Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Kloppenburg. 1991. "Social Theory and the De/Reconstruction of Agricultural Science: Local Knowledge for an Alternative Agriculture."

Kloppenburg, J. (1991), Social Theory and the De/Reconstruction of Agricultural Science: Local Knowledge for an Alternative Agriculture. Rural Sociology, 56: 519–548. doi:10.1111/j.1549-0831.1991.tb00445.x

Kloppenburg begins with a quote by Carol Cohn that refers to "militarized masculinity and decontextualized rationality." Although there is more to the quote, and the rest of the quote relates better to Kloppenburg's purpose, those words caught my attention.

Kloppenburg is writing as an activist, an advocate of sustainable agriculture, and a critic of what we now call either conventional or production or industrial agriculture. Making the leap from the form of agriculture he opposes to the one he supports involves a "deconstructive task" - "the demonstration that agricultural science as currently constituted provides neither a complete, nor an adequate, nor even a best possible account of the sphere of agricultural production" and a "reconstructive task" - "the identification and legitimation of alternative sources of knowledge production for agriculture - sources which now have no voice, or speak without authority, or simply are not heard in contemporary agroscientific discourse" (p. 520). The deconstruction began with Rachel Carson and Silent Spring in 1962. For the reconstruction, he advocates "local knowledge."

Calling the deconstruction project "more a diffuse historical tendency than a coherent project" (p. 521), Kloppenburg cites critiques not just about conventional agriculture's ecological impact, but also its social one. Additionally, there are critiques of "the manner in which particular social interests gain differential influence over the institutional structure of knowledge production" - in other words, a few powerful agribusiness interests disproportionately influence call the shots (p. 521). Kloppenburg points to several critiques of the "validity and utility of the methodologies employed in research and the epistemic constitution of knowledge production itself" (p. 521). This sentence is so good I'll just quote it in full: "A growing number of biological scientists are concerned that the reductionistic and positivistic approaches characteristic of modern science constrain pursuit of unorthodox but potentially productive research initiatives, obscure important connections between organisms and phenomena, and actively inhibit achievement of holistic understanding of ecological systems" (p. 521). He cites as sources Suppe 1988; Allen and Starr 1982; Levins and Lewontin 1985; MacRae et al. 1989; Odum 1989; Prigogine and Stengers 1984.

After naming organizations calling for sustainable agriculture, Kloppenburg provides the response from Big Ag and some agricultural scientists: knowledge creation is for the scientists alone. If we are to have a different type of agriculture, it will be developed by them: "The objective is to control the shape that alternative agriculture will take by insisting upon the hegemony of existing science and thereby limiting the type and range of knowledges that can be brought to bear upon the construction of an alternative agriculture" (p. 522).

Therefore, Kloppenburg reframes his notion of a deconstructive project, adding that it is not to take down the current type of agriculture practiced in this country but the entire system of how agricultural knowledge is produced and legitimized: "The object... is not simply what should constitute alternative agriculture but - even more fundamentally - who is even to have the power to speak authoritatively in that debate, who is to have a voice at all" (p. 523).

For Kloppenburg, the reconstruction project involves not just a reconstruction of agricultural practices, but a reconstruction of agricultural science, of how agricultural knowledge is produced.

In the next section, Kloppenburg places science in a social context. In other words, he's pulling back the curtain on "decontextualized rationality." I'd like to quote a few particularly beautiful passages:

"In contemporary society, what we call science enjoys a privileged status among the possible ways of establishing knowledge about the world" (Aronowitz 1988; Marcuse 1964; Mulkay 1979) (p. 524).

"The mental productions we call scientific knowledge are no less subject to social influences than are the products of any other way of knowing and are, therefore, the fruits of a scientific enquiry that must be envisioned as, in Knorr-Cetina's (1981 :3) succinct phrasing, "constructive rather than descriptive."" (p. 524)

"The "facticity" of science is not comprised of objective descriptions of a determinate natural world but of socially contingent constructions provides a foundation for a powerful new critique of science" (p. 524).

In other words, the scientific method is but one way of producing knowledge and, due to social factors, we privilege this way of producing knowledge above all others. However, that does not make knowledge produced in other ways necessarily false. What it does do is tie knowledge production to power relations. In this case, it means that the most powerful interests in agriculture get to frame the problems, decide what gets studied, and limit the range of solutions considered, and the less powerful do not. He cites Gieryn 1983. Then he finishes by stating that if this system is socially constructed then it can also be socially reconstructed in a better, more equitable way.

Kloppenburg ties this to the work of feminists, writing, "As Keller (1987:37-38) points out, this conclusion follows logically from a central premise of feminist studies generally: just as gender is a socially constructed representation (rather than a precise reflection) of sex, so is science a socially constructed representation (rather than a precise reflection) of nature" (p 525).

To unpack this point, he bring's up Harding's (1986) "three tendencies in feminist thinking about the production of scientific knowledge:" "feminist empiricism," "feminist postmodernism," and "feminist standpoint" theory (p. 526). The first, feminist empiricism calls for "more rigorous adherence to the existing scientific method" to produce a larger but not a separate body of knowledge. Feminist postmodernism, if I am reading correctly, calls for more inclusiveness in who does science but does not think that all will come together to produce a single body of knowledge. Rather, there will be multiple different bodies of knowledge, each of which are "partial knowledges." The third approach, feminist standpoint, calls for a feminist version of science to supplant the existing science we have, as it will be superior.

