portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article

corporate dominance

Against Depoliticized Politics!

Pierre Bourdieu criticizes the surrender and denaturing of politics amid ascending corporate power. He outlines remedies and alternatives to undemocratic corporate rule. (article 1)
In the Beginning was the Crisis

By Christian Semler

[This article originally published in: die tageszeitung, May 5, 2001 is translated abridged from the German on the World Wide Web, www.taz.de. Pierre Bourdieu urges an alliance of base initiatives critical of globalization, engaged scientists and reformed unions. Is this possible?]

How should the reform potential in European social democracy be judged whose main current espouses the "third way" of a more gentle variant of neoliberalism intent on consensus? Bourdieu is for confrontation. In some places like in Vienna, this is seen differently. Openly structuring the consultation process to avoid false avant-gardism is crucial.

Bourdieu, a critic of unbridled neoliberalism, is now devoted to demolition work. He can draw on the crisis of traditional worker organizations. Unions always worked "locally". No economic mechanism can steer the view of members quasi automatically to democratic or ecological problems - let alone to the problems of the world society. However the "local" organization in the factory has fallen into crisis. The primacy of internal, company or operational struggles is still true. Still no mental pressure will hinder future unions activists from climbing more strongly than in the past over the cracked walls of national capital relations....

Who says that the misery of the third world is a precondition for the living standards of employees in industrial countries? And that these will never be ready to pay higher prices if help could be offered? Time for discussions, time for experiments, time for Bourdieu!


Against Depoliticized Politics

By Pierre Bourdieu

[This article originally published in: die tageszeitung, April 11, 2001 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, www.taz.de.]

Everything understood under the descriptive and normative term "globalization" is by no means the result of inevitable economic developments. Rather an ingenious and conscious policy is at work that is hardly conscious of its disastrous consequences (1). This policy which shamelessly uses a vocabulary of freedom, liberalism, liberalization and deregulation is in reality a policy of de-politization and aims paradoxically at liberating the forces of the economy from all fetters, granting them a fatal influence and subjecting governments and citizens to the laws of the deregulated economy. In the sessions of the big international organizations like the WTO or the European Commission and in the policy developed within all the "networks" of multinational corporations, this policy gains acceptance in the most different ways - first of all legalistically - among the liberal or social democratic governments of a whole series of economically advanced countries. Step by step, governments abandoned their earlier controls over the powers of the economy.

Against this policy of de-politization, a legitimate place must be granted again to political thinking and acting and a starting point found beyond the borders of the nation-state and the necessary funds that can no longer be limited to the political and union battles within the nation-state framework. For all those who want to effectively oppose the dominant powers of the market, one rational goal doubtlessly consists in building a united Europe-wide social movement gathering the most different movements divided on the national and the international planes.

As different as these social movements may be in their origins, desires and goals, a whole series of common characteristics make them "relatives". Since many of them emerged from the rejection of traditional forms of political mobilization, particularly forms of mobilization in the tradition of the parties of the Soviet type, a clear aversion against all monopolization by small minorities is common to these movements. Rather they rest on an immediate bond of all participants. Another shared feature is that they invent actions with strong symbolic substance original in goals and means. They are directed to concrete goals important for social life (housing, work, health, concerns of the impoverished and so forth) and offer practical solutions that can be implemented directly. Their proposals and their resistance can take concrete forms in exemplary campaigns, referring directly to the respective problem and demanding a marked personal engagement by participants and the responsible. Thanks to an exact knowledge of the operation of the media, a mastery has developed on "producing" an event and dramatizing a concern to focus the attention of the media and politics in this round-about way.

These movements are by no means merely artifacts staged by a minority relying on the media. In reality, a realistic association with the media joins a long engagement at the edge of the "traditional" movements (parties or unions), sometimes supported by a marginal fraction of these movements and which can gain visiblility on certain occasions expanding its social base at least in the short-term. These new social movements from the beginning had an international character. They took one another as their models and invented similar actions as in the housing struggles. A third common feature is that all these movements reject the neoliberal policy which compliantly implements the goals of large multinational corporations. A fourth common characteristic is that they are more or less international and internationalist. A last commonality consists in their solidarian attitude which is a kind of implicit principle of most of their struggles and which they seek to realize in their actions and organizations...

