Even as opportunities grow to exchange ideas and cross-fertilize innovative impulses across organizational boundaries, we’re also seeing a renaissance of something decidedly traditional: the corporate R&D department. Concentrations of scientific talent at institutions such as Bell Labs and PARC (a Xerox company) once ruled the innovation roost, but many company R&D units lost their luster as cost pressures made them less tenable and the digital revolution enabled smaller organizations to make outsized innovation contributions. Recently, though, a new generation of corporate R&D powerhouses has been emerging at technology leaders such as Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. The advance of artificial intelligence, for example, is creating a new set of innovation opportunities for these leaders.
We are creating an intelligence that is external to humans and housed in the virtual economy. This is bringing us into a new economic era—a distributive one—where different rules apply.
That shift, of course, has been going on for a long time. It’s been driven by a succession of technologies—the Internet, the cloud, big data, robotics, machine learning, and now artificial intelligence—together powerful enough that economists agree we are in the midst of a digital economic revolution. But there is less agreement on how exactly the new technologies are changing the economy and whether the changes are deep. Robert Gordon of Northwestern University tells us the computer revolution “reached its climax in the dot-com era of the 1990s.” Future progress in technology, he says, will be slower.
The neoliberal creed is that the welfare state, with its high progressive taxes and strong public sector, is uncompetitive. State intervention hampers growth and innovation and results in stagnation.
Now we know better. The facts speak for themselves. No matter what criteria we apply, the Nordic model is invariably at the top of the league. This applies no less to economic performance than other criteria: Economic growth, research and development, technological innovation, productivity per hour of work, job creation, participation in the labour market, (especially women), equality of the sexes, level of education, social mobility, absence of poverty, health and longevity, quality of infrastructure, access to unspoilt nature, the overall quality of life. Less inequality than in most places. And a vibrant democracy. What more do you want?
Inequality, climate change, financial crises: New economics textbook puts complex concerns at its CORE.
Most introductory courses in economics do not equip students with the tools they need to explore complex issues such as financial instability, climate change, and growing inequality.
That’s all changing with the publication this month of The Economy, a new textbook published by Oxford University Press as well as a free online interactive text created by the Curriculum Open-access Resources for Economics (CORE) project. The book aims to address the gap between complex, real-world economic problems and the topics traditionally taught in first-year courses by introducing students to recent advances in the economics of information and strategic interactions.
Circulation represents the lifeblood of all flow-systems, be they economies, ecosystems, or living organisms.
According to a recent study by Oxfam International, in 2010 the top 388 richest people owned as much wealth as the poorest half of the world’s population– a whopping 3.6 billion people. By 2014, this number was down to 85 people. Oxfam claims that, if this trend continues, by the end of 2016 the top 1% will own more wealth than everyone else in the world combined. At the same time, according to Oxfam, the extremely wealthy are also extremely efficient in dodging taxes, now hiding an estimated $7.6 trillion in offshore tax-havens.
Why should we care about such gross economic inequality? After all, isn’t it natural? The science of flow says: yes, some degree of inequality is natural, but extreme inequality violates two core principles of systemic health: circulation and balance.
Many jobs in the modern economy have been sapped of their humanity. How should we resist the rise of ‘digital Taylorism’? Most of the headlines about technology in the workplace relate to robots rendering people unemployed. But what if this threat is distracting us from another of the distorting effects of automation? To what extent are we being turned into workers that resemble robots?
Fears about humans becoming like machines go back longer than you might think. The sort of algorithmic management we see in the modern gig economy – in which drivers and riders for digital platforms such as Uber and Deliveroo are dispatched and managed not by human beings, but by sophisticated computer systems – has its roots in a management theory developed by Frederick Taylor in the early 20th century.
El mundo económico ¿es realmente, como pretende la teoría dominante, un orden puro y perfecto, que desarrolla de manera implacable la lógica de sus consecuencias previsibles, y dispuesto a reprimir todas las transgresiones con las sanciones que inflige, bien de forma automática o bien – más excepcionalmente- por mediación de sus brazos armados, el FMI o la OCDE, y de las políticas que estos imponen: reducción del coste de la mano de obra, restricción del gasto público y flexibilización del mercado de trabajo? ¿Y si se tratara, en realidad, de la verificación de una utopía, el neoliberalismo, convertida de ese modo en programa político, pero una utopía que, con la ayuda de la teoría económica con la que se identifica, llega a pensarse como la descripción científica de lo real?
Esta teoría tutelar es pura ficción matemática. Se fundó desde el comienzo sobre una abstracción formidable. Pues, en nombre de la concepción estrecha y estricta de la racionalidad como racionalidad individual, enmarca las condiciones económicas y sociales de las orientaciones racionales y las estructuras económicas y sociales que condicionan su aplicación.
This interview with Susan Buck-Morss took place at the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center on May 12 2015. Buck-Morss is Distinguished Professor of Political Philosophy at the Graduate Center and has been a towering figure in continental theory since her publication of The Origin of Negative Dialectics in 1977. Her books include Hegel, Haiti, and Universal History (2009), Thinking Past Terror: Islamism and Critical Theory on the Left (2003), Dreamworld and Catastrophe: The Passing of Mass Utopia in East and West (2000), and The Dialectics of Seeing: Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project (1991). In this interview with Zoltán Glück for FocaalBlog, Professor Buck-Morss talks about her formative years of political radicalization, the difficulties of teaching the radical tradition, and the political significance of crowds.
The workshop “Geographies of Markets”—hosted over three days in mid-June 2017 by the Karl Polanyi Institute of Political Economy at Concordia University, Montréal—gave scholars from a wide range of countries and disciplines an opportunity to assess the continued relevance of the Polanyian critique of “market society.” Even if this critique lacks the formal rigor of neoclassical economics, even if Polanyi’s concept of market exchange fails to capture the institutional intricacies of contemporary markets, and even if the man himself was very much a European intellectual of his age, his approach still appears to provide the best scientific foundation on which to build global political and normative alternatives to neoliberal hegemony. Today, however, his geographic binary between East and West, like his ideal types of redistribution and market exchange, all need careful reappraisal.
Once a relatively obscure Hungarian academic, Karl Polanyi has posthumously become one of the central figures in debates about globalization. This recent interest in his thought has occasioned an unsympathetic treatment by Jeremy Adelman in the Boston Review. Adelman, a Princeton professor, has scores to settle with Polanyi. But his article ends up revealing more about the limits of our current political debates than anything about the man himself.
Polanyi’s classic book, The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time, published in 1944, argued that the utopian obsession with self-adjusting markets had wreaked havoc in nineteenth-century European society, eventually laying the groundwork for the rise of fascism. His once unfashionable views have witnessed a remarkable revival of late. His name is frequently invoked when describing the dangers that global market integration poses to democracy. Polanyi has now moved one step closer to intellectual canonization with the publication of Gareth Dale’s excellent biography, Karl Polanyi: A Life on the Left (2016), the impetus of Adelman’s article.
Read also: Karl Polanyi: A Life on the Left