Leonora Barry: a pioneer statistician of women’s labour

by Eli Cook*

Unfortunately yet unsurprisingly, the world of economic quantification was dominated by men in the nineteenth century. In honor of International Women’s Day, here is a story, excerpted from my book The Pricing of Progress, on Leonora Barry, one of the most important – and forgotten – economic thinkers of Gilded Age America.
Leonora BarryAn Irish immigrant, Barry was widowed in 1881. “I was left, without knowledge of business, without knowledge of work, without knowledge of what the world was, with three fatherless children looking to me for bread,” Barry would later note. These miserable conditions likely led to the death of her eldest child.
Desperate to find work to keep her other children alive, she got a job at a hosiery mill, where she made 11 cents a day. It was while working at the mill that she joined the Knights of Labor — the largest and one of the most important American labor organizations of the 1880s. Barry had a knack for labor organizing and within two years found herself not only the master workman of her own branch but the leader of an entire district assembly of fifty-two locals.
She was elected to represent her region at the national general assembly in 1886, where she was one of sixteen women among 660 delegates. While at the national assembly, Barry was made head of the new Department of Women’s Work. Her main mission was to traverse the country collecting statistics on women’s labor that would reveal “the abuses to which our sex is subjected by unscrupulous employers” and the need for “equal pay for equal work.”
By the late 1880s, Barry had become renowned for the statistical reports she compiled for annual general assemblies. With an arresting depiction of the condition of women’s labor in America, Barry’s reports combined statistical data with a strong moral critique of industrial capitalism. Her reports focused on both the laborer’s wages and the employer’s profits, which enabled her to measure the level of exploitation at the American workplace.
“The contractor who employed five operatives made 30 cents per unit, or 1.50 a day,” she noted in one example, “while each worker received only 30 cents for the entire day’s work.” “Men’s vests are contracted out at 10 cents each,” she noted in a second example, “the machine operative receiving 2.5 cents and the finisher 2.5 cents each, making 5 cents a vest for completion.” Since twenty vests constituted a day’s work, Barry calculated, “a contractor who employed five operatives reaped a dollar a day for doing nothing while his victim has 50 cents for eleven and twelve hours of her life’s energies.”
By the 1890s, however, Barry was once again forced to return to the factory. With the Knights of Labor all but destroyed, there were no statistical institutions through which she could make her voice, and those of countless other women, heard. Nevertheless, in the Progressive Era, statistic-wielding labor activists such as Florence Kelley and Crystal Eastman would follow Leonora Barry‘s trailblazing example.
* Eli Cook is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Haifa.  He is the author of The Pricing of Progress: Economic Indicators and the Capitalization of American Life (Harvard University Press, 2017)

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Great academic opportunities: 25 calls for papers, 8 PhD fellowships, 6 postdocs, 3 jobs, 3 summer schools, 3 awards, 2 grants

Dear ES/PE community member, see below an abundant list of great call for papersacademic opportunities: 25 calls for papers for conferences and workshops (some are fully or partially funded), 8 doctoral fellowships, 6 postdoctoral positions, 3 job openings, 3 summer schools (fully or partly funded), 3 awards, 2 research grants — in various areas of economic sociology, political economy, and related fields, with March 5 — 31 deadlinesShare this post with your colleagues and students. Good luck!

Calls for papers:

> CfP: “Understanding the political economy of digital technology”, BSA Digital Sociology Study Group event, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, May 27, 2018. DL: March 5

> CfP: “Financialization and development policies: Critical perspectives on new financial circuits for international development projects” conference, University of Hamburg (Germany), 12-14 September 2018. A limited number of grants are available to cover travel and residence costs. DL: March 6 

CfP: “The Political Economy of Migration in Africa” conference, African Heritage Institution (Enugu, Nigeria), June 28 – 29, 2018. DL: March 7

> CfP: “Global inequalities“, The Development Studies Association annual conference, University of Manchester (UK), 27-29 June, 2018. DL: March 9

> CfP: “Institutions and The Future of Global Capitalism“, the 5th World Interdisciplinary Network for Institutional Research conference, Chinese University of Hong Kong, 14-17 September, 2018. The keynoters are Lynda Weiss, Xu Chenggang, Justin Yifu Lin. DL: March 10

> CfP: “The Working-Class Avant-Garde” symposium, London South Bank University (London, UK), 22 June 2018. DL: March 11

> CfP: “The State of Capitalism and the State of Political Economy“, the 9th International Initiative for Promoting Political Economy conference, University of Pula (Pula, Croatia), September 12-14, 2018. Various working groups issued thematic calls. DL: March 15

> CfP: “Educational Inequality: Mechanisms and Institutions“, Amsterdam Centre for Inequality Studies conference, University of Amsterdam, 5-6 July, 2018. The keynoters are Marius Busemeyer, Michelle Jackson, Ludger Wößmann. DL: March 15

> CfP: “Whatever Has Happened to Political Economy?“, The 15th Italian Association for the History of Political Economy conference, Università di Genova (Genoa, Italy), June 28-30, 2018. The keynoters are Geoffrey Hodgson and Harro Maas. Scholarships for junior scholars are available. DL: March 15

> CfP: “Feminist Debates on Migration, Inequalities & Resistance“, the 27th International Association for Feminist Economics conference, State University of New York at New Paltz ( New Paltz, New York), 19-21 June, 2018. The Rhonda Williams Prize given to scholars from underrepresented groups. DL: March 15

CfP: “The Non-Death of Neoliberalism” conference, York St. John University (York, England, UK), 25th May 2018. DL: March 16  

