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Posts Tagged ‘Neoliberalism’

Interesting YouTube Channel: Renegade Cut

September 29, 2019 11 comments

A few months ago, I came across yet another interesting channel, known as Renegade Cut, which uses movies and TV shows to analyse philosophical ideas and ideologies. While I don’t agree with everything on that channel, some of the content makes sense and is thought-provoking. Here are two clips which many of you might find particularly interesting.

Clip #1: Saturday Neoliberalism This one uses short clips from SNL (the “comedy” show) over multiple decades to show how all of the so-called “subversive” comedy in neoliberal countries such as USA was, and is, always about commercial considerations than being truly subversive or standing up to power and money. It explains why shows such as SNL loved HRC in 2016 while dumping on Bernie and has hated Trump since his election. The explanation also holds for all those other “celebrities” who expose supposedly LIEbral causes.

Clip #2: Frank Grimes – The Cult of Work The second one uses the famous character of Frank Grimes in “The Simpsons’ to show how CONservatives view the world around them. It provides some very interesting insight into why those losers fetishize “work” and who they scapegoat for everything wrong with the world. To make a long story short, CONservatives willingly suffer from multiple delusions including the one where they will all attain salvation, also known as becoming rich.There is a reason, I have always found CONservatives a bit more detestable than LIEbrals.

What do you think? Comments?

How the Democratic Party Could Lose in 2020 Elections and Beyond: 5

September 25, 2019 12 comments

In the previous part of this series, I promised to finally go into why support for certain superficial liberal causes is going to backfire on democrats during the 2020 elections. I also made the point that most allegedly “popular” causes in liberalism, such as “gun control” and “LGBTQ” issues, are secular religions in all but name. So let us ask the next question- which traditional religion does modern liberalism most closely resemble? While modern liberalism displays some similarities to Christianity, especially its Catholic variant, it differs from from the later in some very important aspects. Specifically, liberalism is heavily dependent on the use of identity politics, constantly changing taboos and a peculiar form of abstract “spirituality” to enforce its writ among followers.

In other words, modern liberalism cannot function without increasing inter-group factionalism, constantly changing taboos and overt public displays of abstract “spirituality”. Enumerating all the stuff it ignores is even more revealing. For example- liberalism does not care about gross income inequality, horrible working conditions, shitty personal lives and many other issues that actually affect most people living in post-industrial societies. In contrast to liberalism, many traditional religions such as Christianity and Islam try to increase group cohesion, get new members, keep taboos clearly defined and to a minimum in addition to (at least) giving lip service to ideas such basic human equality, dignity and charity. So.. is there a closer match for Liberalism?

As it turns out.. Hinduism is a far closer match to modern Liberalism than almost any other major traditional religion. As I repeatedly mentioned in a previous (and still incomplete) series, almost every major problem that has plagued the India and its people since about 300 AD can be traced back to Hinduism- specifically the spread and consolidation of the ‘jati’ system throughout India. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Hinduism, as has existed since about 300 AD, is nothing more than an excuse to perpetuate the ‘jati’ system. So what makes Hinduism the traditional equivalent of modern Liberalism? Well, let us start by talking about how both use identity politics to divide society into ever smaller groups that hate each other.

Some of you might want to believe that white liberals invented identity politics, but that is simply not true. The ever fragmenting ‘jati’ system in India pioneered and refined identity politics many centuries before white liberals were a thing. The core of Hinduism (as understood and practiced by most believers) is identity politics. That is why most Indians still make important decisions, from voting to marrying, almost exclusively based on whether the other party is of the same or similar ‘jati’. But why are ideologies that preach social fragmentation bad? The simple answer is that societies which accept such fissiparous ideologies end up becoming unable to get stuff done. There is a reason why China was able to achieve in 30 years what India appears unlikely to get done anytime in the foreseeable future.

