Forthcoming book: Christian Fuchs: Social Media. A Critical Introduction.

Fuchs, Christian. 2014. Social Media. A Critical Introduction. London: Sage.

Pre-order the book and more information: http://www.uk.sagepub.com/books/Book239467

Pre-order and inspection copy for a course: http://www.uk.sagepub.com/books/Book239467

Now more than ever, we need to understand social media – the good as well as the bad. We need critical knowledge that helps us to navigate the controversies and contradictions of this complex digital media landscape. Only then can we make informed judgements about what’s happening in our media world, and why.

Showing the reader how to ask the right kinds of questions about social media, Christian Fuchs takes us on a journey across social media, delving deep into case studies on Google, Facebook, Twitter, WikiLeaks and Wikipedia. The result lays bare the structures and power relations at the heart of our media landscape.

This book is the essential, critical guide for all students of media studies and sociology.  Readers will never look at social media the same way again.

Christian Fuchs is Professor of Social Media at the University of Westminster

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Social Media. A Critical Introduction
Table of Contents

1. What is a Critical Introduction to Social Media?

Social Media and the Arab Spring
Social Media and the Occupy Movement
Unpaid Work for the Huffington Post

1.1. What is Social about Social Media?
Information and Cognition
Communication
Community
Collaboration and Cooperative Work
Information, communication, collaboration and community are forms of sociality. But what is now social about Facebook?

1.2. What is Critical Thinking and Why Does it Matter?
Power
Asking Critical Questions about Social Media and the Arab Spring
Asking Critical Questions about Social Media and the Occupy Movement
Asking Critical Questions about Unpaid Work for the Huffington Post

1.3. What is Critical Theory?
You want me to read Karl Marx? Are you nuts? Why the hell should I do that?
So, you tell me that Marx invented the Internet?
How can one define critical theory?
1) Critical theory has a normative dimension
2) Critical theory is a critique of domination and exploitation
3) Critical theory uses dialectical reasoning as a method of analysis
4) Critical theory is connected to struggles for a just and fair society, it is an intellectual dimension of struggles
5) Ideology critique: Critical theory is a critique of ideology
6) Critical theory is a critique of the political economy

1.4. Critical Theory Approaches
The Frankfurt School – Not a Sausage, but a Critical Theory!
Critical Political Economy of Media and Communication – Studying the Media and Communication Critically
Critical Political Economy and the Frankfurt School are two Critical Theories. But do we really need two of them?
Critical Theory and Critique of the Political Economy of Social Media

Recommended Readings and Exercises

I. FOUNDATIONS

2. What is Social Media?

2.1. Web 2.0 and Social Media
Web 2.0
Critiques of Web 2.0 and Social Media Optimism
How New are Social Media?

2.2. The Need of Social Theory for Understanding Social Media
Definitions of Web 2.0 and Social Media
Media and Social Theory
Émile Durkheim: The Social as Social Facts
Max Weber: The Social as Social Relations
Ferdinand Tönnies: The Social as Community
Karl Marx: The Social as Cooperative Work

2.3. Explaining Social Media with Durkheim, Weber, Marx and Tönnies
A Model of Human Sociality
Web 1.0, Web 2.0, Web 3.0
Empirically Studying Changes of the Web

2.4. Conclusion

Recommended Readings and Exercises

3. Social Media as Participatory Culture

3.1. The Notion of Participation and Participatory Culture
Social Media as Spreadable Media
Participatory Culture
Participatory Democracy
Ignoring Ownership, Capitalism and Class: Cultural and Political Reductionism
White Boys with “Participatory” Toys

3.2. Online Fan Culture and Politics
Fan Culture as Politics?
Is Online Fascism Participatory Culture?

3.3. Social Media and Participatory Culture
Social Media Capitalism
YouTube
Blogs

3.4. Henry Jenkins and Digital Labour
Dallas Smythe, Digital Labour and Henry Jenkins
Social Media and Fans, Fans, Fans – Did Occupy, the Arab Spring and WikiLeaks Never Happen?

3.5. Conclusion

Recommended Readings and Exercises

4. Social Media and Communication Power

4.1. Social Theory in the Information Age
What is Social Theory?
Castells: Social Theorist of the Internet in the Information Society?

4.2. Communication Power in the Network Society
Castells on Power: An Essential Feature of All Societies?
Communication Power and Technocratic Language

4.3. Communication Power, Social Media and Mass Self-Communication
Mass Self-Communication
Autonomy
Power and Counterpower on the Internet and Social Media
Media Power as Cultural Power: John B. Thompson
Media Power as Multidimensional Form of Economic, Political and Cultural Power
The Asymmetric Dialectic of Media Power
The Stratified Online Sphere
Web 2.0 and 3.0

4.4. Communication Power in the Arab Spring and the Occupy Movement
2011: The Year of the Rebirth of History and Dangerous Dreaming
The Arab Spring and Occupy
Twitter and Facebook Revolutions?
Castells Falsified: Empirical Research on the Role of the Media in Social Movements
Jeffrey Juris, Paolo Gerbaudo and Miriyam Aouragh: For or against Castells?

4.5. Conclusion

Recommended Readings and Exercises

II. APPLICATIONS

5. The Power and Political Economy of Social Media

5.1. Social Media as Ideology: The Limits of the Participatory Social Media Hypothesis
Social Media: Participation as Ideology
The Limits of YouTube
The Limits of Facebook
The Limits of Google
The Limits of Twitter
The Corporate Colonization of Social Media

5.2. The Cycle of Capital Accumulation

5.3. Capital Accumulation and Social Media
Relative Surplus Value
Prosumption
Dallas Smythe, the Audience Commodity and Internet Prosumer Commodification
Prosumer Surveillance
Panoptic Sorting of Internet Prosumers
Capital Accumulation on Corporate Social Media
The Profit Rate and Social Media
The Rate of Exploitation and Social Media
Value and Social Media
Information – A Peculiar Good
Social Media Work
The Social Media Prosumer Commodity’s Price
The Law of Value on Social Media
Possible Breakdown and Alternatives

5.4. Free Labour and Slave Labour
The Social Factory
The Social Factory Online
The iSlave behind the iPhone
The Joy of the Phone and Computer in the West is the Blood and Sweat of Africans and Asians
The Knowledge Labour Aristocracy
The Internet as Division of Labour

5.5. Conclusion

Recommended Readings and Exercises

6. Google. Good or Evil Search Engine?

6.1. Introduction
The Ubiquity of Google
The Uncritical Celebration of Google
Scepticism towards Google

6.2. Google’s Political Economy
Google’s Economic Power
Google and the Capitalist Crisis
The Wealth and Power of Google’s Owners
How Google Accumulates Capital
Google as a Surveillance Machine
A Model of Society for Understanding Data Stored By Google
A Typology of the Data Google Monitors and Commodifies

6.3. Googology: Google and Ideology
The Ideology of the 20% Rule
Biopolitical Exploitation
Evgeny Morozov: Internet Solutionism
Ideologies Online: Internet Fetishism and Technological Online Rationality
Oscar Gandy: Rational Discrimination and Cumulative Disadvantage
Internet Fetishism and the Global Crisis
Stuart Hall Revisited: The Internet as Ideological Culture of Control
The Ideology of Google’s Privacy Policy
Google DoubleClick
Google+: Google and Social Networking Sites
The EU’s Data Protection Regulation
Google’s 2012 Privacy Policy
Sensitive Personal Data
Complex Terms of Use

6.4. Work at Google
Work at Google: Fun and Good Food?
The Reality of Work at Google: Working Long Hours
Working Long Hours? Never Mind, just Sleep under your Desk, as Former Google Vice-President Marissa Mayer Does…

6.5. Google: God and Satan in One Company
Marx and the Antagonism between Productive Forces and Relations of Production
Google in and Beyond Capitalism

6.6. Conclusion

Recommended Readings and Exercises

7. Facebook. A Surveillance Threat to Privacy?

7.1. Facebook’s Financial Power
Facebook’s Profits
2012: Facebook’s Decreasing Profits and Increasing Revenues

7.2. The Notion of Privacy
Different Definitions of Privacy
Criticisms of Privacy
Privacy: A Bourgeois Value?
Privacy and Surveillance
An Alternative Notion of Privacy

7.3. Facebook and Ideology
Like as Facebook Ideology: “I Like Auschwitz”
The Liberal Fetishism of Privacy
Privacy Fetishism in Research about Facebook

7.4. Privacy and the Political Economy of Facebook
Privacy and Private Property

7.4.1. Facebook’s Privacy Policy
Critical Discourse Analysis
Self-Regulation
Privacy Policy
Unambiguous Consent?
Opt-out?
Targeted Advertising
Instant Personalization

7.4.2. Exploitation on Facebook
Commodification and Digital Labour on Facebook
Surveillance and Privacy Violations on Facebook
The Private on Facebook: Private Ownership

7.5. Conclusion
Facebook: Ideology and Political Economy
Diaspora*: An Alternative to Facebook?

Recommended Readings and Exercises

8. Twitter. A New Public Sphere?

8.1. Habermas’ Concept of the Public Sphere
What is the Public Sphere?
The Working Class Critique of the Public Sphere Concept
The Feminist Critique of the Public Sphere Concept
The Public Sphere: Political Communication and Political Economy
Habermas: No Idealization of the Public Sphere, but rather Public Sphere as Concept of Immanent Critique

8.2. Twitter, Social Media and the Public Sphere
Clay Shirky: Social Media as Radically New Enhancers of Freedom
Zizi Papacharissi: The Idealization of Individualization: The Private Sphere
Jodi Dean: Social Media Politics as Ideology
Malcolm Gladwell: Social Media – No Natural Enemies of the Status Quo
Evgeny Morozov: Social Media and Slacktivism/Clicktivism
Shirky’s Response to Gladwell and Morozov

