The Corporate Capture of Social Change

“If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change”

Anand Giridharadas isn’t afraid of controversy. His debut book Winner Takes All is a blistering take down of the faith put in the biggest beneficiaries of capitalism to lead capitalism’s reform and change the world for the better.

Be it the next Silicon Valley start up or philanthropic foundation, the underlying assumption pushed by the rich is always that business, entrepreneurship and the private sector are the most efficient and effective means of tackling society’s collective problems.

Giridharadas describes how even the language of social change which has historically been associated with grassroots movements, social justice and mass protest has been colonised by market logic and the billionaire class.

Rather than discussing social change as being rooted in rights, justice and systemic reform, the new corporate conception of social change sees inequality, climate change and poverty as a set of technical problems with market solutions. For these people  fixing the world is not about challenging powerful interests and overhauling a rigged economic system but about empowering “global leaders and opinion formers” to leverage “capital, data and technology to improve lives.”

What this actually means is cutting the public out of decision making for what the future should look like. Instead of community leaders, unions and businesses engaging in dialogue to decide whats best for their communities, we are instead told to look to McKinsey consultants and Goldman Sachs analysts to crunch numbers and provide reports on how to “restructure” the economy, to prepare for “inevitable” disruption and spur economic growth.

The glaring contradiction of putting the winners of our broken economy in charge of its repair is that the winners are actually quite comfortable with the status quo. Why would Goldman Sachs want solutions to social change if social change threatens their status, money and power?

By capturing social change within their control they are able to ensure social change is not pursued at all. Angel Gurria secretary General of the OECD describes the top down approach as “changing things on the surface so that in practice nothing changes at all.”

[END of part 1]

 

 

Advertisements

Is Donald Trump unintentionally promoting a liberal agenda In Europe?

 

Author: Fillip Steffensen

When Donald Trump won the 2016 US election, pundits predicted a populist backlash against past decades of fiscally and culturally liberal policies. Porous borders, terrorist threats and the decline of the manufacturing industry were blamed for the emergence of populism. However, 6 months after the inauguration of Donald Trump, the world -especially Europe – has experienced what I would call a liberal backlash rather than a populist backlash.

In the following article, I will endeavour to explain why Donald Trump is unintentionally promoting a liberal and cosmopolitan agenda rather than his own populist agenda.

The idea first struck me in December when political latecomer, Alexander Van Der Bellen, defeated populist Norbert Hofer in the second ballot of the Austrian election. The first election was held in May with only an insignificant margin separating the two candidates. In the re-election, however, Van Der Bellen triumphed with a margin of approximately 8 percentage points.

In other parts of Europe, pundits dreaded the prospects of candidates like Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders being successful in their respective elections. Although both candidates did perform very well in polls months before the elections, their support declined severely as election day approached. In Netherlands, the support for Geert Wilders’ party amounted to about 22% in polls. However, his support decreased dramatically – hitting only 13,1% at election day:

Graph 1

 

Additionally, in the subsequent French elections Marine Le Pen was expected to gain ground in polls. However, as election day approached, her support declined:

 

graph2

 

The same trend applies in the 2017 UK election in which UKIP support collapsed, falling numerous percentages. After reaching its peak popularity in polls, the German populist party, AfD also seems to have lost favour from the electorate – nonetheless, we still anticipate the elections in September with great excitement.

It is not only in elections that Trump seems to have ignited a counter-reaction. Another way to examine this tendency is by looking at polls measuring the development in opinions from year to year. I find it striking that favourability ratings for free trade and NATO – which Trump is not particularly fond of – have increased. For instance, Trump spent lengths expressing his discomfort with trade deals and NATO – therefore, It is intriguing that perceptions of free trade and NATO have shifted towards a more liberal view among the respondents:

graph 3

 

What’s more interesting is that favourability ratings have increased following a period of long time pessimism. In other words, the zero-zum perceptions have been substituted with a liberal and positive-sum perception of the economy. During his campaign, Trump also questioned the necessity of NATO. In a resentful manner, he threatened that USA might not comply with the musketeer oath. But, as the figure below suggests, the favourability ratings of NATO increased after a long period of decline – even in semi-authoritarian and populist countries like Poland:

 

graph 4

 

Conclusion

The evidence presented above suggests that the election of Trump has ignited a counter-reaction. The statistics above are only a fraction of polls and election results supporting this thesis.

