CapitalismEssays

Manufacturing Victory

A review essay on A. J. Blaime's The Arsenal of Democracy

These days people generally think of Detroit — with its vast expanses of abandoned real estate that have given rise to the photographic genre known as ruins porn — as the place where modernity went to die. But for a good chunk of the twentieth century, Detroit was the boomingest of boom towns. In the ten years after the introduction in 1913 of the modern moving assembly line in the automobile industry, Detroit’s population doubled to nearly 1 million. In the 30 years following that, it doubled again to become the nation’s fourth-largest city and one of its most affluent, especially for the working class. An important chapter in that story was the turning of the Motor City’s manufacturing might to arms production during the Second World War when Detroit came to embody the slogan “Arsenal of Democracy.”

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EssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

Can I be a Pragmatic Pacifist?

This is a gently updated version of a post I originally published in Deliberately Considered. I post it now, thinking about the latest chapter of the never ending story of the war on terrorism.

I remember struggling with this question as a young man. Subjected to the draft during the Vietnam War being a very early and precocious opponent to the war, I tried to convince myself that I was a pacifist. Wanting to avoid conscription, I read the writings of Gandhi and A.J. Muste. I looked into the pacifist activities of the Fellowship of Reconciliation. Although I realized that making the claim of being a Jewish pacifist would be practically difficult, I wanted to explore possibilities. …

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Arts & DesignEssays

Palestinian Cinema and the Lived Experience of Occupation

“One thought alone preoccupies the submerged mind of Empire: how not to end, how not to die, how to prolong its era. By day it pursues its enemies. It is cunning and ruthless, it sends its bloodhounds everywhere. By night it feeds on images of disaster: the sack of cities, the rape of populations, pyramids of bones, acres of desolation.”

– J. M. Coetzee, Waiting for the Barbarians

The world is falling apart in Gaza. There is nothing more banal than that statement. There is also nothing truer. “Operation Protective Edge” has claimed close to 2,000 lives in its month long bombardment of Gaza. …

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Essays

Israel and the Jewish Diaspora

In 1990 the scholar David Vital wrote how Jews in the Diaspora and Jews in Israel were heading in different directions. For better or for worse, this observation is proving to be increasingly accurate. For many Diaspora Jews, however, this direction of travel is undesirable. There exists a strong bond between Diaspora Jewry and Israel, and should this bond fray there are serious concerns that it may do irreparable harm to the Jewish people. As such, Diaspora Jews spend considerable effort to retain ties with Israel, including sending their children to Israel as part of youth group programs. The major Diaspora Jewish organizations also devote considerable resources to keeping up ties with Israel through a variety of sponsorships and public discourse. Yet, all this activity may well be for naught if Israel does not start to pay greater attention to Diaspora concerns about Israeli security policy. …

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EssaysLiberal Democracy in QuestionMedia/Publics

9/11: A Most Restless Event

The video below was produced between the Fall of 2001 and the Spring of 2002. It was first screened as a final project for the class Semiotics for Digital Producers, taught by professor Paul Ryan, as part of the graduate program in Media Studies of the New School for Public Engagement in New York City. Twelve years later, I revisited it editing and showing it for a second screening on the occasion of the memorial for Ryan in the Orozco room of the New School in April 2014.

I have returned to the video while reading the article “Theorizing the Restlessness of Events” by Professor Robin Wagner-Pacifici, thinking about issues of temporality, event, perception, performance and meaning. …

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EssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

How to Deal with Extremists? Post European Election Reflections

Considering the dilemmas of dealing with parties suspected of wanting to undermine core elements of liberal democracy

In the wake of this past spring’s European elections, in which far-right parties did very well, an old conundrum for liberal democrats is posed with renewed urgency: how to deal with extremists? Should one talk with them? Or should one only talk about them? Or not even that — in other words, should they just be ignored, or perhaps be contained with a cordon sanitaire that all other political parties agree on? The answer cannot be given in a vacuum — much depends on the nature of the party in question and on the political system in which it operates. Intellectuals and scholars who pretend that political philosophy or history provide easy answers are likely to do more harm than good here. …

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EssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

Obama Channels Reagan in Estonia

In the days leading up to President Obama’s state visit to Estonia on September 3rd, the eve before the NATO summit meeting in Wales, details of his schedule, travel plans and meetings were meticulously scrutinized. As streets closed and helicopters circled, the contrast between the heavy security surrounding the Commander in Chief and his message of freedom couldn’t have been starker. Obama’s visit dramatically underscored the complex relationship between freedom and security in a post-9/11 world. …

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Essays

Israel’s Culture of Violence

In contrast to the old image of the Jew who was led to his death in Europe without fighting back, the Israeli military has played a vital role in creating a new model, in which the Jewish soldier is a strong man who fights and kills for survival. From a practical point of view, the Army was important for the Zionist project for settling the land of Palestine because it was through the force, protection, and support of the military that the settlers were and are still able to settle Palestinian land.

For the Army to function properly — especially in the case of Israel, where military service is compulsory, meaning the Army is made up of the majority of the Israeli citizenship — there is a need to rally as much support as possible behind them. This is accomplished through state rhetoric that provides reasons for the necessity of partaking in a military offensive. …

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EducationEssays

Graduate Education and Health Insurance

A fundamental challenge at the New School for Social Research

Last year, NSSR and the University Administration announced a new fellowship initiative for NSSR students. The plan consisted on full scholarships for Ph.D. students that included full tuition and a $20,000 yearly stipend for up to three to five years of study. Dean’s Fellowships were also maintained. The scholarships were rolled out this year: 23 students were recipient of the Prize Fellowship (tuition + stipend) and 12 students received the Dean’s Fellowship (tuition only). The new plan was funded by $1,000,000 given to NSSR by the University. According to my notes taken from various Dean’s Advisory Councils that I attended as a sociology student representative, by 2022, Ph.D. students will be reduced from 510 to 350. As of spring 2014, only 7% of Ph.D. students had full tuition

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CapitalismEssaysTheory & Practice

The Capitalism of Affects

In her groundbreaking book about emotional labor, The Managed Heart, Arlie Russell Hochshild suggests that emotions are not simply stored in us waiting to be expressed: they are also produced and managed. The notion and practice of affects management, both privately and socially, are not specific to capitalism. Hellenistic philosophers made up a new word to convey this very idea: metriopatheia, from pathos, affect, and metrios, a word that conveys both the notion of measure and that of moderation. As Foucault correctly noted, the management or negotiation of pathē in Greek and Roman philosophers, and in particular in the Stoics, is constitutive part of a process of subject formation, utilizing what Foucault calls techniques of the self, through which a specific and historically determined subject constitutes himself as capable of self-determination and self-mastery through a process that was social and individual at the same time. …

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