Posts Tagged ‘India’
Tags: 2012, banks, cartoon, China, Congress, Europe, hell, India, Israel, Obama, Palestine, United States, world
Tags: globalization, India, inequality, porn, poverty, rich, South Africa
We now live in the age of inequality porn.
Apparently, the lives of the über-rich are illustrated in Chrystia Freeland’s new book, Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else.
In Freeland’s telling, one crucial factor distinguishes today’s uber-rich from their forebears: They carry a striking sense of entitlement, seeing themselves as people who have constructed their own fortunes, as opposed to aristocrats who inherited their affluence. Freeland calls them the “working rich,” and she makes clear that this is indeed how they see themselves. Given their self conceptions as rugged individualists whose wealth reflects not the accident of birth but their own pluck and savvy, they are of little mind to share their rightful winnings with anyone else — especially not with losers who failed to erect their own fortunes, or government bureaucrats sustained by taxing other people’s loot.
On the other end, we can participate in “slum tourism.”
What is it about the slums that attracts hordes of tourists each year?
Dr Malte Steinbrink at the University of Osnabruck in Germany, says: “We are currently witnessing a tremendous growth in slum tourism worldwide, especially in the global south.”
He notes that the trend started in Victorian London over 150 years ago, when people from the London upper class were curious to see what happened in the East End.
In the global south it is a quite recent phenomenon – starting at the beginning of the 1990s in South Africa after the end of apartheid, when Nelson Mandela was released from prison.
“Tourists came to South Africa and wanted to see the townships and places of the apartheid repression and Mandela’s house – so it began as a niche tourism for tourists with a special political interest,” says Dr Steinbrink.
If we’re going to spend our time looking at all this softcore porn stemming from growing inequality, it’s about time we asked for explicit portrayals of how the über-rich are screwing the poor and everyone else.
Tags: austerity, Germany, India, politics, protest, protests, Spain
Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo, the mayor of a small town in rural Andalusia, led farm laborers into supermarkets to expropriate basic living supplies.
“Utopias aren’t chimeras, they are the most noble dreams that people have. The dream of equality; the dream that housing should belong to everyone, because you are a person, and not a piece of merchandise to be speculated with; the dream that natural resources – for instance energy – shouldn’t be in the service of multinationals, but in the service of the people. All those dreams are the dreams we’d like to turn into realities. First, in the place where we live, with the knowledge that we’re surrounded by capitalism everywhere; and later, in Andalusia, and the world.”
Richard Seymour and the commentators on his essay mention many other examples of civil disobedience, from the “flying squadrons” of pickets during the U.S. textile strike of 1934 to the Blockupation of Frankfurt.
In each of these examples, the key question is neither violence nor non-violence, neither legality, nor illegality; it is disruption. Popular movements are engaged in civil disobedience whenever they recognise the society’s dependence on their co-operation, cease co-operating, and actively disrupt its smooth functioning. This moves politicians to spittle-lathered furore. It is the way in which progress is made.
Tags: India, protest, strike, unions, workers
Millions of workers, including members of the nation’s eleven largest trade unions, took to the streets across India yesterday in a nationwide strike.
Tags: capitalism, India, Occupy Wall Street, United States
The attacks on the Occupy Wall Street movement know no bounds.
Actually, on a positive note, the crescendo of attacks signifies the success of the movement. Still, when the criticisms are unfounded, they need to be contested.
The latest example comes from Bill Keller, who argues that the Indian protest movement led by Hazare has moved beyond OWS. Keller applauds the fact that the Indian movement has a leader (as against OWS which he sees as “consensus-oriented and resolutely leaderless”), is explicit about its demands (better than OWS, which comprises a variety of “vague,” “idealistic” causes), uses Indian democracy “shrewdly” (in contrast to OWS, which is “scornful of both parties and generally disdainful of electoral politics”), and perhaps most importantly is not anticapitalist (while OWS has a “strong undercurrent of anticapitalism”).
Now, each of Keller’s contentions can be—and should be—disputed. But let me focus on one of them for the time being:
An attempt to spark an Indian offshoot of Occupy Wall Street — a Facebook campaign branded with pictures of Che Guevara — went pretty much nowhere. Capitalism is one thing most Indians believe in.
The fact is, there is no basis for Keller’s sweeping generalization concerning Indians’ belief in capitalism. Had he actually consulted some real facts—such as the most recent poll by Globescan (which I cited back in April)—he wouldn’t be able to make that statement, about Indians or Americans.
Only 59 percent of both Americans and Indians agree (either strongly or somewhat) with the statement that capitalism—a “free market economy”—is the best system.
That may be news for Keller but it’s not for a large number of people in India and, as we’ve seen with the OWS movement, now in the United States. He may want Indian protestors and Occupiers to restrict themselves to the “unglamorous business of government,” thereby leaving capitalism in place. But protest movements and the facts about what people believe are more stubborn than the wishful thinking of facile political pundits.
Keller’s problem is not to go beyond Occupy. It’s to catch up with it.
Tags: capitalism, India, state, United States
All forms of capitalism are forms of crony capitalism.
Today’s New York Times includes a story about crony capitalism in India.
Within India. . .the success of private tycoons has created a paradox: India’s moguls are essential to the country’s success and admired for their ability to get results. Yet their staggering wealth is made possible in part by their coziness with powerful politicians who help arrange environmental clearances, land use rights and other thorny issues. That raises accusations of crony capitalism.
