I have been asked to write an introduction to a new reprint of Nadezhda Krupskaya’s Reminiscences of Lenin, and I am very much enjoying the mental time I get to spend with the young Bolsheviks in exile.
I read Kids These Days a couple of weeks ago and I have still been processing it.
I don’t have time to write a long or detailed review, so I’ll just offer a few thoughts. I think the book has some profound insights, and it certainly helped me to understand the challenges faced by Millennials in this most dehumanizing stage of capitalism, but I wasn’t entirely convinced that the situation Harris describes didn’t start earlier. If you go back and reread Douglas Coupland’s 1991 novel, in which he coined the term “Generation X,” many of the same trends and concerns discussed by Harris are described there. As someone who survived 8 years of Reaganomics and grew up in tandem with the rise of neoliberalism and the dismantling of the welfare state, I’m a bit shocked that “kids these days” still believe that if you work hard and invest in your own human capital you will get ahead without luck, connections, or masses of inherited wealth.
Does no one read the newspaper anymore? Scholars and journalists have been dubious about the American dream for a long time, so it seems a little weird to complain about being hoodwinked by late capitalism when anyone who wanted to could read any number of books discussing how the American education system serves as a tool for corporate America, starting with the classic 1976 book, Schooling in Capitalist America, by the Marxists Samuel Bowles and Herbert Ginits (a must read!) I know a lot of Millennials who are angry about the system, but not because they feel that they have been uniquely cheated as young people, but because they understand that the whole system unfairly distributes the wealth of society to fewer and fewer people. In other words, there are plenty of Baby Boomers who have been screwed as well. Yes, they have social security and Medicare, but there are still an extraordinary number of senior citizens living in poverty.
I think the hardest thing about the book for me was the ending. While I totally agree that the usual solutions don’t seem to offer a way forward, I am guilty of the kind of hopeful thinking that he criticizes so ruthlessly in his conclusion. Indeed, I admit that my own book offers some lame “bop it” solutions (to use his term), and I can see that this is a problem. But Harris’s suggestion that his generation will become fascists or revolutionaries, without really discussing what that means, also feels a bit disingenuous. The book just ends abruptly, and I worry that his pessimism will be disempowering and paralyzing for those who read it. I mean, if the system is so totally screwed, why struggle at all? Why do anything? Rather than becoming fascists or revolutionaries, maybe the entire Millennial generation will just walk apathetically into some future turbo-capitalist dystopia. Or perhaps be bought off and placated with UBI, legalized marijuana, public Netflix, and communal X-boxes? I don’t know. There’s lots to discuss here, so it’s definitely worth a read.
“The division between profit-making and people-making points to a deep-seated tension at the heart of capitalist society. While capital strives systemically to increase profits, working-class people strive, conversely, to lead decent and meaningful lives as social beings. These are fundamentally irreconcilable goals, for capital’s share of accumulation can only increase at the expense of our share in the life of society. Social practices that nourish our lives at home, and social services that nurture our lives outside of it, constantly threaten to cut into profits. Thus, a financial drive to reduce those costs and an ideological drive to undermine such labors are endemic to the system as a whole”
- Arruzza, Bhattacharya, and Fraser, Feminism for the 99%: A Manifesto, page 71
I was browsing through the new non-fiction section of my local public library yesterday, and I stumbled upon this short book. Since I am about 10 days away from my 49th birthday, the title sort of spoke to me (for obvious reasons). I also loved the very simple cover image; I definitely judged this book by its cover! I took it home and just sat down and read it cover to cover. I wasn’t expecting to find anything that I didn’t already know, and in the end, I think the book just reminded me of my own various thoughts about the malaise of the middle years. But there was something deeply satisfying in having a philosophical take on all of it. I especially liked the passages about telic versus atelic goals, and the problem that most academics face when they wake up and realize that they have become finely-tuned goal-achieving machines. Setiya’s diagnosis of the problem was spot on for me, and his suggestions for how to refocus meaning and purpose away from the telic to the atelic made intuitive sense. A powerful little book written with honesty and compassion.
One of my colleagues in the UK snapped this photo in the bookshop of Tate Modern. So happy to be so close to the words of Naomi Klein.
Just received a hard copy of the March/April issue of the Bulgarian women’s magazine, Zhenata Dnes. They included a translation of a review of Why Women Have Better Sex Under Socialism and mentioned it on the cover!
My spring semester is about to start, but I had some time to delve into some great books about Eastern Europe and the politics of knowledge production during the Cold War. I wrote review of Birth of Democratic Citizenship and To See Paris and Die, I read Know Your Enemy for the first time and it inspired me to go back and reread Laura Nader’s and Noam Chomsky’s essays in The Cold War & The University.
Seeing an interview in print is always a bit of a surprise. You speak on the phone with someone for an hour or so, and you never know what they are going to pull out to include in the final interview. I am very pleased with this conversation, although “these technological studies“ was mis-transcribed. It should have been “these sexological studies.”
I am so delighted to be included among these amazing books!
“Beyond the pithy (but important!) title, this book promises an exploration of the ways capitalism works with sexist power structures to harm women in specific ways — from relationships to family to career, Ghodsee outlines the ways that ‘unregulated capitalism disproportionately harms women, and that we should learn from the past.’”
Thanks so much to Glenn Raucher for making it happen, and for his astute questions.
A friend recommended this book, and I devoured it in one sitting. I have always loved Ehrenreich's writing and for many years I taught her book, Nickel and Dimed. Because I also learned so much from Bait and Switch and Brightsided, I was eager to read her take on the hyper-medicalization of aging in the United States. She did not disappoint. It is so refreshing to read about someone who is growing old with grace and who is not afraid of the inevitable. Highly recommended for anyone over 40.
Just received the design for my next academic book, Second World, Second Sex: Socialist Women's Activism and Global Solidarity during the Cold War, coming out with Duke University Press in February 2019. I specifically asked that it not be red, and I love what they did with the cover.
This is one of the Bulgarian covers of a sexual education book that was translated from the German and first published in Bulgaria in 1979.
Because I was traveling, I actually read this book on my e-reader. This is a great introductory primer for young people that Varoufakis originally wrote in Greek to his own child, Xenia. He has a lively voice and it is a very fast read, with lots of pop culture references. I think the most useful discussion is his exploration of the difference between exchange value and experiential value, and his call for radical democratization of the economy.
These arrived in the post yesterday. These are the bound galleys that will go out for long-lead media and potential blurbers. After months of slaving away on this, it's so satisfying to see my words manifest in print.