Becoming Socially Acceptable ?

Public lectures are scheduled for the 5th and the 12th December.

After last week’s special lecture to a group of PhD-students, looking at
the upcoming lectures are linking to the recent book “Bullshit Jobs – A Theory”. [1] So is it finally socially acceptable to use such term as Bullshit in academic parlance?
It surely is a catchy phrase, and it also is surely a topic that allows to think abut all the Kafkaesk patterns and requirements …But as glad as I am to take up on the catchiness and as much as I appreciate that Graeber is interested in a very specific point, namely
to understand the psychological, social, and political effects of the fact that so many of us labor under the secret belief that our jobs lack social utility or social value
I am wondering if it is not also a danger of distracting from rather complex issues, linked to more or less fundamental shifts in economic structures.
The honour to give the reputable Deans Lecture at the Faculty of Economics and Sociology in Łódź on the 12th of December provides the opportunity to look at

Bullshit Jobs? suggesting that the Problem is the Stable

The aim is to show that – leaving some general aspects of squander, disrespect and ignorance aside – the underlying problem is an ongoing shift of capitalist accumulation that requires the increasing segregation and fragmentation: The fact that use value and exchange value are juxtaposed results necessarily in the fact that human relationships are systematically torn apart: to relate humans to each other they first have to – speaking systematically – separated by the process of commodification. On the market of commodities they are becoming equal and can – then, ex post – relate to each other. Not least it means that the increasing mediatisation – indeed Graeber points out that most of the relevant jobs occur in IT-related sectors – is necessary condition for making society economically possible. However, it also means that content doesn’t count – as much as capital SEEMINGLY generates capital as much is the sole presence of people considered to be a job, even if it is

a form of paid employment that is so completely pointless, unnecessary, or pernicious that even the employee cannot justify its existence even though, as part of the conditions of employment, the employee feels obliged to pretend that this is not the case.

– this is Graeber’s definition.

For the week before, on the 5th of December, the sociology department of the Ostravská univerzita in the Czech Republic organised a special lecture, the title of which is
In addition to the Graeber-book another reference is the more or less recent auto-shredding of Bansky’s Painting “Girl With Balloon” – the latter again giving the opportunity discuss the problems of hegemony and counter-hegemony – the link is given by reflecting on a statement by Hannah Arendt. She contends that
(n)ot cruelty is the attribute of tyranny, but the destruction of the public political realm, monopolised by the despot by claiming ‘wisdom’ … or based on thirst for power, i.e. insisting on citizens looking after their private concerns, leaving it to him, the ‘ruler, to take of the public matters’.[2]
Surely something marking a demarcation we face – be it in the shopping centres or academic institutions or political space.
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[1] David Graeber, 2018: Bullshit Jobs – A Theory; New York et altera Simon&Schuster
[2] Arendt, Hannah, 1958: Vita Activa oder Vom Tätigen Leben; München/Zuerich: Piper, 1981, new edition: 215; translated from the German edition; with reference to Aristotle: Athenische Verfassung; XV, 5 – the available English edition did not contain the statement in this clarity.
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Annunci

Net-Work-Effect-S

I still try to figure out how it works – network effects …the Net-Work …

Isn’t it remarkable that we find more and more the term ‘extraction of value/extraction of profit’ where we talked previously about the production of surplus value? This is getting vaguely perceptible looking at the development of paypal. According to Elon Musk, initially incentives of $20, then $10, later $5 had been spent to attract new customers, until a critical mass had been reached. According to Musk it had been “a fair amount. I think it was probably $60 or $70 million” this is what we learn from Elon Musk – CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX | Entrepreneurship | Khan Academy – quoted from the auto-transcript. It is about attracting people to extract value from the fact that they are linked together – a rather simple mechanism.

Well, extraction – who likes digging in the ground, getting dirty – that is what usually happens when extracting things.