This is also why India was colonized by followers of two foreign monotheistic religions for over a thousand years. Long story short, societies which are based around identity politics lose their ability to get stuff done and become vulnerable to domination by more cohesive ones. But what does any of this have to do with the democratic party losing the elections in 2020 and beyond? As mentioned in previous posts, the public image of democrats is increasingly defined by being part of the top 10% or aspiring to join that group. But why is that a problem? Think about it this way.. the number of eligible voters who did not vote for either candidate in the 2016 election was larger than the number who voted for either HRC or Trump. Also the plurality of vote cast by the non-professional or credentialed class go to republicans.

Some of you might attribute this to racism and there is some truth to that viewpoint. However a far larger issue, which I have alluded to in a previous post, concerns how each party treats its voters. Republicans do not insult their voters while they are fucking them over unlike their democratic counterparts. To put it another way, the republican religion is a noticeably more inclusive than its democratic equivalent. But isn’t their appeal restricted to white voters? Well.. yes, but as many of you saw in 2016- democrats were unable to motivate enough young non-white voters to go out and vote for them.

A secular religion centered around “gun control”, “forced diversity”, “manmade climate change”, MeToo”, “gender fluidity”, “wokeness” and numerous other fashionable causes and ever changing social taboos simply cannot compete with another which is far more straightforward, inclusive (as long as your are white) and does not require you to debase yourself quite that much. The secular religion of democrats also does not provide solutions to far more prevalent problems such as inadequate healthcare, poor job security, ever increasing cost of university education etc. Their democratic brand of secular religion is simply too exclusive and full of useless and ever-changing rituals to appeal to the majority of voters across this country.

Will write more about this point of view in next part of this series.

What do you think? Comments?

How the Democratic Party Could Lose in 2020 Elections and Beyond: 4

September 20, 2019 14 comments

In the previous part of this series, I wrote about how politicians who dutifully recite their allegedly traditional beliefs and pieties can no longer compete with those willing to push beyond previous boundaries of what was considered “routine”, “polite” or “acceptable”. We have reached this point because, over the past four decades, living standards for the vast majority of people have either stagnated or deteriorated. The majority, therefore, no longer feel that a better future is possible. This is why the stale and canned pseudo-populist antics of people such as Reagan40, Clinton42, Bush43, Obama44 and their ilk are no longer sufficient to win elections. Now, we will go into why the current democrat party obsession with “gun control”, “LGTBTQ issues” and other supposedly “woke issues” fashionable with the incestuous and effete “elite” of modern day america.

A couple of years ago, I first wrote about how “wokeness” is largely driven by neoliberals trying to show that they are morally superior to the rest. Since then, we have seen a concerted push by the effete managerial class and every politician who wants to pretend that they too are somehow morally superior to push “solutions” for problems which do not exist. Even worse, in almost all cases their “solutions” either make things worse, cause public backlash and provide ammunition to their equally despicable opponents in the so-called ‘culture wars’. There is a reason why almost everyone in this country, other than those who live in a few exclusive zip codes, see ideas such a “plastic straw ban” or unrealistic fuel consumption guidelines for cars as bad and stupid. And in case you are wondering, the recent proliferation of crossovers in USA has a lot to do with how such automobiles are classified for the purpose of fuel economy standards.

So what does any of this have to with the promotion of electorally disastrous issues such as “gun control”, LGBTQ issues and environmentalism by the democratic party? Well.. a lot. But before we go there, let me clear about a couple of things. While republicans screw their voter-base as much as democrats, they do so without insulting them like the later. Secondly, seemingly unconnected issues promoted by many democrats such as “gun control, LGBTQ issues and environmentalism are closely related, but not for the reasons most of you might have guessed. This is not to say that virtue display has no role in the promotion of such bullshit policies. But while virtue display can explain behaviors such as adopting non-white children, being vegetarian or vegan, driving a Prius and donating to certain charities, it cannot explain the deep obsession of core democrat constituencies with issues such as “gun control” and promotion of LGBTQ.