8.3. Political Communication on Twitter
The Stratification of Twitter and Microblog Usage
The Asymmetrical Power of Visibility on Twitter
The Degree of Interactivity of Political Communication on Twitter
The 2011 Protests and Revolutions: Twitter and Facebook Revolutions?
The Role of Social Media in the Egyptian Revolution
The Role of Social Media in the Occupy Wall Street Movement

8.4. Twitter’s Political Economy
Twitter’s Terms of Service and Targeted Advertising
Capital Accumulation on Twitter

8.5. @JürgenHabermas #Twitter #PublicSphere
The Public Sphere and Political Communication on Twitter
The Public Sphere and the Visibility of the Powerful on Twitter
The Pseudo- and Manufactured Public Sphere

8.6. Conclusion
Technological Determinism
A Dialectical Concept of Technology and Society
A Model of (Social) Media and Revolution
Summary

Recommended Readings and Exercises

9. WikiLeaks. Can We Make Power Transparent?

9.1. WikiLeaks and Power
Uncritical Definitions of Surveillance
WikiLeaks and the Value-Neutral Definition of Surveillance
Critical Definitions of Surveillance
Foucault on Disciplinary Power
WikiLeaks and Critical Theory
WikiLeaks, Watchdogs and Transparency
WikiLeaks: Watching the Watchers Online
Theories of Power
WikiLeaks and the Power of Visibility
The Structural Discrimination of Watchdog Organizations

9.2. Wikileaks, Liberalism and Socialism
What is Liberalism?
What is Socialism?
WikiLeaks and Political Worldviews
“Good Governance”
Watching Corporate Power

9.3. WikiLeaks, Journalism and Alternative Media
What is a Journalist?
WikiLeaks and Mainstream Media
Economic, Political and Cultural Censorship of WikiLeaks
WikiLeaks: An Alternative Medium?

9.4. Conclusion

Recommended Readings and Exercises

10. Wikipedia. A New Democratic Form of Production?

10.1. The Communist Idea
The Return of Marx
Three Dimensions of Communism
The Subjective Dimension
The Objective Dimension
Communism = Participatory Democracy
The Subject-Object Dimension

10.2. Communication and Communism
The Communication Commons
The Commons-Based Internet

10.3. The Political Economy of Wikipedia

10.3.1. The Subjective Dimension of Wikipedia Production: Co-operative Labour

10.3.2. The Objective Dimensions of Wikipedia Production
The Common Ownership of the Means of Production
Relations of Production: Participatory Democracy in the Economic Realm
The Use-Value of Wikipedia: Free Content

10.3.3. The Effect Dimension of Wikipedia Production: The Pleasure of Co-operative Intellectual Work

10.4. Conclusion

Recommended Readings and Exercises

III. FUTURES

11. Conclusion: Social Media and its Alternatives – Towards a Truly Social Media

11.1. Social Media Reality: Ideologies and Exploitation
Ideology
Exploitation
Social Media: Anticipative and Limited Sociality

11.2. Social Media Alternatives
The Internet and the Logic of the Commons
Capitalism, Neoliberalism, Crisis
Struggles

11.2.1. Data Protection Laws

11.2.2. Opt-In Advertising Policies

11.2.3. Corporate Watch-Platforms as Form of Struggle against Corporatism

11.2.4. Alternative Internet Platforms

11.3. Towards a Truly Social Media and a New Society

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Social Media, Politics and the State

Announcement of a forthcoming collected volume (2014):
Social Media, Politics and the State: Protests, Revolutions, Riots, Crime and Policing in the Age of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Edited by Daniel Trottier and Christian Fuchs
New York: Routledge
http://www.routledge.com



This book is the essential guide for understanding how state power and politics are contested and exercised on social media. It brings together contributions by social media scholars who explore the connection of social media with revolutions, uprising, protests, power and counter-power, hacktivism, the state, policing and surveillance.
It shows how collective action and state power are related and conflict as two dialectical sides of social media power, and how power and counter-power are distributed in this dialectic. The collection features research that considers the two-sided contradictory nature of power in relation to social media and politics, is theoretically focused, critical in nature and empirically rich and rigorous. The chapters cover social media in the context of phenomena such as contemporry revolutions in Egypt and other countries, populism 2.0, anti-austerity protests, the fascist movement in Greece’s crisis, Anonymous and police surveillance.

Chapter 1: Introduction (Daniel Trottier and Christian Fuchs)

Section One: State Power and Civil Counter-Power

Social media are platforms for social life, including conflicts between states and civil society. These conflicts are situated in contexts that include local, national and transnational protests against regimes and austerity measures. Sometimes these conflicts are less tangible, as in the case of civil society movements such as Anonymous and Wikileaks. Conflict between states and civil society are also manifest at the level of policing and intelligence, which increasingly criminalize social media platforms. These opening chapters provide a broad scope of the kinds of contexts and struggles that chapters in subsequent sections address in greater detail.

Chapter 2: Thank you, Facebook. A critical discussion on democratic and communicative practices in the global uprisings (Donatella Della Porta and Alice Mattoni)

Chapter 3: Populism 2.0: social media and popular movements between homogenisation and disintermediation (Paolo Gerbaudo)

Section Two: Civil Counter-Power Against Austerity

The global economic crisis is implicated in most contemporary protest. In response to proposed austerity measures, some civil society movements target national governments that seek to cut services, while others target transnational groups such as the G8 and G20. Still other movements use the crisis as justification to promote racist and fascist views, including violence against visible minorities. One common feature to these movements is their reliance on digital media to organize and communicate. This section considers how platforms like Facebook, but also protest-specific platforms are used to promote anti-austerity movements, while making those movements visible to nation states.

Chapter 4: Web 2.0 Nazi Propaganda: Golden Dawn’s Affect, Spectacle and Identity Constructions in Social Media (Panos Kompatsiaris and Yiannis Mylonas)

Chapter 5: More than an electronic soapbox: Activist web presence as a collective action frame, newspaper source and police surveillance tool during the London G20 protests in 2009 (Jonathan Cable)

Chapter 6: Counter-Hegemonic Surveillance Assemblages: Live Streaming Critiques of Capital and the State in the Quebec Spring (Elise Danielle Thorburn)

Section Three: Anonymous as Global Civil Counter-Power

Some state conflicts are not bound to national borders. Global civil society movements such as Anonymous and Wikileaks challenge political order on a regional, national, and transnational scale. Yet they are not centered in any particular country, and their membership is deliberately obscured. This section addresses the extent to which social media is implicated in these struggles.

Chapter 7: Anti-social Networking: Toward a Critical Political Economic Critique of Anonymous and the “New Hacktivism” (Ashley Fogle)

Chapter 8: Anonymous: Hacktivism and Contemporary Politics (Christian Fuchs)

Section Four: Contested and Toppled State Power

This section considers the role that social media plays at the national/regime level, that is, where conflict exists between a nation’s government and population. Social media platforms allow citizens to organize protest movements, and arguably play a role in challenging regimes. But state regimes benefit from surveillance technologies that allow them to monitor these movements.

Chapter 9: Creating spaces for dissent: The role of social media in the 2011 Egyptian revolution (Sara Salem
)

Chapter 10: Social media activism and state censorship (Thomas Poell)

Section Five: State Power as Policing and Intelligence

Social media, when coupled with mobile devices, make visible instances of police abuse and corruption. They can also be used by citizens to police one another in a kind of crowdsourced criminal justice. Yet these same platforms also make social life visible to law enforcement and state intelligence agencies. This section considers the coexistence of police power and citizen counter-power on digital media.

Chapter 11: Police ‘Image Work’ in an Era of Social Media (Christopher J. Schneider)

Chapter 12: Policing Social Media: Crowd-sourced and Consolidated Efforts (Daniel Trottier)

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Collected volume “Critique, Social Media & the Information Society” (ed. Christian Fuchs and Marisol Sandoval)

Collected volume “Critique, Social Media & the Information Society” (ed. Christian Fuchs and Marisol Sandoval)

http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415841856/

Marisol Sandoval and I have finished the editorial work for the collected volume “Critique, Social Media & the Information Society” and have submitted it to Routledge. The book presents selected contributions from the 4th ICTs and Society Conference (also known as the “Uppsala conference”) “Critique, Democracy & Philosophy in 21st Century Information Society. Towards Critical Theories of Social Media” (see http://www.icts-and-society.net/events/uppsala2012/ ).

The volume features contributions by Andrew Feenberg, Catherine McKercher, Christian Fuchs, Graham Murdock, Gunilla Bradley, Jernej Amon Prodnik, Margareta Melin, Marisol Sandoval, Mark Andrejevic, Nick Dyer-Witheford, Peter Dahlgren, Robert Prey, Seven Sevignani, Thomas Allmer, Tobias Olsson, Verena Kreilinger, Vincent Mosco, Wolfgang Hofkirchner.

A draft of the editors’ introduction “Critique, Social Media & the Information Society in the Age of Capitalist Crisis” is available here:
http://fuchs.uti.at/wp-content/1_Introduction_draft.pdf

Critique, Social Media & the Information Society
Edited by Christian Fuchs and Marisol Sandoval
Routledge
http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415841856/
Hardcover (the paperback will be released 6 months after the hardback edition)

The critical guide to social media and the information society in turbulent times!
This book presents a unique collection of articles that advance a multifaceted critical perspective on the information society, the Internet, social media and communication labour. It illustrates the importance of critical thinking for making sense of media and communication in times of capitalist crisis, the neoliberal commodification of everything and social uprisings.

