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Archive for the ‘Political power’ Category

The Politics of Misinformation

The Politics of Misinformation is a critical examination of how and why the public has confidence in political progress and innovation even though most change is superficial. Concentrations of social and economic power produce illusions that create the impression of beneficial social change while erasing the possibility of such change. Language, bureaucratic authority, law, political parties, science, and other social institutions help to produce images that mislead both non-elite and elite, creating the appearance of rational democracy while at the same time obscuring structural inequality, discouraging critical evaluation of political policy, and thwarting involvement in democratic politics.

Our common assumption is that the acts of Homo sapiens are basically rational and that mistakes in reaching conclusions are the exception. On the contrary, mistakes are so common that rationality is probably the exception. The Marxist concept of false consciousness, meaning an erroneous assumption about the sources of one’s own thought, applies to the elite as much as to the masses. Political actions influence our well-being continuously and deeply and because they harm us in many instances, perhaps more often than they help us. Comforting illusions that protect us against despair and protect the status quo against effective protests are readily created and disseminated. The illusions are normally believed because it would be hard to live without them. Recent history reaffirms the illusions. They are partly a legacy of the nineteenth century, with its dramatic industrial revolution and its high-minded revolutions in France and in America acclaiming individual liberty and political independence. But the twentieth century, with its world wars, genocides, and other horrors, has been marked by regression rather than progress. The illusions are a fundamental instance of symbolic politics; they build an impression of beneficial social change even while typically erasing the possibility of change.

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Written by Giorgio Bertini

February 27, 2015 at 11:21 am

Lo que mueve al partido de la prensa

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La lectura diaria de los periódicos puede ser un interesante ejercicio de sociología política si tomamos los contenidos de los editoriales y las principales columnas de opinión por lo que son en realidad: una traducción ideológica de los intereses del capital financiero, una partitura de las prioridades del mercado. Lo que leemos es una propaganda, a través de los principales órganos de la prensa, de las políticas neoliberales recomendadas por las grandes organizaciones económicas internacionales que usan y abusan del crédito, de las estadísticas y de la autoridad que todavía les queda: el Banco Mundial, el Fondo Monetario Internacional, la Organización Mundial de Comercio. Es a ellos, más allá de las simplificaciones elaboradas por las agencias calificadoras de riesgo, a los que les ofrecen vasallaje los editoriales de política y economía de los grandes medios corporativos.

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Written by Giorgio Bertini

January 16, 2012 at 10:56 am

Autonomous Politics and its Problems

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My aim in this article is to present some hypotheses on issues of strategy for anti-capitalist emancipatory movements. The idea is to rethink the conditions for an effective politics, with the capacity to radically change the society we live in. Even if I will not have the space to analyze concrete cases, these reflections are not a purely “theoretical” endeavor, but spring from the observation of a series of movements I had the chance to be part of – the movement of neighbor’s assemblies in Argentina, some processes of the World Social Forum, and other global networks- or that I followed closely in the past years – the piquetero (unemployed) movement also in Argentina, and the Zapatistas in Mexico.

From the viewpoint of strategy, the current emancipatory movements can be said to be in two opposite situations (somewhat schematically). The first one is that in which they manage to mobilize a great deal of social energy in favor of a political project, but they do that in a way that make them fall in the traps of “heteronomous politics”. By “heteronomous” I refer to the political mechanisms by means of which all that social energy ends up being channeled in a way that benefits the interests of the ruling class or, at least, minimize the radical potential of that popular mobilization. This is, for example, the fate of Brazil’s PT under Lula, and also of some social movements (for example certain sections of the feminist movement) that turned into single-issue lobby organizations with no connection to any broader radical movement.

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Written by Giorgio Bertini

November 12, 2011 at 3:27 pm

Change the World by Taking Power

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Is power something negative? Does it always have to corrupt? And does “taking power” necessarily have to mean taking state power? This critique of John Holloway shows that communalism and autonomism provides two different answers to these questions.

In 2001 and 2002, Argentina saw a large-scale popular rebellion which has been termed the first anti-capitalist uprising in the 21st Century. As the country plunged into an economic crisis, popular assemblies were formed in the city of Buenos Aires, factories were occupied and taken over by fired workers and the unions of the unemployed were virtually in control of large territories of the country. Many of these movements were deeply inspired by ideals of horizontalism, direct democracy and self-government: Ideals hat resonated with the politics of the autonomists.

Holloway’s project in  Change the World is commendable, as he starts out with a critique of the idea that we have to take state power in order to change society – an idea which has defined the major tendencies of the Left for more than a century.

