Monday, July 23, 2018

Tarrow. 2005. The New Transnational Activism.

Tarrow, Sidney. 2005. The New Transnational Activism. New York: Cambridge University Press.

"My book argues that individuals who move into transnational activism are both constrained and supported by domestic networks; that in making this move they activate transitional processes between states and international politics; and that when they return home, they bring with them new forms of action, new ways of framing domestic issues, and perhaps new identities that they may some day fuse domestic with international contention" (pp. 2-3).

The book raises three questions (p. 3):
  1. "To what extent and how does the expansion of transnational activism change the actors, the connections among them, the forms of claims making, and the prevailing strategies in contentious politics?"
  2. "Does the expansion of transnational activism and the links it establishes between nonstate actors, their states, and international politics create a new political arena that fuses domestic and international contention?"
  3. "IF so, how does this affect our inherited understanding of the autonomy of national politics from international politics?"

Internationalism: "a dense, triangular structure of relations among states, nonstate actors, and international institutions, and the opportunities this produces for actors to engage in collective action at different levels of this system" (p. 25).

Rooted Cosmopolitan: "Individuals and groups who mobilize domestic and international resources and opportunities to advance claims on behalf of external actors, against external opponents, or in favor of goals they hold in common with transnational allies" (p. 29).

Transnational activists: A subgroup of rooted cosmopolitans. Definition on p. 29.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Sassen. 2007. The Sociology of Globalization.

Sassen begins by explaining that much of sociology takes the nation state as the basic unit of analysis, and this is inadequate for studying global processes and globalization. She calls into question two assumptions: "The first is the explicit or implicit assumption about the nation-state as the container of social process. The second is the implied correspondence of national territory with the national - the assumption that if a process of condition is located in a national institution or in national territory, it must be national" (p. 1). In other words, any social process takes place in an entire country and not outside of that country.

To study social processes that exceed national boundaries, or to study social processes that are subnational but are manifestations of globalization in a local area, Sassen argues we need new methodologies.

She identifies four dynamics one must understand to study globalization. First, that globalization destabilizes the nation state through "what is sometimes seen as a return to older imperial spatialities for the economic operations of of the most powerful actor: the formation of a global market for capital, a global trade regime, and the internationalization of manufacturing production" (p. 14). But she argues that this is not identical to old imperial formations because "today's transboundary spatialities have to be produced in a context in which most territory is encased in a thick and highly formalized national framework marked by the exclusive authority of the nation state" (p. 14).

She paints a picture of nation-states that "can be read as the work of rendering national just about all crucial features of society: authority, identity, territory, security, law, and market" (p. 15). Now added to that are subnational scales like global cities and supranational scales like global markets. This is not actorless. It is the "global project of powerful firms... and the growth of supranational components in state work" (p. 15).

Another wrinkle is the "multiscalar character of various global processes" (p. 17). She writes, "These instances cannot easily be accommdated by older nested hierarchies of scale, which position everything that is supranational above the state in the scalar hierarchy and everything that is subnational beneath the state" (p. 17). She gives an example of a financial center in a global city that is at once a local entity but also active in a global market.

Second, because "this variety of multiscalar dynamics point to conditions that cannot be organized as a hierarchy, let alone as a nested hierarchy...Studying the global, then, entails a focus not only on that which is explicitly global in scale but also on locally scaled practices and conditions that are articulated with global dynamics" (p. 18). For example, "globally scaled dynamics, such as the global capital market, are actually partially embedded in subnational sites (financial centers)" (p. 18). Studying this requires new methodologies and theorizations.

Third, Sassen writes about global cities. The choice of term was intended to point out "the specificity of the global as it gets structured in the contemporary city" (p. 24). She offers 5 hypotheses "to help explain the importance of cities in the institutionalization of global economic processes" (p. 25).
  1. "The greater the geographic dispersal of economic activities [of a corporation] along with their simultaneous integration through telecommunications, the greater the growth and importance of central corporate functions" (p. 25). Basically, if you've got an enormous global company, it takes more to manage it.
  2. "The more complex these central functions become, the more likely the headquarters of large global firms "outsource" them" (p. 25). So a large, global firm is likely going to outsource things like accounting, legal, PR, advertising, marketing, telecommunications, even manufacturing.
  3. "The more complex and globalized a specialized service firm's markets are, the more its central functions are subject to agglomeration economies" (p. 26). I think this means that the companies providing the outsourced services for multinational corporations need to be in cities because of all of the things they need that cities offer. Like if you're an advertising firm in New York you have better access to a pool of talent to hire than if you are an advertising firm in rural Iowa, your clients are more likely to have headquarters or offices in town, you're near an international airport, and so on, so it makes it easier to operate in NYC than rural Iowa.
  4. "The more headquarters outsource their most complex, nonstandardized functions, particularly those subject to uncertain and changing markets and speed, the freer they are to opt for any location because less of the work that is done in the headquarters is subject to agglomeration economies" (p. 26).
  5. "Insofar that these specialized service firms need to provide a global service... there is a strengthening of cross-border city-to-city transactions and networks" (p. 26) The result is "a series of transnational networks of cities. A corollory is that major business centers in the world today draw their importance from these transnational networks. There is no such entity as a single global city" (p. 27).

Putting all of this together, Sassen concludes that "this economy contains both the capabilities for enormous geographic dispersal and mobility and pronounced territorial concentration of resources necessary for the management and servicing of that dispersal. The management and the servicing of much of the global economic system take place in this growing network of global cities and cities or regions that are better described as having a limited number of global-city functions" (p. 27). She adds "To a large extent, the major business centers in the world today draw their importance from these transnational networks which, in turn, signals a division of functions" (p. 28).

Global cities weaken the national as the spatial unit and subnational scales (cities and regions) are growing in importance at the same time (p. 30). The cross-border dynamics cut across a number of domains - political, cultural, economic, social, and criminal (p. 29). Regulating these cross-border networks cannot necessarily be done by "existing national frameworks" (p. 30). For scholars, new theoretical and empirical frameworks are needed to understand them (p. 31).

Fourth, she writes about "denationalized state agendas and privatized norm making" (p. 32). Because processes and dynamics flow between "localities and local actors" without needing to "move through the hierarchies of national states," "although none of these circumstances alters the geographic boundaries of the national state's territory, they do change the meaning of the state's exclusive authority over that territory" (p. 33).

Sassen points out that the change in the role of the state is often explained through policies associated with economic globalization, such as privatization, deregulation, and financial and trade liberalization. This points to a weakening role of the state. She believes we should also capture how states participate in the creation of "the new frameworks through which globalization is furthered" and the "transformations inside the state" (p. 34).

A section I find particularly powerful reads as follows: "The emergent, often imposed consensus in the community of states on furthering globalization is not merely a political decision: it entails specific types of work by a number of distinct institutions in each country... Furthermore, this work has an ironic outcome insofar as it destabilizes some aspects of state power: the state can be seen as incorporating the global project of its own shrinking role in regulating economic transactions. The state here can be conceived of as representing a technical administrative capacity that cannot be replicated at this time by any other institutional arrangement; furthermore, this capacity is backed by military power, which for some states is a global power. Seen from the perspective of firms operating transnationally, the objective is to ensure the functions traditionally exercised by the state in the national realm of the economy, notably guaranteeing property rights and contracts, only now extended to foreign firms as well" (pp 37-38).

Sassen calls attention to three features in this "new private institutional order" (p. 39). First, "the distinctive features of this new, mostly but not exclusively private institutional order in formation are its capacity to privatize what was heretofore public and to denationalize what were once national authorities and policy agendas" (p. 39). Second, the new institutional order has a new normativity which "comes from the world of private power yet installs itself in the public realm and in so doing helps denationalize national state agendas" (p. 40). And third, "particular institutional components of the national state begin to function as the institutional home for the operation of powerful dynamics constitutive of what we could describe as global capital and global capital markets. In so doing, these state institutions reorient their particular policy work or broad state agendas toward the requirements of the global economy" (p. 40).

Sassen identifies areas of denationalizing of the national state as the increase in rights of foreign firms, the deregulation of cross-border transactions, and the power of supranational organizations (p. 53).

This is just a summary of the first chapter, with a tiny bit from the second.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Seidman. 2007. Beyond the Boycott.

Keck and Sikkink. 1998. Activists Beyond Borders.

* Keck, M. E., & Sikkink, K. (1998). Activists Beyond Borders: Advocacy Networks in International Politics. Ithaca & London: Cornell University Press.

Keck and Sikkink focus their work on TANs - transnational advocacy networks, defined as including "those relevant actors working internationally on an issue, who are bound together by shared values, a common discourse, and dense exchanges of information and services" (p. 2). They write:

"Such networks are most prevalent in issue areas characterized by high value content and informational uncertainty. At the core of the relationship is information exchange. What is novel in these networks is the ability of nontraditional international actors to mobilize information strategically to help create new issues and categories and to persuade, pressure, and gain leverage over much more powerful organizations and governments. Activist networks try not only to influence policy outcomes, but to transform the terms and nature of the debate... their goal is to change the behavior of states and of international organizations" (p. 2).

