The percentage of workers engaged in alternative work arrangements – defined as temporary help agency workers, on-call workers, contract workers, and independent contractors or freelancers – rose from 10.1 percent [of all employed workers] in February 2005 to 15.8 percent in late 2015.
That is a huge jump, especially since the percentage of workers with alternative work arrangements barely budged over the period February 1995 to February 2005; it was only 9.3 in 1995.
But their most startling finding is the following:
A striking implication of these estimates is that all of the net employment growth in the U.S. economy from 2005 to 2015 appears to have occurred in alternative work arrangements. Total employment according to the CPS increased by 9.1 million (6.5 percent) over the decade, from 140.4 million in February 2005 to 149.4 in November 2015. The increase in the share of workers in alternative work arrangements from 10.1 percent in 2005 to 15.8 percent in 2015 implies that the number of workers employed in alternative arrangement increased by 9.4 million (66.5 percent), from 14.2 million in February 2005 to 23.6 million in November 2015. Thus, these figures imply that employment in traditional jobs (standard employment arrangements) slightly declined by 0.4 million (0.3 percent) from 126.2 million in February 2005 to 125.8 million in November 2015.
Take a moment to let that sink in—and think about what that tells us about the operation of the US economy and the future for working people. Employment in so-called traditional jobs is actually shrinking. The only types of jobs that have been growing in net terms are ones in which workers have little or no security and minimal social benefits....
There is a clear age gradient that has grown stronger, with older workers more likely to have nonstandard employment than younger workers. In 2015, 6.4 percent of those aged 16 to 24 were employed in an alternative work arrangement, while 14.3 percent of those aged 25-54 and 23.9 percent of those aged 55-74 had nonstandard work arrangements.
The percentage of women with nonstandard work arrangements grew dramatically from 2005 to 2015, from 8.3 percent to 17 percent. Women are now more likely to be employed under these conditions than men.
Workers in all educational levels experienced a jump in nonstandard work, with the increase greatest for those with a bachelor’s degree or higher. “Occupational groups experiencing particularly large increases in the nonstandard work from 2005 to 2015 include computer and mathematical, community and social services, education, health care, legal, protective services, personal care, and transportation jobs.”
The authors also tested to determine “whether alternative work is growing in higher or lower wage sectors of the labor market.” They found that “workers with attributes and jobs that are associated with higher wages are more likely to have their services contracted out than are those with attributes and jobs that are associated with lower wages. Indeed, the lowest predicted quintile-wage group did not experience a rise in contract work.”
The take-away is pretty clear. Corporate profits and income inequality have grown in large part because US firms have successfully taken advantage of the weak state of unions and labor organizing more generally, to transform work relations. Increasingly workers, regardless of their educational level, find themselves forced to take jobs with few if any benefits and no long-term or ongoing relationship with their employer. Only a rejuvenated labor movement, one able to build strong democratic unions and press for radically new economic policies will be able to reverse existing trends.
There is no sign that 2017 will be much different from 2016.
Under Israeli occupation for decades, Gaza will still be the biggest open prison on Earth..
In the United States, the killing of black people at the hands of the police will proceed unabated and hundreds of thousands more will join those already housed in the prison-industrial complex that came on the heels of plantation slavery and Jim Crow laws.
Europe will continue its slow descent into liberal authoritarianism or what cultural theorist Stuart Hall called authoritarian populism. Despite complex agreements reached at international forums, the ecological destruction of the Earth will continue and the war on terror will increasingly morph into a war of extermination between various forms of nihilism.
Inequalities will keep growing worldwide. But far from fuelling a renewed cycle of class struggles, social conflicts will increasingly take the form of racism, ultra nationalism, sexism, ethnic and religious rivalries, xenophobia, homophobia and other deadly passions.
The denigration of virtues such as care, compassion and kindness will go hand in hand with the belief, especially among the poor, that winning is all that matters and who wins — by whatever means necessary — is ultimately right.
With the triumph of this neo-Darwinian approach to history-making, apartheid under various guises will be restored as the new old norm. Its restoration will pave the way to new separatist impulses, the erection of more walls, the militarisation of more borders, deadly forms of policing, more asymmetrical wars, splitting alliances and countless internal divisions including in established democracies.
