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Labour in the circuits of global markets: theories and realities

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Vasilis Kostakis
1st September 2014

Screen Shot 2014-09-01 at 8.19.10 AMThis is to announce the new issue of Work Organisation, Labour & Globalisation, entitled “Labour in the circuits of global markets: theories and realities:

It is Supply chains are becoming ever more tightly integrated as corporations vie with each other to bring their products to global markets before they lose their value through replication or obsolescence. This restructuring of supply chains involves the interaction of a range of different public and private, local and global actors, including companies involved in ‘knowledge-based’ activities as well as those producing and shipping material goods. Both intellectual and manual labour are implicated in these processes of consolidation and acceleration and feel the squeeze: in intensification of work, the precarisation of working conditions and the fragmentation of the workforce, raising challenges for the organisation and representation of labour. This volume brings together accounts of what is happening to logistical labour along global supply chains with theoretical discussions of the problematic relationship between the ‘knowledge-based’ and real economies, and material and immaterial labour. It also presents research on other dimensions of labour precariousness, with contributions from Europe, Asia and the Americas. This volume makes important contributions in the fields of political economy, geography and labour sociology.

Two articles, included in the issue, might be of special interest to the readers of our blog: Henrique Amorim discusses the theories of immaterial labour providing a critical reflection based on Marx, while our friends Pavlos Hatzopoulos and Nelli Kambouri with Ursula Huws write on the containment of labour in accelerated global supply chains using the case of Piraeus Port, a recently privatized Commons in Greece.


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Book of the Day: Creating a Sustainable and Desirable Future

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1st September 2014

Robert Costanza and Ida Kubiszewski. Creating a Sustainable and Desirable Future: Insights from 45 Global Thought Leaders. World Scientific, 2014

URL = http://www.worldscientific.com/worldscibooks/10.1142/8922


By Roberto Costanza of Solutions Journal:

“Ida Kubiszewski and I have just released a new edited book titled: “Creating a Sustainable and Desirable Future: Insights from 45 Global Thought Leaders” that I think might interest you. The book offers a broad, critical discussion of what a sustainable and desirable future should or can be, with chapters written by some of the world’s leading thinkers, including: Wendell Berry, Van Jones, Frances Moore Lappe, Peggy Liu, Hunter Lovins, Gus Speth, Bill McKibben, and many more.


More information:

You can view the table of contents, download a sample chapter, and order the book at:http://www.worldscientific.com/worldscibooks/10.1142/8922.

It’s also available at Amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com/Creating-Sustainable-Desirable-Future-Insights/dp/9814546887




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The Malware

photo of Charles Eisenstein

Charles Eisenstein
31st August 2014


“This is not about being nice. It is about staying focused on our real goals and not letting ourselves be hijacked by other motives. Again, there is no formula for how to do this, but I think that striving to accurately understand the world of the CEO – what it is like to be them, their humanness, and not a caricature of them as a monster – can only enhance our effectiveness. If we operate from a delusion we perpetuate the image of that delusion. “

I want to add to my reflections on my Green Party visit and my relationship to social and environmental activists in general, because I have been told that I seem to be much more critical of them than I am of the CEOs, politicians, etc. who are driving the world-destroying machine. Toward them, I counsel love and understanding – well don’t the people who have dedicated their lives to protecting the earth deserve it even more?

Usually, I feel more at home among social and environmental activists than I do among people with mainstream views, because I know we feel a lot of the same pain. A big issue in the air in Minnesota was the vast expansion of mining happening in pristine wilderness areas in the northern part of the state. I was happy to be among people who didn’t need convincing that this is a terrible calamity. I felt at home knowing that each person there feels it as intensely as I do; that no one justifies it for all the GDP and jobs it will supposedly produce, that no one covers it up with one or another glib story in which normal is normal. These are people who know, to varying degrees, that the story we call civilization bears a deep sickness.

