, 2012 at 20:30

From: The Asian Super Grid by John A. Mathews, Japan Focus, http://www.japanfocus.org

The integration of East Asia is a topic of perennial interest – whether it be monetary integration (much discussed in the wake of the 1997 financial crisis), trade integration (promoted via ever-expanding FTA areas) or even political integration. But what is not widely discussed (as yet) is actually the best hope for effective integration – and that is energy integration, via an Asian super grid linking the enhanced electric power systems of China, Japan, Korea, Mongolia and perhaps Russia.

Just such an Asian Super Grid has been proposed – by the charismatic Softbank CEO Son Masayoshi, driver of Japan’s post-Fukushima shift to a renewable energy pathway. The first steps towards the Asian Super Grid (ASG) were taken in October, when SB Renewables, Son’s new subsidiary specializing in renewable energy, announced an agreement with a company in Mongolia, Newcom, to develop a site in the Gobi desert for a giant wind farm that would feed renewable power into the grid. (See ‘Softbank plans to develop wind power in Mongolia with Newcom’, by Chisake Watanabe, Bloomberg, Oct 24 2012)

By the end of 2012, it is anticipated that SB Renewables and Newcom will have identified the site for the first wind farm in the Gobi desert through a joint venture, Clean Energy Asia established in March 2012. The proposed wind farm would be rated at 300 MW (the equivalent of a thermal power plant), and could be operational as early as 2014. Feasibility studies for three other sites have already been commissioned, with power capacity of 7 GW – or the equivalent of seven nuclear power stations.

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Reposted with permission from: Japan Focus

Power, Sociologically Speaking by Vincent J. Roscigno

In culture, economics, education, government, political science, politics, sociology, theory on November 19, 2012 at 22:42

From: Power, Sociologically Speaking by Vincent J. Roscigno, The Society Pages, http://thesocietypages.org

We in the social sciences typically think of power as persuasiveness, the ability to get what one wants—this is the essence of the classic definition attributed to Max Weber, and it’s commonly applied across a host of institutional spheres and interactions, from political parties to the power of consumers. But this view is a bit too simplistic—it obscures power’s fundamentally structural, cultural, and relational nature. This is to say, power is too often thought of as something that a particular leader or party has, rather than something rooted in institutional practices, cultural supports, and alternative pathways outside the usual political apparatus.

The problem of power, then, is a prime blind spot; the core, lower-level topics of political science—like individual voting behavior, party politics and alignments, and election outcomes—can direct us away from larger questions about the ends toward which political influence is directed. Sociology is uniquely equipped to look beyond the usual veneer of power, unpack the myths that reinforce it, and see the relational foundations upon which it ultimately rests. A sociological view indeed provides a much-needed corrective, offering a unique glimpse through the myths that veil power’s resilience, uses, and limits.

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Reposted with permission from: The Society Pages

America’s Love Affair with Cars by Leigh Donaldson

In civilisation, culture, economics, North America, politics, psychology, sociology, transportation on November 18, 2012 at 22:47

From: America’s Love Affair with Cars by Leigh Donaldson, The Montreal Review, http://www.themontrealreview.com

In his essay, “Driven Societies“, Daniel Miller writes about telling his young son a story about seeing the earth from the sky and discovering that it is the car and the infrastructure associated with it, not the human being, that dominates the landscape. He expounds on what he terms the humanity of the car, what people achieve through its use, and how it is an integral part of our cultural environment within which we see ourselves as human. He writes: “The car today is associated with the aggregate of vast systems of transport and roadways that make the car’s environment, and yet, at the same time, there are highly personal and intimate relationships which individuals have found through the possession and use of cars.” Personally, I resist any implication that a piece of tin, chrome and plastic, in any manner, defines me as a person. Short of having to live in a car because I was rendered homeless, knock on wood, I don’t see how a person could get that intimate with a noisy, gas-guzzling, money-eating machine you can never quite fully rely on. But, I can see that the car can, for many, be an extension of self and a communicative device. These days they are readily available with innumerable credit arrangements, including no money down, so that almost anyone can drive off a car lot in one the same day. Here, we find that the product, especially  the pricier model, represents dreams and aspirations, and this often trumps whether or not a person can afford it or not. Advertisers, more than ever, create and nurture appetites for products outside the consumers pocketbook limitations. Catering to the general buyers’ irrationality, their psychological vulnerabilities, they make the car a “must have” item for everyone.