Then they write that TANs frame issues "to make the comprehensible to target audiences, to attract attention and encourage action, and to "fit" with favorable institutional venues" (p. 2-3). Interestingly, they refer to these networks as embodying "elements of agent and structure simultaneously" (p. 5). They are structures insofar as they are "patterns of interactions among organizations and individuals" but as actors the networks have agency (p. 5). Keck and Sikkink choose the term networks "to evoke the structured and structuring dimension in the actions of these complex agents, who not only participate in new areas of politics but also shape them" (p. 4).

Networks are "forms of organizations characterized by voluntary, reciprocal, and horizontal patterns of communication and exchange" (p. 8). The found that "Transnational advocacy networks appear most likely to emerge around those issues where (1) channels between domestic groups and their governments are blocked or hampered or where such channels are ineffective for resolving a conflict, setting into motion the "boomerang" pattern of influence characteristic of these networks... (2) activists or "political entrepreneurs" believe that networking will further their missions and campaigns, and actively promote networks; and (3) conferences and other forms of international contact create arenas for forming and strengthening networks" (p. 12).

The boomerang strategy (p. 12-13) is one in which an NGO in state A that cannot achieve its goals through domestic advocacy alone works with an NGO in state B. The foreign NGO then applies pressure to state B, which directly or through an intergovernmental organization applies pressure to state A. For example, this could occur in the case of human rights, when local activists cannot get their own government to end its repression, so they work with foreign activists. The foreign activists pressure their own government, which in turn puts pressure on the repressive government to improve its human rights record. In fact, Keck and Sikkink say this pattern is often used in human rights advocacy.

When using the boomerang strategy: "For the less powerful third world actors, networks provide access, leverage, and information (and often money) they could not expect to have on their own; for northern groups, they make credible the assertion that they are struggling with, and not only for, their southern partners. Not surprisingly, such relationships can produce considerable tensions" (p. 12-13).

Transnational advocacy networks work by using "the power of their information, ideas, and strategies to alter the information and value contexts within which states make policies" (p. 16). Keck and Sikkink divide their tactics into four categories: "(1) information politics, or the ability to quickly and credibly generate politically usable information and move it to where it will have the most impact; (2) symbolic politics, or the ability to call upon symbols, actions, or stories that make sense of a situation for an audience that is frequently far away; (3) leverage politics, or the ability to call upon powerful actors to affect a situation where weaker members of a network are unlikely to have influence; and (4) accountability politics, or the effort to hold powerful actors to their previously stated policies or principles" (p. 16).

The information in the first category, information politics, must be reliable, well-documented, timely, and dramatic (p. 19). They often rely on testimony "stories told by people whose lives have been affected" and then they often "interpret facts and testimony, usually framing issues simply, in terms of right and wrong" (p. 19). An example given of how activists dramatize the information is that they reframed what was called female circumcision as female genital mutilation, which "resituated the practice as a human rights violation" (p. 20). Activists find it important to link both testimony and technical and statistical information, because the testimony puts a human face on the statistics that motivates people to seek changed policies (p. 21).

Leverage politics find a way to link cooperation with them to money, trade, or prestige. Often they use shame, because "governments value the good opinion of others" (p. 23). In accountability politics, they try to get a government to publicly change their position on an issue and they pressure them to live up to their promises (p. 24).

Keck and Sikkink outline stages of network influence: "(1) issue creation and agenda setting; (2) influence on discursive positions of states and international organizations; (3) influence on institutional procedures; (4) influence on policy change in "target actors" which may be states, international organizations like the World Bank, or private actors like the Nestle Corporation; and (5) influence on state behavior" (p. 25).

They found that TANs are most effective when two characteristics are present: "(1) issues involving bodily harm to vulnerable individuals, especially when there is a short and clear causal chain (or story) assigning responsibility; and (2) issues involving legal equality of opportunity" (p. 27).

This is just a synopsis of the book's introduction. What follows are three case studies of human rights, environmental, and anti violence against women networks.

Smith. 2005. “Globalization and Transnational Social Movement Organizations.”

Smith, Jackie. 2005. “Globalization and Transnational Social Movement Organizations.” in Social Movements and Organizational Theory, edited by Gerad Daus, Doug McAdam, W. Richard Scott, and Mayer Zald. New York: Cambridge University Press. Pages 226-248.

"As national markets dissolve into a growing global marketplace, national governments have turned increasingly to international organizations to negotiate new rules about the boundaries of state authority. These interdependent and parallel processes of "globalization" (global market integration) and "internationalization" (the increasing importance of relations between nations) substantially transform the character of the organizational fields in which social movements seek to pursue their interests" (p. 226).

"The expansion of the global economy reduces the capacities of states (some more than others) to define and enact their own internal economic policies. It thereby prevents the state from carrying out its traditional functions of regulating the national economy and ensuring the welfare of its citizens. Moreover, the global legal and political environments increasingly constrain the range of policy choices available to national decision makers" (p. 226).

"The logic that drives interstate politics requires that activists develop organizations that can facilitate broad, cross-cultural communications while managing diversity and coordinating joint action around a shared agenda. These demands differ sharply from those required of most national-level movement organizations" (p. 229)

Kay. 2005. Labor Transnationalism and Global Governance

Kay, Tamara. 2005. Labor Transnationalism and Global Governance: The Impact of NAFTA on Transnational Labor Relationships in North America. American Journal of Sociology Vol. 111 No 3 pp. 715–56

Kay applies political process theory to transnational activism, specifically to a case of labor activism and NAFTA. Political process theory was developed for national social movements. It relies on the concept of political opportunity structures. Kay makes the point that political process theory's ideas about political opportunity structures are specific to national activism. Transnational activism also has political opportunity structures, but they are different from national social movements.

Kay writes:

"Synthesizing key scholars’ conceptualization of the term, McAdam (1996, p. 27) highlights four primary dimensions of political opportunity at the national level: (1) the relative openness or closure of the institutionalized political system, (2) the stability or instability of elite political alignments, (3) the presence or absence of elite allies, and (4) the state’s capacity and propensity for repression" (p. 721-722).

These factors require a state: repression by the state, the political parties within a state, and electoral politics within the state. In the case of transnational activism, Kay says, the political opportunity structure is not determined by a state. Additionally, the four dimensions named above assume one nation state, and in the case of NAFTA there are three.

This seems specific to the types of activism Kay is referring to in which there is an global governance institution that creates the arena for activism. In cases where transnational activism uses a boomerang strategy (Keck and Sikkink) to target one state government using activism from abroad, there are multiple states involved, or at least activists in multiple states who are perhaps targeting just one state, but there may not be a global governance institution involved.

In the case of NAFTA and other political opportunity structures created by global governance institutions, Kay's work applies. NAFTA has no elected representatives or political parties nor does it have a capacity for repression. Kay identifies three dimensions of political opportunity structures at the transnational level:

"Here I offer three primary dimensions of political opportunity structure at the transnational level that explain how power is established at the transnational level: (1) the constitution of transnational actors and interests, (2) the definition and recognition of transnational rights, and (3) adjudication of rights at the transnational level" (p. 722). She adds that "At the transnational level, political opportunity structures are embedded in rules and bureaucratic processes rather than electoral processes" (p. 723).

In the case of NAFTA and its labor agreement NAALC, their creation created transnational actors and interests. Previously, labor activists in each nation saw their interests as purely national. Activists in each nation wanted to keep the jobs in their own country, and saw labor in other nations as competition. Each nation has its own labor laws, institutions, and adjudication processes. Essentially, the arena for activism was purely national. When NAFTA was under negotiation, this changed. Suddenly labor activists in all three nations had a common interest - opposing NAFTA - and they began working together as transnational actors to oppose it. Following its passage and implementation, they continued to have shared interests in protecting and expanding labor rights in all three NAFTA countries. Or, as Kay describes the shifting of interests from national to transnational: "The goal of the campaign was not to keep jobs in the United States; rather, it was to maintain decent labor rights and standards in North America" (p. 730).

Part of the reason for the continued activism after the passage of NAFTA was newly established adjudication process through which activists could file complaints against labor violations in the three NAFTA nations. The complaints must be filed outside one's own country. In order to file complaints, activists in the country in which the labor violation occurred worked with activists in the nation where they were filing the complaint.

Thus, the creation of NAFTA established both a definition of transnational rights - the labor standards that the three NAFTA nations were to uphold, giving rights to labor in all three nations - and an adjudication process at the transnational level when violations occurred.

Kay writes, in summary:

"In this article I show how global governance institutions facilitate a process that constitutes transnational actors and interests. NAFTA forced labor unions in all three countries to recognize the common threat to North American workers if the free trade agreement stimulated a reduc- tion in jobs and wages and in health, safety, and environmental standards. Although it is commonly thought that NAFTA only created a common market, my data suggest that it also created a transnational political opportunity structure through which national unions in North America could identify their common interests as North American unions and advocate for them by developing a transnational political action field.

"The second dimension of transnational political opportunity structures expands upon the first by emphasizing the importance of defining and recognizing transnational actors’ and social movements’ rights in the transnational arena. This dimension is similar to Tilly’s (1984) assertion that national social movements target nation-states because they have the power to grant or deny legitimacy. In the transnational arena, global governance institutions have the same power" (p. 723).

Kay also introduces two other terms, political mobilization effect and institutional effect.

The political mobilization effect occurred when the threat of NAFTA created a common interest (preventing its passage) among labor activists in all three nations. The institutional effect occurred when NAFTA created institutions that "define and recognize transnational rights, and adjudicate violations of these rights at the transnational level" (p. 724).

