Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Tweeting at @gonesquirrelly

Hello All, I have switched to Tweeting at @gonesquirrelly if you are interested. I still wish to post but am finding myself challenged by my perfectionist tendencies. I will be back. Honest!

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

grappling with neoliberalism and its various definitions

A common understanding of neoliberalism through reading its critics, is that it applies economic value to absolutely EVERYTHING. If it cannot apply an economic value to a service, object, relationship, value such as morality, etc then the latter becomes nonexistent as it has no position or place in the market. If it is not in the market, it doesn't exist. Morality is actually considered an expense in any context, and thus is assiduously avoided by neoliberals. But is economic value a reductio ad absurdum? A neoliberal description or benchmark obfuscating a more encompassing shift/drift in our relationship with the world?

How do we define neoliberalism? Harvey (2005) is the most commonly referenced definition I have seen in the library literature and deals with neoliberalism as ideology and at a state level (?): "Neoliberalism is in the first instance a theory of political economic practices that proposes that human well-being can best be advanced by liberating individual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills within an institutional framework characterized by strong private property rights, free markets, and free trade. The role of the state is to create and preserve an institutional framework appropriate to such practices." Mirowski says the neoliberals themselves cannot agree among themselves re: definitions or doctrine. Are librarians using this definition as a benchmark? Is everyone pretty much using it as a benchmark?

Mirowski's (M) approach seems more encompassing, to me, of neoliberalism than does Harvey's. Perhaps because M deals with the structure of neoliberalism and its implementation first, and the ideas/tenets second, a position in reverse of Harvey and others (?).  M (2013, 43) structures neoliberalism as a "multilevel, multiphase, multisector approach to the building of political capacity to incubate, critique, and promulgate ideas." M's neoliberalism (2013, 50) was “self-consciously…constituted as a multitiered sociological (sic) entity dedicated to the continued transnational development, promulgation, and popularization of doctrines intended to mutate over time, in reaction to both intellectual criticism and external events,” with ‘blue sky thinking’ and creativity at the center (the Mont Pelerin Society [MPS]) and implementation response to local events at the outside. He uses the image of Russian nesting dolls to help visualize his concept of the ‘Neoliberal Thought Collective’.  Maybe think of it as concentric rings rippling out from a stone dropped into water. Because implementation is locally constructed, it enables a customized delivery of the ideology resulting in the 'many faces' of neoliberalism that Harvey and many others note. But in more recent years, M contends that MPS has ossified with ‘blue-sky thinking’ now occurring at the outskirts.

M (2013, 53-67) then presents us with his Thirteen Commandments or tenets of neoliberalism, as Harvey did with his definition, but M's is more economic in content and related to implementation vs simply ideological positions:

