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Neoliberalism: A Definition

Neoliberalism (def. American): An ideology that works to create shiny new programs, or technological workarounds (more likely), that feel vaguely redistributive—enough to earn the ire of conservatives—but actually do nothing substantial to help poor or working class people.

In sum, neoliberalism gives you all of the political aesthetics of midcentury liberalism with almost none of the benefits.

Corollary: Objects of neoliberal affection live in a perpetual state of being *nearly* helped–of being told that they’re being helped, when nothing is actually done.

Charity vs. Justice

When conservatives say they want to dismantle the state, or drown the federal government in a bathtub, or get big government off their backs, liberals/progressives respond by listing all the important functions government fills with regard to the public good, especially in relation to the poor and various social services. The typical comeback by conservatives is that these functions (Medicare, Social Security, WIC, food banks, education, unemployment services, etc.) can be performed better, and for less money, by charities or non-profits, particularly those related to churches.

Read more…

Murray and Milo: The Same?

I really appreciate this piece by Kevin Gannon. I’m with him on the events at Middlebury College and Charles Murray.

In a world of cases, where we try to judge individual events on their merits, this one is just so ridiculous that it deserves all manner of condemnation. Introduced by the college president? Check. A major campus event? Check. An environment of resistance? Check. A prominent, known racist with a decades-long track record taken seriously by a large swath conservative pseudo-intellectuals ? Check. Read more…

Zinn, Bannon, and Bullshit

I just learned of Fareed Zakaria’s silly comparison of Steve Bannon and Howard Zinn’s views of history and politics. How ridiculous.

While Zinn is no saintly hero to be slavishly mimicked or followed (I believe he would agree with me on this), and while I admire the spirit behind the two refutations here, I think both letters miss some larger points.

First, Zinn wrote in the spirit of emancipation for all people. A deep sense of justice and equality animated his work. An open, inclusive society was clearly an end for him.

Second, while a certain strain of anarchism and conspiracy also appears in his most famous work, his excessive suspicion of existing power structures and government were subordinate, again, to his desire for justice, equality, and emancipation for all. Bannon and his ilk do not, in any way, share these universal desires.

Third, it is possible to write a dark story of U.S. history that is not dystopian. This goes again to my point about the deeper desires that drive one’s work. – TL

CPS Hunger Games: 2017

Things are bad here in Chicago. They are bad less because of trumped up news about crime and policing (problems which most certainly exist), but because of a terrible ideological environment. The bad ideas circulating in our discursive air have fed a terrible political situation. The consequences lie heaviest on the arena of public education. Recent CPS revenue problems, and subsequent budget cuts, have fostered a real life, on-the-ground Hunger Games situation among our schools. Read more…

An Open Letter to Abortion Abolitionists

Dear Abortion Abolitionists,

In democracies, representative democracies, and constitutional republics, laws almost always follow culture. Based on the numbers in this piece, you’ve not succeeded in convincing citizens about your cause. You’ve not changed the culture. To do that, I’d concentrate on being well-rounded pro-lifers, and support the welfare state infrastructure needed to promote a healthy society, from conception to death, and maybe you’ll get the hearing you desire.

If all of that comes together, maybe you’ll reach the holy grail of an enshrined anti-abortion law. I’m skeptical of the possibility of that end, but I’m confident it won’t come any sooner.


BLEG: Marxist Reading Groups

Can anyone direct me to some historiography on 19th-century Marxist reading groups? I’m interested in all English-speaking efforts, from say 1850-1900, to understand Marx and Marx and Engels. Even one solid, peer-reviewed article would help. I just need something to catalyze my thinking for an in-progress article. – TL