But, as yellow explains in his discussion of James O’Connor’s classic The Fiscal Crisis of the State, state spending often contributes to the strengthening of capital and the reproduction of capitalism even in the absence of obvious cases of corruption or personal favors by state functionaries to individual capitalists.
Some expenditures vastly increased worker productivity and hence the profitability of capital. This includes most infrastructure, educating and training workers, public transportation and certain types of entitlement spending such as health care. These types of social investments lower the overall cost structure of the economy on behalf of capital and creates a healthy, skilled and readily available labor force.
There are other functions purely related to stimulating the economy in times of chronic stagnation as demand shock becomes a permanent condition due to increasingly unequal income distribution. Essential to this function are most transfer payments such as UI, food assistance, social security and welfare payments to single parent families. Economists have long pointed out the higher than average spending multiplier of such outlays which are seen as the best form of economic stimulus. Such spending also plays a “legitimation” function for the state as it directly meets the needs of workers.
In O’Connor’s terms, social investment performs an “accumulation function” while social spending performs a “legitimation function.” Much of the latter actually subsidizes big business.
The point is, both cases—India, where billionaires rely on state decisions to acquire land and displace people, and the United States, where state spending props up private capitalists—are examples of crony capitalism.
Tags: history, India, workers
Working-classes are not found; they are made. They are made historically, as people are forced to have the freedom to sell their labor power. And they are made socially, since whatever working classes exist have to be reproduced over time, with the appropriate skills, cultural attitudes, and so on.
Call centers in India require both processes: the original creation of a working-class, and the development of the particular skills necessary for making and receiving telephone calls to and from the United States, Australia, and other parts of the world.
Andrew Marantz [ht: mwg] describes his experience with the making of the Indian call center working-class.
Every month, thousands of Indians leave their Himalayan tribes and coastal fishing towns to seek work in business process outsourcing, which includes customer service, sales, and anything else foreign corporations hire Indians to do. The competition is fierce. No one keeps a reliable count, but each year there are possibly millions of applicants vying for BPO positions. A good many of them are bright recent college grads, but their knowledge of econometrics and Soviet history won’t help them in interviews. Instead, they pore over flashcards and accent tapes, intoning the shibboleths of English pronunciation—”wherever” and “pleasure” and “socialization”—that recruiters use to distinguish the employable candidates from those still suffering from MTI, or “mother tongue influence.”
In the end, most of the applicants will fail and return home deeper in debt. The lucky ones will secure Spartan lodgings and spend their nights (thanks to time differences) in air-conditioned white-collar sweatshops. They will earn as much as 20,000 rupees per month—around $2 per hour, or $5,000 per year if they last that long, which most will not. In a country where per-capita income is about $900 per year, a BPO salary qualifies as middle-class. Most call-center agents, however, will opt to sleep in threadbare hostels, eat like monks, and send their paychecks home. Taken together, the millions of calls they make and receive constitute one of the largest intercultural exchanges in history.
Indian BPOs work with firms from dozens of countries, but most call-center jobs involve talking to Americans. New hires must be fluent in English, but many have never spoken to a foreigner. So to earn their headsets, they must complete classroom training lasting from one week to three months. First comes voice training, an attempt to “neutralize” pronunciation and diction by eliminating the round vowels of Indian English. Speaking Hindi on company premises is often a fireable offense.
Next is “culture training,” in which trainees memorize colloquialisms and state capitals, study clips of Seinfeld and photos of Walmarts, and eat in cafeterias serving paneer burgers and pizza topped with lamb pepperoni. Trainers aim to impart something they call “international culture”—which is, of course, no culture at all, but a garbled hybrid of Indian and Western signifiers designed to be recognizable to everyone and familiar to no one. The result is a comically botched translation—a multibillion dollar game of telephone. “The most marketable skill in India today,” the Guardian wrote in 2003, “is the ability to abandon your identity and slip into someone else’s.”
As it turns out, the making of the call center working-class in India is a complicated process of learning English and being willing to adopt a new, non-Indian identity in order to successfully sell one’s labor power for a wage to someone else in order to talk with members of the working-class in distant countries.
Tags: capitalism, India, outsourcing, United States
Outsourcing work—from call centers to high-tech consulting and financial services—has often involved sending U.S. jobs to India. Now, as the wages of U.S. workers have continued to decline relative to those of Indian workers, that may be changing.
Paul Glader reports that many of India’s outsourcing giants—such as Aegis, Wipro, Tata Consultancy Services, Genpact, WNS and Infosys—are now buying up companies and hiring workers in North America. That’s partly because of new fees attached to H-1B visas, which have been used to bring Indian workers to the United States under “work arrangements [that] can amount to indentured servitude.”
But it’s also because U.S. workers are now cheaper to hire. So, companies like Aegis are “near-sourcing”—or “diverse-shoring,” “home-shoring,” or “cross-shoring”—jobs to the United States.
But with all its globalism, Aegis also has its culture clashes. Some managers from India have a hard time understanding what motivates U.S. workers and why they are less-educated than their Indian peers. One Indian-born manager said he thinks that the U.S. standard of living has spoiled Americans and that they take less pride in their work. In other words, he says, they are lazy.
In an ironic twist on postcolonial economics, U.S. companies that utilize information technology services provided by Indian companies will now be able to phone home.