Schlagwort-Archive: #power

No Escape from Our Techno-Feudal World

4 December 2020 

No Escape from Our Techno-Feudal World

By Pepe EscobarPinnull

This article was originally published on Asia Times.

The political economy of the Digital Age remains virtually terra incognita. In Techno-Feudalism, published three months ago in France (no English translation yet), Cedric Durand, an economist at the Sorbonne, provides a crucial, global public service as he sifts through the new Matrix that controls all our lives.

Durand places the Digital Age in the larger context of the historical evolution of capitalism to show how the Washington consensus ended up metastasized into the Silicon Valley consensus. In a delightful twist, he brands the new grove as the “Californian ideology”.

We’re far away from Jefferson Airplane and the Beach Boys; it’s more like Schumpeter’s “creative destruction” on steroids, complete with IMF-style “structural reforms” emphasizing “flexibilization” of work and outright marketization/financialization of everyday life.

The Digital Age was crucially associated with right-wing ideology from the very start. The incubation was provided by the Progress and Freedom Foundation (PFF), active from 1993 to 2010 and conveniently funded, among others, by Microsoft, At&T, Disney, Sony, Oracle, Google and Yahoo.

In 1994, PFF held a ground-breaking conference in Atlanta that eventually led to a seminal Magna Carta: literally, Cyberspace and the American Dream: a Magna Carta for the Knowledge Era, published in 1996, during the first Clinton term.

Not by accident the magazine Wired was founded, just like PFF, in 1993, instantly becoming the house organ of the “Californian ideology”.

Among the authors of the Magna Carta we find futurist Alvin “Future Shock” Toffler and Reagan’s former scientific counselor George Keyworth. Before anyone else, they were already conceptualizing how “cyberspace is a bioelectronic environment which is literally universal”. Their Magna Carta was the privileged road map to explore the new frontier.

Those Randian heroes

Also not by accident the intellectual guru of the new frontier was Ayn Rand and her quite primitive dichotomy between “pioneers” and the mob. Rand declared that egotism is good, altruism is evil, and empathy is irrational.

When it comes to the new property rights of the new Eldorado, all power should be exercised by the Silicon Valley “pioneers”, a Narcissus bunch in love with their mirror image as superior Randian heroes. In the name of innovation they should be allowed to destroy any established rules, in a Schumpeterian “creative destruction” rampage.

That has led to our current environment, where Google, Facebook, Uber and co. can overstep any legal framework, imposing their innovations like a fait accompli.

Durand goes to the heart of the matter when it comes to the true nature of “digital domination”: US leadership was never achieved because of spontaneous market forces.

On the contrary. The history of Silicon Valley is absolutely dependent on state intervention – especially via the industrial-military complex and the aero-spatial complex. 

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The Ames Research Center, one of NASA’s top labs, is in Mountain View. Stanford was always awarded juicy military research contracts. During WWII, Hewlett Packard, for instance, was flourishing thanks to their electronics being used to manufacture radars. Throughout the 1960s, the US military bought the bulk of the still infant semiconductor production.

The Rise of Data Capitala 2016 MIT Technological Review report produced “in partnership” with Oracle, showed how digital networks open access to a new, virgin underground brimming with resources: “Those that arrive first and take control obtain the resources they’re seeking” – in the form of data.

So everything from video-surveillance images and electronic banking to DNA samples and supermarket tickets implies some form of territorial appropriation. Here we see in all its glory the extractivist logic inbuilt in the development of Big Data.

Durand gives us the example of Android to illustrate the extractivist logic in action. Google made Android free for all smartphones so it would acquire a strategic market position, beating the Apple ecosystem and thus becoming the default internet entry point for virtually the whole planet. That’s how a de facto, immensely valuable,  online real estate empire is built.

The key point is that whatever the original business – Google, Amazon, Uber – strategies of conquering cyberspace all point to the same target: take control of “spaces of observation and capture” of data.

About the Chinese credit system…

Durand offers a finely balanced analysis of the Chinese credit system – a public/private hybrid system launched in 2013 during the 3rdplenum of the 18th Congress of the CCP, under the motto “to value sincerity and punish insincerity”.

For the State Council, the supreme government authority in China, what really mattered was to encourage behavior deemed responsible in the financial, economic and socio-political spheres, and sanction what is not. It’s all about trust. Beijing defines it as “a method of perfecting the socialist market economy system that improves social governance”.

The Chinese term – shehui xinyong – is totally lost in translation in the West. Way more complex than “social credit”, it’s more about  “trustworthiness”, in the sense of integrity. Instead of the pedestrian Western accusations of being an Orwellian system, priorities include the fight against fraud and corruption at the national, regional and local levels, violations of environmental rules, disrespect of food security norms.

