Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘flexible accumulation

Friday Night Linkdump

with one comment

* The future’s already here, it’s just not evenly distributed: “Dizzy and sick”: McDonald’s workers strike after enduring 110 degree heat.

Richest 300 Persons on Earth Have More Money Than Poorest 3 Billion.

* Neill Blomkamp hypes Elysium.

Jimmy Carter Says NSA Scandal Shows America Has No Functioning Democracy.

* Detroit declares bankruptcy. The U.S. cities that have filed for bankruptcy, in one map. Only Wall Street Wins in Detroit Crisis Reaping $474 Million Fee. Race and ethnicity 2010: Detroit.Robots, Race, Globalization and the 1%. Dirty tricks from Governor Snyder.But not so fast.

After Trayvon: Will There Be Justice for Florida’s Other Stand Your Ground Victim?

On Twitter, Jim Henley suggested that we view these laws as a variation on deputization — but it’s a weirdly open-ended form, a kind of freelance self-deputization. It’s recruiting potentially every white male (along with everyone who identifies culturally with the white male power structure over against minority groups) to appoint himself a police deputy and join in the ongoing war on minorities that we euphemistically call “law enforcement” in this country.

* Obama speaks.

* More details on San Jose State’s rejection of MOOCs: University Suspends Online Classes After More Than Half the Students Fail.

* Tufts adjuncts file for union. 6 Current Players Join Antitrust Lawsuit Against The NCAA.

* Megan Erickson in Jacobin against unschooling. Gary Cohn at Firedoglake against colocation.

Sequestration Cuts To Research ‘Like A Slowly Growing Cancer.’

* Texas Monthly profiles Wendy Davis and the Democrats’ fight to flip Texas.

* Five-year-old shoots two-year-old sister dead with “My First Rifle.”

* Scientists have found the biggest viruses known, and these pandoraviruses have opened up entirely new questions in science—even suggesting a fourth domain of life, a new study says.

* Death and dying in America: 1, 2.

 * Collapse, 1200 BC.

* Save the Cat! Why Every Hollywood Movie is Exactly the Same.

Fourth of July America Links USA USA

with one comment

milwaukee 2010How to Spot a Communist Using Literary Criticism: A 1955 Manual from the U.S. Military. And they say literary criticism is useless.

* DHS immediately begins implementing green cards to gay couples, without stalling or dragging its feet or needing to be sued. Amazing. I’d have never predicted it.

* Heat maps of poverty in US cities, 1980-2010. At right: Milwaukee in 2010. “Whites are in blue; blacks yellow; Hispanics green; and Asians red.”

* Today in NCAA insanity.

So far this offseason, around 450 Division I basketball players have announced they’re changing schools. This turnover has imperiled the sport, says Marshall University basketball coach Tom Herrion, who calls it a “transfer epidemic.” Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski says that “[k]ids don’t stick to the school that they pick and they want instant gratification.” South Carolina’s Frank Martin agrees: “Kids are not being taught to stay the course, be patient, to learn how to work and improve.” Adds Alabama’s Anthony Grant, “I don’t think it’s something any coach will tell you is good for the game.”

GREEDY NCAA PLAYERS DEMANDING RIGHT TO CHOOSE WHICH GROUP OF MILLIONAIRES WON’T PAY THEM FOR THEIR LABOR PLEASE CALL POLICE

India has officially recognized dolphins as non-human persons, whose rights to life and liberty must be respected. Dolphin parks that were being built across the country will instead be shut down. 

An Open Letter to New Teach for America Recruits.

Many of you no doubt believe you are joining a progressive education justice movement, that is the message TFA sells so well. But I want you to understand clearly, TFA is not progressive. The kind of limited data-driven pedagogy, the fast-track preparation, the union-busting, the forced exploitation of your labor, the deep-pocketed affiliation with corporate education reform are all very conservative, very anti-progressive ideas. Look no further than TFA’s list of supporters/donors. The largest donations are from groups like the Walton Foundation, of Walmart fortune, which has a vested interest in the status quo of inequality, breaking unions, and keeping wages low and workers oppressed. Or notice the many partnerships with JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, and Bank of America, the very institutions which caused the financial collapse and threw millions of Americans-including your future students’ families-into foreclosure, bankruptcy, and deeper poverty. These organizations choose to donate to TFA because TFA supports their agendas. If TFA was truly pushing back on the status quo of educational inequality, these types of donors would not only refuse financial support, they would be attacking a group which threatens their earning potential.

* Meanwhile, making the rounds again: Gates Foundation Funding Wrist Bracelets to Monitor Teaching Effectiveness. How to Write a Conservative Article about Education.

