Philosophy

http://commoning.wordpress.com/

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Colonos are hibernating, but shall one day return – perhaps – meanwhile we have come across a new blog just the other day, which is worth a look if you are interested in “Property, Commoning and the Politics of Free Software” and “philosophical and political inquiries into the material nature of the immaterial“. The essay featured in the blog has an interesting critique of the work of Yochai Benkler and Lawrence Lessig, as well as the politics of Richard Stallman and the Free Software Foundation, turning on the concept of property relations.

http://commoning.wordpress.com

 

“… I thought we were an autonomous collective…”

Left, Right and Centre: Property is Misunderstood

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This brief reflection on the nature of property was spawned by a misleading statement about the political persuasion of Lawrence Lessig et al. by http://techliberation.com.

If, as it is claimed “they set the intellectual agenda for the Left on information technology policy“, then there is no left.

Lessig et al. are liberals and right of centre in any sensible political analysis. Last time I checked one of the main points of leftist politics was a critique of the ownership of the means of production in the tangible realm and a clear rejection of the predominance of exclusive private property in that context.

Lessig, however, has stated repeatedly that he sees no problem with the conventional liberal understanding of exclusive private property as the best way to organise the tangible realm. This position of his has been brought out in debate with the far right people – or property fundamentalists (like Epstein) – who believe that exclusive private property should also rule in the intangible realm.

Benkler remains “suspicious” of accounts that use the term property, which is not quite the same as accepting exclusive private property in the tangible realm, but it is a clear rejection of property as a protocol for social organisation of the intangible realm.

They essentially reject “property in general” on the basis of a very “particular form of property”, namely exclusive, private property (in the tangible realm) with a collocation of exclusionary and exchange rights. That is a pretty much the same as saying that I am suspicious of Italy, because I once had a bad experience in Rome airport, while in transfer. You cannot simply reject something in general on the basis of a very particular instance. One piece of software might be bad, like Windows, but could I sensibly reject a GNU/Linux system on that basis (without sounding like I had no clue)?

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Why I am not an activist, or how magic presents itself as the only viable solution.

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A good friend just sent me a link to a very interesting read. It sums up quite a few things on my own mind and puts into perspective what I perceive to be crucial issues for the reactionary Left in general and activists in particular. A kind of anarchist magic – and that is probably the only viable solution for substantial change in the world we live in.

It is published in Red Room with the title “GETTING BEYOND THE NARRATIVES: AN OPEN LETTER TO THE ACTIVIST COMMUNITY” and was originally just a commentary written to two friends, but it is a lot more than that – which is why it is circulating in cyberspace and why I have chosen to reproduce it here: it deserves wide attention!

A very good read. Enjoy!

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GETTING BEYOND THE NARRATIVES: AN OPEN LETTER TO THE ACTIVIST COMMUNITY
August 22, 2005

This essay began life as an open letter to two activist friends discussing a book edited by David Solnit, “Globalize Liberation” (SF: City Lights Book, 2004). It ended up in circulation among the activist community in the US, and was published several times on the internet. I have left it in its original form, as I think this adds more than it subtracts. — JMG

James asked me for my thoughts on “Globalize Liberation,” and I hope neither of you will mind a lengthy, even labored, response. The book is extremely thought-provoking in its strengths and weaknesses alike, and it’s given me an opportunity to rethink many of the assumptions I’ve had about social change and the potential shape of the future. Since I come to these issues from a somewhat unusual perspective — the perspective of a practicing mage and initiate of several magical orders — I recognize that the ideas “Globalize Liberation” evoked in me are perhaps a little different from those common in the progressive community. Thus I’ve chosen to explain those ideas here at some length.

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WORLD FACING HUGE NEW CHALLENGE ON FOOD FRONT: The 11th Hour in context

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We watched Leonardo DiCaprio’s “11th hour” last night (you might be able to watch it here or via quicksilversreen.com and read more about it here) and although it was by no stretch of the imagination a very good film on any terms (structure, presentation of material, cinematography or in terms of delivering a profound radical political message) it was still a positive surprise. But hey! what would you expect, come on, be honest?

