It is only now, a decade after the financial crisis, that the American public seems to appreciate that what we thought was disruption worked more like extraction—of our data, our attention, our time, our creativity, our content, our DNA, our homes, our cities, our relationships. The tech visionaries’ predictions did not usher us into the future, but rather a future where they are kings.

They promised the open web, we got walled gardens. They promised individual liberty, then broke democracy—and now they’ve appointed themselves the right men to fix it.

But did the digital revolution have to end in an oligopoly? In our fog of resentment, three recent books argue that the current state of rising inequality was not a technological inevitability. Rather the narrative of disruption duped us into thinking this was a new kind of capitalism. The authors argue that tech companies conquered the world not with software, but via the usual route to power: ducking regulation, squeezing workers, strangling competitors, consolidating power, raising rents, and riding the wave of an economic shift already well underway.

In a winners-take-all economy, it’s hard to prove the rulers wrong. But if the tech backlash wants to become more than just the next chapter in their myth, we have to question the fitness of the companies that survived.

Source: An Alternative History of Silicon Valley Disruption

We resist, strongly, the idea that stress is best acted on at an individual, case-by-case level. This is a structural problem that can be changed with sufficient political will to change it, and we believe in fighting for that change.

We know that marketisation, casualisation and other workplace inequalities are key factors in stress levels among our members. We know that declining real terms pay and increased workloads are a factor. We believe that the higher education sector as a whole is systemically under-investing in staff, with knock-on impacts for all of us, and we don’t believe that this is anything other than a response to a political climate that has privileged metrics and rankings over human beings.

Source: Stress, workload and mental health | Sheffield UCU

There is something dangerous about a commitment to funding education, but it has nothing to do with reducing it’s value by making it widely available. Rather as Noam Chomsky has argued, a commitment to funding education and social services is dangerous because it means promoting the value that we care about each other. If neoliberalism is ‘lovelessness as policy’ (Naomi Klein), then any challenge in the form of a social commitment to the least well off is the truly radical alternative to our current system. In an argument for publicly funding higher education, Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom argues, “It reintroduces the concept of public good to higher education discourse-a concept that fifty years of individuation, efficiency fetishes, and a rightward drift in politics have nearly pummeled out of higher education altogether. We no longer have a way to talk about public education as a collective good because even we defenders have adopted the language of competition.”

How would human capital theory put a value on vastly underpaid care labor that is essential to the functioning of the economy, or all of the unpaid work without which society would not function? In her conceptual critique of Becker’s human capital theory, Antonia Kupfer argues that schools do not simply produce human capital in a linear relation because unpaid work is “a precondition of education taking place.” Most of the work that goes into getting a child ready to attend school and to support them throughout their educational careers is unpaid and not counted as productive uses of human capital: from giving birth, to feeding children, washing their clothes, and getting them to school, the feminized work that readies children for education is truly massive. Kupfer asks, “How could ‘productivity’ be measured in the increasing service sector such as care of elderly, counseling or management? In fact, productivity is highly culturally conceptualized and impacted.”

According to Kupfer, the human capital “concept abolishes the difference between labour and capital by conceptualizing all people as capitalists through their capitalized work force.” The idea of human capital seems to democratize potential, when in fact financial capital is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few people. Piketty outright rejects the idea of human capital because “human capital cannot be owned by another person or traded on a market (not permanently, at any rate)… In slave societies, of course, this is obviously not true.” (p. 46) If human capital theory was at some point during the mid 20th century kept in balance by a growing international commitment to human rights, Maren Elfert argues that it has “come out of equilibrium when neoliberal conservative governments came into power in the late 1970s which put the human capital approach at the service of an excessive market ideology, under which profit considerations dominated.”

Like so much of our lives under late capitalism, education has been subjected to an “excessive market ideology” for at least the last 50 years. Under human capital theory,“the role of the state could be limited to improving educational standards, expanding access to higher education, and creating flexible job markets that reward talent, ambition, and enterprise.”8 If we want to get to the root causes of why the education system is broken and what can be done to fix it, we need to free ourselves from the ideology that makes Caplan’s calculations all but inevitable.

Source: Why we shouldn’t let economists play with education – Long View on Education

“Apart from light on such specific questions, I am regretfully forced to the conclusion that the difference between us is not so much narrowly educational as it is profoundly political and social. The kind of vocational education in which I am interested is not one which will ‘adapt’ workers to the existing industrial regime; I am not sufficiently in love with the regime for that. It seems to me that the business of all who would not be educational time-servers is to resist every move in this direction, and to strive for a kind of vocational education which will first alter the existing industrial regime, and ultimately transform it.” (p. 38-9)

Source: Two Communications on JSTOR – David Snedden and John Dewey, Curriculum Inquiry, Vol. 7, No. 1 (Spring, 1977), pp. 33-39 

If you’re still reluctant to stand up, this is the time to remember that your working conditions are students’ learning conditions. One of the things students learn at school is how grownups function in the workplace. And everything else they learn is colored by the atmosphere of that workplace. What do you want your students to learn? And what kind of atmosphere do you want them to do their learning in?

Source: CURMUDGUCATION: Making Trouble (or “Other Lessons of West Virginia, Arizona, et. al.”)