Wednesday, December 11, 2019

for progressive engagement with corporate concentration

An article today in the NYTimes about progressively engaging corporate concentration showcases resourcefulness that 21st century democratic politics needs: “America’s Top Foundations Bankroll Attack on Big Tech,” by David McCabe.

But its fabulous mix of efforts—constructive, critical, and oppositional—don’t intend to be considered in an integrative way. Progressive politics requires prospecting such ways while needing new kinds of resources.

Public opposition should need to be oriented by adequate knowledge, and critique should serve constructive engagements.

A self-underming aspect of social movements during the last century has been inadequate understanding of how good government works. And a self-undermining aspect of academic thought has been an inadequate understanding of how to bring the public into durable progress.

Efforts to find solutions to corporate concentration should need to preserve the consumer benefits that economies of scale gain through efficiencies.

On the one hand, vast social networking of public opinion has created a corporate sensitivity to market conditions that is different from the situation of monopoly that caused much anti-trust law. On the other hand, more aggressive enforcement of existing antitrust regulations probably annuls some needs for new kinds of solutions to concentration.

Education alone does a lot to constrain concentration. McCabe’s article gives good examples of that: pilot projects, grassroots organization, and “corporate campaigns designed to influence the public narrative on corporate concentration.”

But the scale of educational leadership is the entire ecology of society, from mass media to senses of good government as devotedly educational (Congresspersons with constituents, Executive leadership, jurisprudential explanation.)

Capitalist support for GOP disinterest in supporting public educational excellence can be undone through well-established channels, if progressive political action through normal channels and fair taxation can prevail.

A challenge for the community of scholars is to advance the conception of academic community through interdisciplinary research and pilot project collaborations. The notion of “think tank” is merely a satellite sense of collaborative inquiry within the university itself.

McCabe indicates some “dense [issues] of law and economics” that call for translation into practicable public form and dedicated educational attention. The New York Times is exemplary here in bringing academic insight into public light. Other media should need to build the sophistication of their audience (and cultivate advertisers who see opportunity in better audience).

But that’s no more effective than a culture of reading and private time made available for that—which is contrary to the consumerist ethos of the marketing mind.

One quoted foundation official avows that “you need an ecosystem,… a community of people who generally share the same values but who, among themselves, may even have different approaches to the issues.”
But the context of Movement creation there occludes the larger ecology of education, research, and good government that consortiums of foundations, universities, dedicated organizations, and grassroots efforts must aim to sustain.

So, that’s the horizon I had in mind when I commented at McCabe’s article that “the community of scholars in all of this faces issues of conception that must be translatable into progressively pragmatic policies, as well as public engagement. A massive public mandate itself isn’t going to evince difficult solutions vis-à-vis complex political economics.”

My comment continued: “Yet, ‘building political might’ is vital, obviously. But….Old notions of opposition and critique are ultimately self-undermining if they’re not supplements to knowledge-based solutions with expert translation into practice. … So much ‘progressive’ talk is still caught in the last century (e.g., ‘democratic socialism’).

democratic socialism? The notion whitewashes the ecology of progressive pragmatic thinking, in my view.

At McCabe’s article I was obscure due to limited space when I noted that “…’critical looks’ and public debate must serve educational leadership about working well.”

working well: What works well and what, relative to progressive pragmatics, is “working well,” as such, relative to the adequately ecological thinking.

“Nebulous notions of ‘taking on the power’ of corporate concentration is a music of naïveté to corporate lobbyists,” I concluded.

The good society is an endlessly debatable notion, but everyone would agree that that is what we all want, in some sense—indeed, a sense oriented by endless prospecting of what that is, and inquiry and devotion to being well, and devotion to advancing community, all ideally cohering through education, local organization, research, and good government.