CfP: “Effective Financial Capability Interventions for Economically Vulnerable Individuals and Families“, The Journal of Consumer Affairs‘ special issue and the US Treasury Department’s Financial Literacy and Education  commission symposium, Washington, D.C (USA), Fall 2018. March 16 

> CfP: “Consuming In, and Consumed By, a Trump Economy”, one-day pre-American Sociological Association mini-conference by the Consumers and Consumption section, Rutgers  University (NJ, USA), August 10, 2018. DL: March 16

> CfP: “Law in Global Political Economy: Heterodoxy Now“, The Institute for Global Law and Policy conference, Harvard Law School, 2-3 June, 2018. DL: March 16

> CfP: “Transforming Cities: Urbanization and International Development Policies in the Global South in the 20th Century” conference, Freie Universität Berlin, 11-12 October, 2018. Participants will be reimbursed for travel expenses and accommodation. DL: March 18

> CfP: The 2nd international conference on “Cliometrics and Complexity”, École normale supérieure de Lyon (France), 4-5 June, 2018. No registration fee. DL: March 19

> CfP: “Growth, History and Development”, The 9th Historical Economics and Development Group workshop, the University of Southern Denmark (Odense, Denmark), June 4, 2018. The keynoter is Noam Yuchtman. No registration fees;  lunch and dinner are provided. DL: March 23

> CfP: “The moral dimensions of economic life in Africa” workshop, The Nordic Africa Institute, Uppsala (Sweden). Some funding from is available for a few scholars who need support; scholars based in African institutions are particularly encouraged to apply and an effort will be made to support their participation. DL: March 28

CFP: The 10th Critical Finance Studies Conference, University of Gothenburg (Sweden), 9-11 August, 2018. The keynoters are Saskia Sassen, Orsi Husz, Brett Christophers. The conference is free of charge. DL: March 30

> CfP: “Power and Governance: Forms, Dynamics, Consequences” conference, University of Tampere (Tampere, Finland), 27–29 August 2018. The keynoters are Gili Drori, Vivien A. Schmidt, Sylvia Walby, and more. DL: March 30

CfP: “Making & Doing Technoscientific Futures Better“, the 6th Annual Workshop on The Changing Political Economy of Research & Innovation, Lancaster University (Lancaster, UK), 23-24 July 2018. The workshop will be held before the EASST conference. The keynoters are Susan Robertson and Mark Carrigan. DL: March 30

> CfP: “Political Economy of Trust“, a workshop at Istanbul Technical University (Istanbul, Turkey), 4th May, 2018. There is no registration fee. DL: March 30

CfP: “Evolutionary foundations at a crossroad: Assessments, outcomes and implications for policy makers“, the 30th European Association for Evolutionary Political Economy conference, University of Nice Sophia-Antipolis (Nice, France), 6-8 September, 2018. The keynoters are Richard Nelson and  Sidney Winter. There are various research areas including economic sociology, institutional change, comparative political economy, and more. DL: March 31

> CfP: “Karl Marx in the 21st Century” International Symposium, Hosei University (Tokyo, Japan), 22-23 December, 2018. DL: March 31 

> CfP: The 19th Conference of the International Association for the Economics of Participation, University of Ljubljana (Slovenia), July 12-14, 2018. The keynoters are  Jan Svejnar and Avner Ben-Ner. A partial reimbursement is available for participants from developing economies and students. DL: March 31

PhD scholarships:

Doctoral Fellowships at the Max Planck Sciences Po Center on Coping with Instability in Market Societies, Sciences Po (Paris, France). Research topics should be situated in economic sociology, political economy, or economic or political history. DL: March 15. Recommended.

5 PhD fellowships in Development Studies, the International Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University (Rotterdam, The Netherlands). DL: March 15

> PhD studentship “Understanding Migrant Workers Collective Organising in the Service Economy”, Nottingham University Business School. DL: March 9

> PhD position “The 2008 UK financial crisis: policy, regulatory and state capture?“, University of Nottingham (UK). DL: March 16

> PhD Scholarship on “Informality, informal or shadow economies, with a specific focus on the former USSR region“, Institute for International Conflict Resolution and Reconstruction, Dublin City University (Ireland). DL: March 22

> 3 PhD positions within the project “Legitimacy, Financialization, and Varieties of Capitalism: Understanding Sovereign Wealth Funds in Europe” at the Maastricht University (The Netherlands). PhD position 1 – “Global Political Economy“; PhD position 2 – “International Political Economy“; PhD position 3 – “Comparative Political Economy“. DL: March 28 

2 PhD positions in the research group of the Chair of Political Economy and Development, Department of Political Science, University of Zurich. DL: March 30 

PhD Position in Sociology “Social Inequalities in Children’s Skills Development: A Longitudinal Project“, Trinity College Dublin (Dublin, Ireland). DL: March 31

Summer schools:

> CfA: “Historical perspectives on neoliberalism: Political Economy and Social history since 1970” PhD seminar, Max Planck Sciences Po Center on Coping with Instability in Market Societies (Sciences Po, Paris), May 16-18, 2018. No participation fees; travel and accommodation costs will be covered. DL: March 15. Recommended.

