UPDATE: Philosopher Alan White (Wisconsin) tells me that officially they only want submissions from those in the STEM fields. Prof. White submitted an entry anyway, but just in case, philosophers are welcome to post answers in the comments here, which are now open.
In September the US Bureau of the Census released its report on US household income by quintile. Every quintile, as well as the top 5%, has experienced a decline in real household income since their peaks. The bottom quintile (lower 20 percent) has had a 17.1% decline in real income from the 1999 peak (from $14,092 to $11,676). The 4th quintile has had a 10.8% fall in real income since 2000 (from $34,863 to $31,087). The middle quintile has had a 6.9% decline in real income since 2000 (from $58,058 to $54,041). The 2nd quintile has had a 2.8% fall in real income since 2007 (from $90,331 to $87,834). The top quintile has had a decline in real income since 2006 of 1.7% (from $197,466 to $194,053). The top 5% has experienced a 4.8% reduction in real income since 2006 (from $349,215 to $332,347). Only the top One Percent or less (mainly the 0.1%) has experienced growth in income and wealth....
Note that these declines have occurred during an alleged six-year economic recovery from 2009 to the current time, and during a period when the labor force was shrinking due to a sustained decline in the labor force participation rate. On April 3, 2015 the US Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that 93,175,000 Americans of working age are not in the work force, a historical record. Normally, an economic recovery is marked by a rise in the labor force participation rate. John Williams reports that when discouraged workers are included among the measure of the unemployed, the US unemployment rate is currently 23%, not the 5.2% reported figure....
The promised better jobs that the “New Economy” would create to replace the jobs gifted to foreigners have never appeared. Instead, the economy creates lowly-paid part-time jobs, such as waitresses, bartenders, retail clerks, and ambulatory health care services, while full-time jobs with benefits continue to shrink as a percentage of total jobs.
These part-time jobs do not provide enough income to form a household. Consequently, as a Federal Reserve study reports, “Nationally, nearly half of 25-year-olds lived with their parents in 2012-2013, up from just over 25% in 1999....”
Finance is the only sector of the US economy that is growing. The financial industry’s share of GDP has risen from less than 4% in 1960 to about 8% today. As Michael Hudson has shown, finance is not a productive activity. It is a looting activity (Killing The Host).
Moreover, extraordinary financial concentration and reckless risk and debt leverage have made the financial sector a grave threat to the economy....
The economy simply cannot go anywhere, except down as businesses continue to lower their costs by substituting part-time jobs for full-time jobs and by substituting foreign for domestic workers....
The collapse of the Soviet Union was the worst thing that ever happened to the United States. The two main consequences of the Soviet collapse have been devastating. One consequence was the rise of the neoconservative hubris of US world hegemony, which has resulted in 14 years of wars that have cost $6 trillion. The other consequence was a change of mind in socialist India and communist China, large countries that responded to “the end of history” by opening their vast under-utilized labor forces to Western capital, which resulted in the American economic decline that this article describes, leaving a struggling economy to bear the enormous war debt.
Here. The idea that anything Greer said is "hate speech" is preposterous, but also shows how dangerous that category can be in the hands of zealots.
The response to Greer and her alleged transphobia is just one example of a creeping trend among social justice activists of an identitarian persuasion: a tendency towards ideological totalism, the attempt to determine not only what policies and actions are acceptable, but what thoughts and beliefs are, too. Contemporary identity-based social justice activism is increasingly displaying the kinds of totalising and authoritarian tactics that we usually associate with cults or quasi-religious movements which aim to control the thoughts and inner lives of their members. The doctrine of "gender identity" – the idea that people possess an essential inner gender that is independent both of their sexed body and of the social reality of being treated as a person with such a body – has rapidly been elevated to the status of quasi-religious belief, such that those who do not subscribe to it are seen as not only mistaken and misguided, but dangerous and threatening, and must therefore be silenced.
If you haven't witnessed this first hand, this might sound a touch hyperbolic and overwrought. But in the methods and reactions of those who espouse the doctrine of gender identity, we see many, if not all, of the features of thought control identified by Robert Jay Lifton in his classic study of indoctrination in Chinese re-education camps, to varying degrees:
Milieu control - seeking to establish domain over what the individual sees, hears, reads or writes. Students at Cardiff University must not be permitted to hear Greer's views, because those views are supposedly dangerous.