But what is the difference between adopting a non-white child or going vegetarian and pushing for “gun control” and promoting LGBTQ. Well.. it comes down to doing something yourself versus trying to manipulate of force others to do things your way. For example, almost nobody who has adopted an African child or driven a Prius is forcing you to do the same. But those who allegedly believe in “gun control” and “gender fluidity” want to take away the guns of other people and castrate their children, all in the name of “social progress”. Most of the enduring, and unpopular, hobbyhorses of the democratic party center around top-down control of the lives and behaviors of those “other” people. That is right.. most issues animating the core white constituency of democratic party are about credentialed types and managers trying to control other people.

But to what end? And why are establishment democrats so tone deaf to the unpopularity of their hobby horses. Sure.. focusing on such cultural issues also allows them to ignore real issues such as the desperate need for affordable healthcare, post-secondary education, housing stock etc. Having said that, it mostly comes down to the need to exert power (for its own sake) over other people, not unlike what is presented in George Orwell’s’ 1984. Promoting issues such as “gun control”, “gender fluidity” and environmentalism is about using the framework of a traditional religion to push for its secular equivalent. Did I mention that all religions are about making other people go along with lies and bullshit fairytales to further your control over them.

Religions have another feature that is relevant to this discussion. All the “truths” and “causes” espoused by any given religion cannot be disproved or questioned. This is why establishment democrats who cannot tell the difference between a semi-automatic and select-fire rifle will never change their mind on that subject. It was never about “facts”, “truth” or anything approaching reality. Belief in the righteousness of “gun control” is part of the gospel of coastal american liberalism. Similarly, belief in the validity of “wokeness”, “gender fluidity” and other similar new sacraments of american liberalism has nothing to do with acting in the best interest of other people or children. Do you really think they care if tens of thousands of gender-atypical children get wrongfully castrated and suffer permanent psychological damage because of their beliefs?

Some of you might remember that I recently posted a series about how belief in anthropogenic climate change is a form of secular apocalyptism. In it, I also made the case that the belief in man-made climate change has massive parallels to Catholicism. The part relevant to this post is who benefited from religions such as Catholicism. To make a long story short, the only groups and institutions who really benefit from Catholicism (or any other religion) are the clergy, church, contemporary ruling elites and their stooges. Everyone else suffers necessary deprivation and immiseration. But this, you see, is a central feature of all organized religions- not a bug.

Since we are at almost 1000 words, I will wrap up this post. In the next part, I will go into why support for these liberal causes is going to backfire on democrats during the 2020 elections. Yes.. I am aware that it was supposed to be in this part.

What do you think? Comments?

How the Democratic Party Could Lose in 2020 Elections and Beyond: 3

September 8, 2019 13 comments

In my previous post of this series, I pointed out that the upper echelons of democratic party are so full of effete professionals that it can no longer win national elections unless the other party screws up hard. And to reiterate, racist white anger after the passage of civil rights legislation in 1960s is not the main reason behind the decline of democratic party in most states since the early 1990s. If that was the case, why did a few coastal states such as California, Oregon and Washington go from being reliable republican strongholds in early 1980s to reliably democrat by early 2000s? My point is that something else is at work.

Here is a clue. The shift of any given state (historically non-slave owning) from the democrat to republican column almost always occurs after many years of economic stagnation, permanent job losses, systemic deindustrialization, increase in poverty and zero hope for a better future. On the other hand, those which fare better under the neoliberal regime of “free” trade (predominantly coastal states) end up becoming democrat strongholds. You might have also noticed that the propensity of a state or even a city to vote for democrats after 1992 has a peculiar correlation with its percentage who have office jobs and others that require “credentials” or “licenses” of some sort. So why does this connection exist?

To make a long story short, it comes down to which socio-economic group benefits from the real policies of each party. White university “educated” petite bourgeoisie are the core constituency of modern democratic party. Notably, this group is heavily dependent on government spending and “regulation” for keeping their often useless jobs and professions protected from the negative effects of globalization, while simultaneously being able to use outsourcing of manufacturing jobs and influx of desperate undocumented immigrants to inflate their own living standards. Think of them as the modern equivalent of white people who weren’t rich enough to afford tons of slaves but had enough money for a couple of slaves.