> CfA: “Doing Research with Social Network Analysis: Tools, Theories and Applications” summer school for researchers and students, Thuke Centre for Business Network Analysis at the University of Greenwich (London, UK), 13-15 June, 2018. Fee includes breakfasts and lunches

CfA: “Economy and Society” Summer School, Blackwater Castle, Cork (Ireland), 14-18 May, 2018, Fees cover accommodation, food, and entertainments. DL: March 31

Job openings:

Professorship in Sociology with a focus on Digitalization and Industrial Development (full-time, permanent), The Faculty of Social Sciences, Economics and Business at the Johannes Kepler University of Linz (Austria). DL: March 8 

Full Professor of Socioeconomics of Work (permanent), Department of Socioeconomics, Vienna University of Economics and Business (Austria). DL: March 11

Professorship in comparative labour market analysis, the Department of Business and Politics, Copenhagen Business School (Denmark). DL: March 15 

Postdoctoral positions:

Early stage researcher to work on “The impact of economic populism on inequality” as part of the FATIGUE project (three-year position), Corvinus University of Budapest  (Years 1 and 3) and University College London (Year 2). DL: March 15

A Post-doc in Sociology of Work (full-time, three years), the Department of Sociology, Goethe University Frankfurt (Germany). DL: March 15

Early stage researcher to work on ” The impact of economic populism on growth and convergence” at FATIGUE project (3-year position), Corvinus University of Budapest  (Years 1 & 3) & University College London (Year 2). DL: March 15

3 post-doctoral fellows to work on the ethical and policy issues raised by long-term changes in the labor market (one year), New York University’s Global Institute for Advanced Study. DL: March 16

> Postdoctoral Research Fellow to explore ethnographically how energy analysts and traders in the financial sector conceptualise and value oil (3-year position), the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of St Andrews (Scotland, UK). DL: March 16

Post-doctoral Fellowship “Asian Capitalisms: Diversity and Institutional Change” by Fondation France-Japon, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris. DL: March 31

Research grants:

The John E. Rovensky Fellowships in US Business or Economic History for enrolled PhD students, The University of Illinois Foundation. DL: March 9

> Research grant to study inequalities and skills acquisition in young people by  Global Challenges Research Fund. DL: March 22 


> The ASA Economic Sociology section’s awards (Zelizer Award for Best Book, Granovetter Award for Best Article, Burt Best Student Paper Award). DL for all: March 15

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BITS & BRIEFS: How multinationals avoid taxes // Finance needs households // Discourse on privilege benefits the elites // Gender stereotypes in economics // Shell-based currency in California // Shopping and Enclave Urbanism in Mexico

This time, especially worth reading  – and sharing – articles:

> How Apple and other multinationals avoid taxes and accountability: A network study of offshore finance — by Jan Fichtner

Financial capitalism remains deeply dependent on households, even as it obscures their significance — by Caitlin Zaloom

> The parallel languages of responsibility (as a demand aimed at the poor) and privilege (a charge lobbed at the rich) benefit the elites by requiring that rewards be given to those who “deserve” them, instead of pushing for structural reforms — by Sean McCann

Gender stereotyping in economics: talks about men-economists focus on professional issues, about women on personal matters — findings by Alice H. Wu

> When the Great Depression broke out, California’s coastal town issued its own shell-based numbered and signed currency

“Awareness of history must enter economic theory… [This] would save us from self-defeating arrogance” — by Amit Bhaduri

Unlike in the US and Europe, malls are booming in Mexico: “Enclave Urbanism”, local globality, and consumerism — by Madeleine Wattenbarger

Offshore Financial Centers

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On the wandering and exilic being of knowledge seeker

An eminent Saxon scholastic theologian Hugh of Saint-Victor (1096 – 1141) noted in his monumental encyclopedic treatise Didascalion:

hugh of st victor“All the world is a foreign soil to those who philosophize… It is, therefore, a great source of virtue for the practiced mind to learn, bit by bit, first to change about in visible and transitory things, so that afterwards it may be able to leave them behind altogether. The man who finds his homeland sweet is still a tender beginner; he to whom every soil is as his native one is already strong; but he is perfect to whom the entire world is as a foreign land. The tender soul has fixed his love on one spot in the world; the strong man has extended his love to all places; the perfect man has extinguished his. From boyhood I have dwelt on foreign soil, and I know with what grief sometimes the mind takes leave of the narrow hearth of a peasant’s hut,  and I know, too, how frankly it afterwards disdains marble firesides and panelled halls.”

Hugh of Saint-Victor. 1961. The Didascalicon of Hugh of St. Victor: A Medieval Guide to the Arts, translated by Jerome Taylor. Columbia University Press. (Page 101)

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A Critique of the Critique of Finance: Critics of neoliberal capitalism rarely recognize the productive power of speculation

