EssaysMedia/Publics

Amusing Ourselves to Life

I am in mourning and in withdrawal. I am losing my two nightly sanity fixes, Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart. I’m left with my morning fixes: running, swimming and cycling. Sleeping will become more of a problem. I published this piece a number of years ago in Deliberately Considered. I might want to expand on it, exploring the importance of televised political satire and the American social condition. 

Neil Postman was a famous media critic. He thought that the problem with television was not its content but its formal qualities as a medium. It presented a clear and present danger. …

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CapitalismEssays

An Interview with Lance Taylor on Inequality

In a new paper for the Institute For New Economic Thinking’s Working Group on the Political Economy of Distribution, economist Lance Taylor and his colleagues examine income inequality using new tools and models that give us a more nuanced — and frightening — picture than we’ve had before. Their simulation models show how so-called “reasonable” modifications like modest tax increases on the wealthy and boosting low wages are not going to be enough to stem the disproportionate tide of income rushing toward the rich. Taylor’s research challenges the approaches of American policy makers, the assumptions of traditional economists, and some of the conclusions drawn by Thomas Piketty and Larry Summers. Bottom line: We’re not yet talking about the kinds of major changes needed to keep us from becoming a Downton Abbey society.

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EssaysMedia/PublicsSex & Gender

Memories of Identities, Identities of Memory

How do memorials shape who we think we are? And how do we “do” identities when we interact with memorials? As Salon.com and others noted, gay men have been using the signature concrete slabs of the Berlin Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe as backdrops to their profile pictures on grindr, a geo-social app that lets those have have logged on find each other that is popular with gay men. In Salon’s account, the combination of the memorial and the anticipation of erotic pleasure is “odd” and “peculiar.” The Memorial appears as a “prop” for self-presentation. The trend is portrayed as equivalent to the EasyJet airline’s 2009 fashion shoot for an in-flight magazine at the memorial. …

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CapitalismEssaysSex & GenderTheory & Practice

OOPS versus MOOCs

I first thought of writing this post over a year ago as a follow up to my piece “Against the Educational Uncertainty Principle.” I was struck by the way that recent interventions to address the various dimensions of higher educational crisis have made matters worse. MOOCs, Massive Open Online Courses, are a particular case in point. As I wrote then:

“I worry about magical solutions: MOOCs, substituting television for face to face inquiry, even though using the web to strengthen educational practices makes sense to me. …

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EssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

African Style Democracy?

Alarmingly a question being increasingly asked is whether democracy has failed in Africa, or similarly, whether democracy is unworkable or perhaps not suitable for Africa: this, given the fact that many African countries, which are supposedly democratic, are characterised by dreadful human rights abuses, ethnic conflicts, life presidents and economic chaos.

Many African leaders wrongly argue that democracy is “unAfrican,” “Western” or somehow anti-African “culture.” China’s economic rise without democracy appears to have emboldened those who argue that Africa should push for development first, and think about building democracy later. …

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