* The Humanities, Declining? Not According to the Numbers. Well, you know, you can prove anything using facts.

* “This is text from an actual email from an actual coursera professor to actual coursera students.”

* More than 260 colleges and universities in 40 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have students who are more likely to default on their loans than full-time freshmen are to graduate, an analysis of federal data shows.

* Bummer Watch Lightning Round: Fox News adopts George Zimmerman. Kevin Clash’s (One) Day in Court. Gitmo Detainees to Be Force-Fed at Night Out of Respect for Ramadan. The street value of black market ivory in China — up to $1,300 a pound — rivals that of cocaine or gold. And, of course, North Carolina. Oh, North Carolina.

* In New York, Blasi said, his security personnel did not have the police’s powers of arrest and don’t have the power to arrest and shoot lawbreakers, and the city police did not believe they had the power to enter this private space. During the Zuccotti crisis, Blasi said he dreamed of turning on fire hydrants, letting loose German shepherds and deploying blow torches. Ralph Blasi is a director of security for a real estate company. Fire hydrants, German shepherds, blow torches.

The marshmallow test became an important part of psychology canon. But a study in 2012 suggests that the children in the experiment did not necessarily differ in their ability to resist temptation. Instead, it was their trust in the researcher to return with the promised marshmallow that differed. 

“Now, it seems that senior (well-paid) managers are giving explicit orders to senior editorial staff to deliberately take advantage of young job-seekers in order to cut costs.” Gasp!

* And the headline reads: Human head transplants? Neurosurgeon says ‘we have the technology.’ All right, damnit, I’m in.

Five for Friday

leave a comment »

I’m not going to comment on which scenes were green screen but a lot of them were. I’ve been told by the powers that be: Do not comment on what scenes were green screen. Everybody knows some of them were but that’s all I’m going to say. No comment! Arrested Development’s Jessica Walter on Lucille’s Excellent Legs, Sex Scenes, and Ramen Fights.

* Because you demanded it! Vince Gilligan: “Breaking Bad” spin-off is “very much” a possibility.

Soviet Union’s Old Domain Name Now Home To A Thriving Cybercriminal Community.

* The Sun Times is looking for a few good photographers.

* And here’s what Pangea looks like mapped with modern political borders.

ku-xlarge

Saturday Links!

with 2 comments

* Does the BBC want Moffat off Who? Well, then, I guess that’s pretty much everyone.

* The AV Club argues the American Office, to the end, was a great television show about how terrible love can be.

So you survived the apocalypse. Here’s what would it take to rebuild the world.

* How to Avoid Toxic Chemicals.

* But it’s not only the Globe. This failure is repeated across the mainstream media landscape — the product of a mindset in which climate change is simply another environmental problem, albeit a particularly complex one for which we’ll eventually find a technical fix, mainly by doing more or less the same things we’re doing now, only more efficiently and with better technology. It’s nothing to get too excited about. It’s certainly not anything to sacrifice your career over.

* Mark Fisher on affective labor. Warning: The ultimate imagistic reference is pornographic, if that’s unpleasant for you.

Being exploited is no longer enough. The nature of labour now is such that almost anyone, no matter how menial their position, is required to be seen (over)investing in their work. What we are forced into is not merely work, in the old sense of undertaking an activity we don’t want to perform; no, now we are forced to act as if we want to work. Even if we want to work in a burger franchise, we have to prove that, like reality TV contestants, we really want it. The notorious shift towards affective labour in the Global North means that it is no longer possible to just turn up at work and be miserable. Your misery has to be concealed – who wants to listen to a depressed call centre worker, to be served by a sad waiter, or be taught by an unhappy lecturer?

Yet that’s not quite right. The subjugatory libidinal forces that draw enjoyment from the current cult of work don’t want us to entirely conceal our misery. For what enjoyment is there to be had from exploiting a worker who actually delights in their work? In his sequel to Blade Runner, The Edge of Human, K W Jeter provides an insight into the libidinal economics of work and suffering. One of the novel’s characters answers the question of why, in Blade Runner‘s future world, the Tyrell Corporation bothered developing replicants (androids constructed so that only experts can distinguish them from humans). “Why should the off-world colonists want troublesome, humanlike slaves rather than nice, efficient machines? It’s simple. Machines don’t suffer. They aren’t capable of it.  A machine doesn’t know when it’s being raped. There’s no power relationship between you and a machine. … For the replicant to suffer, to give its owners that whole master-slave energy, it has to have emotions. … . The replicant’s emotions aren’t a design flaw. The Tyrell Corporation put them there. Because that’s what our customers wanted.”