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Read also: Is Power Always Bad?

Change the World Without Taking Power: The Meaning of Revolution Today

The Other Occupation: How Wall Street Occupies Washington

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The 99 Percent Movement has been set off thanks to long-standing economic inequities and and a recession caused primarily by Wall Street’s misdeeds.

But Wall Street did not engage in reckless financial behavior — which plunged 64 million people worldwide into extreme poverty — in a vacuum.

In order to engage in these practices that brought the world’s economy to its knees, Wall Street had to make sure that the federal government based in Washington, DC would both de-regulate the financial industry (and provide lax oversight) and that Congress and the Federal Reserve would bail out banks with few strings attached if they were in danger of failing. The way the financial industry and big banks won this kid glove treatment from the federal government is by occupying Washington — flooding it with campaign contributions, lobbyists, and its own staffers and executives to occupy key positions of power.

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Written by Giorgio Bertini

October 16, 2011 at 10:29 pm

Review: Winner-Take-All Politics

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This is a transformative book. It’s the best book on American politics that I’ve read since Before the Storm. Not all of it is original (the authors seek to synthesize others’ work as well as present their own, but provide due credit where credit is due). Not all of its arguments are fully supported (the authors provide a strong circumstantial case to support their argument, but don’t have smoking gun evidence on many of the relevant causal relations). But it should transform the ways in which we think about and debate the political economy of the US.

The underlying argument is straightforward. The sources of American economic inequality are largely political – the result of deliberate political decisions to shape markets in ways that benefit the already-privileged at the expense of a more-or-less unaware public.

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Read also: Here’s What’s the Matter With Kansas

Winner-take-all politics: how Washington made the rich richer-and turned its back on the middle class

Why the Rich Are Getting Richer

Written by Giorgio Bertini

October 12, 2011 at 8:54 am

The Fed’s $16 Trillion Bailouts Under-reported

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The media’s inscrutable brush-off of the Government Accounting Office’s recently released audit of the Federal Reserve has raised many questions about the Fed’s goings-on since the financial crisis began in 2008.

The audit of the Fed’s emergency lending programs was scarcely reported by mainstream media – albeit the results are undoubtedly newsworthy. It is the first audit of the Fed in United States history since its beginnings in 1913. The findings verify that over $16 trillion was allocated to corporations and banks internationally, purportedly for “financial assistance” during and after the 2008 fiscal crisis.

Written by Giorgio Bertini

October 4, 2011 at 9:39 pm

¿Quién nos devolverá la vida pública, los bienes públicos, que nos están robando?

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Hay que buscar las razones de la degeneración intelectual de parte de la clase política. Es un deber de la sociedad descubrir las razones ocultas de las privatizaciones. ¿Cómo recuperaremos lo que hemos perdido? El verdadero sustento de la sociedad, de la vida colectiva tan importante como la vida de la naturaleza, es la educación, la cultura, la ética. Ellas son las verdaderas generadoras de riqueza ideal, moral y material.

Desde hace años, de nuevo en estos días, como manifestación del menosprecio por la enseñanza pública y por sus profesores, se habla de la libertad de los padres para elegir el centro en el que educar a sus hijos. Esa defensa libertaria no tiene que ver con el deseo de que se practique en la educación una verdadera libertad: la libertad de entender, de pensar, de interpretar, de desfanatizar, de sentir. Libertad que, por encima de todas las sectas, debería fomentar la combatida Educación para la Ciudadanía y la identidad democrática. Una libertad que enseñase algo más que la obsesión por el dinero y por el solapado cultivo de la avaricia. A lo mejor, esa educación les obligaba a dimitir a algunos personajes de la vida pública, por vergüenza del engaño que arrastran y contaminan. Mejor dicho: haría imposible que se dieran semejantes individuos.

Ese sermoneo se funda sobre todo en el fomento de la privatización de la enseñanza que alimenta el dinero y la desigualdad. ¿Pueden gozar de esa libertad todos los padres? ¿También los de los barrios más modestos de las grandes ciudades? ¿Pueden ser libres para mandar a sus hijos a esos colegios privados? En el fondo, toda esa propaganda libertaria es fruto de planteamientos políticos, de dominio ideológico, de sustanciosos prejuicios clasistas, que con doble o triple moral predican libertad, cuando lo que realmente les importa, aunque quieran engañarse y engañarnos, es el dinero.

Written by Giorgio Bertini

October 4, 2011 at 11:13 am

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