Idiotism: Capitalism and the Privatisation of Life


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The Commons and Global Sustainable Information Society (GSIS)

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About Neal Curtis.

Idiotism : capitalism and the privatisation of life - Bowdoin College Library

It consists of the social subject, the social object, and the social ways and means of human activities that include the material and natural ones but go beyond mere physicality; the commons is the sphere that allows for the unfolding of individual ingenuity, the space that society provides for it.

As current technological, ecological, economic, political, and cultural crises show, conservative forces fall prey to an anachronistic mode of action that increasingly encloses any existing commons. And it is true that idiotism as a feature of society that functions via the actions of self-interested, self-concerned individuals goes back to antiquity and even earlier social formations in which there was domination that went hand in hand with the enclosure of the commons and the denial of free access to it.

In contrast to idiotism, a transformation into GSIS requires a new cosmopolitanism that by promoting a new image of world citizens — from the perspective of all humanity — inspires a new kind of behaviour, from the world-society level to various groupings at different levels and finally to the individual. Idiotism is characterised by an attempt to decouple the means from the ends and invent ever-new means while the ends remain fixed as givens. New cosmopolitanism questions both means and ends; no means, no ends are taken as givens unless agreed upon in common; not only are the means to be variable, but the ends are not to be imposed as constants anymore; a permanent adjustment of the means to the end and of the end to the means is understood as feasible and mandatory; the means is open to critique if it does not lead to the desired moral end, and the end is open to critique too if it turns out to frustrate a higher moral end.

In new cosmopolitanism, on the other hand, interests are compelled to replace short-sightedness with long-sightedness. Individual interests need not be particularistic; they can be coherent with social relations that are concerned with, and care for, all of the community in question. Actors can serve their true and best interests by acknowledging that they can do so best when in harmony with the overarching system and thus without doing harm to other system components.

They can construct a unity-through-diversity relationship to the social system. But to be able to do so they need to overcome the restrictions of reflexivity they face in idiotism. Reflections in new cosmopolitanism are compelled to refer to commonalities. Actors need to be enabled to reflect their own positions and the positions of others from the perspective of the overall social system; through collective reflecion on the part of the actors, the system itself can be said to be reflexive about its actors when it assures improved conditions for social synergy and for the reduction of social frictions in the generation and utilisation of the commons.

Actors need to extend their reflections to the community and its commons. The transition to GSIS would necessitate a reflexive revolution. However, as I wrote in , societal development after was not particularly conducive to the formation of strong, comprehensive, and deep-rooted forces composed of agents of change working towards a GSIS and a mitigation of the global challenges.

In the aftermath of the oil crises in the first half of the seventies and on the eve of the eighties of the last century, the post-war boom and the blind trust in the continuing improvement of social life conditions lost momentum. In economy, the accumulation of industry capital decoupled the increase of wages from the increase in productivity. In technology, flexible automation displaced Fordism mass production with mass consumption.

In politics, Thatcherism and Reagonomics, the destruction of the social welfare state by liberalisation, privatisation, and deregulation were introduced. All of that formed a pattern that connects. It was implemented by the advised response of the ruling classes to the decline of the profit rates that had accelerated because of the accumulation of capital that could not find appropriate spheres of investments.

Drug War Capitalism

And this implementation could capitalise [on] the weakness of the trade union and labour movements. In the current crises, the transnational financial capital is targeting national economies and the politicians support it by administering austerity at the cost of the 80, 90 or even 99 per cent of the populations instead of starting a redistribution of wealth and income.

The conditions for a subjective factor to emerge even worsened. Students were trained to work as cogs in the machine of myopic economic interests and not educated to grasp the big picture. Personal competence through political education and engagement is neither required nor offered, and technical and business skills and natural science training prevail. The economisation of education has transformed pupils and students into customers. Schools and universities do not provide guidance for critical thinking nor do they provide free space for it. Even a sense of connection with society is not fostered.

There is still no empirical evidence that consciousness is spreading among the youth in the Western world about the commons that need to be reclaimed for a just social order in nascent world society. Restricted reflection still appears to be predominant. But there is still hope. The protests of new social movements might have helped prepare the ground for growing political awareness that reflects the economic situation and a will to change.

Insight into the causes of the crises may have spread. There may be realisation that the current crises are expressions of a progressive enclosure of all the common goods generated and utilised by actors in the whole range of social systems that make up society.

Battles over reclaiming the commons may now be more easily recognised as such. In conclusion, there is still grounds for hope, since imponderables, contingencies, and serendipity are inherent in social evolution. Social evolution is emergent, and situations may arise that open the window to the needed transition to a Global Sustainable Information Society. Robert K.

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The Commons and Global Sustainable Information Society GSIS By Wolfgang Hofkirchner 09 Mar 16 Posted under: Commons The age of global challenges The information age is the age of the societies into which industrialised societies are transforming, as seen in the spread of new information and communication technologies ICTs , just as the industrial age is the age of the societies into which agricultural societies had and are still transforming worldwide. As I said in my Presidential address at that occasion: The study and the engineering of information processes have been spreading and diversifying, while diffusing throughout the disciplines.

The point of departure of the conference was the following statement: The information society has come with a promise — the promise, with the help of technology, to restore information as a commons: generated and utilised by everyone; for the benefit of every single person and all humanity; unfettered, empowering the people, truthful and reasonable, enabling constructive ways of living and a proper understanding of the environment.

The commons and a global sustainable information society The transformation of current societies is absolutely necessary in view of the global challenges with which we have been living since the second half of the last century. It has to be able, by establishing its own organisational relations, to prevent the dangers of anthropogenic breakdown, that is, it needs to be sustainable.


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It needs to have the capacity, through ICTs, to create the requisite wisdom, knowledge, and data, that is, it needs to be informational. Subjective factors in the transformation As current technological, ecological, economic, political, and cultural crises show, conservative forces fall prey to an anachronistic mode of action that increasingly encloses any existing commons. Notes 1.

Curtis, Idiotism , p. Tags Commons. Authors Wolfgang Hofkirchner. Book Review Common ownership of the means of production is dead.

Idiotism: Capitalism And The Privatisation Of Life 2012

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