None of the above is accidental. If anything, it is a symptom of structural shifts, which will become ever more apparent as the new century unfolds. The world as we knew it since the end of World War II, the long years of decolonisation, the Cold War and the defeat of communism has ended.
Another long and deadlier game has started. The main clash of the first half of the 21st century will not oppose religions or civilisations. It will oppose liberal democracy and neoliberal capitalism, the rule of finance and the rule of the people, humanism and nihilism.
If there's anything wrong with this diagnosis is that it understates the role of capitalist logic in everything that came before too. And from the conclusion:
Neoliberal capitalism has left in its wake a multitude of destroyed subjects, many of whom are deeply convinced that their immediate future will be one of continuous exposure to violence and existential threat.
They genuinely long for a return to some sense of certainty, the sacred, hierarchy, religion and tradition. They believe that nations have become akin to swamps that need to be drained and the world as it is should be brought to an end. For this to happen, everything should be cleansed off. They are convinced that they can only be saved in a violent struggle to restore their masculinity, the loss of which they attribute to the weaker among them, the weak they do not want to become.
In this context, the most successful political entrepreneurs will be those who convincingly speak to the losers, to the destroyed men and women of globalisation and to their ruined identities.
In the street fight politics will become, reason will not matter. Nor will facts. Politics will revert into brutal survivalism in an ultracompetitive environment.
Fewer American adults, especially those under 30, attend church — or even belong to a church. They tell interviewers their religion is “none.” They ignore faith.
Since 1990, the “nones” have exploded rapidly as a sociological phenomenon — from 10 percent of U.S. adults, to 15 percent, to 20 percent. Now they’ve climbed to 25 percent, according to a 2016 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute.
That makes them the nation’s largest faith category, outstripping Catholics (21 percent) and white evangelicals (16 percent). They seem on a trajectory to become an outright majority. America is following the secular path of Europe, Canada, Australia, Japan, New Zealand and other modern places. The Secular Age is snowballing.
Good work capitalism! Of course, the "nones" make up an even bigger part of certain elite institutions, such as universities. I would guess the percentage of "nones" on the law faculty here, for example, is on the order of 75%.
(My real hope, I confess, is that he picks the retired Marine General James Mattis for Defense Secretary--this matters, because a career military officer like Mattis understands what nuclear weapons are, unlike Dopey Donald Chump.)
NYT obituaries are often more informative about the ideology of imperialism and the American ruling class than they are about their subjects, and the obituary of Castro does not disappoint in that regard; the very first paragraph (the revealing parts in bold):
Fidel Castro, the fiery apostle of revolution who brought the Cold War to the Western Hemisphere in 1959 and then defied the United States for nearly half a century as Cuba’s maximum leader, bedeviling 11 American presidents and briefly pushing the world to the brink of nuclear war, died Friday.
Last I looked, Cuba was a sovereign nation not under U.S. control, so what can it possibly mean for the leader of that nation to "defy" the U.S., unless of course one assumes that a sovereign nation close to the U.S. must do the bidding of the U.S. as it had done under the fascist Batista. Even more remarkably, it is Castro whose agency is credited with bringing "the world to the brink of nuclear war," not the "best and the brightest" of the imperial power whose self-serving provocations actually created the crisis.
If Castro had been a student of Marx, he would, shortly after overthrowing the fascist Batista, have created a social democracy, with robust private markets to fuel the development of productive forces in his underdeveloped nation and combined that with a generous welfare state to promote and protect human well-being. He tried to do the latter, but could only sustain it with support from the Soviet Union (since the U.S. economic blockade deprived Cuba of it primary trading partner), which ended when the latter did. As Marx had observed, communism "presuppose[s] a great increase in productive power, a high degree of development," which only capitalism can produce; this is, he said, "an absolutely necessary practical premise because without it want is merely made general, and with destitution the struggle for necessities and all the old filthy business would necessarily be reproduced," as, indeed, it was tragically in "communist" Cuba.
UPDATE: Roger Albin (Michigan) writes:
The NYT obit doesn’t mention what was likely Castro’s greatest achievement- the important role played by the Cubans in the demise of apartheid. Cuban military action, which included battles with the South African Defense Force, prevented the apartheid regime from maintaining a cordon sanitaire around South Africa. This was a major factor in the De Klerk regime’s decision to seek some kind of accommodation. Since our lazy media are committed to the facile view of the end of apartheid as an example of non-violent change, this will not be mentioned in any descriptions of Castro’s life. Mandela knew better. Shortly after his release from prison, he visited Havana to express gratitude to Castro.
