The New Prophets of Capital

>> Sunday, May 15, 2016

Came across this when I was reading an article of Thomas Frank's in Harper's. And then I read an article by the author. Since it was so close to the end of the semester, I requested it through the interlibrary loan program since I knew that it wouldn't come in until the end of the semester. Granted, it actually came in earlier, but for once, I was able to restrain myself from cracking it open.

This isn't a very long book, only 140+ pages. I find it interesting how she categorized this with four, very well-known, public figures. The only one I haven't read much about is John Mackey. I'm not sure how well known he truly is outside of certain circles anyway. If you asked me who the originator of Whole Foods was I know I wouldn't be able to name him off-hand even thought I've shopped there quite a bit.

After I finished reading this, I feel more convinced than ever that the U.S. is going to have to embrace forms of democratic socialism that other countries already have in order for capitalism to continue. I can't see the increasing levels of pissed-off-ness continue their current trend. (I do think Bernie Sanders will be elected the next POTUS, which probably puts me in the crazy bin, but I am 99% sure that it will happen.)

Probably because I'm not as familiar with John Mackey, not much of what the author said stuck in my mind. I do remember that he's against his workforce unionizing, which doesn't surprise me since he's a capitalist, but not much else. Her critique of Sheryl Sandberg is very solid and echoes other critiques of her I've read before.
The goal of feminism is justice and equality for all women, not simply equal opportunity for women or equal participation by women. By aligning the goals of feminism with the goals of capitalism, Sandberg's model of emancipation functions as ideology, accepting and undergirding the dominant structures of power in society. Her critique of gender inequality in elite jobs, while accurate and thoughtful, glorifies the capitalist work ethic by pushing women to seek self-actualization through self-exploitation. Women who follow her action plan may achieve more success in their careers, and perhaps even reach the heights that Sandberg herself has gained. But her plan will help only a small number of women--the women who can find a place within the limited number of power positions in the corporate hierarchy. Everyone else--the domestic workers, retail staff, caregivers--will remain excluded, their efforts undermined by the strengthening of capital and the women who burnish its meritocratic facade. (p. 39-40)
Oprah...I've never been big on the Mighty Opes, which is probably due to the fact that I've never watched much daytime television. (It's the devil! Seriously. When I was stuck at home with my parents, it was full-time cable news plus Dr. Phil in the afternoon. My word. I don't know what circle of Dante's Inferno those should be slotted in. Ugh.) But back to Oprah, there is something so materialistic that I've always found in her background. Perhaps "materialistic" isn't the right word. "Shopaholic" maybe?

But if I had to single-out the greatest source of my ire while reading this, it would be Bill Gates & the Gates Foundation. I tabbed the most pages in that section.
The Gates Foundation is at the forefront of a new form of philanthropy called "philanthrocapitalism." Unlike the traditional foundations (Rockefeller, Carnegie, Ford), philanthrocapitalists don't believe in old-fashioned charity. They have greater ambitions. Philanthrocapitalists want to harness the forces of capitalism that made them fabulously wealthy to help out the rest of the planet. As Bill Gates said in his Harvard commencement speech in 2007, "If we can find approaches that meet the needs of the poor in ways that generate profits for business and votes for politicians, we will have found a sustainable way to reduce inequity in the world." Philanthrocapitalists think profitable solutions to social problems are superior to unprofitable ones because they give private capital an incentive to care. (p. 108)
Or, in other words, me, me, me, me, and me. It's all about getting his way with things. Can't admit that the poor might be poor due to the behavior of the rich. It's just too obvious since other people have said it and explained that fact for more than a century.
The Gateses certainly have the ear of power. Their vaccine initiatives are changing global health systems, and their US education projects are shaping federal education policy. But there are two central problems with the Gates model. First, it assumes that the key to solving thorny social problems is to deepen the reach of capitalist markets, despite the inequalities generated and reinforced by these markets. Second, the foundation's model to solve society's problems is profoundly undemocratic. (p. 125)
Um, yeah, I'll admit that I was taken in on their take on education a few years ago back when I saw Waiting for Superman. What I wrote then is certainly what I thought a month or so later after I read and saw very detailed critiques of that film. What angers me most at the Gates Foundation education programs is that some of their work, such as Common Core, is beginning to push out good teachers that like teaching and have stuck with it. I have a friend, who is a teacher, that can just tell horror stories of little kids having to take those Common Core computer tests. It's all so dumb. Yet, because someone has too much money, they get to force their opinions on how education should be on the rest of us regardless of the small fact that they've never taught kids long-term in schools successfully.


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