by Martijn Konings

If there is one theme that unites the various critiques of contemporary finance, it is the emphasis on its speculative character. Financial growth is said to be driven not by the logic of efficient markets, but rather by irrational sentiment, “animal spirits” that do not respect fundamental values.
Emphasizing the role of volatility in contemporary capitalism (evident at the time of writing, as the stock market is experiencing a downturn) is important as an antidote to notions of market efficiency and equilibrium. But it is a mistake to think that it provides a sufficient basis for effective critique. Predictions regarding the limits or collapse of neoliberal finance have simply not enjoyed a good track record. Over and over, the contemporary financial system has proven capable of sustaining higher levels of speculative activity than anticipated. This has certainly been true of the past decade. Capital and Time: For a New Critique of Neoliberal Reason is my attempt to make sense of this—that is, to understand what might be wrong or missing in the existing heterodox critique of speculation, and to advance a more accurate understanding of the role of uncertainty, risk, and speculation in contemporary capitalism.
Capital and Time For a New Critique of Neoliberal Reason KONINGSAt the heart of the critique of speculation we find a distinction between real and fictitious forms of value. Although “essentialist” (or “foundationalist”) modes of explanation have been under fire across the social sciences for several decades now, when it comes to the critique of finance they have had considerable staying-power: without a notion of real value, it often seems, we lose any objective standard against which to assess the speculative gyrations of capitalist markets.
Capital and Time asks what kind of critical theory we might develop if we bracket the anxious attachment to a notion of fundamental value. To that end, it turns to the work of economist Hyman Minsky. Although Minsky has been popularized precisely as a critic of speculation, he in fact insisted that almost all value judgments and investments were to some degree speculative—their success or failure would be determined in an unknown future. For him, the key economic question is how order emerges in a world that offers no guarantees, how more or less stable standards and norms arise amidst uncertainty.
Of course, the “endogenous” origin of financial standards is a well-rehearsed theme in heterodox economics—indeed, it is a staple of the “post-Keynesian” literature that claims Minsky’s legacy. But such perspectives have never been able to break with the idea that financial stability is at its core dependent on external interventions that suppress speculative impulses. For Minsky, however, this is to miss the point about endogeneity. To his mind, there was no clear dividing line between financial practices and their governance: central banks and other public authorities are no more able to see into the future and to transcend uncertainty than private investors are.
Minsky was therefore highly skeptical about official claims of discretionary precision management: financial governance is always embroiled in the very risk logic that it is charged with managing. That also means that financial policy can appear quite ordinary, even banal: at the heart of capitalist financial management is a logic of backstopping and bailout that responds to the possibility that the failure of an institution may take down wider financial structures.
The stability of the post-New Deal financial system is often attributed to the Glass-Steagall separation of the stock market and commercial banking. But Minsky tended to view Glass-Steagall as one of several measures to direct bank credit away from the stock market towards other, no less speculative ends, notably consumer and mortgage financing. To his mind, the stability of the post-war period derived rather from the creation of an extensive financial safety net (which included, for instance, deposit insurance, which removed the rationale behind bank runs) that served to socialize risk.
This institutional arrangement turned out to have a significant drawback: a pattern of chronic inflation emerged that, by the late 1970s, was widely perceived as a major problem. Minsky’s lack of faith in the possibility of cleanly staged external interventions led him to feel that that there was no real way out of this predicament. Monetarist doctrines, ascendant during the 1970s under the influence of Milton Friedman, relied on exactly the belief in an arbitrarily defined monetary standard that Minsky rejected as naïve. Muddling through, it seemed, was the price of avoiding another financial crash and depression.
The Volcker shock of 1979 changed this dynamic in a way that Minsky had not foreseen but that is comprehensible when seen through the lens he provided us with. Paul Volcker looked to monetarism not as a means to enforce an external limit or standard on the financial system, but as a politically expedient way to break with accommodating policies and to proactively engage the endogenous dynamics of finance. The consequences of the Volcker shock were predictable (which is exactly why the Federal Reserve had been reluctant to pursue similar policies in previous years): inflation gave way to instability and crisis. Inflation was conquered as jobs were lost and wages stagnated. And, far from money being returned to its neutral exchange function, opportunities for speculation multiplied.
The American state was never going to sit idly by as the financial system returned to dynamics of boom and bust: when instability took the form of systemic threats, authorities would bail out the institutions that had overextended themselves. Of course, Volcker would not have been able to predict the specific features of the too-big-to-fail regime as it emerged during the 1980s and evolved subsequently; but the very point of the neoliberal turn in financial management that he had overseen was to create a context where risk could be socialized in ways that were more selective and therefore did not entail generalized inflation.
The inflation of asset values that has been such a marked feature of the past four decades has always been premised centrally on the willingness of authorities to view the “moral hazard” of the too-big-to-fail logic as a policy instrument—even if they may have decried it officially as a regrettable corruption of market principles. Spectacular bailouts, mundane policies to protect the key nodes of the payment systems, the “Greenspan put”, the different iterations of quantitative easing—these are all variations on that basic too-important-to-fail logic.
Existing critical perspectives tend to view crisis and the need for bank bailouts as manifesting the essential incoherence of neoliberal finance, its lack of solid foundations and the irrationality of speculation. Capital and Time breaks with such moralistic assessments. The way deepening inequality and the speculative growth of asset values continue to feed off each other is troubling for any number of reasons, but there is nothing inherently “unsustainable” about it—the process does not have a natural or objective limit.
At this point in time, the critique of speculation does little more than lend credibility to official discourses that present crises as preventable and bailouts as one-off, never-to-be-repeated interventions. In that way, it prevents us from critically relating to a neoliberal reality that has been shaped to its core by the speculative exploitation of risk and uncertainty, and in which regressive risk socialization serves as the everyday logic of financial governance.
* Martijn Konings is Associate Professor of Political Economy at the University of Sydney. He is the author of The Emotional Logic of Capitalism and Capital and time: For a New Critique of Neoliberal Reason. This post originally appeared on the Stanford University Press blog

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The Goose and the Common — The Privatization of Public Space

“The [following 18th century folk] poem is one of the pithiest condemnations of the English enclosure movement, the process of fencing off common land and turning it into private property. In a few lines, the poem manages to criticize double standards, expose the artificial and controversial nature of property rights… And it does this all with humor, without jargon, and in rhyming couplets… Like most of the criticisms of the enclosure movement, the poem depicts a world of rapacious, state-aided “privatization,” a conversion into private property of something that had formerly been common property or, perhaps, had been outside of the property system altogether.” (Boyle 2003: 33-4).

The Goose and the Common / Anonymous

leavening_enclosure_mapThe law locks up the man or woman
Who steals the goose off the common
But leaves the greater villain loose
Who steals the common from the goose.

The law demands that we atone
When we take things we do not own
But leaves the lords and ladies fine
Who takes things that are yours and mine.

The poor and wretched don’t escape
If they conspire the law to break;
This must be so but they endure
Those who conspire to make the law.

The law locks up the man or woman
Who steals the goose from off the common
And geese will still a common lack
Till they go and steal it back.  