Nevertheless, in the above, I have presented compelling evidence suggesting that Trump has mobilised a backlash. In other words, Trump seems to have promoted liberal values and policies.

The German philosopher, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel wrote about a theory of pendulum. In short, according to Hegel, contradiction is at the core of human progress. The idea is that contradicting positions are being resolved into a new position. This way, the “pendulum” swings between thesis and antithesis, and eventually develops into a third position.

Hegelian philosophy seems far away from Trump. However, as mentioned in the introduction, the Western world has been dominated primarily by fiscally and culturally liberal reforms since the fall of the Soviet Union. Albeit this policy had great support in the first decades following the fall of Soviet Union public sentiment shifted within the 21st century. For years, political pessimism thrived in certain regions, which eventually led to the emergence of political movements agitating for nationalist and semi-authoritarian policies.

This created fertile political ground for the emergence of the populist movement which eventually culminated with the election of Trump. As this radical and populist movement formed, the evidence suggests that the pendulum has swung in both directions and is now stabilising in the middle. In other words, the pendulum has stabilised in a position between two contradictions (liberalism/populism) and has now settled in a position in the middle.

 

Fillip Steffensen is a Danish blogger and contributing writer at The Conversation Room.

The Death of Owning

The Google generation is fascinating. Children growing up in an age with unlimited access to information at the end of their fingertips. Have a question about sex? Ask google. Forgot to do your homework? Copy and paste Wikipedia.

Its incredible to believe that only twenty years ago none of this was possible. You needed to own books, actually ask real people uncomfortable questions and unless your friend let you copy their work you were screwed if you didn’t do it.

 

In 2014 I wrote on the massive impact of streaming services such as Netflix and Spotify were having on the power of consumers and disrupting the economy through the digital world. Since then, Uber and Air BnB have further changed the game in the subscription economy, Instagram and Snapchat have become the social currency and more and more people have traded the onerous obligations of ownership for the ease of subscription and service.

The video attached above documents how this massive shift in power from industry to consumer marks the end of the ownership economy and the beginning of the subscription economy.

Young people these days don’t dream of buying a house and a car and working for a big investment bank. They dream of travelling the world, spending on experiences rather than materials and sharing the photos online for the world to see.

Where will this lead us? It has the potential to be as detrimental as it has to be phenomenal. There’s something intimate about owning a physical book or a physical Vinyl record – preserving memories of a time. A place. And a feeling. Subscription on the other hand is highly perishable, its gluttonous, and digital storage is not as familiar as a physical item.

What do you think?

What Would Elon Musk Be Working On If He Was 22?

Inventor, Entrepreneur and Englineer discusses what he views as the most important work to be doing if he was a young person in 2017.

Musk has been at the centre of the conversation around artificial intelligence and sustainable energy consumption over the past 15 years. He is ranked the 21st most influential people in the world and his current company SpaceX are working on a project to eventually allow humans to colonise Mars.

Stop Thinking You Need Motivation.

Mel Robbins in this interview for Impact Theory explains why she believes motivation to be a debilitating concept which holds people back. She argues that people get fixated with the idea that “one day” they will do the things they really want to do and all that is missing is courage and motivation.

In reality however, it will always be difficult to do things which create risk in our lives and this belief in motivation contradicts the way in which are brains are designed.

 

 

Why Are There No Alternatives To Capitalism?

Zizek is one of the most profound and thought provoking commentators on modern issues. From Vulture Capitalism to cultural integration he attempts to tackles some of our world’s toughest problems.

In this piece he discusses alternatives to capitalism and the institutions that are in place to stifle any meaningful change or improvement. 

Do Millennials Confuse “Clicktivism” with Real Activism?

In this short clip of Intelligence Squared’s debate “Millennials Don’t Stand A Chance” the speakers discuss the modern generations attitude to activism.

If Martin Luther King was marching in 2016 would thousands of people click attending on Facebook only not to show up on the day? Has the Millennial generation become more naive by social media or do they have the same traits as previous generations only magnified and documented in an online medium?