Demands for purity - dividing the world sharply into pure and impure, good and evil, believer and nonbeliever. There are people who believe that trans women are women, and there are transphobic bigots who "deny trans people's right to exist". No intermediate position is possible.
A cult of confession - individuals are required to reveal their sins and transgressions in order to be redeemed. As a non-trans person, the only way to secure one's status as an ally is to confess to one's "cis privilege" and to engage in repeated, performative privilege checking. (My own personal experience of this came when I publicly stated that I do not accept the label "cisgender", which resulted in my being accused of the chillingly Orwellian-sounding crime of "privilege denial").
Loading the language - the use of thought-terminating clichés and complex and ever changing terminological rules. Just try to critically examine the soundbite "trans women are women" and see how fast the accusations of prejudice and bigotry come flying in. This is a phrase intended to stop you asking difficult questions.
As with so many of the current high-profile no-platforming cases, Greer is being ostracised and shunned, cast out of our moral community and declared beyond redemption, simply for the crime of believing the wrong things, of holding the wrong thoughts in her head, of defining concepts in ways that run counter to those of the newly-established doctrine of gender identity. It is not sufficient to behave towards trans women in a certain way, to respect their preferred pronouns and to support their right to receive the medical treatment they need. You must also really and truly believe that they are women. And if you cannot be made to hold this subjective mental state in your head, that is sufficient to justify silencing you, in the name of protecting the believers.
What all of this assumes is that we have the right to make these kinds of claims on each other's inner lives. It supposes that I can legitimately demand that you believe the things I believe in order to validate my identity, that I can demand that you share my perception of myself because it would be injurious to that perception if you do not. And from there, it's a quick step to the belief that if you do not share my perception of myself, you are committing an act of psychic violence against me. That by refusing to accept the narrative I tell myself about who I am, you harm me just as much as if you really did incite physical violence against me. Thus I become justified in using any tactics at my disposal to ensure that you see me the way I see myself, in making use authoritarian methods of thought control and indoctrination. Acceptance of the doctrine is the only path to salvation and enlightenment, and dissenting views are not only mistaken, but threatening - both to my understanding of myself, and to the ideology itself.
We're familiar with this in academic philosophy too, though mostly, so far, in the bowels of cyberspace. But if the current offenders actually get academic jobs and/or get tenure, then we will be in real trouble.
At some point, on one of our regular treks through the forest-bog of the slightly left-leaning internet, we read about Effective Altruism. The idea, posed and propounded by Princeton philosopher Peter Singer, is not complicated. A quick distillation might be “pics or it didn’t happen,” the same mantra that unites hundreds of tech startups and nonprofits under the sign of the datum. Singer’s is a popular utilitarianism, packaged for the Facebook age: Doing Good made easy, quantified, the returns maximized in visible and trackable ways. You should always push the fat guy in front of the train. That is, you should take that job at the branding firm and give between 10 and 70 percent of your $90,474 annual income to one of a handful of charities deemed most “efficient.”
Like lots of things on the internet, EA feels marketed right to our social group: young, educated, confused little guys, swimming the God’s-dead world in search of some half-decent values, able to imagine them actualized only in terms of a handful of career options and art hobbies. EA’s charm partly comes, I think, from its neatness in distilling our built-in morals, our technocratic wiring. Singer and his allies present a clean, simple, and familiar calculus, one that perfectly aligns with this default market pietism. In their painfully limpid prose, we see ourselves reflected: and these selves, to us, make sense.
“My mind was racing but physically, I was frozen,” she wrote. “How do I react to this? In high school, I would have walked out of the room straight to my car. I would have called my mother on the way home, and she would have arrived at the front office in under an hour to rip the principal and his employees a new one. All is well when you are young and do not have to deal with these issues head-on. But in college my mother is over 1,800 miles away. This time around I was on my own.”
UPDATE: Here's the full statement by the complaining student--the one whose Mom wasn't available this time. Its contempt for tenure and for academic freedom is appalling. Its inability to distinguish between racism and failed pedagogy is also alarming.
Republicans support big tax cuts for the wealthy because that’s what wealthy donors want. No doubt most of those donors have managed to convince themselves that what’s good for them is good for America. But at root it’s about rich people supporting politicians who will make them richer. Everything else is just rationalization.
