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Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism

To dissolve, submerge, and cause to disappear the political or governmental system in the economic system by reducing, simplifying, decentralizing and suppressing, one after another, all the wheels of this great machine, which is called the Government or the State. --Proudhon, General Idea of the Revolution

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Location: Northwest Arkansas, United States

Sunday, February 26, 2006

A New Spin on "Stakeholder Society"

I missed this the first time around, but it's definitely worth reading if you haven't seen it. Tom Philpott of Bitter Greens Journal provides another infuriating example of how the government-agribusiness complex rigs the game against organic farming.

The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, controlled by Iowa State's College of Agriculture, was a lonely organic island in the vast chemical sea of government-funded agriculture research and education. It maintained a precarious existence at the Mecca of federally subsidized industrial hog farming and roundup-marinated corn.

But late last October, everything changed. A press release by the College of Agriculture announced that Fred Kirschenmann, the Leopold Center's director, had "accepted a new leadership role as a distinguished fellow of the center," with an interim director appointed in his place.

As it turns out, he was kicked upstairs. According to Kirschenmann's account, the "new leadership role" was sprung on him without warning.

"On Wednesday [Oct. 26] I received a letter from the interim dean asking me to resign by Friday and decide by then if I would accept the position of distinguished fellow at the center," Kirschenmann told me yesterday.

"I wrote her [the interim dean] back telling her I thought she was moving too fast, that there wouldn't be time for a smooth transition. She wrote back that it was a done deal -- she had already named a new director."

And the motives of the interim dean, Wendy Wintersteen, were pretty clear. It seems corporate agribusiness interests were gunning for Kirschenmann. He'd been on their shit list for a long time.

Although Wintersteen was on the search committee that hired Kirschenmann in 2000, and was initially supportive, her attitude took a dramatic change for the worse.

"She was always very supportive of what we were doing," Kirschenmann says. "Until about two years ago. Then she became very critical."

Her critique centered on the idea that in its work the Leopold Center was neglecting "key stakeholders," Kirschenmann adds. "But she never really clarified who those stakeholders were."

It's pretty obvious, though. The College of Agriculture is awash in corporate money from John Deere and Cargill, and the bulk of the research it churns out is along the lines of pleas for stronger "intellectual property" [sic] protection for GM seeds.

It's hard to understand how such companies could be "key stakeholders" in the Leopold Center, since they already owned the rest of the College lock, stock, and barrel, and the Leopold Center was set up to challenge that model of industrial agriculture. As the man says, "I am equal time."

Why did Wintersteen suddenly develop such a zeal for the interests of those "key stakeholders," to the point of sabotaging the Leopold Center's mission? I don't know how much thirty pieces of silver comes to in today's market, but I suspect it would look pretty good even to someone on an interim dean's salary.

Here, by the way, is contact info for Wendy Wintersteen:

Wendy K. Wintersteen
Interim dean, ISU College of Agriculture
e-mail: wwinters@iastate.edu


Blogger Larry Gambone said...

This is, as you imply, a complete perversion of what the concept "stakeholder" means. The idea that there are 'key stakeholders' means that some staskeholders - in this case agri-business - are more important than others. In the genuine concept of stakeholder all groups involved are equally important and have equal input. Decisions are taken democratically, as such a couple of corporations could never override the wishes of the rest. But this phoney stakeholder routine is just one more rationalization of te fundamentally feudal nature (in attitude, at least) of corporate capitalism

February 26, 2006 2:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I cannot believe you compared Judas Iscariot with a bureaucrat intefering with organic farming! Sometimes you mutualist/socialist types seem pretty scary...

February 26, 2006 4:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sometimes you mutualist/socialist types seem pretty scary...

The point of the above comment is not quite clear, but it seems to be suggesting that Kevin is an extremist/fanatic because he is willing to compare the "bureaucrat" with someone as vile as Isocariot.

Let's flip that around-- the person who made the above comment is the extremist/fanatic because he believes that biblical characters exist on a fundamentally different level than humans in real life, and it is inappropriate to compare a real person to a biblical character.

Reasonable people view biblical characters (perhaps excluding Christ himself) as legitimate comparisons for contemporary people--either they are simply humans who lived two thousand years ago or they are literary archetypes, not incarnations of good/evil. In such a case Isocariot is simply the example of the person who betrayed his friends and their movement for the sake of a little wealth thrown at him by the powers-that-be...just like the person Kevin criticized.

February 28, 2006 3:10 PM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...


Her use of "major stakeholder" sounds a lot like the "internal customer" buzzword I hear from the corporate drones where I work.


It's OK. I scare myself sometimes.


Cf. Dante. Look at all the penny ante Italian political hacks he had sharing the Ninth Circle of Hell with Judas.

February 28, 2006 5:46 PM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

P.S. What you refer to may be a biblical equivalent of Godwin's Law.

February 28, 2006 5:46 PM  

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