Thursday, October 29, 2009

HASS on the Hill 2009 - Day 2

Day 2 of HASS on the Hill, being written a day after due to late flights and lots of October 30 deadlines around the place.

Going to New Parliament House (using that term because we had dinner the previous night in the Old Parliament House) is a lot of fun. This is the political class in its natural habitat, and the designers of the building created a cavernous space with lots of nooks and hiding places which seem to facilitate plotting. The famous cafe Ossie's also facilitates arriving early and staying late, with its collection of breakfast cereals, wines, toilet paper, noodle packets, condoms and so on alongside the standard cafe fare. A chance meeting there with Rhys Muldoon revealed many fascinting stories about the political world and the arts world in particular (no spoiler alert here).

The main event for me was meeting Senator Mitch Fifield. Mitch is a Liberal Senator from Victoria, and was a Senior Political Advisor to former Treasurer Peter Costello prior to entering the Senate in 2004.

From Mitch's well designed web site, I gauged that an area of potentially fruitful discussion could arise from his being a patron of The Song Room, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to providing music education opportunities for children in disadvantaged schools. We were also both at the University of Sydney in the 1980s, so there were some common touch points, ranging from smuggling items into the Fisher Library stack, to students form the era now in the Federal Parliament, including Anthony Albanese, Joe Hockey, Greg Combet, Belinda Neal and (after the Bradfiled by-election, barring a big surprise) Paul Fletcher.

[The road not taken here involves Mitch also being a vocal campaigner for Voluntary Student Unionism. While I have been around universities enough to have seen some truly daft things happen in student unions, withdrawal of the funding that came from student union fees has left a funding hole on campuses that has proved difficult to fill. At any rate, it can be noted that perhaps the daftest thing ever done by a student union was by Liberal Students at the University of New England, in their creation of a position of Heterosexuality Officer.]

Anyway, the meeting was off to a good start. I noted that I wasn't asking for support for any paticular project, which met the affiring respomse from Senator Fifield that being in the Opposition, he couldn't give me anything anyway, so just go ahead and ask. I was also struck by the fact that, just as I had Googled him prior to the metting, he had similarly Googled me, and fould this very blog.

My points from the meeting were:
  1. The National Library of Australia's digitising newspapers initiative is something well worth supporting, not least because it may mean that Sydney Uni. students spend less time in the Fisher Library stack;
  2. 50% of Australian universities' funding coming from non-government sources (discussed yesterday) of which the largest is student fee income, has had a distorting effect on what happens in the sector that is a problem for developing strength in the arts, humanities and social sciences;
  3. A case can be made, and I sought to make it, for a national audit of Media and Communications courses around Australia (including areas such as journalism and public relations as well as areas of multimedia design) to see if they are still growing, and how they are responding to a plethora of industry and technological changes, as well as their general balancing of vocational skills orientation and contextual material.
In realtion to the last point, the last major study in this area was the report prepared by Peter Putnis and his team at the University of Canberra, which was recognised internationally as a landmark study. The time may well have arrived for an equivalent new study, and CHASS may be the entity through which this can be pursued in conjunction with ANZCA.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

HASS on the Hill 2009 - Day 1

Being late October, it is time for HASS on the Hill, which I am attending as ANZCA President.

My trip to Canberra turned out to be more eventful than expected for three reasons. First, I discovered the night before that in the course of changing the timing of my return flight to allow for my meeting with Senator Mitch Fifield at 4pm on Wednesday, someone (ether QANTAS or my travel agent) managed to eliminate my flight to Canberra altogther, so I had to make a hurried ticket purchase on my own credit card on Sunday night.

Second, on my revised flight – later than was originally planned – I found myself sitting next to the Independent MP for Kennedy in Far Far North Qld, Bob Katter. Bob wore the most impressive hat onto the plane, an R. M .Williams cowboy number. Finally, leaving Brisbane where the current temperature range is 21-32 degrees Celcius, and the tracksuits are well and truly packed away, I forgot that it is still cold in Canberra, making for a challenging night of rugging up. Still, it could have been worse, as I met people who took the later flight out of Brisbane, only to find themselves stuck at the airport for 3 ½ hours due to the storm.