Kay provides five stages in a process of creating a cooperative transnational relationship and institution building: "(1) contact, (2) interaction and the coalescing of interests, (3) growth of confidence and trust, (4) action (e.g., joint activities and actions to address mutual needs and interests), and (5) identification (e.g., recognizing mutual interests)." (p. 725).

In her case study of three unions that work together, one from each of the three NAFTA nations, she provides examples of how the three unions work together. They initially worked to oppose NAFTA. After its passage, they worked to organize workers in Mexican factories; they set up a fund for striking workers in Mexico; they worked together to organize Mexican workers in the U.S.; and they worked together to file complaints when labor violations occurred in any of the three nations.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Sikkink. 1997. "Development Ideas in Latin America: Paradigm Shift and the Economic Commission for Latin America."

* Sikkink, Kathryn. 1997. "Development Ideas in Latin America: Paradigm Shift and the Economic Commission for Latin America." in International Development and the Social Sciences: Essays in the History and Politics of Knowledge, edited by Frederick Cooper and Randall Packard. Berkeley: University of California Press.

1949 Raul Prebisch ECLA study, "a ringing critique of the international division of labor and declining terms of trade for producers of primary products, called for industrialization as the only path to development in the underdeveloped countries of Latin America" (p. 231).

"The domestic economies of Latin American countries needed to be analyzed in the context of a global economy divided into center and periphery. The development of the periphery could not be expected to follow the development patterns of the center and, as such, special types of analysis and rules governed development in the periphery. According to Prebisch, the primary mechanisms through which the development of the periphery was conditioned by development in the centers was through the declining terms of trade for primary products. Key policy prescriptions followed from this analysis. Only through industrialization would the periphery achieve development obtain its share of the benefits of technical progress" (p. 231). ECLA called for nations in the periphery to industrialize through ISI - import substitution industrialization - which would be achieved through protection and import restrictions.

Sikkink points out that classic ECLA thought did not look much into inequality within countries, and tended to assume that when ECLA's policy prescriptions were taken, income inequality within countries would be reduced.

"How can we explain such dramatic shifts in development models? The most common answer in comparative studies of paradigm shift in the Third World has been that ideas are imposed by power, especially by economic and military power. This approach has led to the deemphasis of ideas in and of themselves, since they are seen mainly as a thin disguise for the play of interests and power" (p. 234).

"Clearly power is at play. Economic policy changes in developing countries usually involve more external coercion than those in industrialized countries because the decisions of external economic actors can have a more powerful effect on these more vulnerable economies. Yet, to chalk up such a major ideational shift solely to the power of external forces clearly misses an important part of the story" (p. 236-237). -- because ECLA made the shift of its own accord

ECLA did not change its ideas in the face of political repression. Repression and pressure from international institutions is one part of the story. However, the collapse of the Soviet bloc "appears to have had more influence on ECLA thought than the physical facts of repression" (p. 239).

"The connection between economic crisis or failure and changing economic policy is also clear in the case of Latin America. The two most important shifts in economic policy making in Latin America both occurred in the wake of the two largest economic crises of the twentieth century. The first move to national populism occurred as a result of the experience of both the Great Depression and World War II, while the second was consolidated in response to the crisis of the 1980s, the most serious economic decline in the region since the Great Depression.

"In the case of Latin America, most authors agree that the original adoption of national populist ISI was a response to the perceived failure of the liberal model during the Great Depression and World War II" (p. 239).

During the Great Depression and WWII, Latin America faced a loss of export markets and supply shortages, they turned to ISI as a solution. But in the 1980s, the failure was built on high levels of debt. Those who adopted neoliberal policies early - notably Chile - benefitted with reduced inflation, a better balance of trade, and expanded investment. However, the working and middle classes paid the price in the form of unemployment, lower wages, and increased prices (p. 242).

Monday, July 2, 2018

Biersteker. 1994. "The Triumph of Liberal Economic Ideas in the Developing World."

* Biersteker, Thomas. 1994. "The Triumph of Liberal Economic Ideas in the Developing World." in Global Change, Regional Response: The New International Context of Development, edited by Barbara Stallings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Biersteker describes the world before neoliberalism as an era of global Fordism, "a regime of accumulation characterized by mass production, a sharing of value added between capital and labor, and corporate profit stability" (p. 193). This was combined with embedded liberalism - "Keynesian intervention, extensive social legislation, and the construction of the welfare state" (p. 193).

Both Bierstaker and Harvey refer to the 1950s and 1960s as embedded liberalism, and both say that it began to fall part with the stagflation of the 1970s. Harvey points to a backlash from elites who did not like having a smaller share of the pie during the 1950s and 1960s, who used neoliberalism as a tool to increase their own wealth and power. Biersteker does not.

Biersteker says that the 1960s and 1970s were decades of "unprecedented economic nationalism, a growing role for state intervention in the economy, and experimentation with variants of socialism and self-reliance" (p. 174). The development thinking of the 1970s was basically dependency theory: "A basic premise of much development thinking during this period was that the structure of international economic relations was biased against the countries of the developing world. The structure of the international system, rather than characteristics internal to developing countries, was identified as the principle source of underdevelopment. Development was viewed as qualitatively, even profoundly, different in the North and South, to the extent that laws of neoclassical economics were assumed not to apply equally in the developing world" (p. 176).

To get from there to neoliberalism, Biersteker points to a confluence of ideas, interests, and institutions needed to bring a new school of development thinking to the fore. He says the biggest shift was the notion that "the principal obstacle to development was to be found within developing countries themselves" (p. 177). Modernization Theory also blames underdeveloped nations for their own underdevelopment, but Modernization Theory blames their traditional values. Neoliberalism instead blames it on "decades of unwise government intervention in the economy... Violation of the basic (universal) laws of neoclassical economics was considered the source of the main problems" (p. 177).

Under neoliberalism "development was increasingly defined in terms of the growth of productive capacity, and concerns with distribution and the provision of basic needs were shunted to the side - at least for the time being. The first imperative of development was to eliminate the distortions of state intervention and enable the "magic of the market" to run its course." (p. 178). This meant a shift away from ISI (import substitution industrialization) toward promoting exports of any kind (industrial products or otherwise). Here, Biersteker gives an explanation of the policies that essentially make up the Washington Consensus - currency devaluation to promote exports, trade liberalization, cutting subsidies,

Within academia, neoliberalism "gained new force, visibility, and legitimacy" during the late 1970s and early 1980s (p. 183). That alone did not lead developing nations around the world to adopt neoliberalism. What ultimately did it was the global recession of the early 1980s. Biersteker mentions a number of factors, including a collapse in commodity prices, and says "Because this system-wide shock was transmitted to different parts of the developing world through various filtering mechanisms, depending on their mode of integration with the world economy, it affected different countries in different ways at different times" (p. 185). This goes to his point that the adoption of neoliberalism was uneven.

However, the recession of the early 1980s coincided with a sense that "the policies of the past had not worked and something new should be considered" (p. 185). But the ideas needed interests and institutional bases of support. It was the IMF and the World Bank who gave these ideas a "crucial international backing" (p. 186).

Here's how Biersteker sums it up:

"On reflection, three factors were especially important: (1) the shock of the early 1980s recession, (2) the fact that the system-wide shock coincided with a historical opening because of the perceived failure of the policies of the past, and (3) the presence of a reinvigorated set of liberal economic ideas, backed by critically placed domestic interests within the state and reinforced strongly by international institutions" (p. 186-187).

I am mentally interpreting that as more or less the same as David Harvey's summary of it - that the embedded liberalism of the 1950s and 1960s were no longer working by the time the stagflation of the 1970s hit, so something else was needed, and banks were awash with petrodollars that they were loaning willy nilly to developing nations' governments, so when the Volcker shock hit, many countries were unable to pay back their loans, and the IMF hit them with structural adjustment programs requiring them to implement neoliberal economic policies.






Sunday, July 1, 2018

Williamson. 1993. Democracy and the "Washington Consensus."

Williamson, John. 1993. "Development and the "Washington Consensus"." World Development 21(8):1329-36.

Three years after outlining the Washington Consensus, Williamson published again. He begins by walking back his term "Washington Consensus" and suggesting a better name is "universal convergence." Of course, the former stuck and the latter did not.

He notes that he intended to capture what was "conventionally thought to be wise" rather than his own opinion of what was wise, but adds that he agrees with it himself. However, if he were writing up a list of his own opinions, he says it would have been a bigger list because he would have added an equity component. He left out anything redistributive because he felt Washington at the top would have opposed it. I find it interesting that he conflates equity and redistribution of wealth.

Williamson sees the Washington Consensus as good economic sense that ought to cease to be political. He compares the matter to a political party taking the position that the world is flat, or promoting racism. There is no good reason any party should take the position that the earth is flat, because we all know it isn't. There is no reason to have a pro-racism party just for the sake of ideological diversity because racism is wrong. He sees any alternative to the Washington Consensus as equally irrelevant or harmful in politics. He adds that having a stable agreement among political leaders in favor of the Washington Consensus over time is necessary because it will encourage the wealthy to repatriate their money since they have confident that the current, wise economic policies of the day are going to last over time.

