Can We Imagine Something More? Reckoning with Naomi Klein’s No Is Not Enough

In his lecture “The Robbery of the Soil,” Rabindranath Tagore imagines the moon to have been once hospitable to life. This, he tells us, was the case until an intelligent species found life on it. This species soon busied itself with devouring and devastating this once thriving member of the solar system. Its acquisitiveness did not, obviously, lend it contentment and, instead, led to nature being stripped of its finite resources for this species’ infinite wants. To corner whatever resources remained, war among various sects of this species became unavoidable, and they ended up emptying their home of water and vegetation and reduced it to a desert. Life on the moon, ultimately, became … [Read more...]

Can Democrats Win by Peeling Off Pro-Life Voters? Probably Not

Journalist Lauren Duca received a lot of criticism in the Twitterverse from more moderate and conservative Democrats for her tweet above. Much of it was self-consciously pragmatic, the favorite word of a particular breed of serious pundit. Duca simply wasn’t thinking strategically. Any winning strategy for the Democrats in 2018 and 2020, they argue, must shave off at least some votes from conservative whites, especially in congressional races. But there’s a pragmatic reason why Duca is right. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s move, which opens up the probablity of the party recruiting anti-abortion candidates for House races, could alienate the Democratic base and dampen … [Read more...]

Telling the Story of Healthcare Reform (Again)

The Affordable Care Act was passed a mere few months after Tropics of Meta started, in early 2010.  Our friends gathered around a TV in Queens, New York that showing C-SPAN and the fateful vote.  It felt like a solemn moment in history, even if many of us were sorely disappointed by what ended up in the Rube Goldberg-esque bill that resulted.At the time, we tried to weigh in on what the whole thing meant.  The post, one of our first dozen or so pieces, shows the extreme risks of historians pontificating on fast moving events and uncertain, unpredictable outcomes yet to unfold.  We were preoccupied, understandably, by the lack of a public option that progressives had … [Read more...]

Beyond “Point-of-Production” Organizing: The Radical Potential of Building the Solidarity Economy

Participatory budgeting (PB) and workers cooperatives--two pillars of the solidarity economy--offer some of the best tools for building egalitarian, democratic political structures and a new kind of economy that works for everyone. PB humbly started in Porto Alegre in 1989 and has since inspired political movements across the globe, revolutionizing conceptions of the role of the citizenry in affecting everyday life. PB first arrived in America at Chicago’s 49th Ward and thereafter spread to New York City, Vallejo, California, and many other cities.[1] Though PB adapts slightly different procedural forms depending upon who administers it and where it is administered, it can generally be … [Read more...]

An Inauguration Day Greeting from Tropics of Meta

Many years ago, I was teaching high school in Gastonia, North Carolina. The senseless, world-destroying catastrophe of the Iraq War was just breaking over the horizon at the time, and students asked me what I thought about it.  As a novice teacher, I didn't know what my proper response should be.  Personally, I was despondent.  Whether or not Saddam Hussein had "weapons of mass destruction"--we'd given them to him, after all--it seemed transparently obvious that Iraq posed no immediate threat to the United States, and the ideologues and used car salesmen in Washington were driving us into a pointless war of choice. It was a dark time, and arguably much of the horror of the twenty-first … [Read more...]

Trump, Brexit, and the Abject Poverty of Liberalism

Two seemingly monumental and world-historic events occurred in two of the most powerful imperialist countries this past year. On 23 June, the United Kingdom held a referendum on its membership in the European Union, resulting in a “leave” vote. On the other side of the Atlantic, Donald Trump, the Republican candidate for President of the United States, was victorious in his electoral campaign against Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. The Leave Campaign won the “Brexit” referendum with 17.4 million ballots, or 51.9 percent of the votes, whereas Donald Trump won the US presidency with 62.9 million votes, amounting to 46.1 percent of the ballots cast (note that Clinton won the popular vote with … [Read more...]

The Fight to Exonerate Ethel Rosenberg

Why is the sixty-five year-old spy case of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg back in the news? Anderson Cooper reported a segment for 60 Minutes, and Democracy Now joined numerous newspapers in continuing the siren’s call.  The case is grabbing unprecedented attention because the Rosenberg sons – Michael Meeropol and Robert Meeropol – want to get President Obama’s attention before he leaves office.  They are asking him to posthumously exonerate their mother – Ethel Rosenberg – for being wrongly convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage and executed in 1953. They have good reason to ask.  The 1951 trial was a mess, plagued with shocking irregularities and illegalities.  President Harry … [Read more...]

The Triumph of the TA: Graduate Students and the Future of Postindustrial Labor

On Tuesday afternoon, I got the most welcome news I’ve gotten in a long time. In a 3-1 vote, the National Labor Relations Board reversed a Bush-era decision that denied graduate student employees at private universities the right to unionize. This news might seem both trivial and esoteric.  After all, the wording of the last sentence implies an exceedingly narrow and likely small slice of the overall workforce—that’s the esoteric part. And the fact that it has to do with, to a significant extent, PhD students at the likes of Yale, NYU, and Columbia—well, we are not exactly talking about an eleven-year-old toiling in the dark Satanic mill of yore.  Such students might seem privileged and … [Read more...]

SACRPH 2015: The Politics (and Non-Politics) of the Unplanned City in the US, UK, and Germany

Panels at conferences often feel like a hastily assembled mishmash of different things, like a fruit salad made by Mr. Magoo. Scholars who do not know each other and know less about each other’s research work together over email to try to slap together panel proposals that seem just plausible enough to pass muster with weary conference organizers, who have papers to grade, toddlers with runny noses, and annoying emails from students to answer. (In my best John Oliver voice: If the reading is listed next to the class date on the syllabus, you read it BEFORE CLASS on that day Jeremy!) But occasionally you get to see a panel where all the papers interlock in meaningful and intellectually … [Read more...]

If Your Debate Lasts for More than Four Hours, Please Contact Your Doctor

“I'm all lost in the supermarket/I can no longer shop happily/I came in here for that special offer/A guaranteed personality - “Lost in the Supermarket”, The Clash from London Calling In the marketplace of retail politics, all we’ve received in this early election season is “guaranteed personality,” lots of flopsweat—I’m looking at you Rubio and O’Malley—and dubious personality—need I even point fingers for the latter? If “Lost in the Supermarket” served as a sort of platonic love song from Joe Strummer to Mick Jones (Strummer wrote the lyrics, Jones arranged the music), the closest thing we got last night was Bernie Sanders’s cry in the night regarding Hillary’s modern correspondence: … [Read more...]