Friday, March 27, 2015

Is the US really an advanced country?

"US businesses do not need to give workers any days off whatsoever – for vacation or sick days – under federal law." does liberal democracy = no holidays
As a naturalized citizen, it is sometimes difficult to keep the faith of my citizenship when stories like this emerge. Not having holidays for a native-born Australian like me seems an impossibility. 
Australia, "Land of the long weekend," has, like most countries in Western Europe, been defined by social democracy. The national political economy is historically different, defined by wonderful successes, where the language of business is not the default... although that, sadly, is changing. The default has been a series of compromises between labor and management, where the Labor parties have insisted that the workforce deserves a break.
Not surprisingly, this Guardian article caught my eye.
The US is also the only developed country that doesn’t guarantee paid maternity or parental leave to its citizens. Three states have local policies.
In 2014, 77% of Americans working for privately owned companies got paid vacation days, typically between 10 to 14 days a year. And 74% of full-time workers and 24% of part-time workers in the private sector were offered paid sick leave, according to the US Department of Labor.
 “Today, we are the only advanced country on Earth that doesn’t guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to our workers. Forty-three million workers have no paid sick leave – 43 million,” Barack Obama said during his State of the Union address in January.

Within the political economy of social versus liberal democracy comes the role of the corporation in US society. 

The Guardian report stated that Microsoft is insisting that its US suppliers give their employees holidays. The privatization of labor operates in this way, where private interests set their own rules, exploit labor however it likes and refuse to engage in humane treatment of workers, until government or a major corporation makes a determination for humane treatment. 

It is tempting to congratulate Microsoft. But the shift here, as in much of the discussion in the technology sector, is of a domain that has been seeking emancipation from public policy. In many contexts the IT sector has actively sought to operate outside of, even refuse a role for government. This is the anti-statist, de-regulationist, all-regulation-is-bad school of political economy, run by people who misread Adam Smith and never intend to get to Marx. This recent article from Der Spiegal lays out the situation: the Germans don't buy it.  Der Spiegal - IT trends 

The operationalization of the libertarian perspective works well within the dominant liberal democratic paradigm. Not being awarded holidays, sick days, humane working conditions, takes society back beyond liberalism to a state barely above feudalism, as workers are considered chattels, owned and used, then thrown out as the emperors of technology decide their fate. 

  • Australians, stand up for the dignity of labor - more long weekends! 
  • Alternatively, is it time to say? "Put away that computer and the feudal values it represents."    
  • Other critics will surely ask, Is the US really an advanced society?   

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Reverse history: Distributed ISIS as the global jihad?

Do we have to watch the world get turned upside down by counter-revolutionary religious fervor?

It appears that we have little if any say in it. The fundamentalist religious action of ISIS is there for anyone to see on Internet videos: beheadings, torture, celebratory convoys, martyrs, the works. The media richness of the shift backwards in human history is almost beyond belief.

What is stunning is the way the clock that applied to European, then western and human civilization through the agency of the Enlightenment has been stopped. Then wound back. The reversal of history is achieving a perverse universality through ISIS. The universality of liberalism and its ideals was the revolution that emanated from France. Now the universality of non-liberalism exists as an alternative.

ISIS began as a local Islamic uprising against imperially-imposed national borders. The revolt is rapidly moving to a new phase, stretching itself and its influence largely through media memes, to anyone with an axe to grind and the pathology to apply the axe.

That amounts to a lot of people with an interest in sharia law, the Caliphate and Apocalyptic Islamic theology, as Graeme Wood helpfully documented in "What ISIS really wants," in The Atlantic, February, 2015. What ISIS really wants The other side of this coin is becoming clear - as the Caliphate consolidates in parts of the Middle East, a number of interest groups express support in other geographical areas of the planet.

Distributed revolt has a model in play (in the Caliphate) plus a network of activist agents. Or to put is another way, many thousands of ISIS supporters now have agency in areas remote from Syria, Iraq and Turkey.  
The news that Nigeria's Boko Haram has recognized ISIS consolidates a bad week or two. Islamist militants with ISIS orientations have been appearing in Pakistan, Afghanistan and, well, everywhere.  Boko Haram goes global This is in addition to recruits attempting to move to Syria then into the Caliphate, prompted by ISIS evangelists on the Internet. Indeed, as the travel associated with the recruits is madeillegal and halted, the connections and activism is translated to localized activity. Through on-line sites, they can plan remote dedication.

(The model here is closing down a heroin distribution site - it pops up on the other side of town).

The question is where to go to find solutions to the emergence of this movement?

What is the value in arming fighters and placing them in designated war zones? ISIS has become a distributed struggle. It is virtual and material.

In the 1990's there there was an "end of history" movement, prompted by Francis Fukuyama's book of the same name. Is it time to rethink the idea that global forward momentum is over and with it assumed history? There is plenty to think about here, even years after the original claims by Fukuyama: end of history

Somewhere, the pieces will need to be brought together in a new global governance theory that acknowledges that the ways of "being enlightened" are no longer a universal ideal. What then?