* And the only way to win is not to play: In part, this is how all solitaire games work. The solitaire aesthetic in general is about taking rational content and form — apparent in the effort to model the range of a T-37 turret gun in the game’s structure — and giving it metaphysical expression and feeling in a game-play design. It is a constructed channel of experience, with clearly defined player operations, yet completely undefined in terms of how the player experiences it. Even though you are rolling a die and consulting a results table, you see the battle in terms beyond paper and dice; your mind creates a narrative in which the enemy is repulsed or surges forth, where a battle-scarred unit makes the break-through or where defeat is quickly assured when a leader is cut down in the opening hellfire of bullets. A string of successful rolls translates into cosmic kismet, failed rolls into a series of punches putting you on the ropes.

All the Monday Links (A Ton)

with 2 comments

* You can read my review of Dan Hassler-Forest’s Capitalist Superheroes (“No Dads: Cuckolds, Dead Fathers, and Capitalist Superheroes“) as the free preview for the Los Angeles Review of Books Digital Edition on Science Fiction.

“We have been dismayed by news reports of a handful of colleges and universities that have threatened to cut the courseloads of part-time faculty members specifically in order to evade this provision of the law,” a statement from the American Association of University Professors reads. “Such actions are reprehensible, penalizing part-time faculty members both by depriving them access to affordable health care as intended by law and by reducing their income.” More at the Chronicle.

18th-Century Connecticutian or Muppet?

Film School Thesis Statement Generator. This is uncannily good.

Mad Men calls into question the post-war crisis of masculinity through its strategic use of narrative ellipses.

* The people vs. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Cathy Davidson explains why she’s teaching a MOOC. Since I know Cathy (a little) and feel bad about disagreeing so absolutely completely with her, I’ll just leave it there.

Socialism, not capitalism, will get kids out of the mines and away from the drive-through window. And we can’t create that future until we stop the present. Gavin Mueller vs. the machines, in Jacobin‘s special issue on work and automation.

It is insufficient to respond by pointing to productivity gains to justify automation — that’s a management trick. Automation’s prime function is to destroy the ability of workers to control the pace of work. The results are bloody. As Dan Georgakas and Marvin Surkin document in Detroit, I Do Mind Dying, while management attributed productivity gains in the auto industry to automation, black workers credited “niggermation”: the practice of forcing them to work at high speeds on dangerous machinery.

Such shocking terminology underscores a crucial truth. Robots weren’t responsible for those cars; rather, it was brutalized black bodies. A 1973 study estimated that sixty-five auto workers died per day from work-related injuries, a higher casualty rate than that of American soldiers in Vietnam. Those who survived often suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. This bloodbath is directly attributable to the disempowering effects of automation. Had workers retained control, they wouldn’t have worked at such a deadly pace.

Life on Mars to become a reality in 2023, Dutch firm claims.

AIDS ‘Patient Zero’ was a publicity strategy, scholar writes.

* How damaged are NFL players’ brains?

* Violence, mournability, and West, Texas.

* Movies in Color, The Color Palettes of Stills from Famous Films. More links below Stevesie.

tumblrads1280-640x386

Can slaughterhouses be humane?

* Bad news, everyone.

* Four college coeds dream of trading their rote lecture halls and cinderblock dorms—is this a for-profit university?—for the debauchery of Florida spring break. Standing between them and their escape is a shortage of ready cash. Lacking alternatives like Mastercards, they solve their liquidity crisis by knocking over a local fried chicken joint. Most jarring in these opening moments is not the violence of the robbery, but the obviously incredible possibility that four college students in the United States lack access to easy credit. After all, what is a student today without the potential for indebtedness? “High as Finance,” from The New Inquiry‘s critical supplement on Spring Breakers.

Gunfire Erupts at Denver Pro-Marijuana 4/20 Celebrations, Injuring Three. Gunman Sought After Shootout at Nuclear Power Plant in Tennessee.

* Spoiler alert: They’re going to overfish the Arctic till it dies.

* Graeber vs. austerity.

* The headline reads, “China Wants to Ban Superstition, Mandate Science.”

* Disney said no to Iron Man 3: Demon in a Bottle. The fools.

Despite allegations that he knew about a rape and tried to protect his players who committed it, despite widespread criticism that he didn’t punish his team enough and that he should be fired, and despite a grand jury that could charge him looming next week, the powerful Steubenville High football coach Reno Saccocia has been approved for a two-year administrative contract, the city superintendent confirmed to The Atlantic Wire Monday afternoon.

* Presenting the Calvin and Hobbes app.