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Reposted with permission from: The Montreal Review

The Chilean winter by Sergio Villalobos-Ruminott

In academia, economics, government, history, politics, South America, universities on November 11, 2012 at 19:58

From: The Chilean winter by Sergio Villalobos-Ruminott, Radical Philospshy, http://www.radicalphilosophy.com

Since the beginning of 2011, student mobilizations in Chile have occupied the centre of public debate. On the one hand, most of the population, along with most of the political parties currently opposed to Sebastián Piñera’s government, agree on the crisis of secondary and higher education in a country that has been widely praised for fostering democratization and economic prosperity after the dark decades of Pinochet’s dictatorship (1973–89). On the other hand, there seems to be little agreement on what this crisis actually means, and even the government recognizes the necessity for substantial changes in the relationship between the state and the general system of education. At the same time, this new series of protests complements and further radicalizes those that took place in 2006, protests called the ‘Penguin Revolution’ with reference to the secondary students who played a crucial role in the demonstrations. What appears to be new in the present conjuncture is the involvement of students from both secondary and post-secondary institutions, public and private. The breadth and scale of participation are an indication of the nature of the crisis.

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Reposted with permission from: Radical Philosophy

Does a Liberal Education Still Have Value? by John von Heyking

In academia, economics, philosophy, science, universities on November 9, 2012 at 00:02

From: Does a Liberal Education Still Have Value? by John von Heyking, CARDUS, http://www.cardus.ca

The recession has renewed our attention to the number of liberal arts graduates from universities and the difficulty they often encounter in finding work that matches their skill sets. There are numerous stories of English or History majors who have to work in low-paying jobs because their skills simply do not match the needs of employers with higher-paying jobs. Conversely, employers in Canada’s energy sector and even in its struggling manufacturing sector regularly complain they have difficulty finding workers with necessary skill sets to fill their job openings. It seems that Canadian higher education needs to be geared more toward producing workers with strong vocational skills than the ability to write essays on Virginia Woolf or Plato’s metaphysics.

As pressing as these concerns are to us now, the debate between the liberal arts and the “worker bees” has been around since the days of Socrates. The exemplar of the liberal arts, Socrates, was viewed by the Athenians as a parasitic lay-about that is, when he was not undermining the allegiance of Athenian youths to the laws of Athens. He embodied the liberal arts by not getting paid for his work not because he was lazy, but because knowledge is first and foremost for its own sake, not for its utility. To reverse these is to forget that the liberal arts enable one to be free (liber).

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Reposted with permission from: CARDUS

The dark side of TESOL by Kimie Takahashi

In Asia, economics, gender, languages, politics, sociology on November 8, 2012 at 03:14

From: The dark side of TESOL by Kimie Takahashi, Language on the Move http://www.languageonthemove.com

The latest issue of Cross-Cultural Studies (published by the Center for Cross Cultural Studies, Kyung Hee University, Korea) includes an article about the dark side of TESOL authored by Ingrid Piller, Kimie Takahashi, and Yukinori Watanabe. Based on case studies from Japan and South Korea, this review paper explores the hidden costs of English language learning (ELL). In a context where English has become a commodity and ELL a form of consumption, we focus on the personal and social costs of (a) studying abroad as a much-touted path to “native-like” proficiency and (b) sexualization of language teaching materials in order to reach new niche markets. The hidden costs of ELL are embedded in language ideologies which set English up as a magical means of self-transformation and, at the same time, an unattainable goal for most Japanese and Koreans. We end with the call to expose debilitating language ideologies in order to shed light on the hidden costs of ELL.

