Waiting for Righty: How Uber Plans to Change the World

waiting for lefty fist

Eighty years ago, Clifford Odets wrote a play about striking taxi drivers in New York City. With too many drivers on the road and bare-bottom wages, the cabbies debate whether to strike for better pay. Two years after Waiting for Lefty, Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia introduced a law that limited the number of officially licensed taxis to 16,900. The point of the system? To limit the number of taxis, ensuring that the streets weren’t filled with overworked, possibly unqualified drivers desperate to find fares. The so-called “medallion” program, which made a fixed number of taxi licenses available, might have provided a safeguard for the wages of drivers, since it shielded them from the effect … [Read more...]

Ten of the Greatest Books in Food Studies

pakistani desi chicken manchurian

In addition to taking over America’s public imagination – isn’t everyone a “foodie” these days? – Food Studies has firmly established itself as a serious academic discipline over the past decade. While the majority of popular food studies books fall into one of three categories (single commodity histories; explorations of individual ethnic foodways; and often problematically universalist and racially and class- biased works of food politics), many of the best critical works view the study of food as offering the possibility of a radically cross-disciplinary and trans-national re-engagement of key topics in studies of the Americas. This list offers some of the most important texts that … [Read more...]

Greece and the Idea of Debt

The_Tribute_Money_George_Hayter_1817

The Greek sovereign debt crisis reached a climax early this week when, in an impromptu popular referendum, Greeks overwhelmingly rejected the terms of the bailout package offered by Eurozone leaders and the troika (the European Commission, European Central Bank, and International Monetary Fund). Of the many reactions to the impasse, the one getting the most attention may be the interview of economist Thomas Piketty in the German newspaper, Die Zeit. Piketty accused Germany’s leaders of a “shocking ignorance of history.” “When I hear the Germans say that they maintain a very moral stance about debt and strongly believe that debts must be repaid,” said Piketty, “then I think: what a huge … [Read more...]

Austerity vs Democracy: What’s Happening in Greece?

In the 1970s, they called it an "excess of democracy"

Like most folks, I’ve found the dizzying pace of events in Greece a challenge to grasp. Over the weekend, in a historic referendum, voters there rejected the latest harsh terms for a bailout offered by the nation’s European creditors. Emboldened by the “No” vote, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his left-wing coalition, Syriza, now seek softer terms from the unsympathetic leaders of the European Union (EU), specifically the “Troika”: the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. Why does this matter? For those who want to understand why Greece is staggering under the weight of an economic catastrophe and is poised on the razor’s edge of ejection … [Read more...]

Stroking the Platypus

Time Enough at Last

What is information, though? And what is intellectual property? These questions bring us back to the issue of alienation, and the purported difference between industrial and service or knowledge labor. The celebrated sociologist Manuel Castells acknowledges that “information, in its broadest sense, e.g. as communication of knowledge, has been critical in all societies,” but he also maintains that the late twentieth century saw the rise of “a specific form of social organization in which information generation, processing, and transmission became the fundamental sources of productivity and power…”[1] What does it mean that information (and the handling of information) is the main source of … [Read more...]

Public Performance and the Freak Left: ASCO, Metropolitan Indians, and the Politics of Disrespectability

asco 3

The mainstream Left often finds itself struggling to construct a respectable image within a liberal political sphere whose survival is based on the marginalization and exclusion of radical political thought and practice. Since winning the January 2015 election, SYRIZA, Greece’s respectable left coalition party, has faced ongoing difficulties restructuring loan terms outside of the logic of the nation’s new debt holder, the Troika (European Union, IMF, and European Central Bank), which has bought up the Greek debt in return for a series of payments and harsh austerity measures on the Greek people. SYRIZA’s inability to push the Troika beyond their already established rules of the game during … [Read more...]

Revolutionary Eruption: The Violent Sound of Magma and Musical Fusion in 1970s France

magma attahk album cover

What follows is an excerpt from Sounds French: Globalization, Cultural Communities and Pop Music, 1958-1980, the new book by Indiana University Northwest professor (and ToM contributor) Jonathyne Briggs.  It examines the history of popular music in France between the arrival of rock and roll in 1958 and the collapse of the first wave of punk in 1980, as well as the connections between musical genres and concepts of community in French society. During this period, scholars have tended to view the social upheavals associated with postwar reconstruction as part of debates concerning national identity in French culture and politics, a tendency that developed from political figures’ and … [Read more...]

¡La Lucha Continua! Gloria Arellanes and the Making of a Chicano Movement in El Monte and Beyond

Brown Beret Pics 007

“So we moved here to El Monte, and I remember all the neighbors were white,” recalled Gloria Arellanes in a 2011 interview conducted by the UCLA Library Center for Oral History Research.[1] “Eventually white flight came about and they started moving out to the Covina area, San Bernardino area.” This was extremely different from East Los Angeles, where she was born in 1941. Growing up in El Monte was not easy, she explained. Unlike East Los Angeles, where ethnic solidarity and family had sheltered her, in El Monte, discrimination and racism were omnipresent. It was not uncommon for her to hear disparaging comments about Mexicans: “that we were lazy…We’re dirty. In those days…[Y]ou couldn’t … [Read more...]

Breathing in Selma: The Powerful History and Contemporary Resonance of Ava DuVernay’s Film

SELMA

In 1915, Woodrow Wilson famously praised the film The Birth of a Nation for “writing history with lightning.” Based on Thomas Dixon’s novel The Clansman, the film portrayed the Ku Klux Klan’s heroic campaign to end Reconstruction in the South. Director D.W. Griffith used the still young medium to show American spectators how the military occupation of the defunct Confederacy had placed ignorant former slaves and corrupt Republican carpetbaggers in power, subjecting an already prostrate South to unnecessary indignities. The film was laden with racist portrayals of black politicians crudely eating while in the legislature and black soldiers sexually assaulting innocent young white women. … [Read more...]

ToM “Besties” of 2014

TOM best of montage

Hello there. You are now witnesses to a kind of confrontation between me and these three men. And it ain’t so simple, treasonous crime. No it ain’t so simple and there’s reasons why When Detroit’s Protomartyr released their 2014 album Under Color of Official Right (itself eerily descriptive of public discourse from all sides this year), how could they have known their mix of Wire-like punk dirges would be emblematic of the last 12 months? The year seemed punctuated by rough arguments, sometimes violent confrontations, and the kind of disagreements that as Protomartyr sings, “Ain’t so simple and there’s reasons why.” Yet, our little blog dedicated to engaging these sorts of “conflicts” … [Read more...]

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