* And “university professor” is only the 14th best job in the country. Damn you, actuaries!

Saturday Night

leave a comment »

* When Dickens met Dostoevsky: the best piece on a multi-decade literary hoax you may ever read.

* Over the past 23 years, California constructed roughly one new prison per year, at a cost of $100 million each, while it built only one new public college during the same period. Nationwide, spending on prisons has risen six times faster than spending on higher education.

* When the creative class failed. More here.

* Margaret Thatcher’s higher-education legacy.

“Becoming oneself” has turned into a crappy job — a compulsory low-paying, low-skill job. The promise of modernity, that we might escape the contingent circumstances of our birth and become who we “really are,” has become an injunction to continually work on the self with no hope of ever fully knowing ourselves or feeling fully recognized. Neoliberal ideology, as Jodi Dean argues in the quote above, effaces boundaries between work and life and requires subjects to continually seek opportunity to prove their creativity and flexibility. Social-media companies have emerged to offer just that, an endless number of opportunities for us to test our creativity and transform everyday life experience into proof of our economic fitness. Social-media profiles may thereby become necessary collateral, mandatory passports to participate in a consumer society gone “social.”

And Google wants to build the Star Trek computer. More and more it seems clear that Google is run by crazy people.

Lots of Monday Links But In My Defense They Are All Fascinating

leave a comment »

* Margaret Thatcher dies. Glenn Greenwald on speaking ill of the dead. We’re still living in Thatcher’s world. We Are All Thatcherites Now. “If I reported to you what Mrs. Thatcher really thought about President Reagan, it would damage Anglo-American relations.” Thatcher on the climate. Obama on Thatcher.

Will Democrats destroy the planet? And pretty gleefully, too, it looks like.

I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that not a single one of our major institutions, within government or without, is capable of confronting this problem. And if we can’t, that’s rather the ballgame, isn’t it?

The Methane Beneath Our Feet.

ExxonMobil, FAA, Arkansas cops establish flight restriction zone, threaten reporters who try to document Mayflower, AR spill.

* It’s Art Pope’s nightmare, North Carolinians just live in it.

Imagine for a moment if a loved one found themselves in legal jeopardy in some foreign country that had a 99% conviction rate.  You might ask what kind of illegitimate system are they up against.  You would likely conclude that any system where conviction is nearly-assured is stacked against the accused.  Yet this is exactly what the situation is in federal courts in the United States, the alleged bastion of liberty that does not hesitate to hold itself out as a beacon of freedom and poses as the benchmark of fairness that other nations are encouraged to follow.

* Pornokitsch considers one of my childhood favorites, Dragonlance Chronicles.

Searching for Bill Watterson.

How to make $1,000,000 at Rutgers. Rutgers Practices Were Not a Hostile Work Environment.

Average Faculty Salaries, 2012–13. The Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, 2012-13. Colleges Begin to Reward Professors for Doing Work That Actually Matters to Them.

And with stretched budgets and public pressure to keep costs down, many colleges and universities are cutting back on tenure and tenure-track jobs. According to the report, such positions now make up only 24 percent of the academic work force, with the bulk of the teaching load shifted to adjuncts, part-timers, graduate students and full-time professors not on the tenure track.

* The dark side of open access.

Is Stanford still a university? The Wall Street Journal recently reported that more than a dozen students—both undergraduate and graduate—have left school to work on a new technology start-up called Clinkle. Faculty members have invested, the former dean of Stanford’s business school is on the board, and one computer-science professor who taught several of the employees now owns shares. The founder of Clinkle was an undergraduate advisee of the president of the university, John Hennessey, who has also been advising the company. Clinkle deals with mobile payments, and, if all goes well, there will be many payments to many people on campus. Maybe, as it did with Google, Stanford will get stock grants. There are conflicts of interest here; and questions of power dynamics. The leadership of a university has encouraged an endeavor in which students drop out in order to do something that will enrich the faculty.

‘Social Entrepreneurs’ Bring New Ideas, New Conflicts to Colleges.

Coursera Takes a Nuanced View of MOOC Dropout Rates.

Steinberg’s bill will undermine public education by entrenching private capital; Block’s overestimates the educational effectiveness of online for its target population and therefore helps foreclose more imaginative uses of the digital and the allocation of necessary resources to the CCC and the CSU.

How the Location of Colleges Hurts the Economy.

So imagine my surprise — and envy — upon learning that these networkers moonlight in a profitable little business using Shakespeare to teach leadership, strategy and management to businesses and organizations. For $28,000 a day!