I just want to add here that this is infuriating nonsense. Williamson is trying to depoliticize a radical economic agenda that absolutely is and should be seen as political.

He goes on to slightly walk back his idea that the Washington Consensus should be universally accepted by all political parties by noting a few reasons why it must be open for debate. First, because any sort of suppression of debate will create a situation ripe for conspiracy theorists. Second, because there should be some degree of debate in order to assess whether the current conventional wisdom ought to remain so in the future. If there is no debate about the Washington Consensus, then we lose the ability to adapt it to future needs or improve it over time. He concludes: "Thus my position is not that democracy should be in any way circumscribed so as to promote good economic policy, but rather that both economic policy and democracy will benefit if all mainstream politicians endorse the universal convergence and the scope of political debate on economic issues is de facto circumscribed in consequence" (p. 1331).

Williamson sees the old debates over economic policy as irrelevant. Neoliberalism has won out as the "correct" way to run an economy, and anyone who thinks otherwise is wrong. Greed should be harnessed in a competitive market because altruism does not work, and socialism does not work. He sounds like he's been reading Ayn Rand. It's also interesting that he doesn't mention Keynesian economics here as a potential alternative to neoliberalism. Either you're with him, or you're a socialist, and if you're a socialist, you are wrong. The collapse of the Soviet bloc proves that.

Honestly, I don't see the need to keep reading this article. He's not going to say anything new worth reading.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Williamson. 1990. "What Washington Means by Policy Reform."

Williamson, John. 2002 [1990]. "What Washington Means by Policy Reform." in Latin American Adjustment: How Much Has Happened?

This is the paper in which Williamson coined the term "Washington Consensus." The Washington Consensus are 10 economic policies central to neoliberalism. Although neoliberalism is - and should be - controversial, in the U.S. it became economic orthodoxy with the election of Reagan. When I took economics in business school, I was taught the tenets of neoliberalism simply as "the truth" without being told that the version of economics I was learning was simply one school of economics, and a controversial one at that. The most my professor actually acknowledged that there were alternatives to neoliberalism or that some people disagree with neoliberalism was when she gave us a list of arguments against neoliberalism and neoliberal counterarguments for why they were wrong. One facet of neoliberalism is that it is often depolicitized and presented as simply a technocratic solution to technical economic issues, as it was in my economics class. It took quite a bit of work on my part after graduation to figure out on my own why I strongly disagree with neoliberalism. David Harvey says that neoliberalism is essentially a set of economic policies designed to give a greater share of wealth to the one percent, and the economic justifications for it are more or less bullshit. Basically, he's saying that what is sold to us as "trickle down" economics is actually "trickle up."

Williamson begins referring to the debt crisis in Latin America, and to statements being made at the time about how Latin American nations in economic turmoil needed to "set their houses in order" or "undertake policy reforms." What is meant by that? Williamson's goal is to explain what is meant by that. He has 10 "policy instruments" that he believes both politicians in Washington and technocrats in Washington could all agree to, although in a few cases he has his own suggestions for improving them.

Williamson notes that Washington does not always practice what it preaches to foreigners. This point deserves unpacking. Neoliberal economic policies are painful and often politically unpopular. In Chile they were forced upon the population by a brutal, autocratic regime. In The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein speculates that the only way to inflict neoliberalism on a population is through repression, and that the Thatcher and Reagan implementations of neoliberalism were watered down because neither the UK or the US combined them with the brutal tactics that Pinochet used in Chile.

Here are the 10 policy instruments of the Washington Consensus:
  1. Fiscal discipline: Avoid budget deficits. Williamson declares that Keynesians who believe in a positive role for budget deficits are "almost extinct as a species." The differences that now exist, he believes, are over whether fiscal discipline requires a balanced budget or whether limited deficit spending is acceptable.
  2. Reducing Public Expenditures: This goes hand in hand with fiscal discipline. If a nation is aiming to balance its budget or reduce its deficit, it can either increase revenues or decrease spending. Williamson traces the preference for reducing spending to the supply-side economics of the Reagan era. Within the U.S. and particularly on the political right, cutting spending is preferred over raising taxes. Internationally, he believes the debate is more over finding the correct "composition of public expenditures." Often, international technocrats believe that decisions over military spending are the right of sovereign nations and thereby off-limits for international institutions to interfere with. There are three categories where Williamson believes everyone agrees: subsidies, education and health, and public investment. Subsidies should be reduced or ideally eliminated. Education and health expenditures, on the other hand, are seen as necessary. The question is what kind of spending on education and health. In developing nations, primary schools are seen as more necessary than universities, and primary health care (especially prevention) is more necessary than state of the art hospitals in the capital city. In general, the Washington Consensus calls for education and health spending that benefit the disadvantaged. In the case of public infrastructure investment, Williamson says that the belief that the public sector tends to be too large coexists with the view that spending on public infrastructure should be large. Therefore, he says, this adds up to a general belief that public spending should involve redirecting money from subsidies to education and health and public infrastructure. Williamson says his own belief is that there are circumstances in which carefully targeted subsidies can be beneficial, so he would like to see nations keep subsidies when they can find a "convincing explicit justification" for them.
  3. Tax Reform: The other way to cut a budget deficit is through raising taxes. Although politicians in Washington as well as right-wing think tanks are averse to raising taxes, the rest of "technocratic Washington" is OK with them provided they are done in what they believe is the right way. Williamson says the consensus is that the tax base should be broad and marginal tax rates should be moderate.
  4. Interest Rates: Interest rates should be determined by the market, and real interest rates should be positive to discourage capital fight and increase savings. Williamson adds he believes interest rates should be positive but moderate.
  5. Exchange Rates: For developing countries, Williamson believes the consensus is that "the real exchange rate needs to be sufficiently competitive to promote a rate of export growth that will allow the economy to grow at the maximum rate permitted by its supply-side potential, while keeping the current account deficit to a size that can be financed on a sustainable basis." In other words, if a nation is trying to promote export growth, then it wants its goods to be inexpensive compared to other nations. That means a relatively weak currency is better. The question is, how weak is optimal. Much of the rest of what Williamson says here aims to specify exactly that: How weak should your currency be to maximize exports without actually hurting your economy? (One flipside to a weak currency is that when exports are cheaper for foreign buyers, imports are more expensive for your own people.)
  6. Import Liberalization: In short, he's calling for free trade. Let all of the imports in. Get rid of tariffs. He offers two qualifications. First, infant industries "may merit substantial but strictly temporary protection." Second, it's unreasonable to dismantle all protectionist policies overnight. Therefore, a nation adopting free trade policies may do so gradually.
  7. Foreign Direct Investment: Don't limit foreign direct investment.
  8. Privatization: Neoliberals believe that private industry is more efficient than state enterprises (businesses owned and run by the state), and therefore the state should privatize as much as possible.
  9. Deregulation: In short, deregulation is good. Williamson does not mention safety or environmental regulation here. Instead he discusses price controls, restrictions on foreign investment and remittances, import barriers, limits on firing employees, etc. To a neoliberal, all of these represent market distortions.
  10. Property Rights: The state must protect private property rights.

In conclusion, Williamson says, "The economic policies that Washington urges on the rest of the world may be summarized as prudent macroeconomic policies, outward orientation, and free-market capitalism." What I find notable here is how depoliticized and technocratic he presents neoliberal policies as, when in fact they are nothing of the sort.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Harvey, David. A Brief History of Neoliberalism.

Harvey, David. 2005. A Brief History of Neoliberalism. New York: Oxford University Press. E-book.

I've read only the introduction and first chapter of this book. I think it basically gets the point across as well as I am going to need for my exam.

Harvey's points are simple. In the post-World War II era of the 1950s and 1960s, the U.S. and European nations set up states based on 'embedded liberalism.' The state served to promote the well-being of the people through public services, regulations, and a social safety net. The government was to work toward "full employment, economic growth, and the well-being of its citizens" and it was OK for the state to intervene in the market to achieve this (p. 11).

This worked well until the 1970s, when there was unemployment and inflation, leading to fiscal crises. The Bretton Woods system of fixed exchange rates was no longer working, and the fixed exchange rates were abandoned in 1971.

Meanwhile, the wealthiest segment of society did not like that it had been losing its share of power and wealth during the decades of embedded liberalism (p. 15). Harvey says neoliberalism is essentially a class project to restore power and dominance to wealthy elites (p. 16). Insofar as it is an economic theory, it is contradictory and more or less a thinly veiled attempt to help elites consolidate money and power at the expense of everyone else.

So what is neoliberalism?

"Neoliberalism is in the first instance a theory of political economic practices that proposes that human well-being can be best advanced by liberating individual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills within an institutional framework characterized by strong private property rights, free markets, and free trade" (p. 2).

"We can therefore, interpret neoliberalization either as a utopian project to realize a theoretical design for the reorganization of international capitalism or as a political project to re-establish the conditions for capital accumulation [i.e. the rich getting richer] and to restore the power of economic elites" (p. 19). Harvey sees it as the latter, and says that "the neoliberal argument has... primarily worked as a system of justification and legitimization for whatever is needed to be done to achieve this goal" (p. 19).
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In short, the state should do what is needed to allow markets to function unimpeded and then get out of the way. In theory, the state can never have all of the information needed to make perfect decisions the way markets can. In practice, says Harvey, neoliberalism leads to a greater share of wealth trickling up to the wealthiest people in society, and to monopolies. Therefore, the idea that getting the state out of the way will lead to perfectly competitive markets is not correct.