Kloppenburg makes clear that he's not interested in endorsing one or all of these three approaches, but in their shared recognition that (he's quoting another author here):
"no rigid boundary separates the subject of knowledge (the knower) and the natural object of that knowledge; where the subject/object split is not used to legitimize the domination of nature; where nature itself is conceptualized as active rather than passive, a dynamic and complex totality requiring human cooperation and understanding rather than a dead mechanism, requiring only manipulation and control (Fee 1986:47)." (Quoted in Kloppenburg p. 526)
In other words, he's still saying that scientifically produced knowledge under the current system is not the only way to produce valid knowledge, and the current system of knowledge production reflects our current social structure. In the quote, Fee is also claiming that men maintain a false separation between the scientific subject and its object (the scientist in the lab coat is outside the cage of rats he is studying and he presumably has no effect on them, or they on him, and none of the social structure of the world impacts the research he is doing on them, and Fee thinks that is false).

Kloppenburg takes issue with the notion that making this correction to science is uniquely feminist. Fee wrote that other groups besides women have also made the same critique, and Kloppenburg sums up her point of view: "What feminists criticize as masculinist science is also criticized from other standpoints - differently situated knowledges, one might say - as European science, or imperialist science, or bourgeois science" (p. 527).

So apparently one does not need to be a woman to critique the existing version of science or to reform it.

Kloppenburg then synthesizes the work of several feminist scholars to call for and define what he calls "local knowledge."

"I agree with Fee that this spirit of eclecticism-of "shared conversations in epistemology" (Haraway 1988:584)-is the most fruitful analytical approach in a world of multiple identities and hyphenated commitments. One of the central themes in the feminist analysis of science is the importance of legitimating and reaffirming the value of producing knowledge through "sensuous activity" (Rose 1986:72) and "personal experience" (Harding 1986:240) that is necessarily and specifically "local" (and therefore neither universalizing nor essentializing) in character (Smith 1987). I suggest that what I will call "local knowledge" is an expression of such production and that it is the global ubiquity of this form of knowledge production that accounts at least in part for the curious coincidences noted by Harding and Fee" (p. 527)

In fact, he points out that a number of other scholars who aren't feminists or even women also offer up ideas about different types of knowledge:

"A wide variety of analysts from the phenomenologist philosophers to contemporary anthropologists have tried to illuminate this epistemic distinction through elaboration of a range of paired concepts: "tacit knowledge/ scientific knowledge" (Polanyi 1966), "science of the concrete/science" (Levi-Strauss 1962), "life-world knowledge/scientific knowledge" (Bohme 1984; Husserl 1970), "craft knowledge/scientific knowledge" (Braverman 1974), "practical labor/science" (Bittner 1983), "folk wisdom/processed knowledge" (Krimsky 1984), "indigenous knowledge/scientific knowledge" (Richards 1985), "working knowledge/scientific knowledge" (Harper 1987)" (p. 528).

This distinction reminds me of an ethnobotany class I took years ago. There were two professors, a Luiseno man trained by a revered Kumeyaay elder and a white woman who had a graduate degree in botany. When presented with plants to identify, the man would use his senses - and sometimes even taste the unknown plant in order to confirm its identity. The woman, who would absolutely NEVER put an unidentified plant in her mouth, would dissect the flower, view it under a microscope, and count its various parts (sepals, petals, male parts, and female parts). She'd see if it had an inferior or superior ovary, if it was a composite flower or not, and so on. This would tell her which plant family the flower was in, and from there she could go about looking at its other attributes - leaf shape, leaf margins, size, color, etc - to determine which exact species it was.

Although both could accurately identify just about any local plant you put in front of them - often the types of information they had about the plant were complementary. The man knew how to use plants medicinally, and which ones could be eaten. The botanist had not learned anything of the sort in graduate school, but she did give us a helpful explanation about the evolution of plants, and how phloem and xylem really work. The course was valuable because both perspectives were taught. I believe that is what Kloppenburg is saying here, that currently we have just one point of view and not the other, and we need the other - especially when the one we have currently is letting us down so badly, as he believes it is.

Kloppenburg defines local knowledge as derived from lived experience: "Such knowledge is local in the sense that it is derived from the direct experience of a labor process which is itself shaped and delimited by the distinctive characteristics of a particular place with a unique social and physical environment" (p. 528). This eliminates the boundary between subject and object. "This holistic sense of the substance and context of the labor process produces a unified field of knowledge that is finely tuned to the concrete exigencies, needs, and requirements of local conditions" (p. 528).

He defines the current system of producing scientific knowledge as Cartesian reductionism - "the practice of breaking a problem down into discrete components, analyzing these separate parts in isolation from each other, and then reconstructing the system from the interpretations of the parts (Levins and Lewontin 1985:2; Merchant 1980: 182)" (p. 530).

The flaws in the current version of science are that they "fit all too well with the premium placed on power and control by authoritarian and patriarchal society and have served to reinforce the domination of women and nature (Bleier 1986; Longino 1990; Merchant 1980)" and they "involve a loss of context (social and political as well as physical and biological) which encourages a hierarchical and linear rather than an interactive and ecological view of nature (Aronowitz 1988; MacRae et al. 1989; Odum 1989:177; Prigogine and Stengers 1984)" (p. 530). The other side of the coin of Cartesianism is the "neglect and delegitimation of local knowledge production" (p. 530). He writes, "Because it is reductive, abstracting, and interested in the immutable components of a phenomenon, science loses connection with the variability of local systems" (p. 530).

Kloppenburg writes:

"The route to solutions to problems at the whole-farm level-at the local system level-runs not through agricultural scientists, but through those who think in terms of whole farms, those whose experiences are of whole farms, and whose knowledge has been developed by the integration of hand, brain, and heart in caring labor on whole farms-that is, through farmers. We should be exploring how to bring farmers and their local knowledge back into formal knowledge production for agriculture" (p. 531).

