Month: February 2020

A Referendum on Capitalism

By James Livingston I know a financial planner who meets with his clients every quarter, to review and revise their portfolios. He recently met with one, a retired executive, who said (I paraphrase), “Donald Trump is a pig who turns everything he touches to shit.  But he’s made me a bundle this quarter.  OK, you have, by keeping me in equities.  I gotta vote for him.  Especially since if Bernie’s elected, the stock market loses 20% overnight.  You said that.” These remarks capture the mood of the majority just now.  Nobody I know–except my friend the financial planner and his ex-wife–is deeply or directly invested in the stock market, but 59% of Americans say they’re better off than last year, and fully 76% expect better things to come.  And this, according to Gallup and the Pew Research Center, even as concerns about jobs and the economy keep rising, making them the principal issues for Republicans and Democrats alike–and as, meanwhile, Bernie Sanders, who proposes to finance M4A with a tax on stock trades, remains the leader among Democratic presidential candidates. What’s going on here?  Only 10% of stockholders own 84% of shares traded on the NYSE.  The rest of us occupy Wall Street at the distance of our pension funds, if we’re lucky enough to have one (most of us do not–see below).  Why does anyone treat the stock market...

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Keeping Ourselves Honest, Treating Friends Well: An Open Letter to “The Hill”’s Krystal and Sagaar

Dear Krystal and Saagar, I’m a dedicated follower of your show “The Rising,” (a ground-breaking daily news and opinion series produced by the political newspaper The Hill). I respect the focus on class issues, the sharply skeptical treatment of the media and the political establishment, the often brilliant defense of your favorite Democratic candidate, Bernie Sanders. And I’m drawn to the passionate, deeply exasperated, and optimistic tone you adopt in your commentary. My thanks to Jacobin’s Connor Kilpatrick for pointing me to your program back in December. I was really disappointed, though, by your Valentine’s Day coverage of the...

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What Was Decolonization? A Review of Adom Getachew’s “Worldmaking After Empire”

What Was Decolonization? A Review of Adom Getachew’s “Worldmaking After Empire” Scott Malcomson The title of Adom Getachew’s fascinating and bracing Worldmaking after Empire: The Rise and Fall of Self-Determination is a bit misleading. Her period of interest, 1918-1980, was pretty imperial: Portugal’s colonial war ended in 1975, Rhodesia’s 15-year internal war ceased with the establishment of Zimbabwe in 1980, and Britain left Hong Kong only in 1997. She isn’t really tracking the more familiar worldmakings of that era either, the Paris Peace Conferences and the Bretton Woodses. Rather, Getachew is interested specifically in “anticolonial worldmaking,” upending the familiar...

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Staying Beside; Moving Sideways: Hans Demeyer on the art of the strike

Staying Beside; Moving Sideways Hans Demeyer   (This is a slightly different version of a talk I gave at the teach-in ‘The Art of the Strike’ (3 December 2019) at University College London during the industrial action at UK universities in Fall 2019.)   Here’s a phrase I’ve heard and adapted somewhat slightly: ‘Given the falling numbers of students in the humanities/modern languages, one could say that the battle of the strike will not be won there.’ This defeatist statement is a symptom of the condition that Mark Fisher (2009) identified as ‘capitalist realism’: an affective acquiescence with capitalist...

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