HASS stands for Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, and HASS on the Hill is an annual event held by the Council for the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (CHASS). A lot of acronyms here, but the aim of CHASS – founded in 2004 – is to “promote and provide advocacy for the humanities, arts and social sciences and to serve as a coordinating forum for academics, students, business, practitioners and the broader community”.

CHASS aims to build recognition, profile and influence for the humanities, arts and social sciences akin to the influence acquired by the science and technology sectors, with the specific aims of:

  • Promoting the work of the sectors to government, industry and the public
  • Advocating for policy reform and resources to allow Australia to further develop and use the knowledge and skills it has developed in the humanities, the arts and the social sciences.
  • Providing a coordinating forum for discussion in the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences sectors in Australia
  • Creating networks linking experts and researchers in the sector with industry, policy makers and media
  • Building the innovative capacity of Australia through better linkages between these sectors, and science, technology, engineering and medicine
  • Supporting members by building an effective and well-resourced organisation able to provide policy briefing, advocacy and communications advice, and leadership in promoting the sector.

From the first session, which provided an overview of making the case for the value of the HASS sector, two points caught my attention. The first was from Professor Stuart MacIntyre, President of the Academy of the Social Sciences, that higher education in Australia accounts for 1.6% of GDP, of which 0.8% is contributed by private sources, primarily domestic and international fee-paying students. The private contribution ratio is second highest in the world after the United States, but the public contribution in the U.S. is considerably larger. This is another way of saying that Australia has one of the most market-driven higher education sectors in the world, and one of the lowest proportionate contributions of government to higher education funding.

The other point was from Jan Fullerton, Director-General of the National Library of Australia, and her description of the NLA’s process of digitizing Australia’s newspapers. As of June 2009, 4.3 million articles are now available and full-text searchable, with 1.95 million pages scanned from microfiche, and now available through the Google news Archive service. Following the Web 2.0 principle, participants are encouraged to scan, correct and tag text, and users have corrected over 3.4 million lines of electronic text in over 150,000 articles, while adding 70,000 tags to articles and including comment and further information about articles. The plan is to have 40 million searchable articles by 2010, and you can put a link to Australian Newspapers beta from your own website:

Then it was off to lunch at the National Press Club to hear Peter Garrett on a national cultural policy. Underwhelming is the term that stays with me. The National Press Club is an underwhelming venue, with its mix of leathery steaks, bad red wine, and rules that only the journalists can ask questions even if they – by their own admission – know nothing about the topic. And when did the guy from (he kept adding the domain name in his questions) become such an authority on the arts that he gets to ask two questions about Australia’s future population! Future historians and archaeologists may well draw a link between the general dodginess of the National Press Club and the poor quality of Australian newspaper commentary.

The last time I saw Peter Garrett on a stage, it was 1982 at the Royal Antler Hotel in Narrabeen, at a Midnight Oils show. After hearing a decidedly underwhelming presentation on an Australian national cultural policy here, I was certainly a bit nostalgic for the old days. There are certainly a series of old debates about a cultural policy that invariably generate what Peter would call “deep thinking” and a “fair dinkum exchange of views”. What I found most odd was how readily Peter Garrett accepted the formula the arts = culture = flagship companies and big festivals. Its not odd because it’s a view – not everyone subscribes to a cultural studies zeitgeist – but because its coming from someone who has had such an impact on Australian national culture from completely outside of that institutional terrain. It feels like a determined disavowal of his old tribe of the live musicians.

Afternoon involved a debrief on how to deal with an MP or a Senator, with six presenters doing their pitch to a panel in an event described by one panelist as “Australian Idol for smart people”. It was pretty engaging and quite a lot of fun, even as we all wondered who is meeting with Wilson Tuckey MP tomorrow.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Michel Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics - Chapter Twelve

• ‘Homo economicus strips the sovereign of power inasmuch as he reveals an essential, fundamental and major incapacity of the sovereign, that is to say, an inability to master the totality of the economic field. The sovereign cannot fail to be blind vis-à-vis the economic domain or field as a whole. The whole set of economic processes cannot fail to elude a would-be central, totalizing, bird’s-eye-view’ (p. 292).