Cybernetic management of social life is being seriously discussed in China since the 1980s. In fact, since the 1940s, as we see in Mao’s Little Red Book. It could be seen as inspired by the Maoist principle of “mass lines”, as in “start with the masses to come back to the masses: to amass the ideas of the masses (which are dispersed, non-systematic), concentrate them (in general ideas and systematic), then come back to the masses to diffuse and explain them, make sure the masses assimilate them and translate them into action, and verify in the action of the masses the pertinence of these ideas”.

Durand’s analysis goes one step beyond Soshana Zuboff’s

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism when he finally reaches the core of his thesis, showing how digital platforms become “fiefdoms”: they live out of, and profit from, their vast “digital territory” peopled with data even as they lock in power over their services, which are deemed indispensable.

And just as in feudalism, fiefdoms dominate territory by attaching serfs. Masters made their living profiting from the social power derived from the exploitation of their domain, and that implied unlimited power over the serfs.

It all spells out total concentration. Silicon Valley stalwart Peter Thiel has always stressed the target of the digital entrepreneur is exactly to bypass competition. As quoted in Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World, Thiel declared, “Capitalism and competition are antagonistic. Competition is for losers.”

So now we are facing not a mere clash between Silicon Valley capitalism and finance capital, but actually a new mode of production:

a turbo-capitalist survival as rentier capitalism, where Silicon giants take the place of estates, and also the State. That is the “techno-feudal” option, as defined by Durand.

Blake meets Burroughs

Durand’s book is extremely relevant to show how the theoretical and political critique of the Digital Age is still rarified. There is no precise cartography of all those dodgy circuits of revenue extraction. No analysis of how do they profit from the financial casino – especially mega investment funds that facilitate hyper-concentration. Or how do they profit from the hardcore exploitation of workers in the gig economy.

The total concentration of the digital glebe is leading to a scenario, as Durand recalls, already dreamed up by Stuart Mill, where every land in a country belonged to a single master. Our generalized dependency on the digital masters seems to be “the cannibal future of liberalism in the age of algorithms”.

Is there a possible way out? The temptation is to go radical – a Blake/Burroughs crossover. We have to expand our scope of comprehension – and stop confusing the map (as shown in the Magna Carta) with the territory (our perception).

William Blake, in his proto-psychedelic visions, was all about liberation and subordination – depicting an authoritarian deity imposing conformity via a sort of source code of mass influence. Looks like a proto-analysis of the Digital Age.

William Burroughs conceptualized Control – an array of manipulations including mass media (he would be horrified by social media). To break down Control, we must be able to hack into and disrupt its core programs. Burroughs showed how all forms of Control must be rejected – and defeated: “Authority figures are seen for what they are:  dead empty masks manipulated by computers”.

Here’s our future: hackers or slaves.

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Pepe Escobar is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Credits to the owner of the featured imageThe original source of this article is Global ResearchCopyright © Pepe Escobar, Global Research, 2020

Donald J. Trump and The Deep State

Stephan Best

Globalcrisis/globalchange NEWS

09. Februar 2017

Dear All,

Donald J. Trump and The Deep State

By Prof Peter Dale Scott, February 08 2017

http://www.globalresearch.ca/donald-j-trump-and-the-deep-state/5573547

By Prof Peter Dale Scott

Global Research, February 08, 2017

WhoWhatWhy 6 February 2017

When the uninitiated think of the “Deep State,” they tend to imagine a group of men getting together in a room, smoking cigars and plotting world domination. But the Deep State is not one coordinated network of people controlling the government from the shadows.

Instead, it refers to individuals and groups that have the resources to shape the direction of the world to their benefit and don’t hesitate to make use of them. At times, the interests of different factions of the Deep State collide. That often happens when the direction of the world is rapidly changing, as is the case now after the election of Donald Trump.

Nobody knows this better than Peter Dale Scott, the foremost expert on the US Deep State. Below, you will find a new introduction to the paperback version of The American Deep State: Big Money, Big Oil, and the Struggle for U.S. Democracy, Updated Edition (copyright 2017), (with permission of the publisher, Rowman & Littlefield. All rights reserved).

Peter Dale Scott is a former Canadian diplomat, Professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley, co-founder of the Peace and Conflict Studies program at Berkeley, poet, and 2002 recipient of the Lannan Poetry Award.

His political books include Deep Politics and the Death of JFK (1993), The Road to 9/11: Wealth, Empire, and the Future of America (2007), The War Conspiracy: JFK, 9/11 and the Deep Politics of War (2008), American War Machine: Deep Politics, the CIA Global Drug Connection, and the Road to Afghanistan (2010), The American Deep State: Wall Street, Big Oil, and the Attack on U.S. Democracy (2014) and Dallas ’63: The First Deep State Revolt Against the White House (2015). A complete bibliography can be found on his website at http://www.peterdalescott.net.

