Posts Tagged ‘democracy’

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The Promise of a New Internet. It’s not too late to rebuild this thing for the people.

July 14, 2014

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

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The making of a Marx: The life of Eleanor Marx, the mother of socialist feminism

May 4, 2014

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

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Economics as a moral science

November 1, 2013

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

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Ignorant Goodwill

May 13, 2013

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

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The transparency delusion

February 7, 2013

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

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New Utøya

September 8, 2012

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

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The Politics of Cynicism

July 24, 2012

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