CapitalismEssaysThe Left

Seven Steps toward Enlightenment: The Case of the French Killings

When a crystal breaks, it breaks along lines of pre-existing weakness. Thus traumatic assaults, like the one in Paris, can serve as X-rays into the body politic that endures them. Certainly, the US invasion of Iraq, a response to 9/11, serves as a paradigm case of how a terroristic attack can provoke the blind aggressivity otherwise obscured and disguised in the self-professed guarantor of world peace. By examining the range of responses to the massacre at Hebdo, we can learn something more about ourselves, and perhaps correct our mistaken stance. In my view there are seven levels of response to these attacks, each a mixture of ideology and truth, progressing closer and closer to something comprehensive and just, albeit also elegiac and incomplete. …

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CapitalismEssaysSex & Gender

Towards a Maternal Capitalism?

It has become commonplace to speak about the “fatherless society.” This is not because fathers no longer exist (there are indeed still a lot of people around who claim to be so), but because they exhibit behaviours that were usually associated with the other side of the parental coin: in today’s advanced capitalist societies, fathers change diapers, feed their newborns, and they even have to invent ever new forms of entertainment to catch up with the exuberance of the infantile imagination. In sum, fathers try to provide the physical and emotional care that was once typically associated with women and nannies. Is it possible to look at this transformation in the context of a broader change within capitalism itself? …

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Arts & DesignCapitalismEssays

How I Got Over

Like most people in the arts, for many years I supported my artistic activities, along with the rest of my life, by holding down a day job. Corporate communications and advertising primarily in financial services were not such a bad gig, actually, and, in fact, were what I trained to do by having a dual major in graphic design and painting. For the last 13 years of that time, I also mounted a performance piece, Getting Over at the Office (1987-2000), whereby I recoded aspects of my daily work life as art through a series of artifacts and documents. Much of the documentation consists of news releases, sent out intermittently to a mailing list that grew with time. The performance was a gesture through which I sought to reclaim the time that had been appropriated from me by the capitalist system. …

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CapitalismEssays

Israelis in Berlin and The Elephant in the Room

Notes on migration, pudding, an island economy, and frustrating metaphors (with cream on top)

“Fight from Tel Aviv, not from Berlin,” demanded former Minister of Immigrant Absorption Uzi Baram in Haaretz, while the New York Times  featured the infantile (or “still adolescent”) Israeli society as the center of frustration for many Israelis now clamoring to Berlin because of the impossible price of living. The coverage of Baram’s outcry in the German national and German Jewish press resisted the Holocaust metaphors only barely. …

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EssaysLiberal Democracy in QuestionRaceRace/isms

Reflections on Ferguson

I have spent much of my academic career researching and writing about the Civil Rights Movement. Today, I am heartbroken, and I believe my greatest heroes would be too — Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Du Bois, William Monroe Trotter, Ida B. Wells, A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, Martin Luther King Jr., are all collectively turning in their graves. My heart breaks for America because it feels like the struggle, and sacrifice of countless civil rights activists have in part been futile. …

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CapitalismEssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

Democracy’s Crisis

We are currently experiencing a major crisis of democracy. What is at stake here is the specifically political dimension of a broader, multifaceted crisis, which also has other important dimensions — for example, economic, financial, ecological, and social. Taken together, all of these aspects, including the political dimension of democratic crisis, add up to a “general crisis.” It is at bottom a crisis of capitalism — or rather, of our current, historically specific form of capitalism: financialized, globalizing, neoliberal capitalism. …

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Arts & DesignCapitalismEssays

Emerging Artists and the New Spirit of Capitalism

Pointing to the avarice of the art world, to its entanglement with big money, is an old game. Concerns about the “corrupting influence” of the market are likely as old as the market itself, and are still voiced with some frequency. Two years ago critic and art world bad boy Dave Hickey apparently gave up the whole thing in disgust, dismissing the entire art world as “stupid and nasty.” More recently David Bryne caused a surprising ripple of ire by describing how the big money of the Chelsea art scene was making it difficult for him to give the work itself a fair viewing. However, the issue of contemporary art’s relationship to capitalism is more complicated and thorny than being merely a matter of the staggering prices demanded at elite galleries. …

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EssaysPsycheSex & Gender

Human Trafficking

A psychoanalytic and socio-historical view

I am going to think and write about human trafficking through a perspective both psychoanalytic and socio-historical. In fact, part of my quest and my thinking about this matter is to find the right disciplinary mix to speak from and to. This essay is situated in a problem. It may be an intractable problem. At the very least it is a very difficult one. How is it that there is not the social or political will to fight a social problem of great magnitude, great trauma, and great criminality: slavery in the 21st century? There was an abolitionist movement in the 19th century. Why not now? …

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CapitalismEssaysThe Left

Climate Change and the New Synthesis

Is green the new red?

I completed my undergraduate studies at a small liberal arts college literally in the middle of a field somewhere between the bustling urban center of Cleveland and the depressed industrial ruins of my hometown, Youngstown. My alma mater was surrounded by acres of farmland, bodies of water, Amish communities, and the occasional rural-suburban housing development. Nothing much caught my eye during my commute except for the treacherous dips and twists along the sparsely populated main road I followed, which constantly threatened to re-route my aging Honda Civic into a tractor-dug ditch or a clutch of untouched trees.

Until one day, just crossing out of the corona of campus into the deep space of rural Ohio, I noticed a sign in a yard. “Green is the New Red,” it proclaimed, illustrated by a picture of a pleasantly green pine tree juxtaposed with an ominously red hammer and sickle. …

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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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