• Possible solutions were : (1) to demarcate market and non-market spaces, and enable political power to be exercised in non-market domains; and (2) to cede control over economic processes but develop superior maps of the economic process (Physiocrats) – ‘in the Physiocrats’ perspective the sovereign will have to pass from political activity to theoretical passivity in relation to the economic process’ (p. 293)

• As neither of these options are satisfactory, “governmentable” subjects are developed through a new domain or field of reference for the art of governing, which is civil society

• The question of civil society is one of ‘how to govern, according to the rules of right, a space of sovereignty which for good or ill is inhabited by economic subjects?’ – ‘The problem of civil society is the juridical structure (economie juridique) of a governmentality pegged to the economic structure (economie economique)’ (p. 296)

• Civil society as a governmental technology: ‘An omnipresent government, a government which nothing escapes, a government which conforms to the rules of right, and a government which nonetheless respects the specificity of the economy, will be a government that manages civil society, the nation, society, the social’ (p. 296).

• Civil society is not a ‘primary reality’, but rather a ‘transactional reality’, like madness or sexuality – ‘an element of transactional reality in the history of governmental technologies’ that correlates to liberalism as ‘a technology of government whose objective is its own self-limitation insofar as it is pegged to the specificity of economic processes’ (p. 297)

• From the mid C18th, and particularly with Adam Ferguson’s History of Civil Society (published at roughly the same time as The Wealth of Nations), civil society appears as:
1. A historical-natural constant beyond which nothing can be found;
2. The spontaneous synthesis of individuals – the social bond which requires no contract non-egoist interests represented in civil society, which is nonetheless territorially bounded in ways that the market is not;
3. A permanent matrix of political power, that is spontaneously formed rather than being the expression of a social contract between governors and governed – ‘in civil society the groups; decision appears to be the decision of the whole group, but when we look more closely at how this takes place we see that the decisions were taken, as [Ferguson] says, “in more select parties”;
4. A motor of history, in so far as it presents the possibility of a stable equilibrium between market society/homo economicus and that which is outside of it (benevolence, community, consent) – developments in economic society and civil society must bear a relationship to one another, as expressed through government and law – civil society can therefore never be static

• The German tradition of counterposing the state and civil society is contrasted to the English tradition of conceiving of civil society within problematics of government – ‘Does civil society really need a government?’ (Thomas Paine) (p. 310)

• The recentring of government associated with liberalism is the shift from government based upon the wisdom of the sovereign (raison d’Etat), to government based upon rationality and calculation. Rationality as a governmental technology is limited, however, by both the invisibility of economic processes and the autonomy of economic subjects. The concept of homo economicus exists less as an attempt to describe human behaviour than as a means of pegging a rationality to subjects that makes them amenable to governmental actions that act as changes to the external environment.

• The different governmental rationalities that have overlapped and competed since the 19th century have been government according to truth (Marxism as government according to the truth of history), art of government according to reason/rationality of the sovereign state, and art of government according to the rationality of economic agents.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Michel Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics - Chapter Eleven

• The problem of homo economicus and its applicability to domains that are not immediately and directly economic (crime, marriage, child rearing etc.) is interesting as it posits a notion of the “rational subject” that bears no relationship to the work done in the social sciences on how individuals respond to behavioural stimuli, but it also presents homo economicus not as someone who should be left alone (as in the theory of laissez faire), but rather as ‘the person who accepts reality or who responds systematically to modifications in the variables of the environment … as someone manageable … someone who is eminently governable. Far from being the intangible partner of laissez faire, homo economicus now becomes the correlate of a governmentality which will act on the environment and systematically modify its variables’ (pp. 2070-271).