This is a good piece of reporting, that makes clear that it was economics, and not racism, that drove a lot of the voting behavior of working-class whites (some of them, among other things, voted for Obama previously). It makes a useful contrast with this dismissive comment by Justin Weinberg (South Carolina).
I am confident that in many countries right now, high government officials are compiling psychological profiles of the President-elect of the most dangerous nation on earth. It will be to their advantage to understand him and how to manipulate him, since he is probably more obviously manipulable than any President in memory.
I've been commenting on his psychology and its disturbance for some time, but I think it can be summed up in terms of two personality traits that we've seen again and again during the campaign, and that mark the man going back to the 1980s, when he was merely the "short-fingered vulgarian" laughing-stock of New York City.
First, he is a textbook case of what DSM calls Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Earlier on, I had described him as a sociopath, but after talking with some clinicians and reading more, it seems to me this is a mistake. Like a sociopath, he is lacking in empathy, but that is true of extreme narcissists too: they are too busy with themselves to notice or care about how others feel. The crucial fact is that sociopaths tend to "fly below the radar," they do not want to attract attention, so that they can proceed with their malign behaviors without detection. Trump always wants to be the center of attention and adulation. Extreme narcissists require adulation because they have no actual confidence in their worth or value: they are entirely dependent on others confirming their grandiose self-image. But the flipside is that when they do not get the external confirmation they seek, they react with irrational rage, that knows very few limits. This is what makes Trump very dangerous: irrational rage on twitter is one thing, irrational rage with U.S. military might at your disposal is another.
The dramatis personae of the liberal class are all present in this amazing body of work: financial innovators. High-achieving colleagues attempting to get jobs for their high-achieving children. Foundation executives doing fine and noble things. Prizes, of course, and high academic achievement.
Certain industries loom large and virtuous here. Hillary’s ingratiating speeches to Wall Street are well known of course, but what is remarkable is that, in the party of Jackson and Bryan and Roosevelt, smiling financiers now seem to stand on every corner, constantly proffering advice about this and that. In one now-famous email chain, for example, the reader can watch current US trade representative Michael Froman, writing from a Citibank email address in 2008, appear to name President Obama’s cabinet even before the great hope-and-change election was decided (incidentally, an important clue to understanding why that greatest of zombie banks was never put out of its misery).
The far-sighted innovators of Silicon Valley are also here in force, interacting all the time with the leaders of the party of the people. We watch as Podesta appears to email Sheryl Sandberg. He makes plans to visit Mark Zuckerberg (who, according to one missive, wants to “learn more about next steps for his philanthropy and social action”). Podesta exchanges emails with an entrepreneur about an ugly race now unfolding for Silicon Valley’s seat in Congress; this man, in turn, appears to forward to Podesta the remarks of yet another Silicon Valley grandee, who complains that one of the Democratic combatants in that fight was criticizing billionaires who give to Democrats. Specifically, the miscreant Dem in question was said to be:
“… spinning (and attacking) donors who have supported Democrats. John Arnold and Marc Leder have both given to Cory Booker, Joe Kennedy, and others. He is also attacking every billionaire that donates to [Congressional candidate] Ro [Khanna], many whom support other Democrats as well.”
Attacking billionaires! In the year 2015! It was, one of the correspondents appears to write, “madness and political malpractice of the party to allow this to continue”.
This interview gives a useful précis of Prof. Haslanger's distinctive sense of "ideology" that figures in her work about the social construction of race and gender (it also includes some interesting autobiographical details). (I should say I found the interviewer a bit annoying at times: he interjected too much I thought.) From a Marxian point of view, it's an unusual conception (as I've noted before), in three respects in particular: first, it doesn't necessarily involve beliefs which can be false, but seems to be centrally concerned with what Haslanger calls "practical consciousness" and "know-how"; second, its genesis does not matter (though it shares, loosely, with the Marxian sense the idea that an ideology has the functional property of supporting certain kinds of [oppressive] social relations); and third, there is no special explanatory role for economic relations in understanding ideology. The first attribute is particularly connected, I take it, to Haslanger's emphasis on concrete, practical interventions to change our "ways of interacting" and to do so "together" in particular communities (she even mentions academic disciplines as one locus for this activism). I was surprised to learn from another interview that Prof. Haslanger was brought up as a Christian Scientist, though left that sect in high school. That sect's emphasis on healing echoes, however, in some of her remarks later on the interview.
