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Archive for the ‘classism’ Category

Here class counts for everything. A child of privilege can afford strategic confusion, a child of the masses cannot. Chance opportunities are likely to come to the child of privilege because of family background and educational networks; privilege diminishes the need to strategize. Strong, extensive human networks allow those at the top to dwell in the present; the networks constitute a safety net which diminishes the need for long-term strategic planning. The new elite thus have less need of the ethic of delayed gratification, as thick networks provide contacts and a sense of belonging, no matter what firm or organization one works for. The mass, however, has a thinner network of informal contact and support, and so remains more institution-dependent. It’s sometimes said that the new technology can somewhat correct this inequality, electronic chat rooms and affinity groups supplying the information a young person would need to seize the moment. In the work world, at least at the moment, this is not the case. Face-to-face matters. This is why techies go to so many conventions, and, more consequently, why people working from home, connected to the office only by computer, so often are left out of informal decision gathering and decision making.

In general, the lower down in an organization, the thinner one’s network, the more a person;s survival requires formal strategic thinking, and formal strategic thinking requires a legible social map.

From Richard Sennett’s excellent book, The Culture of the New Capitalism.

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This piece is about art, poverty, classism, compassion, curiosity, commitment, reinvention, re-purposing, racism and rage, community and individualism, craftsmanship and capitalism, ritual and habit and some of how they all intersect:

If you walk along Dorchester Avenue it looks, as Gates says, like a decent street “but sometimes bad things happen. I have to say to my friends, violent things sometimes happen in this neighbourhood, and all the cleaning and sweeping in the world is not going to change the fact that among certain groups of young men and women here, rage is an entirely sensible reaction to their world. I get that. It is not always pretty, it is not always square.”

Gates says there has been no hostility to his efforts to revitalise some formerly “no-go area” blocks. “Well,” he qualifies, “the windows of my studio have been shot out four times by kids – you know, target practice. But I think part of that is a desire to know what is happening on the inside and there being no obvious way to ask. Part of me wants to just catch these brothers to invite them in. In general I’m a co-worker with my neighbours here. And though maybe they don’t have the platform of the Observer to talk about it, they have stuck with this place through many more dire moments than me. My hat’s off to them. They got on with it. They had no leveraging mechanism but they stayed here, and most tried to do the right things.”

And..

There is always a part beyond what man owes man. It’s like: some decisions, most decisions I make, are not the right smart market decisions, but they are important to me.”

Lately, along with a determined return to his potter’s wheel, Gates has been making – the headline act of the White Cube show – large-scale “tar paintings”, which are as they sound, canvases coated with whorls and geometries of viscous black. He made some of them with his father, now 80, who bequeathed him his tar kettle.

“I could make another kind of work,” he says. “But how about I just really lean into my dad’s tar kettle?”

He believes art, if it matters, has to have roots in autobiography.

“This is the thing about the art market. If a young kid isn’t invited to know what they have inside them, and how to unlock that, then what they have is just devices. And you pretty quickly run out of devices. I had a life before all this. The lights were off for me, I was out in the shed, but that was a really useful way into this world.”

From Tim Adams’ “Chicago artist Theaster Gates: ‘I’m hoping Swiss bankers will bail out my flooded South Side bank in the name of art” in The Guardian.

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And the same message underpins private school scholarships; the idea that only the very gifted can attend such schools for free has the paradoxical logic of both validating the high fees and creating an illusion of meritocracy or superior moral worth. Still, if I had a dollar for every parent I know sweating on the outcome of their child’s scholarship exam, I’d be as rich as the elite schools themselves. Interestingly, the private school lobby likes to say that parents choose these schools  for their “values.” I’m not sure what values are at work in the scholarship system. The private schools would say they’re bequeathing opportunities to less advantaged kids. But these schools cherry-pick kids whose achievements will advantage the institution by attracting yet more fee-paying students. The only “value” exemplified is the value of commerce, with students analogous to high-yield investments.

These schools are in the business of sowing doubt, gutting state high schools of aspirational families and shredding egalitarianism. That’s not surprising; most businesses are driven by self-interest. But where Australia takes the cake for stupidity is paying these businesses for the privilege of undermining educational equity, and by extension, our nation’s economic growth.

We’ve heard time and again private schools claim an entitlement to public funds on the basis they’re “taking pressure off the public system.” In truth, they’re doing precisely the opposite. Luring high-performing students from the public system – whether by scholarship, other inducements or guilt-laced promotion – weakens the cultural mix at government schools, lowering expectations of the remaining students and transforming these schools into options of last resort.  And these “residual schools” are punishing on the public purse, requiring more equity funding to compensate for the concentration of kids from low socio-economic backgrounds, and more money for remedial and other interventions.

