Class-Race Reductionism

Ida B. Wells wrote about the intersections of economic anxiety and racial oppression in the 1890s.

There’s an ever waging war, in academia, activist circles, and lest we forget the most important, on Twitter, on whether or not it is class or race that is most significant. And “most significant” usually collapses a couple of concerns (at least): what got Trump elected? And what should be the basis of social justice activism and rhetoric?

To say that such discussions are reductionist is both incredibly obvious and, for some reason, something that one apparently can’t reiterate enough, if one is to take the rhetoric on the internet seriously. Of course, there are people writing in skilled ways on this matter: for example, David Roediger’s new collection of essays takes up the problems of race and class. So does Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor’s excellent book on Black Lives Matter. But once again the media is abuzz over the latest study that apparently proves that economics weren’t the reason for Trump’s election, “identity” was. As if the two aren’t related. Continue reading “Class-Race Reductionism”

Universal Basic Income Vs. the Left, Part Three

(Read Part One and Part Two first.)

Against “the Worker”

For a number of voices on the left, one of the chief concerns about the basic income movement is that appears to obviate a historical locus of class struggle: the workplace. Such a concern is understandable, particular in the context of the recent calls for basic income that deny the agonism necessary for political change and power dynamics involved in the occlusion of such change. As Peter Frase writes, we need to make sure that “politics” and “class struggle” are included in discussions of utopian societies.

It is not my intent to deny or elide the historical and still-relevant place of workplace struggles in the cause of social justice, and am delighted by the most recent organization being done by groups such as Fight for Fifteen and National Nurses United. We can take on a more expansive version of class than that which is presumed by discussions of industrial work, however. And in doing so, we can understand struggles in the workplace to be means to an end, rather than ends in themselves. Continue reading “Universal Basic Income Vs. the Left, Part Three”

Universal Basic Income Vs. the Left, Part Two

(Read Part One first.)

Can I Still Get Filthy Rich?

It seems to me that the crux of the debate around Universal Basic Income is the following question: Can I still get filthy rich after UBI is implemented? The short answer—I hope—is hell no. And this is in direct opposition to >the Silicon Valley libertarian conception of Basic Income.

I’m continually struck by the degree to which mainstream discussions of UBI avoid the discussion of redistributive tax policy, nevermind wealth ceilings. Consider an essay written by one of UBI’s most prolific advocates, Scott Santens, in which he lays out the case for why a universal basic income would not cause inflation. His tortuous avoidance of the word “tax” is nearly comical: Continue reading “Universal Basic Income Vs. the Left, Part Two”

Universal Basic Income Vs. the Left, Part One

Something strange has occurred lately, where the embrace of the idea of a Universal Basic Income (UBI) has been adopted by libertarians, and particularly by Silicon Valley luminaries, and in response the backlash to the idea has grown more furtive on the left. This is not to say that there hasn’t always been some leftists cynical of the idea of UBI. It’s been a perennial punching bag at Chapo Trap House, for example. But it strikes me that now more than ever the question has to be “what kind of UBI do we want?” rather than simply if its a good or a bad idea.

So here I thought I might put down some words in defense of a particular kind of vision of UBI, or at least in defense of the intellectual project of imagining UBI. But before I get into my particular my points, I want to lay out a single axiom for the discussion. Continue reading “Universal Basic Income Vs. the Left, Part One”

The Last Dragon and the Cult of the Small and Virtuous Producer

In my previous post, I read Berry Gordy’s 1985 martial arts film The Last Dragon through the lens of George Lipsitz’s concept of cultural syncretism put forth in his work Time Passages. In this post, I want to keep looking at George Lipsitz and The Last Dragon, but to look further at market logics in order to complicate things a bit.

In Time Passages, Lipsitz finds the formation of counter-hegemonic historical blocs primarily in the years that followed World War II, those that saw the birth of rock and roll and the television. For example, the scene on Central Ave. in Los Angeles was fertile ground for the mixing of rock and roll with Latino folk sounds. There the late great Johnny Otis, the son of Greek immigrants, firmly embedded himself in the black community much like the diverse inhabitants of Harlem did so with one another in The Last Dragon. Lipsitz has fun with the way that Otis, a Greek American who adopted an African American identity, produces hit Latino rock and roll made by Li’l Julian Herrera, who it turns out wasn’t Latino at all, but was in fact a Hungarian Jew. [1] Continue reading “The Last Dragon and the Cult of the Small and Virtuous Producer”

Veganism and the Limits of Quotation Food

In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, we know that the monster is in fact the hero, because he speaks with such eloquence about the cruelty of man. Cast out into a world alone with a visage that afforded him no chance of finding companionship, he fosters a hatred for his creator, but its a hatred informed by a noble sense of suffering and a keen sense of imagination for a world in which justice and kindness might be ubiquitous. Is it any wonder then that the monster is vegan? Should we be surprised when Frankenstein’s monster tells his creator, “I do not destroy the lamb and the kid, to glut my appetite; acorns and berries afford me sufficient nourishment”?

The way vegan food is discussed today, one would be surprised to find Shelley writing such a notion two centuries ago. A confluence of histories, of discourses, have converged to present the fiction that vegan food is novel, new, and nascent. In one sense, vegan food is undoubtedly a social construct. That is, in the nineteenth century Shelley didn’t conceive of eating nuts and berries as being already constitutive of a particular category of ethically oriented food consumption. Yet I want to talk a bit about how vegan food is “constructed” in a different sense; it is constructed to be analogous to food itself; it is constructed as food façade. Continue reading “Veganism and the Limits of Quotation Food”