CapitalismEssaysThe Left

On the Heilbroner Center’s Manifesto

Explanation and Critique

In our opinion, the document drafted by Julia Ott and Will Milberg for the new Robert L. Heilbroner Center for Capitalism Studies should be the beginning of a debate among NSSR faculty about the Center’s mission rather than a final manifesto. There are many claims in the document with which we wholeheartedly agree: the pressing necessity to return to discussing and analyzing large structures, long processes, and big questions; the idea that capitalism must be a central object of study and concern; the interpretation of capitalism as a social process; the identification of various power relations as critical determinants of economic outcomes; and the acknowledgment that economic theories operate as political ideologies. Further, we agree with Ott and Milberg that capitalism “should not be assumed.” However, we think that it should not be only “explained,” as the present document suggests, but also, by the same token, criticized. Critique, indeed, is a constitutive part of the explanation of social phenomena and processes, and explaining capitalism without criticizing it does amount to assuming it. …


Between Ideals and Realities

An overview of the General Seminar on the legacies of the University in Exile

Last Wednesday, on February 26th, there was a special meeting of The New School for Social Research’s General Seminar, commemorating the 80th anniversary of the University in Exile. Three faculty members and three graduate students were asked to address a foundational question: “What is the meaning of The University in Exile for New School for Social Research of the future?” The answers they presented and the discussion that followed, it seems to me, present a unique opportunity to reflect upon not only the history and future of our specific institution of higher education and research. It also sets the stage for thinking about how universities, and specifically The New School with its special traditions, should address broad and pressing political, economic and social challenges of our times. As the University in Exile was an elegant response to the dark clouds over Europe in the 1933, thinking about its meaning for the future challenges us to respond in kind. …