Category: Politics

Is the Gig Economy healthy?

Is the Gig Economy healthy?

That is the question posed in the fourth title in the Media Policy Brief series from the CAMRI Policy Observatory. In summary form it presents the results of a wide survey into mental health of musicians and patterns of work. It suggests that they and other creative industries workers’ may signal the growth of psychological issues for those operating under flexible working regimes and as automation continues to rise. Well-Being and Mental Health in the Gig Economy: Policy Perspectives on Precarity makes the case for considering the mental health outcomes for gig economy workers of policies affecting labour markets in the UK’s media and creative sectors. Authors Sally-Anne Gross, George Musgrave and Laima Janciute ask whether a more serious look at a universal basic income as suggested by the likes of Guy Standing is also called for. 

Using Open Access and a concise, easy-to-read format, this peer-reviewed series aims to make new research from the University of Westminster CAMRI media researchers available to the public, to policymakers, practitioners, journalists, activists and scholars both nationally and internationally.

 

Welcome (and Farewell) to Freedom

Welcome (and Farewell) to Freedom

Just published Riccardo Baldissone’s tour de force new book considers the meanings of liberty, freedom and related concepts. It ranges from classical texts to the present. From the introduction the author explains some of the transformations associated with the word and why a new vocabulary might be helpful even liberating. Farewell to Freedom is available in open access digital editions and available to order in print. 

“Actually, the notion of freedom is not even a Platonic invention, as the Greek word ἐλευθερία9 [eleutheria] is previously attested in Pindar: Plato improves and systematizes an already active process of production of abstractions. Havelock associates this process with the construction of the first Greek written alphabetical language, which the Socratic-Platonic semantic enquiries culminate. The book argues that before this process there is no literal freedom, but just free things, and then, free humans. When the word ἐλεύθερον [eleutheron], free, appears in the Homeric text, it does not grammatically refer to human subjects, but it metaphorically hints to their state: for example, we now translate the Homeric expression ἐλεύθερον ἧμαρ [eleutheron hēmar], literally free day, as the day of liberty, that is, the condition of freedom. Only in the fifth century BCE, does the appearance of the word eleutheria in two Pindaric odes herald a series of neologisms, such as, for example, Thucydides’ αὐτονομία [autonomia], which we now render in English as ‘autonomy.’ These terms become part of a wide constellation of locutions that construct a plurality of freedoms: a similar constellation also revolves around the Latin words liber, free, and libertas, liberty. Later on, Christian authors such as Augustine identify a proper freedom and relocate it in the afterlife, whilst associating its mundane limited exercise with will. As compared with the GraecoRoman and Germanic variously grounded notions of liberty and freedom, the Christian emphasis on individual salvation takes further the Stoic and Neoplatonist retreat towards interiority, and it produces a radical decontextualization of personal choice. After the turn of the first Christian millennium, medieval theological debates focus on freedom both as a divine faculty and as a secular practice. The latter aspect is also developed by lay legal scholars and political thinkers, following the recovery of Roman law codes and Greek philosophical texts. Paradoxically, Luther and Calvin’s stress on predestination allows then the redirection towards worldly tasks of individual agency, and its unlimited expansion. As early modern constructions of freedom emerge from a clash of religious fundamentalisms, despite their claim of absolute novelty they often recast medieval theological notions. However, seventeenth-century English parliamentary debates also revive the Roman phraseology of slavery, in order to articulate the concept of freedom as absence of dependence. This concept is formulated by Hobbes on the model of the new physics. In the eighteenth century, Rousseau follows Hobbes in reshaping medieval mystical bodies in the form of the general will. Moreover, he redefines freedom as the obedience to a self-prescribed rule. Similarly, Kant claims absolute autonomy through a voluntary subsumption of the individual under the universal.

German idealist thinkers’ inflation of the concept of freedom reveals it as a mere hyperbole, which can be realised either as absolute compulsion or in the absence of others. Hegel endeavours instead to capture freedom within a framework of evolving historical necessity. The reaction to the Hegelian dynamic totalization opens the way to a variety of theoretical challenges to the very notions of subject and will, which are the foundations of the medieval and modern constructions of freedom. From Stirner on, a veritable fault-line opens up in Western thought between the pursuit of a conceptual definition of liberty and the attempt to rethink freedom as the human production of novelty. Whilst Marx anchors this production to material processes, Nietzsche takes further Stirner’s questioning of ideas by challenging the unity of the Western subject. Nietzsche’s effort to reconstruct conceptual entities as processes allows us to revise the discourses of freedom in terms of human practices. In particular, a radical shift of the very locus of freedom and autonomy results from a double change of theoretical focus: Simondon rethinks individuals as processes of individuation, and Foucault constructs subjects as processes of subjectivation. These processual approaches undermine the raison d’être of the notions of freedom and autonomy: regulative properties such as freedom and autonomy only apply to an enclosed and selfconsistent entity – the individual, or the collective – as distinct from others, and they cannot fit subjectivation processes that are based on the constitutive participation with others. Hence, a new theoretical lexicon is needed to strike a dia-nomous middle path between autonomous and heteronomous alternatives: such a relational third way requires likewise relational notions. Of course, it may seem impossible to transcend the horizon of freedom: the very plurality of the discourses of liberty may rather appear to justify the hope in some understanding of freedom that transcends its pervasive neoliberal version. Nevertheless, also more articulate discourses of liberty can hardly face our current challenges, both in the public and the private sphere. For example, these discourses also still claim the freedom to exercise an absolute power over oneself – a mastery that in fact is their paradoxical cornerstone. If the discourses of freedom appear exhausted and even counterproductive, couldn’t we treasure instead the neoliberal unwitting demonstration of the performative power of words, and thus realise that other words may help catalyse other (and participative) practices? In this case, we could take advantage of our knowledge of the past to construct a different vocabulary, which may empower us to claim the life that we all deserve”.