But aren’t there tons of the mythical small-business owners who are reliably conservative and vote republican? Well.. there used to be. Right till the end of 1980s, the business environment in USA was reasonably conducive to the establishment and growth of small to medium businesses. Since then, the neoliberal consolidation of businesses and financialization of the economy resulted in the slow-motion destruction of small to medium sized enterprises. The vast majority of “small businesses” in this country today are now single-person entities used to process earnings from side-gigs or unstable contractor-type jobs.

Corporate consolidation has now created a system that is almost totally dominated by monopolies and oligopolies. Most petite bourgeoisie in america are, therefore, now mostly professionals, people in “licensed” professions, middle to upper management types and those aspiring to join their ranks. These people also happen to be concentrated in larger cities, especially on the coast. Now you know why democrats are so desperate to gain votes from richer white suburbs who are still marginally republican. Ok.. but why do so many black people, especially from the older generation, vote for democrats.

Well.. there are a few reasons for that pattern, but it largely comes down to two major ones. In the early 1960s, the democratic party (at national level) moved from its previous pro-apartheid position to one which supported civil rights. A large number of black people, especially those born after 1930 but before 1970, see democrats as the party of civil rights. They also actively recruited a few black politicians in its ranks. The other reason is that republicans, after 1968, became the party of working class whites. Some of you might wonder as to why republicans focused on working class whites instead of focusing on the entire working class.

The superficial reason for that choice is as follows: the demographic and racial profile of USA in 1960s-1980s was such that restricting oneself to working class whites was a viable political strategy. But the real reason is far more interesting. Both parties have always been controlled and beholden to the very rich and large corporations. Also, electoral politics in USA has always been a stage-managed show. But why did it appear to work? Well.. because a combination of circumstances and situations in the first seven decades of 20th century created enough spare wealth to duct-tape over a lot of systemic problems.

Until the 1980s and even 1990s, the overall economic situation for most people was good enough for them to ignore class-based politics. The peculiar history of USA and its racial demography in those decades. also, made it much easier to push race-based political divisions. In other words, restricting your electoral support to the white working class was a very viable strategy. And that is why republicans became so obsessed with “crime”, “law and order”, “war on drugs” and all that other bullshit after 1968. But note that even in the late-1970s, rates of incarceration (except in deep south) were comparable to other western countries.

But what does any of this have to with democrats in 2019 wanting to implement strict “gun control” laws, trying to outdo each other at being “woke” and do meaningless token bullshit such as banning plastic straws and passing other stupid laws to “protect” the environment. And why are these virtue-display based strategies likely to be counterproductive? To better understand what I am getting at, let me ask you a simple question- why did Trump win the republican nomination and then the presidency in 2018. So let us start by answering the first part, namely how he was able to beat 16 other candidates, some with especially deep pockets.

While some of you might still want to believe that it had something to do with “Russia” or “Putin”, the real if somewhat unpleasant explanation is that his success in the primaries was the logical culmination of post-1968 direction of republican party. Trump was (and is) not an aberration. He was just far more open about his worldview. More interesting, but seldom explored, is why all those other generic mediocrities failed. Why did all those republican politicians duly reciting republican beliefs and pieties fail against Trump? To make a long story short, their performance of the republican version of virtue displays could no longer compete with Trump’s pretense of caring for the white working class.

A slightly longer version is that since 2008, or even a few years earlier, public trust in institutions and systems have fallen in a precipitous and irreversible manner. Performing the same virtue displays which would have guaranteed victory in republican primaries as late as 2008 are not longer sufficient. A few years ago, I wrote a post on how anodyne communication styles have destroyed societal trust. But how is any of this connected to the current clown car of democratic presidential candidates? Well.. it comes down to what that party has learned, or not learned, from their humiliation in 2016. As it turns out, democrats haven’t learned anything useful.