In other words, even if a particular variety of seeds can produce a particularly high yield on an experimental farm (which generally means it is grown under the best possible conditions), that does not mean that that same seed variety will actually work best for a real farmer on a real farm. This has been a problem I have seen myself, often on peasant farms in other countries. The scientists at the land grant university or the multinational corporation may come up with a dwarf variety of high yielding grain, but at the local level it causes problems because actually the farmers use the long stalks of their existing varieties as animal feed or for some other purpose, and the new variety deprives them of that. Or because the new variety, while high yielding, does not taste as good to locals. Or perhaps the crop produced is just fine, but after a farmer borrows money to buy high tech seeds and the chemical inputs needed to go with them and then sells the crop and pays back the loan with interest, the farmer makes less net income than if he or she had planted a lower yielding landrace variety from saved seeds that did not require borrowing money or purchasing inputs. Or because, while the seeds work great under ideal conditions, the farmers at the local level do not have ideal conditions - no irrigation, or sloped land, or poor soil, or bad drainage - and under those conditions the seeds do not produce well at all.

For the farmer, the profitability or viability of the entire farm matters. The farmer's own lifestyle matters too if you want to bring in the ideas of Chayanov, who wrote that peasant farmers work up until the point where the benefits gained from work no longer outweigh the drudgery of doing the work itself. The simple reductionist factor that made the high tech seed so valuable to scientists - high yield - is but one factor in many to the farmer, and it may or may not be a seed that is ultimately the most beneficial to the entire farm as a whole and to the farmer.

Another line that struck me as important was this one: "Prodded now and then to treat people as subjects rather than objects, to engage in a pedagogy "with, not for the oppressed" (Freire 1970:33), or to try "reverse learning ... to learn from farmers" (Chambers 1983)" (p. 532). In the particular case I am studying now, the scientists who study the issue (how to bring back a viable wolf population despite the unpopularity of wolves among many and the very real problem that wolves sometimes eat pet dogs and livestock) see the population that will now have to coexist with wolves as the object of study in a top-down investigation.

Often the scientists see those who dislike wolves as an obstacle to overcome. An obstacle for they, the scientists, to discover how to overcome. What if we allow trophy hunting? What if we educate people about wolves? Or we could compensate people for lost livestock? Then will they like the wolves? No? We can study why not. One source I read called this a "techno-rational" approach and critiques it for failing to see the wider social reality influencing the conflict (Nie, 2003, Beyond Wolves). But it also sees those who live among wolves as objects of study for scientists who are the legitimate people to make the right decisions (as David Mech believes, according to Nie p. 40) or to at least offer the public a menu of potential solutions and their implications as a doctor would offer a patient options for treatment and the benefits and risks of each (Nie p. 41). In either case, the people who live among wolves are not a part of the creation of knowledge except as objects of scientific study.

I am skipping past quite a bit of this article that seems less relevant to my own work at present. Then Kloppenburg comes to a section entitled "Accepting partiality: articulating situated knowledges" in which he writes, "What we need to do is to establish conversations among these partial perspectives and ground them in the specific and material context of the agricultural sector" (p. 537). It sounds like he is saying that local knowledge should not supplant scientific knowledge. The two should work side by side, together, as they did in the ethnobotany class I wrote about above, each recognizing that they both have something valuable to contribute.

He writes, "Nevertheless, by expressing a preference for the term "local knowledge," the implication is that "locality" - in the sense of inseparability from a particular place in the sense of embeddedness in a particular labor process - is the key distinguishing feature of this type of knowledge" (p. 537). While I had started to think of what he calls local knowledge as lived knowledge - knowledge gained through lived experience - here Kloppenburg emphasizes that place matters. This knowledge is not just produced through lived experience but it is tied to the place where it was produced.

Later, it becomes clear that Kloppenburg does in fact favor one of the three feminist approaches: feminist postmodernism. He states this in a section toward the end - which I will end with - that explains how multiple systems of producing knowledge can coexist.

"Feminist postmodernism suggests that the transition to a successor science is a mistaken project. Multiple and separate realities do exist and to suggest that a universal epistemological stance is possible and desirable - however feminist, holist, or oganicist it might be - is simply to replace one hegemony with another (Haraway 1986). While difference must be recognized and valued, productive interactions between ways of knowing can be established through partial connection and "decentered knowledge seeking" (Harding 1986:55). Farmers know something that agricultural scientists do not know and cannot completely know; and vice versa. Articulations between these different ways of knowing need to be established not in order to combine the knowledges, and not to translate the knowledges, but to permit mutually beneficial dialogue. The problem is not one of choosing between scientific knowledge or local knowledge, but of creating conditions in which these separate realities can inform each other." (p. 540).

Monday, February 12, 2018

Bell. 2004. Farming For Us All.

In Farming For Us All, Bell asserts, "An approach to productive farming that encourages greater stewardship of the environment's productive potential... is technically possible, say the advocates of sustainable agriculture. The real question is how it can be socially possible" (p. 10).

That is the research question of this book. Or, put more simply, "So why don't more farmers change?" (p. 12). After dismissing the suggestion that farmers simply don't like to change (p. 12-13), he notes that some believe it's "the structure of agriculture" - "the technology, market forces, and government regulations" that prevent change. Furthermore, he describes a sort of survival of the fittest: those who are still farming are the ones for whom the current structure of agriculture works, and the way they farm works with it. Given that, why would the change and do something different? (p. 13 and a footnote referencing Blank 1998, Hart 1991, and Tweeten 2003)

Bell believes this is not true for two reasons. First, because the situation for those who still farm is precarious, so it's hard to say that the current structure is really working for them. Second, farming practices are so similar from one farm to the next that it's hard to make the case that only the most efficient remain, unless you mean they are the most efficient in getting subsidies. In a footnote, he notes that he's not calling any farmer inefficient. Rather, their practices are so homogenous that it's hard to pick out one as being more efficient than the others (p. 13).

Bell sums up the message of the first part of the book: "While it is true that the current structure of agriculture encourages farmers to farm the subsidies and not the land, many if not most Iowa farmers (and their communities, their environment, and their families) find themselves poorly served by this encouragement" (p. 14).

