Monthly Archives

November 2020

Research Findings

Teaching thrift to the poor

November 26, 2020

Job-readiness programs have become the predominant response to the joblessness and precariousness of the poor. These programs aim to instill within clients the cherished virtue of work. But, as we show in a recent article, they also promote the hallowed virtue of thrift.

We build upon Batya Weinbaum and Amy Bridges’s argument, in their 1976 piece in Monthly Review, that consumption is a form of labor deserving of greater attention. We show that job-readiness programs do not just condition participants to labor, but condition them to this labor of consumption, casting the latter as the most likely path toward mobility. They do not just encourage clients to enter the labor market, but pressure them to endure the daily indignities and insufficient earnings of low-wage work through an embrace of individual austerity.

Job readiness programs, we argue, thus focus on “both sides of the paycheck:” the earning of a paycheck as well as the spending, stretching, and even supplementing of that paycheck.

Continue Reading…
Research Findings

Is A Global Framework for Regulating Transnational Corporations Possible?

November 19, 2020

Should governments mandate corporate social responsibility worldwide so that businesses can be held legally accountable for their social and environmental commitments? International organizations seriously considered this question in the 1970s but the proposal for a global framework to regulate transnational corporations collapsed in spectacular fashion, only to be resurrected in the 1990s in a much different form.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) – the notion that businesses should address their social and environmental impacts – is largely a voluntary affair today, where businesses have much discretion to decide if and how they want to practice CSR.

In a recent historical study, I show how the relative power of state and private actors within global institutions determines the fate of regulatory frameworks.

Continue Reading…
Research Findings

“They just won’t sell to you”: When businesses are gatekeepers of customers

, and
November 12, 2020

Gatekeeping is defined as the work of assessing who is “in” or “out”; to identify those deemed worthy of passing through a gate. But while this important classic theory is often used to consider who gets to speak, in terms of the selection of artists, journalists and other producers of content, gatekeepers also practice this essential selection work with customers.

The gatekeeping of consumers is often not considered as a form of gatekeeping. Nonetheless, the idea of gatekeeping customers is logical when we think about credit cards, home loans, nightclubs, R-rated movies and many other areas where consumers have to be qualified. But, what about customers given access to high-end culture, such as rare pieces of fine art?

Continue Reading…
Research Findings

The algorithmic university and the struggle over academic labor

November 5, 2020

The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic has another casualty that has gotten little widespread attention—in person teaching and learning in higher education. As self-isolation and quarantines have suppressed the transmission of the virus, the turn toward remote work using new teleconferencing technology threatens to also sweep away many of the barriers to the spread of another epidemic—the digital automation and deskilling of teaching in higher education. The pandemic has created the ideal circumstances for “edtech” venture capitalists, textbook publishers, Learning Management Systems (LMS) companies, and online education advocacy groups to expand the widespread deskilling and automation of teaching in colleges and universities.  

This rationalization of academic labor has had profound effects on US public community colleges and universities. In the past decade, on-line education (OLE) in the US has been making slow and steady gains. The widespread reliance on teleconferencing platforms such as Zoom to move nearly all higher education into OLE during the pandemic has accelerated the reorganization of the academic work of higher education. 

Continue Reading…