People tend to talk about the Internet the way they talk about democracy—optimistically, and in terms that describe how it ought to be rather than how it actually is.
This idealism is what buoys much of the network neutrality debate, and yet many of what are considered to be the core issues at stake—like payment for tiered access, for instance—have already been decided. For years, Internet advocates have been asking what regulatory measures might help save the open, innovation-friendly Internet.
But increasingly, another question comes up: What if there were a technical solution instead of a regulatory one? What if the core architecture of how people connect could make an end run on the centralization of services that has come to define the modern net?
It’s a question that reflects some of the Internet’s deepest cultural values, and the idea that this network—this place where you are right now—should distribute power to people. In the post-NSA, post-Internet-access-oligopoly world, more and more people are thinking this way, and many of them are actually doing something about it.
Among them, there is a technology that’s become a kind of shorthand code for a whole set of beliefs about the future of the Internet: “mesh networking.” These words have become a way to say that you believe in a different, freer Internet.
Read full article at The Atlantic
When I set out to write the life of Eleanor Marx in 2006 some friends worried that yet again I’d been seduced by an unfashionable and overly abstruse biographical subject. Either that, or they just said: “Who?” A Marx? The mother of socialist feminism? It didn’t sound catchy in our new century.
Yet Eleanor Marx is one of British history’s great heroes. Born in 1855 in a Soho garret to hard up German immigrant exiles, her arrival was initially a disappointment to her father. He wanted a boy. By her first birthday Eleanor had become his favourite. She was nicknamed Tussy, to rhyme, her parents said, with “pussy” not “fussy”. Cats she adored; fussy she wasn’t. She loved Shakespeare, Ibsen, both the Shelleys, good poetry, bad puns and champagne. She would be delighted to know that we can claim her as the first self-avowed champagne socialist.
Yet during the journey of writing the life of Eleanor Marx I discovered that I was writing about an increasingly topical subject. Friends sent me articles about the resurgence in the reading of the primary work of Marx and Engels amongst the under-50s, particularly in countries where there are currently new movements for social democracy.
Read full article at the Independent
INGRID ROBEYNS: For a while I have been working on a paper on democracy, expert knowledge, and economics as a moral science. [The financial crisis plays a role in the motivation of the paper, but the arguments I’m advancing turn out to be only contingently related to the crisis]. One thing I argue is that, given its direct and indirect influence on policy making and for reasons of democratic accountability, economics should become much more aware of the values it (implicitly or explicitly) endorses. Those values are embedded in some of the basis concepts used but also in some of the assumptions in the theory-building.
The textbook example in the philosophy of economics literature to illustrate the insufficiently acknowledged value-ladenness of economics is the notion of Pareto efficiency, also known as ‘the Pareto criterion’. Yet time and time again (for me most recently two days ago at a seminar in Oxford) I encounter economists (scholars or students) who fail to see why endorsing Pareto efficiency is not value-neutral, or why there are good reasons why one would not endorse the Pareto-criterion. Here’s an example in print of a very influential economist: Gregory Mankiw.
In his infamous paper ‘Defending the One Percent’ Mankiw writes (p. 22):
“Discussion of inequality necessarily involves our social and political values, but if inequality also entails inefficiency, those normative judgements are more easily agreed upon. The Pareto-criterion is the clearest case: if we can make some people better off without making anyone worse off, who could possibly object?”
Continue at Out of the Crooked Timber HERE
Since gender equality, democracy and freedoms of expression were used duplicitously as ruses for the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, it has become fashionable to suspect these very principles as permanent neo-colonial conspiracies against all Muslims.
Despite objections to the orientalist project of ‘saving brown women from brown men’, a new wave of post-9/11 ‘corrective’ politics ironically continues to deploy the rescue motif itself. This time, it seeks to defend Muslim women from universal, rights-based values, laws or freedoms and so it rationalises anti-women practices in Muslim communities. The reasoning is that liberal (western) freedoms must be replaced with ‘Islamic rights’ based on ‘Muslim autonomy’. After such reinvention, there must be global concessions across international legal and social policies in order to accommodate this exceptionalism.
In the post-9/11 period, conservatives in the west view Muslim women’s freedom exclusively through the act of unveiling, while ‘anti-imperialists’ fetishise it as a tool of passive revolution against racism, imperialism and Islamophobia. Neither wishes to discuss discrimination or material rights beyond wardrobe politics.
Excerpt from text written by Afiya Shehrbano. Continue HERE and THERE
Disillusionment with democracy founded on mistrust of business and political elites has prompted a popular obsession with transparency. But the management of mistrust cannot remedy voters’ loss of power and may spell the end for democratic reform.
