Identity is not the cause of political polarization. It’s emotions. Some people are terrified and disgusted by the demographic and economic trends in this country. They retreat to racial and other tribal identities to feel more secure.

But pundits like Fareed Zakaria want to blame identity for the political polarization that dominates the U.S. and Europe. They have it all wrong. In a recent article, Zakaria stated that

Partisanship today is more about identity. Scholars Ronald Inglehart and Pippa Norris have argued that, in the past few decades, people began to define themselves politically less by traditional economic issues than by identity — gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation. I would add to this mix social class, something rarely spoken of in the United States but a powerful determinant of how we see ourselves. Last year’s election had a lot to do with social class, with non-college-educated rural voters reacting against a professional, urban elite

It’s always about group membership, however. This is true whether the group is identity-politicsneighborhood, gender, racial, religious, or ideological. The question is who’s included and how important is that identity to your feelings of self worth and security.

We like to believe that people are driven by reason and deliberation. Most research suggests that this is not true. We have a natural talent, if not a need, to socialize. But our socializing skills and nature have a hard time stretching beyond about 100-150 people. This is the number of people that most hunting and gathering people lived with during the majority of our stay on this earth. This is also about the limit of FB “friends” that we can justly call friends. Though even this is probably stretching it. The creation of state society came with many compromises. We tend to think that the biggest compromise was the limit on individual freedom. We say that we gave up our individual rights in order to secure personal security and progress. But we also lost our our ability to live with and navigate our interactions with people that we knew well and trusted.

Today, everyone, except for some remaining hunting and gathering societies, live in enormous societies with multiple millions of other people. How do we connect to and make sense of all those other people? What do we know about them? How do we trust and communicate with them? The simple answer is that we can’t. It is for this reason that Benedict Anderson once called our efforts to form a national identity as something we imagine.

We think we belong to a “nation” with millions of others. But this is a fiction we believe and only very tenuously. States, nevertheless, see a need to promote national identities as a way of bolstering obedience. The problem is, as we have seen in the Middle East and America, that not everyone believes they belong to what others see as their fictional “nation.”

Right after 9/11, most people in these states believed they belonged to an American Nation. Everyone felt they were attacked by the terrorists…white, black, Asian, Latino, gay, Muslims, Buddhists, etc. They believed, rightly, that everyone shared a common fate. Not more than 10 months after 9/11, we again returned to a country of hyphenated Americans. Why? Because segregation, discrimination, police brutality, and much else, continued to define how they lived. It reminded people that not everyone shared in a common ‘American’ fate or identity.

Thus, it is not that some people glorify separate identities out of thin air. People are drawn to identity politics when they feel like their lives are not shared with others, when they do not share in one common national fate. It is the reality of living very different lives that creates identity. It forces people to try a self-identification with smaller groups, groups that they believe are more likely to secure their self worth and security.

Offense generator

A friend at a mid-size, private, second-tier university recently posted this lament,

“When I started speaking out aggressively in defense of public school teachers eight years ago, based on what I saw in the Bronx where school closings, uncontrolled testing and the demonization of teachers was squeezing creativity out of the schools, I knew, in theory, that professors would eventually become a target of similar policies, but I didn’t think Fordham would be one of those places where the attack took place. Well, I was wrong Fordham’s attempts to resist unionization of adjuncts and decimate the health care benefits of tenure track faculty should be a wake up call for anyone who still believes they are protected by ” the Ivy Tower.”. Any college professor who thinks that efforts to destabilize public education and de professionalize public education has nothing to do with them needs to wake up and smell the cappuchino. Every attack on the autonomy, living standards, health benefits and pensions of public school teachers is going to eventually come home to the universities. For college professors, whether adjuncts or tenure track, there is “Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide” They came for the public school teachers. Now they are coming for you…”

Teachers and professors have to be worried. The corporatization, automation, and austerity budgeting of the teaching professor is taking steam. Eventually, no teacher except for those at the very elite schools will be spared. But it’s important to know why these things are happening. I believe the reason is not that administrators are crass, bureaucratic, authoritarian fools. They may very well be some or all of these things. But the major reason for this attempt to radically reshape education comes from the contradictions of capitalist production.

