Saturday, December 27, 2014

Sundry Stuff

Jacob Lawrence, The Migration Series, Panel No. 1 (1940-41)
— “In an article on the organization of leisure, Harold Wilensky traces what he calls ‘the compensatory leisure hypothesis’ and ‘the spillover leisure hypothesis’ back to Engels’ work The Conditions of the Working-Class in England in 1844.* The first states that the worker who is alienated at work compensates by active and energetic leisure activities; the second that ‘he develops a spillover leisure routine in which alienation from work becomes alienation from life; the mental stultification produced by his labour permeates his leisure.’ …[W]e may ask whether a conjunction of the two mechanisms might not offer a more satisfactory account than either of them taken separately.”—Jon Elster (Indeed!)

* The article (which one can find online): H. Wilensky, “Work, Careers, and Social Integration,” International Social Science Journal 12 (1960): 543-560.  

— Among the individuals I’ve come to rely on for an understanding of “Liberalism” generally (as a political philosophy that provided essential philosophical premises for contemporary democratic theory and praxis) are Stephen Holmes, Ian Shapiro, Gerald Gaus...and Alan Ryan. Today I picked up the latter’s new book, which I look forward to with relish: Alan Ryan, The Making of Modern Liberalism (Princeton University Press, 2014). Incidentally, I've read a few wholesale critiques of Liberalism from both the Right and Left that fail to appreciate the progressive, emancipatory dimensions of this political philosophy, not a small part of which should be integral to any meaningful articulation of democratic socialism.

— While at one of our local and independent bookstores this morning, I came across this work, which looks quite good: Christian Welzel, Freedom Rising: Human Empowerment and the Quest for Emancipation (Cambridge University Press, 2013)

— Inspired by and in debt to Jon Elster, I rely on several proverbs in the following:

Conservatives assume capitalism provides even the poor with ample opportunity along the lines of the proverb, “necessity is the mother of invention,” yet this is best viewed in the light of the notion that one might (should?) pull oneself up by one’s own bootstraps, which refers to what is literally an impossible task. With regard to workers and capitalists, as Jon Elster explains, “the freedom to move into the capitalist class…can only be realized by the worker who is [to quote Marx] an ‘exceedingly clever and shrewd fellow.’ Any worker ‘can’ do it, in the sense of having the formal freedom to do so, but only a few are really able to,” hence it’s the case that, in the words of Marx, “every workman, if he is an exceedingly clever fellow…can possibly be converted into an exploiteur du travail d’autrui.” Exits from the working class (or poverty) may exist, but for sundry reasons, they do not take the form of a generalizable opportunity for most workers, most of the time. So the more applicable proverb (Norwegian in origin) in the case of both the poor and the working class states, “it is expensive to be poor.” In other words, even if one is motivated to “innovate,” or to become a member of the capitalist class (or, say, a member of the petite bourgeoisie) the desire is not matched by the requisite opportunity, for one is deprived of the necessary “resources:” one’s formal freedom is paired with absence of capacity to realize same. Exits from the state of poverty or (more likely) the working class “exist,” but there are sundry reasons (e.g., one lacks the time and money to discover them or, even if one finds them, the cost or risk is inordinate) most workers will never be able to take advantage of them. 