This is worth emphasizing: the Trump nightmare won't end with the election. Even if (as I still expect) Clinton wins, we know (he's told us) that Trump won't be a graceful loser, since he's psychologically incapable of that. The threat to the constitutional and democratic order will continue, as Trump hurls reckless accusatiosn of voter fraud and a stolen election, accusations that will be repeated by the increasingly openly fascist mass media--Fox on TV, Breitbart on-line--that threaten civilization. Like any broken clock, or psychopath, Trump is occasionally right, and one thing he may be right about is that our speech laws permit too much falsehoods (he is wrong about what is false, obviously, which is also telling). Until we can shut down Fox and Breitbart and Drudge, we are all in danger, not only in America, but in the world, since this benighted country continues to be the greatest threat to human well-being on the planet. I have no faith, alas, that this country is capable of closing down only the sociopathic morons, so the libertarian legal regime that sanctions 24-hour lies and stupidity may mark the future for this dying empire.
Following up on last week's post: of course, the first standpoint epistemologist in the contemporary, "inverted" and unMarxian sense was Lukacs who, in the 1920s, proposed that, in fact, the proletariat, in virtue of their class position, had special epistemic access to the pathologies of capitalism. The pedigree of that idea--an unabashed Left Young Hegelian who later became an unabashed Stalinist--would perhaps give one pause, but since most analytic philosophers, in their blissful historical ignorance, don't know anything about the pedigree, the unhappy history of 20th-century standpoint epistemology does not arise as a concern.
(Last week, I was in Vienna for a conference on relativism in German-speaking philosophy in what Martin Kusch (Vienna) calls, aptly enough, "the long 19th-century," roughly from Herder through the 1930s. Among the things I learned, thanks to an excellent paper by Johannes Steizinger (also at Vienna), is that the Nazis, and their philosophers (there were a lot of them!), were also (in a way) standpoint epistemologists, though for them the relevant standpoint was defined by the racial group, with each racial group having its own epistemic criteria. Since the Nazis also believed in an objective hierarchy of races, this required some philosophical gymnastics to square that with their epistemic relativism!)
We need to update the seven deadly sins. Take out gluttony — what’s wrong with the odd bit of gorging? — and replace it with ethical eating. Noble foodies, who refuse to pollute their bodies with what they view as ‘evil’ grub, are far greater irritants than compulsive cake-eaters.
Ethical eaters are everywhere. There’s the veggie army, those bunny-pitying meat-dodgers, which seems to grow every year. Vegans are on the march, too. In 2006, 150,000 Brits were engaged in the daily self–flagellation that is a plant-based diet; today, 542,000 are.
Trend analysts believe that social media — filtered photos on Instagram of a bowl of lentils looking deceptively delicious or Gwyneth Paltrow positively glowing after downing a test-tube of pureed spinach — plays a major role in coaxing naturally carnivorous humans to switch to leaves and nuts. I love how ethical eaters fancy themselves as brave resisters of the consumer culture that tells us all to scoff dead animals and yet they can be tempted into a lifetime of salad-only self-denial by the flutter of a celeb’s eyelashes.
Then there’s locavores, who only eat foodstuffs harvested in a 100-mile radius of where they live. Didn’t we used to call this protectionism? If ethical eaters think it’s good to prop up local industries by shunning the juicy, sun-dappled fare of dirt-poor African or Latin American farmers, then they and I have different takes on the word ‘ethical’....
There are now restaurants that promise ‘guilt-free dining’. Like The Grain Store in London, which offers diners an organic, carbon-neutral eating experience. So the grub doesn’t only nourish your body — it massages your ego; it flatters your moral pretensions. This is what I find so grating about ethical eating: it’s so self-regarding. It isn’t about changing the world. Hordes of caring teens opting for -beanburgers at Leon rather than Big Macs at McDonald’s are not going to overthrow The System, or even make much of a dent in the number of cows killed for meat. No, it’s about keeping oneself morally clean, unpolluted by the junk that other people eat.