Then Bell comes to his point, which is worth quoting in full because it's a good one:

"This phenomenology of farming - this taking for granted of what works, even when you think it might not - is a matter of more than material and temporal investments, though. It is equally a matter of identity, of the investment of the self as a man, as a woman, as a farmer. What you know is who you are. The stocks of knowledge we each old within are stocks of self as well" (p. 14).

He provides more explanation on how knowledge translates to identity, and in a footnote he cites Bentley, Rodriguez, and Gonzalez (1994), Chambers (1994), Collinson (2000), Hassanein (1999), Hassanein and Kloppenburg (1995), and Kloppenburg (1991).

Bell writes: "We learn from, and with, others, and gain a sense of social connection thereby. Knowledge is cultivated within culture and culture's lines of difference and identity - what I will be terming the cultivation of knowledge" (p. 15). A little later he writes, "knowledge is a social relation" (p 15).

Then he relates it to why more farmers do not adopt sustainable methods: "To give up a cultivation of knowledge, to give up a field of knowing and relating, is to give up both a field of self and its social affiliations and a field of trust in the secure workings of the world" (p. 15).

Bell connects knowledge to power, invoking Foucault. One might also connect this idea to Skogen, Mauz, and Krange (2008) in which the authors contrast the narratives of the more powerful pro-wolf contingent and the less powerful anti-wolf one, pointing out that the narratives reflect differential power relations. Here they are not discussing the knowledge itself but the status of the narratives of each side, in which the more powerful side's narrative is seen as scientific fact and official truth, whereas the less powerful side's narrative is seen as rumors.

Back to Bell, he describes a number of farmers who experience "phenomenological rupture" in which both one's identity and one's cultivation of knowledge change at the same time, and do so quickly (p. 16).

In the last part of the book, Bell describes how changing your farming practices means changing your social relations. As he goes on to define what he means, he makes it clear that he does not simply mean that switching to sustainable agriculture switches the people you spend time with ("an alternative set of social relations, of friends and associates with whom one identifies"). He also specifies that it brings with it a different "social practice of agriculture" (emphasis in original, p. 17). That is, for at least the particular group of farmers he was studying in Iowa, "the relations of knowledge... have a different feel to them, a different way of experiencing others and of experiencing one's own self" (p. 17).

It sounds like he is saying that conventional agriculture is what the IAASTD report calls "locally black box." That is, knowledge travels from top down, with experts producing knowledge and disseminating it as a universal truth. Another way to produce knowledge is by one's self. Bell calls both of these methods "monologic." But the knowledge of the sustainable farmers who are the subject of his book is produced jointly, with one another, in a dialogue.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Collins, Jane. Threads: Gender, Labor, and Power in the Global Apparel Industry

Collins, Jane. 2003. Threads: Gender, Labor, and Power in the Global Apparel Industry. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Collins uses a case study ethnography method to perform a commodity chain analysis in the global apparel industry. In it, she examines four firms: Tultex, Confitek, Burlmex, and Liz Claiborne.

Tultex and Liz Claiborne are two very different companies. Tultex mass produced sweatshirts and you've probably never heard of them. It actually produced the sweatshirts in its factories in Virginia, for decades, until it went out of business shortly after Collins performed her research there. Liz Claiborne designs and markets branded fashion apparel but it makes nothing; subcontractors produce the garments. Unlike the nearly identical sweatshirts Tultex workers made every day, Liz Claiborne sells many different styles with great variation.

Some theorists believed that jobs performing simpler work like producing Tultex sweatshirts would leave the U.S. for the Global South but the more complex work of producing apparel for Liz Claiborne would stay in the U.S. due to the level of skill required for the job. In fact, that is not the case. Liz Claiborne was a pioneer of offshoring production in the industry.

The other two firms are both in Aguascalientes, Mexico. One produced apparel for Tultex; the other for Liz Claiborne. The production processes in the two were remarkably similar. Both used a 'progressive bundle' system and paid piece-rate for the number of bundles a worker produced. The major difference is that Burlmex, which produced for Liz Claiborne, used a statistical quality control method. Using statistical quality control, a number of measurements and assessments are made of each worker's work. The measurements are graphed and tracked, and workers must stay within a certain range. This might be a quantitative measurement, like the depth of a seam, or a qualitative one. Instead of hiring more experienced or higher skilled workers, this company hires low skilled workers and controls them more tightly.

Both firms take a low road strategy of hiring unskilled workers, paying them little, offering them few benefits, and working them hard. The workers under statistical quality control are particularly stressed. Turnover is frequent and expected, if not built in. They recruit from a large geographic area, up to two hours from the factories. This gives them a larger pool to hire from to deal with turnover, but also means that some workers have an extra four hours of travel time added to each workday and that increases the stress. Additionally, the companies seek a docile labor force to put up with the stressful conditions and low pay, and they hire mostly women. The jobs given to men (operating machines) have higher pay.

Another theme in the book is that although globalization seems placeless, nowhere and everywhere, we can see examples of it in real places, affecting real people and communities. Terms like "offshoring" and "outsourcing" sound like nameless, faceless concepts, but Collins describes real factories that hired real workers in two cities. When a company selects a location for a factory, it must work with local laws, politics, norms, language, and other facets of that particular place. Collins examines how these companies adapt to each place in their workplace, their relationship with the community, and in terms of social reproduction. In terms of the community, she mentions how they work with the legal and political systems, whether they pollute, whether they invest in the communities, whether they offer daycare, whether they house workers or provide them transportation to work, etc. They are also interfacing with the local labor market. In this case, she mentions Tultex's paternalism in Virginia (until the workers unionized), comparing it to the subcontracted workers in Mexico who had no immediate relations with the U.S. firms employing them. The two parties (the workers and the U.S. companies) were connected by a general manager who ran the Mexican firm and dealt with both the U.S. company and the Mexican workers. The general manager was socially distant from the workers despite living in the same country. It was only relatively minor supervisors who had family and friends and other outside relationships with those they supervised. (This was not so for Tultex in its town in Virginia.) Collins says that by outsourcing to Mexico, the U.S. companies deterritorialize the social relations of work.