Neoliberals base the ideas on human dignity and freedom. They equate freedom with individual freedom to make decisions - unfettered by state interference - and personal responsibility. He cites Margaret Thatcher claiming there is no society, only individual men and women. And because there are only individuals and no collective, neoliberalism calls for the end of "all forms of social solidarity" (p. 23) like trade unions, public enterprises, and the welfare state. He writes, "All forms of social solidarity were to be dissolved in favour of individualism, private property, personal responsibility, and family values" (p. 23).

As to history, the intellectual roots of neoliberalism trace back to a small group of economists, philosophers, and others that first met in 1947. Their ideas went back to neo-classical economics and stood in opposition to the reigning Keynesianism. The first major implementation of neoliberal economics he cites occurred in Chile in 1973 after Pinochet's coup. It achieved some legitimization in the 1970s when prominent neoliberals won Nobel Prizes for economics (Hayek in 1974, Milton Friedman in 1976). Carter took some steps toward neoliberalism, but it was Thatcher, Reagan, and the 1979 Volcker shock that really catapulted it forward.

He explains the Volcker shock as follows. The 1973 OPEC embargo and oil price hike left OPEC nations awash in petrodollars. The US was secretly planning to invade in 1973 but instead it made a deal with Saudi Arabia to get them to send all of their petrodollars to U.S. investment banks (p. 27). With so much money coming in, the investment banks needed to do something with it. They looked to foreign governments, giving out loans to nations all over the global south.

In 1979, Paul Volcker, chair of the Fed, ended Keynesian policies aimed at full employment in favor of policies intended to curb inflation at all costs regardless of the consequences to employment. Doing this raised interest rates practically overnight. Many developing nations were unable to repay their debts. That is the Volcker shock.

Harvey says that under a liberal regime, a bank that made a bad loan would be stuck taking the loss. Under a neoliberal regime, "the borrowers are forced by state and international powers to take on board the cost of debt repayment no matter what the consequences for the livelihood and well-being of the local population" (p. 29).

The first "major test case" following the Volcker shock was when Mexico defaulted on its owns in 1982-4 (p. 29). The IMF made a deal with them to "roll over the debt, but did so in return for neoliberal reforms" (p. 29). This was the first of the "structural adjustment programs" (SAPs), the set of neoliberal conditions imposed on any country accepting a bail out from the IMF. The policies included are codified as "the Washington Consensus" and they generally involve privatization, deregulation, austerity, and free trade. Often public services are cut, and populations suffer when SAPs are imposed.

Harvey adds that the consolidation of power and wealth to elites in the U.S. and Europe did not just come from taking a larger share of the pie within their own countries. SAPs and neoliberalism meant they were also extracting surpluses from the Global South as well.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

“The Underdevelopment of Development Literature: The Case of Dependency Theory” by Tony Smith (1979)

Smith (1979) “The Underdevelopment of Development Literature: The Case of Dependency Theory” World Politics (a critique of Dependency Theory)

The Smith article is a critique of development theory that I partially read months ago and stopped reading because I thought it was bullshit. I now think that it's likely something I should know about for my prelim exam because I'll need to describe the critiques of dependency theory.

Smith says that what we call dependency theory is actually a body of work with disagreements and contradictions within it, but the shared feature of all dependency theoriests is their "insistence that it is not internal characteristics of particular countries so much as the structure of the international system - particularly in its economic aspect - that is the key variable to be studied in order to understand the form that development has taken in non-communist industrializing countries" (p. 248). Additionally, dependency theorists examine both political and economic forces, and "it often identifies itself as being unambiguously on the side of change in the South in order to benefit the poorest and most oppressed members of society there" (p. 248). Additionally, dependency theorists believe that "contemporary political and economic change in the South must be understood as aspects of imperialism today and yesterday" (p. 248).

Smith goes on to say that dependency theory is not just a theory - it's an ideology and a basis for political action. This is somewhat fair but not entirely. Dependency theory highlights inequality and exploitation in the world. That's all it does. However, if you believe it is an accurate theory, for most people, it would follow that they oppose inequality and exploitation. But the theory itself does not call for political action - it's simply an analysis of the world as it exists.

Smith then introduces the main subject of his paper: Ripping dependency theory a new one. And his main argument: Dependency theory overestimates the impacts of imperialism.

He states that dependency theorists believe that integration in the global economy is harmful rather than beneficial to nations in the periphery. He says they don't provide evidence, and analysis actually shows that integration into the global economy boosts a nation's economic growth. However, dependency theorists do not simply look at economic growth as a whole (for example, in terms of GDP). They analyze the relationships between the various classes and actors within a society. For example, Peter Evans in Dependent Development writes at length about the state, foreign capital, local elites, and the working class. He makes clear that dependent development tends to be a fairly profitable arrangement for foreign capital, the state, and local elites. I don't think GDP growth in a national economy proves any part of Evans' argument wrong. Foreign capital and local elites can still profit - and the nation can even industrialize - while the nation remains dependent and the working class and peasant remain poor.

Smith cites Cardoso and the idea that even when industrialization takes place in the periphery, because it is controlled by multinational corporations, it is still not a net benefit to the peripheral nation, and dependency prevents self-sustaining industrialization.

He also writes, "Too many writers of this school make the mistake of assuming that since the whole (in this case the international system is greater than the sum of its parts (the constituent states, the parts lead no significant existence separate from the whole, but operate simply in functionally specific manners as a result of their place in the greater system" (p. 252).

Smith refers to this as "the tyranny of the whole over the parts."

On p. 255, Smith uses India as an example to illustrate his point. Baran claimed that Great Britain impeded India's progress by colonizing it. Smith says he lacks evidence AND that we don't know what would have happened if Britain did NOT colonize India. Maybe they'd still be poor? I take issue with this. Yes, I will grant him, we don't know what would have happened without colonialism. However, we do know what did happen (and I'd refer anyone who is unsure of it to the book Late Victorian Holocausts by Mike Davis). Great Britain extracted wealth and raw materials from India, contributing to and worsening massive famines at the end of the 19th C (as millions of Indians were starving, England was exporting record amounts of wheat from India). They taxed Indians to finance British wars, and forced them into growing crops desired for export to England instead of growing crops for their own uses. Indians shifted from growing legumes (pulses, as they call them) to more wheat and cotton. The former fixes nitrogen in the soil and the latter pulls nitrogen out of the soil, so the shift in cropping patterns led to ecological problems.

Great Britain used India and the U.S. as sources of cotton for the textile industry in Manchester, but prevented India from developing its own industrialized textile industry. Britain used this exploitative relationship long enough to shelter its own textile industry enough that its factory-made textiles, even with the cost of shipping, could out-compete handmade textiles from India. Even the much lauded railroads built by Great Britain in India served mostly to take food away from areas with hungry people during the years of famine. There is absolutely no way to look at the mountain of evidence of Great Britain extracting wealth from India while preventing it from industrializing and conclude that anything else happened there.

While it's true that we don't know what the historical alternatives could have looked like, and if any of them might have been better or worse, it's dishonest to pretend that what happened didn't. Sociologists are concerned with the world as it exists, and in the world that exists, Great Britain colonized and exploited India in a way very accurate described by dependency theorists.

Smith then takes up the case of Japan. Japan wasn't colonized. Japan did OK. Maybe, says Smith, there is something about Japan that made it able to both avoid colonization and to industrialize (p. 257). And that is something internal to Japan, not having to do with the world system outside of it. I think it's likely that it's both factors internal to Japan was well as external ones that allowed it to avoid colonization. However, I don't think it follows that dependency theory is wrong. We still have an entire world of examples of colonized nations that ended up dependent, and if Japan was not colonized and is not dependent, I don't think that disproves dependency theory. Even if the point is valid that factors internal within nations play a role in their development, I don't think that disproves dependency theory. As a whole, I don't see how you can look at the mountain of evidence piled up showing that imperialism led to the core exploiting a dependent periphery and somehow conclude that imperialism did not play a defining role in the creation of that system.

I don't think I'm going to read any more of this article, because I feel like I've got the gist of his argument, and his argument is dumb.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Ward. 1993. "The Agricultural Treadmill and the Rural Environment in the Post-Productivist Era."

Ward (1993) describes the relationship between productivist and post-productivist agriculture to the agricultural treadmill. He cites counterurbanization as one factor leading to post-productivist agriculture. The shift to post-productivist agriculture was due to both economic and environmental reasons. Counterurbanization is one part of the environmental changes. Ward mostly writes about the UK but this article applies also to the rest of Europe and North America.

The term "agricultural treadmill" can be traced back to agricultural economist William Cochrane, who coined it in 1958. At its inception, it referred to a dynamic that forced farmers to continually adopt new technologies to stay afloat. The first new adopters would gain an advantage in the market by adopting the technology. More farmers would follow, but the gains the early adopters got would be lost. Eventually, the late adopters would be forced to adopt the technology too if they wanted to keep their farms.

This is oversimplifying and perhaps distorting the concept, but imagine a new technology that makes a farm more efficient. The first farms to adopt it might produce better quality products, or lower cost products. They can keep the profits and use them, or they can lower prices and outcompete other farmers. Eventually, once the majority have adopted the new technology, however, the new low price becomes standard. Late adopters must adopt the technology too unless they want to sell their crops at a loss.

