Archive for November, 2009

Work for the poor, commons put to work: the next market wave.

Friday, November 20th, 2009

The next disciplinary market wave — if it will come at all — will likely be greatly dependent on commons at every scale of social action. For this reason, a reasonably strong political recomposition wave around commons to contrast this market wave is the minimum that is necessary for social justice and for saving the planet,

. . . if only . . . .

Take this account on venture capital drying up and web companies start-ups looking somewhere else for their development. As the financial crisis intensifies, small start-ups companies mobilise circles of friends to type up code. If they are not able to mobilise enough commoners to turn into social capital, they will then subcontract to the poor. Non profit companies like samasource are devoted to this task, with an incredible zeal, self-confidence, creative-corporate cool image, and conviction of doing good. Just check them out for what a friend has defined an “unbelievable hubris.” They go out and train refugees, poor women and youth into microwork. This is part of a growing phenomenon quite interesting and scary at the same time. Like in those cases, in which reproduction services like reading bed time stories or helping children in their homework can be subcontracted to poor workers on the other side of the world, eager women- and men-fridays mobilised by www.getfriday.com. With some strong coordinated policy commitment this stuff could be part of a possible way forward for capital: the mobilisation of commons either directly (through the production of commodities), or indirectly (through cheapening of reproduction of labour) for the expansion of markets and diffusion of capitalist work. In this sense, microwork would complement microcredit as a strategy to put the planet to work masked as “war against poverty” . (By the way, on microcredit, it is crucial to remind of the riots it provoked in Nicaragua not long ago.

In short, innovation will be either “financed” by commoning — in the hope to reap a reward through creation of a competitive advantage — or it will be subcontracted to the poor, who in turn depends heavily on commons circuits for their livelihoods, something that gives them the “competitive advantage” vis others cyber workers. But not all is lost. Here an interesting hint on a spill-over affect of this training of the poor for microwork: the discovery of facebook.

Raj Patel on America’s Growing Hunger Crisis and the UN Summit to Fight Hunger in Rome

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

From Democracy Now!: “More than 49 million Americans—or one in seven—struggled to find enough to eat last year, according to a report from the US Department of Agriculture released Monday. That’s the highest total since the federal government began keeping track of food insecurity. Meanwhile, leaders from most of the world are gathered in Rome to tackle hunger on a global scale at the UN World Food Summit, but leaders of the world’s richest countries were largely absent from the summit. We speak with Raj Patel, author of Stuffed and Starved: Markets, Power and the Hidden Battle for the World’s Food System.”

Trust the bank.

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

in 2006 and 2007 Goldman Sachs sold more than $40 billion in securities backed by at least 200,000 risky home mortgages. These were bought by all sort of investors, including pension funds. At the same time, Goldman Sachs was betting that a sharp drop in US housing price would send the value of those securies to the floor. Of course, Goldman’s reason is straightforward: they were “hedging”!.

see Posted in capital's measure/value practices, financial crisis | No Comments »

Microfinance is good business

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

From The Financial Times www.ft.com

Helping the poor just got popular

Sophia Grene. Financial Times. London (UK): Nov 9, 2009. pg. 8

“Microfinance ; Investors are attracted by the sector’s crisis-proof qualities as well as the social aspect, says Sophia Grene

Since Muhammad Yunus won the Nobel prize in 2006 along with the Grameen Bank he founded for the poverty-bound entrepreneurs of Bangladesh, microfinance has entered the consciousness of the investment community.

The concept of lending small amounts to very poor women, each borrower part of a group that is jointly responsible for repayment, has been extended and modified as it moved to different economies with other requirements. The common thread is providing relatively small loans to people who would otherwise not have banking facilities.

While the original concept was all about lending a helping hand to lift people out of poverty, the inevitable result of the structure was that investors would see it as an opportunity.

Grameen Bank itself cannot look for investment from outside Bangladesh for legal reasons, but a myriad of other microfinance institutions are not so bound and globally some $7bn (pound(s)4.2bn, EUR4.7bn) is invested in MFIs. An equivalent amount is committed by donation, but the invested money is expected to be repaid with interest. (more…)

Popular protests against microfinance in Nicaragua

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

From nacla.org/node/6180

Confronted by the bold protests of the Movimiento de Productores, Comerciantes y Microempresarios de Nueva Segovia, or more colloquially as the No Pago (I Won’t Pay) movement, politicians are growing increasingly nervous that the group’s protests are scaring away international investors and could strike a heavy blow against the country’s shaky economy.

The first signs of unrest appeared more than a year ago, following remarks made by President Daniel Ortega at a political rally in the northwestern province of Jalapa. The region was simmering with tension after a large microfinance corporation had six debtors arrested. Their families chose to barricade the highways for 11 days in protest.

“We need to end this policy of usury,” Ortega told a crowd on July 12. “Instead of protesting on the streets, protest before the offices of usurers and plant yourselves before them. Stand firm, for we support you!”

Ten days later, borrowers behind in their loan payments tried to burn down a microfinance office in the department of Nueva Segovia. Some time afterward, debtors stormed another MFI and refused to let personnel leave the building; the resulting showdown with police left one civilian blinded from a rubber bullet. (more…)

Carbon trading, enclosures and the “green police”

Monday, November 9th, 2009

“With the Copenhagen climate summit just a month away, a new investigative series looks at how rural Brazilians are being displaced so their forest can be turned into carbon offsets for some of the world’s biggest polluters, including General Motors and Chevron. With deforestation amounting to a fifth of the world’s emissions, planting and preserving trees are seen as key elements to offset pollution.” Democracy Now speaks to Mark Schapiro of the Center for Investigative Reporting. “After traveling to Brazil, Schapiro writes, ‘People with some of the smallest carbon footprints on earth are being displaced by companies with some of the biggest.’”

“No Pago” Confronts Microfinance in Nicaragua

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

From nacla.org/node/6180

Oct 28 2009

Elyssa Pachico

Last January in northern Nicaragua, as a crowd of hundreds blockaded the Panamerican Highway late into the cool Monday night—soaking tires in gasoline before setting them on fire, hurling rocks at police and TV cameramen, bringing traffic to a standstill for 10 miles—the words once again began appearing in news reports and political speeches and inside the National Assembly debate halls: No Pago, No Pago!

In the months that followed, the refrain was hardly absent from the airwaves—not on May 12, when a group of 20 people smashed the windows of a truck belonging to a local microfinance organization, or in early September, when some loan officers were so harassed by protesters barricading their office doors and badgering the clients who attempted to enter that they decided to stop showing up to work altogether.

These incidents are only a few examples of the bad feeling that microfinance institutions (MFIs) have inspired among a section of the rural population in north and central Nicaragua. Confronted by the bold protests of the Movimiento de Productores, Comerciantes y Microempresarios de Nueva Segovia, or more colloquially as the No Pago (I Won’t Pay) movement, politicians are growing increasingly nervous that the group’s protests are scaring away international investors and could strike a heavy blow against the country’s shaky economy. (more…)

The World’s Largest Worker-Owned Cooperative

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

The world’s largest worker-owned cooperative, the Basque Mondragon, is slowly becoming a business model. Check this story out Steelworkers Form Collaboration with MONDRAGON, the World’s Largest Worker-Owned Cooperative
] and the following video.