Demands and procedures must be coordinated without any intentions of monopolization. This coordination must take the form of a network in which individuals and groups can unite without anyone dominating or limiting others and in which the whole wealth of different experiences, perspectives and programs is preserved. The challenge comes to them to tear the still splintered social movements from their time-bound and resource-bound particularisms and help them overcome the to and fro between times of intensive mobilization and times of a latent or delayed existence without yielding to bureaucratic concentration.

Flexibly and sustainably, this organization must tackle two different projects: firstly, preparing campaigns coordinated to the meetings and facts and directed to concrete goals and secondly raising questions for discussion during regular meetings of representatives of all concerned groups and working together for long-term goals. What is central is identifying and developing general goals in the overlapping areas of the fields of individual groups in whose realization everyone can cooperate and contribute their possibilities and resources. A vast number of persons and groups out of this democratic encounter who share some essential ideas and convictions can offer a bundle of coherent and sensible answers to those basic questions for which neither the unions nor the parties offer global solutions.

A social European movement is hardly conceivable without the participation of a reformed union movement that overcomes external and internal hurdles standing in the way of its strengthening and unification on the European plane. Regarding the decline of the union movement as an indirect and delayed consequence of its triumph is paradoxical. Many demands behind the union struggles have become institutions in welfare state rights and create conflicts between the unions themselves. As para-governmental authorities often financed by the state itself, the union bureaucracies cooperate in the redistribution of social wealth. Union bureaucracies safeguard the social compromise by avoiding confrontations. Again and again, accountable persons in central union offices mutate into pure administrators, far removed from the worries and distresses of their clients. The logic of competition can entice them to defend their own interests rather than the interests of those whom they should really represent. This has contributed to employees turning away from the unions. An active involvement in the organization was even put off by union members.

These internal developments cannot be explained by saying we have a declining number of union members who are less and less active. Neoliberal policy contributes to weakening unions. The "flexibility" and precariousness of an increasing number of job conditions and the resulting change of working conditions and work demands cause common action and simple information work to become increasingly difficult while the remnants of social security protect a part of the employees. This shows how indispensable and difficult is a reform of union work, a reform which presupposes a questioning of the model of unrestricted delegation and the invention of novel techniques for mobilizing uncertain and marginal employees.

Thus the completely novel organization must be able to overcome the splintering according to different goals and national affiliations as well as the division in unions and "movements". The danger of monopolization can be overcome that hovers over all these social and union movements and also the paralysis on grounds of a nearly neurotic fear of this danger. The building of a compact and powerful international network of unions and social movements producing new initiatives through mutual exchange could make possible an international action with certain demands which have nothing in common anymore with the work of the official institutions in which some unions are represented.

To overcome the divisions between the social movements, one work is absolutely necessary which must be directed at overcoming another disastrous tension between scientists and people engaged in the social movements. Considering the present state of the economic and political hierarchies of power enabling powers of the economy to use scientific, technical and cultural resources to an unparalleled extent, research work must uncover and analyze strategies worked out and implemented by multinational enterprises and international organizations - organizations which like the WTO pass and enforce universal rules through which a neoliberal utopia of general deregulation increasingly threatens to become reality. The social hurdles for a close alliance between researchers and activists are just as high as the hurdles between different movements and between movements and the unions.. Nevertheless this is one of the presuppositions for the collective invention of a bundle of answers through critical confrontation of experiences and competences anchored in common desires and convictions.

