Charlie's Diary

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Wed, 04 Feb 2004

The Digital Death Rattle of the American Middle Class: A Cautionary Tale

Dion Dennis writes a cautionary tale which explains, basically, why neo-liberalism (the economic dogma of choice for libertarians and hyper-capitalists everywhere) is a really, really bad idea in the long term:

our techno-corporations are our contemporary colonial powers, restlessly traversing the rhizomatic arrangement of people and places in search of profit and performative nirvanas. By doing so, they aggressively reshape social routines, values and relationships in the process. As such, they bring more than cut-rate employment opportunities to Indian or Romanian computer programmers. What is imported into these developing countries is an entire social philosophy (neo-liberalism), which effectively sees the developing world exclusively as a new techno-colony, a means to its performative and profitability ends. [26] If culture, history or boundaries do not serve these short term ends, then the tendency is to undermine or discard these elements of world culture, replacing it with a self-obsessed techno-corporatist Social Darwinism ...

Along with the elimination of other redistribution functions (such as the estate tax), the overall tendency will be to reduce social mobility, and reconstitute the U.S. in the direction of a closed and more static social system. Restricting access to higher education will simultaneously allow for reduced state expenditures, which will lead to reduced taxes, while shaping reduced expectations of social mobility among the poor and the lower middle classes. And that reduction of expectations and the consequent reductions in the number of U.S. "symbolic workers" will be line with the declining competitiveness of U.S. intellectual labor in a global intellectual labor market.

If all this is so, the American digerati have become the vanguard of this round of global restratification, signifying the digital death rattle of the American middle class.

Here's a hint: America today, here tomorrow.

Note that Dennis is not presenting a prescriptive solution to the problem. He's just pointing to the fact that the problem exists, and it's spreading like cancer. Charging students fees for access to higher education, privatising transport networks and water supplies, the creeping corporatisation of civil life -- these are all familiar symptoms here in the UK, the early markers of a disease in progress. Exporting call centres to India is another symptom, like the sneeze that exports coronavirus capsids from the cold-ridden individual. The current implementation of capitalism isn't merely inequitable, it's infectious and incapable of surviving without expansion. The implications are pretty frightening when you pause to think about it: we're sowing the seeds of a global system that grows like a weed and leaves devastated infrastructure and shattered societies in its wake. And as action begets reaction, I'm beginning to think that the dominant ideology of the 21st century -- from, say, 2030 onwards -- will be Socialism 2.0. And for good reason.

[Link] [Discuss politics]

posted at: 13:30 | path: /politics | permanent link to this entry

Excuses, excuses ...

"The cat ate my weblog."

Um, no ... how about:

"Phase of the moon (Neptunian)"

... or ...

"I would have written, but I was abducted by aliens and subjected to a long and humiliating ritual in which they repeatedly refused to insert icy-cold metal instruments into my body cavities, no matter how pathetically I pleaded with them"

... (eew! kinky!)

... or ...

"I'm waiting for the blood test to find out if I'm going to die of Kuru or Rabies or whatever it is that Kutting-Edge Writurz are dying of this decade"


Baah, humbug. The simple truth is, I haven't written anything because I'm lazy. Lazy: afflicted by a lassitude of obscure origin. Burned-out, tired, drained, enervated, out of go-juice, up shit creek without an outboard motor. Spinning my wheels, futtering around with computery things rather than doing anything productive. I need a vacation. It is slowly dawning on me that I have been working flat-out for the past three years, desperately trying to get established, and I just don't have the stamina of a teenager any more. , I have unforgivably neglected the weblog -- not to mention the novel I'm supposed to be writing -- for the past few days, because I'm stuck in a haze of gray exhaustion that nothing seems to lift.

That's not to say that there's nothing to report. Bruche Schneier's done another op-ed, explaining why monitoring ID doesn't assure security. And my story Nightfall made the final list for the 2003 BSFA award for best short fiction. But I can't actually summon up the energy to get worked up about anything today. So I'll shut up now until I've got something new to say.

[Discuss overwork]

posted at: 11:19 | path: /excuses | permanent link to this entry


Is SF About to Go Blind? -- Popular Science article by Greg Mone
Unwirer -- an experiment in weblog mediated collaborative fiction
Inside the MIT Media Lab -- what it's like to spend a a day wandering around the Media Lab
"Nothing like this will be built again" -- inside a nuclear reactor complex

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The Jennifer Morgue
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Some webby stuff I'm reading:

Engadget ]
Gizmodo ]
The Memory Hole ]
Boing!Boing! ]
Futurismic ]
Walter Jon Williams ]
Making Light (TNH) ]
Crooked Timber ]
Junius (Chris Bertram) ]
Baghdad Burning (Riverbend) ]
Bruce Sterling ]
Ian McDonald ]
Amygdala (Gary Farber) ]
Cyborg Democracy ]
Body and Soul (Jeanne d'Arc)  ]
Atrios ]
The Sideshow (Avedon Carol) ]
This Modern World (Tom Tomorrow) ]
Jesus's General ]
Mick Farren ]
Early days of a Better Nation (Ken MacLeod) ]
Respectful of Otters (Rivka) ]
Tangent Online ]
Grouse Today ]
Hacktivismo ]
Terra Nova ]
Whatever (John Scalzi) ]
Justine Larbalestier ]
Yankee Fog ]
The Law west of Ealing Broadway ]
Cough the Lot ]
The Yorkshire Ranter ]
Newshog ]
Kung Fu Monkey ]
S1ngularity ]
Pagan Prattle ]
Gwyneth Jones ]
Calpundit ]
Lenin's Tomb ]
Progressive Gold ]
Kathryn Cramer ]
Halfway down the Danube ]
Fistful of Euros ]
Orcinus ]
Shrillblog ]
Steve Gilliard ]
Frankenstein Journal (Chris Lawson) ]
The Panda's Thumb ]
Martin Wisse ]
Kuro5hin ]
Advogato ]
Talking Points Memo ]
The Register ]
Cryptome ]
Juan Cole: Informed comment ]
Global Guerillas (John Robb) ]
Shadow of the Hegemon (Demosthenes) ]
Simon Bisson's Journal ]
Max Sawicky's weblog ]
Guy Kewney's mobile campaign ]
Hitherby Dragons ]
Counterspin Central ]
MetaFilter ]
NTKnow ]
Encyclopaedia Astronautica ]
Fafblog ]
BBC News (Scotland) ]
Pravda ]
Meerkat open wire service ]
Warren Ellis ]
Brad DeLong ]
Hullabaloo (Digby) ]
Jeff Vail ]
The Whiskey Bar (Billmon) ]
Groupthink Central (Yuval Rubinstein) ]
Unmedia (Aziz Poonawalla) ]
Rebecca's Pocket (Rebecca Blood) ]

Older stuff:

June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004
December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003
February 2003
January 2003
December 2002
November 2002
October 2002
September 2002
August 2002
July 2002
June 2002
May 2002
April 2002
March 2002
(I screwed the pooch in respect of the blosxom entry datestamps on March 28th, 2002, so everything before then shows up as being from the same time)

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