The relentless drive for efficiency at U.S. companies has created a new harshness in the workplace. In their zeal to make sure that not a minute of time is wasted, companies are imposing rigorous performance quotas, forcing many people to put in extra hours, paid or not. Video cameras and software keep tabs on worker performance, tracking their computer keystrokes and the time spent on each customer service call.

The Problem with Nonprofits.

* A brief history of public goods.

New York Is Shelving Prison Law Libraries.

* An editor rejects The Left Hand of Darkness.

* Game of Thrones as subway map.

* Dear Television premieres at TNR with a review of the Mad Men premiere.

* Bill Cosby will speak at the 2013 Marquette commencement.

* And your single-serving-site of the day: How far away is Mars?

Actually Existing Dystopia

leave a comment »

Tesco — the company that runs a chain of grocery stores across Great Britain — uses digital armbands to track the performance of its warehouse staff.

Tesco representatives said the devices allow users to switch into a “break mode” for up to 25 minutes a day. But that anonymous employee claimed that using the toilet without logging the trip as a break would result in a surprisingly low score, even if the task was finished within the allotted time.

That’s just one of the many ways that employers are using technology to track employee productivity. Call centers have long used metrics such as call time to rank employees, and gamification software may take it to new levels. Darpa wants to track soldiers’ health. Apparently, IBM has a tool for detecting disgruntled employees. And Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff has boasted of a “Chatterlytics” system for ranking employees on their use of the company’s internal social network.

Written by gerrycanavan

February 27, 2013 at 8:00 am

Sunday Links

leave a comment »

Suff1(some shamelessly borrowed from you-know-who)

* Britain paid reparations for slavery? That’s fantast–oh god.

The true scale of Britain’s involvement in the slave trade has been laid bare in documents revealing how the country’s wealthiest families received the modern equivalent of billions of pounds in compensation after slavery was abolished.

Fathers matter, but so do grandfathers and great-grandfathers. Indeed, it may take as long as 300-500 years for high- and low-status families to produce descendants with equal chances of being in various parts of the income spectrum.

* The Ambition Gap: When researchers have studied the ambition gap, they’ve discovered something peculiar: It’s not there. Women do ask for more. They just aren’t rewarded for it. Via Feminéma.

7 Obscure Children’s Books by Authors of Grown-Up Literature. Joyce! Twain! Woolf! Eliot! Shelley! Tolstoy! Wilde! 7 (More) Obscure Children’s Books by Famous “Adult” Lit Authors. Huxley! Stein! Thurber! Sandburg! Rushdie! Fleming! Hughes!

* Actually existing media bias: Glenn Greenwald on what’s become of MSNBC.

I wonder: does someone who goes from being an Obama White House spokesman and Obama campaign official to being an MSNBC contributor even notice that they changed jobs?

* Mentoring and cruel optimism.

* Race and the cuts at Emory.

* Rehabilitating Zero Dark Thirty.

Susan Sontag once wrote that every mass art form is practiced and experienced as “a social rite, a defense against anxiety, and a tool of power.” Zero Dark Thirty’s critics, unwilling to understand themselves as the film’s intended audience, instead imagined that “real Americans” were being made tools of power through one of their most important social rites: moviegoing. What these critics did not confront was their own need to fend off anxiety. For Maya, as for many Americans, the anxiety has to do with the inadequacy of Osama bin Laden’s death as consolation for all of the disasters that preceded it. How else to explain the manic focus on proving that torture did not contribute to the search for bin Laden? It suggests a kind of desperation, a desire to hold up just this one episode as separate and different from the rest of the war. This desire is Zero Dark Thirty’s true subject, as well as the object of its critique.

‘Welcome to Dystopia’: We Are ‘Entering A Long-Term And Politically Dangerous Food Crisis.’

The Princess and the Trolls: The Heartrending Legend of Adalia Rose, the Most Reviled Six-Year-Old Girl on the Internet. People are the worst. Jesus Christ.

* Texts from Pride and Prejudice. Texts from Don Quixote.

* Ten Little Suffragettes.

* George Saunders, lapsed Catholic.

* Papal Conclave 101.

Perhaps the classic expression of this idea belongs to none other than the outgoing pope, Benedict XVI, who as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was asked on Bavarian television in 1997 if the Holy Spirit is responsible for who gets elected. This was his response:

I would not say so, in the sense that the Holy Spirit picks out the Pope. … I would say that the Spirit does not exactly take control of the affair, but rather like a good educator, as it were, leaves us much space, much freedom, without entirely abandoning us. Thus the Spirit’s role should be understood in a much more elastic sense, not that he dictates the candidate for whom one must vote. Probably the only assurance he offers is that the thing cannot be totally ruined.