The nature of subcontracting makes the bargaining position of workers' worse. Contractors bid for jobs, trying to give the lowest price in order to win the contract. This drives down wages. But the low wages workers can get when the contractor wins a contract are better than the no wages they would get at all if their employer increased their wages and but got no contracts because it could not offer the best price.

The third area is social reproduction. Do employers pay a living wage so that workers can raise families and educate their children? In the case of the two Mexican firms in this book, they do not. Employers use their workers' gender against them, claiming that because they are women, their income is supplemental, so they do not need to earn enough to raise a family on. Of course this is ridiculous, as many women do not have a husband who earns more than they do, or any husband at all. Collins then speculates that the high turnover rate is desirable to firms because workers do not stick around long enough to organize and demand higher wages or better conditions.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Burawoy, Michael. 1984. “The Hidden Abode of Underdevelopment: Labor Process and the State in Zambia.”

Burawoy, Michael. 1984. “The Hidden Abode of Underdevelopment: Labor Process and the State in Zambia.” In Politics and Society and The Politics of Production.

Burawoy begins by explaining his premise: He is writing about what he calls the political apparatuses of industry. By this, he is referring to the ways in which the state regulates the relations between labor and capital (generally intervening on the side of capital). For example, they "enforce compulsory arbitration, outlaw strikes, detain leaders, monitor union organization, [and] impose wage freezes" (p. 124). He states that theories of underdevelopment neglect to consider this. So, that's what he's going to do.

He begins with a lit review, noting that early theories of underdevelopment blamed nations in the Global South for their own poverty due to "inappropriate values, the force of tradition, or the scarcity of capital" (p. 124). Dependency theorists like Andre Gunder Frank reacted against this, blaming colonizing nations for "plundering" their colonies (p. 124).

I must admit that I skipped the rest of the lit review because Burawoy writes about articles I have not read and it was simply too much effort to figure out what he meant by it. But he comes to the point on p. 127-128 that since the labor process is left out of these theories, then so are the struggles over the labor process, what he calls the "politics of production."

After reviewing all of the things that are not the point, Burawoy gets to the point: "I am developing here a notion of the state that focuses on the relationship between production politics and global politics.... We examine closely the functions of the colonial and postcolonial states as they are reflected in the relations between the apparatuses of the state and those of the economy, of industry, or of agriculture..." (p. 129). He names two forms of primitive accumulation the colonial state was after. First, get "direct producers" into the labor force so they work for wages for someone else (industrial capital). Second, merchant capital extracts the surplus from precapitalist production (farming, crafts, etc) and exports it. "Thus, the colonial state was not concerned with production per se but rather with orchestrating relations among modes of production leading to the capitalist mode" (p. 129-130).

Once everything is in place for capitalism, the purpose of the colonial state "disappears" (p. 130). At this point, a new form of the state takes over, marked by the granting of "formal political independence" which he calls a "symbol" of the transition (p. 130).

Burawoy then goes into a long explanation of Marxist theory. The question seems to be - what happens to precapitalist modes of production when capitalism comes along? Burawoy says that they don't go away, they are just "recreated and restructured in accordance with the needs of the dominant capitalist mode of production" (p. 132). The postcolonial state is concerned with the regulation of expanded reproduction, not primitive accumulation.

When primitive accumulation gives way to expanded reproduction, "alternative institutions," and not the colonial state, "take over its regulation" (p. 136). Even if the state has not declared independence yet, the colonial state drops out of the equation, at this point.

Writing of the operation of a Zambian mine under colonialism, Burawoy says, "I call this form of production politics colonial despotism. It is despotic because force prevails over consent. It is colonial because one racial group dominates through political, legal, and economic rights denied to the other" (p. 142).

Burawoy describes various phases in the Zambian mines. Initially, labor is recruited and workers are controlled in a "company state" using a compound system. All of the workers live in a company compound and their lives are controlled by the company both inside and outside of work. Mostly, the colonial state and the company state leave each other alone. In fact, they are working at cross purposes. The colonial state depends on migrant labor, whereas the mine is attempting to proletarianize a stable labor force. Burawoy explains that by proletarianization, he means cutting all ties to rural life. The company state uses force and coercion to control labor.

I find his description of what happened over time in the mine easy to understand, but the point he is making from it more difficult to draw out. He describes how, with independence, the mines go through a process of Zambianization, in which (in theory) senior positions formerly held by whites are given to Zambians. In reality, when this occurred, it occurred quickly and somewhat badly. Whites in senior positions were told to select and train Zambian replacements quickly. They often did not pick very qualified people, and they also did not teach them how to do the entire job. Instead, as the Zambians were given the whites' old jobs, new, even more senior jobs were given to the whites. Many of the responsibilities of the old jobs now held by Zambians were given to the whites in new positions, and the senior jobs Zambians now held were given smaller responsibilities. One mechanism by which whites kept power was by not sufficiently training Zambians nor selecting Zambians with proper qualifications to do the jobs, making it impossible for those Zambians to truly gain power. Burawoy says, "The devaluation of supervisory authority lay in the very process of Zambianization" (p. 150).

The use of force and coercion of colonial despotism went away, and the new Zambianized structure was weaker than the previous company state. Africans were now in unions, but the bureaucratic structure was rearranged so that centers of power were now higher up in the mine's organization, making it harder for unions to find leverage to have their demands met, and requiring them to use more drastic measures, like strikes. Buroway concludes that colonial despotism gave way to a weaker and more bureaucratic administrative apparatus for the mine. Workers gained more control (p. 152).

