CapitalismEssaysTheory & Practice

The Creative Class Rises Again

When first published in 2002, The Rise of the Creative Class quickly established its author Richard Florida as an urban policy and business management guru. The Rise of the Creative Class heralded the emergence of a new class of worker who promised to lead the economy, and along with it the rest of society, to unprecedented levels of prosperity. The creative class, according to Florida, included scientists, engineers, artists, designers, media producers, and others whose primary function is “to create new ideas, new technology and/or creative content.” They are abetted in this endeavor by a whole host of high-level information workers—doctors, lawyers, accountants, educators, and the like—who draw upon complex bodies of knowledge to solve difficult problems that require high degrees of autonomy. To mark a decade of influence, the book was re-released in 2012 in a substantially updated version, The Rise of the Creative Class, Revisitednow out in paperback. …

READ MORE →
Arts & DesignEssays

Big Data, Little Music

Established musicians are speaking up about the state of the music world, and they are not happy. They report that there’s no money available to make music, and no money to be made from it. Some have blamed fans for killing the business, by insisting on getting music for free. Others decry the fact that now that everyone is making music, there’s an abundance of dreadful stuff around because the technology that’s used to make music sounds so cheap, and because real musicianship and original musical ideas no longer seem to matter. The complaint that the magic of human performance is lost as music is more often programmed than made by people actually playing together, has only picked up steam since it emerged in the 1980s. Readers and viewers have responded to statements such as these in various ways, but the majority seem to dismiss these viewpoints as out of touch with current reality, and say good riddance to the music world of the past. …

READ MORE →
EssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

Sleepwalking into the Future? II

Is there a European memory creating a sense of belonging and encouraging civic participation?

This is the prepared text of a contribution to a conference of the Europe for Citizens Forum in Brussels on January 28th, 2014.

The title of this discussion employs the metaphors that describe walking into the calamity of WWI, as framing both the ways Europeans remember the 20th century, and even more alarming, as reflecting a mode of uncritical observation which may lead to other calamities, wittingly or unwittingly, in the 21st.

Before we mark the “will to memory” by disasters past and present, informed by a version of a quote from Primo Levi, which one encounters upon entering the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin: “it happened, and therefore it can happen again. This is the core of what we have to say”; before this, I say, we ought to take a step back, to the division between remembrance as a form of thinking, and remembrance as warning (In German: gedenken, mahnen). …

READ MORE →
CapitalismEssaysThe Left

John Dewey’s Encounter with Leon Trotsky

The 1930s was one of the one eventful and productive decades in Dewey’s life. He published more than a half dozen books including Logic: The Theory of Inquiry. It was during this decade that he sharpened his understanding of radical democracy and a renascent liberalism. He interrupted his scholarly work to travel to Mexico as the Chair of the Trotsky Commission — or to give its full title, “The Commission of Inquiry into the Charges Made against Leon Trotsky in the Moscow Trials.” …

READ MORE →
EssaysPsyche

Don’t Worry… Be Happy!

The dark underside of positive psychology

Over the last decade the field of positive psychology has become a burgeoning area of research within academic psychology. Well known figures in positive psychology include Martin Seligman (developer of the well known learned helplessness model of depression and past president of the American Psychological Association), Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (creator of the construct of flow), and Daniel Gilbert (author of the widely acclaimed Stumbling on Happiness). The field of positive psychology focuses on developing a scientific understanding of positive human experiences and virtues. Important research areas include happiness, optimism, fulfillment, compassion, and gratitude. The field positions itself in contrast to traditional approaches to mental health, which focus on psychopathology and treating mental illness. The roots of positive psychology can be traced to the field of humanistic psychology, which peaked in popularity during the 1960s. Well known pioneers of humanistic psychology included Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, and Fritz Perls. …

READ MORE →
EssaysMedia/PublicsTheory & Practice

On Media Monstration and the Politics of Small Things

An ongoing discussion with Jeffrey Goldfarb

This post is the first of two making a series of points: Here I answer Jeff Goldfarb’s points in the post he devoted to our common classes. In the second, I will stress a couple of issues that have to do with my central concern: the role of media as “showing.”

On media power and resistance:

Goldfarb writes, “Dayan thinks the media set the agenda more thoroughly than I think actually happens. I see not only the possibility, but also the reality of resistance, even when it doesn’t prevail… The power of big media is great, but it is something else completely if it faces persistent resistance.”

In answer to these two points, let me answer that I am less interested in quantifying power than qualifying power.

In my view, the power of the media lies not only in the consequences of what they show, but in the very fact of showing it. …

READ MORE →
EssaysMedia/Publics

When the Pope “Drops the F-Bomb”

Meditations on media, society, and the philosophy of language

On March 3, 2014, a stream of troubling, breaking news about Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine was interrupted by another event, this time originating in the Vatican, which similarly reached prominence in journalistic organs. This event, however, was not a child abuse scandal, papal resignation, or other such event that typically brings the ancient Church into the headlines. It was, instead, no more than the fact that the Pope — the most visible scion of holiness in the West — swore.

Immediately, this must be qualified. As Bill Chappell of NPR clarifies, Pope Francis, whose native language is not Italian, made a pronunciation error in his address that led him to verbalize “caso” (“case,” “example”) as “cazzo,” a colloquial equivalent to the English “F-word.” And yet the gaffe was reported in such a manner that made it seem as if the Pope intentionally introduced vulgarity into his speech. …

READ MORE →
Arts & DesignEssays

The Book of Job as Community Theater

Readings after Superstorm Sandy and other disasters

The only American member of the original General Seminar after which this website is named was the philosopher Horace Kallen. Kallen is mainly remembered now for his theory of “cultural pluralism,” but among scholars of the Book of Job he is known for the quixotic idea that the biblical book was a work of Euripidean emulation. Kallen made a historical case and offered a speculative reconstruction in The Book of Job as a Greek Tragedy (1918). The historical claim is far-fetched, but Kallen’s sense that the Book of Job may work as drama is right on the mark. Robert Lowth, the founder of modern literary studies of the Bible, argued that Job’s genre was drama. Archibald MacLeish’s existentialist updating of Job’s story, “J. B.” (1958), confirms it. More recently, Carol Newsom’s brilliant Bakhtinian reading of the Book of Job concludes with an imagined production in which different traditions of theater, elocution and dress uneasily share a stage. …

READ MORE →
EssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

Solidarity with Ukraine against Putin’s Reality

We should not be surprised by differences about how to respond to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Understanding reasons for those differences is one critical step toward formulating an effective response. Recognizing both real policy options and the equal importance of political signals is the second. Moving too fast is dangerous in the short run, but not moving at all is the most dangerous in the long run. And that’s what Germany’s leadership promises.

We should not be surprised that the authorities of Germany, the Netherlands, France, Italy and Spain explicitly resist calls for trade sanctions. Leaderships in Austria and Hungary are likely with them. London seems more concerned with its financial prospects than European well-being. Putin has been pursuing a policy of diplomatic divide and conquer within the EU, sweetened with economic deals powered by the energy business. …

READ MORE →
EducationEssays

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. …

READ MORE →