It’s part of what the French philosopher Pierre Bourdieu called ‘distinction’, where one bigs up one’s moral status by contrasting it with the antics of the less switched-on. In this sense, vegans and freegans and locavores need McDonald’s to keep frying meat, and nasty corporations to continue flying fruit from Kenya to Tesco, because without all that wicked behavior they’d have nothing to distinguish themselves from.
It was Marx and Marxists who were the inventers of "standpoint epistemology," the idea that one's "social" position--for Marxists, "class," for later writers, race, gender, and so on--exercises an important, sometimes decisive, influence on a person's beliefs. For Marxists, the key thought was that the "standpoint" resulted in distortion of one's knowledge, because it was tainted by the interests associated with one's social position. In the Marxist version of standpoint epistemology, the working classes did not have any special epistemic access to the actual facts about their situation--to the contrary, their understanding of the actual state of affairs was distorted by the ideology propagated by a different, dominant class, which systematically distorted social reality in its own interests. Marxists, like Marx, assumed (correctly) that there is an epistemically superior description of social reality that is not tainted by standpoint, and which can serve as a check on the ideological delusions promoted by dominant groups.
By contrast, in recent bourgeois academic philosophy--that is, philosophizing by well-to-do professors who never challenge the prerogatives of the capitalist class, which is basically almost all of current philosophy in the Anglophone world--standpoint epistemology has, ironically, been turned on its head. Now the social position of the purported "knower"--usually "race" or "gender" or "sexual orientation"--is not taken to be a distorting influence on cognition, but rather an epistemic advantage, one which even demands epistemic deference by others. We have travelled rather far from Marx.
(I thank Clifford Sosis for a stimulating e-mail exchange on this topic, though the ideas are strictly my own!)
What matters in the narcissistic world of late capitalism is not what you think or do but how you feel. And since how you feel can’t be argued against, it is conveniently insulated from all debate. Men and women can now stroll around in continuous self-monitoring mode, using apps to track their changes of mood. The brutal, domineering ego of an older style of capitalism has given way to the tender self-obsession of the new....
What Davies recognises is that capitalism has now in a sense incorporated its own critique. What the system used to regard with suspicion – feeling, friendship, creativity, moral responsibility – have all now been co-opted for the purpose of maximising profits. One commentator has even argued the case for giving products away free, so as to form a closer bond with the customer. Some employers have taken to representing pay increases they give to their staff as a gift, in the hope of extracting gratitude and thus greater effort from them. It seems that there is nothing that can’t be instrumentalised....
Happiness for the market researchers and corporate psychologists is a matter of feeling good. But it seems that millions of individuals don’t feel good at all, and are unlikely to be persuaded to buck up by technologies of mind control that induce them to work harder or consume more. You can’t really be happy if you are a victim of injustice or exploitation, which is what the technologists of joy tend to overlook. This is why, when Aristotle speaks of a science of well-being, he gives it the name of politics. The point is of little interest to the neuroscientists, advertising gurus or mindfulness mongers, which is why so much of their work is spectacularly beside the point.
Reader Nick Gardner kindly calls to my attention this essay from The Atlantic. I've noted a number of perfectly sensible pieces like this over the last couple of years, but let's step back a bit and ask what it all means:
1. The cost of higher education in America is now quite extravagant, far more than most families in America can afford. Tuition, room & board, miscellaneous expenses at a private liberal arts college can easily run $60,000 per year.
2. The cost of higher education in America is not extravagant because of a vast conspiracy of malevolent actors: it is extravagant because, for reasons the economist William Baumol diagnosed long ago, the cost of hiring highly educated individuals to work closely with young people in developing their knowledge of literature, science, and arts is expensive, and gets more expensive over time, because what they do can not be automated, yet these teachers still have to pay their bills.
3. One alternative, of course, is to turn the teaching over to people who will do it for less. The unknown in the capitalist economics of higher education is what difference this makes. We honestly do not know the answer to that question. Equally honestly, the experiment involved in finding out the answer--it is not natural, since it is dictated by the demands of capitalist efficiency--involves sacrificing people in a way that, I assume (perhaps naively), most ethics boards would not approve.