In the critical (mainstream environmentalist?) words of Rikke Bruntse-Dahl, writing for smartplanet.com:

“The overall message was that we’ve forgotten that we’re part of nature and even though the Earth as such will survive, it will not be a pleasant — or indeed habitable — place to be if we don’t start looking after it and each other. While it’s undoubtedly a good message, which we’d like as many people as possible to hear, the film itself is just not up to scratch.

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Climate Change, bio-cultural diversity and livelihoods: the stewardship role of indigenous peoples and new challenges

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These are the conclusions of a report on the “IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGE MITIGATION MEASURES ON INDIGENOUS PEOPLES AND ON THEIR TERRITORIES AND LANDS”, by the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues’ Seventh session, New York, 21 April -2 May 2008 on the Special Theme: “Climate Change, bio-cultural diversity and livelihoods: the stewardship role of indigenous peoples and new challenges” with regard to the Implementation of the recommendations on the six mandated areas of the permanent Forum and on the Millennium Development Goals (Download the full E/C.19/2008/10 report here: unpfii-report-on-climate-change.pdf):

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Esperanza Martinez on Yasuni and the ITT proposal.

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This article by CarbonWeb.org deserves to be reproduced in full:

Yasuni – Our Future in Their Hands?

Ecuador proposes to claim compensation in exchange for leaving crude oil in the ground. Esperanza Martinez examines what this means for resource sovereignty.

Oil, for countries that possess it, is often centre stage when it comes to issues of sovereignty. Invasions have been launched to access it and military and political interventions pushed through to control it, leaving the door wide open for corruption.

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Leave the Oil in the Soil: Yasuni, ITT, the Huaorani people and the Amazon.

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There is a potentially radical process unfolding - keep the oil in the soil:

“In the heart of the Amazon basin lies the most biologically diverse forest on the planet, Yasuní. Yasuní National Park is home to the Waorani and some of the last indigenous peoples still living in isolation in the Amazon, whose ancestral lands sit atop Ecuador’s largest undeveloped oil reserves, the Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini (ITT) oil block … In 2007, the new government of President Correa has offered an unprecedented and historic proposal: Ecuador will not allow extraction of the ITT oil fields in Yasuní, if the world community can create a compensation trust to leave the oil permanently in the ground and fund Ecuador’s sustainable development into the future. The groups listed on this website portal, LiveYasuni.org, endorse this policy.

For a general overview visit http://www.sosyasuni.org/ – which is part of the Amazonia por la Vida Campaign (which is incidentally also the subtitle of the colonos blog) – and which is a social movement to expand the “keep the oil in the soil” proposal to include not only the ITT blocks, but the whole region, which is home to one of the world’s greatest diversity of species (some of which are from before last ice age) and home also to the Huaorani people and along the Napo river there are many Kichwa communities as well. Missing from the proposal, then, are at least:

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Battling the Neoliberalization of University Life: A List of Strategies

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- from:  anarchist.academics mailing list
http://lists.mutualaid.org/mailman/listinfo/anarchist.academics

"My sincere thanks to all who responded to my query. The tips that you sent
were wonderful, and really quite inspiring.  Below is an initial
compilation, divided under the six subheadings of: "On Unions and
Organizing," "On Faculty Rank," "On Bureaucracy and Governance," "On
Teaching," "On Student Tuition, Fees and Support," and "General Advice."  A
shorter top ten list will be published in the January 2008 edition of
Anthropology News.  I can already imagine that it will be difficult to edit
down the expanded list of strategies that are included below.  The
below list has no copyright or individual authorship and you should feel
free to distribute it widely, to post it to wiki sites and blogs, to invite
your friends and students to expand upon it, and of course to encourage
your departments and colleagues to implement its contents."


   ------------------- Wikified here:
https://www.knowledgelab.org.uk/Neoliberalization_of_University_Life
Battling the Neoliberalization of University Life: A List of Strategies

On Unions and Organizing:

* The No. 1 way is faculty unionization.  Unionize tenure-track faculty,
adjunct faculty and graduate students who teach.  Your efforts will not be effective
if adjunct and graduate teaching staff are not organized.

* Resist the destruction of solidarities (e.g. see David Harvey, The History
of Neoliberalism).