When faced with a strike, the postcolonial state tried to reassert the bygone colonial mode of production (by claiming that the workers were better disciplined before under the colonial production relations instead of recognizing that workers past were working under a more coercive regime - p. 157). He further concludes that the postcolonial state responded by aligning with the interests of capital more than the colonial state did (p. 158).

That all makes sense, but I don't see how it proves his point that by definition, a colonial state is engaged in primitive accumulation whereas a postcolonial state focuses on expanded reproduction. Nor do I see how he is proving his point that this is a universal phenomenon in all colonies and not just Zambia. Or even not just in British colonies in Africa, or in British colonies in general, since Great Britain tended to use similar methods of governing their colonies, and the colonial state in Zambia was therefore not entirely unique.

He states that "The distinctive function of the colonial state is to organize primitive accumulation so as to maximize the transfer of surplus to the metropolis" (p. 160-161). He continues, saying, "Merchant capital requires the colonized populations to produce for the market (for example, cocoa farmers in Ghana), whereas industrial capital requires proletarianization (for example, Southern Africa). The revenues of the colonial state emerge from and thereby reproduce the forms of primitive accumulation. The economic base of the colonial state is as weak as the surpluses it helps to generate - are inaccessible to it. It is a limited state that cannot afford the costs of extensive infrastructure and urbanization. And so there is a separation of powers between the company state and the colonial state" (p. 161).

Perhaps this is where his argument lies, that by definition, the colonial state is engaged in primitive accumulation, but expanded reproductive is inaccessible to it because it's busy transferring all of its surplus back to the metropolis (the colonizing power) and not keeping any at home with which to urbanize or build the infrastructure needed for expanded reproduction. He adds that the colonial state basically works itself out of a job when "capitalist relations of production become self-reproducing" (p. 161). It is at that moment that a new state, the postcolonial state, arises to serve the new needs of expanded reproduction.

Under the new form of organization, surpluses now transfer back to the metropolis via economic mechanisms instead of political ones (p. 162). With the company state now weaker - and I suppose this is where his analysis from above becomes relevant - the postcolonial state must insert itself into the equation or else the workers themselves will gain more control.

In Burawoy's words, "Under the colonial order the development of primitive accumulation led to the insulation of production apparatuses from state apparatuses and, as a consequence, the separation of industrial struggles from political struggles. Under the constraints of late development, expanded accumulation of capital led to the interpenetration of production apparatuses and state apparatuses and the rapid transformation of industrial struggles into political struggles against the state" (p. 163).

Toward the end, Burawoy points to the one obvious scholar who did connect the production process to colonization: Wallerstein. He finds that Wallerstein's analysis does not explain "how the various structures (labor process, production apparatuses, and state apparatuses) come into being and change over time" (p. 164). Then he gets in a good insult: "Synchronic functionalist teleology is no substitute for diachronic causal analysis" (p. 164). The causal mechanism, says Burawoy, is class struggle.

All in all, while I think I can regurgitate Burawoy's ideas in a simple form on my prelim exam, I don't fully understand what he's saying here, nor am I convinced he's right.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Babb, Sarah: “The IMF in Sociological Perspective: A Tale of Organizational Slippage”

Babb, Sarah. 2003. “The IMF in Sociological Perspective: A Tale of Organizational Slippage.” Studies in Comparative International Development. 38(2):3-27.

Babb disagrees with Stiglitz's analysis of "what went wrong" with the IMF. He traces the problem to the early 1980s. She says it started long before that.

Babb uses organizational sociology to analyze the IMF as an organization. She begins with the IMF's founding and its vague mission. It's common for a multilateral, international organization such as this to have a vague mission because it's difficult to get so many different parties to agree to something more specific. She also mentions that it's difficult to enforce international law, so countries might be hesitate to commit to something specific that cannot be enforced.

In this case, Keynes was on the British side arguing for something vastly different (Keynesian, in fact) from what the Americans wanted. While one might imagine that Keynes was arguing for his own brand of economics (as he was) simply because that's what he believed in, Babb points out that the U.S. and Great Britain had different interests, and each side was arguing for their own interests. The U.S. wanted "conditionality" and Great Britain did not. Conditionality refers to imposing conditions on nations receiving IMF loans. The resulting agreement did not mention conditionality.

Yet, conditionality became a part of the IMF's loans early on in its history. Babb looks to three possible sources of what shaped the organization given its weak and vague mission: coercive powerful outside forces, mimicking similar organizations ("mimetic isomorphism"), and the norms of the staff.

The powerful outside force she considers is the U.S. Treasury. This is an example of "asymmetric dependence." The original Bretton Woods agreement stated that all nations would peg their currencies to the dollar, and the dollar could be exchanged for gold. This eventually fell apart decades later, but the dollar continued to be important. Plus the U.S. had the most votes in the Executive Board and the only effective veto. Given that the U.S. and specifically its Treasury held more power over the IMF than the other way around, the U.S. and specifically the U.S. Treasury were an influential force in guiding IMF policy.

As for mimetic isomorphism, it was difficult for the IMF to pattern itself after similar organizations when no similar organizations existed. The IMF was simply the only IMF in the world, in all of history. However, there was a precedent of banking institutions dating back to the 19th century under the gold standard. Back then, when a nation ran into a balance of payments crisis, it was common for other nations to lend them money to resolve the crisis. Those loans came with conditions, setting a precedent for conditionality.

The last point is patterning the organization after the norms of the staff. Indeed, the leadership often deferred to the views of the staff, both because the staff would hand them already finished agreements that they had to vote yes or no on, and sending an agreement back to the drawing board would slow things down. Given that loans were often given in a crisis situation and timeliness was important, this was not ideal. Also, the staff often had expertise that the Executive Board often did not. So the Executive Board gave the staff quite a bit of freedom.