When I identify habits of hatred and domination within activists, along with hidden motives of seeing oneself as good and right and better-than-thou, I don’t mean to impugn the fundamental wellspring of these lives of service, which can only be reverence for our planet and grief for what is happening here. We are, however, all born into a society of separation and we all carry its wounds. The hidden motives and habits I describe go along with these wounds. They are a kind of malware that steers the host toward behavior that no longer serves the original sponsoring motives of compassion and service. The malware motivates ineffective strategies: ineffective at creating real change, but effective in serving the agenda of the malware. One of these strategies is to arouse as much loathing as possible toward the people running the corporations and their collaborators in politics. 

I am familiar with this malware only because I have so often witnessed it running in myself. Sometimes when I am attacked, I notice a nearly unconscious, reflexive program to dominate the attacker, to beat him into submission, to humiliate him. Because I am well-versed in my logic and enjoy a lot of support, I could probably win such battles most of the time, come out smelling like a rose, leaving a trail of defeated enemies behind me until the day of my own humiliation. I might win each battle, but I would lose the war. Knowing this, when I get the occasional piece of hate mail around a certain sensitive topic that starts with, “Shame on you Charles for…” I do my best to suspend the domination program, responding instead along the lines of, “Thank you for your forthright expression of your feelings,” or something like that. (There isn’t a formula; it comes from a moment of understanding what it is like to be the other person.) Now I cannot say that the results are always good, but sometimes an adversary is converted into an ally, or at least a modicum of understanding and human connection is born. The questioner might still disagree, but it will not be in the spirit of “shame on you.” 

When it doesn’t work, I sometimes realize to my chagrin that dominance-behavior still snuck into the interaction despite my attempt to avoid it. A part of me hurts when I get attacked, and that hurting seeks expression sometimes by hurting back. This is the habit we call “fighting.” I don’t think that any of us, even if we have devoted our lives to serving what is beautiful, are exempt from habits like this, woven as they are into the fabric of our society. 

That is not to say there is never a time in the world for a fight. It is the unconscious, reflexive habit of fighting that is most dangerous.

How to translate the approach I described in personal interactions to important goals on a larger level, such as stopping the sulfide mining projects in northern Minnesota? I wish I knew. I am certainly not advocating that we shy away from exposing uncomfortable truths in order to avoid offending the mining CEOs. This is not about being nice. It is about staying focused on our real goals and not letting ourselves be hijacked by other motives. Again, there is no formula for how to do this, but I think that striving to accurately understand the world of the CEO – what it is like to be them, their humanness, and not a caricature of them as a monster – can only enhance our effectiveness. If we operate from a delusion we perpetuate the image of that delusion. 

How to effectively resist the mining companies? I do not know. I don’t think there is a short-cut answer, a trivial solution; if I were to offer one I would be insulting the intelligence of the dedicated activists who are intimately familiar with the situation. I think that all of the tools used today, from legal challenges to petitions to direct action on-site, are valid and needn’t be run by the “malware.” 

Here is an example of how the malware operates by contaminating truth with hatred. Initially, one might describe in graphic terms the damage that sulfide mining can cause: the dead fish and birds, poisoned lakes devoid of life, devastated forests, heavy metal contamination. This description evokes horror and grief. Then the malware takes over and says, “And the mining companies are well aware of the damage and they are doing it anyway! In service to their greed!” Aren’t they awful, appalling, inexcusable. I see this kind of argument all the time, as if the main point were to convince you to hate along with me. Unfortunately, such tactics repel the undecided, who are likely to discount the graphic descriptions of the effects of mining by thinking, “Those are just fighting words. They are exaggerating so that they can defeat these people they hate.” That’s what people do in a fight – they exaggerate the bad behavior of their opponents. That is one reason why I think the truth will be more receivable if it doesn’t accompany the invitation to hate. The same is true for many kinds of resistance action.

I am aware that sometimes it is hard to find another interpretation for corporate behavior; for example, when they actively suppress evidence that shows that their activities are harming people or the environment. It sure seems like pre-meditated evil in service of greed. When cover-ups are discovered, they should be exposed as well. But again, we don’t need to resort to the explanation that “they are just wicked.” Instead we can ask what story they are living in. And we can ask ourselves, When have we told lies, hurt people, and covered it up? Why did we do it and what were we feeling? 