Boyle, James. 2003. “The Second Enclosure Movement and the Construction of the Public Domain“. Law and Contemporary Problems 66: 33-74.

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Social Media, Authoritarian Capitalism, and Donald Trump

by Christian Fuchs*

In the years from 1986 until 1999, the leader of the Austrian Freedom Party Jörg Haider with the help of anti-immigration slogans, politics as entertainment, a juvenile and dynamic habitus, as well as ridicule of opponents led his party from a voting share of 9.7% in 1986 to a share of 26.9% in 1999. The media helped making Haider and Haider helped the media attracting audiences and sales. Haider was the prototype of the new right’s authoritarian leaders. Twenty years later, Haider is dead and right-wing authoritarianism has awoken to new life. What Ruth Wodak termedHaiderizationhas become a governing political model.
Neoliberal capitalism has brought about its own negative dialectic: Increasing inequalities have backfired and have not just advanced economic crisis, but also the emergence of new nationalisms and the politics of scapegoating immigrants, refugees and other minorities for social problems.
Digital Demagogue Authoritarian Capitalism in the Age of Trump and TwitterThe result of the combination of authoritarian capitalism and capitalist “social” media is the
decline of the public sphere and democracy. The book Digital Demagogue: Authoritarian Capitalism in the Age of Trump and Twitter explains the rise of authoritarian capitalism, nationalism and right-wing ideology in the context of Trump and Twitter. Inspired by the works of Karl Marx and Rosa Luxemburg, it re-invigorates the works on authoritarianism of Franz L. Neumann, Theodor W. Adorno, Erich Fromm, Herbert Marcuse, Max Horkheimer, Wilhelm Reich, Leo Löwenthal, and Klaus Theweleit in the social media age.
Capitalism as a societal formation – shaped by the accumulation by money capital, political power, reputation and attention – is an antagonistic system with immanent crisis potentials. These antagonisms exist between capital and multiple forms of paid and unpaid labour, global flows and localised identities, the invisibility and intransparency of power and the surveillant visibility of citizens and consumers, social insecurities and the securitisation of minorities after 9/11, neoliberal political elites/bureaucrats and citizens, party politics and social movements politics, universalism and particularism, unification and fragmentation, class politics and identity politics, collectivism and individualism, public/common goods and the marketization of everything. We experience a multidimensional economic, political, ideological and environmental crisis. Authoritarian capitalism is emerging out of these complex crises and creates new antagonisms. The communication of nationalism has taken on new forms. The age of authoritarian capitalism is the age of social media, big data and fake news.

During the early days of the World Wide Web, many progressive observers assumed that representatives of the far-right are bad at using new technologies and that they hate the Internet. This assumption has been proven wrong. The Nazis had the Volksempfänger. Today’s far-right leaders are masters of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Propaganda back then was Hitler- and Goebbels-generated content. Today, propaganda is party-generated nationalism from above that inspires user-generated ideology from below.
Far-right demagogues can be found all over the world – offline and online. Let us consider some examples:
The Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte, who says ‘Hitler massacred three million Jews. Now, there’s three million drug addicts. I’d be happy to slaughter them’, has 4.3 million followers on Facebook. Turkey’s President Recep Erdoğan, says he’ll ‘eradicate Twitter’, while having more than 12.5 million followers there. India’s nationalist President Narendra Modi is with 43 million followers on Facebook and 40 million on Twitter one of the world’s most visible politicians on social media.
In a country with just nine million inhabitants, Austria’s far-right Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache has around 800,000 Facebook-followers. Hungary’s far-right President Viktor Orbán announces to his 600,000 Facebook-followers the fight against the ‘flood of illegal and law violating migrants’. In the Netherlands, Geert Wilders tweets to 950,000 followers that ‘less Islam is more freedom’. Marine Le Pen tells her 2 million Twitter followers that ‘immigration has weighed down wages’.
The Alternative for Germany tweets: ‘All three minutes a burglary in Germany! Time to act: Control of the nation’s borders and deportation of criminal migrants!’. UKIP’s Nigel Farage has 1.1 million followers on Twitter that he uses for posting messages such as the one that ‘EU migrant policies’ have created ‘the rape capital of Europe’ in Malmö.
Authoritarian capitalism has emerged in different parts of the world. But in these different contexts, it is neither the same nor completely different. Just like there are many capitalisms that are united by capital’s universalising tendency of commodification and exploitation, there is a unity in diversity of authoritarian capitalism. Vivek Chibber speaks of capitalism’s two universalisms that have emerged in the West and the Global South – ‘the universal logic of capital […] and social agents’ universal interest in their well-being, which impels them to resist capital’s expansionary drive. These forces impinge on both East and West, even if they do so with different intensities and in different registers’. Authoritarianism is capitalism’s third universalism, an ever-present potential that emerges at specific points as reaction to the first universalism’s economic, political and cultural contradictions and to the negation of the second universalism. Capitalism’s universalism turns out to be particularistic and shows its ugly face in the form of new nationalisms.
it is a much bigger and more powerful one than his, and my Button worksDonald Trump is not just the world’s most powerful capitalist-turned-president, but with 48 million followers also the most visible far-right Twitter-politician. In addition, 24 million users follow him on Facebook, and 8.4 million on Instagram. Twitter is the capitalist universe of the individualist self: It is a me-centred medium that lives through the accumulation of followers, likes and re-tweets. The custom of liking and re-tweeting on Twitter appeals to Trump’s narcissism. Trump makes use of Twitter for broadcasting 140-character sound bites about what he likes, dislikes, loves, and hates. Reality TV (“The Apprentice”) and Twitter are Trump’s preferred two contemporary formats of public communication. Twitter supports narcissism and Trump’s “first person singular”-politics. Trump constructs himself as the great little man on Twitter.
Trump is a fake news machine. Fake news is as old as tabloid media and capitalist media. What is new about it is that on social media, we find user-generated fake news that are compressed into short tweets, messages, memes, images and videos and circulate at high speed through the globally networked communication environment of social media such as Twitter and Facebook. Automated politics in the form of social media bots creates fake attention so that it becomes difficult to discern what is communicated by humans and what by machines.
For changing the world, we need a New Left. But a New Left also needs frameworks for understanding the world. For changing the world, we therefore need to also interpret it. My book Digital Demagogue takes an approach that combines critical political economy, ideology critique and political psychology for explaining the emergence of authoritarian capitalism and its ideology, organisations, movements and individuals.
There is no automatic connection between one’s economic position and political consciousness. The support of authoritarian movements is not just a matter of class structures and ideological efforts, but also has to do with the history of an individual’s personal, economic, political and cultural socialisation that makes him or her more or less affectually prone to far-right propaganda. Right-wing authoritarianism often intensifies in and after political-economic crises, but also involves conscious ideological projects that try to speak to human’s hopes, fears, desires, and aggressions. A critical theory of authoritarianism and nationalism needs to combine political economy, ideology critique, and political psychology. This was the approach taken by thinkers such as Franz L. Neumann, whose works remain highly topical in the age of Trump and have influenced the approach taken in writing Digital Demagogue.  
The only alternative and way of fighting back is the renewal of the Left under the premise of socialist humanism. Such politics require social reforms and media reforms. We need a socialist-humanist media politics that works towards introducing a participatory media fee, slow media, Club 2.0, the taxation of online advertising and transnational media corporations, outlawing targeted and behavioural political online advertising, the substitution of algorithmic activity by paid human work, the creation of an alternative Internet and a public service Internet, etc.
Authoritarian capitalism serves the few by selling nationalist and racist ideology to the many. And it does so with the help of online tools. We need an Internet and a world that serve the many, not the few. We need socialism and humanism. A new socialist humanism.
Christian Fuchs is a professor at the University of Westminster and co-editor of the journal tripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique. He is author of books such as Critical Theory of Communication, Reading Marx in the Information Age, Social Media: A Critical Introduction, OccupyMedia!, Digital Labour and Karl Marx, Foundations of Critical Media and Information Studies, and Internet and Society.
Digital Demagogue: Authoritarian Capitalism in the Age of Trump and Twitter is available in English from Pluto Press [distributed in North America by University of Chicago Press] and in German from VSA Verlag. On March 1, it will be launched at an event in London. 