Contents

1. Christian Fuchs and Marisol Sandoval: Introduction: Critique, Social Media & the Information Society in the Age of Crisis Capitalism

I. Critical Studies of the Information Society

2. Christian Fuchs: Critique of the Political Economy of Informational Capitalism and Social Media

3. Wolfgang Hofkirchner: Potentials and Risks for Creating a Global Sustainable Information Society

4. Sebastian Sevignani, Robert Prey, Marisol Sandoval, Thomas Allmer, Jernej A. Prodnik, Verena Kreilinger: Critical Studies of Contemporary Informational Capitalism. The Perspective of Emerging Scholars

5. Gunilla Bradley: Social Informatics and Ethics: Towards the Good Information and Communication Society

II. Critical Internet- and Social Media-Studies

6. Andrew Feenberg: Great Refusal or Long March: How to Think About the Internet.

7. Graham Murdock: Producing Consumerism: Commodities, Ideologies, Practices

8. Marisol Sandoval: Social Media? The Unsocial Character of Capitalist Media

9. Nick Dyer-Witheford: The Global Worker and the Digital Front

10. Mark Andrejevic: Alienation’s Returns

11. Peter Dahlgren: Social Media and Political Participation: Discourse and Deflection

12. Tobias Olsson: “The Architecture of Participation”: For Citizens or Consumers?

III. Critical Studies of Communication Labour

13. Catherine McKercher: Precarious Times, Precarious Work. A Feminist Political Economy of Freelance Journalists in Canada and the United States.

14. Margareta Melin: Flight as Fight: Re-Negotiating the Work of Journalism

15. Vincent Mosco: Marx is Back, but Will Knowledge Workers of the World Unite? On the Critical Study of Labour, Media and Communication Today

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Forthcoming Book: Digital Labour and Karl Marx

Forthcoming Book: Digital Labour and Karl Marx

I have signed a contract with Routledge for the book “Digital Labour and Karl Marx” and have submitted the manuscript. It has 150 000 words and is scheduled for being published by the end of 2013.

Christian Fuchs
Digital Labour and Karl Marx
Routledge
This books advances a Marxist theory of digital labour that is applied to the cases of ICT mineral slave workers in Africa, hardware assemblers in the Chinese Foxconn factories,, Indian software engineers, call centre agents, Google and other employees in Silicon Valley, unpaid social media prosumers. It also discusses the new working class struggles of Occupy and other movements for a democratic society and democratic Internet and provides a glossary of digital labour keywords.

Book blurb:
How is labour changing in the age of computers, the Internet, and “social media” such as Facebook, Google, YouTube and Twitter? In Digital Labour and Karl Marx, Christian Fuchs attempts to answer that question, crafting a systematic critical theorisation of labour as performed in the capitalist ICT industry. Relying on a range of global case studies – from unpaid social media prosumers or Chinese hardware assemblers at Foxconn to miners in the Democratic Republic of Congo – Fuchs sheds light on the labour costs of digital media, examining the way ICT corporations exploit human labour and the impact of this exploitation on the lives, bodies, and minds of workers.

Structure/Contents
Digital Labour and Karl Marx
Christian Fuchs

1. Introduction
1.1. The Need for Studying Digital Labour
1.2. The Disappearance and Return of Karl Marx
I. THEORETICAL FOUNDATIONS OF STUDYING DIGITAL LABOUR
2. An Introduction to Karl Marx’s Theory
2.1. Introduction
2.2. Marx on Work and Labour
2.2.1. Work and Labour in Society
2.2.2. Labour in Class Societies and Capitalism
2.2.3. Work in Communism
2.3. Marx’s Labour Theory of Value
2.3.1. The German Debate on Marx’s Labour Theory of Value
2.3.2. A Reconstruction of Marx’s Labour Theory of Value
2.3.2.1. Use-Value and Value
2.3.2.2. Exchange-Value
2.3.2.3. Money and Price
2.3.2.4. The Value and Price of Labour Power
2.3.2.5. Surplus Value
2.4. Conclusion

3. Contemporary Cultural Studies and Karl Marx
3.1. Introduction
3.2. Lawrence Grossberg: Cultural Studies in the Future Tense
3.3. John Hartley: Digital Futures for Cultural and Media Studies
3.4. The Renewal of Cultural Studies
3.5. Conclusion

4. Dallas Smythe and Audience Labour Today
4.1. Introduction
4.2. The Importance of Critical Political Economy, Critical Theory and Dallas Smythe
4.3. The Renewal of the Audience Labour and Audience Commodity Debate
4.4. Digital Labour: Capital Accumulation and Commodification on Social Media
4.5. Ideology, Play and Digital Labour
4.6. A Critique of the Critique of Digital Labour
4.7. Conclusion

5. Capitalism or Information Society?
5.1. Introduction
5.2. A Classification of Information Society Theories
5.3. An Alternative View of the Information Society
5.4. Information Society Indicators: Measuring the Information Society
5.5. Conclusion

II. ANALYSING DIGITAL MEDIA: CASE STUDIES

6. Digital Slavery: Slave Work in ICT-Related Mineral Extraction
6.1. Introduction
6.2. Marx on Modes of Production
6.2.1. Unpaid Work in the Family as Mode of Production
6.2.2. Ancient and Feudal Slavery as Modes of Production
6.2.3. The Capitalist Mode of Production
6.2.4. Informational Productive Forces
6.3. Digital Media and Minerals
6.4. The Productive Forces of Mineral Extraction in the Global Value Chain of the ICT Industry. Labour Power and the Objects, Tools and Products of Labour
6.5. The Relations of Production of Mineral Extraction in the Global Value Chain of the ICT Industry
6.6. Conclusion

7. Exploitation at Foxconn: Primitive Accumulation and the Formal Subsumption of Labour
7.1. Introduction
7.2. The Productive Forces of Foxconn in the Global Value Chain of the ICT Industry. Labour Power and the Objects, Tools and Products of Labour
7.3. The Relations of Production of Foxconn in the Global Value Chain of the ICT Industry
7.4. Conclusion

8. The Division of Labour of the New Imperialism: Work in the Indian Software Industry
8.1. Introduction
8.2. The Productive Forces of the Indian Software Industry in the Global Value Chain of the ICT Industry. Labour Power and the Objects, Tools and Products of Labour
8.3. The Relations of Production of the Indian Software Industry in the Global Value Chain of the ICT Industry
8.4. Conclusion

9. The Silicon Valley of Dreams and Nightmares of Exploitation: The Google Labour Aristocracy and its Context
9.1. Introduction
9.2. The Productive Forces of Silicon Valley in the Global Value Chain of the ICT Industry. Labour Power and the Objects, Tools and Products of Labour
9.3. The Relations of Production of Google in the Global Value Chain of the ICT Industry
9.4. Conclusion

10. Tayloristic, Housewifised Service Labour: The Example of Call Centre Work
10.1. Introduction
10.2. The Productive Forces of the Call Centre in the Global Value Chain of the ICT Industry. Labour Power and the Objects, Tools and Products of Labour
10.3. The Relations of Production of the Call Centre in the Global Value Chain of the ICT Industry
10.4. Conclusion

11. Theorising Digital Labour on Social Media
11.1. Introduction
11.2. Users and the Productive Forces in the Global Value Chain of the ICT Industry. Labour Power and the Objects, Tools and Products of Labour
11.3. Users and the Relations of Production in the Global Value Chain of the ICT Industry
11.3.1. Digital Work
11.3.2. Digital Labour
11.3.3. Digital Labour and the Law of Value
11.4. Conclusion

III. CONCLUSIONS

12. Digital Labour and Struggles for Digital Work – The Occupy Movement as a New Working Class Movement? Social Media as Working Class Social Media?
12.1. Conclusion of Chapters 2-11
12.2. Digital Work and the Commons
12.3. The Occupy Movement: A New Working Class Movement?
12.3.1. Social Movement Theory
12.3.2. The Occupy Movement in Contemporary Political Theory
12.3.3. The Occupy Movement’s Self-Understanding
12.3.4. What is the Occupy Movement?
12.4. Occupy, Digital Work and Working Class Social Media
12.4.1. Social Movements, the Internet and Social Media
12.4.2. The Occupy Movement and Social Media
12.4.2.1. Position 1 – Technological Determinism: The Occupy Movement (and other Rebellions) are Internet Rebellions.
12.4.2.2. Position 2 – Social Constructivism: We have been Witnessing Social Rebellions and Social Revolutions, where Social Media Have Had Minor Importance. Social Media are No Relevant Factor in Rebellions.
12.4.2.3. Position 3: Dualism: Social Media have been an Important Tool of the Occupy Movement. There are Technological and Societal Causes of the Movement.
12.4.2.4. Position 4: Social Media and Contradictions: A Dialectical View
12.4.3. A Theoretical Classification of Social Media Use in the Occupy Movement
12.5. Conclusion

13. Digital Labour Keywords
65 keywords for studying digital labour (starting with “Abstract and concrete labour”, ending with “Work”)

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How Ideology is Policing the Crisis of European Capitalism

How Ideology is Policing the Crisis of European Capitalism
Christian Fuchs

Written for the Greek magazine ΒΑΒΥΛΩΝΙΑ (Babylonia)

Times of crisis are times, where ideologies tend to flourish. We can take the current ongoing crisis as an example.

 

1. Dangerous Immigrants?

UK Politics enter the stage.

In Britain, fears of illegal immigrants taking away British jobs and receiving social services without paying taxes have been massively stirred. Home Secretary Theresa May said: “The aim is to create here in Britain a really hostile environment for illegal migration […] Within the EU, in a wider context, people are increasingly recognising the need to prevent the abuse of free movement”[1]. And not only immigrants are perceived as the problem causing the crisis, but also the unemployed: “I think it’s time to look back at some of the things we’ve already achieved. Welfare reform, so never again will it make sense to sit at home instead of getting a job”[2]. May’s argument is that immigration needs to be curbed in order to preserve Englishness and because immigration in her view results in low wages, the displacement of jobs and lack of social cohesion: “But first, it’s important to explain why we want to control immigration. […] It’s because, if we want our communities to be real communities, with a shared pride in our British identity instead of fragmented, separate identities, we have to understand that a nation is more than a market, and human beings are more than economic units. […] Uncontrolled, mass immigration undermines social cohesion. And in some places, it overburdens our infrastructure and public services. It’s behind more than a third of the demand for all new housing in the UK.  And the pressure it places on schools is clear. We see it in London where almost half of all primary school children speak English as a second language. And we must be honest about the fact that, in some cases, uncontrolled mass immigration can displace local workers and undercut wages”[3].