• There is in fact no theory of homo economicus, but it draws upon a notion of the subject that begins to appear in C17th English empiricist philosophy as ‘a subject of individual choices which are both irreducible and non-transferable’ (p. 272). The legal subject of contract is understood as a ‘subject of interest’ in this sense, who ‘has become calculating, rationalized’ (p. 273). The ‘subject of interest’ overflows the ‘subject of right’ – juridical will cannot take over from interest – and the subject of interest is not governed by the principle of rights, but is assumed to be an egoistic subject – ‘The market and the contract function in exactly opposite ways and we in fact have two heterogeneous structures’ (p. 276)

• ‘The situation of homo economicus could therefore be described as doubly involuntary, with regard to the accidents which happen to him and with regard to the benefit he unintentionally produces for others’ (p. 277) – Adam Smith’s ‘invisible hand’ – uncertainty about outcomes is an absolute condition for the effective functioning of such a system – ‘The collective good must not be an objective. It must not be an objective because it cannot be calculated, at least, not within an economic strategy. Here we are at the heart of a principle of invisibility.’ (p. 279) – the invisibility is as important as the ‘hand’ – ‘Invisibility is absolutely indispensable. It is an invisibility which means that no economic agent should or can pursue the collective good’ (p. 280).

• The economy must also be obscure to political power, not only in the importance of leaving people alone to pursue self-interest, but also ‘it is impossible for the sovereign to have a point of view on the economic mechanism which totalizes every element and enables them to be combined artificially or voluntarily. The invisible hand which spontaneously combines interests also prohibits any form of intervention and, even better, any form of overarching gaze which would enable the economic process to be totalized’ (p. 280).

• ‘Liberalism acquired its modern shape precisely with the formulation of this essential incompatibility between the non-totalizable multiplicity of economic subjects of interest and the totalizing unity of the juridical sovereign’ (p. 282).

• The C18th saw liberalism form itself in opposition to raison d’Etat and the idea of the sovereign that was both a sovereign of right and an administrative sovereign, capable of delivering good government on the basis of superior knowledge. Economic liberalism emerges in opposition to the Physiocrats and the Economic Table, as part of a more general project of ‘disqualification of a political reason indexed to the state and its sovereignty’ (p. 284)

• After Adam Smith ‘Political economy is indeed a science, a type of knowledge (savoir), a mode of knowledge (connaissance) which those who govern must take into account. But economic science cannot be the science of government and economics cannot be the internal principle, law, rule of conduct, or rationality of government. Economics is a science lateral to the art of governing. One must govern with economics, one must govern alongside economics, one must govern by listening to the economists, but economics must not be and there is no question that it can be the governmental rationality itself’ (p. 286).

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Michel Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics - Chapter Ten

• Paradoxes of German neoliberalism (Ordoliberalism):
o How to maintain “light” regulation that dies not act directly upon the market but only in favour of promoting the economic process?
o How to address the tension inherent in generalizing the enterprise form to balance the promotion of “warm” moral and cultural values with the “cold” mechanisms of competition?

• ‘The return to the enterprise is therefore at once an economic policy or a policy of the economisation of the entire social field, of an extension of the economy to the entire social field, but at the same time a policy which presents itself or seeks to e a kind of Vitalpolitik with the function of compensating for what is cold, impassive, calculating, rational, and mechanical in the strictly economic game of competition. The enterprise society imagined by the ordoliberals is therefore a society for the market and a society against the market, a society oriented towards the market and a society that compensates for the effects of the market in the realms of values and existence.’ (p. 242)

• American neo-liberalism is more radical than German ordoliberalism in that it involves ‘the generalization of the economic form of the market … throughout the social body and including the whole of the social system not usually conducted through or sanctioned by monetary exchanges’ (p. 243)

• The generalization of the economic form of the market beyond the realm of monetary exchanges functions as a ‘principle of intelligibility and a principle of decipherment of social relationships and individual behaviour’ for American neo-liberalism (p. 243) – examples include thinking about child-rearing in terms of human capital, and marriage in terms of a contract to manage transaction costs

• The second major use of the economic form in American neo-liberalism is to subject government action to endless scrutiny of costs and benefits ‘a permanent criticism of governmental policy’ based upon “economic positivism”, and pursued by institutions such as the American Enterprise Institute, whose history actually precedes the Chicago School (p. 247)

