Category Archives: Features

David Loher: Complicity or pragmatism? A labor movement and its fight against the asbestos industry

This post is part of a feature on “How Capitalists Think,” moderated and edited by Patrick Neveling (University of Bergen) and Tijo Salverda (University of Cologne).

This contribution focuses on the decades-long struggle of workers and citizens in an industrial town in Northern Italy against the hazardous asbestos cement industry. It analyses the dividing lines that emerged in these social struggles at two particular moments. First, it examines the trade unions’ struggles for improved safety measures and the subsequent demand to shut down the entire asbestos cement factory because of the environmental risk it represented for the whole region. Second, it analyses the legal struggle that followed, when the social movement brought the claim for justice to the courts, demanding punishment for the former main investors.

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Tijo Salverda: Aiming to keep capitalist accumulation in check: The role of the global land rush’s fiercest critics

This post is part of a feature on “How Capitalists Think,” moderated and edited by Patrick Neveling (University of Bergen) and Tijo Salverda (University of Cologne).

Following the concurrent 2007/2008 financial crisis and the global food crisis, investors’ appetite for (agricultural) land around the world has increased considerably. As a consequence, rural residents have been pushed off their lands, or their movements have been restricted because of new forms of enclosure (White et al. 2012), leading to an outpour of concerns about the “global land rush.” Critics such as international peasant movements, NGOs, journalists, (activist) scholars, and, in a more ambiguous way, international governance institutions have campaigned against the negative consequences of investors’ appetite for land. In particular, campaigns by GRAIN, Via Campesina, Global Witness, and Oxfam have increased awareness among the public. The extensive number of academic publications also demonstrates the scholarly attention devoted to the issue (e.g., Anseeuw et al. 2012; Borras 2016; Zoomers et al. 2016).

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Eeva Kesküla: How capitalists think about labor dynasties and corporate ethics

This post is part of a feature on “How Capitalists Think,” moderated and edited by Patrick Neveling (University of Bergen) and Tijo Salverda (University of Cologne).

This contribution looks at the implications of how capitalists think about corporate ethics and moral obligations in monoindustrial towns. I present the cases of two mining towns in Estonia and Kazakhstan that share the history of honoring labor dynasties. In both settings, during the Soviet period, labor dynasties had a special place in company histories and grandfather-father-son working together were celebrated through stories in newspapers, awards on miners’ professional holiday, and photos on the mine’s noticeboard. Ideologically, dynasties represented a “labor aristocracy” that was to replace the prerevolutionary hereditary aristocracy, and such workers were to serve as examples to others (Tkach 2003).

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Georg Materna: “Two tribes of capitalists”: Neoconomists and politiconomists in a Senegalese marketplace

This post is part of a feature on “How Capitalists Think,” moderated and edited by Patrick Neveling (University of Bergen) and Tijo Salverda (University of Cologne).

Research on capitalism commonly distinguishes between neoclassical economics and political economy. If neoclassical economics have dominated scientific debates since the 1930s at the latest, the nineteenth century view was that of political economy, with Karl Marx providing a powerful critique thereof. Both theories influence scientific reasoning until today. Yet, could both also elucidate the quotidian behavior of “normal” people in ethnographies of everyday life in the twenty-first century?

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Patrick Neveling and Tijo Salverda: How capitalists think—about belonging, moralities, global entanglements, and historical social processes, for example

This introduction is part of a feature on “How Capitalists Think,” moderated and edited by Patrick Neveling (University of Bergen) and Tijo Salverda (University of Cologne).

Given that nowadays most people live in societies organized according to capitalist principles and given that few oppose those principles fundamentally, capitalists may well constitute the world’s largest ideology-based formation. Most anthropologists have undoubtedly had encounters with capitalists, who occupy positions in all social strata. Yet, apart from the “usual suspects” such as CEOs, elites, leading politicians, and other members of the transnational capitalist class, our discipline pays little, and certainly not enough, explicit attention to the many who equally support and/or benefit from capitalist principles—be they ordinary employees in governments and in the private sector, subalterns with native title claims, or even social welfare claimants (for the varying scope and scale of anthropological research so far, see Friedman 1999; Kalb 1997; Neveling 2015; Rose 2015; Salverda 2015). Continue reading

Patrick Neveling: “Vote like humans”: Elections in a posthuman political economy

This post is part of a feature on the 2017 UK elections, moderated and edited by Patrick Neveling (SOAS, University of London).