* Support unity. As an adjunct instructor and a graduate student, I can tell
you that management is WELL AWARE of the contempt that most full-time
faculty has toward us part-timers.  During contract negotiations, I've also heard
GA's and adjuncts undercut the contracts of the full-timers.  Management
disciplines full-timers with the knowledge that they can be replaced
instantly by the army of the underemployed.

* Invite part-time and adjunct faculty, as well as support staff and
research staff, to departmental meetings. Make the minutes available to the
entire community.

* Join professional organizations that will lobby in opposition to the
lobbyists for privatization: NEA higher education organizations, AAUP, AFT.
Pay your dues or be prepared to be sold out.

* Participate in faculty governance and advocate strongly for resolutions
and policies that promote an academic community built on shared values and
scholarship instead of a corporatized institution built on entrepreneurship
and external overhead.

* Form parallel autonomous institutions that meet people's needs in a
collective, non-hierarchical fashion.  At my old school, SUNY-Binghamton,
the campus was served by an excellent bus system that was owned and run by a
collective of the drivers, funded by student fees.

On Faculty Rank:

* Reject the implementation of "benchmarks" or any other form of "standards"
for merit raises or promotions that are predicated on quantified output.
Rather, draw upon such ideas as those of Ernest Boyer (Scholarship
Reconsidered) [http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2007/10/02/wcu]

* Reject merit raises all together and rather spread the total raises due
the entire faculty of a department evenly to all faculty.

* When 65% of the professoriate is part-time, why have tenured positions at
all?

* Refuse to sell ourselves as "stars" to highest bidding institutions. This
reproduces the neoliberal self-made "man," reinforcing gender and class
hierarchies within the academy.

* Don't refer to enthusiastic younger members of faculty as "junior"
scholars.  It annoys them intensely and makes them feel small.

* Allow complete transparency, re: salaries paid to all faculty in all
departments.

* Identify and monitor the behavior all 'frumps' (formerly radical upwardly
mobile professors).

* Use the growing 'sustainability consensus' discourse to push for a
democratization of academia - as sustainability centrally implies
participation.

On Bureaucracy and Governance:

* Expose and oppose corporate control of academia.

* Resist the process of turning universities into institutions of management
rather than places of "higher learning" by refusing to accept administrative
positions that are newly created and not really necessary for "learning."

* The university can be run by the faculty, but the faculty must organize in
constant vigilance.  Professors could collectively attend administration
meetings and repeat the demand, week after week, to stop the metastasized
growth of bureaucratic bosses.  Use the saved funds to create more professor
positions, course offerings, and library books, and to establish student
scholarships grants.  The heart of the university is here, not in creating
ever more layers of office managers to govern this and that for a bottom
line value that is set by the new MBA bosses.

* Rip up parking lots. Implode student housing. Stop all construction
projects not related to safety. Make students get gym memberships elsewhere.

* Demand accountability for the university practices in hiring faculty,
labor, etc. in the construction of new campuses abroad (i.e. NYU's global
expansion to Abu Dhabi).

* Resist the temptation to outsource to private companies, especially big
non-local multinationals, tasks which the university could do by itself.

On Curriculum:

* Resist the neoliberal transformation of the curriculum (there is an
excellent article--chapter 6--by Aihwa Ong in Neoliberalism as Exception:
Mutations in Citizenship and Sovereignty. Durham: Duke University Press,
2006.)

* Restore a system whereby intellectual inquiry is valued for its own sake,
and not just seen as a means toward increasing capitalist productivity.  If
the government's current proposal to fund all research on the basis of
"relevance" were carried out, it would be the end of virtually all
Humanities research as we know it.

* Resist the homogenization of university studies that is taking place all
over Europe. Anthropology, in order to survive, is being asked to
demonstrate demand from the job market. And its courses are oriented towards
market demands.

* Avoid strict degree completion deadlines. Returning students bring
valuable professional experience, but they also need the time to balance
professional, work and personal responsibilities.

* Make research findings and publications freely and publicly accessible on
the web.

On Teaching:

* Teach students about neoliberalization (its history, its impacts on
individuals, etc.).  They are the ones who can stop it.