The treadmill is harmful for both economic and environmental reasons. Economically, it creates a difficult to impossible situation for farmers. Environmentally, it pushes farmers toward more environmentally harmful practices. However, Ward (and apparently the literature) see the treadmill as a feature of structural conditions and not individual farmer choices:

"The treadmill can best be conceptualized as a set of structural conditions, which have been shaped by international political and economic processes and became embodied in agricultural and food policies across the advanced capitalist world. In turn, these conditions have played an important role in transforming how farmers ‘see the world’ and organize their production, such that the intensification of production through the application of science and technology has become a ‘logic’ of production at the farm level" (Ward 1993:349).

Roughly speaking, Ward sees Fordism and the corresponding productivist agriculture it engendered, facilitated by the "symbiosis" of the state, agro-industrial capital, and agricultural sciences, as creating the structural conditions for the agricultural treadmill. Ward calls these structural conditions "the macro treadmill." To discuss this, we need some definitions.

Fordism "is based on the expansion of domestic markets for mass-produced goods in advanced capitalist states, and requires the progressive adoption of mass consumption by the industrial working class" (Ward 1993:353). This is what happened in the mid-20th century in the U.S.

To make this happen, the U.S. (and Canada and Western Europe) adopted "productivist" agriculture. Citing Goodman and Redclift (1991), Ward explains that there were two main influences in shaping the agricultural system after World War II. First, in the Fordist period, agriculture needed to provide cheap food to an urban industrial workforce which would, in turn, enable higher proportions of household income to be spent on non-food consumption, and so further integrate the industrial working class in the market for mass-produced goods" (Ward 1993:354). This it did. You can see the stats for what percent of disposable income each nation spends on food. The U.S. is the lowest. Last I checked it was nine percent. It was much higher pre-World War II.

Second, accumulation occurred within food and agriculture itself (Ward 1993:354). Farmers don't just hand weed, plow with an ox team, and save seeds anymore. They buy machines and inputs from corporations. And the food they grow is often sold to a corporation. Some of it is sold as fresh fruits and vegetables, but a lot of it is processed, packaged, and branded. Therefore, corporations get rich on both ends. (Ward is still citing Goodman and Redclift here, but Kloppenburg's First the Seed is a great read about agriculture and capitalist accumulation.) Ward writes, "The pattern of accumulation, they argue, is shaped by the biological constraints of the agricultural production process and human food consumption requirements, but in the process of transforming agriculture, environmental problems have resulted" (Ward 1993:354).

In other words, the normal rules of capitalism, when applied to agriculture, run headlong into nature. A farm isn't a factory. It doesn't play by the same rules. Therefore, the way capitalism has developed in agriculture is shaped by nature, and it in turn led to environmental problems.

Continuing with Goodman and Redclift, two processes were at play in adapting the agri-food system to Fordism. First, capital needed to develop new markets for commodities and second, "the mutual interests of a scientific community and agro-industrial capital in adopting a high-technology model of agricultural production and development" (Ward 1993:354). Through these processes, the agricultural treadmill became system-wide.

The changes to the Fordist/Productivist regime came about beginning in the 1980s when states in North America and Europe started to halt or reduce the subsidies that had propped it up (Ward 1991:357). Simultaneously, many countries became more concerned over food quality and the environment (Ward 1991:357). This is where the shift began to Post-Productivist agriculture (or at least Ward says so - some other scholars question it):

"In the Post-Productivist era "The economic pressures now faced on farms arise directly from the consequences of the technology/policy model in the Fordist regime of accumulation. Accumulation has become concentrated in those sectors of the modern food system both upstream and downstream of the farm such that farmers’ economic position in the food system is being weakened. In turn, agriculture not only receives a shrinking share of total value-added in the food production process, but the nature of farming practice becomes increasingly determined by off-farm interests, either because of the power of input manufacturers to influence patterns of technological change (Munton et aI. 1990) or because food processors and retailers exert pressures through contract purchasing arrangements to determine food quality specifications" (Ward 1991:358).

I believe what he is saying there is that farmers were price takers on both ends (on buying inputs and selling commodities) which put a squeeze on them, and farmers are getting a decreasing "farm share" (the amount of each dollar spent on food that goes directly back to the farmer). He goes on to say:
"The combination in the 1970s of a production- oriented support policy without constraints on the quantity produced and low real interest rates encouraged high levels of debt-financed investment in agricultural land, machinery and buildings. However, by the mid-1980s, and following the EC’s attempts to curtail over-production, farmers who had followed this strategy of business growth became embroiled in a debt trap of rising real interests rates, collapsing land values and falling farm incomes" (Ward 1991:358).

In other words, there was the farm crisis of the 1980s, and a lot of farmers lost their farms. Those who remained often got larger, buying up the land of those who lost their farms. During the same period, the effects of environmental harm were catching up to everyone, and nations began to put environmental regulations in place (Ward 1991:358).

This is where counterurbanization fits in. As people move from cities and suburbs to the country to enjoy rural life (and not farm themselves), "a growing number of farmers now have new neighbours who often have quite different ideas about how the rural environment should be managed... The farmers felt that social change in the countryside has further diminished their autonomy." (Ward 1991:359).

It's at the end here that Ward makes any reference at all to the question of whether agriculture has actually changed from productivist to post-productivist (which some scholars doubt):

"The treadmill continues to trundle on, however, in part because the productivist rationale or ethos remains prevalent among agricultural interests. This need not necessarily be solely because the technology/policy model served the interests of the agricultural industry (or at least those sections which survived through accumulation) but because the productivist era was characterized by clearly defined goals of expansion and technological ‘progression’ about which there was little disagreement. Achieving the goals of producing food for the nation facilitated a sense of pride in the industry" (Ward 1991:359).

Farmers are now farming in a different context from the productivist heyday of the 1950s and 1960s, but that doesn't necessarily mean the farmers themselves have changed - or want to change.

Sources cited:
Goodman, D. and M. Redclift (1991), Refashioning Nature: Food, Ecology and Culture (London: Routledge).
Ward, Neil. 1993. "The Agricultural Treadmill and the Rural Environment in the Post-Productivist Era." Sociologia Ruralis, 33: 348–364. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9523.1993.tb00969.x

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Stryker, Sheldon. 1980. Symbolic Interactionism: A Social Structural Version

Stryker's book on symbolic interactionism is one of the driest books I have ever attempted to read. Therefore, I am going to summarize part of it here to hopefully save myself from having to ever re-read it.

Stryker begins by noting that symbolic interactionism, as he means it, is a "frame of reference" or "perspective" but not a "theory" (p. 8). Why? Because theories are falsifiable (p. 10). That is, you can test a theory and, if it is false, you can prove it false with evidence (p. 8). What he offers as the symbolic interaction frame of reference is not falsifiable. Also, a frame of reference does not exclude other frames of reference (p. 9). That is, they can both be true.

Next, he gives his perspective on science. Specifically, a theory can be considered true even if it does not explain every single case (p. 11). This is first because "no two events or behaviors are precisely alike" and second because "science can never comprehend events or behaviors in their full complexity" (p. 11). Therefore, he rejects a "deterministic" view of science (p. 10-11); that is, he rejects the idea that "it must be possible to explicate a complete set of causes sufficient to account for every case without exception of some behavior" (p 11). Instead, he says it is enough for science to explain "some regulatory in the behavior one is interested in" (p. 11).

Next, Stryker begins to trace the intellectual history of symbolic interactionism. The term was created by Herbert Blumer in 1937. However, the line of thinking that led up to Blumer's work is a long one, beginning with the Scottish moral philosophers David Hume, Frances Hutcheson, Adam Smith, Adam Ferguson "and others" (p. 16). These men were empiricists (p. 17). "They denied that men were motivated by reason, but they saw the source of human action variously in sympathy, common sense, moral sense, belief, instinct, and habit" (p. 17-18). Additionally, they believed that "psychology itself could not be comperehended without taking into account the facts of human association" (p. 18). In other words, if you want to understand the psychology of any one human, you have to also understand their interactions with other humans.

Here is a summary of their contributions:
  • Adam Smith: People understand if their own conduct is acceptable by seeing how others react to it. The reactions of others serve as a sort of mirror. (p. 18) Sympathy allows us to empathize - to feel the emotions someone else is feeling (p. 19). "Society becomes a vast network of interpersonal communication through which the participants are controlled by the approval and disapproval, the desires and evaluations of others" (p. 19).
  • David Hume: Humans are dependent on family and community for survival. They develop sympathy, the "psychological tendency to share the feelings of others" even if others' feelings are very different from one's own (p. 19).
  • Adam Ferguson: He wrote about instinct vs. habit. If people have instincts, they also are free to act differently from them. It's difficult to tell habits from instincts even though habits are acquired through human interaction and instincts are innate. If we could distinguish between them, Ferguson believes "habit has a larger role in human behavior than does instinct" (p. 20).
  • William James: Very influenced by Darwin, wrote about instinct vs habit, consciousness, and the self. James says that instinct is "the faculty to produce certain ends, without the foresight of these ends and without prior learning" (p. 21). He believes instincts are "superseded" by habit, defined as "behavior learned and modified (and modifiable) by experience. The basis of habit is memory" (p. 22). "Human beings can and do develop attitudse and feelings about themselves and see themselves as they see any other object in the external world" (p. 22). James distinguishes between four different types of selves: the material self, the spiritual self, the social self, and pure ego (p. 22). Stryker is interested in the social self. It appears that the social self is the idea of you that each person who knows you has in their mind? (p. 23). In any case, one has a different social self for each different group of people whose opinion one cares about, and if their opinion of your social self is harmed, then you are harmed (p. 23). People naturally want "to be recognized by other human beings" and that is the basis for self esteem. But James divides self esteem into two parts. The "subjective" part is your aspirations (how you want to be seen); the objective part is in "the recognition one gets from others" (p. 23).