  1. Neoliberalism, “…contrary to classical liberal doctrine, …conditions for its existence must be constructed (sic), and will not come about ‘naturally’…(53)”
  2. Neoliberals are “extremely vague about the structure and character of the market (55)” (what it is) and are “preoccupied with what it does”
  3. The “neoliberal market society must be treated as ‘natural’ and inexorable state of mankind (55)”
  4. The neoliberals' intent is to “redefine[s] the shape and functions of the state, not to destroy it (sic) (56)”
  5. Masking the coercive nature of the neoliberal version of the state with legitimacy, since rational actors would otherwise reject it
  6. Revise what it means to be a human person (58-59) from humanism with accompanying human rights to neoliberal human capital with emphasis on managing of/investment in self in the labour market (the supposed freedom of the individual based on ability to sell themselves in the labour market as a commodity) “the individual is no longer a privileged ontological platform (59).” “entrepreneurialism of the self (61)”.There are no more classes since individuals are both employer and worker; and corporations are people(59-60); property is not sacrosanct but now subject to political objectives; and there are no “theories of ‘interests’ (60) meaning? Interest groups etc become irrelevant?
  1. Definition of freedom “recoded and heavily edited (60)” in various ways separate from the old versions of individualism. The markets seems to determine your freedoms by the choices offered you, neglecting to inform you of how those choices/options are formed within the market framework and disallow non-market options. Economic freedom is dominant and excludes other definitions. “Conveniently, ‘fredom’ does not extend to principled rejection of the neoliberal insurgency (61).”
  2. Capital has a “natural right to flow freely across national boundaries…(…labour enjoys no similar right) (62)” vs old capital controls. Arose a need for tools for “economic and political discipline of nation sates (62)” thus new roles for IMF, World Bank, WTO, [and free-trade agreements such as the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership)]
  3. Inequality “as a necessary functional characteristic of their ideal market system (63)” as “one of its strongest motor forces for progress (63).” “…lack of correlation between reward and effort (63).”
  4. “Corporations can do no wrong, or at least they are not to be blamed if they do (64).” Re-engineered the corporation.
  5. Any problem has a market solution.
  6. “unchecked expansion of the penal sector (66).”
  7. “political/economic theories…as a moral code (66),” as an ongoing project
  So where does everyone else's research come in? If M has created a viable structure and tenets of implementation, does/may it successfully encompass the work of other academics, etc? Thus others' research may describe and reflect on local implementations, critiques of local implementation, (?) etc. Most of the research I have seen in LIS critiques implementations of neoliberalism in very specific circumstances including language use in library strategic plans, the presence of neoliberal ideology in information literacy,... I don't know. I think it may all be subsumed under M's construct even if it doesn't explicitly reference his Commandments. More reflection is required. Maybe actively try and map some kind of crosswalk? Would this kind of work then fulfill Buschman's desire for LIS to stop speaking truth to power (calls to professional values, morality, democracy as sole reasons to critique neoliberalism) and to criticize neoliberalism itself on its own terms? Hhhmm.

Ooh. Just found this lovely interview: http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2013/08/fixing-old-markets-with-new-markets-the-origins-and-practice-of-neoliberalism.html

Friday, August 07, 2015

What have academic libraries stopped/started doing onsite at their libraries?

A.      What library administrations have shifted out of doing or shifted their focus from, or work they stopped having librarians perform, tells us what they thought was not a core competency of the library, according to David Weil, author of the Fissured Workplace, Harvard UP, 2014. This assumption leaves us with interesting questions when faced with the following list:
·         Inventory control – making sure that when we ordered, we successfully ordered, received, processed stuff for “shelves” and reflected that stuff in an accessible catalogue (card catalogue or electronic).
·         Library-specific software plus code to make that software talk to each other
·         IT – we could tell techie’s what we needed done re: hardware, software or coding, and have them do it
·         Collection development from a qualitative, knowledge-based perspective including internal to library and external sources, as opposed to a quantitative approach, though we may be gaining some balance between approaches with PDA and assuming our users are coming from a knowledge-based (as opposed to ignorant, searching for answers) perspective
·         Physical Reference presence. Ref desks heavily staffed by library technicians if these desks even still exist.
·         Archives
·         Special Collections
·         Maintenance of print collections, including binding (which was pretty much outsourced but may now be a nonexistent activity)
            ·        ...

B.      What library administrations and librarians have shifted into, thus implying new core competencies for the library:
·         Institutional repositories: increasing access to faculty created materials, quantifying faculty output, access to free materials (low cost)
·         Publishing: making open access (and proprietary) textbook and journal software available for faculty publishing
·         Digitization
·         User services librarians: managing the users’ experience of the library
·         Digital/electronic services librarians: management/administration of e-resources
·        Assessment librarians
·         Information literacy (new term?), teaching how to critically evaluate information, where to find it and how you may legally manipulate it
·         Copyright clearance
·         Social justice? Questioning of authority/structural framework within which we work
·         Research (not sure how that benefits the library on a campus full of researchers who do more of it and likely better than some of us)
·         Virtual reference services (shared by many libraries)
·         ...