Lefty Resource Library

Posting articles as I go

Tag: power

Creating racial categories to divide and conquer

Exploitated white and black workers were rising up together in the US in the 17thC. The government reacted by outlawing slavery of white people but not black people. This was a strategy used to quash uprising and placate the underclasses in a way that would allow exploitation to continue efficiently because “The great thing about the divide-and-conquer of creating white-skin privilege is that you don’t have to give people thusly bought off anything more” – having power relative to some others is enough.

Similar ‘divide and rule’ approaches were used throughout the colonial project:

As the aristocrats and their successors traveled around the world through the colonial age, Europeans all over would find or define a group within the colonial territory and elevate it above the other groups, give it some privileges, though never enough to challenge the intruding rulers. In exchange for this slightly elevated status, the rulers would make those people do the colonial dirty work, and usually keep them slightly more well off than their fellows. Over time, these slightly elevated people often tried to keep their European masters in power even after the people realized how evil colonialism was, maintaining the system both to keep above their fellows and out of fear of retaliation for the dirty work they’d done.

God made the whites to serve kings, and everyone else to serve whites. 

View at Medium.com

Surveillance, gender and power – NSA v. the male gaze

Really interesting and eye-opening article about surveillance over the oppressed, particularly women, via social media; and about sexism and tech (and libertarian etc.) ideologies; and about the workings of power.

‘Reporting on these issues tends to be gendered by default: NSA surveillance is considered relevant to tech’s core constituency of technical men, while sexism in tech is covered as a women’s professional issue rather than a technology one. What goes unexamined is the way that both surveillance and sexism in tech are functions of power in technology, and that surveillance (as well as its analog prototype, the male gaze) has a long history of affecting “the other” differently than those in power.

‘The outrage over NSA surveillance has occurred and received massive coverage not because the deployment of technology for citizen surveillance is new but because white, technical, American men have finally become targets of the surveillant gaze rather than its aloof masters.

‘Few mark this “transparency” as a mode of surveillance, because the surveillance Facebook enables is “social” — a matter of seeing how people look at parties, not watching them in the name of the state. Yet it is a mode of surveillance, with women as its primary target [most profiles views are of women, most people viewing and creating pages are men, according to data], and their photographs and Facebook walls driving the vast majority of site usage.

‘Just like the consumption of publicly available data, the illicit consumption of data tends to be gendered; anecdotally, all cases I know of where engineers have been disciplined for abusing their data privileges involved unauthorized access to women’s profiles. In this, the typical mode of exploitation of social media data by social network employees mirrors the most frequent form of data exploitation by NSA employees:what is code-named LOVEINT, in which an NSA employee illicitly spies on a love interest.

‘It is only with the revelation of NSA spying that white men have suddenly had to grapple with being forcibly transformed from watchers to watched.

‘the political ideology of Silicon Valley refuses to imagine power as an unequally distributed feature of our society. The discourses of “meritocracy” and “transparency”, in fact, work to flatten a notion of political difference in their very definition, invoking a world in which hierarchies of power– the asymmetrical ability of one group to affect others– simply don’t exist.

‘What surveillance and sexism have in common is a pattern of de facto exploitation of people who don’t control the technology. They are allowed to exist through the unchecked, often unacknowledged power of a few who are in power over the many who are not. 

‘Regardless of whether the tech companies or the government “win” the battle for control of this data, the majority of people who freely contribute this data won’t win.’


‘work, scarcity, stress, illness, poverty’

Reminder and annunciation that the left is really about (when you strip away all the getting lost in pop culture critique) is ‘work, scarcity, stress, illness, poverty’ and the systems of power that create these conditions


Tech v. neoliberalism as the cause of rising inequality; where is the social power?

Argues that the focus on neoliberalism as the primary cause of rising inequality may be misguided. That we should put more focus on the role of tech developments:

‘Compare two photography companies. Kodak was founded in 1880, and at its peak employed nearly 145,300 people, with many more indirectly employed via suppliers and retailers. Kodak’s founding family, the Eastmans, became wealthy, while providing skilled jobs for several generations of middle-class Americans. Instagram was founded in 2010 by a team of fifteen people. In 2012 it was sold to Facebook for over one billion dollars. Facebook, worth far more than Kodak ever was, employs fewer than 5,000 people. At least ten of them have a net worth ten times that of George Eastman.

‘People without the ability or good fortune to make it to university or acquire valuable skills will find it increasingly hard to make a good living. Many lower-wage jobs will disappear: production line or supermarket checkout jobs are already disappearing, but as computers become get cleverer, even accountants and lawyers will start to feel the heat. Those who keep their jobs are increasingly likely to see their income stagnate, as a greater share of wealth is captured by highly skilled, the highly creative and the highly lucky.

‘“We pretend we’re run by people. We’re not run by anybody. The secret of modern Britain is there is no power anywhere. The politicians think journalists have power. The journalists know they don’t have any. Then they think the bankers have power. The bankers know they don’t have any. None of them have any power.”

‘Being a leader isn’t what it was. Power has become more dispersed, even as wealth has become more concentrated. It’s enough to make you have sympathy for Nick Clegg, or with Barack Obama when he defends himself against the left’s charge of political timidity. The impotence of our rulers isn’t, as sometimes appears to be the case, because they are uniquely inept or feeble. It’s because so much of their power is illusory. History is being made, to borrow from Marx, “behind their backs”. The age of titans has passed.’