Why Do Universities (Still) Have Endowments?

By (William & Mary)

While trustees of institutions with large endowments may think they’re guarding intergenerational equity or intragenerational equity (in the form of expanded access in the present), they are really merely mounting vigorous campaigns of wealth accumulation that increase inequality. So why do these universities still have endowments?

Deserts: Cells for certain individuals

Carthusians refer to their cells as deserts. The cell is a remote site at the margins of civilization, distant from the noise of society and mundane temptations. A desert is not only the place where all customs, traditions, and historical stratifications fall apart, but also where any consolidated societal structure can be questioned and examined from an estranged point of observation.

The Recluse

By contrast, what the idea of the rule provides is a relation to the self—to sleeping, washing, eating, excreting and reflecting—that embodies an understanding of the social constituted neither by an assemblage of solitaries nor by the model of the epistolary relations between the writer and the “others” whose “help” he needs to cultivate himself properly. It would be too much to say that in the seven “Deserts” we see the struggle between capital and labor. But it would be exactly right to say that we see emblems not of self-care but of both conflict and of ideology.

The Ascent of Affect

By (University of Exeter, UK), (Birkbeck, University of London), (Manchester Metropolitan University), (Boston College) and (Johns Hopkins University)

I offer my analysis in the spirit of a “history of the present,” that is, as an attempt to understand the rise of a non-intentionalist “affect theory” in the light of the genealogy I have charted and to explain why I think the views being forwarded are a mistake.

The Racial Disparity Politics of Biomedical Research: Disaggregating Categories into New Essentialisms

By (Princeton University)

A recent article in Nature Human Behavior joins a chorus of those calling for public policy and biomedical research to disaggregate reigning forms of racial classification and to construct supposedly more accurate schemes of aggregation that might better account for racial disparities among groups. Despite attempts to remedy past conceptual distortions imposed by socio-cultural, and sometimes even biological, reifications of highly-abstracted and heterogeneous categories, these arguments work to reinscribe additional categories with similarly suspect notions of a shared fate, social essence, and, ultimately, biological content. This political and scientific orientation to racial categorizations and the attendant study of racial disparity threatens to lead us through the backdoor of a newly-reified world of race relations, one which is positioned further away from the necessary conditions to tackle existing social inequalities along with the material conditions that provide for their reproduction.

N+1 and the PMC: A Debate about Moving On

What has led so many of us relatively independently of one another to start thinking about the PMC as a class formation in the first place? My sense is that it has to do with a combination of factors we’ve all been confronting and trying to reckon with concerning 1) tendencies and tensions within what seems to be taking shape as a popular left in the US and UK, 2) the fragility of left-led governments that have been elected in places like Greece and various South American states, 3) how to make sense of and respond to the tide of authoritarian neoliberalism around the world, which I suspect most of us understand as no aberration but an organic outgrowth of several decades of neoliberal hegemony, which in both its “left”-technocratic and right poles rejects and has sought to seal off options for popular politics of any sort and 4) the utter bankruptcy under those conditions of social-democratic parties nearly everywhere.

The Wages of Roediger: Why Three Decades of Whiteness Studies Has Not Produced the Left We Need

By (University of Illinois at Chicago)

The popular claim that Trump’s election signified resurgent white supremacy is not only wrong—it’s dangerous. It grants more power to the fascist right than it deserves. Different voters and constituencies supported Trump for different reasons, not all of them rational.

Change Agent: Gene Sharp’s Neoliberal Nonviolence (Part One)

By (CUNY)

The late Gene Sharp is known worldwide as a Gandhi-like champion of nonviolent protest. But he is better understood as one of the most important U.S. defense intellectuals of the Cold War and a neoliberal theorist who advocated nonviolent action as a means to “State decentralization.” Properly contextualizing Sharp and his ideas is essential to understanding the world today.

Revolution of the Ordinary: Literary Studies After Wittgenstein, Austin, and Cavell

By (Duke University), (University of Notre Dame), (University of Washington), (Northeastern University ), (University of California, Irvine), (Johns Hopkins University), (University of Illinois, Chicago), (Boston University) and (Duke University)

Do we really need Wittgenstein? It depends. I think that literary scholars today really ought to have a workable understanding of Wittgenstein’s vision of language, for it provides a vital and distinctive alternative to other views on the same matters, views that are widely taught. For the same reason, I think literary scholars really ought to understand Wittgenstein’s critique of theory (or, if one prefers, of certain standard notions of what philosophy is). For a literary theorist it ought to be as unthinkable to know nothing about Wittgenstein as it has been to know nothing about Saussure, or Derrida, or Lacan, or Foucault, and so on through the pantheon of more recent theorists. I wrote Revolution of the Ordinary to make this possible.

What Materialist Black Political History Actually Looks Like

By (University of Pennsylvania)

There is no singular, transhistorical “Black Liberation Struggle” or “Black Freedom Movement,” and there never has been. Black Americans have engaged in many different forms of political expression in many different domains, around many different issues, both those considered racial and not. They have engaged in race-solidaristic formations and in close concert with others, in class-based and multiclass alliances.

What Hegel Would Have Said About Monet

The question I promised to pose in this essay was whether we have an art—a nineteenth- or early-twentieth-century art—to which Hegel’s descriptions of world and consciousness can be seen to apply. I seem to be saying that they only apply, in the art I take seriously, in the negative—they are what French painting is out to annihilate. But for Hegel’s view of things to be worth refuting in this way—with Matisse’s special vehemence—surely in the first place there must have been pictures that exemplified it strongly, beautifully. And yes, there were.