A European social movement could counter the economic and intellectual forces and their armies of consultants, experts and lawyers. Only such a movement will be able to face the economic and political democratic goals of a European welfare state outfitted with sufficient political, legal and financial resources rather than those projects cynically obeying only the command of short-term profit maximization. Thus the raw and brutal force of narrow-minded economic interests can be controlled.
In the Beginning was the Crisis

By Christian Semler

[This article originally published in: die tageszeitung, May 5, 2001 is translated abridged from the German on the World Wide Web, www.taz.de. Pierre Bourdieu urges an alliance of base initiatives critical of globalization, engaged scientists and reformed unions. Is this possible?]

How should the reform potential in European social democracy be judged whose main current espouses the "third way" of a more gentle variant of neoliberalism intent on consensus? Bourdieu is for confrontation. In some places like in Vienna, this is seen differently. Openly structuring the consultation process to avoid false avant-gardism is crucial.

Bourdieu, a critic of unbridled neoliberalism, is now devoted to demolition work. He can draw on the crisis of traditional worker organizations. Unions always worked "locally". No economic mechanism can steer the view of members quasi automatically to democratic or ecological problems - let alone to the problems of the world society. However the "local" organization in the factory has fallen into crisis. The primacy of internal, company or operational struggles is still true. Still no mental pressure will hinder future unions activists from climbing more strongly than in the past over the cracked walls of national capital relations....

Who says that the misery of the third world is a precondition for the living standards of employees in industrial countries? And that these will never be ready to pay higher prices if help could be offered? Time for discussions, time for experiments, time for Bourdieu!


Against Depoliticized Politics

By Pierre Bourdieu

[This article originally published in: die tageszeitung, April 11, 2001 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, www.taz.de.]

Everything understood under the descriptive and normative term "globalization" is by no means the result of inevitable economic developments. Rather an ingenious and conscious policy is at work that is hardly conscious of its disastrous consequences (1). This policy which shamelessly uses a vocabulary of freedom, liberalism, liberalization and deregulation is in reality a policy of de-politization and aims paradoxically at liberating the forces of the economy from all fetters, granting them a fatal influence and subjecting governments and citizens to the laws of the deregulated economy. In the sessions of the big international organizations like the WTO or the European Commission and in the policy developed within all the "networks" of multinational corporations, this policy gains acceptance in the most different ways - first of all legalistically - among the liberal or social democratic governments of a whole series of economically advanced countries. Step by step, governments abandoned their earlier controls over the powers of the economy.

Against this policy of de-politization, a legitimate place must be granted again to political thinking and acting and a starting point found beyond the borders of the nation-state and the necessary funds that can no longer be limited to the political and union battles within the nation-state framework. For all those who want to effectively oppose the dominant powers of the market, one rational goal doubtlessly consists in building a united Europe-wide social movement gathering the most different movements divided on the national and the international planes.

As different as these social movements may be in their origins, desires and goals, a whole series of common characteristics make them "relatives". Since many of them emerged from the rejection of traditional forms of political mobilization, particularly forms of mobilization in the tradition of the parties of the Soviet type, a clear aversion against all monopolization by small minorities is common to these movements. Rather they rest on an immediate bond of all participants. Another shared feature is that they invent actions with strong symbolic substance original in goals and means. They are directed to concrete goals important for social life (housing, work, health, concerns of the impoverished and so forth) and offer practical solutions that can be implemented directly. Their proposals and their resistance can take concrete forms in exemplary campaigns, referring directly to the respective problem and demanding a marked personal engagement by participants and the responsible. Thanks to an exact knowledge of the operation of the media, a mastery has developed on "producing" an event and dramatizing a concern to focus the attention of the media and politics in this round-about way.

These movements are by no means merely artifacts staged by a minority relying on the media. In reality, a realistic association with the media joins a long engagement at the edge of the "traditional" movements (parties or unions), sometimes supported by a marginal fraction of these movements and which can gain visiblility on certain occasions expanding its social base at least in the short-term. These new social movements from the beginning had an international character. They took one another as their models and invented similar actions as in the housing struggles. A third common feature is that all these movements reject the neoliberal policy which compliantly implements the goals of large multinational corporations. A fourth common characteristic is that they are more or less international and internationalist. A last commonality consists in their solidarian attitude which is a kind of implicit principle of most of their struggles and which they seek to realize in their actions and organizations...