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Reposted with permission from: Language on the Move

The End, The End, The End by Chad Harbach

In books, ecology, economics, literature, nature, North America, writers on November 3, 2012 at 20:56

From: The End, The End, The End: Why bother dreaming up a devastated world when you live in one? Chad Harbach, n +1 Magazine, http://nplusonemag.com

It remains the method of most sci-fi novels to imagine a kind of heightened present, combining and extrapolating extant technologies (an MP3 player … in your brain!) to demonstrate their psychological and political effects. The post-catastrophe novel does the opposite; it takes away the MP3 player, and almost everything else. It liberates the violent potential of technology (and its enemy, nature) to create an altered world whose chief characteristic is a bewildering lack of technology. This in turn means a severely winnowed human population, and plenty of hardship and casual brutality. This future doesn’t intensify the present moment, it contradicts it: What would happen if we didn’t live in an overpopulated, technology-saturated world in which travel by foot is considered eccentric, tacos cost forty-nine cents, and the prerogative to commit violence—despite an amazing profusion of handheld weaponry—lies entirely with the state?

We didn’t always live in this kind of world. Or rather, we always did, but not long ago even Americans and Western Europeans didn’t. They lived in the 19th century, before the full flowering of the petroleum age; they belong to history. So too, increasingly, do the residents of the 20th century, with their reliance on cheap oil and predictable climate patterns. The century just ended was full of anxiety and terror, but it was also a pampered time. Even while tens of millions were murdered by oil-driven technologies like incendiary bombs and gas chambers, other oil-dependent technologies like tractors, penicillin, and nitrogen fertilizers enabled the population to quadruple in a few generations, and produced unprecedented comfort and ease for unprecedentedly large numbers of people. Now we’ve burned half the available oil, or close to it, and burning it (along with so much coal) has altered the earth’s equilibrium. Our future, like our past, may be virtually free of oil, and global culture, and many of the social safeguards we enjoy. Thus the novel of future catastrophe threatens to become a version of the historical novel.

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Reposted with permission from: n + 1 Magazine

What Democratic Europe? by Etienne Balibar

In economics, Europe, government, sociology on October 20, 2012 at 23:58

From: What Democratic Europe? A Response to Jürgen Habermas by Etienne Balibar, Social Europe Journal, http://www.social-europe.eu

Jürgen Habermas expressed a clear position on Europe’s current situation and the decisions that need to be taken: following the Constitution of Europe translated in May, Le Monde published the German philosophers’ latest point of view under the heading ‘More than ever, Europe’. Essentially, Habermas’ argument is that the Euro crisis has nothing to do with the ‘errors’ of the big spender states that would struggle to catch up the more ‘thrifty’ states (in German, Schuld means both error and debt …), but everything to do with the inability of states pitted against one another by speculators to level the market playing field, and to weigh in favour of global financial regulation. That is why there will be no way out of the crisis if Europe does not decide to ‘take the step’ towards political integration that will enable it to simultaneously defend its currency and pursue its social policies and policies aimed at reducing inequality that justify its existence.

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Reposted according to copyright notice from: Social Europe Journal website

 

Featured Essay: Dubai – A City Manufactured by Curiosity by Bilal Khbei

In aesthetics, architecture, Asia, culture, economics, Featured, politics on September 23, 2012 at 07:10

Featured Essay: Dubai – A City Manufactured by Curiosity by Bilal Khbei, e-flux, http://www.e-flux.com

Reposted in full with permission from: e-flux (Marianna Silva)

It is hard to distinguish individuals in a crowd. Citizens of the Gulf states appear to the visitor as crowds, with their identities as individuals momentarily suspended. Such a crowd is slightly different from the kind described by Elias Canetti. This is a crowd perceived as such by a visitor conscious of his individuality against the multitude. The crowd exerts no control over this visitor, nor does it repress his personality. Rather, this visitor exerts a form of authority—engaging in an exchange of power with the crowd. For him, the citizen is imprisoned within the crowd, incapable of assuming the authority of an individual.