Marshall Rosenburg famously said, “Every judgement is the tragic expression of an unmet need.” The same wounds that get activated as the malware in resistance actions also express themselves in the internal workings of activist groups themselves, if perhaps on a subtler level. The same character assassination, infighting, lying, and cover-ups play out, destroying solidarity, consuming energy that could otherwise go toward creating change, and generating untold stress. We cannot accomplish much from a fractured foundation. This is another reason to deprogram from the habit of judging and fighting; another reason to recognize our projections and use them as tools for self-inquiry. I find it a fruitful exercise to attempt this with the people (like anti-environmentalist politicians and right-wing hatemongers) who trigger me the most. It builds a new habit that also operates with respect to my allies and the people I love. 

I offer these observations about hidden malware so that my brothers and sisters who have dedicated their lives to healing our world will be more effective. It is not to take them to task, bring them down a notch and puncture their self-importance. That is not my crusade. I’m simply describing a virus whose virulence subsides when it is no longer hidden.


Posted in Activism, Culture & Ideas, Featured Content, Featured Essay, Original Content, P2P Epistemology, P2P Foundation, P2P Subjectivity, Politics | No Comments »

Book of the Day: The Social Lives of Networked Teens

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30th August 2014

It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens by Danah Boyd


‘What is new about how teenagers communicate through services such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram? Do social media affect the quality of teens’ lives? In this eye-opening book, youth culture and technology expert danah boyd uncovers some of the major myths regarding teens’ use of social media. She explores tropes about identity, privacy, safety, danger, and bullying. Ultimately, boyd argues that society fails young people when paternalism and protectionism hinder teenagers’ ability to become informed, thoughtful, and engaged citizens through their online interactions. Yet despite an environment of rampant fear-mongering, boyd finds that teens often find ways to engage and to develop a sense of identity.

Boyd’s conclusions are essential reading not only for parents, teachers, and others who work with teens but also for anyone interested in the impact of emerging technologies on society, culture, and commerce in years to come. Offering insights gleaned from more than a decade of original fieldwork interviewing teenagers across the United States, boyd concludes reassuringly that the kids are all right. At the same time, she acknowledges that coming to terms with life in a networked era is not easy or obvious. In a technologically mediated world, life is bound to be complicated.’ (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0300166311/?tag=slatmaga-20)


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Leadership in the Age of Complexity: From Hero to Host

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Kevin Flanagan
29th August 2014

By Margaret Wheatley and Deborah Frieze, 2010 – First published in Resurgence Magazine

For too long, too many of us have been entranced by heroes. Perhaps it’s our desire to be saved, to not have to do the hard work, to rely on someone else to figure things out. Constantly we are barraged by politicians presenting themselves as heroes, the ones who will fix everything and make our problems go away. It’s a seductive image, an enticing promise. And we keep believing it. Somewhere there’s someone who will make it all better. Somewhere, there’s someone who’s visionary, inspiring, brilliant, trustworthy, and we’ll all happily follow him or her. Somewhere…

Well, it is time for all the heroes to go home, as the poet William Stafford wrote. It is time for us to give up these hopes and expectations that only breed dependency and passivity, and that do not give us solutions to the challenges we face. It is time to stop waiting for someone to save us. It is time to face the truth of our situation—that we’re all in this together, that we all have a voice—and figure out how to mobilize the hearts and minds of everyone in our workplaces and communities.

Why do we continue to hope for heroes? It seems we assume certain things:

  • Leaders have the answers. They know what to do.
  • People do what they’re told. They just have to be given good plans and instructions.
  • High risk requires high control. As situations grow more complex and challenging, power needs to shift to the top (with the leaders who know what to do).

These beliefs give rise to the models of command and control revered in organizations and governments world-wide. Those at the bottom of the hierarchy submit to the greater vision and expertise of those above. Leaders promise to get us out of this mess; we willingly surrender individual autonomy in exchange for security.

The only predictable consequence of leaders’ attempts to wrest control of a complex, even chaotic situation, is that they create more chaos. They go into isolation with just a few key advisors, and attempt to find a simple solution (quickly) to a complex problem. And people pressure them to do just that. Everyone wants the problem to disappear; cries of “fix it!” arise from the public. Leaders scramble to look like they’ve taken charge and have everything in hand.