(…)

“But those who saw the election as a contest between outsider Trump and a “deep state” tended to give two different meanings to this new term. On the one hand were those who saw the deep state as “a conglomerate of insiders” incorporating all those, outside and inside the traditional state, who “run the country no matter who is in the White House…and without the consent of voters.”[8] On the other were those who, like Chris Hedges, limited the “deep state” to those perverting constitutional American politics from the margin of the Washington Beltway — “the security and surveillance apparatus, the war machine.”[9]

But both of these simplistic definitions, suitable for campaign rhetoric, omit the commanding role played by big money — what used to be referred to as Wall Street, but now includes an increasingly powerful number of maverick non-financial billionaires like the Koch brothers. All serious studies of the deep state, including Mike Lofgren’s The Deep State and Philip Giraldi’s Deep State America as well as this book, acknowledge the importance of big money.[10]

It is important to recognize moreover, that the current division between “red” and “blue” America is overshadowed by a corresponding division at the level of big money, one that contributed greatly to the ugliness of the 2016 campaign. In The American Deep State (p. 30), I mention, albeit very briefly, the opposition of right-wing oilmen and the John Birch Society “to the relative internationalism of Wall Street.”[11] That opposition has become more powerful, and better financed, than ever before.

It has also evolved. As I noted in The American Deep State, (p. 14), the deep state “is not a structure but a system, as difficult to define, but also as real and powerful, as a weather system.” A vigorous deep state, like America, encompasses dynamic processes continuously generating new forces within it like the Internet — just as a weather system is not fixed but changes from day to day.“ (…) Highlighted by StB

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-= Full text attached-=

Ciao Stephan Best

Donald SCOTT Deep State 20170206.pdf

John HALLE: Two Lessons From Syriza’s Two (Biggest) Mistakes

Elke Schenk dokumentiert  auf
globalcrisis/globalchange News

http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/07/17/syrizas-two-mistakes/print/

Two Lessons From Syriza’s Two (Biggest) Mistakes

Posted By John Halle On In articles 2015,Leading Article | Comments Disabled

That Syriza has made mistakes isn’t in dispute: they themselves have admitted to two main ones.

1) They failed to recognize, despite early , that the EU was negotiating in bad faith. The EU’s intention was never to reach an agreement but to destroy Syriza and with it the hope that the victims of the endless bleeding of austerity had any democratic recourse. Furthermore, the negotiations were themselves a tactic in that, as former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis now admits, they prevented him from focussing on the one thing which Syriza could have used in its negotiations: a viable plan to exit the Eurozone in a way which minimized disruption to the economy and maximize the chances that it would return to health in the shortest possible time.

2) We now know from Varoufakis that Syriza had “a small group . . . within the ministry, of about five people” that were planning in secret for a Grexit. This was, as he concedes, not even close to what was required to effect a viable transition to a new currency. Of course, no serious person should have any illusions that a Grexit would be “easy”, even with a massive investment in staff and infrastructure, any more than recovering from a major earthquake, hurricane or bombing of a nation’s major cities by a foreign power. Rather, just as a government is expected to prepare for disasters whether these are acts of god or attacks from hostile foreign powers, Syriza was derelict in failing to plan for what Varoufakis now accepts was “a coup” albeit executed not by “tanks” but by “banks”.

1) The Bankruptcy of “Speaking Truth to Power” Liberalism

Despite Syriza’s self-definition as “the party of the radical left”, much of its leadership and many of its advisers would reject the designation, more accurately being categorized within our political lexicon as liberals. Among these is Varoufakis’s close friend and UT Austin colleague Jamie Galbraith who described himself as “a reasonable and hopeful observer” of Syriza’s initial negotiations with the E.U. Rather than dismiss as a right wing ideologue German Chancellor Angela Merkel Galbraith praised her for “having made some of the mildest comments of any German politician,” and for having “chosen with care” her words on the subject of debt relief which, according to him, she had not rejected.

Galbraith’s report of the negotiations gave further grounds for hope that “the German government, having taken a very tough line through the process, took a step back from that tough line in order to secure a basic framework agreement for going forward.”

As we now know, the softening on the German’s hard line was a liberal chimera. Galbraith now recognizes that “the negotiations were a bit of a farce all along” and has admitted that he should have recognized that Chancellor Merkel was always “completely unreceptive.” […]

What is on display is the disenchantment of liberals who operated on a presumption of good intentions and underlying rationality of elite technocrats. Radicals such as Lapavistas do not. For them, providing “arguments” to the institutional representatives of capital makes no more sense than addressing a hyena with its fangs clamped on one’s jugular. The hyena is acting not according to reason but according to its fundamental nature and so are the capitalist hyenas who were the Syriza’s negotiating partners.

It was foolish to negotiate with any other expectation, as both Varoufakis and Galbraith now have effectively conceded.

