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Gordon Hull
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There is a running debate in critical theory circles about the applicability of Marxian analysis to big data specifically, and to an economy dominated by immaterial goods, more generally (I have blogged about this periodically, circling primarily around the concept of primitive accumulation: see here and here). As part of... Continue reading
One question surrounding big data – in addition to well-established worries about privacy and discrimination – that is starting to get attention is how it functions as a mode of capitalist accumulation. There is an emerging literature on capitalist value creation and big data, but a lot of that is... Continue reading
One of the more perplexing things about the Trump presidency is why it exists in the first place: he took office having lost the popular vote by a wide margin, and with one of the smaller electoral college margins in memory. The win also defied virtually all of the pre-election... Continue reading
Amidst the general horror that is Trump’s xenophobic and bigoted executive orders*, and in the executive order attacking sanctuary cities, comes Trump’s attack on the privacy of immigrants (h/t Dennis Crouch at Patently-O). The order stipulates: “Privacy Act. [Federal] Agencies shall, to the extent consistent with applicable law, ensure that... Continue reading
One of the most prominent features of biopolitics is the emergence of administrative law. Created by statutory authority, numerous governmental agencies engage in rulemaking at a very granular level to interpret and apply broad statutory provisions. For example, if a statute says that “banks” are to be regulated in the... Continue reading
UPDATE (12/24). Don't take it from me. The Electoral Integrity Project, which monitors and rates elections internationally, scored North Carolina. It wasn't pretty. A sample from the report, as cited in the linked article: "On the measures of legal framework and voter registration ... on those indicators we rank alongside... Continue reading
I've just uploaded a (relatively minor) revision of my SPEP paper from this fall in Salt Lake City to SSRN. The paper is ""Confessing Preferences: What Foucault’s Government of the Living can tell us about Neoliberalism and Big Data," and the abstract is: Foucault’s 1979-80 Collège de France lectures, On... Continue reading
Developments this week highlight the problems with the neoliberal decision to privatize medicine in the U.S. Certainly the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which entrenches responsibility for access to healthcare to private insurance companies and then attempts to contrive a market for patients to shop between insurance plans as some sort... Continue reading
I'm really sympathetic to that intuition - in part because I did just what you describe: early-voted for Clinton, and then canvassed for her on election day. And I have disliked neoliberalism for as long as I've known what it is. But I also have no difficulty saying that I prefer Clinton's version of it to whatever Trump is (which may turn out to be a worse form of neoilberalism, mixed in with a whole bunch of truly horrendous things). So far, "anybody but Trump" has proven to be right, based on his proposed cabinet appointments. So why do I call that a "preference?" I'm aware that I'm close to a neoliberal declaration of revealed preferences (Joe buys a Honda, so he reveals his preference for Honda over Toyota). A very good critique of that line is that there are too many other factors that might be invisible: he might not be able to afford the Toyota, etc. So we can't really know what the market choice reveals. But I think in this case the other factors are pretty constrained, because in a majoritarian system, any vote increases the chance that one of the (in this case) two candidates will win. A vote for Clinton means she's more likely to win than Trump, and so "anyone but Trump" means "Clinton," and that's tantamount to saying you prefer what Clinton would do to what Trump would do. I'm also inclined to think a vote for Stein increased the chances that Trump would win, and that Stein supporters should have known that after the 2000 debacle. Green vote defenders will say that Clinton should have earned their vote, that they like green policies better, and so on - but will go out of their way to avoid acknowledging that ours is a majoritarian, and not a parliamentary system (where if Green gets 5%, say, they get a seat in parliament, and so it's a perfectly rational vote. I'm citing Stein here because I'm less sure who libertarian voters would draw from). This does leave me vulnerable to a couple of complaints, though, which I'll acknowledge. One is that there were voters who knew almost nothing about Clinton but decided both that "anyone would be better than Trump" and that Clinton was the only other candidate who had a chance to win. I find it a little hard to believe that Clinton would be that unknown to anyone who also knew enough to make the anybody-but-Trump decision, but if such voters existed, I have mis-described them. The other obvious complaint would be that many of the Green voters either (a) think the other candidates are genuinely equivalently bad, or (b) they genuinely don't know enough to know that their vote increases the chance that the most environmentally-unfriendly candidate in memory would win. I don't see how either of those could be true, at least in this election. But I am (again) making an assumption which could be empirically tested, and I could be wrong...