But the causes of today’s problems are complex and interconnected. There are no simple answers, and no one individual can possibly know what to do. We seem unable to acknowledge these complex realities. Instead, when the leader fails to resolve the crisis, we fire him or her, and immediately begin searching for the next (more perfect) one. We don’t question our expectations of leaders, we don’t question our desire for heroes.

The Illusion of Control

Heroic leadership rests on the illusion that someone can be in control. Yet we live in a world of complex systems whose very existence means they are inherently uncontrollable. No one is in charge of our food systems. No one is in charge of our schools. No one is in charge of the environment. No one is in charge of national security. No one is in charge! These systems are emergent phenomena—the result of thousands of small, local actions that converged to create powerful systems with properties that may bear little or no resemblance to the smaller actions that gave rise to them. These are the systems that now dominate our lives; they cannot be changed by working backwards, focusing on only a few simple causes. And certainly they cannot be changed by the boldest visions of our most heroic leaders.

To continue reading the full article visit http://berkana.org/berkana_articles/leadership-in-the-age-of-complexity/


Posted in Culture & Ideas, Featured Essay | 1 Comment »

Book of the Day: Critical Introduction to Social Media

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29th August 2014

Christian Fuchs. Social Media. A Critical Introduction. Sage, 2014.

URL = http://fuchs.uti.at/books/social-media-a-critical-introduction/


Now more than ever, we need to understand social media – the good as well as the bad. We need critical knowledge that helps us to navigate the controversies and contradictions of this complex digital media landscape. Only then can we make informed judgements about what’s happening in our media world, and why.

Showing the reader how to ask the right kinds of questions about social media, Christian Fuchs takes us on a journey across social media, delving deep into case studies on Google, Facebook, Twitter, WikiLeaks and Wikipedia. The result lays bare the structures and power relations at the heart of our media landscape.

This book is the essential, critical guide for understanding social media and for all students of media studies and sociology. Readers will never look at social media the same way again.




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Book of the Day: Supply Shock

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28th August 2014

Book:  Brian Czech. Supply Shock: Economic Growth at the Crossroads and the Steady State Solution. New Society Publishers.


Wayne Hurlbert :

“Brian Czech recognizes that politicians and economists who advocate constant economic growth have what they perceive as the best interest of the people at heart. The author points out that those same politicians and economists all too often lack any background or understanding of science. For the politicians, Brian Czech states as well that election campaign funding depends upon support for unlimited growth policies. The author provides evidence that people are sensing that the growth above all policy is not working as well as stated by the experts. Brian Czech describes the very real conflict that exists between unlimited economic growth and the degradation of the environment.

Brian Czech (photo left) understands that the future of the planet, as well as the economic welfare of future generations, depends on protecting the environment. While economic growth may have been the central theme of twentieth century economic thinking, it has become the central problem for the twenty-first century. To meet the challenge of sustaining the environment, along with meeting the economic needs of current and future generations, Brian Czech offers the alternative approach of the steady state economy.

Brian Czech outlines the crucial economic and environmental reasons for the establishment of the steady state economic principles. The author also advocates that people press politicians to implement the concept of the steady state economy as well. The book is divided into the following overarching sections that outline the principles of the steady state economy, as well as the reasons why it is so critical to put into action immediately:

  • Economic growth at the crossroads
  • The dismal science becomes unhitched
  • Economics for a full world
  • Politics and policy: The horse before the cart

For me, the power of the book is how Brian Czech combines a comprehensive overview of current growth oriented economic thought and its inherent problems, with a complete description of solid state economics and the reasoning for its implementation. The author offers a convincing counter argument to the standard view that there is no direct conflict between the health of the environment and unlimited growth. Brian Czech demonstrates that the doctrine of unlimited growth not only has severe consequences for the environment, but will also jeopardize the economic opportunities for future generations.