May’s rhetoric is not so different from the one of the UK Independence Party (UKIP). For the UKIP the causes of the current crisis are the European Union and immigrants. Explaining what it stands for, the UKIP says: “These are anxious and troubled times. As crisis has followed crisis our politicians are seen to be impotent in the face of the dangers rearing up all around us. Violent crime erupts in our cities. Jobs are lost and services failing under a tide of immigration, pensions have been crippled and cash savings yield almost nothing. UKIP alone holds that the rescue of the British people depends on withdrawal from the EU to regain our self-governing democracy so allowing the relief of business from crushing regulation and the less well off from the burden of taxes, shutting off the flood of immigrants and freeing enterprise”[4]. David Cameron argued that he would close the UK borders for Greek immigrants if the Eurozone collapsed: “I would be prepared to do whatever it takes to keep our country safe, to keep our banking system strong, to keep our economy robust. At the end of the day as prime minister that is your foremost duty”[5].

 

2. Dangerous Southern Europeans?

Germany enters the political stage.

The ideology of the Greek threat has been tremendously flourishing in the country formerly ruled by Hitler. Briefly before the Greek elections in 2012, Financial Times Germany published a warning on its first page in both Greek and German, in which it urged Greek citizens not to vote for Syriza. The call was titled “Resist the demagogues” and said: “Dear Greeks, provide clear political conditions. Vote courageously for the reform agenda instead of angrily against necessary, painful structural adjustments. […] Resist the demagogy of Alex Tsipras and his Syriza. […] Your country final needs a functioning state. In order that it can be orderly ruled, we recommend Nea Dimokratia”[6]. The Financial Times’ basic argument is that Syriza is populist and does not understand that the problem is a corrupt and bureaucratic Greek state and that a left government will result in chaos.

Angela Merkel has advanced an ideology that puts hard-working Germans against the claim of the existence of lazy Southern Europeans. “It is also important that in countries such as Greece, Spain, Portugal one should not be able to retire earlier than in Germany, but that all are making a bit of the same effort – this is important. […] We cannot have one currency and one gets a lot of holidays and the other very little. This does not go well together over time”[7]. On another occasion, Merkel argued: “Living beyond one’s means is the ultimate cause of the problem”[8]. So Southern Europeans in her view are not only lazy and not working, Merkel agrees with the Financial Times that in her view Southern Europeans do not know how to run a state and continuously overspend money that they have not earned in the first instance because they do not work, which requires Germany to pay for everything.

The German cabaret artist Gerhard Polt (http://www.poltseite.de/) has expressed Germany’s obsessive ideology that it pays for everything in a satirical way: “We pay everything. Everything gets paid. We pay and pay. If somewhere in Asia a desert dries out, who pays it? We! If a brothel burns in Taiwan, we also pay it! We pay everything! […] The chancellor smokes a Havanna, and who pays it? Definitely not Castro, we have to pay it!”[9]

The jingoist prejudices were also amplified by the German press with the right-wing tabloid Bild Zeitung taking the lead. Some of its headlines said: “Greek crisis: Bankrupt Greeks won’t get a cent from us!” (March 4th, 2012). “Germany is to pay €18 billion! Greece is for the German taxpayer a financial nightmare! 18 billion Euros from Germany for the bankrupt Greeks” (April 21st, 2010). “Greece-bankruptcy: This is how the Greeks burn the Euro. […] The Greeks are living far beyond their abilities” (February 28th, 2010)[10].

The same kind of ideological arguments that focus on overspending and blaming everyday people was followed up in the German political and media discourse in the discussion of Cyprus’ crisis. Bild wrote for example: “Cyprus has the presidency of the EU Council since today. A bankruptcy-island takes over the power in Europe” (July 1st, 2012). Angela Merkel commented on the plan that everyone having a bank account in Cyrus should pay for the financial rescue of the country that this is a good idea because “those responsible can partly be included and not only the tax payers of other countries’. […]. This is a good step that will definitely make it easier for us to agree to a help for Cyprus”[11]. Merkel did not comment on the circumstance that her statement implies that the Cyprian man and woman on the street are responsible for the crisis.

 

3. Dangerous Capitalism!

Dominant ideologies explain and reduce the crisis to immigrants, European bureaucracy, an alleged laziness of Southern European, the claim that Southern Europeans are lazy, overspend money, do not know how to run a state and the economy and the claim that left-wing parties and movements bring chaos. The conclusion is that hard-working Germans (or other Europeans) have to pay the prize to correct the incapability of Southern Europeans. These discourses are overtly racist, nationalist, chauvinist and shortsighted. They avoid talking about capitalism, class and social inequality.

The rise of neoliberalism has been accompanied by a deregulation of financial markets, an encouragement of financial speculation and a massive redistribution of wealth from wages to profits. By class struggle from above capital managed to increase its profits by relatively decreasing wages. The resulting profits were to a certain degree invested into financial markets and high-risk financial instruments, which increased the crisis-proneness, instability and volatility of capitalism. Comparing the years 1970 and 2013, the wage share, which is the share of wages in the GDP, decreased in the following way in selected European countries (adjusted wage share as percentage of GDP at current market prices, data source: AMECO).

Country 2013 1970
EU15 58.4% 63.4%
Germany 58.6% 61.1%
Ireland 49.3% 67.2%
Greece 47% 64.8%
Spain 52.3% 64.2%
France 58.9% 63%
Italy 54.7% 65.4%
Cyprus 52.4% N/A
Portugal 55.6% 72.5%
United Kingdom 64.2% 65.5%
Finland 58.8% 63.1%
USA 58.2% 65.9%

Table 1: Adjusted wage share as percentage of GDP at current market prices, data source: AMECO, data source: AMECO

The data show that in the past 40 years, capitalist class struggle from above has all over Europe resulted in a relative decrease of wages. This struggle has especially been intense in countries such as Greece, Spain, Ireland and Cyprus, where the wage share dropped from values around 65% in 1970 to values around 50% in 2013. But also the wages in almost all either European countries were affected, although to different degrees. Wages in the USA were undergoing a similar development as in Europe.

How have profits developed in parallel with the relative fall of wages in Europe? Net operating surplus is a variable that measures the gross value added of an economy minus fixed capital investments minus wage costs minus capital taxation. Calculating the share of net operating surplus in the value of GDP minus net operating surplus gives an estimation of capital’s net profit rates:

Net profit rate = Net operating surplus / (GDP – Net operating surplus)

Net operation surplus (NOS): total economy in national currency GDP in current market prices in national currency GDP – NOS Profit rate
1970 205.3 763.7 558.4 36.8%
1980 555.4 2537.8 1982.4 28.0%
1990 1357.1 5449.1 4092 33.2%
2000 2115.1 8760.3 6645.2 31.9%
2007 2949 11531.8 8582.8 34.4%
2008 2860 11478.6 8618.6 33.2%
2009 2476.6 10876.9 8400.3 29.5%
2010 2661.3 11332.9 8671.6 30.7%
2011 2715 11650.6 8935.6 30.4%
2012 2688.1 11898.9 9210.8 29.2%
2013 2690.6 11990.7 9300.1 28.9%

Table 2: Macroeconomic data for the development of profits in the EU 15 countries (data source: AMECO)

Net operation surplus (NOS): total economy in national currency GDP in current market prices in national currency GDP – NOS Profit rate
1970 219.3 1024.8 805.5 27.2%
1980 560.5 2767.5 2207 25.4%
1990 1298.5 5754.8 4456.3 29.1%
2000 2444.9 9898.8 7453.9 32.8%
2007 3437.5 13961.8 10524.3 32.7%
2008 3375.5 14219.3 10843.8 31.1%
2009 3218.4 13898.3 10679.9 30.1%
2010 3627 14419.4 10792.4 33.6%
2011 3767.6 14991.3 11223.7 33.6%
2012 4021 15589.6 11568.6 34.8%
2013 4248.6 16123.5 11874.9 35.8%

Table 3: Macroeconomic data for the development of profits in the USA (data source: AMECO)

In 1980, the profit rate was 1.8% lower in the USA than in 1970 and 8.8% lower in the EU 15 countries. What followed was the rise of neoliberal politics in the USA and Europe. The wage rate in the USA and Europe continued to decline: It was 65.7% in the EU 15 countries in 1980, 61% in 1990 and 58.9% in 2000 (AMECO). In the USA the values were 65.1% in 1980 and 63.2% in 2000 (AMECO). At the same time the profit rate rose from 25.4% in the USA in 1980 to 32.8% in 2000 and from 28.0% in 1980 in the EU 15 countries to 33.2% in 1990, 31.9% in 2000 and 34.4% in 2007 (AMECO). Whereas capital was having constantly high growth rates during the 1980s and 1990s and 2000s, wages stagnated or relatively declined. Neoliberalism increased the wealth of corporations at the expense of labour. In the USA, the profit rate fell to 30.1% in 2009 as an effect of the crisis, but was at a high of around 35% in 2012. In the EU 15 countries, high profit rates around 35% before the crisis were reduced to around 30% in the years after the crisis. The all-presence of austerity talk and austerity measures in the European Union can be explained as the attempt to increase profit rates by further decreasing wages, cutting public expenditures that mainly benefit workers, increases taxes paid by employees, etc. There is also economic competition between Europe and the USA, where profit rates have been increasing faster after the crisis than in the European Union.