Very quick answer: I'm being Foucault's voice mail here - in Birth of Biopolitics, the basic difference between liberalism and neoliberalism is that the former think markets are natural and the latter think you can make them (Harcourt is good on this too). I take it the basic argument is that markets are good for Hayekian reasons (you efficiently transmit information about price/value without a state apparatus, and so preserve rule of law), combined with the idea that you get better results with competition. So as an individual firm, I want to crush the others - but as an economist, I want firms competing. Either way, if I can tell myself a story according to which the market isn't functioning right, there would be a basis for the state to intervene to create more possibilities of competition. So the conviction that trade deals are bad for American companies because it makes them unable to compete with low-wage foreign companies sounds to the Trumpian ear like a market failure or a market distortion, one that could be remedied by a forceful leveling of the playing field. There is precedent for both this as argument and policy - Ross Perot's campaign against NAFTA as that "great sucking sound" of U.S. jobs going to Mexico, and of course EU agricultural subsidies. I remember debate around NAFTA when it was being signed about how it didn't include any protections for workers in higher wage countries. This was usually put in unfavorable comparison with the EU. I don't know if that's a satisfactory answer, but it's where I am now - the larger issue for me is to reconcile the white nationalism and what appear to still be neoliberal commitments (ex the infrastructure project, which is going to be privatized if he gets his way, and not a public investment, a la the sorts of infrastructure that, say, FDR would want.
What does the Trump election mean for neoliberalism as a doctrine? Adam Kotsko over at An und für sich has some interesting thoughts on the matter; what follows is intended as a constructive engagement. As I posted last week, I think Trump’s victory is inseparable from what Foucault calls state... Continue reading
Foucault famously proposed that biopolitics - the power to foster life, or allow it to die - tended to produce its own outside in the form of state racism: not only might life be allowed to die, but there might be those who must die, literally or metaphorically, so an... Continue reading
Thanks for the comment - and I wasn't as clear as I needed to be in the OP (I blame lack of sleep. When it's 1:45 in the morning and you're looking at county maps in Arizona to see if there's enough votes in Pima County to overcome the deficit in Maricopa County, it's a long night). My sense, at least from 2000, is that most of the libertarian vote came from people who decided that they didn't want either major party candidate, and refused to contemplate which would be the lesser evil, because they took them to be functionally equivalent. So at that point, assuming they know the libertarian won't actually win, they are signalling their acceptance of whoever does win. So my usage of "own" was probably misleading - I meant that on some moral level, they voted to accept a Trump presidency, even though they knew, or should have known, that Trump seems extremely hostile to individual rights. Had Hillary won, they would have voted to accept her, too, but her record on rights is better. In other words, it wasn't an empirical claim. There may be the data out there to make the empirical claim, but I'm happy to wait for someone else to dig it up... Bernie folks switching to Trump - I don't know where to begin. If they couldn't tell the difference between Clinton and Trump in advancing Bernie's platform, well, yeesh.