• This analysis of non-economic behaviour through a grid of economic intelligibility and the critique of public authorities in market terms can be seen in the account developed of crime and criminal justice by Gary Becker, George Stigler and others. They develop a transaction cost account of crime and punishment where it is the ratio of costs and benefits from the point of view of both the individual and the society that serve as the anchor-points for appraising the penal justice system, as distinct from the ‘anthropology of crime’ that has been developing since the 19th century, with its focus upon the criminal subject and his/her social environment – homo economicus as compared to homo criminalis. While this appears trite and banal (‘a crime is that for which a punishment exists if one is caught’), it reverts back to earlier conceptions of the management of penal justice by classical liberals such as Bentham and Beccaria.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

What is Content Co-creation?

Fascinating paper by Michel Bauwens from the Foundation fro Peer-to-Peer Alternatives and Institute for Distributed Creativity, published in the Fibreculture journal, on the layers of content co-creation:

Albert Boswijk, of the Amsterdam-based Center for the Experience Economy, asked me a set of interesting questions:

What is the reality behind so called best practice co-creation concepts? Are these lipservice to co-creative approaches? Are you really in the driver's seat or are you just being made to believe that you have influence on the outcome? What are the building blocks of co-creation? Which conditions are required? Are organisations really prepared to allow customers to influence and control their organisation and therefore become a co-creative organisation?

To understand the reality or illusion behind projects claiming to practice co-creation or co-design, one must look at the polarities of power and control that determine the context in which the co-creative processes take place, with on the one hand the communities of external collaborators, and on the other hand the corporate entities. But before tackling this issue in particular, it may be useful to see the emerging new paradigm of production that is arising out of the new participative processes.

The new institutional reality could be described as follows.

The First Layer: Collaborative Platforms

At the core are the enabling collaborative socio-technological platforms that allow knowledge workers, software developers and open design communities to collaborate on joint projects, outside of the direct control of corporate entities.

Interesting questions already arise here. These concern who or what is the driving force behind the creation and development of such platforms? They can be initiated by developing communities, managed and maintained by a new type of non-profit institution (like the FLOSS Foundations), or they can be corporate platforms that have been opened up to external participants.

The Second Layer: Open Design Commons/Communities and Physical Infrastructure

Around the corporate platform is the open design community and the knowledge/software/design commons ruled by a set of licenses which determine the particular nature of the property.

Interesting questions arise here. Is it a true commons license like the GPL? Or a sharing license like the Creative Commons, where the stress is on the individual sovereignity in determining the level of sharing that is allowed? Or is it a corporate license, giving very limited rights, or even with outright digital sharecropping, i.e. with the expropriation of the totality of the creative output reserved for usage by the organizing corporation?

It is important to see the open design commons not just as a collaborative community or a new type of 'intellectual property' depository, but also as a fundamentally new type of manufacturing infrastructure. Open design communities have different priorities and constraints than proprietary IP, and naturally design for modularity, lower threshold capital requirements, sustainability, etc. Thus, we are talking about the seeding of a new physical productive infrastructure as well.

The Third Layer: Entrepreneurial Coalitions

Around the commons are the entrepreneurial coalitions that benefit and sustain the design commons, create added value on top of it, and sell this as products or services to the market.

Important questions raised here are as follows. How is the coalition itself organized? Do all parties have equal say, as in the Linux Foundation, or does one big party dominate, as in the Eclipse Foundation and IBM. How does the business ecology relate to the community? Is is nothing but a corporate commons?

The Fourth Layer: Funding Ecologies

In addition, there is a funding infrastructure.

What is the process governing the stream of returns from the monetized market sphere; to the commons, its community, and the infrastructure of cooperation? Do businesses support the community directly, through the foundations? Is the government or a set of public authorities involved? Are there crowdfunding mechanisms?

The Fifth Layer: The Partner State as Orchestrator?

Finally, there is the role of public authorities and governments in orchestrating the public-private-common triad in order to benefit from the local effects of the new networked coopetition between entrepreneurial coalitions and their linked communities.