I think this is likely a very poor description of the work of William James and his social self, and my understanding of what Stryker wrote may be inaccurate. I don't know that I can make more sense of it from Stryker's words without actually reading what James wrote in Principles of Psychology (New York: Holt, 1890), Vol II, p. 291-294.

James Mark Baldwin
Next in Stryker's line is James Mark Baldwin (p. 23-24). He modified James' concept of the self but believed the entire self is "social in its origins" (p. 24). He posited three stages children go through: projective, subjective, and ejective. The first consists of "becoming aware of others, drawing distinctions between them and objects, and differentiating among others" (that is, telling different people apart). Second, the child imitates the behavior of others and learns that there are feelings associated with that behavior (p. 24). Last, the child learns that other people have feelings too. Baldwin's work influences Cooley and G.H. Mead.

John Dewey
Dewey believes that social customs are collective habits (p 24). Habits are the basis of individual personality formation, and customs are the basis of social organization, but because customs are collective habits, "the individual cannot be set in contrast to society; there can be no deep chasm or fundamental opposition between the self and social order; and personality develops within a social context" (p. 24). I'm skipping about a page of Dewey but Stryker highlights two ideas from his work. First, "his rejection of the conception of society as a monolithic structure" because "society consists of many associations and not a single organization" (p. 26). Second, Dewey insisted that social science and philosophy focus on "everyday situations and problems" (p. 36).

Charles Horton Cooley
Up to this point, most of the people noted are philosophers and psychologists. Cooley brings their work into sociology (p. 26). To Cooley, each of us has a conception of society in our mind. Stryker has a very good paragraph about this (which he calls a "subjectivist" perspective) that seems worth sharing:

"It is this way of thinking about social relationships that has been criticized as solipsistic. That is, if imaginations are the solid facts of society, it seems to follow that there are as many societies as there are individual imaginations. If our imaginations differ, how can we get beyond these differences and to what do we refer these differences in order to build general knowledge in society?" (p. 27).

Cooley, while never naming Adam Smith as an influence, ran with his concept of the looking glass self. Stryker describes Cooleys ideas as, "The self is a social product; it is defined and developed in social interaction" (p. 28). Cooley believed the social self has three components: "our imagining how we appear to another person, our imagining that other person's judgment of our appearance; and some self-feeling, such as pride or mortification, that arises from these imaginations" (p. 29).

Last, Cooley believed that the "primary group" of each of us as children - the family, the play group, and the neighborhood - are the most important to the development of each individual's self (p. 29).

William Isaac Thomas
Whereas Cooley was concerned with the formation of self in childhood, Thomas was concerned with it in adulthood (p. 30). We can thank W.I. Thomas for the term "the definition of the situation" (which I usually associate most with Goffman). Stryker writes, "It is the task of sociology to analyze behavior, the forms taken by the processes of adjustment of people and groups to other people and groups. Adjustment processes necessarily occur in situations; that is, adjustment processes are responses to objective circumstances in which individuals and groups are embedded" (pp. 30-31). However, each of the people has their own subjective interpretation of what is going on - the definition of the situation (p. 31). Their own subjective interpretation of the situation is their reality.

What's more, one's subjective reality is socially acquired: "Children... are always born into an ongoing group that has developed definitions of the general kinds of situations faced and has formulated rules of conduct premised on these definitions: moral codes are the outcome of "successive definitions of the situation."" (pp. 31-32). He continues, "Children cannot create their own definitions independently of society, or behave in those terms without societal interference" (p. 32). Furthermore, if an individual tries to create their own definition spontaneously, they tend to do so for hedonic reasons (what feels good), whereas society sets its definitions based on utilitarian reasons (what is good for society). Therefore, socialization is the process of "bringing the person to interanlize societal definitions" (p. 32). But what does the word "situation" mean? Well, apparently that was never terribly precise and it sort of shifted around throughout his career (p. 32).

George Herbert Mead
Mead is the most important precursor to symbolic interactionism. "Picking up from Dewey, he argues that persons initiate activity that relate to themselves and the environment; that is, the persons do not simply respond to external "stimuli" existing apart from the activity. Activity begins with an impulse without ordained end, and the humans seek to satisfy that impulse by adjusting behavior to the objects in the environment. Those objects become stimuli through functioning in the context of the act, during which they may become defined as relevant to the completion of the act" (p. 36). Therefore, as one feels hungry and looks for food, objects in the environment that were just sitting there as objects (berries) "become redefined as food. Stimuli acquire meaning in the course of activity (p. 36).

When completing an action requires other humans, Mead calls that a "social act." Social acts occur over a period of time and the early stages are "gestures" (making a fist is a gesture indicating that a punch is coming next) (p. 36-37). And here's where we get closer to symbolic interactionism itself. "Communication between persons involves a "conversation of gestures"" (p. 37). And some gestures acquire the same meaning to both parties, the one doing the gesturing and the one on the receiving end. These are "significant symbols" (p. 37). Language is "a system of significant symbols" and it allows us to understand other people's point of view, including how they see us. Taking on someone else's point of view is called "role-taking" (p. 37).

Because I am lazy, I will refer you to this Khan Academy video on Mead's work. Going off the material in the video, it is the "I-me" dialectic - the continued back and forth between the I and the Me - through which society continually shapes the self (p. 39).

Role Theory, Etc
Stryker says that the intellectual lineage traced above culminates in what Herbert Blumer calls symbolic interactionism. But there's another lineage with no main figure associated with it leading to another variant of symbolic interactionism. It comes from role theory (p. 39). The main idea here is that there is an objective reality that exists in society apart from individual actors definitions of the situation. Here, he brings in the work of Georg Simmel, Max Weber, and Ralph Linton (p. 40).

Georg Simmel
According to Simmel "society is neither a mere collection of individuals... nor an entity existing apart from individuals" (p. 41). It is "the name for a number of individuals, connected by interaction" (Simmel, The Sociology of Georg Simmel, 1950, p. 11). Simmel writes of "sociation," defined as "the interaction of minds, the conscious association of persons" (p. 41). In joining society, an individual gives up some of his or her individuality to meet the demands of society, but the individual remains unique (pp. 41-42).

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Moral Visions of Nature

Nature has many different meanings to people (Bell 1994:8 ). Americans can be categorized into socially constructed groups based on how they view nature from a moral perspective: utilitarian, spiritual, and biocentric (Farrell 2015). I adopt Farrell's framework because his description of the social construction of three moral visions within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem are grounded in the history of the area from the time the first Euro-American fur traders arrived in the 1800s, rather than static categories applied universally without regard to social construction or place.

Others have also grouped people by how they view humans' relationship with nature. The concept is referred to as "values" (Ellis 2013), "value orientations" (Hand and Van Liere 1984), "ideologies" (Manfredo et al 2009), or "attitude types" (Kellert 1985). Most refer to humans' orientations to nature, but Kellert's scheme refers specifically to humans' orientation to non-human animals.

Some scholars simply examine dominionism, the orientation in which humans see nature as something to dominate for their own use. Some believe the teachings of Christianity cause dominionism (White 1967; Hand and Van Liere 1984); eco-feminists attribute it to masculinity (Emel 1995). Occasionally, the mastery-over-nature concept is referred to as utilitarianism, evoking a human desire not just to conquer nature but to use its resources. Others see mastery over nature as one side of a spectrum, and the other side is human coexistence with nature. Manfredo et al (2009) does so, naming them "domination" and "mutualism." Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck (1961) propose spectrum from what they call "mastery-over-nature" to "harmony-with-nature" to a third category, "subjection-to-nature."

Ellis (2013) found that cattle ranchers saw their relationships with the land and cattle as mutualistic, even though their relationship with them was actually dominionistic. He called this "an ideological trick that mystifies exploitation and allows us not to engage with the difficult ethical and moral questions that are omnipresent within these relationships" (p 445). He bases his judgment that the ranchers are dominionistic on their use of cattle as meat and their use of land to graze cattle. However, the ranchers view themselves as husbands and stewards who care for the cattle and the land to preserve their ranch for future generations.

Kellert (1985) describes nine different "attitude types" toward animals, and other scholars have adopted his scheme (George et al 2016; Bjerke et al 1998; Nie 2005). Kellert's categories utilitarian, dominionistic, and negativistic correspond to traits of a dominionist or utilitarian according to the schemes described above (Kellert 1985: 170). Kellert's traits naturalistic, humanistic, moralistic, and aesthetic map to mutualism in the schemes above, and to Farrell's concept spiritualistic, described below. Kellert's traits ecologistic and scientistic correspond to mutualism and to Farrell's biocentric, described below.