As I wrote in my previous post in this series, people in 2019 care far more about issues such as being able to afford “healthcare”, cost of university education, poor job and career security than the urgent need to ban guns. Face it.. this issue only matters to some credentialed professionals living in urban areas of certain coastal states. However these parasites are highly represented in the social bubble inhabited by the upper echelons of the democratic party. I cannot resist pointing out that this situation is analogous to that time in 2015-2016 when many republican candidates (except Trump) tried to portray themselves as morally upright family men educated at famous universities. Guess what.. most republican voters did not give a shit about the personal moral standards of their elected representatives.

So why did all those allegedly mainstream republican candidates in 2015-2016 keep on reciting these pieties? Here is a clue.. it had to do with their social circle and bubble. In the past thirty years, most politicians of both parties have lost the ability to relate with people outside their carefully insulated social bubble. Consequently they keep harping on stuff which is fashionable and ‘hip’ in their social circles but is seen as out of touch in the real world. Democrats talking about their “wokeness” or being “totally supportive” of LGBTQ issues is similar to republicans talking about their “christian faith” and “virtues of hard work entrepreneurship”. The average voter perceives both as comically inept hypocrites and parasites.

In the next part, I will finally get into some detail about why democratic support for causes such as “gun control”, LGBTQ+ issues and environmentalism are going to be especially disastrous during the 2020 elections.

What do you think? Comments?

On the Poor Career Prospects for People with Postgraduate Degrees : 2

August 21, 2019 7 comments

In the previous part of this series, I went into some detail about the careers of those who studied or worked alongside me during my MSc. To make a long story short, the majority are either no longer involved in scientific research or have menial unstable jobs with some vague connection to what they studied or used to do for a living. Some of you might say that this is to be expected since the biomedical sciences produce many times more graduates than the number of available jobs. While that may be true now, it wasn’t always the case. Indeed, until the early 1990s, those who studied or worked in that sector could either find decent to acceptable jobs or simply move into related areas with considerable ease.

Now let us now talk about another sector which, for over 50 years, provided highly stable, well compensated and intellectually engaging employment. I am talking about pharma. From the end of WW2 in 1945 to mid-1990s, pharmaceutical corporations (large and medium) provided some of the best and most interesting jobs and careers in western countries. And it worked both ways, since those who worked in them came up with the most important advances in medicine we have ever seen. There is a very good reason why this period is often referred to as the ‘golden age’ of drug discovery. And then it started going wrong and is now a mere shadow of its former self. Years ago, I linked to a spoof by somebody else about how things went to shit in pharma.

To be fair, this fall was not instantaneous and it was only after 2008 that the whole sector was irreparably damaged. But ya.. things had been on a downward slope since the mid-1990s. In retrospect, the true beginning of end started in late 1980s, when certain large corporations (Pfizer, Merck etc) decided to recruit ivy-league MBAs. The first signs of this rot manifested as gradual consolidation within that sector. While I could write multiple books on why consolidation in the pharma sector was so disastrous, here is the very brief version. Monopolization and oligopolization always results in counterproductive centralization, destruction of real innovation, greatly increased rent-seeking and is bad for everyone other than the upper management of those corporations in addition to their lawyers and bankers.

It should be noted that corporate monopolization has been much more disastrous in the West than Asian countries because corporations in the later are answerable to their governments to an extent unimaginable in the former. But why are we talking about how the pharma sector used to be about 20 years. Well.. because it is relevant to my choice of career. One of the main reasons for me taking the educational path I took was that working in pharma was an excellent career option with long-term stability and a pretty decent work environment. Sure.. nothing is perfect, but for someone with my interest and talents, it was as good a match as realistically possible.

Also, the pharma sector used to be fairly conservative in both hiring and firing people. Until early 2000s, mass layoffs and multiple site closures for the purpose of “corporate reorganization” were unknown in pharma. Many larger corporations even had defined benefit pensions until mid-2000s. Yes.. you heard that right. To make a long story short, those who stayed out of corporate politics and had generally satisfactory job performance could reasonably expect lifetime employment, and this was widely expected by employers and employees right upto early 2000s. You were not expected to work beyond normal work hours unless necessary due to nature of experiments and there was tons of autonomy at the site and group level. And in spite of all this, vast majority of pharma corporations were profitable businesses and remained so over multiple decades.

