CapitalismEducationEssays

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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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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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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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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EssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

The Brazilian Discontents behind the World Cup Stage

Se mancha la pelota? (Does the ball get stained?)

In a few days, the eyes of millions of people around the world will be fixed on their TV screens, following a ball rolling in some shining green field in Brazil. They will be expecting to witness one of the most exciting World Cups in history; after all, we Brazilians live in the country of football. But probably very few of these spectators know that more than 250,000 Brazilians had their rights violated and their lives harshly disrupted in the process of making such a sport spectacle possible. Entire communities were evicted to build the facilities for the games and the infrastructure to receive the tourists. The slums and the peripheral neighborhoods of major cities were militarized in a process euphemistically referred to as “pacifying.” Workers were displaced and injured, and died building the new stadiums required by FIFA, while their labor rights remained unobserved. …

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CapitalismEssaysTheory & Practice

Has Capitalism Seen Its Day?

There is a widespread sense today that capitalism is in critical condition, and more so than ever since the end of the Second World War. Looking back, the crash of 2008 was only the latest in a long sequence of political and economic disorders that began with the end of postwar prosperity in the mid-1970s. Successive crises turned out to be ever more severe, spreading more widely and rapidly through an increasingly interconnected global economy. Global inflation in the 1970s was followed by rising public debt in the 1980s, and fiscal consolidation in the 1990s was accompanied by a steep increase in private sector indebtedness (Streeck 2011; 2013a). For four decades now, disequilibrium has more or less been the normal condition of OECD capitalism, both at the national and the global levels. In fact, with time, the crises of postwar capitalism have become so pervasive that they are increasingly perceived as more than just economic in nature, in a rediscovery of the older notion of a capitalist society: …

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CapitalismEssaysThe Left

On the Heilbroner Center’s Manifesto

Explanation and Critique

In our opinion, the document drafted by Julia Ott and Will Milberg for the new Robert L. Heilbroner Center for Capitalism Studies should be the beginning of a debate among NSSR faculty about the Center’s mission rather than a final manifesto. There are many claims in the document with which we wholeheartedly agree: the pressing necessity to return to discussing and analyzing large structures, long processes, and big questions; the idea that capitalism must be a central object of study and concern; the interpretation of capitalism as a social process; the identification of various power relations as critical determinants of economic outcomes; and the acknowledgment that economic theories operate as political ideologies. Further, we agree with Ott and Milberg that capitalism “should not be assumed.” However, we think that it should not be only “explained,” as the present document suggests, but also, by the same token, criticized. Critique, indeed, is a constitutive part of the explanation of social phenomena and processes, and explaining capitalism without criticizing it does amount to assuming it. …

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