This bears directly upon the theory of revolution as well for, as Elster reminds us, “Revolutions are rarely caused by extreme hardship, because people living at subsistence conditions have to spend all their time simply staying alive. They may have the desire for change, but no opportunity to effect it. Conversely, the well-off may have the opportunities but not the desire. In between, there may be a range of incomes that have a positive net effect—mediated by desires and opportunities—on the propensity to engage in revolutionary behavior.” In a future post, again prompted by Elster, I hope to discuss one compelling theory of revolution that more or less stems from what Elster terms the “Tocqueville effect” in which an increase in opportunities finds aspiration levels increasing even faster, generating more discontent with the status quo (we also learn this account is a bit more complicated than appears, as one might tell ‘different fine-grained stories’ to explain this dynamic that need not result in revolutionary discontent, hence ‘if A, then sometimes C, D, and B,’ with only one of these being revolutionary behavior). - See more at: http://www.religiousleftlaw.com/2014/12/sundry-stuff-.html#sthash.fvUtAxBJ.dpuf
This bears directly upon the theory of revolution as well for, as Elster reminds us, “Revolutions are rarely caused by extreme hardship, because people living at subsistence conditions have to spend all their time simply staying alive. They may have the desire for change, but no opportunity to effect it. Conversely, the well-off may have the opportunities but not the desire. In between, there may be a range of incomes that have a positive net effect—mediated by desires and opportunities—on the propensity to engage in revolutionary behavior.” In a future post, again prompted by Elster, I hope to discuss one compelling theory of revolution that more or less stems from what Elster terms the “Tocqueville effect” in which an increase in opportunities finds aspiration levels increasing even faster, generating more discontent with the status quo (we also learn this account is a bit more complicated than appears, as one might tell ‘different fine-grained stories’ to explain this dynamic that need not result in revolutionary discontent, hence ‘if A, then sometimes C, D, and B,’ with only one of these being revolutionary behavior). - See more at: http://www.religiousleftlaw.com/2014/12/sundry-stuff-.html#sthash.fvUtAxBJ.dpuf
This bears directly upon the theory of revolution as well for, as Elster reminds us, “Revolutions are rarely caused by extreme hardship, because people living at subsistence conditions have to spend all their time simply staying alive. They may have the desire for change, but no opportunity to effect it. Conversely, the well-off may have the opportunities but not the desire. In between, there may be a range of incomes that have a positive net effect—mediated by desires and opportunities—on the propensity to engage in revolutionary behavior.” In a future post, again prompted by Elster, I hope to discuss one compelling theory of revolution that more or less stems from what Elster terms the “Tocqueville effect” in which an increase in opportunities finds aspiration levels increasing even faster, generating more discontent with the status quo (we also learn this account is a bit more complicated than appears, as one might tell ‘different fine-grained stories’ to explain this dynamic that need not result in revolutionary discontent, hence ‘if A, then sometimes C, D, and B,’ with only one of these being revolutionary behavior). - See more at: http://www.religiousleftlaw.com/2014/12/sundry-stuff-.html#sthash.fvUtAxBJ.dpu— I’ve updated my bibliography on emotions, found here.— Another delightful essay by Pico Iyer. (In the brief biographical identification of Pico it states that ‘his latest book, The Man Within My Head, circles around Graham Greene and hauntedness,’ although I would say it rather circles around Graham Greene and Pico’s late father, Raghavan Iyer.)
— This is very important: Jed S. Rakoff, “Why Innocent People Plead Guilty,” The New York Review of Books, November 20, 2014. The subsequent exchange of letters, particularly the most recent (Jan. 8 issue), are worth reading as well.

 Jacob Lawrence, The Migration Series, Panel No. 3 (1940-41) 

— Please see Kenan Malik’s post on “Jacob Lawrence and the Great Migration” over at his blog, Pandaemonium. Malik notes that “over the next few weeks,” he “will publish on Pandaemonium the complete sequence of 60 panels, ten at a time, together with Lawrence’s original captions, that are as much part of the series as are the paintings themselves.

 — Toward delineating the contours of economic democracy as part of the struggle for socialism:

  • Bayat, Assaf. Work, Politics and Power: An International Perspective on Workers’ Control and Self-Management. Monthly Review Press, 1991. 
  • Case, John and Rosemary C. R. Taylor, eds. Co-ops, Communes and Collectives: Experiments in Social Change in the 1960s and 1970s. Pantheon Books, 1979. 
  • Cheney, George. Values at Work: Employee Participation Meets Market Pressures at Mondragon. ILR Press, 1999. 
  • Curl, John. For All the People: Uncovering the Hidden History of Cooperation, Cooperative Movements, and Communalism in America. PM Press, 2nd ed., 2009. 
  • Dahl, Robert A. A Preface to Economic Democracy. University of California Press, 1985. 
  • Dolgoff, Sam, ed. The Anarchist Collectives: Workers’ Self-Management in the Spanish Revolution, 1936-1939. Free Life Editions, 1974. 
  • Elster, Jon and Karl Ove Moene, eds. Alternatives to Capitalism. Cambridge University Press, 1989. 
  • Jackall, Robert and Henry M. Levin, eds. Worker Cooperatives in America. University of California Press, 1984. 
  • MacLeod, Greg. From Mondragon to America: Experiments in Community Economic Development. University College of Cape Breton Press, 1997.
  • Malleson, Tom. After Occupy: Economic Democracy for the 21st Century. Oxford University Press, 2014. 
  • Morrison, Roy. We Build the Road as We Travel. New Society Publishers, 1991. [on the Mondragon cooperative experience up until 1987] 
  • Nembhard, Jessica Gordon. Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice. Pennsylvania State University Press, 2014. 
  • Ness, Immanuel, ed. New Forms of Worker Organization: The Syndicalist and Autonomist Restoration of Class-Struggle Unionism. PM Press, 2014. 
  • Ness, Immanuel and Dario Azzellini, eds. Ours to Master and to Own: Workers’ Control from the Commune to the Present. Haymarket Books, 2011. 
  • Santos, Boaventura de Sousa, ed. Another Production is Possible: Beyond the Capitalist Canon. Verso, 2007. 
  • Thomas H. and C. Logan. Mondragon: An Economic Analysis. Allen and Unwin, 1982. 
  • Whyte, William Foote and Kathleen King Whyte. Making Mondragon: The Growth and Dynamics of the Worker Cooperative Complex. Cornell University Press, 1988. 
  • Wolff, Richard. Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism. Haymarket Books, 2012. 
  • Wright, Erik Olin. Envisioning Real Utopias. Verso, 2010.  

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