But how is any of this linked to my story? As it turns out, I ended up working in pharma for a few years and through direct experience and observing the career trajectories of acquaintances had a ringside seat to the beginning of final collapse of employment in pharma sector. Here is a post from 2011 in which they document that almost 300k jobs in that sector were lost between 2001 and 2011. And those layoffs did not stop in 2011, though they have sorta run out of people to fire- especially in past 4 years. The total is now closer to 400-450 k jobs and even if we assume that 60-70% were in sales and administration, it is fair to say that ivy-league MBAs have finally killed the goose which used to lay golden eggs. Far more problematically, it has altered the career course for many who would have otherwise gone into pharma.

In other words, their short-termism not only destroyed decades of institutional knowledge but also their ability to rebuild in future. And it shows! And before I explain you how, it is important to quickly explain the process of drug discovery and approval. It all starts with either the discovery of a new drug target (usually protein) or some effect of a chemical compound in cell-based or animal assays. From there it enters the pre-clinical development phase where chemists make hundreds and thousands of chemical cousins of the initial lead compounds and test them in a number of assays, animal models of some disease and extensive toxicity testing in multiple animal species. Only after it has cleared that phase can it be even considered for human trials. Small phase I trials are usually the first (dozens of people), followed by larger Phase II trials (hundreds) culminating in Phase III (hundreds to thousands and often) over a few years.

To make another long story short, the system was designed such that drugs which entered Phase III trials were unlikely to fail, and this was the case for most of modern history. Sure.. you did encounter situations where testing in larger populations (P III) revealed some rare but nasty side effects or the drug was not as efficacious as previously expected. But outright failures of efficacy in Phase III trials was really rare. Then something changed and nowadays the majority of drugs which enter Phase III trials fail, and they usually do so for lack of efficacy. Curiously, this often occurs when Phase I and Phase II data was either very good or pretty promising. So.. what is going on? While many industry insiders have tried to explain this deeply troubling trend by invoking all sorts of clever sounding bullshit, there is a simpler and more rational explanation.

A large percentage, likely overwhelming majority, of drug development in past two decades has been based in two types of fraud. The first involves manipulating metrics to make something look far better than it is in real life. Examples of such frauds involve cherry-picking patients, burying negative data, changing criteria for success, playing around with data and statistics and other stuff which is not technically illegal. The second type involves falsification of data, deliberately deleting data, kicking non-responders out of trials to improve responses rates etc. But what does any of this have to do with the downward career trajectory of people working in that sector?

Well.. since we have already exceeded 1200 words in this post, I will leave that discussion for the next part of this series. In it, I hope to go into some more detail about how neoliberalization and financialization of pharma destroyed its older and much more successful business model and institutional structure- all to make a handful of people on wall street and upper management far richer than they otherwise would have been. You will also see how stuff such as pushing opioids, antidepressants, antipsychotics etc to doctors and constantly jacking up prices of old and new drugs replaced developing newer ones as the main source of corporate growth. And ya.. I will also go into what happened to all those middle-aged and older people who lost their jobs and, in many cases their entire, careers after decades of relative stability.

What do you think? Comments?

On the Poor Career Prospects for People with Postgraduate Degrees : 1

August 17, 2019 33 comments

A few years ago, I wrote a post about how the defined and stable career trajectory is now dead in west and west-aping countries such as Japan and South Korea. Some months after that, I wrote about how the hiring practices of corporations in west have shortened the length of semi-stable career for most people to about 15 years. Then, about a year ago, I wrote a series on the long term social, economic and cultural effects of career insecurity. While they don’t make cheerful reading, it is interesting to note that these and my other older posts (pre-2016) on this general area (link 1, link 2, link 3) anticipated the rise of pseudo-populists such as Trump, the alt-right and popularity of socialism among “Millennials”. Also, have a look at my post on why rich and well-off (even in USA) are barely having any kids.