Education is becoming unmoored from national capitalist economies. A trained, skilled, and professional workforce is becoming a far less important concern for individual nation-states. If our corporations need computer coders, they can find them in India and Africa for far lower wages. If they need sports news writers, they can get good results by sending, through the Internet, the bare facts of the sports event to a writer in Ireland who shapes it into a story worth printing. And that Irish reporter is paid less too.

Education has become unmoored from national economic needs. It used to be that the titans of industry in the U.S. believed it was in their economic interest to make sure that American workers were better educated. Thus philanthropists like Andrew Carnegie contributed to the expansion of public libraries begun by towns and labor groups as a way of educating the public. But today, there are few business leaders who have devoted their wealth to such broad educational purposes, in this country. And both conservatives and liberals seem determined to radically transform education in a way that makes it less educational and less expensive.

Any work that can be codified and subject to algorithms will probably be automated. So, accounting will go but financial advice will not. This makes the benefits of liberal arts education even more important than it’s ever been. Critical thinking, good communication skills, and the ability to collaborate is what will make people employable in this new automated economy.

But a world with more and more jobs performed by computers and robots will mean fewer and fewer jobs where liberal arts skills are prioritized. And that means that there will be a fierce competition for those jobs. The question then becomes, who will have those jobs? Will they go primarily to white men of upper class background? As it stands now, universities like LIU and Fordham will be under assault by these abstract and structural forces, but the ivies most likely are not. The question for students today is ‘Who will have access to those elite critical thinking positions in the future?’ That is what makes places like CUNY, LIU, and Fordham so important. That is where immigrants, women, minorities, and working class people can acquire the education to challenge the monochromatic elite that relies on a ‘meritocracy’ and on liberal arts education to manage and lead in this emerging automated economy.

franklin-institute-robots-baxter-daryl-peveto-940x540

We are not yet able to replace most jobs with computers and robots.

Robots have a limited ability to perceive and reason about their surroundings.  Computers have made huge advances in automating those human tasks that can be well described by a set of rules.  But, despite continuing advances in AI, the challenges of applying computers and robots to tasks requiring flexibility, judgment, and common sense are still quite large. 

The reason is that our actions are guided by two very different kinds of knowledge.  Explicit knowledge is formal, codified, and can be readily explained to people and captured in a computer program.   Tacit knowledge, on the other hand, is the kind of knowledge we are often not aware we have, and is therefore difficult to transfer to another person, let alone to a machine.  Tacit knowledge is generally learned through personal interactions and practical experiences.  Everyday examples include speaking a language, riding a bike, driving a car, and easily recognizing many different objects and animals.” 

But the push in the modern capitalist economy is to replace humans. Machines don’t get sick, need vacation or health benefits, and can work around the clock.  Thus, we have little time. While we wait for these things to happen, we should minimize the impact on our ways of life and on social equity. More machine-based work should mean that we humans benefit from greater productivity and wealth. Those surpluses should be used to make our lives better. We should work a lot less than we do now and enjoy those economic benefits more broadly in society. And we should make sure that those who rise to the remaining high education jobs, that will command this robotic economy, are representative of our diverse society. Anything less will make these emerging automatizing trends a true nightmare. The battlefield in this war between robots and humans begins with a fierce competition for the remaining, elite, critical thinking jobs.

The key is that whether computers and robots take most of our jobs sooner rather than much later, the struggle to define who will feel the brunt of this economic revolution is beginning to take place now…in the university. The corporatization of the university represents a tangled struggle, on one side, with those who want to educate everyone to become critical thinkers, able to judge and take action about these economic changes. On the other side are those who see no reason to “waste” precious resources on those who have not “need” or “ability” to reach those stratified heights. The latter are working class, minority, and immigrant students who should be happy to accept careers as technicians in this economy rather than as leaders and judges of how the economy can best move forward. Better to train them for jobs as bookkeepers, retail sales and health technologists, even if those jobs are likely to disappear. They have little support for giving that population an education they can only use to lead in this new automated economy as well as to challenge the accepted public agenda that there is very little we can do to ensure life is just and equitable for all.