Manfredo et al (2009) and Farrell (2015) are both concerned with change from a dominionistic or utilitarian moral order to a more harmonious one (mutualistic to Manfredo et al, spiritual and biocentric to Farrell). Manfredo et al, attribute the shift to "modernization" (urbanization, increased wealth, and higher education), explaining that as people move further from relying on wildlife as a food source, they become more free to think of wildlife in different ways from when they directly relied on them for food.

Farrell emphasizes the social construction of three "moral visions:" utilitarian, spiritual, and biocentric. The first white Americans feared nature and faced danger as they moved west and tamed and civilized (in their view) the wilderness. As they worked hard, the work they did (and do) extracting resources from nature became a moral virtue and the workers themselves virtuous (p. 35). To them, the earth was given to humans for their domination and use, and humans are above other species in a natural order. They were utilitarians, who believe the earth is for humans' use. In the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, utilitarians are characterized by rugged individualism and a belief in manifest destiny, private property rights, and anti-federalism (p. 35). They have a deep connection to the place where they do their labor in nature, and their epistemology is based on practical experience and tradition in that place (Farrell 2015: 38).

John Muir and Henry David Thoreau exemplify the spiritual moral vision. With its roots in 19th century romanticism and transcendentalism, at a time when white Americans were exploiting natural resources without restraint, it is an attempt to "(re)sacralize nature in response to materialist and consumerist pressures of American life" (p. 36). Those with a spiritual moral vision may or may not link their views on nature to religious beliefs, but they all emphasize communion with nature through spending time in it and protecting every creature in nature, even the seemingly insignificant ones (Farrell 2015: 36). Their moral vision may be connected with their religious faith, but it is not necessarily so. Their epistemology is based on senses, emotion, and religious influence (Farrell 2015: 38).

These first two moral visions appear similar to, but not identical to, agrarianism and ruralism (Buttel and Flinn 1977). Thoreau was a ruralist, and ruralism's roots go back to American romanticism, while agrarianism includes utilitarian values. However, there is a class distinction between agrarians and ruralists. The ruralists, who are often upper-middle class, can live "in the country, without being of it" (p. 545). The genteel country gentleman "might take up the hoe for diversion but not for a living" (p. 545). The virtues one gains from and exhibits in nature do not derive from working the land for the ruralist. Ruralists looked down on those who worked the land; agrarians, exemplified by the yeoman farmer, looked down on those who didn't (p. 546). Like Farrell, they describe a conflict when agrarians and ruralists attempt to enact competing visions of the proper relationship between humans and nature.

This analysis of the two competing moral visions that identifies them as belonging to different classes, adds the idea that those in the utilitarian camp can't afford to switch to ruralism - or spiritualism - because they need to make a living from the land: "Most farmers lack the funds and leisure time for arcadian country living and tended to view the land in utilitarian terms. This utilitarian value could make the farmer a soulless plunderer in the eyes of the ruralist, who found elevation - not mere economic sustenance - in the country" (Buttel and Flinn 1977: 546).

National forests are managed according to utilitarian ideals, and national parks were initially managed according to Muir's spiritual ideals (Duncan and Burns 2009). Despite Muir's belief that all animals were God's creatures, national park policy was to eliminate predators in order to promote healthy flocks of prey species like deer and elk. It was the third and final moral vision that led to embracing predators in the parks - and outside of them.

Darwin and Aldo Leopold ushered in the third moral vision, biocentric. Darwin placed humans back among animals instead of separate from and above them. Leopold emphasized the value of intact ecosystems and discovered that predators have a niche in a balanced ecosystem. He saw that areas with Mexican grey wolves also had healthy deer populations and healthy vegetation, but where the wolf was extirpated, the deer overpopulated and overgrazed the vegetation (Leopold 1949). Adolph Murie in particular was instrumental in discovering that the wolves of Denali National Park were not responsible for a decline in the population of Dall sheep as was commonly thought. The decrease in Dall sheep, he found, was actually due to a harsh winter. He published his work in 1944.

The epistemology of the biocentric moral vision is scientific consensus (Farrell 2015: 38). They value intact ecosystems that function in an equilibrium and they see humans as one species among many interconnected species, but not above them (Farrell 2015: 36). Wilson (1997) also uses the term "biocentric" to describe a similar concept.

The spiritual and biocentric viewpoints are compatible enough that the same individual can adopt them both. Both call for leaving nature alone to preserve it, and the same person may idealize intact ecosystems from a scientific perspective and feel spiritually elevated by hiking or hearing the howls of wild wolves. A content analysis of pro-wolf public comment letters submitted in response to the US Fish and Wildlife Service proposal to delist gray wolves from the endangered species list in Wyoming found that writers commonly invoked values from both moral visions (Farrell 2015: 208). For example, of all of the letters that gave either spiritual or ecological reasons to continue listing wolves as endangered, 26 percent included both (Farrell 2015: 209).

A second way sociologists categorize human views of nature came from philosophy. Both utilitarianism and spiritualism are separatist concepts of nature, viewing nature as that which excludes human activity (Bell 1994:121). The Native American way to properly interact with nature, which involves "establishing a deeply experiential and reciprocal relationship with" plants and animals, and the biocentric one are holistic, including humans as part of nature (Anderson 2005).

Philosophers find faults with both separatist and holistic views (Bell 1994:122). The problems of holism are apparent in the management of Yellowstone itself. If humans are part of nature, then why must we set aside land for a natural park, separate from other human developments? If humans and human activity is natural, then why does preserving nature within Yellowstone require limiting human activity there?

Separatism allows us to sidestep these questions, as the park can be considered natural by a separatist definition because it is (relatively) free of human influence. Of course, it has been heavily managed by people, but less so than, say, Manhattan. And as long as one ignores the roads and hotels, or the human extirpation and reintroduction of wolves, or the fact that Native Americans lived on this land and impacted it for thousands of years before Euro-Americans "discovered" it in a "pristine" state (and the expelled the Native Americans from the park), one can imagine they are in a wilderness untouched by humans.

In the U.S., the two separatist visions, utilitarian and spiritual, "left us with a schizophrenic approach to the natural world: humans either conquer nature and destroy its integrity, or they visit it as an outsider, idealizing its beauty and largely leaving it alone... Both positions treat nature as an abstraction - separate from humans and not understood, not real" (Anderson 2005)

Given the contradictions in both holism and separatism, humans may find a way to creatively combine them in their belief systems (Bell 1994:131-135). Or they may maintain a separatist mindset but solve its problems with pastoralism (Bell 1994:125). Pastoralism creates a gradient in which cities are further from nature and rural life (particularly in the past) is closer to it, drawing a contrast between "habits of living between societies of the natural rural past and the unnatural urban present" (Bell 1994:125). Ruralists (Buttel and Flinn 1977) and spiritualists (Farrell 2015) exhibit pastoralism. People who believe in both spiritual and biocentric moral visions must find a way to reconcile the separatism of the former and the holism of the latter in their concept of nature.

Perhaps Farrell's utilitarians are pastoralists too, as they find moral virtue in working in nature in the rural areas of the Northern Rocky Mountains. However, it is difficult to reconcile their belief that nature is to be used by humans with pastoralism. They idealize their lives as "outdoorsmen" but also believe that the wilderness should be conquered and civilized by humans in the name of progress. After a forest has been clear cut for lumber, how is it still natural to a separatist? And yet, logging forests or mining ore or drilling for gas and oil are the very uses to which utilitarians believe nature should be put.

Sources:
* Anderson, MK. 2005. Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California's Natural Resources. University of California Press.
* Bell, M.M. 1994. Childerly: Nature and Morality in a Country Village.
* Bjerke et al. 1998. "Attitudes Toward Wolves in Southeastern Norway." Society and Natural Resources 11(2):169-178.
* Buttel and Flinn. 1977. "Conceptions of Rural Life and Environmental Concern." Rural Sociology, 42, 4,
* Duncan, Dayton and Ken Burns. 2009. The National Parks: America's Best Idea. Alfred A. Knopf.
* Ellis, Colter. “The Symbiotic Ideology: Stewardship, Husbandry, and Dominion in Beef Production.” Rural Sociology 78, no. 4 (December 1, 2013): 429–49. https://doi.org/10.1111/ruso.12031.
* Emel. 1995. "Are You Man Enough, Big and Bad Enough? Ecofeminism and Wolf Eradication in the USA."
* George et al. 2016. "Changes in Attitudes Toward Animals in the United States from 1978 to 2014."
* Hand and Van Liere. 1984. Religion, Mastery-Over-Nature, and Environmental Concern. Social Forces 63(2):555-570.
* Farrell. 2015. Battle for Yellowstone: Morality and the Sacred Roots of Environmental Conflict. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
* Kellert. 1985. "Public Perception of Predators, Particularly the Wolf and Coyote." Biological Conservation 31(2): 167-169.
* Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck. 1961. "Variations in Value Orientations." Row Peterson.
* Manfredo et al. 2009. "Linking Society and Environment: A Multilevel Model of Shifting Wildlife Value Orientations in the Western United States." Social Science Quarterly 90(2): 407-427.
* Nie. 2003. Beyond wolves: The politics of wolf recovery and management.
* White, L. 1967. "The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis." Science 155:1203-07.