* As teachers, we have a unique opportunity to relate the material we teach
to the everyday lives of our students.  Hold seminars on campus on the
impact of neoliberalism on campus life and learning. Use critical pedagogy -
encourage critical thinking

* Create a course that studies the University as an anthropological project.

* Link with activists, community groups, etc., beyond the academy.  Carry
out critical (including participatory) research. Develop more experience
based learning courses, including internships and community service learning
programs.

* Make the world your classroom. Teach in parks, bars, restaurants, homes,
online.

* Offer courses on weekends, evenings, and on-line, so that working students
and students with child and eldercare responsibilities can take courses/make
progress on degrees.

* Encourage team-teaching.

* Conduct and assess instructor evaluations in a manner that reflects that
students are scholars, not consumers.

* Avoid grade inflation.  In a context of grade inflation, instructors that
seek to honestly assess performance find themselves at a disadvantage,
especially if they are adjunct staff.

* Develop undergraduate programs that pay particular attention to
non-anthropology majors, since they are the ones that fill your large
classes.  Increase the pressure for small classes for introductory courses.

* Make classes last as long as they need to be. Stop with the micronization
and fetishization of time. Some days I have a lot to say, some days not so
much. Some days students need to practice and drill, and other times one
profound sentence might do it.

* Quit giving standardized tests and grades. Pass/Fail. Get rid of students
who don't want to be there. Tell them to come back when they know what they
are there for. If we stop treating students like cash cows, maybe they will
actually appreciate learning.

* Assign primary texts instead of textbooks.

* Make your students do the work - have them explain concepts to each other.
Have them create materials they think are useful. Grade them for effort
rather than results - they are there to learn.

* Spend less time preparing, and more time getting to know your students and
their individual needs.

On Student Tuition, Fees and Support:

* Don't use standardized testing as a measure to determine student
admissions or funding.

* Make applying for college more affordable.  Applying to graduate programs
is increasingly expensive. Transcripts (often in duplicate) are required
from each school. The cost of transcripts is inflated (averaging $5-$10 per
order, for regular mail). Applications fees are $50-$95 per school. GRE fees
increase by roughly $10 per year (and this test should be banned, anyway,
since it only tests your ability to learn test-taking strategies, not true
knowledge or ability to succeed in a program).

* Use course packets, blackboard pdfs and next-to-last edition textbooks in
introductory courses to decrease student book costs.

* Fund all students who are admitted into your program equally. Since
Thatcher (and Reagan), efforts to turn higher education into a vocational
finishing school for industry have been much more systematic and blatant.
Under this model, if you're funded you get money to live off, to pay fees,
and to attend conferences etc. If you're not funded, you get nothing and you
have to pay fees.  So one person has masses of help, while another is
hindered and must struggle. This is one of the central ideological maxims of
capitalism.

* Organize student mutual aid networks.

* Do not permit university programs to let graduate student instructors
teach without compensation, merely for the experience of it or for credit.

* Do not burden Ph.D. candidates and recent Ph.D.s with the heaviest
teaching loads.  The abusive practice of using younger scholars as
workhorses keeps a new generation from reaching its potential, in
scholarship and as practioners.

* Pay health care benefits and tuition fees for graduate students, if
possible.

General Advice:

* Be a happy person. Stop with the bitterness.

 

Property and Persuasion: a good place to begin

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One of the basic philosophical and political questions that concern us here at colonos is that of property: what does it mean to own something, what is private property and what is collective property? How does property relate to the historical and political developments of capitalism? A good place to begin is the writings of Carol Rose:

Rose, Carol M. (1994) Property and Persuasion: Essays on the History, Theory and Rhetoric of Ownership. Westview Press. Download the complete book.

More about Rose here

UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: the real work continues!

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About a month ago the global indigenous peoples’ struggle reached a milestone.

Here are some comments and resources collected and followed by a brief reflection.

First from Resistance Studies:

“The United Nations have overwhelmingly approved the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: after over a decade of negotiations, and a year of Canada trying to stall the final vote on it in the General Assembly” says Nicole Scabus, the International Advisor of the Indigenous Network on Economies and Trade.