Anyway, this example clearly shows that network effects do exist: after reaching a critical mass things are becoming shiny self-movers, after enough people caught in the net, the effect is that it works: shines like a bright star over the present, seemingly reaching beyond the horizon …

Shiny …? – hang on: The College Edition of  WEBSTER’S NEW WORLD DICTIONARY OF THE AMERICAN LANGUAGE (THE WORLD PUBLISHING COMPANY Cleveland and New York (Copyright 1960 and 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959) says on page 985, under the lemma net

trap, snare, caught – clean, pure – gain are some outstanding terms

*****

The other day  I received a mail by a trade company, asking me to join a draw, liking the company on Facebook (tempting to join FB?). And inviting to tell a story (probably nobody would read anyway, and definitely not relevant for the “competition”). Anyway, the moral of the (more or less immoral) story: join us by joining facebook to be joined by facebook that joins us in order to find more to join facebook that join more to joining us … — there is at some stage no choice, no end, just for the sake of being part of it: the plastic card society, virtualised as social-network society where shops – for grocery’s to high-end whatsoeveryounameit-products and services are themselves networks, presenting themselves as such … where shopping in the stores, according to Apple’s Angela Ahrendts, is about 20 % buying, 80 percent about being part of it …., an expensive part if we think about it – but neat, shiny, — nets, the

‘fabric made from string … used to trap or snare’

these nets do indeed work:

the stores become a place to experience physically live everything you’ve been doing on your device

… and vice versa: what you are made to see and hear: the reality transformed into the store …,  becomes the reality.

Of course, there is a dangerous side to it, often called conspiracy, but actually a matter of using two very simple rules

first, six degrees of separation, namely the apparent fact that things and people are six or even less steps away from each other

second, the fact of 

taking the immediate encounter as the limit of knowable reality. In both, external knowledge on the part of the audience is not involved—in the city by necessity, in the theater by fiat (using the words of Richard Sennett in The Fall of the Public Man)

Taken together, the effect of the working net is the establishment of permanent trust: trusting the other on sounds of a vague feeling of knowing each other while we try everything to hide from each other and sadly from ourselves – the remaining trust – and of course there is some – goes with the commodities obtained and the self, saved somewhere as Narcissus.

At the end, in entrepreneurial terms it is net profit, extracted …, coming from nowhere else than from shine , pictures, at times amazing in their beauty, definitely in their deception  …. .

*****

Another “the other day” … wondering around, watching one of these street artists, fascinating today like those impostors in the medievals (I can only guess, never met one – just to young): a little puddle, and huge, huge bubbles after a short while, jiggling and joggling and juggling with the long special rope at the end of the two sticks, transposing matter into air, caught in a sometimes colourful, always shiny ball of air …. remaining nothingness of singularity located between zero and one.

*****

the red of the black

Black Friday, another bad import from ‘big brother’

– the following doesn’t even look at the small print let alone at what seems to be so small that it is not even printed: such day we are bombarded with goods — all those ‘special offers’ the sale of which, I am sure, still allowed to make a profit good profit: whatever the historical background is, that special day was not made a tradition of making loss. Besides this probably everybody reading these lines had been bombarded with e-mails, many unwanted SPAM-mails

By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44458281

, aiming on convincing us to buy buy buy …

Leaving aside the wasted time – deleting all the unwanted mails and getting upset …- there is another, actually real cost: According to the Guardian

The sending, sorting and filtering of spam email alone accounts for 33bn units of electricity each year

According to another source – PhysOrg

Sending even a short email is estimated to add about four grammes (0.14 ounces) of CO2 equivalent (gCO2e) to the atmosphere.

To put this into perspective, the carbon output of hitting “send” on 65 mails is on par with driving an average-sized car a kilometre (0.6 of a mile).

And furthermore they calculated

The global carbon footprint from spam annually is equivalent to the greenhouse gases pumped out by 3.1 million passenger cars using 7.6 billion litres (two billion gallons) of gasoline in a year.

Of course, it is difficult to draw a line and perhaps such blogs as this should not exist. But leaving this aside, Black Friday was surely a red day, a warning lamp switching on such day when looking at the environmental question: a huge cost for the environment …, rarely considered or calculated; a huge “contribution to the GDB”, proving that in capitalism production of waste is considered to be valuable.

