New Book: Commonwealth by Negri/Hardt

Negri/Hardt: Common WealthCommonwealth is the latest collaboration between Michael Hardt, a Duke University professor who specializes in Italian literature, and Toni Negri, an original member of the radical Autonomia group in Italy. Negri is the more colorful of the two, having at one time been accused of being the intellectual leader of the Red Brigades terrorists who in 1978 kidnapped and murdered former Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro. Negri fled to France and lived in exile before returning to Italy in 1997 to serve out the remainder of a reduced prison sentence on a lesser charge.)Commonwealth concludes the trilogy that started with Empire (2000) and continued with Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire (2004), both also from Harvard University Press. Read more

NYC: Conference “The Privatization of Public Space? Resisting Enclosure”

Neoliberalism continues to transform public space in geographically uneven and variegated ways, with far reaching and profound consequences.  On the first day, the conference will provide context for various means of privatization and elaborate on language and visions for discussing this issue.  On the second day, workshops will bring together students, activists, artists, and organizations engaged in imagining and practicing new and creative means of resistance to the new round of enclosures taking place on a global scale.

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Visualizing Consolidation in the Global Seed Industry: 1996–2008

agThe commercial seed industry has undergone tremendous consolidation in the last 40 years as transnational corporations entered this agricultural sector, and acquired or merged with competing firms. This trend is associated with impacts that constrain the opportunities for renewable agriculture, such as reductions in seed lines and a declining prevalence of seed saving. To better characterize the current structure of the industry, ownership changes from 1996 to 2008 are represented visually with information graphics. Since the commercialization of transgenic crops in the mid-1990s, the sale of seeds has become dominated globally by Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta. In addition, the largest firms are increasingly networked through agreements to cross-license transgenic seed traits. Read more

What happens after privatizing the pension system?

sparzeichenThe pension reforms of the years 2000 until 2007 were supposed to attenuate the foreseeable effects of demographic change on the pension system. This is why the retirement age was raised, the pension level was lowered and a so-called sustainability factor (“Nachhaltigkeitsfaktor”) was introduced into the pension formula. This approach meant a fundamental change of objectives – from safeguarding living standards in retirement to the stability of contribution rates. The lower future pension level is to be complemented by the subsidised formation of a private capital stock (“Riester pension”) without employer participation. The analysis of the macroeconomic consequences of this reform shows that the chosen policy of enhanced funding both dampens growth and leads to insufficient income in old age. Thus the current strategy is not suitable for alleviating the demographic burden. Read more (in German language)

Futures Group about the future of food

The Futures Group looks at possible futures in the timeline 2020-25 for opportunities and threats. It straddles both Asian and Western perspectives. In their own words:

Trends/shifts are like seeds today. Some seeds sprout to become towering trees, some seeds will grow for a short while but have no staying power and will die off. Some seeds never make it. What we try to do is make an educated guess how these seeds will contribute to the forest of tomorrow. Then we backcast and ask “How do we prepare ourselves to survive and thrive in this forest?” We’ve covered a variety of topics from Arctic Melt, Food, Global Cities to Little economy, Augmented human beings, Batteries and Electric Cars.

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