In the not so far future, wealth building or sustaining capacity will be determined to a large degree by the capacity of cities, regions and states to insert themselves within the global coopetition between different enterpreneurial coalitions (think Drupal vs Joomla, but on a much larger scale).

Overview of the Main Models Emerging So Far

When we via these layers through an interlocking triad (community—foundation—business) or quaternary structure (if public authorities are involved), we can now distinguish at least three main models:

— In commons-centred peer production, like Linux, the community is at the core, and a real commons operates, with the community strong enough to sustain its own infrastructure, and cooperating with market players.

— In a sharing environment, where individuals share their creative endeavour, it is the corporate third party platform which monetizes the attention space, and may control the platform to a significant degree; the community does not control its own platform, but is not without power of influence, since quick and massive mobilizations are always possible.

— In a crowdsourced environment, participant producers are even more isolated from each other, and the corporation integrates them into the value chain which they control. Since individuals are here competing for market value themselves, solidarity is more difficult to obtain, giving corporate platform owners more influence.

A good illustration of the various possibilities is Lego. Lego still operates as a classical producer of toys, selling to consumers. In Lego Factory, it provides a crowdsourced environment, where co-designers can take a cut of the kits they succeed in selling; the new Lego World virtual environment is a sharing environment; finally, Lugnet is true commons-oriented peer production, happening outside the control of the company altogether.

The Ladder of Participation: The Gradation of Control on Community/Corporate Polarity

Here are ten different co-creation modalities, depending on the polarity of control between peer producers and the corporate entities:

1. Consumers: you make, they consume. The classic model.

2. Self-service: you make, they go get it themselves. This is where consumers start becoming prosumers, but the parameters of the cooperation are totally set by the producing corporation. It's really not much more than a strategy of externalization of costs. Think of ATM's and gas stations. We could call it simple externalization.

3. Do-it-yourself: you design, they make it themselves. One step further, pioneered by the likes of Ikea, where the consumers re-assemble the product themselves. There is a complex externalization of business processes.

4. Company-based Crowdsourcing: the company organizes a value chain which lets the wider public produce the value, but under the control of the company.

5. Co-design: you set the parameters, but you design it together. For examples, see here:

6. Co-creativity: you both create cooperatively. In this stage, the corporation does not even set the parameters, the prosumer is an equal partner in the development of new products. Perhaps the industrial model of the adventure sports material makers would fit here. For examples, see here:

7. Sharing communities create the value: Web 2.0 proprietary platforms attempt to monetize participation.

8. Peer production proper: communities create the value, using a Commons, with assistance from corporations who attempt to create derivative streams of value. Linux is the paradigmatic example.

9. Peer production with cooperative production: peer producers create their own vehicles for monetization. The OS Alliance is an example of this.

10. Peer production communities or sharing communities place themselves explicitly outside of the monetary economy.

A diagram that mindmaps the possibilities of the open is found here.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Michel Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics - Chapter Nine

• American neo-liberalism had become a hot topic in France by the late 1970s. Foucault sees key contextual differences between The United States and Germany (and France) as being:
1. It emerges as a reaction to the Keynesian policies of Roosevelt and the New Deal, from about 1934;
2. The policies of economic and social intervention are motivated in the U.S., as in Britain, not just by Keynesian economics, but by the need to provide security to those who had engaged in the war effort;
3. Growth in social programs was a theme of U.S. governments from the 1930s to the 1960s – Kennedy/Johnson “Great Society” programs.

• Bigger contextual differences in the U.S. case:
1. American liberalism was not a reaction to raison d’Etat, as in France, but was a founding doctrine of American independence and is therefore central to the legitimacy of the state – ‘The demand for liberalism founds the state rather than the state limiting itself through liberalism’ (p. 217)
2. Liberalism is therefore a recurring theme of American political debate;
3. Interventionist government policies therefore appear as non-liberal and somehow illegitimate and socialistic – they are therefore critiqued by the left as well as the right, with the left seeing the interventionist state as being tied to militarism and imperialism.