Then the clincher:

There are too many contrary instances of popes the Holy Spirit obviously would not have picked!

* Hayley Schafer chose her dream job at the age of 5. Three years later, her grandmother told her that if she wrote it down, the dream would come true. So she found a piece of blue construction paper and scrawled on it with a pencil: “Veterianian.” “No one told me how to spell it,” she remembers. “They just said, ‘Sound it out.’ ”

At the age of 30, she still has the sign, which is framed on her desk at the Caring Hearts Animal Clinic in Gilbert, Ariz., where she works as a vet. She also has $312,000 in student loans, courtesy of Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine, on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts. Or rather, $312,000 was what she owed the last time she could bring herself to log into the Sallie Mae account that tracks the ever-growing balance.

* The Cost of Prison.

* A brief history of the car cup holder.

* Oscar voters overwhelmingly white, male.

* Oscar Pistorius and the Media. The curious case of Reeva Steenkamp’s boyfriend. Inspiration porn and compulsory able bodiedness.

* Stay Free or Die Tryin’: Scenes from the student protests at Cooper Union.

Hidden behind a false wall and a fast-food restaurant, large black and brown images depict the faces of seven UCLA alumni, symbolizing the struggle of social activism and black history.

* Could a president use drones to kill journalists?

* Being David Bowie.

But what I wanted to talk about is the way that the Harlem Shake meme seems perfectly designed for the workplace.

The Five-Year Ph.D. as Improved Plumbing, Redux

leave a comment »

In this respect, the restructuring of the Graduate Center follows a rather banal and callous neoliberal trend across higher education today: the gutting of social sciences and humanities; assembly-line style speed-up in PhD production time; and the loss of spaces for long-term, dedicated, and quality research and writing. Title refers to this. Via @claudiakincaid.

More Bousquet (On Superexploitation)

leave a comment »

More Marc Bousquet, this time on superexploitation from Academe:

What interests me about Spartacus and the grammar of adult film is the question of delivering work without a wage, for an extreme wage discount, or over and above the requirements of a wage. In the technical sense, most wage work (excepting the hypercompensated type) is simple exploitation: you produce more value than you receive back in wages, often a lot more, and that value goes to someone of the Real Housewivesclass, who buys jewels and a good conscience by making occasional donations to charity.

By contrast, working without a wage—or for a discounted wage, or for psychic compensation, or delivering additional work off the clock—generally involves some form of superexploitation. The cutting edge of management practice is finding ways to maximize the employee’s donation above and beyond the wage: checking office e-mail at 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., taking calls on weekends and on vacation, working through lunch, and so on. One of the vectors for this exploitation is making workplaces “creative” and “fun,” as Andrew Ross has argued; another is faux professionalism; another is providing elaborate nonwage recognitions, as in the military, church, and education bureaucracies. Internships are both straight-up extortion (“You can’t get a job without one”) and status awards (“I won the competition for the position!”).

Gladiators experience the most primitive forms of superexploitation (direct enslavement, imprisonment, and degradation). All of these primitive forms are alive and well in today’s global economy, from prison labor to the traffic in women. And some aspects of gladiator labor are realized cinematically as the kind of lockedin dormitory workplace associated with Chinese manufacturing.

But the primitive forms of superexploitation don’t explain the Starz demographic’s identification with the characters and situation. The viewer identification has much more to do with the fact that the gladiators also experience the most advanced or progressive forms of superexploitation associated with Western workers employed in some of the most sought-after positions in the global economy.

While gladiators do receive some material compensation (better food, occasional prize money), they are ultimately paid in the coin of emotion. This is where the mapping of gladiation onto the porn industry delivers the most insight. The gladiators are almost exactly analogous to today’s porn “stars,” who support one of the most lucrative industries on the planet—but who can make as little as one hundred dollars for a filmed sex act, and might work on just a couple of films in a “career” that lasts a few months. The cost of plastic surgery, physical training, and so on easily outweighs the earnings of many, a fact known perfectly well to most of the men and women struggling to get into the industry. The idea that all these people are delusional, trying to win a lottery of high adult-film paychecks, misses the point. For the most part, they understand that they are also being paid in a kind of reputation that they have chosen to seek (perhaps mistakenly), even if they don’t get rich.

This is the heart of Spartacus’s appeal—its insight into a core question of our time: “If the rewards are so slim, why do it?” And the series captures the complexity and honesty of the answer: that most of us are deeply social in our motivations, that we strive most vigorously for nonwage compensation . . . and that these generally social preferences represent our vulnerability to the economic predators of our time.