The working class in European countries that have been severely affected by the financial crisis has already been hit hard in the aftermath of the crisis: The wage share decreased from 55% in 2007 (before the crisis) to 52.4% in 2013 in Cyprus, from 53.5% to 47% in Greece, from 52.9% to 49.6% in Hungary, from 70.1% to 62.2% in Iceland, from 50.3% to 49.3% in Ireland, from 53% to 46.4% in Latvia, from 49.7% to 44.1% in Lithuania, from 57.2% to 55.6% in Portugal and from 55.3% to 52.3% in Spain (data source: AMECO). In Poland and Slovakia, workers have been relatively poor already before the crisis: the wage shares were 46.5% in 2007 and 46.1% in 2013 in Poland. The respective values for Slovakia were 42.3% in 2007 and 43.1% in 2013.

The class struggle of capital against the working class that resulted in falling wage shares and high profits has been accompanied by a decrease of capital taxation. The available data on corporate taxation is relatively incomplete. In the EU 27 countries, corporate taxes accounted in 2013 for only 0.3% of the GDP. In the United States the value was 0%, meaning that treated as a collective capitalist, companies in the USA do not pay taxes. Table 4 shows some of the limited available data. It indicates that capital taxation has since the 1970s in general been low in European and North American capitalism, reaching never up to 1% of the GDP of a country and varying in most countries between 0 and 0.3% of the GDP. It is interesting to observe that in 1970 the UK (0.8%) and the USA (0.5%) taxed capital higher than Germany (0.1%) and the Netherlands (0.2%). The rise of neoliberalism has resulted in a subsequent lowering of capital taxation in both the UK and the USA. Overall the data in table 4 shows that European and North American tax regimes are friends of capitalist interests, which has supported the neoliberal class struggle of capital against labour.

2013 2007 2005 2000 1995 1990 1985 1980 1975 1970
Germany 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0 0.1
Netherlands 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.4 0.3 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2
Austria 0 0.1 0.1 0.1 0 0.1 0.1 0.1
Portugal 0 0 0 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.2 0.1
Finland 0.2 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.2 0.2 0.1 0.1 0.1
United Kingdom 0.2 0.3 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.3 0.2 0.3 0.8
United States 0 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.3 0.3 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.5

Table 4: Capital taxes, percentage of GDP at market prices, data source: AMECO

The working class’ wages have been attacked by neoliberal policies. The resulting profits were invested in finance because capital is driven by the need to accumulate ever more profits and financial speculation promised high returns. The volatility of the economy steadily increased, which resulted in a big explosion in 2008. The result was more of the same: hyper-neoliberalism, which means the intensification of neoliberalism. Banks were bailed out with taxpayers’ money, which means a bailout by taxes predominantly paid by employees because companies hardly pay taxes. The discourse of austerity wants to make people believe that they have lived beyond their means, that austerity is necessary because states have spent too much money, etc. The circumstance that profits have been ever more growing, wages shrinking and that companies have hardly paid taxes is not mentioned in the dominant ideology. The working class was first ever more exploited by capital and the reaction to the crisis is an intensification of exploitation and the attempt to legitimate this form of exploitation that works by redistribution from workers to companies, cuts of public expenditures, wage cuts, tax support for banks and companies. The working class is constantly being dispossessed of the wealth it produces. Austerity measures bring much more of the same.

 

4. Stuart Hall Revisited

Stuart Hall et al (1978)[12] describe how a moral panic about street robbery (“mugging”) developed in the UK in the 1970s. They argue that this panic must be seen in the context of the crisis of the mid-1970s. This crisis would have been a global crisis of capitalism (recession), a crisis of political apparatuses (such as ruling-class and working-class parties), a crisis of the state and a crisis of hegemony and political legitimacy (Hall et al 1978, 317-319). In crises, people look for causes and answers. Ideology that wants to maintain the system does not engage with the systemic causes of crises, but rather displaces the causes ideologically. There is a “displacement effect”: “the connection between the crisis and the way it is appropriated in the social experience of the majority – social anxiety – passes through a series of false ‘resolutions’, primarily taking the shape of a succession of moral panics. It is as if each surge of social anxiety finds a temporary respite in the projection of fears on to and into certain compellingly anxiety-laden theme: in the discovery of demons, the identification of folk-devils, the mounting of moral campaigns, the expiation of prosecution and control – in the moral-panic cycle” (Hall et al 1978, 322). Crises are “ideologically constructed by the dominant ideologies to win consent” (220f). Moral panics are “the key ideological forms in which a historical crisis is ‘experienced and fought out’” (221).

The current political and ideological situation in Europe precisely resembles the situation that Hall described for the 1970s. The objects of contemporary moral panics in the crisis, the contemporary ideological demons and ideological devils are immigrants, the unemployed, Southern Europeans and the European Union. Crisis ideologies displace the causes of the crisis of capitalism into particularism. Ideology is policing the crisis today: it aims at installing an even more brutal capitalist system and making people believe that this is necessary and will help overcome and avoid future crisis. The opposite is true: The cause of the crisis is prescribed as its solution, which can only result in even worse crises in the future if these politics and ideologies are successfully implemented.

 

5. Breaking the Ideological Spell!

It is time to end the current ideological play and to stage Bert Brecht and Augusto Boal in Europe.

The European protests against austerity, neoliberalism and capitalism are the only reasonable voices in the crisis discourse. The European protests that have taken place since 2008 in countries such as Greece, Spain, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, the UK, Iceland or Austria question that profits stand over people, that everyday people are dominated by capitalist interests and that those who produce wealth and the commons should pay for the crisis. No serious debate over the causes of the crisis has been started in Europe at large. It has been displaced and disabled by ideology. Continuous protests are our only hope to save the people, to save Europe and to save the world from the rule of capitalism.


[6] Translation from German: “Liebe Griechinnen und Griechen, sorgen Sie für klare politische Verhältnisse. Stimmen Sie mutig für den Reformkurs statt zornig gegen notwendige, schmerzhafte Strukturveränderungen. […] Widerstehen Sie der Demagogie von Alexis Tsipras und seiner Syriza. […] Ihr Land braucht endlich einen funktionierenden Staat. Damit es geordnet regiert wird, empfehlen wir die Nea Dimokratia”, http://www.ftd.de/politik/europa/:wahlempfehlung-antistatheite-sto-dimagogo-widersteht-den-demagogen/70050480.html

[7] “Es geht auch darum, dass man in Ländern wie Griechenland, Spanien, Portugal nicht früher in Rente gehen kann als in Deutschland, sondern dass alle sich auch ein wenig gleich anstrengen – das ist wichtig. […]Wir können nicht eine Währung haben und der eine kriegt ganz viel Urlaub und der andere ganz wenig. Das geht auf Dauer auch nicht zusammen”, http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/euro-krise-merkel-attackiert-urlaubsfreudige-suedeuropaeer-a-763247.html

[8] “Das Leben über die Verhältnisse ist die eigentliche Ursache des Problems”,
http://www.rp-online.de/wirtschaft/unternehmen/zitate-aus-merkels-erklaerung-zur-euro-krise-1.571529

[9] Wir zahlen alles. Alles wird zahlt. Wir zahlen und zahlen. Wenn irgendwo in Asien a Wüste austrocknet, wer zahlt die? Mir! Wenn in Taiwan a Puff brennt, des zahl’n wir ah. Wir zahlen alles! […] Der Kanzler raucht a Havanna, wer zahlt’s? Do ned da Castro, de zahl’n wir” (Gerhard Polt, Quanto costa. CD Und wer zahlt’s. Kein & Aber Records, 2000)

[10] Cited from: Mylonas, Yannis. 2012. Media and the economic crisis of the EU. The “culturalization” of a systemic crisis and Bild-Zeitung’s framing of Greece. tripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique 10 (2): 646-671.

[11] “Merkel nutzte die Gelegenheit, um auch zur Zypern-Rettung Stellung zu beziehen. Sie sagte, dass es richtig sei, dass jeder, der ein Bankkonto in Zypern hat, auch für die Zypern-Rettung zur Kasse gebeten wird. Damit würden ‘die Verantwortlichen zum Teil mit einbezogen und nicht nur die Steuerzahler anderer Länder’. Merkel: ‘Es ist ein guter Schritt, der uns eine Zustimmung zu einer Hilfe für Zypern sicherlich leichter macht’“, http://deutsche-wirtschafts-nachrichten.de/2013/03/18/merkel-zwangs-abgabe-in-zypern-ist-ein-guter-schritt/

[12] Hall, Stuart, Chas Critcher, Tony Jefferson, John Clarke and Brian Roberts. 1978. Policing the crisis. Mugging, the state and law and order. London: Macmillan.

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New MA in Social Media, University of Westminster

The University of Westminster has announced a new MA programme in Social Media.

The programme’s task is that students acquire the skills for becoming critical and reflective social media experts that can work as social media researchers or social media professionals.

The MA in Social Media offers a flexible interdisciplinary exploration of key contemporary developments in the networked digital media environment. It will benefit those seeking to develop their understanding of contemporary communication and its societal, political, regulatory, industrial and cultural contexts.

The MA in Social Media provides students with the opportunity to focus at postgraduate level on:

  • Studying the ways in which social media and the Internet shape and are shaped by social, economic, political, technological and cultural factors, in order to equip students to become critical research-oriented social media experts.
  • Developing reflective and critical insights into how social media and the Internet are used in multiple contexts in society, and into which roles social media can play in various forms of organisations that are situated in these societal contexts. The aim is that students are equipped to become reflective and critical social media practitioners.
  • Gaining in-depth knowledge and understanding of the major debates about the social and cultural roles of social media and the Internet.
  • Acquiring advanced knowledge and understanding of the key categories, theories, approaches and models of social media’s and the Internet’s roles in and impacts on society and human practices.
  • Obtaining advanced insights into practical activity and practice-based work that relate to how social media and the Internet work and which implications they have for social and cultural practices.