The staff were mostly economists, and they followed the norms of their profession. But that's not all. The reason why the IMF's policy resembles gold standard-era pre-Keynesian economics is because it was gold standard-era pre-Keynesian economists who staffed the IMF. At the time, the Keynesian model was new and unfamiliar. The old way had decades, if not centuries of precedent. What's more, when Keynesian economic won the day in the Great Depression, economists who still bought into pre-Keynesian economics more or less hid out in central banks. When the IMF was created, they gravitated there.

During the IMF's formative years, it was run by these economists. They basically hid out in the IMF until the rest of the world came around to their way of thinking via the Washington Consensus. Babb writes, "Indeed, we might even say that the IMF became a think tank within which the old-fashioned, deflationary thinking of the gold standard was preserved, until it was resuscitated in the 1980s as a tenet of the Washington Consensus" (p. 22).

This wouldn't be quite so problematic if pre-Keynesian Gold Standard economics and the neoliberal economics that came after it were correct and Keynes was wrong but, alas, it is the other way around.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Stiglitz, Joseph: Globalization and its Discontents.

Stiglitz introduces his book as an analysis of "what went wrong" with the Bretton Woods institutions, the IMF and World Bank. Quite frankly, it should be titled "All the reasons I hate the IMF." Stiglitz describes the World Bank and IMF's founding and then tells of a few key changes between then and now. Whereas they were founded with the understanding that the nations of the world must work together for global economic stability, today the U.S. has the only effective veto, giving it the power to call the shots by itself. Whereas the IMF was founded on Keynesian principles with the goal of stimulating demand when the market failed to do so on its own, today it enforces structural adjustment policies that are contractionary. Stiglitz says Keynes would be rolling over in his grave.

He traces the biggest shift to the Reagan and Thatcher era of the 1980s. During this time, the IMF was used as the vehicle to force Washington Consensus policies on poor nations who needed loans and grants. The IMF gave them an offer they could not refuse. It was in this time, the early 1980s, the two institutions, previously distinct, became more intertwined. Stiglitz blames the mistakes of the World Bank and IMF on making decisions based on ideology and politics (often using bad economics that are thinly veiled give aways to special interests) instead of based on good economics.

Stiglitz identifies one problem as the domination of both institutions by the wealthiest nations on earth, and generally by the business and finance sectors within those nations. While the institutions are making decisions that affect the entire world, and greatly affect the poorest nations, and the poorest people within those nations, they are dominated by interests of the world's wealthiest people who may have no understanding at all of poor people or poor nations. One example of how this plays out is that the poorest nations are forced to get rid of trade barriers and subsidies, but the wealthiest nations retain agricultural subsidies. He calls it "taxation without representation" and "global governance without global government" - meaning that a few powerful institutions run by elites make the rules that affect the entire world, but the rest of the world has little to no control over those institutions.

He opposes broad, general protectionist policies but supports developing nations protecting certain fledgling industries until they are globally competitive. When markets are opened to competition from abroad, these industries cannot compete - and at the same time, the nation lacks a social safety net to support those who lose their jobs as a result.

Stiglitz distinguishes between the missions and the characters of the World Bank and the IMF. The former is to eliminate poverty; the latter to promote global economic stability. He dumps on the IMF a lot, basically framing it as the real problem compared to the comparatively innocent World Bank. (Stiglitz worked at the World Bank so I am suspicious about his biases.) One good point he makes is that the World Bank has staff living in the nations around the world where the World Bank works, whereas the IMF generally has a single person in each nation living a comfortable existence in the capital, never coming face to face with the suffering the IMF's policies inflict.

A major critique he makes of the IMF is their confusion of ends with means. That is, when it believes that certain policies (such as a liberalized financial market) are crucial to economic success, it sees those policies as goals in and of themselves. Even when a country is doing OK as it is - Stiglitz gives the example of Ethiopia - and does not need the IMF's "fix" (and the IMF's "fix" will actually hurt it) - the IMF still pushes for its preferred policies as if they are an end in themselves.

To me, it's like if someone is already thin but you believe that the Atkins diet helps you lose weight, this would be like telling the already thin person they must go on the Atkins diet, as if the diet itself is the goal and not the health, fitness, and weight loss goals a person may have.

Works Cited:
Stiglitz, Joseph. 2002. Globalization and its Discontents. New York: W. W. Norton and Co.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Eckstein: "Dollarization and Its Discontents: Remittances and the Remaking of Cuba in the Post-Soviet Era."

Eckstein, Susan. 2004. "Dollarization and Its Discontents: Remittances and the Remaking of Cuba in the Post-Soviet Era." Comparative Politics 36(3):313-30.

Eckstein begins by pointing to remittances as a source of foreign exchange for receiving nations. She distinguishes between the effect of remittances on individuals and their effect on receiving states. It's possible for remittances to benefit individuals but not states, or to help further the goals of the individuals but not the states. Second, remittances are not a substitute for other kinds of income to individuals who receive them. Third, remittances may have unintended consequences for receiving individuals. "Effects hinge on the social con- text in which remittances become embedded" (p. 314). It's interesting that she refers to "individuals" whereas Taylor refers to households.

Unlike Taylor, Eckstein focuses on the role of the state (and the impacts of remittances on the state). For example, she notes that refugees send back less in remittances than economic migrants perhaps because refugees oppose the government they fled. She then introduces the specific case she is considering: Cuba. "Cuba should, in principle, represent a most likely case of a state able to regulate remittance inflows and the uses to which they are put" (p. 314).

Eckstein says, "After the cold war Cuba, along with other remaining Communist regimes, had no option but to reintegrate into the global market economy for trade and financing, irrespective of any efforts to regulate market features domestically" (p. 314-315).