Cornered?

Of course it feels often like tyranny – in the understanding of Hannah Arendt:

Not cruelty is the attribute of tyranny, but the destruction of the public political realm, monopolised by the despot by claiming ‘wisdom’ … or based on thirst for power, i.e. insisting on citizens looking after their private concerns, leaving it to him, the ‘ruler, to take of the public matters’.*

But then it may be necessary to blame a bit ourselves, us, the members of the scientific community, but more in general: we as member of any republic. Isn’t there a tendency towards accepting that we as members are made to res, to things instead of making things public?

Much had been said about open access, and the spirit of the words quoted above may be taken as a guidance for further thinking about the direction and necessity. It is of utmost importance to acknowledge developments that move into the direction of open access – surely in very different directions as The Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities of 22 October 2003, but also the increasingly mushrooming sites as libgen.io, sci-hub.tw or achieve.org and even google, researchgate, academia and the like…, or the non-commercials as RePEc, Mupra and in addition one I only spotted now: http://www.knowledgeunlatched.org
The really interesting point is that apparently all in the field are under various pressures: publishers, libraries, academics, students, readers – and of course, in many cases we are concerned, occupying different of these roles at the same time. Doesn’t this suggest to switch to organising, controlling, coordinating an counter-hegemony? – Sure, without forgetting complaining? May be the long march through the institutions should be seen in a more political light, seeing OA not simply as something one may beneficially use but as a weapon.

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* Arendt, Hannah, 1958: Vita Activa oder Vom Tätigen Leben; München/Zuerich: Piper, 1981, new edition: 215; translated from the German edition; the 2nd English edition: Arendt, Hannah, 1958: The Human Condition; Introduction by Margaret Canovan; Chicago: University of Chicago Press; second edition 1998 does not contain the passage in this way

Ten years on … – no wisdom gained?