There is strong shadow where there is much light. Goethe
A well-known French engraving of 1848, the year French citizens received the universal right to vote, epitomizes the dilemmas of European democracies at their birth. The engraving pictures a worker with a rifle in one hand and a ballot in the other. The message is clear: bullets for the nation’s enemies and ballots for the class enemies. Elections were meant to be the instrument for inclusion and nation building. They integrated workers into the nation by sharing power with them. The man with a rifle in one hand and the ballot in the other symbolized the arrival of democracy in France because he was, at once, both a Frenchman and a worker, a representative of a nation and a social position absorbed in class struggle. He understood that the person who would stand beside him on the barricades would also be a worker and a Frenchman with a clear idea who the enemy was. His rifle was not only a symbol of his constitutional rights, it was evidence that the new democratic citizen was prepared to defend both his fatherland and his class interest. He knew that the power of his vote was dependent on the firepower of his gun. The ballot was an additional weapon because elections were a civilized form of civil war. They were not simply mechanisms for changing governments. They were tools for remaking the world.
Excerpt from an article written by Ivan Krastev. Continue HERE
In the wake of the terrorist attacks on Utøya 22 July 2011, Fantastic Norway have been working closely with the Labor Youth Party with designing a strategy for re-establishing a political camp on the island of Utøya. Our ambition has been to reflect and reinforce values such as commitment, solidarity, diversity and democracy, both through form and function. In short we have done this by establishing a small village with small streets, bellfry and a town square on the very top of the island. The village consists of many small units that together ad up to a bigger community: A symbol of unity and diversity.
New Utøya by Fantastic Norway
It is a commonplace, at least in the West, that the current regime in Russia is authoritarian, if not totalitarian. A line can be drawn—with caveats about scale and severity—from Putin straight back to Stalin, while others can be drawn sideways from Putin to the dictators he has befriended and supported: Assad, Qaddafi, Chavez, and Saddam Hussein. (If nothing else, Putin seems to have an oddly consistent and unlucky way of choosing his friends.) The recent protests against him only confirm the neatness of this symmetry.
We think we know what authoritarianism is and why it survives, but our notions about it have not changed much since the 18th century, when Montesquieu contrasted the capricious rule of a despot, who holds power through fear, with the bounded governance of a monarch, held in check by law. In our political language, monarchy has evolved into democracy, but despotism remains despotism (or authoritarianism). In comparison to monarchies and democracies, each in their own time, despotism has always seemed archaic. The gleaming military uniforms, Tolkienesque titles, and Orientalized imperial paraphernalia of modern dictators like Idi Amin, Pinochet, and Qaddafi evoke the 19th century; leaders who are truly modern are supposed to wear self-effacing suits.
Excerpt of an article written by Greg Afinogenov, N+1. Continue HERE
Over the last couple of years, Cosma Shalizi and I have been working together on various things, including, inter alia, the relationship between complex systems, democracy and the Internet. These are big unwieldy topics, and trying to think about them systematically is hard. Even so, we’ve gotten to the point where we at least feel ready to start throwing stuff at a wider audience, to get feedback on what works and what doesn’t. Here’s a paper we’re working on, which argues that we should (for some purposes at least), think of markets, hierarchy and democracy in terms of their capacity to solve complex collective problems, makes the case that democracy will on average do the job a lot better than the other two ways, and then looks at different forms of collective information processing on the Internet as experiments that democracies can learn from. A html version is under the fold; the PDF version is here. Your feedback would very much be appreciated – we would like to build other structures on top of this foundation, and hence, really, really want criticisms and argument from diverse points of view (especially because such argument is exactly what we see as the strength of democratic arrangements).
Excerpt of a text by Henry Farrell (George Washington University) and Cosma Rohilla Shalizi (Carnegie-Mellon/The Santa Fe Institute). Continue HERE
In 1962, an undergraduate at the University of Michigan named Tom Hayden drafted a document that would launch a decade of student protest and mass action for a more democratic society.
Five decades later, we assess its impact and enduring legacy. — Boston Review
The Port Huron Statement’s core message is timeless but not dogmatic: we all need participatory democracy.
The economic inequalities of our own day were anticipated even at the height of postwar affluence.
The ’60s remain a prelude to the necessary fundamental changes to come.
Advances in student power have shaped the course of American higher education and the nation.
Like the signatories of the Port Huron Statement, the Occupiers need to expand beyond the narrower interests of their original members.
The Statement was nothing less than a proto-ideology for a New Left.
We cannot be free without being equal.
On the left we see a vacuum where traditional class-oriented populism used to be.
Only moral clarity will transform alienation and apathy into action.
The Statement was a clarion call for people to take control of key social institutions and of their own lives.
Via Boston Review
The following transformations hold the key to moving to a new political economy. Consider each as a transition from today to tomorrow.
• Economic growth: from growth fetish to post-growth society, from mere GDP growth to growth in human welfare and democratically determined priorities.
• The market: from near laissez-faire to powerful market governance in the public interest.
• The corporation: from shareholder primacy to stakeholder primacy, from one ownership and motivation model to new business models and the democratization of capital.
• Money and finance: from Wall Street to Main Street, from money created through bank debt to money created by government.
• Social conditions: from economic insecurity to security, from vast inequities to fundamental fairness.
• Indicators: from GDP (“grossly distorted picture”) to accurate measures of social and environmental health and quality of life.