Core Modules:
* Social Media: Creativity, Sharing, Visibility
* Critical Theory of Social Media and the Internet
* MA Dissertation

Optional Modules:
4 elective modules from three topical clusters (any combination of modules is applicable)
(1) Theory and Global Political Economy of Media and Communication;
(2) Media Politics, Regulation and Business Strategies;
(3) Media, Culture and Everyday Life

Full time (1 year):
http://www.westminster.ac.uk/courses/subjects/journalism-and-mass-communication/postgraduate-courses/full-time/p09fpsom-social-media-ma
Part time (2 years):
http://www.westminster.ac.uk/courses/subjects/journalism-and-mass-communication/postgraduate-courses/part-time-day/p09ppsom-social-media-ma

Facebook Group MA in Social Media at the University of Westminster:
https://www.facebook.com/MASocialMedia

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Facebook’s New Data Use Policy (December 11th, 2012) – What Has Changed and What Do These Changes Mean?

Facebook’s New Data Use Policy (December 11th, 2012) – What Has Changed and What Do These Changes Mean?

On December 11th, 2012, Facebook published a revised version of its Data Use Policy. There are three observations I have made when reading the new policy and comparing it to the previous one.

The length of the policy has further increased, from 8896 to 9379 words, which means an increase by 483 words. The longer a policy, the more unlikely it gets that users fully read it and therefore take notice of how their data is being processed. The question is if one can expect that Facebook’s more than a billion users[1] give unambiguous consent to a policy if it requires an hour to read its content. According to the European Union’s Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC, personal data may only be processed if “the data subject has unambiguously given his consent” (§7(a)). In this context, “’the data subject’s consent’ shall mean any freely given specific and informed indication of his wishes by which the data subject signifies his agreement to personal data relating to him being processed” (§2(h)). The basic question is if it is an unambiguous consent, if a user enters some basic data and then clicks on a “sign up” button, above which s/he reads the text: “By clicking Sign Up, you agree to our Terms and that you have read our Data use policy, including our Cookie Use”. Observers such as the Norwegian Data Inspectorate (Årnes, Skorstad and Paarup Michelsen 2011) have expressed strong doubts in this context and ask if pressing a button that says one agrees to certain terms constitutes consent according to European data protection legislation: “- Is the Facebook consent not, at least partly, a retrospective one? – Is the user really ‘informed’ after having read the Policy and the Statement? – What if he or she didn’t read the statement at all?” (Årnes, Skorstad and Paarup Michelsen 2011, 40).

Facebook has abolished a governance mechanism that allowed users to vote on changes of the privacy policy and the terms of use. The formulation in the previous policy was: “Unless we make a change for legal or administrative reasons, or to correct an inaccurate statement, we will give you seven (7) days to provide us with comments on the change. If we receive more than 7000 comments concerning a particular change, we will put the change up for a vote. The vote will be binding on us if more than 30% of all active registered users as of the date of the notice vote“. In the new policy, this passage was subsituted by the following one: “Unless we make a change for legal or administrative reasons, or to correct an inaccurate statement, we will give you seven (7) days to provide us with comments on the change. After the comment period, if we adopt any changes, we will provide notice (for example, on the Facebook Site Governance Page or in this policy) of the effective date“.

If one interprets the Facebook governance system as a political system, then this means that in the first instance election results were only accepted if the voter turnout was higher than 30%. In elections to the European Parliament, voter turnout has in the past been lower than 30% in some European countries: 29.2% in Bulgaria (2007), 28.2% (2009) and 28.3% (2004) in the Czech Republic, 24.5% (2009) and 20.9% (2004) in Poland, 27.7% (2009) and 29.5% (2007) in Romania, 19.6% (2009) and 17.0% (2004) in Slovakia, 28.3% (2009) and 28.4% (2004) in Slovenia and 24.0% (1999) in the United Kingdom (data source: International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, http://www.idea.int/vt/viewdata.cfm). Nonetheless in those cases the outcome of the elections was accepted and these countries sent representatives to the European Parliament. Facebook’s practice was that it decided itself what changes are taken if the voter turnout was low, i.e. it only allowed democracy if a certain share of voters was achieved and practiced dictatorship in other cases. If the old governance mechanism was a strange mix of dictatorship and democracy, then Facebook now leaves no doubt in the new policy that decision making on part of the users is not welcome. They are allowed to comment, but decision power is entirely controlled by Facebook itself. 668 872 users participated in the vote on the privacy policy change, 589 141 (88.1%) opposed changes.

Facebook stated on its government site that this is less than 1% of all its users and that it therefore changes the policy. It furthermore wrote: “We understand that many of you feel strongly about maintaining the participatory nature of our site governance process. We do too. We believe that having a meaningful dialogue with our community through our notice and comment process is core to that effort moving forward. We also plan to explore and implement new, innovative and effective ways to enhance this process in order to maximize user engagement”. What Facebook here makes clear is that it is in favour of listening and talking without any significant decision power. Political communication in such a process becomes a mere ideology: the dictator listens to citizens’ concerns, they are allowed to voice an opinion, but have no right to decide. The policy change shows that one should not have any illusions that capitalist companies have any significant interest in democracy.

The new privacy policy does not have any surprises in the context of targeted advertising: Just like the old one it legitimates the use of profile data, browsing data, social network data for the purpose of targeting ads, a practice that means that user data is commodified and that users create this commodity, i.e. work without payment for producing a data commodity that is sold to advertisers who then present ads to users:

* “Sometimes we get data from our affiliates or our advertising partners, customers and other third parties that helps us (or them) deliver ads, understand online activity, and generally make Facebook better. For example, an advertiser may tell us information about you (like how you responded to an ad on Facebook or on another site) in order to measure the effectiveness of – and improve the quality of – ads“.

* “We use the information we receive, including the information you provide at registration or add to your account or timeline, to deliver ads and to make them more relevant to you. This includes all of the things you share and do on Facebook, such as the Pages you like or key words from your stories, and the things we infer from your use of Facebook. Learn more at: https://www.facebook.com/help/?page=226611954016283

When an advertiser creates an ad, they are given the opportunity to choose their audience by location, demographics, likes, keywords, and any other information we receive or can tell about you and other users. For example, an advertiser can choose to target 18 to 35 year-old women who live in the United States and like basketball. An advertiser could also choose to target certain topics or keywords, like “music” or even people who like a particular song or artist“. Facebook exploits the digital labour of its users:

* “Sometimes we allow advertisers to target a category of user, like a ’moviegoer’ or a ’sci-fi fan’. We do this by bundling characteristics that we believe are related to the category. For example, if a person ’likes’ the ’Star Trek’ Page and mentions ’Star Wars’ when they check into a movie theater, we may conclude that this person is likely to be a sci-fi fan. Advertisers of sci-fi movies, for example, could ask us to target ’sci-fi fans’ and we would target that group, which may include you. Or if you ’like’ Pages that are car-related and mention a particular car brand in a post, we might put you in the ’potential car buyer’ category and let a car brand target to that group, which would include you“.

One change in the privacy policy is the addition of the following sentence to the section that covers “Personalized ads“: “If you indicate that you are interested in topics, such as by liking a Page, including topics such as products, brands, religion, health status, or political views, you may see ads related to those topics as well“. Religious and political views and health data are according to the EU Data Protection Directive sensitive data that need to be processed with particular caution. In its new Data Use Policy, Facebook unambigously makes clear that it uses sensitive data for targeted advertising. The EU Data Protection Directive says in this context: “1. Member States shall prohibit the processing of personal data revealing racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs, trade-union membership, and the processing of data concerning health or sex life. 2. Paragraph 1 shall not apply where: (a) the data subject has given his explicit consent to the processing of those data“ (§8). Therefore Facebook is only allowed to use health data, political and religous views in the EU if the users give “explicit consent“. So the question is if clicking on a button that says that one accepts the terms of use and privacy policy is an “explicit consent“.

The Article 29 Data Protection Working Party (2010) says that any “possible targeting of data subjects based on sensitive information opens the possibility of abuse. Furthermore, given the sensitivity of such information and the possible awkward situations which may arise if individuals receive advertising that reveals, for example, sexual preferences or political activity, offering/using interest categories that would reveal sensitive data should be discouraged” (19). The Article 29 Data Protection Working Party (2010, 20) also holds that “in no case would an opt-out consent mechanism meet the requirement of the law” and one would here require “separate prior opt-in consent” for the processing of sensitive data.

This means that there are doubts if mentioning that sensitive data is used for targeted advertising in one sentence that is part of a policy that is longer than 9000 words and telling users that they agree if they click on the “sign up”-button constitutes explicit consent. The Article 29 Data Protection Working Party’s opinion implies that the use of sensitive data for targeted advertising is in general problematic and violates users’ privacy.

So overall, how can Facebook’s new privacy policy best be characterised? Exploitation of users, increased complexity, violation of privacy in the context of the processing of sensitive personal data.

References

Article 29 Data Protection Working Party. 2010. Opinion 2/2010 on online behavioural advertising. Adopted on 22 June 2010. http://ec.europa.eu/justice/policies/privacy/docs/wpdocs/2010/wp171_en.pdf

Årnes, Atle, Jørgen Skorstad and Lars-Henrik Paarup Michelsen. 2011. Social network services and privacy. A case study of Facebook. Oslo: Datatilsynet.