The intellectual historian Peter Gordon (Harvard) offers an informative review of the new biography of Habermas. Among other things, I was struck by the irony that Habermas--always an admirable critic of post-Nazi complacency in Germany, as Gordon emphasizes--secured his habilitation and first academic post thanks to the influence of the disgusting Nazi and lifelong anti-semite Gadamer! (I wonder if Habermas knew? For a long time, Gadamer was quite good at keeping it under wraps.) Gordon, in my view, significantly overstates Habermas's philosophical importance (in contrast to his invaluable role as a public intellectual holding post-War Germany to moral account). When Marxism returns, as it no doubt will, in something more like Marx's form, Habermas will be remembered mainly as taking the philosophically feeble (and irrelevant) attack on instrumental reason that began with Horkheimer and expanding it to the point that so-called "Critical Theory" collapsed into precisely the kind of bourgeois moral theorizing Marx loathed. (For anyone interested, I discuss this in a bit more detail here.)
Moyers's folksy left populism is always engagingly told, though it never quite manages to identify the core dysfunctionality of capitalism at the root of the phenomena he observes. Amusingly, Schopenhauer makes an appearance at the end to explain how true selflessness is possible--though as a friend said to me, if the basis of true compassion requires Schopenhauer's metaphysics, then we're really in trouble! But if I may invoke another German philosopher of the 19th-century, lack of compassion and altruism isn't the problem; the problem is the economic system that demands the behavior that Moyers laments.
Globalization’s advocates – and they are very many, including all the varied categories of worthies on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond who preside over almost all respectable academic institutions and elite gatherings – habitually celebrate its transfer of income from higher-income to lower-income countries while disregarding the overwhelming evidence that much of that consists of the transfer of income from lower-income people in higher-income countries to higher-income people in lower-income countries. When I presented overwhelming statistical evidence to that effect (in The Endangered American Dream, 1993, andTurbo-capitalism, 1999), Robert Solow in the New York Review of Books and Paul Krugman in a purpose-written little book attacked me as a simple-minded xenophobe, a sort of proto-Trump, who had no clue about the wonders of comparative advantage in ensuring the best possible economic outcome for everyone.
Less polemical economists did in due course pay attention to the evidence of rising inequality in the more developed economies (yes, even in ever so virtuous Norway and such), but they then explained it as very largely the result of the information technology revolution, which continues to devalue all forms of routine work in both production and distribution, as opposed to the globalization-caused decline in advanced-country manufacturing that drives once well-paid production workers into low-paid services. Others disagreed of course – but actually nobody of political consequence paid any attention. That remained so even after Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-first Century became the Harvard University Press all-time bestseller in 2014 – and not because of that book’s shortcomings (now expertly re-examined in the current issue of Commentaire by André Babeau, Denis Kessler, Didier Maillard and Gilles Saint-Paul). It was just that national and international liberal elites are perpetually focused on “north–south” inequalities, never in internal advanced-country inequalities: hence the horrible electoral surprises of 2016, when in the US the victims of globalization found their candidates in Donald Trump on one side and Bernie Sanders on the other, while their British counterparts won their Brexit. That referendum has evoked shamelessly anti-democratic and madly over-the-top reactions from the princes of the international elite; Mario Monti, himself an unelected Italian Senator for life (on €147,000 per year) and unelected ex-Prime Minister (with a nice pension) as well as an ex-EU commissioner of note, loudly proclaimed the Brexit vote itself to be an abuse of democracy.
This is the context that makes The Panama Papers so very important. With this totally new evidence in hand, we now know that globalization has caused rising inequality in quite another way than the transfer of higher-paying manufacturing jobs and all other such phenomena – very unfortunate in my view but not shameful or criminal. It is just a matter of numbers: Mossack Fonseca’s 214,000 offshore companies alone (and there are many other such shell companies, formed by many other law firms) handled not millions or billions but trillions of dollars in their totality, thereby wholly subverting the presumptively equalizing effect of taxation. When the less affluent must pay their payroll taxes and income taxes in full, while the more affluent with offshore companies do not pay their own taxes, the total effect of the taxation system is regressive, even without adding the inherently regressive effects of sales and value-added taxes. Once we recognize the sheer magnitude of “offshored” income flows, and once we take into account the strongly regressive effects of supposedly progressive taxation systems, the phenomenon of rising inequality in affluent societies may not need much additional explaining – and it hardly matters if those were tax-avoidance or tax-evasion trillions.