Of course, there are many contestable issues concerned with the “ten years on” – leaving the question of timing aside, one point may well be concerned with the word “on”, considering that it should be replaced by “into” or even “digging the grave deeper”. The success-stories so far are, if they exist, stories about de-synchronisation: the fact that some countries succeeded again in a more pronounced way to live on the back of others, temporary victories, and often victories for the countries, not for the people (for instance good overall “economic performance” often means increasing inequality)  …
Preparing the class for coming Monday, but also working on finalising the book
Changing the Socio-Economic Formation – Revisiting Value and Valuation in a Globalising Digital World
I looked up a Briefing Note, presented in 2008, in preparation of the OECD Global Forum on International Investment, titled
It is not looking at the crisis – if the collapse of Lehmann Brothers is taken as reference, it would be even a pre-crisis work, presented on a pre-crisis conference. What makes it interesting (surely – not only – for my classes “Development versus Growth”) is the fact of presenting in a masterful way the shortcoming of an understanding of economics and political economy that can well be seen as structural weakness leading to a crisis like the one we are still suffering from (sure, not everybody).
A quote right from the beginning of the briefing note:
The service sector makes an important contribution to GDP in most countries, providing jobs, inputs and public services for the economy. Trade in services can improve economic performance and provide a range of traditional and new export opportunities. However, services liberalisation also carries risks, and appropriate regulation and other complementary policies help to ensure that liberalisation delivers the expected benefits. We have reviewed the literature on these issues for 6 service sectors (tourism, financial services, energy services, information and communications technology, and Mode IV), … .
And it goes on and goes on and goes on in this spirit, not talking about the essentials of what should be at stake of any analysis. Engels, in 1884, wrote:
According to the materialistic conception, the determining factor in history is, in the last resort, the production and reproduction of the immediate life. But this itself is again of a twofold character. On the one side, the production of the means of subsistence, of food and clothing and shelter and the implements required for this; on the other, the production of human beings themselves, the propagation of the species. The social institutions under which men of a definite historical epoch and of a particular country live are determined by both kinds of production: by the stage of development of labour, on the one hand, and of the family, on the other.
(Engels, Frederick, 1884: Origins of the Family, Private Property, and the State. Preface [to the First Edition]; in: Karl Marx Frederick Engels. Collected Works. Volume 26. Frederick Engels. 1882-89; London: Lawrence&Wishart, 1990: 131-133)
The OECD-experts go exactly the other way round, starting from the end – and actually defining the end as ultimate point of departure and ultimate goal: growth, though remaining undefined, only specified by the reference to the GDP.
Indeed, there is something interesting about GDP and Development.
In fact, the up for some may mean the move back for others
Commonly the “concept” of GDP is attributed to Simon Kuznet – detailed in 1934 in
, it is time to acknowledge that already then the author spelled out – more or less at the outset:
The welfare of a nation can, therefore, scarcely be inferred from a measurement of national income as defined above. (page 7)
And he continues:
The abuses of national income estimates arise largely from a failure to take into account the precise definition of income and the methods of its evaluation which the estimator assumes in arriving at his final figures. Notions of productivity or welfare as understood by the user of the estimates are often read by him into the income measurement, regardless of the assumptions made by the income estimator in arriving at the figures. As a result we find all too commonly such inferences that a decline of 30 percent in the national income (in terms of “constant” dollars) means a 30 percent decline in the total productivity of the nation, and a corresponding decline in its welfare. Or that a nation whose total income is twice the size of the national income of another country is twice “as well off”, can sustain payments abroad twice as large or can carry a debt burden double in size. Such statements can obviously be true only when gualified by a host of “ifs.”
A detail, mentioned at the end of the report, is surely of special interest:
The individual industries included here are photography, undertaking, mausoleum and cemetery operation, social service agencies, athletic, yacht, and country clubs, Y.M.C.A.’s, Y.W.C.A/s, and other services not accounted for elsewhere. Most of these services are of a type not easily curtailed or dispensed with, while social and welfare agencies have had a special reason for increasing since 1929. The number of employees was about a quarter of a million in 1929 and probably increased, or at least did not decline greatly, during the 3 following years (see table 200). The estimated average compensation of employees is probably fairly near the actual situation for 1929 but the trend shown since that year, except that there was probably very little per capita decline, is open to question as far as the country as a whole is concerned. (page 140)
Well, perhaps this is what the briefing says???: “Think of your people and your countries economy and accept: poverty is good for you.” In plain language – and this is very much the underlying gist of IMF and World Bank politics – be nationalist and socially unjust.
I am sure, those who write those reports, will not face what poverty or lack of wellbeing etc. mean.
Of course, this is only the visible, more or less tangible part of the underlying misinterpretation of economics: While calculations may well be correct, fact is – as John Maynard Keynes convincingly wrote in 1936:

Too large a proportion of recent ‘mathematical’ economics are mere concoctions, as imprecise as the initial assumptions they rest on, which allow the author to lose sight of the complexities and interdependencies of the real world in a maze of pretentious and unhelpful symbols.

(Keynes 1936)

Still, if we look at the title of the quoted opus magnum presented by Keynes reads

The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money

and we still may remain without considering the entire depth of reference. Of course, not every book can start with all the life stories …- but at least it should commence by focusing on the real life situation and the supply conditions and the relationality that is part of it. – Think about employment conditions that allow flexibility and reduction of working time without lowering wage and without stress caused by any fear, thus possibly causing the GDP to drop, but enabling employees to care for relatives, to be politically active, to follow their “intellectual needs” … As much as items expressed by GDP are mere means to an end, the same is true for employment, the ends not being products and services, the end not being income but “production and reproduction of the immediate life”.

Even Alfred Marshall, rightly criticised for his contribution to the mathematisation of economics, knew better than many who still highlight the centrality of employment today, (and here; and many could be added) knew better. As we can read in the Memorials of Alfred Marshall (edited 1925 by Arthur Cecil Pigou), Pigou states in his own contribution to the book (page 84):

Though a skilled mathematician, he used mathematics sparingly. He saw that excessive reliance on this instrument might lead us astray in pursuit of intellectual toys, imaginary problems not conforming to the conditions of real life: and further, might distort our sense of proportion by causing us to neglect factors that could not easily be worked up in the mathematical machine.