[1] Facebook use within a 3 month period: 43.328% of all Internet users, alexa.com, accessed on December 14th, 2012; number of worldwide Internet users: 2 405 518 376, internetworldstats.com, accessed on December 14th, 2012. => number of Facebook users: approx. 1.04 billion

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Call: European Sociological Association (ESA) 2013 Conference: RN18 – Sociology of Communications and Media Research: Communication, Crisis, Critique and Change

European Sociological Association 2013 Conference: Crisis, Critique and Change
August 28-31, 2013. Torino, Italy
http://www.esa11thconference.eu
Full CfP as PDF

Call for Abstracts by Research Network 18 – Sociology of Communications and Media Research: Communication, Crisis, Critique and Change
Coordinator: Christian Fuchs christian.fuchs@uti.at
http://www.esa11thconference.eu/call-for-papers/research-networks/RN18
https://www.facebook.com/events/450441271689391/

Abstracts should not exceed 1750 characters (including spaces, approximately 250 words). Each paper session will have the duration of 1.5 hours. Normally sessions will include 4 papers.
For submission, please use the form that shows up when clicking on the links next to the session titles on http://www.esa11thconference.eu/call-for-papers/research-networks/RN18
Abstracts can only be submitted online no later than 1st of February 2013 to the submission platform hosted on the conference website. Abstracts sent by email cannot be accepted.

Communication, Crisis, Critique and Change

ESA RN18 focuses in its conference stream on the discussion of how crisis, critique and societal changes shape the study of media, communication & society today. The overall questions we want to address are:
* Which crises (including the financial and economic crisis of capitalism, global wars and conflicts, ecological crisis, the crisis of democracy, legitimation crisis, etc) are we experiencing today and how do they influence media and communication in contemporary society?
* What are the major changes of society, the media, and communication that we are experiencing today?
* What forms of political critique (political movements) and academic critique (critical studies, critical media sociology, critical theory, etc) are emerging today and are needed for interpreting and changing media, communication and society?

ESA RN18 is calling for both general submissions on “Communication, Crisis, Critique and Change” that address these questions as well as more specific submissions that address a number of specific session topics.

01RN18 Capitalism, Communication, Crisis & Critique Today

This session focuses on how to critically study the connection of capitalism and communication in times of crisis. Questions to be addressed include for example:

* How has the crisis affected various media and cultural industries?
* What is the role of media and communication technologies in the financialization, acceleration, and globalization of the capitalist economy?
* What are the ideological implications of the crisis for the media? What is the role of critical and alternative views of the crisis in the media and what are the conditions of conducting critical reporting of the crisis?

02RN18 Communication, Crisis and Change in Europe

* This session focuses on media and communication in Europe in times of crisis and change. We are especially interested in presentations that cover Europe as a whole and go beyond single-country studies?
* How has the crisis affected the various media and communication industries (advertising, broadcasting, Internet, press, film, music, etc) in Europe as a whole and what are the differences between various parts of Europe?
* What have been policy ideas of how to overcome the crisis and deal with contemporary changes in relation to European media and communication industries?
* How have the crisis and its appearances (protests, riots, civil unrest, unemployment, rising inequality, bankruptcy, discussions about European banks, the austerity measures against Greece, Spain, etc) been reflected in the European media’s reporting? What has the role been of ideologies and alternative reporting in this context?

03RN18 Knowledge Labour in the Media and Communication Industries in Times of Crisis

* What are the conditions of working in the media and communication industries in the contemporary crisis times?
* What changes has knowledge and creative labour been undergoing?
* What is the role of class and precariousness in knowledge labour?
* How do new forms of exploitation and unremunerated labour (“free labour”) look like in the media sector (e.g. in the context of Internet platforms like Facebook or Google)?
* What is the connection of value creation and knowledge labour?
* What has been the changing role of the state in relation to “creative labour”?

04RN18 Critical Social Theory and the Media: Studying Media, Communication and Society Critically

* What does critique mean in the contemporary times of crisis?
* What is critical sociology and what is its role for studying media and communication’s role in society
* Which social theories do we need today for adequately understanding media & society in a critical way?
* How shall we best theorize the media and society for understanding their connection?
* What are the major changes of society and the media today and how can they be theoretically understood?

05RN18 Sociology of Communications and Media Research (open)

ESA RN18 welcomes papers that address the study of the relationship of media and society in times of crisis, change, and the renewal of critique. Questions that can for example be addressed include, but are not limited to the following ones:
* What connections are there between the financial/economic crisis and other crises and media and communication?
What are the links of crisis, communication, and political critique (e.g. media use in the Arab spring, the Occupy movement, the protests in Greece and Spain, contemporary student protests)?
What does and should it mean to be a critical media sociologist today? What are topics of the critical study of media and communication? Which social theories and theorists do we need today to critically understand media and communication and their connection to the sociology of power structures? What methods do we need for critically studying media and communication? How does critical media sociology relate to politics and political movements?
* How have the media conveyed the social and economic crises of recent years to citizens and what are the consequences of this flow of ideas and explanations?
* Are the media part of the problem or part of the solution of the crisis?

Joint Sessions

06JS18 - Critical Political Economy of the Media and Communication in Times of Capitalist Crisis and Change
Joint session with RN06 – Critical Political Economy
Chairs: Ian Bruff & Christian Fuchs

This joint panel with RN18 invites submissions on the theme of ‘Critical Political Economy of the Media and Communication in Times of Capitalist Crisis and Change’. Abstract submissions could, for example, focus on the role of media and communication in critical political economy approaches to the crisis, the role of critical political economy approaches in the sociology of communications and the media, or indeed any other aspects of topics and issues linked to this theme. In other words, this joint session focuses on the intersection of Critical Political Economy and the Sociology of the Media and Communication. It is interested in contributions that focus on one or more of the following questions:
* Which approaches that are based on Marx, Critical Political Economy, or Marxism are there today for understanding the current crisis and ongoing changes?
* What is the role of the media and communication in these approaches?
* What is the role of Critical Political Economy, Marx, and Marxism in the Sociology of the Media and Communication?
* What is the role and value of Marx today for understanding crisis, change, capitalism, communication, and critique?

18JS29Social Theory and Media Sociology Today
Joint session with RN29 – Social Theory
Chair: George Pleios and Csaba Szalo

This joint session of RN18 and RN29 focuses on the intersection of Social Theory and Sociology of the Media and Communication. It is interested in contributions that focus on one or more of the following questions:
* What are the best social theories that sociology provides for understanding contemporary society that is undergoing transitions and crises? What is the role of the media and communication in such contemporary social theories? Which of these theories do we need for understanding society and the media in the current times of crisis and change?
* How can one best theorize various societal phenomena (such as: the relationship of structures and agency, power, domination, class, inequality, stratification, violence, struggles, capitalism, the state, crisis, critique, societal change, revolution, social movements, modernity, space, time, the public sphere, democracy, globalization, ideology, hegemony, the self, identity, culture, racism, gender, the relationship of the private and the public, etc) and then use these theoretical concepts for theorizing and understanding the role of the media in contemporary society that is experiencing crisis and manifold changes?

 

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Why Social Media Research Matters for Occupy

Why Social Media Research Matters for Occupy
Christian Fuchs

Published on Occupy News Network, November 28th, 2012:
Link: http://occupynewsnetwork.co.uk/why-social-media-research-matters-for-occupy/

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The Right-Wing European Mainstream Media Campaign against Syriza and the Need to End Neoliberalism

The Right-Wing European Mainstream Media Campaign against Syriza and the Need to End Neoliberalism

I have taken a look at the European media coverage of Syriza one day before the Greek election that takes place today, June 17th, 2012. I had to limit my reading to newspapers published in countries whose language I know (which allowed me to translate parts of the coverage to English).

Süddeutsche Zeitung (Germany) spoke of “the Tsipras-factor“ (Süddeutsche Zeitung, Wut der Straße gegen Wut der Märkte. June 16th, 2012), implying that the success of Syriza is not due to the discontent and desire for change in Greece, but rather due to the insinuated populism of its party leader Alex Tsipras. A similar argument was made by the UK edition of the Financial Times: “With his youthful good looks, open-neck designer shirts and BMW motorcycle, Mr Tsipras appears more like a playboy than a politician grimly awaiting the call of destiny” (Financial Times, The Loud-Mouthed Radical Awaits his Fate. June 15th, 2012). Syriza’s success, according to the Financial Times, is not due to the social problems that Greece is facing, but rather good looks and an insinuated playboy-like aura.

The left-liberal German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung also wrote: “Greece elects a new parliament on Sunday – and may decide on the future of the Euro-zone. [...] The world’s most important central banks are preparing themselves for heavy market turbulences after the fateful election in Greece. [...] Because the result of the parliamentary elections in Greece could seal the end of the Euro Greece in so far as the opponents of savings and reforms assert themselves“ (Süddeutsche Zeitung, Notenbanken rüsten sich gegen Panik an den Finanzmärkten. June 15th, 2012). The Greek Left is presented as opposing reforms, but in fact it is the only reformist opposing more of the same old neoliberal credo that gives money to banks and conducts public spending cuts that negatively affect the masses and increase their misery and precarious lives.

The Guardian wrote that Tsipras’ “critics say he will bring about Greece’s hasty and humiliating exit from the Euro” (The Guardian, Greece prepares for election: ‘we are going to the wall … things must change’. June 16th, 2012) and quoted Jean-Claude Juncker, the head of the group of the Eurozone finance minsters: “’If the radical left wins [in Greece] – which cannot be ruled out – the consequences for the currency union are unforeseeable’, Juncker told the Austrian newspaper Kurier. ‘I can only warn everyone against leaving the currency union. The internal cohesion of the euro zone would be in danger’” (The Guardian, World Bank warns that euro collapse could spark global crisis. June 16, 2012).