From Julie Szego’s “Private schools and their bankrupt propaganda” in The Age.

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Fascinating thoughts on the rise of the term ‘Mama’ and what it represents. From Elissa Strauss in Long Reads:

Like most cultural shifts in language, the rise of white, upper-middle class women who call themselves “mama” seemed to happen slowly, and then all at once. And like most cultural shifts in language, the rise of “mama” is about power and discontent. “In the interstices of language lie powerful secrets of the culture,” writes Adrienne Rich in Of Woman Born, Rich’s influential book examining the institution of motherhood.

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This is how social policy works, in baby steps and trial-and-error and tweaks, not in game changers. Leave the leaps and bounds to computing power. If a 49-cent deworming treatment really does produce a $30 increase in wages for some of the poorest people on Earth, we are assholes for not spending it.

And this is where I landed after a year of absorbing dozens of books and articles and speeches about international development: The arguments against it are myriad, and mostly logistical and technical. The argument for it is singular, moral, and, to me anyway, utterly convincing: We have so much, they have so little.

If we really want to fix development, we need to stop chasing after ideas the way we go on fad diets. Successful programs should be allowed to expand by degrees, not digits (direct cash payments, which have shown impressive results in Kenya and Uganda, are a great candidate for the kind of deliberate expansion I’m talking about). NGOs need to be free to invest in the kinds of systems and processes we’re always telling developing countries to put in place. And rich countries need to spend less time debating how to divide up the tiny sliver of our GDP we spend on development and more time figuring out how to leverage our vast economic and political power to let it happen on its own.

This applies to nearly everything in social policy.

This article, “Stop trying to save the world: Big ideas are destroying international development” by Michael Hobbes in New Republic is the most satisfying read on the topic I’ve come across in ages. It was sent to me by my father who worked for one of the biggest development ‘organisations’ in the world most of his career.

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That skepticism reflects a widely held, deeply ingrained attitude ­reinforced by decades of warnings about poisoned Halloween candy and drink-­spiking pickup artists. No wonder some of the loftier ­sharing-­economy executives see their mission as not just building a business but fundamentally rewiring our relationships with one another. Much as the traditional Internet helped strangers meet and communicate online, they say, the modern Internet can link individuals and communities in the physical world. “The extent to which ­people are connected to each other is lower than what humans need,” NYU professor Arun Sundararajan says. “Part of the appeal of the sharing economy is helping to bridge that gap.” Lyft cofounder John Zimmer goes so far as to liken it to time he spent on the Oglala Sioux reservation in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. “Their sense of community, of connection to each other and to their land, made me feel more happy and alive than I’ve ever felt before,” he says. “I think people are craving real human interaction—it’s like an instinct. We now have the opportunity to use technology to help us get there.”

From “How Airbnb and Lyft finally got Americans to trust each other” in Wired.

Share represented the full gamut of a true sharing economy, from the controversial Lyfts and Airbnbs to the individuals who run home businesses knitting scarves and baking pies without traditional employment safety nets or the corporate muscle of Big Sharing. While the former wields the power to get its way, defining “the sharing economy” at the expense of workers and consumers, sole proprietors and nonprofit collectives are often the ones facing real legal problems that they can’t afford to solve. The benefits big disruptive “sharing economy” players might be making for themselves are not exactly trickling down.

From “The case against sharing” in Medium.

There is no denying the seductive nature of convenience—or the cold logic of businesses that create new jobs, whatever quality they may be. But the notion that brilliant young programmers are forging a newfangled “instant gratification” economy is a falsehood. Instead, it is a rerun of the oldest sort of business: middlemen insinuating themselves between buyers and sellers.

From “The secret to the Uber economy is inequality” in Quartz.

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My latest article is here.

Speaking of personal stories, Latham has an interesting story, too. He’s a stay-at-home father with a wife working outside the home. Having made the transition from political leadership to primary caring he might offer an insightful perspective, instead, he seems clouded by a kind of defensive masculinity. And his hostility towards feminist parenting is curious when you consider Latham’s own role reversal is exactly the kind of freedom feminists are seeking as an option to be available for more parents. But critiquing parenting has long been an underhand route for simply censuring women.

Women well know that when male commentators talk about women’s lives they are prone to holding unexamined views that run contrary to one another. So, being the primary parent has allowed Latham to see the hoax that fathers can’t be nurturing, but somehow mothering is still essentialist enough for inner-city feminists to be capable of running a secret campaign to “free themselves from nature’s way”. And further, mothers who take their experiences seriously enough to write about them are “self-absorbed”, but to not take them seriously is to be “breeding a generation of shirtless, tone-deaf, overweight, pizza-eating dummies”. Although Macdonald, apparently, manages to do both.

 

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