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Being the 1%, or What It Means to Be Entitled

by Rachel Sherman

Most contemporary research on economic inequality focuses on the causes, contours, and consequences of unequal distributions of resources. But how they do such distributions become legitimate? Why do people accept them, and even take them for granted? Why is it okay for some people to have a lot, while others have so little? Drawing on evidence from my recent study of wealthy New Yorkers Uneasy Street: The Anxieties of Affluence, this essay takes up one understudied facet of the problem: the concept of entitlement, especially in relation to the affluent.
In the United States, “entitlement” is usually a dirty word. For the poor, it is associated with stigmatized welfare dependence. More broadly—but particularly for the rich—to be “entitled” is to believe you are more important and deserve more than other people, to imagine the rules don’t apply to you, and to be unaware of your own advantages. In this sense, which I focus on here, the term actually connotes a lack of deservingness. But this colloquial, negative usage refers only to illegitimate entitlement. In fact, I’ll suggest that to mark some entitlement as illegitimate actually creates a category of legitimately entitled people: those who don’t act entitled. Think, for example, of Warren Buffett’s legendary down-to-earth affect and lifestyle or Bill Gates’ enormous philanthropy—perhaps contrasted to Donald Trump’s fake charities, ostentatious lifestyle, and braggadocio.

Understanding entitlement rhetoric

To back up for a moment: we might expect that inequality would be morally problematic in the United States, which has a deeply egalitarian ethos. In fact, as Leslie McCall has recently demonstrated using survey data, Americans do have a more critical view of inequality than scholars have usually recognized. But, she asserts, Americans mostly care about inequality as it may affect equality of opportunity, a concept closely linked to the American Dream.[1]
A central tenet of this culturally prominent and powerful ideology is its emphasis on hard work as leading to success. Crucial for my purposes here, the American Dream discourse not only suggests that hard work explains monetary success, but also that it legitimates such success morally. The notion of “meritocracy” implies not only that people are able to get ahead based on their hard work, but also that, if they do get ahead on that basis, they deserve the fruits of their labor.
Indeed, hard work as the bedrock of legitimate entitlement stands out in public discourses and policies about all kinds of entitlements. Poor people are cast as “undeserving” if they don’t work, in public opinion and in welfare policy.[2] Immigration advocates have often claimed that the hard work and economic contribution of immigrants are grounds for belonging even in the absence of citizenship.[3] And, of course, the idea that wealthy people work hard for their money is an argument for not taxing them further. In general, to have a strong work ethic emerges not only as a criterion for economic or political entitlement but also as a crucial measure of moral worth.[4]
Yet, despite producing a vast literature on Americans’ opinions about economic issues, scholars have rarely asked how advantaged people understand their own entitlement. Recent survey research has looked at the policy preferences of the top 1 percent,[5] for example, and much research has looked at the social boundaries elites use to exclude others.[6] But, despite a long history of qualitative research on working-class people’s lived experience, few scholars have explored wealthy people’s experience at all, much less how they feel about their privilege.
This neglect doubtless stems in part from the well-documented difficulty of gaining access to elites, especially for in-depth conversations.[7] Substantively, scholars may also imagine that wealthy people are untroubled about their privilege, that it is somehow “natural” to be comfortable with being at the top of the heap. Such an assumption is supported by social psychology experiments suggesting that rich people are more unethical, more narcissistic, less generous, and generally less “prosocial” than others.[8]
In fact, the few interview studies of the wealthy that have been done tend not to identify discomfort with inequality among respondents.[9] The wealthy women Susan Ostrander studied around 1980, for example, were quite complacent about their social advantages, even referring to themselves as “better” people than those in less elite communities.
But times have changed. As Shamus Khan has argued, meritocracy has displaced aristocracy as a criterion of legitimate privilege over the last few decades.[10] Most recently, beginning with the economic crisis of 2008 and especially with the emergence of Occupy Wall Street in 2011, critiques of inequality and specifically of “the 1 percent” have become prominent in public discourse. Thus, elites who have come of age in this period may have a new set of feelings and discourses about their own privilege.