The Trump candidacy continues to collapse--his unfavorable ratings, even among Republicans, are very high, and he hasn't been able to break into the 30% range in polls (even the braindead Rick Perry did that four years ago). This is a tragedy on many levels: Trump single-handedly guarantees a Democratic victory, so the longer he lasts, the more confident the Democrats can be that even if they nominate an empty vessel like Clinton, they will still get the votes of almost all Hispanics, women, Asian-Americans and young people. It bears emphasizing that the other Republican candidates are on the spectrum between appalling and disgusting, with only one or two rising to the level of "fit to be part of civilization." Meanwhile, Sanders--who in most of Europe would just be a banal social democrat running for office--continues to close in on Clinton, the candidate of the prudent wing of the plutocracy. (Obviously the Sanders surge is due to the influence of the philosophical vote.) Interesting times in America.
I think it would be interesting and appropriate to see discussion of academic boycotts as a tool of political protest and persuasion, specifically in relation to the BDS movement and Israeli policies in the occupied territories. A recent article in the Electronic Intifada raises issues that some American philosophers might be interested in.
Comments are open. Please try to keep it substantive and calm.
I will state my own view (which everyone is welcome to reject or dispute): while there might be situations in which academic boycotts would be effective tools of political persuasion, Israel is not one of them. An academic boycott would punish innocent parties, without any prospect at all that the government would change its policy because of the inconvenience to academics. Economic boycotts or sanctions would surely make a much greater difference to Israeli policy towards the occupied territories.
...that exactly four years ago Rick "I'm actually dumber than I appear to be" Perry was leading the polls at nearly 30% for the Repug nomination. In other words, there's a lot more mischief ahead of us, long after the Republican Establishment destroys Trump. It's true that Trump is the most overtly racist of the current contenders, but he's far more sane on almost every other issue than the rest of them. So watch what you wish for!
Let’s do away with this shit. Many millions of Americans want their next president to be Carly Fiorina—an inept, failed CEO with no experience of public service who spent last night threatening to make war on half the fucking planet. She was like the eighth most irresponsible psychopath on the stage, and the rest of them, down to the least of them, all represent vast constituencies. This isn’t a failure of the political system—this is the political system working, expressing the will of the governed.
Any polity that can produce such an outcome should be abolished. Dissolve the United States, replacing it with a set of city-states, villages, and thinly-peopled hinterlands; let every public that wants one have their own Carly Fiorina or Bobby Jindal, and let everyone else go about their business. The candidate who proposes that will be the one to get behind.
There is a small paradox in the growth of effective altruism as a movement when it is so profoundly individualistic. Its utilitarian calculations presuppose that everyone else will continue to conduct business as usual; the world is a given, in which one can make careful, piecemeal interventions. The tacit assumption is that the individual, not the community, class or state, is the proper object of moral theorising. There are benefits to thinking this way. If everything comes down to the marginal individual, then our ethical ambitions can be safely circumscribed; the philosopher is freed from the burden of trying to understand the mess we’re in, or of proposing an alternative vision of how things could be. The philosopher is left to theorise only the autonomous man, the world a mere background for his righteous choices. You wouldn’t be blamed for hoping that philosophy has more to give.
A nice way of saying that the EA schtick is a pernicious reactionary distraction.
Of the leading candidates for the Republican nomination for President, one is a white woman, one is African-American, and two are Cuban-American; only two are white men (three if one's feeling generous about the poll numbers). Of the leading candidates for the Democratic nomination for President, one is a white woman and two are white men (one of whom isn't even officially running!).
ADDENDUM: This video isn't quite Triumph of the Will, but I guess it can do as the 21st-century version. (For my non-American readers: the video portrays the enemy not only as the Democrats, but also the Koch brothers and the Republican establishment in Congress, and features the "don't tread on me" flag popular with the so-called "Tea Party" reactionaries in the U.S.)
So Labor in Britain has chosen a socialist to lead the party, while the Democratic primaries in the U.S. are now up for grabs with the rise of a socialist Senator from Vermont. America and Britain made the rightward neoliberal turn around the same time more than a generation ago with, respectively, Reagan and Thatcher. Is the neoliberal era waning? I guess a lot will depend on whether Corbyn and Sanders acquire real political power.
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)