Demands and procedures must be coordinated without any intentions of monopolization. This coordination must take the form of a network in which individuals and groups can unite without anyone dominating or limiting others and in which the whole wealth of different experiences, perspectives and programs is preserved. The challenge comes to them to tear the still splintered social movements from their time-bound and resource-bound particularisms and help them overcome the to and fro between times of intensive mobilization and times of a latent or delayed existence without yielding to bureaucratic concentration.

Flexibly and sustainably, this organization must tackle two different projects: firstly, preparing campaigns coordinated to the meetings and facts and directed to concrete goals and secondly raising questions for discussion during regular meetings of representatives of all concerned groups and working together for long-term goals. What is central is identifying and developing general goals in the overlapping areas of the fields of individual groups in whose realization everyone can cooperate and contribute their possibilities and resources. A vast number of persons and groups out of this democratic encounter who share some essential ideas and convictions can offer a bundle of coherent and sensible answers to those basic questions for which neither the unions nor the parties offer global solutions.

A social European movement is hardly conceivable without the participation of a reformed union movement that overcomes external and internal hurdles standing in the way of its strengthening and unification on the European plane. Regarding the decline of the union movement as an indirect and delayed consequence of its triumph is paradoxical. Many demands behind the union struggles have become institutions in welfare state rights and create conflicts between the unions themselves. As para-governmental authorities often financed by the state itself, the union bureaucracies cooperate in the redistribution of social wealth. Union bureaucracies safeguard the social compromise by avoiding confrontations. Again and again, accountable persons in central union offices mutate into pure administrators, far removed from the worries and distresses of their clients. The logic of competition can entice them to defend their own interests rather than the interests of those whom they should really represent. This has contributed to employees turning away from the unions. An active involvement in the organization was even put off by union members.

These internal developments cannot be explained by saying we have a declining number of union members who are less and less active. Neoliberal policy contributes to weakening unions. The "flexibility" and precariousness of an increasing number of job conditions and the resulting change of working conditions and work demands cause common action and simple information work to become increasingly difficult while the remnants of social security protect a part of the employees. This shows how indispensable and difficult is a reform of union work, a reform which presupposes a questioning of the model of unrestricted delegation and the invention of novel techniques for mobilizing uncertain and marginal employees.

Thus the completely novel organization must be able to overcome the splintering according to different goals and national affiliations as well as the division in unions and "movements". The danger of monopolization can be overcome that hovers over all these social and union movements and also the paralysis on grounds of a nearly neurotic fear of this danger. The building of a compact and powerful international network of unions and social movements producing new initiatives through mutual exchange could make possible an international action with certain demands which have nothing in common anymore with the work of the official institutions in which some unions are represented.

To overcome the divisions between the social movements, one work is absolutely necessary which must be directed at overcoming another disastrous tension between scientists and people engaged in the social movements. Considering the present state of the economic and political hierarchies of power enabling powers of the economy to use scientific, technical and cultural resources to an unparalleled extent, research work must uncover and analyze strategies worked out and implemented by multinational enterprises and international organizations - organizations which like the WTO pass and enforce universal rules through which a neoliberal utopia of general deregulation increasingly threatens to become reality. The social hurdles for a close alliance between researchers and activists are just as high as the hurdles between different movements and between movements and the unions.. Nevertheless this is one of the presuppositions for the collective invention of a bundle of answers through critical confrontation of experiences and competences anchored in common desires and convictions.

A European social movement could counter the economic and intellectual forces and their armies of consultants, experts and lawyers. Only such a movement will be able to face the economic and political democratic goals of a European welfare state outfitted with sufficient political, legal and financial resources rather than those projects cynically obeying only the command of short-term profit maximization. Thus the raw and brutal force of narrow-minded economic interests can be controlled.

homepage: homepage: http://www.geocities.com/marc_batko
phone: phone: 503-229-0628
address: address: 310 NW 6th Ave., Portland