• Consumerism: from consumerism and affluenza to sufficiency and mindful consumption, from more to enough.
• Communities: from runaway enterprise and throwaway communities to vital local economies, from social rootlessness to rootedness and solidarity.
• Dominant cultural values: from having to being, from getting to giving, from richer to better, from separate to connected, from apart from nature to part of nature, from transcendent to interdependent, from today to tomorrow.
• Politics: from weak democracy to strong, from creeping corporatocracy and plutocracy to true popular sovereignty.
• Foreign policy and the military: from American exceptionalism to America as a normal nation, from hard power to soft, from military prowess to real security.
This is an excerpt from an essay written by James Gustave Speth at ORION. Read HERE
Getting out of the cave and seeing things as they really are: that’s what philosophy is about, according to Almira Ribeiro. Ribeiro teaches the subject in a high school in Itapuã, a beautiful, poor, violent neighborhood on the periphery of Salvador, capital of the state of Bahia in Brazil’s northeast. She is the most philosophically passionate person I’ve ever met.
Most of the four million slaves shipped from Africa to Brazil were sold in Salvador, the first residence of Portugal’s colonial rulers. It’s still Brazil’s blackest city. In Ribeiro’s neighborhood, children play football or do capoeira, pray in Pentecostal Churches or worship African gods. Many are involved with drugs; “every year we lose students to crack,” she tells me. And they study philosophy two hours each week because of a 2008 law that mandates philosophy instruction in all Brazilian high schools. Nine million teenagers now take philosophy classes for three years.
“But seeing things as they really are isn’t enough,” Ribeiro insists. As in Plato’s parable in The Republic, the students must go back to the cave and apply what they’ve learned. Their lives give them rich opportunities for such application. The contrast between the new luxury hotels along the beach and Itapuã’s overcrowded streets gives rise to questions about equality and justice. Children kicking around a can introduce a discussion about democracy: football is one of the few truly democratic practices here; success depends on merit, not class privilege. Moving between philosophy and practice, the students can revise their views in light of what Plato, Hobbes, or Locke had to say about equality, justice, and democracy and discuss their own roles as political agents.
Written by Carlos Fraenkel, Boston Review. Continue HERE
In the past two years, protesters against authoritarian regimes have begun to heavily use social-networking and media services, including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and cell phones, to organize, plan events, propagandize, and spread information outside the channels censored by their national governments. Those governments, grappling with this new threat to their holds on power, have responded by trying to unplug cyberspace.
Some examples: In April 2009, angry young Moldovans stormed government and Communist Party offices protesting what they suspected was a rigged election; authorities discontinued Internet service in the capital. In Iran, the regime cracked down on protesters objecting to fraudulent election outcomes in June 2009 by denying domestic access to servers and links, and by slowing down Internet service generally — although protesters and their supporters found ways around those restrictions. In Tunisia, when protests against President Zine el Abidine ben Ali escalated in December 2010, his government sought to deny Twitter services in the country and hacked the Facebook accounts of some Tunisian users in order to acquire their passwords. In Egypt, amid mass protests in Cairo and several other cities in January 2011, Hosni Mubarak’s government attempted to disconnect the Internet. But there, too, protesters found limited workarounds until the doomed regime eventually restored some services.
Authoritarians may have reason to fear cyberspace. It is widely believed that the proliferation of Internet access and other communications technologies empowers individuals and promotes democracy and the spread of liberty, usually at the expense of centralized authority. As Walter Wriston optimistically put it in his 1992 book The Twilight of Sovereignty: “As information technology brings the news of how others live and work, the pressures on any repressive government for freedom and human rights will soon grow intolerable because the world spotlight will be turned on abuses and citizens will demand their freedoms.”
Written by Eric R. Sterner, The New Atlantis. Continue HERE
Corbis (From Outlook, June 06, 2011)
Ruchira Gupta at The Guardian: As a citizen of India, and as a citizen of the world we all inhabit, I offer one of Gandhi’s most basic ideas to those Occupying Wall Street. India is the world’s biggest democracy and the US is the world’s most powerful democracy. I know the actions of the United States profoundly affect my country’s future – but I also know the reverse is true.
The Occupy Wall Street movement was partly inspired by demonstrations in Cairo’s Liberation Square – “March like an Egyptian!” was one of its slogans – and the peaceful demonstrators in Wall Street’s Zucotti Park ate pizzas ordered on the web by supporters in Libya.
India gained independence without a war, something even the United States can’t claim. This was largely due to Gandhi’s understanding that the ends don’t justify the means, the means are the ends; the means we choose dictate the ends we get. As this has come down to us, it is popularly understood as non-violence, but it went far deeper than that. After all, if actions are only against something, however unjust, the result will not satisfy people’s need to see and taste and live and work for something that is just. Even if the negative effort wins, a new negative will replace it because a critical mass of people haven’t learned to live in a positive way. Gandhi went so far as to say that civil disobedience is “worse than useless…without …constructive effort.” Continue HERE