Painting of Pheidippides as he gave word of the Greek victory over Persia at the Battle of Marathon to the people of Athens. Luc-Olivier Merson, 1869 © Public Domain | Wikimedia Commons
CapitalismEssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

The Greek Referendum: A New Battle of Marathon

The historical resonance, significance and challenges of 'no' on July 5th

Some commentators have compared the victory of the “Oxi” at the Greek referendum of July 5th to a Pyrrhic victory, implying that while the anti-austerity camp won this battle, it is doomed to lose the war, strangled by the insurmountable economic difficulties caused by the lack of liquidity. Others have suggested that the referendum looked like the Thermopylae battle of 480 BCE, where three hundred Spartans valiantly fought the Persian army and lost. A better comparison, however, in my judgment is that with the Battle of Marathon. …

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Athens Polytechnic © Aleksandr Zykov | Flickr
EducationEssays

The Plight of Greek Higher Education

Greek higher education has been, for the past four years, under a double attack, both by crippling austerity-induced budget cuts and by an attempt to accelerate the imposition of aggressively neoliberal reforms towards an entrepreneurial model of higher education.

To understand the importance of these processes, we must take into consideration the role of higher education in Greece as a contested terrain of social struggles. For a long time one of the basic forms of upward social mobility, access to a public higher education was considered at the same time a basic social right and something worth fighting for, both individually and collectively. …

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© Nick Leiber | @nickleiber
CapitalismEssays

The Politics of the Sharing Economy

“As best we can tell, the politics of the venture capital elite boils down to fending off higher taxes, keeping labor costs low and reducing the ‘burden’ of government regulation. … Silicon Valley could start by putting a stop to pretending that the sharing economy is about anything other than making a killing.” – Andrew Leonard

If you’ve heard about companies like Airbnb, Zipcar, Skype, UberGetaround, and Lyft, and you know a bit about crypto-currencies, you get the picture. The “sharing economy” is just as exhilarating and vexing as the Web 2.0 meme was nine years ago.

I am all there with Arun Sundararajan, professor at Stern School of Business at NYU, who describes walking down the street in New York City, musing on all the parked cars that remain unused …

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London School of Economics © copelaes | Flickr
CapitalismEducationEssays

Austerity and Higher Education

The case of the United Kingdom

University reform in the UK can be understood in light of the following dilemma: the system must expand if it is to meet the demand for skill in the labour market, but the more it expands the less it fulfills its other major function of reproducing social division.

This is crucial because the transformation of higher education being implemented under the rubric of austerity indicates that austerity is not in the first instance about cutting spending. The evidence of past austerity projects demonstrates that cuts are a means rather than the primary objective, which is social engineering. In the case of higher education, a coalition government has cut state funding for universities while raising fees, on the pretext of debt consolidation. However, the major effects will be firstly to reorganise the system along market lines, re-pivoting the relationship between the student and the institution as a consumer-enterprise one …

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Book cover of Everything but the Coffee: Learning about America from Starbucks by Bryant Simon © University of California Press | Amazon.com
CapitalismEssays

Starbucks Goes to College

I wrote a book about Starbucks a few years ago, so my email started to buzz with Google alerts when the company announced that it would help to provide free education for its employees. The New York Times, the Huffington Post, and Business Week, among others, jumped on the story. A day or so after the announcement, Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz, appeared on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, winning mad praise from the host for having “venti balls” to make such a bold move.

As Starbucks officials explained it, the deal offered to reimburse employees for a portion, not all, of their tuition, but only for online classes hosted by Arizona State University’s Web server. Starbucks publicists talked about the company’s “unique” and forward-looking mission to build a people-based corporation that valued individuals and communities as much as profit. …

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Podemos logo © Podemos | Wikimedia Commons
EssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

In Support of PODEMOS

One of the most appalling and discouraging outcomes of the recent European elections has been the rise and affirmation of a number of far-right, xenophobic, and populist electoral parties in East and Northern Europe and in France. This has been largely the outcome of years of austerity policies and crisis, which have deteriorated the conditions of life for millions of people across the continent. In this discouraging scenario, the most promising novelty has been, in addition to the Syriza’s electoral victory in Greece, the birth and astonishing affirmation (7.9%) of a new organization: Podemos (Spain). Podemos was created only a few months ago, in March, by leftist activists associated with the 15-M movement, and inherited the spirit and organizational methods of the Indignados movement. It opposes austerity policies and defends the welfare state and social rights from the neo-liberal attack supported by both center-left and center-right coalitions across Europe. …

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