“There is no document of civilisation that is not at the same time a document of barbarism.” - Walter Benjamin
What we’re reading :
Surveillance Capitalism and the Changing Landscape of the Modern Economy:
In The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, Shoshana Zuboff outlines the emergence of technological innovations and market mechanisms which make ubiquitous surveillance increasingly likely, a phenomenon which she calls ‘surveillance capitalism’. As Zuboff describes, extreme concentrations of knowledge and lack of democratic oversight or regulation have given rise in the past two decades to an unprecedented concentration of power among select companies such as Google and Facebook, which she insists will have wide ranging implications in the future on our economy and society.
*Further reading: Fitzpatrick, K. (2019) “None of Your Business: The rise of surveillance capitalism.” The Nation.
What is the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and what does it mean for the continent?
Kombo, B. (2019). “What are the alternatives to neoliberal trade?” Africa is A Country.
In the wake of Gambia’s ratification of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), making it the 22nd country to sign the agreement, Brenda Kombo seeks to understand what the trade agreement really means for Africa. Despite its self-proclaimed effort to “promote and attain sustainable and inclusive socio-economic development,” and withstanding the fact that an economic integration of the African continent could allow for a “remarkable geopolitical shift [and] repositioning on the global stage,” Kombo reminds readers of the historical inefficacy and damage that free trade agreements have had on the continent.
How the struggle for reparations can provide the opportunity for a broader, more meaningful social transformation:
Taylor, K. (2019). “The Consequences of Forgetting.” Jacobin Magazine.
In “The Consequences of Forgetting,” Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor seeks to understand: what happens when the public is encouraged to forget that this was a country built and fortified on the enslaved labor of black people? She argues that the omission of slavery in the American collective consciousness is the context in which the discussions surrounding reparations can be understood. The fixation upon how such payments would be done has largely overshadowed the greater significance that “an official acknowledgment of slavery and the racism that it produced could have in the greater struggle for a deeper and more meaningful social transformation.”
What we’re watching:
(2019) Jordan Peterson & Salvoj Zizek: “Happiness: Capitalism vs. Marxism.” Truthspeak.
This week, we’re watching the debate between Jordan Peterson and Slavoj Žižek which took place in April of 2019. The two thinkers that represent vastly divergent political, social and economic views come to a head on subjects such as poverty, discourse within the academic left, the Communist Manifesto and even biotech, in an event that has since received wide media attention. As David Marcus has underscored, what makes the debate so refreshing and significant is the social context in which it occurred; “in a world that operates so much on the surface, three hours of deep philosophical talk is a welcome breath of fresh air.”
What we’re listening to:
Podcast: Building Human Cities, Ted Radio Hour (NPR).
In a context of rapidly transforming cities, in which gentrification, vulnerability and overcrowding continue to mark urban areas, the concept of “humane cities” has become of increasing importance in recent years. In this episode of the TED Radio Hour, speakers dive into some of the most innovative solutions that seek to tackle the most pressing socio-economic urban issues.
Podcast: Globalism on the Brink, Making Sense with Sam Harris.
In “Globalism on the Brink,” Sam Harris speaks with Ian Bremmer about the failure of globalism and the rise of populism, diving into immigration, trade, automation, wealth inequality, identity politics and more. Ian Bremmer is the author of several books including The End of the Free Market: Who Wins the War Between States and Corporations? and Every Nation for Itself: Winners and Losers in a G-Zero World.