Probability that robots will take jobs

Not all the players in this struggle have a firm and conscious understanding of what lies ahead. They are not meeting behind closed doors to coordinate their efforts. But they most certainly have bought into Neo-liberal austerity policies, whose bony hands land heaviest and most destructively on the working classes and minority population. They are also more likely to accept the idea that the automation of the economy is not only inevitable but one whose impact is impossible to soften with public policy.

 

 

I have always thought that there was a distinct difference in the way that African Americans and Latinos experienced racism in the U.S. Europeans wanted black bodies, both to exploit and to perceive them as sexual and powerful animals. Europeans saw Latinos, in contrast, as people occupying land that they wanted. Latinos had to be pushed off, physically and metaphorically, from the land they cherished. That difference produces different kinds of interactions for each group. Whites interaction with blacks is both more intimate and more deadly. You cannot possess another’s body without doing serious damage to them. Whites interact with Latinos mostly by not seeing them, by ignoring them, by wanted to wall them off (a la Trump), and by hoping that they just disappear, even when they rebel and become violent (as this article below suggests).

https://www.citylab.com/politics/2017/04/the-forgotten-history-of-latino-riots/522570/?utm_source=twb

As the author claims:

One common element in these disturbances was a perception that problems in the Latino community were being overshadowed by problems in black neighborhoods, or by other Latinos. In the Wynwood neighborhood of Miami in December 1990, hundreds of young Puerto Rican residents took to the streets after the acquittal of six police officers who beat a drug dealer to death. One resident, Clemente Montalvo, told the New York Times, “We want people to know we exist. Cubans get everything; we get nothing.

Uprising, New Jersey: Rioters in Newark on September 1, 1974, after a Puerto Rican festival at Branch Brook Park. The 1970s saw the greatest number of Latino civil disturbances, according to Fountain, Jr.’s research. (AP Photo/DL)

This was the Latino story in Puerto Rico, the Southwest, Central American countries like Panama and Honduras, and Latin American countries like Bolivia. Everywhere, Latinos were an inconvenient presence. Difficult to work and live with. But needing to be removed if American was going to achieve it’s Manifest Destiny.

Trump Strategies

Posted: January 8, 2017 in Uncategorized

Many people support Trump because they claim he will fix things since his wealth means that he is not beholden to any group, even the Republicans. There is some merit to this way of thinking. But that would be true only if Trump was really thinking. My fear is that he is simply throwing bones to his assorted groups of supporters. He has no plan or thoughtful strategies. All he has are pipe dreams (The Wall) and a desire to make himself seem great! He will probably have a few successes (like his rejection of the Republican attempt to destroy the Congressional ethics investigatory unit). But most of his efforts will fall short and destroy much of the policy gains and hopes of the American people. This is surely the case with Obamacare.

Trump and the Undocumented

Posted: January 3, 2017 in Uncategorized

Trump can’t do more to eliminate undocumented workers than Obama has without deeply hurting families and the economy…
Like going out to lunch or dinner? Get ready to pay a lot more for that…as cheap kitchen help disappears…

Like having a job? Get ready to be unemployed as businesses hurt by worker deportations close and bring down other businesses…

Like to fix your home? Get ready to pay up your nose as cheap construction labor disappears

Hate how your life style has suffered with stagnant wages and increasing prices? Get ready to suffer more as Trump’s new regime transfers more wealth to the rich, does nothing to bring back jobs, and eliminates programs that help you when you’re down…

You think the current immigration debate is really about stopping people from flouting the law? Wait till your life turns downwards even more and see if you remain a ‘law abiding’ citizen…

Deep State Studies

Posted: January 2, 2017 in Uncategorized

In Our last post Alt Media Rising — And Its Discontents, We said: These “left” and “right” alternative media need to be married: the political and economic analysis of the &…

Source: Deep State Studies