• ‘Liberalism in America … is a type of relation between the governors and the governed much more than a technique of governors with regard to the governed … whereas in a country like France disputes between individuals and the state turn on the problem of service, of public service, in the United States disputes between individuals and government look like the problem of freedoms’ (p. 218)

• It is therefore in the U.S. that writers such as von Hayek look to liberalism as not simply an alternative to state socialism or a technical alternative for government, but as generating utopian possibilities.

• The theory of human capital emerges from American neo-liberal economic thought (Theodore Schultz, Gary Becker, Jacob Mincer). It seeks to analyse labour itself, whereas classical political economy had little to say about the supply of labour, as compared to its employment by capital.

• ‘The neo-liberals practically never argue with Marx for reasons that we may think are to do with economic snobbery’ (p. 220) – their difference form Marx would revolve around the perception that the “abstraction” of labour is less the result of how it is subsumed within capital at the point of production, but rather because classical economics set its limit-point of analysis at the study of labour itself.

• The question being asked is not about the price of labour (wages), its uses (employment), or the value that it adds and who receives it (profit), but rather how the person who works makes choices between competing ends about how they develop their “human capital” in order to receive wages for undertaking work.

• Labour from the point of view of the worker can be decomposed between its capital (skills, ability, training etc.) and its income (earnings streams over time). ‘If capital is defined as that which makes a future income possible, this income being a wage, then you can see that it is a capital which in practical terms is inseparable from the person who possesses it. To that extent it is not like other capital. Ability to work, skill, the ability to do something cannot be separated from the person who is skilled and who can do this particular thing.’ (p. 224)

Homo economicus becomes not simply the partner of exchange as in classical liberal economics, but is ‘an entrepreneur of himself’ (p. 226). Consumption becomes production of satisfaction – this is not an individual who is alienated from either production or consumer society.

• Human capital is formed through:
1. Genetics – economic theory of marriage, the family, and children;
2. Parenting and socialization;
3. Educational investment;
4. Mobility and migration – psychological as well as material costs of moving necessitate some form of economic return.

Key move in development economics from the 1960s onwards was to link economic growth to education through investments in human capital.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Michel Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics - Chapter Eight

• Why this topic? The methodological reason is to give ‘concrete content to relations of power’ by understanding how the ‘grid of governmentality’ operates at the level of economic policy or social management. He also wants to get beyond the moralizing of critiques of the state because:
1. It defines the state as the opposite of civil society;
2. It wrongly conflates different kinds of states, particularly liberal-administrative states and fascist-totalitarian states;
3. It promotes a paranoiac mode of thinking that eludes concrete empirical analysis (i.e. the state is becoming more fascist);
4. There is a need to understand critiques of the state as ways of promoting different thinking about state policy e.g. German neo-liberal critique extends a critique of Nazism into a critique of the interventionist state more generally.

• Foucault argues that we have not seen the growth of the state and raison d’Etat but rather its reduction – liberal governmentality involves setting limits to state control, rather than expanding the state’s domains of influence

• Some tendencies towards diffusion of German neo-liberal model to France, but in practice this has been limited by: (1) the much stronger traditions of state-centred governmentality in post-WWII France; (2) the absence of a clear sense of crisis; and (3) the fact that it is state bureaucrats who are being asked to reform themselves, rather than change being driven by exogenous forces. In France, the question of economic liberalism has also been liked historically to being an open or protected economy, and social policy has been seen as a corrective rather than as a correlate of the market economy.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Michel Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics - Chapter Seven

• Social policy of neo-liberalism (Gesellschaftpolitik) is ‘active, intense, and interventionist’, but is not a compensatory policy for impacts of the market economy on the social fabric. It is rather ’a historical and social condition of possibility for a market economy, as the condition enabling the formal mechanism of competition to function’ (p. 160)

• The two key elements are:
1. Formalisation of society on the model of the enterprise;
2. Redefinition of the juridicial institution and the rule of law.