Visual encounters between citizens and visitors take place primarily in neutral public spaces where the visitor’s behavior is less restricted. By entering a hotel lobby, for instance, the citizen declines the possibility of establishing authority and becomes helpless. The citizen can be neither a soldier nor a noble person, but is also incapable of becoming a barbarian, an indistinguishable part of a great multitude—a grain of sand along the seashore, as Ernest Renan described barbarians. Barbarians for Renan are numberless; they tirelessly procreate despite the numerous deaths they suffer. Furthermore, their deaths complement their procreation, which is why they appear countless to Renan and other nineteenth-century European racialist thinkers.


Burj Al Arab Hotel Dubai Lobby.

But this is not how the visitor perceives the citizen of the United Arab Emirates; this citizen is part of an absent crowd. In public he appears isolated and weak—lonesome in a colonized land. The citizen appears to be performing the role of an individual, summoning a display of mannerisms in the hope of finding a place for the national costume in public space. This “uniform” is a national disposition, or perhaps an assertion of loyalty to an identity in spite of knowing it is restrictive. It is a form of reconciliation between a constructed identity and a possible connection to a formalistic modernity. The modernity experienced in hotels is superficial, and this citizen seems to imply that his costume is but one extra mask in a stage full of masks.

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Detropia with Amy Goodman and Rachel Grady

In community, documentary, economics, film, interview, media, North America, politics, society on September 19, 2012 at 04:34

From: Detropia: New Doc Takes Intimate Look at Detroit’s Struggle with Manufacturing Collapse, Urban Decay with Amy Goodman and Rachel Grady, Democracy Now!, http://www.democracynow.org

Once known as the Motor City, where the middle class was born, Detroit’s auto industry and manufacturing sector have collapsed. Today the city is on the verge of bankruptcy, facing a thinning population and massive cuts to basic services. The new film “Detropia” takes an intimate look at at some of the city’s former members of the middle class as they struggle to make ends meet and refuse to abandon hope. We’re joined by the film’s co-director, Rachel Grady, a private investigator turned filmmaker who, along with her co-director Heidi Ewing, has made several films, including the Academy Award-nominated “Jesus Camp.”

AMY GOODMAN: We’re broadcasting from Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan, at the PBS station WGVU. I’m Amy Goodman, as we turn now to a new documentary about one of Michigan’s hardest-hit cities, Detroit. Once known as the Motor City, where the middle class was born, Detroit’s auto industry and manufacturing sector have collapsed. Today the city is on the verge of bankruptcy, facing a thinning population and massive cuts to basic services.

Well, the new film Detropia takes an intimate look at some of the city’s former members of the middle class as they struggle to make ends meet and refuse to abandon hope. I want to turn for a moment to a clip of Detropia.

REPORTER: This is the downsizing of Detroit. You’re watching it live. These are houses that are never coming back. It’s going back to the prairie, and these houses are just disappearing from the landscape.

GEORGE McGREGOR: I want to show you something. All this is empty. They built a new plant in Mexico and took all the work to Mexico.

NICOLE: For factory support, which is the guys that are making $14.35, their new proposal is $11 an hour, which means they would lose $3.35 an hour on their wage.

AUTO WORKER: Why? What do you think you’re going to feel every day going into work?

REPORTER: One of the big hot-button issues in Detroit is the layout of the city, and right now there’s questions about what parts of the city may be shrunk.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I don’t know if y’all understand, but they’re shutting down schools. They’re shutting down futures, basically.

DETROIT RESIDENT: We’re not going to accept any more downsizing. We want to hear about upsizing, big-sizing, super-sizing Detroit.

MAYOR DAVID BING: It’s going to be difficult. The city is broke. I don’t know how many times I have to say that.

STEVE COY: I mean, we looked at Baltimore. We were looking into New York City. And Detroit came up. We can experiment here.

TOMMY STEPHENS: What happened in Detroit is now spreading throughout. There’s no buffer between the rich and the poor. Only thing left is revolution.