Whereas the left-liberal European press spoke of potential turbulences and unforeseeable consequences, conservative papers warned that an election success of Syriza could result in chaos in Greece, Europe, and the world: The conservative German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung wrote that if Syriza wins, the outcome could be “chaos in Greece, the bank accounts would be emptied, and without new money Greece could soon no longer import oil“ (FAZ, Was wäre, wenn in Griechenland…? June 15th, 2012). The conservative Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung argued: “Further turbulences, but also interventions by governments and central banks could however be expected, if there were an unclear election result and prolonged political agony or even a majority of a coalition, in which the left-wing Syriza dominated. [...] On the other hand, the troika cannot adopt the extreme demands such as the end of saving efforts or an expansion of budget deficits“ (NZZ, Weitere Runde im Wahlpoker. June 16th, 2012).

The European conservative press calls the questioning of budget cuts that affect the masses, and especially the poor and those who live and work under precarious conditions (precarious workers, the more than 20% unemployed in Greece, the more than 50% Greek unemployed in the age group of up to 25, the more than 23% Greek unemployed university graduates in the age group 25-39; data source: Eurostat), “extreme“. Is it extreme to demand better living conditions for the poor and precarious or is it extreme to use public funds for saving private banks, the rich, and companies that caused the crisis? (NZZ, Weitere Runde im Wahlpoker. June 16th, 2012)

The conservative Austrian newspaper Die Presse wrote that Syriza would be a “regressive force“ that would bring about a “relapse by 50 years“ and “the way to hell“ (Die Presse, Parlamentswahl: “Griechen zeichnen Weg zur Hölle vor“. June 16, 2012). The German edition of the Financial Times, more honestly than other conservative European newspapers did not try to indirectly manipulate the public opinion, but rather very directly said that it opposes Syriza and hailed Greek citizens in an article written both in German and Greek to vote for Nea Dimokratia: “On Sunday there will be a historic election that will also decide […] about the future of European monetary union. Therefore, the FTD makes an exception today. It gives an election recommendation for Greece, as otherwise only in the election of the Bundestag and the European Parliament. […] Dear Greeks, ensure clear political conditions. Vote bravely for the reform direction instead angrily against necessary, painful, structural changes. Only with parties that accept the conditions of international lenders will your country be able to keep the Euro. Resist the demagoguery of Alexis Tsipras and his Syriza. […] In order that it [Greece] is governed the right way, we recommend Nea Dimokratia”  (Financial Times Deutschland, Αντισταθείτε στo δημαγωγό – Widersteht den Demagogen. June 14th, 2012).

Only a few of the articles I read focused on trying to explain the popularity of Syriza by discussing the social conditions in Greece: “More and more people go without jobs, suicides increase, soup kitchens are getting more visitors and homelessness is visible. Businesses are closing, fewer can afford to consume, young people are fleeing the country and those who can move their savings to accounts abroad, are afraid of a transition to save for a transition to drachma” (Dagens Nyheter, Dystra greker till valurnorna. June 16th, 2012).

Interestingly, all of the analysed articles in the European mainstream press employed one of the worst journalistic practices, namely unbalanced sourcing. Not a single of them quoted or interviewed Tsipras, but rather they acted as mouthpieces of financial interests and various European governments (especially the German one), whose representatives were quoted.

So what happened in Greece and caused the crisis? According to European intellectuals like Jean Ziegler neoliberal politics in combination with speculation against Greece that deepened the crisis are at the heart of the problem: “Caramanlis’ right-wing government, which preceded the current Pasok (socialist) government, was a machine for systematically pillaging the country’s resources. As in a banana republic, Greece’s resources were privatized on a large scale even while tax evasion became massive. A reliable estimate by Swiss banks puts Greek tax-evading capitals in Swiss banks alone at 36 billion euro. In addition to this, some of the largest Greek ship-owners transferred their headquarters abroad: first among them, the biggest, namely Latsis, moved its own to Versoix near Geneva. The scandalous end-result of all this is that the onus of paying heavily for the State’s quasi-bankruptcy now falls on the Greek people, on Greek workers, while the ruling classes themselves have taken the precaution of transferring almost all their fortune abroad. The Greek public debt stands at 112% of the country’s GDP” (Jean Ziegler: Europe Is Playing Along With the IMF and Multinationals, http://humaniteinenglish.com/spip.php?article1527).

European politicians, governments, left-liberal and conservative media, as well as spokespersons of the capitalist class speak of the necessity of neoliberal austerity measures to save Greece. Their analysis is that not capitalist interests are at the heart of the crisis, but that the Greek have spent too much money and do not know how to balance budgets. The racist stereotype of lazy people in the South is frequently evoked in the discourse. The role of privatization and tax evasion by the rich and companies in Greece is downplayed or not discussed. Capitalism and corporate crimes are not considered as causes of the crisis. Instead more of the cause of the problem is suggested as solution: capitalism. The logic of the market, privatization, wage cuts, cuts of public expenditure for pensions, health care, and higher education are evoked. No they are not suggested, they are presented as the only alternative and as natural necessity. This is precisely how ideology works. The suggested solution is socialism for the rich – the bailout of banks – and the impoverishment of the mass of Greek citizens. That is exactly the logic of neoliberalism: take from the poor, give to corporations and the rich. This has also been the hegemonic response to the new world economic crisis in general in many countries.

European mainstream media simply ignore alternative voices that suggest a different path for Europe and Greece, namely the end of neoliberalism. Such voices exist, especially among intellectuals, but hardly make their way into the European mainstream media.

Intellectuals, among them Chantal Mouffe, Costas Douzinas,  Ernesto Laclau, Etienne Balibar, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, and Judith Butler, published a statement on the Greek situation: “We note that the Greek Left (Syriza and the Coalition of the Radical Left) have articulated the rights to work and to education, opposing those neo-liberal economic policies that increase precarity for growing numbers of people, establishing unemployment as a norm, decimating social and health services along with public education, and destroying the very conditions of economic production. We support the efforts of the people of Greece to wrest power from non-elected technocrats, and we oppose the reckless demonization of the current left coalition as unacceptable and malicious propaganda. The accusation currently circulated in the European press that the Left threatens to take Greece out of the Eurozone fails to see that the Left is struggling for a different Europe, one governed by and for the people, committed to the open political participation of all its inhabitants in creating equal conditions for work and for a livable life” (http://greekleftreview.wordpress.com/2012/06/16/statement-by-balibar-brown-butler-spivak-on-greek-left/)

Slavoj Žižek reminded that the extremists are actually the neoliberals who, inspired by thinkers like Hayek and the politics of Thatcher and Reagan, caused the crisis: “Syriza is not a bunch of dangerous ’extremists’. Syriza is here to bring pragmatic common sense, to clear the mess created by others. It is those who impose austerity measures that are dangerous dreamers – we are not dreamers, we are the awakening from a dream which is turning into a nightmare“ (http://greekleftreview.wordpress.com/2012/06/14/slavoj-zizek-response-to-the-campaign-against-syriza/, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SWtn7iECkyY).

The petition ”Stand with the Greek Left for a Democratic Europe!“ that can be signed here and was already signed by leading intellectuals such as Giorgio Agamben, Etienne Balibar, Jacques Bidet, Jean-Luc Nancy Antonio Negri, Jacques Ranciere, and Bernard Stiegler, states: “For the last two years, the European Union, in close collaboration with the IMF, has been working to strip the Greek people of its sovereignty. Under the pretext of stabilising public finances and modernising the economy, they have imposed a draconian system of austerity that has stifled economic activity, reduced the majority of the population to poverty, and demolished labor rights. This neo-liberal style ‘rectification’ programme has resulted in the liquidation of the economic infrastructure and the creation of mass unemployment. Achieving this required nothing less than a state of emergency not seen in Western Europe since the end of the Second World War: the state’s budget is dictated by the Troika, the Greek Parliament nothing more than a rubber stamp and the Constitution repeatedly by-passed. […] Faced with the perspective of a SYRIZA victory in the 17 June elections, a campaign of disinformation and intimidation has been launched both inside the country and at European level. Its aim is to prevent SYRIZA from being seen as a trustworthy political interlocutor. Every possible means is used to disqualify it, beginning with the application of the label ‘extremist’ to place it on a par with the neo-Nazis of Golden Dawn. SYRIZA has been accused of every vice: fraud, double speak, and irresponsible and infantile demands. If we were to believe this vicious propaganda, itself based on a racist stigmatisation of the entire Greek people, SYRIZA poses a threat to freedom, the world economy and the European project itself. […] In every country, there are two politically and morally antithetical Europes in conflict: one which would dispossess the people to benefit the bankers and another which affirms the right of all to a life worthy of the name and that collectively gives itself the means to do so. Thus, what we want, together with the Greek voters and SYRIZA’s activists and leaders, is not the disappearance of Europe but its refoundation. It is ultra-liberalism that provokes the rise of nationalisms and the extreme right. The real saviours of the European idea are the supporters of openness, and of the participation of its citizens, the defenders of a Europe where popular sovereignty is not abolished but extended and shared. Yes – Athens is indeed the future of democracy in Europe and it is the fate of Europe that is at stake. By a strange irony of history, the Greeks, stigmatised and impoverished, are at the front line of our struggle for a common future. Let us listen to them, support them and defend them!“

Dominant forces portray the strengthened Left as the devil. This is not just ideology, it is also a sign of the fear that the hegemony of neoliberalism could crumble or suffer cracks, fissures, and holes, and be questioned. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote in September 1879: “But what is the secret of the red spectre, if not the bourgeoisie’s fear of the inevitable life-and-death struggle between itself and the proletariat“? The contemporary struggle is one between the neoliberal hegemony and potential alternatives. Today’s Greek elections are a decisive part of this conflict.

Is there an alternative to neoliberalism? “Human autonomy, the conscious management by people of their own lives. Capitalism –dd both private and bureaucratic – is the ultimate negation of this autonomy, and its crises stem from the fact that the system. necessarily creates this drive to autonomy, while simultaneously being compelled to suppress it“ (Cornelius Castoriadis).

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