But let us get back to the topic of this post, and talk about something which I have often hinted to in previous posts on this topic. Ever wonder about the real career prospects for those with proper postgraduate education in the sciences and other related areas such as engineering. And yes.. this is relevant to issues other than the immediate future of western countries. What I am now going to describe, based on personal observations, is going to vindicate many of your darkest suspicions but also make you feel depressed. But before we talk about my observations, you should know a couple of facts about me. Longtime readers are probably aware that I came here and started my MSc when I was 20 years old in the later half of 1990s. After finishing it, I worked a couple of jobs in my field and then started my PhD in a proper STEM subject in mid-2000s and finished at the beginning of this decade. The point is, I have seen a lot more change than many others have seen.

To be more precise, I had a ringside seat to the demise of career security for smart people with postgraduate education in western countries. And don’t worry about me, I am still doing OK and will (knock on wood) continue to do so. But back to the topic at hand- What do my personal observations about the career trajectories of others who graduated a few years before myself, or alongside me, say about the overall situation. The very short answer is that it is already very bad and getting worse- if that is possible. While there are many ways to describe what I have witnessed, a chronological account of the careers of people who graduated a few years before me provides the best (if somewhat disturbing) insight into how things have gone to to shit.

While biomedical sciences have notorious for overproduction of graduates, until the mid-1990s most of them could get some half-decent jobs or at least transition into careers where their skills were useful. Somewhere between mid-1990s and 2000, that became much harder or no longer possible. To make a long story short, only those who went into to medical or dental school now have anything approaching “normal” careers. And even for them, things are pretty dismal. For starters, most are single, divorced or unhappily married with a single child. Out of the ten or so guys I know who took that route, only one has more than 2 children- and half have none. Almost every woman who went to medical school (around my age or younger) has either zero kids or just managed to squeeze one out in their late-30s. And they all look older than they should.

But at least they have some semblance of a career trajectory, because most of the rest (aka the majority) who did not get into medical school have none. Sure.. there are a few who have done OK in either academia or industry (usually the later) but most of them just seem to disappear. Confused? Let me explain. Over the years I have followed the careers of many PhD students who were smart, liked by their supervisors and generally expected to do OK in later life. But things did not work that way and many of them after promising starts and careers lasting for a decade or so, just disappear. To be clear, I am not suggesting they are dead or have commited suicide (though the later cannot be ruled out). It is just that their career in science seem to end and they stop updating their LinkedIn profiles. In almost every case, detailed internet searches failed to reveal much more than their current addresses and some more recent photos.

While I am sure that most are still alive, it is clear that they do not have well-paid or marginally prestigious jobs. Maybe they are bagging groceries at the supermarket, driving for Uber, delivering Pizza, tutoring kids or in one of those mediocre administrative positions which have proliferated in past 15 years. My point is that most of them are now doing jobs that require nothing more than an undergraduate degree. Isn’t that a terrible and cruel waste of human potential and hope? But wait.. it gets worse. Let me talk about the fate of a few people I used to know well in the late 1990s and early 2000s. And it gets depressing real fast..

When I was just finishing my MSc, there was a new postdoc from UK in the adjacent lab who had come here with his then-GF (also a postdoc). The guy was bright and competent, because within a couple of years he got a decent academic position back in UK. So far so good. Based on mutual acquaintances and PubMed, it seemed he was doing well for a decade or so. Sure.. his GF dumped him after a few years, but he seemed set for an OK career. Somewhere in 2012, his research output just stopped. My guess is that his job loss might have something to with post-2008 austerity politics in UK. Anyway.. he reemerged a few years later as proprietor of a small businesses selling dietary supplements. So a guy with a PhD, over 30 papers in decent journals and an academic career lasting almost a decade ended up hawking supplements like one of those scummy Instagram and FakeBook influencers.

