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July 21st, 2020
The Poetics and Politics of Black Lives Matter
By (University of Chicago)

In order to show that race—which is to say, the confrontation with blackness—and not something else prompts the interaction, the poem’s early scenes happen within the domain of the professional managerial class. The salience of the assault, whether psychic or physical, depends on a prior sense of wellbeing among those who are reasonably well off. Rankine also notes that this sense of wellbeing is illusory—the “eternally stupid or everlastingly optimistic” outlook of highly successful black people who continue to play the game.” These assaults are not merely inconveniences but potentially life and death matters.

April 10th, 2020
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.

April 10th, 2020
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.

April 10th, 2020
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.

April 10th, 2020
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.

April 10th, 2020
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.

December 29th, 2019
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.

December 29th, 2019
Jobs for All: A job guarantee puts workers in the driver’s seat

Today, some on the Left are suspicious—or even contemptuous—of the idea of a jobs guarantee, preferring a basic income or similar schemes. But the political pitfalls of basic income are not easy to surmount, meanwhile the advantages of a straightforward jobs program are much greater than critics assume. Ironically, what the business press gets exactly right about a job guarantee is what most skeptics get wrong.

December 29th, 2019
The Kerner Report’s Landscape: Liberalism and the Urban-Suburban Divide

The “white backlash” thesis remains the dominant historical explanation for the decline of New Deal liberalism and the attendant racial inequality that persisted since. Urban historians contribute the most sophisticated nuance to the backlash argument, situating the urban/suburban divide at the heart of both political realignment and racial disparities. Judith Stein’s scholarship, while engaging with the earlier proponents of the “backlash” thesis, nonetheless offers the blueprint for an alternative history of postwar suburbs, one that links city and suburb to a shared, rather than divided, story of liberalism’s decline and widening inequality.

December 29th, 2019
Roads Not Taken or Roads Foreclosed?
By (University of California, Santa Barbara)

The U.S. labor movement’s support for Trump’s tariffs is misguided. But after decades of deindustrialization driven by a bi-partisan consensus on trade and industrial policy, the sense of desperation is understandable. Building a movement for national economic planning would be preferable, but that is easier said than done.

December 29th, 2019
From Steel Fundamentalism to the Politics of Representation
By (National Coordinator of the Labor Campaign for Single Payer)

Stein’s key insight was that, just like labor radicals and union administrators of the collective bargaining regime, those responsible for economic policy and for addressing the accumulated racial disparities of 300 years of slavery and Jim Crow also thought that the postwar economic arrangements would go on forever. This led to what Stein called “steel fundamentalism.”

December 3rd, 2019
Politicizing the Centrality of Race in Post War Urban Histories
By (The Reformed Church in America)

Making sense of racial politics in any period requires close attention to the political and material interests of the people who make use of racial terminology. In contrast to dominant historical and social science studies of postwar American cities, the work of Judith Stein went beyond mere acknowledgement of this basic insight. Her insistence that the social construction of racial identities is inherently political and context-dependent contributed depth and richness to her historical narratives and offered a telling critique of the politics of her peers in the field.

September 9th, 2019
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.

September 9th, 2019
How New is New Urban Renewal? Class, Redevelopment and Black Politics
By (Mount Holyoke)

The benefits that black professionals received from new urban renewal was less a change in how they define their interests than a change in opportunities to pursue those interests. There has been an underappreciation for the role of class interests in driving black housing professionals and property owners’ politics during the postwar urban renewal period.

September 9th, 2019
Granger’s “Challenge to the Youth,” Stein’s Challenge to Historians: Industrial Democracy and the Complexities of Black Politics
By (Illinois State University)

Granger and the League’s promotion of trade unionism as a vehicle for civil rights highlights the problem with the commonplace disposition to view the NUL and NAACP through dichotomous lenses like Bookerite or Du Boisian. Such frameworks not only look past institutional politics’ sway over the scope of these civic groups’ agendas, but they may also obscure the influence of changes in the broader political landscape over the parameters of African American civil rights.

September 9th, 2019
Writing the History of Capitalism with Class
By (University of Sydney)

I wonder and worry if the fashionability of the field comes from its evasion of this question. Does it spring from a hope…that capital and capitalists can regulate themselves, that in effect, capitalism can have a history sans class politics. As Stein’s work shows, this seems at best naively decontextualized—detached from the actual history of capitalism. And at worst? Then the new history of capitalism looks a lot like the ideological expression of its subject.

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