(OPE-L) Combined Development: Cell Phones and Trotsky

From: glevy@PRATT.EDU
Date: Sat Oct 23 2004 - 10:19:22 EDT

Another interesting post from 'Globolist' by Joe Smith.
I wonder: doesn't the diffusion of cell phones internationally
have potentially important implications for decision-making under
socialism?  It seems to me that it furthers the possibility
of mass decison-making and coordination discussed by Allin
and Paul C in _Towards a New Socialism_.

In solidarity, Jerry

He may have been hopelessly Eurocentric in his diffusionist view of
development but Trotsky put his finger on something big.

"A backward country assimilates the material and intellectual
conquests of
the advanced countries. But this does not mean that it follows them
slavishly, reproduces all the stages of their past. The theory of the
repetition of historic cycles [...] rests upon an observation of the
of old pre-capitalist cultures, and in part upon the first
experiments of
capitalist development. A certain repetition of cultural stages in  ever new
settlement was in fact bound up with the provincial and episodic
of that whole process. Capitalism means, however, an overcoming of  those
conditions. It prepares and in a certain sense realises the
universality of
permanence of man's development. By this a repetition of the forms of
development by different nations is ruled out. Although compelled to
after the advanced countries, a backward country does not take things  in the
same order. The privilege of historic backwardness - and such a
exists - permits, or rather compels, the adoption of whatever is
ready in
advance of any specified date, skipping a whole series of intermediate
stages. Savages throw away their bows and arrows for rifles all at  once,
without travelling the road which lay between those two weapons in  the past
[...]  The development of historically backward nations leads
necessarily to
a peculiar combination of different stages in the historic process.  Their
development as a whole acquires a planless, complex, combined
Leon Trotsky (Chap One, History of Russian Revolution)

Absent from the following article (as well as from Trotsky) is any  notion of
how the appropriation of technology also transforms its meaning and  uses.
It repeats the sin of stereotyping and devaluing non-European
peoples.  In
Trotsky's case it was use of the term "savages" and "backwardness."   In the
LA Times, images of 'log beating', 'loin cloth wearing,' "undeveloped"
people suddenly (miraculously) transformed into modern men and women  (by
contact with artifacts of European countries).  The stereotype
extends to
images of underdevelopment portrayed here as a function of internal
backwardness -- 'bureaucratic inefficiences' (read "endemic third  world
corruption") deny people living in remote areas phone lines.  As if  the
issue wasn't about the relative expense and labor entailed in laying  land
lines to remote areas in an era of debt!  Trotsky can be partially  forgiven
due to geographic isolation and the time in which he lived.  The LA  Times
can make no such claims.
They Can Hear You Now
Cellphones are moving the developing world into the global village.  Camel
herders, jungle fishermen and jailed kingpins all have a say.
By Héctor Tobar
LA Times, Oct. 21, 2004

IQUITOS, Peru - A few miles downriver from this city in the western  Amazon
jungle, Andres Alvarado hops off a boat and walks up a muddy path to a
hollowed-out log resting on a wooden stand. He beats the log with a
sending a series of low-pitched tones into the rain forest.

"This is what they call the 'telephone of the jungle,' " says
Alvarado, a
tricycle taxi-driver and tourist guide. Moments later, as children of  the
Bora Indian tribe come bounding down the path to answer
the "telephone,"
Alvarado's belt begins beeping: It's his cellphone.

Iquitos and nearby riverside hamlets are among the more remote
outposts in
South America's expanding mobile phone system, part of a global
network that
is beginning to penetrate even the poorest and most undeveloped
corners of
the world.

For millions of people living in countries where getting a fixed
phone line
remains a bureaucratic impossibility, the cellphone revolution has  allowed
them to leapfrog from archaic forms of communication straight into the
digital era - and that is changing the fabric of their daily lives.

In East Africa, the mobile phone has brought a first, tantalizing  taste of
modernity to people who live on less than $10 a day. In China, the  world's
biggest market for cellphones, they are embraced by rich and poor  alike, a
tiny pocket computer with which to surf the Internet, play video
games or
even do banking.

Here in Iquitos, where speedboats and lumbering old fishing craft ply  the
brown, wide waters of the Amazon, fishermen grab the wheels of their  vessels
with one hand and their cellphones with the other to check the price  their
catch will fetch at markets downriver [...]

The number of cellphones in Latin America has tripled since 1999, and  one in
five people now owns one. In Peru, as in many other countries in the  region,
there are more cellphones than fixed phone lines.

Today, the world's fastest-growing cellphone markets are in places  like
Iquitos in rural South America and in sub-Saharan Africa, despite  widespread
poverty [...]

Rwanda's cellphone boom has followed a pattern typical of many
countries. It now has more than five times as many cellphones
(134,000) as
fixed telephone lines (23,000), according to the International
Telecommunications Union.

As in Rwanda, people elsewhere across Africa are coming to appreciate  and
rely upon the magic of the cellphone - communicating with a distant  friend
while under a baobab tree in Mali, for example, or on the Kenyan
savanna. In
Senegal, farmers use them in their annual, age-old battle against  plagues of
locusts, calling each other and the authorities to keep track of the
progress of insect "hopper bands."

In Somalia, men in loincloths flash their cellphones as they guide  camels to
port. Masai warriors in Tanzania pull phones from their red shuka  robes to
call gem brokers when they find glimmering purple-blue tanzanite, a  rare
gemstone found only in the shadow of Mt. Kilimanjaro [...]

--- End forwarded message ---

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