…But a labor market arranged around working for love—rather than fair compensation—is actually one of the most sexist, racist, and economically discriminatory arrangements possible. As I emphasize in How the University Works and elsewhere, when you make the professoriate an economically irrational choice, you stop sorting for the most talented people and begin to sort for the people who can afford to discount their wages.

Via @jhrees.

Of course, the coin of emotion, in fulfilling the desire to serve, is only part of the story. Just as the gladiators are also restrained by the lash, the superexploitation of academic labor is assisted by lines of force. Where the personal need to serve ends—when it runs out, is depleted, pumped absolutely dry by the relentless engine of university accumulation “in the service of good”—a whole underworld of terror, humiliation, and abuse awaits the university worker who comes to his or her senses. When the appeals to pride, love, and self-sacrifice at last run their course, most of today’s superexploited will simply be bullied into further giving with absurd metrics, unreasonable expectations, dishonest evaluation, the threat of nonrenewal, or the like.

The Five-Year Ph.D. as Improved Plumbing

with 6 comments

Marc Bousquet, How the University Works:

From the perspective of casualization, the possibility of a toxic buildup of degree holders is not, as commonly maintained by job-market theorists, the result of “too many” graduate students. On the contrary, it is precisely the nature of permatemping to arrange that there are always “just enough” graduate students and other nondegreed flex workers to be delivered “just in time” to serve the university’s labor needs. It is in the interest and logic of the system to have as many graduate students as it can employ while producing the fewest number of degrees—or, better yet, to produce persons with degrees who don’t make a claim for permanent academic employment. This is one reason that graduate school administrations have recently promoted the Marie Antoinette or “let them eat cake” theory of graduate education: “Why, if they cannot find teaching work, let them be screenwriters!” This is a kind of excrement theory for managers, through which the degree holder figures as a horrible stain or blot, an embarrassment that the system is hysterically trying to scrape from its shoes. By institutionalizing the practice of preparing degree holders for “alternate careers,” the system’s managers are creating a radiator or waste pipe to flush away persons whose teaching services are no longer required precisely because they now hold the degree.

The five-year Ph.D. works exactly the same way  — flush out the used-up instructors faster and cleaner. It’s better plumbing. We know this is true (alas) because these proposals don’t ever talk about admitting fewer students to Stanford. The result of reducing time-to-degree while keeping admitting the same number each year will be be more graduate students passing through Stanford, not fewer — but the ones that do pass through will disappear more easily, making fewer demands on the institution materially and affectively as they go. Despite its claimed goals, most of which are perfectly laudable in the abstract, this is the unhappy purpose to which the five-year-degree proposal actually directs itself: not the production of fewer Ph.D.s, but a mechanism to get rid of the “used-up” Ph.D. better than we do now.

The five-year Ph.D. with alternative job training is therefore not, as Claire Potter has it, “an accounting reform posing as educational reform”; it’s an efficiency measure designed to better manage the cheap labor on which the contemporary university demands and better dispose of the people whose time in the system is up. Bousquet again:

Nearly all of the administrative responses to the degree holder can already be understood as responses to waste: flush it, ship it to the provinces, recycle it through another industry, keep it away from the fresh meat. Unorganized graduate employees and contingent faculty have a tendency to grasp their circumstance incompletely—that is, they feel “treated like shit”—without grasping the systemic reality that they are waste. Insofar as graduate employees feel treated like waste, they can maintain the fantasy that they really exist elsewhere, in some place other than the overwhelmingly excremental testimony of their experience. This fantasy becomes an alibi for inaction, because in this construction agency lies elsewhere, with the administrative touch on the flush-chain. The effect of people who feel treated like waste is an appeal to some other agent: please stop treating us this way—which is to say to that outside agent, “please recognize that we are not waste,” even when that benevolent recognition is contrary to the testimony of our understanding. (And, of course, it is only good management to tell the exploited and superexploited, “Yes, I recognize your dignity. You are special.”)

By contrast, the organized graduate employee and contingent faculty share the grasp of the totality of the system that proceeds from the understanding that they are indeed the waste of that system. They know they are not merely treated like waste but, in fact, are the actual shit of the system—being churned inexorably toward the outside: not merely “disposable” labor (Walzer) but labor that must be disposed of for the system to work. These are persons who can perform acts of blockage. Without expelling the degree holder, the system could not be what it is. Imagine what would happen to “graduate programs preparing future faculty” if they were held responsible for degree-granting by a requirement to continue the employment of every person to whom they granted a Ph.D. but who was unable to find academic employment elsewhere. In many locations, the pipeline would jam in the first year!