Acknowledging this, there would not have been any need to write to the Queen …

Gach rud is fearr! …

Quick info – just in case: My phone does not work at the moment, thus I also cannot be reached via ordinary phone calls, SMS, WhatsApp or WeChat …

here the little “novel” to it:
Why not reachable? Here you see, first by taking a quote from Graeber’s book:
3. what duct tapers do
Duct tapers are employees whose jobs exist only because of a glitch or fault in the organization; who are there to solve a problem that ought not to exist. I am adopting the term from the software industry, but I think it has more general applicability. ”
…..
On the social level, duct taping has traditionally been women’s work. Throughout history, prominent men have wandered about oblivious to half of what’s going on around them, treading on a thousand toes; it was typically their wives, sisters, mothers, or daughters who were left with the responsibility of performing the emotional labor of soothing egos, calming nerves, and negotiating solutions to the problems they created. In a more material sense, duct taping might be considered a classic working-class function. The architect may come up with a plan that looks stunning on paper, but it’s the builder who has to figure out how to actually install electrical sockets in a circular room or to use real duct tape to hold things together that in reality simply don’t fit together the way the blueprints say they should.
Passi di: David Graeber. “Bullshit Jobs”. iBooks.
Anyway:
(it had been nice chatting with you)
and of course, everything noticed …
(Here are the minutes of the chat
Sunday …
Duration …)
no success, but a lengthy chat with I…, from Portugal, now in Ireland, chatting in German as my phone provider … and probably miserably paid .. but for the time being she likes it – Gach rud is fearr! – everything is good …
Some “tiny things” though — may be it is just a matter off paranoia …
  • There was another Apple-message popping up, from M… – USS – Unknown Supervising Subject ??? I…’s and P…’s big brother…?
  • “probably miserably paid” … – we surely have to think more about precarity and voluntariat – taking the latter term from piece written by Geoff Schullenberger in 2014 in the Jacobin. The point I want to make – as I did already on various occasions – is the following: as relevant as issues of social security, uncertainty are as consequence of a managerial strategy of undermining social rights, the really important thing seems to me the aggressive restructuration of the conditions and strategy of capital accumulation, characterised by the fact that “capitalism dissolutes itself” – something many would welcome, though the real and serious problem is the direction it currently does. A lengthy quote from the Jacobin-article may be allowed:

Coursera’s founders are no doubt aware that translation, no less than software engineering, is traditionally a paid activity done by trained professionals with specialized knowledge (particularly when it involves the kinds of technical vocabularies used in many college courses); otherwise, they would not have sought the considerable financial resources of the Carlos Slim Foundation to facilitate translations of its courses into Spanish in January.

But who needs Carlos Slim’s billions when you can have the courses translated free of charge by “a tight-knit community of committed individuals” enthusiastic about “helping millions of learners” and, well, helping Coursera expand its profit margin?

While joining Coursera’s “community” does not resemble a job in the “getting paid” aspect of things, it does require you to sign a “Translator Agreement,” which makes clear that the relationship between Coursera and members of the GTC is subject to employment law insofar as it ensures Coursera’s complete and perpetual ownership of value produced by employees — or rather, “volunteers” — but in every other respect, it is not a job, just a way to be nice.