(Reproduced without footnotes. The full text of the opening chapter ‘Antiquities before Christianities’ is available from the publisher’s site to view and download). DOI: https://doi.org/10.16997/book15a

China’s global media expansion reconsidered – major new WPCC issue

China’s global media expansion reconsidered – major new WPCC issue

A new WPCC issue re-evaluates China’s much debated ‘going-out’ strategy as it has developed. It extends the debate about China’s media expansion by focusing on the act of communicating the ‘going-out’ message and how it has been received by residents of Latin America, the USA and Africans studying in China.

Eleven contributions consider television news to radio, Twitter, the financial structures of Chinese internet firms alongside book reviews of publications on Chinese and global media politics offering new data and interview material as well as alerting readers to some of the most useful theoretical tools to develop understanding.

The issue is guest-edited by Vivien Marsh.

US Military Power and Financial Liquidity

US Military Power and Financial Liquidity

On the last day of the World Economic Forum in Davos an extract from Scott Timcke’s Capital, State, Empire offers a reminder of the interconnected worlds of the US military and international finance. From a section entitled ‘The Military Response to a ‘Global Power Shift’ this extract emphasises the role of the US navy as guarantor of the dominant incarnation of the ‘international order’. 

The purpose of the US Navy is not to expunge rivals, but to use the prospect of force to consolidate control over economic activity, and the standards and norms that govern that activity. David Graeber’s observations about military force and contemporary international political economy complement this view. He argues that a state can use their military power to control financial liquidity.

‘The essence of U.S. military predominance in the world is, ultimately, the fact that it can, at will, drop bombs, with only a few hours’ notice, at absolutely any point on the surface of the planet. No other government has ever had anything remotely like this sort of capability. In fact, a case could well be made that it is this very power that holds the entire world military system, organized around the dollar, together’. (Graeber 2011, 365)

To elaborate, the US uses their money supply to act as an international reserve currency. Much like how once Britain established the gold standard, the network externalities and path dependency of British imperial rule meant that other states had to consider the benefits of monetary convergence, so too do states have to weigh the incentives of monetary convergence on the US dollar. This technique is particularly effective when there is ‘gunboat’ issuing of US treasury bonds as a form of tribute together with the aggressive deployment of financial instruments and institutions in rolling out and maintaining US hegemony.

Considered from this vantage, what appears as the loss of centralized US control of capital is rather a strategy of indirect extraction that involves demanding that other states pay tribute to the US. Within this order, transnational enterprises are enabled by US policy to further entrench indirect rule. In return, the US, through the Navy and other agencies, provides security to corporations to do business. This is accomplished through either rigging international treaties, capturing international organizations, or lobbying and bullying for favourable business relations in host countries. In short, the US security state seeks to create global governing structures to maintain a rule in which other countries must abide, and in which labour is suppressed, and surpluses are channelled to the US.

REFERENCE

Graeber, David. 2011. Debt: The First 5000 Years. New York, NY: Melville House.

Capital, State, Empire: The New American Way of Digital Warfare is published open access, free to read and download by the University of Westminster Press. (July 2017)

Radio and Revolution from WPCC

Radio and Revolution from WPCC


A varied set of articles make up Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture’s latest issue featuring Gretchen King’s survey of the global history of community radio practices and Tiziano Bonini’s analysis of Açık Radyo in Turkey’s Gezi Park protests. Was Twitter or radio more important in the protests, he asks, and how did they reinforce each other’s impact? More contributions are to follow very shortly.

Radio’s role in the liberation movement in Zimbabwe is the subject of Everette Ndlovu’s commentary whereas the motivations of free radio practitioners in Barcelona are hailed in Lola Costa Gálvez’s commentary. She discovers a commitment to the value of non-profit radio as a space for articulating a plethora of views’ supported by music which is shared by an even longer and arguably even more politically charged history of Basque Country community radio analysed in the research article of Jason Diaux, Ion Andoni del Amo and Arkaitz Letamendia of the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU.

www.westminsterpapers.org
www.uwestminsterpress.co.uk

THE AMERICAN WAY OF DIGITAL WARFARE EXPLAINED

THE AMERICAN WAY OF DIGITAL WARFARE EXPLAINED


Just released from UWP is a new title in the Critical Digital and Social Media Studies series that offers an analysis of the USA’s historical impulse to weaponize communication technologies. Scott Timcke explores the foundations of this impulse and how the militarization of digital society creates structural injustices and social inequalities. He analyses how new digital communication technologies support American paramountcy and conditions for worldwide capital accumulation. Identifying selected features of contemporary American society, Capital, State, Empire undertakes a materialist critique of this digital society and of the New American Way of War. At the same time it demonstrates how the American security state represses activists—such as Black Lives Matter—who resist this emerging security leviathan. The book also critiques the digital positivism behind the algorithmic regulation used to control labour and further diminish prospects for human flourishing for the ‘99%’.

www.uwestminsterpress.co.uk