Brian Czech acknowledges that the change over to a steady state economy won’t be possible immediately. Instead of this reality being an indictment of the entire concept of the steady state economy, it is an opportunity for adjustment even as a halt is put on the now outdated infinite growth economic model. Indeed, Brian Czech accepts the reality that the economy may actually shrink as the adjustment period to the steady state economy takes place. He also points out that finding the exact steady state position for the economy will take some time to locate, but that search for equilibrium will offer time for a complete change in thinking as well. “ (http://blogbusinessworld.blogspot.com/2013/09/supply-shock-by-brian-czech-book-review.html )


Posted in Ethical Economy, Featured Book | No Comments »

Critique of political economy of water and the collaborative alternative

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Vasilis Kostakis
27th August 2014


Screen Shot 2014-08-27 at 11.10.27

An thought-provoking critique on the political economy of water  along with a collaborative, Commons-oriented proposal have been published at the European Water Movement website, by Kostas Nikolaou, member of the initiative K136. Kostas begins his article criticizing the current practices regarding the water management and the recent efforts to privatize another Commons so to maximize capital accumulation. Then he deals with two critical questions: i) “who made and who makes the privatization of water everywhere in the world?” and ii) “saying no to privatization and ultimately preventing the privatization, say yes to what?”. Through the case of the collaborative alternative from Thessaloniki, Greece, i.e., the initiative K136, and other historical successes of the movement, Kostas makes concrete proposals for a cooperative alternative. If you are interested in the Commons (since you are here, certainly you are!), you should definitely read the essay in full here.


Posted in Activism, Commons, Cooperatives, Culture & Ideas, Economy and Business, Featured Essay, Open Models, P2P Collaboration, Peer Property, Politics, Sharing | 1 Comment »

Book of the Day: Anthropological Trompe l’Oeil for a Common World

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27th August 2014

 Anthropological trompe l’oeil for a common world. Alberto Corsin-Jimenez

Description from publisher:

Our political age is characterized by forms of description as ‘big’ as the world itself: talk of ‘public knowledge’ and ‘public goods,’ ‘the commons’ or ‘global justice’ create an exigency for modes of governance that leave little room for smallness itself. Rather than question the politics of adjudication between the big and the small, this book inquires instead into the cultural epistemology fueling the aggrandizement and miniaturization of description itself. Incorporating analytical frameworks from science studies, ethnography, and political and economic theory, this book charts an itinerary for an internal anthropology of theorizing. It suggests that many of the effects that social theory uses today to produce insights are the legacy of baroque epistemological tricks. In particular, the book undertakes its own trompe l’oeil as it places description at perpendicular angles to emerging forms of global public knowledge. The aesthetic ‘trap’ of the trompe l’oeil aims to capture knowledge, for only when knowledge is captured can it be properly released.” (http://alberto-corsin-jimenez.org/?p=141)


Posted in Featured Book, P2P Epistemology | No Comments »

Book of the Day: Hacking the Future of Money

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26th August 2014

Book: The Heretic’s Guide to Global Finance: Hacking the Future of Money by Brett Scott.

URL = http://suitpossum.blogspot.co.uk/p/the-heretics-guide.html


Brett Scott:

“The Heretic’s Guide to Global Finance: Hacking the Future of Money is a friendly guide to taking on the world’s most powerful system. It sets up a framework to illuminate the financial sector based on anthropology, gonzo exploration, and the hacker ethos, and helps the reader develop a diverse DIY toolbox to undertake their own adventures in guerilla finance and activist entrepreneurialism.

Part 1 (Exploring) covers the major financial players, concepts and instruments. Part 2 (Jamming) explores innovative forms of financial activism, from disrupting investment into fossil fuels to building your own hedge funds of dissent. Part 3 (Building) showcases the growing alternative finance movement – including peer-to-peer systems, alternative currencies, and co-operative economies – and shows how you can get involved in building a democratic financial system. It’s published by the fantastic Pluto Press, and you can order below.

As for me, I’m a campaigner, former derivatives broker, and general economic explorer. I’ve been involved in various financial campaigns (for groups such as MoveYourMoneyUK, World Development Movement & ActionAid) and I’m a Fellow of the Finance Innovation Lab. I’ve written for publications like The Guardian, The New Internationalist, The Ecologist, and openDemocracy, and I’ve been on channels like the BBC, Arte TV & the Keiser Report. I’m currently in the process of setting up the London School for Financial Activism. For more about me, see my G+ profile here, and my LinkedIn profile here.” (http://suitpossum.blogspot.co.uk/p/the-heretics-guide.html)


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