As I left Bournemouth train station this afternoon, a homeless man approached me and asked for some change. Shelters in Bournemouth and elsewhere in the United Kingdom charge money to rough sleepers on a per night basis. The going rate is currently four British pounds in Bournemouth, and it is certainly a common experience for commuters returning from Southampton and London to this southwestern English seaside town to be asked to for a contribution to those fees at the train station. In fact, the local council adds further pressure to an anyhow pressurized population of homeless in Bournemouth. As the current Tory government has cut several welfare packages, the number of homeless has risen dramatically across the United Kingdom in recent years.

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Michael Jennings: UK Election 2017 manifestos and international development: Common ground and clear water

This post is part of a feature on the 2017 UK elections, moderated and edited by Patrick Neveling (SOAS, University of London).

With the election coming up today, I thought it would be interesting to look at the commitments to international development in the manifestos of the Labour PartyConservatives, and Liberal Democrats.

The day-to-day realities of election campaigns tend to soon undermine the carefully calibrated and plotted plans of campaign managers. So this election that was intended (by the Conservatives) to be the Brexit election has moved in new directions as the policies put forward in the manifestos came under scrutiny and attack.

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John Gledhill: It’s Corbyn’s critics who need the history lesson

This post is part of a feature on the 2017 UK elections, moderated and edited by Patrick Neveling (SOAS, University of London).

In his very carefully argued speech of 26 May 2017 on the relationship between contemporary terrorism and foreign policy, Leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn observed: “Many experts, including professionals in our intelligence and security services, have pointed to the connections between wars our government has supported or fought in other countries and terrorism here at home.” Conservative and Liberal Democrat politicians immediately accused him of bad timing and muddled and dangerous thinking. Some critics, exemplified by Conservative Security Minister Ben Wallace, argued that Corbyn needed a history lesson, since it was obvious that the roots of “Islamic” terrorism predated 9/11 and then US President George W. Bush’s invasion of Afghanistan. “These people hate our values, not our foreign policy,” Wallace insisted in a radio interview that I listened to this morning.

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Alan Bradshaw: On the prospect of a Tory majority!

This post is part of a feature on the 2017 UK elections, moderated and edited by Patrick Neveling (SOAS, University of London).

As an Irishman living in England, I am struck by the total difference between how Brexit is discussed in both countries. In Ireland, it is clear that Brexit will bring economic disaster, but this can be mitigated against by significant planning and coordinated response by government and business. That even at this late stage, the form of Brexit is unknown is a source of great anxiety in Ireland. By contrast, in Britain to have any discourse of Brexit as impending economic ruination is simply unacceptable. Those who dare to utter prophecies of economic trouble are bullied into silence by a raging right-wing media. Brexit can only be allowed to be framed in the positive.

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Cris Shore: What is a European?: Solidarity, symbols, and the politics of exclusion

This post is part of a feature on anthropologists on the EU at 60, moderated and edited by Don Kalb (Central European University and University of Bergen).

Earlier this year, a curious incident occurred in Auckland that ignited a heated debate over the meaning of the term “European.” A new student club calling itself the Auckland University European Students Association announced it was withdrawing its applications to affiliate to the university on the eve of the new semester’s orientation week. The withdrawal came after members of the club were threated with violence and accused by people both on and off campus of racism. This controversy erupted because of the images posted on the group’s website, including Celtic symbols used by US white supremacists and paintings depicting the unification of Germany. The group’s Facebook page included an image of Captain Cook and the motto “our pride is our honour and loyalty,” a phrase reminiscent of the Nazi SS slogan, “my honour is called loyalty.”

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