Cézanne Photographic

How to represent—or, better, to create—“sensation” in a painting? The challenge was to introduce the experience of external and internal simultaneously. Further complication: the demand would have to be met without losing the active presence of the living artist, that is, without reducing the process to a mechanism. A problem for photography: even when it exhibited blur, it suffered the slur of appearing mechanistic. A satisfying image of nature would need to incorporate, on the one hand, nature’s essential animation, and, on the other hand, the animation associated with the living, sensing being of the artist—the artist as both sensing nature and recording this sensation.

On the End(s) of Black Politics

By (University of Chicago), (University of Pennsylvania), (University of Illinois at Chicago), (Illinois State University), (Mount Holyoke) and (South Carolina State University)

A politics whose point of departure requires harmonizing the interests of the black poor and working class with those of the black professional-managerial class indicates the conceptual and political confusion that underwrites the very idea of a Black Freedom Movement. The prevalence of such confusion is lamentable; that it go unchecked and without criticism is unacceptable. The essays that appear in this section will critique this tendency and offer in its stead a vision of what we think ought to be.

Nineteen Gnomic Stanzas

A bison will savor a dust wallow.
His motto is “Anything goes.”
Have a look at the ants in the closet
eating your clothes.

The Work of Feelings in Public Schools

Public schools that design curriculum to focus on belonging and social emotional skills are training students for low-wage jobs—and non-ironically calling this training equity and inclusion. Valorizing equity in this way—at the level of feelings—doesn’t only mean pushing aside teaching novels and covering anti-racist art if it makes students feel bad. It also means cultivating a principled indifference to the real wages of the working poor, including those who work for public schools.

Every Meeting is a Hallucination Waiting to Happen

At which point, I have to wonder. A great many things.

How Not to Tackle COVID-19: Butler’s Anticapitalism

By (George Mason)

By contrast, the wonderful thing about a socialist perspective is that it doesn’t ask you to show your ID papers, to demonstrate your worthiness, to haul out the testimony of ancestors—or even for that matter to account for proximate causes (like whether you smoke or eat pork or drink alcohol and soft drinks). Socialism doesn’t care how you got those comorbidity factors (diabetes, a heart condition, hypertension, etc.) that play an outsized role in the current health crisis. You’re going to get the healthcare you need because everyone is going to get it.

Le Corbusier, Matisse, and the Meaning of Conceptual Art

By (Emory University)

The humanities is devoted to a “bad picture” of intentionality. And the devotion to this picture is embraced above all by anti-intentionalists. Looking closely at the seemingly suspect commitments of two conceptually driven artists—Le Corbusier and Henri Matisse—I show the necessity for distinguishing between inner and outer, idea and execution, and how those terms are mutually imbricated. Failing to address “private” experience, as anti-intentionalists do, generates an inverted form of Cartesianism.

It’s Not About You

The whole point is its refusal of all that: refusal of the parallel-processing, refusal of Foucauldian discipline. It’s a different model of discipline. You go back into your cell and you figure out what you think you’re supposed to do and you can either do it or not do it. Either way, you’re not withdrawing from the office. You’re reconceptualizing the office as a rule, and you’re establishing yourself in relation to the rule. It makes every part of your activity an activity that has some relation to the rule. Especially when you don’t do what you’re supposed to.

The Light in Architecture: Eric Mendelsohn’s Photographic Expressionism

By (Hollins University)

Erich Mendelsohn’s work as draughtsman, architect, photographer and writer reveals his intense involvement with the development of German Modernism during the 1920s. He was one of the few members of the European Avant-Garde to travel to the United States, and the photographs that he published of his travels provided a radical revision of the American urban landscape and reshaped the perception of the US in Europe. In turn, this shaped the way in which he wanted his own buildings to be photographed, and recognizing the power of photographic effect and the printed page to impact the general public, as well as specialists, he explored the ways in which photography could be used in order to deliver a specific message of Modernity.

Change Agent: Gene Sharp’s Neoliberal Nonviolence (Part Two)

By (CUNY)

Gene Sharp, the Cold War defense intellectual-cum-“Nonviolent Warrior,” is famed for developing a theory of nonviolent action that has undergirded regime change operations around the world. But Sharp also had an impact closer to home: the U.S. protest left. Thanks to a little-known organization from the 1970s called the Movement for a New Society, Sharp’s ideas are ubiquitous on the protest left, bound-up with a rarely named ideology, “revolutionary nonviolence.” Nonviolent direct action is a vital feature of broad-based people’s movements, but historically, “revolutionary nonviolence” has been, at best, ambivalent about, and at worst, antagonistic to questions of class struggle. A closer look is warranted.

Issue #29: Industrial Democracy, Whiteness, and the Complexities of Black Politics

In this second installment of work inspired by the example of Judith Stein we include essays by Preston Smith II on New Urban Renewal, Touré Reed on Lester Granger, Thomas Adams on Stein, Cedric Johnson on David Roediger, and Anton Jaeger on David Graeber.

“Blackness” and the Sclerosis of African American Cultural Criticism

By (University of Chicago)

Black studies scholarship on the whole has been plagued by “the temptation to attempt to speak on behalf of the political and social needs of some ‘black community’ outside the academy.” Declaring themselves responsible to this community, which is in no way positioned to ratify the propositions being put forth on its behalf, while disdaining the professional norms prevailing in the academy as inherently biased against the beliefs and practices necessary to carry out their work, many black scholars have been able to operate in a zone of relative unaccountability in which the narrative recounting of their own experiences and thoughts are treated as paradigmatic of “the race.”

Issue #28: Historical Materialist Study of American Political History

Judith Stein, who died two years ago, left behind a legacy of students, colleagues and admirers who were inspired by her teaching, her scholarship, and her imposing intellect. The essays published here are in Judith’s honor.

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