Eckstein seems to be most concerned with how states accomplish their goals. She points out that even a strong state may not be able to control black market activity. So she's looking at how a state like Cuba might be able to control what its citizens do in order to accomplish the state's own goals. She adds that the state might not even have clear goals, or even if the top of the government does have clear goals, different agencies and institutions may have competing goals and they might undermine each other.

She writes: "Regimes often face trade-offs in setting priorities between consumption and investment, the long and short terms, and political administrative and technical economic concerns. or such reasons, official remittance-linked policies may be grounded in institutional political and not merely economic rationality, with these two types of rationality possibly colliding. Policies designed to bring remittance dollars to the government, to address fiscal and other economic exigencies, for example, may have the unintended effect of eroding state capacity to maintain law and order, if they induce the populace to seek dollars illicitly or for purposes not legally permitted" (p. 315).

Following the paper's introduction, Eckstein provides background information about the Special Period in a more detailed way than before. She brings up the impact of the U.S. embargo and adds that world sugar prices declined and that hurt Cuba as well since sugar is an important export for the island. Sugar production also declined. Cuba received little in foreign aid, investment, or bank loans. However, tourism grew (this was a specific strategy of the government's to gain income and presumably foreign exchange too). But given everything else, remittances were an extremely important part of the economy. Eckstein writes, "The state and ordinary Cubans each had reasons for courting remittances. Analytically separable, their efforts became concretely inter- meshed, sometimes mutually reinforcing, at other times not" (p. 316).

Then she gets into the meat of her analysis. During the Special Period, Cubans could obtain some of what they needed with their ration books, but it was not enough. The black market flourished, but black market prices were unaffordable compared to income (she provides examples of chicken or cheese costing a third or a fourth of someone's monthly salary). Cubans had free education and health care and inexpensive shelter, and the food one got in rations was inexpensive, so low salaries in pesos were manageable until one needed to turn to the black market for food and other necessities.

Officially, pesos and dollars were worth equal value. On the streets, dollars were worth 130 times more than pesos. Even a small amount of dollars could go a long way in purchasing black market goods. Remittances were the way to go. Cubans received remittances from family members in the U.S. in ways that defied both U.S. and Cuban law. U.S. laws were cumbersome and limited the amount one could send, so many avoided these limitations by sending money through informal channels. For example, some relied on mulas, middlemen who carried goods and money to Cuba. (Incidentally, when I arrived in Cuba, an entire set of tires were on the baggage carousel. They were somebody's checked baggage.)

"Desperate for hard currency, the Cuban government introduced measures to induce remittance-sending in ways designed to channel money to its treasury" (p. 319-320). However, the state worried that dollars would lead to individualism and materialism. Realizing that the remittances were happening anyway, the state responded to, essentially, make the best of it. The first change the state made, in 1993, was legalizing possession of dollars. Then they allowed Cubans to shop at dollar stores that were previously reserved for foreigners. Dollar stores sold goods at inflated prices, bringing more needed hard currency to the state. Third, they set up official exchange booths that exchanged dollars at the street exchange rate to "soak up dollars not spent at dollar stores" (p. 320).

With these measures in place, the unofficial exchange rate dropped down to 21 pesos to the dollar (down from 130). This was nowhere near the official rate of 1:1. This gave a better exchange rate to those with dollars than the state would have liked, but the alternative would have been people continuing to rely on the black market and the state getting no dollars at all.

Eckstein continues, listing several more measures the state took with regard to remittances to attempt to achieve its own goals. They had previously portrayed emigres negatively and had limited how much Cubans could bond with their overseas relatives. Now they had to change their tune, because they needed the emigres to visit Cuba and bring dollars with them. This was a political risk, as the emigres would bring with them negative opinions about the Castro regime that they would share with their relatives on the island. Cuba even allowed more emigration to increase the remittance-sending base living overseas.

Compared to other nations, Cuban emigres were different. Those who left decades before for political reasons sent less money than Dominicans or Salvadorians (the two nations Eckstein uses for comparison) even though they were wealthier. Cubans also had fewer relatives abroad who could send remittances. Those who emigrated after 1990 were more similar to remittance-sending relatives from other nations.

She also mentions racial disparities. Whites were more likely to oppose the Castro regime and leave, compared to Blacks. Therefore, whites in Cuba are more likely to have relatives abroad who can send them money (assuming their relatives can get over their hatred of the Castro regime and actually send it... which many did not). Remittance receiving families were also disproportionately urban. This increased inequality in Cuba, which runs counter to the government's goal of equality. Eckstein notes that in other nations, remittances counter inequality; in Cuba, it widens it.

Remittances also reduce adherence to revolutionary values. In addition to promoting materialism, it also led to corruption, rent-seeking, and theft.

On the other hand, remittances provided much needed hard currency, and it alleviated political pressure by taking the edge off of the deprivation Cubans faced in the early 1990s. But the benefits to the state are limited. Cuba imported less in 1999 than it did before the start of the Special Period, even with all of the dollars from remittances it received. And its debt increased during that time as well. The influx of dollars also eroded state control over the economy, for example, by fueling the black market. And it eroded the value of work, since jobs paid in pesos the equivalent $10-$20/mo in dollars. It encouraged people to skip out on their peso-earning job to engage in sideline activities that brought in dollars. (I bought a handmade dress in Cuba in 2010 for $15, and I was told the price was equivalent to about half a month's income.)

The influx of dollars brought a domestic brain drain as highly skilled professionals who earned only pesos turned to low skilled work (such as working in tourism and even prostitution) that gave them access to dollars.

Eckstein's greater point, that remittances may bring benefits to the families who receive them while simultaneously working against the goals of the state, is a good one. However, Cuba is such a strange and unique case compared to other nations that I find it doubtful than the specific findings from Cuba are broadly applicable to most other nations that receive remittances.