Another person who did his MSc in an adjacent lab ended up running cell-phone kiosks in malls and is now selling insurance. Yet another PhD student who was considered to be very smart ended up moving to his home-city for a postdoc. He then regressed to working as a lab tech and eventually as a freelancer, the last I heard. At least, he lives in a place where his parents own a house. Another ambitious PhD student, after a couple of stints at prestigious labs as a postdoc, seems to have ended as a part-time freelancer at some research institute in another large city. The women seemed to have done a bit better, and more than a few ended up as scientific writers or mediocre administrative positions in corporations with varying degrees of stability. But in almost every case, there had no defined career with the degree of stability expended by their parents generation. Also, many of them either have no kids or one token child squeezed out in their late-30s.

To be clear, all of this occurred to people who studied, or worked, at prestigious research groups in one of the top two universities in that state. But wait.. it get worse. In the next part, I will tell you what happened to the careers of people who worked in the pharma sector between 2001 and 2008-2009. It is really bad.. to put it mildly. In future posts, I will also go in some detail about the dismal career prospects of people with postgraduate degree from well-regarded universities in subject such as Chemistry and Physics. Also degrees in engineering (various disciplines) from well regarded universities are no longer the ticket to a stable career. I hope to show you how all of this ties with rise of neoliberalism, de-industrialization and increased financialization of economy in western countries- and the death of hope.

I have a feeling that some of you might say something the lines of these people being lucky since they are still employed in jobs which pay more than median wage. Funny thing.. that is not the way things work in countries which harbor any hope for a better future. What I have described is how things typically unfold in countries that are in a steep and likely irreversible decline.

What do you think? Comments?

Mark Fischer’s Critique of Neoliberalism and the Death of Hope in West

August 8, 2019 3 comments

A couple of years ago I came across a short clip of a YouTube talk by a critic and cultural theorist named Mark Fischer. FYI, he committed suicide in 2017 at age 48. Anyway.. getting back to the topic, I first came across some of his ideas in 2010 or 2011, when his critique of Neoliberalism first became somewhat popular. There is however a good chance that many of you haven’t heard about him because he was not a big self promoter unlike some others.. David Graeber or Thomas Piketty. Fischer’s critique of Neoliberalism and its offshoots such as financialism, managerialism etc are far more interesting than those of Graeber or Piketty, since they focus on something most critics of Neoliberalism have largely ignored.

A few years ago, I made the point that the willingness to commit most crimes requires the person to have hopes for a better future. In that post, I also made the comment that decrease in crime rates in USA and the west over past 20-30 years have a peculiar connection to the loss of hope for a better future. Readers might have also noticed that dress and hair styles in the west have been fairly constant for almost the last 25 years (since the mid-1990s), which is odd when you compare this relative stagnation to the massive shifts which occurred between 1950s and 1970s or 1960s and 1980s. It is as if something changed during the 1990s which stopped any hope of a better or different future. And this applies to everything from life expectancy, treatment of common diseases to movies, music and literature.

It is as if the west, especially USA, is stuck in a terminal loop where it keeps reliving the 20th century but cannot seem to find a way forward. Fischer attributes this to the rise of neoliberalism and how its incentives, philosophy and hierachy has created a society which cannot dream, innovate or do much more than keep repeating the past. This ties in with what I wrote about late capitalism and the glut of movie prequels, sequels and remakes we have seen over the past decade or two. The point he makes in his book, Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?, is that the ideology of unrestricted capitalism which gained a fresh lease of life after 1991 has now infiltrated western culture to the point where it has destroyed hope for a better future.

Here is YT clip providing a quick overview of what Fischer wrote about..

I would also recommend reading an other book written by him, Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures. In this one he goes into the connection between the extremely high levels of depression, anxiety and hopelessness seen in the declining west today and its connection to an embrace of capitalist ideology at the personal level.

Also, here are links to free versions of his two most well known works.

Capitalist Realism: Is there no alternative? – PDF of a scanned copy.

and

Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures – link to e-book version.

What do you think? Comments?