This is a nicely done piece by a sociologist; here's her fine description of the view of the world of her subjects:
What the people I interviewed were drawn to was not necessarily the particulars of these theories. It was the deep story underlying them—an account of life as it feels to them. Some such account underlies all beliefs, right or left, I think. The deep story of the right goes like this:
You are patiently standing in the middle of a long line stretching toward the horizon, where the American Dream awaits. But as you wait, you see people cutting in line ahead of you. Many of these line-cutters are black—beneficiaries of affirmative action or welfare. Some are career-driven women pushing into jobs they never had before. Then you see immigrants, Mexicans, Somalis, the Syrian refugees yet to come. As you wait in this unmoving line, you're being asked to feel sorry for them all. You have a good heart. But who is deciding who you should feel compassion for? Then you see President Barack Hussein Obama waving the line-cutters forward. He's on their side. In fact, isn't he a line-cutter too? How did this fatherless black guy pay for Harvard? As you wait your turn, Obama is using the money in your pocket to help the line-cutters. He and his liberal backers have removed the shame from taking. The government has become an instrument for redistributing your money to the undeserving. It's not your government anymore; it's theirs.
I checked this distillation with those I interviewed to see if this version of the deep story rang true. Some altered it a bit ("the line-waiters form a new line") or emphasized a particular point (those in back are paying for the line-cutters). But all of them agreed it was their story. One man said, "I live your analogy." Another said, "You read my mind."
There can be little doubt that these people are suffering and struggling, but they are so mired in false views about cause and effect thanks to ideological indoctrination, that they have no conception of what a rational response to their situation would be.
About thirty years ago, I was a grad student TA at Michigan, which had a union for TAs. Our wages and benefits (esp. health) were way better than those held by the TAs at Yale at the time (they were not, needless to say, unionized).
That was then, of course. Market conditions changed, and wealthy private universities--and not-so-wealthy ones like NYU--had to respond to market pressures, pressures created often by the existence of unionized grad students elsewhere. NYU beat off a unionization challenge a decade or so ago by dramatically improving economic conditions for their PhD students, but NYU is especially vulnerable since the university's endowment does not allow it to compete in the "big leagues," so it is highly dependent on tuition and other short-term revenue and cheap labor, now mainly in the form of adjunct teaching.
Now the National Labor Relations Board has ruled, in a case brought by Columbia students, that grad students who work as TAs have the right to unionize, reversing a 2004 decision involving students at Brown. As usual, this brings forth the usual nonsense and tired canards about unions and the "special" character of graduate education. Thus the President of Yale:
As a Yale graduate student, professor, and administrator, I have experienced firsthand how the teacher-student relationship is central to the university’s academic enterprise. The mentorship and training that Yale professors provide to graduate students is essential to educating the next generation of leading scholars. I have long been concerned that this relationship would become less productive and rewarding under a formal collective bargaining regime, in which professors would be “supervisors” of their graduate student “employees.”
Today the National Labor Relations Board has ruled that graduate students at Columbia University, who assist with teaching and research as part of their education, are employees of that school. I disagree with this decision....
The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences enrolls the world’s most promising students in its doctoral programs. These students choose Yale for the opportunity to study with our outstanding faculty, and to take advantage of the university’s wide array of academic resources, generous financial aid, and comprehensive benefits. Yale will continue to provide exceptional support to our graduate students as they focus on their scholarship, successfully complete their degree programs, and find rewarding careers.
...while a self-driving car kills its driver (maybe intentionally?) Joking aside, as I was discussing with Markus Gabriel recently at the Bonn Summer School on the "Hermeneutics of Suspicion," there is something very odd about sci-fi fantasies about domination by robots occupying philosophers when there is actual domination by states and ruling economic elites throughout the developed world. Imagine if equivalent intellectual energy were expended on the actual issues? (Earlier discussion.)
ADDENDUM: Some readers appear to have drawn the wrong inferences from this brief comment of mine and the link to Prof. Wolff. Allen Wood's book on Marx is terrific; Allen was my first choice to write the volume on Marx for my Routledge Philosophers series, but he was then working on Kant, so declined. He famously defended in the 1970s the (correct) view that Marx did not criticize capitalism for its injustice. But all that being said, his remarks in the quoted interview are vulnerable to the criticism leveled by Prof. Wolff.
Continental Philosophy Farhang Erfani, a philosopher at American University, provides a useful set of links to news, events, interviews, reviews, videos, etc. related to "Continental philosophy" (broadly construed)