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Reposted according to copyright notice from: Democracy Now! website

 

Overfished: LuLing Osofsky on “Chop City”

In civilisation, ecology, economics, nature, North America, society on August 21, 2012 at 21:28

 

From: Overfished: LuLing Osofsky on “Chop City”, Orion Magazine, http://www.orionmagazine.org

The Alaska you write about in this piece isn’t the Alaska you and I and other non-Alaskans might expect to see upon arriving there. Instead of evergreen trees and grizzly bears, you found fish heads and a sixteen-hour workday. What did you imagine Alaska to be before you got there?

The surprises began in the Anchorage airport. As I waited for my tiny plane headed to Naknek, Alaska, I looked around the small waiting area at the designated gate. There was a teenage girl with dyed blonde hair, heavy lipstick, ankles crossed, speaking urgently in Russian on her cell phone. There was a disheveled man at the complimentary coffee station tearing open packets of Sweet’N Low and chugging them down. A man with sores on his face was lying on the floor.

One of the things that’s striking about this story is the way nature—in the form of fish—is objectified, commoditized, and treated mechanically, and the way that treatment extends to the mental and physical lives of you and the other line workers. Was that something you tried to reflect in the style and arc of this piece?

Yes! Definitely. The fish could’ve been anything, they ceased to be “fish.” You know when you stare at any one word for too long, and it no longer makes sense? The word looks strange, right? That’s how I began to see fish, not as these things that once swam in the sea and yielded a delicious meat, but these strange objects that needed to have certain parts chopped off, skinned, hollowed out, sorted, shipped.

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Reposted with permission from: Orion Magazine

Reinventing education by Leonardo Boff

In civilisation, economics, education, Europe, North America, politics, South America, universities on August 18, 2012 at 15:08

 

From: Reinventing education by Leonardo Boff, America Latina en movimiento, http://alainet.org

Muniz Sodre, titular professor of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, is a well learned person. But what is different about him is that he, as few others, thinks about what he knows. The fruit of his thinking is a just released, very notable, book: Reinventing education: diversity, decolonization and networks, (Reinventando la educación: diversidad, descolonización y redes, Vozes, 2012).
In that book, he tries to confront the challenges to pedagogy and education that derive from the different types of knowledge, from the new technologies and transformations advanced by capitalism. All of this begins with our social place: the Southern hemisphere, once colonized, that is undergoing an interesting process of neo-decolonization, and a confrontation with the weakened neo-Eurocentrism, now devastated by the crisis of the Euro.
Muniz Sodre analyzes different currents of pedagogy and education, from the Greek paideia to the world market of education, that represent a crass conception of utilitarian education, transforming education into an enterprise and a market, at the service of world domination.

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Reposted with permission from: America Latina en movimiento

The death of the Russian village by Matilda Moreton

In community, economics, Europe, government, history, society on August 8, 2012 at 20:19

 

From: The death of the Russian village by Matilda Moreton, openDemocracy, http://www.opendemocracy.net

In so many places in the Russian North, village life has all but disappeared. It seems that farming is no longer a sustainable way of life and the young have left to find a living elsewhere. The land, once busy with cows and tractors, is now uncultivated, overgrown, reclaimed by bog and forest. Former ‘millionaires’ (prize-winning) collective farms stand empty, their vast granaries and cow sheds rotting away in the same state of neglect as the villages themselves – now ghostly, almost totally empty – beautiful houses, schools and exquisite churches all collapsed or collapsing.

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In Praise of Vacant Lots by Jay Walljasper

In community, ecology, economics, nature, society on July 11, 2012 at 00:04

 

From: In Praise of Vacant Lots by Jay Walljasper, YES! Magazine, http://www.yesmagazine.org/

Modern society’s obsession with efficiency, productivity and purposefulness sometimes blind us to the epic possibilities of empty spaces that aren’t serving any profitable economic function. The word “vacant” itself implies that these places are devoid of value.

But think back to all the imaginative uses you could discover for vacant land as a kid. In my neighborhood we squeezed a baseball diamond, 6-hole golf course, horseshoe pit and vegetable garden (right behind the third base line) into the lot behind my house.

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