  • While talking to I… – actually we had been really chatting a bit (the old Irish country boy  coming through), I was not only thinking about a possibly enthusiastic young women, who did not see any future in Portugal, exited to migrate to the country with forty shades of green, only lacking the sun (that is what she said); I was also thinking about her social security, health services, old-age pension etc. – at least most of those jobs ARE badly paid; and living in a country that refuses to accept the tax-money owed by her employer Apple (a random collection of reading: here and here and here and here), money that could well be used to develop a sustainable infrastructure instead of violently enforcing unsustainable growth)
  • Last, not least and not finally: as I… could not help me, sending me to a shop here in Łódź, I hoped … – la speranza è l’ultima cosa a morire – Nadzieja umiera ostatnia – the hope is the last thing to die …, well, being the last thing does not change ultimate death: they could not help me either, suggesting they could send it for repair and …

Most likely they will have a brief look and replace it with a new one – for 1699 Złoty, it is new, but coming without the box and without cable for charging and without warrantee, A new one in a box, comes with cable and warrantee …., we sell it for 2229 Złoty. that is for the 7, the 8, brand new with box and everything is 2979 Złoty

Everything = even this thingy-thing called Rip-Off, theatre, show

Taking this together – and adding some other things about that I will talk early December (being announced here on the 3rd of December) I suppose Graeber is wrong, saying “BS-jobs don’t pay”. In fact they, part of them do … until the bubble birst, again destroying human lives or this time opening for the 99% re-occupying public space …   under penalty of victory of V.

By Enrique Dans from Madrid, Spain – We are legionUploaded by SunOfErat, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30480799

 

You should sleep nine hours without dreams. Then you have the day for dreams

Herbert Marcuse supposedly said this …  Is it another version of the words written on a postcard I recently received?

Swim to Nowhere, With No Thoughts.

So there we are worrying about big brother, watching us, algorithms rule the world and with Artificial Intelligence taking over.
Sure, there are important issues linked to these catchwords – though one seemingly tiny point is a negligence, not just as matter of language I suppose.
Just a few mails, from a Spam-poor night, and a mail-free one too. Leaving the obvious SPAM aside, to mails are perhaps even more worrying: the one at the top …, well, is there a term like SPAM-IFICATION? At least it does exist now.
* Instead of thoughtful targeting advertisement and communication in general, we accept the wikiwiki culture, leading us to just throw things out, without much thinking.
* Instead of “academic matchmaking”, I mean: bringing me/us academics in contact with relevant other academics, sites like academia, researchgate … often come to the most confusing proposals: does it really make sense to send me a link to an article on trading chemical products between China and Europe, presumably on ground of the fact that I gave a presentation on OBOR or the fact that I lived some time in China?
* hat is the premium of having access to something that is out of reach in terms of manageability?
over two million papers …? What are the criteria forlinking them …, and when will I be able to read them?
Artificial Intelligence?
Indeed, I read an article some time ago, a short one in a newspaper, talking about
artificial stupidity
… which is too often more characterising.
BUT HANG ON …
Don’t we have to blame ourselves for it – not because of using FB; twitter etc.. It is probably a much more serious problem that we – living and working in academia – accept this world and work being directed by ranking; publishers’ journal sites that manipulate our reading behaviour by aggressively suggesting that “readers of this article also read … — and quoted ….” and boxing our thinking and acting.
A new trinket in the jewel case of administrative stupidity, with which the Polish government (as a Czech friend said yesterday on the phone “we are joining”) is blessing us: every academic, working in a university, has to commit her/himself to two subject areas: sociology, economics, medicine … – sure, they are very broad which may be taken as some comfort. Articles for the assessment of the academic will only be taken into account if it is in line with this self-attribution. What now if I am looking into
as M. Keith Chen did.
What if I am looking at the question of European unemployment insurance in the light of legislation, sociological aspects and the economic development, possibly publishing the results in a journal on European history …?
There is not only direkt and outspoken censorship but also the seemingly “tame brother”,
And predictive shopping is not really new – though earlier it occurred in different forms
(Saw this the other day in Berlin: “What is missing today?” – Bakingpowder, bread, butter, eggs … onions)
Still, there is surely the need to resist …
… though there is also the time … – well, as said the other day I received a postcard, with a colour drawing, not algorithm-based but manufactured in the true sense by the sender, much appreciated by the recipient …, occasionally I allow myself resisting the need to resist, sitting there
and looking at it,
Swim to Nowhere, With No Thoughts
as the few words under the drawing suggest. nd making me think, energizing me … to resist!