Researching the 1 percent 

Uneasy Street Rachel ShermanTo investigate the lived experience of affluence in this generation, I conducted fifty interviews with wealthy New York parents, mostly in their thirties and forties, in forty-two households. All were college-educated, and two-thirds held advanced degrees. With a few exceptions, these respondents were in the top 2 percent of income or wealth or both; most were in the top 1 percent; a few were in the top tenth of 1 percent. The median income of the sample was about $625,000; the median wealth about $3.25 million. Earners in households supported primarily by earned wealth typically worked in finance, corporate law, or business. Those who lived on inherited wealth tended to work in the arts, nonprofits, and academia. Three-quarters of respondents were women; about one-fifth were people of color. They ranged from Republicans to people left of the Democratic Party, though most were socially liberal.[11] I talked with them about how they made consumption and lifestyle decisions, such as choosing kids’ schools and buying and renovating their homes, and in the course of these conversations I got a sense of how they felt and talked about their privilege.
As it turned out, my affluent respondents were quite aware of and often uncomfortable with their advantages over others. They wanted to be worthy of their privilege and were anxious not to be “entitled.” As we might expect, avoiding entitlement meant working hard. Those with highly paid, demanding jobs emphasized this labor. Even stay-at-home mothers and inheritors of wealth represented themselves as productive workers, explicitly resisting the “rich dilettante” stereotype.
But hard work was not the only dimension of meritocracy. Another critical aspect was reasonable consumption. My respondents repeatedly emphasized that they spent prudently, buying basics for their children and families rather than extravagances for themselves. They often described snagging bargains, but they never bragged about spending a lot. They strongly distinguished themselves from the materialistic, ostentatious spending often associated in the public mind with the rich.
In this way, they drew on the Protestant Ethic, which emphasizes discipline in consumption as well as in work. Prudent consumption thus emerges as another, though less frequently noted, dimension of meritocracy. Indeed, moral critiques of excess consumption are also directed at other “unworthies” such as the poor, including the iconic image of the “welfare queen” driving a Cadillac.
These New Yorkers also emphasized “giving back,” although they did this in different ways. Some gave away large amounts of money. Others—especially the stay-at-home mothers—volunteered, often at their children’s schools. For some, social responsibility took the more private form of being “aware” of their privilege and careful about how they talked about it with others. In fact, another criterion for deserving one’s advantages was not to mention them. My respondents thought discussing money with anyone, but especially with those who had less, was rude. They also claimed to treat other people well regardless of their class position.
Finally, to be worthy of one’s advantages meant to raise “good people”—children who were themselves not “entitled.” My interviewees wanted their children to be hard workers, rather than “lazy jerks,” in the words of one man with over $50 million in inherited wealth. Parents tried to limit children’s consumption and their consumer desires and expectations. They hoped to ensure that kids were “aware” of their privilege and to “expose” them to those with less, and they wanted to make sure they treated all others with respect and reciprocity. Although parents across class doubtless share some of these concerns, wealthy parents are ultimately preparing their children to occupy their class entitlements appropriately rather than challenging these in any way.[12]
It is hard to evaluate whether these respondents “truly” worked hard or consumed reasonably, since these concepts are relative. But what matters for my purposes is their desire to see themselves as hard workers and reasonable consumers who give back. These emphases also helped these parents cast themselves as “normal.” They used this word often, usually to signal a lack of excess in their lifestyles. In these ways, my respondents frame themselves as part of the morally worthy American middle-class, downplaying their elite status and distancing themselves from the images of lazy over-consumers that attach to both rich and poor.
These requirements of legitimate entitlement are not limited to these affluent New Yorkers. For example, social norms that proscribe talk of money and require equal treatment of everyone (the Golden Rule) are taken for granted in the United States; such norms ultimately silence and deny class difference. More specific to the rich, to have earned wealth oneself, to work hard, to eschew ostentation, to give back while keeping quiet, and in general to seem “normal” are all ways in which having wealth is legitimated broadly in American public discourse.