2) Goldman Sachs DOES care (if you raise chickens)

A second explanation for one of Syriza’s crucial mistakes involves assumptions made by segments of their left, as opposed to (neo-) liberal wing, which includes Varoufakis and others who he refers to as “committed Europeanists.” By that he means that they are committed to the longstanding principle of left internationalism and cosmopolitanism. They also tend to view favorably the comparative advantage accruing to globalized trading networks which provide the economies of scale making possible large efficiencies in production of basic goods and also in making available raw materials at low cost. While their position is reasonable, it also has a negative side in that internationalists tend to denigrate the potential of local, small scale experiments in alternative economic systems of the sort which have been championed by Richard Wolff and Gar Alperowitz among others under the heading of worker self directed enterprises and workplace democracy.

Why this matters is that it is apparent that some form of what Wolff and Alperowitz are proposing will be crucial in the event of a Grexit. Prior to a national currency being re-established, local networks of production and exchange of the sort which globalization has long since eradicated will need to be revived and again made viable. That includes, incidentally, various forms of local food production of the sort denigrated by the verticalist left under the widely circulated meme “Goldman Sachs doesn’t care if you raise chickens.”

In fact, whether Greece will collapse into chaos and starvation will have to do with whether they are able to reduce their reliance on imported goods ramping up local production in all spheres including most crucially in food production-not as a neo-Calvinist moral imperative but to maintain a minimal caloric intake.

[…]

full text attached

Yours sincerely

Elke Schenk

globalcrisis/globalchange News

HALLE-Two-Lessons-from-Syrizas-Biggest-Mistakes-2015_07_17.pdf

‘We underestimated their power’ – Greek government insider about the negotiations in Brussel; Mediapart, July 08, 2015

Dear all,

the following interview increases our knowledge/insight about/into the nonlegal TROIKA/”Institutions”, the Eurogroup …

The complete document is attached (pdf, 8p),the Frenche translation see: http://www.mediapart.fr/journal/international/070715/un-insider-raconte-comment-leurope-etrangle-la-grece?page_article=1

Greets,
Martin Zeis

Mediapart, SAM.18 JUILLET 2015 – ÉDITION DE LA MI-JOURNÉE
http://www.mediapart.fr/journal/international/080715/we-underestimated-their-power-greek-government-insider-lifts-lid-five-months-humiliation-and-blackm?page_article=1

ECONOMIE DOCUMENT
‘We underestimated their power’: Greek government insider lifts the lid on five months of ‘humiliation’ and ‘blackmail’
08 JUILLET 2015 | PAR CHRISTIAN SALMON

In this interview with Mediapart, a senior advisor to the Greek government, who has been at the heart of the past five months of negotiations between Athens and its international creditors, reveals the details of what resembles a game of liar’s dice over the fate of a nation that has been brought to its economic and social knees. His account gives a rare and disturbing insight into the process which has led up to this week’s make-or-break deadline for reaching a bailout deal between Greece and international lenders, without which the country faces crashing out of the euro and complete bankruptcy. He describes the extraordinary bullying of Greece’s radical-left government by the creditors, including Eurogroup president Jeroen Dijsselbloem’s direct threat to cause the collapse of the Hellenic banks if it failed to sign-up to a drastic austerity programme. “We went into a war thinking we had the same weapons as them”, he says. “We underestimated their power”.

A senior member of Greece’s negotiating team with its European creditors agreed to a meeting last week in Athens with Mediapart special correspondent Christian Salmon. Speaking on condition that his name is withheld, he detailed the history of the protracted and bitter negotiations between the radical-left Syriza government, elected in January, and international lenders for the provision of a new bailout for the debt-ridden country.

The almost two-hour interview in English took place just days before last Sunday’s referendum on the latest drastic austerity-driven bailout terms offered by the creditors, and opposed by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, and which were finally rejected by 61.3% of Greek voters.

While the ministerial advisor slams the stance of the international creditors, who he accuses of leading a strategy of deliberate suffocation of Greece’s finances and economy, he is also critical of some of the decisions taken by Athens. His account also throws light on the personal tensions surrounding the talks led by former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, who resigned from his post on Monday deploring “a certain preference by some Eurogroup participants, and assorted ‘partners’, for my ‘absence’ from its meetings”.

The advisor cites threats proffered to Varoufakis by Eurogroup president Jeroen Dijsselbloem, warning he would sink Greece’s banks unless the Tsipras government bowed to the harsh deal on offer, and by German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble, who he says demanded: “How much money do you want to leave the euro?”

The interview follows below and over the following three pages presented in a continuous series of extracts (editor’s notes appear in italics within hard brackets): (…)

=======
Martin Zeis
globalcrisis/globalchange NEWS
martin.zeis

SALMON-We-underestimated-their-power150708.pdf