Leiter's post-mortem is worth reading, as is the analysis he links to by Ian Kerr. If Trump does what he ran on (and what in his speech last night he said he wants to do: build infrastructure. And really, he's right that our infrastructure is a national embarrassment), it's going... Continue reading
One of the important parts in understanding neoliberalism as a particular dispositive of power (or perhaps a mode of biopower – that sort of distinction doesn’t matter here) lies in understanding the various techniques it deploys. After all, there is no “neoliberalism” or “neoliberal power” existing in the abstract; as... Continue reading
This piece is in response to the discussion over at Daily Nous here. You should read it first; I’m posting here partly because what I’ve got to say is longer than would reasonably fit into a comment, and partly because I want to think a bit about how difficult the... Continue reading
Tim (if I may) - that's a very good question. The request from the dean was that I remove the post because it contains personal opinion, and that can't be on a university server. She did not differentiate parts of the post, or suggest that it had inappropriately partisan material. One of my colleagues brought your question up, and I'm pretty sure if the dean had said that "look, I get what you're trying to say, but folks are gonna say you're working for the Hillary campaign," I'd probably have grumbled for a minute and then agreed to make the point without the Trump references. You'll notice I linked to everything I said about him - that was deliberate, as was my parenthetical reference to Hillary's support of the dismantling of welfare and mass incarceration in the 1990s. I do think the Trump campaign is a contributing factor to a climate of fear and violence. I know there is documentation for hate crimes against Muslims (they've spiked during his candidacy, and declined against all other groups). The rest is of course inference based on who supports him most enthusiastically. I remember that the best predictor of a Trump vote in the Republican primaries was authoritarian personality, and I believe racial resentment is one of the better predictors now (no, I can't produce the cite off the top of my head, but I know that being lower income is not an accurate predictor of Trump support). In any case, I put all that in there deliberately, as part of sort of a climate assessment... but you're absolutely right that the post could have been without it. But if that was the dean's problem, she didn't express it to me.
So basically the shooting occurred at some apartments fairly near campus (on Old Concord Road), and things spilled over. The events on campus were all peaceful, and designed to be therapeutic. I think they succeeded in that. There were a number of peaceful protests off campus, and splinter groups that broke off and became more disruptive and even violent. I do not know all the details well enough to put together a timeline for you (any decent news site should be able to do that). I know that on the first night, parts of both I-85 and Harris Boulevard [both streets near the university] were blocked for a while. Last night, there were planned protests in the government-buildings area downtown. As I understand it, those were peaceful. The activity on the news seemed to be near the EpiCenter (again, apologies to those not familiar with Charlotte. The EpiCenter is downtown and is a complex of mainly bars and restaurants and clubs, with hotel space on top). It went on until pretty late; at least one person was shot (not by a police officer). First he was reported dead, then that was revised to "serious" condition. At around 11:00, the Governor called out the national guard and declared a state of emergency. A number of venues around town are closing today (there was a moderate amount of property damage yesterday), including (apparently) South Park Mall (non Charlotteans: it's a high-end mall, but about 6 miles away from downtown) and various businesses downtown, including the university's downtown building. As a state employee I have the First Amendment right to post this here, which the dean even stressed. The question in my mind is whether I can call upon my subject-matter expertise and the podium I have to offer an opinion. The answer given is no, apparently in part because it's "the university website" where "personal" opinions aren't welcome. Assuming for the moment that's correct, I think it's highly unfortunate. Taken to its end, the logical principle there would seem to disqualify anyone from a university from offering their expert opinion on anything, or even perhaps linking to their articles. But the university actively wants news media (etc) calling faculty for their expert opinions. I've even offered opinions on a couple of local ethics controversies on TV, all vetted through the university communications department. I suspect the difference here is one that won't be stated: what I am saying is very controversial or "political." But, as you know, almost all statements can be construed as political (think about anything to do with, say, climate change, or gun safety). And if I get a conversation going about white privilege and the background conditions that help us understand what's happening in Charlotte, well, then I've done something that I think has some value. Even if everybody decides I'm wrong. In short, the line between "university" and "faculty" and "personal" speech is a fuzzy one, and I disagree with how it's being drawn here.