• Walter Lippmann symposium 1939 – emphasizes that the market economy is not a “natural order” but rather ‘the result of a legal order that presupposes juridicial intervention by the state’ (Louis Rougier) – Foucault identifies this as a turning point between classical liberalism and neo-liberalism

• This is not a juridicial order that is superstructural to economic relations – ‘The juridicial gives form to the economic, and the economic would not be what it is without the juridicial’ – ‘like Max Weber, they situate themselves from the outset at the level of the relations of production rather than at the level of the forces of production’ (p. 163)

• ‘The economic must be considered as a set of regulated activities from the very beginning … The economic can only ever be considered as a set of activities, which necessarily means regulated activities … these economic processes only really exist, in history, insofar as an institutional framework and positive rules have provided them with their conditions of possibility’ (p. 163)

• ‘The history of capitalism can only be an economic-institutional history’ (p. 164) – Foucault rejects the Marxist idea that Capitalism can be understood as a singularity – ‘the historical capitalism we know is not deducible as the only possible and necessary figure of the logic of capital’ (p. 165)

• German economic theory was concerned to show that capitalism could have a non-contradictory logic. It therefore focused on the one hand on the theory of competition, and whether or not it led inexorably to monopoly, and on the other on the economic-institutional ensembles which promoted the development of capitalism (e.g. Weber on the Protestant ethic)

• If we are not dealing with an essential Capitalism derived from a pure logic of capital, then the forms of legal intervention that change the economic-institutional ensemble become critical to ‘act … in such a way as to invent a different capitalism’ (p. 167)

• This raises the question of the “economic constitution” (Wirtschaftsordnung), and the development of debates about the Rule of law (l’Etat de droit or Rechtstadt) – rule of law emerged in opposition to both despotism and the police state – it requires that ‘public authorities act within the framework of the law’ (p. 169). It also generates a distinction between the Rule of law as it applies universally, and laws as generated in specific contexts and applied for particular actors (e.g. market regulations), which are generated by specialist administrative courts and institutions.

• The Rule of law as developed by von Hayek in The Constitution of Society presents the Rule of law in the economic order as the opposite of a plan. Economic planning has: (1) definite aims (e.g. a prescribed rate of growth); (2) modifications of the plan in light of circumstances to achieve the goal; and (3) public authorities supplanting individuals as the core decision-makers, and (4) public authorities as holders of all relevant information.

By contrast, the Rule of law as understood by Hayek requires: (1) restriction of state authority to setting formal laws and not dictating economic ends; (2) it must operate through fixed rules only and not by means of discretion; (3) economic agents can operate on the basis of certainty about the legal framework; and (4) formal laws are binding on the state as they are binding on others. Its correlate is that ‘the state must be blind to the economic processes. It must not be expected to know everything concerning the economy’ (p. 173) – ‘The economy is a game and the legal institution which frames the economy should be thought of as the rules of the game’ (p. 173)

• There is also the ‘growth of juidical demand’. The major challenge of classical liberalism was how to establish a general system of laws imposed on everyone in the same way. But the rise of an enterprise society has as its correlate ‘the number and size of the sources of friction between these competing units will increase and occasions of conflict and litigation multiply’ (p. 175) – this juridicial interventionism increasingly has to take the form of ‘arbitration within the framework of the rules of the game’ (p. 175) – ‘the de-functionarization of the economic action of plans, together with the increased dynamic of enterprises, produces the need for an ever-increasing number of judicial instances, or anyway of instances of arbitration’ (p. 175)

• Joseph Schumpeter shared with the ordoliberals a view that capitalism was not inherently contradictory at the economic level, but he did believe that monopolistic tendencies were inherent to capitalism as organized at a social level – this concentration of power would reduce the dynamism of capitalism and see it tending towards socialism. Schumpeter’s pessimism about the social pressures to absorb economic processes within the state is contrasted to the ordoliberals, who believe that the rule of law and social intervention can modify this tendency by promoting an enterprise society.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Google Wave and Journalism

As Google Wave starts to surface as a quite different way of conceiving of e-mail, and article in The LA Times discussed how it could change journalism towards a more collaborative practice.