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George Ross

Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello’s Le Nouvel Esprit du capitalisme is 843 pages long. Its considerable heft, however, has not prevented it from being widely read and commented upon. Herein lies a mystery. Why has such a dense and difficult book struck such a chord?

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Donald Reid

Le Nouvel Esprit du capitalisme is a socio-cultural response to the neoliberal explanation of the successes and failures of capitalism in France during the last three decades in terms of individual rational actors and markets. Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello draw their inspiration from critical readings of sociologists who interpreted earlier incarnations of capitalism, including Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Max Weber, and Emile Durkheim.

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A Capitalism That Kills

Workplace Suicides at France Télécom

Sarah Waters

France Télécom has been at the center of intense public scrutiny since 2008, following a sharp rise in workplace suicides at the company. This macabre reputation now stood in sharp contrast with the company's image during the 1980s and 1990s as a showpiece for successful liberalization and as a former state-owned enterprise that was blazing a trail toward a new globalized economy. Drawing on Emile Durkheim's seminal work, Suicide (1897), the article examines the social conditions that precipitated workplace suicides at France Télécom. It situates the suicides within the context of the rise of a new model of finance capitalism that profoundly transformed the status and perceived value of the individual worker in the production process. Far from representing a tragic accident or an aberration in an otherwise smooth-functioning economic order, the France Télécom suicides were the outcome of a management strategy that set out to fulfill the imperatives of finance capitalism by eliminating what was seen as an unacceptable obstacle to its economic goals: the company's own employees.

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David L. Kelly

Foster, John B., Brett Clark, and Richard York. 2010. The Ecological Rift: Capitalism’s War on the Earth. New York: Monthly Review Press.

Williams, Chris. 2010. Ecology and Socialism: Solutions to Capitalist Ecological Crisis. Chicago, IL: Haymarket Books.

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Michael J. Piore

This is a big, ambitious book with an intricate, engaging, and important argument. I picked it up in Paris in January and read it on the flight home. It made me happy to be an intellectual and a scholar; happy to be able to read French; happy, for the first time I can remember, to have seven and a half hours of uninterrupted time on a transatlantic flight.

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Understanding Urban Social Movements in Cognitive Capitalism

Methodological Reflections on Participatory and Ethnographic Research

Marion Hamm

The concept of participation is currently evoked by constituencies as varied as urban planners, local governments, universities and social movements. This coincides with a revival of participatory research methods in the social and cultural sciences. This article argues that the critical potential of participatory research methods should not be taken for granted in cognitive capitalism, where participation is as much an instrument for governmental regulation from above as it is a practice for democratic self-determination from below. First, the politics of participation from the emancipatory departures of the 1970s to today's revival are being discussed. Second, based on a long-term ethnographic study on the transnational Euromayday movement of the precarious, it is demonstrated how positioning the researcher using reflexive ethnography can support a critical research attitude through a process of reflexive hybridisation. In concluding, reflexive activist scholarship is outlined as a critical research attitude which encourages participatory knowledge production in a way that responds both to the field of activism and the field of academia.

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Violence, Global Unrest and Advanced Capitalism

(And Why Wile E. Coyote Never Catches Roadrunner)

Daniel Briggs

Over the last five years or so, we have witnessed increasing forms of violence and unrest across the world. In the media, these depictions are presented as actions of resistance to oppressive regimes and corrupt politics, yet are, at the same time, deliberately detached from a global politik which is collapsing in numerous ways: the manifestations evident in market instability, and increasing austerity, unemployment and social inequality; a sign perhaps that the orgy of globalisation is reaching its climax. Some of all this was reflected in what we saw across English cities during the summer of 2011 and in this article, I discuss these riots and why they might have happened and the State response. Perhaps more importantly, I show how they should be reconsidered alongside other forms of violence and dissatisfaction against oppressive regimes and corrupt politics as a collective response to a global system on the brink of collapse as a result of its never-ending pursuit of rampant profit at the expense of millions of people. I relate this fruitless quest of profit to Wile E. Coyote’s incessant pursuit of Roadrunner.

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Katharina Bluhm

Research on the enterprise transformation in East Germany after unification has focused mostly on the role of the Treuhandanstalt as the central actor in this process who widely determined its outcomes. David Stark and László Bruszt (1998) even suggest that this top-down model of transformation was rooted in the special institutional past of East German state socialism. They argue that the “Weberian home-land” was characterized by weak social networks among firms in comparison, for example, with firms in Hungary or Czechoslovakia, while the planning system and the industrial organization were extraordinarily centralized and hierarchical. Hence, social networks could easily be destroyed after German unification by market shock and by breaking up large enterprises into manageable pieces by the Treuhandanstalt. Moreover, the former, intact centralized planning system could easily be replaced by another centralized and cohesive administrative apparatus, now backed by the strong West German state.

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Vincent Dela Sala

Among the scenarios raised by a more interdependent and open

global economy is one of competition unleashed not only between

states and firms, but also between national systems of corporate

finance and governance. Less than a decade since the specter of a

competition of capitalism against capitalism, the start of the new

decade has seen a widespread belief that the Anglo-Saxon model of

capitalism, with its emphasis on equity markets and shareholder

rights, is the basis for convergence amongst advanced industrialized

societies. More specifically, many argue that Italy has not

escaped this discussion, and the past year has been one rich in

developments that raise questions about the possible changing

nature of the Italian model of capitalism. It is not unfair to ask

whether Italy is moving towards a convergence with the Anglo-

American model of capitalism. The election of Antonio D’Amato as

the new president of Confindustria might provide some insight into

the extent of change in the Italian model of capitalism.

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Anne-Christine Trémon

This article examines the process of neoliberalization in the Shenzhen special economic zone in Guangdong Province, China. Building on the case study of a former peasant and almost single-lineage village that has become a part of the city of Shenzhen, I show how neoliberal principles aimed at advancing the transition to capitalism are combined with and countered by other ethical traditions. Owing to the long-standing conception of the lineage as an enterprise, the maintenance of the lineage structure in the transformation of the rural collectives has offered fertile ground for the emergence of a local capitalist coalition. Yet the current discourses on the necessity of obliterating the remains of the collective economy and introducing individual ownership run counter to the collectivist values of the lineage village community and the embeddedness of its economy in kinship and territorial ties. I further illustrate this discordance by the way in which the villagers managed to save their founding ancestor's grave site following government requests to clear the land by removing tombs. These policies form a complex blend of state interventions in the economy, neoliberal governance, and Confucian principles.