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Who builds the Manta-Manaus corridor, and why?

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In an article about the falling empire(s) and the rise of (sub-)empires, like the one projected under the banner of “Latin American integration“, Clifton Ross touches upon the subject of the Manta-Manaus corridor:

Tomás Peribonio, ex-Minister of Foreign Trade under President Alfred Palacio, is now working as a contractor for the current Correa government designing the Manaos-Manta multi-modal corridor. He’s a handsome, friendly fellow who has also granted me a spur of the moment interview when I showed up at his penthouse office in the Ministry of Public Works building. He offers to do the interview in his excellent English, but quickly slips into Spanish as he emphasizes that “the most important thing is regional unity.” The construction of this multi-modal corridor, he describes as a “mega-project” that would be constructed “over the course of years and perhaps even decades.” The aim, he says, is to unite “Pacific Asia, which, from my point of view, is the area of major world commerce, managing about fifty percent of world trade” with the Atlantic, specifically Brazil, which is increasing its cultivation of soy and other grains with an eye on exports.”

This new empire – regularly criticized here – of plastic consumption will spell the end of the Amazon rain forest – and a wide range of indigenous cultures….. Read the rest of this entry »

Correa takes control of the constituent assembly: Ecuador’s revolution steams ahead

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Reliable sources note that Correa and allies have assumed control of the constituent assembly in Ecuador that will discuss a draft for a new constitution, written by a group of select lawyers.

That is the information we are getting. We could have more than 70 assembly members,” said Minister of Coastal Affairs Ricardo Patino, a close aid to Correa. Three other ministers also confirmed the details.

Correa had promised/threatened to resign (and leave the country in a right state of affairs) if his movement (of middle-class, remittance consumers) did not gain an effective majority of the assembly – but it seems that they did.

He has not detailed his reforms, but Correa is expected to call for the closing [of] Congress and replacing it with a parliamentary commission until a legislature is elected under a new charter.” – which is, all things even, a choice action. The chambers of old and evil – the edifices of patriarchy – must be torn down, to be sure.

…..but scroll down the page to see what kind of other and problematic things Correa et al. have on the agenda. I guess you can’t have your cake and eat it too.

Correa is a capitalist. Nothing more, nothing less?

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Recently an ex-pat Ecuadorian commented in this blog that we had it all wrong and that our pessimism was disrespectful to the Ecuadorian people. It now seems that our opinions are very similar -in some ways- to what the mainstream analysts come up with.

Two articles, as usual compiled by Ecuador Rising, sum it all up. Go read them if you want to know who had it all wrong:

Left with Paradoxes – interview with Economist Pablo Dávalos, who “served as undersecretary to Rafael Correa when the now-President was Minister of the Economy under the previous Administration of Alfredo Palacio in 2005. He’s an advisor to the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) and member of the Latin American Council of Social Scientists (CLACSO). Although he supported Correa’s successful presidential bid, he is skeptical of the direction the government is taking.”

IRC Americas Program Report: Ecuador’s Prolonged Instability – in which the claim is repeated that Correa’s movement is a consumerist middle class movement living off remittances from their estranged, emigrated families and boosting the supermarkets and car industries.

So, yea, nothing new really, –politics is business as usual–, except that what colonos have been suggesting all along, and which passed our dear commenter by, is now the general talk of the town.

Correa strengthens the police state to exploit the forest – and blames the rest of the world?

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President Rafael Correa shows his true colours:

“”We will not allow any more invasions of oil installations or the blockage of roads,” said Correa while visiting the Amazon, home to an array of unique species.

The U.S.-educated economist added he understood the plight of poor jungle residents but that the rule of law had to be respected to safeguard the main revenue source of South America’s No 5 oil producer.

He said he would sign a decree to increase the military and police presence around oil facilities and allow those forces to shift protesters by force, Correa said.”

So now we know – Correa has serious dictator potential, he strengthens the already excessive powers of the police and military apparatus to prevent the marginalised and indigenous peoples from speaking their voice through action – and what else does a largely illiterate population have to speak with, if not their bodies and their concerted actions as a multitude? What are their means of expression if not direct action?

And there is more to it…..

 

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