For those who haven’t been following the news, there was a police shooting in Charlotte the night before last. The facts of the case are still being investigated: the police claim that the black man who was shot had a gun; his family says he had a book. I’m not... Continue reading
I am not the first to say this (I believe Habermas critiqued opinion polls in Theory of Communicative Action, though I bet he didn’t use the Foucauldian language I’m about to), but I live in what is now considered a “purple” state, which means my vote might actually matter, and... Continue reading
August 19 was the two-year anniversary of the shooting death of Kajieme Powell, an unarmed black man who robbed a convenience store, and whose shooting at the hands of responding police was clearly documented on video from a bystander’s cellphone. Powell’s killing was within a few miles and weeks of... Continue reading
North Carolina’s infamous HB2, which prohibits LGBTQ people from getting the sorts of civil rights protections that women and racial minorities receive, as well as mocking the reality of trans* by demanding that everyone go to the restroom corresponding to the “biological sex” on their birth certificate (see here), has... Continue reading
In a new paper, Maximilian Fochler conducted a series of structured interviews with scientists to make an STS point: when we think of capitalism as a system that depends on “accumulation,” there are many different kinds of things that one can accumulate, many of them non-financial. I think Fochler makes... Continue reading
Perhaps it is terminological. I know a lot more about Foucault than Deleuze, but the points I want to emphasize here are relatively few in number: (a) Heidegger's understanding of technology depends on an Aristotelian division between art and nature that's unsustainable, whereas the Deleuzian alternative does not; and (b) big sweeping statements about the history of metaphysics need to be treated with a lot of caution; because (c) those metaphysical claims are often better understood as having more political meaning than anything else (as Deleuze and Derrida both say of Plato, who is trying to police out difference from the polis). A case in point is the effort to describe capitalism in terms of enframing. Of course you could do so, but I think it's a lot more productive to be more specific, a la Marx or Foucault. Using the exact same terms to describe all of modern science and all of the economy and all of thinking in general for the last several hundred years obscures all sorts of differences that matter, and obscuring those differences makes it very hard to do anything at all. But I've said my piece.
So there's a difference of first principles here, about which a lot has been written, but basically on my reading, Heidegger's theory carries with it a residual theology. In the technology essay, it's most obvious in his insistence that we find the "essence" of technology, as if that has some sort of a priori status outside of whatever context the term appears in. More generally, it's not obvious that there is a "real" ontological difference beyond its function as a socio-political concept, and it's not clear that thinking about Being does any good at all: it led Heidegger to posit a radical passivity in the face of modern technology while we "wait" for another "sending of being." The other point about the technology essay that really needs emphasizing is that I don't think it makes sense without reading it in the context of Aristotle's discussion of the art/nature distinction in the Physics. Aristotle had no concern for "monsters" that exhibited features of both: in about a sentence or two, he says they die off quickly and don't reproduce. Deleuze and a lot of other people show that the rigid art/nature distinction is simply false. It's not just metaphysics, it's wrong metaphysics, because many, many entities (if not all of them) are going to transgress that boundary. Latour even says that this is the characteristic of modernity: the production of ontologically hybrid entities. Deleuze roughly divides the history of philosophy into thinkers of transcendence (Plato, Heidegger, Scotus, for whom the univocity of Being was important) and immanence (Lucretius, Spinoza, and a couple of others). Deleuze loves Spinoza precisely because Spinoza does not fall into the transcendence line - he tries to think how we could understand substance, or God/nature, without positing a transcendent Being or a God upon which they depend. By rejecting transcendence, you make it possible to begin to think the diversity of beings in the world, and notice that differences that don't reduce to a univocity of being. An assemblage is one way of doing so, because it doesn't have a transcendental structure. Concepts like "rhizome" and "body without organs" gesture in the same direction. The argument that Heidegger critiques capitalism because he critiques modernity and capitalism is part of modernity I think makes the point that I am. Heidegger not only offers nothing specific to describe capitalism (I can't even think of where he talks about it in any detail), but the constant claim that our problems are ontological actively disables any efforts to deal with them. The claim of sameness here is troubling, as it's the same logic that got him in trouble for equating the Nazi gas chambers and mechanized agriculture. Yes, ok, both involve "enframing," but if his argument is that they both reduce to that, or if they really are therefore "the same in essence," then his philosophy becomes pretty useless (and metaphysical). At the end of the day, I don't see how (and people like Derrida, Deleuze and Foucault are on this argument too) Heidegger isn't doing metaphysics. And (as Deleuze and Derrida both very clearly say about Plato, and Spinoza and Marx say about theology), metaphysics is usually (whether aware of it or not) in the service of a politics. So yes, comparing Heidegger and Deleuze directly is comparing two different things, but I don't see any added value in retaining Heidegger, because he'll just say that enframing is the problem, which, since he applies it to everything about modernity, reduces to an empty concept. In other words, I don't see how Heidegger's problematic, with its insistence on the ontological difference, gives us the vocabulary or conceptual tools to talk about merely ontic things like differences in social power.