These ideas about the legitimate entitlement of individuals have important implications for legitimating inequality more generally, because making moral judgments of individual behaviors distracts us from any possibility of thinking about redistribution. First, such judgments reproduce evaluations of the legitimacy of wealth as an individual-level enterprise rather than having anything to do with systematic ways in which resources are unequally distributed. To judge wealthy people in these moral terms is analogous to judging poor people on the basis of their behavior—both tend to naturalize inequalities that are actually a function of social systems and structures.
Second, these legitimate entitlements have primarily to do with affect and behavior. As one stay-at-home mom with a household income of about $1 million put it, “entitlement” is a “feeling that you deserve it, because you were born into it, or had the right education, and [that] it should be this way.” That is, what matters is what individuals do and how they feel, not what they have. If they don’t act entitled, they become entitled. A recent example of this logic appeared in a New York Times column by James B. Stewart in November, in which he argued that “no one resents” J. K. Rowling’s “success” because she worked for it and is generous philanthropically.
Finally, to make these distinctions at all reproduces a system in which being astronomically wealthy is acceptable as long as wealthy people are morally good. If there are “bad” rich people, there can be “good” rich people.
What would it mean, instead, to say that we should be critical of the fact that J. K. Rowling is a billionaire—regardless of how she came by her fortune, how she spends it, or whether she gives it away—solely on the basis of the idea that such wealth is inseparable from extreme inequality, which is both pernicious for society and itself immoral? To try to separate ideas about individual moral behavior from those about material entitlement would, at the very least, shed light on deep cultural ambivalence about legitimate entitlement. At most, it could remove one of the cultural pillars that supports a radically unequal distribution of resources.

(This essay originally appeared on Items – the SSRC’s digital forum)
Rachel Sherman is associate professor of sociology at the New School. She teaches and conducts research on social inequalities, service work, consumption, social movements, and qualitative methods. Her books include Class Acts: Service and Inequality in Luxury Hotels (University of California Press, 2007) and Uneasy Street: The Anxieties of Affluence (Princeton University Press, 2017).

[1]  In The Undeserving Rich American Beliefs McCall points out that Americans’ understandings of equal opportunity include aspects other than hard work, such as fair pay.

[2] See: Martin Gilens, Why Americans Hate Welfare: Race, Media, and the Politics of Antipoverty Policy (University of Chicago Press, 1999); Michael Katz, The Undeserving Poor: America’s Enduring Confrontation with Poverty: Fully Updated and Revised (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013).

[3]  See, e.g., Bloemraad, Voss, and Lee, “The Protests of 2006,” in Rallying for Immigrant Rights, ed. Irene Bloemraad and Kim Voss (University of California Press, 2011), pp. 3–43.

[4]  See: Michèle Lamont, Money, Morals, and Manners (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992); Michèle Lamont, The Dignity of Working Men (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000).

[5] Benjamin Paige, Larry Bartels, and Jason Seawright, “Democracy and the Policy Preferences of Wealthy Americans,” Perspectives on Politics 11, no. 1 (2013): 51–73.

[6]  See, e.g., Diana Kendall, The Power of Good Deeds: Privileged Women and the Social Reproduction of the Upper Class(Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2002); Jessica Holden Sherwood, Wealth, Whiteness, and the Matrix of Privilege: The View from the Country Club(Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2013); Michèle Lamont, Money, Morals, and Manners (University of Chicago Press, 1992); Lauren Rivera, Pedigree: How Elite Students Get Elite Jobs (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015).

[7]  Benjamin Paige, Larry Bartels, and Jason Seawright, “Democracy and the Policy Preferences of Wealthy Americans,” Perspectives on Politics 11, no.1 (2013): 51–73.

[8] See: Paul K. Piff, “Wealth and the Inflated Self: Class, Entitlement, and Narcissism,” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 40, no.1 (2014): 34–43; Paul K. Piff, Daniel M. Stancato, Stéphane Côté, Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton, and Dacher Keltner, “Higher Social Class Predicts Increased Unethical Behavior,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the Unites States of America 109, no. 11 (2012): 4086–4091; Paul K.. Piff, Michael W. Krauss, Stéphane Côté, Bonnie Hayden Cheng, and Dacher Keltner, “Having Less, Giving More: The Influence of Social Class on Prosocial Behavior,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology99, no. 5 (2010): 771–784.

[9] Susan Ostrander, Women of the Upper Class (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1984); Arlene Kaplan Daniels, Invisible Careers: Women Civic Leaders from the Volunteer World (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988); Diana Kendall, The Power of Good Deeds: Privileged Women and the Social Reproduction of the Upper Class (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2002).

[10]  Shamus Rahman Khan, Privilege The Making of an Adolescent Elite at St. Paul’s School (Princeton University Press, 2012)

[11] I recruited respondents through snowball sampling. The sample is not representative of any wealthy population, however defined, in New York or elsewhere. 

[12] Sherman, “Conflicted Cultivation: Parenting, Privilege, and Moral Worth in Wealthy New York Families,” American Journal of Cultural Sociology 5, no. 1 (2017).

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BITS & BRIEFS: Fed boosted inequality // Fascism promised welfare // Super-citizens shape policy // Financial ‘self-help’ // Grade inflation in marketized university // India’s economic history

Gerald Epstein on how the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing helped the banks and increased inequality (video)

The appeal of Fascism lays in a promise to protect people in times of excessive and unrestrained Capitalism — by Sheri Berman

Super-citizens: how the ultra-rich’s charities shape policy to their own ends — on David Callahan’s book The Givers: Money, Power, and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age

Finance sets you free: Producing the Neoliberal Self and glocalization of American “Self-Help” practices — Daniel Fridman on his new book Freedom from Work

The Fruits of Commodification: Grade inflation is just another byproduct of the marketized university — by Ed Burmila

India’s transition from a colonial economy: Falling behind and catching up — Bishnupriya Gupta’s lecture (video & podcast)

Ten ways to tell you might be sitting next to an economist 🙂 

sociology of money

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Market Sentiment and the Ingenuity of the Markets

In a brilliant sketch by John Bird and John Fortune, aired during The South Bank Show on 14 October 2007, these British satirists trace the very workings of financial markets and the outbreak of the subprime crisis. Tragicomedy at its best…!

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