The Worst Job in the World?

leave a comment »

Written by gerrycanavan

August 23, 2012 at 10:38 pm

Monday!

leave a comment »

* Police Tape is an Android app from the American Civil Liberties Union that is designed to allow citizens to covertly record the police. When activated, it hides itself from casual inspection, and it has a mode that causes it to send its recording to an ACLU-operated server, protecting against police seizure and deletion.

* Capitalism can turn anything into a miserable boondoggle: London Olympics edition.

* Share Our Future – The CLASSE Manifesto.

* “I’ll be paying this forever,” said Chelsea Grove, 24, who dropped out of Bowling Green State University and owes $70,000 in student loans. She is working three jobs to pay her $510 monthly obligation and has no intention of going back.

“For me to finish it would mean borrowing more money,” she said. “It makes me puke to think about borrowing more money.”

Everyone only wants temps.

2012 drought rivals Dust Bowl.

* Journalists really should just refuse quote approval. That’s just not how this is supposed to work.

* And Nate Silver says voter suppression efforts probably won’t determine the results of the election. But digby and Ed Kilgore say light your hair back on fire.

‘Who Says Meritocracy Says Oligarchy’

leave a comment »

The Nation excerpts Chris Hayes.

The dynamic Michels identifies applies, in an analogous way, to our own cherished system of meritocracy. In order for it to live up to its ideals, a meritocracy must comply with two principles. The first is the Principle of Difference, which holds that there is vast differentiation among people in their ability and that we should embrace this natural hierarchy and set ourselves the challenge of matching the hardest-working and most talented to the most difficult, important and remunerative tasks.

The second is the Principle of Mobility. Over time, there must be some continuous, competitive selection process that ensures performance is rewarded and failure punished. That is, the delegation of duties cannot simply be made once and then fixed in place over a career or between generations. People must be able to rise and fall along with their accomplishments and failures. When a slugger loses his swing, he should be benched; when a trader loses money, his bonus should be cut. At the broader social level, we hope that the talented children of the poor will ascend to positions of power and prestige while the mediocre sons of the wealthy will not be charged with life-and-death decisions. Over time, in other words, society will have mechanisms that act as a sort of pump, constantly ensuring that the talented and hard-working are propelled upward, while the mediocre trickle downward.

But this ideal, appealing as it may be, runs up against the reality of what I’ll call the Iron Law of Meritocracy. The Iron Law of Meritocracy states that eventually the inequality produced by a meritocratic system will grow large enough to subvert the mechanisms of mobility. Unequal outcomes make equal opportunity impossible. The Principle of Difference will come to overwhelm the Principle of Mobility. Those who are able to climb up the ladder will find ways to pull it up after them, or to selectively lower it down to allow their friends, allies and kin to scramble up. In other words: “Who says meritocracy says oligarchy.”

Consider, for example, the next “meritocracy” that graduates of Hunter encounter. American universities are the central institution of the modern meritocracy, and yet, as Daniel Golden documents in his devastating book The Price of Admission, atop the ostensibly meritocratic architecture of SATs and high school grades is built an entire tower of preference and subsidy for the privileged:

At least one third of the students at elite universities, and at least half at liberal arts colleges, are flagged for preferential treatment in the admissions process. While minorities make up 10 to 15 percent of a typical student body, affluent whites dominate other preferred groups: recruited athletes (10 to 25 percent of students); alumni children, also known as “legacies” (10 to 25 percent); development cases (2 to 5 percent); children of celebrities and politicians (1 to 2 percent); and children of faculty members (1 to 3 percent).

This doesn’t even count the advantages that wealthy children have in terms of private tutors, test prep, and access to expensive private high schools and college counselors. All together, this layered system of preferences for the children of the privileged amounts to, in Golden’s words, “affirmative action for rich white people.” It is not so much the meritocracy as idealized and celebrated but rather the ancient practice of “elites mastering the art of perpetuating themselves.”

A pure functioning meritocracy would produce a society with growing inequality, but that inequality would come along with a correlated increase in social mobility. As the educational system and business world got better and better at finding inherent merit wherever it lay, you would see the bright kids of the poor boosted to the upper echelons of society, with the untalented progeny of the best and brightest relegated to the bottom of the social pyramid where they belong.

But the Iron Law of Meritocracy makes a different prediction: that societies ordered around the meritocratic ideal will produce inequality without the attendant mobility. Indeed, over time, a society will become more unequal and less mobile as those who ascend its heights create means of preserving and defending their privilege and find ways to pass it on across generations. And this, as it turns out, is a pretty spot-on description of the trajectory of the American economy since the mid-1970s.